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The Curse of Morton Abbey

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Member Reviews

A huge thank you to NetGalley for approval. This was massively something right up my street. The premise of this was incredible. Writing was so good. I really loved this book, I read it so fast as didn’t want to stop.
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London, 1897. Vaughan Springhope is the youngest of five and the black sheep of the family.  Growing up she was consistently fed a lie that she is ugly and unmarriable given her crippled leg.  While serving as her father's assistant for a number of years before his death, she has learned everything she knows about the law from her father who was a solicitor himself.  As she knows life with her sisters and her mother is unbearable, she decides to make her own way in the world and put the knowledge her father passed down to her to good use.  In a desperate act to prove her worth, Vaughan accepts a job offer from Sir Peter Spencer to sort out documents of his large estate called Morton Abbey and prepare the sales deed.  While she is suspicious given her limited experience and the large amount of money he is offering, Vaughan accepts anyways. Once she reaches the estate the ever practical Vaughan realizes she may be in over her head just a bit.  As her employer is absent, she must reside in the dark and mysterious house alone among the house's more eccentric occupants. One of the most mysterious and eccentric being Nick Spencer, the sickly brother of his employer with some madman tendencies that put Vaughan on edge.  As she sets about getting the estate in order, Vaughan starts to hear and see things that don't seem to exist in real life, or do they? It seems nothing, and no one are truly who they say they are. 
Told in first person from Vaughan's perspective, The Curse of Morton Abbey is a multilayered story with slowly unfolding elements of suspense, mystery and romance.  Our unconventional heroine Vaughan is rather charming and a bit of a trailblazer as well, given the time period, as very few women would have had the guts to set off on their own.  The story has all the dark and creepy atmospheric gothic vibes with the mysterious house and its eccentric inhabitants at the center.  There are plenty of twists, turns, and surprises you won't see coming and a bit of romance cleverly woven in as well.  Despite its length, I flew through the pages and found it a quick and satisfying read.  I highly recommend The Curse of Morton Abbey for readers looking for a swiftly paced and captivating gothic suspense novel that is sure to delight.
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The book description was definitely the reason I grabbed this book, and boy was I glad I did. I went in pretty blind into it and refused to read any reviews. I just had a feeling about this book, and I absolutely loved it. 

This book is set in the 1890s, during a difficult time for women to be accepted in jobs that have historically been seen as "male only", such as being a solicitor. So when Vaughan gets hired as a Solicitor (Even if it was because of her ambiguous name), she jumped on the opportunity. Once she gets to Morton Abbey, the house of the rich Sir Peter, which is meant to be sold, it seems that Vaughan has more on her hands than she anticipated: someone determined to drive her away from the house, a child's screams at night, a handsome gardener and her employer's invalid brother.  This book is such a good mixture of gothic, creepy and romantic. It gave me Phantom of the Opera or Night Film vibes at times. I was spooked at night when I read, and had to put it down even though I didn’t want to! I engulfed this book.
I quite enjoyed the way that the charters developed over the book. Vaughan was a very strong female protagonist and loved her independent attitude. 
My favorite part is that the story completely answers all the questions I had throughout the book. I enjoyed the twists and turns that the story took and I loved the romantic portion of the book too.  
Overall a 5 star book, and definitely has been added to my most favorite books. I have read this over 2 weeks ago and I still think about it. I didn't want this book to finish, I just wanted to keep going but yet, I needed to know how it was going to end! 

Absolutely perfect, and I am so glad I picked this up :) 

Thank you to the author, publishing company and NetGalley for this electronic review copy in exchange for my honest review!
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Fans of traditional gothic romance novels will savor this spooky, dark, melodramatic story that features one of the coolest, bravest characters I’ve read in a while. All the elements are here: the crumbling and isolated mansion, the flawed characters with tragic pasts, the crying child in the night, the villagers who shun the property and the family, capped by the plucky girl and the curmudgeonly master of the house. 

The plot is predictable and familiar, exactly what I was looking for after a long day at work. This will give you a few hours of distraction and enjoyment.
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This is the first book that I have read by this author and I very much enjoyed it.  I like crime, psychological suspense and this did not disappoint.  The book had a historical element which added to the atmosphere.  It was also nice to see the main character being a woman, and one that was bucking the trend at the time of women acting as lawyers and also vaughan has a physical disability which does not take away from her resilience and strength as a character.  The book has horror and ghostly elements, as well as romance, murder, rumours and old wives tales.  There is certainly something for everyone.  I would definitely read another book by this author.
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A thriller and Gothic-style, Mimi Matthews' endorsed work...and with a strong, super cool female lead? Sign me up! I recommend this for fans of Mimi Matthews (of course) and also for fans of Abigail Wilson.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the arc for my review. 
I enjoyed the book but do feel that the book ended too quickly. The book moved along at a steady pace and then quickly ended. I enjoyed trying to figure out all of the different characters and how they fit. Vaughn was a very interesting character and woman for the time period and I was cheering her along throughout the book. I did have a little difficulty figuring out what Mrs. Wilson saying at times.
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ARC was given to me via NetGalley for an honest review.
I loved this book. It was slow to start and I found myself wondering if I would enjoy it. The main character Vaughan is unusual for her time and wants to be independent and not rely on a husband financially. She is employed to do legal assistant work in an unusual place with strange people and happenings. Her persistence is incredible and she learns more about herself throughout her employment. 
The story is well put together and once I was about 30% through the book, I found it difficult to stop reading. In this sense, it is well crafted and paced. I have little to criticise. I found the main character's name chafed a bit but I also understood this to represent her less feminine aspirations for the time.
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In a Nutshell: A captivating and quick-paced gothic suspense. If only the ending were written a little better way!

London, 1897. Vaughan Springthorpe, a disabled and unqualified solicitor, accepts a job offer from Sir Peter Spencer to sort out the documents of his large estate named “Morton Abbey” at Bradford and prepare the sale deeds. She knows there’s something odd about the suspiciously large amount he is paying her but she has no choice but to accept his offer. Once she reaches the estate, she realises that it holds within its confines several mysteries as well as mysterious residents, one of whom is Nick Spencer, the sickly brother of her employer. The only ray of light amid the gloomy atmosphere seems to be the gardener Joe Dixon. But with someone determined to drive her away from the place, and with some spooky going-on at night, will Vaughan be able to escape the creepy mansion unharmed?
The story comes to us in the first person perspective of Vaughan.

The biggest charm of this book lies in its unconventional heroine. The youngest of five daughters, twenty-eight year old Vaughan is the black sheep of her family. Born with a crippled leg, she has been consistently told that she is ugly and unmarriageable. Her solicitor father has taught her everything about the law and she dreams of becoming a solicitor. But after his death, she knows that life with her proud mother and married sisters is impossible. So she decides to make her own independent way in the world. She is highly practical, organised and gutsy. For a story set in 1897, she makes for an unusual female lead character with her wish for independence and self-employment, which is remarkable. Of the other characters, Nick is the most well-written as his persona has layers that keep changing depending on his mood. I liked seeing such a realistic depiction of a man, with multiple shades of gray rather than being a clear black or white. The rest of the characters fall a little flat in comparison to these two brilliant sketches as they are mostly two-dimensional. In most cases, what you see is not what you get and you already know it because of the ample clues provided in the text. All the characters other than Vaughan are such that you never know whom to trust but you desperately want to trust many!

The story is quite gothic in its style. It establishes the right atmosphere and uses the mysterious house setting to its full advantage. It’s not much spooky, but generates enough of a suspense to make you read on without keeping it aside. There are sufficient twists and turns in the tale to add to the experience. I could guess many of the twists in the story but not all. While there is a fair bit of romance in the story, the romantic arcs are written well and more importantly, never dominate over the suspense-mystery bits. That’s a huge plus for me as I am a bit fed up of seeing romance ruling the roost no matter what genre I pick up.

Despite the number of pages, the book goes by quickly. I completed this 384 page book is a little more than a day, which shows you how much it kept me hooked. The story has shades of A Secret Garden and Jane Eyre. (I gotta admit, I was feeling very proud of myself for having made this brilliant correlation, until I saw that the Goodreads blurb begins with these very two book names! What a bubble-burst!)

Why only 4 stars then?
1.	The book was a steady 4.5 stars for me until about the 80% mark. After that, things went over the top. The revelations were farfetched, the explanations were unsatisfactory, the situations too convenient, and the ending abrupt. It felt like the first 80% was a mountain in front of the molehill of an ending. Don’t get me wrong; the ending is quite good. But it doesn’t match up to the standard set by the rest of the book.
2.	Unlike what the name of the book suggests, the curse isn’t really the main topic of the story but just a trivial subplot. It could safely have been cut out of the story without any impact to the rest of the proceedings. So the title is a bit of a misnomer and if you pick up this book looking for a fancy-schmancy curse and its unveiling, not gonna happen.
3.	A couple of plot points are left unanswered even after the end.

Regardless of this slight disappointment at the end, I enjoyed my reading of this book as it kept me mostly entertained and I had fun guessing the twists. I also relished seeing such a fabulous woman character leading the show in a Victorian setting. Recommended if you enjoy Gothic mysteries with a strong woman in the lead and quick-paced writing.

My thanks to Victory Editing NetGalley Co-op, Thornfield Press and NetGalley for the ARC of “The Curse of Morton Abbey”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.
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This is a slow burner so I was getting nervous about halfway through despite enjoying it. But it really does get there in the end with a ton of intrigue along the way. Very much feels like a gothic horror descendant from the likes of Jane Eyre and Rebecca. The perfect read to curl up on a gloomy winter Sunday.
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When I saw the tagline, "Jane Eyre meets The Secret Garden", I thought that was quite a generous statement, yet to my delight, it was accurate. I thoroughly enjoyed this gothic, atmospheric novel set in Victorian Yorkshire. I became engrossed in our heroine's mystery and could not get enough of the plot as it unraveled. I was even decently surprised at a few threads I didn't see coming, which made it all the more enjoyable. Perfect for a rainy day by the fireplace! You won't be disappointed. #thecurseofmortonabbey #clarissaharwood #netgalley #goodreads
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Fall is always when I'm most ready to read a good story that will keep me turing the pages and keep me on my toes. I'm so glad I gave this book a try, it was exactly what I was looking for in a good mystery, a good retelling of sorts and in a good historical. SO many great elements to this story and it really was hard to put down at times. I will definitely be looking for more from this author.
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This was my first book by Clarissa Harwood and I was blown away by how quickly I was drawn in by the atmospheric Gothic setting.  The cover is so beautifully dark. 
 Morton Abbey is the star of this book with its mysterious secrets and dark corners. It's an homage to The Secret Garden. Asking the question, what if the characters were adults. As a child I always loved The Secret Garden and this brought on many of the same feelings. 
 This is a beautifully written Gothic novel filled with mysteries and romance. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Thoroughly enjoyed this one from the characters to the atmosphere to the well plotted story.  An easy recommendation to friends and family.
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There were so many secrets and strange goings on that I just had to keep reading to find out exactly what had happened and was still happening. I did admire the character of Vaughan, she was determined to be independent, despite the disapproval of her mother. This story was a little slow to begin with but gradually increased in pace until I had a job to put it down and it became an absorbing read. There is a romance (or two ) and I wasn’t sure which way it would go. It does have a satisfying, if rather abrupt ending. I received a copy and have voluntarily reviewed it. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Trained well by her solicitor father, Vaughan Springthorpe has all the skills and knowledge necessary to be an excellent solicitor herself. But in late-Victorian England, her sex is an impediment to her being able to work for herself. When her father dies, Vaughan’s mother expects her to live with her and her oldest sister. But Vaughan has no desire to do so. In her late 20s, with a congenitally bad leg, she doesn’t expect to marry, but she would like to set out on her own. When she receives a generous offer to prepare an estate for sale (without the owner having met her in person), Vaughan takes it and ventures out to the crumbling Yorkshire mansion of Morton Abbey.

When she arrives, she finds there is little welcoming about the house or its few inhabitants. People in the nearby village warn her off, and the housekeeper tells her that three previous men hired to do the legal work had quit within a week. In addition, the owner, who lives out of the country, has allowed his younger brother to stay in the house, and Sir Nicholas is either physically or mentally ill or both. Soon, Vaughan finds out that someone is trying to get her to leave: Someone tries to get into her (locked) room; she hears gunshots fired outside, and a strange crying noise repeatedly comes from the uninhabited second floor.

But she pushes through. She works hard to sort through the many books and papers in the library. It’s exhausting but satisfying. She makes friends with the handsome gardener and then even gets to know Sir Nicholas. As time goes on, Vaughan encounters more questions than answers and starts to wonder if she is going a little mad herself — she keeps hearing the sound of a child crying. But the little girl who once lived in the house died.

The Curse of Morton Abbey is a satisfying gothic novel set in a dilapidated old mansion, with a heroine determined to forge her own way despite the odds stacked against her. Hidden secrets eventually come out of hiding, and unexpected relationships are forged. I enjoyed it.
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Truly enjoyed this story. Creepy setting with a gothic feel and a bit of romance, very well done. Will definitely look for more by this author. Thank you publisher and netgalley for this arc in exchange of an honest review
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This is the first book by this author I have read and what a great read it was.  I think this is one of the best books I have read this year. It had me turning the page from the very first line and so many times I wanted to go to the last page to see what happens, (I didn’t). I loved the fact that it is written in the first person, Vaughan is relating her experience so there was not a lot of fillers.  I think this is the first book where I have read almost every word.  Being a gothic novel I expected it to be darker but the mysterious going on was well written with a lot of mystery and twists and turns thrown in. There were some very sad moments (child death) that may disturb some people. The romance was well written and had you guessing who she would end up with. I received this as an ARC through netgalley and freely give my review.
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EXCERPT: I stood shivering before an imposing stone edifice. The entrance was a gaping archway that looked like a monstrous mouth. Nobody seemed to have tried to beautify the building in any way. A huge grey block with smaller blocks attached each side, it had been a weary builder's last task before he died, and he had merely shoved the walls in place and washed his hands of it.

The surrounding landscape was no better. In the moonlight I could see a few scraggly trees along one side of the building, and nothing else but a vast grey emptiness. Surely there must be other buildings close by. Perhaps the estate would look better in daylight.

I left my trunk and walked through the archway, which led to a massive oak door. As I made my way towards it I was swallowed up in near-darkness. I wasn't a timid woman, but I didn't like the atmosphere of this place. I hoped the inside would look more welcoming.

ABOUT 'THE CURSE OF MORTON ABBEY': Solicitor Vaughan Springthorpe knows perfectly well that Sir Peter Spencer’s offer of employment seems too good to be true: he hires her sight unseen, offering a suspiciously large salary to prepare the sale of Morton Abbey, his crumbling Yorkshire estate. But few people in late-Victorian England will entrust their legal affairs to a woman, and Vaughan is desperate to prove herself.

Once at Morton, Vaughan discovers that someone is determined to drive her away. An intruder tries to enter her bedroom at night, gunshots are fired outside her window, and an eerie crying echoes from the uninhabited second floor. Even Netherton, the nearest village, seems odd: the picturesque houses and perfect-looking families are haunted by dark secrets connected to Morton Abbey itself.

To complete her work and solve the mystery at the heart of Morton, Vaughan needs the help of Joe Dixon, the handsome gardener, and Nicholas Spencer, her employer’s irascible invalid brother. But with her questions diverted, her progress thwarted, and her sleep disrupted by the crying, will Vaughan escape Morton Abbey with her sanity intact or be cursed by the secrets within?

MY THOUGHTS: I quite enjoyed The Curse of Morton Abbey although I didn't find it particularly creepy, which I was hoping for, or suspenseful. There are a few unexpected twists to the story though, which kept my interest.

I liked Vaughan's strength of character and desire for independence. It can't have been easy to have a deformity in the 1800s, which sounds like it may have been a club foot and is easily corrected by surgery today, and not to have been hidden away by the family.

Speaking of family, Vaughan's mother doesn't sound like she has one compassionate bone in her body! I'm quite sure that she just wanted to keep Vaughan by her side to be at her beck and call, and to care for her in her old age. I don't blame Vaughan at all for taking the risk of striking out on her own.

This book is peopled by other great characters too. Joe, the gardner, is somewhat of a surprise. Not all is as it seems with this good looking young man with whom Vaughan forges a friendship.

I also enjoyed the way Nick Spencer's character developed. At first I didn't know what to make of him. A 'madman' locked in his own wing, with only the butler allowed access to him - he certainly piqued my interest.

We don't meet Sir Peter until well into the book.

There are very few staff at Morton Abbey. Joe the gardener; Bedford the Butler, a man with dark, malevolent eyes; and Mrs. Wilson, the housekeeper, a rotund, motherly looking woman who loves to chat.

The story is told simply and from Vaughan's point of view. It's not particularly fast-paced, but it kept my interest throughout and managed to surprise me more than once.

A satisfying but not particularly memorable read.


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I: @clarissajharwood #thornfieldpress

T: @clarissaharwood #ThornfieldPress

#domesticdrama #familydrama #historicalfiction #mystery #gothic #romance

THE AUTHOR: Clarissa writes historical fiction set mainly in Victorian and Edwardian England. She has been fascinated by all things Victorian since she was a child: the clothes, the elaborate social rituals, the gap between rich and poor, the dizzying pace of advancements in science and technology. When it was time to choose a major in university, she had trouble deciding between history and English literature because she really just wanted to study the Victorians. Ultimately, she chose English and earned a PhD specializing in nineteenth-century British literature. Her novels pay homage to her favourite Victorian authors.

In addition to being a novelist and proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Clarissa is a part-time university instructor and full-time grammar nerd who loves to explain the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Thornfield Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage
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I love a gothic novel. Vaughan Springthorpe is the kind of character I dream about. She's a Jane Eyre-equse kind of gal and that means - obvi, I'm going to want to read about her adventures. 

Vaughan has recently lost her father.  As she has long been helping him with his solicitor work, she decides to try to do it on her own. Because it's that or live as the spinster sister, doomed to take care of her nephews and aging mother. 

She finds a job at Morton Abbey, an estate belonging to Sir Peter Spencer. preparing legal documents to sell the property, but of course things can't go smoothly. 

This book has the plot of a classic gothic novel . It's fun and I truly enjoyed every page. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity.
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