A Dark and Stormy Night, by Anne Stuart

>> Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I've started glomming Anne Stuart's backlist. There are a couple of titles I know I must avoid, since I hated Moonrise (Ritual Sins and Nightfall), but the rest are fair game. I love not knowing what I'm going to get. The last title I read was A Dark and Stormy Night.

Blindsided by a hurricane, Katie Flynn was seeking shelter from the storm -- but all she found was a moody, broody recluse named O'Neal. Trapped with him in his house on a windswept cliff overlooking the wildly tossed sea, Katie tried to fight the feelings O'Neal awakened in her -- both of sensuality and fear. She began to suspect that something haunted the tall, gray-eyed man's domain, something more than the wicked servants or family ghosts... something strange that only O'Neal himself could reveal.
Well, I must say that with this one I kind of had some idea of what I was getting. A book titled A Dark and Stormy Night just has to be a gothic, right? Turns out it was, and a pretty good one, at that. A B+.

My favourite thing about this book was probably the amazing atmosphere. The characters are trapped in a huge, dark house in the middle of nowhere by an approaching hurricane, and it turns out 2 of the characters are murderous villains (and no, this isn't a spoiler).

Speaking of the villains, man, these two were genuinely chilling. There was Willie, the "simple" son of the housekeeper, who liked to hurt things and really gave me the creeps, and then there was the housekeeper herself, all cheer and sunshine, whose underlying evil was made all the more spine-chilling because of her apparent goodness. I'm afraid the book was a bit too short to fully exploit these characters, but I thought what there was of them was very well done.

The love story was ok, although it was lightning quick, which always cuts down on the credibility level. Oh, and I thought the heroine was unnecessarily virginal, really. Still, I just loved the way O'Neal was completely obsessed with her, in spite of himself. He recognized she wasn't exactly beautiful, but found himself crazy about her.

There was a strong paranormal element here. Not only was the hero a shape-shifter (he turned into a seal... is "selkie" the word for this?), Katie could see and have conversations with his dead family. I was a bit doubtful at first (I mean, a seal??), but I thought this element worked quite well.

In fact, all the elements worked fine together, making this a very enjoyable book.

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