Title: The Tutor
Author: Bonnie Dee
Pages/Word Count: 184 Pages
At a Glance: Chills, suspense, and romance work together beautifully in The Tutor.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Gothic romance with a twist.
Elements of The Sound of Music, The Enchanted Garden, Jane Eyre, and “true” ghost hunting shows make this story feel familiar. Gay love makes it unique.
Seeing an ad for a position at a Yorkshire estate, typesetter Graham Cowrie decides to make an upward career move by passing himself off as a tutor. How hard can it be to teach a few subjects to a pair of nine-year-old boys? But on his arrival at the ancient house, he finds the staff creepy, the twins odd, and the widowed master temporarily absent.
His first meeting with brooding, stern, but oh-so-attractive, Sir Richard doesn’t go well, but with no other prospects vying for the teaching position, Graham manages to keep it. His mission soon becomes clear, break down the walls of reserve both father and sons have erected and attempt to bridge the gap between them.
But strange sounds, sights and experiences keep Graham on edge until he finally admits the Hall is haunted by two entities with very different agendas. Graham works to appease one and combat the other while protecting the broken family he’s grown to care for.
Review: Fans of gothic horror will find plenty to love in Bonnie Dee’s historical romance The Tutor, the story of a man who fabricates his way into a tutoring position at the decaying Allinson Hall, but who soon proves his value to a widower and his sons when a malevolent spirit threatens to drag them all into darkness.
The author does two things superbly in this novel, the first being that she sets the mood and tone of the story in bleak yet vivid detail. The starkness of the Hall and the somber image of its residents paint, in Poe-ish overtones, the dour picture of a family torn apart by the death of a wife and mother. You expect dire things to come as the scene is set, but don’t know exactly what it will be, and are immersed from the beginning in the tragedy and its aftereffects. And, we soon see the near impossible task Graham Cowrie has ahead of him in reaching out to his two young pupils, Whitney and Clive Allinson.
The second standout detail in this novel is the setting up of the supernatural elements that haunt the story and its characters. There are chilling moments throughout and plenty of suspense to keep the reader’s pulse pounding as the shadows and the macabre fairly cling to the walls of Allinson Hall. The tension is palpable at times and kept me glued to my Kindle as the eerie mixed with the more poignant moments of Sir Richard Allinson’s story. The distance from his twins sons—not in terms of measurable space but in the emotional vacuum that exists between them since Lavinia Allinson’s death—lends the novel a compassionate touch as we come to understand that Richard is not only suffering from grief over the loss of his wife but guilt over the lie that was his marriage.
As Graham begins to embrace his role as the boys’ tutor we see the Sisyphean task he has ahead of him. For each bit of headway he makes, not only as their teacher but as a man who comes to care about the boys and their wellbeing, he takes a giant leap back, especially with Clive, as distrust and grief soon take a backseat to the evil spirit that spreads its pall over the estate.
Graham and Richard’s interactions are initially colored by Richard’s guilt over and denial of his sexuality, and we see him as cold and aloof, perhaps even a little sinister, which makes it difficult to warm up to him as we watch him make no effort to bring comfort to his sons. But, the author does what must be done for us to see beneath the surface, and that is to begin a slow melting of the man’s icy exterior as the truth behind Lavinia’s death and the psychological effect it had on his boys is revealed. Graham’s natural charm and our sympathy for where he came from, not to mention our admiration for what he’s achieved in spite of his upbringing, was the perfect foil to Richard’s more taciturn personality, like the silver lining around the cloud, and I found myself quickly rooting for their happy ending.
The climactic scene of The Tutor is filled with tension as the physical and metaphysical collide, and the good vs. evil battle ramps up to its fullest extent before winding the story down to its deeply romantic conclusion, one that befits the time period in which the story is set. I liked The Tutor a lot, from the storyline to the characters to the author’s writing style, and can say that if you’re a fan of historical romance with more than a touch of the supernatural to give it a suspenseful twist, Bonnie Dee delivers.
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