Tue. Jun 6th, 2023

A Dreadful Splendor

by BR Myers

Sometimes a blurb is so horribly misleading that it does a book a disservice. Certainly the blurb for this book is unhelpful at best. By describing things as ‘ghoulishly fun’ and ‘wickedly whimsical’, it’s clear that the person who wrote the blurb did not, in fact, read the book. There was no ‘whimsical fun’ for me in this book. But there was a lot of absolute brilliance though.

This Gothic tale feels fresh and real and spooky and only in the very last chapter was it made clear whether or not ghosts were actually real in this book-world. The story is set in a palatial home on cliffs overlooking the sea. There are some rather nasty storms. The prose is so vivid that I would feel myself getting chills, and it’s late-summer here! So in terms of the Gothic atmosphere, it is 10/10.

Our main character, Genevieve Timmons, works as a spiritualist, a career taught to her by her now deceased mother (boy, howdy, is there a story to unravel there). Genevieve is recruited to hold a seance for Gareth, Lord Chadwick at his palatial home, Somerset Park. Gareth’s fiance died the night before their wedding and he is convinced that she was murdered. The coroner says it was suicide. Gareth’s lawyer recruits Genevieve to hold a fake seance to reassure his lordship that his fiance is at peace. Only, Gareth spots the desperate Genevieve filching a silver candelabra and a deal is struck: she will hold the seance with the goal of making the murderer confess.

There are two mystery subplots: who killed Gareth’s fiance and what is the truth of Genevieve’s past? Both are excellent, but it was far and away the romance that left me literally breathless (but not in a sexytime way, in a simmering, hot looks kind of way). Several times while reading this book, I would need to stop, exclaim to my partner how good it was, blush, then carry on reading. I was hopelessly, helplessly hooked on this book.

I adored that we had two main characters who – while not equals in terms of power – were equals in terms of personality. Genevieve is desperate for a change in her circumstances, tortured by her past and endlessly resilient. She does not cower in front of the surly, aloof Lord Chadwick. And it turns out that Lord Chadwick has some baggage of his own that needs to be unraveled. As their deal slowly transforms into understanding and then a firm bond, the tension simmers and I was left giddy.

If you want an immersive reading experience that will absolutely result in a Bad Decisions Book Club event, then this book is for you. Please excuse me while I go read it again.


In this spectacularly imaginative and ghoulishly fun Gothic murder mystery brimming with romance, betrayals, and chills, a fake spiritualist is summoned to hold a session for a bride who died on the eve before her wedding, but as nefarious secrets are revealed, the line between hoaxes and haunting blurs.

Be careful what you conjure…

In Victorian London, Genevieve Timmons poses as a spiritualist to swindle wealthy mourners–until one misstep lands her in a jail cell awaiting the noose. Then a stranger arrives to make her a peculiar offer. The Lord he serves, Mr. Pemberton, has been inconsolable since the tragic death of his beautiful bride-to-be. If Genevieve can perform a persuasive session enough to bring the young Lord peace, she will win her freedom.

Soothing a grieving nobleman should be easy for someone of Genevieve’s skill, but when she arrives at the grand Somerset Park estate, Mr. Pemberton is not the heartbroken lover she expected. The surly–yet exceedingly handsome–gentleman is certain that his fiancée was murdered, even though there is no evidence. Only a confession can bring justice now, and Mr. Pemberton decides Genevieve will help him get it. With his knowledge of the household and his talent for illusion, they can stage a haunting so convincing it will coax the killer into the light. However, when frightful incidents befall the manor, Genevieve realizes her tricks aren’t required after all. She may be a fake, but Somerset’s ghost could be all too real…

A Dreadful Splendor is a wickedly whimsical brew of mystery, spooky thrills, and intoxicating romance that makes for an irresistibly fun and page-turning read.

Gothic, Historical: European, Romance
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