1210 and a black force is sweeping England.
For a vengeful King John has seized control of the Church, leaving corpses to lie in unconsecrated ground, babies unbaptized in their cradles and the people terrified of dying in sin.
And in the village of Gastmere, the consequences grow darker still when Elena, a servant girl, is dragged into a conspiracy to absolve the sins of the lord of the manor. As the terrors that soon begin to plague Elena's sleep grow darker, in desperation she visits the cunning woman, who has been waiting for just such an opportunity to fulfil an ancient curse conjured at the gallows.
Elena, haunted by this curse and threatened with death for a crime she didn't commit, flees the village ... only to find her nightmare has barely begun.
For treachery lurks in every shadow as King John's brutal reign makes enemies of brothers, murderers of virgins and sinners of us all.
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During the 13th century, because of a dispute between the Vatican and King John, churches, clerics, and religious worship and sacraments were banned. A young, virgin, servant girl named Elena is taken from her laborious servitude to live and work within Gastmere Manor. But she does not know that she has secretly been subjected to a secret ceremony that will cause her soul to absorb the sins of a dead man. Almost immediately, she is plagued by visions of horrendous murders and she believes she is the murderer. In desperation, she turns to the local wise woman, whose uses her for her own selfish devices regarding a terrible curse. Master Raffaele is the manor’s steward, a castrato haunted by the sins of his own past. He becomes Elena’s sole means of support and friendship when the castle is taken over by traitorous, unscrupulous new overlords. Soon, she finds herself pregnant and accused of a crime she didn’t commit. To save her life, Raffaele hides her in a filthy brothel run by a dwarf madame with an agenda of her own. And this is just the start. The story unfolds with passion, tension, conflict, and mayhem, hooking the reader from start to finish. I’m always thrilled when I stumble upon a great book written by a fabulous author previously unknown to me. Karen Maitland and her novel The Gallows Curse is definitely my newest, exciting discovery. In her latest medieval, gothic style novel, there is plenty happening, and it’s all gripping. For those who like their stories dark and on the sinister side, this will definitely satisfy. Superstition, murder, mystery, treachery, cruelty, and shocking secrets all reveal themselves with each turn of the page. For a tale that is fierce, audacious, and radiantly told, this is one novel where I wanted to savour every word to its shocking end. I loved every word!