Vintage Gothic Romance: PILGRIM’S END by Lena Brooke McNamara

Back Cover Blurb:

Established in the guest cottage at Pilgrim’s End on the pretext of painting the portrait of its aged mistress, artist Diana Adams had a method to her seeming kindness: she had to find the original deed to the estate, for it would prove, beyond doubt, that Diana was its rightful owner.

But the legacy she unearthed was a testament of terror, created by a master of evil to whom violent death was no stranger.

With her own life now at stake, there was only one man to whom Diana could turn. But would he believe her? And if he did, could he reach her in time?


Publisher: Ace Books
Publication Date: 1967
Rating: 3 Stars


My Two-Cents:

My copy of PILGRIM’S END was from the first printing in 1967. The cover shows a dark haired woman, and the blurb on the back calls the heroine “Diana.” However, within the story the heroine is a blonde named Diane. (Diane’s love interest in the book goes from being named Mark to Jim a couple of times. Same guy!) Needless to say, quality control was lax.

After the death of her parents, artist Diane Adams travels to the Pilgrim’s End estate in Virginia to stake her claim to the property, but first she must find the deed hidden somewhere within its walls. Diane is only there a short while to paint the current mistress’s portrait, and unfortunately she’s not the only one who wants Pilgrim’s End for themselves, which puts her life in danger. The story had a so-so build up to an exciting ending.

The author of this book was also an artist/painter, so you can tell she knew her stuff.

THE HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET by Jennifer Sklias-Gahan

Synopsis from Goodreads:

There once was a house, and it sat in the middle of a simple and quaint treelined street. A beautiful woman named Rebecca lived in this house with her faithfully devoted husband and their newborn daughter. They were happy, and they were proud.

The house had originally belonged to a great-great-aunt of Rebecca’s named Minerva. She lived in the house all the days of her life, and she died there on the very last night of the year. In her final earthly wishes, Minerva bequeathed the house to her next of kin and all of its belongings, including a golden sealed letter reading “Instruction for the Keeper of the House”, to be given to whomever took legal ownership of the house.

None of her next of kin came forward to claim the house. Some neighbors speculated that the relatives passed on such a beautiful home because of the rumored hauntings attached to it; the wild sobs of a young woman heard through the winter winds as the year closed, coupled by a sturdy knocking at the front door that emanated onto the street. The house sat and sat, empty until the law firm handling Minerva’s estate located Rebecca as being the next in the family line to inherit the house and all its belongings, if she so wanted.

Rebecca and her husband were thrilled and received the house gratefully. This stroke of luck came at just the right time in their lives as they were starting a family. With the arrival of autumn, Rebecca and her husband moved into the house welcoming this new chapter in their lives, on this street, and in this house. It was the house of their dreams. As the last leaves of autumn blew out, in came the arrival of their first child; their daughter was born.

On the very last day of the year, Rebecca prepared a “special” bread for her family’s first New Year’s Eve together. As she opened the kitchen window to let in the cool winter breeze, she heard a sturdy knocking at their front door. She peeped out the window and saw two children standing there, a boy and a girl.


Publication Date: September 28, 2022
Source: Review copy from the Author
Rating: 4 Stars


Quick Thoughts:

Thank you to the author for the opportunity to read and review this haunting story. What happens to descendants who inherit the troubled house in the middle of the street? Instructions are left for its keeper, but they’re only helpful if you read them…

This creepy gothic short story leaves me with a lot to think about. According to the author, this tale is inspired by Greek fables with life lessons. Her writing is beautiful, and I love the imagery she presents. What key to the puzzle do those sparkling glass jars hold?

THE HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET is a cautionary story dealing with generational grief (or a curse?) and how it might be overcome. Enjoyed!

SUN DAMAGE by Sabine Durrant

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: June 2, 2022
Source: Purchased from The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★¼


The heat is intense.
The secrets are stifling.
She just needs to escape…

Nine guests arrive at a remote villa in the south of France.

They know each other well. Or think they do.

But at least one of them has plenty to hide — and nowhere to run.

Under the relentless sun, loyalties will be tested, secrets revealed, and tensions pushed to the point of no return.

I think the blurb for SUN DAMAGE is purposely vague, so I’m not going to say much about the plot. It’s set in the south of France, my favorite new thriller setting. Two con artists are working the beach resorts there, until things get a bit out of hand. And then…

Is summer gothic suspense a thing? Because that’s how I would describe this book. It’s an absorbing slow-burner with just the right amount of tension. I was really taken in by the rich descriptions of this place, like the yummy food, gorgeous scenery, and the stifling heat. The big twists at the end were brilliant.

DARK AND SHALLOW LIES by Ginny Myers Sain

A teen girl disappears from her small town deep in the bayou, where magic festers beneath the surface of the swamp like water rot, in this chilling debut supernatural thriller for fans of Natasha Preston, Karen McManus, and Rory Power.

La Cachette, Louisiana, is the worst place to be if you have something to hide.

This tiny town, where seventeen-year-old Grey spends her summers, is the self-proclaimed Psychic Capital of the World — and the place where Elora Pellerin, Grey’s best friend, disappeared six months earlier.

Grey can’t believe that Elora vanished into thin air any more than she can believe that nobody in a town full of psychics knows what happened. But as she digs into the night that Elora went missing, she begins to realize that everybody in town is hiding something — her grandmother Honey; her childhood crush Hart; and even her late mother, whose secrets continue to call to Grey from beyond the grave.

When a mysterious stranger emerges from the bayou — a stormy-eyed boy with links to Elora and the town’s bloody history — Grey realizes that La Cachette’s past is far more present and dangerous than she’d ever understood. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who she can trust. In a town where secrets lurk just below the surface, and where a murderer is on the loose, nobody can be presumed innocent — and La Cachette’s dark and shallow lies may just rip the town apart.

Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Source: Borrowed from the library

★★★

• YA Paranormal Mystery •

I started reading DARK AND SHALLOW LIES late last fall, but decided to stop to read some Christmas books. Six months later, I re-checked out the library eBook to finish, and the app actually remembered where I’d stopped reading. I thought returning it deleted bookmarks? Anyway!

The thing I loved most about this book was the setting. La Cachette, Louisiana, was a dark and complex character on its own. This is bayou country, surrounded by water, with its oppressive heat and eerie atmosphere. Psychic powers abound. Storms are threatening. And a teen girl is searching for her friend who went missing in the swamp months earlier.

The beginning grabbed my attention, and the ending was a wild, unexpected ride, but the middle part moved slowly. There was a big group of characters, none of whom I was all that invested in. I would’ve liked to have seen more character development and more action to move the plot ahead.

BENEATH THE STAIRS by Jennifer Fawcett

In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house — the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.

Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.

Publisher: Atria Books
Published: February 22, 2022
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss

★★★★½

I loved every creepy and unsettling moment of this book! BENEATH THE STAIRS is a haunting slow-burn, character-driven debut with a lot to unpack. Is there a way to break free from childhood trauma and years of guilt and regret?

In upstate New York, the small town of Sumner’s Mills has fallen on hard times. Storefronts are boarded, and the old factory walls are crumbling, but one building stands firm — the abandoned Octagon House deep in the woods. When a couple of young teen girls venture into its basement, their lives are changed forever by what they see. Twenty years later, the house calls them back with tragic consequences.

There were moments in this book when I was truly scared! The story takes place over multiple timelines where the disturbing history of the Octagon House is revealed. I was completely immersed in the story and the lives of the flawed characters. That creepy house wouldn’t let me rest until I knew its secrets! I’m excited to read more of this author’s work in the future.

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.