The Room Beyondby Stephanie Elmas Published 29 Sep 2013
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When Serena begins a new life working for the Hartreve family at 36 Marguerite Avenue she falls in love, not just with its eccentric and alluring inhabitants and their world, but with the house itself. Number 36 is a beautiful Victorian London mansion that has remained in the family for generations. Serena feels that by being here she has escaped the ghosts of her own sad childhood and found a true home, but she soon discovers that behind its gleaming surfaces Marguerite Avenue is plagued by secrets and mystery. Why does such a beautiful tranquil street seem sometimes to shimmer with menace? Is everyone in the family quite who they appear to be? And just what is it that the family is trying to hide from her?
It is 1892. On a hot summer night scented with jasmine, Miranda Whitestone hosts a dinner party at 34 Marguerite Avenue. Watching helplessly as her husband is seduced by her glamorous neighbour Lucinda Eden, she can have no idea of the consequences the evening will have.
For the history of Marguerite Avenue is more chilling than Serena could have imagined, and the fates of two women - the beautiful renegade Lucinda and the 'good wife' Miranda - will reach out from the past to cast a shadow over Serena's own future.
The Room Beyond is a thriller that delves beneath the romance and grandeur of a London house and finds a family haunted by the legacy of past wrongdoings. As the suspense grows and the fog thickens, will Serena be able to give up all that she has come to love? Will she ever escape?
"The Room Beyond" Reviews
What a superb book! I was hooked from the first chapter, which almost starts off like a film, watching Serena wind her way up the house and meeting all the eccentric inhabitants along the way. I loved the subtle humour built into it, like how Arabella declared she only has migraines on Thursdays - outrageous!
The story is cleverly interwoven between the modern day story of Serena, and the actions of the past inhabitants from over 100 years ago. What's clever is the little details that link each chapter together as one scene ends and another begins. They feel like two separate stories as you start making your way through the book, but as you progress further, the stories start to intertwine and then WOW, it starts to get dark, really dark. You would never believe starting off with the tranquil and serene story, with a fair bit of budding romance emerging, that the story would end up with something quite as disturbing unfolding before your eyes. The author handles this very well and takes you along the ride effortlessly. The twist at the end actually sent shivers up my spine and I had to put the book down for 5 minutes to get over the final revelations that bring the book together.
Aside from the brilliant characters throughout the book, without a shadow of a doubt, the character that sticks out the most and steals the show is Walter Balanchine. I am glad to see from the author's website that she is writing her next book just for him, and you can see why. He is an East End mystic type character who apparently got arrested as a child for turning a "local publican into a rat". He is a lovable character (but perhaps physically challenged in his weird appearance) which you know represents all that is good and just. Everybody needs their own personal Walter.
Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did, the writing is superb and the story thrilling, a perfect combination.
Absolutely loved this. It drew me in, a totally different world.
Very well written.
The story moves along at a decent pace, two worlds submerging into one.
Beautiful and a credit to the author.
So, when Stephanie Elmas contacted me to see if I would be interested in reviewing her book, I was immediately intrigued – both by the concept and by the fact that it was truly a labour of love for her, having taken 7 years to write, inbetween real life stuff such as family and work. I have spent the last few days reading it – inbetween real life stuff such as family and work! And here is what I thought.
Set in two timelines, with Serena beginning her employment with the Hartreve family and the relationship developing between her and the enigmatic Sebastian, we also head back to 1892 and meet Miranda Whitehouse, struggling in her marriage and forever under the watchful eye of her sister Jane. When she gets involved with the reclusive and mysterious Lucinda who lives next door, nothing will be the same again…
I love a novel that gives you true atmosphere and this one does just that… a beautifully descriptive writing style and classic tension building are key here and Stephanie Elmas pulls it off perfectly. The early part of the novel rambles gently but compellingly along but as things develop a much darker side appears – and from then on its a breathtaking rush to the final denouement. I wasnt expecting it to be that favourite thing of mine – a wonderfully twisty tale – but it was. The strong supernatural elements hit the mark and all in all this was a delightful surprise of a read.
Characterisation is terrific, I adored Miranda, she was perhaps my favourite but I have to give a nod to Walter Balanchine with his weird and wonderful style, a truly terrific creation indeed. As the strands of the separate stories are pulled together, I was pleased that this was an ebook, I’m fairly sure if it had been a physical book I would currently be suffering paper cuts from my eagerness to turn the pages. I loved it.
You will notice that plot details are rather lacking in this review – there is a reason for that – the absolute joy of this novel for me was that it wasnt quite what I was expecting, but what it turned out to be was captivating and delectable.
I received this book as a digital copy from Netgalley for an honest review. No compensation was received.
There are so many positive things to say about this book, but I won't bore you with details.
Do you enjoy a story within a story? The author has successfully accomplished this feat without boring the reader.
The book starts out normally and then turns into something entirely different. The author does this with ease and grace. Her characters are realistic and with great character. She has written a book with more twists than a pretzel. Don't hesitate on making this your next reading choice... You'll be glad you did!!! Oh... Did I mention words like... Victorian, gothic, haunting, etcetera...
I was given a copy of “The Room Beyond” by author Stephanie Elmas in exchange for an honest review. I had first met Ms. Elmas through a forum on goodreads back in February. After a few exchanges of emails discussing her book, I had agreed to read her work.
I have become a huge fan of historical fiction after reading the “Outlander” series. I have always been a history buff. I love how a book can transport me back into time; allow me to relive those memories as if I’m walking down the road watching it all unfold. Then to have the author put a fictional spin on the story to where bits and pieces of history are extracted and just sprinkled here and there to make for a wonderful tale. It makes me all giddy inside!
In “The Beyond Room” I was so taken with this story, it was more like watching an old black and white movie play out in my mind. The story starts off with Serena in current time. She is headed to a job interview for a nanny position at 36 Marguerite Ave. Nestled in the Victorian part of London, Serena takes in the beauty of the buildings and can only fathom what they looked like in the 1800’s when they were in their full glory. Confused by the way the houses are numbered; she notices that one is missing, number 34. Reassured it must be a mistake somewhere, she proceeds into the most home like environment that she could possibly imagine.
On a quest to locate Arabella Hartreve, Serena wanders the exquisite home admiring all the beauty. Old antique paintings line the walls. The house smells of fresh food baking. The wood is highly polished from years of hands on the banisters. Finally finding Mrs. Hartreve in her study, she is taken aback by a photo that is hung over the fireplace. A black and white picture of a young man looking back over his shoulder sends chills down her spine. But it’s her encounter with Ms. Hartreve that has her stumped.
The woman of the manor doesn’t to appear to hardly age at all. However, when trying to discuss the purpose of why Serena is even present indicates that Mrs. Hartreve is either so preoccupied with her Africa projects that she is absent-minded, or there is something strange going on.
With flashbacks to 1892, we are at 34 Marguerite Ave. Miranda Whitestone is fascinated with the obscure woman who occupies the house next door, number 36. Lucinda Eden is a woman scorned. Her husband, Alfonso has run off with a girl from his club. Leaving her to suffer the gossip of the town, Lucinda keeps to herself. This woman of exquisite beauty and vigor has decided that accepting a dinner invite from Mrs. Whitestone is the ideal opportunity.
Planning on making one heck of an appearance, Lucinda pulls out her best dress, decorates her hair in the most peculiar way, and plans to flatter everyone that is present. It’s Miranda’s husband, Tristan that is speechless when the vixen waltzes in late to the dinner party. Throwing him for a loop, he can’t keep his eyes from this marvelous woman. It’s not until this mysterious woman leaves the party, does Tristan become aware that he must have this as his prize.
It’s through a series of jumping back and forth that we learn of love, lust, betrayal and death. However, there is one key element that is tying the past to the present. With everyone being so evasive and keeping some deep dark family secrets and a few ill comments dropped from time to time, does Serena start to question what is actually happening. This sparks the questions is, will Serena be able to handle the answers? Or will Serena allow the past to consume her and remove her from her present life?
I was instantly drawn into this book by the mystery surrounding the house numbers. I couldn’t figure what was going on. Just like Serena, it was eating away at me throughout the story. It was due to the flashbacks that really started meto think I knew what was happening. Only problem was, everything that I thought of was way off track.
As the characters in the story started to become introduced, I felt myself drawn to certain characters. The author did such a great job developing all the key people. Not once did I find myself questioning the way the story was being presented. Everything flowed remarkable for so many jumps back and forth through time. You would think that you could get lost between the two times, but this wasn’t the case. With each flashback, you always felt how it tied into with what was going on in the present.
Ms. Elmas did a fabulous job with this story. I seriously didn’t want for this to end. By the time the story finally did wrap up, I was clutching my chest and I felt pain in my heart for those characters. I caught myself getting so mad at one point with what was going onI just kept saying “NO, NO, NO!” Then towards the end, I was fighting back stinging eyes full of tears.
If you love suspense, then this book is packed full of it. If you love historical fiction that transports you back in time, then this defiantly is for you. I know that I will be telling everyone about how wonderful this story actually is.
This is not a genre that I normally read but I was delighted with the author's strong narrative skills and her original and very enjoyable use of the language. Throughout the entire book, two parallel stories unfold, one contemporary and the other set in circa 1892.
Serena is a lonely young artist, who was raised by her aunt following the tragic death of her parents in a road accident. She is strong and independent but also vulnerable, as she carries the scars (both emotional and physical) of her damaged childhood. She is the main protagonist and narrator of the modern-day story. When she accepts an offer of employment to act as nanny (or more precisely, responsible companion) to Beth, an unusually bright and precocious 4-year-old, in a beautiful historic house on Marguerite Avenue, in London, she enters an eccentric family who cohabit uneasily in an atmosphere dripping with underlying tensions and secrets.
The Victorian narrative features many tragic characters but the main one is Miranda, a plain woman desperately in love with her handsome husband, who has married her strictly to redeem his unsavoury past in India.
It takes a lot of skill to manage the two threads that are enriched by many common elements and interrelating events, but Stephanie Elmas capably handles the challenge, mastering her material and delivering a strong and credible recreation of Victorian sensational writing. Fans of this genre will find much to hold their interest, as this novel demands a fair amount of attention and involvement from the reader but repays all efforts with compelling twists and unexpected developments. As the novel delves in the supernatural, there are many elements that require the reader to suspend belief, and attempting to apply strict logic will only interfere with one's enjoyment of the plot.
There are many characters to follow but each one has been imbued with enough personality and uniqueness that keeping them in mind becomes effortless. The author also does a good job of rendering both modern dialogue and the more formal and stilted exchanges of the historical sections in ways that feel period appropriate and without wild and jarring exaggerations.
The stories are full of elements of the horrific, supernatural and ghoulish, interactions with ghostly entities and a glimpse into the mind control craze that gripped Victorian sensibilities, but they also touch on the present-day predicament of old families trying to preserve the architectural heritage of crumbling old mansions that are as beautiful as they are impractical. In fact, three houses along a leafy old London street and a gloriously disintegrating mansion in Wiltshire are at the heart of the narrative and almost take on a life of their own.
The pace is sedate, becoming urgent as events dictate and turning back to meditative. The recurring romantic content is handled with great skill: the action is clearly depicted without ever descending into the gratuitously graphic. There is a fair bit of tragedy and human suffering and a chance to identify and sympathize with the particular problems of each of the main protagonists. Elmas tells a compelling story of human passions, greed and folly without passing judgement and it is possible to feel compassion even for the evil-doers and the misguided, and we are left to apply our own standards. The ending is certainly not sugar-coated but satisfactorily optimistic. All in all, a suspenseful read that kept me interested throughout and surpassed my expectations.