THE DROWNING KIND by Jennifer McMahon

April 25, 2021

From the publisher:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim.

Be careful what you wish for.

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us.

Jennifer McMahon’s latest book is not at all surprising – a horror story. She has written in this genre for many years, and been quite successful in scaring the heck out of her readers. Pleased to inform the prospective readers that her writing continues with the same scary format so be warned. Don’t sit down at night with no one else home.     

The story flips back and forth between two generations about fifty years apart. It tells about two women subjected to the same horror and how they deal with it. The connection between them becomes apparent during a well contrived ending.   

Jax is the women living in the present with the occupation of social worker. We meet her at the point of having to rush back to her girlhood home when she is told that her sister Alexis (Lexie) has died. The two have been estranged for quite a while due to Lexie’s pushing her away and her death due to drowning is sudden and unexpected.       

Ethel Monroe is a 37-year-old newlywed in 1929 and desperately wanting to have a baby. Her husband takes her on a trip to Vermont where a natural spring is showcased by a new, very modern hotel. Her husband is a doctor who can practice medicine where he likes, and to please his new wife they move up to the area where the hotel and the spring are close.     

The two women are both affected by the spring, a lake and events surrounding it.  McMahon has the knack of building her stories up slowly but surely and reaching a crescendo for her readers. Where the horror comes in to the story is the plot of the book and a logical and frightening circumstance that makes “The Drowning Kind” another Jennifer McMahon excellent read.

4/2021 Paul Lane

THE DROWNING KIND by Jennifer McMahon. Gallery/Scout Press (April 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-1982153922. 336 pages.








November 2, 2019

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From the publisher:

A young widow restores a dilapidated mansion with the assistance of a charming, eccentric genius, only to find the house is full of dangerous secrets in this effervescent Gilded Age debut novel.

It’s 1875, and Alva Webster has perfected her stiff upper lip after three years of being pilloried in the presses of two continents over fleeing her abusive husband. Now his sudden death allows her to return to New York to make a fresh start, restoring Liefdehuis, a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion, and hopefully her reputation at the same time. However, fresh starts aren’t as easy as they seem, as Alva discovers when stories of a haunting at Liefdehuis begin to reach her. But Alva doesn’t believe in ghosts. So when the eccentric and brilliant professor, Samuel Moore, appears and informs her that he can get to the bottom of the mystery that surrounds Liefdehuis, she turns him down flat. She doesn’t need any more complications in her life―especially not a handsome, convention-flouting, scandal-raising one like Sam.

Unfortunately, though Alva is loath to admit it, Sam, a pioneer in electric lighting and a member of the nationally-adored Moore family of scientists, is the only one who can help. Together, the two delve into the tragic secrets wreathing Alva’s new home while Sam attempts to unlock Alva’s history―and her heart.

Set during the Gilded Age in New York City, The Widow of Rose House is a gorgeous debut by Diana Biller, with a darkly Victorian Gothic flair and an intrepid and resilient American heroine guaranteed to delight readers.

Based on the marketing and publisher description of Biller’s debut novel I picked it up expecting a Gothic ghost story with a bit of romance.  Instead, it is a romance with a bit of a ghost story.  Although I was slightly surprised by this, it was hard to be upset when The Widow of Rose House is one of the best romances I have read in 2019.  There are three main storylines at work in Biller’s novel: the romance between Alva and Sam, Alva’s continual battle to recover from the trauma of her marriage, and the haunting of Liefdehuis the mansion Alva is restoring, and Biller does a good job of balancing all three. I loved reading the development of Sam and Alva’s relationship as their banter turned into a deeper emotional connection.  Each of their interactions is truly a delight to read.  Sam was a wonderful romantic lead; intelligent, funny and empathetic.  Alva’s character was equally fascinating.  She is resilient, brave and independent.  I was really rooting for her to get her happy ending with Sam.  In addition to the characters and romance, I also really enjoyed the Gilded Age setting of The Widow of Rose House.  The Gilded Age is not a very common setting in historical romances and each location whether it was the glitz and energy of Manhattan or the desolate beauty of the mansions of the Hudson River Valley was expertly brought to life by Biller. Then, of course, there is the haunting of Liefdehuis.  This ghost story is more creepy and atmospheric than particularly scary, and for the most part the haunting takes a back seat to the romance and character development.  So even if you don’t typically read paranormal stories don’t let that deter you from reading this romance.

A satisfying and emotional romance with an interesting Gilded Age setting and touch of Gothic mystery. I will be eagerly awaiting Diana Biller’s next novel. Highly recommended.

11/19 Caitlin Brisson

THE WIDOW OF ROSE HOUSE by Diana Biller. St. Martin’s Griffin (October 8, 2019). ISBN 9781250297853. 352 p.