Today, I’m sharing my review of Clarissa Harwood’s recently released novel! The Curse of Morton Abbey is a gothic tale of fortitude, loyalty, secrets, and romance set near the end of the Victorian period in England. It’s just the type of story I like to read in the fall!
Jane Eyre meets The Secret Garden in a gothic novel of romantic suspense set in 1890s Yorkshire.
Solicitor Vaughan Springthorpe knows perfectly well that Sir Peter Spencer’s offer of employment seems too good to be true: he hires her sight unseen, offering a suspiciously large salary to prepare the sale of Morton Abbey, his crumbling Yorkshire estate. But few people in late-Victorian England will entrust their legal affairs to a woman, and Vaughan is desperate to prove herself.
Once at Morton, Vaughan discovers that someone is determined to drive her away. An intruder tries to enter her bedroom at night, gunshots are fired outside her window, and an eerie crying echoes from the uninhabited second floor. Even Netherton, the nearest village, seems odd: the picturesque houses and perfect-looking families are haunted by dark secrets connected to Morton Abbey itself.
To complete her work and solve the mystery at the heart of Morton, Vaughan needs the help of Joe Dixon, the handsome gardener, and Nicholas Spencer, her employer’s irascible invalid brother. But with her questions diverted, her progress thwarted, and her sleep disrupted by the crying, will Vaughan escape Morton Abbey with her sanity intact or be cursed by the secrets within?
The Curse of Morton Abbey delivers a gothic and smart spin on a classic yet tells a unique and triumphant story of the power of love. Its slightly spooky and atmospheric tone contrasts with its brighter elements and themes to deliver a vivid and emotional depiction of loyalty.
Vaughan is a formidable heroine who comes into her own with agency and an unexpected romance. As she spends time at Morton Abbey, she finds the friendship she needs: gradual and insightful with Nicholas, fast and joyfully with Joe. I loved experiencing the twists and surprises through her POV and seeing how she learns love can conquers all.
Morton Abbey is a character all its own, with threatening, mysterious noises and secrets hinted at by the household and nearby town. It is scary to Vaughan for those reasons, but it is all the more portentous as a place where she is challenged to confront herself: her physical flaws, her mental capabilities, and her emotional vulnerability.
I really like the way The Curse of Morton Abbey considers the scenario of the classic The Secret Garden with grown-up leads and draws out the element of sacrifice with some influence by Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This novel has a different feel than Clarissa’s previous ones — it is more mysterious than her Edwardian romance titles. Reading this book makes me appreciate her skill in storytelling all the more with her versatility and voice still carrying a heavy dose of feminism in the context of the era yet drawing out tones fitting of its gothic setting.
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.