Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Where Ivy Dares to Grow by Marielle Thompson
Narrator: Nancy Peterson
Published by Tantor Audio on June 27, 2023
Length: hours, minutes
Amazon, Audible, Libro.fm, Barnes & Noble, Apple
Traveling to be with her fiancé’s terminally ill mother in her last days, Saoirse Read expected her introduction to the family’s ancestral home would be bittersweet. But the stark thrust of Langdon Hall against the cliff and the hundred darkened windows in its battered walls are almost as forbidding as the woman who lies wasting inside. Her fiancé’s parents make no secret of their distaste for Saoirse, and their feelings have long since spread to their son. Or perhaps it is only the shadows of her mind suggesting she’s unwelcome, seizing on her fears while her beloved grieves?
As Saoirse takes to wandering the estate’s winding, dreamlike gardens, overgrown and half-wild with neglect, she slips back through time to 1818. There she meets Theo Page, a man like her fiancé but softer, with all the charms of that gentler age, and who clearly harbors a fervent interest in her. As it becomes clear that Theo is her fiancé’s ancestor, and the tenuous peace of Langdon Hall crumbles around her, Saoirse finds she’s no longer sure which dreams and doubts belong to the present—and which might not be dreams at all . . .
Where Ivy Dares to Grow is an interesting and meandering standalone featuring a unreliable narrator. Saoirse is stuck at a beautiful estate to be with her fiancé as his mother spends her last days on earth. The estate seems almost haunted and alive with history and Saoirse is swept away in a diary she found, losing herself to the past and the man, Theo Page, who wrote the diary.
It is clear from the beginning that Saoirse and Jack have been just going through the motions for some time and you wonder how/why they are still together. Everyone seems so put out that Saoirse even came to be at the estate with Jack in this difficult time. Left to herself, she barely sees or speaks to Jack and is instead sent by the house back in time to meet the very man whose diary she found. Theo is so unlike Jack and makes Saoirse feel like she isn’t broken and is worth something. He is so unlike the man in her present and she can’t help but be drawn to him slipping back and forth between 1994 and Theo’s time 1818.
A few things. I get that Saoirse’s current relationship was a mess and doomed, I mean you get that sense in the first few chapters, but she cheats on Jack with Theo. Now in Outlander I was kinda okay with Claire and Jamie because Claire is stuck in the past with no way to get back. But Saoirse shifts back and forth between the two times, so the cheating felt more real even if Jack is a jerk and you know that relationship isn’t going anywhere. If you have issues with cheating just be aware.
This is a slow read. It has that gothic feel to it for sure, but it is also languorous and meandering as Saoirse goes back and forth and we hear all the thoughts in her head. I eventually sped up the narration because it all felt too slow. I was however engaged in the story and couldn’t wait to see how it ended, so at least it was captivating in that sense.
There is a nice twist at the end that I wondered if it was coming and then the author talked about why she wrote this book. I think it is an interesting way to talk about a mental illness not many know about. I had never heard of this disorder but then thought I might know someone with a mild case of it.
Overall an interesting story with a forbidden romance. The ending was satisfying and I was happy Saoirse found herself, especially after feeling so adrift.
Nancy Peterson did a very good job portraying the vibe of the story. She captured the heroine and her brokenness well, making her sympathetic and not whining. I listened to most of the story at my usual 1.5x speed but about 50% in I bumped it up to 1.75x for my preferred flow rate.
Listen to a clip: HERE
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