Friday, August 10, 2007

The Secret At Octagon House by Jane Peart

Category: Romance - Gothic
Series: No

I’m became a huge fan of gothic-romance stories after reading Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), The Phantom Of The Opera (Gaston Leroux) and Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier). I’m always on a look-out for such novels and through the years, had amassed quite a few of these. I was thrilled when I found this particular book in a used-book-store. Published in 1991, it was written in the inimitable style of the quintessential gothic-romance novels of old.

Spoilers Alert!

Who would want Juliette dead…and why?

For Juliette, the Octagon House was a place of painful and bitter memories…Memories of the tragic accident that claimed her mother’s life…Memories of the heartbreaking abandonment by her precious lover, Jordan.

She vowed never to return. But she could not ignore her Aunt Octavia’s urgent beckoning, an enigmatic request that lured Juliette back into the arms of her past…and into the hands of death.

For someone in the sprawling house was trying to kill her. Was it Miss Ingersoll, the strange and embittered servant? Or Elvira and Toby, her jealous, fortune-seeking cousins? Or – as Juliette feared most of all – was it Jordan himself, the phantom lover who haunted her soul?

This story took place in 1898, in Woodvale, Massachusetts. Juliette and her cousins, Elvira and Toby, were summoned back to Octagon House by their Aunt Octavia, where, as orphans, they spent a miserable childhood. Juliette fell in love with a local boy, Jordan, but something came between the lovers, which left Juliette hurt and confused even after all those years.

Aunt Octavia was very ill and the reason she summoned the three cousins back was to announce that one of them would inherit the entire Vale fortune. It was this divisive announcement that set in motion a string of events triggered by pure greed and malevolence.

The first thing that strikes me as I read is the simple, sparse and straight-forward prose which goes straight to the heart of the matter. No hysteria, no long and winding sentences nor unnecessary words to tax and confound the reader. As an example, this is the opening paragraph of the book:

The train from Boston was late, and as I stepped down onto the platform in the chill dampness of the early November evening, I shivered. I’d forgotten how cold it got in Woodvale at the onset of its long winters, forgotten how bleak the landscape was with the brooding forested hills.

The author evokes a vivid sense of place, mood and atmosphere from the outset. Her characters are vividly described and they are so real. And all these are done with just a few sentences. Simply brilliant.

The tension of the mystery is taut and unrelenting – the author keeps the reader guessing as to who the villain might be and his/her motives.

The relationship between the characters is multi-layered and clouded with uncertainty – there is no one who is clearly good or bad.

The twist at the end brilliantly concludes this story in just 200 pages! I don’t know how the author did it – I just know I’ve enjoyed this story tremendously and I thank her for giving me this wonderful experience.

4.5 out of 5. I really like it. It's fantastic - a keeper. Sensuality: Kisses

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