Orphaned Janet Bewleigh had become an heiress overnight – the unexpected reward for an act of kindness – and now the once locked doors of her beloved Knight’s Keep were open to her.
But there was an aura of evil at the stately manor house which weighed on her like an invisible shroud. She wondered about Lord Ashford, her enigmatic, strangely attractive host, and about the sad, dead girl whose ghost still hovered over the Keep.
And then Janet read the ancient family motto, and knew that the final act was yet to be played…….
Written by Rona Randall and first published in Great Britain 1967. Published by Sphere Books 1973.
Set in Victorian England and narrated in the first person this is the story of one young lady’s quest to seek sanctuary by returning to the home of her recently deceased parents, only to find madness and murderous intentions awaiting her.
Our heroine, Janet Bewleigh, enjoyed a poor but happy childhood, helping out in her parents vicarage in Covent Garden, giving out soup and bread to the poor. Then a sudden skating accident leaves her tragically orphaned and she is left to carry on the work of her parents alone. One of her charges, the down and out Uncle Silas, dies in yet another mysterious accident soon after, and Janet becomes an unexpected heiress to a large fortune. Not only that, but he really was her uncle and she soon finds herself visiting the large Elizabethan mansion where her mother had grown up – Knights Keep.
As you’d guess from the cover art things don’t start off so well for our Janet, with sinister ladies in waiting, a marriage to a sex obsessed sadist and a poisoned pet puppy to deal with for starters – but after a few interesting adventures and plot twists it all works out for the best. I really enjoyed this book, it’s full of atmosphere and attention to detail with some genuinely creepy bits - I particularly liked the relationship between Lord Ashford and his rather enigmatic stepmother, the weird and wonderful femme fatale Miranda.
The blurb on the inside cover informs us Rona Randall is established as one of the best writers of Gothic Romance. Furthermore, Knight’s Keep was nominated for a major award of the Romantic Novelists Association. At the time of print the author was living in Sussex and it’s great to read something so good by a local author – I’ll definitely be looking out for more of her stuff. Four out of five stars.