The Ghosts of Kerfol by Deborah Noyes

The Ghosts of Kerfol is a wonderful collection of five interlocking ghost stories inspired by Edith Wharton’s ghost story Kerfol. In her classic tale of thrill and suspense, Edith Wharton narrates the story of Anne de Barrigan, who married Yves de Cornault, the lord of the Kerfol estate. As Yves de Cornault is found dead, seemingly attacked by a pack of dogs, Anne de Barrigan is sentenced of murdering her husband. But here’s the peculiar thing: there were no dogs at Kerfol the day the lord was murdered – at least no living dogs!

I must admit that I have not read Edith Wharton’s ghost story yet, but now that I’ve read and enjoyed The Ghosts of Kerfol, I want to learn more about the original Kerfol. I really absorbed every page of Deborah Noyes’s remarkable collection and I have been haunted by the characters in my sleep (I am serious – after reading some of the ghost stories, I went to sleep and dreamed of Kerfol and its dark secrets). But now let’s have a look at these powerful tales of revenge:

Hunger Moon (set in 1613) is the first ghost story and it’s my favorite one as it revolves around Anne de Barrigan and her husband Yves de Cornault. The story pays tribute to Edith Wharton’s Kerfol and it is told from Perrette’s perspective. Perrette is Anne’s new chambermaid and she witnesses all the strange and frightening events that take place at Kerfol. The young girl is a very likeable character who carefully observes the relationship between Anne and her husband Yves. Perrette immediately perceives that Anne seems very unhappy and lonely at Kerfol and that she doesn’t have any freedom, as her husband is a very ruthless and dominant man. Although he overwhelms her with the most expensive and exquisite gifts, Yves can’t fill Anne’s emptiness and make her happy. But one day, he manages to at least bring some joy to Anne by giving her a little dog. Perrette is glad to see her Milady smile and rejoice for once. However, her happiness is short-lived, as one day, her precious dog is found dead on her pillow, killed with a sapphire and diamond necklace, one of Yves’s gifts to Anne. Everyone at Kerfol supposes that Anne’s jealous husband is behind this dreadful deed. He must have learned that Anne has befriended a young nobleman named Hervé de Lanrivain and as an act of revenge, he killed Anne’s little dog. Other dogs follow, since Anne brings in a new dog every time the previous one is found dead on her pillow, killed exactly as the first dog. A year after the first dog was brought to Kerfol, Yves de Cornault is found dead on the stairs, apparently killed by a brutal pack of dogs. Anne is immediately convicted of murdering her husband, but since the judges disagree with each other, Anne is released into the care of Yves’s relatives, who imprison her in the tower of Kerfol where she dies years later. The judges failed to understand how it was possible that some savage dogs attacked the elderly lord, when there were no living dogs at Kerfol that day. Only Anne’s dead dogs were there, her beloved dogs that were strangled and buried one by one by her violent husband.

The following ghost stories These Heads Would Speak (set in 1802), The Figure Under the Sheet (set in 1926), When I Love You Best (set in 1982) and The Red of Berries (set in 2006) slip forward in time, giving the reader a glimpse into the lives of troubled characters. The stories feature a young and confused artist, a party girl who drowns her sorrows in alcohol, an unhappy young American couple and a deaf gardener who cares for the Kerfol estate. All these people have something in common, as they are plagued and haunted by the ghosts of Kerfol. Anne’s dead dogs torment and rip apart each of these souls and they don’t spare anyone, as they have come to take revenge!

The Ghosts of Kerfol is an absorbing collection of ghost stories that will make your flesh creep and that will leave you hungry for more. The talented Deborah Noyes does a great job creating a dark and sinister atmosphere by using gothic elements and she skilfully portrays a sombre world full of secrets, intrigues and mysteries. I truly loved this book and I highly recommend it to everyone who loves ghost stories and who is a fan of Gothic Literature. These haunting tales will linger in your mind for a long time and you will want to read other works by Deborah Noyes. I just wished that these ghost stories were longer and not so short because I longed for more! Luckily, the author has a promising upcoming novel, Captivity, and you can find out more about it here.

Note: The author kindly sent me a copy of her fascinating book and I would like to thank her for that!

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The Séance by John Harwood

The Séance by John Harwood

Constance Langton’s childhood takes an unhappy turn when her younger sister Alma dies at the age of two. Her mother goes into mourning and hardly speaks to anybody, and her distant father ignores her and eventually abandons the family. Since she feels unloved and neglected by her parents, Constance begins to think that she might have been a foundling. However, her questions remain unanswered because the girl has no one to confide in. She often feels alone and she can’t bear to see her mother so unhappy, therefore, Constance wants to find a way to cheer her mother up and to put an end to her pain. Thus, one day, Constance pretends to be taken over by Alma’s spirit and tells her mother that she is in heaven. The girl thinks that her mother will finally be able to go on with her life and to stop mourning, now that she knows that Alma is in heaven. Constance’s mother, however, seems to become obsessed with the idea of hearing Alma. Thus, the two attend a series of séances where Constance continues to pretend to be her sister. Her mother seems to be happy and she even smiles sometimes, but she is no longer content with only hearing Alma; she also wants to see and hold her. In desperation, Constance decides to take her mother to a séance held by a group of charlatans. There, her mother is convinced that she has really seen her beloved Alma and after all these years of grief, she finally seems to have found peace. But when Constance’s mother commits suicide after this event, the girl is shattered and she begins to blame herself for her mother’s death. Since her mother is gone, Constance is all by her self and she feels hopeless and lonelier than ever. Much to her surprise, Constance soon learns that a distant relative has bequeathed her entire estate to her. The protagonist finds out that the estate consists of Wraxford Hall, a derelict manor house in the English countryside. The decaying mansion has an obscure reputation: once, people have mysteriously disappeared there and other sinister things have taken place. Still, Constance doesn’t seem to be deterred by Wraxford Hall’s sombre history. She is determined to find out everything about the decaying mansion and about her distant relatives in the hope that she will learn more about herself. While she tries to unveil the dark secrets of Wraxford Hall, she becomes more and more convinced that she has indeed been a foundling, as she feels a strong connection to Wraxford Hall’s former residents. As the protagonist digs deeper into the mysterious events surrounding the decaying mansion, she finds herself entangled in a web of secrets, lies and deception. Thus, Constance needs to be careful, as in this world of illusion, nothing is quite as it seems and hidden dangers await her.

The Séance is an accomplished second novel from a very talented author; this compelling tale pays homage to Victorian Literature and to Victorian ghost stories. John Harwood has created a captivating world of intrigues, mysteries and dark secrets. The reader will enjoy this suspenseful ghost story, as the author has successfully managed to capture the language and spirit of the Victorian period and in addition, he has provided us with a well-constructed plot and fascinating characters. The Séance will appeal to readers who enjoy Victorian ghost stories and gothic tales and I recommend this novel to everyone who is interested in the Victorian Era. I am a huge fan of Victorian ghost stories, thus I must say that I loved this spellbinding tale! I really liked reading about Wraxford Hall, with its secret passages and hidden chambers, and I loved how the author has used the elements of a classic ghost story in this engaging novel (haunted houses, stormy nights, skeletons in the closet, dark mysteries and secrets, etc.). All in all, The Séance is a terrific Victorian ghost story and therefore, a must read for ghost story lovers!

I would like to thank Mariner Books for sending me a copy of this engaging novel!

 

The Ghost Writer

As you all know, I decided to read The Ghost Writer by John Harwood for the R.I.P. IV Challenge. I discovered this book at Melody’s lovely blog, Melody’s Reading Corner, and I couldn’t wait to read it!

Young Gerard lives with his overprotective mother and his reticent father in a small Australian town. He doesn’t have any friends and his parents are very strict. His life is uneventful, thus, one day, he decides to sneak into his mother’s bedroom. There, he makes a mysterious discovery as he finds a strange photograph of a beautiful woman and a manuscript in his mother’s cupboard. However, Gerard cannot enjoy his discoveries, since his mother enters the room and beats him up for invading her privacy.

When he wants to find out more about the mysterious photograph, he realizes that his secretive mother has something to hide. He senses that the photograph must have some connection to his mother’s past, but she won’t tell him any further details. All he knows is that his mother grew up in England and that she lived with her grandmother at a grand country estate called Staplefield.

Gerard often thinks about the mysterious photograph and about Staplefield, but he can’t tell anybody about it, since he has no friends. Therefore, he is very happy when he begins a pen-friendship with an English girl named Alice. She is an orphan girl who is restricted to a wheelchair after a terrible car accident. She doesn’t want to talk about her past and Gerard agrees not to ask any further questions. Finally, Gerard has found someone to confide in; he can tell her everything and share his ideas and feelings with her.

Over the next couple of years, they frequently write to each other and their letters become very passionate. Gerard and Alice realize that they have fallen in love with each other and Gerard can’t wait to see his beloved. Thus, he plans to visit Alice in England, but she doesn’t know about his intention. All she knows is that Gerard wants to find out more about his mother’s past while he is in England. Unfortunately, he cannot see Alice during his stay, so he disappointedly returns to Australia.

After his mother’s death, Gerard leaves his home and heads for England. This time, he hopes he can finally meet Alice and be with her. He also hopes to find out about Staplefield and the mystifying photograph and thus solve the mysteries behind his mother’s past.

John Harwood does a brilliant job embedding a few Victorian ghost stories within Gerard’s suspenseful story and the reader soon realizes that these stories are somehow connected to Gerard’s mother. But how are they connected? And what does Alice have to do with these spooky stories? What does she have to hide, anyway?

Well, you’ll have to read this superb book to find out. You won’t regret it, as this novel is truly a masterpiece and a tribute to gothic literature! I recommend this book to everyone out there, since The Ghost Writer tells a story full of hidden secrets, mysteries, intrigues and deception. This novel is an astounding piece of work and a terrific ghost story! I just couldn’t put this book down and was eager to find out how it will end. I loved everything about this captivating novel, especially the stories within the story. The Ghost Writer will remind you of The Turn of the Screw and other Victorian ghost stories and it will linger in your mind for a long time!

The Ghost Writer is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I am looking forward to reading other John Harwood novels in the future.

I would like to thank Brittany Edwards from Harcourt Trade Publishers for sending me a copy of this engaging book!

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre

Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books, so when I heard of Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange, I knew that I would have to read this book, especially since I also love gothic stories!

Danielle Jackson from Sourcebooks kindly sent me a copy of this engaging book and I must say that I really enjoyed reading it!

Amanda Grange’s Mr. Darcy, Vampyre begins with the marriage of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy; it is a wonderful October day and Elizabeth believes that she is the happiest woman in England. She can’t wait to become Darcy’s wife and spend the rest of her life with the man she loves. However, Elizabeth doesn’t know that her life will take a dangerous and unexpected turn, just after the wedding.

While embarking on their wedding tour throughout Europe, Elizabeth notices some strange changes in her husband’s behaviour. Darcy seems to be reserved and gloomy, instead of being happy and excited. Moreover, he is refraining from any physical affection, and Elizabeth begins to wonder if she is responsible for his retention. She even begins to think that Darcy might regret their marriage, especially since his relatives were not pleased with their union. However, when she confronts Darcy, he denies all of it and assures her that everything is perfect.

As they travel to wonderful places such as Paris and Venice, strange things begin to happen and Elizabeth cannot enjoy her wedding tour. Darcy’s relations and friends seem just as odd as his own behaviour and Elizabeth is only comforted by the thought of her beloved sister Jane. She writes to her sister, relating the peculiar events that have taken place so far. Elizabeth tells her sister about Darcy’s unnatural behaviour, about her horrifying nightmares and about the sinister places she has seen.

 

While the newlyweds reside at an old, crumbling castle, an axe displayed above a doorway mysteriously falls, missing Darcy only by inches. This incident is seen as a sign, an omen, meaning that Elizabeth will cause Darcy’s death. Other strange events take place and Darcy seems even more aloof and gloomy. That’s when Elizabeth decides to leave Darcy and return to England. She is convinced that Darcy doesn’t love her and that he regrets their marriage; however, what she doesn’t know is the fact that she is in great danger.

Will Darcy be able to rescue his wife and finally tell her his dark secret? And how will Elizabeth react to his disclosure?

If you want to find out if their love is strong enough to overcome everything, then you’ll have to read this captivating Pride and Prejudice sequel! I really liked this book, since it is such a suspenseful story, full of gothic elements, dark secrets and danger! Bestselling author Amanda Grange has done an excellent job creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere throughout the story and I truly recommend this book to everyone out there who loves gothic stories and Pride and Prejudice!