Dark Masquerade by Jennifer Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dark Masquerade by Jennifer Blake is a 2014 Steel Magnolia Press publication.
When Elizabeth's sister, Ellen Marie dies, Elizabeth assumes her sister's identity and travels with her young nephew to the Louisiana Plantation where were her former brother in law was from. Felix had left a will and Elizabeth wants to be sure his son , Joseph, recieves his inheritance.
Upon arrival with her maid, Callie, Elizabeth is met with disdain and resentment. Felix had been engaged to marry another, but met Ellen Marie after he went away to war. The marriage was very painful to the family and they don't try to hide their feelings from Elizabeth.
Bernard Delacroix is in charge of the will and is now the guardian over Joseph. This has Elizabeth trapped at the plantation. Knowing she isn't wanted and being controlled by the matriarch of the family has Elizabeth thinking of leaving, until Bernard explains that she is free to leave, but Joseph will stay since he is the boy's legal guardian. It also appears Bernard is in charge of the money Felix left his widow, doubly trapping Elizabeth.
Strange occurances, such as spiders in her bed, and odd conversations with members of the family, all of whom have hidden motives, secrets, and agendas. Furthermore, Elizabeth lives each day in fear of being found out. What would happen if they discovered she was not Ellen Marie? Who wants Elizabeth out of the way bad enough they are willing to kill her? Is it an old grudge or is it money that motivates Elizabeth's tormentor? What about the fierce dark eyed Bernard? Is he a friend or is he the enemy?
This book was originally published in 1974 I believe. This was at the pinnacle of the Gothic mystery/romance genre's popularity. This book fits in perfectly with many other popular Gothic mystery books in that period by such greats as Dorothy Daniels and Dorothy Eden and so on.
The novel has all the elements of Gothic mystery . The large Louisiana plantation, and odd family members, some perhaps touched with a bit of madness, and strange whispered conversations, old secrets and grudges and the damsel in danger. The suspense builds as the protagonist begins to ask a few questions and then begins to fear for her safety especially after she is told flat out people don't want her there. Elizabeth has drawn herself into a corner and can't leave, though she certainly wishes she could.
The romance is G rated and comes toward the end of the book with the main focus being on the mystery, which once again was standard for this type of novel. I just love these stories and I am thrilled to see them now being reissued in digital format by Steel Magnolia Press. Jennifer Blake did a great job of sticking to the general rules of the genre, but giving it a style of her own with a little southern accent. This one is a B+