Always Emily by Michaela MacColl

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “Emily and Charlotte Bronte are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious. Emily is curious and headstrong. But they have one thing in common: a love of writing. And when a neighbour dies under suspicious circumstances, they must combine the imagination and wit usually reserved for their pens to unravel a string of myseteries. Should they trust the handsome stranger Emily met on one of her solitary walks across the desolate moors or the intriguing local landowner that keeps appearing on Charlotte’s doorstep? There are a lot of knots to untangle, and they had better do it quickly – before someone else is killed.”

REVIEW: I am a great fan of both Emily and Charlotte Bronte (and, of course, their often-forgotten sister Anne, who is sadly not included in this tale) and was intrigued to read this novel, set before either of the two girls had published any written works. Both Emily and Charlotte are attending boarding school; Charlotte as a teacher, Emily as a pupil. Emily chafes against the rigid structure of the boarding school system, longing to be home and wandering the moors once again, while Charlotte’s creative mind means that she struggles to focus on her teaching tasks. Both girls eventually end up back at the parsonage, Emily after a near-fatal illness and Charlotte due to a suspension after the headmistress finds and reads one of her short stories. It is at this point that the mystery, the focal point of MacColl’s story begins to develop. Charlotte one day bumps into a mysterious man named Robert Heaton who claims that his sister is inflicted with madness and continuously runs away from home. Charlotte, however, is suspicious of Heaton’s motives for keeping his sister locked up at home, especially as it starts to seem as though Heaton is connected to the sudden erratic and volatile behaviour of her brother, Branwell. Simultaneously, during her walks on the moor, Emily meets a handsome young man who turns out to be Heaton’s nephew and the true heir to the Heaton fortune; he has come to rescue his mother, Rachel, whom he believes Heaton has drugged to keep her inside the house. Both sisters are unwittingly dragged into the mystery and soon begin to find that their creativity, wit and imagination are strengths that can aid them in helping young Harry Heaton and rescuing Rachel. This book is fun, light and easy to read, cleverly using quotes from the written works of both girls to link in with the unfolding events. There are clever twists and turns that make the story engaging, and MacColl effectively recreates the gothic atmosphere of Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ to connect the story even more closely with the Brontes as we know and love them. I enjoyed reading this book, although sometimes the events felt a little too unbelievable and the writing could sometimes feel rushed and overly simplistic; but overall, this was an interesting and enjoyable read that I would recommend to Bronte fans.

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