Review – Secret of Epping Forest

I made a mistake. I went on a book spending spree, buying books Amazon recommended to me with no consideration for if they were good or not, if they were even the type of book I’d care for or not. Most of these books were more or less reasonably priced. The one we’re gonna look at today is $10, written and self-published by a cosplayer and model named Bridget Kathleen Pueppke. It isn’t very good, as you’ll learn, and not even in a fun or damning way.

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Before I get to the contents of the book itself, there are two things I need to address. First, this ebook is formatted poorly, to the point that it actually makes reading certain parts of this book difficult. Unusual paragraph breaks, text spacing, and quotations abound. Secondly, as of writing this review this book is $10. $10 for an ebook is uncommon but not rare in the published world, especially for books that are imported or that are from established authors. $10 for an indie author is a bit much, and that price point did not do the review of this book any favors.

The premise to the story is rather basic. Rose and her family travel to Europe, where they are staying at a mansion owned by family friends. One day while travelling the forest, Roe comes across an old house. It looks like at one point it was burned down and it is in disrepair. She goes inside it to investigate, as teenagers who want to catch trespassing charges are wont to do, when she’s scared off by someone. Later, she’s given a personalized letter encouraging her to return.

It turns out that the place is owned by a young man named Edmond and also employs a child named Thackeray. They both wear old clothes, talk in a quaint way, and seem both guarded and interested in attention. A friendship of sorts blossoms, and Rose spends more and more of her vacation time in this dilapidated house with these two. She begins to suspect they aren’t all that they seem, however. As she uncovers more of the truth, she learns about Edmond’s deceased wife Elizabeth, a history of this house once dabbling in witchcraft, a side story about an entrepreneur that went missing in the house, and ultimately finds herself falling for the charms of Edmond.

The book reads like an expanded Sophomore AP English project. The way things are described, to be forward, are often rather poor. Often the reader is told and not shown, but sometimes they are shown in the most flowery and ungrounded language possible at a given time. It also doesn’t feel grounded in any sort of research of the area. While advertised as taking place near London, if the names were edited the story could have taken place literally anywhere that had a forest without changing anything. Outside of namedropping popular tourist attractions vaguely in the area of London, there is nothing that differentiates the major locations from, say, a beach house in the forests of California or a winter home in Tennessee. The way people talk and act are just as much British as they are American or South African.

A lot of the events, supernatural and mundane, are so removed from any sort of realistic expectation that they don’t so much break the suspension of belief as they do openly mock it. One prime example is when Rose is looking for information on her potential beau. She goes to the library and asks to be taken “to where the old books are” and finds exactly the book she needs practically by accident; she is able to take the book home because I guess libraries in London just lend their books out to any tourists.

I will concede the book has some interesting supernatural elements. Edmond and Thackeray are essentially immortal so long as they don’t leave the area around their house. This begs some questions, like how they have fresh foodstuffs for pancakes and scones when they can’t go to the store and aren’t connected with others to do their shopping for them, but the idea of how the two came to be on its own was an interesting take. How the relationship between Edmond and his late wife is explored at times feels heavy handed, but at other times also lends to the mystery in an unusual way.

A big part of the book’s drama is Rose learning the past of Edmond, coming to terms with her feelings of him, and making a decision as to whether she is willing to give up her current life to be with him. A lot of this feels very typical of the “Will she or won’t she” of romance books, played up in a very naive way that only really works because the main character is a young privileged adult. At times Edmond acts in a way that, to this reviewer, comes off as abusive and possessive, yet it seems the main character never sees things this way and these issues are never actually explored.

Ultimately, this book has some interesting plot twists, but it’s poor formatting, meandering narrative, and ridiculous price point makes it impossible to recommend.

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