Book Review: The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Winter always seems like the best time of year to get stuck into a ghost story; there's just something about curling up with a good book and a hot drink whilst listening to wind and rain outside your house, especially if it's dark to boot, that just seems to create the most perfect atmosphere. However, when you throw in Christmas with all its hustle and bustle, sometimes you need a book you can dip in and out of rather than something that demands your full attention, which is why Kate Mosse's 'The Mistletoe Bride' is perfect for the festive season. I was given this as a Christmas present by my eldest sister E, and pretty much devoured it over my Christmas break from work. As the title suggests it's a collection of supernatural tales based around local folk tales and legends, which are set in Sussex, Brittany and the Languedoc and span a wide range of time periods and characters.

First of all, look at that cover - doesn't it just make you think of hauntingly romantic old buildings and misty mornings? When I was reading the book I kept closing it and just looking at the image on the front because it's so beautiful. So much of a book's appeal to me is about the design, especially as I rarely buy paperback books these days, and it's lovely to have a gorgeous image to look at to keep you in that fictional world just a little bit longer when you close the covers.

In terms of the stories themselves, they're a real mixture of themes from doppelgangers to revenants, but often linked together by the theme of local history drawing characters from different times together and the role of the landscape in the stories - often it becomes another character in itself, with Mosse's brilliant gift for description creating a world that's completely immersive. I've never been to Sussex, and it's years since I went to that part of France, but the picture she paints just draws you fully into these places and the secrets they hold.

I also found it really interesting to read the collection as not all the stories were written specifically for this book - a couple of them had been written for magazines or previous collections whilst others had lain dormant for years, so it was fascinating to see Mosse's style evolve from her earlier pieces to those she'd written later. As I'm sure you'll know if you're a fellow blogger looking back on your first few posts can be awfully cringeworthy, but it's also a great way to see how much you've grown and matured into your own style. It's also quite a brave move for an established writer to put some of their early efforts out there and invite those comparisons.

So many of the stories have stayed with me after reading them that I'm finding it nigh-on impossible to choose a favourite. I loved the bookending of the heartbreakingly tragic titular story with the last one, as well as the brilliantly creepy 'Duet' (inspired by Poe's The Telltale Heart) and the disturbing vibe of 'The Revenant'. But equally, the perfectly realised atmosphere of the French coast in 'The Ship of the Dead' and 'The Drowned Village' create a brilliantly unsettling sense of the power of the sea, and the contrast between the cold mountains of 'Red Letter Day' and the village sweltering in the summer heat in 'Saint-Therese' also provide the ideal backdrops to their stories of women breaking free from their pasts.

Overall, I really loved this collection - they're perfect to dip in and out of across a gloomy week in winter, with settings that are captured perfectly to remind you of the power of nature and of the stories that have come from those landscapes to follow us down the ages. The one tiny criticism I have is that the stories can seem a little repetitive if you read them all in one go, but that's often the nature of collections on a specific theme and could be easily remedied by breaking them up. Highly recommended if you like to read something that  stays with you long after the final page.

Have you read 'The Mistletoe Bride' or any of Kate Mosse's other books? Are you a fan of ghost stories?

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