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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic

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Expletive deleted -- DNF at 3%

Stormcrow Castle - Amanda Grange



Cutting and pasting from text file wipes out all formatting, all paragraphs, all photos.  I'm losing patience.  I've tried to at least restore the paragraphs, but won't do any more unless and until this posts 


I will attempt to save it as a draft on BL, but I'm not holding my breath for that either, since it hasn't worked the last two times I've tried.





Disclosure: I obtained the Kindle edition of Castle of Secrets, originally published in hardcover as Stormcrow Castle, when it was offered free on Amazon. I do not know the author nor have I ever communicated with her about this book or any other matter. I am an author of romance fiction.



I love both historical and contemporary gothic romances. The last two historical romances I wrote for traditional publication contained significant gothic elements, and might have had more if it weren't for editorial interference.



So why would I give up on a historical gothic romance in the classic tradition after reading only three percent? There were no major errors of historical detail, nor were there tons of grammatical errors. Both of those problems would cause me to give up on a book almost immediately. (Like the book I tried a week or so ago in which a character "struck a flint to the bedside candle.")



The double spacing and odd alignment of the text toward the right of the page (see below) were annoyances, but alone they would not have been enough for me to give up on an otherwise intriguing book. The real problem with this book was that it was just plain boring.




The original hardcover publisher, Robert Hale, Ltd., ceased publishing in 2015 after 80 years in the business. I’m a bit uncomfortable that a solid, reputable publisher would have put out a product of such unstellar quality.



The prose isn’t bad; it’s just crushingly dull.



Daylight was fading and she was beginning, all in the gathering gloom. Was, was, was, was, was. Not to make a judgment on a single page, I pressed onward.




(The above also shows that the page orientation is not due to right and left print pages.)



Our heroine Helena is looking over her shoulder in one paragraph, looking back in the next. She peers into the gloom, strains her eyes, sees a speck, saw a coach and caught sight. All the sensory impressions are visual, but with very little emotional reaction from Helena.



What kind of “carrier” was it that left her out on the moors? And why did he not take her to her destination? How did she know she had walked three miles? How does she feel after walking this far and still seeing no sign of the “castle” that is her destination? How did she hear “a sound” if the coach was only a speck in the distance? How long did it take to reach her and what did she do in the meantime? What was her reaction to seeing it? Did she wonder who it belonged to? What was her reaction when it stopped?



The opening of a novel should raise questions that lead the reader further into the story. When the questions are about the opening events, however, the reader isn’t drawn in so much as she steps back to wonder what is going on and why.



Why is Helena out on the moors on a gloomy March afternoon? Has she been put out of her home or position? Why is she going to Stormcrow Castle? Has she been invited? Is she a member of the family? Why does she not challenge Lord Torkrow when he assumes she is the new housekeeper? Why does she not ask about her aunt’s fate? Why does she meekly accompany Lord Torkrow?



The formatting was awkward and annoying; the writing was dull and lacking in drama; the character was dull and lacking in emotional reaction.



DNF at 3%