Alexander Graham Bell once said that “when one door closes another door opens.”  Wise words indeed!  Unfortunately, many people spend so much time lamenting about the closed door that they are unable to see the potential opportunities which the open door presents.  They are mired in regret and refuse to take a risk.  Sad really- because it is the risk-takers who typically reap the grandest rewards.  In Veronica Cline Barton’s novel The Crown for Castlewood Manor, we see just such a scenario.  For lovers of suspense and mysteries which contain a very strong female protagonist who is willing to actually take such risks…this is the novel for you!

The story begins with our heroine Dr. Gemma Phillips having arrived at a dramatic crossroad in her life.  Having just finished her Doctorate, she is uncertain about her next step in life.  To make matters worse, she discovers that her boyfriend has been cheating on her.  In a state of heartbreak and confusion she unexpectedly receives an offer from her cousin Evan overseas.  He is hoping to recruit her assistance as he has entered his estate into a magnificent contest.  A number of established English manors have been selected to take part in this contest which will see one of them be selected as the location for a British television series.  Images of Downton Abbey are floating in Evan’s head and he desperately needs Gemma’s help.

Choosing to throw caution to the wind, Gemma takes up her cousin on his offer.  After all, it will be an exciting adventure on the beautiful and serene English countryside… won’t it?  What they all quickly discover however is that this contest is a virtual death match.  Murders are frequently taking place and the victims are all contestants in the competition.  Who could possibly be behind such evil deeds?  It is under this deadly and foreboding cloud that Gemma has to get Cherrywood Hall ready to compete.  Will she be successful in her quest?  Or is she destined to be another victim who will soon join her ancestors in the belly of Cherrywood Hall?

I found this to be a truly wonderful novel which packs a very powerful punch.  It has a little of everything in it.  There is thrilling mystery, adventure, romance and even some paranormal elements sprinkled throughout the pages.  The theme of strength and courage is cleverly supported by the exciting and mysterious nature of the story events.  It is no exaggeration to say that the tale will literally keep you on the edge of your seat.  It is full of suspense and intrigue and I found myself continually reading “one more chapter” to eagerly see what happens next.  To engage the reader in this fashion should be the goal of any great author.

While the plot is entirely thrilling, there is more to this novel than just that.  Barton has a wonderful flow to her writing which is beautiful and descriptive.  She captures the setting of a lavish English manor exceptionally well.  Her descriptions are full of intricate details about fashion, dining, architecture and the aristocracy.  All of this is embedded within the main story and does not come across as forced or unnatural.  I almost felt like I was being transported to the set of Downton Abbey.  A entirely unique and mysterious one however!

In regards to the characters in The Crown for Castlewood Manor, there are quite a few.  They are all quite interesting and developed in a way which supports the overall direction of the book.  However, Dr. Gemma Phillips is the character who develops and grows the most by far.  She is an extremely strong, brave and courageous female protagonist.  Through the use of the First Person Point of View, the reader is able to access her thoughts and internal struggles as she grows in the novel.  Also, the addition of Pippa and the paranormal elements in the story is a masterful stroke which makes for a fascinating connection. between American and British traditions in the Lancaster family.

Overall, I found this to be a top-notch novel which has something in it for almost anyone.  Everything is carefully detailed and presented… and has an air of dignity to it.  I give it my highest recommendation.

5 out of 5 Cozy Stars for this one!