Thursday, November 17, 2011

Velda Johnston: The Hour Before Midnight

I found this gothic romance/romantic suspense novel by Velda Johnston, The Hour Before Midnight, published in 1978, at my local friends of the library. The cover is unexceptional, but when I saw it, I had to pick it up.

I like Johnston's work, but she treads a line between the two genres mentioned above, and I find her novels to be uneven in quality. This novel is not one of her best, in my opinion.

The Hour Before Midnight

Here's a list of Velda Johnston's titles with a picture of her. This page is from the literary agency that handles her estate:

Velda Johnston

In the novel, Judith Dunne, an American artist travels back to London to work on her illustrations. The murder of her fast and wild cousin the year before, Cecily Grenville, still haunts her.

Someone wants the past forgotten, and Judith is in danger.

Plot: 3/5-- I figured out whodunnit early on, though I did like the large variety of male suspects. I didn't enjoy the predictable plot twist of mental illness. A better ending would have been... well, I'll let you read it. Let me know what you think. :) Also, references to the common culture are pretty neat as are the stories of the British monarchy.

Characterization: 4/5-- I liked the hero and didn't pinpoint him as such right away. The heroine is also likeable and believable.

Atmosphere: 3/5-- A few genuinely creepy moments occur in the story when Judith finds the murder weapon--a nasty cleaver in a neat hiding place--but overall, there is nothing paranormal or really Gothic about this one other than some of the story line.

Romantic elements: 3/5-- The story in this regard was so/so.

Rating: 3+ stars

**If you like older romantic suspense, London in the 70s, or Velda Johnston's work, I recommend this one. Otherwise, you might skip it for something with a bit more Gothic atmosphere.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Spotlight on Joselyn Vaughn and Her Gothic Cozy, Hauntings of the Heart

Today, the spotlight is on a fellow Astraea Press author, Joselyn Vaughn and her new release, Hauntings of the Heart. Don't you love this amazing cover? If you like Gothic cozy, I think you'll enjoy this book.

When Minnie decided to advertise the Lilac Bower as a haunted house, we both got more than we bargained for.  How were we to know that actual paranormal investigators would show up?  We both expected people who would be excited by some creaky doors and flickering lights.

So when the paranormal investigators showed up with cameras, thermometers and digital voice recorders, we knew we were in trouble.  Minnie because her advertising scheme was in trouble and me because I had no idea what the investigators do on a ghost hunt. I doubt they sit around and wait for a ghost to jump out and say Boo!

Luckily, some local investigators were making a presentation at our library and I could do some research.  They explained the tools they use and what those gadgets are supposed to detect.  It was all very interesting and exactly what I needed to learn until they started talking about places they had investigated and what they had found. Most were safely hours away from my home.  Their ghostly figures, weird shadows and hair-raising voices could stay safely in my mind's mythology.

Until the last place they talked about.  It is a mere block away from my house and I can see it from the window above my writing desk.  There wasn't anything terrifyingly haunted about the place except that Al Capone may have slept there.  The occurrences were more along the lines of the jukebox turning itself on and off and people just having an unsettled feeling while there.  They felt creepy and uncomfortable while inside. (Which would probably explain the string of businesses that opened and closed in the building since we moved to town.) I only went inside once to a consignment shop that was there briefly.  I don't remember feeling odd, but I know that I didn't buy anything.

And yet, as I walked home that night - alone and in the dark - I couldn't help but wishing I didn't have to walk so close to the building.

P.S. For anyone who likes to get the heebie-jeebies...The building is for sale.
Gordon stared at the paper. “You said Minnie?
She’s the owner?”
“Well, technically Minnie is the president of the
corporation.” Maybelle glanced over the top of her glasses, then
hefted the book and carried it toward the copy machine. “I’ll get a
copy of this for you.”
His mind was bouncing all over the place. Minnie. His heart
pounded. The memories of all his travels to see the places they’d
dreamed about. He’d always hoped he’d stumble across her in a
cantina in Buenos Aires, or disembarking from a mission plane in
the Philippines. He’d never considered finding her in his old home.
Emotions he’d long thought dead flowed to the surface.
Minnie had been his oxygen once, and losing her had been like
living in a backwards Claritin commercial. Everything had gone
from bright and clear to cloudy and bleary. After a while, he’d
gotten used to it.
If his father had told the truth, it would have been
humiliating, but Gordon would never have lost Minnie. They
would be living at the Lilac Bower together. He could rectify that
now. He could see her. She was only blocks away. His luck was
changing. He felt like skipping.
It briefly crossed his mind that getting all he wanted
couldn’t be this easy. But he’d worry about it later. Seeing Minnie
now was as important as finding water in the desert. He thanked
Maybelle as he ran out the door, almost leveling a woman who was
Maybelle called after him. “You forgot your copy.”
He dashed back and snatched the paper from Maybelle,
crumpling it and stuffing it into his pocket.
“And your hat,” the other woman said, tossing him the tan
fedora. Gordon caught it and slapped it on his head.
He couldn’t miss this chance.

When lost love shows up on your doorstep, what do you do?  Minnie Schultz slams the door in his face. She and Gordon Anderson have a history—close to ancient history, given the fifty years since their last encounter. After all that time, it might seem like water under the bridge. But the water pours from the plumbing in Minnie’s bed and breakfast, the Lilac Bower, uncovering all the secrets and heartache between them. With the help of some paranormal investigators, an Elvis impersonator and a couple of nosey friends, can Minnie and Gordon find the future they were meant to have?
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