Title: The Lantern
Author: Deborah Lawrenson
Genre: Contemporary fiction, Gothic fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher for a tour with TLC Book Tours
First line: Some scents sparkle and then quickly disappear, like the effervescence of citrus zest or a bright note of mint.
Eve and Dom have a whirlwind romance, a love that quickly intensifies, leading them to purchase Les Genevriers, an old farmhouse in the lavender fields of Provence. As their first summer together fades, Eve begins to realize how very little she knows about Dom, and how his secretive nature inhibits her from asking questions. As her doubts about Dom and his past grow, so does her feeling that they might not be alone on the old farm. Her investigation into Dom’s past intersects with the history of Les Genevriers and the tragedy-plagued family that had once lived there.
Deborah Lawrenson has written a book that is virtually drenched in atmosphere, appealing to all the senses. Her writing is so lyrically descriptive, so vivid, that I almost expected scents to rise into the air as I turned the pages. Lavender, walnut liqueur, honey, vanilla, thyme. While the descriptions invoke all five senses, one of the characters is a blind perfumier, and because she experienced life through her nose, the reader does, too. Whenever I closed the book, I felt like I was leaving a different world, a world more infused with sensation than the real world I live in.
The romance between Dom and Eve is a tricky one. It’s easy to see that Eve is completely knocked off her feet by him, and yet her decision to run away to France with him and isolate herself from friends and family seemed a bit naive. One of the reasons historical gothic novels work so well is that, in the past, women had much less power or ability to make their own decisions. They are stuck in the haunted castle/house with the possibly-wicked man because they are either married to him or work for him and have no other choice. Lawrenson tries to evoke the same sense of entrapment by putting Eve and Dom in a remote farmhouse without internet or phone, but it didn’t quite work. Today, a woman can simply walk away from a bad marriage or abusive relationship, and so there were times when I thought, “He’s creepy! Why doesn’t she just leave?!?!”
That is a small quibble, though, in a book that is gorgeously written with a very intriguing mystery and tons of creepy atmosphere. The characters and setting definitely outweigh any drawbacks. I enjoyed the dual storylines and the history of the house – and the ending was unexpected and yet satisfying. This is a must-read for any of you who are lovers of gothic fiction.