My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Though I adored the movie Sense and Sensibility, I can’t proclaim to be a voracious reader of Jane Austen type books. However, I LOVED this Victorian ghost story!
Taking place in 1887 in the English countryside, the story begins when 26 year-old Mary Trentwood watches her father’s ghost climb out of his freshly dug grave and begin to boss her around like he did in his living form. Not only is Mary dealing with this frightening predicament, but also the only family member she has to help her with the failing estate is her cold aunt Mrs. Durham.
Soon after Mr. Trentwood’s death, Alexander Hartwell, a mysterious man with a scarred face and brusque personality, visits the estate. At first Mary believes he is her father’s dreaded solicitor but then it leaks out that Alexander is on a hunt for his sister’s blackmailer who is threatening the life of his young nephew. Might the blackmailer be living at the manor? Complicating factors is the arrival of Jasper Steele, a London hottie that Mary still swoons for despite her father’s clear disapproval.
My favorite part of this story is the characterization. These characters feel very real, full of calculation and doubts and flaws and genuine emotion. Mary Trentwood is a plucky, independent, slightly off-kilter lass who’d be just as content to rescue the hero as be rescued herself. Belinda Kroll paces the building relationship between Mary and Alexander just right, with Jasper’s butting in providing the perfect foil. It is such a wise choice to make Alexander scarred, and I enjoyed the intrigue of how he got the scar. Handsome yet caddish Jasper totally reminds me of one of my favorite characters from Sense and Sensibility: Willoughby. Mr. Trentwood starts off as a smug jerk but then it becomes clear how much he loves his daughter and is only trying to do what “father knows best”. Even the funny butler Pomeroy has depth.
Because of the restrained playfulness of the dialogue, I didn’t realize the true danger from the blackmailer until the threat suddenly springs to the forefront of the story. I rarely figure out the bad guy ahead of time in mysteries, and this story kept me in appropriate suspense.
This was a very fresh take on the familiar elements of paranormal phenomena, romantic triangles, and English society. Haunting Miss Trentwood kept me on my toes with a faint grin on my face. It is quite a pleasurable read!
Belinda Kroll and I are both authors in Columbus, Ohio, and I had the pleasure of meeting her. I was very impressed by her writing accomplishments at a relatively young age, and I look forward to reading her future novels!
Stay tuned for my interview with Belinda on Friday.