Book Review: LeRoux Manor

Rating: 7 out of 10.

LeRoux Manor is a standalone paranormal horror novel, written by Liz Butcher and was published in 2020. LeRoux Manor is the most recent novel that Butcher has had published. The novel focuses on a young teenage girl, Camille, who has travelled with her family from Australia over to cold, foggy England to claim an old manor house that her recluse of an uncle left to her father in his will. The premise is indeed a creepy one: old Victorian building, girl feeling lost in another country, and regarding the house – there’s something wrong with it, something very wrong. The cover helps set the scene of a beautiful Victorian building, but we can see that it’s very old and there’s something unsettling about the image. It gives the book the unnerving atmosphere that we see in mainstream horror novels.

“Small windows across the top floor made her think there must have been an attic space, and she felt both intrigued and unnerved by the concept.” (p. 6, ch. 1).

Right away the scene is set in the past when LeRoux Manor is newly built at the LeRoux’s opening night. We see the prologue of a young child, Mena, playing with the malled, grotesque corpse of a cat and she is discovered by her father who kills her in anger because he believes her to be disturbed. I guess this thing with the cat isn’t her first transgression which is… chilling. So I feel the atmosphere is set really well, with an element of shock and revulsion involved for the reader. We then move forward to the present to find within the first few pages that the main character, Camille, is worried about starting school in a new country as well. So the book covers quite a few bases: coming of age and self identity in terms of where does Camille fit in, in this strange new land?

There are several different types of the horror genre to scare, startle, shock and repulse the reader through specific themes such as: Survival (Saw), Occult (American Horror Story), Science Fiction Horror (War of the Worlds), Dark Fantasy (Interview with a Vampire), Paranormal (The Haunting of Hill House) and the traditional most famous type of horror: Gothic (Dracula). Each type of horror gives off a very different feel and can encompass elements of gore, psychological, suspense being just a handful.

Regarding LeRoux Manor this was a paranormal horror, and the main character becomes obsessed with researching her family history once her teacher set the project of creating a family tree for class. This was a smart way of introducing the peculiarities about the manor, for e.g. Camille finds hidden book nooks and secret tunnels which intensifies the suspense about what really is occurring at the manor. The reader is able to join the main character in her journey, which her friends participated in, to find out more about her family history until it becomes an unhealthy obsession.

There is also an element of romance, where the main character starts having feelings for one of her friends who is helping her research the manor’s history. As weird as it is, for me personally, to read about prepubescent romance, this one was intriguing. While I wasn’t willing the couple to find their way together (yes I’m twisted, in a horror I like the characters to suffer. The Shining by Stephen King *chef’s kiss*) I was glad about the heartache that the main character went through when she realised she was damned to repeat the cycle of the manor’s haunting, without being able to do a thing to stop it. The irony of this sad tale was: if the McAllister’s had told Camille what would have happened, it may have helped her, rather than being all cryptic and unhelpful, which is typical in a horror. The MC never listens.

From the start the readers were clued into the notion that the LeRoux family had not had any girls within the family, all the children born into the LeRoux line had been boys, and the LeRoux family tried to convince Camille’s parents to give her up for adoption when she was born. A nice big of background history, which I appreciated! So with this information in sight, the creepy McAllister twin’s would surely have known all about the situation. Especially when the novel ends showing them being approving of Camille’s sacrifice, which is deliciously heart breaking. I felt that the romance probably didn’t need to be as pronounced, as with this genre “…too much ink spilled about love ends up replacing one tension with another, pulling focus away from whatever monster, human or not, is menacing your hapless heroes…” (HWA, 2017).

Whilst reading through there were a few editing issues from words spelled incorrectly to grammatical errors, but if these are edited out it would increase the quality of the book greatly. Regarding the issue of audience, this novel could be appropriate for young adults. There is some gore description, mild sexual references, plenty of death references and scenes that could be disturbing to a younger audience. I would expect to see people aged 16+ reading this book, the language isn’t difficult to understand as Butcher does provide a secure use of vocabulary throughout. There are scenes that are pleasing to imagine, such as the the secret salt caves which adds the air of mystery, but I do feel this needs a little more explanation as to describe why these random salt caves were under the LeRoux Manor. This is purely due to the face that natural salt caves don’t occur in England at all, it would be cool to see why the author inserted these caves. It might be because of ‘magic’ or they’re ghost-caves where they act as a portal for the ghosts? Ooooh that would be a cool idea!

I wish there had been more of an explanation to what the heck happened to Lachlan’s uncle? We find his skeletal corpse in the woods with occult signs (known as the LeRoux symbol to Camille) engraved into the skull of the corpse. Which is super unsettling and gives me feelings that I relish in a horro, but I wished history had repeated itself with Lachlan… I am twisted, I apologise.

There are also some unanswered questions about the McAllister’s, for e.g. what did they do in the forest when Camille spied on them, and why was Miss McAllister so mysterious in creeping up on Camille? I thought for the longest time that she was a ghost. IMAGINE: the family are unknowingly interacting with a ghost and the realisation only just dawns on the family at the end… That’s why nothing around the manor got done, because they’re DEAD! This is very much an R.L. Stine theme, and I think it would’ve worked really well.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book for young people who enjoy thrills, and can relate to an interesting main character and ‘book boys’. I felt that there could be something deeper to Lachlan, it would have been an exciting scene to have him falling to the same fate that his uncle faced, because he delved too deep into LeRoux Manor’s history. And as I mentioned earlier: I like characters in horrors to suffer. I’m a true ‘King Girl’. The idea that there’s something unusual surrounding the McAllister’s felt a little complete, but maybe this could be a novella for Butcher to look into?

LeRoux Manor Summary

Theme: This is a paranormal horror, maybe passing over at points to thriller/fantasy at times. Suitable for ages 16+, as the plot is aimed at teens and young adults, with some mild swearing.

Description: There are plenty of descriptions of unexplained occurrences, which I think is appropriate for a horror/thriller, but I found some parts needed some backing up, like the issue with the McAllister’s. The fact that they were just creepy people feels a little incomplete, and I would have liked to have seen more about them and their origins. There’s a scene where the main character kisses a boy, that’s about as sexualised the content gets, as it would take away far too much from the main story.

Narration: The story is told from a 3rd person perspective, which is a solid way to describe the story. The idea that the book was describing the story for a 16 year old character was obvious, the language used was casual and easy to understand.

The Author

Liz Butcher

Liz Butcher resides in Australia, with her husband, daughter, and their two cats. She’s a self-confessed nerd with a BA in psychology and an insatiable fascination for learning.

Liz has published a number of short stories in anthologies and released her own collection, After Dark, in 2018. Her debut novel, Fates’ Fury, was released September 2019.

If you’re interested in attaining more of Butcher’s work you can visit Amazon, if you wish to see what’s she is doing on a day-to-day basis her social media is a great way to connect.

A huge thanks to Mickey Mikkelson for putting us in touch!

References

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B00X6XN5O6?_encoding=UTF8&node=2656022011&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-sidecar-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

Butcher, L. (2020) LeRoux Manor. Chapter One. ISBN: 978-0-646-81644-9.

Horror Writers Association. (2017) – https://horror.org/2017/02/loveisadisease/

Liz Butcher Social Media – https://www.instagram.com/lunaloveliz/

Liz Butcher Website – https://www.lizbutcher.com.au/books

Masterclass. (2020) – https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-horror-fiction#what-is-the-horror-genre

Mickey Mikkelson Website – https://www.creative-edge.services/

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