My Darling Dreadful Thing

A Novel

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Pub Date 14 May 2024 | Archive Date Not set

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"Dark and decadent, with the haunting allure of a true gothic tale, My Darling Dreadful Thing is a sensation that horrifies as acutely as it delights. Johanna Van Veen is a force to be reckoned with and will stain your thoughts a brilliant shade of crimson. I adored every page."
— Rachel Gillig, New York Times bestselling author of One Dark Window

Spirits are drawn to salt, be it blood or tears. 

Roos Beckman has a spirit companion only she can see. Ruth—strange, corpse-like, and dead for centuries—is the light of Roos’ life. That is, until the wealthy young widow Agnes Knoop visits one of Roos’ backroom seances, and the two strike up a connection.

Soon, Roos is whisked away to the crumbling estate Agnes inherited upon the death of her husband, where an ill woman haunts the halls, strange smells drift through the air at night, and mysterious stone statues reside in the family chapel. Something dreadful festers in the manor, but still, the attraction between Roos and Agnes is undeniable.

Then, someone is murdered.

Poor, alone, and with a history of ‘hysterics’, Roos is the obvious culprit. With her sanity and innocence in question, she’ll have to prove who—or what—is at fault or lose everything she holds dear.

"Dark and decadent, with the haunting allure of a true gothic tale, My Darling Dreadful Thing is a sensation that horrifies as acutely as it delights. Johanna Van Veen is a force to be reckoned with...

Advance Praise

"A Sapphic séance of preternatural proportions, My Darling Dreadful Thing summons a stunning new literary voice to be reckoned with. Johanna van Veen reaches beyond the veil to conjure up a gothic shocker like no other."
—Clay McLeod Chapman, author of What Kind of Mother and Ghost Eaters

"My Darling Dreadful Thing is a disquieting delight—an exciting and original gothic tale, told with tremendous flair."
—Cherie Priest, author of The Drowning House

"This book got under my skin, all the way down to the marrow. It's as dark as a grave and throbbing with queer desire. I won't forget it."
—Kirsty Logan, author of Now She is Witch

"A Sapphic séance of preternatural proportions, My Darling Dreadful Thing summons a stunning new literary voice to be reckoned with. Johanna van Veen reaches beyond the veil to conjure up a gothic...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781728281544
PRICE $17.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 117 members

Featured Reviews

When I first downloaded this book, I had no idea how invested I would become with the characters and the plot. Johanna and the imagery she used throughout this book not only tell a story, but place the reader in the story as well. I highly enjoyed reading about the relationship that formed between Ruth and Roos.
Roos grew up dealing with things a child should never have to go through, and happened to meet and be comforted by Ruth. Throughout the story, you come to love and care for Ruth and how protective she is of Roos despite not being human herself. The lengths she’d go to just to keep Roos safe, and the romance that blossoms between them progresses deeper into the story. I found myself going back and forth between being on Ruth’s side or despising her. Overall, this was very well written and I found myself unable to stop reading. I don’t want to spoil the book or give up too much of the plot. I am extremely lucky to have been able to read this before it came out! If you want a dark and twisted love story, you’ve come to the right place.

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Get ready for a spine-tingling adventure where horror meets love in "My Darling Dreadful Thing" by Johanna van Veen.

It's a sapphic gothic horror with a potent blend of visual and psychological terror.

From a young age, Roos and her mother have been staging fake séances to help people pretend they're speaking to their dead loved ones. But Roos has a real connection to a spirit, a long-dead girl named Ruth. They share an unusual and comforting bond.

Things take a dark turn when a widow named Agnes Knoop attends one of their séances and invites Roos to live with her in a creepy old estate in the Netherlands. The attraction between Roos and Agnes is evident, but a gruesome death occurs, and Roos is accused.

The story unfolds through conversations between Roos and her psychologist, Dr. Montague, and the narrative of what actually happened. The psychologist tries to figure out if Roos is mentally sound while investigating the chilling events.

As I journeyed through the book's dark corridors, I marveled at Johanna van Veen's ability to create a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. "My Darling Dreadful Thing" is a chilling literary voyage that will captivate and haunt your thoughts, evoking the mysteries of the unseen and the terrifying power of love. Don't miss out on this chillingly beautiful experience.

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I was definitely drawn in by the description of gothic sapphic horror and the beautiful cover, but the writing is what kept my attention. Her writing is so well done, I did not realize this was a debut novel until I looked up the author on socials.

Roos, a young lady who has a dead woman named Ruth as a spiritual companion, has been forced to aide and perform in phony séances by her mother since a young age. After a young widow, Agnes, witnesses one of their "performances", she whisks Roos away to become her companion, for reasons unknown. Living in a rundown estate, Agnes and Roos become undeniably closer until a gruesome death occurs. With Roos as the main suspect, a psychologist must determine whether she is guilty of the gruesome murder or if she's just a psychologically disturbed young woman in the wrong place, wrong time.

This book was dark, spooky, and beautifully told. The relationship between Roos and Ruth was so interesting and unique. It was definitely one of the highlights of the book. Also, van Veen wrote such a cool perspective on death and how spirits are made/sustained. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for her next books.

Check content warning for sexual assault (referenced), abusive parents (descriptive), and gore (descriptive).

Thank you NetGalley, Johanna van Veen, and Sourcebooks for my ARC!

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Johanna van Veen’s _My Darling Dreadful Thing_ is a disturbingly beautiful slow-burn read. Roos Beckman can see spirits, and has her own companion in the centuries old Ruth, who helps her act in séances for Roos’s abusive mother. When socialite Agnes attends a séance, both Roos and Agnes feel an attachment to one another, and Agnes invites Roos to live with her at her deceased husband’s family estate. Soon secrets are revealed, and death and spirits come to the decrepit house. This read is haunting, with beautifully descriptive writing.

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This book blew me away - from the first few pages, I was sucked into this dark and Gothic world of Roos and Ruth and Agnes and I couldn’t stop reading until I had devoured it all in two sittings. This book was the perfect mix of horror, madness, and love-tinged obsession and I loved every minute of it! Set in the Netherlands of the 1950s, you are instantly drawn into this story of back and forth with Roos and a Dr. Montague, who is interviewing her and trying to make sense of her story that has led her to this point. Does Roos really have blood on her hands because of madness or is her story all true?

This dark little tale of spirits, secrets and sapphic romance left me wanting to read more books like this. I felt as if I was living alongside Roos and Agnes; almost as if I could feel the coolness of Ruth’s fingers on my own as I was drawn further into the story. The writing is beautiful and fast-paced, and the gothic atmosphere of the drafty house where Agnes takes in Roos to be her companion is perfect for anyone obsessed with old family secrets and relics from odd family members.

Thank you to NetGalley and Poisoned Pen Press for the ARC copy in exchange for my voluntary review!

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Prepare for a chilling odyssey where terror intertwines with affection in "My Darling Dreadful Thing" by Johanna van Veen.

This narrative delves into sapphic gothic horror, masterfully combining atmospheric dread with emotional depth.

Since childhood, Roos, along with her mother, has orchestrated faux séances, giving the grieving a faux interaction with the departed. Yet, Roos genuinely communicates with an entity: a departed girl named Ruth, with whom she shares an uncanny, soothing connection.

The plot darkens when a mourning Agnes Knoop graces one of these sessions and beckons Roos to her enigmatic mansion in the Netherlands. The magnetic pull between Roos and Agnes is palpable. However, when a grisly death takes place, Roos finds herself in the crosshairs of blame.

The tale unravels through dialogues between Roos and her therapist, Dr. Montague, juxtaposed with the recounting of the actual events. Dr. Montague endeavours to discern Roos's sanity, all while piecing together the spine-chilling sequence of events.

Navigating the book's shadowy passages, I was astounded by Johanna van Veen's prowess in weaving a narrative that keeps readers enthralled. "My Darling Dreadful Thing" is a mesmerizing tale that lingers in your psyche, invoking the enigmas of the supernatural and the overwhelming force of passion. A truly gripping and eerily enchanting read.

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I can’t explain the ache I felt upon finishing My Darling Dreadful Thing. I can’t explain the grief I felt or the tears I shed.

I am enamoured and awed and completely, utterly devoted to this story. I wanted to be explicit in my review and provide a thorough deconstruction of my thoughts but I simply don’t think I can. This book was nearly perfect—so nearly perfect—and is, in a way, my own darling dreadful thing. Two things I wish had been better executed: the passage of time was a mystery to me, and I felt a disconnect between the year(s) this story takes places versus when it felt like it should be taking place (late 1800s, in my opinion!).

I loved Ruth with my whole heart. Her attachment to Roos felt so sacred and fragile; I sobbed and sobbed on chapter 32 until I remembered I had a few more chapters to go.

The writing was sublime and I yearned for more of Ruth and Roos’s interactions. I adored Agnes, please don’t get me wrong, but something about Ruth shifted something in me.

I cannot wait to read this as a finished work as I know it will be a favourite again. Thank you to the author, Johanna van Veen, Poisoned Pen Press, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

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I found this book engrossing from the first page and devoured it in a single day. I just kept coming back to it. There are some content warnings, which are included in an advisory at the beginning of the ARC (and, I assume, will be in the final version of the book). Here are my content warnings: child abuse, sexual assault, spousal abuse, self-harm, child loss, homosexuality as mental illness (historical time period appropriate), incest.

To give a quick summary of the beginning of the novel and introduce some primary characters: Roos has a spirit companion, Ruth, and conducts fake seances under her tyrannical and abusive Mama. Agnes Knoop, a widow of Indonesian descent, comes to one of these seances and shares a moment with Roos that, soon, turns into a full-blown relationship when Agnes buys Roos’s freedom and Roos moves into Agnes’s estate. They are bound together by their traumas, their experiences with spiritual companions (Agnes has one, too, named Peter), and love.

The book uses a split-narrative structure. Most of the narrative is first-person perspective from Roos. Between these sections, there are interviews between a doctor and Roos that, we soon learn, are meant to determine if Roos is competent to stand trial for murder. A split-narrative structure like this can be tricky to balance, but van Veen does so expertly. The two sections dovetail each other, each supplying pieces of information needed to fully understand the whole story without supporting one interpretation over another. It also allows van Veen to offer to the viewer the choice of deciding whether the supernatural elements or the medical elements, or some mix of both, are “true,” much like The Turn of the Screw, which is referenced throughout the novel.

I loved the depth and care given to all of the primary characters and their various forms of relationships, be they friend, family, spouse, or self. They are complicated and messy without being unlikable or unsympathetic. I also found the balancing between different forms of horror, particularly psychological. It was deliciously spooky. Based on this offering, I would eagerly read something from van Veen again.

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This book is wonderfully creative!! I love the LGBT+ inclusivity, the dark ambiance, supernatural elements, and characters that you learn about bit by bit. The premise keeps you guessing as you try to figure out motives for actions taken. I love the relationship between the two protagonists. My lesbian heart wishes they could have connected earlier in the story, but it made the small touches/interactions all the more sweet. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait for the next from this author!

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