Welcome back to insane cracktastic Gothic land!

In a moment of synchronicity, last Friday I was invited to share some Belgian chocolates labeled individually by province. Unfortunately, the font's capital I looked much like a small l, and so when asked to choose, I said, "I'll take the leper!"

I do not often come across books containing leprosy, though when I read Darcourt I immediately regretted forgetting about the YA novel in which the heroine develops leprosy, watches her mother agonizingly die of rot, is shipped off to a leper colony, and dies, the end -- I would have certainly included it in my YA agony award nominations if I had. I was also reminded of Thomas Covenant. Normally I don't find characters whiny if they have something to whine about. But Covenant managed to be so whiny that I thought, "Oh, get over your leprosy already!"

Young journalist Sally Wainwright impersonates a friend of hers in order to get hired as governess for a wealthy teenager on Darcourt Island. The island is owned by reclusive billionaire Tristram Darcourt. Sally is ostensibly doing this to write an expose on him, but really because her mother was jilted by him and she wants to find out what happened. (She can't ask because both her parents are now dead.)

Teenage Alix is wild and has a Mysterious Skin Condition for which she takes Mysterious Meds. Darcourt is high-handed and arrogant. He is also said to have let his brother die in the super-quick quicksand which is featured in the Mysterious Marsh surrounding the house, into which Sally is forbidden to go. Sally is promply menaced by snakes and scorpions released in her room, plus Mysterious Figures, and people shooting at her, whomping her over the head, and trying to kill her dog.

Could it be the Mysterious Mrs. Darcourt, alternately said to be in the south of France and lurking in Mysterious Marsh?! Or the off-stage Mysterious Middle Eastern Group which is the subject of a code-named Pentagon study? Or Andre, who is a cousin or something? Or some blonde kid with a cowlick?



It turns out, all of the above except for the Middle Easterners, to whom Evil Andre is plotting to sell Darcourt Island so they can turn it into a resort, but who are otherwise blameless! (I don't think it's even explained what the Pentagon thought they were doing.)

Andre captures Sally and threatens her with scorpions! He threatens her dog! He tells her that Cowlick Boy is Darcourt's bastard son! He reveals that he's planning to marry Alix and inherit the estate! Then he introduces her to Mrs. Darcourt, who is indeed lurking, insane, and rotting away from -- yes -- leprosy!

Unbeknownst even to herself, Alix is a leper too! At this point Holland painstakingly points out that leprosy is very treatable and should not be stigmatized even if it wasn't, your nose doesn't need to fall off, Mrs. Darcourt's mental illness is entirely coincidental and not a leprosy symptom, and the disease is no longer called leprosy but rather Hansen's Disease. But under the circumstances, this public service announcement comes across as absolutely hilarious.

Darcourt rescues Sally and begins spouting off exposition, revealing that:

Alix only has a mild case of leprosy, which he kept secret due to stigma.

He knows that Andre is plotting to kill him; I forget why he didn't do anything about it.

Mrs. Darcourt's leprosy rotted her face off because she said she'd commit suicide if he made her go to a hospital.

Sally's mother jilted him because her sister (Sally's aunt) had leprosy and Mrs. Darcourt convinced her that Darcourt would never marry anyone with leprosy in the family. There's all this leprosy because it's endemic in Louisiana, where everyone in the story is from.

Cowlick Boy is not his bastard, but his brother's bastard.

He didn't really kill his brother.

I think there was more but I forgot. Oh, and Darcourt has a hunchback; just thought I'd mention that.

Anyway, Alix accidentally kills Andre by shooting into the air and plugging him with a ricochet; Mrs. Darcourt leaps into the super-quick quicksand and sinks; Sally and her mother's former lover Darcourt live happily ever after. (Ew.)
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