Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Review: The Last Heir to Blackwood Library by Hester Fox

by Hester Fox
Release Date: April 4, 2023
2023 Graydon House
Kindle Edition; 334 Pages
ISBN: 978-1525804786
Audiobook: B0B8QDXB7K
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Gothic

2 / 5 Stars

With the stroke of a pen, twenty-three-year-old Ivy Radcliffe becomes Lady Hayworth, owner of a sprawling estate on the Yorkshire moors. Ivy has never heard of Blackwood Abbey, or of the ancient bloodline from which she’s descended.
The abbey is foreboding, the servants reserved and suspicious. But there is a treasure waiting behind locked doors: a magnificent library. Despite cryptic warnings from the staff, Ivy feels irresistibly drawn to its dusty shelves, where familiar works mingle with strange, esoteric texts. And she senses something else in the library too, a presence that seems to have a will of its own.  

Rumors swirl in the village about the abbey’s previous owners, about ghosts and curses, and an enigmatic manuscript at the center of it all. And as events grow more sinister, it will be up to Ivy to uncover the library’s mysteries in order to reclaim her own story—before it vanishes forever.

My Thoughts
The Last Heir to Blackwood Library definitely had all of the elements that I love in a gothic story; forboding house, magnificent library, secrets galore, sinister servants, strange and veiled warnings, too friendly strangers, and the list goes on.  And until about 50% into the story, I was really enjoying it as I enjoyed all of those ambiguous warnings, the sinister housekeeper, and trying to figure out what was happening with Ivy.  The old manor was a wonderful place to set a story, with those haunted moors, the fog, the eerie happenings, and of course, that library.  Unfortunately, the so-called independent heroine takes a nose-dive into dependency, does a deep-dive into her alter-ego, and for the rest of the book she becomes so annoying I almost didn't finish it. 

Ivy is the main character in the story and the author tries to push how independent she is by talking about these things that she does, like set up a library service for the townspeople who like to read but can't afford books.  Yes, that is fine and dandy, and I did admire that action, but the first man who enters her life and pays her just a smidgeon of attention? Well, she becomes engaged to him because she doesn't like to be lonely and thinks she needs his wealth in order for others to appreciate her in society.  And this is after she notices his fixation on her house and her library.  And then she just allows his family to walk all over her and do what they want with her house. She is, in essence, a character in a story who doesn't really do all that much so character development is almost nil, and her actions don't really progress the story; in fact, she almost becomes a secondary character in her own story.  I almost would have preferred the story to be told from another person's POV, anyone else's POV.  Every time something happens to her, she just gives up. She doesn't fight for her house, for her rights, for her sanity, for nothing. Every time something is done to her, she just gives in and I grew so frustrated with her character. 

The plot itself actually started rather strong and I did enjoy the first third of the book.  There were a lot of things happening and I was enjoying myself trying to figure them out.  I like these types of plots, even if they can be a bit formulaic as they are a lot of fun. But when she became engaged, everything went flat. The author had her making terrible decisions, despite the fact the author constantly told us what a great person Ivy was through the various characters, but nothing she did actually verified that concept, so it got old, fast.  I don't know how this descended into a helpless woman scenario, but there were so many things that Ivy could have done to protect and save herself.  Making women seem weak and helpless just seems like a lazy way to go about things, you know?

The Last Heir to Blackwood Library could have been a good book about women saving each other and overcoming curses, but instead the plot was spoiled by a weak main character controlled by men who made poor decisions and couldn't problem-solve her way out of anything that was happening to her.  Grrr.  I thought the characters were bland and boring, and the plot did not have a lot of nuance to it which meant the further into the book we went, the less interesting it was.  It's a shame as there was a lot of potential here, but I had to force myself to read the last 100 pages or so.