cover image Midnight Rooms

Midnight Rooms

Donyae Coles. Amistad, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-322809-2

Coles astounds in her atmospheric gothic debut set in Victorian England. Orabella has never been expected to amount to much due to her lower-class background and biracial (half-Black, half-white) identity. When her white uncle, who took her in after her parents’ deaths, accrues a massive gambling debt, he barters Orabella as a wife to the mysterious Elias Blakersby to get out from under it. At 26, Orabella has never been with a man, making her nervous but determined to be a good wife. Fortunately, Elias is a kind man who spirits her away to his old but vast estate, Korringhill Manor, and dotes on her. Despite Elias’s apparent dedication to her happiness, life at Korringhill Manor grows increasingly nightmarish. Orabella’s creepy new servants refuse to leave her alone even for a moment, she has spells of dizziness and dissociation, and unexplained bruises show up on her thighs. As her perception of reality distorts, Orabella seeks to uncover the secrets of the Blakersby family before she is subsumed into the dreamlike manor. Coles’s prose is evocative and strange and pairs brilliantly with the gothic tropes she expertly deploys. This is a fever dream of a novel that readers won’t want to wake up from. Agent: Lane Heymont, Tobias Literary. (July)