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.

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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 1

Thought I’d share these over the next few posts. I have twenty four of these titles published in the 1970’s by Ace books, though I believe there were at least 26 titles in total. Ace are a well known publisher for Gothic Romance and according to the blurb on the back cover, the titles in the Cameo Gothic series were chosen for their excellence and optimum readability, while promoting and developing lesser known writers.

The Ace Cameo series tended to shy away from the more supernatural elements found in a lot of gothic fiction and all basically tell the same story – nice young girl finds a nice young man and / or comes into some money but  someone is out to kill her.  Will she / won’t she survive? Of course she will! But for all the predictable endings, on the most part these books were well written and featured some cracking settings and plot lines. And I for one could never resist the fantastic cover art.

I’m posting in reverse order so here’s numbers 19 to 24.

No. 19 Web of Days

When Jennifer MacKay, known to her friends as Mac, received her promotion, she was unwillingly drawn into her boss’s family life. But nothing could have prepared Mac for the passions that seethed within Bennett Mann’s home – passions that found their focus in his wife, Thea. Both of Ben’s children hated their stepmother; Jenny, a neurotic young girl starved for affection, and Jeffrey, handsome, cold and enigmatic, who despised his weak willed father.

Then one day, Thea Mann was murdered. Each of the tormented family members suspected the other, but only Mac knew Jeffrey had lied to the police. Trapped in a tightening web of horror, Mac was determined to learn the truth – for in spite of herself, she loved Jeffrey Mann, and refused to believe he was a murderer.

Written by Helen Orr. First Ace Printing October 1975

No 20 Girl in the Shadows

Although she recovered from the near fatal accident, the beautiful young woman could remember nothing. It was from her personal effects she learned her name was Janet, and that she was the widow of the wealthy Larry Kirby. Her baby was his son, entitled to a vast inheritance.

But the past was not to be unlocked so easily. Larry’s brother Bruce was determined to prove Janet a fortune-hunting imposer (sic). And the confused young mother, not at all sure she was really Janet Kirby, was powerless to stop him.

No one was prepared for the terrible truth that emerged; an evil hoax that sent the past spinning into the present to cast a sinister shadow on the future.

Written by Zoa Sherburne. First Ace printing November 1975.

No 21 Masquerade of Evil

Left homeless and alone, Sarah York went South to Cameron Oaks, the civil war-wrecked plantation of her cousin. She withstood unexplainable hostility on her arrival, only to be totally humiliated to find herself nothing more than a servant.

With little hope of ever finding happiness here, Sarah turned her attentions more and more to Jaime, her young blind charge. And against her will, her heart turned more and more to the child’s father. Who was this man Adam, who could be so cruel and unfeeling toward his helpless son, yet so kind and attentive to her? And were the dreadful rumours true? Did he set the fire that killed his wife and left his son a cripple? Was he capable of anything for the sake of his precious pride? The questions rose from her confusion, and settled her into despair.

When she could no longer deny her love, a mad charade of twisted passions began, and Sarah found herself lulled by the player’s charm into a trap from which death was the only escape…..

Written by Eva Zumwalt. First Ace printing December 1975.

No 22 Buried Remembrance

Allyn Bourke came to Sheldon’s Crossing to forget a tragedy that haunted her nights, and made sad shadows of her days. But before one scar could heal, tragedy struck again… and again… and again.

There was her friend Nina, one minute laughing gaily, now dead. There was kind Dirk Cameron, now dead – from a letter bomb addressed to her. There was Miss Fleishmann, her spinster employer, alive and healthy while she argued with Allyn; dead when they became friends. There was the cat, frisky until he drank the soup in Allyn’s cup; now dead. Only her obese landlady, Mrs Johnson seemed to be surviving. And Steven Donner;  Steven, who threatend to splinter Allyn’s wall of emotional isolation.

Steven and Mrs Johnson – one of them would not rest until Allyn was as dead as the others. If only she could fathom the reason for this relentless pursuit… if only she could discover which one was the murderer – in time!

Written by Naomi Gladish Smith. First Ace printing January 1976.

No 23 Willough Haven

Willough Haven Ranch represented wealth, beauty, security and love. It was her second home, and the Willough boys were her closest friends. When Diane French became a woman, it seemed only right that she also became Mrs Fred Willough.

But Fate is cruel, and it was through Fred’s tragic death that Diane inherited the ranch she had always loved – and became the target of a madman who wanted it at any cost. Someone had murdered twice already.  Someone Diane called brother, friend – or mother – was trying to kill her……

Written by Geraldine Killoran. First Ace printing February 1976.


No 24 The Unforgiven

Evil happened…

In a picture-book pretty English village – and it destroyed Eve Shannon’s brother. When Eve journeyed to Baldenstock, however, her veiled questions were met with hostility – and worse….

It was from newspaper clippings Eve learned that her brother had left his mark on the tiny village – the terrible mark of murder!

But she didn’t believe it – and with her disbelief she knew real fear… Alone, her identity a secret even from the man she loved, Eve set out to discover what really happened one horrible night not so very long ago…..

Written by Maynah Lewis. First Ace printing March 1976.

Also in this series:

No 25 Winterscape by Anastasia Cleaver. First Ace printing April 1976.

No 26 Deathbed of Roses by Michaeljohn. Or rather this is what is listed in the back of my other Cameo Gothics – however on searching the web I found this cover scan. Though this title does not seem to be numbered, I’m wondering if Deborah Scott is actually the correct author.

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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.

Butsoon 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.

Recently orphaned Rose Douglas, together with her pet pony Bonny, travel all the way down to Cornwall from Scotland to live with her Uncle Andrew in a cottage on the grounds of the Strendleigh Estate. He was the quarryman who designed and built the magnificent Strendleigh Hall and when he dies in a mysterious accident, Rose has no option but to reside at the Hall until she can decide what to do with her life.

At first it looks as if her options are limited -once her Uncle’s debts have been settled there’s not much left over for Rose – so she is very grateful for the hospitality extended to her by the Strendleigh family, in particular the two tall, dark and handsome brothers, Masters  George and Gideon Strendleigh.

Alas, the longer she stays at Strendleigh the more her life is imperilled, as small accidents start turning into death defying near misses, and as Rose learns more about the history of Strendleigh, she starts to suspect she’s inherited a little more than her fiery red hair from Uncle Andrew’s side of the family. But if she wants to claim her inheritance she needs to act fast – someone is out to kill her.

The Stones of Strendleigh is a well written historical suspense novel, with lots of added background on the history of this Cornish family and their ancestral home lending depth and credibility to the story. I’m not a huge fan of this sort of  ‘bodices and bloodlines’ kind of saga myself but the writing was good with just enough suspense to keep me involved. There’s plenty of period touches for those of you who like  your gothic gaslit and even a mysterious mad woman locked in the attic a la Jayne Eyre.  Three out of five stars.