Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dark Shadows by Lara Parker - Heiress of Collinwood

Lara Parker, the actress who played Angelique in the original Dark Shadows television series back in the late '60s and early '70s, has kept the series going in prose format with her series of Dark Shadows novels. Her first two novels focused on the character she played, telling the history of Angelique and her passion for Barnabas, and then continuing the tale in the present day with the ultimate fate of Dr. Julia Hoffman, who vied with Angelique for Barnabas' love.  Then came my favorite of her novels, telling the tale of David's journey into the past to discover his aunt's fascination and love for Quentin Collins.

Now comes Heiress of Collinwood, featuring the long-awaited return of my favorite character from the television show in all of its incarnations, Victoria Winters.  I have been anxiously awaiting this book ever since Parker first talked about it at a meet-n-greet at the Barnes & Noble in Orlando a couple of years ago.  So, needless to say, the moment I bought the book, I had to delve into it.

Sadly, my expectations far exceeded my actual enjoyment of the book.  That is not to say it was entirely bad, but honestly, I didn't like at all the manner in which Victoria returned to the present.  I don't want to give away spoilers to anyone who hasn't yet read the book, but in the television show, her return from 1795 to the present made sense, as she had inadvertently switched places with Phyllis Wick during the seance at Collinwood (and I do have to give Parker props for at least acknowledging that situation in this story with the appearance of Wick's brother).  But this time around, the manner in which Victoria returns to the 1970s is too strange, even by Dark Shadows standards.  It also ignores the references made in the television show that Victoria died at the hands of the Leviathans while still living in the past.

Nevertheless, Victoria is now a television reporter in Bangor when she gets an urgent summons from an attorney in Collinsport.  She returns to Collinsport (with a very nice nod to her first appearance in that first episode on pages 51-54), only to discover that the entire Collins family has disappeared.  Some say they simply left town, while others think something sinister has happened.  Maggie is brusque and refuses to talk to her, while Willie is half-crazed and warns her to leave town right away.  But Victoria is determined to stay - to learn exactly why Elizabeth named her as the sole beneficiary of the Collins' fortune, but even more important - to discover her true parentage so as to solidify her identity and become the heiress of Collinwood.

Parker introduces several new characters and brings back a few old ones (including the gypsy Magda).  Victoria faces a number of dangers, and with the ultimate aid of Barnabas, she finds the missing Collins family and even learns her true parentage (which, frankly, comes as no surprise to true fans of the show).

Now, for those wondering what I didn't like about the book, besides that skewed way in which Victoria is brought back to the present - well, to me, Parker lessened Victoria's character by constantly having Victoria swoon over her long-lost husband, her newfound suitor, and the eternal Barnabas Collins.  It seems her actions are always being dictated by or brought into question due to her love for one or all of these men.  The Victoria I remember from the show, while innocent and naive, was never one to fall into the standard soap opera trope of "oh, I'm so in love with him, but oh, this one really makes my heart swoon - whomever shall I choose?"  And while I suppose these novels are more romance novels than true horror novels, the show itself focused less on the love aspect (except for the ongoing triangle of Barnabas / Josette / Angelique) and more on the gothic, supernatural, and horror.  I suppose that's why Wolf Moon Rising remains my favorite of Parker's four books thus far - it's focus was on the time travel and supernatural elements, with the romance more in the background.

Still, this is Dark Shadows and it is Victoria Winters, so regardless of any disappointment in the story itself, the last quarter of the book made up for it as Victoria not only finds out her parentage, but faces the dangers of finding the Collins family, facing off against the villain, and unwittingly bringing Angelique back into the world.  Interestingly enough, while pretty much all of the regular cast of Dark Shadows is mentioned sometime throughout the story, there is absolutely no reference to Professor T. Elliot Stokes and Dr. Julia Hoffman.  With Julia having had such a large presence in the series, and particularly in the first two books, it's rather odd to not have them at least mentioned in passing at some point.

Now to patiently wait to see what Parker has in store for the next Dark Shadows novel (if there is one)...

RATING:  8 French birth certificates out of 10 for bringing Victoria Winters back into the world of Dark Shadows and back into the hearts of her fans!

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