Midnight Island Sanctuary, by Susan Peterson

>> Friday, April 28, 2006

Midnight Island Sanctuary, by new-to-me author Susan Peterson is part of Harlequin Intrigue's Eclipse gothic promotion. So far, I haven't been terribly impressed with it.

Cora Shelley arrived on the remote and forbidding Midnight Island under the protective cloak of darkness, fleeing a nightmarish encounter with a psychotic killer. She never expected to be magnetically drawn to her brooding employer, Jacob Mackenzie—the formidable lord of the manor who harbored haunting secrets of his own....

But this secluded hideaway was not the safe haven that it seemed.... Suddenly mysterious incidents and unexplained deaths were as commonplace as the dark, stormy clouds and rolling mists that surrounded Jacob's ancient castle. With hysteria at an all-time high and Cora's deranged stalker lying in wait within the shadowy crevices of Midnight Island, Cora had no choice except to place all her trust in the enigmatic man who vowed to keep her safe.
I've been reading a lot of books from the Harlequin Intrigue line lately. I always tend to find myself intrigued (hah-hah) by the storylines, but too often, the stories have just not flowed well. This one is better than most of the others, but still not the exception. A C+.

Cora Shelley has survived a nightmare. She and her roommate lived next-door from a seemingly normal guy who turned out to be a psycho. After a few months of suspicious circumstances (unimportant objects disappearing or being moved in their appartment, for instance), the psychopath struck in earnest, killing Cora's roommate and taking Cora prisoner, intending to kill her, too. Cora managed to escape and is now determined to testify against him in court.

However Cora's really freaked out by the murderer's promise to come after her, so she decides to run away and hide under an assumed name until the trial, not telling anyone where she's going. She takes a job as a cook in an isolated castle in the middle of an island in either Canada or northern US (can't remember which, just that it's a really cold place!). But when she hears that the murderer has broken out of jail, Cora wonders if she has she managed to outrun him, after all. Because certain weird events are making her question whether Midnight Island will be a sanctuary for her, after all.

Let's start with what worked. What I liked best about MIS was the ambience, which was outstanding and very, very gothic. There's a castle, which Peterson describes in such a way that it feels real, and there's a mysterious man with a mysterious past, which includes a wife who seems to have disappeared in mysterious circumstances, and it was all suitably, well, mysterious.

There are also those strange things which start happening to Cora, which would have been really interesting if her reactions hadn't been so absolutely stupid. Because that was my main problem with this book: a heroine who keeps making puzzling choices over and over, who reacts in ways that are completely against common sense and are only explainable by the fact that the author needs to move her plot in certain directions. And really, if she never managed to realize for herself that there must be something in that tea, then she deserved whatever she got!

Something else that really, really bothered me were the heavy-handed messages about gender-roles. As an example of what I mean, there's the very explicit way in which Peterson describes how the "good" women (Cora, Jake's mother) cook for "their men", while the "bad" ones (Amanda, Natalie) refuse to and prefer to hire others to do what Ms. Peterson obviously considers "their" job as women. Blech.

And the romance? Really ho-hum. There's just not any chemistry between Jake and Cora, and the HEA for them came completely out of the blue. These two were ready to start dating, not to get married!

Oh, well, at least the final explanation of what's been going on is a good one, and makes sense. It didn't manage to save the book for me, but at least things ended in a somewhat good note.


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