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Curse of the Exile: A Scottish Victorian Era Gothic Mystery Paperback – May 29, 2015
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About the Author
Janis Susan May is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson. Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups. She founded and was the original editor of The Newsletter of the North Texas Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt, which for the nine years of her reign was the international organization’s only monthly publication. Long interested in Egyptology, she was one of the founders of the North Texas chapter and was the closing speaker for the ARCE International Conference in Boston in 2005. Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, a handsome Naval Reserve Captain several years younger than she, even proposed in a moonlit garden in Egypt. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.
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In “Curse of the Exile,” prolific author Janis Susan May has created a heroine who is no silly victim. Instead, Angelina Barstow is a courageous, strong-willed, intelligent librarian assistant helping her beloved but womanizing father at a time when few women were respected for their appreciation of books or desire to learn. Ms. May has fashioned a historical tale that is well-researched, well-scripted and filled with lively characters pushed to the edge. Fans of gothic mysteries will find this a fun read and one difficult to put down.
Curse of the Exile begins with a gentle story-telling quality. The beautiful child cloistered in an Italian villa, the eccentric father and delicate ailing mother. The story is told by Angelina, as an adult recalling her childhood. She recalls the sunny bright villa and the protective care of the household servants. The cataclysmic event sending her from sunshine to the dull, harsh, coldness of England. Everything was an affront to her senses. The reader is quickly pulled through the complexities of the teenage years, attending a rigid private school away from her parents. After her mother’s death and an absentee father, she is offered a job as a housekeeper.
In a rare burst of rebellion, Angelina refuses to comply with Aunt Cornelia’s plans and runs away to find her father. Her darling Pappa, the darling of too many women to count, was a librarian by trade and a womanizer at heart. He found it difficult to nurture this gangly sixteen year-old. Instead, Angelina became his assistant librarian, an assistant doing the majority of the work. They moved from town to town to work in private libraries. Then she met him… her first love, Myles Stonecypher. Everything was as beautiful as a dream… until she realized he had a less ladylike dream which didn’t include marriage.
Scorned and bitter, Angelina settles into the belief that she will never marry. She accepts her lot in life as a librarian’s assistant in cold foggy England. Just when she thinks it couldn’t get any more dismal, her father takes a job in rural Scotland. Here is where Angelina meets Sir Nairn MacTaggart in his natural surroundings and she is smitten, but would rather die than admit it. The castle staff each has their own role to play in this charmingly romantic tale of two strong-willed people in stormy Scotland. After I finished reading it, I was surprised to be in sunny California.
From a writer’s POV:
Well structured literary work. Excellent character development and story-line. It’s interesting how May uses light and weather to progress her story. Starting with a gentle, sunny home—surrounded by gentle caring people. She was forcibly removed from warm Italy, and the cold-harsh environment of England shocks her childish perception of the world. Like-wise she is now surrounded by cold and harsh people as she watches her Pappa run away and her mother wither away. Next May takes the climate one step further by going to the wilds of stormy Scotland. Everything about Scotland is cold, stormy, and violent. Her growing attraction to the lord of the castle is marked by thunder storms. The mysterious Mad Margaret, the sword of the exile, and the unexpected arrival of her teen-age crush (Stonecypher) compete for attention like a strobe-light show… or better yet, a lightening storm.
Fascinating display of light and weather elements. It’s no wonder her work has been compared to Virginia Holt and Phyllis A Whitney.