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The Shifting Shadows of Moongate by Michele Yount Thomas
#1
Shy 
A classic gothic in the best tradition of Victoria Holt. A lot of elements were used that are familiar to gothic novels: a big house, people behaving mysteriously, first person view, lots of eavesdropping, sudden deaths, poison pen letters, and of course the attraction of the heroine to the master of the house.

The book starts with a teaser where the reader learns in less than three pages that Ariel, the heroine, ends up married and has children with Drew who used to be married to Cordelia, who apparently dies after something horrible happens. The first line of the book says: "We do not spend our summers in Newport".
Next we go back to the childhood of Ariel. She was raised by her grandparents till the age of fifteen, when her father, a famous painter, took her under his wing. Ariel is a gifted artist as well and gets commissioned work to paint watercolors of interiors of grand houses, which well-to-do people used to do in order to impress their peers. This is how Ariel gets involved in the household of Drew, Cordelia, their little daughter Blythe who is strangely sickly, and a few other relatives.

The setting of Newport is interesting and fun to read how The Four Hundred considered themselves better than everybody else. The time is around 1895. Ariel is a very likeable heroine, though her continuous blushing makes her seem less sensible than Victoria Holt's protagonists. I understand the author's use of blushing to explain the heroine's feelings, but a bit more variety would have been welcome.

About half way through I figured out who did/does it, but for lack of a motive I was still curious to see how it all happened. Now, the motive wasn't spectacular and the 50 pages spent in a courtroom where the main characters' love life was discussed ad fundum didn't add much to the story, but I'm not complaining. It was a good read!

My verdict: an 8 out of 10.
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