Signet, $5.99, ISBN 0-451-20157-4
Historical Romance, 2000
This is yet another supernanny love story. I know, sigh. But there is something about the heroine Eleanor Wycliffe’s soul-searching trip that keeps drawing me back to it. After all, I’ve been soul-searching since I was 18 and I wasn’t even close to the light yet. When Eleanor realizes that all her life, she is protected by her brother from the fact that she is actually illegitimate, she flees her old life in search of who she really is. That and the fact that the man she fell for may as well be her half-brother. Poor girl. Her trip finds her standing before Gabriel MacFeagh’s door, applying for the position of governess for his daughter Juliana. Oh, Juliana suffers from the same old problem of She Wouldn’t Speak after witnessing her mother’s death.
Eleanor, or Nell as she is known, soon draws Gabriel von Trapp out of his shell and Juliana out of hers. Yet unlike the usual contrivances most stories of this ilk use to explain the daughter’s silence or the cause of the death of the first wife, White Mist never heaps the blame of the dead wife. Georgiana was a victim of abuse in the hands of her parents, and her death seems designed to evoke sympathy and outrage rather than “She asked for it!” censure from readers. It is in this respect that White Mist stands a bit higher over many stories of this sort.
Gabriel is also a sympathetic man. His clan is under a curse which he believes as real: every loved one of the laird of his clain will die. Every wife of his father and grandfather and great-grandfather died tragically, and his own wife, whom he loves dearly, joined the list of victims of the Curse soon after his marriage. Gabriel loves Juliana dearly, but now he is afraid to show it for fear of Juliana’s future, and he fears falling for Eleanor for the same reason.
White Mist does a fine job in telling the story of this two people and the lil’ girl they both love. I have a bit of a problem accepting Eleanor’s rather extreme reaction to her illegitimacy, but I guess maybe it’s because the stigma of illegitimacy is worse then than it is now. But the romance is entertaining and even touching in a few scenes.
But things really go downhill towards the ending. The author has created several elements of possible conflicts: the curse, the feud with a rival clan, Juliana’s grandparents – but the ending! It makes me go “Huh? That’s the end? That’s it? What the – !”
Really, what happened? I was enjoying the show, and then the author just waves some sort of magic wand and drops a large THE END sign on the stage. Not only is that annoying – the whole closure smacks of convenience, a need to stay within some word count thingie, and is really unsatisfactory. It is also sudden and abrupt. The villain comes, says hi, and gets blown away, and everything is supposed to be okay now. How about the curse? The evil grandparents? Eleanor’s illegitimacy thing? Hello?
My mood is ruined now.