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Mistress of Blackstone Castle by Patricia Werner
The blurb:
Growing up in the orphanage, Heather Blackstone had been taught the art of lace-making. Now a young woman, she earns her living in a Nottingham factory. But legends of her true ancestry haunt her dreams. When a gypsy-fortune teller predicts a journey, Heather's destiny becomes clear: she must find a way to reclaim her family fortune and the castle that bears her name.

Heather's quest brings her to the looming castle occupied by Sir Byron Worthington. Braving his strange, menacing household and vowing to find the lost document that will prove her claim, Heather accepts his offer of employment, only to discover that she is being watched and followed. As the danger escalates, Heather knows she must choose: to give up her search, or risk her life to become mistress of Blackstone Castle.

This is a traditional gothic romance written in 1991. I listened to the audio version from 2001. While all the required gothic and romantic elements are there, it missed depth. This book reads like a Harlequin romance. The gothic readers of old, who grew up with Holt, Stewart and Du Maurier, will need to suspend disbelief a lot if they want to enjoy this story. The heroine sets out to an unknown part of the country with no money, no job, no relatives, no place to sleep. No wait, she's supposed to meet a gypsy and recognize him by the gold earring in his left ear. She faints and wakes up in the very household of the person presently owning the castle that apparently belongs to her family. And of course he's a handsome aptly named chap who immediately falls for her charms. She's offered a position as his secretary, but is tended to by the servants like any highborn lady (the maid comes to braid her hair before bed...). From age five she grew up in an orphanage around 1870 and had to work in a sweatshop, but she fits in easily with Byron's party guests and can order the servants around. Nevertheless, she knows that Byron will never marry her because of their differences in station. Haven't we heard that before? Oh, and did you know gypsies and gypsy life are very romantic?

The narrator is Nadia May, who did a great job, except for giving Heather a baby voice in some situations which will have you doubt even more her being the sensible young woman you are led to believe she is.

So if you are a person who loves lightweight Harlequin romances, won't mind illogical situations and just enjoys escaping to a fictional world where nothing bad will ever happen to you however stupid you may behave, then you will award this story high marks. For me, it ends with a 5 out of 10.

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