I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Author: Alyssa Palombo
Category: Romance, Paranormal
Publication Date: October 2nd, 2018
When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance.
But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman.
So, I read this synopsis before requesting/reading this book. I swear I did. And still for some reason I was not expecting this to be the romance novel that it was. For some reason, I still expected there to be a main plot of Headless Horseman and village people going missing. Magic and spooky forests (okay, that one was for sure there). But this is very much a gothic romance story, not so much with the paranormal/fantasy elements.
While the Horseman and some magic was mentioned, it honestly was mostly there for atmosphere and foreshadowing and not as a plot in and of itself.
All that said, I can’t really hold it against the book that I am not a romance reader. I prefer my romance stories to be intertwined with a larger plot but that’s simply not what this was. So I am going to try and put that aside and review this book for what it was: a dark romance between Katrina Van Tassel and Ichabod Crane.
In short, it was…okay. It was a little bit of love-at-first-sight which I guess works with a fairy tale-esque retelling but I was just never 100% sold on these character’s chemistry. And then I got annoyed with the constant “we shouldn’t be doing this…*smooch smooch smooch*…we shouldn’t be doing this…” And just on and on and on with the “one days” and the sweet nothings. I think I’m going back to my general distaste for romance novels here but I just got tired of it.
This book is billed as a feminist retelling though so let’s look at that. How successful was this book in that regard? Honestly, I would say fairly successful.
For a good chunk of the first half, most of the feminism comes in the form of multiple characters making comments to the effect of “women are just as capable as men.” For 18th century characters, this might be ultra-progressive. For a 21st century reader though it is not exactly groundbreaking.
Later on in the book though, Katrina has to make some very difficult choices and that I felt was where the feminism really came into play. She has to make decisions and sacrifices that I don’t see a man ever having to make but she has to find her own strength and take care of what is important to her when all her available options suck. These decisions would not be fun for a modern woman to make but 250 years ago? Yeah, much harder.
Another character central to this story is Brom van Brunt. Brom is pretty much the country man that wouldn’t know progress if it bit him on the face. He repeatedly shows no regard for Katrina’s opinions or feelings and is quick to buy into prejudice.
For most of the book, I didn’t like him not just as a person but as a character. I felt like his personality was super two dimensional and meant to be a representation of all people that resist progress and that was about it.
I feel like a broken record but once again, later in the book his character started to see some a different side of him at least. Katrina’s relationship with him takes a sharp turn and…I liked it. It started to feel like a redemption arc for Brom and a reward for Katrina with the difficult decisions that she had to make.
But alas, that was short-lived as in the end, everything turned out pretty much 100% the way that I guessed it would early on while reading which left me somewhat disappointed.
If you are a romance reader, I think that you will like this far more than I did. While it has some redeeming qualities, particularly in the last half, this is less of a Sleepy Hollow retelling and more just a romance that happens to take place in a quiet village called Sleepy Hollow. Where was the magic, the mystery, the indiscriminate murder?? These elements were what I was looking for but they were so light that I just was left underwhelmed.