From the desk of Sophia Rose:
An atmospheric setting, characters with secrets, a dark shadowy deed at the heart, and a heroine who slowly begins to feel her own acute danger as she seeks to find the truth and her own road to happiness. What an irresistible combo, and just what I was looking for in this second outing with author Abigail Wilson’s Regency-era Gothic-styled romantic suspense that had me shivering with anticipation.
A Heroine with a Troubled Past
“It was entirely possible that I spent more time lying on the floor of Cluett’s Mesmeric Hospital than standing upon it.” (Loc 38)
For two years, widow Amelia Pembroke has lived in relative peace with two other live-in patients at Moorington Cross under the treatment of kind Mr. Cluett and his taciturn nurse. They have become more than fellow sufferers, but a family of sorts.
Then one day Mr. Cluett shares the contents of his new will and everything changes for Amelia. He knows her fears about marriage and yet he puts a proviso in his will that if she is to inherit Moorington Cross, and his wealth, she must wed one of two eligible men he has chosen for her within thirty days of his death.
A Far-Too-Handsome Prospect
Enter Mr. Hawkins the solicitor who represents her deceased husband’s firm and is now her legal advisor. He irritates and attracts her at the same time. Is he truly on her side?
“I gave myself a mental shake. I’d survived one intolerable guardian after another and then a violent husband. I could certainly keep this far-too-handsome Mr. Hawkins at arm’s length. Besides, he had no intentions where I was concerned. There was no mistaking that. I was merely a problem that needed solving.” (Loc 659)
Death Comes Calling
After a poor first meeting with her would-be suitors, Amelia is woken by the screams of fellow patient Mrs. Fitzroy. Mr. Cluett, her doctor and kind friend is dead, and it may not have been by natural causes. Soon she suspects that Moorington Cross may not be the safe haven that she had thought. It is not a stranger to death, and there is the looming Cluett family curse.
Passed From One Unwilling Guardian to the Next
I was struck by several unique features, particularly regarding Wilson’s main characters. The author gave the heroine a sleeping disorder disability and made her an orphan subject to the Regency’s version of the foster care system, passed from one unwilling and uninterested guardian to the next. Additionally, she continually fears being locked away in an institution like Bedlam for her issue. In the end her abusive husband put her in the private home. Sadly, she has little control of her life. It must have been terrifying. No wonder she found a private treatment hospital converted from a family estate to be her shelter and home.
Mr. Hawkins has his own challenges to match her disability. Abandoned by his mother to a London workhouse, he is known as an illegitimate baby with a deformed hand. He has some inkling of what it is to be ostracized, yet also dependent on others to survive. The turning point in the story came in an intimate moment between the pair.
“Show you?” His hand stilled as his face blanched white. “I…I won’t if you’d prefer not to see it. I’m just basking in a rather glorious revelation. You, Mrs. Pembroke, may be the first person I’ve ever met who understands me.” A smile crossed his face. “I find myself intrigued and strangely empowered by the discovery. I only thought that since I’ve seen one of your [sleeping] spells, it is only fair you see an intimate piece of me as well.” (Loc 2330)
The Lesser of Two Evils
Amelia’s focus is divided between partnering Mr. Hawkins in investigating Mr. Cluett’s murder and the mysteries of Moorington Cross. She must also figure out which of her suitors would be the lesser of two evils, so to speak. Progress is slow on both fronts, but steadily, they learn little bits of the story here and there that seem unrelated at first. I had several ‘why’ questions and wondered if they would ever get answered, but then, in the end, the pieces finally fit together. They learn they must be getting closer when Amelia barely avoids her own murder. The end comes in a heart-in-the throat climax and multiple shocking reveals.
In summation, Twilight at Moorington Cross cleverly mixes Regency manners with gothic suspense, boldly addressed social and cultural elements of the period. My small issue with this book is in just how many ‘happy’ coincidences reside in the reveals. However, the denouement provides a startling surprise and a beautiful, swoon worthy scene, too. This second outing with Abigail Wilson’s books was a triumph. Those who enjoy romantic historical mysteries with a gothic twist will find this one mesmerizing.
4 out of 5 stars
- Twilight at Moorington Cross: A Novel, by Abigail Wilson
- Thomas Nelson (January 11, 2022)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (320) pages
- ISBN: 978-0785253273
- Genre: Historical Suspense, Regency Romance, Inspirational Fiction
We received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Thomas Nelson © 2022; text Sophia Rose © 2022, austenprose.com.
Hello Dear Readers,
Have you read any of the other novels by Abigail Wilson?
If you enjoy historical suspense with a gothic twist Austenprose highly recommends them.
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Laurel Ann Nattress, editor