by Joanna Challis

May 2003
ISBN: 1-59088-164-8
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Silverthorn by Joanna Challis is a true Gothic styled romance full of dark brooding characters and a mystery that the reader can’t wait to solve. Laura and Madeline are cousins who have both been orphaned and sent to live with their uncle and aunt. As they grow up, Laura and Madeline while total opposites in personality remain close; when Madeline marries an elderly lord and moves to Silverthorn, Laura is pleased for her. However, when Madeline’s letters home become disturbing, and she is later found dead. Laura under false pretense takes the position of governess to discover what happened to her cousin at Silverthorn. Lord Justin, the new owner of Silverthorn, is intrigued by the new governess “Ann” and is determined to discover more about her. As the mystery unfolds Justin and Laura are tormented by an unseen murderer who seems to haunt them and Silverthorn. Justin and Laura must uncover who killed Madeline before the killer discovers that they have fallen in love or they just might end up dead as well.

Silverthorn is an extremely well written novel with many characters that help draw the reader into the plot and the events talking place at Silverthorn. Laura is an intriguing character, she is a woman who understands and enjoys her middleclass lifestyle in a world where many other characters are scheming to improve their position in life. I found this to be a very refreshing change of pace for me as a reader. I also found Laura to be an interesting contrast to her manipulative cousin Madeline who is so wicked that the reader often wonders why Laura even bothers trying to be her friend. However, at times Laura herself seems so focused on her supposed station in life that it almost halts the momentum of the plot. I found myself very frustrated with Laura and her hang-ups at times. Justin, on the other hand is brooding, misunderstood, and at times almost tragic, I found him to be the most fun to learn about as the story unfolded. He is also the character that seemed to the most true to life as he tries to deal with the tragic events taking place in his home. The relationship between Laura and Madeline seems to propel the entire story making the love between Justin and Laura secondary role and appear contrived and almost too sappy at times. The novel itself was a bit tedious in the beginning as the reader meets Laura and Madeline when they are children and the story follows them until they reach adulthood when the majority of the action takes place. The secondary characters while wonderful and extremely interesting seemed to distract from the main story line and a times were more exciting than Laura and Justin. However, I found the mystery part of the story to be wonderful and the murderer was a total surprise something I truly enjoy in a story. The ending was touching and romantic and made the rest of the novel worth the read!

Reviewed in June 2003 by Jen.

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