In Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern, Eve is a young woman just striking out in her career when she meets Dom (a wealthy gentleman, considerably older) while vacationing in Switzerland. Even though she knows little about him, besides his once being married and that the relationship was difficult, they quickly establish a firm bond and retire to live at Les Genévriers, a gorgeous old estate in Provence. Due to Dom’s successes in business the couple wants for nothing, and so settle into comfortable domesticity. Both of them shop for and participate in restoring the estate – and Eve retreats into literature, while Dom immerses himself in music. However, trouble is brewing in their idyllic lives. Dom becomes increasingly moody and unpredictable and Eve is haunted by strange sights, sounds and smells about the estate. Dangerous accidents occur. When a neighbor raises suspicion about what happened to Dom’s former wife, Eve wonders if she has made a terrible mistake in retreating into a life with a man she barely knows.
Though slow to start, once The Lantern gets going it is a fabulous gothic read that lands firmly in the territory of Jane Eyre and Rebecca, but with its own rich mystery drawing on the history and life in the French countryside. Lawrenson’s luscious prose skillfully builds tension throughout the novel and her heroine, Eve, is the perfect mix of naiveté and young woman struggling to navigate a world that is just a bit too sophisticated for her to grasp. Dom is the perfect mix of broody and irresistible, and you don’t really know what to feel about him, or what exactly he is hiding throughout most of the novel. Rebecca fans will notice that the nosy neighbor makes a perfect Mrs. Danvers like stand-in. Lawrenson deftly creates old school gothic creepiness and charm, and melds it with modern twists in this timeless thriller. Delicious escapist fare. Highly Recommended.