Category Archives: Gothic

Release Day Review- Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon a River

Title: Once Upon a River
Genre: Historical Fiction/Gothic/Fantasy
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Atria,Simon and Schuster Digital, Dec. 4, 2018
Source: Free for review from the publisher
Pages: 480
Rating: 5
Sexy Rating: 5
Violence Rating: 5
Description from
On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.
Infused with the lyrical prose of Diane Setterfield, this mysterious, magical book kept me turning page after page, after page, after page (yes, 480 pages to be exact). I did think the book could have been shorter without losing any of the pacing or characterization, but that is my only complaint. It is a true rendering of the late Victorian era along the Thames River. Much research went into this book which gives the reader the feeling of living alongside the river and the many characters. The river is the main character which runs through the lives of each secondary character; kind and determined Robert Armstrong, the hopeful Vaughans, psychologically and physically damaged Lily White, the well adjusted Inn keepers Joe and Margot and son Jonathan and Rita the nurse who stands in as the village doctor, plus a villain steeped in evil. All play intricate rolls in the mystery that is the lost and found four year old girl.
I have looked forward to reading another book by this author since I read her wonderful novel THE THIRTEENTH TALE; ONCE UPON A RIVER did not disappoint. It is moody, frightening, uplifting, engrossing, perfectly nuanced and superbly constructed. I highly recommend this book.

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Heads Up- Audible limited time sale

Deal Audible

Go to  for a year’s worth of audio books on sale now and ending on the 28th of January.


Filed under Audio books, Book review, Contemporary Romance, General Fiction & Literature, Gothic, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

Release Day Review- The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

Title: The Highlander (Victorian Rebels, book #3)

The Highlander

Genre: Historical Romance/Victorian

Author: Kerrigan Byrne

Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, Aug. 2, 2016

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Pages: 368

Rating: 4.5

Sexy Rating: 5

Violence Rating: 5 (this is a new rating I will add when a book contains violence. Rating from mild to strong, 1-5)

Description from

They call him the Demon Highlander. The fearsome Lieutenant Colonel Liam MacKenzie is known for his superhuman strength, towering presence, and fiery passion in the heat of battle. As Laird to the MacKenzie clan, the undefeated Marquess has vanquished his foes with all rage and wrath of his barbaric Highland ancestors. But when an English governess arrives to care for his children, the master of war finds himself up against his greatest opponent. . . in the game of love.

Defying all expectations, Miss Philomena is no plain-faced spinster but a ravishing beauty with voluptuous curves and haughty full lips that rattle the Laird to his core. Unintimidated by her master’s raw masculinity and savage ways, the headstrong lass manages to tame not only his wild children but the beast in his soul. With each passing day, Liam grows fonder of Miss Mena—and more suspicious. What secret is she hiding behind those emerald eyes? What darkness brought her to his keep? And how can he conquer this magnificent woman’s heart . . . without surrendering his own?


This is the third book in Ms. Byrne’s Victorian Rebels Series. All books in this series are very dark romances and this one is very Gothic inspired.  There is intimation of demons or ghosts that may haunt Ravenscroft Keep. A specter with red veined eyes that springs from the shadows. Philomena is running away from London and needs a place to hide.  Her dear friends Millie and Faith (Heroines of the two previous books in this series) help her to find sanctuary in Laird Liam’s Scottish castle, Ravenscroft Keep.  Mena has secrets that must never be revealed for it could mean her death. Liam has his own dark secrets that he never wants to reveal.  The attraction between the two is instantaneous but Mena knows she must not give in to the allure because they are fated to never be together.  Liam is so besotted that he continually tries to seduce Mena, wanting a future that Mena knows is impossible.

I really enjoy Kerrigan Byrne’s novels in this series.  They are all very dark with heroes that are not easy to love or even like.  Yet, the heroines are so damaged that we cheer for these heroes to win them over and give them peace and happiness. That this author can redeem these criminals is amazing.  This book is filled with torture, murder and very scary scenes. That is a warning. It is also filled with longing, redemption and sizzling sexual chemistry. I was hoping for a future addition to the series featuring Gaven, Earl of Thorne but I’m not sure that is possible. Perhaps we can hope for more books featuring Liam’s children, Rhianna and Andrew. Characters from the first two books play important roles in this book but it is not necessary to have read those books to enjoy this one. Although they are wonderful reads.

I recommend this book and series to Historical Romance fans who don’t mind the darker side of Victorian drama.

Victorian Rebels Series:

  1. The Highwayman (Dorian and Faith)
  2. The Hunter(Christopher and Millie)
  3. The Highlander (Liam and Mena)



Filed under Book review, Books Historical Romance, Gothic, Highlanders, Highlands of Scotland, Historical Romance

Review- Midnight Kiss by Nancy Gideon

Title:  Midnight Kiss (Touched by Midnight, book #1)

Midnight Kiss


Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance/Gothic

Author: Nancy Gideon

Publisher: ImaJinn (July 2015)

Pages: 262

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 4

Sexy Rating: 5

Description from

A DARK CURSE Miss Arabella Howland is content to forgo the London marriage mill to assist her father in his research, especially when it comes to his intriguing patient, Louis Radman. But it’s not long before Bella’s curiosity alerts her to the danger of her father’s work . . . and to the fact that Louis is not who or what he seems. A BRIGHT PROMISE After centuries struggling with his vile existence, Louis Radman will soon be free of his affliction, thanks to his very capable physician. Unfortunately, his heart is less secure around the man’s tempting daughter. His yearning to walk in the light once more is complicated by his desire for the delightful Bella, who is as intelligent as she is fearless. But if history has taught him anything, it’s not to tempt fate. AN UNFORGIVING PAST Still, happiness has a price and Louis is soon reminded that mortality comes with unfortunate limitations. To protect his new bride, he must face the demons from his past who wish to pull him back into their vampiric fold. Yet, if he’s forced to return to his midnight world, will he lose his beloved Bella forever?


Louis has had enough of being a vampire and wants noted London physician, Dr. Howland, to “cure” him.  But the cure is always very temporary and requires blood and medications frequently.  Arabella is fascinated with Louis before she knows that he is a vampire and falls for him.  She is in love and swears to stand by him once she finds out. There are dangers surrounding their alliance and nothing is simple or easy.

This is a compelling romance between a vampire and a human.  It is in the vein of Dracula or perhaps an Anne Rice novel.  It is dark, violent and not all that much romantic unless you like your romance bloody and quite dangerous.  Personally this is not in my wheel-house.  However this book is well written and is sure to appeal to those who do like Gothic Vampire stories.

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Review- The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

Title: The Witch of Painted Sorrows

The Witch of Painted Sorows

Genre: Gothic/Paranormal

Author: M.J. Rose

Publisher: Atria, Mar. 17, 2015

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 3

Sexy Rating: 4

Description from

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires. Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse. This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.


I struggled with this novel whether to give it a 2 or a 3 star rating.  I found the pace slow and I kept putting it down and picking it up thinking each time it would finally go somewhere.  That never happened until nearly the end.  Then it sped up and ended abruptly.  Although I like gothic and especially with a touch of paranormal this one was just not my cup of tea.  That said, the writing was well done and the characters well drawn. I will only recommend it to those who are especially into the Gothic genre and/or the Belle Epoch era in Paris.

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