logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: gothic
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-02-15 10:13
Recommended to fans of Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Jane Austen’s novels.
The English Wife - Lauren Willig

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

In case you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the whole review (you know I can go on and on), I love this novel. I recommend it to anybody who enjoys historical fiction with a mystery at its heart, especially if you enjoy gothic novels. If you love Rebecca and Jane Eyre, I would advise you to check it out. And, for the insights it offers on the society of the time (both sides of the Atlantic), I think fans of Jane Austen who are interested in novels beyond the Regency period will also enjoy it.

This historical novel, set at the end of the XIX century, starts with a murder and the mystery surrounding it. On the day when Annabelle and Bay, a couple of the best of New York society (Annabelle, the aristocratic English wife of the heir of the Van Duyvil dinasty) have organised a ball to celebrate the completion of their new mansion, he is found dead with a knife (a dagger from his costume) in his chest, and his wife is presumed drowned under the icy waters of the river. Janie, Bay’s sister, alarmed at the different versions of the story that circulate (either her brother killed his adulterous wife and then committed suicide, or his wife killed him intending to run away with her lover, although her brother is also accused of adultery with their cousin Anne…) and how they will affect her little niece and nephew, decides to try to find the truth. She chooses an unlikely ally (more unlikely than she realises at the time), a reporter (her mother values privacy, appearances, and reputation above all, and she appears to be the perfect obedient daughter), and the novel tells the story of their investigation, that we get to follow chronologically from the moment the body is discovered, in January 1899, for several weeks. We also get to read about events that took place several years earlier (from 1894 onward), when Annabelle (also known as Georgie) first met Bay, in London. She was working as an actress and they become friends. These two strands of the story, told in the third person, but each one from the point of view of one of the main characters, Janie and Georgie, run in parallel until towards the very end, and that offers us different perspectives and insight while at the same time helping keep the mystery going. The more we know about the ins and outs of the characters, their relationships, their families, and their secrets (and there are many. Other than Janie, who only starts keeping secrets after her brother’s death, all the rest of the characters carry heavy loads, sometimes theirs, sometimes those of others), the more we feel invested in the story, and the more suspects and red herrings that keep appearing. I have read some reviewers that complained about the story not being a mystery or a thriller. Well, a thriller it is not, for sure (although I found the reading experience thrilling for other reasons). It has some of the elements of a classic mystery of the era, with the added beauty of the detailed setting, the appreciation of the subtle social nuances of the time, the strong portrayal of the characters, and the beautiful language. You might guess who the guilty party is (I must confess I kept wavering between several possible explanations), and also some of the other secrets (some are more evident than others), but I thought it worked well, although not, perhaps, for a reader who is looking, exclusively, for a mystery and wants to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. This is not a book written following the rules of the genre we are so familiar with (nothing extraneous that does not move the story forward, kill you darlings, keep descriptions to a minimum) and, in my opinion, is all he better for it.  

This book is full of great characters. We are limited to two points of view only, which might be biased due to personal reasons, and some characters, like Cousin Anne, generates strong emotions from all those involved (she never conforms, she steals the man her cousin Janie was going to marry, later divorces, and her attitude towards Annabelle is not supportive), but she has some of the best lines, and we get to understand her quite well by the end of the story. Janie, who has always been dismissed by her mother and ignored by the rest of the family, is an articulate, intelligent, cultured, and determined woman. Burke, the reporter, is a complex character with stronger morals than anybody would give him credit for, and Mrs. Van Duyvil, the mother, is a larger-than-life woman, whose influence is felt by those who come into contact with her, and she is far from likeable, and there are other characters that appear in a negative light. Even the “good” characters (Bay and Janie) have complex motives for their actions, and nothing is a black or white as we might think at the beginning.

As I mentioned above, the author (whose work I’d never read before but I’ll make sure to check) captures well the nuances of the time, the dress, the setting, the social mores (yes, a little like Jane Austen, although in a very different historical period), writes beautifully, and her choice of female characters as narrators allows us a good insight into what life was like at the time for women, whose power always had to be channelled through men. Times were changing already, and people keep referring to the Vanderbilts’ divorce, but this was not generally accepted yet, and certain things had to be kept hidden. The dialogue is full of wit and spark at times, and although there is drama, sadness and grief, there is also merriment, fun, romance, and very insightful comments on the society of the time (and yes, our society as well).

The book is full of literary references, historical-era appropriate, and most readers fond of the genre will enjoy the comments about books (and plays) of the time. I did. The narrative takes its time to explore the situations and the characters in detail, but I felt it moved at the right pace, giving us a chance to reflect upon the serious questions behind the story. Who decides who we truly are? How important are appearances and society conventions? What role should other people’s opinions play in our lives and actions? I don’t want to give any spoilers away (I enjoyed the ending, by the way, but that’s all I’ll say about it), but I thought I’d share some snippets from the book.

The juries of the world were made of men. A man could hold his honor dear in masculine matters such as gambling debts and never mind that he left a trail of ruined women behind him. Men diced with coin; women diced with their lives.

Georgie took a sip of her own tea. It was too weak. It was always too weak. She blamed it on the Revolution. Since the Boston Tea Party, the Americans had apparently been conserving their tea leaves.

“So you came rushing through the ice?” Janie didn’t know whether to be touched or shake him for being so foolish. “Slaying a dragon would have been easier. And warmer.”

Viola lifted her head. “I don’t want a lullaby. I want a story.” “Even better. I have a wonderful one about a prince who turned into a toad. You’ll adore it. It’s very educational.” (This is Anne. She has many wonderful retorts).

And this one must be one of my favourite sentences of the year so far:

Janie felt like a prism: fragile, but with the chance of rainbows.

In sum, a beautifully written historical fiction novel, with a mystery (several) at its heart, memorable characters, fantastic dialogue, and a gothic touch. Unmissable.

 

Like Reblog Comment
review 2018-01-29 00:00
Drip: A Gothic Bromance
Drip: A Gothic Bromance - Andrew Montlac... Drip: A Gothic Bromance - Andrew Montlack *I received a copy from the author for review. This does not affect my review.*

Ok...I'm not sure how to review this one, so I'll start with my thought process.
When I first started reading this, I admit, I wondered what I had signed up for. This is so completely different from my normal reads, but I'm happy to admit I ended up loving it! It takes a while for the Gothic bit to make sense, but by the second half of the book I was sold! This story is well written, and while I had a love/hate relationship with JD, I ended up really enjoying this read!
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-26 16:19
I can't even - A Nit-Picky Review in Real Time
Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries - Roger Hayden

Disclosure:  I obtained this collection when it was offered free on Amazon.  I do not know any of the authors, nor have I ever had any communication with any of them about these books or any other matter.  I am an author of historical and contemporary romances, including gothic romances.

 

This is a collection of four separate novels by four authors.  When it showed up as a freebie in my email notices on 25 January 2018, I went ahead and downloaded it.  It is still free as of 26 January, if anyone is interested.

 

The first novel is The Haunting of Saxton Mansion. I had in fact "purchased" this as a freebie a few months ago, but hadn't read more than the first page or so.  Later, when checking the reviews on Amazon, I learned that this was one of those teaser books, where the first half is free, but the ending is in the second half that isn't free.  Since I hadn't been immediately captivated by the opening, I didn't go back to read any further.

 

I'm assuming, therefore, that the boxed set contains the whole thing.  The Table of Contents lists Book 0, Book 1, and Book 2.

 

The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 0

The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 1

The Haunting of Saxton Mansion: Book 2

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 7-10). Kindle Edition.

I began reading Book 0, which is a very different opening from what I had read from the first freebie.  Whether it is a prequel or backstory, I don't know yet.  I may never find out, because I may not be able to force myself through it.

 

The scene is set as December 22, 1982, in Cypress Creek, Florida.

 

I don't mind a haunting from the recent past.  In fact, I find it intriguing, because it seems there has always been a preponderance of ghosts from past centuries when it's just as likely that unhappy, restless spirits might be active from more recent times.  So the near-contemporary timeframe didn't bother me.

 

The opening text is visual description of the scene.  Full moon, clouds, and so on.

 

Wispy clouds streaked the evening sky, illuminated by the glow of a full moon. Palm trees in a slumbering town swayed in the slight breeze. On the corner of a sparsely populated back street sat a grand, two-story Victorian home. An iron gate over six feet tall surrounded the premises.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 28-30). Kindle Edition.

Four sentences into the book and I stopped, dead.  Four sentences.

 

The clouds and the moon, okay.  Overview of the whole town, hm, okay.  Zoom into house on the corner, hmmmm, less okay but passable.

 

Iron gate surrounding the premises?  NO.

 

A fence surrounds a property, but a gate doesn't.

 

Disbelief is no longer suspended.

 

Freshly cut St. Augustine grass encompassed the massive front lawn where the old Saxton manor rested atop a small hill, shrouded by thick, looming tree branches in a neighboring forest.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 30-31). Kindle Edition. 

The grass doesn't "encompass" the lawn.  Lawns aren't usually described as "massive." How is there a small hill on a corner city lot?  If the forest is neighboring, how are its branches shrouding the house?

 

I'm barely onto Page 2, and my eyes are spinning in their sockets.

 

This is bad writing.  It's poor word choices mixed with bad cinematography.  And it doesn't stop.

 

Past the gated entrance was a long driveway that ran past the courtyard to the garage. The house itself had been constructed in 1970 and was one of the oldest homes in Cypress Creek. Its history was shrouded in secrecy.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 32-33). Kindle Edition.

 

What courtyard?  Does this author know what a courtyard is?  I have my doubts.

 

And, a house built in 1970 is not Victorian.  While it might be Victorian style, or Queen Anne Style, or whatever style that evokes the Victorian era, it's way too new to be true Victorian.

 

Maybe today's readers don't care.  Maybe they're so accustomed to inaccuracies and otherwise bad writing that they can't tell the difference.  Maybe they don't know the difference between a gate and a fence.  Maybe they think "Victorian" is a synonym for "big and looks old."  I don't know.  As we here on BookLikes learned from our buddy reads Ammie, Come Home and Jamaica Inn, even traditionally published books can be loaded with errors.

 

Is that an excuse for the kind of crap that shows up in books like The Haunting of Saxton Manor?  Because, hoo boy, it gets worse.

 

The action takes place a mere 12 years after the house was built, yet its history is "shrouded in secrecy."  Um, no.  The description of the setting is clichés upon clichés, but without substance.  This is bad writing.

 

A decorated Christmas tree shined through a front window with its colorful reds, blues, and greens. The Saxton family living inside had much to celebrate during the coming holidays, unaware that outside their home, someone was watching.

 

Gerald Saxton’s black BMW drove through the automatic gate and up the driveway. He parked near the courtyard and got out, carrying two full paper grocery bags in each arm. Dressed in his creased gray suit, he walked up the three concrete steps onto the front porch with its wooden railing and thin white columns that ran up to the roof.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 33-38). Kindle Edition.

The lights of the Christmas tree shone (not shined) through the window, not the tree itself.  And the family probably lived inside the house, not inside the tree.

 

Gerald drove the car; it didn't drive itself.  Why did he park "near the courtyard" and not in the garage?  Does the writer stop to think how impossible it would be to carry two full paper grocery bags in one arm and then grab two more with the other arm and then, with both arms full, open the car door and maneuver past the steering wheel to exit the vehicle? 

 

Why is his suit creased?  Does the author mean the suit is wrinkled, as though Gerald slept in it?  Or does the author mean the suit is neatly pressed, with sharp creases in the trousers?  Does the author know what words even mean?

 

Potted plants lined the top railing. A porch swing, held by chains from above, creaked with the wind. It was a cool sixty-eight degrees that evening, hardly winter, but quite normal for the south Florida neighborhood.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 38-40). Kindle Edition.

 

If the columns described in the previous paragraph rose all the way to the roof of the two-story home, it's unlikely the swing would have been on chains that long.  And the temperature would have been "quite normal" for all of south Florida that time of the year, not just the local neighborhood.  Though this lucky paragraph didn't have any major errors, it's still an example of what happens when a writer doesn't pay attention to details.

 

Fresh aqua paint covered the home’s wooden exterior; its steep roofline was a dark gray. Much of the house had undergone renovations some five years prior. The roof arched in the center, and there were two windows on the second floor that resembled eyes, with an even higher single attic window centered above. With its unique architecture, expansive courtyard, and adjacent tennis court, the Saxton estate was like no other home in Cypress Creek.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 40-43). Kindle Edition. 


The house is only twelve years old, yet it had undergone renovations at the age of seven?  Why?  And what does the author mean by "The roof arched in the center"?  And we still don't know about this "courtyard."

 

I'll give you a break, dear reader, and not quote every single line for a while.  Gerald enters the house and greets his wife, Annette, who is wearing a silk purple bathrobe.

 

Usage dictates that the bathrobe should be purple silk, not silk purple.

 

1  /   SIZE  :       How big ?         Large, small, tiny, enormous

2 /     AGE   :      How old ?           New, young, old, ancient

3 /    SHAPE :    What shape ?     Square, round, rectangular, flat

4 / COLOUR :    What colour ?      Blue, pink, yellow, crimson

5 /  ORIGIN :    Where from ?      English, American, Chinese,French

6 / MATERIAL: What it is made of ?    Plastic, cardboard, glass, wooden

7 / PURPOSE : What it  is used for ?    Racing car, frying pan, rocking chair 

 

Though we -- as both readers and writers -- don't normally think in terms of these rules for ordering adjectives, "silk purple" just doesn't read as comfortably on our mental ears as "purple silk."  Is it possible the author of this book is not well read?

 

At any rate, Gerald greets Annette and takes the groceries into the kitchen.

 

Gerald set the bags onto the kitchen counter and sighed. “Another long night at the office. What can I say?” He pulled a bottle of red wine from one the bags, proudly displaying the Dom Perignon label.

Hayden, Roger. Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries (Kindle Locations 54-56). Kindle Edition.

 

WALLBANGER.

 

 

 

I can't leave a review on Amazon because I'm also a writer, and we're only allowed to write positive reviews, not negative or critical ones.

 

How many asinine mistakes is a reader supposed to put up with before DNFing and zero-starring a piece of garbage?  How many "mulligans" does a lazy, incompetent writer get?  This book (or at least the original first part of it) has 256 ratings on Amazon, with an average of 4.2 stars.  What the ever living fuck?

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2018-01-26 03:55
You get what you pay for
Ghostly Secrets Super Boxset: A Collection Of Riveting Haunted House Mysteries - Roger Hayden

Kindle freebie today via Free Booksy.

 

Within the next few days I will have more of a review, but I am right now so angry I'm ready to scream.

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-01-19 19:54
Gothic Tales of Haunted Love

I have conflicting feelings about this book, but I did enjoy it overall.

 

*Tagged as spoiler, because this book could be triggering. There are lots of blood, gore, pictures of what looks like self harm, and murder...also baby killing.

 

37542185

 


There were a few stories that I personally felt did not make sense, and also I could not see what was Gothic about them. Maybe I don't fully understand the word "Gothic" but that was my feeling while reading this. I did like it that the "bad guy" was usually the girl, and she wasn't a damsel in distress or something.

Highly disturbing stories, but I went in expecting that. However, there was one story that was a little too much for me personally and it involved taking a baby from a mother's womb and killing it....

 

I enjoyed the varied artwork and color schemes used in this.

 

*Provided by Netgally*

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?