Sep 9 2009
I tried to write the review without spoilers, but I talk about the hero in this review which some people may view as a spoiler. STAY AWAY IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED. In summary, so you don’t have to read the spoilery review, this is a gothic romantic suspense that had good atmosphere but needed work on the romance aspect for me to be really sold. Still, it’s a good read.
Dear Ms. Silver:
What an interesting and different book we have here. It reminded me a bit of the gothics of old which I think was intentional. It was set at Cairncroft Abbey, described as follows:
Tipping her head, she contemplated the massive array of limestone and clunch that loomed gray and cold and bleak before her. So many chimneys. They poked up from the steeply pitched tile roof, three on the left, then a single, a double, another single on the far right, dark silhouettes against the suffocating mantle of charcoal cloud. One of the chimneys sent up a thin, whitish curl of weak smoke. No light glimmered in the windows. Instead, they stared, blank and vacant and utterly dark, reflecting the image of the grim sky. Grim as the letter Madeline had written, telling of her desperation and despair.
Please come. I beg of you. Please come.
Catherine and Madeline met as schoolmates. One day, Catherine found herself almost buried to death and Madeline saved her. Catherine cannot help but respond to Madeline’s pleas for the return favor some sixteen years later.
Madeline lives at Cairncroft with her cousin, Gabriel St. Aubyn. She is convinced that “they” are trying to kill her, whether it be through poisoning her food or overdosing her with laudanum. Catherine is suspicious of the dank, dark house filled with dour servants and the enigmatic Gabriel who clearly bears no love for Madeline.
Someone is doing killings both in Cairncroft and in London. The story is set up to make you believe that Gabriel is perhaps the villain or maybe his cousin Sebastian. Then there is the vague reference to Geoffrey, Gabriel’s twin.
The biggest problem that I had with the book is that it is a romance. Thus there seemed to be no way that Gabriel was the sadist, taking prostitutes from the mews and cutting them as a Regency Jack the Ripper. Thus, given that Gabriel, at least to me, couldn’t be bad, the gothic overtones of the story worked for and against the story.
There was some tension between the setting (Regency England) and the characters, as if these chararcters would act and react without any regard for the time period. In other words, it seemed as if the story could have been placed in Victorian England with nary a change in tone.
This is not to say that the dialogue sounded modern. But, for example, Catherine runs about Cairncroft Abbey as if she is the mistress there. She orders the servants about, she rings for tea, she talks to St. Aubyn, a man she does not know and one upon whose largess she relies, in a forward, frank, challenging manner. Given that Catherine is reputed to have burned a nobleman to death and that she is impoverished, it seems odd that she would jeopardize her position in such a manner, particularly when she internally acknowledges that she accepted Madeline’s invitation because it was convenient.
It was very atmospheric and it reminded me of a good romantic suspense but much of the suspense rests upon us believing in the concept that Gabriel could be a sadist which I frankly never bought. The mystery of Gabriel’s past, however, was fascinating and horrifying.
From a romance point of view, though, it was hard for me to figure out why the two fell in love. I agree that they were well suited to one another but the suspense and the shrouded mystery of both the characters kept me from really understanding the romance. There is an aspect of whodunit to the story but it’s not central. The real overall tone of the story was in tune with the gothics of old. B-
This book can be purchased at Amazon. No ebook format that I could find.