LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52477-5
Paranormal Romance, 2002
This is a very nice and even disturbing Gothic romance at times, but the heroine Olivia St Claire is such a bore. Since The House in Thornton Wood is entirely told from her point of view, the whole story becomes boring as a result. The creepiness is there, but it’s the kind of creepy you get from a silly woman who deliberately chooses to stay over at a haunted-looking house and then gets the chills. Creepy and silly at the same time.
Olivia, like Gothic heroines everywhere who aren’t heiresses to mysterious and haunted-looking mansions, is a governess who moves into a mysterious and haunted-looking mansion to look after the Child from Hell. Okay, that’s not a spoiler – Vanessa isn’t the Antichrist, so don’t worry, she just acts like one. The man of the mansion, Evan Thornton, is big, creepy, mysterious, and thus the perfect employer for Gothically sadistic heroines. Fire! Mysterious Gypsies muttering vague and unhelpful mumbo-jumbo! Darkness! Shadows! Curses! Ghosts! Ah yes, everything Gothic and standard is here. If you like that sort of thing, have fun.
Along the way, Olivia huffs, puffs, and acts like a vexed dimbulb because she sees this handsome doctor flirting with a tavern maid and she’s all annoyed – how dare gentlemen like that act so improperly, ooh – and irritated – my, her new boss must be annoyed that this handsome Dr Phillip McAllister is a self-made man (and coming from a penniless, desperate governess, that bigoted observation is so rich) – and ooh, she’s so hot. And she’s going to teach children. Poor Vanessa.
Olivia’s motivations and thought processes can be rather schizophrenic and inconsistent, and it is quite amusing to see her bend backwards at times to justify her inconsistencies with even more inconsistencies. But at the same time, her erratic thought processes cause me to never get a proper idea of her personality, so she’s a far from compelling narrator. Which is a pity, as the story does become more… creepy, shall we say, as it progresses?
There’s a good story in here, but it could benefit from a more interesting narrator.