#BookReview: Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine @ViperBooks #BegarsAbbey #damppebbles

“A dark house filled with darker secrets…

Winter 1954, and in a dilapidated apartment in Brooklyn, Sam Cooper realises that she has nothing left. Her mother is dead, she has no prospects, and she cannot afford the rent. But as she goes through her mother’s things, Sam finds a stack of hidden letters that reveal a family and an inheritance that she never knew she had, three thousand miles away in Yorkshire.

Begars Abbey is a crumbling pile, inhabited only by Lady Cooper, Sam’s ailing grandmother, and a handful of servants. Sam cannot understand why her mother kept its very existence a secret, but her newly discovered diaries offer a glimpse of a young girl growing increasingly terrified. As is Sam herself.

Built on the foundations of an old convent, Begars moves and sings with the biting wind. Her grandmother cannot speak, and a shadowy woman moves along the corridors at night. There are dark places in the hidden tunnels beneath Begars. And they will not give up their secrets easily…

A chilling read that will keep you turning the pages late into the night, Begars Abbey is a must-read for fans of Laura Purcell and W.C. Ryan.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine. Begars Abbey is published by Viper Books today (that’s Thursday 28th April 2022) and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow later this year. I chose to read and review a free ARC of Begars Abbey but that has in no way influenced my review. My grateful thanks to Therese at Viper Books for sending me a proof copy.

Following the death of her mother, Vera, Sam Cooper comes to realise that she has nothing left. She’s barely existing, she has no money and her Brooklyn apartment is crumbling around her. Whilst clearing out her mother’s belongings, Sam discovers a stack of telegrams her mother failed to mention. The telegrams reveal a family and a substantial inheritance several thousand miles away in Yorkshire. Sam is desperate to connect and find out why her mother would rather live in squalor, struggling to put food on the table each day, than ask her family for help. But on arrival in Yorkshire, Sam’s expectations are dashed. Begars Abbey is a crumbling ruin of a house, run by a strange housekeeper and a number of incompetent staff. Sam’s grandmother, Lady Cooper, is wheelchair bound and unable to utter a word after several strokes. There’s something not quite right about the house. So when Sam discovers her mother’s teenage diaries, she’s determined to discover what secrets Begars Abbey holds…

Begars Abbey is a thoroughly enjoyable, dark, chilling gothic mystery. I’ve been living on the edge recently and not reading the blurb of a book before I make a start on it so I went into Begars Abbey almost blind. Yes, it is clear from the cover that it’s a gothic tale but that’s as much as I knew. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that our story starts in Brooklyn in the 1950s! Sam is a fantastic character – well rounded, likeable and quite ballsy, which I really appreciated. I warmed to her instantly, despite the chill of the New York air already giving me goosebumps! I really enjoyed meeting Sam and finding more out about her relationship with her mother.

After a long journey across the Atlantic Ocean Sam’s arrival in England falls flat, with her pre-arranged escort nowhere in sight and the icy bitterness of the Liverpool docks providing the reader with even more chills. But with the help of the family’s solicitor, Alec Bell, Sam is whisked to her ancestral home. The supporting characters in the novel are all well-written and absolutely fascinating. I found Alec to be wonderfully frustrating whilst the eccentric but endlessly loyal Mrs Pritchett was unpredictable and unnerving – superb characterisation.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. If you’re a fan of gothic mysteries, or just well-written mysteries full stop, then I heartily recommend Begars Abbey. Dark, creepy and compelling, I flew through this book in a few short sittings and would gladly read more by this author. Wonderful imagery, marvellous characters and lots of surprises in store for the reader. Recommended.

I chose to read and review a free ARC of Begars Abbey. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Begars Abbey by V.L. Valentine was published in the UK by Viper Books on 28th April 2022 and is available in hardcover and digital formats with the paperback to follow (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

V.L. ValentineV.L. Valentine is a senior science editor at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., where she has led award-winning coverage of global disease outbreaks including Ebola and the Zika virus. She has a master’s in the history of medicine from University College London and her non-fiction work has been published by NPR, The New York Times, The Smithsonian Channel and Science Magazine. The Plague Letters is her first novel.

#BookReview: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia @JoFletcherBooks @QuercusBooks #MexicanGothic #20booksofsummer20 #damppebbles

mexican gothic“The acclaimed author of Gods of Jade and Shadow returns with a mesmerising feminist re-imagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a young socialite discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico.

He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.

When glamorous socialite Noemí Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it’s clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her.

Noemí’s chic gowns and perfect lipstick are more suited to cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing, but she immediately heads to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin.

Tough and smart, she possesses an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerised by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to leave this enigmatic house behind . . .”

Hello and welcome, bookish friends, to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be sharing my seventh 20 Books of Summer review with you, which is for Mexican Gothic by Silvia Morena-Garcia. Now the observant amongst you may be wondering where review number six has gone. Well, I’ll be sharing that on Thursday but seeing as it’s publication day for Mexican Gothic today (which is 30th June 2020 – happy publication day!), it seemed more fitting to share review seven before review six (that, or I’m just trying very hard to confuse myself!). I chose to read and review an eARC of Mexican Gothic but that has in no way influenced my review.

I’ll be completely honest and say that I didn’t know what to expect from Mexican Gothic. I’ve read plenty of gothic novels over the years. They fit quite nicely into my love of dark fiction. But this book is billed as a historical gothic fantasy/romance and, as a reader of predominantly crime with a splash of horror on the side, this book felt a little like an unknown entity to me. I needn’t have worried. Mexican Gothic is a haunting gothic tale which played straight into my love of the horror genre, taking me on a terrifying journey into the very heart of a creepy old mansion and the sinister family who inhabit its walls.

Party girl and socialite Noemí Taboada is reluctant to follow her father’s wishes and visit her recently married cousin, Catalina, at High Place – a decrepit old mansion on the outskirts of a small Mexican village. But Catalina has written such a strange letter, leaving her family in Mexico City concerned for her mental health and well being, that Noemí feels she has no choice but to go — the promise of a place at University to study anthropology made by her father also helps! When Noemí arrives, she meets Catalina’s strange extended family. They’re guarded. She’s an unwelcome guest in their home but she feels something is definitely wrong at High Place. The more time she spends in the house, the more concerned she grows for Catalina and the more desperate she is to leave. But the more Noemí digs into the history of High Place and the Doyle family, the more frightening secrets she discovers…

I loved tenacious, fiery Noemí. She’s one gutsy woman who won’t be put in a box and behave as the era expects of her. She’s forthright, outspoken and determined to discover what is happening to her cousin and why Catalina reports of seeing ghosts. But getting to Catalina for any length of time is a problem as she’s closely guarded by the family and their staff. Other characters in the book (virtually all of the Doyle family actually) made me feel really uncomfortable, which I loved. I felt particular disgust for creepy old Howard Doyle, the family patriarch, his handsome yet utterly repulsive son, Virgil, and Howard’s niece, the detestable Florence. The scenes in the book between Noemí and Virgil are so brilliantly written, they physically made my skin crawl. Florence’s son, Francis, faired a little better. I wanted to know what his secret was though. What was he hiding from Noemí.

It’s very difficult to talk about the plot of Mexican Gothic without revealing a few spoilers so I’m going to say as little as possible about it. The first half of the book, I found a touch slow. But I think that’s quite true of many gothic novels. You need time to get to know the characters and the setting and make that connection. The second half I loved and sped through the story. When the family secret is discovered, the pace really picks up and I struggled to put this book down. It’s so compelling and I was lost in the world of High Place alongside Noemí.

Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. Mexican Gothic is a chilling read and one I heartily recommend. With that stunning cover, a fierce female lead and a story that takes you places you don’t expect, this is a book not to be missed. Despite my initial reservations, I’m glad I read Mexican Gothic and lost myself for a few hours in the dark and dank corridors of High Place. As settings go, it’s going to be one I remember for some time to come. Recommended.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Mexican Gothic. The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia was published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books on 30th June 2020 and is available in hardcover and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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silvia moreno-garciaSilvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of Signal to Noise, named one of the best books of 2015 by BuzzFeed and more; Certain Dark Things, a Publishers Weekly top ten; The Beautiful Ones, a fantasy of manners; and the science fiction novella Prime Meridian. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Born and brought up in Mexico, she now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.