Tag: Gothic

Review: An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James

Posted January 14, 2020 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. JamesReviewer: Holly
An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Gothic, Mystery
Pages: 339
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

After her ghost-hunting uncle Toby dies, Oxford student Jillian must drive to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings. Almost immediately, terrifying events convince Jillian that an angry spirit is trying to enter the house. Is it Walking John, the two-hundred-year-old ghost that haunts the bay? And who besides the ghost is roaming the local woods at night? If Toby uncovered something sinister, was his death really an accident? The arrival of handsome Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken leaves Jillian with more questions than answers and the added complication of a powerful mutual attraction.

I’m slowly making my way through Simone St. James’ backlist. An Inquiry Into Love and Death follows Jillian as she travels to a small seaside town to deal with her uncle Toby’s belongings after he dies unexpectedly.

Uncle Toby and her parents had a falling out, and they’re out of the country, so Oxford student Jillian is the only one left to deal with his belongings. She travels to Rothewell, where Toby fell from a cliff. They were close when she was a child, but they hadn’t seen each other in years. When Jillian arrives, she learns the locals believe Toby’s fall was an accident, but Scotland Yard believes it may have been a murder. As she and Inspector Drew Merriken get close, it soon becomes obvious that something more is at play. Between the town ghost and the suspicious townsfolk, Jillian doesn’t know who to trust or what to believe.

I didn’t enjoy this story quite as much as the others I’ve read by St. James, but it was still a good read. The middle was rather slow, and I found myself getting impatient with how things were progressing, but the early parts of the book and the end were very well done.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James

Posted December 20, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Silence for the Dead by Simone St. JamesReviewer: Holly
Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James
Narrator: Mary Jane Wells
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Audible Escape, Library
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Gothic
Pages: 368
Length: 10 hours and 33 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 Historical Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-half-stars

In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?

Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.

I’ve been searching for a good Gothic novel, and I finally found it in Silence for the Dead. Full of atmospheric suspense, Silence for the Dead delivered the perfect read for a rainy night.

Kitty Weekes is dead broke and on the run, so she fakes a resume and accepts a position as a nurse at Portis House, an asylum for soldiers who came home mentally damaged from the war. In the quiet of the night, something stalks the halls of Portis House. Is it nothing more than the imaginings of crazy men, or is something more sinister happening?

St. James pulled me in from the first, with the creepy atmosphere and the mystery surrounding why Kitty Weekes is on the run, and how she’ll adjust to life in a mental health facility for veterans when she has no training as a nurse. I enjoyed the cast of characters and the suspense of wondering if they were all mad, or if the house itself was truly haunted.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Review: The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb

Posted December 16, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy WebbReviewer: Holly
The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb
Narrator: Kirsten Potter

Publication Date: February 5, 2013
Format: Audiobook, eBook
Source: Audible Escape, Library
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Gothic, Mystery
Pages: 344
Length: 8 hours and 53 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-stars

From award-winning novelist Wendy Webb comes a spine-tingling mystery about family secrets set in a big, old haunted house on Lake Superior.
Grace Alban has spent twenty years away from her childhood home, the stately Alban House, for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother's unexpected death brings Grace and her teen-age daughter home, she finds more haunting the halls and passageways of Alban House than her own personal demons.
Long-buried family secrets, a packet of old love letters and a lost manuscript plunge Grace into a decades-old mystery about a scandalous party at Alban House, when a world-famous author took his own life and Grace's aunt disappeared without a trace. The night has been shrouded in secrecy by the powerful Alban family for all of these years, and Grace realizes her family secrets tangle and twist as darkly as the secret passages of Alban House. Her mother was intending to tell the truth about that night to a reporter on the very day she died - could it have been murder? Or was she a victim of the supposed Alban curse? With the help of the disarmingly kind--and attractive—Reverend Matthew Parker, Grace must uncover the truth about her home and its curse before she and her daughter become the next victims.

The Fate of Mercy Alban came up in my recommended reads in Audible Escape so I decided to give it a try. This is my first book by Wendy Webb. The beginning really grabbed me and I found myself at the library requesting the ebook so I could finish it faster.

Grace Alban hasn’t been home to Alban House in twenty years, since her younger brothers and father died. When her mother passes away, she and her daughter Amity, return for the funeral and to take care of things at the estate. Almost from the moment they return home strange things begin happening. There’s something going on at Alban House, something related to the death of a famous writer there some fifty years ago, and Grace is determined to get to the bottom of what it is. With the help of the local Reverend and the long-time employees of the manor, Grace and her daughter will need to figure it out quickly…before it’s too late to save any of them.

As I said, the beginning of this book was fabulous. About 1/4 of the way through the book, things slowed down. Grace started making some questionable decisions that really pulled me out of the story, and the story moved kind of slow. Grace would ask questions and demand answers, then just shrug when no one was forthcoming. Things like that. I actually did better with the audiobook. The narrator, Kirsten Potter, did an excellent job of keeping Grace from edging too far over the “WTAF ARE YOU DOING” line for me.

In the end the mystery portion was fairly predicable and I wasn’t surprised at all with how things turned out. I did enjoy Alban House itself. The manor really came to life for me, and that’s what prompted me to keep going.

Other reviews mention this not being Webb’s best effort, so I may pick up another soon.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5

three-stars


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Review: The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James

Posted November 13, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. JamesReviewer: Holly
The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James
Narrator: Mary Jane Wells
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Library, Audible Escape
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Gothic, Paranormal Romance
Pages: 319
Length: 9 hours and 58 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

The award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare and Silence for the Dead, presents another mesmerizing gothic story of intrigue...

London, 1925. Glamorous medium Gloria Sutter made her fortune helping the bereaved contact loved ones killed during the Great War. Now she's been murdered at one of her own séances, after leaving a message requesting the help of her former friend and sole rival, Ellie Winter.

Ellie doesn't contact the dead—at least, not anymore. She specializes in miraculously finding lost items. Still, she can't refuse the final request of the only other true psychic she has known. Now Ellie must delve into Gloria's secrets and plunge back into the world of hucksters, lowlifes, and fakes. Worse, she cannot shake the attentions of handsome James Hawley, a damaged war veteran who has dedicated himself to debunking psychics.

As Ellie and James uncover the sinister mysteries of Gloria's life and death, Ellie is tormented by nightmarish visions that herald the grisly murders of those in Gloria's circle. And as Ellie’s uneasy partnership with James turns dangerously intimate, an insidious evil force begins to undermine their quest for clues, a force determined to bury the truth, and whoever seeks to expose it...


The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James is available for the Audible Escape package. I downloaded it after finishing Silence for the Dead, because I wanted more from St. James and because I enjoyed the narrator, Mary Jane Wells, quite a bit. This gothic romance is perfect for the fall season.

Ellie Winter is a psychic Medium. When a rival Medium, Gloria Sutter, is murdered and her brother shows up asking for Ellie’s help in finding her, Ellie agrees reluctantly. She and Gloria had been friends once upon a time, but Gloria betrayed Ellie in a devastating way and they hadn’t spoken in years. If Gloria hadn’t left a note with her brother “Tell Ellie Winter to find me”, Ellie probably would have told him no. As it is, despite her anger and hurt over Gloria’s betrayal, she can’t walk away.

James Hawley is an investigator for the “New Society”. He, and his colleagues, try to verify or debunk psychics. He was instrumental in declaring Ellie’s mother a fraud, but something about their case has always bothered him. As the only verified true psychic – something he helped prove – Gloria had a lot of notoriety in London. Discovering if his findings are part of the reason she was murdered has James helping Ellie.

This is the second novel by St. James I’ve read. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first, but it was still a creepy, lovely tale. I quite enjoyed the setting – mid 1920s London – and the glimpse into the life of a true Medium who can see and summon spirits. Ellie’s talent in that regard came across well. I enjoyed her as whole, in fact. She was independent and strong, yet had a vein of vulnerability and loneliness running through her that made her easy to connect with.

I enjoyed the mystery of why Gloria Sutter was murdered, and by whom. I had the majority of things figured out, but still there were some twists and turns I didn’t see coming. This was a cozy, atmospheric Gothic novel not to be missed.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith

Posted October 21, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: The Vine Witch by Luanne G. SmithReviewer: Holly
The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Series: Vine Witch #1
Publisher: 47North
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Format: eBook, Audiobook
Source: Kindle Unlimited, Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 263
Length: 8 hours and 42 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 Historical Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.


The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith is a debut historical fantasy novel. This was an Amazon First pick. The audio add-on was only $1.99, so I snagged that with it and ended up listening to the whole book. The narrator did a wonderful job with the story.

Set somewhere near the turn of the century in France (automobiles are just becoming popular, though the year is never mentioned), The Vine Witch follows Elena Boureanu as she beats a deadly curse and returns to family winery Château Renard, the only home she’s ever known…only to discover it’s been sold and life as she knew it is changed forever.

For seven years, Elena has been stuck as a toad, forced to eat poison to fend off a deadly curse. When she finally breaks free, she returns home to Château Renard with vengeance in her heart. She’s convinced her former fiance is the one who cursed her when she broke off their engagement, and she plans to make him pay. When she returns home she finds all of the land has been hexed, not just her. It’ll take all her skill as a Vine Witch to untangle the mess of hexes…something made more difficult by the new owner’s refusal to believe in witches.

Jean Paul left a prestigious law firm in the city to become a winemaker when he saw the renowned Château Renard was available for sale. He wants nothing more than to produce amazing wine…using science, not the superstitious “magic” the locals claim is responsible for the good – and bad – in the land. When Elena returns, he’s suspicious of her, but if she can teach him the secrets of her famed grandfather, she’ll be worth her weight in gold. As he and Elena become close, he realizes there’s more to her than meets the eye..and everything he thought he believed may be a lie….

This was a lovely fairytale-esque novel, filled with mystery, intrigue and magic. I truly enjoyed both Elena and Jean Paul, as well as the world Smith created. The melancholy of the vines, the hexed land and the shadowy figures responsible truly came to life. I figured out early on who the villains were, and how Elena came to be cursed, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the novel.

This was the fantasy Gothic novel I’ve been craving. The Vine Witch shines bright.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

Vine Witch

The Glamourist (Coming 2020)

four-stars


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