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Hearts Strange and Dreadful Review

For a Historical Fiction book, things truly get dark with this one!


Rating: 4/5

New England, 1821—Hester Stokely, an orphan with unusual abilities, struggles to find her place in the pious town of Wickstead. A house-servant in the employ of her uncle’s upright family, Hester is treated as little more than a pariah by the judgmental townsfolk.


When a deadly plague comes to town, Hester becomes indispensable as a healer. Yet as Hester watches the town's residents rapidly fall ill, she realizes that something more dangerous than disease has come to Wickstead.


Soon the buried dead are exhumed on rumor of superstition, and occult fires burn fiercely into the night. As the townspeople turn on each other, a mysterious traveler arrives, furthering the growing paranoia.


Hester must confront the dark forces which have invaded Wickstead, or all who live there may be lost… their souls included.

Going into this, I didn’t know what to expect. I was told this was a Gothic Historical Fiction. I would place this in a similar category as Mexican Gothic being filled with a touch of horror, but this is not nearly as dark. Though there are some similar feels especially at the end of this. And I’ll be honest I didn’t expect it to take that route and I also expected a much more gruesome ending.


I would place this in a similar category as Mexican Gothic being filled with a touch of horror, but this is not nearly as dark.

I found the premise intriguing. We follow a young girl, Hester who is taken in by her aunt and uncle after a fire destroyed her home, killed her parents and left her face scarred. Hester feels only a little more than a housemaid. Then one day, Hester’s cousin falls ill, and majority of the town shortly after. However, Hester eventually learns things are darker than this just being an illness.


However, even though the ending wasn’t what I hoped it was going to end. I wasn’t a fan of the actual final events. I enjoyed everything else about this one besides the ending. I didn’t see it as a content ending, in fact, I found it to be very questionable. As well as leaving several open questions. As we got closer to the end, we’re shown several bits of new information, but were left unexplained. I wish we had gotten an answer or they had been left out entirely.


When it comes to Historical Fiction, I’ve noticed they’re often set at a slower pace. And this one is also more on the slower side of the bar. Though, even with this slower pace, I was fully captivated by the storyline. There was never a dull moment. My curiosity got me through the book, with no expectations I was curious to see how things would play out. And as I mentioned, I didn’t expect the route it took.


Even with this slower pace, I was fully captivated by the storyline. There was never a dull moment.

I do think this isn’t going to be a book for everyone. As I mentioned, the pace was definitely more of a slow burn. And for a Historical Fiction book, things truly get dark. That small touch of horror reminded me of Mexican Gothic.


Despite the slow pace and what I thought of as an unlikable ending, I did enjoy reading this one. I think if you enjoy Historical Fiction and don’t mind a bit of horror, then you might enjoy this one!