House of Ashes

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

Suspense-filled and yet an easy read, this story set in Whale Rock on Cape Cod involves a young woman living in a historic family home on a bluff well known as Percy’s Bluff. Sometimes when we are vulnerable or maybe even desperate our judgement is not as good as it might be otherwise. Sometimes we just don’t want to see things as they might be. It doesn’t matter who warns us to be cautious. Is this the case with Cassie? Is she too dependent on staying in this beautiful old Victorian home of her descendants?

Really enjoyed the storyline of this book. Of course, I always like stories of seacoast towns and Cape Cod in particular and this one has a little mystique. While putting a little taste of the paranormal here, the author added suspense without going over the top. The characters were folk in a place where only locals really fit. 
Just really a book I didn’t want to put down and was sad when the last page was read.

An interesting book in which the only fault I can find is…there aren't any more.

***This book was provided to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are definitely my own.
Was this review helpful?
Ghosts, suicide, curse, disappearances, unanswered questions. This story had it all. Cassie loved where she lived, ghosts and family history included. It was great watching her grow stronger through the story. There were moments of confusion as the mystery unraveled, but I loved how Cassie stuck to her beliefs. I enjoy a good ghost story, and this kept me interested.

I heard about this book through Goddess Fish Promotions, and received an ARC of this story through Netgalley. This is my unsolicited review.
Was this review helpful?
A curse and ghosts!  This dual time line mystery/suspense novel finds Cassie trying to rebuild her life in her family home, the Bluffs, on Cape Cod but things seem to conspire against her.  What's the back story on her family?  Well, no spoilers but things weren't always pretty. Who are or were Vince and Ashley, who appeared one day, befriended Cassie, and disappeared another?  No one knows- there's no record of them.   Thanks to Netgalley fr the ARC.  This isn't too twisty and there's some family melodrama but it's a good read.
Was this review helpful?
For Cassie, Vince and Ashley’s arrival offers a respite from the turbulence in her life and the help to get it back on track.  The backdrop for all of this is the family home, Battersea Bluffs, inhabited still by her grandparents spirit, a comfort to her. For her sister, not so much.

And when Ashley and Vince disappear, family secrets, old and new, are slowly revealed, just like Whale Rock with each passing tide. 

Ms. Marion has written a mystery that spans generations, adds a mix of quirky native Cape Codders, and just the hint of romance to make House of Ashes a joy to read.  The perfect selection for your winter book pile cuddled up by a warm fire.
Was this review helpful?
The location, Cape Cod, made this a must read for me. I have spent a lot of time at the Cape and I can picture Battersea Bluffs and the surrounding area easily.

Cassandra’s great grandparents had owned the home and now it was hers, but she needed help financially and help fixing it up. Along comes Vince and Ashley.

It doesn’t take long and they come up missing. How? Why? Whenever a house is involved, I immediately think of ghosts and goblins, and we do have a curse with smells that can be pleasant one moment and not so much the next. We also have secrets. Secrets that are going to come to light because Cassandra is a caring and persistent person, and she won’t let the mystery of their disappearance end without answers.

Cassandra tells Vince and Ashley where the name of the town,Whale Rock, came from, I immediately thought of my family’s home on the Cape. When the tide goes out, there is a giant rock exposed. I love when a novel can tweak a bit of nostalgia from me. Makes it easier to relate to the story and the characters.

A haunted house, a mystery with secrets…I have some suspicions and I am having a great time trying to put all the pieces together. I didn’t do so well. There is so much more to the story and Loretta leads me on a wild ride to the very end.

I voluntarily reviewed a free copy of House of Ashes by Loretta Marion

See more at
Was this review helpful?
Cassie Mitchell is 37 and in trouble. She lives in her family's historic Victorian house on Cape Cod...but the house comes with ghosts. Literally. Or bad memories. Or a curse. Whatever you want to call it. Three generations of her family have met with sadness and death because of a long-ago curse placed on the family by an unhappy lover...a lighterman named Robert Toomey. 80 years ago Toomey supposedly started a fire in the house, killing Cassie's great-grandmother Celeste. Percy Mitchell then jumped from the nearby cliffs clutching his dead wife's body, yelling that he was not yet finished with Toomey. Flash forward 80 years....the house is in need of repairs, but Cassie is out of money, in the midst of a divorce, and despondent. She loves Battersea Bluffs at Lavender Hill -- or just The Bluffs as modern residents of Whale Rock, MA call it now -- and doesn't want to lose the house, or the lovely vanilla and caramel scent reminiscent of baking cookies that means the ghosts are about. Mysteriously a young couple and their dog show up one day asking about the house and the legend of the curse. Cassie instantly befriends them. Vince and Ashley start helping renovate the carriage house. Cassie can rent it out and bring in some money to start paying off the debt her ex-husband racked up before leaving. She comes to love them as friends. Then one day Vince and Ashley head out on a biking excursion and never come back. The bikes and picnic basket are found abandoned. She files a missing person report but it seems law enforcement really doesn't want to solve the case. Where are her friends? And why did they just disappear?

I love a good haunted house story! And this one fit the bill perfectly! House of Ashes is a nice mix of mystery and supernatural. The house clearly has a mind, or spirit, of its own. And as Cassie works to find out what happened to her friends, she learns more about the background of the house, her family, and the curse. She also has to battle small town gossip. Nobody really wants to find the young couple. The residents of Whale Rock don't trust outsiders and seem glad they are gone. The local police are pulled off the case by the FBI. And the FBI doesn't seem all that interested in solving the matter. 

I enjoyed Cassie as a main character. She is intelligent and learning to stand on her own and fight for what she wants in life. She's creative -- a very talented painter. Plus Cassie is loyal and determined. She isn't just going to let this go and forget about the two people who stayed with her for four months and helped her at her lowest. 

On the front cover of House of Ashes it says "A Haunted Bluffs Mystery'' so I'm assuming this is the first book in a series. I will definitely be reading more books by this author -- and more books about Battersea Bluffs, if this does turn out to be a continuing series. This story was perfectly paced and nicely suspenseful. There were plenty of twisty developments to keep me guessing what the final outcome would be. I binge read this book in one sitting -- I couldn't put it down. I had to know how it ended! 

Loretta Marion is the author of another unrelated suspense novel, The Fool's Truth. I've added it to my tbr stack! I like her writing style and will definitely be watching for more by this author.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Crooked Lane via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
Was this review helpful?
From the book's haunting cover design to the intriguing synopsis, I was instantly captivated and could not wait to delve into this one. Now after having spent an enchanting adventure along the Cape, I cannot wait to see where this series takes me next!

From the opening chapter to the final sentence, I was completely immersed in this intensely atmospheric story made even more so by the fact that I read it during the Halloween season. It's been quite a while since I've been so completely awestruck after the first chapter alone! Read it and you'll quickly understand why it will be so hard to put down afterwards!

Generations collide in this incredibly nuanced mystery that seeks to discover the secrets behind a family's paranormal history and the current disappearance of two missing people. The story unfolds from both past and present perspectives, which the author is able to seamlessly interweave to create a truly poignant narrative. The addition of journal entries and the sleuthing itself make this story even more multilayered and engaging. This isn't a twisting thrill ride, but rather a slowburning untying of knots that reveals a satisfying end.

Overall, there is a little of everything for a lot of different readers to enjoy. From history and romance to mystery and the supernatural, Battersea Bluffs has so much to offer.
Was this review helpful?
Cassandra Mitchell is the great-granddaughter of Percy and Celeste Mitchell who built the gorgeous Battersea Bluffs mansion in Whale Rock, Massachusetts, Cape Cod where she now lives alone. She is 37 years old and tenaciously clings to the family Victorian despite its history, local folklore, and apparent supernatural experiences. There is an apparent curse that has followed them from England affecting their male descendants. Cassie has weathered a disastrous marriage and impending divorce and is presently facing foreclosure. She refuses the idea of selling.

Sinking deeper into the funk that has enveloped her in the situation, she meets a young couple, Ashley and Vince, on her property accompanied by a German Shepherd, and impressed with them and taken by the moment invite them to stay with her for a while in exchange for their work on the carriage house. 

The author flips the chronological timelines as she brings in further details of Cassie's family, both current and 80 years ago. Chapter headings clearly tell in which timeline the narrative is heading and it doesn't take long to get into the rhythm. 

The couple suddenly disappears without explanation which sets off a chain of investigations that begin with local law enforcement and extends to the FBI. There is an attraction to the FBI agent, and Cassie appears to be in full rebound mode, but is consumed with the problem of figuring out what happened to the kids. Happy with having the couple around, they had created in her the urge to paint again and she is facing a large gallery showing by a friend and local art gallery owner.

The protagonist has that artist's aura about her, tormented but talented. Headstrong and smart, she seemed to make less than informed decisions while craftily planning her next move toward solving the mystery of the couple. I received this ebook download from the publisher and NetGalley for this book tour and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read and review. Recommended for any who enjoy a mystery, supernatural or paranormal qualities, thriller and suspense, and strong women sleuths. 4.5/5

See my full review at
Was this review helpful?
I’m not really sure where to begin. There are parts I really liked ad parts I hated. I have to confess, I didn’t read it word for word. I found myself skipping throughout. I loved the setting and gothic feel. The disappearance was very intriguing but the main character, Cassie, not very much. She had no backbone. She was so gullible. I really liked the cop who had known her her whole life. He really looked out for her, or tried to. After seeing how dysfunctional her family was, I see why she was like she was. She has been beaten down psychologically over the years. I would’ve been a recluse also. I read one review where they didn’t get through it because of Cassie being so gullible as far as the missing couple. If the reader feels this way, be sure and read on or skip ahead as I did. The answer to the disappearance makes all the sense in the world and was ingenious. This would’ve made a big 5 star with me and would’ve been a great movie if it weren’t for the back and forth in different time frames. And also how they were written. This took my focus off the story. However, there is enough mystery to keep ones interest if you like this sort of thing. The mystery keeps getting more bizarre and hard to figure out. I would’ve never guessed it. That’s a good thing. The revelations about the past and the fire were a little much, they were great, but almost paranormal in a way it almost didn’t fit the story. If there would’ve been more ghost like stuff, this would’ve been ok. I’m sure others will love it and I think a sequel would also do great. I’d like to say congratulations to the author on the release. She has a brilliant mind. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for allowing me to review this
Was this review helpful?
This is not a book that I generally am lead to.  With that said, I was entertained throughout the story.  There is an old house that is haunted (maybe), there is mystery and a bit of romance.

Thanks to netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for this advanced readers copy.
Was this review helpful?
HOUSE OF ASHES by Loretta Marion
The First Haunted Bluffs Mystery

Cassandra Mitchell has been in a dark place. A failed marriage resulted in near bankruptcy along with the possibility of losing her family home. While her sister won't come within a hundred miles of the place, Cassie has always felt a kinship with The Battersea Bluffs and feels the presence of her great grandparents who built the home. Desperate to keep the house, Cassie allows the two strangers she meets to become tenants. The young couple will work on turning the carriage house into a rental unit as well as keep Cassie company. Everyone in the small town is more suspicious than welcoming to Cassie's new friends, however, and when the young couple goes missing Cassie realizes she doesn't know them at all.

HOUSE OF ASHES is an interesting book which is comprised of a few stories. Not only do we get the story of Cassie Mitchell and the mystery of her disappearing tenants, we follow the history of the original owners and discover the beginnings of the family curse that may currently be plaguing Cassie. The manner in which the stories are intertwined is disconcerting, however. It's not that there are two timelines with which the author trades back and forth, instead she goes back and forth within those timelines as well. This lack of chronological progression slows the pace and disconnects the reader. Rather than getting caught up in the story, the reader constantly has to readjust perspective and so never is fully immersed in Cassie's world.

The first Haunted Bluffs Mystery is a book of secrets. Everyone has them and some are more dangerous than others. Cassie is an extremely flawed character, but she has an intrinsic sense of goodness and loyalty, sometimes much misplaced. Other characters, even those readers inherently know are "good" have their own share of secrets. The teasing out of these secrets is what gives the book its depth.

HOUSE OF ASHES is a layered mystery that combines the past and the present. Family history, strength, and flaws combine with a world of secrets. The hint of the paranormal adds a gothic touch creating a unique tinge to this modern mystery.
Was this review helpful?
HOUSE OF ASHES is a wonderful cozy mystery, set in a glorious scenic location, that strongly tugged at my heartstrings. I found myself involved with the characters--past and present--from the beginning. It was simple to care about them, which is one of the hallmarks of good fiction. Grieve when they grieve, rejoice, worry, puzzle out mysteries. The beautiful family heirloom residence, set high on the bluffs near Cape Cod, won't remain in the family unless Cassandra can construct a way to save it. But her chosen solution, appearing so serendipitously, only results in puzzlement and intrigue.
Was this review helpful?
There are some days I want to read a suspense filled book and this one did the trick. There were so many stories to unravel, personal histories to understand, and a mystery to solve that I had a hard time putting this book down each night.  I also can't discount the descriptive words of the town, Battersea Bluffs, the residents in the town, and the area in general.  

The story starts off 80 years in the past with the deaths of Percy and Celeste, Cassie's Great Grandparents that came to the US from England.  Throughout the book we get glimpses of the past which helps us understand the spirits in the home and Cassie's quest to find the truth about her ancestors, her sister, and her newest friends that have disappeared.  The crux of the book focuses on Cassie's new friends, Ashley and Vince, who have suddenly disappeared.  Is there foul play involved?  Did they leave on their own accord?  Are they even who they claim to be?  Cassie formed a bond with Ashley and Vince, even if she really doesn't know the truth about them and their past, so when they vanish she is concerned about them and their safety especially since they left their dog behind.  As a dog lover, I would have thought exactly the same as Cassie, that something has happened because they loved Whistler and wouldn't leave him behind.

The book moves at a somewhat slower pace which is good and bad.  Good because it layers of the mystery are peeled back like an onion, but bad because I wanted to know what the heck happened to Ashley and Vince!  There are several other minor mysteries encapsulated in this book - why Cassie's sister Zoe won't come back to Whale Rock?  Who is behind an art purchase?  Is the house haunted or are the spirits friendly?  What is the real story of the supposed curse on the family?  All of these play a minor part in the story and some even tie in to the disappearance.

There is a little bit of a romance too between Cassie and FBI agent Daniel, but she also has a past with a deadbeat ex-husband and a high school love that she has a fling with when she realizes the marriage is dying.  There is also Brooks, aka Chuckles, who has a thing for Cassie but also dated her sister in high school.  That kind of makes him off limits in Cassie's mind.

I will admit that Cassie does not have her life together at 37.  Sometimes you just have to wonder how people like her make it this far in life, but at the same time wonder if there is an underlying psychological issue that is the root cause of her actions.

Many questions are answered in the book with some twists I didn't expect and we might not have known if Cassie didn't push for the truth from those she questioned about her family and the past, and about her missing friends. 

We give this 5 paws ups for keeping us in suspense for the whole book!
Was this review helpful?
My thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing an advance digital copy of House of Ashes by Loretta Marion in exchange for an unbiased review. I had some difficulty getting started with this novel. It shifts from present day and eighty years in the past, however even in the present day the time shifts over several months time. While the time period of each ensuing section was clearly labeled, initially I found the constant shift to create a choppy, less cohesive story. As time went on and I read further into the book, this became less of an issue, however it did make it a longer read for me overall, possibly because it was easier to put the book down between sections and become involved in other things.
The sections of present day are narrated by Cassie, current owner and resident of the mansion known as Battersea Bluffs, her family home. The home has a sad past, including having been partially burned with Cassie’s grandmother, Celeste dying in the fire and her husband, Percy taking the body and plunging to his death from the cliffs where the house was sitting.
Percy and Celeste haunt the premises, making their presence known through either the author described pleasant scent of burning sugar or an unpleasant odor which goes undefined throughout most of the book. The idea of a house filled with the scent of warm sugar is delightful, however, the description of it burning does not convey quite the same pleasant idea. With a little effort I was able to put this seeming conflict of ideas aside and come to recognize when the scents were pleasant and supposedly trying to convey approval and when the opposite was true through the opposite scent.
	The tale Cassie tells is not only about the house and her ancestors, including the curse that is supposedly on the male members of the family, but of two wandering young people who take up residence with Cassie and live at her home in exchange for working to renovate the carriage house on the property. The plan is that Cassie can then rent it out and hopefully retain ownership of the property through the income producing rental.
	The introductions of chapters occuring in the present are all titled as so many weeks before or after the disappearance, so it is never in doubt that Ashley and Vince have or are going to disappear. What is in doubt is who they are and what has brought them to Battersea Bluffs. Cassie takes an immediate like to them, based on nothing that is presented in the narrative, and although she is cautioned by everyone around her to find out more about the couple she insists they are fine young people who are helping her out of a tough financial spot.
	In addition to the local people, Cassie has a sister, Zoe, who lives on the west coast and calls from time to time, primarily to state her displeasure with the choices Cassie is making. Zoe refuses to come home, even when Cassie, a previously unsuccessful artist, is recognized for her talent and an art gallery owner decides to mount a showing of Cassie’s work. Zoe’s refusal to return home, even for the gallery event, deepens the rift between the two sisters, with Cassie left in the dark about Zoe’s reasons for failing to visit.
	There are several other secondary characters of interest, including an FBI agent who is a possible love interest, the local sheriff, former boyfriend to Zoe and perhaps love interest to Cassie, a former housekeeping employee with an important clue that may shed light on Ashley and Vince’s disappearance, a wealthy man who offers to buy all of Cassie’s remaining art work after the show as well as a few old and new friends.
	Overall, the novel is an interesting story that seems to be told in fits and starts. Toward the end of the book, the reading was much smoother, perhaps because I had become accustomed to the style of the book by that time. It also took awhile for me to become interested in the characters, so I wasn’t drawn back into the book on a rapid pace. Cassie came across as not any older than Ashley and Vince, although she was described as being somewhat their senior. Other characters, particularly the sheriff, the FBI agent and Cassie’s sister had the beginnings of some depth, but didn’t seem fully fleshed out. For anyone considering reading the book, I would recommend they read a sample, if possible, to get a feel for the time shifts and how they, as a reader, will be affected by this writing style.
Was this review helpful?
A very intriguing read. Plenty of mystery and interest holding action. I enjoyed finding out the total story in the end. Kept my interest all the way through.
Was this review helpful?
I thought this was going to be...spookier. There's just not a ton of haunting for a story with ghosts in it. The romance aspect was weird and somehow there was an out-of-left-field love triangle for like...20 pages, then disappeared. There was the weirdness of her sister refusing to visit because....smells? She can't just stay somewhere else in town? I couldn't completely buy into one plot line because there were so many. Not all of them got resolved satisfactorily - at least for me.

Cassie comes off (to me) as really naive, sheltered, and a bit spacey. I just didn't really connect with her, but she grew on me over the course of the novel. The plot was full of strange disconnected threads that didn't really have much to do with each other and it almost seemed like I should be reading two different books - one about the missing couple and one about her family shenanigans.

However, it was an easy read and nothing made me angry. You know how sometimes you just get mad at a book for whatever deficiencies it has? That didn't happen here. I was interested in the novel for the entire time and bought the resolution to a couple of the plot threads. I liked the Police Chief, and sympathized with the FBI agent. Everyone gets mad at the people who are trained to find out what's happening, and poor guy is just doing his best.

I definitely don't regret reading this over a weekend, but I don't think I'll be reading any more books in this series. She hasn't written any more yet, but I have the feeling it's a series.

Big thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the eARC in exchange for a review.
Was this review helpful?
2 stars for the book. 1 star for me for finishing it.

I tried to enjoy this book. I really did but from the very beginning, I knew this book would not be something I would enjoy. The narration did not work for me and there was way too much going on that didn't make any sense. 

Full review/rant on Goodreads:
Was this review helpful?
House of Ashes by Loretta Marion is an engrossing mystery with ghostly elements.

  After her soon to be ex-husband squandered her inheritance, Cassandra “Cassie” Mitchell  is struggling to pay the mortgage on her beloved family home, Battersea Bluffs.  Having reluctantly received a loan from her older sister Zoe, Cassie is planning to renovate a building on the property into a rental cottage.  When a young couple accidentally wanders onto her property, she ends up striking a deal with Jacob and Ashley Jacobson. With Vince and Ashley doing the reno work in exchange for room and board, Cassie plans to concentrate on her stalled work as an artist. Over the course of several weeks, Cassie becomes close friends with Vince and Ashley and she grows concerned when the couple disappear during an outing. Family friend and local Police Chief Brooks Kincaid is slow to help search for them so Cassie also puts in a call to the FBI. With Special Agent Daniel Benjamin in charge of the case, will they uncover the truth about Jacob and Ashley’s disappearance?

  The narrative weaves back and forth between the events unfolding in present, the weeks leading up to  Vince and Ashley’s disappearance, and various time periods in Cassie’s great-grandparents Percy and Celeste Mitchell’s lives.  Cassie’s family history is a little dramatic since her great-grandparents’ marriage lead to a curse from Celeste’s spurned suitor Robert Toomey. In the years since Percy and Celeste’s tragic deaths, Battersea Bluffs has gained a reputation as being haunted and Cassie’s experiences with ghostly phenomena guide her as she searches for Vince and Ashley.

  Cassie is a bit of a mess due to the break-up of her marriage and her financial difficulties. She is also fiercely determined to hold onto her beloved home. Her relationship with Zoe is fraught with tension especially since Zoe refuses to return Battersea Bluffs nor will she reveal what prompted her to move to the other side of the country.  Cassie is aggravated by Zoe’s frequent criticism of her choices but she does not let her sister’s negativity sway her.  And unlike Zoe, Cassie believes her great-grandparents are benevolent spirits who are doing nothing more than watching over and helping  their family.

  Cassie is quite frustrated by the lack of progress into Vince and Ashley’s disappearance. She takes matters into her own hands and begins questioning locals who had interactions with  the couple. Some of the information she learns is useful and she is convinced some of them know more than they are revealing.  After the FBI scales back their involvement in the case, Cassie enlists Brooks’ help in an unofficial capacity and they gradually make headway but will they learn what happened to Vince and Ashley?

  House of Ashes is an intriguing mystery with a clever plot and enjoyable characters. Cassie is a wonderful yet flawed lead protagonist who is a wee bit stubborn but incredibly loyal to her family and friends. Percy and Celeste’s ghostly presence is beautifully incorporated into the storyline and the glimpses into their lives is interesting.  With some very unexpected twists and startling turns, Loretta Marion brings this engaging novel to a very satisfactory conclusion. A unique mystery that I truly enjoyed and highly recommend to fans of the genre.
Was this review helpful?
A Haunted Bluffs Mystery

Cassie Mitchell is living in her great-grandparents beautiful home overlooking the ocean. Battersea Bluffs is a house with a past. Built by her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell who died in a fire brought on by a curse.

Oh, and they still live there. Just in a different form.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail here because the summary tells the entire story.

One thing I did not like was the jumping back and forth of timelines and characters that seemed to have an importance to the story were glossed over. I am not a fan of hand wringing helpless female leads. The entire book I was screaming, "Don't you have a computer? Google?"

It read more like the outline for a story rather than a completed work. As much as I am a fan of Crooked Lane, this one was a hot mess.

Netgalley/November 13th 2018 by Crooked Lane Books
Was this review helpful?
This is a book that's great to read anytime but especially if you want to give yourself a treat on a cold blustery day (which is what I did).  The characters are engaging and genuine.. The story is both historic and present day.  You will quickly become absorbed in the mystery. The story's depth of detail of the cast of characters and the quaint, water front town of Whale Rock on Cape Cod will grab hold and capture your imagination.  Being a life long New Englander, who frequently has visited the Cape since childhood, I believe the author has captured the true essence of any of the real, small, wonderful community towns along the Cape Cod coast.  To the author, thanks for a wonderful read!
Was this review helpful?