You can read the Fangirl Friday for Book 1 in the Read by Candlelight series here: The Secretary and the Ghost. Book 2 is JUST as good, if not better. I loved the intrigue, the mystery, the characters, and the writing. I’ve been meaning to read this author for a long time and never got round to it, but these books have made them an instant-buy author for me.
Stephen Mereweather, a young invalid, doubts that gloomy Brackenwell Hall can cure him. What chance does country air, no matter how fresh, have against a disease that has baffled the greatest medical mind in London—his own father? Resigned to a long recovery, Stephen encounters instead a cheeky trespasser who takes Stephen’s bad mood as an invitation to be even more obnoxiously cheerful. It’s enough to make anyone reach for the nearest bottle of laudanum…
But Charlie’s inflated self-regard is not the only inexplicable occurrence at Brackenwell. Stephen’s family is plagued by a series of disappearances and deaths. If Stephen wants to avoid a premature death, he’ll need Charlie’s help… But Charlie may prove an even bigger mystery.
Gillian St. Kevern is the author of the Deep Magic series, the Thorns and Fangs series, the For the Love of Christmas series,and standalone novels, The Biggest Scoop and The Wing Commander’s Curse. Gillian currently lives in her native New Zealand, but spent eleven years in Japan and has visited over twenty different countries.
As a chronic traveller, Gillian is more interested in journeys than endings, with characters that grow and change to achieve their happy ending. She’s not afraid to let her characters make mistakes or take the story in an unexpected direction. Her stories cross genres, time-periods and continents, taking readers along for an unforgettable ride. Both Deep Magic and The Biggest Scoop were nominated for Best LOR story in the 2015 M/M Romance Groups Member’s Choice awards. Deep Magic also received nominations in Best Cover, Best Main Character and Best Paranormal, while The Biggest Scoop was nominated for Best Coming of Age.
The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall, by Gillian St. Kevern
Read by Candlelight, Book 2
POV: 3rd person, one character
Content warning: mentions of alcohol abuse and attempted suicide
Themes: Gothic, Paranormal, Romance, MM
I’ll admit, when I was asked to read/review this book, I didn’t even look at the blurb. I didn’t need to. The Secretary and the Ghost spoke for itself, and told me that this was going to be an incredible collection of 5* reads. Each one is capable of being read as a standalone, and each one has the same 5* gothic atmosphere, vintage storytelling, and incredible characterisation that marks it as a series worth watching.
Evocative. Haunting. Surprising. The Mystery of Brackenwell Hall was all of that and more. From page one, the atmosphere was distinct and exactly what I could have hoped for. We started with Stephen already at Brackenwell Hall and in the midst of his first adventure.
When it comes to characters, I loved them all! There was an extra layer of connection between myself and Stephen because we’re very similar. I’ve spent most of my adult life being ill or disabled and I understand the secret urges to rebel, the bristling at certain phrases or behaviours, and the urge to prove to yourself that you *can* do something, even if you shouldn’t. I immediately connected to his character and loved his young, innocently naive and sheltered view of life, and how that changed with the appearance of Charlie.
Gosh, Charlie. I loved him from the very first second. I loved his spark of vitality and the vulnerability he tried so desperately to hide. Together, Charlie and Stephen had some incredible chemistry. And there was one slightly – if historically accurate and appropriate – steamy scene that fanned the pages a little.
Even the secondary characters were interesting. I loved Harris, one of the servants, and reappearance of Cross and Pip from The Secretary and the Ghost. Though it was great to see them, there wasn’t too much of their story involved, so that each book can be read entirely as a standalone, without losing anything. But, by seeing them here, if I hadn’t already read their story, I’d be off to do that right away, because they were both really well represented on page and intriguing enough to make me want more.
Overall, I’ll admit that I had my suspicions about the ending for a while, but I was totally taken by surprise as to the How, the Why, and how it was all revealed. It was a bit like Stephen in that I could see glimpses, but I struggled to believe it. And then that twist came, that explained Charlie’s situation, and I was gobsmacked at how perfect it was. It took me entirely by surprise, but I loved it. It made so much sense and was a twist I never saw coming.
Then there was that Epilogue and…*sigh* I’m just happy. A great day of reading a great book, that ends with that Epilogue, *and* the announcement of another book? Colour me happy.
Now? I’ve already pre-ordered The Well-Dressed Werewolf and added the paperback of The Secretary and the Ghost to my Instant-Buy list. It’s a done deal. Anything in this collection of standalone stories is going on my shelf, pronto! And I’ll be digging into my back-catalogue of purchased-but-not-yet-read books by this author and reading them immediately.
St. Kevern has just become an auto-buy author.
“I don’t know what I’m more offended by. The accusation that I might be thinking of acts of wanton indulgence or that I’m cultivating morals.”