Cousins-Siblings Once Removed + “Black Rabbit Hall” by Eve Chase

This is a recycled post, but the review is BRAND new. 

I was really lucky growing up; I know that now as an adult and a parent. I had parents who pretty much made time for me to do everything that a kid could want to do. I grew up in the country, running a little wild (in a good, country kind of way), and I was forced to do chores, and to work when I got older. I was given a lot (sporting goods equipment, mostly, and clothes, because that was the family business), but I had to work for a lot, too. I learned the value of hard work, and the joy of hard play.

I also was lucky because I grew up near my mom’s family. My grandparents owned the family business for most of those days, with my parents and my aunt and uncle working there as well. Thus, we spent a lot of days with my cousins.

Especially my Best cousins. The Best cousins, both literally and figuratively: their last name is and was Best.

They were all younger than me, so I was kind of their queen (shhh, don’t tell them). My oldest Best cousin, Teresa, was the same age as my younger brother, and they went to school together. Her younger sister, Stacey, was year younger. And their younger brother, Mark, was the baby of the family by about four years or so.

We spent a lot of time together, the Bests and the Carlsonelectra_woman_12 (1)s. Teresa and Stacey were my de-facto little sisters, letting me curl their hair and playing Electra Woman and Dyna Girl with me. Mark was the baby, working hard to keep up, keeping us all on our toes.

Sure, we spent holidays together, but at least once a weekend it seemed like we went to dinner together, or spent the afternoon together, or I babysat for them. We made cookies and rode bikes. We walked their neighborhood and jumped on their trampoline; they hung out in the country with us and jumped on our trampoline.

We screamed at each other, made fun of each other, dried each other’s tears. I made up stories to tell them, and they still prod me to write the book based on those stories.

They were nearly siblings. We shared our mothers’ familial history, and we built our own shared narrative. Because of them, I always felt like I had younger sisters and an extra younger brother.

I never, ever, ever imagined a world where we wouldn’t all live within 20 minutes of each other as full-on grown-ups. But I always thought I would live in my hometown after marriage and children.

As with most things I imagined as a child, this could not be further than the truth. Teresa lives in Oregon, my brother lives in Florida. I’m in Ohio. Mark, the baby, lives in the southern suburbs of Denver. Only Stacey lives in our Colorado hometown. Of my mom and her sisters, only my aunt remains in Colorado.

So we talk on Facebook, and we visit Colorado every couple of years.

But it’s not even close to the same. I miss the physical, emotional, and mental closeness with these people that were my siblings once removed.

I hope they know how much their kinship and friendship meant to me growing up, and how much they mean to me now. How much of our shared past has shaped me, making me into the mother, the wife, and the woman that I am today.

Now that I’m done with that, onto my review of Eve Chase’s Black Rabbit Hall.

An enchanted life can turn haunted in the blink of an eye. 

The Premise

The Alton family country estate in Cornwall is slightly magical. Separate from the world, the clocks don’t keep proper time and the children wander in and out without any cares. Amber and her twin brother love their summers there, near the sea and away from school. Watching out for their younger siblings, the two run slightly wild through the rambling home and the surrounding woods and beaches, all with their mother’s blessing and watchful eye.

And then suddenly all goes wrong.

Thirty years later, Lorna wants get married at Penraw Hall, the official name of Black Rabbit Hall. Remembering visits to the gates with her mother, she’s determined to make the crumbling estate into her wedding venue. The inhabitants hope to make it into a wedding event destination, and Lorna’s wedding will be their first (although her fiance is not so sure).

In an attempt to get her to agree to marrying at Penraw Hall, Lorna is invited to spend a weekend at the estate, and she jumps at the chance. But, once there, she is drawn into the mysterious story of the Altons, whose memories still haunt the estate. Her own memories with her mother, who recently died, are tied up in the estate, and Lorna is unsure why. She only knows that learning more about the Alton family will satisfy her curiosity, and maybe help her understand her mother a little better.

My Thoughts

Lately it seems like every other book I read has alternating voices in alternating times. It also seems like I should be getting sick of it, but not yet!

I really enjoyed Black Rabbit Hall, Eve Chase’s debut novel. Fresh and mysterious and thrilling and lovely all at the same time. Both Amber (Alton) and Lorna are interesting characters with unique voices, although I wish they was a little bit more to both of them.

Chase’s use of language is superb, giving readers a setting Black Rabbit Hall that is perfect in 1969 and then a perfect ruin thirty years later.

The other characters are incredibly less fleshed out, and there are just too many secondary characters. So many of them had promise, but there none of them were developed well enough to reach their full potential. For instance, Amber’s twin brother Toby. We know just enough about him to fit the story. I wanted more. The same can be said of the ‘evil’ step-mother, Caroline, who is just a little too stereotypical. And Lucius, her son, as the handsome misunderstood step-brother, to whom Amber is drawn.

The sub-characters were just too predictable and two-dimensional.

But Black Rabbit Hall is very enjoyable; an involved Gothic mystery. I give it 3.5 stars. And I can’t wait to read more for Eve Chase.



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