How I love to read Gothic Romances. And I am happy to have discovered PAW, who was a wonderful author (and was born in Japan, nonetheless!). I have this book by mere luck; I purchased it by mistake but what a lucky mistake!
It is one of those books that you start reading it and cannot put it down. It reminded me to several books: The King of the Castle; Mistress of Mellyn and The Shivering Sands...
Megan is a young orphan who comes to this mansion to take care of Jeremy, a boy who has a terrible past. He murdered his father two years ago, so he is considered unstable and dangerous. His beautiful mother re-married, this time with her husband's brother, Brandon.
Most of the story takes place inside the mansion. It felt very British-Gothic, although it is American. I say it reminded me of these other novels because, just in in The King of the Castle, there is a scene where Leslie, mistress of the house, attempts to take Megan out of the house, but Brandon will not have it. As in Mistress of Mellyn, Jeremy adores his uncle, but Brandon is indifferent to the poor boy, till Megan's arrival. Only then Brandon realizes Jeremy's feelings and tries hard to be patient and loving to him. The Christmas present was also very similar. And Brandon is always amused when Megan scolds him, which is constantly.
And with The Shivering Sands because Brandon is unhappily married to a beautiful, sickly wife, and has a dark mood: when in anger, he is terrifying, when depressed, he is very gloomy.
The mystery is really a mystery; I had no idea what actually happened, or who was the culprit. There are moments full of tension, which I loved. Megan in in danger few times (she is not the real target), but the setting is dark and there are moments where Jeremy behaves so strangely it made me doubt his mental state.
I did not rate it higher for these reasons:
- Brandon: while I love when the master of the house falls for the proper governess (Megan is not a governess, but something similar), I did not fall for him. He seriously seemed dangerous most of the times; he has a temper where he gets a bit physical (i.e. when in anger, he bangs the table) and he even slaps his wife once! I kind of pity Megan, what kind of brute for a husband she will have. And I don't want to feel pity for the heroine once the book is over.
Also, there is a gossip going on that he had an affair with a certain actress. He never denies nor confirms this gossip (although it is pretty much obvious it is true) so there is never a closure to that issue. Did he end that affair while he was falling for Megan? I would have appreciate it if she questioned him about it; but no, she has her theories but she never claims anything.
- Changes in characters: like Andrew. Or Jeremy, who went from a taciturn, afraid little boy to a "hey, I remember there was a 2nd pistol and a scent of violets in the air", but for two years he has been telling himself and the world, that he pulled the trigger.
- The overuse of the word "boy". Every time Megan and Brandon discuss about Jeremy, they refer to him as "the boy". Err, his name is J-e-r-e-m-y.
- The ending. It was rushed, I hate that the kids were going to live with their grandma, and will Brandon honestly marry Megan in the future? Hmph, I guess his affair/not affair + his temper made me doubt everything about this guy...
In summary, the Gothic was 5/5 and the romance 4/5, although if I analyze it all over again, it would be 3/5. But it was a great reading, and I am dying to read more of her Gothic Romances.