Hello readers! If you have been following my blog recently, you will see I received a book subscription box by the fabulous people at the Once Upon a Book Club Box. It’s finally time to review the box’s book The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb and also review the box itself! First up, the book…So what’s it about?
When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them.
But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows–including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks–she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows–and herself–from sinister forces.
I loved the way the book brought together the past and the present, revealing just enough about both in order to carry the story along, keeping you interested but not revealing too much. It ticks all of the necessary horror boxes: A large, historical building where lots of people died? Tick. Unpredictable weather which cuts off the people within from the outside world? Tick. Members of staff which clearly know more than they’re letting on? Tick. A group of apparent strangers brought together by unknown forces for nefarious means? Tick. It practically writes itself. Was it scary? Sadly not, but that may have more to do with my tolerance levels for all things grotesque and horrifying than the writing itself. I rarely find books scary. But it certainly is atmospheric, with Webb creating enough suspense to keep you coming back for more. Certain aspects of it were predictable, and I worked out one of the twists from the start. But the ending was very original and I genuinely didn’t see it coming. In fact, she managed one of those rare and awesome writing moments when the reader gets to the ending, is surprised by it, and then finds themselves going over the book in their mind, realising they had missed so many clues. I respect any writer who can manage that!
I have a few small criticisms. First, the whole incident is kind of ’rounded off’ at the end, and it feels rushed. I personally think a few additional chapters would have provided a satisfactory conclusion for the reader without losing them. I also think that it could have done with a little more carnage. I don’t want to give many spoilers, but victims are put into a shocked, catatonic state, literally paralysing them with fear, when perhaps, I would have just killed them off. But again, maybe that’s just me and my love of the dreadful.
Overall, I found this book thoroughly entertaining. I looked forward to settling into bed with it each night, and at certain points, I genuinely couldn’t put it down. I definitely recommend it of you fancy something on the spooky side.
What about the box itself? In a word: AWESOME! If you missed my previous posts, the Once Upon a Book Club Box is not your average book subscription box. Along with a great book, you get a selection of gifts, all of which are individually and lovingly wrapped, and marked with a page number. Once you reach the right page, you open your gift marked with that particular page number and inside you find a surprise which is tailored to that part of the book.
If you have the box, and haven’t opened all of your gifts yet, stop reading now because there are spoilers ahead! Obviously, my gifts were tailored to The End of Temperance Dare. At one moment in the book, the main character takes a long and much needed bath containing bath salts, so when I opened my gift, I found some sweet smelling bath salts just for me! At another point in the book, the main character finds herself so engrossed in what she is doing, she loses time, and is amazed to look at the clock and find much more time has passed than she thought. When I opened my gift, I found a super cute clock! When the main character opens a letter, I too get my very own copy of that letter. When makeup is applied within the story, I opened my gift to find my very own set of makeup brushes, and finally, as the main character writes in her diary, I open my own pen, with one of Macbeth’s most memorable lines inscribed on it, ‘By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.’ It’s very obvious how much thought and effort has gone behind each and every gift choice. Even the way in which they are wrapped and labelled is so beautifully and carefully considered. I found that each gift helped immerse me in the story, and they became a little goal for reading, some exciting little surprise to reach before I put down the book for the evening. It was like a box that kept on giving. Unlike other subscription boxes, where you open and see everything at once, this one lasts as long as you want it to so you feel like you are really getting value for money. I know some people can’t resist, and open all of the gifts at once (and I can’t deny I was tempted) but I was glad I kept them all as a surprise because each one genuinely put a smile on my face when I got to open them. In a nut shell- I loved it! And I definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a bookish subscription box. If you decide to give it a go, you can get 10% off with my exclusive discount code MARIE10.