The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood — Book Review
From the desk of Syrie James
I was intrigued by the premise of The Curse of Morton Abbey, a novel which is described as “Jane Eyre meets The Secret Garden in a gothic novel of romantic suspense set in 1890s Yorkshire.” As a huge fan of both of those classic novels and All Things English and 19th century, I couldn’t wait to see what author Clarissa Harwood had in store for me.
Vaughan Springthorpe, 28, is an unconventional heroine. Trained by her lawyer father, she dreams of becoming a solicitor herself, which is almost unheard of for a woman at the time. Despite a physical disability and her family’s insistence that she is unattractive, unemployable, and unmarriageable, Vaughan bravely sets out to make her own way in the world.
Vaughan lands a job at Morton Abbey, hired to organize the estate’s papers so that absent owner Sir Peter Spencer can sell the property. The job seems too good to be true, and perhaps it is, for from the moment she arrives, strange things begin to happen—and it seems that someone is trying to drive her away.
Morton Abbey is an eerie manor home with only a few servants to keep it going, and only one family member in residence—a reclusive, apparently ailing brother, Nick Spencer, who keeps to his rooms and is considered mad (an adult version of the sickly Colin in Secret Garden). Vaughan is drawn to the cheerful gardener, Joe Dixon (imagine Secret Garden’s Dickon all grown up), who seems equally interested in her … but is he all that he appears?
There’s an unseen child who weeps through the walls (echoes of the secret in the attic in Jane Eyre?), the nearby village of Netherton seems odd (could it be that the picturesque houses and perfect-looking families hide dark secrets?) and Vaughan has other creepy experiences which indicate something is amiss.
There are plenty of surprising plot twists and turns in The Curse of Morton Abbey that kept me on the edge of my seat, and a refreshing bit of clean romance as well. In the beginning, Vaughan was a bit too aggressive for me, but I enjoyed watching her grow and change and the positive effect she had on the people she met, especially the way she drew Nick out of his shell. I found the ending to be abrupt, and I wish the curse had been interwoven more into the story. But despite these quibbles, I loved this book which reminded me in many ways of the novels of Victoria Holt, another author whose work I admire.
With its mysterious house setting, atmospheric tone, strong, unique heroine, and intriguing story, The Curse of Morton Abbey is a delightful, page-turning tale of Victorian Gothic mystery and suspense that I devoured from start to finish. 5 stars!
- Title: The Curse of Morton Abbey
- Author: Clarissa Harwood
- Genre: Gothic Romance
- Length: (361) pages
- Format: Paperback, eBook
- ASIN: B097Q9TF46
PURCHASE LINKS available at Clarissa’s website.
Clarissa Harwood is the author of three historical novels. Publishers Weekly called her first novel, Impossible Saints, “a rich debut. . . . With insight and sensitivity, Harwood explores century-old social mores and challenges that still echo loudly today.” Her second novel, Bear No Malice, won the Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society and was called “a smart and highly civilized tale about love, temptation, and second chances” by Kirkus Reviews. Clarissa holds a PhD in English Literature with a specialization in nineteenth-century British Literature and has taught university literature and writing courses for more than twenty years. Born and raised on the Canadian prairies, she currently lives in Ontario with her husband and three cats.
Are you intrigued by this review to read The Curse of Morton Abbey? Are you a fan of Gothic romantic suspense? What are your favorite novels in the genre? I’d love to hear from you!
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