Cover Image: The Curse of Penryth Hall

The Curse of Penryth Hall

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Member Reviews

I enjoyed this book a lot, and the ending was a bit of a surprise. The atmosphere is great, and the characters have really interesting backstories. The chemistry between the leads was very good, and I enjoyed watching the relationship develop throughout. The story even had some educational pieces for the area of England it was set in.

It talks of PTSD and there is weird family abuse dynamics at play at time, so those are TW for those that need them. Overall, a great read I would recommend!

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An entertaining pseudo-Gothic that is well paced but short on atmosphere and originality.

The premise for this one follows the standard Gothic format, and in theory the setting is a good one. I’m surprised to see this book described at atmospheric, especially relative to other Gothic mysteries. It lacks any spookiness or sense of menace, which I consider a requirement for good Gothic fiction. The book makes some interesting forays into Cornish folklore and legend, but the lack of atmosphere relegates this component to academic information in service of solving the mystery. Which would be fine if the book hadn’t been aiming for Gothic.

The mystery itself is fine, has a decent enough solve, and is well structured. And I liked the heroine, even though most of the secondary characters are fairly archetypal.

On the whole this is an entertaining enough read, but the quality doesn’t stand up to truly good contemporary Gothic.

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Darn. I checked to see if this novel is part of an ongoing series because the characters definitely merit ongoing status. If it is, The Curse of Penryth Hall is the debut entry in the series.

This is an easy to read historical fiction mystery set in Exeter and Cornwall a few years after the close of WWI. Ruby Vaughan shares a home with and works for Mr. Owen, an octogenarian antiquarian book seller. He asks her to take a trunk of books to Ruan Kibble.who lives in the same town in Cornwall where her estranged friend Tamsyn lives with her husband Edward, a Baronet and her young son. Ruby hasn't seen them since their wedding where she apparently did something inappropriate that is never shared with us. She has reason to feel betrayal from Tamsyn as the story develops. They both were driving ambulances during the war and they had been friends for many years, yet Ruby is reluctant to be so nearby and she ignored a letter from Tamsyn asking her for help.

Ruby decides to stop by to see Tamsyn, ends up staying with the family in a house that feels haunted. Ruby is a no nonsense, heavy drinking, heavy partying flapper type with a short bob and never look back attitude. Looking back will make her remember the loss of her parents and sisters to a shipwreck, eventually identified as the Lusitania. (that's not a spoiler, honest. I thought it would be the Titanic and yet the dates seemed wrong and finally she named the ship.) So, looking back is really hard for her. And she is a realist. She does not believe in ghosts. She quickly surmises Tamsyn's marriage is potentially an abusive one and certainly an unhappy one.. On her first night, she is awakened by something and sees something outside the window. The next morning, she finds the wonderful housekeeper ringing the bell that has not been rung for 30 years. The curse of the Chenowiths has struck again and the Baronet is dead, eviscerated by an unknown force.

In addition to calling the police, the "Pellar" is called in. He is a faith healer, a witch (perhaps), a person who settles potentially supernatural matters (maybe) and it is Ruan Kibble, a man Ruby met the day before when delivering the books. Armstrong writes a supremely atmospheric novel enhanced by the workings of a small village, too many affairs and conflicts and history known (more or less) to everyone. Ruby and Tamsyn are struggling in their relationship. Ruby and Ruan form a complicated and often contentious alliance. Every red herring is a believable clue and the conclusion is completely believable within the context of a wonderful gothic novel. I read the audio version and think either audio or print would be enjoyable to anyone.. I recommend this highly for those who like this kind of tale. I read up on the history of Pellars as a result, which is quite interesting. I enjoyed the local setting and the characters a lot. Great story!

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I was so happy to get this audiobook arc. Thank you for the opportunity to review.

Murder mystery, magic, and a bit of romance, this book was a great read. Ruby, our FMC, heiress, turned book seller, turned detective, takes us on an adventure to see old friends, and turns up in the middle of a murder. Together with others in the village, and her feisty cat, she risks her life in several twists to figure out if it’s a curse, or a murderer on the loose.

Loved the book start to finish!!

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I really enjoyed the narration. I thought the narrator had the perfect voice to match the character and the book. It eerily captivated me, which was the point. I was not a fan of the story itself but I enjoyed listening! Thank you for the opportunity!

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A historical who done it affair!

After the Great War, American heiress Ruby Vaughn's job takes her back to her ex's hometown Cornwall.
The night Ruby arrives at Penryth Hall, Sir Edward Chenowyth (her ex's husband) met a gruesome end. With his death brings whispers of a returned curse. To protect Tamsyn and her son from the curse Ruby must work alongside Ruan Kivell (a local healer) to find out what is really happening at Penryth Hall

Thanks to NetGalley, Dreamscape Media & Jess Armstrong for the ARC of The Curse of Penryth Hall!

The Curse of Penryth Hall
By: Jess Armstrong
Narrated by: Emma Love
Dreamscape Media
Release date: 12-05-23

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Thank you Net Galley and Dreamscape Media for the ALC. I really liked this book. A very traditional gothic: dark, forboding, and atmospheric. It was also lighthearted as well, which helped to allievate some of the gothic foreboding. There are nods to a same sex relationship, that is not slap in your face sapphic. It was tastefully alluded to, which really echoes the writing style of the time in which the novel was set.

I also like the historical aspects of this novel, and the fact that I did not figure out who was behind the curse until it was revealed. Anytime a mystery can misdirect me, I am down for that.

Overall I liked this audiobook, and I am hopeful that the way this one ended, that there will be a second novel because I did not get enough of Ruby!

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3.5 stars.

This was a fun cozy mystery with plot points that I'd never seen before, so it was interesting learning about the pellar and picturing the countryside. What always makes me laugh about audiobooks where the Scottish brogue is used, the narrators always speak slowly and clearly and articulate for the Americans who can't understand the naturally spoken Scottish brogue. As an American, I appreciate it. Ruby is a spunky lady who challenges social norms and can be at odds with community members' values and rules. She's likable and I'm curious to see more in the series, how she grows, and her abilities mature with her relationship with the pellar.

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This one was a quirky kind of gothic tale with a backdrop of moors in the Cornish countryside and the atmospheric setting was everything. Somehow I’m walking away from this thinking “what a lovely story”, which seems odd for a mystery with some very graphic murder descriptions, but it was indeed lovely. It has characters that drew me in and the main protagonist had such a rich backstory that had me rooting for her future at every turn.

Recommended for anyone looking for a lighter mystery with a side of mystical intrigue.

Thank you Dreamscape Media for the alc via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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This was a great audiobook. I was already actually halfway done the book by the time I received the audio copy, so I only listened to the latter portion of it, but yeah, it was well narrated. I would recommend the format, absolutely!

Full Review:

The Curse of Penryth Hall is a Gothic Mystery mostly set at a large manor home in the Cornish countryside.
We follow an American heiress, Ruby Vaugh, who after a scandal back home, gets sent to live in Exeter, where she helps run a cozy bookshop.

One day Ruby is given an assignment to go deliver a box of books to a folk healer living in Cornwall. It just so happens her destination will take her to the doorstep of Penryth Hall, where her once dear, now estranged friend, Tamsyn, lives with her husband, Sir Edward Chenowyth. Ruby hasn't seen Tamsyn since her wedding. The women didn't part under the best of conditions and there's a lot of tension simmering just under the surface, but Ruby feels compelled to reconnect nonetheless.

The property itself feels dark and stifling. There's not a lot of lightness flowing through the corridors. Tamsyn is a mother now and her young son seems to be her pride and joy. Her husband, however, not so much. After a tense and uncomfortable dinner, Ruby isn't sure what to think. It seems Tamsyn has gotten herself into a bad position, but how can Ruby possibly help? Tamsyn is an adult. She made her choices.

For her part, Ruby can't wait to get out of there. She'll spend one night and then go, back to her life in Exeter. Ruby's plans for leaving are dashed though when Edward's dead body is discovered the following morning in the orchard. The state of the body point to the most gruesome of deaths. Shortly thereafter, talk of the curse begins. Ruby is puzzled by this. Surely, these people don't truly believe that a curse killed Sir Edward?

She begins to look into it. She wants to prove that a person, a real human being in the flesh, must have killed Edward. And if they did, anyone in Penryth could still be in danger, including Tamsyn and her son. She ends up teaming up with the person who brought her to Cornwall in the first place, Ruan Kivell, the folk healer, known to the locals as a Pellar. Although Ruby isn't sold on his brand of healing, she can't help but admit when he begins to help her in big ways.

Will the two of them be able to put their differences aside long enough to discover what happened to Sir Edward, or will their bickering get in the way?

The Curse of Penryth Hall was a delightful surprise for me. I'm an Atmosphere Girlie, first and foremost, and this entire story was dripping in it. I also loved Ruby as a main character and the chemistry between her and Ruan, and I don't even mean that in a romance way, just the overall dynamic between the two of them, was fantastic. Their back-and-forth; the pull and push of their relationship was so fun to watch.

I enjoyed the gothic vibes and having Ruby being a plucky, outspoken protagonist seemed perfect for the setting. She was almost like a fish out of water, but ended up really becoming invested in the goings-on of that little village. I also really enjoyed how Armstrong played this out. It had a lovely <i>is it supernatural, is it not</i> feel to it that I always enjoy. I thought it was well paced and the mystery was intriguing.

The only thing I wasn't crazy about was the relationship between Ruby and Tamsyn. I didn't like Tamsyn, so didn't really get why Ruby seemed so attached her. I guess I just didn't get enough of their history to have their relationship make sense to me.

Overall, this was just a really good, solid mystery with fantastically-gothic vibes. I had a lot of fun with the setting, story and characters. There were a few statements at the end that lead me to believe this could be the first in a series. Personally, I would be super stoked if that were the case. I would love to follow Ruby on more adventures.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historically-set mysteries with heavy gothic vibes. I would also definitely recommend it to fans of Hester Fox, or Sarah Penner. Thank you to the publisher, Minotaur Books and Dreamscape Media, for providing me with copies to read and review.

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The Curse of Penryth Hall by Jess Armstrong
Narrated by Emma Love

American heiress Ruby Vaughn was into all kinds of trouble by the time she was sixteen and that trouble had her exiled from her family, the family that is now gone and that she misses dearly. But she's kept herself more than busy and more than a bit drunk or hungover. She now lives very platonically with her octogenarian employer and housemate in Exeter. Ruby and her boss run a rare bookstore and although we don't get to spend any time at the bookstore it is books that start the mystery of this story. Ruby must deliver some rare books to folk healer, Ruan Kivell, who lives in the Cornish countryside.

It is there that her former best friend, Tamsyn, lives in Penryth Hall with a husband Ruby detests. Ruby and Tamsyn had wonderous plans for after the war but then Tamsyn upended their friendship and their plans. Against her better judgement, Ruby drops in on Tamsyn and thus begins the digging up of old wounds and long time curses. Ruby learns that Ruan is a pellar or a male witch or something of that sort? The sooner Ruby is out of this place the better but a grisly discovery keeps Ruby glued to Penryth Hall, Ruan, and the people in this "cursed" place.

There is a gothic feel to Penryth Hall and the area although Ruby has a non gothic feel to her. She's a very modern woman, who drives her own car, and spent several years during the war driving ambulances. No one can tie her down or tell her what to do. She smokes, she swears, and she's going to find out what is going on so she can get back home to her parties, pool, and cat...oh wait, her adorable cat hitched a ride with her to Penryth Hall and is now doted on by Penryth Hall's cook. No worries about the cat, he's there to keep the story cozy for us while all kinds of creepy and horrible things go on in this book. I'm glad I listened to the audiobook because Emma Love gives us all the accents which I'm lousy of making up in my head. And then there is Ruby and her American accent that stands her apart from the others, with her sounding all modern and ready to take on the world even as she stumbles around the countryside trying to do so.

Thank you to Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for this ARC.

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Thank you to Jess Armstrong, St. Martin's Press, Dreamscape Media, and NetGalley for allowing me to read free ebook and audiobook ARCs in exchange for an honest review.

I liked this book but I didn't love it. The beginning didn't really grab me, and I was worried I'd be slugging through a book I didn't like. But that wasn't the case. I slowly got more into it until I was intrigued by the mystery and attached to the characters.

I found Ruby likeable and sympathetic, if not endearing; I have a hard time being okay with how unabashedly sexually active she was for a sixteen/seventeen-year-old. But she had a spine and a brain, so I respected her after a fashion.

I didn't really like Tamryn, but I didn't dislike her either. I loved Mrs. Penryth and Mr. Owen. Ruan grew on me but by the end I still didn't feel like I knew anything about him. And at no point did I understand his "ability"; clarification would have been appreciated. On that point, I'd have appreciated clarification on Ruby's "otherness" as well, and what the heck it was supposed to mean that they were both born the same day under a full moon.

The end suggests a sequel, which I'm interested in, especially if it provides answers. Otherwise, while I enjoyed Penryth Hall and it's a solid debut novel, I wasn't blown away by it.

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We are introduced to Ruby Vaugn, an American heiress after the Great War. Right off the bat, we know that there are going to be a lot of secrets and a lot of intrigue when it comes to her character. Ruby works for an eccentric man who asks her to deliver a box full of box, that she is not allowed to open, to the Cornish Countryside, more specifically to a place where she has history. She ends up in the one place she said she would never go again, Penryth Hall, which happens to hold her once best friend and family. Not even there for 24 hours and it seems that the curse is back in full force and unlucky Ruby gets caught right up in the aftermath.

Jess Armstrong paints a vivid picture of curses, witches, love and vengeance in her tale, The Curse of Penryth Hall. I definitely enjoyed this a lot more than I anticipated, and I have to say that I got caught up in the mystery and in her writing (or at least listening to her writing). It was very...dark and foreboding in each chapter and I really did like that. There was a lot going on in the way of relationships, which threw me off the point of the mystery a little bit, but overall it was a very interesting read and I enjoyed listening to the narrator the entire time.

I think the ending was really well done and Jess Armstrong did a great job of leading up to a well executed twist of an ending. I think everything up to that point really came together to keep me guessing, which is one the things that I really loved about this one. Rated up for 3.5 Stars.

Thank you Netgalley, Minotaur, Dreamscape Media and Jess Armstrong for an advanced audiobook of The Curse of Penryth Hall.

Publication Date for The Curse of Penryth Hall is 05 December 2023.

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In the aftermath of World War I, American heiress Ruby travels to Penryth Hall in Cornwall. There, her friend Tamsyn's husband mysteriously dies. Rumors swirl that his death has revived a long-dormant curse. Determined to uncover the truth, Ruby works with local folk healer Ruan to separate fact from superstition.

I loved the Gothic atmosphere of this book. The characters were three-dimensional, and the mystery full of unexpected twists. The writing style is vivid, engrossing, and immersive. The audio narration was well done. I look forward to more from this author.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.

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I made my way through this story very quickly. If you know me, I love books that take me to other lands, whether real or fictional.

This is a tale of a woman who, very set in her ways, works in a bookstore with her employer who feels like her father figure. She goes off to deliver some seemingly harmless books to a village where her old dearest friend now resides. What starts as a quick errand becomes much more complicated as a body turns up. All believe the curse has befallen the village once more…

I really enjoyed being taken to the Cornish countryside with these characters and tale. The landscape was quite clear in my mind with the descriptions from the book. I could feel the breeze and storm, smell the grass and dirt and feel the uneven road beneath my feet. It was such a quaint and cozy place that I could see it be a nice little getaway (save for the murder).

I really love the take on curses and old folklore/beliefs of the village folk and peller. I have always held interest in different remedies and traditions of different cultures.

I also enjoyed the banter/relationship between the main characters, Ruby and Ruan, and feel like I want to know what comes next for these two. Is there a sequel/series in the works? If so, I would like to follow along on the next case.

Thank you so much to the author, Jess Armstrong, Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for the arc audiobook of The Curse of Penryth Hall!

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Thank you to NetGalley, Minotaur, Dreamscape Media and Jess Armstrong for an audio arc of The Curse of Penryth Hall in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis quote & review below.

"After the Great War, American heiress Ruby Vaughn made a life for herself running a rare bookstore alongside her octogenarian employer and house mate in Exeter. She’s always avoided dwelling on the past, even before the war, but it always has a way of finding her. When Ruby is forced to deliver a box of books to a folk healer living deep in the Cornish countryside, she is brought back to the one place she swore she’d never return. A more sensible soul would have delivered the package and left without rehashing old wounds. But no one has ever accused Ruby of being sensible. Thus begins her visit to Penryth Hall.

A foreboding fortress, Penryth Hall is home to Ruby’s once dearest friend, Tamsyn, and her husband, Sir Edward Chenowyth. It’s an unsettling place, and after a more unsettling evening, Ruby is eager to depart. But her plans change when Penryth’s bells ring for the first time in thirty years. Edward is dead; he met a gruesome end in the orchard, and with his death brings whispers of a returned curse. It also brings Ruan Kivell, the person whose books brought her to Cornwall, the one the locals call a Pellar, the man they believe can break the curse. Ruby doesn’t believe in curses―or Pellars―but this is Cornwall and to these villagers the curse is anything but lore, and they believe it will soon claim its next victim: Tamsyn.

To protect her friend, Ruby must work alongside the Pellar to find out what really happened in the orchard that night."

I want to start by saying that I enjoyed this story WAY more than I anticipated I would, which was a fabulous surprise. I love the gothic atmospheric vibe. I was in the dark until the very end of the "whodunit."

I absolutely LOVED the chemistry between Ruby & Ruann. The writing was wonderful and kept me interested the entire time. At no time did I find myself bored. I adore these types of gothic mysteries. The pacing was also perfect.

I really enjoyed how the mystery had an ending but that the ending between Ruby and Ruann was left someone open, which I REALLY hope was a hint at future novels following this duo solving more mysteries!

Solid 4.5 Star Read

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