This YA novel is a mixture of contemporary romance, horror/mystery and ghost story. It’s also a time slip, with a parallel tale from 1825, and the two strands alternate throughout. In the present, Kate goes to spend her summer holidays with a group of teenagers at a remote castle recently inherited by the boy she’s in love with – Leo. It’s a crumbling, seriously creepy place, but Leo is an indomitable character who relishes his new position as master of Darkmere Castle. The group have brought alcohol and drugs, and enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle for a few weeks, but strange and spooky happenings set everyone’s nerves on end. And Kate begins to realise she didn’t know Leo as well as she thought …
In the past, Leo’s ancestor St Cloud marries the very young Elinor in whirlwind fashion. Soon, she’s a virtual prisoner at Darkmere Castle, where everything is ruled by her husband, including her. All attempts at rebellion result in misery for her and those she loves, and Ellie becomes ill after a miscarriage. Then her sister – embittered because of an accident that scarred her for life – comes to stay and Ellie’s childhood friend Nick visits, triggering her determination to escape. But is there a way?
This story is compelling and fascinating. The modern parts pull no punches and the reader can feel the fear along with Kate as the castle casts its spell over the group of holidaymakers. The historical parts were also engrossing, although the sense of doom almost made me not want to read on – truly a Gothic tale!
This is an excellent story which I would highly recommend!
(Darkmere by Helen Maslin is published by Chicken House)