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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Ingenue

Narrator: Stephanie Willis

Macmillan Audio

ISBN: 9781250870681

Publisher: Macmillan Audio

St. Martin's Press

Publication Date:12/06/2022

Format: e-book

My Rating: 5 Stars (ARC)

My Dark Vanessa meets The Queen's Gambit in this new novel of suspense about the bonds of family, the limits of talent, the risks of ambition, and the rewards of revenge.

When former piano prodigy Saskia Kreis returns home to Milwaukee after her mother's unexpected death, she expects to inherit the family estate, the Elf House. But with the discovery that her mother's will bequeathed the Elf House to a man that Saskia shares a complicated history with, she is forced to reexamine her own past––and the romantic relationship that changed the course of her life––for answers. Can she find a way to claim her heritage while keeping her secrets buried, or will the fallout from digging too deep destroy her?

Set against a post #MeToo landscape, Rachel Kapelke-Dale's The Ingenue delves into mother-daughter relationships, the expectations of talent, the stories we tell ourselves, and what happens when the things that once made you special are taken from you. Moving between Saskia's childhood and the present day, this dark, contemporary fairy tale pulses with desire, longing, and uncertainty, as it builds to its spectacular, shocking climax.


"Exceptional. This surprising, exhilarating suspense-filled tale of revenge and redemption is hard to put down." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Kapelke-Dale crafts a twisted suspenseful tale of expectations and identity, of love and vengeance, that will leave readers breathless."

––Library Journal

"Kapelke-Dale’s absorbing novel delves into the repercussions of sexual abuse, interspersing tantalizing extracts from Evie’s feminist fairy-tale retellings and fragments of Saskia’s teen years with present events that crescendo to a stunning conclusion. Aptly compared to Kate Elizabeth Russell's much-buzzed-about My Dark Vanessa, The Ingenue is poised to garner similar attention." ––Booklist

"Rachel Kapelke-Dale is an indisputable virtuoso of artful, propulsive suspense driven by the desires of complex female characters. In The Ingenue, she skillfully remixes classic fairy tale and Gothic themes to create an enthralling exploration of what the world does to ambitious women, and what happens when they take their power back. Saskia’s stunning coda will ring in your head long after you turn the final page."

––Layne Fargo, author of They Never Learn

"The Ingenue is a beautiful fever dream of a story, a genre-blending mix of mystery and fairytale that metamorphizes into different stories as you’re reading: an intimate look at the bonds between mothers and daughters, a searing exploration of who you are when you’re no longer exceptional, a knife-edged tale of vengeance. It is utterly enthralling, provocative, and so smart it held me captive until the perfect, sinister end. A book for anyone who was told they were special and is still clawing their way back."

––Ashley Winstead, author of In My Dreams I Hold a Knife

My Review

From the author, Rachel Kapelke-Dale, of the bestselling debut, The Ballerinas, comes a stunning dark and searing tale —THE INGENUE. A novel of suspense of family, talent, ambition, and revenge!

My Dark Venessa meets T. Greenwood's Such A Pretty Girl in this provocative lyrical drama of innocence lost, prodigy, time, girl, and woman.

From this impressive front cover, the author captivates you instantly and holds you to the twisty, satisfying conclusion.

Saskia Kreis, a former piano prodigy, returns to Milwaukee after her mother's death. She is expecting to inherit the family estate called Elf House.

But she learns it will go to a man with that she shares a complex and sordid past. A much older man, Patrick, stole her innocence. How will she get this time back?

Saskia has long-buried secrets. What did Patrick have over her mother? Why did her mother bequeath him the estate?

From past to present, we hear from Saskia and her life from a teen to today. Set against a post #MeToo era, the author delves deep into the strained mother-daughter relationship.

Was her mother protecting her or harming her? Now, what will her dad say that the mom is gone? Can she be truthful about her past without it destroying her?

She has a purpose. She has a plan.

She can let herself do this.

A mother's choice:

"What did her mother have to give her? To save her? Ambition. Opportunity. Privilege. Love."

"But what did her mother think she had to give?

The Elf House. Or her stories."

Enthralling, atmospheric, gothic, and mixed with fairy tales, this clever mystery tale of revenge and redemption is exceptional. Way to take back the power!

From child pornography, innocence lost, sexual abuse, a victim, the piano, dreams, and time, the author takes readers on a journey with short feminist fairy tale excerpts (from her mother's Fairy Tales for Little Feminists—at the beginning of each chapter which were a delight. You will be swept away by Saskia and her mother's story.

Alternating between Saskia's childhood and the present day, this dark, contemporary fairy tale, with its beautiful lyrical prose, will captivate you and have you smiling at its spectacular conclusion.

"And after all. What is a fairy tale, anyway but a ghost story about the living? About taking care of unfinished business while you still have time."

Thank you to #StMartinsPress and #Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. #SMPInfluencers

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 Stars

Pub Date: Dec 6, 2022


About the Author

Rachel Kapelke-Dale is the co-author of GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND (Penguin 2014), a memoir about the significance and nuances of female friendships. The author of Vanity Fair Hollywood's column "Advice from the Stars," Kapelke-Dale spent years in intensive ballet training before receiving a BA from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and a PhD from University College London. She currently lives in Paris. WEBSITE







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