The Ghost of Carnal Cove
The Ghost of Carnal Cove is Gothic Light. Despite hitting all the familiar notes, it’s often the opposite of what it needs to be. Soft when it should be edgy, predictable when it should be suspenseful, this is a thoroughly average read.
Makenna Lindsay comes to the Isle of Wight in the wake of a broken engagement. After her mother’s death, she discovered papers indicating her mother owned a house there that Makenna had never known about. Now it seems like the perfect place to retreat from society. Once there, she learns the legend of the cove where the village girls used to go for trysts with sailors. The cove seems doubly threatening. It is there that she meets Captain Nicholas Saintjohn, an imposing figure who warns her away. He is also new to the area, having arrived with his young son to live in his family’s home after the death of his wife. Meanwhile, Makenna begins to notice a ghostly specter beckoning to her from the beach.
There’s nothing original in The Ghost of Carnal Cove, as Rogers hits every trope in the gothic canon. Naïve heroine moves to the windswept coast, where forbidding hero lives in isolated castle. Hero has a quiet young son he can’t relate to. Hero’s wife was an adulteress who died under mysterious circumstances. Hero has a tight-lipped housekeeper and creepy manservant. Hero hires heroine to tutor his son. There’s a ghost. There are secrets to be uncovered about Makenna’s heritage.
Rogers has all the ingredients, but The Ghost of Carnal Cove often plays more like a straight historical than a gothic, and not a very compelling one. What the author fails to do is capture the gothic tone. The Ghost of Carnal Cove is a nice, pleasant read, smoothly written but almost completely lacking in tension. It’s a gothic with no edge. Nicholas can be abrasive and tends toward the melodramatic, often for no reason, but he never seems that mean. His distance from his son is perfectly understandable given that he was away at sea rather than a sign that he’s cold-hearted or doesn’t care about the boy. Nicholas’s sister is mean to Makenna, then she apologizes.
Conflicts are easily resolved because they barely amounted to much to begin with. The idea that Nicholas could have anything to do with his wife’s death is so undeveloped it never seems real, and the offhanded way this is resolved is just lazy. This is a book that could have used a villain or some kind of antagonist. The only person that comes close, Makenna’s former fiancé, barely registers enough to qualify. Deep down everyone is too inherently decent, and on the surface they’re mostly bland. This has to be one of the nicest gothics I’ve ever read – and that’s all wrong.
The Ghost of Carnal Cove is like a paint-by-numbers filled in with lighter shades when darker hues would have been more effective. There’s nothing really bad about it. It’s simply too soft and predictable to be more than a passable way to spend a few hours.