A grim, disconcerting tale of ghosts and supernatural assaults.

THE GHOSTS OF WINWORTH MANOR

A 200-year-old spirit in search of a bride torments members of a family both living and dead in this paranormal thriller.

Michael Winworth has haunted the Winworth Manor for two centuries. He yearns for a bride but can only travel so far within his New York seaside town. So he coerces help from Mayor Jonathan Gilmore, over whom Michael has leverage. The ghost killed his wife, Karen, for planning to demolish the manor and now owns her soul. He’ll free her if the mayor brings him Jonathan’s 16-year-old niece, Sarah. Michael is enamored of her and vows to kill anyone who would act inappropriately toward her. A practitioner of dark magic when alive, Michael becomes a voice in Sarah’s head and appears before her inside her unconscious mind. He also has sex with her by force and by “lowering” her inhibitions, acts that the teen rightly deems rape. But when Sarah later faces living human menaces, Michael responds homicidally. Local cop Lt. Eric Johnson investigates and, notwithstanding Sarah’s ghost story, looks for a flesh-and-blood killer. Meanwhile, Michael threatens to murder Sarah’s dad, Robert, if she doesn’t willingly marry him in an eternal union. Drighton’s paranormal tale is frequently disturbing. Most notably, the narrative during Michael’s rape of Sarah is in the style of erotica: "This caused her opening to reveal more of her most forbidden fruit, and he longed to taste her sweet nectar.” But Michael’s villainy is unquestionable, as he periodically tortures his brother Jason’s soul. The dialogue-laden story is fitting for scenes with spirits, including Michael and Sarah’s mother, Helen, who tries helping her family. Things get progressively darker as certain characters become seedier and Michael eventually takes over someone’s body with unnerving results. Readers will likely anticipate more mayhem in the book’s final chapters.

A grim, disconcerting tale of ghosts and supernatural assaults.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68470-750-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A devilish sea saga that never runs out of cutthroat conspiracies.

THE DEVIL AND THE DARK WATER

After an outbreak of ghastly events aboard the Saardam, a merchant vessel returning from the East Indies to Amsterdam in 1634, fear spreads that an evil spirit is responsible.

Before the ship's departure, a leper issued a stark warning about the "merciless ruin" that awaited it—and then burst into flames. Only prisoner Sammy Pipps, an alleged British spy with uncanny powers of deduction, took the threat seriously. Soon enough at sea, on a vessel populated by "murderers, cutpurses and malcontents," throats are slit, bodies are stashed, and dark secrets are exposed. Ultimately, a monster storm upends the Saardam and destroys two other ships in the fleet. Amid the evil doings, human decency is largely limited to Sammy's bodyguard, Arent Hayes, a physically imposing specimen with a kind soul and a "poisoned" past, and healer Sara Wessel, abused wife of soulless Governor General Jan Haan, who happens to be Arent's uncle. With their congenial Holmes and Watson act, Sammy and Arent seem on track to emerge as the heroes of this perpetually revealing tale. But Turton, who brings a pointed social conscience to bear in his commentary on the ill treatment of women and the exploitation of the lower class, has something else in mind. With all its characters, hidden identities, and backstories, this epic sometimes sags. As one character declares, "There are too many damn secrets on this ship, and I swear all of them are marching toward him with swords in their hands." But Turton, whose brain-twisting first novel, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (2018), posed knotty challenges for readers, has a colorful tale to tell and does so in highly entertaining fashion.

A devilish sea saga that never runs out of cutthroat conspiracies.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72820-602-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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