A SHRIVELED, DEAD-WHITE FACE WITH GAPING EYES...
suddenly materialized as Amanda went toward the balcony door.
Horrified, she stood frozen, her hand arrested in mid-air. The chill tingling up her spine was unbearable as the ghastly apparition came closer to her.
Amanda cringed away. She screamed, her voice choking in her throat as everything went black...
Amanda Vail had returned to the great house on the New England cliffs to claim it as her legacy under the terms of her great-uncle's will. But the Laytons, caretakers of the mansion, treated her as an intruder, insisting that the estate was rightfully theirs according to the terms of another- and later- will made by old Jasper Vail.
Fearful of what these avaricious people might do to her, Amanda turned for help to two men: Bill Atherton, an artist who had begun a painting of her five years ago and who had involved her in suspicious gossip when his wife disappeared, and Hugh Marley, a handsome writer living on the Vail estate and hiding from...Amanda didn't know what.
A sudden and horrifying discovery caused Amanda to turn on both men and run for her life!
Setting: A rambling old beach house nestled along the sharp cliffs of New England.
Plot: The main plot has to do with the inheritance of Amanda's will being jeopardized by the groundskeepers (an elderly couple, the Laytons) who say her Uncle Jasper left a new will that designates them the rights to the house and funds. Yet, as Amanda awaits the courts to weigh their decision on which will is original, Amanda entertains herself by spending time with two male friends. The first, Bill Atherton, is an artist for whom she posed five years earlier (at the age of 16). Rumors of an affair between Amanda and Bill erupted in the small seaside town and Bill's wife mysteriously vanished. He claimed she had ran away. The second, Hugh Marley, currently inhabits a small cottage in the marshes. He claims to be a writer/journalist, but is evasive and behave suspiciously. And we can't forget the danger, the accidents that continue to happen to Amanda...accidents that threaten her life!
Gothic Elements: A rambling seaside mansion with steep, sharp cliffs and an angry ocean. The heroine is nearly drowned when someone removes a warning sign that is posted near dangerous water. A large inheritance that is being jeopardized. A dark, mysterious artist. An evasive, mysterious writer. Scary faces appearing in windows. Heroine is nearly crushed to death by a cement column. Crazy, hostile housekeepers. Talk of pirates loot as the heroine is trapped beneath the house in what appears to be a space meant for drowning prisoners, she nearly loses her life. Heroine falls into an icy, water-filled hole at night and must await help. Detectives, private investigators, a main character being 'wanted' as a fugitive. An apelike, scary stepson of the groundskeepers.
Romance: There really is no romance between Amanda and Bill, despite any rumors. He merely appears to be an old friend. However, there seems to be a growing chemistry between Amanda and Hugh, yet she uncovers secrets that both, make her fearful and angry.
This is my second time reading this book. I first read it years ago, I think on summer break from college classes. I remember laying on the couch, reading this book and totally losing myself in it's summery atmosphere of suspense. I don't know what it is about this book, but it just totally drew me into the story (it was just as good the second time around). Maybe because the story includes my favorite things...mysterious writers and artists and then the unsuspecting heroine who only wishes to live in the huge old house she's inherited. I love the descriptions of the sea...everything. It's quite a short read, too, probably tapping out somewhere around 90 pages or so. This is one of my favorite gothic romance books. It's fun, its creepy, it's full of suspense and has several subplots to follow. My only complaint is that I wish it had been about 100 pages longer. If you enjoy the vintage gothic, this read is for you!