RIGHT, I’ve just completed my read-through of Shun House, tweaked and adjusted until it seems about right to me, but now I really need some independent comment from insightful readers. Could that be you? Here’s the blurb and a synopsis to help you decide.
Benediction House: set high on a promontory, dominating an estate that stretched from the highland border in the north, and south to where a languid river dribbled into the sea. An edifice in Gothic stone; an old, grim building with wings and towers, built with the rewards of a King’s service by a rich and devout nobleman.
Plague swept the land. The nobleman succumbed, his surviving family was displaced, and his demesne fell into disrepair, languishing for years until acquired by a secretive visitor from a distant land who restored the buildings and returned order to the estate. Others of his kin joined him from the Iron Gate region of the Carpathian Mountains. Vaskapu, they called themselves, a name that came to haunt the north lands down the centuries that followed.
Anxious tales found root in the fens and the rugged coast that touched the Vaskapu estates, dark stories whispered on cold nights by a frightened and superstitious population. Benediction House became Shun House, a home to secrets, a place of death, an abode of monsters. And from this domicile the family Vaskapu exercised lordship over the lives of all the little people who cowered in their hovels beneath the brooding gaze of Shun House…
Shun House is a romance of sorts. It is the tale of Marquis Raphael Vaskapu: last of an ancient and warped dynasty, searching for a way to ensure the future of his bloodline; and Joseph Harrow: butler, valet, factotum to the family, and a monster in his own right.
The Vaskapu dynasty is a half-breed race whose blood is said to be mixed with that of dragons from mythic prehistory. The local populace fears the them, believing they hunt and prey on the people of the region.
The time period is a very loose amalgam of (mainly) 17th and 18th centuries. Geographically, the setting is a fictionalised north of England. Shun House – bastardised from Benediction House, the property’s original name – is an edifice in stone, a mansion built on top of cliffs overlooking the fishing village of Hook.
Much of the story is told from Harrow’s perspective. He is a complicated man, intensely loyal to the Vaskapu but plagued by a vengeful conscience – which manifests in the ‘haunt’. Harrow is a fatalist, believing himself destined – owing to his predilection for cruel and perverse gratification – for an eternity of torment.
Marquis Rafael receives a communiqué from an Iberian count introducing Rafael to Contessa Adelina Cantabria. The marquis sends for her in the hope they might wed, and so secure the family line. The contessa arrives by ship at the start of the year. She is 18 years old, beautiful, haughty and petulant. She is accompanied by her guardian, Señorita Constanza, who has cared for Adelina since birth. Constanza is tall and aristocratic – although she has no blood relationship with Adelina – and classically beautiful.
In due course the Adelina and Rafael fall in love and marry. Meantime, Constanza falls equally in love with Harrow. He, however, is more reticent with his affections, but eventually he falls under her spell – or is he, in truth, merely using her to escape the torment of his guilt?
Shun House lies within the duchy of Umberland. The present duke, Percival, is in debt to the Vaskapu, a burden he wants desperately to be rid of. The duke sends for aid from a clan living on the continent (think Romania) who have a reputation for confronting and defeating ‘monsters’ like the Vaskapu.
The clan, family name Kárpáti, arrive and assail the marquis’s home. Harrow is charged with the safety of Adelina, and guides her, together with Constanza and others away from Shun House. They journey to the castle of Duke Umberland where Adelina – now pregnant – not only receives the attentions of the duke, who proposes marriage to her, but is also brought face-to-fact with the Kárpáti. Adelina will have none of this, and determines to exact retribution from both the duke and the Kárpáti. In the end… well, you must read that for yourself.
Shun House is a strong story that some will not find easy to read. It deals with death and cruelty, though I hope I’ve dealt with these topics sensitively. The key characters are well rounded – but I can’t help wondering with which, if any, the reader will fully empathise. All the protagonists have feet of clay.
The book is sprinkled with Spanish/Romanian/Hungarian words and phrases but these are languages I do not speak, and so would appreciate any expert views.
SO, Are you interested? If you are then I will send you an electronic copy (Word or Word PDF) to review. What I’d appreciate back is your honest, constructive opinion, which I will use to hone the story. When the book is published (CreateSpace/Amazon) I will give you full credit in the book for your contribution (or you can remain anonymous if you wish), plus a copy of the finished book.
Let me know.
Best Wishes to All,