Girl At The Grave
Valentine was only six years old when her mother was hung for a murder. After the death, Valentine's basically taken care of herself in the crumbling house that she feels is haunted with the past. Now she's a top student at the prestigious Drake Academy. An unknown benefactor has supported her. Feavers Crossings is a small town and hasn't forgotten the murder. When some recent murders occur, they are quick to point their fingers at Valentine. She's determined to bring justice to her mother's name as she searches for the real killer. In the process she finds dangerous secrets among the town's powerful families. And they will do anything to keep her quiet.
What worked: This Gothic romance mystery has just the perfect atmosphere and tension. There isn't any ghosts or paranormal elements in this story, but rather a girl who lives with the memory of a mother who was executed for murder. Valentine isn't shy, but more reserved. When the local pastor tells her that a mystery person has told him that her mother was in fact innocent, this leads to a string of murders that end up pointing her way. Seems some in town feel that she is a murderess just based on the fact that her mother apparently murdered. This is when Valentine sets out to find the truth.
There's a love triangle here too. Sam, is the younger brother of the local family from the wrong side of town. His brothers and father are known bullies and violent. Sam though isn't. He's a very close friend to Valentine and looks out for her.
Rowan Blackshaw is the handsome son of the wealthy family of town. Valentine's grandfather jilted his grandmother at the altar. Mrs. Blackshaw has never forgiven the family. Valentine and Rowan attend the same school and move in different social circles, but there is a quiet chemistry between these two.
I was suprised at the final identity of the true murderer. There's lots leading up to that reveal that include town jealousies, secrets, and love affairs. Valentine finds out a horrific truth that forces her to make a decision that could ultimately destroy her too.
Gothic romance with a mystery that spans generations and a determined heroine that will risk everything, including herself and the boy she loves, in order to right a terrible wrong.