‘Keeper of Enchanted Rooms’ by Charlie N. Holmberg

Bestselling fantasy author Charlie N. Holmberg brings us a new fantasy-infused novel about a magic-infused house in “Keeper of Enchanted Rooms.” To this enchanted house come a plethora of people who all, in their own way, are estranged from loved ones. In the prologue, we meet a young Silas Hogwood, and we feel for him as we witness the abuse he suffers at the hands of his father—or rather at the abusive magical spells his father casts at him. But it’s the last time we feel pity for him as we witness, in the snippets Holmberg provides, his descent into depravity and murderous evil as he murders those around him for their magical ability.

At the same time, we meet and are charmed by Merritt Fernsby, a relatively unknown author, who is estranged from his close family and inherits Whimbrel House, an island with a house on it, from his maternal grandmother. When he visits the house, which has been unoccupied for over a century, he is astonished to find that it’s in good shape. But when he steps inside, the house refuses to let him leave.

In steps Hulda Larkin, a woman possessed of slight magical ability who works for the Boston Institute for the Keeping of Enchanted Rooms, BIKER. Her job is to work with magical buildings to tame them and understand their abilities. She is sent to work with Merritt and Whimbrel House, and she arrives not a moment too soon as the house has imprisoned Merritt inside. Reading about the antics of the house, and trying to figure out what the house’s intentions are regarding its new inhabitants, is delightful. Merritt and Hulda are both very likable characters as they both have experienced betrayal and now, in their early thirties, wonder if they will ever find a family of their own. However, Hulda is at Whimbrel House as the temporary housekeeper, and she is very conscious of her status as a sort of employee, although technically she is employed by BIKER. So the attraction between them builds slowly.

Slowly and charmingly, both Hulda and Merritt come to understand the house and figure out the origin of the magic. At the same time, we see glimpses into what Silas Hogwood is doing, and we understand that Holmberg is planning on bringing all these characters together, and when that happens, it will not be for the benefit of Merritt and Hulda. In fact, Hogwood holds a special hatred for Hulda dating back to their encounter in England decades before, which did not end well for him.

The writing includes lovely descriptions which make me long to visit Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island. “There was enough light for her to slip past leathery grape fern and multiflora roses. A path was already starting to form in the long grass, making the way easier. Drawing a deep breath, Hulda absorbed the sweet scent of chrysanthemum and let it fill her, easing the tension of the day.” The descriptions throughout are detailed enough to allow us to experience being on that remote island surrounded by nature, with striking sunsets and crisp fall scents. There is also a bit of humor, as after one particular room in the house has viciously attacked Merritt and Hulda, he reflects, “And the lavatory. God help him, he was never going to defecate again.”

There are twists and turns, some expected and some unexpected, but they all lead to a lovely ending after a suitably thrilling climax. Ironically, and in spite of the fact that I love reading stand alone novels so that when I turn the last page, I experience the satisfaction of a journey well taken, I wish this novel were longer. I wanted to know more about Merritt and his past, and Hulda and her childhood. I wish I had gotten to know some of the other characters and to see that they were more fully plumbed. This is not a criticism of this novel—it’s quite lovely as it is—but if it were made into, say, a Netflix series, I’d love to see much more backstory on the characters. (And it would make an incredible series!)

If you enjoy fantasy, suspense, and romance, you will be delighted by “Keeper of Enchanted Rooms.”

Please note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.