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Black Rainbow by Barbara Michaels (2005)
#1
I'll try to keep it short and sweet. I'm giving this book a B-.

Here is a brief description from Amazon.

Megan O'Neill sees it hanging in the sky above the towers of Grayhaven Manor -- a beautiful yet sinister black rainbow, a warning to the estate's new governess to stay away. Yet the warmth and kindness of the Mandeville family banish her fears -- and her hypnotic obsession for her handsome, mysterious new employer blinds her to the darkness within. But desire always has its price. And the shocking secrets enclosed in Grayhaven's walls threaten to pull Megan into the terrifying shadows, never to emerge again.

The first 75 pages are pretty bad and I almost threw the book out the window. At first, it appears to be a poor derivative of Jane Eyre. The heroine is a poor governess, the hero is Edmund Mandeville (I thought the name was a combination of Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre and Manderley from Rebecca), there is a young ward who wanders around speaking French, there is a romantic rival similar to Blanche in Jane Eyre, and the hero's sister is named Jane. It also had some really clunky writing at parts.

But, then the book surprised me and took on a life of its own. The author turned the premise around and the book became a very different story. Not to give anything away, but the true hero and heroine are not who you think and the ending is not what you would expect.

The book kept me reading through the weekend, but it was more of a historical novel than a Gothic. Not much mystery. The romance is minimal. The atmosphere had great promise which remained unfilled. But I loved the character of Jane....a strong feminist from out of nowhere.

If you want a quick read for fun, you should enjoy this. If you want a standard Gothic that fits the formula promised in the beginning, you'll be sorely disappointed.
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