Cover Image: The Curse of Penryth Hall

The Curse of Penryth Hall

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Ruby Vaughn is an American heiress sent to England after her reputation is tarnished. Now running a bookstore, she’s sent to Cornwall to deliver a box of old books to Ruan Kivell. Ruby takes this opportunity to visit her estranged but beloved friend, Tamsyn at Penryth Hall. Unfortunately, while visiting Tamsyn’s husband is murdered and there’s talk of an old curse being responsible, one that now threatens Tamsyn and her young son.

I really wanted to love this story. A plucky, independent heroine out to solve a grisly murder at an old gothic estate, a malevolent curse at play and all this set in a picturesque Cornish town. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, the story took forever to get into, and the characters/relationships just fell flat for me. The story felt like that: a story. The character’s dialogue and reactions to circumstances felt off and strange. I never felt anything about Ruby and Tamsyn and their failed romance. And yes, I get that Ruan was a Peller because it was stated over and over again. The mystery was somewhat interesting, but it didn’t make up for the other issues, IMO. The way things ended there could be another story in the works.

I alternated between reading and e-copy and listening to an audio copy. I did enjoy Emma Love’s portrayal of Ruby with an American accent. I listened at my usual 1.5x normal speed.

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It's 1920. Fallen New York heiress Ruby now lives in Exeter, UK. Her bookshop partner asks her to deliver a trunk full of books to the pellar of a smallish Cornwall community. Coincidentally the town is near Penryth Hall where the former love of her life now lives with husband and child. Ruby stays with the couple and the husband is murdered in the night - by The Curse, of course.

I wanted to see more descriptions of the titular hall and more gothic atmosphere. The backstory of Ruby and Tamsyn might have worked better up front than dragged out over the course of the novel. Ruby behaves like a modern day feminist in a first wave feminism world, nearly gets killed several times and, instead of turning her back, she's coming back for more when called in an emergency without any close connection to the community other than Tamsyn. No one in this novel seems to have any form of reasonable motivation for what they are doing.

Though I have to say, I enjoyed the banter between Ruby and her elderly Scottish housemate/boss at the beginning and end of the novel. That was good.

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Thank you to Minotaur, Dreamscape Media, and NetGalley for the free eARC and audiobook. All opinions are my own.

This post World War 1 mystery set in the superstitious town of Lothlel Green features an American heiress set on forgetting her rather tragic past by drowning her pain in copious amounts of alcohol, is bidden by her employer to deliver a trunk of books promising that this time she wouldn't get arrested for the contents (honestly some of the adventures that Ruby Vaughn refers to sound incredibly interesting). The recipient of the books is Ruan Kivell who is not quite sure of Ruby. Also living in the town is Tamsyn Chenowyth (the former friend/lover of Ruby), married to the local Baronet Edward who is not the most beloved person. When he turns up dead, everyone suspects that it is the Curse come to take the Baronet just like it happened to the previous Baronet. Is it a curse or a murder? And who's next on the list?

I loved the story, and although I saw the twists coming, I appreciated way that Jess approached the stories of the characters, building them into real people. Maybe because I was raised Sherlock, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, I have a lot of nostalgia for the time frame, location, and the personalities. I can't wait to see if there's going to be more stories of Ruby Vaughn, intrepid book seller.

I will say that having Emma Love as the narrator was perfect, she really nailed the accents (for my ear), I really enjoyed her narration.

4.25 out of 5 stars. Recommend for those who grew up loving Agatha Christie, Nancy Drew, and other mysteries.

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I came across a gothic novel titled "The Curse of Penryth Hall" and was immediately captivated by its exciting synopsis. To my delight, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The curse that looms over Penryth Hall has once again claimed another heir, and while the villagers are quick to attribute it to the curse. However, Ruby, a visitor of Penryth Hall and a close friend of Tamsyn, is not convinced. She embarks on an investigation, aided by Ruan, the village Pellar, to uncover the secrets that connected the residents of Penryth Hall and the villagers. Their research has resulted in an extraordinary folklore narrative that is a treat for the readers.

The novel's characters did a fantastic job in creating an excellent mystery. The plot was intriguing and unfolded at a fast pace. This makes it an exceptional read for both gothic and simple historical fiction enthusiasts who love a good mystery.

I want to express my gratitude to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of the novel free of cost.

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When the main character, Ruby is sent on an errand by her benefactor to the countryside, she decides it would be a good time to visit her old friend, Tamsyn. But from the moment Ruby arrives in this small hamlet, everything feels a little off. Then a murder occurs and people believe "the curse" is back. Ruby feels pulled into the mystery like a moth to a flame. She is also afraid for her friend. And then there's the "pellar" who she finds she's rather infatuated with. Of course, more murders occur and it appears that danger could be around the next corner.

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: The audiobook was quite enjoyable. The narration was done well and made the characters feel even more real to me. 4 stars

I truly enjoyed this book and believe the author left in open ended where there could possibly be added books written in this world. Thank you to NetGalley for early copies of both the ebook and audiobook. I chose to review both and the opinions contained within are my own.

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Overall, it was an interesting , cozy, murder mystery. I’ve never read a cozy murder mystery but I have to say it was quite and adventure.

The story follows Ruby an exiled heiress who resides in Exeter working for a book seller. Suddenly she is sent on a trip to deliver books to a patron but where she is going is full of memories she would rather forget. Ones of lost love and what could have been. During her time a murder mystery unfolds and it is up to her and the mystery patron to work together and find the killer….. or if it’s a curse.

I felt Ruby was to some extent a bit of a whiner. She’s done a lot for a woman of her time. I like her independence but her privileged upbringing is certainly noticeable. Especially when things do not necessarily go her way. However she holds her head high and accomplishes what she wants.
I really liked Ruan. He was funny, serious, and peculiar. I enjoy that he still retains his mysteriousness even as the story. He is powerful in ways that no one , even himself , can make sense of but his dedication to his people is heart warming. I liked the dynamic between Ruby and Ruan. Both are stubborn as mules but when given a common goal they work well together.

The ending was a decent surprise. I could not entirely pick out how it was going to go but had many theories.

As someone who’s gotten quite into romance I was hoping for a more stereotypically romantic ending but I was happy the character of independent Ruby remained as who she is. I think that was a very important aspect to uphold. She doesn’t just give up on her own wants. But I could totally use more adventures with the two of them.

I did listen to this as an Audio book and I loved the narration. Emma Love did a fantastic job with all the accents and characters. It made it engaging the entire way through.

If you want a cozy murder mystery set in the UK with a cast of fun characters, definitely give this one a go!

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When rare book dealer Ruby Vaughn is sent to Penryth Hall to deliver some books, she knows she is visiting her past and a place to which she never wanted to return. What she didn't expect was a friend in trouble and a string of mysterious deaths linked to ancient Cornish curse.

This audiobook has a great premise, and the look at old Cornish beliefs and customs is very interesting. It is way too cryptic at times. Ruby keeps her cards so close to the vest, even with the reader, that I didn't really feel I knew her well enough at all. The mystery is intriguing with lots of clever twists. I definitely felt transported to Cornwall at that time.

The audiobook narrator does a great job of capturing the time period and Cornish beliefs in her portrayal of the characters, and absolutely lifts this book up with her performance.

4.5 stars for narration. 3.5 stars for the book. 4 stars overall.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from Dreamscape Media. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.

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Jess Armstrong's The Curse of Penrith Hall was just released on Tuesday, and it was deliciously good. Ruby runs a rare bookshop and delivers a box of rare books near a dear friend's home and stops for a visit. Next thing she knows her friend Tamsyn's husband is dead, and she feels compelled to help solve what can't truly be a curse... or can it? With the local Pellar, Ruan, by her side they begin trying to solve Edward's murder. Was it the curse, maybe Tamsyn who had bruises on her face when Ruby arrived, or the wraith some children claim to have seen. An excellent murder mystery, that keeps you guessing to the very end. Highly recommended! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thanks to Netgalley and Dreamscape Media for an advanced audiobook version.

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“I know you Ruby Vaughn. I think I’ve known you my whole life—whether you care to admit it or not.”

I really liked parts of this book, especially Ruby and a few of the other characters. The role of mysticism in the narrative was very well done and the setting was quite atmospheric. I would love to read more books about Ruby and her adventures. I’ll admit I did have a couple hangups, especially with the featured mystery and how it was resolved. Overall, though, I enjoyed it.

The audiobook is narrated by Emma Love. I adored her portrayal of Ruby and the other characters.

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"...I was ever more convinced there was no such thing as demons, no monsters, no dragons, just evil men."

"Don't let time catch you. She's a terrible thief."

The writing in The Curse Of Penryth Hall by award winning debut author Jess Armstrong is an addictive atmospheric gothic murder mystery filled with otherworldly vibes, including a witchy presence.

After WWl Ruby lives a quiet life in Exeter that belies that she's an American heiress who has been sent away to England for some "indiscretions." Helping octogenarian Mr Owen run his rare bookshop she's tasked with traveling to the Cornish countryside to bring books to Ruan Kivell, who we learn is a "Peller - a healer, witch, a protector."

Despite misgivings she stops to visit her once best friend Lady Tamsyn. They haven't spoken since their falling out on Tamsyn's wedding day to Sir Edward. Through a tense dinner, where Ruby sees the results of Edward's abuse on Tamsyn, she stays overnight hoping to help her friend. But morning brings the brutal death of Edward and whispers of The Curse of Penryth Hall returning to the manor.

Reading this debut felt like entering a classic literature mystery. I also listened to voice actress Emma Love haunting interpretation of this eerie historical fiction mystery that added to the atmospheric tone throughout the story.

Ruby isn't sure of Ruan's abilities but neither can she deny their connection...and there's a connection that, for me, was more shocking than the reveal of the killer. Not every question is answered, not every relationship resolved, not every curse cured but hopefully we will have more of Ruby and Ruan in the future. It would be a curse to readers to end their story now.

I received a free copy of this book/audiobook from the publishers via #NetGalley for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Thank you Minotaur Books and Dreamscape media for the #gifted ARC/ALC of THE CURSE OF PENRYTH HALL!

I listened to the audio of this one and I definitely think it’s the way to go. I loved the narrator’s voice as it reminded me a bit of Sophia Bush’s voice with that rasp. The best part was the accents that the narrator did for the Scottish and Cornish characters. It really helped add to the sense of place for the book!

THE CURSE opens with American expat heiress Ruby Vaughn living in Exeter with an old Scottish man and running a bookshop. When her boss sends her to Cornwall to deliver a trunk of mysterious books to the village's Pellar (a type of mystic/healer), she initially balks at returning to a place she swore she’d never go back.

Without giving too much away, she reconnects with an old friend whose husband is violently murdered later that same night. The village believes it's the curse come back to haunt the Chenowyth line and Ruby’s friend is convinced she’ll be the next victim of the curse.

This book falls in the moody, atmospheric, gothic camp so if those vibes are appealing to you then don’t miss out on this mystery!



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In this historical mystery from Jess Armstrong, an American heiress finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery in the post-WWI Cornish countryside. Is it foul play or is it a local curse that caused the death? Will there be another victim?

This one had a bit of a slow start for me, but I ended up enjoying it and look forward to reading additional books centered around the main character, Ruby Vaughn. I enjoyed the gothic setting, how Ruby goes against the conventions and expectations set for women in that time period, and whatever is brewing between her and Ruan Kivell, the folk healer the villagers call the Pellar. (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will become a romance that spans the series.)

Emma Love’s narration captures Ruby’s youth and energy, and I enjoyed the different accents she uses in the audiobook.

I received an advance copy of the audiobook from Dreamscape Media and NetGalley. All review opinions are my own.

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A little romance, a little mystery, a little gothic horror and you have the Curse of Penryth Hall. This is a wonderful audiobook about a woman who finds herself staying with an old friend whose husband is murdered. Is it witchcraft...or human intervention?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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The Curse of Penryth Hall is a mystery with just a pinch of fantasy. It follows Ruby as she visits the small town of Lothel Green to deliver some books to a mysterious man, who she soon discovers is the town’s own witch doctor. She also takes advantage of the little trip to the countryside to visit her old friend Tamsyn at Penryth Hall. Her trip takes a turn, though, when someone shows up dead and the towns folk start talking about a fated curse come back to haunt them.

In general, I liked the bones of this story - it was certainly mysterious and there was that little hint of magic that made you wonder of the killer was truly human. I think the setting and atmosphere was what shone in this book. The characters all had rich backstories and complex relationships alongside all of their own mental health issues. However, I did feel there was some spark, or some something, missing to truly bring them all to life. In particular, the growing something between Ruby and Ruan, the witch doctor, was *almost* there, but I feel like there was something missing in the end. There were a couple of questions left just slightly unanswered.

Overall, I would recommend if you’re in the mood for a mystery set in a superstitious, post-war, English countryside with just a hint of magic.

Also I’ll add that I tried to eBook this one to start, then finished it off with the audio. I was able to make it through much easier with the audio! The narrator was great with pacing, mood setting, and differing character accents.

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The Curse of Penryth Hall is a historical mystery novel with a bit of romance and a splash of fantasy. When Ruby is sent on an errand for her employer, she decides to make a stop to see her former best friend and love of her life, Tamsyn, at her husband's home. However, things are not as they appear at Penryth Hall. Ruby is eager to leave but a suspicious death stops her plans to depart. Is there really a curse at Penryth Hall or is it something else?
The narrator did a fantastic job with the accents of the various characters. The story is very engaging and the characters were definitely unique and interesting.

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This one just wasn’t my jam, unfortunately. It started off strong, but just tanked after around the 50% mark.

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The Curse of Penryth Hall is a gothic mystery set in the post World War I Cornish countryside. There’s murder and intrigue and of course, a curse!

American heiress Ruby Vaughn helps run a rare book shop in Exeter, when she is tasked with delivering some tones to a folk healer who lives near an old friend/girlfriend of Ruby’s. She is married to a heinous man, but lives in a gigantic mansion with a lot of lore about it. So against her better judgment, Ruby visits her. Cue the murder.

This was an interesting story with a satisfying resolution, but I really found it hard to like most of the characters. Ruby and her friend Tamsyn were shallow, boring, and selfish, but you still wanted to see their story resolved. The curse itself was heartbreaking, but also made sense, so the motivations were not too far fetched.

So, long story short, this is an interesting gothic novel with dull characters but cool backgrounds. You might like it!

I received a free audiobook copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

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Book Title: The Curse of Penryth Hall
Author: Jess Armstrong (Debut Author)
Narrator: Emma Love
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Genre: Gothic Suspense
Audiobook Pub Date December 5, 2023
My Rating: 3.5 rounded up
Pages: 336

American heiress Ruby Vaughn currently is employed at a rare bookstore run by her octogenarian employer and house mate in Exeter. When she was only sixteen this poor little rich girl trouble seem to always find trouble. In fact, her family shipped her out of NYC to the UK Now that her family is gone she misses them and although she isn’t one to dwell on her past she does wish she had been wiser in her younger days.
Ruby is delivering a box of books to a folk healer living deep in the Cornish country.
There she finds her best friend, Tamsyn who lives in Penryth Hall with her husband Sir Edward Chenowyth.
When Edward is found dead in such a gruesome way it is believed the curse of Penryth Hall has returned.

Audiobook narrator Emma Love did a fab job in performing all the characters. Story was slow at times however, her performance made the story enjoyable as well as held my interest.

Want to thank NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for this ALC.
Publishing Release Date scheduled for December 5, 2023.

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Ruby Vaughn embarks on an errand for her employer that leads her to the serene Cornish countryside. Unexpectedly, she decides to visit an old friend with whom she shares a complicated history. However, their reunion takes a dark turn when the friend's husband is discovered dead, the victim of a brutal mauling that sparks local rumors of an ancient curse. Faced with this mystery, Ruby joins forces with the community's enigmatic folk healer to unravel the truth.

The narrative's central enigma holds considerable strength, and Ruby emerges as a compelling protagonist. She embodies the spirit of a resilient heroine without veering into cliché, her character shaped by a tumultuous past that she navigates with determination. Ruby's ethos revolves around hard work, embracing life to the fullest, and steadfastly avoiding dwelling on bygone sorrows.

While the writing isn't perfect, it's not mediocre either. Some plot elements may be a bit whimsical, but the overall narrative maintains a satisfactory and relatively unique quality. There's a sense that, with more experience and some refining, the author's potential could blossom into something worthy of anticipation. This work stands as a promising endeavor, suggesting that keeping an eye on the author's future creations may be rewarding.

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The second I saw the synopsis for this book, I knew I had to read it. This had some of my favorite buzz words, "atmospheric gothic mystery." I find that description to be highly accurate. The setting of a rundown country mansion was truly gothic and atmospheric. It was really off set by the is it supernatural or isn't push and pull that persisted throughout the entire novel. The writing was really lovely, and I just wanted to keep reading it all the way through to the end. Ruby was a great character to follow and her being so outspoken and intelligent really helped to set the pace of the book. And her relationship with Ruan really was fun to follow. They worked really well as a team, and I hope we get to see a sequel where they team up again.

One thing I wasn't loving was the relationship between Ruby and Tamsyn. We didn't get enough of their backstory to really understand their dynamic and Tamsyn was especially hard to like as a character despite sympathizing with her over her awful marriage. It was hard to see why Ruby was still so hung up on her when she was being so awful to her.

Overall, this was an entertaining historical mystery with gothic overtones. I would definitely recommend it.

Thank you to Dreamscape Media and Netgalley for the audio arc of this book!

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