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The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor
by Shaenon K. Garrity
Illustrated by Christopher Baldwin
Margaret K. McElderry Books, $21.99 HC, $14.99 PB, 224pp
Published: July 2021

This story starts off with Haley, a high-schooler and hopeless Gothic romance addict, being chastised  by her teacher for turning in yet another book report about a Gothic romance; she's told she has until Monday to write a book report on another topic. Crossing a bridge as she walks home in the pouring rain, she sees a young man struggling in the water and dives in to help him. That course of action leads her on a strange and wonderous adventure.

Haley wakes to find herself in a place called Willowweep Manor, which is inhabited by three very different brothers: Cuthbert, Lawrence and Montague. One of them is happy-go-lucky and another is gruff and brooding, while the third is trying to escape and find help from someone on the outside. There is also a sinister maid and a lady ghost who's delighted to finally be seen by someone. The location inside and out is right out of a... yes, you guessed it: a Gothic romance!

At first, Haley is in heaven. Her fantasy lifestyle has come true, but it doesn't take long to figure out that all is not as it seems at the Manor. As the story unfolds, she learns that she has fallen through a crack in a pocket universe, designed to stop an evil universe from colliding with her own. Now that the cat is out of the bag and Haley has discovered the family's hidden secret, it's not quite what she had in mind for this scenario. Can she stop the evil bile from invading her world and save the day, all while following the rules of how a maiden from a Gothic romance novel must behave?

This graphic novel was a well-written, witty story and the artwork worked wonderfully with the setting. I really enjoyed the characters and the amusement the author instills throughout the pages. It was an interesting concept and fun read with good dialogue and I look forward to reading more stories by Shaenon K. Garrity. This is a novel I'd gladly purchase and gift to my teenage granddaughters, as they'd get a kick out of reading it.

Thanks to the author, McElderry Books and NetGalley for sending me this ARC. ~~ Dee Astell

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