Title: The Christmas Guest
Author: Peter Swanson
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: October 17, 2023
An American art student in London is invited to join a classmate for the holidays at Starvewood Hall, her family's Cotswold manor house. But behind the holly and pine boughs, secrets are about to unravel, revealing this seemingly charming English village's grim history.
Ashley Smith, an American art student in London for her junior year, was planning on spending Christmas alone, but a last-minute invitation from fellow student Emma Chapman brings her to Starvewood Hall, country residence of the Chapman family. The Cotswold manor house, festooned in pine boughs and crammed with guests for Christmas week, is a dream come true for Ashley. She is mesmerized by the cozy, firelit house, the large family, and the charming village of Clevemoor, but also by Adam Chapman, Emma's aloof and handsome brother.
But Adam is being investigated by the local police over the recent brutal slaying of a girl from the village, and there is a mysterious stranger who haunts the woodland path between Starvewood Hall and the local pub. Ashley begins to wonder what kind of story she is actually inhabiting. Is she in a grand romance? A gothic tale? Or has she wandered into something far more sinister and terrifying than she'd ever imagined?
Over thirty years later the events of that horrific week are revisited, along with a diary from that time. What began in a small English village in 1989 reaches its ghostly conclusion in modern-day New York, many Christmas seasons later.
This was a very creepy and successful novella!
Ashley Smith is an American girl studying art in London for her junior year. She has no family after the death of her mother. Not having many choices, Ashley is prepared to spend the holidays alone when a classmate, Emma Chapman invites her to stay at her family home, Starwood Hall.
Ashley is more excited about the trip after meeting Ashley's twin brother, Adam. The days spent in Starwood Hall are full of family, games, food, and the local bars. Ashley finds herself falling for Adam. He is charismatic and spending time in his company is exciting to Ashley until she discovers that Adam is the prime suspect in the murder of a local woman who looks like her.
In the blink of an eye, this goes from being a romance to becoming a horror novel.
The Christmas Guest is an atmospheric novella with engaging characters and I couldn't wait to see how it all ended.
A complimentary copy was provided by William Morrow via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.