Owl Manor reviews

 4 stars from International Review of Books

A line in the book that stood out to the reviewer: 
“…but even within that oblivion had stirred something dark and malevolent.”

Owl Manor is a wonderful example of Regency style Gothic horror, heavy on the tropes of the genre, but still telling a taut and masterful story. The heroine is a mix of a modern feminist in thought, trapped in an age where women are commodities, and a naive young woman that so often features in these gothic novels. It sounds jarring but provides modern readers a reason to root for our young Eva as she pits herself against Owl Manor and the secrets within. 

There are all the right ingredients for a gothic novel – a large sweeping manor house, the spirits of murdered young women, a dark and foreboding man, and our heroine, plunged into the middle of all this in a mix of fate and poor life choices; which lead to some comical moments when read with a modern viewpoint, but make perfect sense within the body of the novel. The book has some stand out moments – the toxic and yet seemingly irresistible draw of Owl Manor and its owner is skillfully written, and the descriptions and comportment of the household are true to the era. The romance, which is a tense slow burn, really adds to the book, as we know it is a bad idea, and yet, the participants cannot help themselves, and like any good tragedy, we the readers must buckle down to observe the fallout. I sat and read it in one sitting, enjoying the spooky ambiance and delighting in reading all my favorite Regency motifs in one place.   

V. Timmons 
5.0 out of 5 stars  Good book! Highly recommended!
I thoroughly enjoyed Owl Manor. I read books across a variety of genres, but not typically Gothic romance. After reading this book, I will definitely add Gothic romance to my reading list, as well as other novels by this author. I was attracted to this book by the beautiful cover and the suggestions of dark suspense of the woman protagonist living in the 1800’s.

The author does a great job of developing the main characters as the book builds to a climax, interweaving interesting details and dropping hints of the darkness to come, without revealing enough that you can predict the unraveling events. It contains a mixture of moody suspense, believable dread, and indications of supernatural intervention.

I enjoy novels that leave a bit to the imagination at the conclusion, instead of wrapping everything up into a neat, homogenized package. I like how Owl Manor does this, leaving me to imagine many possibilities and wondering what is to come in the next installation in the series. I eagerly await the next book!

Luvtoread!
 
4.0 out of 5 stars  Eerie Gothic Story!
This is a wonderful gothic horror novel. The writing is beautifully done and takes you back to another time, where you feel you are living in another world and witnessing the events that take place within this unusual story.

The story follows high spirited and beautiful Eva who was raised by her well off aunt and uncle who also have daughters, yet Eva was loved as one of their own. Eva marries very young and has a child, but she is dissatisfied at the way her life has turned out.
The other main character is Rafe Bradstone who had an unfortunate and abusive childhood and has many scars and wounds that still fester with the cruelty of his upbringing.
There is a serial killer of prostitutes reigning fear and terror in Denver but the town hasn’t any clues of who this monster could be.
Owl Manor will appear with an air of grandeur and foreboding in it’s majestic yet dark beauty and many, many stone owls adorn this mansion inside and outside. You must read this book youself, to find out the why the owls have become the name of Owl Manor.

I was mesmerized by the storytelling and beautiful writing that Zita Harrison has created in this book. I haven’t read a gothic novel in many years and this book captured all the eerie and dark emotions with slow building suspense that was exceptionally gratifying.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. This is a must read if anyone is interested in gothic books or just a terrific dark story that is so well-written.
I highly recommend this book and given a rating of 4 1/2 Dark  Stars!!

4 out of 5 stars  Serial killer on the loose
Eva is a young woman with a strong will and bright mind who feels there must be something more to life than the drudgery of settling into marriage and bearing children that she doesn’t really want, with a man who turns out to be less than what she had hoped for. Not having many opportunities in the 1850s she is swept by circumstance to live in squalor and poverty while her husband pursues his dream of striking gold.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, whose hatred of his mother drives him to murder prostitutes, believing the world is a better place without these unclean women. Money and privilege conceal his heinous acts and seem to keep him above suspicion from everyone…except the owls. When he crosses paths with Eva, her strong will may be her salvation or her demise.

Bonnie Gallup  5.0 out of 5 stars    Brilliant writing. Great story. Riveting with a touch of the supernatural.
In many books, I can see where the plot line is heading and guess the ending…not so with Owl Manor-The Dawning. I didn’t see it coming! To say more I’d have to label my comments as “spoiler alerts” and I really recommend experiencing this book for yourself!!

Zita has done an excellent job of weaving together her characters’ stories. She explores the complex layers of her characters so you understand their motives even if you can’t condone their actions. The book is fast-paced with short chapters so you find yourself not wanting to put it down. Zita knows how to hook your interest and reel you in! I’m a fan who is now eagerly awaiting the second book of the trilogy.

Linda Dunbar  5.0 out of 5 stars  Another great tale from a Zita Harrison  
A page turner that I couldn’t put down once I started reading! The characters are believable and underscore the complexity of life and human nature. Owl Manor is a haunting tale which is both terrifying and thrilling—perfect timing as Halloween is right around the corner! Zita is a talented author and you won’t be disappointed by this book.

Reviews for Owl manor – the Dawning: 5.0 out of 5.0 stars – Good book! Highly recommended!

final cover copy

V. Timmons (Amazon reader)

“I thoroughly enjoyed Owl Manor. I read books across a variety of genres, but not typically Gothic romance. After reading this book, I will definitely add Gothic romance to my reading list, as well as other novels by this author. I was attracted to this book by the beautiful cover and the suggestions of dark suspense of the woman protagonist living in the 1800’s.

Linda Dunbar

Silvia Curry, Silvia’s Reading Corner

“Owl Manor the Dawning is an amazing Gothic horror novel that instantly takes you back to a time where life was harder and misery seemed to love company. The story follows Eva, Mr. Bradstone, Gilbert, and Joseph on a wild ride to madness, and every single unexpected twist and turn left me breathless. 

Zita Harrison’s writing is reminiscent of Poe, in which the entire story comes alive and leaves you anxiously turning the pages to see what is going to happen. The foreshadowing is amazing, and if you aren’t careful, you just may miss it (and it is so much more fun to find them the second time around!). 

Zita Harrison does an incredible job with this epic gothic horror novel. Her story will stay with me long, and I will never look at owls the same again!”

$2.99 for Kindle at Amazon https://amzn.to/2yhfmbq

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THE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN OWLS and DEATH

OWLGHOST copy
Since ancient times, many different cultures have been associating birds with death. Especially OWLS. In his thesis, “On the Relationship between Birds and Spirits of the Dead,” Christopher Moreman gives us some fascinating facts, some of which I plucked out (pun intended!) for us to enjoy:
“…The Egyptian soul, called Ba, is depicted as a bird with a human head. Human-headed birds also appear among the ancient Greeks as sirens, or soul-birds…”
“…The North American Osage describe various spirit worlds, the highest of which is populated by birds embodying human souls…”
“…A pre-Islamic tradition that has survived in some parts of the Arab world explains that a murder victim will return as a white owl, screeching for vengeance…”
“… in Northern India, owls and bats might embody “the malevolent dead”…”
“…Some Pima Indians believe that at death the soul inhabits the body of an owl; an owl’s hooting portends death as it calls out for a soul to embody…”
“…Virginian folklore describes the cries of owls as “ole folks talking”…”
“…Various kinds of birds embody spirits of the dead in Brazil and Paraguay and among the Asabano of Papua New Guinea…”
“…The owl, for instance, appears most commonly as a death symbol. “The owl’s natural characteristics, its sudden pounce on its victims, its eerie cry, its preference for darkness, and the carrion smell of its nest made it the sinister messenger of the death goddesses”…”
Mmm lovely. And here I was thinking it was just a silly ghost story!!! Thank you Mr. Moreman for all the research!
Check out this AMAZING video of an owl in motion below!!!
OWL MANOR – THE DAWNING, a novel by Zita Harrison
available on Amazon, fall of 2018!!

How does this painting affect you?

John_Henry_Fuseli_-_The_Nightmare

I’m sure many have seen this 1781 painting, “The Nightmare” by Henry Fuseli. I encountered it in Art school a long time ago, and needless to say, it is unforgettable. Disturbingly unforgettable.

It tells a story of unrequited passion. Henry Fuseli had fallen madly in love (lust?) with a woman by the name of Anna Landholdt who is supposedly the woman in the painting, while the demon represents Fuseli himself.  He had written the following about his feelings for Anna:

“Last night I had her in bed with me—tossed my bedclothes hugger-mugger—wound my hot and tight-clasped hands about her—fused her body and soul together with my own—poured into her my spirit, breath and strength. Anyone who touches her now commits adultery and incest! She is mine, and I am hers. And have her I will.…”
(Ward, Maryanne C. “A Painting of the Unspeakable: Henry Fuseli’s ‘The Nightmare’ and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein'”)

Yes, this painting supposedly inspired Mary Shelley to write the scene in which the wife of Dr. Frankenstein was found dead: “She was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down, and her pale and distorted features half covered by hair.”

And it inspired the writing of Edgar Allan Poe in “The Fall of the House of Usher”: “irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame; and, at length, there sat upon my heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm”.

The woman’s father refused to give his approval for the union and married his daughter off to someone else. Goodness, Mr. Fuseli. No wonder her father refused your proposal. Can such devouring passion be good for anyone? It speaks to me of a highly disturbed personality, confirmed by the painting. Would anyone want their child to marry an individual who wrote and painted like this? I wouldn’t. Of course if my child made that decision herself, or himself since I have a son, my opinions would be irrelevant. Too bad for us parents who live in the 21st century and can’t shackle our children to our way of thinking! Too bad for us but not for them I suppose!!! And would we really want to in the end?

Why is this painting so disturbing? I love Gothic literature like Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, but this is different. I think it evokes a fear of literal monsters, not the human kind, which puts it in the realm of fantasy. Or does it? People like to read about monsters: dinosaurs, giants, ogres, etc. Is it because these things do not really exist, and we are safe in the fear evoked by these stories because they could never really take place? Or is it because in some primal way these monsters are familiar? Yikes, going into forbidden territory here. Sure, they don’t look like us humans…on the outside anyway. But might they embody thoughts that we have all had, and suppressed? Nightmares that we put aside so we can function in our daily lives? Thoughts that we identify in other people and shudder to think they might exist in our minds?

I invite you to share your thoughts on this. How does this painting affect you? Why do people enjoy reading about monsters, watching monster movies? Those of us that do anyway. And they don’t have to be ogres and giants; think Marvel’s Apocalypse, Venom, Mystique from X-Men, DC’s Poison Ivy. Think Aliens, King Kong, oh and all the vampires and werewolves out there! Why are we so fascinated by monsters?

 

 

A Living, Breathing Red.

Crimson Peak

While my inspirations for Gothic romance are the classics: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and more, I Really enjoyed the Gothic romance movie, Crimson Peak by Guillermo del Toro. Of course the fact it had three of my favorite actors didn’t hurt!

CAst Crimson Peak

Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasokowska…and Gothic romance. What’s not to like????

The plot: Edith Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska, is our heroine, the proverbial, Gothic damsel in distress. She is perfect: small, delicate, arouses protectiveness in anyone. She is repeatedly visited by her mother’s ghost who warns her against the mysterious “Crimson Peak,” which she later realizes is another name for Allerdale Hall in England, the Gothic mansion she moves to with her new husband, Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston, and his sister, Lucille, played by the unsurpassable Jessica Chastain. Nothing is right at this mansion. First, the red clay it sits on, all the more shocking because it oozes like bright red blood out of snow, is slowly devouring it; hence the name Crimson Peak. Second, the gorgeous man who swept Edith off her feet all of a sudden acts cold and distant towards her. Third, his beautiful sister seems to hate her. We find out later that Thomas and Lucille have been carrying on an incestuous relationship, and that he married three other rich women before Edith to gain access to their money, after which the brother and sister poisoned them. In the spirit (!) of crimson, Edith is visited by ghastly red ghosts, starts coughing up blood, and realizes that she also is being poisoned. What wasn’t part of the plan, however, was Thomas falling in love with Edith. Jessica Chastain, fabulous in every role she has ever done, transforms beautifully into a jealous lunatic sister who murders her brother rather than lose him, and is herself killed eventually by Edith. Of course there’s more, go see it!

What I was impressed by was the whole crimson theme. The snow was red, the ghosts were red, and not just a regular red, but a powerful, bloody red that attacks the senses and makes your skin crawl. It reminds us of what we are inside, a throbbing, pulsing, living red, a thought that completely goes against our humanity because, except in the form of a rare steak on our plate, which has nothing to do with what’s inside us (!), we cannot relate to it and would rather not think about it. Unless, of course, we are in the medical profession, or sadistic, people skinning murderers, or perhaps butchers. And It was different in that ghosts are not usually presented as red; bleeding maybe, translucent maybe, hazy blues or grays, purples, blacks maybe  but not all over red like that. So in that respect I thought it was more like a monster movie. But whatever it was, it was very entertaining, and, as always, a joy to watch these three great actors.

Here is an interview of the cast.

“Ghosts I love because they represent so many things and I like to use them in a different way than they are used in horror movies where they are just scary and creepy. I want to also use them as characters that could be good…ghosts represent the past.”
– Guillermo del Toro

Love his 2006 Spanish dark fantasy film, Pan’s Labyrinth as well.

Gothic music by Adrian Von Ziegler

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while, guys! I’ve been focusing completely on finishing my book Owl Manor to get it to my editor! Sometimes writers are devoured by their work!

But I have to share this piece by Adrian Von Ziegler, who is fast becoming my favorite Gothic musician. I listen to him when I write and it fills me with inspiration, and sometimes makes me want to weep with the enormity of life. His music is intensely emotional, mysterious and beautifully dark. It resonates of the sublime power of nature to evoke joy as well as fear. Of windy moors, dark forests, old mansions; damsels in distress and Byronic heroes; deeply flawed, romantic characters with tortured souls and internal struggles. And the existence of spirits, or energy, whatever one wants to call them, in different dimensions. Yummy.

Does anyone not have internal struggles? Is that even possible? Our life experiences define us, they are not always positive, and we do the best that we can with whom we become. A very important lesson I have been learning in life is that we need to accept all aspects of ourselves, seek harmony in even that part that seems damaged or abnormal, understand where it comes from  and that this is what we were given in this life. Only then can we survive and rise above things, and feel empathy and compassion for others. Perfection, after all, is a matter of opinion, right?

Hence my attraction to Gothic literature. Set in the gold mining era of America, Owl Manor is very Gothic, and I am having a delicious time writing it while listening to the music of Adrian Von Ziegler. By the way, what a great name.

Here is Evocation by Adrian Von Ziegler. Enjoy!

Tom Hardy ignites the Gothic

Taboo, the new series with Tom Hardy, feeds my obsession with dark tales and makes me want to write them. It is one to be watched more than once. My husband and I just spent an entire weekend watching it. Four episodes through the show, we were thoroughly hooked, wondering frantically what brilliant clues, signs, and nuances of character we had missed. Well, I was frantic anyway. My husband not so much. I wanted to stop right then and go back to the first episode, such was the gripping power of the show. But my husband didn’t let me. Hmmmph.

It is another haunting performance by an actor who does dark and brooding like no one else. Hard to imagine Tom Hardy’s cheeky, boyish face capable of such intensity, ferocity, savagery, and, oh yeah, passion. But the transformation is utterly complete and true. Think Forrest Bondurant in Lawless; Ronald and Reginald Kray, identical twin gangsters in Legend (yes he switches back and forth between two characters with an ease that can be only described as “unreal”); think Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. If you haven’t seen those, think Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, think Mad Max: The Wasteland. If you haven’t seen those either, you’re missing out on an unbelievable talent. And he plays the hulking, grim, savage James Delaney on Taboo (FX); back from the dead, scornfully disregarding useless social and religious norms, loving whom he wants, killing whom he wants, and indulging in whatever he wants, namely the horrifying, scandalous magic arts. Hence the name Taboo. He ignites those Gothic parts of us that want to defy society, want to be shocked, and crave violent justice, and yet are too scared to do so. All the while he is supremely intelligent, aware of everything that is going on, and skillfully manipulates people and situations to his own advantage. He races through 1814 London on his stunningly white horse, dressed in a flowing, black overcoat and black top hat, reminding us of Mr. Hyde. Or a dark knight. Flawed, troubled, frightening, but with a big heart and sense of justice. We feel the wrongness he has been through in his past and we forgive and enjoy his trespasses. Oh, and he’s nice to children. For those of us into dark, Gothic heroes, Tom Hardy is it.

The show, set in 1814 London, abounds in shocking filth, savagery, and depravity in the poor, and just as shocking corruption and debauchery in the wealthy. It is complicated. Events are often ambiguous. Clues are obscure. Characters are duplicitous. The audience sees the surprising results of events without being completely sure how they transpired. The pieces have to be put together afterwards, like solving a jigsaw puzzle. That’s when you want to go back and watch it again.

Here is the official trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmg8RDntkLc

If you enjoy it as much as I did, drop me a line!