Gothic Romance Lending Library

She came to a place of mist and menace – where even kisses tasted of terror… Haunted by a love that could not die but now could kill… Mystery lured her to the old castle, Death would show her the way out…

Foreboding mansions, misty moonlight and the moaning wind… There’s not much better than a night in with your favourite gothic romance is there? Well, imagine having a whole library full of them at your fingertips, delivered right to your door, without any of the hassle of having to find that precious extra shelf space!

Sounds like one of my favourite fantasies, but for those of you living in the good ol’ U.S.of A, this dream is a reality. Kristi Lyn Glass, founder of The Gothic Journal, has sent me some great news regarding the Gothic Romance Lending Library – it has now been re-housed and is looking bigger and better than ever.

Gothic Heaven!

Started in August 1996, the Gothic Romance Lending Library (GRLL) is a not for profit service that now contains over 3,400 volumes. That’s right, 3,400 gothics! I’m lucky (or insane) enough to own a few hundred of these books and the thought of owning a whole library full of them sounds like heaven. Even better, you can order up to eight books at one time and can keep them for approximately three months.

Kristi Lyn Glass is the founder of the Gothic Journal, which she started in 1991. The magazine’s purpose was to connect readers with gothic romance novels and their authors and publishers during a period in which publishers were disguising these books as titles in a variety of other genres.

Throughout the 90’s the Gothic Journal was the news and review magazine for readers, writers, and publishers of romantic suspense, romantic mystery, and gothic, supernatural, and woman-in-jeopardy romance novels. Though the final issue was published October / November 1998 the journal has an online presence, with a recently updated website, and continues to remain a great resource for anyone interested in gothic romance. Back issues of the Journal can also be ordered from here.

So for more information, just follow the links below:

Gothic Romance Lending Library

Gothic Journal Newsletter

Kristi is looking for others who share her passion to sign up as ambassadors and spread the word about the library, journal and all things gloriously gothic romantic. Just visit the link above and add your name to the list! And THANK YOU Kristi for all your suspenseful endeavours in keeping the Gothic Romance genre flag flying! Fans like me really appreciate it!

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Greygallows

GREYGALLOWS

Forced into marriage to the elegant, saturnine Baron Clare, Lucy Cartwright, a young and beautiful heiress, is taken by him to Greygallows, his forbidding Yorkshire estate.

There, she finds herself virtually kept prisoner as Baron Clare’s behaviour alternates between gallantry and brutality…

Confused and bewildered, Lucy is helpless in a hostile world of mounting threat and terror as she gradually discovers the dreadful meaning of the curse of the Clares…

BARBARA MICHAELS

‘Opens the floodgates between suspense and terror.’

Barbara Michaels‘ unique blend of romance and mystery has gained her acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most exciting novelists in the Gothic tradition.

Copyright Barbara Michaels 1972. First published in Great Britain 1974 by Souvenir Press ltd. This edition published 1975 by Pan Books ltd.

Greygallows tells the tale of Lucy Cartwright, born in 1826, a full half century before the Married Women’s Property Act. Lucy is seventeen, orphaned and rich – her fortune and future under the control of a fat old Aunt and a crusty solicitor. Now she is of age they want to marry her off as quickly as they can. So Lucy leaves the relative comfort of the orphanage where she was brought up and is taken to London to find a Suitable Match. Enter Baron Clare, a not so wealthy aristocrat with a past who owns a vast stately home in Yorkshire called Greygallows. I think you can guess the rest.

Sometimes you just need to be in the right mood for the right book and this one didn’t work for me. I’ve read a couple of Barbara Michaels’ books and remember really liking them. So what was the problem with Greygallows? Well, there are a few traits I find absolutely unforgivable in my gothic heroines, one not least being a fear of horses – which is probably why I’ve never made it much past page 106 of this book. But not only is Lucy guilty of being ungothically bereft of equestrian skills, she is also unconvincing as a character.

Fawcett Crest 1973

I am sure the author knows her stuff, perhaps teenage girls in ye olden days really were a bunch of spineless molly puppets – but, considering what they had to deal with, I suspect they were far tougher than a lot of modern writers give them credit for.

Lucy starts out as a spirited, spoilt seventeen year old who enjoys practical jokes and almost manages to elope with her music teacher. Then, a few months and a couple of chapters later, she undergoes a complete personality transplant and you’d think you were reading about a staid old maid of fifty five. True, she did catch a rather nasty case of typhoid just before her wedding but I found the total switch in character unconvincing and unnecessary.

Harper Collins 2007

The villains are pretty weak too – as if Michaels couldn’t quite make up her mind to make them proper bad. Sure, Baron Clare wasn’t beneath scaring the horses and plying his wife with Laudanum once in a while but murder? No – that was an act reserved for the sexy vicar. (At least I think it was… I must confess I switched off a bit toward the end).

Greygallows reinforces many of the prejudices I hold against modern historical romances. Writers like Rona Randall and Victoria Holt do this kind of thing very, very well, but, if you’re in the mood for a bit of yesteryear, far better to read the classics of the period methinks.  

As far as the cover art goes, gothics published in the UK don’t usually measure up to their American counterparts, though I really like the design of this Pan edition. (Alas, no amount of photoshopping will pretty up my battered copy). Two out of five stars.

Dragonmede

THRESHOLD OF FEAR…

For Eustacia Rochdale it is like a dream come true when she becomes the wife of Julian Kershaw, heir to Dragonmede. For her gay, reckless mother Luella, it is the achievement of a lifelong ambition.

The marriage is tempestuous and stormy but worse is to come. At Dragonmede Eustacia learns of a sinister legend, threatening her life and that of her unborn child. And she learns that her marriage was arranged – with her husband an unwilling partner…

Written by Rona Randall. First published 1974 by William Collins Sons & Co. First issue in Fontana Books 1975.

I’ve read  and enjoyed a few Rona Randall gothics, so was very pleased to come across this Fontana edition of Dragonmede at a local jumble sale.

Dragonmede follows the fortunes of Eustacia Rochdale, a young Victorian woman who falls in love with Julian Kershaw, suave Sussex aristocrat and regular visitor to the illegal gambling den run by Eustacia’s mother, Luella.  Despite his gambling addiction, Julien appears to be everything a woman would want in a man – handsome, passionate and rich, rich, rich and Eustacia is overjoyed when her feelings for him appear to be reciprocated.

Luella Rochdale notices the mutual attraction between the two and is eager to marry her daughter into a good family. However, Luella has a reputation for being a bit of a tart and her gambling  house, though tolerated, is frowned upon by the neighbours. Though she has done everything possible to raise her daughter as a lady, educating her in the best schools and sheltering her from the caprices of her more amorous clientele, she realises Eustacia may be considered a less than desirable catch for such a gentleman and so uses all her wiles to ensure her daughter is safely wedded and bedded into the respectable Kershaw clan.

1979 Ballantine Edition

Eustacia is ecstatic when Julian proposes, but, this being a Rona Randall gothic, marriage to the man of your dreams is when your problems really begin. Arriving at Dragonmede, Eustacia is made to feel less then welcome by the usual gaggle of gothic misfits living there, while her husband’s behaviour towards her very quickly becomes increasingly cruel and controlling.

Worse still, her husband is not the only sadistic psychopath living at Dragonmede and when he is found hanging from the rafters, Eustacia  becomes  the prime suspect and in mortal danger herself…

Dragonmede has all the necessary ingredients for a good gothic – an old gloomy house, an isolated imperilled heroine, ancient curses, handsome men, sadistic men, mad artistic  creepy-paintings-in-the-attic men, secret love affairs, inexplicable accidents and a grisly murder.

Though the plot seemed to meander a bit for me toward the end, I liked the cast of unconventional characters – particularly Luella, the scheming cardsharp who stopped at nothing to better her daughter’s position. Four out of five stars.


The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw, Daisy Miller, An International Episode, The Aspern Papers, The Altar of the Dead, The Beast in the Jungle.

Henry James considered “the beautiful and blest nouvelle” to be the “ideal form” for fiction, and to this genre he brought the full perfection of his imaginative artistry. The themes he chose and the values he set forth in the six nouvelles that comprise this Signet Classic typify the depth and power of his craftsmanship – the unique perception of a writer who unerringly deciphers the mind of a gay and flirtatious American girl among the sophisticates of Europe…the motivations of a man who spends a lifetime waiting to experience his “rare and strange” destiny.

“Few Writers of fiction have been so inventive as Henry James,” writes William Thorp. Edmund Wilson commented that “he can be judged only in the company of the very greatest.”

Written by Henry James. This Signet Classic edition published 1980.

‘Tis the season for curling up with a good ol’ gothic ghost story and Turn of the Screw is one of my favourites.

A real ‘treading on eggshells’ sense of suspense pervades this novella, with everything you need for a chilling winter night’s reading.

Originally published in 1898 the best thing about this novella  is how artfully James sows the seeds of doubt as to whether the ghosts are real or imagined. Personally I made up my mind years ago the governess was completely barking and not the kind of person you’d want to leave alone with your kids; the conversation she has with the housekeeper after her first sighting of Quint being a great example of how easy people can mislead each other into believing whatever they want to believe.

Lots of people disagree however and the ambiguity is part of what makes this tale so engrossing. At times the children are almost as sinister as the ghosts and having read this a few times I still find myself asking questions. Henry James’ prose weaves a masterful spell of psychological suspense  by allowing the reader room to draw their own conclusions. The isolated setting, unspoken secrets and spiralling emotions all contribute toward creating a truly spooky atmosphere with a shocking climax.

And though Turn of the Screw is the most well known piece in this collection, the other novellas are worth a mention – in particular Altar of the Dead, one of my favourite stories ever.

The cover art is lovely and a very distinctive style. 5 out of 5 stars.


Ace Cameo Gothic Series

Ace are a well known publisher for Gothic Romance who, in the 1970’s, produced their Cameo Gothic series – the titles chosen for their excellence and optimum readability, while promoting and developing lesser known writers. Here’s numbers one to six.

No 1 The Golden Fig

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.

fearamongtheshadows

No 2 Fear Among the Shadows

“Because he saved your life you refuse to believe he could take someone else’s…”

Julie Wescott knew that Greg could not have killed his wife; he was with her the night his wife was murdered. But the dead woman’s brother was convinced that Greg was responsible….. and suddenly Julie realized that she didn’t really know the handsome, charming man she loved at all.

In love with Greg, but drawn to David, Julie knew that one man was telling the truth – and the other was trapping her in a maze of deception and greed where death was the only exit…..

Which one could she trust?

Written by Louise Hoffman. First Ace printing September 1974.

No 3 Shadow of a Cat

Like Mother – Like Daughter

It was to have been her mother’s fourth marriage, and Sunny wouldn’t have even bothered coming to Revelstoke Castle if the invitation hadn’t sounded so…desperate. Now her mother was dead, and the women of Revelstoke, who had hated her, had the handsome bridegroom – widower to themselves once again.

But Sunny knew her mother’s horrible death had been no accident – someone had hated enough to kill. And now the threatening notes had her name on them…

LEAVE OR DIE

But she couldn’t leave…..

Written by Poppy Nottingham. First Ace printing October 1974.


No 4 The Stones of Strendleigh

Was Strendleigh Hall a gracious refuge offering shelter and comfort – or an elegant deathtrap waiting to destroy the unsuspecting.

It was a set of tragic circumstances that brought Rose to Strendleigh… or perhaps it was fate, for she came to love the English manor and the inhabitants who treated her so kindly.

But soon Rose learned that her ties to Strendleigh were closer than that of grateful houseguest. And the closer she got to the truth, the more obvious it became that one of the two handsome Stone brothers vying for her hand in marriage was really trying to rid the hall of its guest…permanently.

Love thwarted by greed was Strendleigh’s evil past, and now it fell to a terrified young girl to avenge that lost love – or die a victim of it…….

Written by Geraldine Killoran. First Ace printing November 1974.

No 5 Yesterday’s Evil

When Stacey Cameron returned to Lakewood to find that she and Steve Winter were still in love, nothing, it seemed, could stand in the way of their happiness. But Steve’s former wife had died in a suspicious fire and soon Stacey, too, fell victim to one strange accident after another.

Who among Stacey’s old friends wished her ill? Tess Arnold seethed with rage when Marty, her boyfriend, so obviously preferred Stacey to her. And what about Marty? Generous to a fault, did his friendship hide a secret grudge? Between the warring adults stood Steve’s stepdaughter, Laurel. A strange, precocious girl, Laurel took pleasure in stirring up trouble for Stacey. Concealed in the past was the key to Stacey’s future. Could she unlock the door to Lakewood’s secrets before she became a victim of YESTERDAY’S EVIL?

Written by Lydia Benson Clark. First Ace printing December 1974.

No 6 Flames Over the Castle

Lovely Tallent Boardman came to the Casa del Sol to work as Paul Rowan’s law assistant – and escape the agonising memories of a lost love. But nobody really wanted Tallent at the Casa; not her handsome, brooding employer who had never expected a woman; not his beautiful sister-in-law; not his crippled bitter nephew, Jeffrey.

Determined to succeed, Tallent quickly gained Paul Rowan’s admiration and the beginning of his affections – until she learned that her love placed her very much in someone’s way…

High in the isolated San Francisco hills, someone engineered little incidents to discredit her, to scare her and send her packing. Then the terrible truth was laid bare and she couldn’t be allowed to leave – not ever…

Written by Diane La Point. First Ace printing January 1975.

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Reviews

Some quick links to reviews I’ve done on this blog for some of these titles:

The Golden Fig is reviewed Here.

Fear Among the Shadows is reviewed Here.

The Stones of Strendleigh is reviewed Here.

This Old Evil House s reviewed Here.

 

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Ace Cameo Gothic Series Part 3

More murder, madness and romance brought to you courtesy of  Ace Cameo Gothic series. Here are numbers 7 to 12…

No 7 Tapestry of Terror

Anne Redford had been looking forward to spending a pleasant few weeks at her college roommate’s home. But Cecilia’s grandfather died unexpectedly, and the house was plunged into gloom.

Could John Blake’s death had been unnatural? Cecilia shared her home with several relatives – all of whom had a stake in her grandfather’s will. When the family maid who knew too much was found dead, it seemed Blakesville sheltered a murderer.

With mounting horror, Anne suspected that the man she had come to love was plannng to make Cecilia the next victim. Torn between friendship and love, Anne found herself snared in the tangled passions of a TAPESTRY OF TERROR.

Written by Marianne Ruuth. First Ace printing February 1975.


No 8 Without a Grave

She had promised…

..to go to Moreau House, and only by fulfilling her husband’s deathbed wish could the lovely young widow lay his memory to rest forever and begin anew.

It was to be a brief visit. However, Alisa Moreau found that the inhabitants of the house by the sea needed her desperately – and she gave herself willingly to the child strangely frightened of her own mother; the beautiful woman who shrank from the truth; and Marcus, whose terrible secret burden drove him to reject Alisa’s love.

Only when t was too late did Alisa realize that they had unwittingly trapped her…that a twisted love made blind to evil had claimed her for its prisoner……..

Written by Poppy Nottingham. First Ace printing February 1975.

No 9 The Devil’s Due

The Blackwoods were a noble family, steeped in the glory and infamy that was England’s history – marred only by the memory of Sir Robert the Damned. Some said he was the child of the devil, still able to reach across the centuries to wreak havoc….

Although Maura came to the Vicarage at her cousin Annette’s request, her reception was less than cordial. Aunt Harriet, tradition bound matriarch of the Blackwood family, had never forgiven Maura’s mother for leaving her. But Maura was determined to remain – until she learned the real reason for her cousins invitation.

Annette was sure her life was in danger – that her handsome, taciturn husband, Drake, wanted her dead.

And then Annette disappeared, and Maura found herself in love with the man who might have killed her…

Written by Lanora Miller. First Ace printing March 1975.

No 10 Fire on the Cliffs

The wild, sun-drenched beauty of Greece was balm to a tortured soul, and Elizabeth Holland understood why her sister Jessica had made the country her home. She, too, had hoped to find happiness here. But the ancient gods were angered, and as the sun beat evilly and beauty turned savage, a woman fell from the cliffs at Delphi.

The official verdict was suicide, but Elizabeth had seen a man push the woman to her death. Suddenly it was vital to make them believe her, for she had reason to suspect that the man her sister was to marry – handsome, rich Ted Samos – was the murderer.

Nobody listened – not Jessica, not Ted’s attractive brother Alex. And just when Elizabeth was beginning to question her sanity, she realised that someone in the magnificent Samos mansion did believe her  – for a murderer was ready to kill again…

Written by Chris Waynar. First Ace printing April 1975.

No 11 Rievaulx Abbey

Letisha Harraton was dead. She had willed Rievaulx House and her fortune to her grandniece, Jane Warren – who had never heard of Letisha Harraton…

In fact, Letisha Harraton was very much alive – as Jane discovered when she arrived at Rievaulx House in the wilds of Yorkshire. The inheritance was a mistake – a cruel, puzzling joke.

Jane turned to inspector Charles Thomason for help, for suddenly the master jester was death itself haunting the frightened girl’s footsteps – making her doubt the man she loved – her sanity – herself.

In the mysterious, mist-ridden ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, when Jane’s worst nightmare became reality, the evil hoax would stand revealed….

Written by Norma Davison. First Ace printing May 1975

No 12 Picture of Death

It had been eight years since Charles Huron’s wife mysteriously drowned – eight years that his lovely daughter Wendy had not spoken a word. …

Jessica Brandt had simply agreed to be Wendy’s companion for that summer; she was unprepared for the bond that developed between the tragic, withdrawn young girl and herself – or her growing attraction to her sophisticated employer – or the magnetic appeal of the handsome, antisocial artist who lived down the beach.

But nobody would tell Jessica what had really happened the night Wendy’s mother died. Convinced that the events of that night were the key that would unlock the young girl’s soul, Jessica was determined to learn the truth. And someone was equally determined to prevent her from doing so – if necessary, with murder…

Written by Diane LaPoint. First Ace printing June 1975.

 

 

 

Ace Cameo Gothic Series Part 2

Welcome back to the wonderful world of gothic mansions, bizarre accidents, handsome strangers and haunted heroines in this the second posting of my collection from the Ace Cameo Gothic Series.  Here’s numbers 13 – 18.

No 13 The Castle on the River

It was four years since Aurora had fled the huge, ugly castle on the Hudson; four years since she had seen the man who had not been able to choose between his disapproving family and his wife.

But Aurora had returned… Having never stopped loving Eric von Leyden, who now lay paralyzed in his bed after a near-fatal plane crash, the beautiful, spirited woman was once again prepared to face the hostility of the haughty Von Leydens.

It was with disbelief, then mounting horror that Aurora realized that resentment had turned to murderous hatred – that someone in the monstrous, isolated castle plotted to turn love rekindled into death eternal……

Written by Janice N. Bennett. First Ace printing June 1975.

No 14 To Dream of Evil

Lynne Crawford had loved Mark since they were children, and her joy at their marriage was marred only by her belief that she was not his first choice.

But they were happy at Trelawne House – until the night Aunt Laura mysteriously died, and, incredibly, the young bride found herself under suspicion… When Mark’s beautiful ex-fiancée returned to reclaim the man she had lost, Lynne knew she could no longer count on her husband’s love to protect her from the hostility threatening her very sanity.

With her world crumbling around her, the heartbroken girl played right into the hands of a murderer…….

Written by Louise Hoffman. First Ace printing July 1975. (Original title – The Impossible Dream). Cover by Charles Copeland.

No 15 Darkness at Bromley Hall

Ellie Harris had never met her granduncle Edward before, but when he offered her a job in Barbados, as his secretary, Ellie eagerly accepted.

But something was very wrong at Bromley. Sir Edward had disappeared, David Douglas, the handsome manager of Bromley, told her, and he had reason to suspect Peter Tyrrell, a neighboring plantation owner, had killed him.

Anxious to learn her uncle’s fate, Ellie was determined to stay at Bromley, despite the series of bizarre accidents that nearly claimed her life. Was Peter Tyrrell behind the attempts, as David claimed? Ellie had fallen in love with David and desperately wanted to trust him – until she learned that he too might want her dead. Torn between love and suspicion, it was up to Ellie to pierce the DARKNESS AT BROMLEY HALL.

Written by Marybeth Morgan. Copyright Peter Ronai. First Ace printing July 1975.

No 16 This Old Evil House

Ruth Ames could hardly believe her good fortune when she and her husband Charles found a house that they could afford. But the turquoise colour was not the only strange thing about the new house. For soon after they moved in, Ruth knew that evil had happened there. Was there any truth to the frightening stories her neighbors told – stories about the torture that was a grisly part of the house’s past and the murder that had taken place nearby?

At first Ruth tried to ignore their warnings, until one day she felt the icy fingers of fear, and the death that had haunted her home was no longer a chilling tale, but a horror filled reality…..

Written by Laura Frances Brooks. First Ace Printing August 1975.

No 17 Findlay’s Landing

Kristina Mallory had never met her husband’s family. Banished from his home as a young man, Greg had her simply he would never return to Findlay’s landing. But now Greg was dead – and his widow had been invited there to stay.

Anxious to understand the man she had lost, Kristi was puzzled when Greg’s family refused to discuss his past – until she realized that everyone at Findlay’s Landing had something to hide. What had driven Greg from his home so many years ago? Kristi turned to Greg’s stepbrother Jason. gentle, concerned, he had seemed willing to help, until Kristi learned that he too, had lied.

Trapped in a conspiracy of silence, it was almost too late when Kristi learned the price of truth was death…..

Written by Margaret Chittenden. First Ace printing September 1975.

No 18 Bright Sun, Dark Moon

(This scan taken from the web as my own copy is too tattered and torn, even for this blog!).

THREE MEN LOVED CARA STEVENS.

Her handsome, arrogant husband Garth, who had coerced her into marriage.

Evers, the younger brother, who had recently become a man;

Their cousin, Calhoun, charming and passionate, who led a secret life.

But not one of them could protect her from the insidious evil that followed her everywhere – stalking her for reasons unknown – waiting for the right moment for murder…

Written by Frances Patton Statham. First Ace printing September 1975.

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Cover Art

Look closely at the cover of No 15 Darkness at Bromley Hall and you will notice this is one of the few covers that is actually signed by the artist. The name is Walter Popp. A comic artist in the 1940’s he became a respected romance and gothic cover artist in his later years. To look at more of his work, click here.

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Book Inserts

One thing that was common to many of these editions published in the 70’s were the cigarette advertisements inserted into them. They are positioned to the middle of the book and presented as a full glossy page of glorious Technicolour temptation.

And check out that handsome hunk of hello there, Mr True.  He’s not even bothered to put on his shoes! I actually quite like the  chequered golfing look, but pea green socks? Yuk!

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The Golden Fig

thegoldenfigWhen 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 figarunspouse. 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.

A Gathering of Evil

a gathering of evil“Was a noose tightening around a horrified Deborah Foster?

It was the night of evil ritual. The worshippers of the devil danced around the ruined abbey, now transformed into a temple of terror. Deborah had come there hoping to unmask her sister’s killer.

Suddenly against her will, Deborah felt herself succumbing to the unholy spell woven by the frenzied witches. Relentlessly they began to encircle her. Panic gripped her for she knew they had chosen her as their next victim.”

Written by Marilyn Ross and first published in 1966 by Paperback Library Gothic.

Marilyn Ross was one of the pseudonyms used by Canadian author William Edward Daniel Ross who is well known for his popular novels based on the Dark Shadows television series.

gatheringevilA Gathering of Evil is set in 1872 and tells the tale of a young woman called Deborah struggling to find out the circumstances of her late sister’s death. Against all advice she travels to the estate of her sister’s widower where she finds herself pitted aganst all manner of evil things, including phantoms, werewolves, hunchbacked gypsies and transmigrating souls – and she even manages to attend the odd satanic mass or two. Nothing is as it seems in this haunted mansion of dark cellars and secret passageways as friends become enemies and enemies turn out to be – well not quite as nasty as they first appeared.

This is a nice supernatural thriller choc full of gothic goings on, but the ending comes on a little sudden and I didn’t feel all the earlier spookiness was adequately accounted for. The heroine, Deborah, was actually very brave and dealt with whatever was thrown at her quite well (better than I would anyway) – though I had to question why she kept turning up at those Black Masses when she was so obviously repulsed by those pesky Satanists – that was just asking for trouble. Extra points awarded for the fantastically named leading man – Roderick Vroom. Four out of five stars.

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.