This author has been on my radar for so long and I’ve wanted to read her books and just somehow never did. Finally, the perfect storm of opportunity with this re-release, blurb, setting, and mood made it possible. I got two delightful surprises nearly from the beginning.
First, I didn’t realize what this author’s writing style would be and soon discovered that I felt like I could have been reading one of several of my favorites. I had to chuckle when I saw in the description afterward that the author is even compared to other favorites of mine like Mary Stewart. Sometimes, comparisons are far off the mark for me, but in truth, this one would be an accurate assessment for me. Modern gothic suspense in the spirit of Daphne DuMaurier would fit it, too.
My second surprise was time period. I wasn’t expecting the holiday season, but I got Christmas in a small Welsh village near Pembroke. The tradition of decorating, caroling, Christmas services in the little country church, parties, shopping and presents were fun and as vibrant as the characters and story.
So no surprise that I found this, my first outing with the author, was a splendid read and I am definitely going back for more of her stuff.
This was an atmospheric romantic suspense with mild magical element to it with the emphasis not so much on romance as a tension that leads to romance. The story is a slow build and slow burn affair that gently works its way to the startling climax at the end. It was like watching an approaching storm that starts out as distant building clouds and pressure that slowly form and approach. You can see it and feel it coming, but it takes a while. The heroine tells the tale entirely and the reader never quite gets close to the other characters so there is always that suspicion that they may or may not be on the up and up. I enjoyed that sensation.
This was a modern story that began when Lyn Ravenshaw, literary agent, is coerced into a Christmas holiday in the Welsh countryside to act as wingman and distraction for her prize author. Whatever Bridget wants and all that. Lyn sees Bridget clearly and doesn’t mind being used since it gets her invited into the home of an author she respects and the chance to meet a reclusive playwright whose way with words enchanted her. Bridget has author James Swift dangling after her, but it is untouchable and withdrawn Gareth she wants. Lyn can’t see the appeal in the insufferable Gareth, but finds it all rather entertaining at first to watch Bridget and the men buzzing around her.
Castle Farm is a lovely old quirky place and the village is typical of most, but Lyn senses underlying tension between the people of Castle Farm and then there are her own nightmarish dreams that have taken on new aspects. Uneasiness becomes outright concern when events of the distant past start to parallel events of the present. Is the young widow next door crazy with her talk of dragons and Merlin or is something much more concrete and sinister going on? Will the encounter with these people break Lyn who has suffered guilt and grief or will it be her road to healing?
Now, I did enjoy this book and definitely want more from the author. I loved the atmosphere and over all mastery of storytelling I had in this book. I did get the sense that the author could have made it even better which I know conflicts with what I just said. The difference between good and great, if you will.
The ties to the dream world were confusing and a muddle that never quite gets fully explained especially since there are ties to Merlin and Arthur legends and later Owen who led the Welsh rebellion and still later with early Tudor ties. It was all mashed together and distracting.
I also felt that the suspense element could have been teased out better. The waiting and watching were superb, but I felt there were missed opportunities for the villains to be more hands on and stir things up more by being more present than they were.
The drawing of the characters and then weaving them into the plot was really good. Even without the mystical dreams and the suspense, just reading about the people was extremely diverting. Bridget was a scene stealer. She cracked me up. She is so unapologetic and willful, but also possesses compassion. James is her counterpart in ways though he is more cerebral and less intuitive. Christopher is a modern rogue. Owen was salt of the earth. Elen is waifish and ethereal.
And then there are Gareth and Lyn. He is a craggy man with an old soul who is hard to know and not one that invites closeness and warmth. Lyn is the outsider and looks on, cold and lonely as the others move around her. Her grief and guilt has insulated her against engaging with folk and I loved seeing that change when the village of Angle, Castle Farm, and Gareth start to batter away at her walls. I wanted a bit more in the end, but things were left in a good happy for now spot.
All in all, I would dive into this author’s books just to get more of the atmosphere and tension, let alone the compelling characters. I would recommend this to folk who enjoy the more classical style romantic suspense.
My thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
The author offers some extra notes and on location pictures at her website so thought I’d share the link for those who might be interested: http://susannakearsley.com/dragon.html