Vintage Gothic Romance: AUGUSTA, THE FIRST by Katheryn Kimbrough

Publisher: Popular Library
Released: 1975
Source: Purchased book
Rating: ★★★

Augusta, The First is the opening novel in the greatest series of gothic romances ever conceived. You won’t want to miss the others all exclusively in Popular Library editions.

Young and beautiful Augusta Merrihew fled England and the strange evil that seemed to haunt her. In the new world of America she hoped to find the happiness and safety that so long had eluded her.

When she met handsome and dashing Joshua Phenwick, it seemed her dreams had come true. She gave her hand in marriage to this man who was as mysterious as he was irresistible and on the lonely New England coast the great manor of Phenwick House was erected as a towering monument to their love.

Little did Augusta know that she was entering a hellish nightmare. For the curse of the past has followed Augusta across the seas, in the form of a man who held her helpless by his iron will…

AUGUSTA, THE FIRST, book #1 in the 40-book series, Saga of the Phenwick Women, by Katheryn Kimbrough (a.k.a. John Kimbro).

I’ve never read a book with a story so different from its back cover description! *scratches head* A strange evil haunting her in England? Curse of the past? The whole Joshua Phenwick thing? And, I’m still not sure who the man was who “held her helpless by his iron will.” Hmm…

Despite the misleading blurb, I liked the book. Augusta was one tough, determined young woman. There was something in the New World that she was after, so she figured out a way to escape her family in England and start a life in Colonial America. She was a savvy businesswoman with powerful connections, and when life knocked her down, she got right back up.

I was a bit disappointed that the story wasn’t more “Gothic.” It wasn’t spooky or suspenseful in the least, except perhaps right at the very beginning and very end. I’m guessing this book was meant to set the foundation for the rest of the series and let readers know how the Phenwick Women came about.

Vintage Gothic Romance: WITCH’S HAMMER by Caroline Farr


Publisher: Signet
Released: March 1967
Source: Purchased

Her first big chance. An assignment any woman would envy: 21-year-old Samantha Crawford is sent to Maine to interview Peter Castellano for ‘Secrets’ magazine. And moreover, the Valentino of the stage has specifically requested that she write his biography.

Accompanied by her rakish photographer, Samantha dashes headlong into disaster in a Kremlin-style fortress high above the Atlantic Ocean. She encounters a devastating, ageless man, born to Russian nobility and raised on this estate, steadfastly dedicated to Old World tradition. And she is drawn into the intrigue of Castellano’s passionate and beautiful daughter — a daughter whose love for her father is a threat to every woman who enter the gates of WITCH’S HAMMER.


The Time and Place:
1966; Coast of Maine; Witch’s Hammer Estate, outside the village of Durness Kyle.

The Set Up:
Samantha Crawford gets her first big break as a writer when she’s assigned to do a serial for Secrets on the love life of actor Peter Castellano. During his time on the stage, Peter had the adulation of millions of women, but all that ended when his wife died under tragic and mysterious circumstances. Since then, he’s been in hiding at Witch’s Hammer, his family’s estate on the coast of Maine.

Peter invites Samantha to stay with him and his daughter at Witch’s Hammer while she conducts interviews. Their home, er, castle, is a replica of the one the family left behind in Imperial Russia, complete with a staff from the old country (and their descendants). Does that one man look like Rasputin? And what’s up with his piercing dark eyes?

Samantha was specifically told not to inquire about Peter’s wife’s death or the 10 years he’s spent in seclusion. But, darn it, she just can’t help herself. Everything about Witch’s Hammer and the people living there seems…off. And then there’s that beautiful yet creepy painting of Peter’s late mother hanging in Samantha’s room… Did her expression just change? *shudders*

The Wrap Up:
Liked it. Quick and easy read. WITCH’S HAMMER had plenty of suspense and a couple of spooky moments. I enjoyed the outcome of the mystery, though there were too many questions left unanswered for me to rate this higher than 3-stars.

Rating: 3 Stars