Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction

The Girl at the Window Rowan Coleman 5* #Review @EburyPublishing @rowancoleman #thegirlatthewindow #familydrama #historicalfiction #gothicfiction #emilybronte #wutheringheights #yorkshiremoors #love #loss #grief #bookreview

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…

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House – Ebury Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Book Review, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Psychological Thriller

4* #Review The Woman in the Lake- Nicola Cornick

‘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…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Book Review

Do Not Disturb- 4* Review – Claire Douglas

COULD YOUR DREAM HOME BE YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE?

After what happened in London, Kirsty needs a fresh start with her family. And running a guesthouse in the Welsh mountains sounds idyllic.

But then their first guest arrives.

Selena is the last person Kirsty wants to see. It’s seventeen years since she tore everything apart.

Why has she chosen now to walk back into Kirsty’s life? Is Selena running from something too? Or is there an even darker reason for her visit?

Because Kirsty knows that once you invite trouble into your home, it can be murder getting rid of it . . .

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Book Review

The Two Houses 4*Review – Fran Cooper

 

‘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…

But who in this village has been hiding them?

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

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.

 

 

Posted in Book Review

While You Sleep -Stephanie Merritt – 5*Review

 

It begins, they say, with a woman screaming…

On a remote Scottish island, the McBride house stands guard over its secrets. A century ago, a young widow and her son died mysteriously there; just last year a local boy, visiting for a dare, disappeared without a trace.

For Zoe Adams, newly arrived from America, the house offers a refuge from her failing marriage. But her peaceful retreat is disrupted by strange and disturbing events: night-time intrusions; unknown voices; a constant sense of being watched.

The locals want her to believe that these incidents are echoes of the McBrides’ dark past. Zoe is convinced the danger is closer at hand and all-too-real – but can she uncover the truth before she is silenced?

 Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

Gothic and creepy this story has all the components of a gripping, intense psychological thriller;  the unreliable protagonist, the lines between imagination and reality blurred and a cast of characters, any of whom could be the antagonist.  Where it differs is its quirky, supernatural content, which  I loved. Combined with a vivid, gothic setting it introduces an added dimension into the plot, increasing the tension and drawing the reader into a living nightmare of past and present.

Zoe’s arrival on the island is shrouded in mystery, is she running away from a dominating husband or trying to escape herself and her secrets? The village appears friendly and gossipy, as you imagine living in a small community would be, but the house she is renting has a tragic past, but is this fact or fable? Everyone has an opinion but whose can she trust?

There is a disturbing, sexual thread to this story that increases the menace and brings Zoe’s state of mind into question. The sensual scenes are well written, but the implicit threat to Zoe’s safety gives them an ominous quality.

The story is fast-paced and packed with detail, its an exciting plot and each page bring the reader closer to the truth that when finally revealed is even more terrible than any gothic horror story.

Realistic and often sinister characters, an intense plot in a  dramatic, unforgiving island setting make ‘While You Sleep’, a psychological thriller with a gothic twist, a thought-provoking, page-turning read.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK, Harper Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.