Dark Dowry


The black pearl necklace – young, beautiful, enigmatic India Stuart-Brice gazed at it with mingled awe and foreboding. This fabulous treasure was her sole legacy from the aristocratic father whose death had shattered her sheltered life in British Calcutta- and sent her halfway round the globe to relatives she did not know and a fate shrouded in fearful mystery.

Desperately India clung to her precious pearls – even when she discovered their price in peril. Their uncanny beauty was no blessing but a curse that poisoned love and threatened life itself… as East meets West in a climax of horror…


Is the masterpiece of supreme gothic story teller Willo Davis Roberts. You’ll want to read each complete novel of this enthralling epic of romance and suspense, all in Popular Library editions.

Written by Willo Davies Roberts. Published by Popular Library, a unit of CBS Publications. May 1978.

Descended from aristocracy but exiled from England under mysterious circumstances, widower Judson Stuart-Brice is enjoying a cloistered existence, safe in the enclave of his Calcutta mansion and far from the biting gossip of London’s High Society.

All this changes after his brutal murder, when he is shot down in an alley in what first appears to be a motiveless crime.

Now it’s up to India, as the eldest daughter, to do right by her family. Named after the country she grew up in, we meet India as she is sailing to Monterey with her three younger siblings in tow. Orphaned and penniless, they are off to the Golden State in order to throw themselves at the mercy of some distant relatives.  For their father has left them nothing – nothing that is except for Black Pearl necklace hidden under the folds of India’s skirts.

Ahh, them pearls, them pearls…the rarest of them all and a dark dowry indeed; perfectly matched, each a deep iridescent grey, they were once the property of a heartbroken maharajah, who disposed of them when his sweetheart died before she ever had the chance to wear them.

And, before his untimely death, India’s father has handed them down to his daughter, with the sage advice that she should use them as a means to maximise her chances in attracting a suitable husband. He doesn’t disclose exactly how they came into his possession but he does live long enough to reassure her their unhappy past in no way makes them unlucky or cursed.

Well, that was his opinion. India soon begins to suspect otherwise and it’s not long before all manner of accidents, intrigues and incidents start to plague her – stolen luggage, bolting stallions, deadly spiders hiding out in her underwear drawer –her new  life in California is turning out very precarious indeed. Someone is after her precious pearls, and worse, the finger of suspicion is pointing directly towards her handsome new beau, Nathan Peltier.

With a bodice-busting total of eight novels to its name, Willo Davis Roberts’ Black Pearl Series seems like the perfect gothic saga to lose myself in during these long, long rainy days of spring and I’ve been looking forward to making a start on this for a while now.

 As an introduction to this ‘enthralling epic of romance and suspense’ Dark Dowry was an enjoyable enough read, though a little on the light side. There was plenty of romance, a little bit of suspense but, disappointingly, no ghosts or ghouls lurking in the shadows of its pages, despite all the promising talk hinting at demonic deeds, embraces of evil, and honeymoons in hell.

Hopefully this will change as the saga continues and I plan to revisit The Black Pearl Series soon. In the meantime, here’s a taster of instalment number two – The Cade Curse.


The fabulous black pearl necklace was blood-warm around beautiful Carolyn Stuart-Brice’s throat, but icy fear filled her heart as she stood before the altar with the man she knew only as Jack Cade. This handsome, iron-willed stranger had swept her off her feet, brushed aside her protests, and compelled her to say yes to his startling marriage proposal.

The cover art to this one is by Hector Garrido. The original artwork, as well as some more of his covers, can be seen on a wonderful flickr gallery devoted to his art: HERE.