Darkmere by Helen Maslin
Darkmere is part contemporary romance, part eerie thriller, and part historical fiction so when I first heard about this book, I was skeptical that these elements could work well together, but I was intrigued. After reading the last page, I'm convinced I've never read a book that combines different genres as seamlessly as this one. The story alternates chapters from the past and the present and whilst this can sometimes be difficult to keep track of, this book clearly shows the lines between the two by using headings and a different font, as well as the two being easily distinguished through the main characters voice.
The past focuses on Elinor, a young bride in 1825 who moves into the St Cloud castle to be with her new husband, but soon discovers things aren't all as they seem and she longs to leave the castle and all its secrets behind. Fast forward several hundred years and we're in the present day, where Kate and her friends are setting off to the St Cloud castle (that one of them has just inherited) for the Summer. Armed with spooky stories of ghosts and curses set upon the castle, the group are determined to have an amazing Summer, but end up getting more than they bargained for.
The sections that focused on Elinor's life were spooky in a disturbing way. I felt myself drawn to Elinor as a person and although I'm not particularly a fan of historical fiction, the historical aspects within this story were intriguing and I felt myself drawn in by the old English language. I could feel distress when Elinor did and I felt most connected to her over any other character in the book. The present-day story was spooky in the traditional sense, with creepy sounds and reported stories of ghost sightings, with a friendship group dynamic thrown in the mix alongside romantic elements to complicate things further.
I felt myself being drawn to Elinor's character - as I mentioned earlier - over Kate's and particularly over all of the other characters, who I just didn't care for at all. Leo and St Cloud were two characters I hated, but in a good way, as they were both invaluable to the storyline and they were the kinds of characters who were designed to be disliked. I would have preferred to see a stronger female friendship develop between Kate and Lucie but that didn't happen and Lucie was just kind of there and not particularly relevant.
There were parts in the book, particularly towards the end, that had me absolutely hooked and I was desperate to know what was going to happen, in both the past and present stories. I enjoyed reading Maslin's writing style, as it felt effortless and easy to get lost in. I would describe the book as more of a thriller than a romance, as the romance was very slight in both the past and the present, but it was still an enjoyable aspect nonetheless. Overall, I really enjoyed Darkmere and would highly recommend it to fans of gothic romance, thrillers and even those who aren't interested in historical fiction at all because like it did for me, it may just change your mind.