Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mostly by Moonlight [Dorothy Daniels :: 1965]

My 1st Gothic romance novel. Cover scan obtained via Ebay (note camera icon).

Definitely recommended.

The story is paced just right -- keeps moving along. Good characterization. The suspense is mostly human oriented, though there is a definite double ghostly undercurrent.

It's August 1871. Prof. Perry Warren has inherited his dead brother's castle [Jabez -- a very wealthy sea captain -- had built an exact replica of his wife's ancestral Scottish castle as a wedding gift]. Twenty-year-old daughter Eve accompanies him to NE Maine, to be supportive; see the place, help to clean it. Realizing it's very doubtful the massive granite castle can be sold, they soon consider turning it into a summer hotel for the wealthy. Someone -- or something -- is prowling around the castle, however; is it dead Uncle Jabez's ghost, or that of his pretty young wife Elizabeth who preceded Jabez in death? Or perhaps a living human is menacing the place?

Unfortunately the 1st chapter nearly killed my interest in the novel. The 1st chapter did not grab my attention nor excite my curiosity (big mistake for any story). I nearly put the book aside, but decided to give it until the 3rd chapter. Actually the 2nd chapter sufficed to hook my interest...and I'm glad it did. It quickly turned out to be a very enjoyable read.

Some surprising twists and turns, and I was very skeptical of Jim Canford for quite a while. Developed a slight crush on Elisha Tuttle; wish we'd have gotten to know him better, and what his life might have been "after the story." Eve falls in love with one of these gents, but no spoilers here. ;)

I caught a handful of typos in the book, and two notable goofs with names: "Elizabeth Tuttle": Elizabeth was Jabez Warren's wife and therefore Elizabeth Warren; Elisha is single and never met Elizabeth. Another character, Amanda Hartley, is once (later) referred to as "Amanda Blake"; perhaps Gunsmoke was on someone's mind, lol. Later she's again Amanda Hartley. But those errors don't distract; I find them amusing.

The story has a great climax involving the Elizabeth B, dead Uncle Jabez's ship. The details of the climax are worthy of a movie. Ms. Daniels either knew a lot about schooners and maritime matters, or she really did her homework prior to writing this. I've been landlocked all my life, and learned quite a bit about the maritime lifestyle.

The overall social atmosphere of the story is inviting too: Prof. Warren and Eve have a close father and daughter relationship. We are also treated to nice details of local cuisine, and even how to make baked clam on the half-shell! ;)

One surprising (and disturbing) element in the story are bored local housewives, all of whom own little telescopes. They like spying on passing coaches apparently. Jim warns Eve that whether on horseback or in a carriage, alone or with someone (him), these little telescopes will be trained on any passerby and gossiped about. Yikes. :( After all the "reality TV" junk this past decade, I'm seriously wondering just how voyeuristic humans really are. :-\

Intelligently written. Believable characters. I will re-read it again someday.

Actors I "used" to visualize the characters:

Eve Warren: Nancy Barrett (age 20)
Prof. Warren: Peter Cushing (w/American accent, age 50)
Jim Canford: Leonardo DiCaprio (age 23)
Elisha Tuttle: Ewan McGregor (w/American accent, age 27)

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