A novelist falls in love with a fabulously wealthy but aloof scion in Erwin’s (Shadow of Doubt, 2015, etc.) contemporary romance with Gothic overtones.
Twenty-something Fury O’Quinn is researching her own genealogy in Arabella, Georgia, when an unusual monument in a graveyard with the following inscription catches her eye: “Here lies a good and innocent man, / Robbed of life forty-five years before death. / May eternity bestow on Jim the peace and / comfort denied by evil on earth.” It refers to her uncle, who was committed to Milledgeville, the state mental hospital, for most of his life. Compounding her curiosity are the unusual travels of her grandmother, Bridget, who returned to Ireland alone at the age of 16, leaving her parents and siblings behind in Georgia. Fury travels with her father to Ireland to search through the family’s papers. There, she uncovers a heartbreaking secret that takes her back to Arabella to delve into the history of the wealthy MacGregors—the family who employed Bridget, committed Jim, and still owns the town. The reputation of the handsome Gray MacGregor precedes him, and once Fury gets past his impenetrable servant Gladys, she becomes more intrigued by him. Their relationship, however, is disrupted by threatening letters and emails, requiring the intervention of Fury’s retired policeman father. Erwin deftly interweaves a modern-day romance with Gothic elements, although she shows greater skill with the latter. Fury is an engaging protagonist, but she doesn’t ring true as a modern 20-something, in spite of her affection for designer handbags. Gray, meanwhile, occasionally seems uncomfortably autocratic and controlling, and although he and Fury mutually proclaim their love, there aren’t any real sparks between them. Erwin is most adept at plot development, and she includes epistolary components to enhance it. However, her descriptions of Atlanta aren’t evocative of the real-life city. Critical readers will note some other inconsistencies as well, such as Fury’s eventual determination to reside at Forglen, the MacGregor estate, despite her previous belief that the house emanated evil.
A well-plotted Southern romance, despite some shortcomings.