By Anna Lee Huber
Brightstone Media, October 2016
About the Book
England 1812. Since the death of her mother and brother, Ella Winterton’s life has been consumed by keeping her drunkard father out of trouble and the roof of their crumbling cottage over their heads. But even isolated deep in the Norfolk broads, Ella has never been afraid of the marshes surrounding her home, despite their being riddled with treacherous bogs and local smugglers. Until one night a man masquerading as a Lantern Man—a frightening figure of local legend—waylays her in the marshes near her home, and her world suddenly begins to spiral out of control.
Ella can tell that her friends and the local villagers are all hiding something terrible, something they refuse to share, and she can’t help but wonder if it has to do with the Lantern Man and his secret activities in the shadows of the seemingly quiet broads. But when the authorities catch Ella’s father with smuggled brandy and levy a crippling fine, she is forced to turn to the stranger for help, despite her distrust and his alarming ability to kiss her senseless.
Now she must unravel a twisted trail of deception and secrets and uncover once and for all whether the Lantern Man is friend or foe. Or else risk being dragged down into the marshes, like the victims from the myth, and buried in a watery grave.
Anna Lee Huber, author of the wonderful Lady Darby mystery series, tries her hand at gothic mysteries in this volume 1 of the Gothic Myths Series. We meet Ella Winterton, who lives in Norfolk in the early 19th century with her widowed father, not long after the loss of her brother Erik in the Napoleonic Wars. Ella’s father has become a drunkard, and she must rely on her own wits to keep a roof over their heads. When she meets a mysterious stranger on the Broads—one of the famed “Lantern Men” from local lore—she’s initially frightened, and then intrigued. She knows that smugglers abound in this area of the country, but when her father is repeatedly fined for drinking smuggled brandy, Ella has few options and casts her lot with the smugglers in order to survive.
Dark, brooding, sinister, and with a sly plot twist at the end, this is a hugely satisfying Gothic novel à la Jane Eyre, perfect for cold, dark winter nights. Ella is brave, resourceful, and spirited. You will root for her to the last page. I’m anxious to see what’s in store for Ella in the next volume.