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Hylton, author of more than one gothically-trimmed historical romance (The Talisman of Set; The Crimson Falcon; Jacintha), goes still a little more gothic in her newest. In this one she's thoroughly mistress of her tale (classic gothic, i.e., governess embroiled in an aristocratic family's tragedies), getting right to the heart of the matter dramatically, yet economically, and writing with restraint unusual in the genre, If we see the machinery grind a tad, oh well, it's all good gothic. Hylton slaps us down in the midst of Maya Wentworth's nightmarish childhood memories of the Rhodesian tribal violence in which she lost her parents. The ravenhaired, tailor-made heroine grows up in the cold Yorkshire vicarage of her penurious uncle, the Reverend James Edisford, then comes to know a local gentry family, the Gaynors of Greythorn Hall, first as companion to the sickly child Cora, then as governess to Cora's nephew, the ""shy, imaginative Jamie."" Cora's devilish brother Gavin takes a shine to Maya, but she's more piqued by their half-brother Lyndon, lord of the manor, married to the beautiful invalid Melinda. The action starts in earnest when Jamie's mother Eleanor, yet another Gaynor sibling, is killed by her husband, who then knocks off Eleanor's lover and, last but not least, himself. Cora weaves a psychotic spell around poor Jamie (she's out for blood since Eleanor's lover was her very own intended); Maya agrees to wed the rakish Gavin, but throws him over when she discovers just what a scum he is; Lyndon, too, keeps casting wishful glances at poor, overloaded Maya. . .and, of course, there's the family curse, a haunted glade that seems to signal tragedy for all the Gaynor girls, except for Maya, who becomes a Gaynor once Melinda bites the dust and Lyndon fesses up to his love for her. It sounds a crazy salad, but Hylton brings it all together. In sum: strictly for gothic fans, who'll not leave it unrewarded.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's