by Kelley Armstrong
A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about gothic romance and how it might be the next hit romance subgenre. At first I thought that might just be wishful thinking on my part, but I got enough interaction with the post and on Twitter that I know I’m not alone in wanting more mystery-shrouded castles and brooding, haunted heroes in my reading life.
After publishing it, I’ve been slowly working my way through the titles on that list. I started with Master of Salt & Bones. It was a five-star read for me. A Stitch in Time is the second one I’ve read, and now I’m two for two.
Can I pick good books or what?
This story is different than anything else I’ve read from Armstrong. I was obsessed with her Women of the Otherworld series back in the day, and so I had faith that she could make the switch from paranormal romance to gothic romance seamlessly. She did. Obvi.
I’m low-key struggling not to fangirl in this review, because I truly loved this book. In a way that makes me want to grab you by the shoulders and shout things like, “GAH!” ,”i MeAN”, and “YA KnoW???”
Does any of that make sense? No. Would any reader who had just finished an incredible book and was now staring down the barrel of the resulting book slump immediately understand me? Yes.
This book is a time-traveling romance set half in modern time, half in Victorian England. The heroine, and yes, I’m calling her a heroine because she truly deserves that title, Bronwyn, recently inherited a large English home (named Thorne Manor) from her aunt.
Oh yeah, and she can see ghosts.
I loved how this aspect of the book was handled. It felt real. Believable in a way that so few other paranormal-themed books do.
The first time Bronwyn saw ghosts and made the mistake of speaking about them, she was institutionalized by her mother. Between her stay in a mental health facility and countless years of therapy, she now believes it was all in her head.
And then she goes back to Thorne Manor and everything she thought she knew quickly goes up in flames. Because in addition to seeing ghosts, she’s a time-traveler.
Her old bedroom is something of a stitch in time, a small wormhole, and when she’s in it, all she has to do is think about him and she falls back through the ages.
This mysterious him is William Thorne. Bronwyn knew him as a boy, when they were childhood playmates, and then as a teenager, when they shared their first kiss. But then her mother dragged her away and hospitalized her. Now, at 38, Bronwyn and William are strangers to each other, and the last thing Bronwyn expects is to ever see him again.
If you’re worried that this book pulls that tired, cliched theme of “is she or isn’t she crazy?”, rest assured, it doesn’t. Bronwyn is rational and intelligent and lucid. She figures out pretty quickly and scientifically that she isn’t having psychosomatic hallucinations and is legitimately traveling back in time.
But the more she and William reconnect, the more ghosts haunt her when she returns to her own time. Thorne Manor is surrounded by wild British moors. It’s a place where people, and especially beautiful young women, are known to go missing. The rumors about hauntings and sightings go back years, but they all seem to center around one certain time period. The time when William Thorne lorded over the manor.
Is he behind their disappearances?
Bronwyn is understandably desperate to clear his name of the murders he’s accused of, but the more she learns, the more she begins to question everything she knows about the boy she fell in love with.
This book is equal parts mystery and romance. While I adored the way the romance was handled, it’s the mystery that truly makes this unputdownable. It’s also quite creepy. This is a gothic romance, after all, and it wouldn’t be complete without a touch of the paranormal. I made the mistake of reading this late into the night, which I ended up regretting a little, since I live in a centuries-old house with plenty of creaks and groans that can easily be mistaken for the wailing of specters.
The best part of this mystery is that I didn’t guess the twist. I thought I did, following Armstrong’s expertly laid false trail, and so at the end, when the “big reveal” happened, I was both surprised and elated.
This is a standalone, but I’m hoping Armstrong writes more books like this. Because GAH, YA KNOW?
A Stitch in Time is a hauntingly atmospheric romance with seriously gothic vibes. Yet it’s also a boldly modern twist on the classic genre. Progressive, feminist, inclusive, and as sexy as it is spooky, you’ll find yourself thinking of it long after you reach The End.