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

Off My Shelf: Three Random Vintage Titles

As you know if you've looked at my 'library' link above, I have literally thousands of the vintage gothic romance novels.  My complete intent for this blog was to focus mainly on the vintage books.  However, once I delved into the project I realized (by emails from authors and Amazon book searches) that there seems to be revival of such for the gothic romance novel,  so I began to read and review contemporary authors as well as the older books.

I also wanted to extend the blog to great vintage horror movies (many whose plots move in the same ways as the vintage gothic romance novel) and even great TV shows like Dark Shadows.

And although I do read and review quite a few vintage gothics, I feel I've not been devoting as much time as I'd like to what started the whole blog (and my primary passion for these books): the vintage gothic romance.

So, I have a new weekly post I'll be adding each Saturday titled 'off my shelf,' for which I'll select a few of the vintage gothic romance novels, post some cover art and synopsis of each book so we can all enjoy the beautiful vintage artwork, see what the books are about, maybe find one you'd like to order/read, and just take a trip down memory lane.

For this week, I really just randomly selected three titles from my shelf (which has all my vintage gothics stacked every which way and is not organized at all!).

The first one really caught my attention, Haunted Lady by Mary Roberts Rinehart.


My edition of this book was released in 1942!  I do believe it to be an original first edition as it states so in the copyright page and because the price is listed as a (shocking) .40 cents.  Imagine if we could buy books that cheap in this day and age!

I cropped a part of the book, darkened it and attempted to sharpen it in photoshop for greater detail.  I've never quite seen a cover like this, especially on such an older edition...what with the mirage of the face against the background of the creepy house.

You can actually purchase a collection of 23 Mary Roberts Rineharts novels on Amazon, titled

The Best of Mary Roberts Rinehart: 23 Novels and Short Stories for a mere $1.99.

Back Cover Synopsis:

"One of the great mystery writers of the world presents a brilliant tale of suspense and sudden death in a magnificent old mansion, and of its inhabitants who knew that among them lived a killer..."

The next one I chose was The Third Spectre by Dan Ross.

I'm actually shocked by how many pseudonyms this man used in his publications!  Some of the most broadly known and well-accepted gothic romances were penned by him in the names Clarissa Ross and Marilyn Ross.  Perhaps his most famous gothic romance came from the Dark Shadows series he penned which later was developed into a horror themed TV sitcom that ran for five consecutive years.

Back Cover Synopsis:

"The gothic monstrosity known as Marchand Acres quivered with hidden, haunting terrors!

Nancy Marchand had come to live at her husband's ancestral mansion, Merchand Acres, after she and Ralph were married.  As if Ralph's crippled, dominating mother weren't enough to contend with, Nancy soon found herself fighting three beautiful blonde women for her husband's love and attention, as he drifted strangely away from her and the happiness they had known in their year of marriage.

Then, suddenly, Nancy began to sense more than her marriage was at stake...It was now her someone or something was giving her a warning that she was the next Marchand to die!"

The last I'd like to share is titled Window on the Seine by Frances Y. McHugh.

I thought the cover of this one looked rather interesting, what with the open door and the close-up of what I would suppose is a rather nice, modern-day mansion (note the stain glass!) rather than the castle on the hill in the background (I really think I prefer those most).

I tried to do a bit of research on this author but couldn't find much at all, except for a list of books on Goodreads (for which most have no cover art, sigh).  

Back Cover Synopsis:

"Ann Martin was recovering from the shock and grief caused by her parents' death by accompanying her brother on a business trip to Paris.  There, she met and fell in love with Edward MacDonald, a handsome young engineer who was en route to Cairo to  complete his work on the Suez Canal and participate in the festivities attendant on its opening.

After a whirlwind courtship, Edward persuaded Anna to stay in Europe at the home of his sister to await his return.  But in the luxurious, yet forbidding-looking house on the Seine, where Anna took up residence, strange apparitions, violent tremors, and undercurrents of political intrigue made her fear for her life."

I hope you will enjoy these new Saturday posts.

If you've read any of the books I showcase, please let us know how they were and how you'd rate them so readers can get a better idea of whether they'd want to purchase a particular book or not!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Reading Radar: A 'Gothic' Christmas Reading List:

Since the Christmas/Holiday Season is upon us, I thought I'd do a bit of holiday-themed mystery reading.  Below are some great reads currently available on Amazon.  Go grab a few, make yourself some coffee (or tea) and sit down for a cozy, creepy read!

Pictures of Fear by Lucy Fuchs

Naomi Thompson was not the least bit frightened on her way to Wetherington House. Because she had no one to share her college Christmas vacation, she felt lonely and sad and perhaps resentful. But not frightened. In fact, she was relieved to have a two-week job at Wetherington House, typing some poetry for Elizabeth Amberly, a talented, eccentric painter and writer.

Things started to change for Naomi when Elizabeth told her, "This is the house of evil. It can change anything to hate." Then the girl saw Elizabeth's frightening paintings of the place and learned its scary history. Yet it was not until after she met Elizabeth's strong-willed mother and handsome nephew that Naomi's deepest fears took root.

$3,99 On Amazon for Kindle

A Christmas Mystery (A Short Story) by A.L. Jambor

Hank and Josie own a small nursery in Mays Landing, New Jersey. They have three kids and a house with a mortgage. Josie has worked hard making and selling wreaths to make money for Christmas presents. Two days before Christmas, while she is collecting pine cones for her wreaths, she finds a woman named Helen lying in the woods behind her house. She is bruised and beaten, but won’t let Josie call for help. Helen lets Josie take her inside her house where Helen meets Josie’s husband, Hank, and their daughter, Mabel. Josie notices Helen’s strange, old-fashioned clothes and wonders where she came from. While talking about her son, Billy, Helen suddenly disappears. 

Was Helen a ghost? As Josie begins to investigate, she discovers that Helen was a real person. In fact, she was Josie’s great-grandmother, a woman who abandoned her young son and her husband to become a chorus girl in Atlantic City. But is the family history regarding Helen true, or a story concocted by her husband to cover her murder? 

When Josie receives a foreclosure notice and realizes they are about to lose their house, it’s just the beginning of a bad Christmas Eve. When circumstances threaten to ruin their Christmas, Josie and Hank discover that the old abandoned house across the street may hold the key to the mystery surrounding Helen’s appearance, and to finding the money they need to save their family’s home. 

.99 on Amazon for Kindle

Pointe of Danger by Lisa Greer

Neve Warren, an injured ballerina, is spending the Christmas season in Ocean City, Maryland. Panic attacks and fears about her violent ex-boyfriend, Joshua Payne, challenge her attempt at recovery. After being followed one night on the local boardwalk, she realizes the past is never far behind.

Cam London, a police officer with his own troubled history, collides with Neve, literally, that night. When Neve finds out the history of the house she is renting and that the threats of the past coincide eerily with those of the present, can Cam keep her safe? And will Neve put the ghosts of the house to rest?

$1.99 on Amazon for Kindle

A Very Gothic Christmas by Christine Feehan and Melanie George


Terrified by mysterious threats, Jessica Fitzpatrick spirits away her twin wards, Tara and Trevor, to the remote island mansion of their estranged father, world-famous musician Dillon Wentworth. Ever since the fire that claimed his troubled wife's life and left him horribly disfigured, Dillon has shut out the world. With Christmas approaching, the spark between him and Jessica might light the future, but there are those who shared Dillon's wife's love of the occult . . . and their evil machinations may plunge the family into darkness -- unless a Christmas miracle occurs. . . . 


The echoes of history and romance lure Rachel Hudson to Glengarren, the Scottish castle where her parents met many Christmases ago. But it is the portrait of fierce Highlander Duncan MacGregor that sparks an inexplicable yearning inside her. On a storm-tossed night, as lightning cracks across the castle's turrets, Rachel finds herself face-to-face with MacGregor himself, astride a mighty stallion. Now, stepping into Rachel's time -- and her heart -- the warrior from the past is pursued by an ancient, evil enemy. . . .

$6. 64 on Amazon for Kindle

Ghosts of Christmas Past by Jessica Aspen

Romantic suspense and holiday romance, all wrapped up with a ghost story. Brrr. 
Warm up this Christmas with Ghosts of Christmas Past.
Jen MacNamara flees the Christmas wedding of her best friend and cheating fiancé and runs to the country to spend the holiday alone. It's the perfect plan, until her unexpectedly sexy neighbor and landlord, Nate Pierce, insists on bringing the holiday to her--complete with a Christmas tree, hot chocolate, and an unexpected kiss.

And that's not Jen's only problem.

The cozy country farmhouse is already occupied by something evil. Now Jen's nights are spent wrapped in sensual dreams of a past life, and her days growing closer to Nate as they solve the mystery of the malevolent ghost that haunts not only the house, but also wants Jen dead.

$2.99 on Amazon for Kindle

Also, don't forget Menace Under the Mistletoe by Lisa Greer and A Vampire's Christmas Carol by Karen McCullough!

I'm sure there are many more cozy Christmas mysteries cheap from Amazon if you care to search, these are just the one's I've purchased (or already read) this holiday season!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

'I Came to a Castle' by Velda Johnston

Published:  1969
Setting:  Modern Day


She came to the ancient and fearsome Castle Estillio as the guest of a rich scientist and his frivolous sister. But she quickly realized that she was a prisoner among madmen. The bizarre tower which had been turned into a modern laboratory...the grim dungeon with its macabre instruments...the legendary tunnel which no one dared speak of...even the handsome, enigmatic stranger whom she longed to trust...all were essential to the grotesque experiment for which she, Dinah Haversham, had been carefully chosen....

Dinah Haversham had no idea when she came to Castle Estillo, one car in a bandwagon of vehicles carrying months' worth of food and goods, that her job as charge to two young boys would turn into a living nightmare.  As Dinah and the two young boys grow accustomed to the strangely modernized castle and it's weird inhabitants, she finds herself drawn into a dangerous game of deceit, murder, and an all-out apocalypse!

Setting:  Gloomy Castle Estillo

Plot:  A mad scientist who holds a household hostage as he awaits an apocalypse he's predicted.

Gothic Elements:  mad scientist, dark and gloomy castle, foreign servants (some evil and some good), murder, lost & stolen fortune (art), heroine being locked away in a chamber, stormy weather, reporter/cop undercover, a fortune hunter, hidden passages and trap doors, 

Romance:  the heroine sparks a romance with the reporter/cop early on but remains suspicious of him until he saves her

I feel that this book could have been an incredible read, had it some other plot.  Johnston included some really great gothic elements to set the mood, yet the story just did not live up to it's description.  In fact, there was really no mystery or suspense until at least after page 100.  I found the novel to be mundane and boring, interspersed with some great gothic humor here and there, yet overall just not an interesting read. This book would be better grouped in the genre of sci-fi horror, not gothic romance.  Would NOT recommend to fans of gothic romance, despite the cover art and story-line, this is not a gothic romance!

My rating:  
2 Stars

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Round-Up Wednesday

Okay, folks.  I don't do these as often as I'd like (sometimes I'm really not working on a lot of Gothic-related material so I don't have a lot to share), but here goes.

What I'm Reading & Upcoming Reviews:

I'm reading three books at the moment (I like a little variety in my reading!)

1)  Green Shadows by Lucille Vernon Stevens
2)  I Came to a Castle by Velda Johnston
3)  The Wrath by Kristina Schram

You can also expect a lovely interview with Kristina Schram, as she was kind enough to oblige to an interview for the blog.

What I'm Watching:

I recently had a film-maker (yes, gasp!) inquire as to whether I'd enjoy reviewing his Gothic Romance film.  I have watched it and am working on the review.  He's also agreed to an interview, for which I'm also working on putting that together.

I'm really excited about this, I haven't yet had the opportunity to interview one who partakes in playwrights or film, so this will be new and hopefully we can learn something too.

I don't want to disclose the site/person just yet...I want first dibs on this review, and I like giving my readers a little bit of a surprise every now and then!

I'm also about to relax to a few movies on Netflix this morning (going to steal some 'me-time' while I can) and I might possibly review a good gothic-themed movie sometime this week.

Other News:

I added quite a few more gothic titltes to the Open Library Gothic book list.  Now we have almost 800 free gothic ebooks to choose from!

I also had someone recently ask me to review some Dorothy Daniels books, so those are next on my TBR list.  Also, I write this blog not just for my own enjoyment but for readers and fans of gothic romance as well.  So PLEASE if there is a review you'd like to see, or an author you'd like to see more of, leave me a comment or shoot me an email.  I'd be more than happy to give you the review(s) you're looking for if I can find the titles!

I know I get quite a few hits, I'd like to see more comments and interaction, please, from those of you who do enjoy visiting.  I like to hear your thoughts, too!  Let me know what you like and dislike, and how I'm doing.

I'm still strumming away at my own Gothic Romance novella House of Hollow Wind.  Tread gently while reading, what I'm posting is the very first draft as I go.  I plan to polish it all up and sell it on Amazon once I'm done, so read it here while it's free and let me know what you think!

You can also expect some V.C. Andrews reviews and other related posts coming very soon.  I once had an online VCA web-ring.  I have read all her books (except the last four or so series) so I'll be dedicating a little area of this blog to my favorite author of all-time as I post things from my beloved VCA site that I took down back in 2010.

I think that 'rounds' things up.  I wish you all happy reading and writing.
Have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday, for those of you who celebrate!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

House of Hollow Wind (Mini Blog-Series Part 12)

It was late evening as I sat at the dining table.  The setting sun sent haphazard rays of yellow into the treetops outside the kitchen window.  I watched as the wind whipped a hollow moan, shaking the old walls of the house and blowing the last lingering snowflakes into a frenzy.  The house was as silent as a tomb.  I shivered at the thought and glanced about the empty kitchen.  Shadow, laying obediently at my feet, yawned loudly.  I absent-mindedly scratched her ears and wondered where everyone was.  Libby had Saturday evenings off to visit her own family.  Consequently Grandmothers bible group also met every third Saturday. I was wondering if I should make myself a quick sandwich and dine alone when I heard the familiar scrape of Aunt Helen’s cane.

“Looks like it’s just me and you for tonight, child,” she smiled and began to forage through the well-stocked pantry before pulling a large can of tomato soup from its perch near the top.  “Anyway, this will give us some time to chat, catch up a little.  How about some tomato soup and grilled cheese?  Quick and easy!”

“Oh, that sounds wonderful,” I said as I scrambled to the counter with Shadow at my heels, no doubt hoping for some fallen crumbs.  “Why don’t you let me help you?  I’ve spent so much of the day just lying around reading and watching the snow.”

That statement wasn’t entirely true.  Of course, the snow had fallen on and off all day and I had cuddled near the fireplace in the sitting room, looking out the window and daydreaming.  And twice during the day, I’d peeked in to record Grandpa Wayne’s vitals and make sure he was comfortable.  I’d also spent nearly an hour soaking the dirt-clad piece of fabric found by Shadow.  I was almost positive it was a scarf and it looked to be green, although I wouldn’t be sure until it dried.  Afraid of being late for dinner, I’d left it hanging on the towel rack in my bathroom upstairs.  I was sure it would be dry enough by the time I returned to make further stipulations.

“How about you work on the grilled cheese,” Aunt Helen said over her shoulder.  The clatter of cookers bringing me back to the present as she rummaged through a small shelf beneath the sink.

I quickly took the small iron skillet offered me and pulled a tub of butter from the fridge.  These were the same cookers from my childhood, the same ones I’d learned to cook pancakes in.  I could so vividly remember the chirpy laughter of Vanessa as we, two silly school girls sharing secrets about our crushes, worked giddily at making our own breakfast.  How old Grandmother’s cookware seemed to be.  I turned it over and over in my hands thoughtfully, no shiny, contorted reflection to be found at the bottom.

            “You know, your mother loved grilled cheese,” again Aunt Helen’s thin voice pierced the aura of my thoughts.

            “Really?”  I said, tears smarting my eyes at the thought of my parents.  Oh, how I wished I could unwind the past.  If only it were my own mother here, cooking with me.  Maybe I would have found a more steady place in life with the support of loving parents.  Rather, I’d been reared by the hateful glares of overbearing nuns at the boarding school where I’d grown into a young woman.  There had been no sense of love or belonging at that school of obedience where I’d been terrified into submission by the ghosts of dim-lit hallways and the promise of meager meals.
 College life had brought to me a sense of freedom and self-efficacy.  For once in my life, I’d a choice where I’d dine at lunch, for whom I’d spend my free time with.  Yet, for the most part, free time had evaded me.  Aside from my 4.0 GPA with the nursing department, my job at the cafĂ© had taken up most of my free time.  Oh, I’d had dates.  Many of them, in fact, with suitors who wished to woe me into mundane lives in rambling farmhouses where I’d assist them with troughs and children.  No, I had wanted only the serenity of my own career.  A place in life to call my own.

Yet, how ironic it was that life had led me right back to the very thing I’d found repulsive since the death of my parents:  a cold family and the unwelcome atmosphere of the drafty, old farmhouse that looked to be darned near dilapidated.  And now with no sign of Vanessa, the only one who’d bothered to correspond with me over the years, I felt more an outsider than ever before.  The career I had so vigilantly worked towards was evading me with every passing day and I could not seem to shake the apprehensive feel of danger at the homestead that should have served a haven from the outside world.

I felt more alone than ever as I fried the sandwiches and joined Aunt Helen at the dinner table.  The tomato soup was in desperate need of salt and sour cream, but I did not complain.  Nor did I make an effort to find the condiments in the crowded cupboards.  I feigned interest in conversation about the weather.  Though  I did make  a few attempts to ask my aunt about my mother.  She would only pause, spoon halted midway to her mouth,  and gaze at me pointedly while reminding me that my mother was such a beauty, always popular with the boys.

“Oh, but I always did look up to her,” she reassured me.  Yet I sensed jealousy, if not downright undertones of hostility, in her voice.

And, at last, when I spoke of Vanessa and how dire the atmosphere here without her, I was shut down yet again.

“That ungrateful child,” she spat out.  “Running off, knowing full well I can’t chase her.  I’m crippled, for God’s sakes.  Running off with some man.   Running from that Greg, I tell you.”  She leveled her glare at me then.  “I’ve seen you with him a few times, don’t think it’s gone unnoticed.  I hope you won’t get involved with him.  I’ll be damned if I’ll let him ruin another honest girl!”

And with that, she dismissed herself.  I watched as she dug her cane into the stiff linoleum, scraping the floor with a dangerous strength.  Her nostrils flared and she batted her eyelashes feverishly, refusing to look back at me as she left the room.  She lumbered from the kitchen, slamming the swinging door so hard behind her I was surprised she didn’t knock herself down.

I thought about her reaction to my question about Vanessa as I cleared the table and washed our few dishes.  How angry she had become!  I couldn’t understand what had set her off so terribly.  Only, I noted, with something like fear wedging itself between the cave of my ribs, that she seemed like someone struck with madness.  I’d seen crazy people with uncontrollable tempers and urges when I’d interned at the city hospital.  They did not act unlike Aunt Helen. 

“And if she is crazy, I’d better be more careful with my tongue,” I said to myself.

<<<House of Hollow Wind Part 11

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Reading Radar: 5 Haunted Locales with Strange Secrets

It's been quite a while since I posted one of these, so I thought I'd share with you a few great books I grabbed for the Kindle reader.

Get ready for some eerie houses and dangerous secrets in these quick reads.  And the best thing about them?  They won't break your wallet!

The Secret of Greystone Hall
by Elezabeth Wilde


After the sudden tragic death of her parents, Abby Sanders is invited to travel to the Green Mountains of Vermont to stay with William Drake, the brooding old master of Greystone Hall. Then suddenly the man vanished. All too soon she finds that the corridors of the gloomy mansion are filled with sinister secrets. To her sheer horror she begins to question whether the old man could be behind terrifying events that shrouded the ancient walls and stalked her into the very shadows of death and madness. 

Price:  $0.99

by Sarah Ballance

After a terrifying encounter with the unexplained, it takes ten years and the news of her grandmother’s passing for Emma Grace Hawthorne to return to her childhood home. She seeks peace in saying a proper goodbye, but what she finds is an old love, a sordid family history, and a wrong only she can right. 

Living in the shadow of Hawthorne Manor, Noah Garrett has never forgotten about Emma Grace. In a house full of secrets, his search for missing documents reveals a truth that can cost him everything. What he finds gave Emma the freedom to walk away from the mansion, her heart free and clear, but at what price to Noah?

This is a novella.

Price:  $1.29

Windwood Farm
by Rebecca Patrick-Howard

Windwood Farm has a terrible secret–one that’s been buried for more almost 100 years. Taryn Magill aims to uncover it…or die trying.

As a mixed media artist and urban explorer with a love for abandoned houses and a big imagination when it comes to the past, 30 year old Taryn has never really met an old house she didn’t like. In fact, she’s made a career out of painting these sad, often derelict structures, to show them in their former glory for her clients.

With Windwood Farm, though, she might have bitten off more than she can chew!

The locals refer to it as “the devil’s house” and even vandals have stayed away from this once grand stone farmhouse in Vidalia, Kentucky. Hired by the Stokes County Historical Society to paint it before it’s demolished by a land development company, Taryn’s determined to make friends with the house and farm everyone around her seems to be terrified of.

As it turns out, though, their fears may just not be unfounded.

Who is the woman whose cries echo throughout the farm and what does she want? What negative force about the house is so powerful that it won’t even allow the upstairs bedroom to be touched? Does the 93 year old vanishing of the next door neighbor have anything to do with the house’s mysteries?

Taryn wants the answers to these and the house may just be trying to tell her because now, when she looks through her camera, she doesn’t have to use her imagination to see the past–


Will Taryn be able to figure out what happened here AND escape with her sanity and life before the house comes down? Because now it seems like someone is trying to kill her! Using what her camera reveals to her and her wits, she’ll try to unravel the mysteries of the farm and get out before it’s too late.

The first book in the Taryn’s Camera series.

Price:  $2.99

Haunted Lake
by Lauralynn Elliot

After losing her best friend in a fire, Rachel Madison rents a cabin on Misty Lake, trying to work through her guilt and sorrow. While there, she meets two men, one good looking and friendly and the other handsome, but scarred. Soon, she realizes that the peace she was trying to find here wasn’t to be, as supernatural events begin to take place. The strange encounters with ghosts at the lake cause Rachel to form a strong bond of friendship with the two men. The three friends move closer and closer to danger as the events unfold to a possible tragic result. 

Price:  $0.99

The House on the Moor
by Lalla Squeglia

Abigail Brewster didn’t want to work for Nathan Raven, not with all those stories swirling around him. It was too late now, though, and she was in too deep. Now she has to find out if Nathan is just an eccentric recluse or if he really is a murderous lunatic…before she suffers the same fate as all the others.

Price:  $0.99

All prices are currently as listed at Amazon price.

I hope you find at least a few to enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

House of Hollow Wind (Mini Blog-Series Part 11)

Libby was nowhere to be found when I entered the kitchen, though she’d left me a rather elaborate breakfast tray atop the buffet counter.  My stomach growled at the sight of thickly buttered French toast and poached eggs, complete with orange juice and coffee.  I thought to myself, as I dug in, that Libby’s fine cooking might very well be the demise of my petite figure!  I also wondered where the cheery housemaid had run off to.  Loud and chirpy as she was,  I could surely welcome her warmth and conversation this morning.

I found myself alone after breakfast.  I had a whole day to fill and seemingly nothing to do so I took to the sitting room as usual.  If all else failed, Aunt Helen had an endless supply of books.  So far, I hadn’t found any real alone time with Aunt Helen and there were many inquiries I’d like to make of Vanessa and where her mother thought she might be.  The absence of my cousin lay heavily upon my mind.  Yet, no one else seemed to be willing to even speak about it, much less make an effort to find out where she’d gone. 

I thought back to the psychology classes I had and the stages of grief Professor Adams had outlined.   I reflected to myself that perhaps everyone might still be in denial.  How much easier it must be to believe that Vanessa was safely tucked away somewhere with her doting boyfriend, happily enjoying her first taste of independence, than in mortal danger.  I wanted to believe she was happy and safe, but something about her swift departure, particularly how she had sent me no notice and no following phone call, did not quite sit right.  Call it intuition or a sixth sense, but I feared for the livelihood of my childhood confidant.

I grabbed a fashion magazine and took a seat on the old, red velvet couch.  Everything in the farmhouse seemed to be a lost relic of my childhood.  I could vaguely remember my own mother sprawled across the couch, listening to a record and twirling her hair like a teenager as I occupied myself with a dollhouse.  And my father, who’d sit at the foot of the couch, tickling or rubbing her feet depending on his fancy.  I missed them both dearly but tried hard not to think about my childhood years.  There was too much pain within the pages of my past.

I absent-mindedly flipped through the magazine as I glanced out the small, curtained window behind the settee.  The sky was overcast with the threat of a fresh snow.  Puffy, white clouds leaned heavily towards bone-bare treetops.  It would have been a serene picture but for the bounding black shadow that kept weaving in and out of the trees near the edge of the where the wood began.  It took me a moment to realize that Shadow must be at play  again.

Remembering my scare from the previous night, and fearing that grandma or Aunt Helen might find themselves in my same predicament if Shadow wandered too far, I resolved to go call the dog in before early evening fell.  However, the way she threw her head back excitedly, whilst running too far into the trees to see and returning to the edge yet again, finally got the best of my curiosity.

“Here girl,” I called as I stepped through the icy, graveled driveway and made my way carefully towards the trees. 

Shadow galloped towards me, barking feverishly, yet would not come close enough for me to touch.  As soon as I made an effort to grab for her, she’d dodge out of sight and run between the cover of trees.  I could hear her barks fade as she descended deeper into the woods.

“Shadow, c’mere girl,” I yelled.  No reply.

I sighed heavily and followed the paw prints as they zig-zagged between the trees.  I didn’t want to venture too far for fear of a repeat of the previous night.  I’m sure I seemed silly.   Here I was again chasing the dog into the woods when just last night I’d gotten lost and nearly frozen to death.  And what was that Greg had said as he guided me home last night with the gentleness of a grandpa?  I’d been almost too shocked from cold and fright to listen to his gentle chiding.  I remembered only a warning that a frozen river lay somewhere deep into the woods, near the left.  Covered by a new snowfall, one might not notice the river at all and unknowingly plunge to their own hypothermic death.

I shivered, and momentarily feared that Vanessa might have come to the same tragic end.  Only, growing up here and spending most every waking moment of each summer and spring in these hills, I was secure in the knowledge that Vanessa would know exactly where that icy river lay.  And besides, she’d gone missing weeks earlier, before any real snow had fallen.

“Come on Shadow,  let’s go get a treat,”  I called into the quiet of the trees.  Out there, everything seemed so silent.  Even a cracking branch from a squirrel scampering snapped the silence like a shot in the night.

I was nervous, and kept glancing over my shoulder so as to keep the old farmhouse within sight.  I was determined not to get lost this time.  I shivered a little, realizing too late that I should have grabbed a jacket before coming out here. 

 Lost so deeply in thought, I did not notice the two vultures that suddenly swooped low, caw-cawing their angry voices dangerously close to my face, as if I were pervading their premises, before echoing their flight back toward the swaying treetops.  Their bird-calls sounded eerily familiar to fun house laughter, almost as if they intended to frighten me away.  I shook my head to clear my thoughts.  The birds were simply scavenging the woods for food, perhaps the carcass of some unlucky rodent that had come to a swift demise.  

Now frazzled, heart in my throat,  my patience for the dog was growing short.  I was about to give up and leave Greg to deal with chasing her out of the woods when, with a bounding gallop, she nearly knocked me over.

“It’s about time, ole girl,” I said as I scratched her ears.  It was when I bent to get a secure hold on her collar that I saw the piece of fabric. 

“What do we have here?”  I said and Shadow barked eagerly as I picked it up. 

The fabric was long, rather soft, and smelled of decayed earth.  I scrutinized it for a few moments, turning it over and over in my hands, before discerning that it probably was just a scarf.  Bits of frozen dirt clung to it's delicate fibers.  I noted that it could not have been exposed to the elements for long as it seemed to be completely in-tact.  I told myself that it might mean nothing at all.  After all, Shadow found it in the woods.  I had no idea how long it had been there, or whom it belonged to.   Anyone could have lost it on a windy walk through these unrelenting hills.    But Shadow had been so excited about her find and something told me to keep it, just in case.  

I folded it and placed it in the pocket of my sweater.  I would wash it later, after dinner when I could do it undisturbed.  Once it was dry I would take a better look at it.  Even if it ended up being nothing, it would give me something interesting to do after dinner when the house grew silent and the unquiet settling of it's ancient rafters wore against my already-frazzled nerves.

New Installments Every Monday!  

'Last Place in the World' by Margarete Sparks

Published:  1975
Setting:  Modern Day

She had better hurry and get off this narrow, unfamiliar road while there was still time before dark.  There was no use calling upon the occupants of the house in the distance, since she handn't their names on her list.  On this old, abandoned road it was not likely that they were newcomers anyway.  Usually the older, large mountain homes were owed by well-to-do people who had been fleeing to the mountains to escape the summer heat for years, since Fleming was a small settlement.

The car wouldn't start.  She tried to bring to life the small sound she heard and kept turning the key until she was afraid she might wear out the starter.  Exasperated and now a little uneasy on the deserted road, Madrid again glanced through the trees and observed the outline of the house.  The reflection from its windows was now gone.  If she had not noticed the awesome balls of tinted gold five minutes ago, she would have been completely unaware that the house in the distance existed.

She had walked three-quarters of the way from her car to the house when the breeze grew stronger and the trees, some with their branches hanging directly overhead on the narrow road, changed their whispering to moans.  Grass growing between the cracks in the paving waved frantically in a sudden wind.

Madrid was not too surprised when lightning began to flash from a darkening sky, and she was soon pelted sharply with large raindrops.  She quickened her pace as thunder rolled above her.  When the thunder crashed and the rain began to pour, she changed the fast walking to a run...she was suddenly terribly frightened of the gathering darkness...

Madrid Palmer is new to the small town of Fleming, Arizona.  She's just been transferred by her company, the Hi Ya Stranger Agency, and is doing a house call for a new resident when her car breaks down.  Thankfully, the sun is setting in just the right spot because she notices its reflection in some windows in the far distance and realizes there must be a house hidden deep within the woods, away from the prying eyes of the public.  Just as she nears the beautiful, old house, the sky opens and she's drenched before she ever reaches the front door.

However, the friendly lady (Virginia Toblin) who opens the door is more than cordial, and not only offers her a dry robe, but invites her to stay for dinner as well.  And as Madrid awaits dinner, she's also met with another fellow resident of Southerly Road, D'Arcy Nelson, whom is a rich heir to the family who owns the tudor-style mansion she's found in the mists of the woods.  Yet, as Madrid waits out the storm, she finds herself quickly forming a friendship with the two eccentric souls.  Virginia is obviously an alcoholic in need of a babysitter.  Ironically she's also redecorating the house for her ex-husband, who is said to be planning to reside in the house with his new wife in mere weeks.

What's even more ironic is how Virginia has been hired, with the help of D'Arcy and his artistic skills, to imitate the decor of the master bedroom so as to duplicate a bedroom the owner has in Pheonix, Arizona...but as Madrid stays on, she will discover hidden rooms, dangerous family affairs, secrets better left buried, dead bodies, and a murderer on her heels!

Setting:  a tudor-style mansion in the woods

Plot:  a murder mystery, sort of who-dun-it

Gothic Elements:  storms, lightning, creepy woods with moaning branches and a secret passageway.  Dead bodies and funeral homes.  Crazy house maids and sedatives given to unsuspecting victims.  A kidnapping and lots of oddball characters.

Romance:  there's an undercurrent of romance between the hero and heroine, though she still views him a a suspect until nearly the end of the book

Honestly, this book ended up being so out-landish, confusing, and just overall odd, that I would not recommend it.  Sadly, it was off to a great start, but at about 100 pages in it became apparent that the author just kept going in circles.  I finished the book by pure will and was bored with the weird ending as well.  Of course, this is an Avalon gothic, I suppose with those there's always the chance of reading a dud.  I also found it rather sad that the author seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth after writing this book, I could find no other publications by her, nor even a biography anywhere.

My Rating:
2 Stars

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Makes for a Compelling Gothic Romance Story?

We all have personal preferences when it comes to reading for pleasure.  Of course, if we didn't, then there would be no such thing as a 'genre.'  And although I believe that gothic romance has either been largely regrouped into 'paranormal romance' or 'romantic suspense,' it is still characteristic of the same timeless elements.  The same spooky, mysterious plot twists and engaging atmospheres that hooked readers in the early 60's are the same ones you find in today's more contemporary gothic romance novels.

And while somewhere in the future I may want to elaborate more upon the plot twists (rather formulaic or not), today I want to talk about the gothic elements that I find most compelling.  The bits and pieces that keep me turning the pages.   Being a collector of these books (probably close to 1,000 or more, not counting ebook editions), people oftentimes ask me what is in the history of this genre for me?  Do I not find these old, outdated books boring?   Of course not!  Because while they may be old, indeed, they are neither boring or outdated.

For me, the vintage gothic romance is timeless and endearing.  All good books are timeless.  And what is 'good' or 'bad' really is left to the discretion of the reader.  Many of these books have served as excellent history lessons.   A reminder of simpler, more innocent times...way back to days before the emphasis of technology and computers and smartphones.  I am pulled into each of these stories not for an erotic display found in many 'romance books,' nor because they are the 'latest and greatest' from the New York Times.  Rather, I genuinely find them interesting, page-turning, different (and oftentimes even better) than the books that mainstream authors spew forth at an alarming rate these days.

Anyway, I've had a lot of people ask me why  I prefer this genre to, say, just general horror.  And while I do love authors Richard Laymon, John Saul and some works of Stephen King, the vintage gothics (and the good contemporary ones that are reminiscent of the originals) have my heart!

But what do I love most about them, you ask?  Well let's take a look... (remember, there are many, probably innumerable) elements that make great gothic reads...these are merely my favorites!

When it comes to settings, I want to go somewhere I've never been:
-a rambling mansion on the Moors
-Yorkshire chateau
-A grand old ancient castle somewhere in England
-somewhere near the ocean, or ocean cliffs (Cape Cod, for example)
-an isolated old mansion turned bed and breakfast, hotel, or boarding house
-a cottage somewhere in the desert
-traversing ancient ruins, like that of the Mayans
-somewhere in the bayou, Louisiana (think 'Ruby' by V.C. Andrews)
-an old haunted house inherited by unfamiliar relatives
-a cottage/house in the woods
-the city or boarding house of a foreign country
-any kind of ruins
-ship or houseboat on it's way to a creepy, isolated location
-tropical island with coves, skeletons, and hidden treasure
-family graveyards and creaking tombs
-a grand Victorian Christmas....with a horrific twist
-an old house with hidden rooms and secret passageways
-ancient graveyards or tombs
-musty old shacks in the woods or bayou
-a rambling house on a sea cliff
-dangerous sea cliffs and ocean, in general
-dangerous, dark woods
-fleeing from a place of peril in the darkness and danger of night
-a haunted house, in general

I want to read about and get into the heads and lives of characters that make the story real:
-orphans who have gone from 'rags to riches'
-an unsuspecting heiress who makes a dangerous voyage
-a student at a convent or boarding school
-a writer or artist whom has moved to a strange environment for work, school, or to solve a mystery
-missing persons, disappearances
-maids, chaperons, evil butlers
-witches and other 'evil' person's who plan for the demise of the main chracter
-protagonists who are out to get the main character (hateful grandmother, jealous relative)
-women who have married into families, only to realize someone wants her dead...but whom?
-evil in-laws and mother-in-laws
-evil husbands
-conniving nursemaids
-some of the best gothic romances I've read had at least one person who has been struck by madness
-a character who has a sort of affliction, sickness, disability
-children whose lives are endangered
-a mad scientist or philosopher
-a rich, evil benefactor
-a hateful, vindictive stepmother or step grandmother
-a flamboyant, irresponsible sibling (usually female) who has gotten themselves into trouble
-rogues, killers, embezzlers, and impostors
-witches, voodoo, spell-casters and old curses
-stalkers, ghosts, evil presences or spirits
-old murder mysteries
-skeletons in closets and secret rooms and attics
-some of my favorite vintage gothics have always had a character who was locked up in a secret underground chamber/room, or in their own private quarters because they were either mad or had to be kept away because they knew too much
- characters who have amnesia or who have been struck by the inability to communicate
-crazy wives or daughters locked away, oftentimes drugged with sedatives to keep them quiet
-a maiden who marries into a wealthy family, only to realize that her husbands previous wives have died under mysterious circumstances
-person who looks frightening...a few I can think of were characters who were once in the circus, physically deformed with birth defects, and violent cripples
-forbidden and/or incest relations (think V.C Andrews)
-heroine who has wits and determination
-hero who is a friend of heroine and becomes a love interest as the story develops
-long lost relatives reunited (some good, and some evil)
-a pregnancy or childbirth that has been kept a secret

And of course, I need  some creepy, scary elements to really set the atmosphere:
-haunted/creepy dolls
-a full moon
-a black cat or dog
-a horseman (could be a ghost, a headless horseman, or real)
-carriages voyaging long distances in the night
-cold, snowy, lonely nights
-fireplaces as a gathering spot for tea, reading, or coffee
-ghosts and apparitions
-an ominous presence
-bad omens
-storms, cloudy skies
-magic and voodoo
-a black bird or raven
-bats...and plenty of them
-secret doors
-ancient books and keys
-dark corridors
-loss of light and electricity
-fog and mist
-rooms with spiders and snakes
-cobwebs and dusty
-rooms with covered furniture
-hidden maps
-old photo albums and journals of deceased
-jewels and heirlooms
-creepy, haunted paintings of the dead
-statues...particularly dragon
-poison and opiates
-moss and tangled vines
-mysterious cries in the night
-creaking doors, shutters, halls
-shadows across the moon
-the woods at night
-rites of passage
-rituals and human sacrifice
-ware wolves
-hidden corpses
-trap doors
-underground tunnels
-poisoned food
-psychic children
-haunting music
-common drinks used to calm a frightened heroine:  coffee, tea, brandy, scotch, rum
-dusty libraries with antique books
-cold drafts
-old trunks and suitcases
-creepy masks
-faces appearing in windows and mirrors
-creaking steps and floorboards when no one's there
-lots of dangerous secrets
-roads blocked by trees
-vehicles that will not start
-creepy hotel rooms
-hand-written letters (especially those from the dead)
-stolen treasure and money
-wills being read
-dusty attics with secret rooms and doors
-creepy door knockers
-housemaids that are either crazy, mean, scary, or lame (unable to speak)
-the calling of birds
-lakes and ponds
-mountains and cliffs
-weather:  thunder, lightning, severe storms, crying winds
-starless, moonless sky
-weeping willows
-a weird doctor
-a conniving lawyer
-phones that do not work, or lack of phone at residence
-a guest that usually seems hostile, though little is known about them
-taking meals in one's room, with a tray or buffet stand
-phantoms in the night
-gala party events (wedding, christmas, dinners) with a deadly twist
-old cooks who enjoy gossiping, whom often inform the heroine of unknown peril
-stolen or misplaced corpses

Shew, for now I think this tops the list of things that I really find page-turning in a great gothic romance!  I'm sure I  haven't included them all, but I think it's a great idea to start taking note of each of these while I'm reading a book, that way I can expand upon the list...and hopefully this will help me with my own gothic romance writing.

And speaking of my own writing, I have new installments coming of House of Hollow Wind.  Hopefully I can resume my weekly Monday posts, so keep watch!

I hope, if nothing else, this post has entertained you....or perhaps even encouraged you to read some gothic romance!  Trust me when I say, there's nothing boring or outdated about these dark, moody, excitingly mysterious stories!

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Beware the Night" by J.H. Rhodes

Published:  1984
Setting:  Modern Day

Nearing the light, they saw Orby Merton as he raised a shovel into the air and brought it down on a mound of earth.

Orby sensed they were watching him and he turned to face them.  "Cat got run over.  Buried the animal here, away from the house."

With that, Orby picked up the light and walked away into the darkening night.  For Shauna the walk had suddenly lost its appeal,

"Let's go back to the house," she whispered, and her voice had a croaking sound to it.

The picture of Orby Merton raising the shovel and smashing it against the mound of earth etched itself on Shauna's mind.  She wondered if he really was burying a cat.  It had been such an eerie picture that she couldn't keep from shuddering as she and Mike walked back to the house.

They entered the back door, which led to the kitchen.  Bonnie was standing in the center of the room with her hands on her hips.  She glanced at Shauna ad Mike and slowly shook her head.

"Is there anything wrong, Bonnie?"  Shauna asked as she slowly advanced toward the cook.

"It's that can of rat poison," Bonnie said.  "I could have sworn I left it on the lower shelf.  But it's not there now.  Either I misplaced it, or someone has made off with that poison."

Shauna Travis is beyond delighted when she receives an invitation to High Cliff, a yearly gathering spot for writers and artists, all expenses paid by an eccentric millionaire.  After working at a simple job in a small town, Shauna sees this as an opportunity to devote her time to painting, as she's a flourishing artist with little time left in her busy life for the arts.

However, things aren't what she expected as the first night brings an ominous accident to the poet-in-residence as she falls and hits her head dangerously close to the sea and bordering cliffs, or was really an accident at all?  Things turn even more sinister as strange lights appear near the shore and eerie screams pierce the night...then deadly, dangerous accidents begin to happen as the artists are plagued by pranks.

Each of the artists are eccentric among themselves, and Shauna wonders to herself if one of them may be hiding a dangerous motive beneath the accidents and strange happenings that seem to be haunting the shadowy mansion.  It seems the only person she can really trust is the mysterious sculptor Mike Robbins.  But she's not sure if she can trust him or not.

Will she survive her season by the sea, or will it come to a murderous end aa mysterious specters haunt the grounds, and for who knows what?

Like usual, Rhodes served as a quick, light, mysterious read.  I especially enjoyed the creative, artistic atmosphere, particularly with the eccentric cast of characters.  There was a good element of suspense, and the story did keep me reading.  At a little less than 200 pages, I finished this one in one sitting.  Recommend to fans of gothic and vintage gothic romance.

My Rating:
4 Stars