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Lauren Smith
The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall
Lauren Smith, author
Haunted, schmaunted. Bastian, infamous playboy and the current Earl of Weymouth doesn’t believe his English castle is haunted. So what if a few windows and lightbulbs shatter? That happens. OK, bleeding portraits are hard to explain… But he is not going to be deterred. Not even by Jane, a seductive-as-sin grad student who has assigned herself the task of ghost hunting at Stormclyffe Hall. All Bastian wants is to restore his ancestral home, not be distracted by her curvy hips, bedroom eyes and gorgeous smile— Fine, maybe he does want to get naked with Ms. GhostBuster, but that’s only because she practically follows him around, nosing into his daily life. And yes, because she looks so damnably sexy, however, he refuses to give into lust. No matter how much she tempts him. But when the ghosts up the ante and try to kill them, Bastian realizes he will have to keep Jane close. Very, very close. Purely to protect her, of course. At least that’s what he tells himself. All bets—and some clothes—are off, as he shows her what a real earl is made of.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.50 out of 10


Plot: This gothic romance thrills with evocative description, strong characterizations, and a thoroughly compelling plot. The enticing mix of historical and modern romances is expertly enhanced by the whodunit/gothic mystery storyline.

Prose/Style: Realistic dialogue, authentic emotions, and provocative foreplay drive the intoxicating push-and-pull between the hero and heroine. The sex scenes are conveyed using passionate and emotional prose, never veering into treacly melodrama. Eerie, pulse-pounding descriptions of the supernatural elements simultaneously spook and titillate.

Originality: Smith’s novel uses many romantic tropes, but the author puts them all to excellent use. This wonderful gothic romance gives the beloved genre of yore a modern, engaging, and sensual spin.

Character Development: The hero is the just-right amount of alluring playboy and compassionate leading man, while the heroine is a refreshing modern take on the historical concept of “bluestocking.” She’s smart, strong-willed, and the perfect intellectual and emotional match for the hero.

Blurb: A sexy, smart modern gothic romance that will entice both historical and contemporary romance fans with a compelling mystery and a main couple that oozes chemistry.

Date Submitted: May 01, 2020