Review Detail

The Disturbance at Foxwood Court, by Gillian St. Kevern
Books EW Elaine White August 20, 2020 484
Julian Stole My Heart!
 POV: 1st person, multiple POV's

 The Disturbance at Foxwood Court is a visit to old friends, with a touch of nostalgia, uncertainty and plenty of chaos. This is the first in the Read by Candlelight series told in the epistolary style, through various documentation and letters between the main characters. Combining gothic mystery with a family saga, romance and adventure, it has everything I could have asked for, in the long awaited story of how Julian found his way into the lives of Pip and Cross.

 This was my first ever epistolary novel, and I loved it!
 The characters who offer their insight into the story are as follows: Phillip Leighton (Pip), Benjamin Surplis (butler), Dr Harriet Goodfellow, Mrs Julia Goodfellow (Pip's sister), Patrick O'Connor and Wiremu King, Thomas Cross (Lord of Foxwood), and includes brief notes from the papers of Professor M. Rothbane, and a letter from Vanda Szigethy.
 Within these letters and documents, Pip and Surplis provide the most predominant POV, as these two are almost permanently settled in Foxwood, with a direct eye on events. Julia and Vanda provide various letters and notes to Pip and others, but are mostly unaware of the full context of the events. Harriet, Patrick, Wiremu and Cross are there to undertake the investigative work.

 If you're not familiar with these names, STOP. These are recurring characters (minus Rothbane) from the previous books in the series. Chronologically, this would be Book 6 in the series, so if you haven't read them, go back to read the following books:
 Book 1 is vital, to introduce you to Pip and Cross, and explain Joseph and Hewitt's place in the story. It also introduces Julia, Harriet and Surplis, who are all residents of Foxwood.
 Book 3 explores Patrick O'Connor and Wiremu King, who have a decent on-page presence here.
 Book 5 tells you why/how Pip is ill in this novel, and explores Vanda's story.

 I wasn't sure how all the information was going to be shared through letters, but I knew if anyone could manage, it would be St. Kevern. Their talent in making each book unique and yet part of the same series, is remarkable. It was lovely to see Pip take centre-stage again, and he's the perfect person to send letters of immaculate detail, and rip-roaring preternatural adventure. While, with most characters, you could say they don't go looking for trouble but trouble finds them, Pip is the opposite. Surplis puts this perfectly in his note:
 “(if anything unusual occurs in this household, Mr Leighton is the root cause)”
 While true, you best also prepare yourself to fall utterly in love with Surplis, who is an astounding snob with a soft heart and salty personality.

 My favourite part of Pip being the predominant POV is seeing his personality shine through. His varying moods, up and downs, and his affection for Cross is clear with every letter. Though we don't see letters from Cross until late in the book, we don't really need to. Pip's letters respond with enough hints and remarks for us to gleam that Cross is going about his usual business, before all the supernatural goings on start creeping in. It's especially sweet to see his indulgence of Pip's preternatural obsession, pleading with Surplis to allow a mummy in the house. And, My! Pip is wonderfully salty in this book! Especially when dealing with Wiremu! (who absolutely had it coming)

 There were so many hints, reminders, and little easter eggs for past characters that it was a lovely reminder of how intertwined the series is. Mentioning how Mereweather and Harris were away studying, that Surplis thought Pip and Cross were cousins. I had a good chuckle at that one. I'm also hopeful at the hints there may be more travelling adventures for Patrick and Wiremu in the future. I loved this moment where, quite by accident and without knowing it, Surplis' interest in Julian has shattered his and Cross' dreams:
 “I was on the point of giving up my studies, but finding enthusiasm for my subject from such an unexpected source, has reignited me.”

There isn't much I can say about the plot itself, without giving anything away. For those who have read the series in order, they'll be aware of Julian's circumstances. For those unfamiliar, this book answered ALL of my questions, and fulfilled all my hopes for his origin story. To see how everyone rallied together for this adorable child, that they cared so much for a lost pet, and made the best protectors possible was touching and wonderful. It definitely secured the reasoning behind Julian's unfailing loyalty and love for Pip that we've seen in the future stories of his childhood.

In the end, Julian was brave, Pip stupid and wonderful, Cross was the right hook, and it was so much fun to see everyone come together. I nearly passed out in Chapter 26 (the death notification) from holding my breath and gave an inner scream for Pip's obstinate nature in Chapter 27.

There's no better way to end my review than to say the final words pretty much sum up how I felt about the entire thing – happy, hopeful, relieved and satisfied with a perfect ending.
 “To fatherhood.”

* P.S.
 If you want to read the books chronologically, then I'd recommend – 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, 6, 8, 11, 9, 3.
Read Book 7 for more of Patrick and Wiremu, Books 6 and 9 for more of young Julian, and then into Book 8 for adult Julian. The next installment, Book 11, should be read after Book 8.
This is only my personal recommendation, and is best read this way for your second reading. For the first time experiencing the series, read them in publishing order. Once you know all the secrets, then read them in chronological order for the most enjoyment.


Favourite Quotes

 “Is there something preternatural in this? No—I have been fortunate beyond measure with a ghost and a vampire. I must not be greedy and imagine more than is my due.”

 “Remonstrating with Mr Leighton is very trying. He agrees cheerfully to everything I say, but I am not always sure he listens.”

 “Dear William,
How kind of Patrick to write and give me your opinion of my book. Pick up a pen, you lazy old dog! I know you can write; I saw your epistles home at school. On second thoughts, perhaps it is better for all of us if Patrick handles your correspondence. His handwriting is at least legible (did my arrow hit home? Write me back).”
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