Saturday, December 15, 2018

Gothic Family Secrets Novel Disturbing and, Ultimately, Just Not That Satisfying

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Kate Moore will do anything to escape her grim, impoverished past.  So, when she attracts the attention of Matthew Lemont, a wealthy businessman from Chicago, while working as a governess on an ocean liner, she sees in him a way out.  After only a couple weeks of knowing him, Kate marries the serious, reserved 28-year-old.  Despite her misgivings, the couple goes to live at Lakecrest, the Lemont Family's ancestral home on Lake Michigan.  Kate detests the mansion, an ugly, brooding pile that looks like "a Frankenstein's monster of architectural castoffs" (130).  She's even more distressed to be stuck there with her controlling, manipulative mother-in-law and Matthew's sister, a party girl whose over-familiar affection for her brother gives Kate the heebie jeebies.  Add to that Matthew's frequent night terrors, which he never bothered to mention, and Kate realizes she's jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.  

It soon becomes apparent that creepy old Lakecrest keeps a myriad of Lemont Family secrets, dating back to the time of its piecemeal construction.  Most infamous is the 1912 disappearance of Matthew's aunt into the labryinth on Lakecrest's sprawling grounds.  Three decades later, Cecily Lemont is still missing.  It's obvious the family knows more about the incident than they're saying.  In fact, Kate begins to believe Matthew's nightmares stem from something he saw—or did?—the night Cecily vanished.  

Isolated at Lakecrest with a new family she doesn't trust, Kate is determined to unearth the Lemont's well-kept secrets.  The more she learns, however, the more unnerved she becomes.  Just what kind of family has she married into?

Gothic novels featuring old, creepy houses are my jam, so I was eager to read In the Shadow of Lakecrest by Elizabeth Blackwell.  As promised by its intriguing premise, the story it tells is tense, compelling, and eerie.  It kept me guessing, not knowing who among its cast could be trusted and who could not.  While Kate isn't exactly a likeable character herself, she is sympathetic.  I wanted to know what was going to happen to her.  Certain plot elements make In the Shadow of Lakecrest a difficult read, even though overall, the book would only be rated PG-13.  All in all, then, I didn't love this one.  It kept me turning pages, despite a sometimes sagging storyline, but it felt predictable and not all that satisfying in the end.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of books by Kate Morton [although Blackwell's novels are darker] as well as those by Carol Goodman)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, blood/gore, disturbing subject matter, references to illegal drug use, mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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