The Ingenue by Rachel Kapelke-Dale #BookReview #Thriller #Suspense

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.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

The Ingenue by Rachel Kapelke-Dale is a suspenseful story of revenge and redemption told in Kaelke-Dale’s beautiful and haunting style that is nothing short of magical.

My Reading Experience:

There is something so lovely and evocative in every sentence of this story.  It’s hard to find the words to adequately describe them to someone who has never read it.   Kapelke-Dale’s words took me to a place where I experienced the story in every way possible, and I think some that are not.  And this immersive experience, along with the abundance of suspense and the bit of mystery, propelled me forward so that I did not even think about things like the speed of the pace.

I just loved the complicated family relationships, as shown in Saskia’s relationship with each of her parents.  It’s complicated and messy, but above all, there is an unwavering love for each other.  When juxtaposed with her relationships with other people, the love shines through even more powerfully.

There is also a pervasive darkness that winds its way throughout the tale, which reflects the true nature of the story.  Gruesome details are never harped on, but the overall feel of the story left no mistake in my mind as to the deep darkness on the pages.


Saskia Kreis was a child prodigy on the piano – a true ingenue.  Then mysteriously, the magic of her music just comes to a grinding halt, and eventually, she stops playing altogether, turning to computer science for her future.  Coming to terms with what changed her also fuels her need for revenge, which becomes an uneven, broken path toward redemption. Or does it?

Narration & Pacing:

The narration is done in the third person, tightly focused on Saskia, so it’s almost like she is telling the tale in her own words. Yet, it has the slight

separation that she needs to be able to walk the path she is fated to walk.  The timeline goes between 2020 and the early ’90s when Saskia was a teen and never once strays away from the main focus of the story.

The pace is more of a medium one, but the suspense and the beautiful writing make it feel much faster.  I never once grew bored or wished that the story would get along with it. Every word and sentence is just as compelling as the one that comes before and the one that comes after.


The story is set almost entirely at Harper Mansion on a cliff’s edge above Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Harper Mansion is a unique mansion with elf guardians that has remained in the Harper family for many generations.  Saskia expected to inherit the house upon her mother’s death, as was the family tradition.  When it’s discovered that she has left it to a non-family member, many emotions and memories come to the forefront.

Read if you like:

  • Loads of suspense
  • Beautiful writing that completely enthralls you
  • Revenge and redemption stories

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

Writing Quality10
Character Development8
‘Couldn’t Put It Down’-ness10
Use of Setting10
All scores, except the overall rating, are on a scale of 1-10. The overall rating is converted to the standard 5-point system.

24 Replies to “The Ingenue by Rachel Kapelke-Dale #BookReview #Thriller #Suspense”

    1. Both of her books are just written so exquisitely even though what she is writing about is actually quite dark and gruesome. I love her style of writing.


  1. Wonderful review, Tessa. I wasn’t sure about this one, but I love how you described the story and the writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’d like this one. It’s more of a traditional psyc thriller than her last book but with her amazing writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this one too! Your review sums it up nicely. I love this quote from your review “There is something so lovely and evocative in every sentence of this story. ” so true!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s what I love the most about her stories – her writing. And that really doesn’t happen often, does it?


    1. I think you would totally love her writing style Mae. There’s few out there today that have that ability with language, in my opinion anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with you. And language is so important to me as a reader (and writer). I love when a author transports me and I get lost in the words.

        Liked by 1 person

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