BLACK RAINBOW by Barbara Michaels


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Megan O'Neill--young, educated, wellish-born, but poor--arrives at mid-19th-century Grayhaven as a governess: her charge is wee Lina, ward (and rumored illegitimate child) of Grayhaven owner Edmund Mandeville. But Megan is soon becoming more than just an employee around the manor. She is confidante to Edmund's sister Jane--a tiny, totally unpretentious young dynamo who runs the family mill with feminist assurance and paternalistic concern for the workers. Even more important, Megan is bedazzled with love for Edmund (home after an illness in the Crimea); and she squirms with fury as Edmund nears wedlock with a pretty, snobbish, blue-blooded fortune-huntress. So, when Edmund learns of his fiancÉe's real motives, he promptly marries a delighted Megan (who has spurned the suit of mill-worker Sam Freeman). Things do not proceed happily ever after, however. The marriage is barren; Edmund grows more and more foul-tempered; he is wrapped up in social-climbing, blind to worker troubles at the mill, forbidding Jane to interfere. And after the Grayhaven folk barely escape a worker-mob riot, Megan is suddenly pregnant (is the father Edmund or new-love Sam?)--while Edmund, going 'round the bend, drugs Megan with laudanum, tries to frame Sam for ""abduction,"" and holds sister Jane prisoner at the manor! Michaels attempts something a bit tricky this time: splitting the focus between Megan and Jane; keeping secrets from the reader; and winding up with some awfully choppy turns of the plot. Still, if Megan's a run-of-the-mill damsel (unusually so for Michaels a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters), Jane is a smashing one. And though some fans may miss Michaels' customary occult preoccupations, this is sprightly gothic-romance-suspense overall--with a brightly jumpy pace, solid mill-worker background, and an especially dandy final twist.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1982
Publisher: Congdon & Weed--dist. by St. Martin's