Nobody ever goes to Hartwood Hall. Folks say it’s cursed…
It’s 1852 and Margaret Lennox, a young widow, attempts to escape the shadows of her past by taking a position as governess to an only child, Louis, at an isolated country house in the west of England.
But Margaret soon starts to feel that something isn’t quite right. There are strange figures in the dark, tensions between servants, and an abandoned east wing. Even stranger is the local gossip surrounding Mrs. Eversham, Louis’s widowed mother, who is deeply distrusted in the village.
Lonely and unsure whom to trust, Margaret finds distraction in a forbidden relationship with the gardener, Paul. But as Margaret’s history threatens to catch up with her, it isn’t long before she learns the truth behind the secrets of Hartwood Hall.
The Secrets of Hartwood Hall (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (Abebooks)
My first thought when I read The Secrets of Hartwood Hall was that it reminded me of Jane Eyre or Rebecca for all its gothic moodiness, in a good way. Margaret Lennox is a recent widow in need of a position and she finds one in a remote town, in an even more remote house several miles out of town, in the English countryside. She’s been hired as a governess to a little boy called Louis, in a large mans with one wing not in use and few other servants. But soon strange things start happening that make Margaret wonder whether she or the house is being haunted.
Margaret has her own secrets that she’s hiding, and her new boss, Mrs. Eversham, seems to be full of secrets as well. The townspeople stay away from the manor and talk idle gossip about everyone inside, including the live-in help. There is something that’s definitely off about the house, and Margaret seems to be determined to find out on one hand, then changes her mind.
It turns out Mrs. Eversham came to the town with two children, a boy and a girl. The girl took sick and was taken to London several years prior for treatment; the mother returned alone and said she died. Is the daughter the one haunting the house?
I was most impressed with the atmospheric mood displayed throughout the book and how quickly the pages turned for me. There’s even a slow-burn romance with the gardener, Paul, that seemed inevitable.
There are no big surprises in the book, simply a turn-of-events, and the revelations aren’t too shocking in today’s age, although they would be back when the book was set. The ending sort of fell apart for me, with a big dramatic ending that seemed wholly unnecessary, but maybe the author was inspired by other authors who wrote gothic fiction. If it weren’t for this out-of-place way to end the story, this would be a five star read. Still worth your time, though, if you like a good mystery!
I received and Advanced Reader’s Copy from NetGalley and Dutton Books/Penguin Group in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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