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The Abandoned Heart: A Bliss House Novel


The Abandoned Heart: A Bliss House Novel

THE ABANDONED HEART is one of the most impressive novels that I have read in 2016. It is the third installment of Laura Benedict’s Bliss House series, which revolves around a long-established and stately, but somewhat mysterious, mansion in Old Gate, a quiet village located in southern Virginia. While the first two volumes --- BLISS HOUSE and CHARLOTTE’S STORY --- were quite good (Benedict is seemingly incapable of poor writing), it is this latest one that is the four-squared foundational cornerstone upon which these novels rest and that undoubtedly will draw new readers to this already impressive series.

"Benedict has written as fine an interlocking tale of guilt, revenge and ill deeds as I have read this year, one that slips and sides across genre lines, obliterating them in its passage."

THE ABANDONED HEART can be classified accurately as the “origin” story of the Bliss House mythos. The narrative jumps back and forth through time among the perspectives of three women. The time frame is roughly between 1788 and 1924. It is in 1788 that a wealthy, magnetic and enigmatic figure named Randolph Hasbrouck Bliss comes to Old Gate to oversee the construction of a mansion for himself, his wife Amelia, and their young, troubled daughter. A good deal of the book is told from Amelia’s perspective; much is also told from the point of view of Lucy, Randolph’s second and much younger wife, whom he weds after tragedy strikes his household; and there is also a woman named Kiku, who... But that would be telling. It is Kiku’s story that, in its way, is the most tragic of all.

These three ladies fall under the thrall of Randolph in various ways, at least at first. It is through them that we learn he is a charming monster, one who demonstrates --- as is true in the best of dark fantasy novels --- that the acts of deepest horror are not generated through supernatural means but rather through the agency of day-to-day interaction. Each of the women, though, are able to obtain some measure of revenge upon Randolph. Some of these actions occur on this side of the veil, while others must wait to serve up the coldest of dishes. It is the latter that are their worst and that taint the house during the first two books in the series.

Yes, I am being very circumspect here. Benedict has written as fine an interlocking tale of guilt, revenge and ill deeds as I have read this year, one that slips and sides across genre lines, obliterating them in its passage. I am loathe to reveal too much of what is presented by Benedict, incrementally and with a very subtle touch, as she reveals the secrets of Bliss House that have only previously been hinted at in the first two volumes. In spite of the shifts in time and points of view, the story is easy to follow, due in part to Benedict’s considerate chapter labelling but mainly as a consequence of her incomparable character development and storytelling.

Those already familiar with BLISS HOUSE and CHARLOTTE’S STORY will want to go back to those worthy books to more fully appreciate the hints and haunts that Benedict dropped throughout. As for those who are new to the rooms of Bliss House and the surrounding grounds, start with THE ABANDONED HEART and then read the other two. You will be a fan of Benedict’s work for life.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 11, 2016

The Abandoned Heart: A Bliss House Novel
by Laura Benedict

  • Publication Date: September 12, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Gothic, Horror, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books
  • ISBN-10: 1681775123
  • ISBN-13: 9781681775128