Midnight Secrets is the first book I've read by Jennifer St. Giles, and initially I wasn't too optimistic - the information on the back of the book makes it sound like a story of two warring brothers with some over-inflated gothic trappings. I was very pleasantly surprised, however, to find myself reading a story with some mystery, some gothic elements, but far more emphasis on the thoughts of a particular woman as she experiences life as a maid rather than
at her normally socially elevated status. Cassie Andrews is a likeable, interesting character who is strong, resourceful and works to help those around her, learning from her mistakes despite being felled by
"love at first sight."
Cassie has a strange ability, one that is actually a problem to her: she tends to have dreams that foretell the deaths of those around her. When she has a dream about her much-loved cousin Mary, she decides to go to Cornwall, where Mary works as a governess, to see if she can do anything to prevent the tragedy. Unfortunately, when she arrives she discovers that Mary has gone missing, presumably drowned, and that the local constable isn't interested in what happened to
her. Cassie goes "undercover" as a maid in the Killdaren estate in order to have the opportunity
Cassie finds life as a maid significantly harder than she had expected. Her workload is huge under the tyrannical Mrs. Frye, and her fellow servants may have things to hide. She befriends Bridget but soon discovers that her ideas of right and wrong behavior don't translate well to the serving class. Cassie's a wonderful character, actually able to learn and to grow and to accommodate her new circumstances. She's also fascinated by Sean Killdaren, the owner of the property whom no one ever sees; it's rumored he is a vampire, and when Cassie meets him she certainly finds him striking.
Although billed as a gothic romance, Midnight Secrets is mercifully free from overwrought prose. Yes, people wander around dark corridors at night, find themselves kidnapped and stashed in underground caves, but it's all written so enjoyably and well
- and Cassie is such a great narrator - that it's easy to be carried along by the story. Her friend Bridget is excellently described, as is the hard life of a maid in the 1880s. The romance with Sean Killdaren is perhaps a little piecemeal at times, and I
am not entirely sure why he falls in love with Cassie, but the story is always interesting and enjoyable as Cassie searches for the truth behind Mary's disappearance.
My only slight quibble is that something that is hinted about Sean throughout the book isn't really completely rounded up; the end happens rather quickly and some loose ends
aren't tied up, but this is a great read for those who like historical romances.
A subsequent book featuring Cassie's sister and Sean's brother continues this excellent cast of characters and presumably sheds light on some of the plot threads that
were not completed in this book.