I’m a picky reader. If a novel hasn’t grabbed me in the first few chapters – well, really in the first chapter, to be honest – it’s likely I won’t finish it. I do like writing that flows, that pulls me along through the story. Basically, I want to be entertained, to be along for the ride on a great literary adventure. If the story uses too many worn tropes (situations, characters or plots that have already been done many times) without adding a fresh perspective, or the characters behave in ways that don’t make much sense just to further the plot, or the writing just doesn’t ring true, the novel gets covered in dust (literal or figurative) on a shelf (or Kindle library).
Between that disposition and the amount of time I put into my own writing, I haven’t read much new material in months.
But recently I was browsing an article about historical-themed novels soon to be published, and a couple of them caught my eye.
One is titled The London Séance Society, by Sarah Penner. Here’s the blurb on the Amazon site:
“1873. At an abandoned château on the outskirts of Paris, a dark séance is about to take place, led by acclaimed spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire. Known worldwide for her talent in conjuring the spirits of murder victims to ascertain the identities of the people who killed them, she is highly sought after by widows and investigators alike.
Lenna Wickes has come to Paris to find answers about her sister’s death, but to do so, she must embrace the unknown and overcome her own logic-driven bias against the occult. When Vaudeline is beckoned to England to solve a high-profile murder, Lenna accompanies her as an understudy. But as the women team up with the powerful men of London’s exclusive Séance Society to solve the mystery, they begin to suspect that they are not merely out to solve a crime, but perhaps entangled in one themselves…”
Victorian spirituality has always been fascinating. Something about the murkiness of the era, filled with notorious serial killers, old dark cobbled streets, and conflicted morality, just begged for quests into mysticism and the supernatural. And many people of the time fell into it. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of one of the most logical detectives in literary history, paradoxically became a leading proponent of spiritualism, often thought to have been spurred by a wish to communicate with the son he lost in World War I. But apparently his interest manifested many years before that, and sadly he was an easy victim of the famous Cottingley fairies hoax. If you’d like to read more about Conan Doyle’s adventures in spiritualism, check out this section of the Conan Doyle Estate website.
I haven’t read anything of Penner’s before, so I did a ‘Look Inside’ her first novel, The Lost Apothecary. She writes very well, very atmospherically, but the book is pricey even in Kindle format, so I think I’ll save my money for her next book and a plot that’s right up my alley – mystery and occult in one package.
The other novel I’m looking forward to is titled The Last Heir to Blackwood Library, by Hester Fox. I have read partially through one of her novels, A Lullaby for Witches, which I enjoyed but haven’t had a chance to finish. This new book’s blurb on Amazon is:
“In post–World War I England, a young woman inherits a mysterious library and must untangle its powerful secrets…
With the stroke of a pen, twenty-three-year-old Ivy Radcliffe becomes Lady Hayworth, owner of a sprawling estate on the Yorkshire moors. Ivy has never heard of Blackwood Abbey, or of the ancient bloodline from which she’s descended. With nothing to keep her in London since losing her brother in the Great War, she warily makes her way to her new home.
The abbey is foreboding, the servants reserved and suspicious. But there is a treasure waiting behind locked doors: a magnificent library. Despite cryptic warnings from the staff, Ivy feels irresistibly drawn to its dusty shelves, where familiar works mingle with strange, esoteric texts. And she senses something else in the library too, a presence that seems to have a will of its own.
Rumors swirl in the village about the abbey’s previous owners, about ghosts and curses, and an enigmatic manuscript at the center of it all. And as events grow more sinister, it will be up to Ivy to uncover the library’s mysteries in order to reclaim her own story—before it vanishes forever.”
A mysterious library with strange things lurking in it? Very cool. (if I make a boat-load of money from my novels, you never know, I plan to build my and hubby’s dream home out in the country with great views, no noisy neighbours, and a dedicated Library room with comfy chairs by a multi-paned window to catch up on all my reading.)
If you’re into the same sorts of tales that I am, filled with foggy/shadowy atmosphere and intriguing possibilities, you may want to check out these new books when they’re available. I’ll read them and post reviews. In future posts, I’ll also share my thoughts on my favourite books, in case you need to discover their authors for yourself.
Cheers, and happy reading!