A jaded middle-aged woman attends a museum exhibit featuring the wreck of a pirate ship. A dead pirate from the wreck makes spiritual contact with her, pleading for her help to rescue him from purgatory. Along the way, she discovers both their pasts through a series of dreams. Another pirate covets her body for his own nefarious purposes. She becomes determined to rescue the pirate who has become her friend while figuring out how to prevent the other pirate from taking over her body.
I am 57, and I am a graduate of Augustana College of Rock Island, Illinois. I wrote some in college, then stopped. I took it up again after attending the Real Pirates Exhibit in Denver, Colorado in 2011. I have since written several non-fiction articles about some of the pirates who sailed on the Whydah Galley. In the past few years, I’ve compiled them into two books titled The Whydah Pirates Speak. I have also published several short stories, which have appeared in two anthologies (listed on my Amazon page), and in several magazines. I live in Cochiti Lake, NM, with my three cats. When not writing, I enjoy walking, reading, and Tai Chi.
1799 Emily Moon lives with her mother in an inn on a clifftop in the darkest reaches of Cornwall. After her father mysteriously disappears, her mother finds solace at the bottom of a bottle, and the only way to keep afloat is to turn a blind eye to the smugglers who send signals from the clifftops. But Emily knows that the smugglers killed her father to ensure his silence, and she will not let his murder go unpunished…
Present day After a case ends in tragedy, police officer Phoebe Bellingham flees to Cornwall for a summer of respite. But rather than the sunny Cornwall of her dreams, she finds herself on storm-beaten cliffs, surrounded by stories of ghosts and smugglers – and the mysterious Emily Moon, who vanished without a trace over two centuries ago. As rain lashes down around her, Phoebe determines to find the truth behind the rumours – but what she uncovers will put herself in danger too…
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The Smuggler’s Daughter is a mysterious timeslip story, connected by place and two women. This is an atmospheric story in both 1799 and 2019, with the danger of smugglers and an underlying menace.
In Cornwall in 1799, Emily witnesses a terrible crime which she vows to avenge. Viewed as strange by her community, she has few friends. Phoebe is reeling from a mistake that left someone dead. She escapes to Cornwall and finds a mystery to occupy her mind.
Both stories are engaging with strong female characters who draw you into their lives and gain your empathy. The well-paced plot provides a medley of mystery, paranormal and romance amidst Cornwall at its most haunting and rugged.
A new beginning. A house with a past. A man with secrets.
It was a dream come true…that turned into a nightmare.
Kate Wilson thinks moving back to Cornwall might be the answer to her prayers. But it isn’t long before she begins to have doubts. Is the house she inherited from her godmother haunted? Or is she going out of her mind? With a stalker, threats, and attempted break-ins, Kate’s troubles multiply.
Then there’s her enigmatic neighbour, the brooding Tom Carbis; a man with secrets he doesn’t wish to share. Can she trust him when he says he wants to help?
In her quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding her, will Kate uncover more than she bargains for?
Set in beautiful Cornwall, The Unquiet Spirit is a gripping suspense with paranormal and romantic elements.
I received a copy of this book from Darkstroke Books and the author in return for an honest review.
This is an atmospheric story that is full of historical detail that adds to its authenticity. Kate unexpectedly inherits an old house from her godmother in Cornwall. Eager for a new start, she travels to Cornwall to claim her inheritance. A house with secrets.
Mystery, paranormal, romance and suspense are weaved into the well-paced plot. Engaging characters and detailed imagery makes this an enjoyable reading experience. The suspense building and paranormal twists immerse the reader in Kate’s world with an interesting conflicted, but romantic relationship with Tom, a man with secrets.
This is an engaging read with a wide reader appeal because of its cross-genre approach.
Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.
Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a historical mystery/romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.
But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.
Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).
Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…
In an elite Catholic girls’ boarding-school the pupils live under the repressive, watchful gaze of the nuns. Seeking to break from the cloistered atmosphere two of the students – Louisa and Victoria – quickly become infatuated with their young, bohemian art teacher, and act out passionately as a result. That is, until he and Louisa suddenly disappear.
Years later, a journalist uncovers the troubled past of the school and determines to resolve the mystery of the missing pair. The search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.
The Temple House Vanishingis a stunning, intensely atmospheric novel of unrequited longing, dark obsession and uneasy consequences.
I received a copy of this book from Atlantic Books – Corvus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The remote setting gives this story a gothic quality. It’s a place that masks deceit, obsession and dark secrets. Louisa is vulnerable and desperate to fit in somewhere in her new school. This makes her an easy target for manipulative Victoria.
Flawed realistic characters are the story’s driving force. They often lack compassion and understanding. The pacing is slow to create the school’s claustrophobic atmosphere. The plot does seem to rely on coincidences in parts, but there are realistic twists and a dark ending.
An absorbing, intriguing tale that has a haunting quality.
Can Laura unravel the truth by the end of the trial?
In an old courtroom, a hissing voice distracts shy juror, Laura, and at night recurring nightmares transport her to a Victorian gaol and the company of a wretched woman.
Although burdened by her own secret guilt, and struggling to form meaningful relationships, Laura isn’t one to give up easily when faced with an extraordinary situation.
The child-like whispers lead Laura to an old prison graveyard, where she teams up with enthusiastic museum curator, Sean. He believes a missing manuscript is the key to understanding her haunting dreams. But nobody knows if it actually exists.
Laura is confronted with the fate of two people – the man in the dock accused of defrauding a charity for the blind, and the restless spirit of a woman hanged over a century ago for murder. If Sean is the companion she needs in her life, will he believe her when she realises that the two mysteries are converging around a long-forgotten child who only Laura can hear?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This story perfectly captures the atmosphere and the dark vibrations that haunt ancient buildings, especially those where terrible events took place. I know the setting for this story, and it’s well-described.
Laura is on jury service and the story follows the case she is hearing, day by day. The other characters on the jury, add to the story’s authenticity. When Laura realises, only she can hear the noises in the jury room and court, she sets out to find out why. A chance meeting with Sean gives her an ally in more ways than she first expected.
The gentle pacing and the increasing timeslips into the past reveal a poignant and terrible story.
The final chapters show that Laura’s slips into the past reveal an unknown truth. There is a twist you may not expect and a positive romantic ending.
Aspiring writer who pens Women’s Fiction and magical tales about family secrets.
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The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors was to be full of life but is now a haunted place.
Juliette convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.
Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.
I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Atmospheric, disturbing and poignant, ‘Starve Acre’, fuses the darkest human emotions with supernatural echoes. Richard and Juliette were hoping for an idyllic life in the country, although the place they chose had a dark history and little to recommend it. They lost their child Ewan, who before his death seemed haunted by dreams and voices, in the house and in the land that accompanied it.
The story is sad and sinister. You are undecided whether this is a journey into the dark and desperate grief of two bereaved parents. Or a haunting and possession, engineered by the dark echoes of the past residing in Starve Acre.
The setting and folklore woven into the story produce vivid imagery that evokes the horror unfolding. The desperation and the ways people cope with grief are explored, as is their vulnerability to manipulation and the dark paranormal forces drawn to such individuals.
The reader is left to put their interpretation on events but is left in no doubt that Juliette is in a dark place and may never return.
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…
Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.
While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…
I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House – Ebury Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Reading this story is rather like opening a Pandora’s box, there are surprises, light and dark. love and hate, purity and evil, all intertwined into an epic story that keeps on giving, as you turn the pages.
I love, the clever fusion of genres, family drama, romance, timeslip, historical fact and fiction, paranormal, gothic fiction, are all part of this novel’s embroidery. Whilst, this will not be for everyone, there are many timelines to negotiate, it is compelling and worth the effort, to move out of the ease of contemporary reading into the more elaborate historical details and subterfuge.
This story works for me because of Trudy’s state of mind, she is heartbroken, without hope, and open to any experience that lessens the pain. Her maternal instinct keeps her on track, making sure Will gets the emotional and practical support he needs, but she needs more than this and discovering hidden secrets that the house gives up is part of this. She is a sensitive woman, a loner, her childhood was full of imagination and literature, and it gave her purpose and solace. Now, in her pain, she seeks the familiar and is prepared to accept whatever the house reveals, even if it sometimes defies explanation and is frightening.
This is an escapist novel, something to enthral and capture your imagination, full of emotion and a clever medley of fact and fiction, it makes you want to visit Ponden Hall, and find out if it’s as magical and troubled as it seems.
‘I see it all again: the silver moon swimming beneath the water and the golden gown billowing out about her…’
1765: Lady Isabella Gerard asks her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it. Its shimmering beauty has been tainted by the actions of her husband the night before.
Three months later: Lord Eustace Gerard stands beside the lake looking down at the woman in the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this is not his intended victim…
1996: Fenella Brightwell steals a stunning gown from a stately home. Twenty years later and reeling from the end of an abusive marriage, she wonders if it has cursed her all this time. Now she’s determined to discover the history behind the beautiful golden dress…
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Domestic abuse is the dark theme of this timeslip novel. Another central element is the mystical influence of a golden gown, the reader finds characters linked over time, both victims of abusive partners.
The historical detail and setting for the eighteenth century part of the novel are atmospheric and absorbing. Lady Isabella is perhaps the easiest of the characters to empathise, as she suffers her husband’s mental and physical abuse.
Fenella suffers a similar fate in the present day, and its effects force her into the role of an unreliable protagonist. You are not sure of her true motives and whether she really sees what she says she does.
The characters are complex and well written. The story has a supernatural element, which could be explained away as the psychological impact of the women’s abuse but there is always an element of doubt that keeps the reader guessing.
Well-paced with a layered plot, the book keeps you enthralled until the end.
Family, drama meets murder-mystery with a gothic twist, this story has many elements and lots of characters, maybe a few more than readers are comfortable with?
Kirsty and her family escape to the country for a better life and to leave their troubles behind. Renovating the dream home and business comes at a price and so financial help from Kirsty’s mum is welcome but her controlling nature less so.
An unexpected and somewhat unwelcome face from Kirsty’s past causes additional tension. New visitors add to the cast of characters and introduce a gothic thread to the plot when one guest hints at a dark history for the house. Then disaster strikes and Kirsty and her family feel threatened, and the business hangs in the balance.
Tense, complex with misinformation and suspects worthy of any murder mystery but the underlying family secrets add a sinister dimension, and the ending is well crafted and may surprise you.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK, Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘The Two Houses sit grey and brooding beneath a pale sky. They cling to the hillside, cowering from the wind, because always, before everything up here, there is the wind. The Two Houses were not always two. But if it is human to build – even up here, in this blasted northern hinterland – it is human to break, too.’
After an acclaimed career in ceramics, Jay herself has cracked. Recovering from a breakdown, she and her husband Simon move to the desolate edges of the north of England, where they find and fall in love with the Two Houses: a crumbling property whose central rooms were supposedly so haunted that a previous owner had them cut out from the building entirely.
But on uprooting their city life and moving to the sheltered grey village of Hestle, Jay and Simon discover it’s not only the Two Houses that seems to be haunted by an obscure past. It becomes increasingly clear that the villagers don’t want them there at all – and when building work to make the two houses whole again starts, a discovery is made that will unearth decades-old secrets…
At first glance, this appears to be a ghost story. While the writing style is atmospheric, creepy and gothic, the content is more grounded. The ghosts are emotional, bad memories and entrenched secrets kept by the living rather than the dead.
Escaping to the country seems like a rest cure for Jay and Simon, reeling from Jay’s emotional breakdown when she discovers she cannot have children. A ceramic artist Jay’s work suffers until she shies away from it and everyone attached to it. Simon loves her but doesn’t necessarily understand her. His constant presence is claustrophobic for his free-spirited wife. She doesn’t want to share her emotions just to make him feel worthwhile.
So when they find a quirky, broken down property, two houses severed in their past. Jay loves it, and Simon who wants his wife to recover agrees, although he is looking for a bolt hole and she is searching for a new life.
The villagers are suspicious of the interloper’s motives and the reasons for this gradually become clear as the story progresses. It’s not just because they want to protect the secrets of the old houses, their way of life has disintegrated with the closure of the mines and farms, young people want to leave, and only the old ones and those who cannot survive elsewhere are left. They want to protect their way of life even if it’s not what it once was.
The characters are realistic, as is their behaviour when confronted with newcomers. Jay becomes obsessed with the house’s secrets to the exclusion of all else, but maybe this is part of her healing process?
The plot reveals its clues and misinformation as it progresses, the pacing is slow because of the detailed descriptions and the internal conflict of the main characters.
Mysterious and suspenseful but not written in a commercial, contemporary style, it is all about the characters and their interaction with the setting. It resonates as you read and the two houses’ story is infinitely sadder than you first imagine.
I liked it and found the ending particularly poignant. It conveys the sense of stability and people becoming as one with the land well. It is slow and maybe too detailed in places, but it does fit with a gothic writing style and is a lovely example of this.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.