Sunday, August 9, 2015

ARC Book Review: The Uninvited: A Novel by Cat Winters

Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction
Publication.Date:August 11, 2015
Pages:368 (ARC eBook)
Published By:  William Morrow
Website:Cat Winters 

The Uninvited on Goodreads
My review copy:
Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Where to get:

From the award-winning author of In the Shadow of Blackbirds comes a stunning new novel—a masterfully crafted story of love, loss, and second chances. Set during the fear and panic of the Great Influenza of 1918, The Uninvited is part gothic ghost-story, part psychological thriller, perfect for those who loved The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield or The Vanishing by Wendy Webb.

Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days.

But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.


Granny Letty paid another call to our house October 4, 1918. I saw her but a moment, standing in the yellow haze of her twilight near the lace curtains of my bedroom, just an hour before my father and brother killed a man.
If anyone in the future were to every ask me, How bad was that strain of the flu that destroy so many people around the time your brother died - that "Spanish influenza" that raged out of control when Albrecht Schendel was found murdered in his store? I would tell them what I witnessed, all the pain and the grief and the seas of blood. Yet I don't think mere words, mere fumbled attempts to articulate the suffering, would be enough to convey the horror.
He plopped down next to me on the soft again, and I lowered my head back to his lap. The clatter and chaos of the outside world fell away - no more ambulances, no wagons ambling down the street with the dead wrapped in sheets. The wood-paneled walls and little brick fireplace, and even the brown burlap curtains blocking out the sun, seemed to brighten and nestle us closer together.

Once again, it was simply Daniel and I and beautiful, boisterous jazz.

To me, Cat Winters can do no wrong (no pressure, Cat!). I devoured her first two books (In the Shadow of Blackbirds and The Cure for Dreaming) and knew it was going to happen again with The Uninvited. And it did.

The story begins with Ivy's father and brother storming into their house, covered in blood. It doesn't take long for them to admit that they just beat the German furniture shop owner to death. Ivy, having just recovered from the flu, is disgusted by their acts and moves out. She rents the room in May's house, a widow whose husband was killed during the Great War (aka WWI) and finds herself becoming close to the brother of the man her father and brother murdered.

The more time Ivy spends in town, the more she learns the truth of what the world has becoming and that people are facing two major threats: the APL (American Protective League) and the flu. The APL has banned anything not American, focusing on German influences. You cannot play German music and sing German songs and anyone who has not bought a liberty bond or has gone above and beyond to show their American pride is ostracized and, in some cases, ran out of town.

Cat does such an amazing job bringing the past to life, it's almost as if you're living it and not reading about it. Not only does the setting and actions seem real, but so do the people. Ivy is trying to make herself feel better for the actions of her father and brother by attempting to help Daniel. She is trying to help those dying from the flu by driving an ambulance at night to pick up the sick. May is struggling to live a life where her husband was killed in a war and she's alone. Daniel is trying to pick up the pieces of his life after the murder of his brother. At the same time, all across town people are struggling to survive.

Amidst all this, there is a nightclub that plays across from Daniel's house and when Ivy visits there finds many of her old friends living life and they "drink up [and d]on't give a thought about this damned killjoy flu or that nasty threat of Prohibition" because "somehow, the music will always play . . . and the booze will perpetually flow." There is a realism to Cat's novels that reaches an almost unprecedented level.

And speaking of Daniel . . . *swoon* The romance in The Uninvited is wonderful and the star of the novel. (Yes, OTP feels!) Despite the fact that Ivy is nervous someone will seeing her coming and going from Daniel's place and it'll get back to the APL, and that her father and brother murdered his brother, Ivy and Daniel have a rather great relationship. Given all the things against them, their relationship does have a rather awkward beginning but they soon come to find solace and safety in one another. Daniel himself refers to their time together as paradise, which given all the circumstances I find simply beautiful.

I shifted back toward Daniel and said in a whisper, "Am I safe with you, Daniel?"

"Nothing can hurt you here. I swear." He kissed the back of my hand with a touch that warmed and soothed. "Out there" - he nodded toward the window - "is chaos. In here, it's paradise. We found paradise, Liebling."

The Uninvited is on track to be one of my favorite reads of 2015 and in my book Cat Winters is 3/3. Her books are amazing looks into the past where she doesn't shy away from shining a light on the ugly truths of our history, but always includes notes of hope, change, and strength. The Uninvited is no different and includes such a wonderful cast of characters (particularly Ivy and Daniel) with a sweet romance that contains all the feels.

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