An appreciative satire of the cliches of traditional Gothic. When Clarissa Greendale inherits the fortune of disreputable uncle she hardly knows, she does not expect to find herself forced into marriage with an aristocratic fortune hunter and wild, brawling, debauched social outcast. Still, she has always found Harley Venn set off the most unmaidenly tinglings in her; that is one consolation. Yet neither did Clarinda expect to inherit the legacy of evil from half a century before. For the wicked if beguiling Lord Venn seems to have inherited a family curse, which, having dispatched the main perpetrators of the old crime, now moves on to their heirs, who are just as wild a set of rakes as their elders. There are rumours of violent deaths preceded by appearances from an inexorable hooded spectre, of inexplicable strikes of lightning, and of haunted mirrors. The light-hearted Harley Venn dismisses all these as conjuring tricks. He even hires a drunken charlatan of a professional magician to prove it. Clarinda is far from sure that there is any rational explanation.
Still, it would take more than an enforced marriage to an incorrigible pugilistic libertine or persecution from malevolent spectres to damage her steely nerves and sense of the ridiculous. This lively Gothic comedy, written as a good natured satire, gives the reader a kind and courageous heroine, a rascally but beguiling anti-hero and an authentic historical background to the delightfully over-the-top adventures, a cast of wholly believable characters, an engaging love story and many chills on its way to its tumultuous conclusion.