When I started reading this, I was surprised how similar the plot was to Madeleine Brent’s (Modesty Blaise writer Peter O’Donnell in reality) first novel, Merlin’s Keep. We have a spunky young lass, a dying father, a benevolent and rich foster father who takes her into his family, and a handsome young man with a checkered past who seems to dislike her but secretly pines for her.
Cadi Tregaron from Cornwall is the spunky heroine. She takes care of her father in a small fishing village. Her grandmother was an amnesic Italian rescued at sea, and Cadi has strange dreams about a palace and a man who waits for her. Depending on whether it’s the Bad Dream or Good Dream, he’s either evil or loving. When she and her father save a wealthy visitor to the village, they become friends even though the man’s nephew is the waiting man from her dreams.
Someone is trying to kill the kindly Mr. Morris, a member of the foreign office in London. After Cadi’s father dies rescuing yet another sinking ship, Mr. Morris and his eccentric family take Cadi in, dramatically changing her life and culture. Then, someone tries several times to kill Cadi when she discovers the palace she dreams about is real and her grandmother was an Italian countess who left her millions of pounds!
In Merlin’s Keep, we knew who the bad guy was from the onset. In Tregaron’s Daughter, we don’t learn who is trying to kill her until almost the end. We have our suspicions, but we don’t know for sure. Her new family, especially Uncle Guido who lives in the palace but will have to vacate when she reaches twenty-one, seems to welcome her with open arms, insisting she stay with them temporarily when the Morris family visits Venice.
To me, this book was more of a mystery than a gothic romance. The “does he-doesn’t he” lovers’ sparring gets repetitive after a time, and our heroine is slow to uncover the mystery. In fact, she has to actually overhear the bad guy convincing her beloved to kill her before she figures it out. Although she tries to save herself, her true love has to rescue her in the end as she’s pretty helpless.
My biggest problem with this story, unlike his Modesty Blaise books, is that it suffers from J.K. Rowling Syndrome. She crams too much into the last chapter, putting the climax and the resolution together in a few short pages, leaving the reader feeling robbed. Cadi’s kidnapping, mystery resolution, and undying love proclamation come in the last few pages. Wham bam, it’s over. I would have enjoyed a much more involved resolution and denouement and Cadi’s having a bigger part in it.
But I enjoyed simple Cadi and her adventures. I fully understood the Good Dream and Bad Dream at the end when she reenacts the Good Dream. I spent most of the book trying to figure out who was trying to almost kill people and why, and I’m not sure I’m satisfied with the answer. Still, a quick read and enjoyable for the most part.