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A good-old fashioned gothic romance. I think.

I recently finished The Lantern, a book that draws similarities to Daphne Du Maurier’s classic Rebecca in both setting (crumbly old farmhouse in Provence) and suspensful atmosphere. Author Deborah Lawrenson’s book has been labeled as “a modern gothic novel of love, secrets, and murder,” and that’s what enticed me to read it in the first place. I dug Rebecca and looked forward to this one as well. Mind you, there’s no heat in this book, but I didn’t really expect that given what it is.  (although no one said I couldn’t hope!).

The LanternIn short, I really liked the story. It drew me in from the start, I enjoyed the characters, and the setting was so descriptive that I felt as if I could smell the lavender fields right by the comfort of my bedroom reading light. As promised, it had a gothic feel to it, harkening back to the era of Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney. But here’s the thing: is it really a gothic? The heroine isn’t a wide-eyed virtuous maiden, the hero is a flawed guy but not particularly heroic, and the “villain,” if you will, isn’t really front and center in the story. There is the aforementioned farmhouse, and there’s a ghostly element as well.

Reviews of this book are mainly strong, but the author’s getting dinged because her writing seems overly descriptive, flowy, taking too long to get to the heart of the matter. In short, “too many adjectives.” Too many adjectives? Isn’t that similar to the line from “Amadeus” where the king tells Mozart that sometimes his music is hard on the royal ear because there are “too many notes.” Mozart replies that his music has as many notes as he requires. I guess it’s in the eye of the reader. I felt her descriptions transported me to France, other readers felt they transported them to boredom.

My primary musing here, however, is whether or not this book is truly what one could call a “gothic” romance. Are we muddling that old description with what we call “romantic suspense” today? For those who’ve read the book, what do you think? As for me, gothic or romantic suspense, if I can be transported to France, I’m in.

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