From the desk of Sophia Rose:
Mystery surrounds a family, a ruined abbey, and a sudden disappearance making a young guest and friend of the family fearful about her visit. The atmospheric suspense, attention to the historical setting, and complexity in the characters made The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, the latest release by Abigail Wilson, a must-read.
Charity Halliwell once thought to marry the oldest Cavanagh son, Piers, until her family’s sudden move to Ceylon and his letter ending their prospects left her bereft and vulnerable. An attack in the dark of the tea plantation has left her disgusted at her naiveté in venturing outside on her own and quelled her spirit as well as her dream of ever marrying and having a family. Now, when her parent’s journey to join her brilliant chemist of a brother in America, Charity longs for her old neighborhood and friends as a comfort. She knows from Selene’s letters that Piers will not be there as he lives away from the family.
The first night of her visit to the Cavanaghs is enough to convince her that she made a mistake seeking solace in the past. Mrs. Cavanagh isn’t exactly welcoming and mischievous Selene sneaks into Charity’s room to admit that her mother wanted her to leave Charity to her own devices. However, Selene has been a hoyden kissing a groom and flirting with others. She wants the only man in a neighborhood with a title, but she will toy with the others. On this night, she mentions a secret plan to have her way and then whisks off into the night with Charity’s dark cloak about her never to return.
The youngest Cavanagh, Avery, is sent to search for Selene on the road to Gretna Green and Piers returns to support his family trying to ignore the spark between Charity and himself that he purposefully extinguished. She has since learned that he challenged Selene’s lord to a duel and then didn’t show which had him branded a coward and ostracized from polite society. Charity has her own reasons for keeping her distance from any man let alone Piers, but she is certain that Selene never ran off with the groom she kissed and she is equally certain that Piers is no coward whatever the reason he didn’t show to that duel. She will stand by the family and help get to the truth even if she must brave a mysterious shadowy enemy.
The Vanishing at Loxby Manor is a delicious gothic-flavored romantic suspense in the old style. The narrative is all from the periled heroine’s perspective and offers a personal as well as an external conflict to show her what she is made of and bring about some startling reveals.
Charity has been assaulted and feels guilt-ridden for her part in it, but also considers herself soiled goods in that day and age when reputation is everything to a woman and whether it is her fault or not, she becomes tainted. She also wanted to protect her heart after Piers squashed it like he did. I was thoroughly taken with Charity and was impatient for her to work out the truth of it all and work out what was quite obvious to me as the reader when it came to her and Piers.
The mystery of Selene’s disappearance was cunning, and the reader has to follow it through to the end before discovering the dark, gritty truth behind it all. There are enough ambiguous players who all keep something back so that the truth is long and hard in coming. I confess to wanting to kick Avery in the britches for the longest time because he was the most obvious of those who were lying. Did he not want to find his sister??? But, later, I learned it was complicated.
I found that as the story was building to those final stunning reveals that there was the middle ground that felt somewhat dragging to me. There was a great deal of waiting for something significant to happen and I got impatient. However, I did the story a disservice because in the end, I saw how all that set up and slow going added together. So, fortify for that slow-go of the middle of the book, future readers!
In summary, this was a splendid and suspenseful romantic historical that will tantalize readers with its gothic flavor and mysterious tone. I recommend it to those who enjoy sweet historical romance and mystery.
4 out of 5 Stars
- The Vanishing at Loxby Manor, by Abigail Wilson
- Thomas Nelson (January 26, 2021)
- Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (334 pages)
- ISBN: 978-0785232957
We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Cover image courtesy of Thomas Nelson © 2021; text Sophia Rose © 2021, Austenprose.com