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Monday, 27 November 2017

‘The House at Ladywell’ by Nicola Slade

Published by Crooked Cat Books,
8 September 2017.
ISBN: 978-1976203244.
ASIN: B075D9F35H

Freya Gibson is in her early thirties and, following her parents’ deaths, she is alone in the world, apart from her childhood friend Louise Barton. Freya works in London as PA for popular novelist Patrick Underwood. Still fragile after a destructive relationship and the loss of her parents, Freya is worried that Patrick’s attitude to her has become strangely remote and she is afraid that he wishes to replace her and get a new PA. Patrick is going on a business trip to America and Freya is planning to have a holiday when she hears that she has been left a house in Hampshire by Violet Wellman, a very distant cousin that she has never met.

Freya goes to view 2 Ladywell House and immediately falls in love with it. When she enters the house, she is greeted by the smell of roses, which makes her think of her late father’s garden. Later Freya discovers that some women and a few men can smell the scent of the flowers that mean a lot to them when they are in the house. The house has many carvings of hares and there are hares on the hill behind the house. An old legend prophesies disaster for anyone who harms a hare on the land of Ladywell.

Fascinated by her new house, Freya explores and finds a message from Violet telling her to complete a ritual sacred to the women of Ladywell and begging Freya to ‘restore the balance.’ As Freya delves deeper into the history of her property, she realises that this involves the rowan tree, the hares and a well of pure water, which has vanished but which Freya hopes to rediscover.

Freya is made welcome by her neighbours and the people of the town and, by questioning them and researching locally, she begins to unravel the secrets and history of her new home and of her own life. As she restores the balance in Ladywell, the house also helps her to restore the balance in her life and prepares her for Patrick’s return from America.

The House at Ladywell is a stand-alone novel set near Winchester in Hampshire, where many of the author’s series books are located. Most of the book is narrated in Freya’s First-Person viewpoint but when questions are raised in Freya’s mind about certain aspects of the history of the house, the author provides the reader with a cameo short story of that historical period, all involving the strong, ingenious and single-minded women who lived in and loved the house at Ladywell.

The House at Ladywell is not a crime story, although there are crimes, including murder, in the historical cameos. It is a romantic mystery story, as Freya discovers the secrets of her house and of her own childhood. In tone it reminded me of the writing of Mary Stewart, with its First-Person narrator heroine and the evocative descriptions of the house and countryside and the gentle touches of magic. Freya is a delightful protagonist and it is a very enjoyable read.
Reviewer: Carol Westron
Nicola Slade was brought up in Poole, Dorset. She wrote children’s stories when her three children were growing up, moving onto short stories for several national magazines. Winning a story competition in Family Circle galvanised her into writing seriously and since then her stories and articles have been commissioned regularly. Scuba Dancin, a romantic comedy was her first published novel. After that she wrote a series of Victorian mysteries: Murder Most Welcome  published by Robert Hale Ltd, 2008, featuring Charlotte Richmond, a young widow in the 1850s. Nicola has a second series, featuring former headmistress, Harriet Quigley, and her sidekick and cousin, Rev Sam Hathaway. Nicola, her husband and their cat live near Winchester in Hampshire.

Find out more about Nicola at

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.

Read a review of Carol’s latest book
The Fragility of Poppies

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Carol for this lovely review and Lizzie for posting it!