Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark
Donna Lea Simpson
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Buy *Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark* by Donna Lea Simpson online

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark
Donna Lea Simpson
Sourcebooks Casablanca
416 pages
April 2009
rated 2 of 5 possible stars

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This book has a rather appealing title, eliciting ideas of a young woman finding herself in a spooky situation, perhaps with a werewolf or something. When I started reading, I discovered that Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark is set in the 19th century, with the requisite Marquess, carriage rides, grim Yorkshire surroundings, and mystery. The overall impression I was left with after reading this book, unfortunately, was boredom. It's difficult to get through, with erratic pacing, a lot of apparent repetition, and an unresolved romance.

Lady Anne seems to be basically unpleasant - she sticks her nose in with insatiable curiosity, she treats her hostess rudely, and she appears to have no idea of acceptable behavior in polite society. She's like a dog with a bone when she decides to investigate a murder, despite the fact that she is visiting Darkfell at the request of her friend Lydia, who clearly needs support and encouragement. Anne for all intents and purposes ignores Lydia and goes off doing her own thing, questioning servants and family members about events leading up to three strange recent deaths.

The hero, the Marquess, is an indistinct figure who seems to haunt the story, popping up occasionally when Anne is investigating but never really finding shape. The most believable character is an ex-slave who acts as the Marquess's secretary, but even his behavior seems at times designed to further the plot rather than with a nod to reality.

The mystery of the murderer is spun out throughout the whole story, but by the end, when the perpetrator is unveiled, I was beyond caring. I found it a real struggle to finish the book and was also most surprised to discover a significant loose end as it finished. The "howl in the dark" part of the title is a pretty unimportant part of the overall story, which feels in desperate need of a significant edit and whose heroine badly needs redeeming. On the evidence of this book, I won't be reading another of Donna Simpson's offerings in the near future.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Helen Hancox, 2009

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