Saturday, December 27, 2014

'Green Shadows' by Lucile Vernon Stevens

Published:  1973
Setting:  Modern Day

Inside the door she groped for the light switch.  From within the room there was a faint noise, and then something slid past her through the door, slammed it shut, and was gone.

Andrea started toward the door, ran into a table, stopped to recover her balance, and when she got the door open, there was nothing in view but the long hallway, dark except for a faint glow from the light far away.

She closed the door very quietly, as if it might wake someone.  Then she found the light switch.  The room looked just as it had when she went to dinner.

She locked the door with the key.

In the suite nothing seemed to be disturbed.  She searched cautiously, half expecting someone to leap at her from the shadows.  But there was no one there.

Feeling rather like an old maid in a farce, she knelt and peered under the bed.  There was not so much as a dust roll.

She sat down on the edge of the bed and tried to think who the intruder might have been.

Andrea Hughes was a girl of simple means, she worked in retail and was looking forward to her marriage to Edwin, a wealthy carpet tycoon, when the letter from Green Shadows, a place of dark shadows and an even darker mystery, arrived.

The letter stated that Green Shadows had been willed to her by a late cousin Luella Bayles, whom Andrea had only seen a short few times in her entire life.  In the will, Luella had specified, 'You must live at Green Shadows and clear my name.'

Soon, Andrea would find that the blood-colored estate harbored a murderous past and her cousin Louella was said to have been the murderess!

When Andrea arrived at Green Shadows, her forebodings were intensified upon meeting it's inhabitants.  Like many a Southern Mansion, this one was not without a motley collection of relatives and hangers-on.

Aside from a cripple, Ted, who'd taken residency after the world war, housekeeper and distant family member Lena Marsh was a forbidding and cold woman.  Handsome and dangerous Al Hudson (a friend of the family) and his wife also had found refuge at the old plantation.  Then there was a young, blonde girl named Dodie who claimed to be the long-lost Dorothea Bayles (an infant who disappeared from the mansion decades earlier when a murder had taken place) and was a rival to Andrea's claim to Green Shadows.

As things go bump in the night, deadly accidents befall unwitting residents of Green Shadows and rumors of jewels hidden somewhere on the estate circulate, Andrea finds that the only real home she's ever had is far from warm, welcoming, and comforting.

Not only does she find herself in over her head, but she also questions her impending marriage to Edwin as she becomes closer to family lawyer, and confidante, Mark Penwood, whose family shows her the only hospitality she's known since the death of her own mother.

And as the mysteries deepen, Andrea fears for her life and considers fleeing Green Shadows with it's promise of fortune...

Setting:  Green Shadows, a southern mansion.

Plot:  A heiress returns to her roots after being willed a Mansion and it's fortune.  She finds the house filled with waywards and distant relatives, a murder mystery and a girl who claims to be the long-kidnapped infant from decades earlier.  She also finds herself fearing for her sanity and her safety.

Gothic Elements:  hidden treasure, heiress with no family, a secretive cripple, stolen documents, stolen treasure, kidnapped infant, murder mystery, gossiping cook, elusive and forbidding maid, fortune hunters, family secrets, lawyer who comes to the aid of the heiress only to fall in love with her

Romance:  Andrea slowly falls in love with her lawyer friend, Mark Penwood, as he becomes her confidant and only comfort in this new world she's been thrust into.

I really loved this little Avalon Gothic romance.   The story had the basic 'heiress inherits a fortune and walks into a dangerous trap' plotting.  However, there were several interesting subplots (the kidnapped infant, the mystery of the true murderer, the lost fortune, the young girl who showed up claiming to be the infant that had gone missing), and there was enough suspense and undertones of danger to flesh the story out and keep me turning the pages.  The story maxed at around 200 pages, I personally would have enjoyed if it had been longer.  Recommend to fans of vintage gothic!

My Rating:
5 Stars

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