Tag: Gothic

Sunday Spotlight: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox

Posted September 30, 2018 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

I love Gothic novels. Especially in the fall and winter. There’s just something so lovely about sipping tea on a dark, stormy night and reading a creepy tale. I’m absolutely in love with this cover and I can’t wait to see what’s happening behind the doors of Willow Hall.

Sunday Spotlight: The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester FoxThe Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
Publisher: Graydon House
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Gothic, Horror
Pages: 368
Add It: Goodreads
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Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences, but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.

The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…

"Hester Fox's THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL offers a fascinating location, a great plot with history and twists, and characters that live and breathe. I love the novel, and will be looking forward to all new works by this talented author!" --Heather Graham, New York Times bestselling author

"Beautifully written, skillfully plotted, and filled with quiet terror, readers will devour this absorbing, Gothic tale of romance and suspense. Perfect for fans of Simone St James and Kate Morton." -- Anna Lee Huber, the national bestselling author of the historical Lady Darby Mysteries

"Beautifully written, with an intriguing plot full of suspense and mystery, The Witch of Willow Hall will cast a spell over every reader." -- Lisa Hall, author of Tell Me No Lies and Between You and Me

"I was entranced by this intriguing and spellbinding novel with its messages of love and loyalty and being true to who you really are. I hope Hester Fox goes on to write many more such novels--I for one will be buying them." -- Kathleen McGurl, author of The Girl from Ballymor

"With its sense of creeping menace and chilling undertones, this compelling story had me gripped from the first page. The vividly drawn characters cast their spell so convincingly, I couldn't stop reading until I discovered what happened to them. A wonderful debut novel.”--Linda Finlay, author of The Flower Seller

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“It’s too hot for coffee,” Emeline announces suddenly, even though she’s not allowed to have a sip of the beverage. “It’s too hot for dresses and shoes and hair and fingernails. It’s too hot for stockings and feathers and fur.”

Mr. Barrett and Father break off their conversation, and silence falls over the parlor. Mother shoots our guests an apologetic look and then a pleading one at Emeline. “I’m so sorry. It’s past her bedtime and she’s getting tired.”

But Emeline isn’t done. She’s goes over to Mr. Barrett and looks up at him. “It’s too hot,” she repeats. “And I’m not tired at all. There’s a pond behind the house, did you know? I want to go to the pond and see the mermaids.”

I should take her upstairs to bed, but I don’t move. Mr. Barrett is looking down at her with a queer expression, a crease between his brows. She takes his hand in hers. His aren’t tapered and elegant like Cyrus’s; Mr. Barrett’s hands are capable, strong, and Emeline’s hand completely disappears in his. “Please, let’s go to the pond where it’s cool and we can swim with the mermaids. I want to go play with the little boy at the pond.”

“What little boy? What on earth are you talking about, Emmy?” But Emeline ignores Mother’s question and her lip begins to tremble when it becomes clear that she isn’t going to get her way.

By this time even Catherine and Mr. Pierce have paused in their giggles and whispers and both are staring. Crimson spreads over Catherine’s face. “Really, Emeline. Leave poor Mr. Barrett alone.”

Mother gets up slowly, and I can tell she doesn’t have the energy for this. “It’s dark out, Emmy. And Mr. Pierce and Mr. Barrett have business to discuss with your father.” She reaches out to take her hand, but Emeline dives out of her grasp.

I’m mortified. I understand Emeline, but Mr. Barrett will never return to our house if she behaves like this. I try to catch her attention, but she misses the cautioning look.

“I don’t want to go to bed!” I’ve never seen Emeline in such a pout before. She must be tired beyond reason, and the heat certainly isn’t helping. Hands clenched at her sides, she looks as if she’s on the verge of bursting into tears. But instead she just stomps her little foot.

But just as her foot comes down on the carpet, both doors slam shut with a great bang.

Mother jumps, Catherine lets out a little cry and Father’s eyebrows look as if they are about to fly off his face. The room goes silent, the only movement the residual wobbling of a vase on the table.

We all look at each other. Even Emeline looks surprised, because if we didn’t know better, it was almost as if she caused the doors to fly shut with her foot.
Father is the first to speak. He clears his throat and glances around. “Must be the wind,” he mumbles. “You think you have a house built new and it wouldn’t be full of drafts and loose doors, but I suppose there’s no such thing as peace of mind in New England construction.”

Mother is quick to agree with him, and Mr. Pierce gives a dubious nod. But we all know that there was no breeze, that it’s been so still that a feather would have hardly quivered, let alone two doors slamming. No one wants to say so though at the risk of frightening Emeline.

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: September 2018

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About the Author

Hester Fox


Hester Fox has a background in the museum field as a collections maintenance technician. This job has taken her from historic houses to fine art museums, where she has cleaned and cared for collections that range from paintings by old masters to ancient artifacts to early American furniture. She is a keen painter and has a Master’s in historical archaeology, as well as a background in medieval studies and art history. Hester lives outside of Boston with her husband and their two cats. The Witch Of Willow Hall is her first novel.

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Review: Dark Desires by Eve Silver

Posted May 8, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Dark Desires by Eve SilverReviewer: Holly
Dark Desires by Eve Silver
Series: Dark Gothic #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: December 5, 2016
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Gothic, Historical Romance
Pages: 352
Add It: Goodreads
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Series Rating: four-stars

"A dark and delicious gothic. I gobbled it up in a single sitting. Oh, how I have missed books like this!"--New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller

Betrayed by those she trusted, penniless and alone, Darcie Finch is forced to accept a position that no one else dares, as assistant to dangerously attractive Dr. Damien Cole. Ignoring the whispered warnings and rumours that he's a man to fear, she takes her position at his eerie estate where she quickly discovers that nothing is at it seems, least of all her handsome and brooding employer. As Darcie struggles with her fierce attraction to Damien, she must also deal with the blood, the disappearances ... and the murders.

With her options dwindling and time running out, Darcie must rely on her instincts as she confronts the man she is falling in love with. Is he an innocent and misunderstood man ... or a remorseless killer who prowls the East End streets?

..".beguiling gothic tale..."--Bookpage

Dark Desires by Eve Silver is the first book in her Dark Gothic series. It’s currently free for Kindle. I’ve had this book in my TBR pile for ages. I love Gothic novels. I was looking for something dark and decided to give it a try.

Darcie Finch is the daughter of a wealthy merchant who lost his fortune. Though she has the manners of a lady, she was betrayed by the person she held most dear and she’s now penniless and alone. Forced to be a maid-of-all-work, she accepts a position with Dr. Damien Cole, despite the dark rumors she’s heard about him. When he discovers her artistic abilities, he makes her his assistant. As she gets to know the doctor she struggles with her doubts and suspicions about him, and his strange comings and goings. The more she comes to care for him, the more she wonders if he’ll be her savior…or the death of her.

Dark Desires had a good creep factor, with the dark doctor doing nefarious things, creepy carriage house and pounding rain storms. There’s even a nod to Jack the Ripper. I wasn’t as fully invested in the characters and I’d hoped to be, and I kept waiting for a big twist that didn’t come. I enjoyed the romance, but I wish the characters had been developed a bit more.

Though this wasn’t a favorite read, I will be continuing on with the series. I’ve heard great things about Silver. I’m sure things only get better from here.

3.25 out of 5

I love these covers.

Dark Gothic


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Guest Review: The Dark Lady by Maire Claremont

Posted February 15, 2013 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: The Dark Lady by Maire ClaremontReviewer: Tracy
The Dark Lady (Mad Passions, #1) by Maire Claremont
Series: Mad Passions #1
Also in this series: The Dark Affair
Publisher: Signet Eclipse
Publication Date: January 16th 2013
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 313
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Series Rating: three-stars

The Victorian era was full of majestic beauty and scandalous secrets—a time when corsets were the least of a woman’s restrictions, and men could kill or be killed in the name of honor...

Lord Ian Blake has returned from India a broken man. Years ago, he pledged to Lady Eva Carin—his childhood companion and first love—that he would bring her husband back alive. His failure haunts him. But even his jaded soul can’t anticipate the shocking sight of beautiful, independent Eva confined in a madhouse.

Locked in an asylum, forgotten by society, Eva is adrift in both body and mind. For Ian to break her free, they must cross a powerful enemy—and prove her sanity to England’s unforgiving aristocracy. But the biggest danger of all may come when the secrets of Eva’s tragic past are finally unlocked.

Locked in an asylum, forgotten by society, Eva is adrift in both body and mind. For Ian to break her free, they must cross a powerful enemy—and prove her sanity to England’s unforgiving aristocracy. But the biggest danger of all may come when the secrets of Eva’s tragic past are finally unlocked.

Viscount Ian Blake returns to England after three years in India. He is anxious to return to the home he grew up in as he’s not sure what his welcome will be by his childhood friend Eva. When he gets to the house, however, what he finds is quite shocking. He finds Eva gone, her son dead and her dead husbands brother as the Lord of the Manor. Ian finally gets out of Thomas (the current Lord) that Eva was put into an asylum because she went mad after the deaths of her husband and son in such short succession. Ian is determined to get Eva out of the mad house and goes there acting as if he is Thomas.

Ian manages to get Eva out (and almost get her friend Mary as well but that didn’t work out) and he heads off to try and keep Eva away from the asylum thugs that are looking for her to take her back and to keep her away from the Laudanum that she’s become addicted to.

Eva wants nothing but to forget. She hates herself for killing her son and feels she deserves to be in the mad house. Ian tries to make her see that it’s not her fault but he has guilt aplenty about Eva’s dead husband, Hamilton, who was also Ian’s best friend. Ian sets out with a friend of his to prove that Eva isn’t crazy and that will get her out from under Thomas’s thumb. He tries to hide his love for Eva along the way but can’t quite manage it when she’s in such close proximity at all times.

This book started off really good. I was completely into Ian finding Eva and what he needed to do to get Eva out of the asylum. Even not long after that when they stopped for the night and they had it out about Eva’s Laudanum usage and she almost got herself killed trying to get a fix. Shortly after that the book went downhill for me.

Yes, the book was dark and gothic but the guilt that both Eva and Ian carried with them brought the story down to an almost depressing level. I was unimpressed with the constant inner fighting they both did with themselves and the slow pace that the book took on because of it. During the middle of the book I almost put it down completely but kept reading. I’m not sure I’m happy I did. Yes, everyone was happy in the end and it all worked out for everyone (almost too smoothly) but the getting to that point, for me, wasn’t worth the time spent.

I’m giving this story a slightly higher grade than I normally would just for the first part of the book, Mary’s part (which was small but awesome) and Ian’s friend’s involvement as those parts saved the book for me.  I think this is one that you have to read in order to decide on for yourself.  I looked at Goodreads and apparently, I’m in the minority on my rating so if you read it let me know what you think.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

You can read more from Tracy at Tracy’s Place.

This book is available from Signet. You can buy it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.


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Guest Review: Mere Mortals by Erastes

Posted September 25, 2011 by Ames in Reviews | 0 Comments

Ames’ review of Mere Mortals by Erastes.

Orphaned Crispin Thorne has been taken as ward by Philip Smallwood, a man he’s never met, and is transplanted from his private school to Smallwood’s house on an island on the beautiful but coldly remote, Horsey Mere in Norfolk.

Upon his arrival, he finds that he’s not the only young man given a fresh start. Myles Graham, and Jude Middleton are there before him, and as their benefactor is away, they soon form alliances and friendships, as they speculate on why they’ve been given this new life. Who is Philip Smallwood? Why has he given them such a fabulous new life? What secrets does the house hold-and what is it that the Doctor seems to know?

Mere Mortals was a very interesting gothic tale. Right from the beginning we are immersed in this mysterious, dark, almost foreboding atmosphere.  Told from Crispin’s point of view, I was intrigued with the mystery and loved how the setting (Norfolk countryside) really played a key role in the story.

Crispin is an orphan and has been raised in a boarding school.  When he was caught with another boy, he thought for sure he’d be booted out with nothing to his name.  But such was not the case.  Crispin became the ward of the mysterious Phillip Smallwood and after completing his final year at school, Crispin went to live with his benefactor, a man whom he’d never met.

When he arrives in Bittern’s Reach, Crispin meets two other young men whom Phillip became benefactors to:  Jude Middleton and Myles Graham. And it’s not too long before Crispin realizes both these men prefer the company of other men as well.  And then they meet their mysterious benefactor.  Phillip quickly sets their schedules up-they are to continue schooling, but they will also receive training in other areas, to be young gentleman.  He even decides on their clothing.  Despite this regimented schedule, the men do have a certain freedom on Phillip’s estate.  Unfortunately for them, living in Norfolk, to go anywhere else, they need to travel by boat.  Keeps them isolated.

As the story progresses, the setting and atmosphere really work well together to engender a feeling of quiet menace below the surface of their lives.  There’s something off a bit with the way everything is going down and Crispin isn’t quite sure what.  And the what is a bit of a surprise.  I was so engrossed in Crispin’s tale and since it’s from his point of view we only have the same clues he does to work with.  I thought it all came together in a satisfying way.  I really enjoyed Crispin’s character and thought the other characters were well done too.  But the real star of this novel was the setting.  Erastes did such a good job of placing us in that Norfolk countryside.  That really set the mood for the story, and not in an obvious way.

If you’re in the mood for a gothic historical m/m, I recommend Mere Mortals. 4 out of 5

This book is available from Lethe Press. You can buy it here in e-format.

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Lightning Review: The Scarletti Curse by Christine Feehan

Posted January 12, 2011 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Genres: Paranormal Romance

Holly‘s review of The Scarletti Curse by Christine Feehan

Strange, twisted carvings and hideous gargoyles adorned the palazzo of the great Scarletti family. But a still more fearful secret lurked within its storm-tossed turrets. For every bride who entered its forbidding walls was doomed to leave in a casket.

Mystical and unfettered, Nicoletta had no terror of ancient curses and no fear of marriage…until she looked into the dark, mesmerizing eyes of Don Scarletti. She had sworn no man would command her, had thought her gift of healing set her apart, but his was the right to choose a bride from among his people. And he had chosen her.

Compelled by duty, drawn by desire, she gave her body into his keeping, and prayed the powerful, tormented don would be her heart’s destiny, and not her soul’s demise.

I don’t like this book as much as I like Lair of the Lion, but it’s still a good read. I like that Feehan really addresses maidenly modesty here. Too often in historical romance novels the heroines are perfectly comfortable to strip naked for their men – or any discomfort they feel at being naked and wanton is soon forgotten in the glory of the Big O. But that isn’t realistic – a woman’s sense of modestly, especially during historical times, isn’t so easy to overcome. Feehan really showcases the issue here, leaving the heroine with regrets, doubts and many self-recriminations for her sexual behavior. She doesn’t take it overboard, but it inserts just the touch of reality into the story.

I also like the practicality the heroine, Nicoletta, shows. She isn’t given a choice about her marriage, but she does her best to work with what she’s got. I did find myself becoming frustrated with the way the hero, Giovanni, acted, however. His “me man, you woman” routine got old early in the book, as did the way he constantly brushed her aside, ignoring her concerns and fears. He was redeemed in the end, however, because once he opened up and committed himself, he was all in.

This is a dark read, so don’t go into it expecting something light. There are also paranormal elements and things that go bump in the night..all of which make for a fascinating, if at times frustrating, tale.

4 out of 5

This book is available from Leisure Books. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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