This is the first book I have read by Eve Silver, and initially my expectations were rather low. The information on the back suggested it would be yet another run-of-the-mill historical romance; I was very pleasantly surprised to
instead find myself reading a well-crafted gothic romance.
Beth Canham's family have fallen into poverty, so she has taken a position as a schoolteacher to try to supplement the meager
family income. Once she arrives at Burndale School, she discovers it's a rather gloomy building. This might not usually matter, but Beth is hiding a rather large secret – that she is terrified of the dark and has
extreme claustrophobia. Beth knows it's vitally important that she keep the job to earn money for her family, and despite having no experience of teaching, she sets about trying to do a good job of it.
At the outset, Beth notices the pupil Isobel, a mute girl whose father, Griffin Fairfax, one of the major benefactors of the school, has intruded upon her notice. Beth is immediately attracted to Griffin, an enigmatic man who rarely smiles and whose relationship with his daughter is clearly strained. As Beth settles into the school, she begins to hear the rumors – that two previous blonde-haired schoolteachers have been murdered, and that Griffin Fairfax killed his wife. Can Beth make sense of these rumors? Can she hide her attraction to Griffin? Can she keep the secret of her phobias? And is the murderer of the other women after her?
His Wicked Sins is slow-moving but written in a
pleasing style that is never boring. The author has a tendency to use the word 'likely' instead of the English 'probably' in her characters'
speech, which marks it out as American-authored, as does the use of 'fall' for 'autumn', but these common errors
don't particularly detract from the story.
Eve Silver delves deep into the character of Beth so that we understand how she feels when she has her panic attacks. Griffin is harder to understand, perhaps, but the slow-building romance between the two of them is excellently portrayed. The murders play a lesser part in this book than I might have thought, and I wasn't ever seriously worried about the identity of the villain, although there
are a few options offered. The underlying message of the book - that of people coming to terms with events in their past once they have the strength of someone else to lean on
- succeeds. I enjoyed this book so much that I will look out for others by Eve Silver.