A mixed bag of exciting horror and romance elements let down by subpar writing and character development.

This spin on the 18th-century Gothic classic The Mysteries of Udolpho centers gay romance amid an eerie, paranormal mystery.

After Emile’s aunt threatened to have him institutionalized for his attraction to men, he ran away and found work as a servant in Count Montoni’s household. He plans to stay in hiding until he turns 18, when he can collect his inheritance. As Emile begins to realize there’s something sinister about the Montoni family, he also deals with his growing attractions to both Bram, a doctor, and Henri, Montoni’s nephew whom Emile had misgivings about at first. Just as Emile’s true identity is revealed, Montoni whisks them all away to his other estate, Udolpho Castle. There, Emile learns the truth behind the mysterious affliction the whole family suffers from and realizes that if he ever wants to find love and happiness, he’ll first have to make it out alive. The spooky atmosphere is alluring, and there are some thrillingly gruesome scenes. Paired with queer romance elements that take some unexpected twists, these aspects may be enough to captivate readers. However, exposition that tells rather than shows sometimes halts the momentum, and the characters’ growth often feels unearned because they aren’t portrayed with enough depth to have complex motivations. Overall, it winds up feeling like a story that had potential but remains unpolished. Emile and Henri are cued White; Bram is Black.

A mixed bag of exciting horror and romance elements let down by subpar writing and character development. (Gothic horror. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

ISBN: 9781645679721

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023


There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013


From the Once Upon a Broken Heart series , Vol. 3

Frustratingly slow and lacking in magical wonder.

Despite living her happily-ever-after, Evangeline can’t help but strive to recover her lost memories in this trilogy closer.

Evangeline Fox awakens in the strong arms of Prince Apollo, her apparent husband, who swears to protect her from the evil Lord Jacks, who stole her memories. Unfortunately, Evangeline remembers nothing of her long and complex journey in the Magnificent North or her past romances; only the pain in her heart lets her know something is missing. At Wolf Hall, Evangeline seeks ways to unlock her missing memories, including enlisting the help of a mysterious guard named Archer, even as Apollo’s behavior becomes more and more controlling. The pacing and plot feel stagnant at first, with Evangeline remembering things in flashes and moments of brief feelings, but things finally pick up once her memories return. With the point of view rotating among Evangeline, Apollo, and Jacks, there are few narrative surprises, but it’s intriguing to delve into the minds of an antagonist and a Fate. The story’s inclusion of the legendary Valors and the fantastical fairy-tale setting are unfortunately overshadowed by the love triangle’s dramatic tug-of-war romance. Likewise, the book’s various themes—power, hope, stories, and the nature of humanity—are of interest but handled in an unfocused way. The conclusion, at least, is satisfying, and it hints at future tales set in this world. Evangeline, Jacks, and Archer read white; Apollo has dark hair and olive skin.

Frustratingly slow and lacking in magical wonder. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781250851208

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

Close Quickview