I found this novel, Child of the Night, published in 1983, in a thrift store. I liked the author's name and picked it up. After searching to see if it's a pen name, I'm not sure. I found a bio about the author living in NYC and another couple books under her name, but no other gothic romances.
This one is a doozy, really unlike any I've read. Let's see if I can break it down.
Plot 2/5: Where to begin? Well, the heroine, Nora Harcourt, goes to Stonecroft, a school on the Hudson for disturbed children. The novel is set around 1900 from what I can tell since Panama and Teddy Roosevelt play a role in it. The interesting thing is that Nora is obviously dealing with autistic children and maybe children with some form of retardation. The novel has pages and pages of ramblings about Panama from one of the male love interests (Jean Jacques Fleury) and pages of ramblings about psychology. I like psychology-- a lot-- and this would have been good, but the pages and pages of backstory were way too much. The novel jumped through all kinds of points of view as well, using minor characters' voices. I was often flipping through trying to remember who the speakers were (some were servants, some workers at Stonecroft and so on and even the backstory of a love affair Norah's deceased mother had goes on for pages).
Then, the villain. Wow! He's a coke using madman who worked in Panama, but it was better than my assumption early in the novel that he was a pedophile. The way he was introduced, watching a child, it wasn't a far leap.
Atmosphere/spooky elements 2/5: The novel is low on these, too. The cover is lovely, but there's not much going on. A woman has disappeared, and there's a mystery surrounding it, but there is little menace or Gothic feel to it. Someone dies in an interesting way, so I give the author points for that. :)
Literary elements 3/5: The novel had potential. It is chock full of history and abnormal psychology, but in the end, it is all too much and impedes the flow of the story.
Romantic elements 3/5: I like the hero of the novel, but he and the heroine had very little real interaction for much of the book. I felt that I knew his and her motivations, though, and that was nice.
Rating: 2.5 stars
If you want something totally different, pick it up. Otherwise, skip it.