White Heather

White Knight

White Magic

White Mist by Jaclyn Reding
(Signet, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-451-20157-4
This is my week for reading and reviewing books that are part of a series. White Mist is the final entry in a series Redding has set in early 19th century Scotland. Having not read the previous books, I can say that, until the end, White Mist stands alone very well. However, the ending is what keeps me from recommending this book. It simply seemed too hurried and too pat. But for most of the story, I was quite satisfied.

White Mist begins when Lady Eleanor Wycliffe’s world falls apart. The granddaughter of the Duke of Westover, she had been raised like every other young lady of her class, to marry well. She thought she had found her perfect husband in Richard, Earl of Herrick. He was handsome, rich, polite, everything a young woman could desire. But their courtship forced into the open a secret that had been kept for twenty-one years. Eleanor’s mother and Richard’s father had been lovers, a love affair that had resulted in the death of both fathers in a duel. There is every possibility that the two are half-sister and brother. The two can never marry.

This startling revelation causes Eleanor’s world to crash around her. Unable to face her mother and the rest of her family, she steals away in the night. Her flight leads her to the village of Oban, on Scotland’s west coast. Out of funds, she faces the need to return home, until she sees an advertisement. Viscount Dunevin, who lives on the nearby island of Trelay needs a governess. She takes a boat across to the island to apply for the post.

Gabriel MacFeagh, Viscount Dunevin, is known locally as “the Devil of Dunevin Castle.” Three years earlier, his wife Georgina disappeared mysteriously. His daughter, Juliana, has not said a word since that dreadful day. In Gabriel’s mind, this tragedy is part of an ancient curse. The MacFeaghs are doomed to lose those whom they love. His ancestors had tried to deal with the curse by becoming cold and remote. If they did not love, they would not lose. Hence their reputation as devils. Gabriel has distanced himself from his daughter, fearing that she too would become a victim of the curse. He has cut himself off from feelings to protect her.

White Mist has the flavor of a gothic romance: the lovely woman who comes to an isolated castle; the mysterious lord; the pervasive sense of danger. As an unrepentant fan of the gothic, I was intrigued. As is ever the case, the warmth and charm of the heroine melts the ice around the hero’s heart. Eleanor forces Gabriel to end his isolation, to rejoin the world while at the same time she begins to heal Juliana’s hurt. Yet the threats continue with both Eleanor and Juliana as the targets.

The romance in White Mist is quite good. Eleanor discovers that her tepid feelings for Richard were far from true love. Her response to her handsome, enigmatic employer is quite different and quite powerful. Gabriel cannot help but love this woman who has brought him back to life and has begun to help his daughter. Yet he fears that loving her will bring her danger.

Part of what makes White Mist a three- rather than a four-heart read for me is what might lead other readers to enjoy the book. Redding includes a great deal of information about the customs and language of the Hebrides in her story. Usually, I enjoy this kind of background material, but here, rather than adding to the mood, it seemed to interfere.

Mood can be so important in making a story memorable, especially one that has as many gothic elements as White Mist. Yet mood can be hard to sustain. As I indicated above, I found the ending less satisfying than the rest of the book. Perhaps because she had to tie up the loose ends of the Westover family saga, Redding shifted gears as the story came to a close. Thus, when the menace suddenly reappeared and was just as suddenly dealt with, I had a sense that everything was rushed and just too pat.

Still, much of White Mist was quite enjoyable. I was interested enough in the story and the characters to have decided to search my “to-be-read” mountain for the previous books in the series.

--Jean Mason

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