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Monday, March 23, 2009

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson



Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical; Suspense
Length: Full (416 pages)
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Historical romance with a twist - a little bit of gothic suspense, a paranormal element that turns out not to be, and a whole lot of fun!

Lady Anne Addison is a rational and courageous woman. So when she's summoned by a frightened friend to Yorkshire to prove or disprove the presence in their woods of a menacing wolf - or werewolf - she takes up the challenge.

Grim, dank and shadowed Darkefell Castle is an ancient keep with a scabrous history. And now it appears that a preternatural menace is behind the events terrorizing the country folk.

Lady Anne finds the Marquess of Darkefell to be an infuriatingly unyielding man. Rumors swirl and suspects abound. When she finally solves the mystery, the Marquess is indeed at the middle of it, but not at all in the way that Lady Anne had suspected... and now he's firmly determined to win her in spite of everything.

Few and far between are works of romantic suspense as enthralling as Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark. Lady Anne is self-sufficient, composed and efficient – so she sets off to help a friend in need by herself, in perfect confidence that she will be equal to the situation. She can hardly expect the macabre events, nor yet the accusatory reception she receives, especially as she should be a most-expected guest!

The family at Darkefell – the Marquis himself – is enormously provoking. Anne, still perfectly in command of herself, finds him to be severe and high-handed and does not hesitate to tell him so. It is plain to her that secrets – family secrets perhaps - are all far more important than any one person’s safety.

Anne will not be deflected by threats, however. Her dear friend Lydia requested aid, and Anne is determined to root out the cause of the trouble. Stories of a local werewolf she brushes off. Murder in the garden, rumors of past murders.. the threat of murder; none of these put her off. The Marquis of Darkefell may be incredibly seductive, but she is not a giddy school girl to fail before his intense will! Overall, the strong personalities between these two main characters lead to more combative than passionate situations, and you will cheer for Lady Anne more than once, and at times you will laugh out loud!

This incredibly fast-paced read is an absolute page-turner. The characters are well-developed, believable, and secondary characters are also well-rounded. The tale is in one moment evocative, the next exasperating, and often dark and full of danger.

The backdrop is perfect for this gothic romance, with careful attention given to small details. The ruin of the old castle and its secret-ridden keep seem important from the start. The dash cross-country on the mail coach, the phaeton preferred by the magistrate, and the riding horses all seem perfectly in keeping with the time. Servants take on a far more human quality than they are given in many a story, and their tales weave in and out of the lives of the upper classes. I loved the ‘tiger’ but the Marquis’ secretary is also a revelation.

Enthralling, powerful, wonderful; words do not do “Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark” justice. I am eager to read the next from Donna Lea Simpson.