When Paul Stembridge came looking for his missing brother Geoffrey, Susan Lord could not know he had brought a family curse with him. Susan fell in love with Paul, married him, and in her happiness, all thoughts of Geoffrey were forgotten.
But soon a subtle change came over Paul. gradually Susan realised that he wanted her for one purpose only – to help him break the curse.
What had become of the missing Geoffrey? If the curse had taken him, then Susan, too, was in danger. Captive of a family plagued by violence, Susan faced a legacy of evil that spanned more than a century.
She had to learn the secret of the Stembridge curse – or die a victim of it.
Written by Nancy Taylor Smith. First Ace printing August 1974.
Set in the early 1900’s, this is an exotic excursion into the world of old-time tropical plantations and dark family secrets, with a smattering of voodoo adding intrigue to the mix.
Susan Lord works in the Ossadaga Public Library, lives in the local boarding house and feels life is passing her by. A self proclaimed old maid at 25 (weren’t those the days!) you can imagine her excitement when the mysterious, tall, dark and handsome Paul Stembridge comes into town. A whirlwind romance follows and soon enough Susan is married and whisked off to Stembridge’s grand West Indian stately mansion.
Well, marriage is not all it’s cracked up to be for Susan, with Mr Right very quickly turning into Mr Completely Appalling as he becomes increasingly moody, abusive and controlling toward his spouse. Then there’s the hostile family and the West Indian ghost’s or duppies to put up with, as well as the resident family witch leaving voodoo dolls in her underwear drawer.
Like all great gothic heroines, Susan takes whatever’s thrown at her, even her husband’s punches, and carries on trying to maintain some semblance of normality, while all is heaving and seething around her.
Gradually more and more clues lead her to the truth behind her brother in law’s disappearance and, as befitting such a glamorous location, things come to a stormy, windswept climax during a thundery hurricane – when Susan finds true love in the arms of her rescuer and the mystery behind the Stembridge family curse is finally revealed.
For connoisseurs of the creepy, this book has a little something for everyone. There’s black magic, white magic, haunted houses, madness and hidden treasure. There’s even the grisly remains of a body hidden right under everyone’s noses – I won’t say where but the clue is in the title. Three out of five stars.