Monday, December 30, 2013

'Fright Night' by Linda Stevens

Published:  1993
Setting:  Modern Day

Beardsville, Vermont is a tiny little town where everyone knows your name and Lauren Kent is the towns fixer-upper who also often writes news articles for the local newspaper.  Single mother and independent, she knows how to work for the things she needs.  Beardsville is known for it’s extravagant celebration of Halloween, particularly the ghoulish haunted house that Lauren works on diligently come every October.  However, this year the pranks in this no-where town seem to have turned malicious, maybe even deadly!  Several businesses have been targeted for vandalism, even Laurens own house and the house of a fellow reporter who has been assigned to cover the recent disturbances, Sam Burdett.  Sam is as handsome as he is unbearable, yet the more time Lauren spends with the Sam, the more she grows to appreciate that perhaps he’s not much different than she.  But there’s really no time to give much attention to their blossoming romance between work, a defiant teenage son, and the constant pranks, Lauren has her plate full, and more!

As she plays partner sleuth with Sam over the month of October, a friendship grows between the two.  Just the same, the mystery of the town pranks deepen and have become more dangerous than they are funny.  Evidence suggests the dead has come alive, or perhaps someone is just covering their tracks really well.  But the time Halloween arrives, the whole town finds itself held hostage, and Lauren finds herself in love…but will any of them survive all hollows eve?
As much as this book sounded scary and creepy, I just found myself reading of one bizarre Halloween incident to the next without really any suspense at all.  Some scenes seemed to drag on, while others left you needing a little more detail.  The whole mystery, which was uncovered in the last chapter, just didn’t really make any sense to me.

I love Halloween and Halloween stories, but this one just wasn’t very fulfilling and it wasn’t scary at all, either.  Despite the book description and the cover of the book, it’s nothing like a gothic read!

Rating:  3.0

'Fatal Inheritance' by Sandra Orchard

Published:  2013
Setting:  Modern Day

When Becki Graw learns of the tragic deaths of her grandparents’ accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, the news comes with a hidden blessing.  Knowing how she loved their house in the country so, her grandparents have left her their beautiful country house and their classic show car.  However, Becki’s homecoming is anything but welcoming.  A series of attacks are made on her life, and someone is hell-bent on vandalizing her property.  Thankfully her old childhood friend-turned-sheriff, Joshua Rayne, lives right next door.  However, as the days pass and Joshua keeps a close eye on Becki, rescuing her from one attack or another, could it be that his feelings indicate he sees himself as more than just a brother figure in her life? 

Becki doesn’t have much time to ponder on her blossoming relationship with Joshua, if you could call it that at all, shes too busy dealing with the mystery of stolen jewels….found in her grandparents’ own house....then there’s the constant attacks and harassment, could it be from her sister who desperately needs money fro m the sale of the country house or perhaps it is her sniveling ex boyfriend from the city who is making a habit of showing up unannounced. 

Tragedy and near-death escapes plague Becki until the grand finale showdown at a glitzy ball, but will it be too late by the time the secrets of her pepetrator are revealed?  She might end up losing everything…

The book read fairly quickly and there was enough suspense to keep a decent flow.  If you enjoy romance novels with a little bit of mystery, I’d recommend this read.  However, it doesn’t have much gothic-related overtones, other than the country house in an isolated area. 

Rating:  4.0

Monday, December 23, 2013

Harlequin E-Shivers Released Via Web

The first book in the Harlequin E-Shivers series has been released via the web.

Lost In Me, by the lovely Barbara J. Hancock, is being released as a sort of trial-run from the harlequin website.  Beginning in October, a new chapter is available each week, and all for free!

Busy as I've been this last month or so, I just began reading today and am hoping to catch up this week.

The synopsis of the book, as provided by the harlequin site, is as follows:

'Released from hospital into the care of the man whose eyes have haunted her for a year, a troubled artist returns to Belle Aimée. The antebellum New Orleans mansion is the site of a tragedy Chloe's mind will not disclose. It's also home to an unseen presence that traces her steps, visits her studio and lingers near her bedroom.

Waking and sleeping, Chloe grasps at scraps of memory that flutter about her, alighting eventually on her countless canvases. Only under the stormy eyes—and electrifying touch—of Jonathan La Croix does Chloe begin to remember what they once were to each other. What they could be again. Such a man cannot be forgotten forever….'

The book seems to be a chilling, even as of chapter one, so I'm thinking this will be a book that doesn't disappoint!  And, if we're lucky enough, it'll be reminiscent of the vintage gothics, with a little more mystery than romance! 

I'll be posting a full review of the book at a later date.  In the meantime, you should find your way on over and read the first e-shiver here!

December Updates!

I've been absent for about a month, life gets crazy during the holidays!

I still have a bunch of book reviews coming up, I plan on posting a few today and a few tomorrow!  So, if you are an author who has submitted a book for me to review, just know I'm still working on that!

As for the gothic romance book give away, I only had three people enter the two give aways, so I have books for all three of you.  Just please email me your postal address and I will get those out to you ASAP!

I'm wishing all my fellow gothic readers and enthusiasts a wonderful holiday season!!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Upcoming November Reviews

Here are the reviews I have lined up (so far) for November!

I'm trying to switch it up a bit, review a few vintage gothics and then a few contemporary ones.

Fright Night (Harlequin Intrigue) by Linda Stevens
Fatal Inheritance (Love Inspired Suspense) by Sandra Orchard
Phantom Lights by J.H. Rhodes
Fear Island by J.H. Rhodes
Ghost of Dragoncroft by Jonni Rich
Curse of Black Tor by Jane Toomb
Sea of Secrets by Amanda Dewees

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just Checking In...

Hey everyone (or particularly those following the halloween countdown), I had a terribly busy weekend...but will have several nice posts coming your way in a little bit, so please keep checking back!! 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Review of "A Vampire's Christmas Carol" and Interview with author Karen McCullough

Imagine that it's Christmas eve, a blizzard chimes it's white silence outside your car windows as you make your way down an isolated back road.  You are frightened and alone.  All you want right now is to safety of a family celebration....bright lights, the aroma of food, and the smiling faces of your loved ones.  Yet, in an instance, your worst fear is realized as you lose control of your car and find yourself stranded, alone, and near freezing to death.

That is exactly what happens to Carol Prescott in Karen McCullough's latest novella.  Frightened and alone, Carol takes her chances at approaching a house for help.  Thankfully the house is occupied, but handsome Michael Carpenter only warns her away.  Karen thinks him perhaps an eccentric recluse, that is until an evil apparition appears.  And Michael admits he's a vampire, starved for a hundred years, desperate for the meal of young blood.

Before she knows it, Carol is faced in a life and death situation with a real, live vampire who is unsure he can sequester his urge to drink her blood.  And even if he doesn't, she must witness his death before the light of dawn.  Unless she can find a way to help him...or will she become a victim of the night?

Mrs. McCullough has weaved a riveting novella of romantic, paranormal suspense that promises not to disappoint fans of the genre.  The story wraps you into it's atmospheric riff from the first couple of lines and keeps you glued at each suspenseful turn as Carol and Michael share their stories and bide for time (and wits enough) to save both of their lives.

Highly recommend this contemporary tale.  A quick and effortless read!
My rating:  5 Stars

I am delighted that Mrs. Karen McCullough, herself, has been generous enough to offer us a small glimpse into her life as a writer and shed a bit of light on the harrowing, suspenseful tales she seems to weave so effortlessly.  Please enjoy the interview below as Karen enlightens us with information and ideas on her writing as well as offering some valuable advice for other writers!

Stacy:  I found this book to be so interesting, so much detail into the lives of the two main characters.  Where do you get your ideas from, what inspires your stories?

Karen:   Ideas come from everywhere: reading the newspaper, watching television, songs on the radio, just walking around the neighborhood and living my daily life.  The hard part of writing is turning all those ideas churning around in my head into a coherent plot.  In the case of A VAMPIRE’S CHRISTMAS CAROL, I was invited to be part of an anthology of paranormal Christmas stories.  Since I was doing the vampire story, I was casting around for a germ of plot, when the title just sort of popped into my mind, and I knew it was right. So then it was just a case of figuring out how to adapt Dickens’ marvelous Christmas story to an American vampire story.  I’m actually not a huge fan of vampires as story heroes, although I’ve read plenty of them. I prefer the more traditional view of the vampire as an evil, dangerous, but understandably seductive creature that steals other people’s lives to prolong their own.  (Aside: my son once described vampires—very accurately, I think—as giant, human-shaped mosquitoes.)  Anyway, I decided my vampire had been turned without his desire or consent, didn’t want to be one, and was taking the only way out he saw.  So was there a way to rescue him?

Stacy:   I felt myself feeling sorry for both characters, especially Michael, and rooting for the two to find a way to be together.  Do you ever find yourself getting attached to your characters and wanting to write the story in favor of their best interest?  

Karen:   Always!  I don’t think I could write about a main character that I didn’t care for.  Which makes it awkward at times, because the truth is I put most of my characters through the wringer before they can achieve a happy ending.  Michael and Carol certainly earn whatever they gain.  I’ve always thought it ironic that authors do care deeply about our characters, but we also give them a very hard time throughout the story. They tend to suffer terrible losses, get threatened, beat up, tortured, shot, kicked around, etc. One of the reasons I write genre fiction is that I want to be able to give my main characters a triumphant ending, but that isn’t worth much unless they’ve had to work  hard, make some difficult choices, and even been willing to sacrifice everything to get to it.

Stacy:   What is your favorite book/story you have written thus far?  And why?

Karen:  That’s hard.  It’s kind of like asking a mother which one of her children she loves best.  I suppose the one I have the warmest place in my heart for is A QUESTION OF FIRE.  It was actually the second complete novel I wrote, though it didn’t sell until many years and many rewrites later.  It’s had a checkered past where it was briefly available in paperback form, then later brought out by two small press publishers, both of whom folded.  The advent of epublishing meant that I’ve been able to bring it out myself now and make it available again.  The book has my favorite heroine of any I’ve written.

Stacy:   Being a writer of gothic fiction, I can only imagine you are also a fan of the genre.  What is your favorite gothic romance book?

Karen:  I’m very much a fan of the genre.  As a teenager I glommed onto the gothic romances prevalent in the late sixties and early seventies. Read everyone I could get my hands on.  I’m not sure I can point to just one, but I do have a few favorites.  Two lesser-known books that I’ve re-read and still love are FAIRER THAN SHE by Theresa Charles, who wrote a lot of romances, most of which are hard to get, though none of the others really worked for me the way that one did, and an early Virginia Coffman book called THE DEVIL VICAR. That one was later re-released as part of her Moura series with a slightly different title, but it was the original I fell in love with.  It’s pretty classic gothic, with a creepy setting, a spirited, but not stupid heroine who is mostly on her own, and a damaged, enigmatic but attractive hero who may or may not also be the villain.  Beyond them, I love anything by the late Barbara Mertz, especially writing as Barbara Michaels, but favor AMMIE, COME HOME (one of the best ghost stories, ever, despite sounding a bit dated these days), WITCH, INTO THE DARKNESS, and PRINCE OF DARKNESS (despite its incredibly jarring point of view change right in the middle). And almost anything by Mary Steward, but especially MADAM, WILL YOU TALK?, THE IVY TREE, and THIS ROUGH MAGIC. 

Stacy:  Who is an author that you admire, that you feel has influenced your work?

Karen:  There are a number of them, but I think the two that had the most influence on my work would be Andre Norton and Barbara Mertz.  Andre Norton showed me that fantasy and romance could blend in very interesting ways, while Barbara Mertz, writing as both Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters brought to life a wonderful assortment of quirky but very intelligent characters and sent them on fabulous adventures.

Stacy:  I loved your book, “A Vampire’s Christmas Carol.”  Can you tell me when your next book will be released, and the title?  Can you give us a spoiler on what the book is about?

Karen:   I actually have several things in the pipeline.  In the fall I’ll be re-releasing via self-publishing a novella that was originally part of the Shadowed Hearts series. It was called HEART OF THE NIGHT, but I’ll probably be doing it with a new title and haven’t decided what that will be yet.  It’s another story with an unusual hero in need of earning redemption, only in some ways his back story is much more brutal than Michael’s.  I also hope to re-release another of my Avalon books in time for Christmas, since that one was a holiday story.  I’m also debating whether to keep the publisher’s original title for it, BLUE DECEMBER.  That wasn’t my choice and I’m not totally wild about it.  And finally, I’m also working on the second novel in my Market Center Mysteries series, tentatively titled WIRED FOR MURDER.  No publishing date on that yet.

Stacy:  And last, but certainly not least, as a successful writer of contemporary gothic romance, what is one piece of advice you would give a writer just starting out with hopes of writing and publishing gothic romance stories?

Karen:   Actually, it’s the same advice I’d give any writer starting out with the idea of publishing their work: don’t be too impatient and grow a thick skin. This isn’t a business for the faint of heart. Whether you set out to publish via the large corporate publishers, with smaller specialty presses, or even self-publish, you need to make your story the absolute best it can be before you ever turn it loose.  That means taking the time with each book to polish, polish, polish, then have it critiqued, rewrite, polish some more, then have it edited before you send it anywhere.  And once it’s out, either to publishers or readers, be prepared for rejection – lots of it – and harsh reviews.  They happen!  As I mentioned, it’s a rough business.  You have to really love writing to survive in it.

Stacy:   Well that about wraps things up.  Karen, I'd like to personally thank you for offering so much insight and taking the time to be part of my blog.  I will definitely be on the lookout for more books (particularly the Market Center Mysteries) and would love to review another soon!

Karen has also provided the following biography.  I find the lives and ideas of writer's fascinating and love learning about their histories:

Karen McCullough is a web designer and the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres. She's won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for best fantasy novel. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. Her most recent release was A Gift for Murder, published in hardcover by Five Star, paperback by Worldwide Mystery Library and just released as an ebook. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC. 

Pictured is Karen and her adorable grandson

You can learn more about Karen and her writing at :

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Conjuring: A Movie Review

The Perron’s feel they’ve struck it rich when they find a beautiful old farmhouse, nestled in the privacy of a beautiful wilderness, for a bargain price.  They, along with their five daughters, move into the house and begin simple renovations.  

All is well and happy…that is, until the unwanted, unseen guests begin to show themselves in frightening ways.  After the ghosts begin attacking the mother (mostly) and preying upon the daughters in the night, the couple calls upon two renowned paranormal investigators (Ed and Lorraine Warren).  But can they uncover the evil mysteries of the house and it’s tormented souls before the family falls victim, indefinitely?

Gothic romance readers will love this movie, it’s chocked full of gothic-romance-makings:  haunted toys, a creepy old haunted doll, restless spirits, an isolated old farmhouse, the curse of a witch, and a strong female lead (plus many, many more frightening scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat)!

This movie is not for the faint of heart, as the MPAA gave it an R rating particularly because they felt the movie was ‘too frightening for children.’
I watched The Conjuring at my local theatre and was satisfied with this thrill of a movie and highly recommend it.  

My personal rating:  5+ stars

Friday, August 23, 2013

"The Crying Winds" by J.H. Rhodes

Published:  1980
Setting:  Modern Day, USA

In an attempt to prove her independence and ability to take care of herself, spoiled college sophomore Lori Hudson agrees to spend her summer break as an employee to her Aunt Hannah.  The only catch is that Lori has never met her Aunt Hannah, nor does she look forward to spending a whole summer in an old Hotel in the middle of the New Mexico desert.  

Upon arrival, Lori finds Aunt Hannah a bit unwelcoming and the guests all seem a bit odd and out of place at the hotel.  The terror begins that night as Lori unpacks and a ghastly, otherworldly face appears in her bedroom window.  With her aunt Hannah behaving so rudely and with the unfriendliness and theatrics she finds in the guests and their talk of buried treasure at the nearby abandoned Indian pueblos, the mystery only deepens.

Soon Annie finds herself face to face with old legends come alive, lies, and deadly imposters in the darkness.  Her only ally in this mess is a photographer, Rex, who seems to be distracted by his own personal affairs.

Overall, this was a pretty good read.  The setting was eerily set with the abandoned Indian pueblos and the mysterious guests.  The main character finds herself barely escaping many perilous situations.  The storyline was full of suspense and quickly moving with a plot that is hard to untangle until the final pages.  I definitely was left guessing until the author revealed the culprits and the main character finally resolved the mystery. 

Enjoyed this book and recommend to those who enjoy the old vintage gothics!
Rating:  4.5 Stars

'Secrets of Harbor House' by Norma Seely

Published:  2000
Setting:  Modern Day, USA

After mystery writer Annie Kirk confides to her best friend Cara North that she’s been all but stalked by a prowler who seems to have made a habit of looking through her windows in the early morning hours, Cara is quick to offer Annie to stay at an old house she’s inherited from her famous father, mystery writer Hadrian Coyle.  At first Annie is hesitant, but eventually takes her friends’ generous offer.  The only thing Cara asks in return is that Annie try to find the last manuscript of Hadrian Coyle, which is said to be hidden somewhere in the old house.  The manuscript would be worth a fortune by now and Cara is desperate for the money.  

The house is nestled deep in the woods with a magnificent ocean view, and with its own ghosts and mysteries, it seems.  Far from civilization and alone at the house, aside from caretaker Brendan Marshall who lives in the guest house, Annie finds the old house unsettling.  Then strange things begin to happen.  First there is an intruder that seems to disappear into thin hair.  Then an ailing old man stands outside her window in the early morning hours calling her by the name of the long-missing daughter of Hadrian Coyle.  Soon, Annie is consumed by uncovering the secrets of the creepy old house, and of it’s past, but with each clue she reveals she finds herself being drawn tighter and tighter into a web of deceit.  

This book was an enjoyable, quick read.  There was enough suspense to keep things moving smoothly, but the writer dropped some not-so-subtle hints throughout the book that pretty much gave the mystery away.  There were also parts here and there that trailed away from the story, it seemed a bit purposeless and perhaps a way to fill a few extra pages.  Towards the end it was easy to figure out exactly what was going to happen.

This book is a fun, fast read.  Would recommend only if you’re a fan of the series or for light reading.
Rating:  3 Stars

Thursday, August 15, 2013

'She Walks the Shore' by Lisa Greer

Published:  2012
Setting:  Canada, Modern Day


Marisol Huff is already at her wits end with an abusive ex boyfriend who insists on stalking her so when the father she's never known shows up at her front door (literally) she can't help but agree when he offers her to visit his estate in Canada.

100 Mile house is nestled deep in the Canadian woods, and Marisol feels there would definitely be enough peace and quiet, and perhaps some inspiration, for her writing.  However, she may end up with more mysterious motivation than she'd bargained for!  Not only is the closest neighboring house rumored to be filled with a dangerous cult of new age hippies, but the surrounding woods are haunted by their own mysterious disappearance of a woman in white.

Soon, Marisol is seeing visions of the ghostly woman in white and is involved with a cult leader Sylvan Hill as well as the quiet, troubled Tom Fraser whose wife recently ran out on him for another man...or did she?  Sooner or later, Marisol will find her way to the bottom of the mysterious ghost in white, and may also find her own untimely death!

I really enjoyed this book.  Although it is a short novella (I read it on my kindle app for ipod touch), it was engrossing and really held my attention.  I read it in one setting.

Light, enjoyable reading and highly recommend!

Rating:  5 stars

Monday, August 12, 2013

Harlequin to release new Gothic Romance 'Shivers' Series!

Long ago and far away (in the mid 1980's) harlequin tried their hand at a gothic romance genre.  Although I'm sure the gothic fan base was quite regular, the publishing of these books was sporadic, with a set of two or three being published per year.  After a couple of years, the whole series seemed to be scrapped, as we no longer received any further gothic books from the harlequin line.  And, although they may not have been as great as the original vintage gothics, they were reminiscent of the style, they were gothic romances and at least someone, somwhere was trying to keep the spirit of the genre alive before it slipped into literary abyss.

Harlequin tried their hand at another small gothic romance series back in 2010, a promotional series titled 'shivers.'  The Shivers series was released under the "Intrigue" line as modern-day romantic suspense books with gothic overtones (think isolated old houses, ghosts and a bit of paranormal mystery wrapped up with some romance). However, the series only included a handful of books.

Now, according to Denise Zaza (senior editor of harlequin books), fans of the gothic romance genre who have feared it's a dying art have much to be excited for, as harlequin recently called for gothic romance submissions for a Harlequin E Shivers series that is to be released very soon!  According to the Paranormal Romance Blog, the first book of the series Darkening Around Me by Barbara Hancock will be the first e shivers book available and it is 'coming soon!'

There's not much clarification yet if the Shiver books are to have consistent monthly releases (as many of the other harlequin lines do) or if it will merely be another short series.  Though the fact that it's being referred to as the 'e shivers' series might suggest the books will only be available in ebook format. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

'Shadowplay' by Marvin Werlin

Published:  1977
Setting:  California, Modern Day


Christine Glenville is desperate to flee a troubled past in San Francisco so she readily accepts a job as  at the rambling Deveraux mansion as assistant editor to classic film fanatic and director Max Deveraux.

At first glance, Christine notices that Deveraux house is the exact replica of the Manderley house in Rebecca.  However, the illusions don't stop there, each and every room in the house (even foyers and dining areas) are replicas of rooms from famous, classic movies and everyone seems to have their own particular role. 

Max Deveraux and his wife love theatrics and often social gatherings are turned into eloquently played-out acting skits, for which several end in blood and murder.  However, the macabre only deepens.  Christine soon learns that danger lurks in the darkened corners of lonesome foyers and the caves of Deveraux beach still echo of the mysterious death of a young girl who played the role of previous assistant to Max Deveraux.  Then there's the shy, mysterious beauty who conceals her mental illness while playing the role of Max's niece.

Eventually Christine realizes she's in over her head with a scheme of characters that include a jittery housekeeper who is anyone but who she appears to be, a violent ballet dancer who makes an attempt to silence her, then she witnesses cold blooded murder in a theatrical skit that went awry.  Before she knows it, shes tangled in a game of wits and is fighting for her life as the final curtain closes and at last Deveraux mansion is brought to it's fiery end.

Very engrossing read and definitely recommend!

5 Stars

'Heiress to Crag Castle' by Minerva Rossetti

Published:  1973
Setting:  England, Modern Day


Helen Craig hasn’t seen Crag Castle since her early childhood, in fact, she doesn’t remember the castle or her relatives at all.  When her father died twenty some years prior, her mother cut all contact between Helen and her father’s family.  The reason behind this mystery and the gap in communication was never quite explained.  However, upon the death of her mother, Helen receives an invitation to meet a frail and dying aunt at Crag Castle.  Aside from almost being run off the road by a relative of the castle, her homecoming was rather uneventful.  Yet, upon the second day of her arrival, Helen is informed that she is to be the new heiress to Crag Castle as soon as possible and her aunt wished to relinquish all responsibility of the estate to Helen.

Then there is talk of an evil devil dwarf who roams the castle heard but always unseen.  In fact, his laughter echoes into the tower where Helen resides in her wing of the castle.  Her relatives, the hired help, and her aunt’s lawyer seem eager to over-indulge her in the old family secrets, the legends that no woman heiress of the castle shall ever marry, lest she be haunted by the devil dwarf.  But after Helen is visited by this dwarf one night and death roams the halls of the castle, claiming a victim, Helen is hell-bent on proving the dwarf is merely an imposter in costume.

Sadly, this is where the novel goes downhill.  A great portion of the novel depicts Helen roaming the secret passages, first alone, and then with her love interest (Kirk).  The culprits are quite obvious as well, so one really isn’t left with much of a mystery at all.  The romance never really blooms, only on the very last page when we are informed that ‘months later’ the couple are engaged to be married. 

I was disappointed with this read.  I guess if you’re bored on a rainy night, it would be a quick light read to cuddle up with, however, I can think of much better books on my ‘to-be-read’ shelf than this one!

Rating:  2.5 Stars