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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

BLOG TOUR: So Pretty by Ronnie Turner

Published: January 19th, 2023
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Gothic Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this dark, hypnotic and unnerving debut. This was a fantastic start to my reading year and I’m thrilled to be sharing my review with you all today.
Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Karen at Orenda for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

A young man arrives in a small town, hoping to leave his past behind him, but everything changes when he takes a job in a peculiar old shop, and meets a lonely single mother … A chillingly hypnotic gothic thriller and a Mesmerising study of identity and obsession.
 
‘This chilling gothic tale explores the dark corners of identity … beautifully written and a real page-turner’ C J Cooke
 
‘Dark, lyrical and intriguing’ Fiona Cummins
 
‘Like Stephen King on crack … the most accomplished book I’ve read this year. Dark, gothic as hell, and genuinely scary, Turner has managed to portray loneliness, obsession, and monster-worship in one neat little package. I dare you to open it’ M W Craven
 
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Fear blisters through this town like a fever…

When Teddy Colne arrives in the small town of Rye, he believes he will be able to settle down and leave his past behind him. Little does he know that fear blisters through the streets like a fever. The locals tell him to stay away from an establishment known only as Berry & Vincent, that those who rub too closely to its proprietor risk a bad end. 

Despite their warnings, Teddy is desperate to understand why Rye has come to fear this one man, and to see what really hides behind the doors of his shop.

Ada moved to Rye with her young son to escape a damaged childhood and years of never fitting in, but she’s lonely, and ostracised by the community. Ada is ripe for affection and friendship, and everyone knows it.

As old secrets bleed out into this town, so too will a mystery about a family who vanished fifty years earlier, and a community living on a knife edge.

Teddy looks for answers, thinking he is safe, but some truths are better left undisturbed, and his past will find him here, just as it has always found him before. And before long, it will find Ada too.

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MY REVIEW:

‘It’s a curious box and a box of curiosities. We don’t go inside Berry & Vincent,’ they said. 
‘Why?’ 
Don’t go inside Berry & Vincent,’ they said. ‘There’s a devil inside that place.’

Teddy arrives in Rye hoping to make a fresh start and leave the ghosts of his past far behind. He answers an ad for an assistant at Berry & Vincent, a peculiar old shop that the residents avoid and refuse to even speak of. What is it they are so afraid of? And why do they keep telling Teddy to leave before it’s too late?
As Teddy tries to uncover the secrets of this strange place he meets single mother Ada, who has lived in Rye for two years but never managed to fit in. The pair bond over being outsiders and attempt to unravel the mystery of Berry & Vincent. But there is a darkness lurking and secrets that have been hidden for decades will soon be revealed.

Wow! This book needs to come with a warning label! Dark, haunting and malevolent, it chilled me to the bone, made my heart race and left my jaw on the floor. I finished reading it late last night, unable to go to bed until I had the answers to my many questions, and I’m still reeling, the adrenaline coursing through me even now. When you read this book, be prepared to be taken on one of the darkest, most twisted rides you’ve ever experienced. And be prepared to love every minute. 

“They were afraid. They were all afraid.” 

It is no secret that Orenda is not only my favourite indie publisher, but one of my favourite publishers overall. Anytime you read one of their books you know you’re guaranteed a magnificent story told by a skilled storyteller, so my hopes were high before even starting this book. But So Pretty took all of those expectations and blew them out of the water. Hypnotic and unnerving, it is cleverly choreographed, intricately layered and twisty, with the perfect balance of sinister suspense and edge-of-your-seat tension.  The imagery is evocative and chilling, making even the buildings feel alive with an evil that seeps into your pores as you read. There’s a sense of dread that pervades every page and I knew intrinsically that something was very wrong, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that no one would come out of this unscathed. I wanted to turn away and run. But I couldn’t. I was hooked.

Ronnie Turner may be a debut author, but she writes like a veteran beyond her years. A masterful sinister storyteller, she knows how to captivate her audience and blow their minds. I was putty in her hands as she took me down a rabbit hole of twists and turns, elevated the tension, and slowly revealed all the pieces so that the full, horrifying picture took shape. She is an author to watch and I can’t wait to see what she writes next. I’ll be first in line to buy it for sure!

“It takes twice as long to be mended than it does to be broken. If ever.”

Humans are the scariest of monsters, something that is explored throughout this book as it delves into the darkness that lurks inside the crevices of a twisted mind and illuminates the dark recesses of identity, and obsession. It is also a commentary on abuse, violence against women, and the lasting impact of trauma, showcasing how our pain can trickle down through generations to damage those we try to protect and reminding us that just because we know why someone acts a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it’s right or acceptable. The characters are all fractured, flawed, compelling, the author drawing you deeper inside their world and creating a bond between them and the reader. My heart ached for Teddy and Ada as they tried to escape the trauma of their pasts, and I rejoiced as they found friendship and solace from their lonely existence. But through it all I could never shake that growing disquiet. The sense of inherent darkness and danger coiled like a viper waiting to strike. And when it struck, it floored me completely and filled my heart with fear.

A buffet of dark delights, So Pretty is an unsettling, eerie and mesmerising gothic thriller. If you enjoy uncomfortable, claustrophobic and seriously creepy novels that will haunt your subconscious long after reading, then this one’s for you. An easy five stars, this was a phenomenal start to the reading year. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature. She now works as a Senior Waterstones Bookseller and barista. Ronnie lives in the South West with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and taking long walks on the coast.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Orenda | Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers that are taking part the blog tour.

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book reviews

REVIEW: The Deception of Harriet Fleet by Helen Scarlett

Published: April 1st, 2021
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Thriller, Mystery
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my review of The Deception of Harriet Fleet, a book that’s languished on my shelves for too long and I finally read as my first book of November. Thank you to Quercus Books for my copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Dark and brimming with suspense, an atmospheric Victorian chiller set in brooding County Durham for fans of Stacey Halls and Laura Purcell

1871. An age of discovery and progress. But for the Wainwright family, residents of the gloomy Teesbank Hall in County Durham the secrets of the past continue to overshadow their lives.

Harriet would not have taken the job of governess in such a remote place unless she wanted to hide from something or someone. Her charge is Eleanor, the daughter of the house, a fiercely bright eighteen-year-old, tortured by demons and feared by relations and staff alike. But it soon becomes apparent that Harriet is not there to teach Eleanor, but rather to monitor her erratic and dangerous behaviour – to spy on her.

Worn down by Eleanor’s unpredictable hostility, Harriet soon finds herself embroiled in Eleanor’s obsession – the Wainwright’s dark, tragic history. As family secrets are unearthed, Harriet’s own begin to haunt her and she becomes convinced that ghosts from the past are determined to reveal her shameful story.

For Harriet, like Eleanor, is plagued by deception and untruths.

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MY REVIEW:

Teesbank Hall is an isolated place that hides a dark history and terrible secrets.  Secrets that the Wainwright family have forbidden all who work and live there to speak of.  But they can’t disguise the malevolent and unsettling atmosphere that permeates its walls or the ghosts that wander them. 

Harriet arrives at the house to begin her new job as governess, the remote location the perfect place for her to avoid being found by the secrets and people she’s running from. But her new charge, the Wainwright’s daughter Eleanor, is not what she imagined. The young girl is feared by all those in Teesbank Hall and openly hostile of her new governess, something Harriet understands a little more when she learns she is actually there to report on Eleanor’s bizarre behaviour. Yet over time the two develop an unusual relationship that centres on their mutual fascination with the family’s sinister history and work together to try to unveil the truth of a brutal murder decades earlier.

Deliciously dark, haunting and mysterious, The Deception of Harriet Fleet is a gorgeously gothic read. The story is part historical fiction, part mystery, and part ghost story, but there also are much deeper themes explored in its pages. Helen Scarlett explores the harsh treatment of women in the Victorian era, particularly those who are feisty, strong and intelligent. Women had no autonomy, were owned by men and sexual assault was prevelent. We see this in how Eleanor, who refuses to be silenced by her family, is imprisoned by them, has her every move watched and lives with their threats of the asylum looming over her. It is even shown in those who seem to have what others strive for, such as her mother, Susan, who is trapped in a miserable marriage with a philanderer.  

The story is told to the reader by Harriet, who is finally telling the truth about what happened at Teesbank Hall all those years ago. Chillingly written, and evocative, there is a strong sense of place that makes the house feel like a character in its own right.  Harriet often feels there is someone watching when she’s alone and finds herself checking for ghosts in the shadows. Many who live there feel imprisoned, the claustrophobic air permeating every page. 

Atmospheric, eerie and forbidding, this was the perfect book to read during the dark and cold autumn nights.  

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Taken from Amazon:
Thank you for visiting my Amazon author’s page. ‘The Deception of Harriet Fleet’ is my first novel and is set in the north east of England. I’ve always loved the big, classic novels from the nineteenth century, with lots of governesses and intrigue, and I sometimes wonder whether I was born in the wrong era! Although the Victorian period was a time of huge changes, the inhabitants of Teesbank Hall are trapped in the past by the destructive secrets they hold.

Teesbank Hall itself is fictional but most of the other settings in the novel are real and close to where I live with my husband and two daughters. I teach A Level English and write whenever I can grab a spare moment.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

REVIEW: The Ghost Woods by C. J. Cooke

Published: October 13th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Gothic Ficiton, Fairy Tale, Mystery, Suspense, Supernatural Fiction, Magical Realism, Horror Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

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SYNOPSIS:

In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall.

This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who is not quite a child.

Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed.

Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something.

Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place.

As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear.

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MY REVIEW:

Hauntingly atmospheric and eerie, The Ghost Woods was the perfect read for this time of year.  Chilling, mysterious and bursting with folklore, a sense of dread lingers over every page.  I read with my heart in my throat and the light turned on, eager to discover the truth yet also fearful of what was to come.  And don’t even try to get me to go into the woods anytime soon.

I was a big fan of C. J. Cooke’s last two novels so I was anticipating another great read but with its exquisite storytelling, richly drawn characters and evocative imagery, this is my favourite of her books so far.  The strange rumours and eerie folklore surrounding Litchen Hall and the woods cast a sinister shadow, while an atmosphere of isolation and helplessness lingers over every word. 

Gorgeously gothic, claustrophobic and menacing, The Ghost Woods is an addictive tale that will captivate and unnerve you.  Add this spooky story to your TBR now!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

CJ Cooke, also known as Carolyn Jess-Cooke, grew up on a council estate in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the height of the Troubles. She started writing at the age of 7 and pestered publishers for many years with manuscripts typed on her grandparents’ old typewriter and cover notes written on pages ripped from school jotters. 

Since then, she has published 15 books in 23 languages and won numerous awards, including an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, a Tyrone Guthrie Prize, a K Blundell Award, and she has won a Northern Writer’s Award three times. In 2011, her debut novel, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, was published by Little, Brown. The novel was an international bestseller. Her second novel, The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), is a cult classic. Her sixth novel, The Lighthouse Witches, was published in October 2021, and was an Indigo Book of the Month, an international bestseller, a New York Public Library Book of the Year and nominated for both an Edgar Award by Mystery Writers of America and an ITW Thriller Award in 2022. It is soon to be a major TV series produced by StudioCanal and The Picture Company. The Ghost Woods is her latest novel and is published in October 2022.

CJ holds a BA (Hons), MA, and PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast, and commenced her academic career in 2005 as a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sunderland. Shortly thereafter, she published four academic works in swift succession on Shakespearean Cinema and Film Sequels, before establishing her career as a poet, editor, and novelist.

Now Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, CJ convenes the prestigious MLitt Creative Writing and researches ways that creative writing can help with trauma and mental health. Throughout 2013-18 she directed the Writing Motherhood project, which explored the impact of motherhood on women’s writing. She is also the founder and director of the Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival, which is dedicated to providing people with accessible, inclusive, and eco-friendly ways to access literature.

CJ has four children and lives with her family in Glasgow, Scotland.

(Taken from C. J. Cooke’s website)

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022 Readalong

REVIEW: Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

Published: August 18th, 2022
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Gothic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Today I’m sharing my review for the atmospheric and consuming Daisy Darker. Thank you to BookBreak UK and Pan Macmillan for the gifted ARC and for organising the readalong.

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SYNOPSIS:

Daisy Darker is an all-consuming tale of psychological suspense with a spectacular twist from the internationally bestselling author Alice Feeney.

Daisy Darker’s family were as dark as dark can be, when one of them died all of them lied and pretended not to see . . .

Daisy Darker is arriving at her grandmother’s house for her eightieth birthday. It is Halloween, and Seaglass – the crumbling Cornish house perched upon its own tiny private island – is at one with the granite rocks it sits on. The Darker family haven’t all been in the same place for over a decade, and when the tide comes in they’ll be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours. When the tide goes back out, nothing will ever be the same again, because one of them is a killer . . .

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MY REIVEW:

“Daisy Darker’s family were as dark as can be. 
When one of them died, all of them lied and pretended not to see…”

Daisy Darker arrives at Seaglass, her grandmother’s house on a private island on the Cornish coast, to celebrate her eightieth birthday.  They are soon joined by the rest of the Darker family and Daisy is feeling apprehensive about seeing her whole family for the first time in a decade.  As the tide comes in and isolates them on the island for eight hours, one of them is found dead.  With a killer in their midst and no means of escape, how many of them will survive the night…

What. A. Book!  Sinister, spooky and utterly brilliant, this was not only one of my favourite reads of last month, but one of my favourite of all time. I love a claustrophobic and creepy novel and there is nothing better for those vibes than a dysfunctional family full of dark secrets that are trapped in an old house with no means of escape or contacting the outside world.  It adds an air of mystery and foreboding that hovers over the story from the first pages and sets the scene for what is to come.  As the bodies pile up the terror rises and you could cut the tension with a knife.  A cloud of suspicion hangs over everyone, including Daisy, and you have no idea who to trust. 

The Darker family are a cast of complex, unlikeable and unreliable characters.  They are a minefield of toxicity and dysfunction, the extent of which is unravelled slowly through flashbacks.   I could understand why Daisy hadn’t seen them in so long and was dreading spending time with them.  But Nana was different; an ebullient and caring character who totally stole the show and was my favourite family member. I could understand why Daisy loved her and cherished their relationship.  Narrator Daisy seems to be a quite timid character who doesn’t give us any obvious reasons not to trust her yet there was just something that felt off about her from the start.  This gave the book a magnetic quality I couldn’t resist as I love when you have an unreliable narrator or a character who you have no idea if they are friend or foe.

Alice Feeney can always be relied upon to deliver a first-class psychological thriller.  But this time she really outdid herself, expertly messing with our minds as she delivered twist after twist.  A ticking time bomb of lies, misdirection and sheer dread, I was on the edge of my seat and it wreaked havoc on my blood pressure.  But there was also an old-fashioned murder mystery feel to the story that I loved and made it easy to imagine this being adapted for the screen.  

Atmospheric, unnerving and consuming, Daisy Darker is a jaw-dropping masterpiece of a thriller that will linger long after reading.  Just make sure you have a block of free time available before picking it up, because once you start you won’t be putting it down until you’ve read the last page. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Alice Feeney is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist. Her debut novel, Sometimes I Lie, was an international bestseller and has been translated into over twenty languages. His & Hers is being adapted for screen by Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films. Rock Paper Scissors is her fourth novel and is also being made into a TV series for Netflix by the producer of The Crown.

Alice was a BBC Journalist for fifteen years, and now lives in the British countryside with her family.

Daisy Darker is her fifth novel.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones | Amazon | Bookshop.org

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxxx

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book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Social Media Blast

SOCIAL MEDIA BLAST: The Ruins by Phoebe Wynne

Published: July 7th, 2022
Publisher: Quercus
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Suspense, Coming-of-Age Story
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Happy Publication Day to this atmospheric and compelling novel. Thank you to Quercus for the invitation to take part in this social media blast and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Amidst the glamour of the French Riviera lies the crumbling façade of Chateau de Sètes, a small slice of France still held by the British aristocracy. But this long since abandoned chateau is now up for sale, and two people are desperate to get their hands on it despite its terrible history.

Summer, 1985: Ruby has stayed at the chateau with her family every summer of her twelve years. It was her favourite place to be, away from the strictures of her formal childhood, but this year uninvited guests have descended, and everything is about to change…

As the intense August heat cloaks the chateau, the adults within start to lose sight of themselves. Old disputes are thrown back and forth, tempers rise, morals loosen, and darkness begins to creep around them all. Ruby and her two young friends soon discover it is best not to be seen or heard as the summer spirals down to one fateful night and an incident that can never be undone…

Summer, 2010: One of the three young girls, now grown and newly widowed, returns to the chateau, and in her fight to free herself from its grip, she uncovers what truly happened that long, dark summer.

With riveting psychological complexity, The Ruins captures the glittering allure of the Mediterranean, and the dark shadows that wait beneath the surface.

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MY REVIEW:

“She pictured three girls bound tightly together in the back seat of the car, holding each other. Their hot breath, clammy palms, and her overshadowing fear of the man at the front, the man driving. “

The Ruins is a story about family, secrets, legacy and trauma that explores the events of a long, dark summer that can’t be forgotten.  Behind the idyll of a beautiful chateau in the French Riviera and the scorching heat of the summer sun are dark shadows, cracks in the bright façade, and things hurtle towards that fateful night that can never be undone…

The book opens with a note from the author warning the reader of what we are about to read and offering those who would rather stay away from the dark but timely subject matter on these pages.  I think this was a good move as it serves as both a content warning and sets the tone for what’s to come.  Then comes the prologue with all of its ominous intrigue and the scene is set for this hauntingly atmospheric novel that I couldn’t put down. 

“When was it, she asked herself, that her youthful joy turned sour, when this strange exterior rose up and crystallised around her? She knew exactly. It was that summer.”

Though I have her debut on my shelves, this was my first time reading one of Phoebe Wynne’s books.  Her writing is alluring, immersive and almost dreamlike, making me feel like there was a haze that lingered over every word as I read.  The subject she examines in this story is a timely but difficult one that feels all too human and familiar.  Wynne writes with understanding, sensitivity and honesty, making it hard to read in places but never gratuitous.  I also liked how she wove Greek Mythology into the story.  Wynne cleverly uses them as an analogy of what is happening that summer and as someone who loves the myths it made the story all the more enjoyable to read.

“All the stories from that summer had haunted her – all those women, tossed about for the desire and ambition of their male counterparts. Those had seemed to repeat themselves through her life, like some infectious, cruel joke.”

This layered and nuanced story is composed of dual timelines that are expertly plotted and paced to keep you guessing.  As the events of the summer of 1985 slowly unfold we move between timelines, jumping forward to 2010 when one of the young girls has returned to France to confront the trauma that has haunted her all these years.  There is an air of foreboding and mystery in this timeline that adds a sinister tension to the past narrative as we try to guess what happened all those years ago. The author seamlessly weaves the narratives together, making them collide in unexpected ways.  And that ending!  A punch-to-the-gut finale that made me gasp out loud in shock and horror. 

“Mrs Cosgrove woke up agitated; she had dreamed about the château again. That grand house perched by the water, tinged with sunlight and heat. The memory of it was permanently lodged in her mind, like an azure blue aneurysm, sharp and painful with every blink.”

There is a cast of vividly drawn and recognisable characters, of which the adults are hideous, possessing few redeeming qualities and displaying monstrous behaviour that is a stark contrast to the innocence of the young girls.  Our young protagonist, Ruby, lives in a time when children are expected to blindly obey their elders and be seen and not heard and the adults’ abhorrent behaviour is protected by this, as well as a culture of secrets, shame, propriety and obedience.  The fear, isolation and claustrophobia that the girls feel is palpable and it is impossible not to feel horrified at the lack of parental care given to these children and how terribly each of them was failed by the adults they trusted. I wanted to leap into the book and rescue each of them from their nightmare.  

Unnerving, tense and compelling, The Ruins is an important and thought-provoking novel that I highly recommend.  I now intend to prioritise Ms. Wynne’s debut which is screaming at me from my shelves even louder after reading this.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

TW: Sexual abuse

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Phoebe Wynne studied Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London and Education at King’s College, London. She worked in education for eight years, teaching Classics in the south of England as well as English Language and Literature in Paris, France. Phoebe left the classroom to focus on her writing; she went on to hone her craft in writing classes in Los Angeles and in London. Phoebe has dual British and French nationality and spends her time between England and France. ‘MADAM’ is her debut novel.

Website

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Bookshop.org*

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews

BLOG TOUR: The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville

Published: February 3rd 2022
Publisher: Zaffre
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Gothic Fiction, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this unsettling gothic tale. Thanks to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Zaffre for the ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

A house built on secrets
An old woman haunted by her past
A young woman fighting for her life

For Sara Keane, it was supposed to be a second chance.
A new country. A new house. A new beginning.

Then came the knock on the door.

Elderly Mary Jackson can’t understand why Sara and her husband are living in her home.
She remembers the fire. She remembers the house burning down. But she also remembers the children. The children who need her. The children she must protect.

‘The children will find you,’ she tells Sara, because Mary knows she needs help too. As Sara becomes obsessed with what happened in that house nearly sixty years ago, and the family wiped out in one bloody night, she begins to see things. Things that can’t be real.

In a story that spans six decades, the truth will not stay buried, and the ghosts of the past can never remain in the shadows . . .

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MY REVIEW:

“The children. They’ll find you… They’re hiding. Waiting for me. Waiting for you.”

A fire tears through The Ashes in the dead of night, forcing Mary to flee the only home she’s ever known and reducing it to a shell.  Sara and Damien Keene move in as it is being rebuilt, but strange occurrences leave Sara feeling uneasy.  Then one morning, an old woman turns up, her feet bloodied, demanding to know why Sara is in her house and where the children are.  Who is this woman?  And what children is she talking about?  Unsatisfied with her husband’s explanation, Sara is determined to discover what secrets he and the house is hiding.  The old woman is the key.  But can she get Mary to finally speak the secrets she’s been holding in for decades?

The House of Ashes is a dark, twisted and unsettling gothic novel that you don’t want to read in the dark.  From the first pages I had chills, reading on tenterhooks with an almost unbearable feeling of dread in my stomach.  It isn’t a book for the faint hearted; the author explores dark themes such as abuse that are written with both brutal honesty and heartwarming compassion.  It is in these themes that we see Mary and Sara’s lives mirror each other; both kept prisoner in The Ashes by men who terrify them.  And just as the house kept them captive, the book did the same to me, refusing to let me go until I’d read the final page and its story had been told. 

“People about the town would say she’s mad in the head. Some of the children would call her Scary Mary. And fair enough, she might be a wee bit touched, but who wouldn’t be after what she went through.” 

Told by multiple narrators, the story unfolds in the past and the present.  Sara and Mary are the main narrators and while Sara’s story mostly focuses on the present, Mary tells the story of her past.  She finally speaks the secrets she’s been silent about for sixty years, slowly revealing to the reader the dark secrets that the house holds within its walls and the true horror of that bloody night.  I had a real soft spot for all of the women but felt for Mary most.  She was a young girl who knew nothing but a life within the walls of The Ashes. A life of neglect, abuse and fear that made the house both her misery and her solace.  Seeing the story through her eyes was heartrending and I loved how the author managed to convey such childish innocence alongside her resignation to things no one should ever know.  

“Maybe you shouldn’t know too much about that place. Not if you’re going to live in it.” 

The Ashes is more than just a house. It is like another character that lives and breathes.  A sense of malevolence and foreboding radiating from this chilling place.  But the strange and unnerving occurrences aren’t merely there to torment it’s inhabitants, it is the past returning to try and warn those in the present.  Warnings they must heed in order to survive.  

Darkly atmospheric, harrowing and haunting, The House of Ashes is a chilling gothic tale.  Just make sure you read with the lights on!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Stuart Neville’s debut novel, THE TWELVE (published in the USA as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year. He has since published three critically acclaimed sequels, COLLUSION, STOLEN SOULS and THE FINAL SILENCE.

His first four novels have each been longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and RATLINES was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

Stuart’s novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger.

His fourth novel, RATLINES, about Nazis harboured by the Irish state following WWII is currently in development for television.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Bookshop.org*
*These are affiliate links

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures Most Anticipated 2022

BLOG TOUR: The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown

Published: January 13th 2022
Publisher: Viking
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller, Horror Thriller, Gothic Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising and beguiling piece of gothic fiction. Thank you to Ellie at Viking for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of this book.

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SYNOPSIS:

THE PAGE-TURNING NEW NOVEL FROM THE AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR OF THE WITCHFINDER’S SISTER

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I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unravelling from an upper window, and the terrace bathed in a hectic orange light . . . Now I see that the decision I made at Polneath was the only decision of my life. Everything marred in that one dark minute.

By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy – one whose death decades ago haunts her still.

For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.

But once you open a door to the past, can you ever truly close it again?

From the award-winning author of The Witchfinder’s Sister comes a captivating story of burning secrets and buried shame, and of the loyalty and love that rises from the ashes.

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MY REVIEW:

“I still dream, every night, of Ponleath on fire…”

This is gothic fiction at its finest. Hauntingly beautiful, darkly atmospheric and beguiling, I was captivated from the first page.  A story of secrets, loss and lies filled with mystery and suspense that sends shivers down your spine.  

Moving between dual timelines we follow Ivy Boscawen as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her son during the Great War, telling the story of her search for the truth about his death, the intense guilt she feels, and how she is still tormented by events that took place thirty years before.  Ivy confesses the secrets she’s kept hidden for decades that still haunt her dreams each night, finally revealing the truth of what happened at Ponleath all those years ago. 

This is an easy five stars from me.  It is my first foray into Beth Underwood’s books and I am kicking myself for allowing her previous book to languish on my shelf unread for so long.  Exquisitely written and intricately plotted, the evocative imagery sets an eerie scene and I felt like I could hear the ghosts whispering their secrets, waiting for their chance to finally be heard.  I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish, my heart aching for these characters, particularly young William Tremain and all he must have gone through on that terrifying night. 

Ivy was a great narrator.  She is a fascinating character and I instantly felt an  emotional connection to her over the death of her only child.  But what could she have done that made not only his death, but marriage to a man she never wanted, to be with the price she deserved to pay for her transgressions?  I never figured it out, the many twists and turns taking me by surprise as she finally lays the spirits of her past to rest with her confessions.  In fact, I found myself so caught up in the story itself I almost forgot there was a mystery surrounding something she’d done as well as the one surrounding who was behind the fire that December night.  What did Ivy know that no one else did? 

Clever, absorbing and utterly mesmerising, The Key in the Lock is an accomplished piece of gothic fiction that keeps you guessing until the very end. Read it now. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Beth Underdown was born in Rochdale in 1987. She studied at the University of York and then the University of Manchester, where she is now a Lecturer in Creative Writing.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is her first novel, and is out with Viking in the UK and Ballantine in the US in Spring 2017. The book is based on the life of the 1640s witch finder Matthew Hopkins, whom she first came across while reading a book about seventeenth-century midwifery. As you do.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles Emma xxx

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Book Review: Mrs England by Stacey Halls

Published: June 10th, 2021
Publisher: Manilla Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Mystery
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

I am finally getting around to sharing my review of this spectacular novel. Thank you to Manilla press for the gifted ARC and Jenna at Tasting Notes Book Club for hosting a fantastic readalong and chat.

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SYNOPSIS:

‘Something’s not right here.’
I was aware of Mr Booth’s eyes on me, and he seemed to hold his breath. ‘What do you mean?’
‘In the house. With the family.’

West Yorkshire, 1904. When newly graduated nurse Ruby May takes a position looking after the children of Charles and Lilian England, a wealthy couple from a powerful dynasty of mill owners, she hopes it will be the fresh start she needs. But as she adapts to life at the isolated Hardcastle House, it becomes clear there’s something not quite right about the beautiful, mysterious Mrs England.

Distant and withdrawn, Lilian shows little interest in her children or charming husband, and is far from the ‘angel of the house’ Ruby was expecting. As the warm, vivacious Charles welcomes Ruby into the family, a series of strange events forces her to question everything she thought she knew. Ostracised by the servants and feeling increasingly uneasy, Ruby must face her demons in order to prevent history from repeating itself. After all, there’s no such thing as the perfect family – and she should know.

Simmering with slow-burning menace, Mrs England is a portrait of an Edwardian marriage, weaving an enthralling story of men and women, power and control, courage, truth and the very darkest deception. Set against the atmospheric West Yorkshire landscape, Stacey Halls’ third novel proves her one of the most exciting and compelling new storytellers of our times.

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MY REVIEW:

“I just have a feeling that… That something’s not right here.” 

My love for Stacey Halls is no secret and her debut novel, The Familiars, remains one of my favourite books of all time.  So I had high expectations when this, her third book, was released in June.  She did not disappoint and though it has taken me a long time to get around to sharing this review, Mrs England is one of my favourite books of 2021. 

Atmospheric and eerie, this slow-burning novel sent shivers down my spine.  Though I read it at the height of summer, there is an iciness to it that I felt deep in my bones.  Ms. Halls has said that she immersed herself in the landscape in which she set the novel, living there in complete isolation during the winter of early 2020.  This has certainly shone through in her vivid imagery of the bleak, desolate landscape, and evocative descriptions of the isolation and menace that pervades the halls of Hardcastle House.  Merged with unexpected twists and an air of mystery and foreboding, it comes together to create an irresistible read that I couldn’t put down. 

“I knew about secrets, and I knew, too, how one led to another. I was a fool for thinking she’d have no more.”

As with her previous books, Ms. Halls has taken inspiration from real life and crafted an exquisite work of her own imagination around it.  I won’t tell you about the event that inspired this book as it would spoil one of the biggest twists, but she talks about it in the author’s notes and I loved how it was woven into the story.  In this book she also explores coercive control with an honesty and sensitivity that I appreciated as a survivor of such abuse.  It is clear that she has taken care to research it at length and really helps the reader understand the ways in which both the abusers and those who are abused behave, as well as the ripple effect it has on those around them.

“It was as though I’d stumbled into an upside-down world, where the master has taken the place of the mistress.” 

Ruby May is a fascinating narrator.  Born into an impoverished background, she gained a scholarship to the Norland Institute where she trained as one of it’s prestigious Nurses.  She is clearly still cleaved to her family, not only sending half her wages home, but forced to never be too far away thanks to an invisible chain of guilt forged thanks to mysterious circumstances that are slowly revealed.  Then there is Mrs. Lilian England herself, the antithesis of the stereotypical mistress of the house.  She is an enigma, rarely emerging from her room, and cold and distant to her children.  The strange way in which the whole England household is run perplexes Ruby and because we see the story through her eyes, we are also suspicious of Lilian.  But we soon learn that things aren’t quite what they seem in the England home and I found my view of some of the characters shifted as the truth about this mysterious family unfurled. 

Haunting, evocative, suspenseful and compelling, Stacey Halls has once again shown why she is one of my favourite authors.  Mrs England is a must read for anyone who enjoys well-written historical fiction with a twist.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Stacey Halls was born in Lancashire and worked as a journalist before her debut The Familiars was published in 2019. The Familiars was the bestselling debut hardback novel of that year, won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards’ Debut Book of the Year. The Foundling, her second novel, was also a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. Mrs England is her third novel.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon| Apple Books| Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles☺️ Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cooke

Published: September 30th, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: Gothic Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Supernatural Fiction, Fairy Tale
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this gorgeously gothic novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Harper Collins UK for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.

A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms.

Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.

Coincidence? Or curse?

Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.

Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

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MY REVIEW:

“I wasn’t yet wise enough to be terrified.”

A cold, sparsely populated Scottish Island, a deserted and decrepit lighthouse, strange goings on and tales of witches, curses and wildlings. What could be more perfect to read during October?

Bursting with atmosphere, mythology and folklore, this chilling and mysterious tale had me in it’s grasp from beginning to end. There’s a sense of foreboding that pervades the pages; a haunting aura that lingers over every carefully crafted sentence. I devoured this book, unable to put it down despite the goosebumps that pricked my skin.

“The story of her past is not like other people’s, she thinks. Most people’s past can be viewed like cleaved water left in the wake of a boat. Hers? It’s a tangled weave of spider webs and nightmares, never to make sense.”

The story is told in dual timelines: 1998 when Liv Stay has moved to the isle of Lon Haven with her children Sapphire (Saffy), Luna and Clover after being commissioned to paint a mural in the Longing, and 2021 when a now twenty-nine-year-old Luna is pregnant with her first child and still searching for her mother and sisters, who went missing all those years ago. There are also flashbacks to the witch trials of 1662 in the form of a grimoire that young Saffy finds in the bothy and begins reading. The author seamlessly shifts between the three timelines, giving each a distinctive voice and perfectly capturing the different eras. While you know each timeline must be connected, the author keeps you guessing as to how, slowly and teasingly weaving the threads together until you see the full and intricate picture she has woven. The characters are all evocative and compelling, luring you into their stories so deeply that you can’t leave until you know all the secrets they keep locked inside.

“The Longing. The name conjures such terror, such complex memories.”

Gorgeously gothic, the author makes great use of places to help create an atmosphere that sends shivers down your spine. Lon Haven is a place that conjures feelings of claustrophobia and isolation. In the middle of nowhere, it is inhabited by strange residents who tell crazy tales and there is a feeling of fear whether anyone who goes there can make it out again. And then there’s the Longing, which casts a sinister shadow over the story from the start. An eerie, haunting place that is falling apart, we soon learn that it is a place the locals avoid thanks to a history that involves women accused of witchcraft, curses and death. Liv quickly notices strange occurrences happening there and begins to wonder about the tales Isla and others have told her about the Longing. Could they be true? Could it really be cursed? And if so, what does that mean for her and her daughters? 

Enthralling, immersive and filled with gothic menace, The Lighthouse Witches is the perfect read for spooky season.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

CJ Cooke, also known as Carolyn Jess-Cooke, grew up on a council estate in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the height of the Troubles. She started writing at the age of 7 and pestered publishers for many years with manuscripts typed on her grandparents’ old typewriter and cover notes written on pages ripped from school jotters. 

Since then, she has published 12 works in 23 languages and won numerous awards, including an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, a Tyrone Guthrie Prize, a K Blundell Award, and she has won a Northern Writer’s Award three times. In 2011, her debut novel, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, was published by Little, Brown. The novel was an international bestseller. Her second novel, The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), is now a cult classic. Her sixth novel, The Lighthouse Witches, is published in September 2021, and her third poetry collection, We Have to Leave the Earth, is published in October 2021. CJ’s work is concerned with trauma, motherhood, grief, and social justice.

CJ holds a BA (Hons), MA, and PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast, and commenced her academic career in 2005 as a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sunderland. Shortly thereafter, she published four academic works in swift succession on Shakespearean Cinema and Film Sequels, before establishing her career as a poet, editor, and novelist. Now Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, CJ convenes the prestigious MLitt Creative Writing and researches ways that creative writing can help with trauma and mental health. She is also the founder and director of the Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival, which is dedicated to providing people with accessible, inclusive, and eco-friendly ways to access literature. She has four children and lives with her family in Glasgow, Scotland.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon| Google Books| Apple Books| Kobo
*These are affiliate links

********

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Shadowing by Rhiannon Ward

Published: September 16th, 2021
Publisher: Trapeze
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Gothic Fiction, Thriller, Ghost Story, Romance Novel
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this haunting gothic mystery. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Trapeze for the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

When well-to-do Hester learns of her sister Mercy’s death at a Nottinghamshire workhouse, she travels to Southwell to find out how her sister ended up at such a place.

Haunted by her sister’s ghost, Hester sets out to uncover the truth, when the official story reported by the workhouse master proves to be untrue. Mercy was pregnant – both her and the baby are said to be dead of cholera, but the workhouse hasn’t had an outbreak for years.

Hester discovers a strange trend in the workhouse of children going missing. One woman tells her about the Pale Lady, a ghostly figure that steals babies in the night. Is this lady a myth or is something more sinister afoot at the Southwell poorhouse?

As Hester investigates, she uncovers a conspiracy, one that someone is determined to keep a secret, no matter the cost…

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MY REVIEW:

“The shadowing had returned.” 

The Shadowing is an atmospheric and absorbing historical gothic mystery overflowing with menace. A story laced with secrets, spirits and sinister happenings, I was drawn in from the first pages right and couldn’t put it down. My mind was full of questions that I needed answers to as desperately as the characters did. And I genuinely had no idea what they were going to be. 

Hester Goodwin lives in Bristol with her wealthy family in a strict Quaker home. Three years ago, her sister Mercy disappeared and none of them have heard from her since, until the day they receive a letter informing them that Mercy has died in Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire. But how did her sister end up in such a place? And how did she die? Searching for answers, Hester travels to Southwell to try and answer their questions, little knowing that she is stepping into a much deeper and darker mystery than she ever imagined. One that involves spectres, missing children and cover ups. 

I’ve been wanting to read Rhiannon Ward’s books since her debut last year so I jumped at the chance when the opportunity to take part in this blog tour arose. My expectations were high and I’m happy to say that she exceeded them with this magnificent novel. Eloquently and evocatively written, it wrenches you out of your own reality and into the one the author created, making you feel like you can feel a ghostly spirit behind you or that you are walking the dank corridors of the workhouse. As the secrets are slowly revealed and Hester brings the women’s plights to light I got goosebumps from the emotion and tension. Their fear was so palpable that I could feel it’s cold claws raking their way down my spine. I was very glad to be reading in the daytime at that point! But, for me, one of the best things about this book is that it genuinely surprised me. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, so it isn’t often I’m stumped by an author. But Ward had me at a loss, suspicious of everyone and no real idea who was behind it all, and my jaw hit the floor when it was time for the big reveal. 

“Don’t let the angelmaker take my baby. She wants it for her own end. If I see her, it’s already too late. Do you understand?” 

The characters are all richly drawn and compelling, vividly brought to life by the author in such a way that you feel like they are in the room with you. I found Hester to be especially likeable and easy to root for, her naivete giving her an innocent charm that gave her an extra sweetness alongside her courage and determination. The journey to Southwell is a big deal for a woman of her age and standing, and she is both excited and full of trepidation at her task. Her fears only deepen when she arrives at Southwell Workhouse, a gloomy, bleak and eerie place where frightened women tell her stories of ‘the pale lady’ or ‘the angelmaker’, a ghostly figure who takes women’s babies.  Instead of answers about Mercy, she’s left with even more questions about what happened to her beloved sister and vows to keep digging until she uncovers the truth, unaware of just how much danger she’s putting herself in. 

But the pale lady isn’t the only ghostly part of the story. There are also the shadowings, visions of spirits who appear to Hester that she has experienced since childhood. Her father tried to beat them out of her but they return shortly before she learns of her sister Mercy’s death. She is too terrified of further punishments to mention them, and keenly aware that others, not just her father, will see them as the work of the Devil or Witchcraft. So she keeps them to herself, afraid of the consequences of discovery. 

Captivating, dark and haunting, The Shadowing is a sensational gothic mystery with an eerie charm that lingers over every page. Perfect for the cold nights heading our way, this is ideal for reading with a cosy blanket and warm drink by the fire. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Rhiannon Ward. As Sarah Ward, I’m the author of the DC Childs crime series set in the Derbyshire Peak District. I’m also the writer of Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.

My gothic thriller, The Quickening, was published by Trapeze as Rhiannon Ward and The Shadowing is coming in September 2021.

Throughout COVID-19, I’ve been talking about all things bookish either online or, more recently, in person. 

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Bookshop.org*| Amazon| Google Books| Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

********

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx