She Was the Quiet One: A Novel by Michele Campbell

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Neither Sarah nor Heath had a counseling background. They knew nothing about running a dorm, or providing guidance to messed-up girls. Sarah had spent her Odell years hiding from girls like that, and- to be honest- Heath had spent his time chasing them.

Rose and Bel Enright’s mother has just succumbed to cancer, the dreamier of the twins (Bel) wants nothing to change more than what already has. The devastating loss has already altered their known world. Both girls know without a place to go, they will end up in Foster Care so it is Rose’s idea to contact their father’s wealthy mother and take her up on her offer to send them (as has been an Enright tradition for generations) to boarding school at the prestigious Odell Academy. Rose can’t wait, the New England school is like a dream come true. It offers an education that she would never have known otherwise.  Bell can’t think of anything worse, surely their free-spirited mother would never have wanted this for her beloved, favorite girl. Soon enough, Rose and Bell are divided and Bell is in over her head, following an older, popular group of vicious, entitled girls.

The sister’s relationship veers into the point of no return when Bell takes part in hazing with Rose and her roommate as victims. Shockingly, her own grandmother can’t stand shame coming to the Enright name nor any smear upon Odell Academy. Worse, Bell seems to have their grandmother just as under her charm as their mother was. Sarah Donovan, the dorm mother, is there to support Rose when her own family turns against her. But Sarah has family issues of her own, in between juggling her young children and her husband’s ambition, there is some sort of stain they too are trying to erase, a problem the husband and wife are healing from. This was supposed to be a new start, but it seems their old school houses wealthy, dangerous girls as powerful, manipulative and intimidating as they were when Sarah and her husband were students themselves. Worse, there seems to be a scheme involving her guileless husband, a sort of dare amongst the senior girls, which soon enough Heath will laugh off as harmless.  How is a woman with a body taken over by the birth of children to feel secure around such youthful beauty, girls whose looks and artful exposure of their flesh betray their age and lack of experience? Sarah may as well be the awkward, unpopular girl she was in school. Can she trust Heath not to succumb to any untoward behavior?

Despite finding herself in serious trouble, ashamed that she betrayed her own sister, Bell is more obsessed with Mr. Heath, swooning at his every word, inserting herself as much as she can in his life, hungry for his attention. She is playing a dangerous game of seduction for a young, inexperienced girl. Heath won’t let anything ruin his chance to prove himself as a husband, father and if everything goes according to plan, be appointed Headmaster of Odell Academy. There isn’t enough scheming young bored girls can do to undermine his authority, his chance to make things up to his beloved, loyal wife Sarah. His family’s very future depends on this one year, and it’s starting out with a scandal involving the new twins. It is a stroke of luck that Bell confides in him, is willing to be steered in the right direction. Has Heath overestimated his skill as a teacher?

The students aren’t the only ones hiding dark secrets, Rose and Bell’s grandmother is distant, cold and her lawyer seems to be plotting, particularly against Rose at every turn. There is something sinister about him, as if the girls presence are a threat to his bond with their grandmother or her money. If they won’t support her and what Bell has put her through, to hell with them. She has evidence, and damned if she won’t expose Bell for what she really is, or at the very least use it as a means to wake Bell up to what she is becoming. Every character is crossing some sort of line, and when Rose is caught with blood all over her hands everyone is wondering if she is capable of murder.

I was engaged through the entire novel, with its twists and turns. Though there were times I felt like it would do better with a younger audience, 18 and over (because of the sexual nature) as at my age I have less patience for entitled rich kids, and find myself exhausted by their antics more than terrified. Then again, I’ve never been a dorm mother!  As a reader I just wanted to take poor Bell aside and say ‘oh honey, no…you are still grieving, you are so lost’. Then there is Rose, she just cannot seem to catch a break, and to think all she wanted was a good education, well she certainly got one, just not what she was hoping for. It all goes dark!

Publication Date: July 31, 2017

St. Martin’s Press

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