Plain Bad Heroines

Plain Bad Heroines

by Emily M. Danforth

2 out of 5

Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.

Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.

A story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period illustrations.

In 1902 a scandalous book is linked to the deaths of several students at a girl's school.
120 years later, a film is being made, based on a best-selling book that covers the tragedy.

I received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The modern narrative is split between three young women involved in the film.
Merritt is the writer of the book. Her debut was such a big hit - at a young age, too - and Merritt seems to be in some sort of limbo.
When filmmakers are interested in her book, Merritt isn't impressed with the script, or one of the actresses involved.

Harper is the hottest young thing right now, and can do no wrong. She's passionate about getting Brookhants story told, and is keen to star in and produce the film.

Audrey has been in showbusiness from childhood, and despite doing alright when she was younger, everything has fizzled since. She was excited to get the chance to play a minor character in the film, but isn't ready when she's pulled up to centrestage.

The narrative from 1902 is told from an omnipresent perspective, and follows the strange deaths of three girls in quick succession.

So, Dear Reader... I didn't get on with the writing style. It's just so slow and laborious. I found it hard to get invested, or stay attentive to what was going on (or not going on - nothing seemed to be happening).
I thought the use of yellowjackets throughout was clumsy and overused.
I don't know what this book was trying to be - it felt like it might be a horror, but it failed to build any atmosphere.
It might just have been a contemporary fiction with a paranormal twist, but none of these characters were likeable, and I couldn't get invested in their stories.

Overall, this book was not for me, but I can see it appealing to others.


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