When I saw the title of this book, Mistress of Trevelyan, I immediately thought of Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt, likely the first Romance I read as a child - though they were not called Romances back then. As I read it, the familiarity continued because St. Giles evokes that sinister Gothic air. It's glad to see Gothics making a slow comeback. St. Giles pens a tale that keeps the reader spellbound, and to an older reader who cut her teeth on Gothics, it's so enjoyable.
In a typical Gothic beginning, evocative of Daphne du Maurier, "Last night I dream of Manderlay...", when Ann Lovell walks through the gates of the old San Francisco mansion on Trevelyan Hill, she reflects how she was always mysteriously drawn to the house, almost a portent that her fate and the house was somehow intertwined. Set in the 19th century, foggy San Francisco, it's pure Gothic spooky, the big house full of sinister secrets, dark corners where evil resides. Ann, whose real name is Titania, is a lowly laundry worker. Her mother was a sweet lass lied to by a man of higher birth. A tall woman, who has to look down on most men, she has come to apply for a position of governess (as I said, pure blissful Gothic!) for Justin age 7, and Robert, age 5. No one seems to be able to keep the job, and now no one is applying, so Ann believes she stands a good chance of landing the position.
Benedict Trevelyan was rumoured to have killed his wife, but naturally, that does not daunt Ann. Immediately, upon settling into her new role in the house, duckbumps prickle up her spine as she becomes certain someone is watching her. With no surprise, Ann and Benedict's relationship spiral from first kiss into full blown affair - those cads never can resist the governess! Being loyal to her new lover, Ann knows Benedict did not kill his wife, thus someone else in the sinister house is the evil-doer. Occasionally, Giles lapses into deep purple prose, especially in love scenes, but she is able to maintain a sinister, passionate tension through out the story.
There is a bitter rivalry between Benedict and his brother Stephan. Toss in a secretive sister Katherine, and mother Roselind, secret passage ways you have a true Gothic in the best fashion.