Cover Image: The Curse of Penryth Hall

The Curse of Penryth Hall

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3,5/5 ⭐

My favourite part of this book was how the narrator of the audiobook really brings all the characters to life. It sounded really realistic and immersive at the same time, so I’d definitely recommend you to check out the audiobook if you want to read this story.

I found the story itself slightly less engaging. Although I am a fan of murder mysteries set in the last century, for some reason this story could not keep me as captivated as I'd hoped. It also involves a magical side, which is normally only a plus for me. However, in this case, the story remained too flat for me, there were too many loose ends that were not dealt with further and the characters lacked development and depth. Some actions also seemed rather out of character for this story's characters. There were also several vague and volatile elements present throughout the book.

Nevertheless, it is a story that does read smoothly and is easy to understand. The atmosphere and setting are also conveyed very well so that you can really picture everything. I think there is also a possible lead-up to a second book, so who knows, maybe a sequel will appear at some point.

Thank you Netgalley for this ARC. All opinions are my own.

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I listened to the audiobook of The Curse of Penrith Hall by Jess Armstrong. It is a great Gothic Mystery set several years after WWI. The story centers around American heiress, Ruby Vaughn, who after experiencing a scandal back home, moves to Exeter, England where she helps run a cozy bookshop owned by an elderly gentleman. When she is asked to deliver a box of books to a healer in the Cornish countryside, she hesitates because she knows she will have to visit her former best friend who lives in a grand estate nearby: Penryth Hall.

Shortly after arriving, Ruby is invited to stay at Penryth Hall, which she does reluctantly. The following morning, her friend’s husband is found murdered by mysterious circumstances. The rest of the story is Ruby trying to solve the murder with the assistance of the healer who is viewed by the villagers as some sort of wizard.

I really enjoyed trying to figure out who committed the murder, as well as a few others 30 years before. I was convinced it was someone else until the very end!

This audiobook was narrated by the Emma Love who provided varying voices for both male and female characters and inflected just the right amount of emotion in all the right places. I am unsure whether this is the first book in a new series; but if it is, I will definitely listen to those audiobooks that follow!

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Excellently written - I loved the representation. Ruby does not back down nor hide the truth of herself. Loved it.
Ruby is asked to deliver books - granting her an opportunity to see her lost love in the Cornish countryside- deep in superstition. The brutal death of the local lord brings out all the rich lore.
Gothic. Rich with imagery. Great pace.

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Rarely do I not finish a book I receive from NetGalley, but this was one of those times I'm afraid. "The Curse of Penryth Hall" begins well enough, but soon I was confused. Ruby Vaughn, a "modern" woman living in London after the Great War is charged with delivering some books to Cornwall, and, more specifically, to Ruan Kivell. She has a past history with this place and a friend whom she left years earlier after a falling out. No sooner does she get to Cornwall's Penryth Hall than her friend Tamsyn's husband is murdered and a curse is soon discussed throughout the village. The relationship between Ruby and Tamsyn also confused me.

While I realize this is a Gothic mystery, I was puzzled by the time period. We're into the 20th century, heading toward the Roaring Twenties. But at Penryth Hall and its environs, people live like they're in the Middle Ages. Ruby is called "the maid" by one character, and superstition abounds. Ruan Kivell might be a midwife, a witch, or a natural path. I was never clear on what he was. Frankly, my grandparents lived through this time, and while they were in America, they weren't living in the Middle Ages. The setting simply didn't make sense to me.

The narrator did a wonderful job, and I could certainly picture the characters through her voice. But I'm afraid this book simply wasn't for me. I thank NetGalley and Minotaur Books for allowing me to read this debut.

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I chose this book because the 1920s is my favourite era in history. Also because I have been wanting to read more mystery. Unfortunately, it did not quite hit the mark for me. I think it would be a great read for people who love historical mysteries with curses and unexplainable paranormal events.

There were a few writing points that felt out of place, like the familiarity between characters who only just met or who were of different stations. The story concept was intriguing and the gothic setting was fitting, it just was not the book for me. I may pick it up at a later time since I do want to know the ending, it's just not the right fit for me at the moment.

Regarding the audiobook itself, I really enjoyed the narrator. Emma Love's voicing of multiple characters helped make them stand out as individuals rather than struggling to follow who may be talking.

Thank you NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for an ARC of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

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Two things that always make me happy? A beautiful book cover and a well-written debut. Jess Armstrong’s The Curse of Penryth Hall delivers on both!

Ruby Vaughn, an American heiress, and Ruan Kivell, a Cornish folk healer band together to solve a baronet's murder, as Ruby's past ties to the victim's wife Tamsyn creates danger for her. Will Ruan be able to protect Ruby, or will an old witch's curse bring more death ... including hers? It's an engaging story I'm happy to recommend!

I did an immersion read, listening to the audio while following along on my Kindle. Emma Lord nailed the accents and made the story even more fun.

What I liked:

▪️ Interesting and well-drawn characters
▪️ A great dynamic between Ruan and Ruby
▪️ An absolutely adorable, mischievous cat named Fiachna - I wish he was mine!
▪️ A solid mystery with a believable ending
▪️ A wonderful audio narration by Emma Lord
▪️ Really lovely prose that brought the setting and atmosphere alive
▪️ The Cornish folklore was really interesting!

Some things I didn't prefer:

▪️ A few too many fancy “dictionary” words. I love intelligence. I don't love looking up definitions!
▪️ Ruby and Tamsyn’s backstory didn’t feel fleshed out - why did Ruby still like her?
▪️ The ending between Ruan and Ruby felt incomplete - is there a sequel coming? I'd be cool with that!

All said, I really enjoyed this debut and can’t wait to see what Jess Armstrong writes next!

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This was a bit of a wild read and I loved all the twists and turns. I did not see that last one coming, which is one of my fave things ever! I really would love to see this be a series b/c I really love Ruby and want to see what happens in her life...what is her connection to the Pellar and where will it lead??


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I was immediately drawn to this book when I saw that its description was Gothic Historical Mystery. The genre did not disappoint. Full disclosure, I am not a reader who enjoys characters that don't make sense for their time period and the leading lady, Ruby, fit that description so out of the gate, I had a bit of a negative reaction to the story, but as it went on, I came to appreciate that her being from a wealthy socialite family but outcast for her behavior actually made this story work in ways it wouldn't have otherwise. The mystery was solid. I loved the bit about basically alchemy being synonymous with witchcraft during the time period and am always fascinated about how different communities saw that skill differently. In Salem, they were often burned at the stake. In this community, they were revered as magical....although, to be fair, the book didn't really explore how the town would have reacted if someone being aided by the witch wouldn't have had a positive outcome. Anyway, after my initial annoyance, I grew to really like the book and read it really quickly.

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This was an interesting story. I got lost at times during it. I am still confused with what Ruan is. The mystery was good. The narrator was amazing and made it more enjoyable I think than if I were to read it. I just wish I would have gotten more out of this story.

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Thank you to Jess Armstrong, Dreamscape Media, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Curse of Penryth Hall audiobook!

3 out of 5 stars

The Curse of Penryth Hall is part historical fiction and part murder mystery with a dash of romance.

Things I loved:

The narrator!: Emma Love did a wonderful job with her narration. I just loved her voice and the way she put life into each character.

The heroine!: I love that Ruby is a gem in the rough. (pun intended) She is very much ahead of her time - I believe the book was set in the 1920's - and she has a "take-no-sh*t" attitude towards life. She is far from a quiet proper lady. She lives with and works for an older rare-bookseller, throws parties, and feels no need to have a husband or settle down with kids. She is a breath of fresh air in a genre that often has ladies following the rules.

The overall plot!: The general storyline was super interesting. Ruby goes to deliver a box of rare books to a man who lives in the same town as one of her old friends. Ruby decides to stay with that friend after having dinner and in the morning, said friend's husband is dead. Ruby being the curious, independent woman she is feels the need to investigate, but her path crosses with "The Pillar" - a handsome healer/witch type who seems to have a weird connection with Ruby and also happens to be the person she needed to deliver the books to. Chaos ensues as they both work to solve the mysterious murder.

*Heads up! Kind of spoilers below*

Things I wasn't a fan of:

Tamsyn: The friend Ruby goes to visit and her old flame. I feel like the author set Tamsyn up to be a character we should all pity as she lived with a verbally abusive, cheater of a husband and she was essentially forced into marriage. I didn't feel bad for her. I thought she was annoying as heck and didn't think Ruby and Tamsyn's personalities meshed AT ALL. I had a hard time believing they would be friends, never mind lovers. I know we were supposed to hate Edward (Tamsyn's husband), but I very much disliked Tamsyn, too.

The monologue at the end: Towards the end of the book, Tamsyn has this long monologue that seems out of place. She is a side character, but starts telling Ruby how she needs to find herself, etc. I found it odd that a side character would be telling us this. Typically a monologue like that would come from the main character. Instead, we see Ruby's story resolving, but no real revelation from her.

What happens with The Pillar?!?!: Ok - we know that Ruby and The Pillar (Ruan) have a weird connection and he finally kisses her at the end. But will they ever see each other at the end? What does this weird connection mean? Will they continue to solve crimes together or will their paths never cross again? Does Ruby's weird ability to see crimes in her dream have anything to do with the Ruan's ability to heal? All I can say is I hope this is a series and Ruan comes back, because that ending did NOT provide me enough of a resolution to their story.

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I really liked the vibes of this book, the sort of gothic-lite mystery. I really enjoyed Ruby as a main character, and I loved her interactions with Ruan. I really hope this ends up being the start of a series because I need more of the two of them.

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I wasn't sure what to expect going into Penryth Hall, but I ended up enjoying the read. It's a mix of fantasy and murder mystery with a pinch of romance. I liked that each of those elements was really balanced. The fantasy elements were well done, the mystery was interesting, and the romance didn't take over the whole story, This does have a distinctly YA feel, but not in a bad way. I found the MCs to be engaging and fun, although I did find their special connection to be a bit cliche. All in all, not the most serious read, but it was a fun one.

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The Curse of Penryth Hall is a cozy/gothic/paranormal historical mystery set in 1922 Cornwall. Armstrong's debut novel is fun read that you won't want to put down, but not too serious or gritty.

The main character is Ruby, an American, who finds herself exiled to England. She is fiesty and quirky but fits flawlessly in the Cornish countryside.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Loved the Gothic and mysterious vibes of this book. The characters were interesting, I especially liked the banter between Ruby and Ruan and the father-daughter like relationship between Ruby and the older gentlemen she lives with. Some strange and very creepy things were going on in this story and the twists just kept coming! The story dragged a little bit in the middle for me but the ending was worth it.

I listened to the audiobook and thought the narrator did a great job at bringing the characters to life.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Content warnings: Death, infidelity, gore, suicide, toxic relationship, sexual content.

Thank you to Dreamscape Media, Minotaur Books and Netgalley for the ALC for review. All opinions are my own.

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Thank you Dreamscape Media for allowing me to read and review The Curse of Penryth Hall on NetGalley.

Narrator: Emma Love

Stars: 2.5. Mixed emotions and feelings.

The synopsis reads like a PBS Masterpiece advertisement and I was drawn in. I do believe this could be a nice 90 minute program. That program where the name escapes me, and sitting down it takes 15 to 20 minutes for me to realize I've seen it before, and I'm not sure how it ends. The Curse of Penryth Hall is the book format of that program.

The book follows a standard nonpublished checklist for murder in a castle filled with simple people. I didn't connect with the characters making them forgettable while reading. Around 60% I found myself just wanting the book to be over. Sadly, and I find this point to be key -- the story was not terribly creative. Is it better to finish and not remember or better to DNF with a note watch Masterpiece?

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"The Curse..." had almost everything that a good gothic novel should have. The atmosphere of uncertainty and heaviness of the setting. Yet the mystery itself fell flat, including background characters. There was not much to hang on there and besides intriguing background story of the protagonist, the main timeline had not much to offer. Fortunately, despite those shortcomings it was a good company audiobook to shuffle chores around a house and for that I appreciate it. The narrator did a great job differentiating the characters and I had no trouble following along, not focusing too much to be honest.

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I wanted this to be similar to Mexican Gothic and was disappointed. The narrator made me crazy with her accents and I had a hard time listening to dialog. I think this would be significantly better read instead of listened to.

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Ruby Vaughn has to deliver a package of books to Ruan, who lives in a village in the Cornish countryside. This delivery will be close to where her friend/former lover, Tasmyn, lives with her husband. Instead of leaving, she re-opens old wounds when she decides to visit Tasmyn. While Ruby is there, Tasmyn's husband is discovered dead - and the main suspect is the Curse of Penryth Hall. Ruby is determined to solve this mystery to prove that the curse was not responsible for this death and to protect her firend.

I was excited to pick up this book as the premise was intriguing. While this was an interesting enough read, it was not for me, unfortunately. I liked Ruby - she was a smart and independent woman - but I loved Ruan. It was fun to follow the two of them investigating the mystery, I wish there was more time on page of the two of them together. However, I did not like the relationship between Ruby and Tasmyn. Ruby did not even understand what led to their relationship ending and why Tasmyn instead decided to get married. While in the end, I did understand their past relationship better, for most of the book, I was mad at how Tasmyn treated Ruby.

Also, the curse was just heartbreaking.

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4 Stars
This was a magical kinda gothic mystery book. I Loved the story. . I would recommend this for anyone who loves a good who done it.

Thank you to NetGalley, Minotaur Books and Dreamscape Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book.

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I enjoyed the story, the characters were interesting enough. some of the secondary characters I I liked more then the main character. I found the two female characters, Ruby and Tamsyn, a little selfish in their own way and they really irritated me sometimes. The mystical part of the story was interesting, I wish it has leaned more that way. The "curse" was heartbreaking. I feel this will be a series that will bring Ruby and the Pellar back together? I would read the next book to see how the characters grow. The narrator was fantastic at the voices! Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC and good first try by Jess Armstrong.

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