SUNLIGHT ON A BROKEN COLUMN by Catherine M. Rae

SUNLIGHT ON A BROKEN COLUMN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Another of Rae's light chillers (The Hidden Cove, 1995, etc.) set in a turn-of-the-century Manhattan of gilded turrets and grimy tenements: a tale of both staid and messy romances featuring ladies naughty and nice--and a doomed man with a sad secret. In 1892, it seemed to 17-year-old Caroline that everyone was moving uptown, and so when Papa became rich, the Slade family of two boys and two girls followed the migration, moving into a grand mansion in the East 60s. What Caroline won't know, however, until after the accidental deaths, in that same year, of her parents and a brother, is that the neighboring twin mansion--where she had made the acquaintance of elderly Henrietta Prentice--harbors secrets that eerily connect it to the Slade family. Now, Caroline, beautiful social butterfly Laurel, and brother Brad find themselves penniless as well as orphaned. It is Miss Prentice who insists Caroline and Brad live temporarily in her home, while Laurel is off on a hopeful whirl among the wealthy. With Miss Prentice is her great-nephew Leland, a seemingly pleasant, attractive novelist. But why does Miss Prentice tell Caroline he must never marry? What explains his abrupt changes of moods, and his sudden departures both from Manhattan and from Miss Prentice's home in Newport? Brad and Caroline eventually settle happily into careers and marriages, but Laurel, now a social outcast, thanks to vicious rumors, sees a haven in wealthy Leland--with disastrous results. Before the (inevitable) cleansing fire, there are flights and terrors, and, at the close, revelations concerning Leland's deadly malaise. The author is a sure hand with gothic tremors (``Terror such as I had never known gripped me'') and the taboos of the Gilded Age, though some may be bothered by the depiction of Leland's illness. Still, Rae is as firmly in her Manhattan-past niche as Stephen Birmingham.

Pub Date: Nov. 13th, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-17039-4
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1997




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