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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Twilight Return

Stars Reincarnated

Beautiful Marge Trotter – with Cancerian impulsiveness and love for travel – accepts a summer job which takes her to the fabulous French Riviera and to Carcassonne, the place of her birth. There she becomes the focus of a bizarre contest – that involes Emilio Santori, a composer who has been dead for forty years.

Marge is told to unearth information about the notorious Santori. With her fascination for the occult, she is drawn into a series of tempestuous romantic encounters – and in a terrifyng climax discovers a love so wildly passionate that it reaches beyond the grave…

Twilight Return – An Astrological Gothic Novel for Cancer.

The Zodiac Gothic Series

An amazing new line of astrological romantic suspense novels in which the signs of the Zodiac determine the ultimate destinies.

SYDNEY OMARR, the internationally acclaimed astrologer, casts the horoscope for each heroine, to illuminate the interplay of human character and astrological influence.

Watch for your birth sign’s appearance in future editions of this star studded Ballentine series.

Written by John Kimbro. First edition Ballentine Gothic July 1976. Cover art George Ziel.

Wow, what a fantastic idea – a Zodiac Gothic series where the events are influenced by astrological birth signs. There is even an introduction where astrologer Sydney Omarr casts the chart for Marge Trotter, Twilights Return’s heroine, the last paragraph of which informs us –

“Yes, we have here a complicated, confused, talented, stubborn, loyal heroine. by September 1975, Marjorie finds peace through acheivement, is vindicated by faith displayed in her ‘murderer,’ solves a mystery, and obtains her father’s approval concerning love and family situations.”

The introduction alone is a story in itself!

This is the only Zodiac Gothic I possess and I haven’t got round to reading it yet. The other titles in this series are:

HOME TO THE NIGHT (Capricorn) by Julia Thatcher

THE WAITING EYES (Aquarius) by Evelyn Bond

TEMPLE OF DARKNESS (Pisces) by Marilyn Ross

FEAR STALKS THE BAYOU (Aries) by Juanita Coulson

MOORMIST (Taurus) by Georgina Ferrand

TEMPEST AT SUMMER’S END (Gemini) by Julia Thatcher

DRUMS OF DARKNESS (Leo) by Marion Zimmer Bradley

CAVE OF THE MOANING WIND (Virgo) by Jean DeWeese

INHERIT THE MIRAGE (Libra) By Julia Thatcher


White Violets

 

THE SCENT OF DEATH WAS IN THE AIR AT GLOOMY, MENACING NORTHCOURT – THE FRAGRANCE WAS WHITE VIOLETS!

When young Helen Stone became secretary to the mistress of Northcourt, she quickly learned that her predecessor had died under the most mysterious of circumstances.

The inhabitants of the huge, forbidding mansion were a strange, hostile lot, desperately trying to keep under cover a dread secret about Northcourt’s shadowy past. The only one she was drawn to was Bob Coles a handsome though bitter man.

One day Helen found herself high above the sea, in a tunnel filled with fog and the haunting scent of white violets. She stumbled against Bob Coles and her own nightmare at Northcourt began….

Written by Edward Crandall. Originally published 1953. Fourth paperback printing May 1969.

The blurb on the cover tells it all really – the young Ms Stone is employed as a secretary for Mrs Porter and finds herself trapped in a huge gloomy mansion, peopled by a variety of odd characters who are all bitter and twisted and after their share of the Old Dear’s inheritance.

Piece by piece Helen learns the story behind the death of her unfortunate predecessor and tensions build to bursting as our hapless heroine stumbles upon mutilated photographs, mysterious hats and strangers lurking in her bedroom.

I was attracted to this book by the underground tunnels, as I live in a seaside town rumoured to be riddled with the same  such smuggler’s hidey holes. I also thought the writing was very good, with some great descriptions of windswept cliffs and doom ridden rooms.

My only criticism would be I thought the action was a little too slow, nothing much seemed to be happening for the first part of the book apart from detailed conversations involving the history of the characters and their relationships to each other and I would have preferred a little more spooky and a little less background.

Nevertheless, once things get going,  the writing is very effective with some genuinely scary scenes. There is plenty to please in the romance department too – with a more than eligible love interest provided by the sexy but grouchy gardener Bob. Four out of five stars.

I also like the distinctive cover; there is a signature along the right side of the dress but I can’t quite make out the name. The closest I can guess it to be is Jerome Podwil but I can’t be sure.

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.

 

 

 

Jamaica Inn

The cold walls of Jamaica Inn smelt of guilt and deceit. Its dark secrets made the very name a byword for terror among honest Cornish folk. Young Mary Yellan found her uncle the apparent leader of strange men who plied a strange trade. But was there more to learn? She remembered the fear in her aunt’s eyes…..

Out on wild, rough moors there were only two people to befriend her – a mysterious parson and an insolent, likeable rogue who broke the law every day of his life.

Written by Daphne du Maurier. First published in 1936 by Victor Gollancz ltd. This edition published by Pan Books 1976.

Set on the wild, windswept moors of Cornwall in the  early 1800’s, Jamaica Inn is a beautifully written gothic romance cast amidst the murderous backdrop of the nineteenth century criminal underworld.

Following the death of her mother and the gradual ruin of their family farm, our heroine, 23 year old Mary Yellan, decides to sell up and leave town to go live with her mother’s sister Aunt Patience. Mary has had little contact with her Aunt over the years, only remembering her as a pretty, smiling woman who had lost contact with the family when she married ten years ago. Now Patience lives with her husband,  Joss Merlyn, the landlord of  Jamaica Inn on Bodmin moor.

Suspense and foreboding literally drip from the pages as we accompany Mary on her rain lashed journey through a desolate November night to  get to the inn.  Right from the start the omens aren’t good and they certainly do not get better.  Once she arrives  Mary is greeted by a barren, unlit husk of a building out of which looms the powerful and  frightening figure of her uncle, Joss Merlyn.  The inn is as bleak inside as out and Mary is dismayed when she finally meets her Aunt – an unrecognisable shadow of her former self, reduced to a nervous, tattered wreck by her vicious, drunken husband.

Well, as a bleak November night unfurls into a bleak and dreary mid-winter, things get stranger and scarier for Mary. Jamaica Inn never seems to be open to the public and only caters to a select band of vagabonds befriended by the bullying  landlord.  Strange noises and furtive comings and goings in the dead of night hint at a darker purpose to this inn and all is soon revealed to Mary by landlord Joss himself when he slips into a drunken stupor, revealing the shocking truth behind his business.

From the moment she set foot in the inn her heart has been telling her to  flee but, determined to do right by her Aunt, Mary decides to stay, perhaps even to bring justice and an end to the practices of her murderous Uncle. But she has to tread carefully as her own life is in peril and early on our canny heroine knows she should trust no-one – not even her Uncle’s brother Jem, a horse thief who steals her heart and swears he has nothing to do with his brother’s dastardly deeds.  And what about Francis Davey, the soft spoken, albino Vicar of Altarnun, who comes to her rescue more than once when she finds herself stranded on the moors. Perhaps Mary has found an ally in him – or has she?

Like Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights or Donna Tartt’s The Secret History,  Jamaica Inn is one of my favourite winter reads. This is a tale steeped in mystery and suspense which grips the reader right up to the end. And this book is dark – really if you thought your Christmas was looking grim have pity on poor Mary Yellan. The prose is beautiful,  full of atmosphere and brimming with all things gloriously gothic. We have murder, madness, passion and mayhem;  stark landscapes, stormy seas and blood curdlingly horrifying crimes. It’s no surprise that Daphne du Maurier’s works are still in print to this day (though I think I prefer the cover art on my edition!). This is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark winter’s evening. Five out of five stars.

Strange Paradise

Jean Paul Desmond makes a pact with the Devil in an attempt to bring his dead wife back to life.

JEAN PAUL DESMOND is handsome and vigorous. he is one of the world’s richest men and he is desperate. His beloved wife Erica is dead, but he will not let her rest.

JACQUES ELOI DES MONDES could be Jean Paul’s twin. Except Jacques is 250 years old, and dead. Or is he?

Jean Paul and Jacques enter into a pact that unleashes a tide of evil from beyond the grave which threatens to enslave Jean Paul – and all the people around him!

Written by Dorothy Daniels. First Paperback Library Edition December 1969.

Somewhere on a remote island in the Caribbean, accessible only  through a treacherous channel of water, stands Maljardin – a foreboding castle and home to the Des Mondes family for over four hundred years. It is here where we are introduced to the latest in the De Mondes line, Jean Paul Desmond; a modern day Jekyll and Hyde possessed by far more than the desire to bring his dead wife back to life.

Joining Jean Paul are guests Keith Lambert MD, a cardiac surgeon and Diana Thatcher, a secretary from New York. Amidst the ever so romantic backdrop of animal sacrifice and hypnotic drumming,  Keith and Diane meet at a Voodoo ceremony and instantly fall in love.  And just as quickly they are planning to leave the island to ride off  into a beautiful sunset together as soon as they can. There is only one hitch. Diana has to visit Maljardin to collect some papers for her boss in New York. Keith decides to  brave the turbulent waters with her and very soon the young couple find themselves  guests of Jean Paul Desmond and his rather sinister castle.

However getting out of the castle proves rather more difficult than getting in. It appears forces are at work conspiring to keep the not so willing guests trapped. Jean Paul has the body of his beloved dead wife Erica cryogenically preserved in the basement  and the skills of Dr Lambert may be able to assist him in bringing her back. More worryingly, judging by the bodies of young ladies that are being washed up ashore minus their major organs,  Diana herself may required for a fate far, far worse.

Will they or won’t they escape in time? And will Jean Paul himself see reason and fight the evil that is enslaving him? Is there anyone in the castle skilled in magic strong enough to defeat the devilishly deviant Jacques Eloi Des Mondes – a two hundred and fifty year old entity who can possess his ancestor at will? All is soon revealed in this surreal page turning novel that is crammed with all sorts of gothicky goodness.

This is the first in a series of paperbacks based on the television gothic suspense drama, Strange Paradise. I have two other paperbacks in this series – Island of Evil (published April 1970) and Raxl, Voodoo Priestess (published August 1970). Both titles are written by Dorothy Daniels and both centre on the ongoing saga of Jean Paul’s obsessive love for his beautiful dead bride as he struggles between good and evil and the satanic pact made with his long dead ancestor, Jacques Eloi Des Mondes.

For more information on this Canadian soap opera with a difference, check out: http://www.strangeparadise.net/index.html Paperback Library are the publishers behind the books that accompany the Dark Shadows series and though I am a huge Dark Shadows fan, I’ve never had the pleasure of watching any of Strange Paradise. But if these books are anything to go by this is not to be missed viewing! 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.

My Love-Haunted Heart

longlivingshadow

Everyone should have a few guilty pleasures and one of mine is the romantic gothic fiction that was so popular in the 60’s and 70’s. Long out of print, to only be found tucked away in the dark corners of charity shops, ebay and car boot sales, I find their bewitching covers and the terrible deeds hinted at within impossible to resist.

dyingemberscoverSo what is it about these small, usually unappealingly mouldy smelling paperbacks I find so attractive? Maybe it  was too much time spent watching Dark Shadows growing up or a gradual disenchantment with an over hyped, over priced market in modern horror, but time and time again, like the proverbial moth to a flame, I find myself irresistibly drawn to these haunting tales of romantic suspense and supernatural horror.

Of course with all great loves there are a few fatal flaws. The obligatory happy endings for one. One could, and should, argue that love can only truly be called gothic if it is unrequited, doomed, tortured, twisted or taboo – think Poe’s  Madeline and  Roderick or Emily Bronte’s Catherine and Heathcliff.

But I guess  for this particular genre, market forces dictated that the hapless heroine survive long enough to be swept off her feet by a real thecatspreylive hunk of (mostly) human love. To be fair, I’m sure many readers bought these books specifically for the ‘riding off into the sunset’ happy endings, but for those of us who prefer intrigue over romance, there are usually more than enough plot twists, villains, and unhappy skeletons in the closet to keep us coming back for more.

Another criticism levelled at this type of fiction is the overall quality of writing. It is true that in the wrong hands these stories can come out cliched and cheesy, with stereotyped characters, predictable plot twists and those “oh come on! give me a break!” moments that jar the reader out of the story. The subject matter and sheer numbers of these titles that were mass produced no doubt makes gothic romance an easy target.

raxlvoodooBut  I do not think this genre is any more guilty of “hack” writing than any other and in the right hands many of these books contain absorbing, evocative stories, full of the kind over dramatic gothic melodrama that’s so fun to lose yourself in occasionally, and they are a credit to their authors – particularly when you consider the very restrictive guidelines they  must of conformed to just to get published. In any event, literary snobbery aside, any book that gets people reading is a great book and there is no doubt the gothic romance genre has a loyal and avid readership.

So this blog is a collection of excerpts, cover art and reviews on some of my without a gravefavourite reads in vintage romantic gothic ficton. In their hey day during the 60’s and 70’s there must have been thousands of these books published  but these days they are becoming harder to come by and, just like the haunted houses they  depict, many of them are falling into ever increasing states of decrepitude.  I can only live in hope that someone, someday resurrects this forgotten genre and starts reprinting some of these titles, complete with their original gorgeous artwork, soon.

sightunseen