Awaiting the Moon
The good news is that Donna Lea Simpson’s Awaiting the Moon takes place in 1795 (Translation: Not the Regency) in a remote area of Germany (Translation: Not England). Even better, the author does a terrific job of making the reader feel as if she, too, is isolated in a mysterious castle in a foreign country with a variety of brooding and mysterious characters and angry villagers surrounding the estate murmuring about werewolves. The less encouraging news, however, is that even though things get off to a very promising start, a sagging middle section propelled almost solely by the heroine’s nosey “what’s wrong with this family?” digging – not to even mention her inexplicable transformation from a desperate 18th century spinster into an empowered 21st century woman telling her aristocratic employer what’s what in no uncertain terms – derail matters more than a bit. Though I just wasn’t buying it, the book’s unique setting, the appealingly period flavor to the prose, and a strong Gothic flavor merit Awaiting the Moon a qualified recommendation.
Dismissed from her position, disgraced Englishwoman Elizabeth Stanwycke is more than grateful to be traveling on a snowy forest road to assume her new position with a noble family in a remote German castle. Traveling with kindly Frau Liebner, a member of the family who hasn’t been home to the castle in years, Elizabeth is more than startled when a naked woman runs in front of their coach, followed by a cloaked man on horseback clearly chasing her down. Though she’s not happy about it, Elizabeth accedes to Frau Liebner’s request not to mention the matter upon their arrival at the castle.
At any rate, Elizabeth has enough to think about once she meets the cast of characters who inhabit Wolfram Castle, including the reluctant young pupil she has been hired to prepare for English society – and a English husband – and, most disturbing of all, Nikolas, Count von Wolfram, the castle’s brooding master.
Elizabeth begins her task, but soon finds herself distracted by mysterious goings-on both within and without the castle. Why is Nikolas carrying an unidentified and unconscious woman through the halls of the castle in the middle of the night? Why are the villagers convinced the woods surrounding the castle are infested with werewolves? And, of course, the ultimate question: is Nicholas a kind and caring patriarch of his loving family or something far more sinister?
Unfortunately, for much of the book Elizabeth goes from person to person baldly inquiring as to why everyone is so depressed, weird, sad, or mysterious. And, sad to say, even though I enjoyed much of the Gothic goings-on – including the straight-out-of-Jane-Eyre midnight wanderings and mysterious doings – I found the author’s method of propelling the plot through Elizabeth’s inquiries and the conversations that follow to be largely unbelievable and a tad boring. Still, once matters come to a head and the book’s mysteries are solved, things pick up again and Awaiting the Moon comes to a satisfying enough conclusion.
Then there is Elizabeth’s magical transformation into a forthright (and, yes, feisty) woman who – despite the desperation of her personal circumstances – mouths off to Nikolas time and time again. Without going into detail for fear of spoilers, Frau Liebner’s generosity in offering Elizabeth a position rescues her from a truly hopeless situation and, for a young woman with no other options for her future, this behavior with a remote and oh-so-correct employer is decidedly nonsensical.
On a more positive note, however, the author does better by her hero. Sexy, mysterious, and appealing complex, Nicholas is believable as a man burdened by family secrets and responsibilities who finds himself largely against his will giving in to feelings for Elizabeth that he can’t deny.
Ultimately, even though the first paranormal romance by this former traditional Regency author isn’t a complete success, it does have enough going for it that readers tired of the same-old-same-old may well want to give it a try. As for the book’s upcoming sequel set in the same castle and amidst many of the same characters, I’m intrigued enough to ensure that I’ll be there.