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MIDNIGHT ROOMS: A Gothic Tale of Marriage, Magic, and Madness

Courtesy Harper Collins

By Sarah Musnicky

For a woman of a certain age, the threat of spinsterhood looms like a haunting spector. An unmarriageable woman is a burden on the family. In Donyae Coles' MIDNIGHT ROOMS, marriage is a fleeting dream for Orabella Mumthrope. That is until Elias Blakersby enters her life. A marriage of convenience turns into a fantasmical horror show, one that Coles' is unafraid to explore in beautifully evocative descriptions.

From the beginning, the circumstances of Elias' proposal to Orabella are built on dubious ground. An orphaned daughter of a white man and a Black woman, societal norms seemingly render Orabella unfitting for marriage. Residing in a home of some standing, a marriage of convenience is likely the only way out. Elias comes as a would-be savior, and, as Orabella learns throughout MIDNIGHT ROOMS, there is, in fact, something more beneath the surface.

Orabella's confusion is palpable as her life is completely uprooted after the wedding vows are said. Coles' prose captures the whirlwind sensation of emotions afflicting the protagonist, coming to a head in frantic familial moments in the Korringhill Manor. Part hallucination, part terror, the language easily immerses the reader into Orabella's headspace, plunging them into the slow boiling horrors of this home of old wealth and decay.

The internal conflict of Orabella is one many will relate to. Frequently, she reminds herself to be a good wife, not to make a fuss, and not to make waves. This mantra feeds into her confusion as what she experiences doesn't always make sense. Isolated and trapped, Orabella lives in a gothic horror nightmare.

The nightmare reaches its zenith in the final act of MIDNIGHT ROOMS. With all gloves off, it's a rapidly cascading array of madness. One that likely could have benefited from a little more development and backstory surrounding Elias' desire for Orabella and the mysterious arrival of a pivotal character. Regardless, the fairytale-like nature and magic woven into each act carries this journey from beginning to end, breathing new life into the familiar gothic horror genre.

MIDNIGHT ROOMS leaves an incredible impression in this novel debut from Donyae Coles. With an epilogue that is both chilling and up for interpretation, MIDNIGHT ROOMS easily lingers with its dose of terror, magic, and exquisite prose.

MIDNIGHT ROOMS is now available everywhere where books are sold.


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