Vintage Gothic Romance: ALWAYS IN AUGUST by Ann Head


Publisher: Signet
Release Date: August 1974
Rating: ★★★★★


PASSION AND HATE,
JEALOUSY AND VENGEANCE,
WERE HIDDEN BEHIND THE GREAT WALLED ESTATE OF MENLO…

It was August again, and Gloria was returning to Menlo. Gloria, with her stunning beauty and vast wealth, who hungered for everything that belonged to Lucy – even Lucy’s husband. Lucy could only wait in dread of what menace Gloria would unleash in this place of haunting beauty and mounting terror – of what evil she would bring to Lucy’s life and to the man Lucy loved and knew she could not hold.


“It was August again. And as always in August tempers are frayed, nerve ends laid bare by the heat.”

ALWAYS IN AUGUST is a Gothic Romance originally published in 1961. The story seems to take place around the time it was written, probably late 1950s, in the small coastal town of Royal Bay, South Carolina.

Lucy and Gloria were childhood friends, for a while. Gloria grew into a fiery and gorgeous young woman, while Lucy, though lovely, was level-headed and down to earth. Lucy had also been lifelong friends with the heir to Menlo Estate, a boy named Stark.

It was thought by all that Lucy and Stark would marry, until ruthless Gloria set her sights on him, and she always got what she wanted, especially if it was Lucy’s first. After tragedy strikes and Gloria flees Royal Bay, Lucy falls in love with another.

“The bad things always happen in August. Whatever potential evil sleeps here, beneath the easy, gentle surface of our days, is nourished, brought to fruit in the heavy, fetid August air.”

So, in August, years later, Gloria returns to Menlo, this time with the intention of stealing Lucy’s husband. But Lucy knows the tragic secrets hidden within the grand estate, and she’s not giving up without a fight.

I loved this book. The characters were well-crafted and memorable. Gloria was the perfect devious villain, while Lucy was easy to empathize with. You may or may not agree with her decisions, but I believe she did what she thought was best. The blurb makes the book sound so scary (menace! terror! evil!), but in reality ALWAYS IN AUGUST is a dramatic & gripping domestic suspense.

I read the 99¢ Kindle edition, which unfortunately is full of typos. I’m going to keep an eye out for an old paperback copy to add to my collection. (And, yay! I finished this review on the last day of August.)

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS by Lisa Jewell


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★½


From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.


THE FAMILY UPSTAIRS is a creepy and atmospheric domestic thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed. When Libby turns 25, she inherits a grand home left to her by her deceased parents, whom she did not know the identity of until now. Libby is about to learn the dark and disturbing history of the family’s house as well.

Twenty-five years earlier, three individuals died mysteriously within its walls, and the children living there disappeared. The timeline moves back and forth between past and present as three characters tell the story of 16 Cheyne Walk. Yet, how are they connected? It wasn’t easy putting the pieces of the puzzle together, but fun to try. Such a web of dark secrets.

Lisa Jewell has written another fantastic thriller that grabs you with complex characters and chilling suspense. Highly recommended.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

IN HER SHADOW by Kristin Miller

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★½


A pregnant young woman becomes obsessed with the disappearance of her lover’s wife, only to discover that she may be headed for the same fate, in this novel from New York Times bestselling author Kristin Miller.

When secretary Colleen Roper becomes pregnant by her boss, Michael, he whisks her away to Ravenwood, his opulent estate. Abruptly thrust into a life of luxury she’s never known, Colleen finds the immense house suffused with the memory of Michael’s wife, Joanna, who left months ago and haunts her imagination. With rooms she’s prohibited from entering and a staff that greets her with hostility, there is little room for a new mistress of Ravenwood.

It’s not long before bones are unearthed in the grove across the street and Michael falls under the suspicion of detectives. The soon-to-be mother of his child finds herself hurled deeper into her lover’s dark past, a past filled with unfaithfulness and deception. Making a claim to her new life is harder than it seems—especially since she’s walking in the shadow of the hauntingly beautiful Joanna. As Colleen untangles truth from lies, she discovers that nothing is what it seems, and that some people will kill to keep their secrets as quiet as the dead.


Kristin Miller has penned a clever modern retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s REBECCA with its own delicious twists in her latest novel IN HER SHADOW. The young protagonist Colleen finds herself pregnant and living at Ravenwood, her boyfriend Michael’s lavish seaside estate. Months earlier, Michael’s wife Joanna left him and abandoned Ravenwood, yet Colleen still feels her oppressive control within its walls. The situation gets much worse when human remains are found across the street, and Michael becomes a suspect.

This book was an exciting combination of mystery and Gothic suspense that kept me guessing. Ravenwood was gorgeous but creepy, and I couldn’t wait to find out what secrets it held. The story is told from a few different characters’ perspective, and I was never quite sure who to trust. The surprising twist at the end was one I did NOT see coming, a definite what?!? moment. Enjoyed! 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

R.I.P. XIV Reading Challenge #ripxiv

What? Readers Imbibing Peril Reading Challenge
When? September 1, 2019 – October 31, 2019
Where? Link up @ readersimbibingperil.com
Why? It’s fun!!! 🎃
How? Read Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy,
Supernatural, Gothic, and Horror

R.I.P. XIV Books Read:

      1. A GIRL NAMED ANNA by Lizzy Barber
      2. THE WOLF WANTS IN by Laura McHugh
      3. THE STRANGERS by Margaret Peterson Haddix
      4. THE VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis
      5. WE SPEAK IN STORMS by Natalie Lund
      6. THE GHOST OF CRUTCHFIELD HALL by Mary Downing Hahn
      7. THE SILENT COMPANIONS by Laura Purcell
      8. THE BODIES IN THE LIBRARY by Marty Wingate

THE TURN OF THE KEY by Ruth Ware {Review}


Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★★


When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


I absolutely loved it! THE TURN OF THE KEY is creepy, twisted, and disturbing, and totally absorbing — a modern-day The Turn of the Screw, but far more entertaining.

Rowan Caine’s new dream job as nanny for the seemingly perfect Elincourt family quickly turned into her worst nightmare. Their remote home in the Scottish Highlands called Heatherbrae House was an unusual hybrid of modern “smart” design and spooky Gothic Victorian. Inside its walls, cameras were watching, machines were listening for your next command, and Rowan was isolated with four young girls and whatever was causing the disturbances at night…

I enjoyed that this book was written in epistolary format, as desperate letters written by Rowan to a lawyer as she’s in prison awaiting trial for murder. The build up of suspense was fantastic, and the ominous atmosphere of Heatherbrae House kept me on edge. Had I been in Rowan’s situation, I would have been scared witless!

THE TURN OF THE KEY is another excellent thriller from Ruth Ware. Highly recommended to fans of eerie modern Gothics.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.