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Darsham's Tower by Harriet Esmond
Darsham's Tower (original UK title: Darsham's Folly) by Harriet Esmond

Review contains no spoilers.

Excellent romantic suspense with gothic elements by Harriet Esmond (alias John Burke). Burke (b. 1922) is a prolific British novelist whose career spans seven decades and at least as many genres. Under the Esmond pseudonym, he wrote gothics in collaboration with his wife, Jean Burke.

Darsham's Tower begins with a quotation from the Marquis de Vauvenargues: "The head does not know what the heart is after." The novel is true to this theme from start to finish, and our heroine, Kate Quantrill, must endure the hardship of experience before she learns what her heart is after.

The setting, the tiny harbor town of Senwich on the coast of Suffolk in eastern England, is rendered with delicacy and skill. Nowhere is there excessive detail but the scenery is made richly vivid to the reader, as if he were watching a movie. The heroine, Kate Quantrill, the daughter of a sea captain, is equally nuanced, a flesh-and-blood character of great charisma. One feels devoted to her from the start, and follows her through the twists and turns of the story, hoping that she will make the right decisions but understanding when she sometimes doesn't. Ultimately, though, her high character and common sense see her through. The ending of the novel is satisfyingly complex in its blend of justice, tragedy, and redemption.

This book shows clearly how an author can satisfy the expected requirements of a popular genre and yet maintain a high degree of style, historical authenticity, atmosphere and high-mindedness. The period (mid-19th Century) is evoked as only the best historical writers can; the tautly constructed plot moves along with nary a bump, gaining momentum toward the end. If I were to quibble at anything, I might have wished for a little more gothic and a little less romance; but overall I enjoyed reading this book so much that I will seek out anything else written under the Esmond moniker.

Nine out of ten stars!


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Darsham's Tower by Harriet Esmond - by Penfeather - 09-25-2011, 04:00 PM

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