Idaho author JLYZ sets the scene artfully with a love story in which an American woman, Jenny, reluctantly moves to a ruined castle keep when she follows her English husband, David, to their new home.
The story slips easily between current time in a small sleepy English village with one main road and no rail service, and medieval times with its hardship, death — and one person’s forgiveness of the castle’s owner centuries before.
Once Jenny is ensconced in the English countryside, the story quickly develops into what seem to be several overlapping intrigues that send Jenny’s life into a spin. She feels strange connections to the past and makes discoveries of lies and deceit in both worlds.
As a botanist, David must go to Brazil for fieldwork just five months into their relocation. Jenny develops daily rituals to make the time pass, including daily walks with her dog Shakespeare (a stray that came into her life two months before David left) to the post office to check for seed packages David has mailed, grocery shopping and visiting with the old couple down the road. Arriving home, she puts the seed packages into the file cabinet unopened to save for David’s return, mulls wine and makes dinner before taking a stab at writing, a bath and turning in.
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The keep is old, and even though they spent some of Jenny’s $3 million inheritance from her deceased parents to fix it up, the plumbing and electricity are still iffy. One evening Jenny is doing laundry in the cellar and as she turns on the washing machine, the fuse blows, throwing the cellar into total darkness. Feeling along the wall toward the fuse box, Jenny trips over Shakespeare — who digs and barks madly at the wall before falling through it into a passageway that has mysteriously appeared.
The stench almost floors her, but Jenny has to follow Shakespeare. As she stumbles out of the darkness of the passage, she finds herself in a room, a cell, she didn’t know existed. Shakespeare is laying on the cot as if he belonged there, and a candle is burning on the desk. As Jenny turns to leave, she hears a clang and finds a garnet ring on the floor. Feeling a little too uncomfortable, she leaves hurriedly, just as the candle dies, running back to the cellar.
When the same thing happens more than once, Jenny begins to explore the room and finds a journal and a Bible belonging to Lord Roland d’Albernait from the late 1400s. Reading his journal entries before bed, Jenny dreams of a man who has come to love her — until it becomes all too real and she wakes herself up with a start.
To top it all off, Inspector Jarod Butler, of Scotland Yard, shows up on her doorstep one morning looking for her husband, searching the home and taking the file cabinet with all of the unopened packages, with no indication as to why. Jenny is confused and not at all sure what has happened but continues on with her daily routine.
Ghosts of both the past and present merge with lies and false identities, making Jenny wonder if she has gone insane or if everyone around her has lost their minds.
“In Shades of Envy” is an easy read for a lazy afternoon. Ignore the distractions of misplaced words and missing punctuation and enjoy the fast-paced story.
Shelly M. Doty is associate academic program coordinator at Boise State University’s Albertsons Library.