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The Orchids of Ashthorne Hall

The Orchids of Ashthorne Hall, April 2024
by Rebecca Anderson

Shadow Mountain
Featuring: Hyacinth Bell; Lucas Harding
272 pages
ISBN: 1639932356
EAN: 9781639932351
Kindle: B0CZMMFMZF
Trade Paperback / e-Book / audiobook
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"A spooky coastal manor, a budding romance"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Orchids of Ashthorne Hall
Rebecca Anderson

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted April 8, 2024

Romance Historical | Suspense Gothic

I love that this historical romance features middle-class people, the up-and-coming, well-placed, if not well-off, of the day. In 1887, the eager young botanist Hyacinth Bell accepted a position caring for THE ORCHIDS OF ASHTHORNE HALL. She travels alone to Cornwall – the upper crust would have brought a maid or relative. Propriety is required but not stood upon in the adventure which follows.
 
I’ve driven around Cornwall, which is a long craggy peninsula only a few miles across, so it’s no surprise that Ashthorne Hall is on the coast. Having followed her botanist father’s science training, Hyacinth Bell is looking after a sumptuous orchid collection while the Whitbeck household spends time in India. There’s just herself and the stern housekeeper, Mrs. Carter, so the house feels large and empty, barely lit and with most rooms closed or covered in dust sheets. The scene is set for a gothic romance.
 
Lucas Harding, the manor’s handsome caretaker, arrives and introduces himself, bringing a light to Hyacinth’s days. She’s been talking to her personal potted orchid Eleanor, and maybe loneliness is why she thought she glimpsed a woman in white around the house at night. Or maybe it’s a ghost.
 
The tale is atmospheric but somewhat slow, which is a reflection that the house isn’t connected to the outside world and only Mr. Gardner from the village shop visits. Hyacinth, while getting to know Lucas, is quite aware of her position as an unmarried young woman who is not a servant but not a gentry. She tells herself at times that manners in the countryside are not so strict as in London. I feel that more side characters would have helped to enliven the story – a washerwoman, camping gypsies, poachers and local fisherfolk could all have put in an appearance. Maybe the author wanted to emphasise isolation and the points of a tragic nature that start to unfold.  
 
Orchids and hothouse plants generally became fashionable with the rise of the British Empire in the East. Most estate gardeners would concentrate on the outdoor plants and walled fruit and vegetable gardens, so it’s quite appropriate that an expert would be called to tend the valuable collection. THE ORCHIDS OF ASHTHORNE HALL by Rebecca Anderson is a romance suitable for young adults and adults, with a spooky shiver and a dash of danger.

Learn more about The Orchids of Ashthorne Hall

SUMMARY

A ghostly estate. A handsome caretaker hiding a secret. And the intrepid Hyacinth Bell, who is set on solving the mystery of both.

1887, the Cornwall coast

For years, rumors have flown through the village of Suttonsbury about Ashthorne Hall—that its occupants hoard pirate treasure, that a ghost walks its halls—but botanist Hyacinth Bell cares only about the estate’s extensive, one-of-a-kind orchid collection. As an independent woman, she is eager to focus on her career, even if it means waiting to pursue a romantic relationship. After all, love—like an orchid—must be nurtured and tended before it can bloom.

What she doesn’t expect is to be swept away by Lucas Harding, the manor’s caretaker, upon their first meeting. He is handsome and charming, and the connection between the two is nearly instantaneous. Hyacinth is certain this autumn will be the season that everything good in her life takes root.

But then strange things start happening in the seemingly empty halls of the estate: unexplainable noises, items appearing, then disappearing from her room, threatening messages, and glimpses of a woman in white who vanishes into the dark. Lucas dismisses Hyacinth’s worries, insisting that there is no ghost at Ashthorne Hall, but Hyacinth suspects he is withholding information and decides to investigate the mystery herself.

Armed with little more than her instincts and her courage, Hyacinth must venture deep into the shadows of Ashthorne Hall to uncover the truth Lucas is keeping secret before she herself falls victim to the dangers hidden in the estate.


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