Buy Always Emily
Regular price: $16.99
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Reviewer: Melissa on April 21, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Charlotte and Emily Brontë are complete opposites. While Charlotte is sensible and cautious, Emily is stubborn and curious, but they do have one thing in common: a love of writing. However, when two strangers appear on the desolate English moors surrounding their home, they’ll need to use the imagination and wit they usually reserve for their fountain pens to unravel a string of mysteries. Is there any connection between the series of burglaries and gossip suggesting that a neighbor’s death might not have been an accident? Can Emily trust the handsome young man that she meets during one of her late night, solitary walks? Or is the equally attractive landowner who keeps showing up at the Brontë’s doorstep the one they should trust? And who is the mad woman who Charlotte ran into at a crossroads on the outskirts of the village – will understanding who she is be the key to unravelling the mystery and can they do it before someone else is killed? Pick up Always Emily by Michaela MacColl today to find out.
Some people say that you’re either a huge fan of Jane Austen or the Brontës, and from the moment when I read Jane Eyre in high school for the first time, I fell in love with the writing and characters that Charlotte Brontë creates. While I never fell as hard for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, I was also a big fan of their younger sister Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but only like some of Austen’s novels. In other words, when I first heard that MacColl was writing a historical mystery novel starring Emily and Charlotte Brontë, I knew that I had to read it, and I’m glad that I did. Just like her first novel, Prisoners In the Palace, which also takes place in Victorian England, MacColl blends realistic details from the lives of historical figures with fictionalized plot lines and characters. While the strangers that MacColl’s Charlotte and Emily meet and the situations that they find themselves in aren’t historically accurate, fans of the Brontë’s writing will appreciate the ways in which they tie in with the plots of their most famous novels. It’s like MacColl took a long, hard look at the ways in which Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are similar to and differ from each other and then asked, what if they were inspired by the same mysterious events? Always Emily may take some liberties with history, but they always ring true, and in my opinion, that’s more important.
As with all of MacColl’s novels, this novel has a fast-paced story full of intrigue and romance backed by historical evidence. But that doesn’t mean it begins right in the thick of the mysterious circumstances. Instead, MacColl establishes how the voices and personalities of Charlotte and Emily differ from one another to make the reader care about them as people before they put themselves in potentially dangerous situations and then, slowly, she offers small, well-placed clues that when combined, become increasingly bigger and impossible to ignore. She also establishes the existing conflicts between these two sisters, raising the stakes and making them more authentic and engaging. In fact, I found myself wanting to reread Wuthering Heights, a novel that I only read once and never quite understood, because Emily’s passion, feminism, and curiosity appealed to me so much. (At this time, I want to only hint at where their conflicts lie and how knowing them raises the stakes for the story because anything else would ruin the mystery for you and make picking up this novel less of a priority for you, something that would be really unfortunate.) Moreover, through the Brontë’s housekeeper, Tabby, MacColl depicts the lower class, their gossip and superstitions, and how she differs from the Brontës and their middle class background, which further adds authenticity to this historical world. By establishing their characters and using some historical details, the author does exactly what is necessary to create trust in the reader, allowing us to suspend our disbelief for moments when MacColl’s imagination, rather than the historical record, is on our side.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, MacColl goes beyond the historical record while prioritizing the Gothic sensibilities and Byronic heroes for which the Brontë sisters are known. She brings to life the English moor in stunning detail, complete with everything the characters see, hear, and feel, and focuses both Emily and Charlotte’s attention on Harry, one of the secondary characters who is integral to both of the MCs’ understanding of romance and who gets a large part of the mystery rolling. In the interest of not giving away too much of Always Emily’s plot, I’ll leave the rest of the storyline to you – if you decide to read it. However, keep in mind that fans of the Victorian period, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and the Brontës in general will enjoy it.
Buy Always Emily today!