The Gallagher family has called Deeprath Castle home for seven hundred years. Nestled in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland, the estate is now slated to become a public trust, and book lover and scholar Carragh Ryan is hired to take inventory of its historic library. But after meeting Aidan, the current Viscount Gallagher, and his enigmatic family, Carragh knows that her task will be more challenging than she’d thought.
Two decades before, Aidan’s parents died violently at Deeprath. The case, which was never closed, has recently been taken up by a new detective determined to find the truth. The couple’s unusual deaths harken back a century, when twenty-three-year-old Lady Jenny Gallagher also died at Deeprath under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind an infant son and her husband, a renowned writer who never published again. These incidents only fueled fantastical theories about the Darkling Bride, a local legend of a sultry and dangerous woman from long ago whose wrath continues to haunt the castle.
The past catches up to the present, and odd clues in the house soon have Carragh wondering if there are unseen forces stalking the Gallagher family. As secrets emerge from the shadows and Carragh gets closer to answers—and to Aidan—could she be the Darkling Bride’s next victim?
Review by Jenny Q
I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the description. A haunted castle? Irish folklore? A giant library? A dark and brooding viscount? Yes, please!
When Carragh Ryan interviews for a job inventorying an ancient family library, she has no idea what lies before her. From the snooty matriarch, Nessa, to the frosty heir, Aiden, and his bitter sister, Kyla, the Gallagher family seems anything but welcoming. Carragh determines to enjoy her time in the magnificent stained-glass window-lined library, get the job done, and get out. But the re-opening of the investigation into the murder of Aiden’s parents two decades earlier stirs up family secrets and appears to provoke the Darkling Bride. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn of the legend of the Darkling Bride, the tragic tale of Jenny Gallagher and Evan Chase, and the details of the fateful summer leading up to Lily and Cillian Gallagher’s deaths. When unexplained happenings begin occurring in the castle, and Carragh finds herself at the mercy of two spirits – one that seems to want to help her solve the mystery of what happened to Aiden’s parents and one that seems to want her gone – Carragh determines to find the clues she is sure are hidden in the library. But as she gets closer to the truth, someone – or something – will stop at nothing to keep the truth from coming to light.
This book and I got off to a rocky start. After seeing so many good reviews for the author’s Tudor trilogies, the contemporary romance style of writing was not what I was expecting, nor were the characters. But the mystery of the Darkling Bride and the castle’s murders soon had me hooked. Then I was thrown again by the numerous points of view that kept popping up and the fact that we had three timelines to keep track of. I soon saw how these could all work together, but then I was thrown again by a plot twist. I got to the point where I wondered how much more the author was going to throw into this story and how it could possibly be satisfying beneath the weight of so many elements. But it worked . . . mostly.
I can’t quite put my finger on why, but The Darkling Bride ended up being just ho-hum for me. This is the type of book that sounds amazing in theory but gets a little lost in its execution. I enjoyed the Irish setting and the folklore tales, and it’s got a great Gothic vibe going on, but it was fairly predictable. I can’t say that I felt like I really got to know any of the characters, and I also felt like Carragh getting chosen for the job in the first place was a coincidence, so it never really felt like she was fated to be there. A couple of questions related to the mystery weren’t answered when everything wrapped up, and there really is no romance to speak of. Just a couple of stolen kisses that could likely be due to being in such close proximity for an extended time. There’s a hint at the end that Carragh and Aiden might end up as something more, but I would have appreciated something more concrete.
Still, it is a very evocative tale with a nice combination of history, mystery, and spookiness, and I was flying through the final pages to see how everything would shake out. If you’re a fan of Irish folklore and are looking for something a little different in historical mystery, The Darkling Bride should fit the bill.
Publisher and Release Date: Ballantine Books, March 2018
Time and Setting: Ireland, 19th, 20th, 21st Centuries
Heat Level: 0
Genre: Historical Mystery