Ink & Magick

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By D. Lieber

IR Rating:
D. Lieber 's THE CURSE OF MOONSEED MANOR has some fine (ghost) storytelling strengths, but readers will first need to look past some clumsy plot points and dialogue. 

A dark and gloomy Victorian manor, secret staircases, creepy sounds, glimpses of shadows, “wycches,” and the mystery of the sad, quiet man who runs the mansion drive this unabashedly romantic novel about a cursed family and the young woman hired to join its staff.


At the start of D. Lieber’s unabashedly romantic novel, THE CURSE OF MOONSEED MANOR, Katherine Mabry—aka Wynn—is living a life of poverty that would slide comfortably into a Dickens novel. She does what she can to serve as fairy godmother for her younger sister, a Cinderella trapped in a step family that wastes no love on her. But despite holding down two crappy jobs and spending so frugally that she doesn’t even have a cell phone, she can barely scrape together enough funds to survive and save a paltry sum towards the education she’s determined to give her sister.

Lieber paints this portrait in matter-of-fact but compelling language. The opening scene occurs at a shop where Wynn is pawning her camera, the last thing of any worth that she owns—a gift from her beloved, deceased father. Straightforward language describes her actions: what she eats, how she eats it, where she works (grateful for use of the motel’s office computer in the dead of night once she’s finished cleaning its filthy rooms), how she travels from that second-shift job to her third-shift job as a diner’s waitress. By the time Wynn’s scenario is laid out, both her low status and her high integrity are clear. The protagonist is so empathetic and likeable that her creator gets away with a healthy dose of implausibility by dropping a dream job into Wynn’s lap. That job, as a professional photographer, sends her off to the novel’s titular manor, where the real action begins, featuring questionable characters, a devoted housekeeper, an isolated, thunderstorm-prone setting, and the tortured mystery-man himself.

Strategically-placed ghost stories (lovers lost to suicide and murder, evil husbands, ghouls seeking revenge), rumbling floors, eerie noises, and, eventually, actual sightings steer the narration along nicely. Hand-written poetry and prose written in a Poe-esque Gothic style (who penned it?) embellish the tone and romance of the novel. Unfortunately, additional implausible plot developments, particularly in the final 20 percent of the book, strain the reading experience. Intended mysteries have predictable answers, and dialogue is clunky and sophomoric—particularly during confrontations between Wynn and one unsavory character. A manufactured obstacle near the end nearly breaks the spell, but not quite. When Lieber’s text is descriptive—what people are doing, what sorts of spaces they’re doing them in, what thoughts are going through Wynn’s head—and when it is unabashedly romantic (no spoilers here, but the love story delights), the story compels unequivocally.

D. Lieber ‘s THE CURSE OF MOONSEED MANOR has some fine (ghost) storytelling strengths, but readers will first need to look past some clumsy plot points and dialogue.

~Anne Welsbacher for IndieReader

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