Mantle (Pan Macmillan) has bought Jane Healey’s debut gothic romance, The Animals at Lockwood Manor, in a heated seven-way auction.

Set during the Second World War, the story centres around Hetty Cartwright, a lonely thirty-year-old who arrives at Lockwood Manor as the director of an evacuated natural history museum.

She is unprepared for the scale of protecting her charges from party guests, wild animals, the elements, the tyrannical Major Lockwood and Luftwaffe bombs. Most of all though, she is unprepared for the beautiful and haunted Lucy Lockwood.

For Lucy, who has spent much of her life cloistered at Lockwood suffering from bad nerves, the arrival of the museum brings with it new freedoms. But it also resurfaces memories of her late mother, and nightmares in which Lucy roams Lockwood hunting for something she has lost.

When the animals start to move of their own accord, and exhibits go missing, they begin to wonder what exactly it is that they might need protection from.

As the disasters mount up, it is not only Hetty’s future employment that is in danger, but her sanity too. There’s something, or someone, in the house.

Someone stalking her through its darkened corridors…

Associate Publisher Sam Humphreys said:

“I was smitten from the first page. A gloriously, gorgeously gothic love story, The Animals at Lockwood Manor has everything you’d hope for in such a book, and more besides: rumours of ghosts and curses; a dark and menacing manor house; a cruel and twisted major and his daughter, the haunted, beautiful Lucy, whose mother died in mysterious circumstances — plus, of course, the stuffed exhibits from the natural history museum and their guardian, the unassuming but passionate Hetty. I loved it.”

Jane, who has has previously been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize 2013, the Costa Short Story Award 2014, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2016 and the Penguin Random House WriteNow mentoring programme 2017,  said Mantle’s’ vision for The Animals at Lockwood Manor was “a perfect fit”, adding: “It’s been a joy mining my love of all things Gothic for this novel.

US rights were snapped up by Helen Atsma at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in a significant six-figure pre-empt, and will publish simultaneously with the UK. Jane joins a renowned and respected list at HMH which includes eight Nobel Prize winners and 47 Pulitzer Prize winners, and authors such as Margaret Atwood, J.R. Tolkien and Virginia Woolf.

Pan Mac Mantle and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish The Animals at Lockwood Manor in 2020.