Sunday, December 26, 2021

Review: The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

by Clarissa Harwood
Release Date: October 26, 2021
2021 Thornfield Press
Kindle Edition; 382 Pages
ISBN: 978-1777736927
ASIN: B097Q9TF46
Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Gothic
Source: Review copy from publisher
4 / 5 Stars 

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.

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. itself.  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?
My Thoughts
The Curse of Morton Abbey was a captivating and quick gothic mystery novel that I really needed to read at this point.  Although it had its usual predictable elements you would expect in a gothic novel, the main character was very different, and I liked some of the choices she made.  Definitely not one of your silly maids who does silly things over which you just roll your eyes and shake your head.
Vaughan is a very unconventional heroine, the youngest of five sisters, having to fight for everything she has earned in her life due to the fact she was born with a crippled foot and being put down her entire life for this very reason.  I liked how independent, practical, and daring she was, but she definitely wasn't silly, making good decisions and being very aware of her own personal safety as well as the safety of others.  During this time period, it is very difficult for a woman to make her own way, but Vaughan was determined to become a woman solicitor; her reasons were not always altruistic though, as she did want to avoid living with her overbearing mother and sisters.  However, it did make you empathize with her plight and root for her all the way.
Out of all the characters though, Nick was probably my favourite as he definitely had the most depth as well the greatest character development.  Every time we met him, more layers were added to his personality, something I really enjoyed, and I never knew what to expect from him.  Yes, he was mercurial, but I spent a lot of time speculating as to his reasons why he was so changeable and was really drawn to his character.  To be honest, I really felt like the author spent so much time developing Vaughan and Nick that the rest of the characters kind of paled in comparison and their characters did not develop in the same way, something that would have added some depth, and some mystery, to this book.

The plot itself definitely has the gothic elements: the atmosphere is creepy; the house is haunted, with all the elements you would expect in a creepy, old house; there is a mystery to solve; there is the mysterious benefactor; there are characters with secrets; and of course, there are the things that go bump in the night.  Personally, I didn't really feel the book was spooky, but I always love the big, old house trope and get hooked on things like that.  The writing is solid, and there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested, even if some of them were predictable.  I did think some things went a bit too far towards the end, and some things were not satisfactorily explained, even to the point of being improbable and forced.  While there were some things about the ending I liked, there were definitely some things that were not explained, at least not adequately. And the curse? Not sure why that was the title of the book.

The Curse of Morton Abbey was a fun book to read, and while somewhat predictable, kept me entertained nonetheless.  The two main characters were very well developed, but I wish the author had developed the rest of the characters as well as it would have increased the tension as well as filled in some of the missing information that left the ending feeling a bit inadequate.  Highly recommend if you enjoy Gothic mysteries with a strong female lead and well-developed main characters.