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Strong language: None
Violence: Yes, mainly arena battles
Sexual content: None
I received a final copy of this novel for free in return for an unbiased review. As a disclaimer, I am also in the same writing group as the author and have watched the book progress, but I have not allowed that to cloud my judgement.
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Winki Witherspoon is a widow of six months who has given up on life. When we meet her she is a wreck, dispirited, disengaged, and withering away to nothing both physically and emotionally. She is contacted by her husband Will’s lawyer, who insists as a part of Will’s will, he has to take her somewhere. Soon she pulls up at the dilapidated Gateway Manor with its kooky staff and a horde of secrets, starting with the double life her husband’s been leading in the hidden underworld of New Orleans. Her new life has been handed to her, whether she likes it or not.
The novel is written in first person through the eyes of Winki. She has a great voice, revealing the emotion, whether depression, shock, anger, or that flash of excitement, with ease. The story has a fine mix of sarcasm and dry humour, such as “Oh yeah, just mocked by a roach.” I felt in the early chapters she jumped between emotions too often, fleeing the house or diving into shouting matches as her self-preservation method. This smoothed out as the book got going though, remaining just enough for comic relief, but allowing the plot to progress.
The secondary characters, many of whom have nicknames such as Jeeves, Mrs. Black, and Mrs. White are all well developed and get their moments in the spotlight. Having all known Will since he was a child, they all add emotional enrichment, plot twists, and deepen the discovery of the hidden world under Winki’s nose. My favourite character had to be Hercule, the talking cockroach that despite any reservations about the species had our entire writers group enamoured with him. He often acts as a buffer or defence for Winki when too much information or too many instructions are being thrown around, explaining things simply, even when she is less than happy to share the room with him!