The Daily Bongo
Black Rainbow by Barbara Michaels
My recent Barbara Michaels read is Black Rainbow. This book is more typical of a traditional gothic. In fact, the very beginning of it has a strong feeling of Jane Eyre. Megan O'Neill goes to Grayhaven Manor to act as a governess for little Lina. Edmund Mandeville hired her to look after his ward. Forgetting to tell his sister, Jane, Megan and Jane scared each other when they came upon each other walking on the way to Mandeville. Both had seen a black rainbow. A black rainbow is a rainbow that forms at nighttime from the light of the moon. Both thing they have had a visitation by some mythical, perhaps evil, character, and both are relieved that the other is a person. Jane is not typical of people in the 1850s England. Jane believes that people should be judged by their qualities instead of their sex or position. Brother Edmund is a different character. Edmund fought and was wounded in the Crimea War. Now he is on his way back to the ancestral home Both Megan and Jane see him through eyes tinted with love: Jane for a worshipped younger brother, Megan for an infatuation.
The reader picks up hints that Edmund isn't as good as others think. The first thing he does when he comes home is to take over the fabrics mill that Jane has been running with efficiency and concern for the workers. Edmund is only concerned with making money. Jane disagrees with Edmund and finds herself totally removed from the mill. Things start to get worse for the villagers because of the things Edmund does. What do they do though? They blame Megan because they associate her arrival with all the bad things. An old woman doesn't help matters by spreading the rumor that Megan is a witch who will bring destruction unless something happens to her. As the story continues, Sam, a former manager at the mill tries to protect Megan. Megan continues her infatuation with Edmund, and finally manages to marry him. When the villages storm Grayhaven, Jane and Megan run off with the help of Sam. Megan, who was unable to get pregnant, finally finds herself with child after the escape with Sam; and there are plenty of suggestions that Megan and Sam made love. After the birth of baby Eddie, Edmund really seems to take a turn to the dark side. Megan starts to have lots of accidents; Jane is temporarily imprisoned when she tries to rescue Sam from an abduction charge leveled by Edmund. The ending is shocking and unexpected.
I really enjoyed reading this book. Edmund is not your typical gothic hero. Even Megan is not typical. Yes, she has some strength of character, but her motives aren't always honorable. Megan wants Edmund, and she will do whatever it takes to get him. Is Edmund worthy of the pedestal that Megan and Jane put him on? Nope! Edmund is not likable, and I wondered at times how the women could be so blind to his flaws. There really isn't much of a mystery; the book is just an enjoyable gothic read. The book is a prequel to the earlier published book, Someone in the House (1981). I have it up next in my rotation. Black Rainbow was published in 1982. Should you read Black Rainbow? If you want an enjoyable revisit of the gothic style, you should!
March 4, 2012