The Cruel Dark
by Bea Northwick
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Pub Date 31 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2023
Millicent Foxboro is haunted.
Not by ghosts, but by the anguish of her past and the uncertainty of her future. After all, even in the progressive year of 1928, most people would balk at hiring a woman who’d spent two months in a mental ward for traumatic amnesia. So when an uncommon assistantship to a reclusive Professor of mythology falls into her lap with an ungodly salary attached, her desperation for stability overrides her cautious nature.
To Millie’s dismay, the widowed Professor Callum Hughes and his estate, Willowfield, are more than she bargained for. The once magnificent home, known for its sprawling gardens and dazzling parties, is falling to pieces after the death of the professor’s fragile wife. What’s more, the staff has been reduced to the only three people not frightened away by rumors of ghosts, leaving the halls empty and languishing in bitter memories.
The professor himself is a grim, intense man with unclear expectations, unpredictable moods, and hungry eyes that ignite Millie’s own dormant passions. The closer she finds herself drawn to Professor Hughes and his strange world of flowers and folklore, the more the house closes in, threatening to reveal her secrets. But the professor is keeping secrets of his own and the most dangerous of all is hers to discover.
Average rating from 252 members
The Cruel Dark is a gothic romance rich with spine-tingling elements and enigmatic characters. The immersive storytelling instantly captured my interest, and I felt I was exploring the tragically beautiful home, shuddering when approaching the darkest corners alongside the main protagonist. The build-up is done wonderfully and makes the dramatic twist worthwhile.
My favorite things from The Cruel Dark that other readers might enjoy include:
- Historical setting
- Gothic romance
- Flowers and folklore
- Eerie estates
- Deadly secrets
- Jane Eyre and Rebecca vibes
I can’t wait for people to read this book so I can rhapsodize about the ending!
Thank you, NetGalley and Northwick Books, for sending me an e-ARC of this book! All opinions are my own.
W O W!!!
I am utterly floored that this is a debut novel. I devoured this in less than a day, I literally could not put it down. The writing is gripping, while still beautiful. Tense and creepy but still good-humored when needed.
I will say I picked up on the twist about halfway through, but it did not take away from my enjoyment in the slightest. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the story unfold and all of the little twists and turns had my stomach lurching.
I will, undoubtedly, be reading anything Bea Northwick releases in the future. This book solidified me as an absolute huge fan of her writing!
THE PLOT TWISTS! This book was absolute gothic perfection, the ghosts, the mansion, the dark elements of the Celtic mythological creatures, it was an amazing read that I simply couldn’t put down.
I have to pay my respects to Bea Northwick, her attention to detail in this book was amazing, she did not leave one loose end, making sure to clean everything up in the Epilogue. That final plot twist was, hm *chefs kiss*!
I am at a loss for words at Millie’s character, I loved her strong personality, and the fact that she remained her outspoken self throughout.
ALSO, when I learnt what happened to her parents ??? I was shook! It was the perfect way to bring in that morbid/dark side of the story.
The spice 🌶️🌶️🌶️
I will recommend this to anyone who listens.
A big thank you to NetGalley and Northwick Books for allowing me the pleasure of reading the ARC of Cruel Dark.
I first discovered this book a few months ago on Instagram. I was anxiously patiently waiting for the October 31st release date - so when I was approved for an ARC I was SO excited! And that excitement was not misplaced! Onto the actual review...
"You shine a light in this dark house, Miss Foxboro. I pray you let nothing extinguish it."
This is a brilliant debut from Bea Northwick. Chock full of ghosts and madness, The Cruel Dark does a great job of encompassing the classic gothic undertones and vibes I love - but does it without being overly predictable!
""And dare I mention you are alone in the dark with a man you don't know?" A low blow. "Or perhaps you are alone in the dark with a woman you don't know.""
The main characters had just that - character! They were well fleshed out, but still had prevalent tones of mystery that left me wanting to know more. The plot holds a mystery that is not easily deciphered early on into the story. The supporting characters added to the gloomy magnetism of Willowfield.
Instead of giving a recap of the plot, I strongly encourage you to read it and discover for yourself! If you're a fan of the themes of Rebecca, Mexican Gothic, or A Dreadful Splendor, you will definitely enjoy this book!
"I couldn't stand wardrobes. They reminded me of giant caskets."
The Cruel Dark by Bea Northwick
This Gothic Romance is set to release on Halloween, and the timing couldn’t be any more perfect. It has everything you want in a spooky and sexy Gothic Romance; ghosts, secrets, madness, creatures, folklore, lies, and love. I urge you to read it that night, because as it ramps up, it will have you on edge, and you can absolutely devour it in one evening. The plot was remarkable and the ending surprising. The book as a whole gave me the chills, and by the end, I was stunned. What a brilliant debut Romance Novel from Bea Northwick.
The characters were wonderful and captivating. Millie was intriguing with her mysterious memories and actions while Callum was intense and moody; I whole heartedly enjoyed their banter. You just want to keep reading to find out what their deal is and resolve all the unanswered questions running through your head as you read. The romance and spice were just enough and don’t take away from the brilliant plot line. Not only will this book give you chills it also brings the heat. The Professor is… 🥵
If you enjoy Hester B Fox books then you should absolutely check this one out. Or vice versa!
Thank you NetGalley and Bea Northwick for the opportunity to receive an ARC of this book. The Cruel Dark is an absolutely jaw-dropping success from debut author Bea Northwick. I am typically a mood reader, juggling 4-7 books at a time, but once I started this book, I couldn't put it down. I finished it in two days. I was undeniably entranced by Northwick's imagery and world-building from the very beginning of the novels. And her ability to give the character's well-rounded development without simple pages of back story was so skilled, it's as though she's been doing this for years.
This Gothic romance is the perfect mix of historical, mythical, spooky, and spicy. I don't know how she was able to balance everything so skillfully, but just when you were craving one of those elements, there it would be. The main characters (Millie and Callum) have such beautiful depth, your heart is along for the ride right alongside them. And the supporting cast of characters (Rodney, Felicity, Ms. Dillard, Dr. Hannigan, and more) offer all of the right details and plot twists needed to keep the reader on their toes.
Read this book if you enjoy: Gothic historical romance, dark academia vibes, haunted/ghost stories, slow-burn spice, fun plot twists, dark secrets, mental health representation
I cannot recommend this book enough. One of my favorite reads of the year!