Monday, September 10, 2018

"Leaves on the Wind" by Yvonne Norman

Published:  1978
Setting:  Modern Day

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

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

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

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

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

Book Jacket Synopsis

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

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

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

Eerie Gothic Imagery:  

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

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

"...She was alone in the canyon.

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

Was He Dead...Or Alive??

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great, light read for gothic romantic enthusiasts.

My Rating:  
4 Stars