Welcome to My Gothic Manor: A Review of Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone
Hey there, Spooky Friends! I’m so glad you could join me today for the last of our required Spooky Season reads. I’m very sad that the best season of the year is coming to an end, but we’re still going to have fun these last few weeks! As always, welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life, my name is Hannah, and within the span of five minutes you’re going to regret clicking on this page. Why? Because I’m about to spew some insanity from my mind that I’m not sorry about.
You can’t see me right now, but you should all know that I’m dressed in a flowy, white night gown and I’m writing this by candlelight; specifically a candelabra with candles dripping wax onto my desk. I am trying to achieve my dreams of being a heroine in a gothic Victorian manor. I’m just missing that gothic Victorian manor, so if anyone has one of those please hit me up; bonus points if it’s haunted. Actually, a haunted, gothic Victorian manor is preferable. Serious inquiries only.
So why have I told you this? Because today I am reviewing Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipston.
God, that cover is gorgeous! I can’t get enough of it. I would like to live in it if that’s possible. I’ve got to put it again because I love it so much.
This beautiful, gorgeous art was created by Rich Deas. Can you please draw me into it, Rich Deas, please! This artwork is just so beautiful! Also shoutout to Kathleen Breitenfeld who worked with Deas to do the jacket design. Seriously, if I could marry this cover I would. I’ll settle for framing it and treating it like a fine art piece instead.
Yes, this book is a gothic feast for the eyes. It has the dark manor that people are too scared to venture near, our heroine has nightmares nearly every night, the land is cursed, the main, supernatural villain wears a cape, our heroine is sometimes in distress and saved by our anti-hero love interest who also wears a cape; this book has every gothic element readers could want.
Synopsis time! As always a spoiler alert is in order. I also have a content warning for you. Laksedge has many mentions of self-harm and includes an abusive relationship between a parent and a child. Please be aware of those before reading this book as they are prevalent to the story.
Lakesedge follows two siblings: Violeta and Arien. Violeta is the older sibling and will do anything to protect her baby brother. The issue is, the biggest threat to Arien is himself. He is in possession of some truly dark magic. Nearly every night, he is plagued by nightmares that result in shadowy, black magic spilling from his fingertips. He has no control of this magic, and it always leaves a mark on him. This power is something he needs to hide from the world. Not only does he not have any control over this power, he doesn’t know where it comes from, it’s feared by the population, and can cause some serious harm if not dealt with properly.
Enter Rowan Sylvanan, AKA the Monster of Lakesedge. It is said that he and his land are cursed because he killed the other three members of his family in the lake that’s on his estate. He is also the first outsider to discover Arien’s powers. Meaning Violeta is ready to fight for her brother’s life as she fears the worst from Rowan. Turns out, Rowan wants to help though...for a price. He offers Arien, and in turn Violeta, sanctuary at the Lakesedge estate in exchange for Arien’s help. In a surprise twist, he wants to use Arien’s powers to heal the curse that’s upon his land.
Curtesy of the deity known as Lord Under, a goo-ish, black substance works to corrupt the land above; beginning with Lakesedge. Why is this happening though? Well, Rowan is connected to Lord Under as he escaped death in his youth, but not without some major consciousness. And despite his many attempts, he is unable to break this curse and free the land from this corruption alone. Now, it’s up to Arien, a professional alchemist called Clover, and even Violeta to free the land, Rowan, and ultimately the world from Lord Under’s curse. This task will not be easy. Some of the stakes are life or death. And Violeta seemingly can’t keep her mind off the mysterious, insufferable, yet surprisingly compassionate and warmhearted man she now lives with.
Enemies to lovers. That’s all I’ve got to say on this relationship. I’m in love. Give me the morally gray villain and headstrong female lead any day of the week to watch me turn into a puddle of emotions. I want to watch two stubborn characters claim they don’t love each other when in reality they’re desperately in love.
If I’m being honest though, Rowan and Violeta are more frenemies to lovers and not actual enemies; the pair just butt-heads a lot. Rowan also isn’t much of a villain, he’s more of a misunderstood teen. But I digress. This couple still made me into a puddle of emotions because it turns out that they’re also star-crossed lovers. Typically I don’t enjoy the star-crossed lovers trope, but it works for me this time around; purely because of how the frenemies to lovers works in tandem with it so well.
Now, the romance is the best done part of this book in my opinion. It's marketed as a gothic romance for a reason. Personally, I don’t think the rest of the novel holds up as well. Lakesedge was the title, like the number one title, I’ve anxiously waited for all year. Pretty much because of its aesthetics though. I likely wouldn’t have been as excited for it had I not been a hoe for gothic literature and the Victorian gothic aesthetic. Yes, my deep love for this book comes strictly from its aesthetics. Sorry, not sorry.
Outside of the romance, the story is decent. The world building could have been better, but the magic elements did not leave me confused. There could have been more explanation as to where magic comes from in the world and how it works, but again, the way it is presented is easy to digest. The plot is easy to follow. The main characters’ backstories are tragic for the sake of being tragic. The main villain sure is creepy; I have two words for you, Fish Man. But I was never engrossed in this story.
When I read, I want stories that force me to keep going because I’m enthralled. I want my eyes to be involuntarily closing on me because I’ve stayed up so late reading. I want that “one more chapter” type book. But with Lakesedge, I found myself being fine when stopping in the middle of a page or chapter. I went to sleep at a “normal” time because I wasn’t amazed by the story. Nothing is necessarily wrong with the book, everything is fairly decent, but it left me wanting more; and not in a good way.
Theoretically, Lyndall Clipstone is doing just that. She left Lakesedge on a cliffhanger. Another book is surely coming. The way it ends is perfectly set up for a sequel. But I don’t want a sequel. This could have been a great, stand-alone gothic romance. I don’t care if it ended with a “happily ever after,” “happy for now,” or a messy “and we lived” type ending. I just did not want a cliffhanger. Maybe had I been engrossed with the story I would have wanted more books in this world, but as it stands, I just wanted everything to be fully wrapped up in the end.
I think my issue is the fact that I fell in love simply because of the aesthetics. There is no way I wouldn’t have bought this book based on the cover alone. It could be about some weird lobster monster that falls in love with a bird and I would buy the book because of its cover; my desired aesthetic has taken control of me. Remember a few months back when I said I’ve bought books simply because Audrey Hepburn was name-dropped in the title? Yeah, the same thing happened here, but with the Victorian gothic aesthetic. The cover is so pretty, but sadly the story inside didn’t excite me.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to do some online house hunting and try to find the haunted Victorian manor of my dreams so I can reach peak gothic heroine vibes. I shall see you all next week with perhaps the funniest, and also the longest, article I’ve ever written for RHRML. Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, and read some good books for me.