Michael Boccacino is diabolically addictive. Boccacino’s gloomy, doomed locales, Gothic settings, and superb Victorian characters will certainly afford you more than a few Stephen King moments! Seductively eerie, gloriously spooky, with inhuman villains and redemptive heroines, and Wuthering Heights drama, don’t read this without being in a well lit room! Better than a séance, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling howls with evil and good!
Charlotte Markham has lost everyone she loves. Her beloved husband Jonathan burned to death saving her life, and her parents have died also. At every death she senses a black shadow of a man lurking, reaching out for her. Her nightmares carry her into the dark man’s lair, but she cannot quite grasp who he is or what he is.
Charlotte now serves as governess in Everton, the large country home of Mr. Henry Darrow and his two sons, James and Paul. Mrs. Darrow – Lily – has recently died and the boys and Mr. Darrow remain devastated by her death. And then, one horrible night, a woman’s scream is heard on the grounds, in the woods, and Nanny Prum is not in her room. Susannah Larken, the village seamstress, and Charlotte’s good friend, has seen the murder of Nanny Prum. It was if, says Susannah, Nanny Prum was blown apart from the inside, and a man dressed in black stood over her. As the man in black sees Susannah he grabs at her, but Roland, Everton’s groundskeeper saves her. Shaken and horrified, the village constable does not believe her story. But Charlotte and the staff know Susannah is telling the truth – she always does.
Mrs. Norman, the housekeeper, warns Susannah that she is in terrible danger. And she warns Charlotte that she is on the same path of peril and that the man in black is watching her.
Charlotte assumes the responsibilities as both the boys’ governess and nanny. As she is directing them in the “art” section of lessons, Paul draws a map. He then asks Charlotte to take them for a walk, and heads into the woods, following his map, leaving Charlotte and James behind. Charlotte grabs James and follows Paul into the woods behind Everton. A roiling fog creates darkness as they run after Paul and suddenly the woods are filled with strange fruit, resembling humans but ephemeral in nature. And before them is a large house with the door open. Inside the doorway, Paul stands with a regal and elegant woman. James yells out “Mother” and Charlotte gasps. There stands Lily Darrow. Mrs. Darrow lives inside the house, The House of Darkling, with inhuman creatures that are never allowed to die. Mr. Whatley, the beastly owner of the House of Darkling allows Charlotte and the boys to enter – and the horror begins.
Charlotte cannot keep the boys from their mother and continues to sneak them to the strange House of Darkling. When she meets Mr. Whatley, she knows she has met something evil and dark. For Mr. Whatley is a collector, and he collects among other things the death moments of humans. And Lily knows that her beloved husband Henry Darrow and Charlotte are falling in love. And she approves. Charlotte will not leave Lily in the hands of Whatley, no matter what she feels for Henry Darrow, as her integrity will not allow the match of impoverished governess to a wealthy employer.
When Charlotte tries to lure Lily away, she faces a choice. Mr. Whatley will make a bargain with her – he will leave the Darrows alone if she wins the contest. Of course, Charlotte has no idea what the contest is, but she reads the strange books in the library. Finally, she decides not to bring the boys back, but receives an invitation from Whatley to his and Iris Darrow’s wedding. Charlotte knows she must attend with the boys –of Lily will exist forever within Whatley’s evil house. If Charlotte loses her bargain with Mr. Whatley, the House of Darkling and its strange creatures as well as the world she lives in will disappear. And as Charlotte attends The Ending, she knows what she must do. For death cannot appear at The House of Darkling.
Absolutely spellbinding, like Daphne de Maurier or Edgar Allen Poe, Boccacino commands every skill with an unbeatable plot and prescient characters. As clever Charlotte breaks the curse and wins, we are there with her, along with the beasts who dress as humans although their tentacles and mists of faces. A novel that brings you not only into its own presence but grabs you heart and soul, Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling spins its web of Victorian ghastliness and intrigue.
Read it. Not after a lonely, windy night of despair, but only if you have a friend in the house to quell your terror! Beautifully written, intricately woven, this novel will repeat on itself again and again!
Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling arrived on retail shelves last month – buy it before this GREAT book sells out.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own.