Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother’s legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer.
Only one person believes Valentine is innocent—Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end.
**** Thank you to Tor Teen for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ****
**** Trigger Warnings: Violence, Death & Murder, Brief Mention of Physical Abuse, and Death of a Parent ****
I was expecting something very different given the synopsis but overall I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this one. Was it perfect? No. But it was an enjoyable read especially since I normally don’t enjoy historical fiction!
The story didn’t actually focus on the murders as much as I thought it would, which was slightly disappointing to me. It’s actually more of a character study than anything else so at times it felt slow but overall I was pretty hooked while reading so I would say the pacing was pretty in the middle. It also stayed consistent throughout the book as well. There were also quite a few twists along the way that I was NOT expecting so that was really fun. I think there was a lot more focus on Valentine’s love life than anything but really the mystery was well done too, just not as present as I would have liked. There’s also some bits of family drama added in that kept things pretty interesting. I really never felt that there any dull moments will reading, everything kept my attention very well.
The writing was also very nice, as I’ve already said it kept me interested and never bored. Which is actually pretty impressive since I don’t normally enjoy historical fiction and tend to get bored while reading it. I’m definitely curious to see what else Teri Bailey Black will be coming up with!
There is a bit of a feminist undertone to the entire story as well. Valentine, the MC, works very hard in order to make her attendance at a prestigious, formerly boys only, private school worth it. She believes women should be able to go to college and have the some of the same rights as men. There are side characters that feel the same way and work to help further women’s rights. I thought this was a nice touch to the book, personally, and I thought it was done very well.
Overall I felt it was a story that flowed very well, nothing ever felt abrupt or rushed.
The dialogue also never felt forced or choppy.
As I already briefly mentioned this is very much a character driven story with a focus on Valentine and her two love interests: Rowan and Sam. I actually thought everyone was very complex and well fleshed out, everyone had their flaws and grew as a character throughout the course of the book too. Sure there were some decisions that were made that may have not been the smartest but I felt this was more so due to the character’s realistic flaws than just a character being….well, dumb or annoying.
I actually really enjoyed all three of these characters, they’re all extremely sweet and adorable. Valentine is just one of those heroines you can’t help but root for, she’s just so down to earth and very caring towards others. I really enjoyed her friendship with her childhood friend, Sam. I kind of wished he hadn’t turned into a love interest but in the end I wasn’t complaining, he’s just so cute, although his temper was pretty unruly at times.
Rowan’s character was a bit of a surprise to me, he definitely wasn’t how I thought he would be. He’s the most popular guy at school and all the girls moon after him, however, he wasn’t arrogant in the least bit and I loved how hard he tries to help Valentine fit in and make her feel comfortable. He’s pretty swoon-worthy!
There are many side characters that get a lot of page time as well, I liked how in depth some of their roles were in the story. Especially where you weren’t expecting it!
Another thing I briefly mentioned, the romance. “Girl at the Grave” is a little more focused on romance than murder and mystery, which most of the time would bother me to no end. However, I could not help but be invested in the story regardless! There IS a love triangle in this book between Valentine, Sam her childhood friend, and Rowan the popular guy. This is one of the few exceptions I’ve made for the love triangle trope, I can handle one if I feel both love interests are genuinely fitting for the main character. Boy, oh boy, were these two fitting for Valentine! I couldn’t make up my mind half the time about which boy she should choose, it was madness! They were both so wonderful!
Although one thing I didn’t like was how Valentine kind of “settled” for Sam at one point, that’s just not fair to either party but especially him. I also didn’t really like how pushy Sam could be at times, let her decide in her own time!
What I Loved:
- Some nice, surprising plot twists
- Evenly paced
- Held my attention throughout very well
- The writing was very good
- Feminist plot elements
- Everything flowed nicely
- Characters were well developed and realistic
- Love triangle that I didn’t mind
- Love interests that were actually swoon-worthy!
What I Didn’t Love:
- Plot focused more on the romance than the mystery
- Valentine and Sam’s treatment of each other at times throughout
I know that this is more positive than negative and it seems like it should be a 4 or 5 star read but overall I walked away from this book feeling like it’s a 3.5. There wasn’t anything truly remarkable about the story but it was just an enjoyable read. I do recommend this to fans of historical fiction romances with a mystery twist!