Tripping Arcadia was such a vividly gorgeous gothic delight.
I had a feeling I’d adore this one so I had the audiobook preordered for months. And you know what? Absolutely right. It’s a deadly and gorgeous read, full of the type of aesthetics I crave in books. It’s a whirlwind of enigmatic mystery set against the backdrop of old stunning mansions and gardens of poisons. And it’s also so queer — so basically I will be recommending this one deeply.
The story follows Lena, a desperate ex-med-college student in need of a job to help her family’s financial crisis. Her life is on pause due to burn out from college and indecision on what she wants in life. When she applies for this vague medical assistant position for a very rich family named the Verdeaus…she genuinely has no idea what it entails. She just NEEDS work. And who are the rich if not to pray on the desperate. Lena gets the job and is slowly pulled into the twisted world of rich, cruel businessmen, mysterious boys with mysterious illnesses, dangerous secrets, and a world that is so far removed from reality it feels like a dream. Or a nightmare.
I do Lena. She is very forthright and full of feelings, and her burn out and indecisive nature were very relatable 😭 She longs to do good and is so loyal to her family — but when she sees just how wretched Martin Verdeaus is (as a depraved business man) she quickly goes from “rich people are annoying” to “EAT THE RICH.” Softly though. She is also hesitant and not the heroine who will plunge into the plot and take it by the reigns. That’s the only thing I did find frustrating…Lena never pushed for answers, even on when on the cusp of them. But the dose of realistic reaction also made sense. She didn’t want to risk her job and, quite honestly, she had no idea what was going on.
Vivid, extravagant parties of debauchery. Mansions with endless rooms. Strange pills that do terrible things. The yearning of connection and the entrancing addiction to a life that seems just out of reach.
I did also love the different ways the book touched on addiction. With people like Martin flinging drugs around, Jonathan unable to stop drinking, but also Lena…addicted to this world of class, poise and mad wealth.
I also loved the chaotic and utterly unhelpful Verdeaus siblings. Lena is hired because Jonathan is very very ill, and she’s assisting his personal physician. What’s he ill with? What pills is he taking? What is even going on with him? YOU DON’T GET TO KNOW. Jonathan is the perfect languid, ailing Victorian boy, utterly breathtakingly beautiful and delicate and drunk and useless. Then there’s the enigmatic and loveable Audrey Verdeaus, who Lena is halfway in love with. Audrey has been shunted aside from inheriting in favour of Jonathan (even though he’s younger and, arguably, dumb) and she’s doing her best to work the family business even as she’s pushed aside. Both siblings were so mysterious and gorgeous and I did love that Lena sort of had a crush on them both.
The writing was such a treat — absolutely adored it. The only thing that grated on me was how often it deflected from giving answers…like I get it was for the plot, but when almost every conversation is a cut off sentence…hm. And the ending had a few holes, but I could look passed because it was fantastic otherwise 😭😭.
The entire book is stuffed with mystery, poisonous gardens, and gothic obsession and unhinged characters, and quite frankly I adored it and want more.
Title: Tripping Arcadia
Author: Kit Mayquist
Date Published: February 22nd 2022
Genre: Adult Gothic Thriller
Purchase: Book Depository, Blackwells, Amazon
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Med school dropout Lena is desperate for a job, any job, to help her parents, who are approaching bankruptcy after her father was injured and laid off nearly simultaneously. So when she is offered a position, against all odds, working for one of Boston’s most elite families, the illustrious and secretive Verdeaus, she knows she must accept it—no matter how bizarre the interview or how vague the job description.
By day, she is assistant to the family doctor and his charge, Jonathan, the sickly, poetic, drunken heir to the family empire, who is as difficult as his illness is mysterious. By night, Lena discovers the more sinister side of the family, as she works overtime at their lavish parties, helping to hide their self-destructive tendencies . . . and trying not to fall for Jonathan’s alluring sister, Audrey. But when she stumbles upon the knowledge that the Verdeau patriarch is the one responsible for the ruin of her own family, Lena vows to get revenge—a poison-filled quest that leads her further into this hedonistic world than she ever bargained for, forcing her to decide how much—and who—she’s willing to sacrifice for payback.
The perfect next read for fans of Mexican Gothic, Tripping Arcadia is a page-turning and shocking tale with an unforgettable protagonist that explores family legacy and inheritance, the sacrifices we must make to get by in today’s world, and the intoxicating, dangerous power of wealth.