Book Review: Gnarled Hollow by Charlotte Greene

Title: Gnarled Hollow

Author: Charlotte Greene

Publisher: Bold Stroke Books

Publication Date:  Sept 11, 2018

Genres: Horror

Shelves: Female-author, female-fronted

Gnarled Hollow was an interesting read, in that I really liked the story, and thought the haunted setting was fantastic, but I didn't care for most of the characters. That's not to say there were badly written, just that their personalities rubbed me the wrong way. That did make it hard to remain engaged, but the mystery Charlotte Greene weaves kept me reading.

Gnarled Hollow itself is a creepy place, a sprawling but lonely estate, which Emily is warned to steer clear of before she even sets eyes on it. The story opens with a time slip, that weird warning, and an apparition in the upstairs window. The house is oddly constructed, with rooms smaller than they should be, and the grounds even stranger, with an elaborate pool house deep within the woods. That pool house is home to two of my three favorite scenes in the book, first with another time slip while locked inside the sauna, and the second with a drowning and a disappearing body. My other favorite is water-related as well, with Emily being repeatedly dragged under the waters of her bath but unseen hands.

There is a minor thread of romance between Emily and Juniper, the beautiful art historian, but there is no chemistry between them, and Juniper is one of those characters I really didn't care for. She goes from warmly romantic one moment to coldly manipulative the next, and there really is no rhyme or reason to her reactions. She infuriated me, and the fact that she befriends Jim, the other character I really disliked, didn't help matters. Chris was the one character, other than Emily, who I really liked, but I had a different set of troubles with him and his nonchalant dismissal of things like nearly being drowned by a ghost!

The first half of this book was still a fantastic read, despite the characters and the inconsistent motivations. The second half was more of a struggle, with the mystery revealed to be something even darker than we could have anticipated, and yet none of the characters seem to recognize the fact. If you were to remove the other characters and make this a more intimate, more Gothic sort of horror story with Emily at the forefront, it would have been a far more engaging read, but there were still enough creepy, supernatural elements to satisfy me.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.