Penniless, and escaping the horrors of life as a governess to brutal households, Maud seeks refuge with the cousin-by-marriage she never knew. But Juliana quashes Maud's emerging friendships with the staff and locals - especially John, the artist commissioned to restore the sinister Doom in the local church. John, however, is smitten with Maud and makes every effort to woo her.
Maud, isolated and thwarted at every turn, continues to take the laudanum which was her only solace in London. Soon she becomes dependent on the drug - so is this the cause of her fresh anxieties? Or is someone - or something - plotting her demise?
Is the devil in the corner of the Doom a reality, or a figment of her imagination?
After two years and three houses of being a failed governess, Maud is feeling hopeless. Orphaned, with no family or support, she is on the verge of giving up when she hears from her uncle's step-daughter, Juliana Greenwood, offering her a home. Her only family left, Maud goes, hoping to find love as well as a stable home. But of course, this is a typical Victorian Gothic, which I love, so nothing is as it seems and none of it goes right.
I felt so sorry for Maud but was never really sure if I could trust her. She had some serious issues; I strongly believe she sleepwalked, which was not helping the superstitious rumours, as well as being addicted to laudanum and having a horrible time at her previous houses, I'm not all that surprised that she was a bit weird. As for her cousin, oh did Juliana annoyed me. She was spoiled, petty, immature considering she was middle-aged and ill, not to mention careful with her praise, even when Maud truly deserves it. Although it was obvious that Maud really wanted to love her and for Juliana to reciprocate, I think even Maud had her limits and if not for her Victorian ideals, would have acted out.
Now for the love interest. Written with alternate perspectives, we got inside John's head and saw Maud through his eyes, completely smitten with her as he was, even as she confused him. Tasked with repairing the church's painting, John was not the typical brooding artist; he was considerate and sweet, pretty clueless with women but a good guy.
The story itself was not as fast-paced or scary as I thought it would be. Not that I'm complaining; in the end, I really liked the pacing and the storyline, just different to what I expected. As Maud tries to understand what is happening in her new small town, starting with vicious rumours and ending with various deaths, she succumbs to the superstitious towns people and the will of Juliana. Elliott wrote a very good portrayal of Victorian mannerisms and traditions, all the little details adding up to one incredibly gripping story.
Published 6th March 2014 by Hachette Children's Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.