Even though I find Phyllis A. Whitney's books to be a little bit hit and miss, she's still my favorite author of old-school romantic suspense. Where Victoria Holt's romances feel instantaneous and contrived, and Mary Stewart's plotting is often (sorry mom) ludicrous, Whitney's stories have so far offered much more consistently crafted plots, vivid settings, and haunting atmosphere. Her romances don't always work for me (romances seldom do), but the characters do, at least, work up to HEA at a slower, sometimes more smouldering, pace.
Woman Without a Past almost got a pass from me at the bookstore because, geez, the title. And then there's the cover. Actually, it was mostly the cover, but the title screamed Amnesia story! and that's just a no from me on principle. But the back cover rescued the book; a woman is recognised at her editor's office as being the long lost identical twin, kidnapped as a baby, from an old and prominent Charleston (South Carolina) family. Strictly speaking, the title is not at all accurate.
This book drips Southern Gothic. From the prescient cat, to the rocking horse that rocks itself; from the old plantation house, to the slightly mad mother the family tries to keep locked away as much as possible and the cousin that believes she communes with the dead, this book honestly has it all. Except romance; there's a hint of it here and there and there's certainly talk of it, but no actual romance until the very, very end.
In general, the story is well-written, and it's a good story. But a couple of things worked against it; one is probably just a twist of timing, as I started it on the plane, and then struggled to finish it while jet-lag kicked my butt, leaving me with the feeling that it took forever to finish it; the second was my exasperation with the main character. Everyone thinks she's strong and independent, yet at no point in the book did she actually act strong or independent. She mostly just allowed everyone to roll over her. It wasn't enough to make me actively dislike her, but it was enough that I was often impatient with her.
As I said, not her best, but certainly not her worst. Fans of true gothic romance will recognise shades of certain classics in this book; definitely worth a look if you see it in your library or on the bargain rack.
I read this for the Southern Gothic square of Halloween Bingo 2018.