What happened to Irene?
When Anna Coughlin, a modern 1920’s woman, travels to the secluded hills of Virginia to work for wealthy Lawrence Richardson, she discovers that the previous secretary, Irene, has mysteriously disappeared. Upon arriving at the castle-like mansion, Anna finds that Lawrence’s handsome, but antagonistic son, Tyler, wants nothing more than to have her gone. And he isn’t the only one—
Caught up in a maze of intrigue in a tormented and troubled household, Anna sets out to find the truth behind Irene’s disappearance. She is helped—and often hindered—by the temperamental Tyler Richardson, who—despite her best intentions—begins to steal her heart.
But even as Anna begins to uncover dark secrets, she must continue to hide a significant one of her own. Then, her life is threatened, and Anna is left to wonder if she’ll be able to unravel the mystery before she disappears as mysteriously as the unfortunate Irene—
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Romantic Suspense
PUBLISHER: Covenant Communications
RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2017
“There was something wrong here at Ashton Hall. Something very wrong.”
Searching for Irene is a historical mystery with a gothic feel, set in a castle-like estate in eastern Virginia during the 1920s. Filled with characters you like … but aren’t sure you can trust … Marlene Bateman’s latest also has several twists that will keep you turning the pages!
The setting is perfect. (a castle-like house in Virginia? Yes please!) The plot of the missing secretary is intriguing. The characters are layered. There’s some great kisses! And I like Anna’s Nancy Drew-ish tendencies (even though Nancy wasn’t around yet). Her interactions with Evan as well as Lawrence made me smile – Anna is definitely the kind of heroine I would want as a friend.
I have to admit, though, that it took me a while to get into this story.
It lacks something in dimension and cohesion, specifically in reactions and interactions. Dialogue frequently turned into info dumping – especially of historical fact – more so in the beginning than toward the middle and end. This is relatively minor overall and, if info dumping (the kind that’s not meant to be satirical) falls flat for you like it does for me, I would encourage you to keep going. Just when I had decided this wasn’t the book for me, Bateman threw in a twist I was NOT expecting and my attention was grabbed once again. That happened more than once – my attention began to wane and then another curve ball had me re-engaged with full interest.
As a side note, I also felt that the aspect of Anna being Mormon didn’t really add anything to the story and ended up being more of a distraction. That element could have been lifted out of the story and it wouldn’t have changed anything really. I would have been more interested in learning historical facts about being a Mormon in the 1920s – through Anna’s story – rather than having to stop the story to note that the family was Episcopalian but Tyler drove her to the Mormon church.
Bottom Line: I struggled at first to stay engaged with Searching for Irene by Marlene Bateman, but I’m glad I stuck it out. The mystery is well-crafted, as is the setting and the characters. The writing style made it slow-going for me in places, but I loved Anna and Tyler and Evan and so many other delightful new friends I met on the pages of this gothic mystery. Twists and turns kept me guessing, and I could easily picture Ashton Hall, its grounds, and its staff. Marlene Bateman has a definite talent for crafting a riveting mystery that will have you looking over your shoulder with cautious anticipation.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 3.5 stars / Love those twists!
KissingBook Level: 3 / May forget to breathe on occasion
Marlene Bateman was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and grew up in Sandy, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in English. Marlene is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and lives in North Salt Lake, Utah. Her hobbies are gardening, camping, and reading. Marlene has been published extensively in various magazines and newspapers and has written a number of (LDS) nonfiction books in addition to her mystery novels and the contemporary romance For Sale By Owner.