Hello all! I am officially only one book behind on my ARCs! I had the distinct pleasure and honor of receiving Abigail Wilson’s The Vanishing at Loxby Manor from Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction and I was biting at the bit to read it ever since! Despite some minor formatting issues, here was an ARC worth waiting for. Three words: Gothic. Regency. Romance. So without further ado…
From the Publisher:
Her friend is missing.
After five years abroad, Charity Halliwell finally returns to Loxby Manor, the home of dear friends—and her lost love. No longer a young girl, she is now haunted by a painful secret and the demise of her dreams. Instead of the healing and happiness she hopes to find, she encounters a darkness lurking in the shadows of the once-familiar house. When her friend, Seline, disappears the very night of her arrival, Charity is determined to uncover the truth.
Her only hope is the man who broke her heart.
Branded a coward, Piers Cavanaugh has lived the last five years as an outcast far from his family home. When his sister presumably elopes with a stable hand, Piers joins forces with an unlikely partner—the one woman he thought he’d never see again. Together they launch an investigation that leads to strange nightly meetings in the ruins of an old abbey and disturbing whispers of a secret organization. The more they learn, the more desperate the situation becomes.
The house seems determined to keep its secrets.
As they struggle to piece together the clues, Charity and Piers also endeavor to rebuild their friendship. One cryptic letter changed everything between them. To find happiness they will have to overcome the grief and shame keeping them apart. But first they must discover why Seline vanished and confront the growing fear that she may never return.
What I Loved:
- The “Mood.” Man, does Wilson know how to set a scene. English countryside, repressed feelings, secret societies, vaguely pagan temple ruins, “dark and stormy nights”…. I could go on, but you get the picture. There has been an unacceptable dearth of gothics in this century, and Wilson fills a hole I didn’t know I was missing. AND she took away the annoying elements of the classic gothic (damsels in distress are so nineteenth century). Loxby Manor is the kind of place that you love coming upon, but may keep a knife under your pillow sleeping there. Reading this, I could actually hear the floors creak and thunder rumble.
- The Mystery. Not only does Loxby Manor deliver the atmosphere of a gothic, but it delivered an A+ mystery also. While Charity and Piers hunt all leads while still trying to blend into polite society, I was fully hooked and invested in their investigation. It kept me guessing to the end, and as the body count increased, it genuinely felt like no one was safe. However, Wilson did such a wonderful job at staying the course – at no point did Loxby Manor venture into the realm of horror or thriller. The steady level of creepy gothic was perfect, and suited the mystery as a whole.
- The Regency Romance. I am normally an “all or nothing” type when it comes to romance. I like me some Nora Roberts, then some very safe cozy mystery kisses. However, Wilson yet again exemplifies her intended genre and time period, and you can help but root for the chastely sexy (love the oxymoron) romance of Charity and Piers. Their stolen looks, hidden passionate kisses, and easy comradery make them a no brainer. Piers is also tall dark and broody, just how we like ’em. Bonus points for treating Charity like she is an equal and being a good listener.
What Didn’t Work as Well:
- The Pacing. I had a hard time getting into the first 30 or so pages, and seriously contemplated putting Loxby Manor. And then suddenly, as new characters were added and the mystery began, the middle and last half of the book flew. I am so happy I stuck through it and really loved Loxby Manor, but have to admit that it was hard at first.
- Charity’s Internal Dialogue. I loved Piers and Charity, but since this was a first person look into Charity’s mind, it got a little repetitive. Charity is supposed to be in her mid-twenties, but her internal monologue still read like a teenager’s. She feels like the Juliet to Piers’ Romeo, each with their own hidden pain that means they can “never marry.” While she has great skills as a sleuth and is very smart, she is also self-deprecating and thinks herself plain. When Piers wants her to flirt with one of the suspects for information, Charity can’t believe anyone would want to flirt with her because she isn’t as pretty as Seline. However, it seems like most of them men find her pretty attractive, so not sure where she got this from.
That’s… really it, as far as negatives go. Charity’s internal thoughts made me feel like this was more YA or NA, but there were no major deal breakers in Loxby Manor.
Despite some minor ARC formatting issues and a slightly weird pace, I loved The Vanishing at Loxby Manor. There is something so pure and delightful about a good period gothic: It brings out the best in the mystery, historical fiction, and historical romance genres, and makes a perfect book stew. Abigail Wilson drives that home, and while this is my first book of her, it won’t be my last. Four and a half waves! (Not sure how to work that in… a baby wave? A wavette?) Go pick up your copy here and check out my “Favorite Books of 2021” list so far – You will find Loxby Manor at the top.