Wednesday 30 November 2022

The Secret of Matterdale Hall by Marianne Ratcliffe (2022)



1863, Victorian England.

Susan Mottram lives an idyllic existence until her eighteenth birthday, when her father’s sudden death plunges the family into penury. To support her mother and younger sister, Susan takes employment as a teacher at a remote Yorkshire boarding school, Matterdale Hall, owned by the radical Dr. Claybourn and his penny-pinching wife. Susan soon discovers that all is not as it seems. Why is little Mary so silent? What really happened to Susan’s predecessor? Is anyone safe in the school’s draughty halls?

Through a life-changing meeting with the beautiful and mysterious Cassandra, Susan begins to uncover the truth about Matterdale Hall, and discovers the cruelty, and love, that can lie within the human heart.


 The Secret of Matterdale Hall is a gothic historical novel with LGBTQ characters. Cassandra is also mixed race and deaf.

I felt sorry for Susan the moment she stepped foot into Matterdale Hall. It was clear from the outset that the people there were as dreary and cold, as the building. The only consolation was the children who were very endearing, especially Mary. 

Susan seemed to find plenty to investigate in the beginning. Her impressionable imagination fuelled by her love of gothic novels led to hasty conclusions about Cassandra and the people at Heathersage Manor but fortunately the beginning of a lovely friendship.

There are very few likeable characters aside from Cassandra, Susan and the children which lends itself well to establishing a dark, tense atmosphere. Mr Claybourn is a mad scientist and Mrs Claybourn is miserable and nasty. Add in a missing teacher and the lunatics in Dr Claybourn's asylum and you have the recipe for a dark, mysterious story.

I loved how tense and dramatic it developed towards the end. The true secrets and horrors of Matterdale Hall were revealed after a lot of suspense. The narration is told from both Cassandra's and Susans's points of view at this stage and it was easy to feel their helplessness and worry.

The book may be predictable but it's a lovely and gentle read despite its gothic undertones. The romance is low key which allowed more focus on the plot and drama. A difficult book to put down once started.  

The Secret of Matterdale Hall is out now. Amazon


Monday 21 November 2022

The People Before by Charlotte Northedge, Harper Collins Publishers (2022)


What if your dream house became your worst nightmare?

Jess and her husband need a new start. So when the chance to buy a rambling old house in the Suffolk countryside comes up, they leap at it.

But not everyone in Suffolk is welcoming. The locals know a secret about the Maple House, and soon, Jess realises they’ve made a huge mistake.

Something bad happened in that house. Something nobody wants to talk about.

Something to do with the people before…

Tense and creepy with a few characters who are as odd as the house Pete and Jess have just moved into. Secrets, lies and misunderstandings do not make for good marital relations nor does the stress of moving into a somewhat isolated and dilapidated old house which feels like it could be haunted. And indeed I was expecting a haunting especially as the children seemed to be so sensitive to the atmosphere and people around them.

As the history of the house slowly becomes revealed the tension ratchets up. There is a general sense of threat and menace surrounding the children that Jess and Pete seemed oblivious to and when the story is told from Eve's point of view it becomes clear that the couple is dealing with something extremely nefarious. I had no confidence that they would be able to cope or come out on the winning side.

There are a few twists and turns but no crazy reveals or unnecessary twists at the end. It concludes in a satisfying way with drama and suspense.

The People Before is out now Amazon

Monday 14 November 2022

Never Rescue a Rogue by Virginia Heath (2022)

Virginia Heath’s Never Rescue a Rogue, the next book in the Merriwell Sisters series, is filled with whip-smart banter, swoony romance, hilarious mishaps, and twisty reveals that will make you gasp and laugh in delight.

A hilarious, sparkling historical romantic comedy, with an irresistible family at its heart, perfect for fans of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton and Martha Waters.

he perfect mix of romance and intrigue, and the formidable central couple is sure to win hearts. This is a gem' PUBLISHERS WEEKLY starred review

'Virginia Heath's fun characters and situations will have you laughing out loud! Don't miss this wonderful read!' SABRINA JEFFRIES

'Filled with fabulously British banter, wit, and heart, this delightful book is one of my must-read rom coms of the year' EVIE DUNMORE


Why on earth would she want to kiss him when he vexed her so?

Diana Merriwell and Giles Sinclair only tolerate one another for the sake of their nearest and dearest. Everyone believes that they are meant to be together, but Diana and Giles know that it is animosity, not attraction, that fuels their barbed exchanges. Anyway, Diana loves her freedom too much to give it up for marriage, and Giles is happily wedded to his bachelor lifestyle.

After Giles' curmudgeonly father, the Duke of Harpenden, unexpectedly turns up his toes, it's only a matter of time before the circumstances of his only son's birth are revealed. With the threat of blackmail hanging over him, Giles must uncover the truth, or he and all those who depend on him will be ruined.

As Giles and Diana dive into his family's past, the attraction that they insisted wasn't there proves impossible to ignore. It seems that the future of the Sinclair estate isn't the only thing on the line . . .

A light-hearted and charming historical romantic comedy. This novel's wit and humour abound as Diana and Giles verbally spar with each other from beginning to end. They hide their true feelings behind barbs and sarcastic comments but when push comes to shove they behave like best friends. They confide in each other and go to great lengths to look after each other's welfare.
There are a few amusing scenes where Diana is working as a journalist and Giles insists on being involved in whatever way he can. Of course, she never listens to his advice and this invariably results in all sorts of hilarity as they get caught up in the consequences of her sleuthing.
Giles's complicated family past provides the pair with an urgent mystery to solve as Gile's inheritance, title and freedom are at stake. The clock is ticking if they are to thwart his uncle's claim.
Friendship soon turns to romance as Giles and Diana work together. Diana's family and other side characters such as Dalton add more humour as they are not shy about voicing their opinions on the budding romance.

Never Rescue a Rogue is a lovely read, guaranteed to have you smiling from start to finish.

Never Rescue a Rogue is out now.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Ghost Talker : Madame Chalamet Ghost Mysteries, Volume 1 by Byrd Nash (2022)


Madame Elinor Chalamet battles a ghost in the Beyond.

Trained as a medium by the elite Morpheus Society, Elinor Chalamet uses her skills to aid the police while she hunts for her father’s killer in the coastal city of Alenbonne. But a dead body found in the canal puts her in deep with royal matters. And she might even succeed in solving the mystery if Tristan Fontaine, duke de Archambeau, would stop getting in her way.

The first of a six-part gaslamp fantasy ghost mystery series featuring a strong female character in a slow burn romance.

This novella of about 42,000 words is friendly to ages 16+.


Great fun! A historical murder mystery with ghosts, mediums and magic. 

The main character, Elinor Chalamet, is an independent woman who marches to her own tune and answers to no one. I loved that about her. Elinor's background is very intriguing and we don't learn an awful lot about it but she was trained as a medium, she sees and interacts with ghosts and is trying to solve her father's murder. All this adds up to make a fascinating heroine who has to contend with a very grumpy and reluctant sidekick in the Duke de Archambeau.

Despite his grumpiness, I quite liked him as there is more to him than meets the eye. Much is alluded to but not fully explained....yet. He lives in a house haunted by the spirit of his dead wife whom he claims to have killed. Paranormal activity abounds the more he and Elinor investigate. Elinor's own side business also brings some unwanted ghostly apparitions and these add a whole lot of humour and drama to the story.

Despite the ghosts, hauntings and murder, this is a light read that's very entertaining and difficult to put down. 

Ghost Talker is the first of six novellas and the second one 'Delicious Death' will be published on the 27th of December followed by book three in February 2023.

Find Ghost Talker on Amazon

I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series as it releases.