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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Midnight Secrets by Jennifer St. Giles

Midnight Secrets by Jennifer St. Giles
The Killdaren Series
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (232 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Camellia

Is he her darkest dream…or most terrifying nightmare?

Kildaren, Book 1

Cassiopeia’s dreams have never been her own. They are harbingers of death. Yet when she learns her gentle cousin, Mary, has disappeared from a remote castle on the Cornish Coast, the official story doesn’t fit with Cassie’s prophetic dream.

The mystery compels her to leave the safety and middle-class comfort of Oxford to take a job as a maid in the house of Killdaren. There she discovers more than the daily indignities the working class must endure. There’s a darkness surrounding Sean Killdaren, a man born with his hands at his twin’s throat. Whispers of the murderous Dragon Curse…and an aversion to daylight that adds vampire to spine-chilling rumors.

When Cassie encounters him in the shadowy corridors, his touch should make her tremble in fear. But that’s not what makes her knees shockingly weak. It’s the spell of desire he casts with his wicked green eyes…and the small acts of kindness that soften her heart.

The closer she comes to the truth, the greater the danger. Mary isn’t the only woman lost to the Killdaren brothers’ curse. And as a killer lurks ever closer, Cassie wonders whom she can trust…and if she will be the next victim.

Culture shock tests the resolve of Cassie once she is inside Killdaren Castle working as a lower servant. Cassie, a decorous, proper lady that is the voice of sanity in her unusual, yet genteel family, is horrified at the conditions under which servants struggle to live.

She soon rethinks the advice she has given in the column she writes for The Exemplary Ladies Journal. What seems proper decorum in upper and middle class society of late nineteenth century England has little to do with the women she finds herself associated with as a lowly parlor maid in the opulent but foreboding Killdaren castle. However, to find out what really happened to her much-loved cousin Mary, Cassie screws up her courage and suffers the hard work, blisters, lack of amities, and the less than kind treatment of her ‘superiors’.

Cassie’s determination, curiosity, and sense of right and wrong keep her on the edge of trouble and often in disfavor with the harsh, bitter housekeeper, Mrs. Frye. Her working partner, the indomitable eighteen-year-old Bridget, shepherds her along to avoid pitfalls that will get her fired or worse. But when it comes to the dark, mysterious Sean Killdaren who sleeps by day and prowls by night, Bridget avoids going near his quarters and whispers about vampires.

However, Cassie’s need-to-know mission has her interested in everyone in the household from the old Earl down to the scullery maid and stable hands. Her curiosity takes her to the off-limits quarters where she gets another kind of shock—a shock that has her feeling ‘unladylike’ feelings and thinking ‘unladylike’ thoughts. The beautiful, powerful, haunted Sean Killdaren brings to life primitive needs that Cassie did not know exist.

Sean believes he lives under the Dragon’s Curse, especially since his near-fatal accident that left him handicapped. The dark and hopeless atmosphere in the castle suites his life style, yet, he intrigues Cassie. She is mesmerized by his beauty, vibrancy, and is seduced by his touch, scent, lilt of his voice, and intellect. His clandestine actions, after her indignant outbursts about the servants’ plight in life, reveal a surprising facet about his personality, especially since he rather much isolates himself from humanity.

As Sean and Cassie interact, love, reluctantly acknowledged, flames to life. All of Sean’s past denials and Cassie’s proprieties are consumed by the flame as love demands satisfaction—ah, yes.

The wide diversity of secondary characters adds depth, dread, fear, mystery, and suspense as Cassie’s curiosity and out-going personality touches their lives. Her search for the truth about Mary brings out the best and the worst in the inhabitants of the castle. Cassie and little Rebecca, who still cries for Mary, connect in a special way; while Stuart, the head groomsman, and his half brother Jamie are dangerously hostile to her. They create a sense of impending dire consequences if Cassie does not leave and stop asking questions. The ominous feeling is added to by the old Earl, his friend Sir Warwick, Sean’s twin brother, and his friends Colin and Aston. Their life styles seem rather pointless yet they hint of unsavory activities.

Cassie’s sisters and her Aunt Laura who stay at the Seafarer’s Inn and their involvement with some of the secondary characters break the flow of the story a little, but there is a touch of humor in their actions. Also, the possibility of what might happen with these characters jars Sean loose from his firm resolve and helps him reach out to Cassie who brings light to his dark world.

Jennifer St. Giles creates multi-faceted characters that throb with strong emotions. Her descriptions build an atmosphere with only a bright spot here and there. One delightfully bright spot is Bridget’s harassing Stuart to hide her love for him. Ms. St. Giles creates love scenes that send the heart racing. Midnight Secrets, a redemptive love story, brings a promise of a brighter, happier future for many of the characters and metes out justice to others. It is a fantastic love story that brings a dreary, dark era to a close at Killdaren Castle and sets things right for a happy-ever-after.