Thursday, February 29, 2024

Getting a Jump on Things

Happy Leap Day, gentle readers. This 1956 Ace Books cover of Leap in the Dark, by former actress and editor Rona Randall (aka Rona Shambrook), isn’t being highlighted today simply because of its title. It also hints at a project I have upcoming on this page, which will begin soon and likely run through most of March.

Meanwhile, a few words about the paperback novel at hand.

My Love-Haunted Heart, Sara Boyle’s terrific (but, sadly, no longer updated) blog about vintage Gothic romance novels, describes Leap in the Dark as “an interesting take on the mistaken identity plot twist.” She then synopsizes its plot thusly:
Jeanne Cleary is on her way to nursing college in London and on a whim hops off the train in a remote village in France. The station’s deserted so she follows a dusty path through the countryside leading her to the local chateau.

By a strange (very strange) coincidence, nurse-to-be Jeanne finds herself mistaken as an actual nurse (due to arrive that very day) who had recently been hired to look after the lady of the manor, Comtesse de Clementeaux.

Just as Jeanne decides to find a convenient time to break the news to her new found granny, another girl turns up—declaring herself to be Jeanne Cleary, the Comtesse’s granddaughter! The real Jeanne knows this new interloper is just a gold-digging impostor, but how can she reveal her true identity without breaking her own cover? So a sticky situation turns into a quagmire of confusion as our heroine battles to assert her rightful position within her newfound family and win the heart of the handsome Dr Paul Antoine.
The handsome painting that fronts Leap in the Dark was created by Italian-born artist Lou Marchetti (1920-1992), whose work has appeared on this page many times over the years. Boyle quips that “extra points [should be] given for this cover, as it’s refreshing to see a heroine dressed in something other than a floaty nightie.”

If you’re thinking this portends a similar demureness in the cover series I have planned for next month, fear not. There will be plenty of diaphanous attire and bared skin to admire. Stay tuned.

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