This definitely delivers on the Gothic horror front. It’s moody, gloomy, and has plenty of lovers who die tragically in their youth. It has a treacherous bad guy, plenty of innocent maidens, and a crumbling old wreck of a house set in the middle of the haunted wood.
The story follows two women, one of whom has the ability to see the dead and visions of the dead following a sleepwalking accident where she hits her head, the other of whom had a small reputation as a spiritualist when she pretended to channel the spirit of her dead sister to ease her mother’s grief. Honestly, I can’t remember which of them is Constance and which is Eleanor, so forgive me if I get it wrong.
The one who sees visions is estranged from her mother on account of this and of her tendency to sleepwalk. Her mother is paranoid that (is it Eleanor?) is going to wreck her favored sister Sophie’s upcoming nuptials. Eleanor goes to stay with her friend Ada, but when her allowance is cut off, she has to grab a husband or risk starving to death. She unwisely chooses to accept his proposal, and soon finds that he’s kind of a psychopath. Events lead them towards a crucial seance in Wraxford hall, after which Eleanor, Magnus, and their child are never seen from again, and another person dies.
Constance inherits Wraxford hall after Magnus is declared dead. She gets Eleanor’s journals, and becomes fascinated with the story and determined to prove Eleanor’s innocence (Eleanor is wanted for killing both her child and her husband.) Once she gets this idea into her head, it haunts her, and she searches the hall desperate to uncover the mystery of what really happened that fateful night.
(view spoiler)[In the end, she figures out who Magnus is pretending to be, and uses dynamite and a trick to kill him. But Rhys, her friend, convinces her to say nothing about it, to lie and claim it was an accident. This should have been the best part of the story, but here’s where it got confusing. There were secret passages, and dead people, and a suit of armor with a secret door behind it, and there’s no proof he was really Magnus, but then there is? I’d been doing great up to this point, but either I was too tired when I read it or the author went too fast, because I’m still a little hazy about why Constance didn’t and then did have proof she’d killed the right guy, who her parents really were (was she adopted? That’s dangled and then not exactly resolved.) and why Magnus never found the dead guy in the wall (were they in different secret passages? I couldn’t picture the layout.) (hide spoiler)]
So I guess you can say it was mostly great, but the ending felt a little rushed.