Seaview Manor

by Elissa Grandower

This started out pretty well. I was in the mood for a good gothic and this one came to my attention as a likely prospect. I liked the heroine who seemed to have a lot of gumption and an interesting background. I loved the 1970s New York City vibe the book started off with. It reminded me of T.E. Huff’s contemporary Gothics. Unfortunately, the male writer of this one (under a female pseudonym) didn’t measure up to my expectations. This was disappointing and surprising because Hillary Waugh was a very respected and pioneering writer of the police procedural subcategory of mysteries and was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. Surprisingly, the mystery part was one of the disappointments in this. In the end, it seemed pretty slapdash and not well thought out or constructed.

Andrea, our heroine, is in a dead-end boring job with a scientific journal and answers an employment ad looking for a young, personable, single female who is adventurous and able to travel. After a somewhat unusual interview, she is selected to be the pretend girlfriend of Charles Carteret, the attractive young head of a very wealthy and prominent family. Her mission is to become friends with Regina, his mentally disturbed sister who is suffering from a devastating disappointment in love which has caused her to become a recluse, depressed, and completely closed down. Hopefully, Andrea, spending the summer with Charles, Regina, and their family on their private island, can penetrate the wall she has put up and start the healing process. This seemed a pretty questionable plan to both me and Andrea. But she is talked into it.

The writing was engaging with a good setup for intrigue, danger, and mystery. It was cooking along pretty well until about the halfway point when smarmy Daniel, Regina and Charles’s stepbrother and the supposed object of Regina’s unrequited love, arrives on the scene. A handsome and charming ladies’ man, he and Andrea start flirting with each other although she is careful not to be inappropriate. Daniel whines about how unfairly he has been treated inheritance-wise and has a “slightly soft body.” Gothic good guys don’t whine and their bodies are not soft unless they are elderly, so I discounted Daniel immediately and soon viewed him with suspicion and distaste. But not so Andrea. Despite the attractions of Charles, she likes him, trusts him, and is even attracted to him. Which, in turn, makes her look stupid and a person of no judgment or sense. After some admittedly suspicious behavior on Charles’ part when a stable worker is killed, she jumps to the conclusion that Charles is a murderer without a thought as to why he would murder that person. It’s not that he had no motive, but that the thought of “what is his motive?” and puzzling over what it might be never enters her mind. This was the point I lost interest in the novel. After a few more chapters, I started skipping through to the end. The death is ruled an accident even though proof that it is not is in plain sight. And on and on. Questionable motivations, unnecessary lies, “proof” that is not proof of anything, and ludicrous actions abound. Not to mention a jarring change of literary point of view near the end. The main thing though was having to see everything through the eyes of a heroine that was just so clueless. I got very antsy and impatient which was not helped by the fact that I was forced to read this book in hardback (interlibrary loan) as it was not available on Kindle. And I had another book with lots of potential waiting in the wings. Even the romance was a bust.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

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