Saturday, October 3, 2009

Non-Laughter Reviews: GOTHIC

Seduced by a Stranger
Eve Silver
Romantic Suspense

Woman with haunted past travels to forlorn abbey in support of ailing childhood friend and is unsettled by enigmatic host.

Pretty colors with interesting lighting, in a welcome change from all too-frequent nekkid manchests it is the lady's back which is exposed. Title indistinctive, though with some mental gymnastics ("Do we ever really know the person we're with?") can be seen as applicable to content.

What Works
Apprentice Writer read this book for three reasons: As a classic gothic-type tale, it fit beautifully with criteria for the RIP reading challenge (see sidebar button); curiosity about the author's historical voice after enjoying her speculative fiction voice in 'Driven' (written as Eve Kenin); and the good fortune to have won a copy through a Goodreads early readers lottery.

She was not disappointed.

The restless mood of dread the author creates with the first scene permeates the whole story, with the reader ready to see malevolence lurking in every detail and villains foreshadowed with every new character. The historical voice was kept pitch perfect throughout, with not a single occasion of words, behaviours or setting details feeling out of place or time (not that Apprentice Writer is a great expert in judging these matters, but the thrown-out-of-the-story effect happens all too often even for historical laypeople). The story has every ingredient a Gothic-lover could want: secrets on all sides, mystery illness, whispers of poison, murder, secret passages, cemetary with mystery resident, alternate identities, gloomy manor with even more gloomy lake set on a languishing estate, and many a flickering candle.

The heart of the story explores the question of how two people who have survived past emotional damage by erecting walls around themselves can create a bridge to one another. Whether they will or not isn't a true question, given the genre; it's how they do so that is of interest. The backstory of the hero, when it finally is fed in, was of such a level of suspense and empathy for the character that it had to be read all of a piece, pages flying to find out what happened, breathless all the while. To avoid spoilerisms, suffice it to say that for the modern reader some details may seem utterly incredulous but are in all likelihood too terribly historically accurate.

The big climactic crisis scene had an especially pleasing ending, in terms of the two last statements the heroine makes to the hero right before the epilogue. They were delicious, one of AW's favorite parts of the whole story, and the Gentle Reader can take a guess in which direction they went through knowledge that among Disney princesses, AW loves Mulan best while Cinderella goes on her last nerve.

What Doesn't
In terms of the suspense part of the tale, AW was neatly led astray by a red herring, and didn't guess the full answer to the puzzle until quite close to the end. The final explanation of how things occured generally left this reader satisfied, with one exception which can't be detailed so as not to spoil it. Let's say it had to do with logistics, time frame, and staying true-to-character of the person involved. Perhaps there is a simple explanation for apparent conflict; AW hopes to put the question to the author directly.

The second area where AW would have liked a bit more detail had to do with a main character's reaction to learning of the extent of the villain's deeds and subsequent demise. The build-up to that moment was years and oodles of the strongest emotion possible in the making. The reaction to all that resolution felt gratingly brief, artificial, and understated. Perhaps a victim of tight word-count?

And those two minor instances were the sum total. So, altogether, very little to step on the reader's suspension-of-disbelief toes.

A satisfying tale of chills, emotion, physical and emotional survival, and the power of love.

The author graciously agreed to answer a few questions despite a looming deadline. Come back tomorrow to get a glimpse into the mind of a (sometimes) gothic author.


Wylie Kinson said...

I look very forward to reading this one. I enjoy Eve Silver's historicals for their ability to sweep me back in time and keep me firmly there until the last page. (or until the alarmclock shocks me into realizing I read all night!)

Thomma Lyn said...

This sounds like a very cool read -- thanks for the review! I've heard lots of great things about Eve Silver.

M. said...

Wylie - you've got to tell me - why is your avatar a racoon?

TL - I enjoyed it. I'm not widely read in gothic, so I can't tell how original the elements are, but I thought it was an entertaining, believable story.

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