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!