I first read Angel Manor a little while ago, but was reluctant to post a review at the time both because I am friends with the author and because following her on Facebook, I was privy to some of the journey she went through during the writing of this book.
Angel Manor also received a pretty scathing review when it came out, which lead to a bit of a backlash against the reviewer - not instigated in any way by Chantal I might add, who treated the reviewer with nothing but the utmost and professional respect - and I wanted to take some time to think carefully about what I thought of the book before I posted my own thoughts.
All this makes it sound like I hated the book (I didn't), but that is not to say the book was not without its flaws, and anyway - who am I to judge? This is, and always will be, only my opinion that I post on this Blog and as a writer myself, am only too aware that my writing is not always perfect or spot on either.
So anyway...Angel Manor...
Angel Manor is the story of three friends who decide to open up a hotel on a small, Scottish isle after one of them inherits her aunts house after her death. Unfortunately - as is always the case in these books isn't it? - the house hides secrets and has a chequered past. There are ghosts and spirits hidden in the walls and very foundations of the house, and they are there for a very good reason that the three friends' plans are just about to disrupt...
The first thing I noted reading this is that Chantal's horror writing is very different from the way she writes her Coyote series of Steampunk weird wild westerns - as you might expect from two very different genres.
The second thing I noted was that the story and the plot here felt very retro - like proper, old school, nineteen eighties' horror, which in and of itself is no bad thing. Reading this was like a hark back to the classic Graham Masterton and Shaun Hutson novels that I used to read back in high school in battered paperback form and actually, I really rather enjoyed that.
It felt like a fun read, one with more than enough thrills and spills and neat little scares to entertain, but unfortunately I also felt that in a few places, the story lacked a little substance and this, ultimately, lead me to mark it down from a possible 5* down to a 4.
One moment that I thought was a little weak was, coming from a hotel background, that I thought that the three friends came across as a little naïve at times thinking that they could just waltz right in, with little or no previous experience, and open up a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that was how Chantal always meant them to come across, but that was one plot element that I found rather lacking.
Another was that some of the side-characters, of which there are a few - the trio hire in some contractors to help renovate the house and convert it who turn out to be part of a group of ex-offenders on a rehabilitation scheme - just felt a little...well, two dimensional for my liking, and some of the scenes highlighting what happens to them ended up being some of the weakest moments in the book. That said, there were equally more than a few moments where I thought Chantal's writing excelled and she really nailed the creepiness factor just right and hit all the right notes spot on, so it's not all bad.
Reading this review, you might think it sounds like I didn't really enjoy this book. That's not true. I did. I just think that Chantal can write a whole lot better than this and that the whole thing felt a little bit out of her comfort zone. As I said before, it felt a little like reading a Graham Masterton novel from the nineteen eighties - but an average Masterton at best.
Like I always say, I can be a harsh judge at times and at the end of the day, the views and reviews expressed on this Blog are just my opinion. It may well be that some others of you might read this book and think I don't know what I'm talking about - and that's fine - but for me, it was okay just not as good as her Coyote series and whilst I know whilst is probably unfair for me to compare the two, when reading this I found it difficult not to.
Would I read the forthcoming sequel to this book that Chantal is currently writing? You know what, I probably would. There is a lot of promise and potential here that is not always revealed and I think the story that begins here does have some mileage yet.
Would I read this again though? Probably not.
I'd like to see where Chantal takes the ideas that she starts to explore in this book, but not enough to revisit it I'm afraid.
4 stars ****
4 stars ****