Friday, February 24, 2023

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden


This book hit me right at the perfect time. I was having a bit of reading fatigue this week and thought it was a good time to read the e-arc of this gothic novel (thank you Penguin Random House!). It was the perfect antidote to my reading blahs. 

It's 1852 and Margaret Lennox is recently widowed and broke. She's accepted a governess position for a young boy at Hartwood Hall, far away from London. Margaret arrives, and of course this place is massive, set all alone past the creepy dark woods in the English countryside. 

Young Louis is a sweet boy, and Margaret immediately connects to him. If only the Hall wasn't so big, and if only there weren't weird things happening. The villagers won't go near the Hall, and Louis and his mother, Mrs. Eversham aren't welcome there. Superstitious villagers are convinced she's a witch and the Hall is haunted. 

Margaret's terrible marriage still weighs on her mind, and she's convinced she somehow killed her husband. Susan, one of the hired help, is always watching Margaret, and it's pretty clear she's spying on everyone and gathering information to blackmail not only Margaret, but the whole staff. She's a nasty piece of work. 

I went into this novel not knowing much at all about it, and went along for the ride. I couldn't put it down and the plot kept ramping up just enough to keep me in it. Margaret was a pretty decent character, but I was a bit annoyed at her relationship with Paul the gardener.  I get why she made her decision, but I felt it was a bit cold, too. I just felt the relationship was a bit clunky in some spots. I liked all the characters and how Margaret's relationships with all of them evolved. 

One thing I would have liked is an epilogue to see where the characters were a year later. Otherwise, a solid story that I enjoyed quite a bit. 

Rating: 4/6 for a gothic tale with tones of Jane Eyre (the book features in the plot), strong female characters, and families can be shaped by circumstance, friendship, and love. 

Thank you to NetGalley for a review ARC and Penguin Random House for the chance to read and review this novel. It will be out in hardcover in the U.S. on Tuesday, February 28th. Also will be available in ebook and audio. 

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