If you have followed me for any length of time, you probably know that the horror genre is not one I read often. I prefer creepy and atmospheric fantasy over straight up horror. However, Hearts Strange and Dreadful, a new release by Tim McGregor, sounded like one I might enjoy. It’s described as supernatural historical fiction and I love both of those genres. I technically SHOULD have liked this book… Unfortunately, I did not and I’ll tell you why after the synopsis. This review will have spoilers.
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.
- Rating: ⭐⭐
Let’s first discuss what I enjoyed about this book. As a whole, it was well written. I loved the historical New England setting. I also think McGregor did an excellent job of creating a sense of dread that increased as the story progressed; at least until a certain point. There were quite a few characters and all of them were unique. They were fully fleshed out, especially the main character, Hester. I loved Hester and my heart broke for her many times. She was one of those characters that I just wanted to have a happy ending. She was brave and good but unfortunately, very naïve. I believe that it was intended for Hester to be a more simple minded young woman and that’s fine but it was annoying at times. What was happening in the town was very obvious but it took Hester a painful amount of time to put the pieces together. With that being said, let’s discuss what I didn’t like about this book.
It becomes clear about 35% of the way into the story that vampires are what is terrorizing the people of Wickstead. I love vampires but what I don’t love is bland vampires that bring nothing new to the table. The vampires here are ripped straight from Dracula and Salem’s Lot. There’s nothing interesting or even scary about them. Once you figure out that it’s vampires causing the chaos, things really start to drag because you, as the reader, have to wait for Hester to figure it out… which takes a VERY long time. Perhaps, though, my biggest issue with this book is the ending.
It just… ends; nothing is resolved and most questions go unanswered. Are the vampires defeated? Maybe but probably not. Who knows, though, because it’s an open ending. Hester’s past and her parents were also built up throughout this story. It was very mysterious and I assumed something interesting would be revealed but nope, nothing. If it wasn’t for the ending, I would have given this book AT LEAST three stars, maybe even four, but I just can’t.
If I would have known this was an open ended book, I wouldn’t have even wasted my time. In my personal opinion, open endings are lazy and they’re my number one bookish pet peeve. A lot of people love them, though, and if that’s you, maybe you’ll enjoy this one. Do you plan to give Hearts Strange and Dreadful a try? Thanks for reading and have a great day!