Review – Darkmere by Helen Maslin



A castle. A curse. One dangerous holiday … Kate and her friends are spending the summer at Darkmere Castle in Devon which she thinks will be a perfect opportunity for her to get together with Leo. But instead, she s drawn into the dark story of an nineteenth-century girl who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house … and whose curse now hangs over them all. 

Publisher – Chicken House

Date Published – 6th August 2015

Pages – 344 pages

Format – Paperback

Category – UK YA, Gothic Romance

Source –

I was sent a proof copy of this book by the publishers, Chicken House for review.  I was also very lucky and honoured to be sent a finished copy of this book by the wonderful author Helen Maslin.  This does not affect my review or my opinions in any way and am delighted to write an honest review.  Thank you to both Chicken House and Helen for sending this to me to read!

** Please note Tales Of Yesterday Reviews are written as spoiler free as possible**

I have been looking forward to this book for a very very VERY long time!

Since blogging I have met some wonderful lovely genuine people.  One of those people is the lovely Helen Maslin author of this wonderful book!  After bonding over twitter and meeting up in real life I can honestly say that I feel honoured and very proud to know Helen and her family and have her in both my life and my families life.  I think Helen will agree that we became instant friends and I feel like I have known Helen all my life!  I even get away with calling her a cheeky nickname 😉

I feel very proud to be reviewing this book on my blog and my friendship with Helen by no means affects my views and thoughts on the book in anyway.  I hope my words speak for themselves about how wonderful this book really is!

I LOVED this book from start to finish!  It pulled me in and wrapped me around it’s pages and did not let me go until the very end leaving me craving more!

The story of Darkmere is told in a dual narrative.  One in present day, Kate, and one in the year 1825, Elinor.  Both voices are completely unique and distinctive and as the story develops these two very different lives and voices intertwine to reveal the secrets and curse of Darkmere!

Kate is asked to spend the summer at her school crush Leo’s recently inherited castle…Darkmere castle with his confident and wealthy friends.  Fed up of feeling like the outsider she agrees and what pursues is a summer they will all never forget.  The sea, the beach, no mobile signal, a dusty empty castle in the middle of no where,strange noises, secret doors and stairs…need I say anymore!  With a looming well known curse over any male heir to the castle things get a little creepy!  Kate gradually discovers the secrets of Darkmere as well as learning more about Leo and his friends.

Elinor’s life in 1825 is very different, although she feels very much like Kate being an outsider, but this is more to do with her sister Anna’s beauty and confidence, but in admiration rather than jealousy.  After a tragic accident and turning down her life long friend Nick’s proposal Elinor’s family require her to marry the wealthy St Cloud and move to his newly built castle Darkmere.  Feeling very cut off from the world and lonely, kind hearted Elinor starts discovering that things are not as they seem at Darkmere and St Cloud may be a very naughty man indeed!

Whilst Kate’s story is set over the course of a summer Elinor’s story spans a few life changing years, but both stories intertwine chapter by chapter until the heart stopping, fast paced finale!

I feel that my brief summary really does not do this book and the story Helen Maslin has created any justice at all!  Darkmere has the perfect mix of tension, mystery and humour all mixed with brilliant story telling, writing and fantastic characters.  Even with twists and turns throughout the way!

The group of friends in the present day story are a perfect mix and interacted so well together and I feel Helen Maslin perfectly portrays a teenage group of friends really really well!  There’s Leo the popular cocky boy who can be very selfish and self absorbed at times.  Then there’s Beano, Hat-man Dan and Jackson!  The three of them fire jokes at each other left right and centre and it’s really funny to read.  I laughed out loud a number of times especially getting to know these characters when they first arrive at Darkmere.  There’s one particular umbrella joke that had me in stitches, but the comedy element flows very naturally from the characters.  They actually feel like friends you have known for a while rather than a few pages and all voices are familiar and realistic.  Then there’s the two girls. Kate who is trying to impress Leo, but cannot resist reading the books in the library or discovering more about the castles history at the museum in town and Lucie…..bless her.  I felt a little sorry for her at times.  I have to admit Jackson and Dan were my faves 😉

In 1825 we get to meet Elinor’s childhood friend the lovely Nick *swoons and drifts off into a Nick filled daydream*….oh he is just THE BEST!  I adored him so much! *goes glazy eyed*

1825 also brings us St Cloud!  There’s always a baddy in every story right?  Well he made my skin crawl with a passion!  His whole presence every time he was on the page made me so fearful for Elinor and what was going to happen!  He just reminded me of Alec from Tess Of The D’Urbervilles!  That smarmy niceness around people he wants to impress and then that horrible nasty streak lying underneath and coming out behind closed doors!  He is a very bad man!

The 1825 story in Darkmere really did bring those feelings back of reading Tess Of The D’Urbervilles and I can honestly say I felt that much love for Nick as I did for Angel St Clare in Tess!  I think this shows the strength and amazingness of Helen Maslin’s writing to stir such a feeling and emotion that I have felt about another book (and a favourite) and showing how perfect the historical side of the story telling was.

There are aspects of romance throughout the book and in both Kate and Elinor’s stories with them both experiencing different aspects of love and hurt.  As well as brilliant character building Helen builds up nail biting tension.  There were times I was on the edge of my seat flicking page after page as quickly as possible with my heart pounding in my chest!  I was terrified!  I shamefully admit I have a fear of Ghost Trains at the fair or walking through a haunted house (especially with live actors inside causing me to cry – this is another rather emabarrasing story!) and at times Darkmere thrust me right into this scared feeling and sometimes late at night I did strain my hearing a little more to see if I really heard that creak on my hallway landing!  But brave as ever I never once sent my husband down to check the noises…nope not me *innocent but guilty face* and I never dreamt of ghosts *cries for mommy*!

It’s so hard to pick a favourite part of this book as I honestly really loved every page.  For me I loved reading and unravelling the life Elinor lives and I also loved all the secret passageways and secrets Kate discovers throughout her time at Darkmere.

Darkmere castle, thanks to Helen’s description sounds AMAZING!  The descriptions of the fully working castle in 1825 were beautiful and the emptiness of the castle in present day of what was once rooms filled with hundreds of items is described so vividly that you can imagine yourself standing in the middle of the great hall and looking around and admiring it’s beauty.  That being said….there’s no way I would spend a night in Darkmere on my own!  NO.  WAY! *shivers*

Like ghost stories?  Like romance and mystery?  Like great friendships and castles?  Like dual narratives past and present?  Then I cannot recommend this book enough!

A brilliant chilling, romantic, heart thumping debut with two distinctive voices and stories that intertwine perfectly!  I cannot wait to see what Helen Maslin comes up with next!  Just hurry up Helen I need more!!

I award this book 5 out of 5 Tales Of Yesterday Books!


On a personal note – I am so so proud of my friend Red!  Have belief that you are amazing and the most loveliest person!  You truly deserve all of the praise coming your way!

You can buy Darkmere by Helen Maslin here

Or why not add it to your Goodreads wish list here

Read a fab extract from Darkmere over on the Chicken House website here

Or an exclusive extract on Tales here

I also love this top 5 castles post on Chicken House that includes Darkmere – here !

Check out a spotlight piece I did for another book where Helen tells me her bright place – here

Also check out this deleted scene and inspiration for Darkmere by Helen Maslin here

About Helen Maslin Helen-Maslin-SquaredHelen Maslin lives in Cheltenham with her husband and two young sons. She has studied English, history and art history, which remain her chief interests. She also runs an art club at her children’s primary school.

Helen’s art club is fun but always very messy. Her favourite things are brightly-coloured hair, Peter Lorre’s voice, the smell of new books, Roy Lichtenstein’s art, niceness and cake.  Darkmere is her debut novel.

Follow Helen on Twitter – @HelenMaslin

Also check out Helen’s fab blog here!

Have you read Darkmere?  What did you think?  Has this review intrigued you enough into buying a copy?  Do you have any fab ghost stories or visited any haunted castles?  I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading….*hears a creak!*



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I am often known to be a bit clumsy and a little loopy! Book loving (obsessed), theatre loving, slasher film loving csi geek! Winner of UKYABA Champion Newcomer 2015 and nominated for Champion of Social Media 2016 and Blogger Of The Year 2016! © 2014 - 2021 Michelle Toy All Rights Reserved

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8 Responses

  1. Helen Maslin says:

    Wow – I don’t know what to say… Apart from ‘THANK YOU’ ! You have no idea how many times I’m going to come back here and re-read this. Several times a day for the rest of my life probably. And nicknames aside, I couldn’t be any luckier in having you for a friend xxx

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