Dear Ms. St. Giles:
You received alot of good buzz for your second book. Perhaps my disappointment was a case of heightened reader expectations, but HDD was just a big meh for me. Toward the end, I was forcing myself to turn the page. Your book is full of stock characters. Did you go to the romance character store and ask for one feisty spinster with a side of attractiveness and unmarriageability. Weak and spineless siblings? Cute child. Strong man to come in and save everyone. Thanks. I’ll have it to go, please.
Juliet is a war widow who lives in gentile poverty with her sisters. She has turned her home into a boarding house to provide income for her family. 10 years after her husband’s supposed death, new rumors have circulated that he is alive and has a cache of gold intended for the rebuilding of the south. These rumors are quite damaging to her family’s reputation. Compounding the rumors and the financial difficulties is the pressure by investors to sell the property.
Juliet was a dullard for me. Suffragette. Holding her family together. Standing tall in the face of public criticism. Juliet treats her sisters as if they were children and refuses to share any information regarding their problems. This self sacrifice is irritating. Juliet was just so perfect that I about fell asleep from boredom. Worse yet, she was the narrator of the first person tale.
Even though this gothic was set in New Orleans, I didn’t get a feel for the surroundings. I understood the house may be haunted and that society may be turning their noses up at Juliet’s family but the book could have taken place anywhere, so unused and unimportant was the setting. The best narrators are those who are keenly insightful. Juliet was not. She could not tell what was going on if it slapped her in the face. Because your narrator was such a dullard, you were then forced to use heavy symbolism to tell us what was going on, what people were feeling, instead of showing us.
Worse of all was your treatment of the hero. I understand that in gothics, the hero is to be an ambivalent character. The goal is is to make the reader and the heroine unsure of the male protagonist’s intentions (i.e., Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting). In trying to create that ambivalence, you failed to give us any backstory, any insight as to Sebastien’s character. He had no depth to him. I guess that was why he was such a good match for Juliet. The depthless and the dullard.
The ending featured lots of worthless symbolism and Juliet treating Sebastien like an ass. It wasn’t a very long story and which was a good thing because if it was much longer I wouldn’t have finished it. D