Cover Image: The Cruel Dark

The Cruel Dark

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Member Reviews

Millie Foxboro is a woman with a past... if only she could remember it! After spending two months in an asylum with traumatic amnesia no one will hire her. She jumps at the chance at an unbelievable salary to assist eccentric widower Professor Callum Hughes in organizing his paperwork and research on Celtic folklore. But staying at the crumbling and supposedly haunted Willowfield may be more of a challenge than she signed up for.
From the start I loved the dark gothic vibe to this story set in the 1920s. Creeping through the dark hallways at night following ghostly figures in white, the strange and secretive professor, the threatening housekeeper who refuses to talk about the late Mrs. Hughes and how she supposedly went mad. And then the shocking twist at the end that my mind still can't get over. This book was so much more than
I ever expected!
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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The Cruel Dark is Bea Northwick’s debut novel and its amazing!! This story is a gothic romance, with elements of dark academia, eeriness, with a side of deadly secrets.

This story takes place in the 1920’s at the Willowfield estate. Millicent Foxboro in a mental institution for traumatic amnesia. When she is released she gets a job as an assistant to Callum Hughes who is a professor of mythology. This mansion is not what is seems and creepy things start to happen.

This book was so perfect for spooky season. The build up between Millicent and Callum was perfect. For a debut novel Bea did an amazing job with this book. Thank you to Northwick Books and NetGalley for letting me read an ARC and wanting to know my honest opinion.

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That plot-twist though!

I went through a range of emotions while reading this book. For the first portion of the book, I thought it similar to Verity - strange, dark, ft. an enigmatic seducer of a boss. But as the book developed, it became that and more, turning into a deeper mystery wrapped around a peculiar house of ghosts (real or imagined).

"Sometimes, at night, I will let fantasy get the best of me. Especially in the winters, when everything here is bleak, and there are only my thoughts and the cruel dark."

I honestly wish we got more of the curious creatures that our two MCs read about and researched - they sounded fascinating, but were not the main plot. Instead, this novel was a dark one revolving around lost loves and the difficulty in telling the truth from delusions. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it, especially once the plot further developed and started picking up the pace.

"You shine a light in this dark house, Miss Foxboro. I pray you let nothing extinguish it."

I will say that I wasn't particularly attached to either of our protagonists (or their romance), though I adored some of the side characters. Our FMC often irritated me - however I was nonetheless caught up in this story, and while I wasn't all that invested in the romance, I could not doubt that the two MCs were perfect for one another.

The author's writing was also gorgeous and lyrical, and could easily picture the happenings of the book. Overall, this one was mysterious and enticing! Thank you so much to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the ARC copy.

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Read if you like: historical romances, mysterious and gothic vibes.
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Millie takes a job as an assistant to a professor and when she arrives at his estate, she might have taken on more than she bargained for. Not everything seems right with the estate or its mysterious owner.
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This book was very dramatic but I enjoyed it. I liked the mysterious and supernatural elements. The romance is a little unconventional but overall an enjoyable read!

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Thank you Bea Northwick, NetGalley and Northwick Books, for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I rarely read historical gothic but I genuinely love this book. I love the plot twist. I have a lot of theory going on my mind all through out the books, and none of them are right. I did not expect the twist my jaw was on the floor.

It is hard to believe that this is her debut novel. It is a must read.

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A spicy mystery, yes please! This book on me on my toes throughout and made me second guess myself multiple times. I liked the non traditional story line and had fun reading. 4/5 for me.

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This book seems like a gothic paranormal romance story but it is SO much more! Mille is the FMC, she’s gone through some traumatic events in her life. From the death of her parents to being committed in a psych facility with no memory prior to being there, she is ready for a fresh start. When the job opportunity arises with Professor Callum Hughes as his research assistant she jumps at the chance to be able to save up money for her new life. Getting to know the house and its inhabitants is a challenge for Mille, especially the unreadable Professor. As she gets to know the master of the house and the houses secrets she also learns about the missing puzzle pieces of her life. The last 25% was a thrill ride and I was up until 3am because I had to know what happened, the ending was completely unexpected but I absolutely loved the direction it took the book. If you love a book that will give you goosebumps and keep you hanging on wanting to know more you definitely need to check this book out, I loved it!

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I’m obsessed with this book! It’s the perfect blend of Jane Eyre and Crimson Peak. I fell in love with the characters(especially the MMC who I totally envisioned to look like Ben Barnes) and the plot twist at the end was magnificently written. By far one of the best gothic romances I’ve read.

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*** ARC Review ***

This book had me speechless. I received The Cruel Dark by Bea Northwick as an ARC and from the first page, I was captivated; the writing style was perfection, the imagery enticingly dark, and the sexual tension between our lovers was off-the-charts.

The way in which Northwick weaves a story with intrigue and mystery while maintaining a darkly romantic tone between the characters is astounding and makes for a beautifully captivating read. Plus, it was by far one of the tumultuous conclusions to a narrative that I've had the pleasure of reading in a long way... I was completely shocked when all was revealed.

The relationship that ensues between the Professor and Millie is a slow-burn, darkly intense romance. As Millie learns more about the Willowfield estate the closer she gravitates towards Callum's own past, bringing them together through the hours of endless research on folktales and how honest their interactions are with each other. There is a really interesting combination between Millie's own past in an asylum, with the unexplained events that occur at night when she begins hallucinating and finding strange figures. Plus, the sexual tension between Millie and Callum adds another layer to the dark mystery as we see them grow closer and sparks fly when they eventually give in to those feelings.

While trying not to give any spoilers, The Cruel Dark has become a truly reflective novel for me. I was addicted to the dark romance; by the history of the estate, the intertwining of folklore and the paranormal, and with the Professor's past relationship. However, the revelations that occurred in the last few chapters had me on edge and the ending has still got me reeling even days later, bringing a new profoundness to the narrative as a whole and how Northwick controlled the narrative that was being told until the very end.

If you are on the lookout for a standalone romance thriller, which has folklore, mystery and paranormal secrets around every corner, then please go read The Cruel Dark by Bea Northwick, you will not be disappointed!

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Many thanks to NetGalley and Northwick Books for the opportunity to review this book!

The story follows Millie, a young woman struggling to rebuild her life after a traumatic childhood, compounded by amnesia obliterating four years of her young adult life. In an effort to earn a living, she becomes a research assistant to a mysterious professor at a gloomy estate in the hinterland of Massachusetts.

Despite the Gothic setting, this is a quick, light read that revolves around the physical relationship more than anything else, and I am sure will appeal to many readers. The idea is promising, and the writing is strong, but the story felt a bit like smut dressed up with Gothic respectability. This is a short book, about 200 pages, but there is little plot development and much of the text consists of setting descriptions, which are very immersive but a bit drawn out. The action itself is limited to repetitive ghostly happenings and Millie convincing herself that she imagined them. Her actions and inner monologues felt discordant and superficial for someone dealing with so much trauma and uncertainty. There was not extensive chemistry between the main characters - their physical relationship just sort of happens, and quite graphically.

Again, the writing itself is strong. The author does a particularly excellent job building suspense in the final chapters leading to the resolution.

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This book was the perfect blend of romance and gothic vibes. I loved the story and how it pulled you in. The characters were dimensional and interesting and I really appreciated that!

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I'm going to start off by saying that I am never sure what to expect going into a debut novel. They often sound so amazing, but sometimes fall a little flat.

The Cruel Dark is NOT one of those debut novels. and Bea Northwick will be an author to look out for in the future because she may just take over.

If you love all of the spooky gothic vibes than this book is for you. The Cruel Dark was brilliant and entertaining. (Did I mention spicy too?) This was the perfect autumn read and I can't wait to see what comes from this author next.

Read if you like:
- gothic romance
- spooky vibes
- dark secrets
- slow burn

*Thank you to NetGalley and Bea Northwick for an e-ARC of The Cruel Dark*

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Thank you to Northwick books for an e-arc! The following review is my own.

Holy Heaven. This book was absolutely, undoubtedly amazing. From the writing style, to the prose, to the world building, Bea Northwick constructed a BEAUTIFUL book.

I was immediately pulled in by the dark, almost gothic atmosphere. I was invested in Millie and all of her troubles and thoughts. She was a wonderful main character. Callum was delectable to read about as well, described as a beast but really just a man in love.

Everything about this book was atmospheric, enticing, and addicting. 5/5 stars and definitely one of my top reads for 2023.

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I love the dark academia, fairytale coming to life feel of this book. It's very on the nose, as far as a dark, gothic, American historical romance. This book is also written in one of my favorite eras to read, the 1920s. The beginning of the book reminded me of the Haunted Mansion. I definitely had to stop reading one of the sections during the night because it was getting creepy for me and I wanted to make sure I slept. I thought that the author has a wonderful way with words that brought the characters and world alive. It was easy for me to picture what was being described to me. I love the thread of Celtic/Irish/Scottish lore throughout. The romance is very subtle in the beginning and starts to burn about 60% into the book. The spicy scenes are written well and have the same attention to detail while being tasteful.

This book is whimsical, easy-to-read, great world building, interesting/loveable characters, and very entertaining.

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4.5 Stars
I loved the gothic elements in this book, the atmosphere was done so well and I got Rebecca vibes from this at times. I did not see that ending coming at all and I loved all the twists and reveals (the end was seriously so good)! At first, getting to the last couple of chapters I definitely thought there'd be a lot of plot holes, but I was so pleasantly surprised with how everything came together in the end and wrapped up so well. There were just so many great aspects I loved about this book - the tension, the twists, the gothic vibes - definitely a new favourite read.

Thank you NetGalley and Northwick Books for the ARC!

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This book was a bit outside the typical stories I go for in the romance genre. However, as my first gothic romance, it did NOT disappoint! I couldn’t put it down! If you like mystery, suspense, Celtic lore, historical settings and romance with some spicy scenes — this is for you!

Several times while reading this, I was absolutely sure I knew where the plot was heading and I was wrong every single time. The plot twists were so well done and unexpected in the best way and the characters were entertaining and lovable.

I’m honestly shocked to learn this is Bea Northwick’s debut novel, but I will definitely be on the lookout for her next one!

[Thank you to NetGalley, Bea Northwick, and the publisher of The Cruel Dark. I received an ARC copy of this book and am voluntarily leaving my honest review.]

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This book. I am going to think about this book for the longest time. I read this during spooky season and it was perfect! There were several parts when I was genuinely scared!

The Cruel Dark is perfect for those who like mystery, suspense, freaky vibes, and spicy romance! I found myself completely enthralled by this book and it was impossible to put down. From page 1, I was immediately hooked!

The mystery surrounding Millie and her memory (or lack thereof) was so intriguing for me. Her trauma was so sad and heart wrenching. I loved seeing her be true to herself, stand up for herself, and go for the things that she wanted. NO man will tell Millie how to be!

The professor starts out as such a mystery. This was probably my favorite part of the book, trying to figure out this man. Watching his relationship with Millie made me anxious and stressed! I was always on edge with him…yet so intrigued by him!

Now to the spice….oh boy. Those scenes were 10 out of 10. I could read those on repeat for my whole life. And probably will tbh.

The end was…jaw dropping? Crazy? Mind blowing? I don’t even have the words! It was incredible. Loved every second of this book!

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If you like 'Rebecca' and 'The Quiet Stillness of Empty Houses', you'll probably enjoy this one too! It's the perfect spooky-season read for all those gothic mystery romance vibes.

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This was the perfect Gothic romance to start November with!

I absolutely adored the atmosphere in this book along with the beautiful flowing prose that made the Willowfield estate come to life along with everything in it. Such a great debut!

This is for you if you like:
- Gothic romances
- Haunted mansions
- Celtic lore/mythology
- Palpable tension between the love interests
- A 1920s setting
- The vibes in movies/shows like "Crimson Peak", "The Others" or "The Haunting of Hill House"

Millicent Foxboro was such an endearing main character. A young woman hurt by her past – years of which have been wiped from her mind – who is on the one hand convinced of her own self-image as a dowdy, meek woman, yet on the other hand has wonderful comebacks and holds her own in confrontational situations, thus showing us how much self-respect she truly has. She is complex, she made me giggle with her quips to the Professor, and I felt her love of learning was very relatable.

The widowed Professor Callum Hughes was the classic brooding, dark and mysterious man in all the good ways. He was enticing, somewhat unpredictable and absolutely compelling to get to know. And oh my, the spice he provided in this story was utterly delicious. The overall spice in this book was actually great, at least for my taste.

Willowfield itself is a whole separate character as well and one I wish I could visit in real life. The descriptions of the Celtic fae-inspired decor, the hallways and rooms, the garden with its maze were all at once lush and beautiful as well as unsettling and chilling, based on the time of day.

The moments that Millicent experiences throughout her stay at Willowfield had me entranced and I got literal goosebumps multiple times as I was terrified of what was coming next. I guessed at the overall twist that was coming at the end, some details excluded, but that had me on the edge of my seat even more as I was fully swept along with the conclusion of the story.

Overall, this was a wonderfully chilling, creepy, steamy and gripping read, wrapped up in less than 300 pages, and I enjoyed it immensely. A huge thank you to NetGalley, the publisher, and Bea Northwick for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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Thanks so much to @bookofmatchesmedia and @beanorthwick for gifting a copy of the book for the arc tour!⁣
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⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣{𝐌𝐘 𝐓𝐇𝐎𝐔𝐆𝐇𝐓𝐒}⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
Oh man, I loved this book! Reminiscent of some of my favorite gothic fantasies and gothic romances, THE CRUEL DARK takes all the elements I love from both and rolls them in to one phenomenal story. Atmospheric and romantic, this book sucked me in immediately and didn’t let me go until the very end. ⁣

The characters were endearing and sympathetic all at once. I loved Millicent and her journey from amnesiac to a more solid mental state, and I adored her relationship with the mysterious Callum. Slow-burn, filled with romantic tension, and spicy, these two had an amazing chemistry that was palpable at times. ⁣

Eerie, suspenseful, and with plenty of creepy notes, I loved the gothic manor setting and the mysteries and secrets it held. I also adore that this was set during the 1920s, as that’s one of my favorite historical time periods. This book just hit so many high notes for me and it’s definitely one I won’t stop thinking of any time soon. Definitely pick this one up if you like:⁣⁣
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➽ Atmospheric, crumbling gothic manors ⁣
➽ All-encompassing feeling of suspense and dread (I’m not even exaggerating)⁣
➽ Slow-burn romance⁣⁣
➽ Twists and turns, secrets and mysteries ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
➽ Emotional, traumatic pasts ⁣
➽ Grieving spouse ⁣
➽ Main character with amnesia ⁣
➽ Historical fiction/1920s

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