This Rough Magic

“Even now with the sun directly in my eyes, I could hardly be sure. Sick and shaken, I hesitated: but of course I would have to look. I sank to my knees at the edge of the pool, and shaded my eyes to peer downwards…”

Distressed by a disastrous West End debut, young actress Lucy Waring was only too happy to accept her wealthy older sister’s offer of a holiday on the Mediterranean island of Corfu. Once there the caressing sun, the warm sea and the thrilling revelation that the nearest neighbour to her sister’s villa was none other than Sir Julian Gale, idol of the London stage since his mysterious disappearance two years ago, soon banished the whole miserable fiasco from her mind!

Equally calculated to stir the curiosity of any woman, were Max, the actor’s handsome, but strangely unfriendly son, and attractive artist Godfrey Manning with his tame dolphin and his intriguing midnight sailing trips. Altogether, the stage seemed perfectly set for a fascinating holiday in blissful surroundings…until a sniper’s bullets and a horrifying discovery on the beach shatters Lucy’s idyll, pushing her into the most terrifying role of her career – as a leading lady in a real-life drama of treachery, dark passion and cold-blooded murder!

Undoubtedly one of this country’s most successful literary ‘exports’ to America and reputed in some quarters to outsell James Bond, Mary Stewart is now known to a still greater audience through the recent filming of her superb romantic thriller, The Moonspinners. Not surprisingly, her latest book, This Rough Magic, is confidently expected to outshine even this success!

 Copyright Mary Stewart 1964. Originally published by Hodder & Stoughton London, England at 18/-This edition published for members only by the Companion Book Club. Cover art Victor Bertoglio.

Ooooh, for a gothic romance blog, there just isn’t enough snogging gracing these pages, so let’s rectify such an appalling oversight with this lovely gothic penned by Mary Stewart

I was first introduced to Mary Stewart’s writing through her Merlin trilogy – The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment. My mum had all three novels and I must have been about 12 or 13 when I first read them. Retelling the legends of King Arthur from the perspective of Merlin, the author deftly interweaves legend and historical fact with her own imaginings to create a story that is believable, absorbing and enchanting.

Hodder paperback 1966

The Merlin of Mary Stewart’s novels was portrayed as a more human, more fallible character than that of his usual mythical persona –  I remember there was always a question in her books as to whether the sorcery performed by this most favoured magician of King Arthur was indeed achieved via genuine supernatural ends, plain old trickery, good fortune or a combination of all three. And, far from deadening the magic of legend, her unique style of storytelling enhanced the wonderment of these tales.

 It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I read any of Mary Stewart’s gothics, which I enjoyed just as much – The Ivy Tree and Wildfire at Midnight being two favourites that spring to mind – and shame on me for not having done any reviews of her work here, a situation I hope to put right over the next few months.

For now though, I thought I’d post this gloriously dark take on your typical romance cover. Published in hardback by the Companion Book Club, I love how at first glance you might mistake this scene for your average moonlight romantic embrace. Even better, the publishers not only credit the artist, they give him a little space to say something for himself. To quote the blurb on the dust jacket –

This month’s jacket design is by VICTOR BERTOGLIO who provides a characteristically tongue-in-cheek introduction to himself! “Born in Hampstead in 1911; father Italian, mother English. A seventh child – this means I’m psychic as well as brilliant!” Educated at seven schools and St Martin’s school of Art, he is a prolific and gifted artist whose reputation belies his final, amusingly wry comment “it is now a race between eyesight and senile hand tremor!” 

Hmmm. For romance, intrigue and passion, I’m giving this cover a 5 out of 5. And it certainly looks a lot more fun than running away in your nightie!

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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.


Curse of Deepwater

I closed my eyes but sleep would not come…

The smell of must and decay in the room stifled me, and I opened a window – and looked down. The mist swirled over the lake like figures bending and swaying. Surely they were women! Women with hair floatingbehind them like smoke streamers, as they moved together in a macabre dance.

There was a sad moaning sound that made my scalp tingle with fear. I heard my name like a sigh in the wind, like a cry of torment. “Veronica…Please come…Come, please…”

Written by Christine Randell. Warner Paperback Library Edition, first printing February 1974.

I really enjoyed the last Christine Randell book I read, so I thought I would give this one a go. I’m about half way through and things seem to be shaping up nicely in the gothic department. Deepwater features a beautiful yet vulnerable heroine – Veronica – who has accompanied her elderly friend Camille to a doomy old castle so that Camille can be re-united with her estranged husband  – Sir Justin Quinton Brande.

Of course the rest of Sir Justin’s relatives do not take kindly to their new guests and soon Veronica finds herself the victim of all sorts of strange goings on. Legend has it the lake  at Deepwater is haunted and disembodied voices start plaguing Veronica in her sleep. Disturbing family secrets are unearthed as, shortly after her arrival, Veronica  starts seeing visions of Camille’s daughter, Rosalyne, who went missing on the grounds of Deepwater years ago and is believed drowned.

Though Curse of Deepwater lacks the frenetic pace and all out weirdness of A Woman Possessed (reviewed in my last post below) – it reads very well as a gothic, with lots of atmosperic touches and an interesting cast of odd ball relatives lurking in the background, all waiting to pounce on their piece of Sir Justin’s inheritance pie. There is also a potential love interest in the strapping young gardener Tom, but it is too early to tell and, since he was prime suspect in the Rosalyne disppearance, he might well turn out to be one of the bad guys.

The cover art is rather lovely too and is credited to Vic Prezio.  Unfortunately I’ve not been able to find much about him on the internet and I’d love to be able to see more of his work.