Posted in Book review, Books, Reading Challenge, Winter

Book review: Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

Another great book read in our book club: The Plain Bad Heroines is a fascinating book! I’m not even sure what the genre is: modern gothic horror with a splash of sharp humor and focus on lesbian relationships? It’s listed as a Dark Academia book in this Popsugar article, Dark Academia being one of the prompts for the recently published Popsugar 2021 Reading Challenge. No matter what the correct genre is, this book just works, and author Emily M. Danforth really made a book that really has the reader hooked.

Eleanor Faderman knew many books. But never before had she read a book that seemed to know her.

This year managed to surprise me with some books/genres that I’ve really enjoyed but would not usually read. Horror seems to be one of these genres: first Mexican Gothic and now Plain Bad Heroines. This might just be a new start for me to really explore some of the modern horror titles.

It is difficult to tell much about Plain Bad Heroines without ruining the tension of the plot. The book is very new still, so I will keep this short and avoid spoilers.

The book is just over 600 pages, so it’s perhaps longer than an average book you might read. It starts slow, for some it could be too slow, but all the build up is very much worth it. Plain Bad Heroines tells about the happenings at The Brookhants School for Girls where horrible things start to happen first to the students and later to others too. We go from early 1900s to the modern day, when a horror movie is being filmed at the school about the scary incidents. The story (or stories) unfold through the eyes of the several women whose lives were and are affected by the haunted school. At first we meet the students of the school who are fascinated by a book of author Mary MacLane and the romantic relationships between women. Could the book be the reason for all the bad things happening at the school? Obviously things get creepy. We will start to get a better picture of things when the story pics up pace and hops between the staff of the school in early 1900s and the film crew and actresses of the modern day.

The book is really a story within a story, and the tension of everything being creepy and spooky held well until the very end for me at least. But even more than the creepy stuff, I was very impressed by the characters and the very well crafted relationships between the many women we get to know. I’m not 100% sure but I think this might be the first fictional book I’ve read with such a focus on lesbian relationships (and on different centuries too!). It’s great to read books about different people, different perspectives and ways of living. Feels always very refreshing to read something so different from what you would usually read.

Don’t be scared of the length of the book, take some time to really enjoy the atmosphere and characters that are are built so deliciously. This would be perfect to read over the holidays: glass of red wine and endless amounts of time to read a late as you want!

The Plain Bad Heroines obviously get’s a place in the Reading Challenges I’m doing this year:

In the book, someone’s life is saved (Helmet Reading Challenge)
A book with a main character in their 20s (Popsugar Reading Challenge)


I love books, games and the coziness of our house (currently it's the kingdom of me and my husband). My work in a game studio as a Senior HR Specialist keeps me busy and social, but I am an introvert in my core. Navigating life between my very social work and my introvert, less social personality can be tricky and it goes hand in hand with my interest in overall personal well-being.

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