Review: Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth

Title: Plain Bad Heroines

Author: Emily M Danforth

Pages: 640 Pages

Publisher: Harper Collins

The Blurb

⚠️ WARNING: keep this book away from impressionable female readers⚠️


1902, Brookhants School for Girls: students Flo and Clara are madly in love with each other, as well as completely obsessed with The Story of Mary MacLane, the scandalous debut memoir by 19 year old MacLane. A few months later they are found dead in the woods, after a horrific wasp, the book lying next to their intertwined bodies. Within five years The Brookhants School for Girls is closed. But not before three more people died on the property, each in a troubling way.

Over a hundred years later, Brookhants opens its doors once more, when a crew of young actresses arrive to film a high-profile movie about the rumoured Brookhants curse. And as past and present become grimly entangled, it’s soon impossible to tell quite where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins…


For fans of Sarah Waters, Curtis Sittenfeld and Shirley Jackson, Plain Bad Heroines is by turns sharply witty and deeply unsettling: a modern gothic novel that is utterly immersive and hugely compelling.

The Review

A sapphic campus mystery chunkster of a novel. Plain Bad Heroines is exactly the kind of novel that I needed in my life.

The dual timeline story focuses on the deaths of two young girls at Brookhants School for Girls and the impact of that event throughout the proceeding years. We focus on the lives of the teachers in the school at that time along with the actors playing those parts in a movie interpretation during modern day. However, curious things start happening on set which suggests that the Brookhants curse is still ongoing.

Plain Bad Heroines was a beast of a novel and I flipping loved it. I loved the story within a story and the voices where so distinct and I felt completely immersed in the novel. It highlights the historical attitude to lesbian relationships and the institutions that tried to keep girls separate. It was just so multilayered and even though it was 640 pages long I kind of felt like I wanted more. For a novel to leave your feeling that way you know it is something good.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth is available now.

For more information regarding Emily M Danforth (@emdanforth) please visit

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