The Vampire Curse

THE KISS OF DEATH

Teena Halliday, paying an extended visit to Rentlow Retreat, doesn’t want to pose for Jeremy Rentlow, a noted sculptor. There are malicious rumors that he is a vampire, which make Teena uneasy. But Jeremy persists and Teena finally gives in.

Soon after the sittings are underway, Teena begins to feel weak and tired, but Jeremy refuses to let her miss a session. Suddenly Jeremy tells his family of their engagement. Teena does not love him but she does not have the strength to protest. It is as if she has become his prisoner, with no will of her own.

Then Teena notices strange marks on her neck. She dares not ask – are they the marks of a vampire? Is Jeremy’s kiss the kiss of death?

Copyright 1971 Coronet Communications Inc. First Paperback Library Edition January 1971. Cover art Victor Kalin.

Teena Halliday’s mother, the exotic Margaretha, is getting married. Again. She has a six month honeymoon planned in South America with her handsome new beau and there is absolutely no way she can have an eighteen year old daughter in tow. So dear old mum has arranged for Teena to travel four thousand miles across the globe to go stay with distant relatives in New England, and her daughter has just four days notice to pack what she needs and leave the Mediterranean villa she has come to call home.

Teena is devastated by this bombshell, but there is a tiny ray of hope – for her father, whom she hasn’t seen in over twelve years, has written to say he will be meeting her at the airport in Boston.

However, when Teena arrives in Boston her father is nowhere to be found. Instead she is met at the airport by Rory, a family friend of the Rentlows. Rory is tall and handsome, with green eyes and ‘competent’ hands but Teena is too upset by her missing father to notice.

Arriving at Rentlow Retreat, Teena is introduced to her new ‘family’ –  the unwelcoming Aunt June and surly Uncle Charles, her niece, the slightly manic Estrella, who has a massive crush on Rory herself and who is already treating Teena like a competitor for his affections. And then there is cousin Jeremy, the mysterious sculptor – tall and dark with glittering eyes – who has attached himself to the Rentlow family in more ways than one.

Brought up in posh boarding schools in Europe, Teena is not sure what to make of this rag-taggle lot. But, stifling her qualms, she is determined to keep a bright outlook on the situation. Her father must be around here somewhere, and at least she has Scuffy, the cute friendly terrier with whom she can take for long, relaxing walks in the surrounding woods. After all, Teena tells herself as she settles in to her first night at Rentlow Retreat, how bad can things be?

The next day, an ancient mirror falls on her head and Scuffy dies of a strange wasting disease. Things go from bad to worse as Scuffy’s burial gives Jeremy the perfect excuse to show Teena his special pet cemetery at the bottom of the garden. It’s a shadowed place, eerily quiet, dotted with sculptures of the animals buried there, each marble lovingly carved by Jeremy himself…

I allowed him to lead me from statue to statue. Unwillingly, and with a peculiar pounding of my heart, I listened while he told me about each of them, and how he had sculpted them, and how the models had died and been buried.

Jeremy’s voice went on, low, husky, hypnotically gentle, giving me the names, even the biographies, of the pets he had buried there.

And then, suddenly smiling, he said, “I hope you don’t think that I’m showing off, Teena, love. I just wanted you to have a good look. As a homage to what I’ve loved, I suppose. And to see if you think all this a fitting memorial.”

I felt a sudden cold, the silence around us had become painful. But I said, “Off course it is, Jeremy. You do beautiful work.”

Oh dear. Teena is finding Rentlow Retreat a little difficult to adjust to. Her unease increases once Scuffy is buried, for that is when Jeremy turns all his glittery-eyed attention on to her, suggesting she starts to model for him. Teena has a bad feeling about this. A very bad feeling. Hastily making excuses, she does what she can to put him off, but Jeremy’s hypnotic stare and indomitable will are proving all too impossible to resist….

Overall I enjoyed The Vampire Curse – it had vampires, romance, an interesting heroine, and enough spills ‘n’ chills that kept me turning the pages. The gory stuff wouldn’t suit many of today’s readers (well, there wasn’t any gore) but I did like the creepy touches and precarious locations scattered throughout this story –there were mazes to get lost in, cliffs to fall off of and lots of crumbling architecture tumbling down on people’s heads.

Daoma Winston was born in Washington D.C November 1922. I’ve reviewed a couple of her books on this blog – The Love of Lucifer and The Devil’s Daughter and, though her writing can be a little on the light side when it comes to blood and guts horror, I love the unusual settings and macabre twists to her tales.  Four out of five stars.

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Lost Ecstasy

ECHOES OF A DANGEROUS LOVE

“Why have you come back?”

It was dark, but Tom glanced around to make sure no one had seen them. “Just to look at you. I don’t want to make any trouble.”

Suddenly he gazed at her with a strange, smouldering intensity. Look, you may hear things about me. You will… I’m human. But this goes, now and forever…there’s only you. Do you understand? Only you…”

Kay’s Love for Tom was deep and passionate but was it strong enough to withstand the whispered rumors about his past that shadowed her life with terror?

Written by Mary Roberts Rinehart. First published 1927. Seventh Dell printing June 1968. Cover by Victor Kalin.

Oh my, I just had to share this lovely Dell edition with some more gorgeous artwork by Victor Kalin. Flicking through the pages, Lost Ecstasy seems to be more of a ‘romance on the ranch’ kind of a read rather than gothic – though with a cover like this I’d be willing to swap vampires for sexy cowboys any day of the week.

Mary Roberts Rinehart was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1876. She trained as a nurse and became a full-time writer in 1903. A lot of her novels are sold as gothics or works of mystery romance and  are widely respected for their humour and complex storylines. Known as the “American Agatha Christie” she was also the highest paid author in the US during the first half of the 20th Century.

I’m hoping to review some of her books over the coming months so if you have any particular favourites or recommendations, please let me know.

In the meantime, more info on Mary Roberts Rinehart can be found HERE.

And Victor Kalin’s daughter has sent a link to more of her father’s stunning artwork HERE.


Phantom Manor

THE GRUESOME LEGEND OF PHANTOM MANOR

“When the ‘ghost’ appears in the sinister monk’s corridor, someone will die!”

From the moment she came to live at Phantom Manor, a rotting pile of stone she had suddenly inherited, Jan Davis became the terrified victim of a series of ‘accidents’.

The lurking murderer could be anyone whose life was tied to the dread secret of the eerie mansion; a homicidal half-witted young man; a jealous relative who wanted the manor for herself; even a neighboring landowner with whom Jan had fallen in love.

But the hidden villain of Phantom Manor could also be one of the ‘unliving’ – the legendary ghost that stalked its shadowy corridors, leaving horror and death in the echo of its unearthly footsteps…

A Paperback Library Gothic by Marilyn Ross. First printing January 1966. Cover art Victor Kalin.

This one I found in pristine condition  at a local charity shop.  It promises all sorts of gothicky goodness and has gone straight on to my pile of must-reads over the Christmas holidays.