Author Belinda Kroll
“Father knows best, even after death…” Resigned to a lonely life in her quiet manor house in the English countryside, Mary Trentwood is horrified when she watches her father crawl from his grave the day of his funeral. Mary clings to her routine, finding it increasingly difficult to avoid her father’s ghost as she questions her sanity. Mistaking the newly-arrived Alexander Hartwell to be her father’s solicitor-for who else would interrupt her time of mourning?-Mary welcomes him into her home reluctantly, not realizing Hartwell is on the hunt for a blackmailer. Caught in a tangle of secrets, Mary fights a series of events, which threaten to bring Death to her door once more. Belinda Kroll weaves a tale of loyalty and betrayal set in the deceptively serene Victorian English countryside.
GEMS: The Haunting of Miss Trentwood is a gorgeously crafted Victorian novel through which Kroll creates a perfect gothic literary revival. Admittedly, the author suggests that upon completion she recognized the influence of Hamlet in the story. I also see other classical influences such as Bronte and Shirley Jackson. However, the most notable and flattering comparison I can draw is to The House of Seven Gables, by Nathanial Hawthorne because “The Haunting of Miss Trentwood” visits the archetypal theme of withdrawal and return. It explores isolation and redemption along with a person’s relationship to the past and determination to a future. It’s about escaping and embracing all that influences or paralyzes. This concept (theme) can be examined as it applies to each character, which is fascinating and would make for a lively literary analysis. Similarly, Kroll achieves the proper restraint evocative of the classical Victorian era while harmonizing it with just the right amount of shadowy eeriness necessary when portraying a haunting. The use of the dying house as a character as well as setting is specific and greatly important in this style of novel. Much like Jackson and other gothic authors, the home is often a breathing thing that isolates or separates characters. There is a definite elegance presented in the word choice and proves the painstaking effort the author took in committing to the voice of the story. The lead character, Mary, is vulnerable, but not overtly fragile. There is a feminist quality to her reactions and thoughts, which is evident in her finding a prince in need of rescuing.