Publication year: 1991
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrator: Hilary Neville
Running Time: 9 hours, 30 minutes

The story starts with quite an exciting scene where Gabriel Jones and his best friend Caleb have just found an alchemist’s laboratory and his skeleton. They take the skeleton and other items with them. Then one of the workmen is murdered and the alchemist’s notebook is missing.

Gabriel has the paranormal ability to hunt; his senses become sharper and he can read violent memories off things. He’s afraid that this ability makes him less a modern man and more a throw-back to a less civilized era. His father is a member of the Arcane Society and is pressuring Gabriel into marrying a woman who has paranormal abilities of her own, so that they are likely to have children who will have psychic abilities.

Then we’re introduced to the other main character: Miss Venetia Milton who’s trying to support her family. Her father died a while back and left his family with a secret that could destroy them and without any inheritance. However, Venetia is an accomplished photographer and so she’s trying to support her younger sister and brother, and her maiden aunt with her work. To her delight, she got a very well paying job photographing the Arcane Society’s relics. There she met Gabriel Jones. On her final day on the job, she decides to seduce Gabriel. Because Venetia is old for an unmarried woman and has to support her family, she thinks she’s never going to marry but she wants to know what intimacy between men and women is like. Gabriel has already been attracted to Venetia and they spend a passionate night together.

However, later they notice that burglars are prowling around the secluded house. Gabriel sends Venetia away promising that he will contact her later. But a week later, Venetia and her family read in a newspaper that the Society’s house had been burned down and Gabriel has died.

So, Venetia decides that she has to concentrate on her career. She decides to move to London and set a photography shop with the money she got from her earlier commission. She and her family agree that in order to be a respectable woman, Venetia has to appear to be a widow. She decides to use Gabriel’s last name. Mrs. Jones becomes quite a fashionable photographer but then Gabriel appear again, very much alive and tells Venetia that she and her family are in danger.

The story is set in the late Victorian times. Mostly, the Victorian morals comes out when they limit the choices of Venetia and other women. While it would be immodest for an unmarried woman to have a career, it’s apparently okay for a widow. Also, Venetia and Gabriel are often alone together, which I thought was a big no-no for Victorians since they aren’t married.

Venetia is a capable and determined young woman. After her father left her destitute, she’s very reluctant to trust anyone outside her family, even Gabriel. She never intended to have a relationship with him after the one night but when Gabriel says that he’ll find her again, she believes him. And when he’s declared dead, her trust is again broken. So, when he turns up alive, she has no intention of trusting him again. She has the ability to see other people’s auras and see their nature it the auras. She’s never told about it to anyone outside her family.

Gabriel is very focused on his hunt for the burglars’ employer. Even though he falls madly in love with Venetia, he doesn’t even consider how Venetia would feel when he’s declared dead. In fact, Gabriel is very annoyed when he finds out that Venetia has taken the name as Mrs. Jones. While Venetia though that the surname is general enough not to attract attention, Gabriel feels that it’s a clear path to him. So, he decides to protect Venetia and her family while hunting for the mystery man.

I found Gabriel to be quite modern. Most Victorian men would probably not tolerate a woman posing as their widow and less an upper-class woman who had a career of her own. Yet, Gabriel does expect Venetia to toss her career aside, when Gabriel thinks that the situation is too dangerous for her.

I quite enjoyed Venetia’s family. Her sixteen-year old sister Amelia is helping her with the photography and is quite level-headed. Their younger brother Edward is just ten years old. He’s already good at keeping secrets although he’s a bit lonely because his sisters are afraid that he will say something accidentally so he’s not allowed to play with others much. Their aunt Beatrice is adamant at keeping everything respectable. I found it a bit strange that she isn’t working. It’s mentioned at the start that she’s a retired governess. Surely, she could have returned to work instead of relying on a 26-year old niece to feed her?

The Arcane Society itself seems to be a plot device. The only things we know about it, is that the members are very exclusive and secretive, and that they research all things outside normal, such as alchemy and people’s paranormal abilities, and the members collect items connected to the paranormal world. Membership seems to be hereditary only. On the other hand, Gabriel seems to have no problems talking about the Society not only to Venetia but to everyone in her family. Also, it’s said that the Society has some influence among the Victorian society at large.

There are small things in the story that made it more appealing to me such as the Janus Club which I thought would have been quite a logical thought but I really doubt that anything like that really existed. Venetia had some interesting friends, too.

Second Sight is a quick and entertaining adventure story. The romance is the second major storyline but some romance readers apparently find some things about it unsatisfying such as, that we never see Gabriel and Venetia meeting for the first time; they’ve already worked with each other for a few weeks when the story starts.

Neville is a good narrator. However, her voices for the characters aren’t very different from each other so it’s more a reading than a performance.

The recording was apparently made for cassettes because there are mentions of sides at regular intervals (Second Sight by Amanda Quick, side 1, Second Sight by Amanda Quick, side 2, etc).

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