Kerry Reneau was happy in San Francisco, and confident that the bitter past was safely locked in the dark corners of her memory. She kept herself busy, too busy to think of other people… of one person. It had been years since she had seen that one man.
…And then Aunt Agatha reappeared suddenly after two years – reappeared dead! And like it or not, Kerry found herself thrust back into those other times and other places that she so much wanted to forget. But unpleasant as the homecoming seemed, she knew that it would soon be done with… and then dark horror brought the shadow of death over good memories and bad, and Kerry found herself fighting for her very life against the ghosts of the past!
Written by Willo Davis Roberts. Lancer Books 1970.
Kerry runs a bookshop on the edge of a college campus in San Francisco, so we know she’s smart. And we know she’s pretty because at least half the customers come in just to look at her – skulking around the bookcases, buying the occasional 50 cent paperback while working up the courage to ask her out.
But Kerry is not interested in college boys. She’s 26 years old and is carrying a torch for John, her childhood crush who’s a bestselling writer currently travelling in Peru researching his new book.
Or so she thinks. Closing up the shop one day she answers a phone call that drastically alters the course of her life. It is from Coyle, one of her cousins, summoning her back to her home town of Eureka. A woman has been killed in a hit and run accident in nearby Willow Creek. The wristwatch she was wearing has been traced by police to Kerry’s Aunt Agatha – who disappeared from her home over two years ago and has been presumed dead ever since.
Though Kerry has many fond memories of the summers spent with Aunt Agatha and her cousins, she isn’t particularly interested in attending the funeral until she learns John will be there.
So she returns to Aunt Agatha’s. But it seems her love for John will forever remain unrequited as he continues to treat her as his ‘little cousin’ – refusing to recognise how grown up she has become. And Kerry is convinced John’s new secretary and constant companion, Lois Elliot, is in love with him too.
For Kerry, the whole trip is a bust so she decides to make a quick exit. Paying her last respects at the funeral she notices Aunt Agatha has a mole on her face she has never noticed before. Hmm, that’s a bit strange. And then, when the contents of the Will are finally revealed, Kerry finds out she has inherited slightly more than her Auntie’s good looks.
Surrounded by resentful relatives and the new owner of a creaky old mansion, Kerry is finding it difficult to sleep at nights. But making herself a relaxing cup of cocoa in the middle of the night turns out to be far more eventful than she could possibly imagine…
A couple of hundred pages of Lancer Easy Eye large type meant Shadow of a Past Love only took a couple of days to read which was probably just as well as it’s kind of obvious where this one is going. This is one of those ‘hazardous inheritance’ type gothics where the heroine more often than not ends up both rich and married to the man of her dreams. Some girls have all the luck.
Despite all that was happening to her, Kerry only had eyes for John and I would describe Shadow as more of a romance than a gothic, though there were some nice spooky touches along the way – a body bricked up in the basement is always a good thing, but disappointingly no vengeful ghosts or tell-tale mutterings leading us to the killer, just a bit luck and an underfed Siamese cat. Three out of four stars.
As well as writing gothics, Willo Davis Roberts, who worked in hospitals and GP surgeries herself, wrote a number of Nurse Romances.
Nurse Romances were very big in the 50’s before their popularity was eclipsed by Gothics. My mum read loads of them and she was an actual nurse so they must have something going for them.
And in the spirit of Valentine’s day I have one lovely Ace Nurse Romance by Willo Davis Roberts to give away free to anyone with UK postal address. Nurse at Mystery Villa is part of the Ace Nurse Romance Series. First published in 1967 this is the Ace 1973 second printing. Just email me via the contacts page and she’s all yours.