In Torc of Moonlight, Linda Acaster gives us a book which is more than simply a damn good read. This well crafted paranormal romance leads the reader through mysteries that are only gradually revealed, frightening us along the route taken by the possessed lovers. She builds empathy for the central characters, putting us inside their minds to explain their motives, drives and fears, and shredding our hearts with their emotional experiences. That she handles the male point of view with as much skill and sympathy as that of the female says a great deal about this writer’s observational powers.
The story concerns a rugby-playing male student and the mysterious, beautiful and surprisingly tough history student he falls for. Her preoccupation with Celtic history and, specifically, the female spirits of sacred springs in North Yorkshire, underlines her very real concern for those she loves.
On a deeper level, though not intrusively, the novel deals with many themes. One that caught my imagination was the parallel of modern contact sports with ancient warrior ways. She portrays, with an understanding suggestive of her unlikely physical participation, the potential brutality of rugby. Her analogy shows how rule-breaking in sport renders the game less worthy and destroys team spirit. In the same way, her anti-hero, Ognirius, in his selfish pursuit of personal glory at the expense of his fellow countrymen, destroys trust and undermines the civilisation of his own time and that of the present day.
Linda handles sex scenes and love scenes with equal veracity, lending emotional honesty to the loving relationship of the main characters and contrasting this with the usage and guile displayed by those who indulge in sex merely for their own gain.
Detailed pictures of the city of Hull, its university, and the moorlands of North Yorkshire bring life to the setting of the novel without ever slowing the story. The plot moves, twists and turns to surprise, confuse and astound as it takes us through emotional, physical and spiritual conflicts to the inevitable denouement.
I could not put this book down and confidently recommend it to all who love well written novels with believable characters, intriguing stories and real settings.