The Secret of Matterdale Hall

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
327 Pages
Reviewed on 01/12/2023
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Author Biography

Marianne Ratcliffe grew up in Lincolnshire. A biochemist by training, she has always found creating new worlds and interesting characters every bit as rewarding as discoveries at a laboratory bench. She has had short stories published in literary magazines and was runner up in the Guildford Book Festival short story competition in 2010. In 2017, redundancy spurred her to focus on creative writing; the result being The Secret of Matterdale Hall, a sapphic romance/mystery set in the Victorian era. Marianne lives in Cheshire with her wife and two dogs.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Heather Osborne for Readers' Favorite

The Secret of Matterdale Hall by Marianne Ratcliffe is a slow-burn gothic historical novel set in a secluded Yorkshire boarding school. After having grown up in relative comfort, Susan Mottram finds herself thrust into poverty upon her father's death. With her mother and sister to look after, Susan takes up a position as a teacher at Matterdale Hall, an all-girls school run by the Claybourns, replacing the previous teacher who had left rather suddenly. Adjacent to the school is an asylum, where Dr. Claybourn treats several patients. However, as innocuous as it may appear on the surface, Matterdale Hall is anything but. Susan finds herself struggling with the isolation as well as the coldness of the family. Yet, on a walk one day, she runs into Cassandra, the deaf daughter of a nearby estate owner. As truths come to light, Susan soon finds herself at risk of becoming one of Matterdale Hall’s dark secrets.

I am always pleased when I find a historical novel that captivates my attention and has me hungry for more. The Secret of Matterdale Hall by Marianne Ratcliffe does just that. She expertly matched Susan’s innocence of the world with a strong growth of character. Her compassion for the girls at the school provides a perfect foil to the uncaring nature of Mrs. Claybourn. However, I appreciated how the author developed the other characters to show that not everything is as meets the eye. The interaction between Susan and Cassandra created another level of the story, and I truly appreciated their unique and accepting relationship. I would certainly recommend this novel to readers with a penchant for the gothic style and will eagerly seek out other books by this author.