*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: A Dreadful Splendor
Author: B. R. Myers
Publisher: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Publication Date: August 2022
London, 1852. Genevieve Timmons has made her living posing as a spiritualist to swindle wealthy believers, until one misstep lands her in a jail cell awaiting the noose. Then a stranger, Mr. Lockhart, arrives to make her a peculiar offer. The lord he serves, Mr. Pemberton, has been grieving the mysterious death of his beautiful bride-to-be for six months. Although no foul play was ever uncovered, the young lord is convinced that she was murdered. If Genevieve can hold a séance to persuade him that his betrothed’s spirit is at peace, Mr. Lockhart promises to have the charges against her dismissed and reward her with enough money to start a new life.
But when Genevieve arrives at Somerset Park estate, she discovers that the handsome and aloof Mr. Pemberton is anything but the heartbroken lover she expected. Mr. Pemberton then approaches Genevieve with an offer of his own: together, they will stage a séance so convincing it will coax the killer out of the shadows.
Full of mystery, thrills, twists, and tricks, A Dreadful Splendor, follows spiritualist, Genevieve, following her arrest in 19th Century England. As someone who’s made her way tricking the wealthy out of their money, she now finds herself negotiating her way through an arrangement that will hopefully help her reach freedom. Her claim to fame is her “ability” to connect with the dead, but though her tricks are false, in the unfamiliar halls of Somerset Park estate, she finds herself coming face-to-face with spooks and haunts unknown.
I can’t say I felt particularly fond of any of the characters in this book, though Genevieve is certainly interesting. Her own history—daughter of a spiritualist, orphaned on the cusp of adulthood, struggling to make her way in the world—paints an intriguing picture of a young woman in mid-19th Century London. Survival in this gritty world is tough for a woman of her standing, and there are few on herself. She is persistent, deceptive, cunning, and self-reliant.
I’m a solid 3 stars on this one. It’s interesting, escapist, and easy to read. The story moves along at a good clip and isn’t too hard to get into. Certainly entertaining.