Pull of the Moon
Sylvie Kurtz’s A Rose at Midnight was the guiltiest of pleasures for me, a gothic romance so wildly over-the-top I could practically feel the cheese oozing from the pages as I read it. I couldn’t call it good, but darned if it wasn’t entertaining. Kurtz tones down the melodrama in her latest gothic-themed romantic suspense, Pull of the Moon. This is a well-written, nicely told book. If only the story she’s telling wasn’t completely uninteresting. After a while, I wouldn’t have minded a little cheese just to liven things up.
Twenty-five years ago, the young daughter of wealthy Rita Meadows disappeared. Over the years numerous young women came forward claiming to be the long-lost Valentina, only to be revealed as impostors. Still, Rita never gave up hope that her daughter would one day return. TV reporter Valerie Zea comes to Moongate Mansion in Moonhill, New Hampshire, at Rita’s request to do a story on the disappearance in hopes of bringing up new leads in the case.
When she arrives, she finds herself face-to-face with Nicolas Galloway, the son of Rita’s housekeeper who now runs her family’s investment firm for her. He had no idea of Rita’s plan, and as soon as he sees Valerie, he’s convinced that she’s another fraud trying to trick his boss. Though Valerie didn’t know it beforehand, she’s a dead ringer for what Valentina is projected to look like now. Her protestations of innocence don’t mean much to him, and he makes it clear he’ll be keeping an eye on her. When Valerie falls victim to several strange incidents, she immediately suspects Nick of trying to scare her off, but he might actually be the least of her problems.
I had high hopes as the book began, with its Anastasia-type premise and moody atmosphere. But while Kurtz’s storytelling is pleasant and her prose is smooth, both are wasted on a story that doesn’t deserve them. It’s just too obvious and not sufficiently intriguing. When she arrives at the mansion, Valerie begins to have strange feelings of deja vu. Meanwhile, her mother back in Florida is strangely insistent that she return home and not stay in New Hampshire. I won’t ruin it for anyone else, but I will say I never had any doubt where the story was going. As a result, I was never caught up in Valerie’s investigation into what happened to Valentina. If I had, I probably would have been more disappointed because the details once revealed really aren’t that interesting.
The lack of a compelling mystery is a big problem when the book is as plot-driven as this one is. There’s not even a strong romance to make up for it. It takes so long for even the slightest spark of a love story to develop that I actually wondered more than once, “This is a romance novel, right?” It’s probably no surprise that when the love story does emerge, it’s not convincing. It didn’t help that I really didn’t like Nick, who was too much of a jerk, and not in a dark, gothic hero kind of way. He wasn’t nearly interesting enough for that. He was just pissy. Natalie shows some strength, had her moments and got off some good lines, but she wasn’t strong enough to save the book single-handedly.
Pull of the Moon was written well enough, but the lack of an interesting story made it a rather empty endeavor. I got through it easily enough, and that’s about the strongest recommendation I can give it. A Rose at Midnight may have been completely over-the-top, but at least it wasn’t boring. I can’t really say the same about this one.