The Deadly Rose and Amber Twilight

THE DEADLY ROSE

A desperate impulse to escape an unhappy romance sent Paula Stanhope fleeing down an unfamiliar road. She instictively recoiled from the monstrous, evil looking old house at its end, but she needed help.

She could not know that her innocent request to use the telephone would imprison her in a nightmare world of terror, at the mercy of madwomen who had no intention of letting her leave – alive…..

AMBER TWILIGHT

Blackhall had slept undisturbed among its wild and desolate surroundings since tragedy claimed its inhabitants twenty years ago – or so Susan Leyton had thought. With mounting horror she discovered that the ominous-looking castle housed a disembodied voice that demanded the young girl’s death – and a cast of characters from a distorted fairy tale who obeyed its every word.

Written by Miriam Lynch. First Ace printing March 1976.

Two gothics for the price of one in this edition of two novella’s written by Miriam Lynch. Both feature unlucky but plucky young women imprisoned against their will, battling to escape from gloomy, dark houses.

In The Deadly Rose, Paula Stanhope’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. She wanders up to the nearest (only) big, gloomy mansion at the end of the road, in the hope of finding a telephone to summon help. Instead she is poisoned and held prisoner by a couple of evil old ladies who will do anything, even commit murder, in order to protect the secret stash of hallucinogenic herbs growing in their hothouse.

Amber Twilight has a similar theme – Susan Leyton ventures out one wintry afternoon, to take some photographs of the seemingly empty ‘gloom-shrouded house’ that is Blackhall. Mistaken for a member of the press, and therefore considered a threat, she gets hit on the head by a misshapen dwarf, dragged into the house and  held captive by the odd assortment of characters living there. To add to her troubles, a disembodied voice from behind the drapery keeps urging them to kill her.

Out of the two, Amber Twilight was my favourite as the plot in Deadly Rose relied just that little too much on coincidence, especially toward the end – when chimneys started  falling onto the bad guys, conveniently aiding and abetting our heroine’s escape. Both stories contain some great descriptive passages and I did quite like the quirky weirdness of the plots.

Four out of five stars – With extra marks given for the fact the cover art could actually relate to the stories!

 

Shadow of Theale

A three week working vacation at Theale House seemed a pleasant way to spend a holiday. Shortly after her arrival, however, Ruth Hilton realized that beneath the facade of quiet elegance, the peaceful seaside estate pulsed with a malignant evil…

What was the secret of the mute, half-witted retainer who tried desperately to communicate by means of pictures drawn on the family crypt? Why did fourteen-year-old Theo wake screaming in the night? Slowly but surely the events surrounding the disappearance of Lady Theale reached out to cast a pall of darkness about Ruth as she struggled to save her young charge – and herself – from the SHADOW OF THEALE.

Written by Frances Cowen. First Ace printing January 1974.

An ancient curse, a hidden treasure and murder to boot, this Ace Gothic has it all in abundance.

Ruth has spent the whole year saving for a dream holiday abroad, but  her brother has  just lost his job so she gives all her money to him and decides to take a working holiday in sunny Cornwall instead.

Answering an ad in the local paper she finds herself a paid companion to teenage Theadora – daughter of Lord and Lady Theale.

But Theale House has its secrets; the previous year, Lady Theale disappeared within the estate in mysterious circumstances. Ruth suspects some members of the household know a lot more than they are letting on and she soon finds her own life in peril when she uncovers an illegal smuggling ring operating from the cliffs at the bottom of the garden.

Shadow of Theale was an enjoyable read, though some of the writing was a little clunky, particularly early on in the book, and I found myself  having to re-read bits to make sure I understood them properly. I think a little more time editing would have fixed this and overall I liked Frances Cowen’s prose and gothic touches. Portents, premonitions and pitiful halfwits abound in this remote part of the Cornish coastline and it came as no surprise to learn those hippies camped out in the bottom of the garden were up to no good.

Three out of four stars.

There is a signature to the bottom right for the cover artist, but I can’t be sure I have the name right; I think it might be H Barton. I have another cover by this artist, A Touch of Myrrh written by Charlotte Hunt (detail  posted below). I love the artist’s use of colour and brushstrokes – you can almost smell those oil paints dripping off the canvas! If anyone has any idea who the artist is, please let me know!

**Stop Press!** I have been told the artist is Harry Barton. I can’t find much about him on the web but here’s some more of his work HERE.

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