Author: Charlotte Stein
Format: Kindle ARC
Review by: Onnica
Basic story: Molly Parker is in need of a job. Desperate to leave her overcrowded home, she applies for a housekeeping job at a crooked, ancient house, which doesn’t bode well. Inside it lives Mr Harcroft, a crotchety, cruel and callous man. He’s not old but conducts himself like a Gothic anti-hero. He’s cutting with his comments, determined to drive Molly away with his jibes and general cantankerous behaviour. But he’s met his match in Molly. Nothing could compel her to return to her barren childhood home, with her uncaring family. She’ll put up with the jibes, but she’ll give as good as she gets.
The odd couple begin a strange relationship, consisting of handwritten notes and endless discussions on 19th century literature. Molly slowly gets to know her way around Cyrian Harcroft, but will he let her in fully to see the whole person?
Why you should read it: oh Charlotte, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… This is a smart, classicly funny Stein book. Our heroine is plucky, likeable and has gumption. No victims here. Cyrian is the coldest of cold fishes – you may not like him but his wit and his mannerisms hark back to bad-tempered heroes of the nineteenth century. He’s part-Heathcliff, part-Rochester and all smouldering aloofness. I loved him. The story develops at a nice pace and there is plenty of sexy times to enjoy. It wouldn’t be a Charlotte Stein read otherwise, now would it? This is a slow build which is also fine with me. Not convinced? Well, here’s an extract of her brilliance:
That sounds like hyperbole to me, and Cyrian despises it. He told me so only last Wednesday, when I said Brussels sprouts were worse than biting into something Satan pooped out. ‘If Satan took a shit in your mouth, Molly, you would probably dissolve from the inside out. Honestly, you exaggerate with such flagrant disregard for sense, you make me discuss a made-up religious icon simply to set you straight.’
What you might hate: Hmmm. Not sure. If you dislike banter and quirky humour, you may struggle with this book. If you like your heroes open and not repressed then again, this may not be the read for you. I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying read, which took elements of Jane Eyre and wove them into the fabric of the story.
Rating: A hot 4/5 for this story. I loved the dialogue and the main characters’ slow circling of each other.
Sweet Agony is out on 28 May.