The Room in the Attic

By Louise Douglas

A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, who the staff name Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

Note – Thanks to Netgalley and Boldwood Books for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This book opens with a BANG! It’s got a scary opening hook that draws you in immediately and doesn’t really let go until the very end. 

As a lover of gothic ghost stories, this one is pretty good. Told in dual time, the author starts in the present, then flips back and forth between 1993 and 1903 unraveling the mystery of a young woman and child washed up on the shore and brought to All Hallows Asylum/Boarding School. 

It’s 1993 and Lewis Tyler is a young teenage boy still mourning the loss of his mother when his father, an emotionally challenged man, and his new wife decide to send Lewis to All Hallows Boarding School in the hopes of turning him from his goth ways. So, right off the bat, we’re emotionally involved. Lewis is rejected, unwanted and discarded. Once at school, he meets up with Isak, another rejected teenage boy, and together they begin to weather the hauntings of All Hallows. 

Then we go back in time to 1903 where the mystery begins with the arrival of a young woman and small child at All Hallows back when it was used as an asylum. We meet Nurse Emma Everdene who assumes care of the child and becomes very attached to her. In order to keep the child safe from other asylum inmates, Emma and the child, Harriet, are kept sequestered in an attic room directly above where Lewis and Isak’s room is. As Emma’s own story unfolds, we discover she also is an outcast, thrown away by her parents at a time when “unruly, free-thinking” women were put in asylums as punishment until they learned to be respectable. 

The story leads us to events that took place on Boxing Day 1903 which results in a skeleton Lewis finds on the grounds in 1993. Lewis and Isak take to solving the mystery as they make an attempt to change the past. 

Several themes are going on here. The first is abandonment with the main characters of Lewis, Isak and Emma all being abandoned by their parents in one form or another. Individuality is another theme. Back in 1903, patients were brought in and those with their faculties were quickly stripped of them, along with their hair, clothes and anything else that defined them. The same happened to Lewis in 1993. He arrives fully in goth gear where quick judgments are made against him. He is forced to discard his goth attire and given a uniform while his hair is cut short, stripping away his own identity. Grief is another theme. Both Lewis and Isak have lost their mums unexpectedly. Emma lost her child. All parties are struggling to recover. Last is the theme of isolation and the result it can have on a sane mind. Douglas explores this fully with the character of Emma as she and Harriet are isolated from the rest of the asylum and how that thwarts and plays with her definition of reality. I really love how the author writes these as history repeating itself. It’s almost like it’s an effect of being at All Hallows. 

The scare factor is decent. After the opening scare, it’s not a huge theme nor are there a lot of jump scares but there is a creepiness steeped deep in the story and its eeriness is enough to leave you sleeping with the lights on. The story does slow up but only in a few places and it doesn’t last long. I was concerned about that since there’s 100 chapters to this book. 

Overall, I’d recommend it as a good Halloween read. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost

By Lindsay Marcott

Jane has lost everything: job, mother, relationship, even her home. A friend calls to offer an unusual deal—a cottage above the crashing surf of Big Sur on the estate of his employer, Evan Rochester. In return, Jane will tutor his teenage daughter. She accepts.

But nothing is quite as it seems at the Rochester estate. Though he’s been accused of murdering his glamorous and troubled wife, Evan Rochester insists she drowned herself. Jane is skeptical, but she still finds herself falling for the brilliant and secretive entrepreneur and growing close to his daughter.

And yet her deepening feelings for Evan can’t disguise dark suspicions aroused when a ghostly presence repeatedly appears in the night’s mist and fog. Jane embarks on an intense search for answers and uncovers evidence that soon puts Evan’s innocence into question. She’s determined to discover what really happened that fateful night, but what will the truth cost her? 

Right off the bat, while I know this book was being promoted as a Jane Eyre retelling, I honestly felt it  paid a significant amount of homage to Rebecca. So much so that I often had to think of which story was being retold. If the author’s intent was a Jane Eyre retelling, then this book, while really good, falls short. Same for a Rebecca retelling. However, if Lindsay Mancott’s idea was to marry the store stories into one solid retelling, then she succeeded. 

Mrs. Rochesters Ghost has all the elements of a creepy, eerie novel; mansion, seaside cottage, fog, old tower, secrets, tragic history and a whole bunch of unanswered questions which unravel themselves as the story goes on. The author seemed to know exactly which scare buttons to push using just the right amount of fright-factor pressure to set my teeth on edge. I, myself, felt like I was being watched in the same way Jane did. 

Lindsay Marcott also did a great job of getting inside of Beatrice’s head. We see her hallucinations, her downward spiral and even her severe and violent manic moments all through her eyes which was something I hadn’t come in contact with before in a novel, certainly not to this degree. I couldn’t tell which was more disturbing; the idea of her ghost hanging around the house or being inside her mind. Truly well done. 

The main character of Jane isn’t written as a strong woman but more of a loner who really isn’t sure of her life. I think this is why I liken this more to Rebecca than Jane Eyre. The character of Jane Eyre was a solidly strong woman who knew exactly who she was. Rebecca was more of a wandering soul and a little closer to the character of Jane. I did like Jane, however, and I felt empathy for her situation which lead her to Thorn Bluffs. 

The whole who-dun-it was also nicely done as initially, I really couldn’t sort out if Evan was the good guy or if Rick was. I love a novel that keeps me guessing (even though in this instance, with this being a retelling, I sorta already knew). 

A few oddball characters for me…Otis. I really didn’t believe he was a lifetime long friend of Jane. Their conversations were odd and seemed contrived at times. I had no emotional attachment to him at all. Same with Sophia. Sweet girl. Nice character but I really didn’t care much about her.

Characters I did connect with were Jane, of course, and Evan. His swirling around trying to make deals, deals with the fallout of Beatrice while trying to keep his own sanity made him likeable and unlikeable all in one. I like a character that keeps me guessing. However, I have to say it again, what wound up happening to him at the end was more reminiscent of Rebecca than Jane Eyre. 

Overall, I think this was an enjoyable read. Great mystery. Good characters and a decent level of suspense and haunting themes. I would recommend this book. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐