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Book Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

Writing under the very Brontë-esque pen name of Bella Ellis, Rowan Coleman has come up with a delicious premise for a new series featuring the Brontë sisters before they became published authors. The Vanished Bride is their first outing as detectors.

Yorkshire, 1845. A young woman has gone missing from her home, Chester Grange, leaving no trace, save a large pool of blood in her bedroom and a slew of dark rumours about her marriage. A few miles away across the moors, the daughters of a humble parson, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified, yet intrigued.

The path to the truth is not an easy one, especially in a society which believes a woman’s place to be in the home, not wandering the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…

I’m always a little wary when someone reimagines or writes a mashup of a classic novel but when they’re done well, as in the case of Jo Baker’s Longbourn or Alison Case’s Nelly Dean, they can add a new dimension to the world and characters of the original, as well as being enjoyable in their own right. Happily, given how deftly she achieves both these things in the first of her Brontë Mysteries series, I can now add Bella Ellis’s The Vanished Bride to this list.

Bella Ellis writes the landscape so well and breathes life into the parsonage at Haworth that I had little difficulty in accepting her version of the sisters at work and leisure, and from there, it wasn’t too much of a leap to follow them into these new roles as detectors. I had fun spotting landmarks from their real and imagined geography and personal items I either remember reading about or having seen at the museum in Haworth. I also liked how some scenes in The Vanished Bride suggest where the inspiration for key scenes in the sisters’ own books might have come from.

I think The Vanished Bride works so well because its author doesn’t skimp on any of the elements that go to make up the story, so one doesn’t suffer at the expense of another or ever feel flimsy. Both the central mystery and the depiction of the sisters and the world they inhabit are equally satisfying and strong strands that each hold their own throughout. Read more

Book Review: The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare

Horatio Clare writes with great candour and generosity in The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal, offering a fierce flicker of hope to others in this illuminating contemplation of his own depression.

As November stubs out the glow of autumn and the days tighten into shorter hours, winter’s occupation begins. Preparing for winter has its own rhythms, as old as our exchanges with the land. Of all the seasons, it draws us together. But winter can be tough. 

It is a time of introspection, of looking inwards. Seasonal sadness; winter blues; depression – such feelings are widespread in the darker months. But by looking outwards, by being in and observing nature, we can appreciate its rhythms. Mountains make sense in any weather. The voices of a wood always speak consolation. A brush of frost; subtle colours; days as bright as a magpie’s cackle. We can learn to see and celebrate winter in all its shadows and lights.

When Clare’s early September birthday prompts thoughts of winter, a season he’s struggled through in recent years, he recalls how: “Last winter I thought I would go mad with depression. I was mad, but aware-mad, at least.

Clare tries to find and harness winter’s beauty and light to help him function better and be more present for his family. His journal is an attempt to avoid being pulled under again, by bleak weather and drab washed-out colours; loss of daylight and warmth; layers that muffle sound and feeling and by the withdrawal or hibernation of living creatures.

He might not stave off his depression but where he was “aware-mad” last winter, I’d say he’s “aware-depressed” here. In noting down and describing what he sees, he conducts a remarkable reappraisal of what some consider to be a dead season, discovering the colour and beauty of winter, and finding life in muted, often lonely isolation.

Clare’s ferocious love for his family and the natural world comes through in this lyrical and moving record of his debilitating battle with depression. Its pages whisper hope and come with a promise that, no matter how weak or subdued, the light is still there in winter. Horatio Clare reveals the truth in this through being an admirably honest and tenacious torchbearer here, and by opening himself up to others, he encapsulates The Light in the Dark.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare is published by Elliot & Thompson. It is available as an ebook, in hardback and in paperback from 3 October. You can find it at Amazon UK or instead buy it from Hive where every purchase you make helps to support your local independent bookshop. For more on the author and his writing, check out his Author Website or find him on Twitter

My thanks to the publisher and LoveReading for providing me with a review copy. This review first appeared on LoveReading’s website here.

Croeso. Welcome to Nut Press.

This is the online home of Kathryn Eastman. I’m a rugby-loving, tea-drinking chocoholic book squirrel and writer, who lives on a hill, that wanted to be a mountain, in Wales.

The Nut Press is full of book reviews, chocolate, adventures with squirrels, and a lot of tea drinking among other things. Oh, and very occasionally, some writing gets done.

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