The Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsley

>> Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Of all the books I read in February during my vacation, I enjoyed Susanna Kearsley's The Shadowy Horses (another review) the best.

TSH was recommended to me as being very similar in style to Barbara Michaels' books. In fact, that's how it was promoted, since it says "In the tradition of Barbara Michaels" right under the title, and the cover design and picture are almost exactly like those on a couple of Michaels' books.

Impulse has brought Verity Grey to remote Eyemouth, Scotland from her home in England. Verity's friend and ex-lover Adrian Sutton-Clarke has tempted her with an archaeological mystery. What it is, exactly, he won't tell her until she gets to Eyemouth. By then, the impetuous museum worker is intrigued enough to stay.

At the estate known as Rosehill, Verity meets her boss, Peter Quinnell. People say Peter is quite mad, but the eccentric old man believes he has found the site of the lost Ninth Legion of Rome. With the help of a young boy with second sight, Peter intends to unearth the remains of the Roman camp. Verity's job would be cataloguing and drawing the artifacts that are found- but she isn't convinced of the site's authenticity.

While at Rosehill, Verity also meets David Fortune, an archaeologist working with Quinnell. What starts out as a working relationship builds into a romantic attraction as the two find themselves embroiled in a mystery that dates back to ancient Rome.
For once, the marketing department wasn't wrong. This was very much like the best Michaels, except that she doesn't usually use archeological elements as Kearsley did. there was a light romantic thread; a female lead, very likeable; supernatural stuff related to events taking place in the past, and which the protagonists have to find out about; teamwork, with everyone in on and believing the supernatural things... this book had everything.

I loved everything, characters, supporting cast, plot, and most especially, the richness of detail about setting and archeology. The book took place in eastern Scotland, near the border with England. Many of the characters spoke using lots and lots of Scots terms, and their speech had quite a few differences from regular English... not only in vocabulary and turns of phrase, but in cadence and rythm. This never felt clumsy, and I, usually irritated by characters who use dialect, loved it. There was also a lot of local colour, and this was always very well integrated within the story, never feeling like Kearsley was simply quoting a guidebook. This was also the case with the archeological bits.

The information about the Hispana Legion was fascinating. I don't know much about Roman military history but I'm inspired to find out. I've also be looking for Kearsley's backlist.

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