I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni
Published by Clarion Books on May 14th 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.
Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.
“In Catawissa sometimes the dead don’t stay where you put them.”
Verity Boone is returning to her hometown in small town Catawissa after fifteen long years. When her mother became ill and died unexpectedly when Verity was just two years old, her father sent her away to relatives fearing he would not be able to care for her properly. She’s returning home after agreeing to marry Nathaniel McClure, a man she’s only met in letters. Upon arriving, she’s shocked to discover that not only is her mothers grave buried on unconsecrated ground but there’s a strange mystery cage on top of it. No one is forthcoming with information and Verity is determined to find out what her mother did in life to deserve such treatment in death.
I really loved the mysterious gothic-like element of the caged graves and was extremely eager to read more about them. I loved hearing that the author actually based this story off real-life caged graves that she discovered in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. You can read more (and see the actual pictures) here. It was quite mysterious and in the beginning reminded me a lot of Long Lankin but wasn’t quite as paranormal as I had originally thought (and hoped) it would be.
In addition to the caged grave topic of the book, the romance took up an exceptionally large portion, or to be more specific the love-triangle. *cue groans of agony* Yes, unfortunately I wasn’t a fan of that addition to the story considering it took up such a huge portion of the story. To me, it felt like she had a good idea going with the caged grave bit, but didn’t have ENOUGH to make that the center of the entire story. So instead, a romance that caused much raging (from me) was inserted as filler.
“There was something seductive about his transparent feelings for her – feelings he scarcely tried to hide even in front of Nate. He was like a bright, flickering flame, and she was a brainless moth, wanting to fly closer and burn herself.” – Verity
I get it. She’s young, she’s in an arranged marriage and barely knows the guy (although the more she learns about him the more there is to love), so I understand the normality behind her being torn between two guys. But the comment about it being seductive that he’s flirting with her in front of her fiance? That’s a bit uncouth don’t you think? Or maybe just brainless, like she said.
It was really difficult to get a good grasp on whether or not I liked any of the love interests either. Her intended, Nate, was so wishy-washy and one moment he’d do something terribly cute like bring her a baby kitten he saved and next minute he’s talking about their upcoming marriage like a business arrangement. It was very off-putting. I could have liked the other love interest, Hadley, a lot except for the fact that he was so obviously being disrespectful and trying to steal her away from Nate by flirting with her constantly, even in front of him. There are better ways to show you care and being an outright ass isn’t one of them.
Bottom line, the caged grave story line had huge potential but fell flat when that became less the focus of the story. Regardless, this was a well-written historical fiction novel with an intriguing story line that just happened to be saddled with a bad romance.