Book Review: Havencross, a Mysterious Regency Romance

I suspect that any book that takes place on the English moors and has a smidgeon of romance in it runs the risk of being compared to Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Havencross by Julie Daines, because the moors feature prominently in its setting and  is a romance, could be compared to that classic book, but I think such a comparison would be inaccurate. To me, it was a combination of Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson (a book most definitely compared to Wuthering Heights) and the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. Though the latter books involve ancient magic and younger characters, I believe they share a strong sense of mystery and adventure with Havencross, traits which make it a stand-out in the regency romance genre. And its resemblance to Blackmoore lies in the charm of a main character who thinks she will never marry, but whose expectations of life are turned topsy-turvy by circumstances she could never have foreseen. Indeed, Havencross is a romance in the most charming of ways, mixed with surprising twists of intrigue and suspense.

What Havencross is About

Elaine Cardinham, the main character, and her parents are forced to return to their country home in Cornwall for refuge when a shocking scandal involving her father spreads through London society. But Havencross reminds her of the mysterious disappearance of her brother and a marriage proposal she spurned, both five years ago. There, she runs into the man who offered his hand, Gareth Kemp, and also, surprisingly, into a man who has followed her from London to offer her his hand now. He’s an earl, and she accepts without hesitation so as to escape her circumstances, but finds that Gareth never stopped loving her and that she really doesn’t know her fionce at all. They’re both distracted by dangerous and mysterious smugglers plaguing the Cornish coast, killing neighbors and others more and more frequently. As Elaine attempts to run from her past, she ventures ever closer to a dangerous truth—and finds that Gareth may be the only one who can save her from a deadly finish.

Why I Liked Havencross

There are a couple of elements that make Havencross more than just a romance or a mystery:

  • The fact that the story develops against the foil of Elaine’s and Gareth’s shared past—his failed proposal and their friendship before that—strengthens it and gives it flavor. Their shared recollections of wandering the moors with her brother, John, who was Gareth’s best friend, provides an emotional depth that I savored.
  • At a few key points, Elaine is led into some of the caves that pock the coast by a mysterious women who wears a circlet on her head. Elaine thinks she might be King Arthur’s Guinevere, since there are ruins nearby rumored to have been inhabited by the couple. This is where the connection to the Dark is Rising series comes in for me, as it is set in Cornwall as well and involves striving against certain evils. Elaine’s encounters with the mysterious woman pose questions that prowl around the reader’s brain for the duration of the novel, and help to provide critical clues that lead to the answers of other questions.

Who Would Like Havencross

Maybe it’s obvious, but anyone who loves works by Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Julianne Donaldson, Sarah M. Eden, or Susan Cooper would love Havencross.

Giveaway!!

Comment here or on Twitter if you’ve read this book or would like to read it, and I’ll enter you into a drawing for a copy of Havencross, signed by Julie Daines! Drawing will end at 11:59 p.m. August 19th.

Book Review: Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal: an Everything Read

I don’t plan on reviewing more than one book in a series, especially if I have a glowing review of the first, but I have to claim exception to my own rule in the case of Of Noble Family, the fifth book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories series. As good as the first book (Shades of Milk and Honey) was, as I mentioned here, and the intervening three, the last one was even better, and for more reasons than those of its prequels. It truly was everything a book should be.

This series has been described as Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and that is an apt description. It is an exploration of the finer points of early 19th century British society, through the relationship of Jane and Vincent, two twenty-somethings who have the ability to manipulate “glamour” for artistic purposes. Its diction is very proper, as are its characters. Its magic system is very cool; the illusions they conjure and practical uses they make of it are fascinating.

But those descriptions are not sufficient to describe Of Noble Family. The thing I have loved about this whole series is that Kowal manages to tie so much action, intrigue, and emotion into what might otherwise be a rather dull and boring plot, given that it has so much to do with British society. Most of it takes place in the West Indies, and involves Jane and Vincent getting ensnared by his abusive father into managing an estate rife with corruption and disarray. As soon as they get there and discover all the details of this, they want to flee, especially since they discover that Jane is pregnant and conditions are so bad that they could put both her life and that of their unborn baby in jeopardy. But they can’t leave.

And therein lies the action, intrigue, and emotion. Jane is plucky and self-sacrificing and Vincent will do anything to keep her safe. But they find that they have to try and clean things up for the sake of the safety and freedom of the slaves of the estate, and, marginally, to see if there can be any kind of reconciliation between Vincent and his father. This gif shows better than I can tell how nicely the plot lays out and then folds up.

via GIPHY

…only picture the pyramid with maybe six or seven more sides. That’s how many plot threads there are…at least. But it doesn’t get too complicated or overwhelming. Well…okay, maybe a little bit. But then at the end you feel smart for having been able to follow all of them all of the way through!

So do yourself a favor and read the whole series today! You could read Of Noble Family without having read its prequels and still be understand what’s going on, but it’s so much richer if you’ve read the others.

Let me know what you think of the book(s) in the comments below!

I’m reading Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves right now, and hope to have that review up this Sunday! Happy reading!