HARLEQUIN HOUSE – where the ghosts of a violent past intruded on a honeymoon…..
It was a marriage of convenience – Breckenridge needed a fortune to rebuild his ravaged plantation, and Tamson, deserted by the man she loved, needed someone to salvage her pride.
To escape the gossiping tongues and pitying glances, Tamson accepted the absurd offer of this strange man – to become his wife, and the mistress of his isolated, eerie ancestral home.
In an atmosphere of superstition and intangible evil, Tamson slowly learned to care for the stranger she had married; learned too, that her real husband’s real love was Harlequin House, and that he was determined to save it from ruin – at any cost…..
Written by Leal Hayes and published by Ace Gothics 1967.
The story gets off to a slightly implausible start as our heroine, Tamson Yorke, reluctantly agrees to marry the moody and mysterious gent, Mr Breckenridge Rawlins. This is strictly a union of convenience – he needs her money and she needs to escape from a scandal caused by the sudden breakdown of the engagement to her true love, John Markham. After a quick and loveless honeymoon, Tamson soon finds herself mistress of a grand but beaten up old southern mansion; a place as dark, secretive and brooding as her pretend husband.
With big lonely houses come big scary curses and Harlequin House is no exception. Soon Tamson is caught up in a web of spooky happenings and doom laden omens. The discovery of the hidden Harlequin room and its secrets do nothing to allay her fears and events escalate until a disastrous fire, that rips through the plantation leaving her husband for dead, coupled with an attempt on her own life, eventually forces a resolution to the story and the mystery enshrouding this mansion is revealed.
Written in the first person narrative, this is a very nicely done, spine tingling, good ol’ boy southern gothic, with plenty of intrigue and ghostly goings on. There are cursed bloodstains and doomed love triangles to contend with and I particularly liked some of the descriptive passages centred around Tamson’s initial reactions to her new abode and it’s inhabitants. Though the start was a bit shaky, I quickly found myself engrossed in the story and its characters. The cover art ticks all the right boxes and there is an added lovely little pen and ink sketch on the inside cover. A bit of a page turner and recommended. Four out of five stars.