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Guest Review: Where Ivy Dares to Grow by Marielle Thompson


Mexican Gothic meets Outlander in this spellbinding, atmospheric timeslip debut novel, as a woman struggling with her mental health spends the winter with her cruel in-laws in their eerie, haunting manor that sweeps her back through time and into the arms of her fiancé's mysterious, alluring 19th-century ancestor. Traveling to be with her fiancé’s terminally ill mother in her last days, Saoirse Read expected her introduction to the family’s ancestral home would be bittersweet. But the stark thrust of Langdon Hall against the cliff and the hundred darkened windows in its battered walls are almost as forbidding as the woman who lies wasting inside. Her fiancé’s parents make no secret of their distaste for Saoirse, and their feelings have long since spread to their son. Or perhaps it is only the shadows of her mind suggesting she’s unwelcome, seizing on her fears while her beloved grieves? As Saoirse takes to wandering the estate’s winding, dreamlike gardens, overgrown and half-wild with neglect, she slips back through time to 1818. There she meets Theo Page, a man like her fiancé but softer, with all the charms of that gentler age, and who clearly harbors a fervent interest in her. As it becomes clear that Theo is her fiancé’s ancestor, and the tenuous peace of Langdon Hall crumbles around her, Saoirse finds she’s no longer sure which dreams and doubts belong to the present—and which might not be dreams at all . . .


Opening Line:

“I feel like I might disappear, and I almost wish that were the truth.”

GUEST REVIEW by Sophia Rose

Debut author Marielle Thompson presents a genre-crossing tale full of atmosphere and dark shadows of the mind.  I was intrigued that Where Ivy Dares to Grow brings together Gothic tones, Contemporary and Historical Fiction with a Timeslip Element, and offers a heroine struggling with deep mental health issues.


Where Ivy Dares to Grow is written in flowery, poetic prose from a first-person point of view.  The tone is foreboding, with Saoirse holding shakily on mental health-wise with her Depersonalization- Derealization Disorder (DDD, when you always or often feel that you're seeing yourself from outside your body or you sense that things around you are not real — or both) which she fears and hasn’t come to grips with yet. Saoirse is at a low point when she experiences timeslip to a time 200 years in the past through reading the journal of Theo Page and a house that sends her through time.  She encounters the perfect hero in Theo, who admires her just as she is. It is her time in the past with Theo that gives her the strength and determination to take her life in hand and find her own contentment and happiness.  


Her character was written so well that I had no trouble believing I was in the head of someone struggling with severe mental health issues and a young woman who didn’t have much agency. Her choice to even come into the Langdon Hall environment, where she seemed to drift as she did with her engagement, was inexplicable to me. This also made her a difficult heroine for me to be in her head while she monologued. The slow pacing often lost my attention.


I was wary of the romance element because, though it takes place through time travel, Saoirse is in a committed relationship, even if it has gone cold. If she’d been permanently stuck in the past, I’d not have been ruffled by it, but she slips back and forth. So, fair warning to other readers who might struggle with this.


All in all, this debut effort does the job of bringing to light a disorder I knew little about and providing representation for others who suffer the same or similar disorders, showcases a well-written gothic setting and tone, and makes me want to try the author’s next gothic fiction effort as I adore such tales in the flavor of the old classics.  Maybe not for everyone, but readers should definitely consider Where Ivy Dares to Grow.


Where Ivy Dares to Grow by Marielle Thompson

Gothic Fiction, Time Slip

Publisher:  Kensington

Published:  6.27.23

Pages:  256


Marielle Thompson is a writer and lover of all things gothic, haunting, and romantic. Her writing is inspired largely by her experiences with mental health and her studies in literary history. She holds two master's degrees in Romantic and Victorian Literature & Society, as well as Creative Writing, both from the University of Edinburgh.

connect via website and Instagram.


illustrated version of Sophia Rose, brown hair and brown eyes

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, piano-playing, and gardening. Road trips and campouts, museums and monuments, restaurants, and theaters are her jam. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and a loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, baseball, cats, Scooby Doo, and chocolate.

As a lifelong reader, it was inevitable that Sophia would discover book blogs and the joy of blog reviewing. In 2012, she submitted her first book review and is currently an associate reviewer.

Sophia is a prolific reader and audiobook listener, which allows her to experience many wonderful books, authors, and narrators. Few genres are outside her reading tastes, but her true love is fiction particularly history, mystery, sci-fi, and romance. Sorry, no horror...or she will run like Shaggy and Scooby.



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