top of page
  • Writer's pictureTerrie

The Writing Retreat: thriller with horror vibes

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Horror

Publish Date Feb 21, 2023;

Thanks to #Netgalley and #AtriaBooks for the advance copy of this book. The opinions are my own.

First Sentence(s): "Fuck her. These were the words that got me down the subway steps. I was going to Ursula's book party, and if Wren was there, too, well, she could just go fuck herself."


Four struggling young female authors are invited to attend an exclusive, reclusive writing retreat for a month. Alex and Wren are both invited, and though they used to be best friends, there was a major falling out a year ago and Alex (narrator) is dreading seeing Wren again. The other authors are Poppy, a bright eyed, optimistic person and Keira, an outspoken, opinionated black woman. Then there's Taylor, an unexpected add on. Roza is the lauded, experienced author holding the retreat in her spooky, very remote mansion.

You can see the bones of the story immediately, right? A storm comes, communication with the outside world is lost, Roza is quickly shown to be one weird woman, a house full of creepy women with secrets, and the rules of the retreat make it into a cutthroat competition. Definitely a thriller, but ..................


I feel like this is a case of a misleading jacket blurb. The blurb for The Writing Retreat says: "Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself." While that is all kinda true, what it doesn't mention is that it's a fairly spicy sapphic thriller and has definite horror vibes. I was surprised by that. You'd think that publishers would want to be more clear in the themes of the book so it reaches the right audience.

While the writing in this debut was okay and some of the characters were appropriately questionable/unreliable, and the horror element wasn't extreme, it somehow was not at all what I was expecting. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but this time I felt a little tricked. I'd probably classify it as a psychological thriller due to all the mind games every single character was playing, but with the caveat that there is some fairly explicit f/f sex scenes.

Alex, the narrator, was the only character that showed any growth or change at all and it wasn't particularly noteworthy. Keira and Poppy, and even Wren to a certain extent, are pretty one dimensional. All in all I feel like it was a fairly average story.

Challenges tagged:

Books about books: 1/10

Cloak & Dagger: 9/36+

Popsugar: 4/40 prompts

COYER 1st semester: 20 books read

Welcome to Bookshelf Journeys.

It's my goal to provide real reviews of the books I read without totally rehashing every plot. I'll never spoil a story by giving away a plot twist! Hopefully you'll find one or two of interest and will discover a new book or author to add to YOUR TBR list.  Take a moment to explore, read a couple reviews, and let me know what you think.


For your convenience, I use #hashtags in the reviews and when you click on one, you'll find more books with that theme. Hopefully you'll find it a helpful way to navigate the site and find books you'll enjoy. I've also recently added tags that will show up at the end of each review that serve the same purpose.

The review ratings are based on a 5 star  (1/2 stars sometimes) system with a 3 being an average read for me. I hope you find that helpful. Knowing, of course, that all opinions are just that - my opinion!  Let me know if you agree or disagree - I'd love to hear from you.

If you like what you see and want to keep up with me, subscribe below.  Happy Reading!

bottom of page