Review: Morgan Hall, by Bo Briar

Morgan Hall
by Bo Briar

Product Description/Synopsis (from
Love never dies, and revenge never sleeps in Morgan Hall…

Morgan Hall, a desolate country estate, has been in Lady Christie Morgan’s family for almost 400 years. A family cursed by eternal tragedy, and now Christie is the last Morgan.

Apparitions appear, sparking a chain of horrifying occurrences involving Christie and the two men who love her: Anthony Longfield-Lothian and Tristan Ely.

A saga of mystery and sordid family history weaves intrigue for the passionate love triangle. Past and present war as the secrets of three aristocratic families unfold – resurfacing in a spine-chilling mystery of passion and lust, ghostly happenings, and blood-curdling murders.
Emotions run high as their world spins wildly out of control. Are they all cursed to repeat the grizzly past? Does sweet revenge claim its prize?
Morgan Hall.

My Thoughts:
There are times when a gothic thriller is the perfect thing to read, and I was lucky enough to read the bulk of Bo Briar’s modern gothic Morgan Hall on a murky, moody, rainy August morning that perfectly complimented the book.

Why do I call it a “modern” gothic? Because while Morgan Hall has all the requisite elements of a classic gothic – huge old manor houses with disturbing histories and some disrepair, orphan heiresses with tragic pasts, unrequited love, stormy weather, ghostly apparitions, and creepy housekeepers, it’s actually set in a time not too far removed from today, and the characters all have cars, computers, and cell phones (not that the latter ever work reliably). In fact, about the only thing missing is someone hiding behind a billowing curtain.

But don’t assume that I mention this because I didn’t like the book. In fact, I enjoyed it immensely. Sure, Christie Morgan’s behavior was often frustrating to my feminist sensibilities, and true, I didn’t quite buy the instant-love between Christie and Tristan (the best friend of Christie’s lifelong friend and ‘kissing’ cousin Anthony), but when an author is spinning a good story, the willing reader overlooks minor things like that, just as the good audience member engages in willful suspension of disbelief when watching Harry Potter and friends soar around on broomsticks to play Quidditch.

And make no mistake, Bo Briar spins a good story. Her descriptions of place, whether she’s talking about the afore-mentioned manor houses (one of which was a castle) or just describing modern London or a pub in York, are so vivid that when she wrote about gusts of wind or rainwater puddling in the street, I found myself looking outside to see if my weather was the same. I felt like I was walking through the corridors of the titular Morgan Hall with Christie Morgan.

As well, Briar knows how to set a tone. In my “I finished this book” tweet, I mentioned that Morgan Hall is wonderfully moody, but what I didn’t say was that, while reading the first part of the novel late at night, I had to insist that my husband come to bed RIGHT NOW because her writing worked with my over-active imagination to give me goosebumps.

I read across many genres. I love science fiction and contemporary literature, but I also love good mysteries. While I don’t read a lot of gothic fiction, when I do, I always enjoy the pleasantly shivery feeling of being just a little bit scared. Briar’s book gave me that feeling – I put aside my disbelief in some of the plot elements (like Christie, Andrew and Tristan all having inherited big old houses, or the three of them platonically sharing a bed) but was involved enough in the story to worry when Tristan turned out to be less – and more – than he seemed, and to worry for Christie when we learned what jeopardy she was in.

There are perfect times and places for gothic fiction. I was lucky enough to read Morgan Hall over a late August night and a rainy August morning, but even if you read this in the bright sunshine of a happy summer day, I think you’ll find this tale both compelling and just scary enough to make the hair rise on your arms.

Goes well with shepherds pie and a tall glass of hard cider.