Cauldstane by Linda Gillard

Linda Gillard describes her book, Cauldstane  as ‘a gothic novel in the romantic suspense tradition of Daphne du Maurier, Mary Stewart & Victoria Holt.‘ It is a ghost story, set in a Scottish tower house in the Highlands:

Cauldstane stood, heroic, long-suffering, defying all that the centuries had thrown at it. (Wet rot and dry rot have proved more damaging to many a castle than the depredations of enemy artillery). I saw an ivy-clad tower, much taller than it was wide, with more windows than I could easily count, the whole topped by conical-roofed turrets and looking, from a distance, like a toy. (page 6)

The narrator is Jenny Ryan who is employed by Sholto MacNab, a retired adventurer and Laird of the castle, to ghost write his memoirs. Cauldstane, a beautiful castle is fast falling into disrepair and the MacNabs are struggling to maintain or even keep it.

When he employs Jenny Sholto jokes that every castle should have its ghost. Cauldstane not only has a ghost, there is also the MacNab curse, which affects the women the McNabs marry, with three deaths (two accidents and a suicide) attributed to the curse, and the legend of the Cauldstane claymore, supposed to possess supernatural powers to protect the MacNabs from evil.

Jenny immediately falls in love with the castle, but as she settles in a few things begin to disturb her – her notes on her laptop disappear. As she learns more about the MacNabs and their history, family secrets begin to surface. But what is the truth behind these stories? It seems to hinge on Meredith, Sholto’s second wife who was killed in a horrific car crash.

Cauldstane is peopled by well drawn colourful characters, a beautifully described atmospheric setting and a wealth of story-telling, recreating the past seamlessly interwoven with the present. Jenny not only falls in love with the castle, but also with Sholto’s heir, his son Alec and as she does so more strange events occur and it becomes obvious that there is a malign presence in the castle that doesn’t want her there. And it makes its presence known in a modern way – through Jenny’s laptop. No ghostly visions or  spooky voices, but a thoroughly evil presence capable of writing on the laptop as well as moving objects and putting Jenny’s life in danger, along with the music that apparently only Jenny can hear.

As well as being a gripping tale Cauldstane is also about fear. The epigraph from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914) sets the tone: ‘Ghost: the outward and visible sign of an inward fear‘.  The MacNabs are not the only ones with things to fear in their past, for Jenny too has a troubled past and both have to learn how to overcome their fears. Cauldstane is also about loss and revenge, about good versus evil and the power of love.

Linda Gillard lives in the Scottish Highlands. She has written seven novels. I enjoyed this one very much but my favourite of hers is still Star Gazing. For more information about Linda Gillard and her books see her website, Linda Gillard – Author.

Reading challenges: Read Scotland 2014, My Kind of Mystery and R.I.P. IX.

First Chapter, First Paragraph: Cauldstane

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

My choice this week is Cauldstane by Linda Gillard. It begins:

Sometimes I think I can still hear – very faintly – the strains of a harpsichord. Impossible, of course. There’s been no harpsichord at Cauldstane for over a year now. Meredith’s has never been replaced. Never will be replaced.

As the cover shows Cauldstane is set in a castle – a Scottish castle, a remote and decaying 16th century castle, the family home of the MacNabs. Ghostwriter Jenny Ryan is commissioned to write the memoirs of the current Laird, Sholto MacNab. There are secrets, sins to be revealed – and an ancient curse.

If you want to know more about Linda Gillard’s books here is the link to her website.

The Glass Guardian by Linda Gillard: a Book Review

The Glass Guardian, Linda Gillard’s latest book, kept me spellbound. It’s a ghost story and a love story, with a bit of a mystery thrown in too. Ruth Travers is in her early forties and has just had a difficult year with the deaths of her lover, father and most recently her beloved aunt, Janet. Janet had lived in a house on the Isle of Skye, Tigh-na-Linne, the house where she had been born, and where her mother had lived with her three brothers who had all been killed in the First World War; the house where Ruth spent many childhood summers and the house Janet left to her in her will. After Janet’s death Ruth goes to live in the house to grieve and decide what to do next.

Set in a beautiful location, Tigh-na-Linnne is in a sorry state:

 Rattling windows, water-stained ceilings and idiosyncratic plumbing paled into insignificance when one looked out of the big windows at the view over Loch Eishort, a sea loch, to the Black Cuillin mountains beyond and the distant islands of Canna and Rhum.

Ruth is in a very fragile state, having nightmares and is pleased to find that Tom, Janet’s gardener is her childhood friend, Tommy. But then she realises that everything in her childhood was not quite as she thought it was, or as she remembered it. As Ruth attempts to sort through her aunt’s belongings and decide whether to sell the house it becomes clear that there is more about her aunt and her family history than she ever knew before. And then she realises there is someone else in the house and there is a stained glass window behind a large wardrobe, which she never knew existed:

It’s a memorial window. There were three originally. One for each son who fell in the Great War. One of the windows was badly damaged in a storm and another got taken out when Janet had the conservatory built. But there’s one left. It’s behind that wardrobe.

From there on Ruth is unsure whether she is in her ‘Sane Mind’ or her ‘Insane Mind’, as she hears the wardrobe being dragged from its position in the dead of night.

I do like ghost stories and I had no trouble suspending my disbelief reading this book. The setting is so convincing, the characters so believable and even if I did see where the story was going to end that didn’t spoil it. This is a book that brought tears to my eyes and there aren’t many that do that! It deals so poignantly with death and the pain of loss, but it’s never sentimental and even though there are moments where you have to hold your breath, the supernatural element is not horrific.

N.B. I previously posted the opening paragraphs of this book.

Book Beginnings: The Glass Guardian

Linda Gillard’s latest book The Glass Guardian came out on Kindle on 1 June. It begins:

When I was a child I nearly drowned. In a pond. Nothing dramatic, apart from the fact that I nearly died. I fell into a big pool at my Aunt Janet’s house on the Isle of Skye.

I fell from a wooden bridge over the pool. At least I think I fell. I don’t remember falling. All I remember is drowning – almost drowning – and then I remember being very cold and so sick, I thought I must have vomited up my insides.

I’ve read and loved Linda’s previous books and I have high hopes that this one will be no exception. It’s described as a ‘supernatural love story‘. When Ruth prepares to put her Aunt’s old house up for sale, she’s astonished to find she’s not the only occupant. Worse, she suspects she might be falling in love again.

With a man who died almost a hundred years ago…

Edited 9 June with the following information from Linda:

TGG originally began with Ch 1. The Prologue was one of the last parts of the book to be written. I started writing TGG pre-Kindle, but when I got one myself & downloaded & read many samples without buying the whole book, I realised the importance of grabbing the reader on p.1. So I decided to insert a Prologue which I hoped would keep readers’ thumbs clicking.

Thanks, Linda – I think it’s a dramatic opening that certainly did grab my attention and makes me want to find out more.

For more Book Beginnings on Friday see Gilion’s blog Rose City Reader.

House of Silence by Linda Gillard: Book Review

I’ve read several of Linda Gillard’s books and House of Silence is definitely one of her best. It’s only available on Kindle but you can download it onto your computer to read if you don’t have a Kindle.

It’s one of those books that makes you want to carry on reading although you know you’ve lots of things you should be doing apart from reading, but you read on anyway.

It’s a novel about families and their secrets – in particular one family, the Donovans. When Gwen Rowland met Alfie Donovan she becomes interested in his family and persuades him to let her spend Christmas with them at the family home, Creake Hall. Gwen comes from a dysfunctional family – mother died of an overdose, aunt from drink and uncle from AIDS, whereas Alfie is the youngest and much-loved younger brother of four sisters and the model for his mother’s best selling children’s books about Tom Dickon Harry.

But  their family life  is not as Gwen imagined it. Although Gwen immediately finds a kindred spirit in Hattie, Alfie’s sister nearest to him in age, and Viv his oldest sister she soon finds there is a secret they’re all hiding. The only person who seems to be open with her is Tyler, the handsome Polish gardener. Alfie, himself seems different and his mother keeps mainly to her room, her mind drifting back to the past. Gwen is puzzled by an old photo of Alfie and then discovers scraps of letters that eventually lead her to the truth.

This is a book in which it is so easy to lose yourself, at once emotional and mysterious. I really enjoyed it – the characters are so distinctive and complex, and the setting in an old Elizabethan manor house is perfect. It raises issues of memory and identity, mental illness, loss and love.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1125 KB
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language English
  • ASIN: B004USSPN2
  • Source: I bought it