Book Review: The Second Wife by Catherine Cavendish

17340868Title: The Second Wife
Author: Catherine Cavendish
Genre: Horror, Supernatural Horror
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Goodreads, Amazon

Emily Marchant died on Valentine’s Day. If only she’d stayed dead…

When Chrissie Marchant first sets eyes on Barton Grove, she feels as if the house doesn’t want her. But it’s her new husband’s home, so now it’s her home as well. Sumptuous and exquisitely appointed, the house is filled with treasures that had belonged to Joe’s first wife, the perfect Emily, whom the villagers still consider the real mistress of Barton Grove.

A stunning photograph of the first Mrs. Marchant hangs in the living room, an unblemished rose in her hand. There’s something unnerving and impossibly alive about that portrait, but it’s not the only piece of Emily still in the house. And as Chrissie’s marriage unravels around her, she learns that Emily never intended for Joe to take a second wife…

The Second Wife is the story of Chrissie Marchant, the second wife of Joe Marchant, like the title suggests. Years ago the first Mrs. Marchant, Emily, died on Valentine’s Day. It took Joe a lot time to get over his pain, but now he’s found new love and happiness with Chrissie. They moved into Joe’s old home, a happily married couple.

Or not. While their love is strong, Chrissie feels Emily’s presence everywhere in the home. Emily decorated the entire house to her own taste, and no matter how much Chrissie tries to convince Joe, he won’t let her change the decorations. Emily’s portrait dominates their living room, and each day Chrissie is reminded of the woman who stole Joe’s heart. But that’s not the only ways Emily makes her presence known. Her spirit still lingers in the house, and pops up announced, tormenting Chrissie. If Chrissie wants to fight her marriage, she’ll have to stand up against the phantom…

I enjoyed Catherine Cavendish’ previous novella, Miss Abigail’s Room. You can read my review here. I must say that out of the two, I enjoyed The Second Wife the most but it was a close call. I’m a big fan of ghost stories, so when I read the synopsis of course I was thrilled. The story starts out promising as well, and some of the events that take, especially the one involving the chair (hey, I’m not going to spoil it for you, so I’m not going to tell you exactly what happens) were terrifying. I enjoyed reading about Chrissie. She was a nice character, a bit of an introvert, and I wish she’d gone out more, tried to make a life for herself outside of her haunted home. It’s one thing living with a ghost, it’s another thing living with a ghost 24/7.

Chrissie was actually kind of brave as well. If those things happened to me, I’d probably run out of my house screaming. I also liked Joe, but he was a little too self-involved for my liking. I expect a newly-wed couple to at least try to communicate with each other about what’s happening. It doesn’t look to me like he loves Chrissie very much. In fact, he still seems pretty infatuated with Emily. I wish he would’ve at least listened to Chrissie when she tried to explain to him something was going on.

The entire story had a very ‘gothic horror’ feel. The new wife moves into a stately home, the deceased wife’s shadow haunting her every step. I liked this modern adaptation of an old concept. It was well-executed. The horror started off pretty strongly though. I’m a fan of slower build-ups. I know that’s harder in a novella, but full-on mayhem in the first twenty-so pages shatters my fear instead of increasing it. It wasn’t that bad here – I still had a few scared feelings – but less than if the fear effect would’ve taken longer to build up.

The writing itself was good. I liked the descriptions, they really sketched the house for me in my mind. Dialogue could’ve been a bit more fluent at times though. I’m not sure if that was due to the writing, or due to Joe’s non-communicative behavior, but even Chrissie’s dialogues suffered from it sometimes. It just sounded a little stiff.

All in all, there was a solid ghost story, a nice scare element, good writing and a new, modernized approached to gothic horror, which is, without a doubt, my favorite genre. So I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, finished it in one sitting and thought about it for a while after. There’s a few twists toward the end that really left me breathless. I can’t wait to read another book by Catherine Cavendish. She’s become one of the horror authors on my favorites list.