Review: “A Heart Adrift” by Laura Frantz

I’m reviewing a recent standalone historical romance today: A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz. She is one of my very favorite authors, and I always look forward to savoring her annual book releases. My musings about this story could go on for a while, so I will attempt to be coherent in sharing my thoughts here :).

About the Book
A Heart Adrift cover with heroine, flowers, and a ship in the distance

It is 1755, and the threat of war with France looms over colonial York, Virginia. Chocolatier Esmée Shaw is fighting her own battle of the heart. Having reached her twenty-eighth birthday, she is reconciled to life alone after a decade-old failed love affair from which she’s never quite recovered. But she longs to find something worthwhile to do with her life.

Captain Henri Lennox has returned to port after a lengthy absence, intent on completing the lighthouse in the dangerous Chesapeake Bay, a dream he once shared with Esmée. But when the colonial government asks him to lead a secret naval expedition against the French, his future is plunged into uncertainty.

Will a war and a cache of regrets keep them apart, or can their shared vision and dedication to the colonial cause heal the wounds of the past? Bestselling and award-winning author Laura Frantz whisks you away to a time fraught with peril–on the sea and in the heart–in this redemptive, romantic story.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

With A Heart Adrift, Laura Frantz delivers another epic historical romance in the colonial days of America — this time with rich themes and a second chance romance.

The romantic relationship is paced perfectly, with the reader getting to know the hearts and the history of Esmée and Henri along the way. From a bittersweet reuniting to a tentative restored friendship, they find their way back to each other amongst social gatherings and providential meetings. I enjoyed the way memories of their young romance were scattered through their story, showing how the vibrancy of their youth was seasoned with maturity — in both behavior and choices.

Quote from the book: "There stood Captain Henri Lennox...

Henri’s confidence in Esmée is admirable and one of the (many) reasons to love him, as is his calm demeanor. He is deserving of the moniker hero in many ways, as his actions prove in the story. Esmée is a relatable heroine and her care for everyone around her, extending to her family, friends, and the recipients of her benevolence, makes her a worthy match for Henri and of steadfast character herself. Theirs is a love that has surpassed weathering and trials, both during their years apart and through the events of this novel. Faith is subtly woven as a natural part of their lives, as Frantz has proven with past stories, and this abiding hope in the Creator is a credit to their character and an integral part of their identity.

The coastal Virginia setting and maritime interests are very much active characters in the story. Frantz’s signature prose-like style paints an immersive setting and showcases fascinating aspects of history and tradition, with the addition of nautical imagery and verbiage that fascinated me (I learned some new words!). I was also intrigued with Esmée’s chocolatier role and the societal consumption of hot cocoa. In short, I recommend reading this book with a cup of cocoa or a nice chocolate dessert nearby.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Carved in Stone” by Elizabeth Camden

This review is one of those “I’m just going to write a short comment or two” plans that turned into a full review all about my love for Elizabeth Camden’s stories. Read on for my thoughts on her recent novel Carved in Stone, book one in the new Blackstone Legacy series. (Book 2 coming this spring!)

About the Book

After years of tragedy, Gwen Kellerman now lives a quiet life as a botanist at an idyllic New York college. She largely ignores her status as heiress to the infamous Blackstone dynasty and hopes to keep her family’s heartbreak and scandal behind her.

Patrick O’Neill survived a hardscrabble youth to become a lawyer for the downtrodden Irish immigrants in his community. He’s proud of his work, even though he struggles to afford his ramshackle law office. All that changes when he accepts a case that is sure to emphasize the Blackstones’ legacy of greed and corruption by resurrecting a thirty-year-old mystery.

Little does Patrick suspect that the Blackstones will launch their most sympathetic family member to derail him. Gwen is tasked with getting Patrick to drop the case, but the old mystery takes a shocking twist neither of them saw coming. Now, as they navigate a burgeoning attraction and growing danger, Patrick and Gwen will be forced to decide if the risk to the life they’ve always held dear is worth the reward.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Carved in Stone is another smart and enthralling historical romance from Elizabeth Camden. Leave it to Camden to take an event I suspected would happen within the story and place it at the 20% mark, then let events unravel in a different way entirely. There’s always something wonderfully unconventional about her books. This time, the romantic pairing has the protagonists from two different classes and worlds (with a bit of a “forbidden” element to it), seemingly opposite, yet united in kind hearts and matched in intelligence.

This story has the fortunate backdrop of New York City near the end of the Gilded Age, with a distinct difference in the opulent and well-off higher classes and the middle-to-lower tenements and conditions. The writing style makes the reading an immersive experience, as the flow of the story meanders through elements of suspense, danger, and fantastic verbal sparring some social-climbing family members.

While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, my favorite part is how Camden often explores subtle gender roles within the era. Her heroines typically must assert equality in some way throughout the story. In this case, Gwen has an arc that sees her mature in subtle ways, making an effort to see beyond her class (and stubbornness) and determining what she really wants out of life. Patrick has the most dynamic growth arc, as he overcomes pride and gains an appreciation for Gwen’s tenacity. This results in an intellectually mature romance and even makes way for an endearing grand gesture or two. 🙂

Review: “The Siren of Sussex” by Mimi Matthews

I’m very excited to be sharing my review today of Mimi Matthews’ The Siren of Sussex, the first in her Belles of London series and her first traditionally published novel. It also happens to be release day for this Victorian romance!

About the Book

Victorian high society’s most daring equestrienne finds love and an unexpected ally in her fight for independence in the strong arms of London’s most sought after and devastatingly handsome half-Indian tailor.

cover image of The Siren of Sussex, heroine riding a horse

Evelyn Maltravers understands exactly how little she’s worth on the marriage mart. As an incurable bluestocking from a family tumbling swiftly toward ruin, she knows she’ll never make a match in a ballroom. Her only hope is to distinguish herself by making the biggest splash in the one sphere she excels: on horseback. In haute couture. But to truly capture London’s attention she’ll need a habit-maker who’s not afraid to take risks with his designs—and with his heart.

Half-Indian tailor Ahmad Malik has always had a talent for making women beautiful, inching his way toward recognition by designing riding habits for Rotten Row’s infamous Pretty Horsebreakers—but no one compares to Evelyn. Her unbridled spirit enchants him, awakening a depth of feeling he never thought possible.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Siren of Sussex is a romance with resilient characters, swoony chemistry, and a historical setting that features equestriennes and the Victorians’ obsession with the spiritual realm.

A thoughtful look at race and colonialism through the eyes of the half-British, half-Indian (and fully attractive) hero, Ahmad, adds further depth to the complications of the love story and a subtle assessment of the roles of gentlemen vs the working class. Evelyn, the heroine, possesses a determination to better her prospects in a selfless move to support her family which endears her to Ahmad and the reader instantly. Wholly feminine and untried, she shirks the label of bluestocking and instead embraces the complexities of her person even as she embodies a progressively feministic view of her role and the capabilities of others.

The slow-burn romance is born of friendship and a partnership to display Ahmad’s fabric artistry – a situation which allows for some wonderfully romantic moments with fittings and one quite swoony gesture involving a pocket. Like Matthews’ beloved characters often exhibit, the best part of the romance is when the leads realize, as recipients of the others’ affections and respect, their place of belonging and acceptance is finally found.

Thank you to the publisher for the early review copy. This is my honest review. 

Review: “A Portrait of Loyalty” by Roseanna M. White

Today I’m reviewing a wonderful historical romance by Roseanna M. White, the last novel in her “Codebreakers” series, A Portrait of Loyalty. This novel also won the Christy Award in its category for 2020 (YAY, Roseanna!).

About the Book
cover of a portrait of loyalty, heroine holding a camera

Zivon Marin was one of Russia’s top cryptographers until the October Revolution tore apart his world. Forced to flee to England after speaking out against Lenin, Zivon is driven by a growing anger and determined to offer his services to the Brits. But never far from his mind is his brother, who Zivon fears died in the train crash that separated them.

Lily Blackwell sees the world best through the lens of a camera and possesses unsurpassed skill when it comes to retouching and re-creating photographs. With her father’s connections in propaganda, she’s recruited to the intelligence division, even though her mother would disapprove if she ever found out.

After Captain Blackwell invites Zivon to dinner one evening, a friendship blooms between him and Lily that soon takes over their hearts. But both have secrets they’re unwilling to share, and neither is entirely sure they can trust the other. When Zivon’s loyalties are called into question, proving him honest is about more than one couple’s future dreams—it becomes a matter of ending the war.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A Portrait of Loyalty is going on my list of favorites this year! I LOVE how it is intelligent and layered. It offers a unique perspective of conflicts involving both the Russian culture and on the English homefront during WWI. With many things happening to the protagonists, it also has wonderful and fleshed out secondary characters and a fantastic London setting.

Zivon is my newest bespectacled book boyfriend! He sees patterns everywhere. His observance and intelligence are attractive, and when he turns that focus on Lily and sees her depth, oh my! Lily is smart and capable, especially in her work, and it is wonderful to see her commitment and loyalty as a part of the story.

Author Roseanna M. White’s voice plays an important part as the nuances of the romantic relationship unfold, especially as their friendship deepens alongside political conflict. She draws out the theme of loyalty in a natural and relatable way. This loyalty is an overarching theme, appropriately used in the title, as it explores loyalty to country, family, friends, and ideals. I also appreciate the smartly-used imagery and symbolism of photography and light (especially from my own experience as a photographer).

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Author Interview + Giveaway: “Harmony on the Horizon” by Kathleen Denly

Welcome to my interview of author Kathleen Denly! Read on for more about her upcoming historical romance novel, Harmony on the Horizon, plus a chance to enter the giveaway for reading swag at the end! Kathleen Denly has been on my radar thanks to social media. Her upcoming novel releases January 4, 2022.

About the Book

Her calling to change the world may be his downfall.

On the heels of the Great Rebellion, Margaret Foster, an abolitionist northerner, takes a teaching position in 1865 San Diego—a town dominated by Southern sympathizers. At thirty-seven years of age, Margaret has accepted spinsterhood and embraced her role as teacher. So, when Everett Thompson, the handsomest member of the School Board, reveals his interest in her, it’s a dream come true. Until her passionate ideals drive a wedge between them.

After two decades of hard work, Everett Thompson is on the verge of having everything he’s dreamed of. Even the beautiful new teacher has agreed to his courtship. Then two investments go south and a blackmailer threatens everything Everett has and dreams of. 

As Everett scrambles to shore up the crumbling pieces of his life, Margaret unwittingly sets off a scandal that divides the small community and threatens her position as teacher. With the blackmailer still whispering threats, Everett must decide if he’s willing to risk everything for the woman still keeping him at arm’s length.

Kathleen Denly writes historical romance to entertain, encourage, and inspire readers toward a better understanding of our amazing God and how He sees us. Award winning author of the Chaparral Hearts series, she also shares history tidbits, thoughts on writing, books reviews and more at KathleenDenly.com. 

Kathleen lives in sunny California with her loving husband, four young children, and two cats. As a member of the adoption and foster community, children in need are a cause dear to her heart and she finds they make frequent appearances in her stories. When she isn’t writing, researching, or caring for children, Kathleen spends her time reading, visiting historical sites, hiking, and crafting.

Connect with Kathleen: Website | Newsletter | FB Author Page | FB Reader Group | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | BookBub | Amazon

Pull up a chair somewhere cozy and read on for my interview with Kathleen!

What inspired you to write Harmony on the Horizon?

I went on a field trip with my kids a few years ago at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. While we toured the restored schoolhouse, the docent shared the story of the Mary Chase Walker scandal which occurred in 1865.Mary was the first teacher to teach in San Diego’s first schoolhouse, but her position was short-lived due to the “mistake” she made of inviting the “wrong person” to dine with her in the town’s nicest hotel. As a result of this choice, many parents refused to send their students to school until she was fired and an emergency board meeting was held to determine what to do. While records of the result of that meeting have since been lost to history, we do know that she was no longer teaching one month later and shortly thereafter married one of the board members. Needless to say, my writer’s imagination was captivated. 

What is the inspiration behind your hero/heroine’s personality?

I should preface this by stating that my characters are entirely fictional and neither based on nor meant to portray the actual people involved. Instead, they are inspired by the historical figures. Given the situation Mary faced as a northerner coming to a town dominated by Southern sympathizers on the heels of the Civil War, and given the scandal which ensued, it wasn’t a stretch to make my heroine, Margaret Foster, bold and confident in the face of social injustice. However, I wonder if the Mary knew the trouble she would cause with her fateful decision. This question led me to give Margaret a flaw which I had myself in my younger years–being too blunt and quick to speak.When it comes to the hero, Everett Thompson, I took my cues from the actions of his historical counterpart, Ephraim Morse. Ephraim was deeply involved in all aspects of San Diego’s growth and future. Over the years, he held just about every political and service position there was in the town and was involved in several plans to improve its situation, such as bringing the railroad to town. Ephraim also managed diverse business interests in San Diego, San Francisco, and even Mexico, yet he often struggled financially according to the correspondence, ledgers, and newspaper articles I read in San Diego’s Historical Archives. Taking all of this into consideration, I found my hero to be a civic minded, visionary with financial troubles. Throw in a blackmailer and I had myself the makings of a great read. 

What spiritual message/theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

Good intentions don’t always lead to good choices, so it’s important to pause and seek God’s wisdom before taking action. 

What was most challenging about writing a story set in 1865 California?

Getting the timing of events right. With two point of view characters in San Diego, and another two in San Francisco, and their actions having direct impact on one another, it was important that I stayed clear on who was where and how long it would take people and correspondence to travel between those locations.

Did anything you learned surprise you while researching for this book?

I was surprised to learn that there was a one-man band performing in San Francisco at the time. If you’ve seen Mary Poppins and remember that funny musical outfit Bert performed in outside the park, you’ll know the type of performance I mean. It was a bit tricky to work him in, but it was too delightful a thing to leave out. 

Which character was your favorite to write?

*gasp* That’s like asking which of my children I love the most! But I will say that Katie holds a special place in my heart because she has several things in common with Anne Shirley of Green Gables, one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. 

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Several, but far too little time to spend on them. LOL One of my favorites is junk journaling. I get to create beauty from things that would normally be discarded as damaged. In fact, with junk journaling–especially in the vintage style I prefer–the imperfections are the beauty.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

Last year? No wait, definitely not then. LOL Okay, how about ten years ago? The thing is, I really enjoy and appreciate today’s technological and medical advances, so while visiting the past sounds fabulous, living there, not so much. Now if I could live in the future…hmm. 😉

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently listening to the audiobook of  Rachel Fordham’s A Lady in Attendance, reading Audiobooks for Authors by Jamie Davis, and reading Memories of the Early Settlements by Ella McCain.

Thank you, Kathleen, for taking the time to answer my questions!

One winner* will receive: 

  • 1 Faux Leather Bookmark  – Wild Purple Clusters – Purple Tassel
  • 1 Lavender Sachet
  • 1 Sing in the Sunlight Bookmark
  • 1 Harmony on the Horizon Sticker

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post and sign up for Kathleen’s Readers’ Club here: http://bit.ly/KRCMemberSignUp  

Deadline to enter is 11:59pm, December 16th. Winner will be announced in the comments for this post and contacted via email.

*Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws

Review: “As Dawn Breaks” by Kate Breslin

Today’s review features a new historical romance from Kate Breslin: As Dawn Breaks. It is a standalone novel, but frequent readers of her other WWI stories will recognize cameos from a few beloved characters!

About the Book
cover of As Dawn Breaks

Amid the Great War in 1918 England, munitions worker Rosalind Graham is desperate to escape the arranged marriage being forced on her by her ruthless guardian and instead follow her own course. When the Chilwell factory explodes, killing hundreds of unidentified workers, Rose realizes the world believes she perished in the disaster. Seizing the chance to escape, she risks all and assumes a new identity, taking a supervisory position in Gretna, Scotland, as Miss Tilly Lockhart.

RAF Captain Alex Baird is returning home to Gretna on a secret mission to uncover the saboteur suspected in the Chilwell explosion, as Gretna’s factory is likely next. Fearing for his family’s safety, he’s also haunted by guilt after failing to protect his brother. Alex is surprised to discover a young woman, Miss Lockhart, renting his boyhood room, but the two eventually bond over their mutual affection for his family–until Alex receives orders to surveil her.

Rose squirms beneath Alex’s scrutiny while she struggles to gain her workers’ respect. But when her deception turns to danger, she and Alex must find a way to put their painful pasts behind them and together try to safeguard the future.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

As Dawn Breaks is an enthralling WWI-era romance from author Kate Breslin. With a setting spanning England and Scotland on the “homefront”, spies and potential sabotage encircle the activities of Alex and Rose as they face secrets and their consequences in many ways. Readers of Breslin’s previous stories will recognize a few key secondary characters of this one, namely Simon and Eve from (a FAV!) High as the Heavens.

The romance in this story is one full of anticipation and a tentative friendship worth the wait. Threads of forgiveness and belonging wind through its progress with an impeccably researched backdrop. Rose is a heroine facing challenges on many fronts, and I love seeing her grow in confidence and bravery — especially when her choice to keep certain secrets complicates her situation further. Alex is an exemplary hero, both in his role in the war and in his tenderness for his family and, eventually, for Rose. He faces lessons in mercy and forgiveness and with Rose’s help, sees his own worth in a different light.

Breslin has tangled QUITE the complicated tale of spies and subterfuge in this story. I am once again impressed with her skill in balancing suspense, real-life events, and a worth-the-wait relationship thread. I was guessing and making note of breadcrumbs along the way, but I was still majorly surprised with the twists and big reveal near the end.

Just a quick tangent: I am SO EXCITED to hear Breslin’s next novel will feature Marcus (Alex and Simon’s MI5 boss) as the next hero!

Thank you to the publisher, Bethany House, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review & Blog Tour: “The Debutante’s Code” by Erica Vetsch

Welcome to my stop on the tour for Erica Vetsch’s new historical mystery series start: The Debutante’s Code, a Thorndike and Swann Regency Mystery! Read on for more about the book, my thoughts, and enter the tour-wide giveaway!

About the Book

Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series

Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn’t spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love. But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They’ve been living double lives as government spies–and they’re only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family’s legacy.

Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spies. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors–not to mention the nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner, who suspects her of a daring theft.

Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents’ last mission?

Best-selling author Erica Vetsch is back with a rollicking, exciting new series destined to be a hit with Regency readers who enjoy a touch of mystery in their love stories. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Anne Perry will love the wit, action, and romance.

Click here to read an excerpt | Goodreads | Amazon

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.

Vetsch is the author of many novellas and novels, including the popular Serendipity & Secrets Regency series and the new Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery series

Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.

Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor), Instagram (@EricaVetsch) and Pinterest (Erica Vetsch).

Review

The Debutante’s Code is an FUN Regency mystery with many twists, turns, colorful characters, and a heroine to root for. As Juliette learns of her parents’ true field of work and her potential for helping solve a mystery she seems to be deeply involved in already, she sees her life in a different light. Her personality is perfectly suited to her role, as well! I appreciate the way Vetsch uses her characters’ place in society to add perspective, especially characters in unconventional situations or out of their comfort zones.

I’m excited that this series is going to focus on the same main characters. I love it when series continue developing a hero and heroine’s relationship, history, and depth through multiple books. Some of my favorites read that way. In this case, the romance is a little less prominent, but I see its foundation and I’m highly anticipating ALL the potential between Juliette and Daniel 🙂 in books to come.

As a fan of Vetsch’s “Serendipity & Secrets” series, I was delighted to see the Duke of Haverly and some people close to him make an appearance in this story! According to Vetsch, we will see more of those characters in the rest of this series.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Click here to enter the giveaway!!!!

Open through December 31, 2021

Review: “When Twilight Breaks” by Sarah Sundin

I’m reviewing a book that’s been on my TBR for too long! When Twilight Breaks by Sarah Sundin has a gorgeous cover and a beautiful story of resilience inside. It was recently a historical romance finalist for the 2021 Christy Awards!

About the Book
cover of when twilight breaks by Sarah Sundin

Evelyn Brand is an American foreign correspondent determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated profession and to expose the growing tyranny in Nazi Germany. To do so, she must walk a thin line. If she offends the government, she could be expelled from the country—or worse. If she does not report truthfully, she’ll betray the oppressed and fail to wake up the folks back home.

Peter Lang is an American graduate student working on his PhD in German. Disillusioned with the chaos in the world due to the Great Depression, he is impressed with the prosperity and order of German society. But when the brutality of the regime hits close, he discovers a far better way to use his contacts within the Nazi party—to feed information to the shrewd reporter he can’t get off his mind.

As the world marches relentlessly toward war, Evelyn and Peter are on a collision course with destiny.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

When Twilight Breaks is now my favorite Sarah Sundin novel! It explores a lesser-written side of pre-WWII Germany from the perspective of two Americans in Munich during pivotal events of 1938.

Evelyn Brand is a strong heroine in character and determination, and I love how the hero, Peter Lang, matches her will and lets her shine. Theirs is a tumultuous relationship in some ways as the events of the Nazis and their restrictions inhibit normalcy and begin to personally infringe upon their world. Important and endearing secondary characters add meaning, intrigue, and wisdom to the plot as the plight of the Jewish people plays a pivotal part in the novel’s themes of justice, truth, and sacrifice.

The romance is a slow-burn in the best way, with a strong friendship becoming a foundation for sacrificial love. Their match is idyllic and complimentary, with each growing to see the worth in the other and each becoming extremely (and swoonily) protective of the other over time. With his steady determination and almost-handsome looks, Peter Lang has worked his way onto my unofficial “bespectacled book boyfriends” list!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “The Curse of Morton Abbey” by Clarissa Harwood

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!

About the Book

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? 

Review

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.

Recommended Reading: Historical Fiction with Gothic and Mystery Elements

Since autumn is my favorite time to read historical fiction that falls in the gothic, mystery, or otherwise atmospheric storytelling category, I thought I would share some recommendations of this kind!

On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor by Jaime Jo Wright | Review

This split time mystery and suspense novel takes readers to a manor on the shores of Lake Superior in contemporary times and the post-Civil War era with a haunted quality and a search for missing treasure.

Lost in Darkness by Michellle Griep | Goodreads

This Regency story combines elements of a Frankenstein-like tale with that of a romance as siblings contend with life-changing choices. I’m currently reading this one — expect a review soon!

A Grave Matter by Anna Lee Huber | Goodreads

The third novel in Huber’s Lady Darby Mystery series, this one finds the heroine and her inquiry agent counterpart contending with folklore and grave robbers in 1830 Scotland.

John Eyre by Mimi Matthews | Review

A retelling of the classic Jane Eyre, this one *slight spoiler* also combines elements of Dracula with a spooky and SMART gender flipped twist like only Matthews could pen.

The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood | Goodreads

This is a Victorian mystery full of suspense and a formidable heroine who comes into her own with agency and an unexpected romance. It considers the scenario of the classic The Secret Garden with grown-up leads and draws out themes of loyalty and sacrifice with some influence by Brontë’s Jane Eyre. (Review coming here on the blog next week!)