In this fast-paced mystery set in early-19th-century Scotland, 16-year-old Josie Ferguson is sent to live with estranged relatives after losing both of her parents to influenza.
When Josie arrives at her new home, she finds little solace in the company of her cold and indifferent Uncle Caleb and Aunt Minnie. The house is drab and run-down, their ferocious dog—Lamb—watches Josie’s every move, and sections of the house are off-limits. Josie eventually stumbles into Eli Stuart, a handsome local boy, but she soon learns that he too is forbidden. The book’s title suggests a tale of verboten love, but the romance between Josie and Eli is underwhelming and comes off as an afterthought. Readers may actually find more enjoyment in the mystery surrounding Uncle Caleb and Aunt Minnie and their sinister intentions for Josie. Similarly, while the book’s marketing suggests a frightening read, its gloomy backdrop is perhaps the scariest element of the story and not likely to induce nightmares for readers above the age of 10. Although Bunting skillfully establishes an ominous setting and tone within the first chapter to quickly engage and unnerve readers, what follows does not live up to its promise.
While this will probably not suffice for those wanting a dark and eerie love story, readers interested in historical fiction or a mildly creepy mystery (or both) will enjoy it. (historical note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)