thoughts--the blackest thoughts. I had visions of him as a forger, shut up in a cell. When the bell rang late at night I used to tremble, wondering if it were he escaped from prison, coming to us for shelter... Then at the end, as so often happens, it came out just by chance. Some people were sitting behind a screen at a reception, and they spoke of me--just a few words, and before I could move I had heard the great secret. `Interesting-looking girl! It is to be hoped she won't go mad, too. So many of that family--' It was like a flashlight over the past. I looked back, and understood. All the bits fitted, and the mystery was solved. I was not the daughter of a criminal--only of a maniac, who had been shut up for five years before his death. That was my grandmother's mysterious illness, and Aunt Bertha's too--pretty Aunt Bertha, who disappeared for a year at a time, for a `cure,' and came back looking so worn and sad. That was the explanation of my boy cousin's violent temper, and of the misery of his father
This starts off on the wrong foot, with a young woman whose family has a strong history of inherited mental illness, a girl named, for pete's sake, Vanna Strangeways.
Vanna first hears about her relations' troubles on adulthood. Consulting a specialist, she's told she may escape the family curse ... but only if she never marries. Marriage would be too much of a strain, and anyway she owes it to society to stamp out her dire heritage.
Then her dear friend has a whirlwind romance based on a prophecy and things get even stranger briefly, but the supernatural thread quickly peters out. Vanna spends a lot of time comparing her friend's charmed life to her own. Inevitably, the friend suffers setbacks, but Vanna still envies her loving husband and children.
Meanwhile, she has the predictable ill-fated, doomed romance, and her life and the novel drag on and on. And the reader is left to wonder why Vanna never even tries to get a second opinion.