Monday, January 22, 2024

Book Review - The Woman in the Castello by Kelsey James


The Woman in the Castello by Kelsey James is about a young woman, Silvia Whitford, who reconnects with her estranged aunt, Gabriella Conti. In 1965, Silvia left behind Los Angeles and traveled to Rome’s famed Cinecittà Studios for a supporting role in a movie. Silvia hopes that this would be her big break and she would be able to save enough money to support her young daughter, Lulu, and her ailing mother.

She is disappointed to learn that production of the movie that she was casted in was canceled. Silvia is desperate for money and doesn’t have much left before she and her family are put out of the hotel they’re staying in. Silvia is ashamed to tell her mother the news and how dire their situation is. She decides that she will reach out to her estranged Italian Aunt Gabriella and ask for help. Silvia is nervous because she has never met her aunt and she knows that her mother and aunt do not get along. When Silvia brings up her aunt, her mother clams up and never explains what drove them apart.

Gabriella Conti lives in a crumbling massive castello near the edge of a volcanic lake. Silvia is hesitant to reach out because of the feud between the two sisters but she finds herself entranced by her aunt. Gabriella was once a charismatic and famous actress. However, Silvia finds it curious that her aunt never leaves the castle, and that the townspeople do not get along with her nor do they ever see Gabriella.  Gabrielle is a woman shrouded in an air of mystery.

As Silvia tours the castle, she is both fascinated with it and terrified of the castle. Especially when Gabriella mentions that there is a ghost haunting the grounds. However, when Silvia gets a second chance to star in a new movie called The Revenge of the Lake Witch, she will need to convince  Gabriella to allow the movie crew to use her castle to film the movie.

Silvia is the main lead in the movie. She is playing an ingenue that is tormented and haunted by the ghost of her beautiful and seductive ancestor. Silvia thought she would be able to reconnect with her aunt when she wasn’t filming. However, Gabriella vanishes and Silvia believes that someone or something is the cause of her aunt’s disappearance. To make matters worse, Silvia is seeing signs that something is amiss and things are happening that makes her believe that person won’t stop at nothing to prevent Silvia from finding her aunt. When Silvia tries to get help to search for her aunt, no one believes her. Even Silvia starts to question her own judgment. Will she be able to figure out what happened to her before it’s too late?

The novel was a cozy read. It felt boring at times because nothing much was happening. I found the ending and the twists to be predictable. I thought the book was going to have a lot more mysterious and spooky elements. There were a few plot points in the book that could be perceived to add excitement to the book but they turned out to be nothing. For example, it was unclear why Silvia thought for certain another female actor was out to get rid of Silvia but there was no evidence of that. It was a bit annoying that Silvia did this several times throughout the story. I didn’t care for any of the main characters because they felt boring and one - dimensional.  Silvia was selfish and unlikeable as a character because of her penchant to overreact and assume the worst without any evidence.  The book is billed as a thriller but it was more of a cozy mystery. I would be open to reading more books by the author but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find her books.       

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