Updated: Jan 5
Review by Christina Boyd
What do you have when romance marries gothic mystery? Answer: The Bride of Northanger by Diana Birchall. An unknown grey lady, a family curse, a gloomy abbey, a coded wedding gift, and a newly wedded couple keep the pages turning in this eerie tale.
The heroine of Northanger Abbey, Catherine Morland, is soon to marry Henry Tilney when he reluctantly tells her of a family curse. “You might think that Frederick could no more believe in superstitions than we do ourselves; but I am afraid that, at times, he is half persuaded the story is true.”
Though the new Mrs Tilney and her husband are sensible of superstition and village rumor—uncertainty fuels their imagination after a ghastly murder occurs at Northanger and they must seek the truth. When a message is found stuck with a knife to her bedroom door—“Bride of Northanger, beware the Maledict, that falleth upon you. Depart the Abbey in fear and haste, and nevermore return”—Catherine realizes more than mischief is afoot, and fearing for his young wife’s safety, Henry is desperate to find the killer.
Familiar characters from Austen’s parody on gothic novels, General Tilney, Frederick, Eleanor, John Thorpe and even his conniving sister Isabella color the plot—though the true affection and wit between Catherine and Henry is especially endearing:
“‘...it might not be wise to return to your girlhood fondness for horrid tales just at this time. Mrs Radcliffe would not be the most assuring companion for a sojourn at Northanger Abbey, under these circumstance.’
‘Certainly not,’ said Catherine decidedly. ‘I mean to be strong minded, and not to encourage myself in foolish errors.’
He laughed, and gave her a most tender kiss...”
Birchall shows her writing prowess as an an accomplished Austenite, tying everything in a tidy bow and making sure our favorites find their happily-ever-after, but I suspect fans of Deanna Rayburn’s historical mysteries might also delight in such clever intrigue. This new release is a perfect read for this Halloween season.
Rated “Chaste” for possible kissing and affection.