Edward Lee is the new assistant manager of Sharsdon Hall and Jennifer Ashton is the information officer and they have neighbouring flats in the Hall itself. Edward admires Jennifer’s courage because she has lived in the haunted manor as its sole resident for over three years undeterred by the things that happened when it was locked for the night and she was supposedly alone.
When Jennifer takes Edward on a tour of Sharsdon she acquaints him with some of its paranormal happenings. The ghost of Lady Aveline, an eighteenth-century daughter of the d’Avaros, has been seen recently by the caretaker and by the manager. Edward concludes that her ghost is a real ghost and not a residual energy apparition because she smiled at the caretaker and actually spoke to the manager. Sharsdon is haunted by other ghosts, some residual and some real. Visitors have seen people dressed in period costume and they were not members of staff.
Edward has not had much luck in his love life and he is cynical about the very idea of being in love. He teases Jennifer when he discovers that she reads romance novels.
Along the corridor from the flats, in the south aisle of the Norman chapel, lies the lovely effigy of Lady Emma on its bedlike tomb-chest. Emma appears to be fast asleep, but in canopied niches on the tomb stand little ‘weepers’ mourning her untimely death. Edward is enchanted by Emma’s effigy and amazed at how lifelike it looks. According to the caretaker there is also an effigy of Lady Aveline on her tomb in the family vault. Edward wonders if her effigy is as poignant and beguiling as this of Lady Emma.
Edward feels that Sharsdon is alive, that its fabric has absorbed the life forces of some of its occupants down the centuries. Moreover, the past is so pervasive at Sharsdon that when he walks through its rooms he feels he is moving through time. The building phases of the Hall are partly responsible for this impression: descend into the undercroft and you enter the twelfth century; step from the parlour into the withdrawing room and you pass from the fourteenth into the fifteenth century.
Edward is intrigued by the sightings of Lady Aveline and soon she begins to invade his thoughts. He finds her portrait in the Long Gallery and several times he returns to gaze at her image. Now she is always on his mind as he explores the medieval Hall. When he sits on a chair he thinks of her because she may have sat on it too; when he looks in a mirror he thinks of her because she may have looked in it too. Soon he has to accept that he has fallen in love with this dead woman. He resolves to enter the vault to see her tomb and effigy.
His visit to the vault was an experience he would never forget. He would also never forget that magic evening when Lady Aveline first appeared to him and told him it was rude to stare; or the evening when he was alone in the medieval Hall but heard footsteps descending the spiral staircase outside the chapel and then something amazing happened; or the night he was drawn to the moonlit Long Gallery hoping to find Lady Aveline but instead he was confronted by a dreadful phantom.
Sharsdon Hall is modelled on surviving examples of the English medieval manor house and the novel is steeped in the atmosphere of this type of historic house. The book gives serious consideration to the reality of ghost and spirits. It contains some explicit, highly-erotic scenes.
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