The Master of Blacktower, by Barbara Michaels

>> Monday, October 20, 2003

I'm sure I'd read The Master of Blacktower, by Barbara Michaels once, when I bought it, but for the life of me I couldn't remember anything about it. I didn't even have a vague impression of whether I'd liked it or not...


His hands were encased in black silk gloves, a lurid scar twisting the roughly hewn features of his face. His dark eyes blazed, and his mocking laughter echoed to the highest tower of the ancient Scottish estate. Damaris Gordon knew she could never work for such a cruel and bitter man-but after her father's death, she had no choice. Her fate was in the hands of Gavin Hamilton--a man tortured by disfigurement, disillusion ... and dark secrets of the past. Was he responsible for his wife's death? Or the injury that crippled his young daughter? Curiosity lured Damaris to the top of the tower in search of the truth. But love sent her over the edge ...
This one's a real gothic. Not a parody of a gothic, or a modern gothic, or any other variation, but an almost textbook example of one, and I relished it. I mean, textbook if you don't think that a gothic heroine has to be weak and TSTL, because Damaris certainly wasn't. My grade: an A-.

The strength of The Master of Blacktower is in its protagonists and its atmosphere. As I said, Damaris was a strong, intelligent heroine, with an excellent intuition about people. Gavin was a perfect gothic hero, wounded and tortured, with failings, but ultimately a good person. These two were lovely together, they definitely had a lot of chemistry.

As for the atmosphere, wow! It was what it should be in any good gothic. The isolated house in Scotland, the strange servants, Gavin's invalid daughter, the mysterious neighbours, the suspicious story of Gavin's wife... it all helped establish a very distinctive atmosphere.

The only thing I wasn't too crazy about was the ending. Oh, the final scene was actually excellent, but the ending itself was much too abrupt. I'm not asking for a looong, syrupy epilogue, but a couple of pages (even paragraphs!) more would have improved this a lot.

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