She elevates the traditional form of the “woman-in-danger” mystery by adding period-appropriate religious concerns and details on India’s diverse cultural heritage – and by crafting a courageous heroine with hidden talents who’s capable of saving herself.
When Miss Rebecca Ravenshaw returns to England in 1858, the sole survivor of her family after her missionary parents were killed in the Indian mutiny, she confronts an unusual dilemma.
A distant relative, Captain Luke Whitfield, has taken up residence at her family home of Headbourne House in Hampshire, England, believing himself to be the rightful heir. Even worse, everyone thinks Rebecca is an imposter. A young woman with an Indian maid had previously assumed Rebecca’s name and inheritance, died unexpectedly months later, and was buried in a lonely grave on the Headbourne estate at midnight. Who was she?
Rebecca knows she has a tough road ahead to prove her identity, but she isn’t without confidence. “That someone had posed as me, and was now dead, was truly startling, but I had been through much worse in the Uprising,” she says. Her mother had educated her well, and she knows that safeguarding her home is her responsibility.
As she awaits formal proof of her claim to Headbourne to arrive from India, which could take months, she must depend on the charity of the handsome, kind Captain Whitfield. She must also navigate through a sea of uncertainty – especially regarding her social-climbing French maid and Whitfield himself – to decide who she to trust, learn who the young imposter was, and why and how she died.
All of the novel’s mysteries, these and others, are resolved in a satisfying way. The religious references are naturally inserted, and the romance is warmly sensual without being explicit. The story also impresses upon readers that in this time and place, when women’s financial security and personal happiness were so dependent on the type of men they married, choosing the right husband was such an important decision – and required an immense leap of faith. Recommended for readers who enjoy a strong historical flavor with their gothic romances.
Mist of Midnight is published by Howard Books/Simon & Schuster this month (trade pb, 384pp, $14.99). This is first in a new series entitled Daughters of Hampshire, and I'll be reading the rest, too.
Thanks to the publisher for enabling my access to the e-ARC via Edelweiss. This review is part of the book's virtual tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.