McGurl certainly does love to combine history, genealogy, the past and the present in her stories.
In The Daughters of Red Hill Hall the reader follows two stories. Gemma and Nat in the present, and Sarah and Rebecca in the past. The four of them have a lot in common. It’s almost like a repetition of history.
Rebecca and Sarah have been close friends for many years. They have grown up together in the same house and are like sisters. Rebecca is the daughter of the house and Sarah merely the daughter of a servant. Rebecca’s father treats them both as equals, which causes feelings of jealousy and envy. Sarah has built up a lifetime of anger against her ‘sister’ and anyone who doesn’t fit into her plans. She will literally do anything to get what she wants. The two of them become rivals, and their animosity towards each other ends in disaster.
Meanwhile in the present, best friends Gemma and Nat have a similar unequal relationship, or at least one of them thinks so. Jealousy leads to rash decisions and betrayal.
A old case with two duelling pistols connects the four women like a cold withered hand reaching from the past to grab the present to pull two more into the dark curse of Red Hill Hall. Question is whether it will end with another disaster.
There is a legal inconsistency, but that is actually pointed out by Charles towards the end and sheds a light on how powerless women were in that era in regards to having no voice and no rights. McCurl focuses on the relationships and emotional turmoil, and allows for a flexible interpretation of the era she writes in. As always a spirited read.
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