Climb The Dark Mountain

Climb the dark mountain close up

Dream… Or Nightmare?

Paris! Anita could not believe it. Her every dream had been of the glories of the City of Light, and now, thanks to aunt Emily’s legacy, she was really here.

Anita had one goal: becoming a successful artist. And what better place to study art than in the world capital of art? When Alexis Binaud agreed to accept her as a student, she was ecstatic… but her idol soon proved himself nothing more than a man. And Anita found she had opened the door to a dark secret… and that door was closing, locking her prisoner in a private hell!

Climb the dark mountainCopyright Press Editorial Services.

This edition published by Zenith Publications, London. (No date). 

It’s been awhile since my last post, I know… so thanks to everyone who has stopped by and left comments & emails – I promise to start replying soon! Bear with me as my beleaguered brain relearns its way around WordPress – I have been doing things the old fashioned way these past few months and am slowly refamiliarising myself with the internet.

Having reviewed a couple of Julie Wellsley novels on this site before – House Malign and Chateau of Secrets – I thought Climb the Dark Mountain would be a good book to start the summer off with since it’s been lurking on my to-read pile for ages.

The story starts when Anita Morris inherits some money and uses it to fulfil her long time ambition of becoming an artist. Thanks to a small legacy left to her in her aunt’s will, she now has enough cash to fly to Paris and study under the tutelage of renowned painter Alexis Binaud.

Lancer Edition

Lancer Edition

Montmartre is a long, long way from Maida Vale and everything Anita imagined it would be – all cutting edge glamour crossed with bohemian insouciance. As for Alexis, well, if drinking Pernod and chain-smoking Gitanes didn’t single him out as a genius, his moody charm and ruggedly handsome good looks sure do – so it’s no wonder Anita has fallen helplessly in love by the end of chapter 3.

When Alexis offers her a part time job illustrating a cartoon strip he is creating for a local paper, she jumps at the chance of spending more time with him. There is one slight catch however – for a mysterious fire at the art school means Anita will now be living and working from the artist’s home.

And it’s not just any old house. Alexis lives with his mother in an old French chateau with a dark past. Occupied by the Gestapo during the war, it is a place impregnated with evil, haunted by the ghosts of prisoners of war who were tortured and buried in its dungeons.

As soon as she moves in, Anita knows something is terribly wrong – strange accidents, a sense of being followed, shadowy figures creeping into her bedroom at night… someone wants her dead… and though she can not know for sure, the sinister, skeletal finger of gothic romance is pointing very much in the direction of one troubled artist with mad glittery eyes…

Climb the DM insert

Fast-paced, action-packed, Climb the Dark Mountain was a lot of fun crammed with whole heaps of gothicness – including eerily painted murals with eyes that follow you in the dark, an artist’s incestuous love for his dead sister, Nazis, secret rooms, madness, murder and much, much, more – I really sensed Julie Wellsley must have had a lot of fun writing this one.

But with so much going on, I found the story did get a little convoluted at times – with a confusing subplot about a spy ring or criminal gang that did not make sense to me at all – although that could be because I was far too engrossed with Alexis’ tortured love for his embalmed sibling to take much notice of other such minor fripperies.

Three out of four stars, with bonus points for this lovely cover which could have been painted by Alexis Binaud himself!

Climb the dark mountain

A Stranger in my Grave

What happened to Daisy Harker on Decemeber 2,1955? That was the date she had seen on the tombstone and yet she was still alive. The name on the grave was hers but whose was the body? Regardless of the lives that would be shattered by the truth, her implacable search for a single day in her past leads back through a maelstrom of hatred and remorse to the single catastrophic fact that underlies a lifetime of deception.

Written by Margaret Millar. First published 1960 by Victor Gollancz. Hodder paperback edition 1967.

Cover design Tom Simmonds. Photography Thomas Simmons.

My beloved Daisy: It has been so many years since I have last seen you…

We meet Daisy Harker one bright sunny morning in February as she sits down to breakfast with her husband Jim. At first glance they seem the perfect couple – young, affluent and good looking, enjoying bacon and eggs in their nice house, situated in a nice part of town. But something is wrong. Behind her brittle smiles and perfunctorily answers to her husband’s questions, Daisy’s peace of mind is becoming increasingly disturbed – she is suffering from panic attacks leaving her feeling out of control and helpless, triggered by a vivid dream in which she visited her own grave, the date on the tombstone marking her death as December 2nd 1955.

This letter may never reach you, Daisy. If it doesn’t, I will know why.

The good news is Daisy is still alive and, since it is now 1959, this dream cannot be a presentiment of her death. Even so, she intuitively knows someone or something close to her died that day and this is what holds the key to her increasing anxiety and unhappiness with her life. So, with the help of sceptical bail bondsman / private detective Pinata, she sets out on a journey to rediscover exactly what happened that fateful day in December over four years ago.

Memories are crowding in on me so hard and fast that I can hardly breathe.

I can’t say too much as I don’t want to spoil a cracking story beautifully written by an author with an amazing talent for bringing to life the little things – those seemingly offhand gestures and turns of speech that give away a character’s innermost thoughts and motivations. Suffice to say, this was a compelling mystery right from the start which I was very quickly drawn into.

Shame? – It’s my daily bread. No wonder the flesh is falling off my bones.

Another great thing about the structure of this novel – each chapter is headed by a couple of lines of prose which we gradually learn are extracts from a letter written, but never delivered to, Daisy herself. Who wrote it and why isn’t revealed until the final pages when she at last reads the entire letter- with the reader learning the whole truth behind her disturbing dream at the same time she does.

It’s powerful stuff and though some of the themes in this novel struck me as a little out-moded, the impact and skill of Margaret Millar’s storytelling more than makes up for this. I also love the eerie cover art; not sure if it’s a co-incidence or a typo but the names of the designer and photographer are strikingly similar, which made me wonder if this isn’t in fact the same person?

Anyway, a better review of this novel, along with some great cover scans, can be found over at the Pretty Sinister Books blog HERE.

Gothic Romance Lending Library

She came to a place of mist and menace – where even kisses tasted of terror… Haunted by a love that could not die but now could kill… Mystery lured her to the old castle, Death would show her the way out…

Foreboding mansions, misty moonlight and the moaning wind… There’s not much better than a night in with your favourite gothic romance is there? Well, imagine having a whole library full of them at your fingertips, delivered right to your door, without any of the hassle of having to find that precious extra shelf space!

Sounds like one of my favourite fantasies, but for those of you living in the good ol’ U.S.of A, this dream is a reality. Kristi Lyn Glass, founder of The Gothic Journal, has sent me some great news regarding the Gothic Romance Lending Library – it has now been re-housed and is looking bigger and better than ever.

Gothic Heaven!

Started in August 1996, the Gothic Romance Lending Library (GRLL) is a not for profit service that now contains over 3,400 volumes. That’s right, 3,400 gothics! I’m lucky (or insane) enough to own a few hundred of these books and the thought of owning a whole library full of them sounds like heaven. Even better, you can order up to eight books at one time and can keep them for approximately three months.

Kristi Lyn Glass is the founder of the Gothic Journal, which she started in 1991. The magazine’s purpose was to connect readers with gothic romance novels and their authors and publishers during a period in which publishers were disguising these books as titles in a variety of other genres.

Throughout the 90’s the Gothic Journal was the news and review magazine for readers, writers, and publishers of romantic suspense, romantic mystery, and gothic, supernatural, and woman-in-jeopardy romance novels. Though the final issue was published October / November 1998 the journal has an online presence, with a recently updated website, and continues to remain a great resource for anyone interested in gothic romance. Back issues of the Journal can also be ordered from here.

So for more information, just follow the links below:

Gothic Romance Lending Library

Gothic Journal Newsletter

Kristi is looking for others who share her passion to sign up as ambassadors and spread the word about the library, journal and all things gloriously gothic romantic. Just visit the link above and add your name to the list! And THANK YOU Kristi for all your suspenseful endeavours in keeping the Gothic Romance genre flag flying! Fans like me really appreciate it!

House of Hate

The Gathering Storm…

The stately mansion of the Thibaults was filled with the treasures and the memories of gracious living… but it held more than that. The world of the Thibaults had been shaped by art and music, but something in the house seemed to feed on a vicious undercurrent of fear and frustration. When Norma Theale came on a mission of mercy, she became a catalyst, around which a storm of dark furies gathered… waiting to burst and spew its evil over all. Because Norma was there, someone was going to die…

Would that someone be Norma herself?

Written by Dorothy Fletcher. A Magnum Book – Complete and Unabridged. Copyright 1967

A little bit of April tomfoolery to usher in the first of the month today. Paul McCartney played the Royal Albert Hall last week and his backing video to Paperback Writer at first glance looked to be a rather fabulous montage of Nurse Romance paperback art.

Nurse romances were very big in the 50’s and early 60’s before the gothic romances eclipsed their popularity. Mind you, the nurses in Sir Paul’s video look rather sinister (something about those surgical masks… and those little trickles of blood..) and they look as if they would be right at home in a gothic, assisting in the horrific experiments of some mad professor, somewhere deep within the dungeons of an isolated asylum…

Anyhow here’s a glimpse of the video taken from another show of his:

I don’t have any Nurse Romances myself, but I have a few gothics featuring nurses on the cover and House of Hate is one of them. Another is Leap in the Dark, written Rona Randall with a stunning cover by Lou Marchetti, which I’ve reviewed earlier on in this blog.

And if you want to have a look at some real Nurse Romances, check out The Vintage Nurse Romance Novels blog HERE.

Will-O’-the-Wisp

She was torn between a married man and the lover who haunted her dreams…

When Linda Vaughan is assigned to work in England with her boss, Harvey Seymour, she is, at first, deliriously happy. She is in love with him and for a while has him all to herself.

But when she rents an ancient cottage in Somerset, the deep influence of the cottage’s past impinges on the present.

Then she is promised happiness by the stranger she meets on a journey and from then on Linda struggles between her yearnings for Harvey and the will-o’-the-wisp lover who haunts her dreams.

Written by Derry Moffatt. First NEL paperback edition, July 1974. Cover photograph by Lagarde.

Linda Vaughan has red-gold hair and wears squirrel-fur coats. She lives in Vancouver and works as a PA to Public Accountant Harvey J. Seymour – a man she has been hopelessly in love with for nearly two years. Harvey loves her too and when they are sent away on a business trip to England, they both welcome the chance to continue their illicit affair far from the prying eyes of Harvey’s wife.

However, the hotel they are staying in lacks character and, with so many other work colleagues wandering its corridors at night, it is proving not to be the haven of guilt ‘n’ gossip-free sex they were hoping for. So Linda decides to rent Magpie Cottage, a secluded place full of Olde Worlde charm, located far enough away from work for our amorous couple to enjoy themselves without raising further suspicion.

Soon as the lease is signed, Linda and Harvey move in, settling down to a life of quasi-domestic bliss. And that’s when Linda starts having some very vivid dreams…

The tunnel was long and misty. Linda faltered, fearful and uncertain, then the haze cleared, torn aside like a veil. She was standing in a garden. It was high summer and fluffy white clouds sailed across an azure sky. Fragrant blooms spread a patchwork of colour in the flower beds. Beyond the garden walls soft hills were clad in green and gold … buttercups formed an undulating yellow carpet…

Amongst the shrubberies, his back towards her was a young man. She followed at a distance feeling curiously elated. Slowly the young man walked down a flight of worn steps and along a flag-stoned path between the evergreens to a sunken garden. As if suddenly aware of a presence he stood still, then turned. His wide sea-blue eyes made their way into Linda’s with a long unflinching look. With a start, Linda realised that he alone was aware of her… could actually see her.

For a full minute they gazed in silence at each other. Linda felt her heart hammering against her ribs. Something in the strength and beauty of his features stirred her soul. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came. His vibrating whisper of exultation caught and spun her heart. “My love… at last my love, you have come.”

Hmmm. At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking this reads like the perfect gothic romantic threesome – the man, the woman, and her otherworldly lover – but a few pages in and it was clear there was a bit more to this particular mix – not least Harvey’s long suffering wife, Susan, and their two young children.

Now I’m sure I’ve read lots of books full of people embroiled in extra-marital affairs, without thinking anything of it, but here, in the context of what I took to be a fairly straightforward romance, it was a little jarring. And it didn’t help that a large chunk of this novel chronicled Susan’s side of the story in all its soul crushing glory – the pain she endured finding out about the affair, the helplessness of being thousands of miles away from her husband, knowing she couldn’t do anything about it and the struggle she had keeping up a brave face for the sake of her children (one of which was seriously ill and dying in hospital no less).

This made it made it very difficult to empathise with our leading lady Linda, or to care very much about what happened to her and her ghostly lover. True, the ending to her story was suitably romantic and she did get to fall in love with the man of her dreams (literally). But any enjoyment the reader might have derived from this otherworldly romance was completely eclipsed by the wretched reality of Linda’s affair with Harvey and the devastating affect it had on his family

I first read Will-O’-the-Wisp a good few years ago and, even after re-reading it for this blog, I can honestly say I’ve not read a romance – gothic or otherwise – quite like it. And it makes me wonder, just how successful was the New English Library romance series if this was their idea of an example of the genre?

Judging from the signature in my copy, Derina Ridley is a pseudonym for Derry Moffatt. I can’t find out much else about her, except that she also wrote a few Disney movie tie-in books for New English Library in the 1970’s. The Bear Alley Blog states she was married to James Moffatt, the prolific pulp novelist best known for his Richard Allen ‘Skinhead’ books. 

Whether this is the case or not I cannot say but whoever Derry is, he/she has created a gloriously twisted take on the romance genre with Will-O’-the-Wisp. Though if lighthearted escapism is your thing, you’d probably best stick with Wuthering Heights. Four out of five stars.

 

Escape the Night

With the success of a New York job behind her and a gay lift in her heart, Serena March returned to Monterey to visit her sister. It was to be a short visit, and one full of fun; but, as things turned out, the bottom fell out of her world. The gay and carefree California group of friends she remembered so well, the sharp, dramatic countryside, even her own lovely sister were not and could not be as she remembered them. Something horrible had touched each one; something unclean was suddenly smeared across her brilliant happiness… something as evil as suspicion and as terrible as murder.

Written by Mignon G Eberhart. Bantam Edition Published August 1946. Second printing December 1946. Third printing.

Mignon Good Eberhart (1899-1996) has over sixty novels to her credit; she was awarded the Mystery Writers of America Award in 1971 and at least six of her books have been made into movies. Escape the Night was first published in hardback in 1944 and I started reading it today. It is more of a crime novel than a supernatural thriller but I think this could easily have passed as a gothic in the 60’s – particularly with the original Random House artwork, which features a rather spooky-looking bat on its cover. (And who knows, perhaps there is a Queen Size Gothic or Lancer Easy-Eye version of Escape the Night out there somewhere…)

Drawing from inside the front cover.

Drawing from inside the front cover.

I’ve been meaning to read this book the moment I was given it as a present a few weeks back, having instantly fallen in love with its creepy surrealist cover. Thankfully, a long train journey today has given me the perfect excuse to start.

Here is how it opens:

She knew that something was happening in the house.

The knowledge of it obtruded itself steadily between her and the book in her hands so she read the same lines over and over, not taking in their sense. She was listening so hard that it was as if her eyes and hands and every pore in her body had suddenly developed audient power; but there was nothing to hear. The house was quiet.

Hmmm, I love this beginning and, though I’m not generally into crime as a genre, I’m liking what I’ve read of Escape the Night so far. Mignon Eberhart’s writing is stripped down and punchy, but poetic too, with just enough descriptive prose to keep me happy. Interestingly she has been credited with contributing to the development of the Romantic Suspense genre and more about this, along with some extracts of her writing, can be enjoyed over at The Girl Detective HERE.

… Oooh, I’ve just been informed this is My Love Haunted Heart’s 100th post! Hooray! Now, where’s my prize? 😉

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.

Image of Evil

The face of the Louisiana plantation of Southern Moon gleamed invitingly in the summer sun when Susan arrived for her visit. The ravishing, aristocratic plantation mistress, Corinna Hamilton, her elegant suitor, Cedric Raimond, her handsome, dashing son, Paul, her breathtaking daughter, Lacy – all welcomed Susan as one of their own.

But once within the old mansion, Susan soon discovered the dark side of Southern Moon. Too late the lovely young girl knew she was lost and alone in a nighttime world of sinister secrets and fearful danger, where she was being helplessly turned into a slave of love and a prisoner of evil…

Image of Evil by Rosemary A. Crawford. First Dell printing November 1971 & Candlelight Intrigue Dell printing October 1979.

The weather is hot, hot, hot – and it’s raining (again!) – so what better time to immerse myself in a sweat-drippin’ gothic set in the swampy morass of Louisiana.

Susan is twenty three and works as a junior designer in New York. One day she receives a letter from a strange woman, Corinna Hamilton, claiming to be her mother’s long lost sister. Corinna is inviting Susan to come visit the Hamilton plantation so she can become reacquainted with her southern cousins.

Susan is suspicious – as far as she is aware her mother was an only child with no surviving family. If Corinna Hamilton really is her Aunt, then why did her mother lie to her? And for so long? This really is a secret too tempting to resist, so Susan takes an early holiday to travel down to Louisiana to find out the truth for herself.

When she arrives at Southern Moon, Susan finds herself underwhelmed by all her new relatives and their showy pretence at hospitality. Worst of all is Susan’s cousin Paul – by about page sixty he decides he wants to marry her. And he won’t take no for an answer. In fact, to her horror, the whole family won’t take no for an answer – marrying your cousin is quite acceptable in certain circles and, as her Aunt sagely advises: “It saves a great deal of controversy when it comes to divide the spoils – all in the family you know.”

And as if that wasn’t enough to ruin her holiday, Susan also has Billy Ben to contend with. He’s the tobacco chewing deputy sheriff who drawls a lot and has an awkward habit of popping up out of nowhere, languidly leaning on door frames while leering suspiciously at our heroine.He seems to know more than he is letting on, but what?

Dell first printing 1971

Meanwhile Paul conveniently crashes his car and ends up in a coma, leaving Susan free from his unwanted advances and giving her the perfect opportunity to make her excuses and leave. Against her better instincts, Susan decides to stay but, as she uncovers more of the secrets behind her mother’s estrangement from the Hamilton clan, she (eventually) realises her own life is in danger. Escape seems impossible – the horses have all been sold off and her car impounded. Trapped in an isolated mansion, surrounded by lecherous law enforcement officers and treacherous swampland, only the handsome Dr Clay Foster can save her now….

I found Image of Evil a bit like the weather – muggy and dull and heavy going at times, the story bogged down in lengthy genealogical revelations, with not enough actually happening in the here and now. Worse still, the ‘terrible evil’ at the root of this family rift turned out to be nothing more that a stolen stamp collection. Dear God, stamps! With not even a whiff of a ghost to spice up the equation.

On the plus side, I did like the location and all the lush descriptions of swampland and thunderstorms. The car crash towards the end was suitably dramatic and perked me up a little but overall I found this one difficult to finish. Two out of five stars.

I have two copies of this book. The cover on the earlier edition below works better, I think – the artwork more detailed and vivid (though you’d never guess from the condition of my copy). The cover above is a later Dell reprint under their Candlelight Intrigue series – I must admit, the juxtaposition of the tradtional Mills & Boony type design with the creepy gothic artwork is well… intriguing. I’d like to see more of these!

The Curse of Collinwood

DO ZOMBIES WALK AT COLLINWOOD?

 Upset over the death of Ernest Collins, Victoria begins to believe that phantoms are haunting her. Are they figments of her imagination? As the threats to her life become very real, she is forced to accept the horrifying truth.

The strange figures are not phantoms but the bodies of Derek and Ester Collins, murdered more than a century ago. They were unwittingly released from their coffins by a shaft of moonlight – and doomed to roam the earth as the “living dead.”

Copyright Dan Curtis Productions. First edition printed May 1968. This seventh printing – April 1969.

Dysfunctional families – that great invention of the 1990’s Oprah generation. Of course in the good old days, before all this new-agey psycho babble became all the rage, f***ed-up families weren’t ‘special needs’ at all – of course not, they were cursed. So much more glamourous.

In my last post I had the audacity to suggest that the Collins’ of Dark Shadows fame stood as a shining example to us all of a family so riddled with dark deeds and unnatural lusts even Jeremy Kyle would shudder at the prospect of taking them on. And here’s the proof!  Plundering my collection of Dark Shadows paperbacks, I’ve found not one, not two, but THREE Marilyn Ross novels chronicling the various curses afflicting the Collinwood clan – though truth be told I think the word is being used a little loosely here.

Barnabas, Quentin and the Witch’s Curse

Copyright Dan Curtis Productions. First printing August 1970.

CAN BARNABAS STOP QUENTIN FROM BRINGING HIS COVEN TO COLLINWOOD?

Quentin Collins’ coven of witches, centred in the Castle Asariana in Venice, was the scandal of the city. Reports of the bizarre practices of the Devil worshippers, all of whom were beautiful girls, circulated widely, and invitations to the parties that Quentin sometimes held to attract new members to his cult, were greedily coveted.

Then two Americans died while spending an evening at the castle but before the authorities could investigate, Quentin and his entire group vanished. Soon after, Quentin shows up at Collinwood, with the intent of establishing his cult there.

Barnabas knew it was up to him to stop Quentin before Collinwood was turned into a centre of Black Magic and Satan worship. But who wielded the stronger power – Barnabas or the Devil himself?

Barnabas, Quentin and the Scorpio Curse.

Copyright Dan Curtis Productions. First printing November 1970.

IS THE SIGN OF SCORPIO THE MARK OF DEATH?

Terror reigns at Collinwood when several patients at a nearby psychiatric clinic at which Barnabas Collins is a patient are stabbed to death. Each victim’s forehead is marked with a scorpion, the zodiacal symbol of death,

Then Diana Collins, another relative of the Collins family who is undergoing psychiatric treatment at the hospital, finds a bloody knife in her room. Diana, whose astrological sign is Scorpio, is afraid that she may have committed the murders during one of her blackouts. The fear that she is losing her mind is compounded when no one will believe she has seen a strange, wolf-like creature prowling the grounds.

The only person who will listen to her story is Barnabas. But how can he help her when he too has become a suspect?

As far as I can tell, there is at least one more Dark Shadows ‘curse’ book – Barnabas, Quentin and the Mummy’s Curse, which – considering how much mothers get blamed for everything – must surely be the most cursed curse book of them all…

Shadow Of A Past Love

COME BACK TO TERROR!

Kerry Reneau was happy in San Francisco, and confident that the bitter past was safely locked in the dark corners of her memory. She kept herself busy, too busy to think of other people… of one person. It had been years since she had seen that one man.

…And then Aunt Agatha reappeared suddenly after two years – reappeared dead! And like it or not, Kerry found herself thrust back into those other times and other places that she so much wanted to forget. But unpleasant as the homecoming seemed, she knew that it would soon be done with… and then dark horror brought the shadow of death over good memories and bad, and Kerry found herself fighting for her very life against the ghosts of the past!

Written by Willo Davis Roberts. Lancer Books 1970.

Kerry runs a bookshop on the edge of a college campus in San Francisco, so we know she’s smart. And we know she’s pretty because at least half the customers come in just to look at her – skulking around  the bookcases, buying  the occasional 50 cent paperback while working up the courage to ask her out.

But Kerry is not interested in college boys. She’s 26 years old and is carrying a torch for John, her childhood crush who’s a bestselling writer currently travelling in Peru researching his new book.

Or so she thinks. Closing up the shop one day she answers a phone call that drastically alters the course of her life. It is from Coyle, one of her cousins, summoning her back to her home town of Eureka. A woman has been killed in a hit and run accident in nearby Willow Creek. The wristwatch she was wearing has been traced by police to  Kerry’s Aunt Agatha – who disappeared from her home over two years ago and has been presumed dead ever since.

Though Kerry has many fond memories of the summers spent with Aunt Agatha and her cousins, she isn’t particularly interested in attending the funeral until she learns John will be there.

So she returns to Aunt Agatha’s. But it seems her love for John will forever remain unrequited as he continues to treat her as his ‘little cousin’ – refusing to recognise how grown up she has become. And Kerry is convinced John’s new secretary and constant companion, Lois Elliot, is in love with him too.

For Kerry, the whole trip is a bust so she decides to make a quick exit.  Paying her last respects at the funeral she notices Aunt Agatha has a mole on her face she has never noticed before. Hmm, that’s a bit strange. And then, when the contents of the Will are finally revealed,  Kerry finds out she has inherited slightly more than her Auntie’s good looks.

Surrounded by resentful relatives and the new owner of a creaky old mansion, Kerry is finding it difficult to sleep at nights. But making herself a relaxing cup of cocoa in the middle of the night turns out to be far more eventful than she could possibly imagine…

A couple of hundred pages of Lancer Easy Eye large type meant Shadow of a Past Love only took a couple of days to read which was probably just as well as it’s kind of obvious where this one is going. This is one of those ‘hazardous inheritance’ type gothics where the heroine more often than not ends up both rich and married to the man of her dreams. Some girls have all the luck.

Despite all that was happening to her, Kerry only had eyes for John and I would describe  Shadow as more of a romance than a gothic, though there were some nice spooky touches along the way – a body bricked up in the basement is always a good thing, but disappointingly no vengeful ghosts or tell-tale mutterings leading us to the killer, just a bit luck and an underfed Siamese cat. Three out of four stars.

As well as writing gothics, Willo Davis Roberts, who worked in hospitals and GP surgeries herself, wrote a number of Nurse Romances.

Nurse Romances were very big in the 50’s before their popularity was eclipsed by Gothics. My mum read loads of them and she was an actual nurse so they must have something going for them.

And in the spirit of Valentine’s day I have one lovely Ace Nurse Romance by Willo Davis Roberts to give away free to anyone with UK postal address.  Nurse at Mystery Villa is part of the Ace Nurse Romance Series. First published in 1967 this is the Ace 1973 second printing. Just email me via the contacts page and she’s all yours.