A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists.
Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.
Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.
I’ll admit. I put this one off for so long because of the hype. I was extremely nervous about not loving it. Boy was I wrong. I found this to be very enjoyable. I found Barnes’ writing style to be easy to pick up and get right into. The world was descriptive, but not to the point where you would feel it was over explained or flowery.
The characters were well written. Avery, as the main character, was interesting, but I felt like there was more to her that we needed to learn about. She was a character that was clearly smart and great at problem solving, but I feel like there’s more. Each brother had a distinct personality and, once I remembered everyone’s name, they were easy to distinguish between. I had a little harder time keeping track of the other side characters, once that were introduced but didn’t have a lot to do – workers, aunts. I’m hoping these characters are brought up in later books, because at this point some felt like background noise. I was intrigued most by Grayson and Jameson. Their backstories felt most involved and I just wanted more page time with both of them (I have a feeling I will get that in later books). The other two brothers, Nash and Xander, I felt we didn’t get enough time with them for me to have full opinions on them. It was clear to me that Nash was a care-taker type character and Xander was the mechanical/isolated-by-choice character. I enjoyed them, but didn’t feel like I knew them. Obviously, there is only so much time in a book to give me that, but I’m hoping to get more character development over Books 2 and 3.
I was surprised by the mystery in this one. I was so distracted by other elements and clues that I found I wasn’t trying to figure out the big picture. Did I have mini theories – yes, but in the most vague way possible lol. These twists weren’t what I would call amazing, but I was entertained enough that I was caught off guard anyways. I find it’s a fine balance – entertain/distract the reader so they can’t figure out your twists AND have an interesting enough twist. While I was being entertained and distracted to the point of not wanting to figure out the twists – I still found the twists to be a surprise. There were multiple ones scattered throughout – mini puzzles we figure out alongside the main character – which were fulfilling. The big twist at the end – the sequel bate for lack of a better term – was well done and didn’t feel tacked on (simply there to get us to want the next book, but serving no purpose in the end). Everything in this book was done with purpose – hints (some of which I probably didn’t pick up on) were shown to have an overall value at some point in the mystery. Some mystery elements (puzzles) were tricky for me personally – I’m not one for word puzzles – but the book didn’t make me feel stupid for not being able to figure it out. Nor did Barnes spoon feed any answers to me. I felt like everything was earned and satisfying.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a comforting mystery with some fun puzzles and drama mixed in. I haven’t watched Knives Out to see the comparison that others are making, but I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys puzzle/clue-based mysteries.