Midnight Is the Darkest Hour

A Novel

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Pub Date Oct 03 2023 | Archive Date Nov 01 2023
SOURCEBOOKS Landmark | Sourcebooks Landmark

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From the critically acclaimed author of In My Dreams I Hold A Knife and The Last Housewife comes Midnight is the Darkest Hour, a gothic Southern thriller about a killer haunting a small Louisiana town, where two outcasts—the preacher's daughter and the boy from the wrong side of the tracks—hold the key to uncovering the truth.

For fans of Verity and A Flicker in the Dark, Midnight is the Darkest Hour is a twisted tale of murder, obsessive love, and the beastly urges that lie dormant within us all...even the God-fearing folk of Bottom Springs, Louisiana. In her small hometown, librarian Ruth Cornier has always felt like an outsider, even as her beloved father rains fire-and-brimstone warnings from the pulpit at Holy Fire Baptist. Unfortunately for Ruth, the only things the townspeople fear more than the God and the Devil are the myths that haunt the area, like the story of the Low Man, a vampiric figure said to steal into sinners' bedrooms and kill them on moonless nights. When a skull is found deep in the swamp next to mysterious carved symbols, Bottom Springs is thrown into uproar—and Ruth realizes only she and Everett, an old friend with a dark past, have the power to comb the town's secret underbelly in search of true evil.

A dark and powerful novel like fans have come to expect from Ashley Winstead, Midnight is the Darkest Hour is an examination of the ways we've come to expect love, religion, and stories to save us, the lengths we have to go to in order to take back power, and the monstrous work of being a girl in this world.

"Where The Crawdads Sing meets Twilight meets Thelma and Louise in this brilliantly realized, totally original thriller. Absolutely sensational—I couldn't put it down." —Clare Mackintosh, New York Times bestselling author

From the critically acclaimed author of In My Dreams I Hold A Knife and The Last Housewife comes Midnight is the Darkest Hour, a gothic Southern thriller about a killer haunting a small Louisiana...

Advance Praise

"Ashley Winstead shows her versatility and virtuosity as an author in this dark, eerie and completely enchanting book about friendship, love and vengeance. Midnight is the Darkest Hour is as creepy as it gets—and a tearjerker to boot! I loved every minute of it." —Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author

"Where the Crawdads Sing meets Twilight meets Thelma and Louise in this brilliantly realized, totally original thriller. Absolutely sensational—I couldn’t put it down." —Clare Mackintosh, New York Times bestselling author

“A gothic tale that blurs the line between good and evil, love and revenge, and the inherent desire to please our parents while simultaneously struggling to find ourselves. Midnight is unique and unnerving from beginning to end.” —Stacy Willingham, New York Times bestselling author of A Flicker in The Dark and All the Dangerous Things

"Dark and lyrical...a compelling story about the occult, evil, and the ways religious fundamentalism can overtake reason, it’s also a story about loyalty, friendship and what connects us all at our deepest roots. Once again, Ashley Winstead spins a tale that is equal parts disturbing and redemptive. (And when you’re done reading, please message me so we can talk about that ending!)" —Julie Clark, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight and The Lies I Tell

"A lush, immersive ode to the wildness and violence at the hidden heart of teenage girlhood. The sharp-toothed answer to every fairy tale that warns girls to stay out of the woods...because what if we like what we find? Ashley Winstead has at once crafted an incisive critique of fundamentalism and one of the most unforgettable love stories I’ve ever read, dressed as a thriller that surprises at every turn.” —Katie Gutierrez, bestselling author of More Than You'll Ever Know

“Ashley Winstead does it again! Making the hairs at the back of your neck prickle while mesmerizing you with prose so rich that you want to dive into this novel with both feet, Winstead delivers another yet multi-layered thriller so nuanced and intricately woven that you absolutely cannot help but race to the end.” —Amanda Jayatissa, author of You’re Invited

"A dark, sultry fever dream of a novel. Midnight Is The Darkest Hour is a powerful examination of love, girlhood, and religion. With lush, gorgeous writing and dynamic characterization, Ashley Winstead carefully dismantles the corrupted hierarchy that has ruled a God-fearing small town, and unleashes the trapped scream of being a young woman in the world. This haunting, twisting story will stay with you long after the last page." —Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of The Girls Are All So Nice Here

"An utter triumph, Midnight is the Darkest Hour is Ashley Winstead's most dazzling thriller to date. This is a one-sitting binge read, so cancel all plans and prepare to become completely obsessed with Ruth and Everett and the darkly magical world of Bottom Springs, Louisiana. Twilight meets True Blood meets Colleen Hoover in this completely original, explosive suspense where every line is a poem and every chapter a lyrical symphony. I could not put this book down and haven't been so wholly captured by a story in this way in years."—May Cobb, author of A Likeable Woman and The Hunting Wives

“Woe unto the preacher's daughter, or at least that's what you might think navigating the dark and broody twists of Ashley Winstead's spellbinding latest, Midnight is the Darkest Hour. Prepare yourself (if you can) for serpents of the deep south gospel slithering into a beautifully rendered Twilight fever dream—like all of Ashley's incredible books, you won't be able to turn the pages fast enough." Vanessa Lillie, bestselling author of Little Voices and Blood Sisters

"Ashley Winstead shows her versatility and virtuosity as an author in this dark, eerie and completely enchanting book about friendship, love and vengeance. Midnight is the Darkest Hour is as creepy...

Available Editions

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ISBN 9781728269962
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Featured Reviews

I am always here for the Twilight renaissance. Ashley Winstead is a great storyteller. A little quirky, but I love it.

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Bottom Springs, Louisiana is a small southern town steeped in both the word of the Lord and the creepy stories about a vampire/ghoul, said to stalk the parish. Librarian Ruth Cornier may have been born there, but she’s never felt like she belonged. When a human skull carved with strange symbols is unearthed the town and its inhabitants reach their tipping point, and Ruth teams up with fellow local and odd man out, Everett, to try to uncover the real source of evil in Bottom Springs. A literate Southern Gothic

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Full Disclosure: I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of Midnight is the Darkest Hour by Ashley Winstead from Sourcebooks via NetGalley as part of the C2E2 Book Club. I'm not normally a book club person, but I have a ticket to C2E2 and figured why not get a free book to read.

Midnight is the Darkest Hour was a really good choice for me. It's very gothic with earth magic, strange symbols, and rituals. I like stories of tiny religious sects and alternative Christian groups. Is there something supernatural wreaking havoc on a devoutly Christian town, or is the answer something far more sinister? Was there a deal with the Devil? What makes a monster? The answer may surprise you. Fans of Twilight may appreciate the love that series gets in this book. If you aren't a Twilight fan, don't worry, it is not so much to distract from the rest of the story.

Bonus points for putting the trigger warnings right at the front of the book for people who need them.

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This is sooooo good! Definitely one of those impossible to put down stories. The theme/premise is so relevant to our world right now and I feel like this should be required by everyone. Makes you really think about right and wrong and justice. I love this: “The cruelest people we know are from church. Let that sink in”. Exactly what I’ve been saying for years. I’m already telling everyone to get this on their list of books to watch for.

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Ruth Cornier is the Reverend James Cornier's daughter in Bottom Springs, Louisiana, where you keep your neighbors close and your secrets even closer. I hesitate to say more than that, because going into this book largely in the dark was the best decision.

What I've come to appreciate most about Winstead is her complete aesthetic buy-in with her writing. This book is like a soap opera, from its dramatic revelations to Ruth's obsession with Twilight, and Winstead's writing reflects that. Whether or not it was intentional, Midnight Is the Darkest Hour evokes the best aspects of David Lynch's iconic Twin Peaks: a small town and a crime, which leads to labyrinthine discoveries of more crimes, more secrets, and of man's capacity of evil. Though Winstead's book is not explicitly supernatural like Twin Peaks is, there is always the barest hint that it might be. And despite each new reveal being slightly more ludicrous than the last, you are on the hook until the book's final, gasp-inducing moment.

But most like Lynch's masterpiece, there is harsh truth and believability within the melodramatic confines of the story. Inside of Winstead's haunting swamp setting is a story about women's pain and subjugation, about religious trauma and the evil lurking among society's most respected figures. It is brilliant because it borders on the absurd--but every reader will recognize the frightening realities buried in each secret.

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Ruth Cornier is the reverend's daughter. In their small corner of Louisiana surrounded by swamp land, religion runs deep. All in town believe her father's word. However, after a series of events, Ruth begins seeing the truth through the eyes of Everett Duncan. The two become fast friends as teenagers and continue to find themselves every summer. Ruth chose to follow the word of the church and stay put. Everett seeks so much. When a skull is found in the swamp, Ruth begins questioning everything. How much does she really know? Has she turned her shoulder to darker matters her whole life?
Ashley Winstead does it again. This book follows right along with her previous work. She takes on dark subjects and let's the reader digest a story and form opinions. Midnight focuses on religion and community, not as dark as The Last Housewife.

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I just texted a friend (who also has a NetGalley account) to request this title and read it today as I MUST discuss. Oh, if there were more books like this out there. This is the best book I've read in a while. Shoot- I can't even give a preview without giving it away or repeating the blurb. All I can say is do not wait. Read this book right now. As a Louisiana girl, I get it. As a church girl, I get it. As a loved of the "bad boys," I so get it...and Ever is the best of the bad. I could not put it down and can't wait to see the splash it makes this fall!

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Wow what a read! Can't wait to discuss this book with someone. Southern thriller at its best. Will keep you reading late into the night.

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Y’all. She did it again. Ashley Winstead definitely Ashley Winsteaded in her newest culty thriller, Midnight is the Darkest Hour. It is everything (and more) that you’ve come to expect from Ashley’s thrillers - edgy, twisted, dark, tense, sexy, and atmospheric — Boldly strutting to the boundary’s edge with the swagger of a fighter pilot. Sprinkle in some small-town religious devotion, a badass biker gang, and some mysterious symbols that could only mean something nefarious is afoot and you’ve got yourself a binge worthy read.

Oh! And get ready to meet your new broody book boyfriend, Everett. The way he and Ruth are intertwined throughout their lives is what anyone who has ever been broken dreams of…a protector. He’s not the star quarterback. He’s not even popular at school. He’s quiet, bookish, mysterious, and devilishly handsome – and is the only person who truly understands Ruth.

Being from Louisiana myself, I felt at home reading this book. The moss covered Cypress trees, suffocating summer temperatures, and wildlife found in few other places were expertly written and give even more of an eerie vibe to the overall feel of the story.

The climactic ending?! I’m not even going there. You’ll just have to see for yourself. All I’ll say is that I was completely on edge and my Apple watch clocked exercise minutes because my heart rate was so high.

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𝑨𝒏𝒅 𝒔𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒂 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒐𝒏 𝒊𝒔 𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒏 𝒂 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒐𝒏. 𝑺𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚'𝒓𝒆 𝒂 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒆. 𝒀𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒕𝒊𝒄𝒌𝒆𝒕 𝒐𝒖𝒕, 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒋𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒂 𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒔𝒆 𝒐𝒓 𝒕𝒐𝒘𝒏 𝒃𝒖𝒕 𝒂𝒏 𝒊𝒏𝒗𝒊𝒔𝒊𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝒑𝒓𝒊𝒔𝒐𝒏 𝒘𝒉𝒐𝒔𝒆 𝒃𝒂𝒓𝒔 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒎𝒊𝒏𝒅. 𝑺𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒕𝒊𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚'𝒓𝒆 𝒂 𝒌𝒆𝒚 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒆𝒙𝒂𝒄𝒕 𝒔𝒉𝒂𝒑𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒍𝒐𝒄𝒌 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒄𝒂𝒈𝒆𝒔 𝒚𝒐𝒖.

Where do I even start with this stunning offering from Ashley Winstead? This Southern gothic thriller was so deeply atmospheric, the characters so nuanced and complexed, and the mystery at the heart of the story was just perfectly executed.

Bottom Springs, Louisiana, is home to Ruth Cornier, a librarian and daughter of the charismatic pastor of Holy Fire Baptist Church. Ruth's entire upbringing has been centered around submission, making herself small, and obeying the teachings of her father. As someone who has had a complicated relationship with organized religion, this storyline immediately spoke to me.

But there's something dark lurking in this lush, idyllic town--deep in the bayous, swamps, and woods, the townspeople believe a vampiric figure dubbed the Low Man is rumored to hunt on moonless nights and kill sinners. When a skull is found deep in the swamp next to ominous carved symbols, the town is gripped by fear. Ruth and Everett, an old friend with a dark past, are shaken by the discovery and know more about the victim than they are letting on. But when a second skull is found, the two begin to question if the Low Man is more than just a folk tale.

Everything about this book is perfection. The prose was so descriptive and lyrical that I found myself in Bottom Springs, the humidity as oppressive on my skin as the religious dogma that permeated the book. I loved most of all the relationship Ruth had with Everett, whom she affectionately called 'Ever', and how he led her to question everything she thought she believed in. The ending left me so moved, so speechless, that I'm just now writing a review for a book I finished a week ago. Thank you so much to the author and Sourcebooks for this coveted early copy.

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Yes yes yes Southern gothic meets horror meets romance meets psychological thriller AKA all the best genres rolled into a hellcat of a book! Graphic, creepy and weird- may not be for everyone/ but gals that loved “In My Dreams I Hold a Knife” will definitely appreciate this.

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Wow, Ashley Winstead can write! I loved In My Dreams I Hold A Knife, it was such a great thriller. I read this one in two days. Truthfully I don’t like the Gothic genre, but this one was just great. It amazes me how different the two books are to each other, which proves what a great writer Ashley truly is. There is so much going on here and it comes together beautifully at the end. I highly recommend.

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While I love Ashley Winstead's novels to death, Midnight is the Darkest Hour ended up being too much for me to read. I felt very squeamish while reading, which means that Winstead did her job well creating an atmospheric tale! The take on Southern courting only and Twilight tie ins felt realistic and set the stage. However; I couldn't finish the novel at the forty percent mark due to the trigger warnings taking a hit.

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Welcome to Ashley Winstead's dark, sinister, complex, mind-bending, and bleak universe. It's an eerie small community with cultish, witchery, and demonic vibes, and it features a heart-wrenching love story between two outsiders: the preacher's daughter and the devil's son. This book draws reminiscences of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village" mixed with the thrilling elements of "Bonnie & Clyde."

Pietism, blind faith, and narrow-mindedness permeate the core of Bottom Springs, where Pastor James Cornier's opinions hold more power than any law enforcement. He is curtsied and worshipped by the entire town, and his words are listened to with awe.

Ruth Cornier, the preacher's daughter, has always been an outsider and has never fulfilled her father's high expectations of becoming an exemplary Christian. Trapped in this town for a long time, she hides behind the facade of a shy, obedient, and naive librarian. However, instead of losing herself in the various universes of books, the only thing that liberates her from becoming a sheep in the town's flock is her sacred friendship with Everett Duncan, the Devil's son. Everett, dressed in ratty clothes and bearing an intense stare, follows in the footsteps of his father, one of the town's chief church-shirkers.

Their shared interest in getting lost in fictional worlds by burying their heads in books is not the only thing that makes them inseparable. They also share a dangerous secret: something very bad happened on the day Ruth dreamt of getting her first kiss during her first date. The night turned out to be far more unexpected and traumatic than she had anticipated.

Now Sheriff Thomas Theriot and his deputies have discovered a skull in Starry Swamp, belonging to a male aged twenty-five to fifty. The fracturing on the bone indicates blunt-force trauma. This earth-shattering news isn't the only shock the townies receive; satanic symbols are also found carved around the area where the skull was discovered.

Luckily, Everett, Ruth's secret keeper and best friend (and perhaps more than that), returns to town as if he has sensed trouble brewing. Their first thought is that they might get caught for the accidental murder they committed. However, as the victim's identity is revealed and another skull is found, they realize that things are far more complex than they had imagined. They find themselves in the middle of an investigation that may lead them to face the most frightening urban legend of all: Low Man, a nightmarish creature that takes the form of a beautiful man. Low Man is a trap for sinners, capable of seeing into their hearts and revealing their true wickedness. He slips in through their windows, sinking his fangs into their necks to take not only their lives but also their souls.

As Ruth and Everett delve into the mysteries of the town, the ugly face of Bottom Springs, created by its distorted "good" citizens, slaps them in the face as yet another layer of hidden truth is revealed.

The twists in this book are well executed, unpredictable, and leave readers feeling as if the rug has been pulled out from under them.

The conclusion of the story and that ending... Dear Ashley Winstead knows how to write an impactful and epic ending that takes readers' breath away. She literally left me breathless!

She is one of those brilliant authors who can play with the strings of our hearts by writing addictive romance books. Yet, she can effortlessly delve into the dark side and deliver twisty, dark, and shocking psychological thrillers like this one. This book has earned my full five stars, and I highly recommend reading it.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for sharing this thrilling read's digital reviewer copy with me in exchange for my honest review.

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Well, move over, The Last Housewife, I have a new favorite @ashleywinsteadbooks!!

I did not want this book to end, but that ending tho… (iykyk) 🫣 I absolutely loved this book, the MC Ruth was so likeable, I mean, anyone who loves Twilight and Edward Cullen is alright with me. I loved all the twilight references, and for a minute I felt like I was reading an adult version of it? If that makes sense? Also, Ever is my new book boyfriend. I said what I said.

Read this book! It was dark and page turning and everything we love about an Ashley Winstead book! Publishing in October, mark those calendars!

Thank you @netgalley and @bookmarked for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Just perfection and I’m amazed at Ashley’s writing and genius. Couldn’t put this one down and I cannot believe we have to wait until October for this one to release?!

Initial non-spoilery thoughts:
• i was so sucked into the story I didn’t even have time to guess who did what. And that’s my favorite thing in a thriller
• there was ROMANCE! Who knew I’d gain a book boyfriend out of a thriller?!
• the twilight references were sending me and were super nostalgic
• i grew up in the church and it was genuinely so triggering to read this and the horrific backward ways people view the world and how women should be treated 🤮
• the ENDING was everything. Literally edge of your seat for the last 20%

I probably have more thoughts but that’s everything at the top of my brain and I can’t wait to write a full review on my bookstagram —> @me_myshelfandi 🤗

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I first want to thank Ashley Winstead and NetGalley for this ARC eBook edition.

LOVED this book! Chalked full of small-town secrets, Edward and Bella Vibes, Bonnie and Clyde vibes. Character development was good. VERY suspenseful. Kept me turning the pages. In my opinion this book is her best to date!

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This book was one of my most anticipated reads this year after reading and loving Ashley’s first two thrillers, In My Dreams I Hold a Knife and The Last Housewife. And it did NOT disappoint!!

I went into this book totally blind and very glad I did! It was a wild ride and I love how Ashley doesn’t shy away from dark topics. There was such a creepy, uneasy feeling throughout the whole book that left me so unsettled but still wanting to read more. I finished the book in one day which is not the norm for me, but the storyline was so compelling that I couldn’t put it down!

As much as I loved the thriller portion of this book, the romance sub-plot was GIVING. I love how she merged these two genres together in a way that was fully satisfying! The Twilight references + nods were everything 🧛🏼‍♂️💋

And lastly, that ENDING!! Are you kidding me?! Brilliant. I loved every part of this book!

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Midnight is the Darkest Hour | Review 🌙💫

Author: Ashley Winstead aka the thriller queen herself.
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Pub Date: 10/03/2023
Rating: 5 ⭐️

Holy crap y’all! If this thriller isn’t on your TBR for spooky season… what are you even doing?!?

This book was FANTASTIC! Equal parts, thriller, suspenseful and a little spooky. Ashley Winstead comes up with the craziest/most creative stories and I love them all. I was completely engrossed while reading and dying to pick it up when I wasn’t reading.

In the God fearing small town of Bottom Springs, Louisiana, residents are living in fear as various bodies are pulled out of the swamp.

Liberian Ruth Cornier, and daughter of the towns Reverend finds herself in the center of the investigation along with her childhood friend Everett. Told in a dual timeline, we get snippets of this town and its residents in the present and from Ruth’s childhood. As secrets start to resurface, Ruth and Ever try to dive even deep to investigate these secrets in an attempt to solve the crimes 👀

I don’t care what anyone says, I LOVED Ever 🥲. I also loved Ruth’s character development and how she’s always been a little rebellious. I did guess PART of the ending but regardless I loved it.

Read if you like:
🌙 Small town thrillers
🌙 Churchy brainwashing culty vibes
🌙 Twilight & the Vampire Diaries
🌙 Bonnie & Clyde vibes

⚠️ CW: Religious Fundamentalism, Substance Abuse, Ableism, Colonialism, Familial Violence, Sexual Violence, Chid Abuse, Murder.

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To put it mildly I’m obsessed with Ashley winstead’ books. I’m so happy that I get to live in the same world as hers where I’m able to read and enjoy her books. Because omgg not only this was an addictive, propulsive read that I wasn’t able to put down but also it was engrossing and had me kept on my toes through and through. Undoubtedly one of my top reads of the year!

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Midnight Is The Darkest Hour by Ashley Winstead is the perfect book to read if you've been fascinated (and horrified) by the Murdaugh scandal. Small Southern town, good-old-boy network, haves and have-nots, secrets hidden for generations. Ruth and Everett are the sweetest couple, and watching them go up against the Reverend Cornier and the entire town of Bottom Springs had me on pins and needles. Highly recommend!!!

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This book was such a delight to read with a building level of dread that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved how well-written this story was, but with a title like "Midnight is the Darkest Hour", how could it have been otherwise?

We follow young protagonist Ruth Cornier through different significant stages of her life that come together to form a poetic whole. With great twists along the way, although the reader is uncomfortably aware of where her story is heading at all times...

Ruth gets rescued from a would-be rapist by a dashing loner-outsider named Everett/Ever as she calls him and from there on the two of them are almost inseparable... Well, at least he always comes back for her... Well, maybe he has other motives too. It's complicated, but that's what makes this book so delicious. Is Ever all that he seems or is there something more to his beauty? His canine teeth? His pale skin? Ruth certainly thinks so, but is she right or is she wrong? Is her mind playing tricks on her and is it just wishful thinking? And what about the skull in the swamp? Or the weird signs carved into the trees? Or the disappearance of a certain town member? Or the involvement of her father in the discontinuation of a certain town newspaper? How are these things connected?

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It's long, but it's worth it. Especially for fans of 'Where the crawdads sing'.

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Thank you to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Landmark, and Ashley Winstead for the gifted advanced copy of Midnight is the Darkest Hour!

It's no secret that I'm an Ashley Winstead stan so take that for what it's worth going into reading this review.

You will want to read this one if you are into:

-Pagan rituals
-Stories centered around religion

Worth noting: there is a list of trigger warnings in the beginning of the book, and one does deal with religious trauma. This isn't a happily religious book.

Be prepared for that ending, you will have big feelings about it! Midnight is the Darkest Hour will be on US bookshelves October 3rd.

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