Book Review: The Devereaux Legacy by Carolyn Hart

The Devereaux LegacyThe Devereaux Legacy
Carolyn Hart Classics
Carolyn Hart
Seventh Street Books, February 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-704-4
Trade Paperback
Originally published in 1986

From the publisher—

Leah Devereaux is a dead woman. At least, that’s what the folks now running the Devereaux plantation tell her: Leah has been presumed dead for nineteen years—since the day that both her parents died.

Leah, very much alive, has returned to South Carolina to uncover the untold story of her parents’ deaths. While some, like her cousin Merrick, welcome her, Cissy and John Edward tell her to stay away, tell her to stop meddling in secrets long kept.

When a ghost known only as the Whispering Lady appears once again at the Devereaux plantation after years of absence, the locals know it’s an omen of death. Merrick and Leah may be the next targets. . . .

Many moons ago, more than I care to admit, I had a real hankering for gothic mysteries, the kind with dark atmospheres, troubled men, women with a need to establish themselves in the world and who endanger themselves with their naïveté, brooding surroundings including such structures as locked towers, and, frequently, a violent storm; if you’ve read them, you know that you recognize such books immediately, sometimes just by the cover. Anyway, as time went on and I got older, my reading tastes changed. I won’t say those tastes changed for the better because there is absolutely nothing wrong with gothics. Some of the best-known authors have written such books, authors like Daphne Du Maurier, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Emily Bronte, and Charlotte Bronte  and, eventually, this subgenre began to morph into the romantic suspense novels we see today. The big difference is that the women involved have grown a pair, so to speak, and are much more likely to get themselves out of trouble or even to avoid it in the first place.

Although I moved on to reading other things, I’ve always held a soft spot for those old gothics and was delighted to hear that The Devereaux Legacy was being re-issued. I’ve long been a fan of Carolyn Hart but never knew about this book from her earlier period before the Death on Demand series which brought her the attention she deserved. So I found two of my long-time loves, gothic mysteries and Carolyn Hart in the same book. What more could I want?

The good news is Ms. Hart hits all the hot spots of a classic gothic mystery and, surprisingly, it’s only slightly dated. Really, the only notable difference from a gothic that might be written today is the lack of cell phones and, frankly, I think that’s a good thing. The advent of cell phones has, in my opinion, taken away a lot of the suspenseful ambience we used to see. After all, the protagonist who’s out of communication with everyone who could come to her aid if necessary is much more likely to cause gasps and tingles of alarm than today’s heroine who can just whip out her cell. When Leah begins to see and hear disturbing things and comes to believe that murder is part of her heritage, I felt the same sense of growing fear that she did. When she dares to go where she shouldn’t, as the heroine almost always does in any good gothic, I heard myself (in my mind so no one nearby would think I’m crazy) yelling at her, “No! Don’t go!”

The even better news is that, although The Devereaux Legacy shows the occasional weaknesses you could expect to find in an author’s earlier work, this is still a well-written and fun read and I’m very glad to add it to the long list of Carolyn Hart books I’ve read and loved. The only thing I would quibble with is the cover—I think the publisher missed a good opportunity to play up the gothic look—but, in the end, that’s really not important, is it?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2013.