Midnight Rooms

Amistad: HarperCollins. Jul. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9780063228092. $28. HORROR
DEBUT Orphaned Orabella, the child of a Black mother and a white father, lives under the care of her paternal uncle in 1840s England. She has been raised in the city as her cousin’s companion, but now that her cousin has married, Orabella’s uncle is eager to marry her off as well. When the handsome and rich Elias Blakersby, who is white, asks for her hand, Orabella, knowing her options are few, eagerly accepts. Whisked off to the family estate in the countryside, Orabella is separated from everyone and everything she knows. What follows is a classic gothic, told with a deep reverence for and knowledge of the genre. The writing style and common tropes that fans have come to expect are all here—the decaying house, ever-shifting hallways, odd family gatherings, and a deadly, inherited curse. But there is also a modern sensibility that will hook today’s readers, with references to (literal) gaslightings and sensual and empowering sex scenes.
VERDICT Coles’s novel is another stellar example of how marginalized voices are taking a perennially popular genre, previously dominated by white characters and authors, and revitalizing it for 21st-century readers in a manner that honors its history but injects brand-new terrors, similar to Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas.
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