The Sedgwick Curse
The Sedgwick Curse has a promising premise for a gothic romance, but the shaky execution makes it fall short of its potential.
One hundred years ago, Lord William Sedgwick became obsessed with Emily Kincaid, a young woman who lived in the village near his estate. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Emily was married with a small child, and Lord William was insane. He kidnapped her, and when her husband came to rescue her, William murdered them both. He was quickly tried and scheduled for execution. Before he was killed, he vowed revenge on the owners of the local paper that covered the story and the innkeeper who sent the Kincaids’ daughter away for her own safety. You’d think he would want revenge on some of the people who’d arrested, tried and convicted him, but maybe that was too logical for crazy old William. As his body was placed in its crypt, a “demented old hermit” suddenly appeared (don’t you hate it when that happens?) and placed a curse on the Sedgwick family, claiming that in exactly one hundred years William would return to enact his revenge. Ah, there’s nothing more dangerous than a demented old hermit with too much time on his hands.
At midnight exactly one hundred years to the day after the curse was spoken, there’s an explosion at Lord William’s crypt. Could the man himself have returned from the dead? Either way, it’s not good news for his great-grandson, Donovan Sedgwick. Donovan is the new Lord Sedgwick, after the sudden suicide of his father a few months earlier. Then Taylor MacKenzie arrives on his doorstep. She claims to be a reporter from America writing a book on English country festivals, like the one that’s about to begin in the nearby village. In truth, she’s the great-granddaughter of Emily Kincaid, looking for answers about the murders that sent her grandmother out of England. She also happens to be a dead ringer for Emily. This is particularly bad news for Donovan, who recently began to suffer from debilitating headaches and finds himself unable to remember blocks of time. He has to wonder if he’s inheriting the family insanity, especially when the murders begin.
The story begins with a furious barrage of exposition, as the author tries to throw a bunch of information at the reader all at once. It’s delivered too quickly and awkwardly in the first few pages to absorb it all, which makes for a jarring start. It took me longer than it should have to get into the story as a result.
This book would not be a good choice for readers who are bothered by head-hopping, which is out of control for large portions of the book. Many of the scenes between Donovan and Taylor hop back and forth between the two of them, sometimes as often as every other paragraph. For instance, in Chapter Three, the first paragraph is in Donovan’s perspective. The second paragraph is in Taylor’s. The third is a simple declarative statement that could belong to either. The fourth paragraph is in Donovan’s again, and the fifth returns to Taylor. I can usually get past P.O.V. issues easily enough, but in this book, they were excessive. At one point Taylor is having a conversation with the butler when there’s a sudden burst of random exposition. Until that moment, the scene had been in Taylor’s P.O.V., but I didn’t think this information was something she would know. The butler would, but there’s no indication we’d suddenly shifted to his P.O.V. It felt like the author just tried to shoehorn in some relevant information for the reader that made no sense in the context of the scene.
The head-hopping may be one of the reasons the characters never really come to life. They’re both a little wooden and lacking in dimension. While I didn’t mind them, I didn’t really care about them either. The best way to describe them would be “perfectly tolerable.” The love story isn’t particularly satisfying either. The characters are immediately swept up in these big, overpowering emotions, which help the author avoid having to develop an actual love story. Even as big, overpowering emotions go, these feelings weren’t convincing. The story is readable enough, and there are some nicely atmospheric moments, most of them involving the main characters wandering down darkened corridors and hidden passages. The English setting doesn’t amount to much though, and the mystery never really comes together. The ending is no surprise, perfectly adhering to one of the oldest rules of gothic romances. I called it from practically the beginning of the book.
The Sedgwick Curse is a shrug of a book. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good either. Mostly, it never really lived up to its potential as a gothic romance. It has all the right pieces. They just needed to be put to better use than this.