The Darkling Bride
Hold up your hand, and tick off the Gothic conventions one by one: atmospheric, crumbling family home; older, brooding yet ridiculously handsome hero; inexperienced, attractive young outsider uncovering dark secrets; skeletons in closets (or more accurately, walls); tantalizing historical documents; storms, spirits, changelings, mysteries, madwomen (multiple), unnatural death…are you out of fingers yet?
The Darkling Bride makes a solid attempt to include every possible Gothic cliché in a single novel. In 2015, Carragh Ryan is hired to catalog the library at Deeprath, ancestral home of the Gallaghers. There she meets the 17th Viscount, Aidan Gallagher, who hasn’t been back to said castle since the unsolved murder of his parents when he was a child. The suspect pool is quickly limited to family and close retainers. Other storylines follow Aidan’s mother before her death, and Jenny Gallagher and Evan Chase – the Victorian-era novelist who came to write about the legend of the Darkling Bride and ended up marrying the heiress to Deeprath…a madwoman in the attic (tower). Probably very little that occurs, including the eventual Scooby-Doo reveal and confrontation of the malefactor, will surprise readers.
While the above may sound damning, note: this is a quick and enjoyable read, escapism between two covers. The author gets preemptively meta to head off eye-rolling at the chosen chestnuts through tools such as Ryan’s literary knowledge (“Chekov’s gun on the mantelpiece, except I didn’t see it at the beginning so it’s not fair for it to appear now”) and Chase’s examination of the “formula” necessary to sell his Darkling Bride (“beauty…brooding atmosphere…a taciturn man who can only be redeemed by the right woman and the kind of mystery that can be tied up neatly”). There you have it: formula. But well-written formula can be pleasantly familiar and agreeable, no?