Well, I'll be hornswoggled.
This book was really rather fabulous, actually. The beginning is a bit slow, but the plot twists come fast and furious in the last half.
It's set in Northumbria, near Newcastle, which makes a nice change from Cornwall, and the Roman ruins figure in the story. Mary Stewart's writing is wonderful. My edition was the old Fawcett Crest edition, which is only 272 pages, but the print is tiny and dense, and reading it felt like it was a much longer book. It is very well-plotted, and Ms. Stewart uses misdirection convincingly.
The end was a bit of a punch to the gut, actually. I was wrong, wrong, wrong, and then wrong again. Stunning.
The plot has definitely thickened! Turns out that Annabel has an old lover hanging about, and even in gothic romance land, old lovers can't be fooled by a stranger pretending to be someone else.
There is a lot of airplay about an old summer folly on the property of the local burned out manor house (doesn't every neighborhood have a burned out manor house). I am currently holding firm to the notion that Annabel is dead and buried in the folly where she used to meet her lover, probably having come to a bad end at his hands after telling him she was leaving him. That would explain, as well, why he is the only person who has questioned her identity.
But, who knows! Only Mary Stewart.
And damn, these old romance authors could write! This book is dense, packed with character development and setting and atmosphere.
I haven't made it as far as I had hoped in this book over the weekend! My daughter heads back to college next week, so we had to do a Poirot binge-watch yesterday! We watched Third Girl, Three Act Tragedy and Cat Among the Pigeons. I've seen them all, so they were all repeats for me, and Cat Among the Pigeons is one of my favorites. I tried to talk her into Hallowe'en Party for the season, but she was having none of it and insisted it was too early.
But, about the book! Mary has gone through her rapid "get up to speed on Annabel Winslow" and has started pretending to be her. Things will no doubt ramp up soon!
So far this every bit as delicious as I expected. The "meet cute" between hero (Con) and heroine (Mary Grey) involves him nearly pushing her over that ledge shown on the cover because he thinks she is his long lost fiancee.
With a love like that, why would Annabel have run away?
Run faster, Annabel. Run faster.
Step two of the romance: a little light stalking, using his sister!