Occasionally a book comes along and you just know that you’re not just looking at a novel that screams summer bestseller, but also at an author who is headed for the top of the auto-read list.
Jane Cockram was bound to write a novel at some stage. She studied Journalism, majoring in Literature, and then Publishing and Communication before working in the book industry. House of Brides is a polished debut, a page-turning tale of psychological suspense in which a young woman whose life is in tatters flees to the safety of a family estate in England, but instead of comfort finds chilling secrets and lies.
Miranda has had a rough few years. Her successful career as a social media influencer has come crashing down after the controversial flop of her fertility app. Humiliated and to escape the trolls, she moves reluctantly back home to her judgemental father, and cold stepmother’s house. Her father has scored a job for her, and it’s clear that she’s expected to settle down now. But more than ever, she feels the loss of her mother.
Miranda’s mother, well-known author Tessa Summer, died when Miranda was young, leaving behind her bestselling book The House of Brides – a book that chronicled the generations of brides, each more notorious and tragic than the last, who married into the infamous Summer family and became mistress of the beautiful Barnsley House in England. Miranda does not know her mother’s family, so when a mysterious letter arrives from a young Summer cousin, asking for her help, Miranda’s curiosity about the legendary family (and desire to escape her current situation) prompts her to sneak off to England.
After a case of mistaken identity, Miranda ends up being hired as the nanny, living in the heart of the family, who are actually distant relatives, at Barnsley House. Nothing is as she expects. The luxury hotel and world-renowned restaurant created by the most recent ‘bride’, the lovely and effervescent Daphne, is gone. So is Daphne. More disturbing, one of the children is in a wheelchair after a mysterious accident and the sinister housekeeper Mrs Mins seems to have a dark influence over the master of the house.
What happened in this house? Where is Daphne? Will Miranda discover what darkness lies hidden at the heart of this house of brides? And if she does, will she survive it?
Cockram does a great job of creating a sense of place, from the coast of England’s West Country to the imposing Barnsley House. This atmospheric tale is a who-dun-it filled with unexpected twists and turns, while also being the journey of one woman on a quest to find out more about her mother and her own roots. It’s a gothic tale with a modern twist, with Miranda’s social media background, as well as a being a fresh take on Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.
It’s hard to predict the ending of House of Brides. It’s even harder to put the book down. An excellent start to what I believe will be a long writing career.
About the author:
Jane Cockram was born and educated in Australia, where she studied Journalism at RMIT, majoring in Literature. After earning a post-graduate diploma in Publishing and Communication at Melbourne University, she worked in sales for Pan Macmillan Publishers and then as fiction buyer at Borders, fulfilling a childhood dream of reading for a living. Cockram spent a year living in the West Country of England, where The House of Brides is set, and still daydreams about returning. In the meantime, she resides in Melbourne with her husband and two children. The House of Brides is her debut novel.