To any authors/publishers/ tour companies that are looking for the reviews that I signed up for please know this is very hard to do. I will be stopping reviews temporarily. My husband passed away February 1st and my new normal is a bit scary right now and I am unable to concentrate on a book to do justice to the book and authors. I will still do spotlight posts if you wish it is just the reviews at this time. I apologize for this, but it isn't fair to you if I signed up to do a review and haven't been able to because I can't concentrate on any books. Thank you for your understanding during this difficult time. I appreciate all of you. Kathleen Kelly April 2nd 2024

17 December 2023

The Curse of Penryth Hall by @JessL_Armstrong Review!


Title: The Curse of Penryth Hall

Author: Jess Armstrong

Publisher: Minotaur Books

On Sale: 12/5/23

An atmospheric gothic mystery that beautifully brings the ancient Cornish countryside to life, Armstrong introduces heroine Ruby Vaughn in her Minotaur Books & Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award-winning debut, The Curse of Penryth Hall.

After the Great War, American heiress Ruby Vaughn made a life for herself running a rare bookstore alongside her octogenarian employer and house mate in Exeter. She’s always avoided dwelling on the past, even before the war, but it always has a way of finding her.

When Ruby is forced to deliver a box of books to a folk healer living deep in the Cornish countryside, she is brought back to the one place she swore she’d never return. A more sensible soul would have delivered the package and left without rehashing old wounds. But no one has ever accused Ruby of being sensible. Thus begins her visit to Penryth Hall.

A foreboding fortress, Penryth Hall is home to Ruby’s once dearest friend, Tamsyn, and her husband, Sir Edward Chenowyth. It’s an unsettling place, and after a more unsettling evening, Ruby is eager to depart. But her plans change when Penryth’s bells ring for the first time in thirty years. 

Edward is dead; he met a gruesome end in the orchard, and with his death brings whispers of a returned curse. It also brings Ruan Kivell, the person whose books brought her to Cornwall, the one the locals call a Pellar, the man they believe can break the curse. 

Ruby doesn’t believe in curses—or Pellars—but this is Cornwall and to these villagers, the curse is anything but lore, and they believe it will soon claim its next victim: Tamsyn.

To protect her friend, Ruby must work alongside the Pellar to find out what really happened in the orchard that night.

Jess Armstrong’s debut novel The Curse of Penryth Hall won the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur First Crime Novel Competition. She has a masters degree in American History but prefers writing about imaginary people to the real thing. 

Jess lives in New Orleans with her historian husband, two sons, yellow cat, speckled dog, and the world’s most pampered school-fair goldfish. And when she’s not working on her next project, she’s probably thinking about cheese, baking, tweeting or some combination of the above. 

You can find her on Twitter at @JessL_Armstrong 

or see what’s new on her website at

My Thoughts

The Curse of Penryth Hall by Jess Armstrong is her first novel and I doubt it will be her last. Ruby Vaughn runs a bookstore for an octogenarian and is tasked with delivering some books to Ruan Kivell, a local "healer".

Ruby does not believe in superstitions, ghosts, Pellars or the like. You ask what is a Pellar?

 "A Pellar is in English folk Magic and Witchcraft, a healer, diviner and breaker of spells. The term is probably a corruption of expel, as in the repelling or expelling of spells. A pellar would be sought out if a person thought he or she had been bewitched or cursed."

Ruby intends to just drop off the books and go back home but things did not work out that way. She spends time with her friend Tamsyn. They were good friends but lost touch with each other over the years. The last they had any communication was at Tamysn and Sir Edward Chenowyth's wedding. She decides to stay because of the bells. The last time Penryth bells wrung was 30 years ago. At that time one of Edward's ancestors was murdered.

Ruby has a terrible dream. When she wakes she is not sure if the dream was real or not, someone was murdered and in her wake state, she is not sure if what she dreamt was real or not. That is when the bells start chiming. The housekeeper has found the body of Sir Edward. He had been murdered violently. It is time for Ruby to team up with Pellar, and Ruan, to see if they can determine who and why Edward was killed.

To the point of putting herself and anyone around her in danger, she is bound and determined to figure it out. Ruby and Ruan are always at odds because she does not believe in what he can do. But working together they find that there may be a tiny bit of attraction between the two. 

Penryth Hall is very dark and gothic, and people really believe that the curse of Penryth is real and it will strike again. Ruby is worried it will be Tamsyin next.

I always like a good psychological thriller and this one fits into that genre. Lots of characters, some quirky, some creepy, and others you will definitely like. This book was a fun quick read for me! I give it 4 stars.

I received a copy of the book from Netgalley/Minotaur Books for review purposes only and was not monetarily compensated for the review!

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