Chateau of Secrets revisited

chateausecret close up

Chateau of Secrets was the very first gothic I reviewed on this blog. It’s a short, enjoyable romp following the misadventures of Ann Preston who travels to France and finds herself enmeshed in her own chateau of secrets, along with some very peculiar characters. My original ramblings can be read HERE.

chateau-of-secretsPublished by Five Star, this is one of my favourite covers. The artwork is different from most in this genre and at the time I posted the review, apart from a backwards signature just visible under the subject’s right arm, I had no idea who the artist was.

So it was a lovely surprise when Lynn Munroe emailed me with a link to his new spring catalogue, detailing the work of artist Tom Miller.

Lynn’s comprehensive biography and checklist includes a scan of the same portrait used for Chateau of Secrets gracing another cover – a Fawcett Crest publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s Mary. You can see Miller’s artwork was flipped in the Five Star edition (hence the backward signature).

It’s always a thrill when I come across a favourite cover being used on an unfamiliar book. Comparing the two, I think the change of perspective subtly alters her expression and that she looks more pensive on the gothic.

What do you think? The two covers can be seen together HERE along with a biography and more fine examples of Tom Miller’s work HERE.

Thank you Lynn!

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The Black Dog

A STRANGE AND HORRIFYING DEATH

Lottie Daley, a young teacher interested in psychic lore, was sure that the handsome stranger was the creature of legend, born of a virgin centuries before. The legend whispered that he appeared every twenty-five years, accompanied by the black dog who guarded his mothers grave. Lottie could sense his sinister and hypnotic influence sapping her will and pulling her into the strange world of the psychic occult – toward a strange and horrifying death.

Written by Georgena Goff. First published Belmont productions 1971. This Five Star Paperback published by PBS limited 1973.

More canine confabulations this month courtesy of Five Star Paperbacks. I love my Five Star paperbacks! They can always be relied on to deliver the goods in the gothic-occult-thriller pulp fiction stakes.

Lottie is engaged to be married to Jed, a ‘spook-investigator’ currently writing a book based on a local medium called Holmes and the legend behind the source of  his psychic powers – allegedly dating back through his family for twelve generations.

On meeting Holmes, Lottie finds herself irresistibly attracted to his magnetic charms and mesmeric powers. Turning up at his house one day she finds him seated in an enormous gilded cage, projecting images on to a large television screen and she cannot resist him any longer. The deal is subsequently sealed when they are married by Holmes himself in a solitary midnight ceremony.

Alas, much to Lottie’s chagrin, it is not her body Holmes is lusting after and  for the rest of the book she spends alot of her time listlessly wafting around in a floaty white nightie, weeping hysterically into her pillow. Isolated from Jed  and  trapped in Holmes’ mansion,  the naturally feisty Lottie is unable to do anything for herself; it seems the more she loves Holmes the more she is sapped of her energy.

Meanwhile, Holmes’ behaviour towards his new bride becomes increasingly cruel and bizarre and when Lottie discovers the presence of two emaciated ‘child-women’ moaning in the basement she suspects her life is in danger. Summoning every spare ounce from the last vestiges of her strength, she makes a run for it – only to be met in the woods by a ferocious black beast with red glaring eyes…

Black Dog is an enjoyable read; the writing is a bit  touch-and-go at times but the unashamedly wanton kookiness of the plot more than makes up for that. There’s something for everyone here – strange cults, spooky seances, shapeshifting incubi and an impregnated mad woman imprisoned in the cellar. Five out of five stars – naturally!

An interesting note about the cover. I’ve noticed quite a few gothics seem to recycle the same covers for different novels. Why is that? As you can see, this cover is the exact same one used for the Fawcett Crest edition of Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels. The cover art here has a signature (Harry Bennett?) which isn’t visible on the Five Star edition.

And here is a much more evocative and fittingly canine cover for Black Dog.  This mass market paperback is the 1972 Belmont / Tower edition. 

Black Dog

Chateau of Secrets

“Heartbeats…. If she ever married she would marry someone like Steve Martin, the young writer she had bumped into at the airport – dark, good-looking, with smiling eyes and a sense of humour. She would have good cause to cherish his name.

Ann Preston arrived at Chateau Duval – a house that had known only tears and heartbreak – a house that had died. Almost immediately she was plunged into a nightmare world of dark secrets.

Pierre Duval, the ex-trapeze artist…Juliette, his wife, who keeps a snake for a pet… Yvette, the beautiful daughter, in love with Steve and determined to get her own way….the pungent smell of lilies of the valley and dead leaves coupled with shrill maniacal laughter….

Who is the mysterious occupant of the Chateau’s ruined left wing?”

Written by Julie Wellsley and published 1972 by Five Star paperback.

chateau of secretsOur heroine, Ann Preston, has accepted a live-in job as a secretary with the sinister Duval family in France and has ended up with a little more than a delusional boss and a pile of paperwork to deal with. Someone or something is trying to kill her and, though a range of suspects present themselves early on, the who’s and why’s kept me guessing till (nearly) the end.

This is a nicely paced novel with an interesting mix of characters – I particularly liked the embittered and twisted old matriarch, Juliette, who spent most her time hobbling away in the shadows, crooning sweet nothings to her beloved pet python. Unfortunately there are no supernatural elements but there are still plenty of gothic touches to add atmosphere – including derangement, disfigurement, a crumbly big house and the odd murder or two. Of course it all ends happy ever after but the romance is kept low key and out of the way of the mystery.

The cover art is atypical to most from this genre, having neither the gloomy, doomy colour scheme nor the scary house in the background, but is beautifully done and alluring nonetheless. If you look closely you can see a backward signature under her right arm which looks like the name ‘Miller’.

Other books written by Julie Wellsley include Climb the Dark Mountan and Tall, Dark Stranger. Three out of five stars.