Mini-Reviews: Sawkill Girls & The Governess GameSawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Published by HarperCollins on October 2, 2018
Genres: Horror, Young Adult
Source: the publisher

“Reader, hang on for dear life. Sawkill Girls is a wild, gorgeous, and rich coming-of-age story about complicity, female camaraderie, and power.” —Sarah Gailey, author of River of Teeth

“An eerie, atmospheric assertion of female strength.” —Mindy McGinnis, author of The Female of the Species





From the New York Times bestselling author of Furyborn comes a breathtaking and spine-tingling novel about three teenage girls who face off against an insidious monster that preys upon young women. Perfect for fans of Victoria Schwab and Stranger Things.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: The newbie. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: The pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: The queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives; a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires. Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight…until now.

When Marion Althouse and her family move to the island of Sawkill Rock, they’re hoping it will be a place to recover from tragedy. Marion craves a change of scene and a slower pace of life. But the locals know that Sawkill has never been safe for girls. As more of her new classmates begin to disappear, Marion falls in with unexpected allies Zoey and Val to stop the carnage. But one of them is lying to her…

Make no mistake, this is a very dark read. There are detailed descriptions of violence, gore, and death. There are scenes of implied sexual assault and on-page parental abuse. And yes, there’s a creepy monster lurking around and trying to destroy people. But Sawkill Girls isn’t a horror novel because of a bloodthirsty monster: it’s horrifying because it shows how matter of fact our world is in the face of violence against young women. Understandably, there’s a lot of pain and anger in Marion, Zoey, and Val – but there’s hope and love, too.

Sawkill Girls is an unapologetically queer book and I revelled in it. Each of the three protagonists is queer, and the story doesn’t shy away from young women and their experiences with desire – or lack thereof. Zoey has recently realized that she’s asexual and although she isn’t completely sure what that means for her yet, it’s greatly impacted her relationship with her closest friend – and ex-boyfriend – Greyson.  Claire LeGrand’s portrayal of their dynamic was so impressive to me. I haven’t read many YA books with asexual main characters, and it’s refreshing to see a portrayal that is so nuanced and mature, and frank and respectful in equal measure.

This would’ve been an easy five-star read for me if it hadn’t been for the “big reveal.” The atmospheric, windswept island and the ritualistic nature of the killings had me expecting something witchy and supernatural, but the explanation ended up being quite jarring. It wasn’t completely out of the blue, but I was let down all the same.

Sawkill Girls is a thought-provoking and unexpectedly moving horror story. It’s not perfect, but it has established Claire LeGrand as an author that I’ll be following closely from now on. Highly recommended.

Mini-Reviews: Sawkill Girls & The Governess GameThe Governess Game by Tessa Dare
Series: Girl Meets Duke #2
Published by HarperCollins on August 28, 2018
Genres: Romance
Pages: 384
Source: the publisher

New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

He’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson

The accidental governess

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart . . . without risking her own.

The infamous rake

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling . . . and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

When Alexandra Mountbatten suddenly finds herself out of work, she takes on a truly herculean task: with no experience as a governess, she must turn a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. If only their guardian, Chase Reynaud, would get with the program.

Alexandra is by far the best part of this book. She’s smart, hardworking, and like every good romance heroine, she has some quirky hobbies: repairing clocks and astronomy. Alex’s childhood wasn’t the best, so when she must become a governess to make ends meet, she really gives it her to help the girls. Lately I’ve been reading more historical romances featuring heroines who’ve fallen on hard times, and I have to say that I appreciate the realistic portrayal of how difficult it was to provide for oneself as an unmarried woman. Alex has to seize every opportunity that comes her way, but she won’t let people run roughshod over her or allow herself to be taken advantage of.

As much as I loved Alex, I found her love interest Chase to be rather lacklustre. He’s broody and sarcastic, a bit of a womanizer but nothing too egregious. Chase’s difficult childhood has left him with emotional scars and a mistrust of falling love. In other words, a bog-standard hero. There’s nothing offensive about him, but I was a little disappointed that the incredible Alex didn’t end up with someone more…well, incredible. I get why they were drawn together, what with their shared experience of childhood struggles, but it wasn’t one of Dare’s strongest romances.

The Governess Game delivers Tessa Dare’s signature charm and wit – I think it’s one of her funniest books yet. Normally I’m not a huge fan of romance novels featuring children, but Daisy and Rosamund were hysterical. Of course, they try to run off their new governess with pranks the way that virtually every child in historical romance does, but they do it with style. They felt like real kids with their strange obsessions (doll funerals, anyone?) and their big hearts.

Recommended for fans of Tessa Dare.