Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review- Castle of Dark Shadows by Patty G. Henderson

Castle of Dark Shadows

By Patty G. Henderson

July 1, 2012


164 pgs

Publisher: Blanca Rosa Publishing

Kindle edition

Olivia Hampton's lifelong love of dark literature led her to accept a job as a cataloger for Julian Dunraven's extensive but extremely disorderly library. The only problem is that the position requires her to work at Dunraven Castle, the remote and mysterious home of the Dunraven family. In Victorian America, a young lady had to either earn her keep or be married off to the best man for her hand. Olivia accepted the position at Dunraven Castle.
Olivia could not have guessed the dangers that awaited her in the exotic but darkly menacing castle. When there is an accident on the road to Dunraven, she wonders: Are the broken carriage wheels mere random misfortune or a sign foretelling doom? Olivia's fears soon turn to mortal terror after a subsequent encounter with a terrifying faceless phantom disabuses her of the 'random misfortune' theory. Frightened but undaunted, she decides to put the nightmare behind her and throw herself into cataloging the enormous Dunraven library.

What Olivia could not have foreseen was the devastatingly beautiful Marion Dunraven's effect on her heart. But the madness that seemed to curse the rest of the Dunraven family makes Olivia realize she must find a way to escape Dunraven Castle with her life and the woman she loves before they both become victims

I read Passion For Vengeance by this author and totally loved it. I like gothics so it was a no brainer to buy some more of this author’s books. What I enjoyed about this book is how quirky it is even as a mystery and an historical.

Right from the beginning, on her way to her new position as a library cataloger for a private residence, Olivia experiences what she feels is an evil being in her coach driver. It’s nighttime and they are pushing through to get to Dunraven Castle. It scares her but she chalks it up to her overactive imagination.

Marion Dunraven has hired Olivia to catalog her father’s extensive, but disorganized, library. Marion is warm and friendly to Olivia but keeps things formal between them, not really trying to interact outside of what they need to discuss. Olivia is immediately attracted to Marion and can’t stop thinking about her. Unfortunately her job in the house as well as her status more as part of the staff offers her little contact with Marion.

As the days go by, in brief meetings, Marion expresses her romantic interest in Olivia. However, it never leaves Olivia feeling confident about what Marion actually feels. This plus the odd things going on all have Olivia feeling somewhat out of place even if she’s in awe that she’s temporarily living in such a beautiful place.

While this story does have a romantic element, this is more about the mystery of what’s going on in the house. Strange things keep happening to Olivia specifically and she and she’s reluctant to discuss them with others.  She has been introduced to Cora, Marion’s sister, who is off. Meaning, everyone quietly suggests she’s mentally unstable even if they don’t contradict her and actually let her do her thing. Cora seems to vacillate between being very friendly and nice and at other times cross and caustic to Olivia. Olivia can’t figure her out but is leery of her.

Then there is Marion’s father, Julian. She meets him totally by accident and he chastises her for interrupting him. His manner is in direct opposition to what he’s really like. He seems to be in control of the house and yet he’s very elusive and almost a recluse.  In fact, most of the characters are not what they seem at first except for Olivia. But the story is told through her voice. Then there is this book in the library that everyone is focused on, a book written by Julian’s long ago ancestor that might be worth a lot of money for the information it contains.

So here’s the thing, while this is a quick and easy read that does capture the essence of a gothic mystery, it didn’t really stand out as a huge wow for me. It’s a decent mystery, although the author did give away too much in the beginning, taking away from what I though was supposed to be a big reveal in the end? Not sure. But the ending is not that surprising.

Then there’s the romantic angle, which was also written in a reserved way. Olivia pines over Marion. Marion does come to Olivia and they get together. But there wasn’t much focus on it; it was more a side bar, which is not a bad thing. But combined with the mystery that didn’t really have depth to it, I felt nothing stood out particularly. Also, the epilogue wrapped things up in a way that didn’t fit with the on page development of the relationship between the two ladies. Meaning, the epilogue focused more on their relationship than the rest of the story did. Or so it seemed to me.

What did totally float my boat in this, and what saved this story for me, is how totally quirky it is. Reading this was rather like hanging out in a carnival combination fun/horror/mirror house in which you feel a bit disoriented, but in a good way. The women speak of love to each other in over the top flowery and dramatic ways that don’t match how they act, which I kind of liked because it seems so unexpected. The characters are all a bit askew in how they act on the surface but not on a one on one basis. And it does have the traditional gothic setting; a quirkily built castle (a la Winchester Mansion), but one that stands out of place to the rest of its environment.

So while individual aspects of this book were lacking, overall, it’s a good, entertaining read. I’d recommend it if you like gothics and or if you’re in the mood for something offbeat.

Heat level: 1-2

Grade: Liked it

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