The Reimann Curse

SOMETHING BROUGHT HER HERE…

Helen lowered herself into the bath slowly, luxuriating in the warmth as it flowed up and around her body. For the first time since Gerald’s death her mind was occupied only with her own comfort and well being. She fell into a reverie, going over events of the day. After all that driving she wasn’t sorry she got sidetracked off the main highway. She’d get some much needed sleep. She mused on the two other guests at the hotel. The old woman had an aristocratic air and was too spry for someone past seventy. The man was unusually handsome…

What was that? Helen sat bolt upright, blinked and shivered, her fingers grasping the edge of the tub. For a few breathless seconds her eyes searched every shadow in the room and her ears listened intently. Nothing. The wind moaned, tree branches scraped the window panes, and Helen was starkly, utterly alone… and terrified!

Written by Jean DeWeese. A Beagle Book Gothic, first printing February 1975. Cover art Charles Gehm.

The heroine of this story, Helen, has been left financially ruined and emotionally shattered after her husband and only daughter are killed in a tragic car accident. Three months on and she is now starting to put the pieces of her life back together again. We meet her just before she is due to start her new job as a teacher in the little New England town of Wertham, located at least six states away from the crippling memories of her former home. 

So keen is she to escape the depressing, though well-meaning, clutches of her grieving in-laws, she ends up driving all day and nearly half the night to reach her destination. Tired and confused, she loses her way from the main highway and finds herself travelling down a small back road, the end of which leads to a mysterious deserted mansion. A place eerily reminiscent to Helen of times past, although she has never visited here before. And underpinning this familiarity is an aura of something more sinister, something reaching out to her, something inviting her in to the shadowed interior of the abandoned old house…

Resisting the urge to explore those dim, ghostly corridors in the dead of night, Helen U-turns out of there and finds herself a much more convivial place to stay a little ways back down the road. Run by the ever hospitable Martha, Groves Lodge boasts great home cooking and sumptuous bath tubs of palatial proportions. After a mouth-watering casserole and a luxurious bubbly soak, Helen is all set for a wonderful night’s sleep before resuming her journey. And that’s when her nightmare begins….

Regulars to these pages will know how I love old family curses – or cursed old families for that matter – so I was looking forward this one. And right from the start, The Reimann Curse lured me in with its sympathetic heroine, descriptive prose and deft gothic touches of mystery.

Unfortunately, as with many gothics tackling the theme of ancestral curses, there is rather a lot of overly complicated back story, with much of the exciting stuff having already happened somewhere far back in the annals of  Reimann family history. This meant The Reimann Curse was a little on the light side when it came to action and suspense in the here and now – instead of actually getting caught up in anything particularly exciting, Helen spent a lot of her time in long discussions with various locals detailing the dastardly deeds of times gone by. This made it easy for me to drift off and lose the thread of the story at times. She did take a lot of nice long baths though.

And things did get a lot more exciting towards the end, with a dramatic life and death struggle over an open grave, in which Helen was able to prise a satanic idol from the skeletal clutches of a Dead Person Done Wrong (and buried alive no less), smashing the cursed stone to smithereens against the nearest gnarly oak – all the while deftly avoiding being hit over the head by a mad man with a shovel. There were some nicely done flashbacks interwoven within some scary dream sequences and the fate that befell Helena Reimann (whose spirit was the one haunting our Helen) was a truly shocking one.

Jean DeWeese is a pseudonym for Thomas Eugene DeWeese, an American born in 1934 and a writer of mainly science fiction.  He’s written over forty books and I would definitely give another one of his gothics a go.  

The cover art is by Charles Gehm. I reviewed another book with one of his covers ages ago – Stone of Blood – but couldn’t figure out the signature. A few months back I came across a lovely historical romance by Joan Aiken, (pictured below). As well as showing the rather distinctive signature to the bottom right of the front cover, the publishers rather helpfully printed the name of the artist on the back.

Looking Charles Gehm up on the web, he’s done some gorgeous prints of Gone With the Wind and he is married to Judy York, a fine romance and fantasy illustrator. Charles Gehm has also done some great covers for Nurse Romances. A nice scan of the original artwork of Lake Resort Nurse, can be viewed HERE. (And if anyone knows which lake and which resort this book is referring to – can you please let me know? I think I need a holiday soon!)

So, for the page-turningly thrilling climactic ending, as well as its gothic depictions of dastardly deeds, The Reimann Curse gets a four out of five. With bonus points added for all the lovely bubble baths. 

 

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Journey Into Twilight

No Place To Run…

Marcia Lovell ran away from Bannersville when she lost the only man in the world she could love – lost Adam Wilson, to her cousin, Gloria. She managed to stay away from the past until the day when her plane was forced down at Logan Airport, in Boston, only fifty miles from the town where she had grown to womanhood. There in Boston she again met Adam. She was ready to shut her ears and her eyes to this ghost from a time that never was, until she learned that the usurping love had quickly died. Now Gloria herself seemed marked for death?

Could Marcia return to yesterday, to save the life of a woman she still hated…save her before she herself met death?

Written by Miriam Lynch. Lancer Gothic 1970.

Marcia Lovell is a nurse living on the West Coast. Returning home from a holiday in Athens, she is delayed in Boston’s Logan Airport when her plane is forced to make an emergency landing. Marcia is no stranger to the East coast as her home town is only a few miles from Boston, but it is a place of bad memories she has been avoiding for years.

At the Airport she bumps into Adam – her childhood sweetheart and the man who broke her heart when he left her to marry the town’s glamour puss, Marcia’s cousin Gloria. Though Adam is the last person Marcia wants to see right now she agrees to one drink and, over cocktails in the airport lounge, learns that Adam’s engagement to Gloria was a disaster and it was Marcia he really loved all along.

But there is more – Gloria has had a nervous breakdown and is currently undergoing ‘special’ treatment in a sanatorium called Riversong. According to Adam, Riversong is a spooky place run by an even spookier Doctor called Theodore Sherman. No-one will let Adam see Gloria and, worried for her safety, Adam pleads with Marcia to visit to Riversong to find out what is going on.

Marcia reluctantly agrees; she hates Gloria but cannot resist Adam’s big brown eyes. In any event, as a nurse, her professional interest is piqued so that afternoon Adam drives her out to the fog-ridden isolated, peninsula where Riversong is located.

What follows one of those night-of-terror-trapped-in-a-house-full-of-hell gothics Miriam Lynch seems to do so well. Trying to rescue Gloria while simultaneously uncovering a fiendishly clever blackmailing racket, our heroine is drugged, tortured and chased through a mansion that is fast becoming engulfed by flood waters from the surrounding river. Can she and Gloria escape in time? What strange power does the demonic Dr.  Sherman have over the inmates of Riversong? And where the jiminy cricket is Adam?!

Journey into Twilight is a pacy and enjoyable read with enough bizarre plot twists  to keep me coming back for more. Mad scientists and their insane experiments make for great gothic reading and Dr Sherman’s infernal hypnagogic dream manipulator was a treat. Four 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.