Thursday, 4 May 2017

Review/Interview: House of Shadows - Pamela Hartshorne

This month's featured novel is a time-slip/dual timeline story from Pamela Hartshorne - House of Shadows

After a haphazard career working and travelling around the world Pamela Hartshorne first stumbled into writing as a way to fund a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies at the University of York. Twenty years, 60 romances and one Ph.D. later, she stepped out of her comfort zone and began writing 'time slip' novels that drew on her research into the streets of Elizabethan York.

Time’s Echo, published by Pan Macmillan in 2012, was her first mainstream novel. It was followed by The Memory of Midnight, published in 2013, The Edge of Dark in 2014 and House of Shadows in 2016.  Her next book, The Cursed Wife, will be out in February 2018.

She still lives in York and continues to work on the local court records that formed the basis of her PhD research, juggling historical fact with historical fiction in her novels. She is also a freelance writer, editor and project editor. She's fascinated by the relationship between the past and the present and has always enjoyed 'time slip' novels and how they explore the possibility that it might be possible to go back in time and see what it was "really like". As a trained historian, she knows that could never be possible, but as a storyteller, she finds the premise irresistible ...

She is always delighted to make contact with readers and fellow history enthusiasts. You can find out more about her on her website or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter @PamHartshorne - She'd love to hear from you!

"What's your first memory? Mine is of darkness, of weightlessness, of waiting. A stir of awareness, a drifting up towards consciousness only to sink back into nothingness."
That opening line drew me in, and kept me hooked. Kate can't remember who she is, or where she is. But she dreams. She dreams another life, that she is another person. House of Shadows presents so many questions, not least of which is 'which house is the house with the shadows?' Kate can't remember her accident, but she gradually 'remembers' more and more about Isabel's life, even though Isabel lived and died in the Tudor period. 

This book offers a little of everything: the modern day scenes are realistic, drawn using authentic dialogue, as are the scenes set in Tudor times. There is mystery, there is menace, and there is tender human emotion. I thought I had worked out the mystery, when right at the end the author wound another twist into the intricate plot. 

As we gradually find out what happened to Isabel - and here the author uses a brilliant technique of letting us, the reader, in on the secrets before Isabel discovers the truth - we also join Kate as she unravels the truth about life in Askerby Hall in the present day, where here, too, all is not as it seems. Like Kate, we do not know who is to be trusted, and the author skilfully ratchets up the tension. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and can't wait to read more of Pamela's books. After I'd read it, I put a few questions to her:

Where did the idea for the Tudor part of the story come from? Is any of it based on real life events?

PH: No, it’s all made up!  After three novels set in Elizabethan York, I originally intended that my fourth book would be set in London, but for some reason the idea of a great house on the moors took hold and wouldn’t be shaken free. I’ve always been drawn to the idea of a trauma causing a collision between the past and the present: in Time’s Echo, it’s near drowning; in The Memory of Midnight it’s suffocation; and in The Edge of Dark it’s fire.

So when it came to House of Shadows, I chose a different fear.  This time the traumatic event is a fall from a great height: what would be the highest one could fall in the sixteenth century? It seemed to me that I needed a tower, and then of course I had to ask what my character was doing on top of a tower. Did they fall or were they pushed? For me, plotting is all about asking questions, and letting the characters answer them …

Is Askerby Hall based on a real location? And if so, is it a house which is open to the public?

The house is based in part on beautiful Burton Agnes Hall, an Elizabethan mansion that has been in the same family for 400 years – although I hope that family bear no resemblance to the Vavasours! Burton Agnes is in the Yorkshire Wolds, not far from Bridlington, but one of the great things about writing fiction is that I was able to move it and drop it in the North York Moors, somewhere in the vicinity of Lastingham, and I endowed it with a couple of sinister towers remarkably like those at the weird and wonderful Chillingham Castle.

As for Crabbersett, the house where Isabel and Judith grew up, that’s based very much on Cotehele, a gorgeously atmospheric National Trust property in Cornwall.

If you’re interested, you can see photos of all these places on my blog 

When readers have read and enjoyed this book, which of your others would you recommend they go to next?

Time’s Echo, The Memory of Midnight and The Edge of Dark are all ‘time slips’ set partly in the present and partly in the sixteenth century, and like House of Shadows, they all explore the relationship between the past and the present.

Buy House of Shadows


  1. Thanks for the interview and review, Annie. Love Pamela Hartshorne's books.

  2. I enjoyed this interview and review. Ms. Hartshome's work is new to me. I have ordered House of Shadows and am looking forward to it!

    1. Thanks Lauren, glad you enjoyed it :-)