Perhaps I was raised cynical or turned that way by TV, but I guessed the "secret" by page 120, well before it was even alluded to, and finally, by the end on page 380, I summed up the book in the following way: It basically follows the same exact path as Jane Eyre. Spunky, yet reserved underling female finds an older, immensely wealthy mansion-owner, who is immeasurably attractive in his ability to brood and unwittingly distress his female companion. They are somewhat happy for a little while, but something comes between them. It certainly isn't what the heroine believes is affecting their relationship, and it has to do with his former wife. I found it a good read, but thought the unnamed narrator's "reactions" were a bit trite, especially when the "shocking" secret is revealed. My mind kept drawing "Jane Eyre" parallels and found this to have only a smattering of Bronte's lyricism and insight; I also enjoyed Jane Eyre more because Bronte had the grace to make her anti-hero physically unattractive and punished him severely and Oedipally, whereas the question of meting out justice here was a stretch ("Justice," in terms of court proceedings, was never done, and Max's ensuing heartache may count as punishment, but barely). However, this is probably one of the better romances following in Bronte's Gothic vein. 3.8/5 stars because it's a decent yarn and a page-turner, but several stars off because it lacks credibility and lyricism of prose.
I'm not an obsessive fan of mysteries or romances but this book has just enough of both to keep it interesting. It's the story of a young woman who marries a widower and discovers, too late, that overcoming his memories of his deceased wife will be a real journey.
This book will suck you right in! I still cannot believe it's not a contemporary book--it's filled with mystery and intrigue and feels very current, though a classic.
One of the best books ever written!!!!!
After reading so many of the predictable murder mysteries of today, this was a breath of fresh air.