Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Abandoned Heart by Laura Benedict

Randolph Bliss is warned against building his home on the land he has his heart set on. But Randolph is nothing if not set in his own ways. And so, Bliss House is built, in all its glory and, for some, terror. 

Kiku, Randolph's young mistress, witnesses the home while still in progress. She is brought from New York to Old Gate in the house's early days to provide comfort and more to the rich businessman.  And even though she is set apart from the family and the main house, hidden away in the property's woods in a home of her own, she is still privy to Randolph's deepest and darkest depravities. And she isn't the only one. Amelia, Randolph's first wife, and young Lucy, Randolph's second wife, each become chained to Bliss and victim to his dark appetites and worse.  

Readers, I've been dying to share this one with you! The Abandoned Heart marks the latest in Laura Benedict's twisted and chilling Bliss House series. And it's also the beginning of the house's story, taking readers back to its very earliest days and it's first inhabitants.

Bliss House is a house that was definitely born bad. The locals even warned against the property itself. Not that that would matter, all things considered. Randolph Bliss is not a good man at heart. Of course, if you've read the series then you already know that!

If you haven't read the series, you can very safely start with The Abandoned Heart. As mentioned, it's the earliest story of Bliss House, beginning in the late 1800s with Randolph's first visit to Old Gate. And while the series is focused around a haunted house, it is essentially the story of the various women that have inhabited (and in many cases were victims of) the house.

Here we meet Kiku, a teenaged prostitute purchased by Randolph Bliss. She sees Bliss House as something of a salvation at first. She was kidnapped from her home, brought to the states, and forced into servitude at the brothel where she eventually met Randolph Bliss. Her story begins, for us, with the train ride to Virginia. And of course she quickly comes to learn that Bliss House is no salvation at all.

Amelia was convinced she was bound to be a spinster when she met and was wooed by Randolph. And it couldn't have come at a better time for her parents, who were beginning to be in dire need of funds. But Amelia views her daughter, Tamora, as the punishment she deserves for allowing herself to be drawn in by her husband.

And poor Lucy. The sheltered daughter of the local preacher, Lucy is immediately smitten with Bliss House and its widowed owner thanks to her father forbidding her contact with either. She is, as we soon learn, fairly doomed from the start.

Of course all three are, in the beginning, only introduced to the mostly society accepted behaviors of Randolph Bliss. He hides his deeper evils from all three and what they do witness is shrugged off and excused to varying degrees. Just like Bliss House itself, the facade of Randolph Bliss is one of security and even affection.

The Abandoned Heart is a dark read. The whole series is, if you haven't gathered. It's a worthy end - or beginning - to the series. I had the opportunity to read it over the summer and have had to bite my tongue ever since!

Readers, this series is dark, dark, dark. Twisted almost doesn't begin to cover it. And yet, the allure of the story is too much to resist. Benedict is a wonderful writer, weaving a web of mystery, devastation, and yes, depravity, exploring human and supernatural horrors alike. My only complaint is that there isn't any more to look forward to!

Rating: 5/5

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