AUTHOR: Jess Armstrong

GENRE: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Gothic

AGE: Adult


After the Great War, American heiress Ruby Vaughn made a life for herself running a rare bookstore alongside her octogenarian employer and house mate in Exeter. She’s always avoided dwelling on the past, even before the war, but it always has a way of finding her. When Ruby is forced to deliver a box of books to a folk healer living deep in the Cornish countryside, she is brought back to the one place she swore she’d never return. A more sensible soul would have delivered the package and left without rehashing old wounds. But no one has ever accused Ruby of being sensible. Thus begins her visit to Penryth Hall.

A foreboding fortress, Penryth Hall is home to Ruby’s once dearest friend, Tamsyn, and her husband, Sir Edward Chenowyth. It’s an unsettling place, and after a more unsettling evening, Ruby is eager to depart. But her plans change when Penryth’s bells ring for the first time in thirty years. Edward is dead; he met a gruesome end in the orchard, and with his death brings whispers of a returned curse. It also brings Ruan Kivell, the person whose books brought her to Cornwall, the one the locals call a Pellar, the man they believe can break the curse. Ruby doesn’t believe in curses—or Pellars—but this is Cornwall and to these villagers the curse is anything but lore, and they believe it will soon claim its next victim: Tamsyn.

To protect her friend, Ruby must work alongside the Pellar to find out what really happened in the orchard that night.

Thank you so much to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an e-arc of this book!

I was SO EXCITED to dig into this book. It promised all sorts of goodies…and it delivered! Imagine me cheering right now, because man oh man did it DELIVER. It was everything I could have wanted and then some!

Despite it taking place in 1922, there are a lot of moments I think people will still find relatable. Ruby is a wonderful main character, and I adored her. She was witty and delightful, but she also wasn’t a total damsel in distress. Honestly, I thought she was hilarious.

I also very much enjoyed the atmosphere of this book. It was creepy and mysterious and you wondered what was going on. This book toes the magical and realistic aspects, but does it in a way that is utterly and totally believable.

This reminded me very much of an Agatha Christie murder mystery, but it had that magical aspect which I also adored. This was a great book, and I enjoyed all the other characters as well.

Ruan and Ruby had such a great chemistry with each other, I had a few moments that I laughed, and others where I was like “WHAT” and honestly it was the best. Absolutely enjoyed every minute of the banter between them.

Mysterious, gothic, creepy and atmospheric, this book hit all the right notes for me.