House of Silence, by Sarah Barthel

Image belongs to Kensington Books.

Sarah Barthel writes historical fiction novels but appreciates cell phones and chocolate. House of Silence is her new novel.

In Illinois in 1875, Isabelle Larkin has it all:  a best friend to confide in, a mother who supports her, and a handsome fiancé on his way to the top. Isabelle has made the match of her dreams to secure the future she has only imagined. Then she witnesses her fiancé Gregory commit a horrible crime, and no one—not even her mother—believes her.

Gregory denies everything, and now Isabelle fears for her own life at the hands of the charming, popular politician. Her mother, more worried about scandal than Isabelle’s claims, forbids her to end the engagement. With nowhere left to turn, Isabelle hatches a plan:  fake a mental breakdown and muteness to land herself in Bellevue sanitarium. There, Isabelle forges an unlikely friendship with Mary Todd Lincoln and determines that she cannot remain mute forever. But Gregory will stop at nothing to keep her silent, and Isabelle needs the help of new friends if she’s ever to uncover the truth and regain her life.

House of Silence intrigued me with its setting of a sanitarium and the promise of Mary Todd Lincoln as a secondary character. But Isabelle is a fascinating character in her own right:  strong, determined, stubborn, and blessed with a creative idea to escape from danger. I loved how she grew in this novel, and how she fought for everything she believed in. The family interactions were both infuriating and believable…and made me grateful for the family I have. This is a great, fast-paced read with vibrant characters!

(Galley provided by Kensington Books.)

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