The Romance of the Forest begins by introducing the reader to Pierre de la Motte and his wife, Madame de la Motte (Constance Valentia), who are fleeing Paris to escape persecution, as a result of financial difficulities. Peter, a trusted employee, is with the couple acting as postillion. On the journey, quite unexpectedly the couple find, they have a young woman under their care and protection ~ Adeline. As the four continue their journey, they find an abandoned abbey in southeastern France, where the four find refuge.
Adeline is our female protagonist, our damsel in distress and our heroine at times. When de la Motte meets Adeline for the first time, he describes her as thus.
“Her features, which were delicately beautiful, had gained from an expression of captivating sweetness: she had . . . A habit of grey camlet, whith short slashed sleeves, shewed, but did not adorn her figure; it was thrown open at the bosom, upon which part of her hair had fallen in disorder, while the light veil hastily thrown on, had, in her confusion, been suffered to fall back.” (p. 6)
After settling into the abbey, the inhabitants soon discover rumors abound about the crumbling ruins. Mystery abounds when a trap door, the remains of a body, a decaying journal, and an ancient dagger are discovered in the abbey. However, the forest surrounding the abbey intrigues Adeline and she wanders and explores the woods daily.
“Every feature of the landscape was slowly unveiled, moist with the dews of night, and brightening with the dawn, till at length the sun appeared and shed the full flood of day. The beauty of the hour invited her to walk, and she went forth into the forest to taste the sweets of morning. The carols of new-waked birds saluted her as she passed, and the fresh gale came scented with the breath of flowers, whose tints glowed more vivid through the dew drops that hung on their leaves.” (p. 75).
As a result of their flight, the new inhabitants of the abbey never live in peace, however, the threat is real when the sound of horse hooves pounding on the ground will soon be heard and the reader is introduced to the cad, the diabolical, the fiendish, the libertine, the hedonistic deceitful owner of the abbey~ the Marquis. Adeline soon discovers the cruel Marquis has nefarious purposes in mind for Adeline and she must flee for her life! She spent a good deal of time in the story swooning and/or in a fit of tears. The poor girl.
I like Gothic novels. 🙂 I don’t remember who introduced me to Gothic and I don’t think I have a favorite, however, I do like Ann Radcliffe. In my opinion, this Gothic has a fairytale quality to it that I enjoyed. And! I did notice there isn’t one hero who out shines everyone else and saves them all! Several of the characters in the book did their part, a small but important act of heroism, to right the wrong. I like that. 🙂 Sorry, no Batman in this story! Music, as with many of us today, is important to several of the characters in the story and there is poetry throughout the book. There were so many surprises in this classic Gothic! I was surprised at all the surprises! And! Everything came together nicely in the end.
If you enjoy Gothic or would like to try your first Gothic novel, I recommend you read a book by Ann Radcliffe. 🙂