REVIEW: Moon Cutters by Janet Woods
If you enjoy revisiting the Gothic romances of our past, then this novel will certainly rekindle memories of impressionable books.
Moon Cutters by Janet Woods
Category: Historical Gothic Mystery with romantic elements
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Release Date: February 1, 2014
Blue Ribbon Rating: 3.5
Available Format: Hardcover and eBook
Format Read: eBook from NetGalley
MOON CUTTERS takes place in Dorset, England, in 1840 when smuggling is an ever-popular way of life. Dangerous and secretive, the smugglers’ luck is running out when the law means to put a stop to it. Two young women fall into this viper’s pool of mystery. Will they survive with their virtues intact or be put into service by men who have no conscience?
Miranda and Lucy Jarvis are on their own and homeless after their father dies when they are turned out from their estate with their pregnant mother, who eventually dies on the road during the birth of her stillborn child. Miranda is caught stealing bread and escapes to return to her ailing sister who has a fever. Wobbly from the hit on the head with a rolling pin by the cook at the estate where she stole the bread, Miranda hoists her sister into a tree just in time before three dogs attack her.
Sir James Fenmore comes upon Miranda just after his dogs attack her and calls them away. He suggests that the sisters come home with him to his estate so that they can be cared for. Interested in plants’ healing properties, Sir James experiments with their medicinal uses and doctors the sisters. Sir James thinks he’s rescuing two young girls, at first.
Miranda senses something sinister about Sir James but her younger sister, Lucy, thinks he’s her friend, loving the attention and clothing he bestows upon them. Miranda doesn’t want to accept the gifts but feels she has no choice. Fletcher Taunt, Sir James’ estranged nephew, returns from sea with his cargo. Having argued with his uncle, who severed their personal relationship before he left, Fletcher believes he should apologize even if he wasn’t the one in the wrong. Miranda and Fletcher meet without Sir James’ knowledge and Fletcher falls instantly in love. Will Sir James allow his new wards to leave once he realizes his nephew wants the same woman he does?
I can’t decide how I feel about this novel. It’s very reminiscent of early Gothic romances, which I love. There’s the creepy older man who owns an estate that is rumored to be haunted and he becomes creepier as the novel moves forward. I could have done without the bodice ripping because at the time it happens, everyone thinks Miranda is a girl, not a nineteen-year-old woman. I thought she was rather complacent with the situation even though it was mortifying for her. Her mistaken age makes the situation more disturbing even though we realize it was done to prove she was a woman and not a girl. I’m not sure what I expected her to do, but not fighting back and unemotionally accepting her fate was troubling.
I will say that this is a book I won’t forget anytime soon. Villains have a way of making an impression sometimes, and even if you think they’re the most despicable, soulless human being you can imagine, you feel the need to find out what happens next. Some of the things this villain does seem to be the actions of a madman.
It’s hard to like a book that has such despicable parts to it, attached to a very sweet love story, sometimes over-the-top in sweetness. It often contradicts itself by switching from creepy to extra sweet. But I did like it. It was tragic, then enthralling to evil personified, then creepy to mystifying with a bit of violence and eventually, it all rounds out into a happy-ever-after. I think I liked it because it reminded me of the classic books I read as a teenager and I really couldn’t predict what crazy thing was going to happen next. Villains often make me like a book and hate it at the same time, just because they’re so disturbing in their manipulation. This was that type of book.
For me, MOON CUTTERS is better described as a Gothic Mystery with a romantic element rather than a Gothic Romance. I didn’t feel any passion between Miranda and Fletcher even though they cared for one another and maybe that’s because their love wasn’t as evident as the fear ignited by the mystery unfolding.
Not your typical historical, MOON CUTTERS is a smugglers adventure where two young girls fall prey to the seedier side of human nature more than once, but eventually find the kindness and love they deserve. Fascinating, in that this novel revisits the Gothic romances of our past, it made me realize I love the romances of our present equally for different reasons.
Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies.
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What’s on your TBR Mountain Range? Do you enjoy Gothic style romance or mysteries? Have you read them in the past or read them now?
January 23, 2014 at 9:59 am
Thanks for your honest opinions about this book. I love historicals, mainly romances, but I do like the occasional mystery/suspense thrown in for good measure. I can’t say that I ever gravitated to the Gothic genre…just wasn’t interested then and not so much now. After reading your comments, this sounds like a book where everything that can go wrong, does. And it’s all heaped on the shoulders of one Tess Trueheart type heroine.
I checked it out at Amazon and decided it is way overpriced IMO. Unless I got a copy for free or picked up the HC at PBS, I wouldn’t invest that much of my money to buy this book since the author is unknown to me.
January 23, 2014 at 4:11 pm
Thanks for visiting, Karen. Gothic is a historical style that’s unique to itself and once you’ve tried them, they can be rather addictive.
I do understand that price can be an element when deciding on “new to you” authors. You might want to look at some older titles by this author because I believe I saw some really good pricing on the eBooks available.
January 23, 2014 at 6:00 pm
Dorine, thank you for the thoughtful and generally positive review of Moon Cutters. Sorry about the ripped bodice. There was nothing sexual about it it as in “Bodice Ripper!” It was more a device for Sir James to demonstrate he intended to have his own way over.
As for Sir James, your assessment of him and his progress throughout the book was accurate. He was a sociopath, so his degeneration of character, his journey and his eventual downfall followed along sociopath traits.
January 24, 2014 at 10:04 am
You’re welcome, Janet, and thanks for your thoughts.
The Bodice Ripper moment is one of those parts where the reader isn’t sure of Sir James’ intent. If he hadn’t touched Miranda, then it wouldn’t seem as creepy. Even though he acted in anger and confusion over being misled about her age, it still seems as though sexuality is a spark in his mind during that scene.
That said, it’s a defining moment when the reader is aware of Sir James’ downhill slide. It just adds to his villainous attitude and makes the reader root for Miranda to find a way out of her situation.
His sociopath character traits were definitely spot on 🙂