Saturday, October 3, 2015

"House of the Evil Winds" by Millie J. Ragosta

Published:  1973
Setting:  Modern Day

....the congregation began to chant anew.

All this time I had been clinging to the wall in frozen desperation, hardly daring to move.  Now I realized that I had only minutes to escape from this terrible place before the ceremony was over.  If I could get away undetected, I would run to the highway, beg a ride from a passing motorist, or, if I had to, walk to the nearest house.   Whatever happened, I had to get away from Maison des Vents Mauvais.  I eased back along the passage, slipped through the doorway, and ran silently across the hall.  I threw back the bolts on teh great door and went swiftly out into the morning.  

The winds had sunk to their customary low moaning, but the swamp was noisy with awakening wildlife.  Mist rose in pearly iridescence from every inch of swampy ground in the chill morning air.  I ran across the intervening lawn and plunged into the thicket.

The ground was wet and uneven, and my slippers were soaked almost instantly, but I was grateful that my footsteps made little sound.  The driveway was off to my right.  I stood frozen for a moment...Henri had warned me about the poisonous snakes that lived in the swamp, but they held less terror for me than the witches I had just fled from.  I plunged blindly into the marshiest center of the woods, losibg my slippers, ignoring the roots that tore at my feet.  The bayou glimmered off in the trees and I made toward it...

Jacket Blurb:

It all seemed to innocent at the beginning.  To Victoria Chase, stranded in New Orleans at Mardi Gras time with no money, the offer to act as a companion to the invalided wife of writer Henri Rousseau came at a most opportune moment.  And the prospects of assisting Henri with his history of the occult were equally enticing.

But before Victoria began her duties at Maison des Vents Mauvais- The House of the Evil Winds- Henri and his wife's twin sister, the dark and statuesque Francine Benet, took Victoria to a masked ball at the home of wealthy Madame Heloise Dulac.  Madame Dulac expressed her delight that Henri had found someone so suitable to tend Monique, his wife.  Earlier, Francine's approval of Victoria had also seemed rather profuse- and Victoria wondered fleetingly why these people- strangers, really appeared so enchanted with her.

It was at Madame Dulac's that Victoria met widower Stefan Thomas, and though their time together was brief, Victoria knew that she had fallen in love.  But Stefan had not seen Victoria unmasked, and it looked as if he were unlikely to, for her new positio did not permit her visitors of phone calls.

When Victoria discovers that odd religious rites are being conducted in a cave beneath the mansion, she fears that her continued presence in the House of the Evil Winds will only lead to her destruction- and she knows that only Stefan can save her.

Best Gothic Elements:  an orphaned girl, disease and death, paid companion, a creepy house in the midst of the bayou where howling winds ceaselessly blow,  Witchcraft, occults, spells, body-snatching, and murder.

This probably isn't the best gothic romance I've ever read, but it holds up well as an Avalon gothic.  It has all the great, spooky elements that surmise of good gothic romance reading.  Also sustains a dark hint of danger throughout the complete story.

Some parts of the story are a little too fantastic to believe, but then it is a work of fiction.

It's a short read, as all Avalon gothics are.  I would recommend to fans of the vintage gothic, as it held my attention fairly well.  I just wish it had 1) been longer and 2) the characters had been fleshed out.

My Rating:
3 Stars

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