Madam - Phoebe Wynne

When a dream job opportunity is offered to her, Rose doesn't hesitate to accept. Caldonbrae Hall is steeped in tradition and the girls who learn and board there are promised to emerge resilient and ready to serve society. However, once she arrives, Rose realises that some traditions aren't as innocent as they first appear...

"Light a fire they can't put out" is an incredible tagline, whoever came up with that at Quercus deserves a raise. Gothic fiction writers often walk the line between focusing too much on setting and atmosphere in order to fall into the "gothic" genre, or on the dark plot line to achieve the same goal. I've definitely found it's an either/or situation in most cases but Wynne has found the perfect balance between plot and atmosphere. Rocky cliffs, a remote ancestral castle, secretive plots, people, and an exploitive scheme all combines to make exceptional reading.

Rose herself was written perfectly for this story, she immediately came across as well-rounded but troubled, she had an underlying need to fit in with the established staff at the school and do well which felt realistic. When she began to unravel the secrets at the Caldonbrae Hall the turmoil in her mind felt natural, she wanted to succeed but to also protect the girls at the school, following her point of view was the ideal way of telling this story. Whilst she taught Classics, her modern beliefs were really tested and Wynne depicts her main character perfectly.

My ideal story always involves a secluded setting and Caldonbrae Hall was one of my favourite settings I've ever read. It was dark, stormy, ancestral, with dark corners and creaking doors and everything about it was just spectacular. I cannot put into words how much I loved this novel. It is definitely one of my favourite reads of the year.

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