The more I read, the more I realize I’m unable to enjoy a story if it’s written poorly. While a good plot is often crucial, if an author tanks the execution, then it’s game over for me. I’ll review it anyway, but it’ll earn a low score.
In The Curse of Morton Abbey, Harwood pairs up an interesting story with a great writing style – win/win!
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?
Gothic, historical fiction
Cover: Yes! It has a hint of creepiness, and it fits with the theme.
- Vaughan Springthorpe is a solicitor. So far, so good, but we’re in England, it’s the end of the nineteenth century, and women just don’t do legal work. They’re supposed to stand there, be pretty, and snatch a rich husband while in their prime. Vaughan has other ideas, however. Strong-willed and with a unique voice that rings true through the entire book, she is determined to complete the task Mr. Spencer assigned her.
- I like the red herring—no, I’m not going to tell you what it is—because of the placement and the clever way it disguises the truth. That’s what red herrings are for, you’d say. Sure. The point is not the RH per se. The point is about handling it, and Harwood does a good job with that.
- As I was saying, the writing style is on point! This is not a given, so I have to tip my hat at Harwood.
- The first POV works great here, and the fact that there are no other POVs (omg yes) adds to the story. The plot itself is complex and interesting, even if some details puzzle me. A good editing helps bring The Curse of Morton Abbey to life.
- The cast of characters is not that strong. I feel like Harwood concentrated on Vaughan and Nick for the most part, and some of the secondary characters suffered because of it. Also, there are some logical flaws here and there. Nothing big, but all this prevents me from giving The Curse of Morton Abbey five stars.
4 stars on GR.