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WhiskeyintheJar Romance

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Guest Reviewer at:  Reading Between the Wines book club

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"She thought it over, but couldn’t see any immediate loopholes other than the threat of her inner slut emerging, and she could darned well control that little bitch."— Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage

The Woman in the Dark - Vanessa Savage
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

He sees the beautiful Victorian house he grew up in, with its pitched roof and gabled ends---a fairy-tale house before it became the county House of Horrors. He sees happy memories of a childhood lived by the sea. He doesn't imagine blood on the walls or whispering ghosts. He doesn't see the Murder House, but I do. 

Sarah grew up with a mother who suffered from agoraphobia and a father who left, her childhood was less than ideal. When she meets Patrick, as a young nineteen year old, he sweeps her off her feet with his pretty face and pretty stories of a charming childhood. When he introduces her to his newborn baby boy Joe, she is swept up again. Her friend Caroline warns her that she is losing herself to Patrick but Joe needs her and she agrees to a pleading Patrick to get married. An abandoned college degree, birth of a daughter, and deep depression over her mother's death, has Sarah slowly seeing underneath all the pretty facades. 

With my mother's money, I could make my husband's dream come true. But in doing that, I'd be destroying every dream of my own. 

Woman in the Dark, has a strong Amityville Horror vibe with elements of The Girl on the Train. The story is mostly told all from Sarah's point of view with little snatches of a mystery person's pov. If you're familiar with the aforementioned stories, you'll know pretty soon where the story is headed. There were plenty of secondary characters to try to throw you off and have you second guessing supernatural or psychological, but most of the feelings of dread found here are from the knowing what Sarah is about to go through. The writing style, especially in the beginning, used a lot of short choppy sentences that gave it a staccato flow for me. This worked and didn't work for me, not a personal style favorite but when put together with how Sarah, her husband, and her two kids are portrayed in the first half, isolated or detached from one another, the style fits. The second half flows more smoothly as the pace picks up a bit, the reader starts to learn more as Sarah and her family start to interact and blind spots from only getting Sarah's point of view, start to fill. 

I'm thinking of the dozen cracks in his control that have grown since we moved here. 

When the reader comes into the story, Sarah is trying to emerge from deep depression over her mother's death and a maybe suicide attempt. Patrick convinces her to give up her inherited money to buy his childhood dream home, which they can only afford because fifteen years ago, a family, except for the younger son, was murdered there. Patrick's childhood home is called Murder House. Every thing is murky for Sarah as she is on medication and trying to become herself again, this makes the story murky, along with a lot of characters. Some secondary characters worked as credible misdirections and others, like Ian Hooper convicted of one of the murders, Tom the surviving younger son, and Sarah's friend Caroline, ended up landing very flat because of how they weren't utilized correctly; introduced, tangentially boogeymen, at times forgotten, and then left to sort of drift off. 

I have to face it, stop hiding. I shake my head. I always do this---eyes tight shut, hands over my ears, hoping it will all go away if I just pretend it isn't happening. I can't do that anymore. 

While I mentioned the constant circling of the question between supernatural or psychological, which the story never really gives a definite answer to, and Patrick's slow unraveling sending shivers down your spine, I think a lot of women will recognize the true horror of the story to be all the gaslighting. Murder House felt like an allegoric symbol for a woman trapped, pretty veneer covering up rot, showing once again, ghosts might not be the scariest beings haunting your home.