May 2023 Bookclub: The Hazel Wood

There are a handful of things that almost guarantee I will attempt to read a book, many of which were found in the description of this one. Anything where the main character is forced to go through some sort of portal into another land for starters. Add a main character named Alice (love a good nod to Wonderland), a sprinkling of promised danger and fairy tales and I’m almost guaranteed to at least read the first chapter. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert promised all of these things and didn’t disappoint.

First off, I really like that the Hinterland is a place of dark fairytales and that the stories replay themselves over and over again. The idea that it’s hard to break out of your story mirrors the idea that it’s hard to break out of who you are expected to become, which is a very real struggle to think about.

I also really like that it was up to Alice to save herself and that she didn’t really have a true love interest. The story didn’t need to be a love story and I’m glad that there wasn’t one forced upon us. That being said, love still saved the day and thawed frozen hearts so the story still had the predictable elements one would expect to it.

Next, I liked the way that the fairytale world bleeds into the real world. That there was a certain darkness that followed Alice because her story wasn’t ready to give her up. There’s something interesting about the concept of trying to outrun destiny but it’s always more interesting when paired with a character that can’t get out of her own way. True, the Hinterland was always gunning for Alice and she had ice in her heart, but she wasn’t able to really gain control of her life until she stopped running.

Alice wasn’t the most likable character; she used people, was explosive, and made mistakes. Despite this, you couldn’t help routing for her to break the curse and save the day.

It was creepy to see everyone who was a noncharacter that had been pulled into the Hinterland for various reasons (not all by choice) interact with the characters. I appreciated that almost nothing they did had any effect on the story’s outcome because even if the story changed it still followed a similar pattern until the end. I also appreciate the idea that there was a welcoming committee designed to integrate noncharacters into society, it created a real element to the world. After all, if people can get in surly people can get out.

While I eagerly await being able to watch the second season of The Guilded Age and the third season of Bridgerton, I find myself wanting to enjoy a good romantic period peice. A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin feels like it has the potential to be similar enough to scratch the itch, let’s see how it stands up for June’s bookclub.

Cover art for A Lady's Guide To Fortune-Hunting by sophie Irwin.

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. Left with her father’s massive debts, she has only twelve weeks to save her family from ruin.

Kitty has never been one to back down from a challenge, so she leaves home and heads toward the most dangerous battleground in all of England: the London season.

Kitty may be neither accomplished nor especially genteel—but she is utterly single-minded; imbued with cunning and ingenuity, she knows that risk is just part of the game.

The only thing she doesn’t anticipate is Lord Radcliffe. The worldly Radcliffe sees Kitty for the mercenary fortune-hunter that she really is and is determined to scotch her plans at all costs, until their parrying takes a completely different turn…