This was an impulse purchase that worked out very well for me! Alva Webster is notorious, a widow who supposedly held orgiastic parties right before her husband was murdered. She’s moved back to the US after his death, has bought a house called Liefdehuis, and wants to re-design it and create a lovely place to live… while writing a book about the process aimed at middle-class people. They’ll buy her book because of her notoriety, she reasons, and then some will enjoy her work.
She runs into Sam Moore, a scientist, who really wants to look into the local folklore surrounding Liefdehuis. There’s a ghost, supposedly, and he’s eager to put that to the test. Alva’s not keen, but is eventually driven to seeking him out for that.
If you’re a fan of the Veronica Speedwell books, I suspect this would be up your alley. Alva is a bit less independent than Veronica, partly due to her rather traumatic past, but there’s a kinship there. The love interest, Sam, is just a delight — bright and optimistic most of the time, oblivious to the stupidest societal things, protective and full of love. I could maybe wish Alva was a little less tentative in some things, but some of the breakthroughs of the story are hers and her slow but sure understanding that her past is done is well done. Sam’s family are also a delight, and I could definitely wish for a few more books with them and Henry…
The book does contain references to domestic violence, and some violent scenes. Alva is blackmailed, and her family are also abusive (though more in a neglectful sort of way). There are several fairly explicit sex scenes, which do somewhat further the relationship between Alva and Sam, but are probably skippable too. I don’t know enough about the period to say whether it’s historically accurate, but it felt like there was some license being taken about how Alva’s servants (for instance) would react.
Very enjoyable, all in all!