Setting: San Francisco, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Boston, Massachusetts, present day
Forty-year-old virgin Ashley Winthrop has confined her life’s passions to renovating homes and selling antiques. An expert on period homes, she has a thriving business in San Francisco.
When the owner of the long-vacant DeLore Mansion asks Ashley to help him restore the fascinating structure, she jumps at the chance. In doing so, however, she unwittingly reveals a nest of maggots in the roots of her family tree.
She is inexplicably physically attracted to her new client, Tryn DeLore, and the feeling is mutual. He quickly seduces her, setting into motion the consequences of the Winthrop family curse.
The remainder of the book tediously unveils the diabolical nature of the curse and the identities and activities of Ashley’s hedonistic, incestuous, and downright brutal relatives. Sex acts are occasionally explicitly described, but the author is more interested in depicting deviant unnatural relationships than dwelling on repetitive intimate details. Women are repeatedly depicted as helpless victims in a male-dominated society.
Despite the professed efforts of the author, a collaborator, two friends who served as preliminary editors, and presumably at least one editor at the publishing house, this novel is rife with distracting misspellings, typos, and grammatical errors. The manuscript has obviously fallen victim to cursory reliance on software spelling/grammar checkers. Examples of this include “He rained with an iron fist,” and, when Ashley departs from a friend, he “nodded and waived.” Other sentences have severe problems, such as “Tryn’s offspring’s had been born of mortal woman.” The numerous errors seriously undermine the reader’s opinion of the author’s basic writing skills. The reader is told, rather than shown, what is happening. Worse, the same ground is covered repeatedly in different parts of the book. Villains typically have smirks on their faces.
The story is peopled with far too many characters. Readers attempting to keep them straight by constructing family trees had best do so in pencil. Many characters obfuscate rather than further the plot.
Readers may wonder why this author’s seriously flawed first novel has been published in hardcover while the many popular and well crafted novels of their favorite highly talented authors are still being published solely in paperback.
While this work is highly imaginative, its plot is more revelatory than engaging, and it lacks a conclusion. The beginning of a prequel appears at the book’s end in a weak and convoluted attempt to explain and justify some characters’ murky motives and the book’s perverse premise. Readers may hope that a sequel will someday make sense
of it all.
Gothic elements are richly detailed. These include several haunted mansions, secret passageways, exhumed bodies, family portraits, ghosts, instruments of bondage/torture, and reliance on non-electric lighting.
DeLore’s Confession is definitely not for romance readers or the faint-hearted. Several love interests are introduced and then brusquely discarded without adequate explanation. The book’s few positive moments are sappy and fleeting. Those who are piqued by perversion and horrific gothic elements will find much fetid fodder in this dark unwholesome tale.
ISBN 1-892343-00-2, 363 pp., $24.95 (hardcover) or $9.95 (download), Oak Tree Books, 1998
–Kristi Lyn Glass, Publisher, Gothic Journal
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