Title: Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (60s), Suspense, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
For fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Waters, here’s a magnetic debut novel of wrenching family secrets, forbidden love, and heartbreaking loss housed within the grand gothic manor of Black Rabbit Hall.
Ghosts are everywhere, not just the ghost of Momma in the woods, but ghosts of us too, what we used to be like in those long summers . . .
Amber Alton knows that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family’s country estate, where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, of course, it does.
More than three decades later, Lorna is determined to be married within the grand, ivy-covered walls of Pencraw Hall, known as Black Rabbit Hall among the locals. But as she’s drawn deeper into the overgrown grounds, half-buried memories of her mother begin to surface and Lorna soon finds herself ensnared within the manor’s labyrinthine history, overcome with an insatiable need for answers about her own past and that of the once-happy family whose memory still haunts the estate.
Stunning and atmospheric, this debut novel is a thrilling spiral into the hearts of two women separated by decades but inescapably linked by the dark and tangled secrets of Black Rabbit Hall.
From the deliciously mysterious prologue until the last page is turned, Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase is a riveting novel that is impossible to put down. The dark and sorrowful events from 1969 continue to reverberate three decades later when bride-to-be Lorna Dunaway’s search for a wedding venue takes her to a dilapidated country estate in Cornwall.
In 1968, the Alton family is deliriously happy when they depart from London to their country estate which they affectionately refer to as Black Rabbit Hall. Hugo and Alton are deeply in love and this happiness is reflected in their four children: teenage twins Amber and Toby and the much younger Barney and Kitty. Vacations at Black Rabbit Hall are idyllic and rather magical as the kids run wild exploring the estate and lazing around the beach. But their happy days come to an abrupt end when their mother dies in a tragic accident and their father Hugo’s ex-girlfriend Caroline Shawcross and her teenage son Lucian enter their lives a short time later.
Lorna is immediately entranced with the ramshackle estate and over her fiancé Jon’s strenuous objections, she accepts the homeowner’s invitation to spend the weekend in the mansion. She feels a strong kinship to the property and after discovering a puzzling carving on a tree that dates back to 1969, her curiosity is piqued. Hoping to uncover the truth about the long ago tragedy, Lorna gently quizzes the owner and her employee, but she is frustrated by their reluctance to talk about the past. Instead, she finds tantalizing clues in photo albums but she soon hits a dead end. After discovering information that is inexplicably linked to her own past, Lorna is ready to return to London when the elderly homeowner finally agrees to reveal the secrets from that unsettled time in 1969.
The heartbreaking events from 1968-1969 are told in a series of flashbacks from teenager Amber’s point of view. Happy and well-adjusted before her mother’s death, Amber is forced to act as a surrogate parent for Kitty and Barney. Kitty manages to emerge from the tragedy relatively unscathed but young Barney remains traumatized by the incident. Twin brother Toby is sent back to boarding school only to be expelled when his anger spills over into violence. The increasingly tense situation takes a dark turn when Hugo insists the family return to Black Rabbit Hall for Christmas later that year where he introduces the children to Caroline and Lucian. Amber is somewhat entranced by Lucian but Toby deeply resents his and his mother’s intrusion on their holiday. This animosity intensifies after Hugo and Caroline marry soon after the one year anniversary of their mother’s death and Amber is torn between her loyalty to Toby and her growing (and forbidden) attraction to Lucian.
With startling plot twists and jaw dropping revelations, Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase is a captivating novel that is quite suspenseful. While not a traditional mystery, this intriguing story is quite atmospheric and vaguely reminiscent of old-fashioned Gothic stories. A fast-paced and compelling read that I absolutely loved and highly recommend!