If I was just looking at this book cover I would have thought two things—-it was set in France and it was a historical romance novel. Well I am semi right, it is a historical romance BUT it also has some Gothic elements with a bit of mystery. Though it is not set in France as I suspected but rather a Wisconsin castle. Random.
I haven’t really been to the Midwest and it’s decidedly not the setting I was expecting or can even wrap my mind around but here we are. Even if the setting sounded a bit random for me, I was excited about this one all the same. If for nothing else—-the Gothic elements. This book sounds like it has that in spades and I thought it sounded compelling to have two story lines, one from the past and one from present day. Plus I am open to exploring new settings and I love old dilapidated castles so how could I pass on this one?!
I couldn’t fit it into my review schedule but I definitely have it on my TBR for this fall! This book is right up my alley in terms of content just my calendar was full for the spring. So instead I opted to do an except and I am already loving the tone and mood of this book! If you are a fan of Gothic romances I think you are going to enjoy this book! I am a big Victoria Holt fan so this book is giving my all the Victoria Holt vibes and I am here for it! This author is a new to me author but she has written a number of other Gothic historical mysteries/romances which all have rave reviews, I cannot wait to check this one out! Keep reading to see the excerpt and try before you buy!
A haunting legend. An ominous curse. A search for a secret buried deep within the castle walls.
In 1870, orphaned Daisy François takes a position as housemaid at a Wisconsin castle to escape the horrors of her past life. There she finds a reclusive and eccentric Gothic authoress who hides tales more harrowing than the ones in her novels. As women disappear from the area and the eerie circumstances seem to parallel a local legend, Daisy is thrust into a web that could ultimately steal her sanity, if not her life.
In the present day, Cleo Clemmons is hired by the grandson of an American aristocratic family to help his grandmother face her hoarding in the dilapidated Castle Moreau. But when Cleo uncovers more than just the woman’s stash of collectibles, a century-old mystery and the dust of the old castle’s curse threaten to rise again . . . this time to leave no one alive to tell the sordid tale.
Award-winning author Jaime Jo Wright seamlessly weaves a dual-time tale of two women who must do all they can to seek the light amid the darkness shrouding Castle Moreau.
PRAISE FOR THE VANISHING AT CASTLE MOREAU
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Jaime Jo Wright is the author of eight novels, including Christy Award and Daphne du Maurier Award-winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She’s also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her cat named Foo; her husband, Cap’n Hook; and their two mini-adults, Peter Pan and CoCo.
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The Vanishing at Castle Moreau Excerpt 1
May 8, 1801
When I was a little girl, my father would often come to my bedside after my screams wakened him in the night. He would smooth back my damp ringlets, the mere feel of his callused and strong hand inspiring an instantaneous calm.
“What is it, little one?” he would ask me.
Every night, the same question. Every night, I would give the same answer.
“It is her again, Papa.”
“Her?” He would tilt his head, giving credence to my words and refraining from scolding or mockery.
“Yes.” I would nod, my head brushing the clean cotton of my pillowcase. “The woman with the crooked hand.”
“Crooked hand, hmm?” His query only increased my adamant insistence.
“Yes. She has a nub with two fingers.” A tear would often trail down my six-year-old cheek.
My father would smile with a soothing calm. “You are dreaming again, mon chéri.”
“No. She was here.” He must believe me!
“Shhh.” Another gentle stroke of his hand across my forehead. “She is the voice of the mistress of your dreams. We all have one, you know. Only yours needs extra-special care because she isn’t beautiful like the rest. She is the one who brings the nightmares, but she doesn’t mean to harm you. She is only doing her best with what she has been given, and what she has been given are her own horrors.”
“Her hand?” I would reply, even though we repeated this explanation many nights in a row.
“Yes,” my father would nod. “Her hand is a reflection of the ugliness in her stories. Stories she tells to you at night when all is quiet and your eyes are closed.”
“But they were open,” I would insist.
“No. You only think they were open.”
“I am afraid of the ghost, Papa,” I urge.
His eyes smile. “Oui. And yet there are no spirits to haunt you. Only the dream mistress. Shoo her away and she will flee. She is a mist. She is not real. See?” And he would wave his hand in the air. “Shoo, mistress. Away and be gone!”
We would survey the dark bedroom then, and, seeing nothing, my father would lean over and press his lips to my cheek. “Now sleep. I will send your mother’s dream mistress to you. Her imaginings are pleasant ones.”
“Thank you,” I would whisper.
Another kiss. The bed would rise a bit as he lifted his weight from the mattress. His nightshirt would hang around his shins, and he would pause at the doorway of my room where I slept. An only child, in a home filled with the fineries of a Frenchman’s success of trade. “Sleep, mon chéri.”
The door would close.
My eyes would stay open.
I would stare at the woman with the crooked hand, who hovered in the shadows where the door had just closed. I would stare at her and know what my father never would.
She was not a dream.
The castle cast its hypnotic pull over any passerby who happened along to find it, tucked deep in the woods in a place where no one would build a castle, let alone live in one. It served no purpose there. No strategy of war, no boast of wealth, no respite for a tired soul. Instead, it simply existed. Tugging. Coercing. Entrapping. Its two turrets mimicked bookends, and if removed, one would fear the entire castle would collapse like a row of standing volumes. Windows covered the façade above a stone archway, which drew her eyes to the heavy wooden door with its iron hinges, the bushes along the foundation, and the stone steps leading to the mouth of the edifice. Beyond it was a small orchard of apple trees, their tiny pink blossoms serving as a delicate backdrop for the magnificent property.
Home to an orphan. Or it would be.
Daisy clutched the handles of her carpetbag until her knuckles were sure to be white beneath her threadbare gloves. She stood in the castle’s shadow, staring at its immense size. Who had built such an imposing thing? Here, in the northern territory, where America boasted its own mansions but still rejected any mimicking of the old country. Castles were supposed to stare over their fiefdoms, house lords and ladies, gentry, noblemen, and summon the days of yore when knights rescued fair maidens. Castles were not supposed to center themselves inside a forest, on the shore of a lake, a mile from the nearest town.
This made Castle Moreau a mystery. No one knew why Tobias Moreau had built it decades before. Today the castle held but one occupant: Tobias’s daughter, Ora Moreau, who was eighty-six years old. She was rarely ever seen, and even more rarely, ever heard from. Still, Ora’s words had graced most households in the region, printed between the covers of books with embossed golden titles. Her horror stories had thrilled many readers, and over the years, the books helped in making an enigma of the reclusive old woman.
When the newspaper had advertised a need for a housemaid—preferably one without a home or ties to distract her from her duties—it was sheer coincidence that Daisy had seen it, even more of a coincidence that she fit the requirements. And so it was a surprise she was hired after only a brief letter inquiring after the position.
Now she stood before the castle, her pulse thrumming with the question why? Why had she accepted the position? Why would she allow herself to be swallowed up by this castle? The stories were bold, active. Women disappeared here. It was said that Castle Moreau was a place that consumed the vulnerable. Welcoming them in but never giving them back.
Daisy stiffened her shoulders. Swallowed. Tilted her chin upward in determination. She had marched into hell before—many times, in fact. Castle Moreau couldn’t possibly be much worse than that.
Prologue and Chapter One, pages 9-14
From The Vanishing at Castle Moreau © 2023, Jaime Jo Wright, published by Bethany House Publisher