Title: Secrets in the Mist (Gothic Myths 1)
Author: Anna Lee Huber
Publisher: Brightstone Media
Publication Date: 2016
To say that life is challenging in 1812 England is an understatement. Due to the conflict with the French, the economy is struggling and many of those in the small coastal town of Thurlton resort to a second form of income – smuggling. However, smuggling is dangerous; if caught, the culprits could be charged with treason for transporting French goods. If someone is discovered with French goods, there is a hefty fine. Most of the townspeople are aware of the dangers and are willing to take bribes to keep the smugglers’ actions secret, but there is one final threat that terrifies them all – the mysterious Lantern Men who roam the fens, recognizable by their wisps of lantern lights. These mischievous spirits haunt the marshes and lure careless travelers into a watery grave.
Ella Winterton has a healthy fear and regard for those who travel through the dangerous bogs and marshes, but when her best friend Kate comes down with an illness that threatens her life, Ella has no choice but to brave the trek through the mist. Cautious for hidden bogs and tight twists in the path, Ella focuses closely on her travels when suddenly a dark cloaked figure appears out of the mist. Unsettled by his appearance, Ella is shocked when he allows her to pass by safely. Ella is convinced that the Lantern Man is more man than myth and most likely involved in the smuggling trade. His secret activities create more chance encounters with Ella and she becomes fascinated and unafraid of him.
The thought of this mysterious man haunts her mind, but Ella has more pressing concerns to deal with. Since the death of her mother and her brother, Ella’s father spends his days consumed with grief and alcohol. Their home has fallen into disrepair and Ella is forced to sell what she can for survival. When Sergeant Watkins, an officer with the Board of Customs, finds evidence of contraband alcohol in her father’s possession, a hefty fine is levied. With nothing left to sell and estrangement from her parents’ families, Ella is forced to make a decision that threatens her family’s reputation, her home and property, and even her life.
As a huge fan of Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby mysteries, I admit I was bit nervous and apprehensive about this new series. Would I like it as much? Would it be as good? The answer is unequivocally – yes! Ella is a fascinating and relatable character; the reader feels for her situation but never feels sorry for her. There is a naivety in her attitudes and perceptions but it not the wide-eyed innocence of a child; rather a woman of a certain station whose situation has faced a change in hardship so that she must have honest view of reality. I admire her gumption and initiative but also wanted to yell out for someone to give this poor woman a break!
The rest of the characters are rather secondary but have their own individual backstories and motivations. Ella truly drives the novel but it is the other characters who help guide, or divert her, from her path. Huber has stated that this book series will follow in the tradition of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt. The series has interrelated story-lines but each novel will highlight different heroes and heroines. Any one of these secondary characters could develop into their own new book and I am anxious to see what happens next. The second Gothic Myths book is due out in 2018.
According to historical notes on the author’s website, Huber stated that the Lantern Man myth is a real myth; she plans to build the series around some other not-as-well-known myths. I think it will be fascinating to read about the contrast of fact and fiction in them. My interest is definitely piqued!
Who might like this book:
Secrets in the Mist has a different feel than the Lady Darby books; it is more of a romantic suspense than a straightforward mystery. I found the inner-workings of the smuggling operations fascinating; I was amazed at how it was so interwoven in the daily lives and needs of the residents while still being a supposed “secret.”
Although the series is different than the Lady Darby books, one can’t help but compare the two. In true Anna Lee Huber form, the essence of the story lives in the development of the characters. Their histories, motivations, and depth make them enduring and the reader becomes fascinated by the lives and adventures they lead.