On the one hand, the house had finally brought us together. But on the other, it was the cradle for this terrible secret. I could only hope that it didn’t have the power to destroy what it had so recently created.
For some reason a lot of the titles I’ve been pulling from an old TBR list have been disappointing, and Lucie Whitehouse’s The House at Midnight is no exception. I guess I should be more trusting of Amazon reviews. I wanted a book that would give me both gothic and glamor, while this seemed to fall short on both counts.
When Jo’s best friend Lucas inherits his uncle’s house, it becomes a weekend getaway for their old college group. Jo is excited that Lucas finally seems romantically interested in her, but senses a foreboding atmosphere from the house itself. Over the year, once Lucas moves into the house full time, a web of secrets, vices, jealousy, and betrayal is spun that threatens to destroy the group’s relationships forever.
I appreciate what Lucie Whitehouse was trying to do, but right from the beginning the book just didn’t click with me and I don’t even know if I can explain why. It seemed like there was too much telling and not enough actual suspense, so that I didn’t actually care about the characters, including Jo. She kept going on about how deep and meaningful her romantic relationship was, but all we really saw was lust. In addition, by spreading the novel over a year Ms. Whitehouse made the events seem too disjointed, almost like the home videos the characters watch; we don’t get enough of what happens in between. This is especially evident in the abrupt ending.
It seemed like she was going for all the staples of a gothic novel by trying to create a spooky house and a character living under the shadows and secrets of the past. Orphaned Lucas becomes obsessed with his uncle’s suicide and hearkens back to the days when his parents and uncle were young adults at the house themselves. As menacing as Jo imagines the house, the real threat is the fragility and force of human emotion. Beneath the facade of glamor I was craving is an eddy of depression, alcoholism, jealousy, pain, and rejection, so that the novel is dark in ways I hadn’t expected.
I hope I don’t keep striking out! Perhaps in the future I should stick to Mary Stewart or Phyllis Whitney when I want my gothic fix.