Way up in the Swiss mountains, there’s an old grand hotel steeped in tradition and faded splendor. Once a year, when the famous New Year’s Eve Ball takes place and guests from all over the world arrive, excitement returns to the vast hallways.
Sophie, who works at the hotel as an intern, is busy making sure that everything goes according to plan. But unexpected problems keep arising, and some of the guests are not who they pretend to be. Very soon, Sophie finds herself right in the middle of a perilous adventure–and at risk of losing not only her job, but also her heart.
Warnings: gun violence, drugging without consent, grievous injury and outdoor survival
An aging hotel high in the mountains seems like a perfect setting for a holiday romance-mystery, and since I’ve only read Gier’s Ruby Red series, I was interested in her latest book! Sophie is hired as an intern at the Castle in the Clouds, an old but charming hotel with a lot of History. The major part of the story takes place around the Christmas, during the hotel’s prime season, where mostly affluent guests come to take in the scenery and take part in the annual New Year’s eve ball. Sophie is excited for an interesting Christmas, in a hotel filled with interesting guests, but her hopes are over-exceeded by the eventful one they end up having.
For the most part, the mystery element of the story lies on the backburner and only shows up in the last quarter properly. Prior to that, the story is mostly about the day-to-day events in a hotel, with an interesting set of characters as the guests, and the staff. The writing makes you feel like everything and everyone has more going on beneath, and it doesn’t always pan out, but I like the effect it gives out. The pacing fits her life there so well, there are slow scenes as they go about regular duties, but then there are also sudden crises popping up, like a particularly mean 9-year old determined to make her life hell, while demanding guests make everyone’s life a bit more difficult. There are small mysteries popping up which connect near the ending, and a romance blooming between Sophie and Ben, the hotelier’s son who is also interning for the winter, as well as between Sophie and a charming British guy Tristan, who has a penchant for showing up unexpectedly in unexpected places. The romance is cute, though I preferred the other guy, from the endgame. Sophie is pretty entertaining as a narrator – she is witty, but also prone to making rash decisions by reflex. She has a good rapport with most of the senior staff, but some of the seasonal staff are bullying her (which reeks a bit of the high school cheerleader trope), as are some of the younger guests. Her duties take her from the day care, to the spa room, to the laundry to the concierge’s lounge.
The hook of the book is the opening scene which finds her in a quite a dire state, giving us enough detail to wonder how she got there. And while most of the book has a relaxed vibe, with occasional bouts of humor and intrigue, it keeps things interesting enough till the fast-paced and tense ending chapters. On the whole, it is an entertaining read, and being a standalone, quite satisfying; I wouldn’t mind more shenanigans at the hotel in a sequel, though!
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Henry Holt & Company, via Edelweiss.
Other books by the author
Releases on January 28, 2020