Review of “The Wife in the Attic” (Rye Bay #1) by Rose Lerner

Lerner, Rose. The Wife in the Attic. Narrated by Elsa Lepecki Bean, Audible, 2021. Audiobook.

Blurb

This daring Gothic thriller reinvents one of literature’s most twisted love triangles. Tensely romantic and deliciously suspenseful, The Wife in the Attic is perfect for fans of Jane EyreRebecca, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Goldengrove’s towers and twisted chimneys rose at the very edge of the peaceful Weald, a stone’s throw from the poisonous marshes and merciless waters of Rye Bay. Young Tabby Palethorp had been running wild there, ever since her mother grew too ill to leave her room.

I was the perfect choice to give Tabby a good English education: thoroughly respectable and far too plain to tempt her lonely father, Sir Kit, to indiscretion.

I knew better than to trust my new employer with the truth about my past. But knowing better couldn’t stop me from yearning for impossible things: to be Tabby’s mother, Sir Kit’s companion, Goldengrove’s new mistress.

All that belonged to poor Lady Palethorp. Most of all, I burned to finally catch a glimpse of her.

Surely she could tell me who cut the strings on my guitar, why all the doors inside the house were locked after dark, and whose footsteps I heard in the night….

With devious sophistication, Rose Lerner weaves a haunting tale full of secrets and sharp edges. Will the governess’ loyalties ultimately lie with the master of the house – or with the wife in the attic?

Review

5 stars 

I received a complimentary copy from the author and Audible in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Jane Eyre remains forever doomed to be a great classic that will always be outdone by its retellings, and that remains true with Rose Lerner’s take on the tale, The Wife in the Attic. Simultaneously dark and romantic, the young governess, finds herself as entranced with the “mad” wife as she does the Byronic antihero. 

Deborah is a compelling heroine, perhaps even more so than her literary predecessor. I was engaged with every word as the story progressed, as she found herself equally transfixed by Sir Kit and Jael, until her love for the latter and her horror at Sir Kit’s mistreatment of her led her to make some pretty dark choices. It can be hard to pull off unreliable narrators and characters with devious motives that go to extremes in romance, but the narrative pulls it off, making you root for this dark, twisted love story, even while you’re still not entirely sure about the mental state of the characters.

And given the…problematic…racial politics of the original, I like the way Lerner adapted it to focus on a compassionate conversation on religious differences. Jael is Jewish and this is a point of contention in her marriage. 

And the narration…I previously struggled with single-narrator audio for various reasons, but I was able to follow this one perfectly well, and found that Elsa Lepecki Bean was able to provide distinct voices for each of the characters without any feeling cringey, as can sometimes be the case. 

If you check out one audiobook this year (and this may very well be my one audiobook for a while, given my own preferences), I strongly suggest this one, especially if you love f/f romance, Gothics, and Jane Eyre. 

Author Bio

Rose discovered historical romance when she was twelve, and took her first stab at writing one a few years later. Her prose has improved since then, but her fascination with all things Regency hasn’t changed. When she’s not writing and researching, you can find her reading, watching, cooking, doodling, rambling, and daydreaming in Philadelphia.

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