Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Come to Greenleaves" by Kay Richardson

Published:  1977
Setting:  Modern Day

The telephone call came two nights later, as I was getting ready for bed.


It was impossible to tell if the voice was masculine or feminine, old or young.

"Yes.  We have a poor line.  Will you speak up, please?"

"This is a friend," the voice said.  "Take this as a warning.  Get out of that house!"

"What? Who is this?"

"If you value your life, get out of that house."

There was a click, and the dial tone sounded in my ear.  My heart began to beat rapidly, and my body trembled as though I had caught a chill.  I looked about the room, and it seemed suddenly strange, unreal, like a set for a play.  Outside, a wind had come up.  A breath of icy air fanned my warm cheeks.  Somewhere a door banged.

I wen to the window.  Outside, all was darkness.  The wind scraped the guava bush against the house.  I peered through the trees in the direction of Greenleaves, but no comforting light shone through the darkness...

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Greenleaves had been the Bennet family's estate for generations, and Emily Bennett, orphaned as a child, had grown up there.  So when illness forced her to leave college, it was only natural that she return to the haven of Greenleaves to recuperate.

Beneath its peaceful surface, however, Emily found some disturbing elements.  Her semi-invalid grandfather, Adam Bennett, was more and more under the domination of officious Aunt Jessica.  And Monsieur Boullanger, who had suddenly emerged out of her grandfather's past, seemed to have some mysterious hold over the old man.  But most immediately disturbing to Emily was the discovery that Emmett Kehoe, whom she had loved since she was a child, was expected to announce his engagement to her beautiful cousin, Sylvia.

When Emily returned from a cruise, a birthday gift from her grandfather, to find the old man on his deathbed, she felt her leaving had been particularly ill-timed.  But when she discovered that her grandfather had written a new will in her absence nd that she had been disinherited in favor of her Aunt Jessica, she began to suspect that more than ill-fated coincidence had been at work on the timing of her trip.

That was just the beginning of a series of events that soon brought Emily to the terrifying realization that someone was after more than her inheritance...that every day that she remained at Greenleaves put her life in great jeopardy.

Someone Is Waiting In The Dark...

I had other thoughts on my mind besides my cousin's romance.  I was anxious to get back to the cottage.  I wanted to call Mr. Reynolds.  His coming to Greenleaves like that, during the dinner hour, and without even having telephoned first, seemed to be out of keeping with what I knew about the gentle manager of the Refuge for the Blind.  Even Minna had detected that Mr. Reynold's request to see my aunt had been an urgent one.

Halfway between the house and the cottage, I thought I heard a voice in the distance calling my name.  I stopped, and once again the sound came, barely discernible because of the wind rattling through the branches of the trees.

"Who is it?" I called.

I listened intently, but there was no answer.  The dark trees on either side of the road obscured my vision.  A nameless fear took hold of me, and I began to walk faster, Steel close behind me.

Suddenly I felt something whistle inches over my head.  A moment later the moon disappeared behind a cloud.  Panic overcame me, and I began to run, knocking blindly into the branch of a tree.   A minute later I felt the thong on my sandal break, tripping me.  I plunged forward, trying with my hands to break the fall.

Steel's barking was the first sound I heard as I struggled back to consciousness.  Next, I heard footsteps...

Were They Rescuing Her...Or Were They Kidnapping her?

"The main problem right now is to ensure your safety," Talbot continued.  "Nikki has come up with a plan.  Friends of hers own a small cottage on the Mensona River.  The friends are wintering in Arizona, and they left Nikki the key to the cottage.  You could stay there for a few days, long enough for me to come up with evidence I can take to the police."

"What a nuisance I am to you."  I sighed.

"Nikki can provide you with everything you need," Talbot said.  "Believe me, if I did not think this move necessary, I'd never suggest it."

I agreed to go with him.

Within an hours time we reached the small cottage Talbot had spoken about.  The cottage was right on the river bank.  Nikki met us at the back door.  In the small, rather shabby cottage she presented an incongruous appearance in her exotic and expensive looking hostess gown...

I wanted to like this book more, but the mystery was almost flat.   Someone is out to steal an inheritance.  It's a basic who-done-it, but with so many characters that I almost got confused just trying to keep them all in order!

If you enjoy reading gothic romance, you can give it a go.  It's not the best I've read, but not the worst either.  If your TBR list is long, pass this one up!

My Rating:
3 Stars

Monday, September 10, 2018

"Leaves on the Wind" by Yvonne Norman

Published:  1978
Setting:  Modern Day

Her feet were cold and the jacket was little protection against the freezing night.  She moved like a ghost among the rows of the garden.  Dark shapes stood out in the moonlight...trees, bushes, and beyond her, the towering bulk of the canyon wall, black against the paler darkness of the sky.  She smelled the tanginess of pot marigolds as she brushed against them, their scent undamaged by the frost.    The nubby weaves of her pants caught on a renegade rosebush too pretty to be moved even though it had stood dead center in the middle of the tomato patch.

She stooped to unsnag her pants, fumbling carefully in the dark so as not to pull the rich material.  It was then that a dark shape raced toward her out of the night, striking her in the side, forcing a startled cry.  Caught off balance, she crashed and rolled helplessly over, feeling the firm round shapes of green tomatoes beneath her and the hot breath of something as it searched her throat.

Instinctively Eden raised her arms to protect herself and her jacket caught the animal's first blows.  Somewhere through the night she heard a scream...was that her?  Suddenly another creature joined the attack.  Fritzi had rushed from somewhere to aid her mistress, and the powerful dog had size and love for Eden on her side.

Eden tried to roll out of the way but she couldn't; instead she was trapped under the padded dancing feet of the raging animals.  Again she screamed.  How could Dauphine sleep through all this?  Someone had to help her!

There were other sounds breaking through the night, but they only caught the edge of her consciousness.  She was too busy guarding her face and neck from the fight that rampaged around and over her...

Book Jacket Synopsis

Six years ago Eden Morley left her home in Montana, left the man whom she was engaged, Jared Denvers, to try her luck in the big city.  In those six years, much had happened to the lovely young woman.  She had become famous the world over as a high-fashion model, Eden, whose hazel eyes and daffodil hair looked out of countless magazines.  And she had become engaged to Wolf Beldmore, a handsome, wealthy member of the "beautiful people" who kept a pack of wolves trained to respond to his whistle.

And a year ago, Wolf died in an accident for which Eden felt responsible.  Would the rustling of autumn leaves always bring back that fateful night?  But Eden feels it is more than her imagination at work when she sees a wolf in the road, in an area supposedly free of wolves.  And then Jarred Denvers returns, confessing that he could have killed her after she jilted him.  And her housemate, Dauphine Morris, is mysteriously linked to the world of high fashion Eden inhabited.  

Eden's struggle to free herself from the past and to make a new life for herself plunges her in to a nightmare of terror.

Eerie Gothic Imagery:  

"...as she stepped out onto the porch a gust of wind pushed against her, momentarily taking her breath away.  The wind had risen suddenly, but it was always something to reckon with as it blew off the high desert and forced its way down the canyon...sometimes it was a soft whimper, sometimes a wrenching sob.  

She stood for a minute on the darkened porch, drinking in the freshness of the night.  Dried leaves blew in whirling eddies across the wide lawn and caught at her ankles as she hurried to her car.  Looking back over her shoulder, the lighted, waiting house cast white shadows on the frost-killed flowerbeds.  Cracked and lost-looking were the two stone urns that flanked either side of the porch.  In summer they had been ablaze with red petunias.  Now they were full of hard earth and withered brown skeletons..."

"...She was alone in the canyon.

The wind crawled around her.  Colder now, it rattled the drying leaves on the trees and shook the darkness.  In the distance the lonely sound of an animal called, reminding her that shew as completely alone on a friendless night..."

Was He Dead...Or Alive??

"She shook her head against the searing memory.  There had been the car accident and then, as now, she had been in terrific pain.  She could still recall the horrible scene that branded her memory.  She had lain battered and broken in the rocks, but thrown clear of the wreck.  The car with Wolf inside had turned end over end before it smashed to the bottom of the canyon and burst into orange flames, then exploded.  Nothing living could have escaped that inferno."

She didn't want to believe in anything or anyone reaching out from beyond the grave, yet she was puzzled by the almost uncanny appearances of the renegade wolf.  If a person carried the force of his personality into the afterworld, then Wolf Beldmore possessed the power to return if anyone did..."

Interesting Names of Places:  Coyote Canyon, The Iron Horseshoe, Hygrade Salooon

Gothic Elements:  Phantom wolves, dark and creepy fall nights, apparitions of the dead, secret lovers, a secretive and vindictive roommate, a dark and gloomy canyon cabin (where the heroine resides), a perilous automobile accident, attacked by wild wolves, crazy relatives seeking revenge, a girl hiding from her real identity

This is another Avalon gothic.  These little stories aren't quite as  elaborate as other, more serious, writers of the genre.  But, I find myself reaching for them more often when I just need some fun, relaxing, quick reading material.

This one isn't as formulaic as most I've read, but enjoyable just as well.  I had things figured out about a third of a way through the story, but I loved the almost-poetic descriptions of the dark, eerie fall weather, the empty canyon, the wilderness, and descriptions of the first snowfall.  The romance was innocent and clean.  The mystery piqued my interest enough to keep me reading.

Great, light read for gothic romantic enthusiasts.

My Rating:  
4 Stars

Monday, October 9, 2017

"The Phantom Cottage" by Velda Johnston

Published:  1969
Setting:  Modern Day  (New York City &  Cape Cod)


I blurted, "Last night someone drugged and kidnapped me."

With those little eyes never leaving my face, I stumbled on.  I explained how everything...the candle flame, the flowers and faces that swam across my eyes, the black-coated figure across the room...seemed to change shape and size.  And how I knew, even through the drug, that they were all involved in Laura's death.

The Police Chief stared at me belligerently.  "You'd better go back to New York, Miss,"  he said, "and go talk to one of those fancy head doctors."

As I left, I was almost convinced that he was right...that I had gone stark, raving mad.  Then, for the first time, I saw the rope marks on my wrists...

Back Cover Synopsis:


Jane Warren was fleeing the memory of a broken love affair when she came from Manhattan to the windswept solitude of the cottage by the sea.  Neither the howling of the wild dogs in the swamp nearby, nor the strange hostility of the local townsfolk, could weaken her resolve to live here until her heart was whole again.

Too late she realized she had entered a dark labyrinth where every turn revealed a new horror of the past...where a man she could not bring herself to trust gained frightening power over her...where terror pursued her toward a final monstrous revelation of evil in....the phantom cottage.

Jane is your average New York City girl.   As a self-employed illustrator, she can afford to take her own vacation when her long-time boyfriend leaves her jilted for the more promising prospect of his employers daughter.

Jane has also just buried her only true friend, Laura Crane, who died tragically in a hit and run accident just days earlier.  The elusive Laura who refused any type of personal disclosure, yet also harbored the innocent love of animals.  Laura had phoned Jane in the middle of the night, upset and frightened of something...or someone, yet had been killed minutes later as she made her way to Jane's apartment in the dark.

Desperate to be away from a city who'd left her heart-broken, Jane escapes to the tiny town of Garth, nestled at the edge of Cape Cod.  Garth, the city for which her belated friend Laura had mentioned in passing once before.  

Jane was only looking for a quiet, scenic town for which she could remain anonymous as she nursed her broken heart.  Yet, what she found was the phantom life of some other girl.   As it turns out, there was much more to the story of Laura than she could ever have imagined.  And as she struggles to put together the puzzle pieces of a life that Laura had escaped from, she's met with ludicrous secrets, lies, and murder!

Best Description of Cape Cod:  Every once in a while, something lives up to your expectations of it.  The Cape was a different world.  Soon after I crossed the canal and began to drive up the old Cranberry Highway, the last of the drizzle gave way to a wispy ground fog.  It hovered in the hollows of the almost deserted highway and swirled between the black-trunked pines like smoke...or like the wraiths of those long dead.  Well, I reflected, if any part of this nation was haunted, the Cape should be.

Interesting Names of Businesses:  Renee's Cocktail Bar, Jim's Giant Hamburgers, Hillhaven Funeral Home.

Best Gothic Elements:  an unsuspecting girl being drugged and kidnapped,  an old murder mystery, hidden/switched identities, a political scandal, a wild pack of dogs in a marshy fog-ridden swamp, a cottage beach rental by the sea, hit and run murder, an attempted hit and run, digging through the old newspaper periodicals for some sensational murder story from the past, small old historical towns, the use of LSD to drug a victim.

This is on of my favorite books by Velda Johnston.  It contains everything for the making of an irresistible gothic romance mystery.  I particularly like the setting by the sea, especially the little rental cottage and the main characters forays on the beach.  These little details really pulled me into the atmosphere of the story.

My Rating:

5 Stars

Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Where is Holly Carleton?" by Susan Marvin

Setting:  Modern Day
Published:  1973

"I am Mme. Manet,"  she introduced herself.  "Do you wish to see me?"

"Well, I--I asked for Mme.  Holly Manet, my sister," Janice tried to explain.

"Mademoiselle, there is no Holly Manet living here at the Villa Fontaine,"  she said with a touch of irritation.  "I am afraid you have been given an incorrect address."

"Jacques' wife,"  Janice said quickly, her heart thumping.  "My sister Holly."  It sounded absurdly repetitious.

"There has been some mistake,"  Mme.  Manet said stiffly.  "My son Jacques is not married..."

Back Cover Synopsis

"I married the handsomest man," Holly wrote. "You must come to France to stay with us..." But when Janice Carleton made the long journey to be with her sister, no bride and bridegroom where there to meet her. Relatives denied knowledge of any marriage, and the police accused Janice of "bothering" such wealthy and respected people. With no one to help her solve the mystery, Janice would have to do it herself...

When schoolteacher, Janice, receives exciting news from her young actress sister that she's hastily wed, Janice changes her tour plans to visit Holly in a tiny village town in France.  However, when she arrives the wealthy household of Villa Fontaine is quite adamant that their heir, Jacques, has never been married.  They insist that Holly simply has been beguiled by someone masquerading as the young Jacques.  

Janice holds steadfast that her sister is sophisticated enough to realize whether she is marrying an impostor and when she is offered  a job sitting the elderly Mme. Simone, she stays on in hopes of solving the disappearance of her sister.

Life at Villa Fontaine is further complicated when she is befriended by a reporter, Neil, who says he's been stood up for an interview with Jacques.  He, too, finds this bit of irresponsibility uncharacteristic of the successful business tycoon.  A romance blooms between the two as Neil aids Janice in uncovering the secret of where her sister has gone.

Together, they journey into the hillsides and wilderness of France, into tiny towns where the locals have sinister accusations of Americans.  Holly is willing to risk her own life in order to save her sister from what she senses is certain peril.

All in all, this was a pretty good read.  It was a bit slow in parts when the searching through France became redundant.  It has several subplots and some atmospheric side stories that make for a quick-paced, descriptive read.  Recommend!

Dark Description:   Thunder again rolled through the sky.  Ominous.  On impulse I crossed to the window, opened a wedge between the drapes.  Lightning crackled across the night sky, illuminating the choppy, dark sea below.  I spied a ship coming into harbor.  Down the shore red lights blinked on and off, calling other ships into port...

Damsel In Peril:  I awoke with a startling suddenness, every nerve on alert.  Rain hammered at the windows.  The fire was completely obliterated when I'd expected the logs to smolder until dawn.  A heaviness in the room made my heart pound.  A labored breathing.

I was not alone.

I strained to penetrate the blackness.  Somebody stood before the closet.  Tall.  Heavy.  A man.

Trembling, I geared myself for action.  What good would I be to Holly dead?  I screamed.  One frenzied, terrified scream.  And with it I hurled myself over to the far side of the bed to the protectiveness of the floor.

I lay there.  Hearing the scurrying of heavy feet.  My door opened and closed.  I stumbled to my feet.  Too late to catch a glimpse of the intruder!

Interesting Food:  Desert:  Mousse and Coffee;  burnt almond pudding  with coffee ice cream and macaroons.  Dinner:  Creamed fillets of sole with oysters and shrimp served with thin wedges of toast.  Veal in read wine sauce.  Asparagus with peas.  Foie gras in gelatin.

Best Gothic Elements:  kidnapping, missing persons, mysterious disappearance, a lame person who works as gardener, rich tycoon, missing heir, animosity among locals toward tourists, a sinister butler/driver who is not trusted, domineering house maid, maid who steals and tries to frame tourist, small town secrets, and a huge villa mansion by the sea.

My Rating:  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Boris Karloff's Thriller - Rose's Last Summer

I love digging through these old TV shows and resurrecting, per say, the episodes that I feel are reminiscent of the vintage gothic stories.

Maybe it is because of the times back then and how these types of story-lines were rehashed and rewritten over and over. Perhaps the Gothic Romance story-lines were just that appealing to the common-day audience at the time.  I think they would have had to have been, considering the ungodly amount of paperbacks that once littered store shelves.

Yet, I found the plot-theme of this episode eerily presenting of so many of the gothics I have read over the years.  Same plot, just enough of a twist in characters and story-line to define it as a whole new story.

Season 1 Episode 5, 1960, Hosted by Boris Karloff , An aging actress is mysteriously found dead in a family's garden, and they may know more about her death than they will admit.
Written and Directed by: Maxwell Shane

"Naked Once More" by Elizabeth Peters (A Short Review)

Published:  1990
Setting:  Modern Day

Cover Synopsis:

She may be a bestselling author, but ex-librarian Jacqueline Kirby's views on the publishing biz aren't fit to print. In fact, she's thinking of trading celebrity for serenity and a house far away from fiendish editors and demented fans when her agent whispers the only words that could ever make her stay: Naked in the Ice.

Seven years ago, this blockbuster skyrocketed Kathleen Darcy to instant fame. Now the author's heirs are looking for a writer to pen the sequel. It's an opportunity no novelist in her right mind would pass up, and there's no doubting Jacqueline's sanity...until she starts digging through the missing woman's papers - and her past. Until she gets mixed up with Kathleen's enigmatic lover. Until a series of nasty accidents convince her much too late that someone wants to bring Jacqueline's story -and her life - to a premature end.

I have read (and own many) Barbara Michael's books.  So, I figured since the same author wrote this book (albeit published under the pen-name Elizabeth Peters) that I would find it just as enjoyable as the dark, brooding, gothic mysteries of Michael's.  Boy, was I wrong!

This book is a simple who-done-it mystery.  Not only that, it's only one of a complete series (I also was not aware when I began to read it) so there was some references to earlier stories that I did not fully understand.

To make a long story short, Jacqueline Kirby as come to a writer's retreat in order to solve the disappearance/death of a famous romance writer.  She must eliminate the suspects and get to the truth.

Honestly, what I remember most about this book is the meals she ate.  The ending did surprise me, I totally did not see the ending coming.  However, the rest of the book is predictable and...yes...boring!

Only read it if you don't have anything creepier at hand!

Best Gothic Elements:  stolen identity, disappearances, poisoning by food, ghosts

3 Stars