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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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