Black Rabbit Hall
Amber Alton knows that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family’s country estate, where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, of course, it does.
More than three decades later, Lorna is determined to be married within the grand, ivy-covered walls of Pencraw Hall, known as Black Rabbit Hall among the locals. But as she’s drawn deeper into the overgrown grounds, half-buried memories of her mother begin to surface and Lorna soon finds herself ensnared within the manor’s labyrinthine history, overcome with an insatiable need for answers about her own past and that of the once-happy family whose memory still haunts the estate.
Pencraw Hall, known as Black Rabbit Hall, is situated in a remote part of Cornwall and Lorna is determined it will make the perfect venue for her wedding even if she doesn’t really understand why. However, when Lorna arrives to view the place she is shocked at how dilapidated it has become but she is still inexplicably drawn to the place she is sure she once visited with her deceased mother. When Lorna is invited to spend some time at the house by its current owner, she jumps at the chance to discover its secrets and the identity of the people who once lived there. The house has been in the Altons for generations but thirty years earlier a tragic event changed everything and triggered the downfall of the family and their home. As Lorna wanders through the abandoned rooms, she finds evidence of the four children who once lived there and is determined to find out what happened to them.
Thirty years earlier, Amber Alton and her siblings arrive at Black Rabbit Hall for their usual summer stay but their lives are turned upside down when their mother is killed in a riding accident. The sudden death of Nancy Alton rips the heart out of the family and they quickly descend into a dysfunctional mess. Fifteen-year-old Amber tries her best to fill the void in the lives of her twin brother, Toby, and their younger siblings, six-year-old Barney and three-year-old Kitty but the children are left to their own devices as their father wallows in grief. The children are left to run wild on the estate but things change again when their father brings Caroline Shawcross and her son, Lucien, to visit and it is obvious to Amber that Caroline has designs on her father.
After the marriage, a jealous Caroline begins the process of erasing any sign of Nancy’s existence from the house and to bring the children under her control, As Amber battles to keep her family together, Caroline’s actions set in motion another series of events that leads to yet more tragedy and the only person she can turn to his her stepbrother, Lucien, who is stirring strange new emotions within her. However, when Caroline learns about Amber and Lucien’s secret relationship, she wastes no time in tearing them apart with twisted truths.
Black Rabbit Hall has a gothic feel to it but it is a mixed bag of elements which reminded me of other novels in this genre. The book’s most obvious influence is Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca where the presence of the deceased first wife is still prevalent in the house much to the chagrin of the second wife, albeit in the opposite way as Nancy was the benevolent figure and Caroline the stereotypical stepmother. As Caroline starts making the children’s lives a misery and is especially cruel to Amber, it started reminding me of the Flowers in the Attic series where the evil grandmother locks away her grandchildren. The plot is a convoluted one with multiple twists but some are a little over the top. It’s not a bad book but not a great one either.