For my first old Gothic book, I present to you…
Published 1971 – Read October 2013
Description from book:
House of False Love… Diana Latham came more than a thousand miles to Devereau House…to find her friend Lucy Devereau struck down by a terrible accident, imprisoned in her bed by paralysis that denied her movement, or even speech. But was it an accident? Or was it a horrible plot? Lucy’s family seemed to accept the first, and when Diana questioned other possibilities, they refused to listen. But the Devareau family carried a dark curse, one that they could not keep hidden; someone…or something…seemed determined to strike them down. Soon Diana was drawn into the maelstrom of building terror…and it seemed as though her only escape would be through death!
Diana Latham meets Lucy Devereau overseas while working with the Peace Corps, and they become best friends. A year ahead of time, Diana makes a plan to visit her friend Lucy for a summer at her family home – a rustic, plantation house in Louisiana – and is surprised on her arrival to find that Lucy has suffered a horrible accident in their time apart. It seems that a statue fell over on her, crushed her spine and left her paralyzed except for a small bit of movement in her right hand. The family – Lucy’s seemingly decrepit father, the crow-like governess who raised her, an overly protective nurse, a handsome cousin and his secretary/lover – don’t seem to think anything is amiss, but after seeing her friend as a prisoner in a large iron bed and witnessing the look in her eyes, Diana is suddenly suspicious.
At her friend’s side, Diana and Lucy work out a secret code that allows them to communicate, based on the tapping of one finger, and Diana gets her first messages of warning and danger. She should leave the house. But she can’t bear to leave her friend – not before she knows exactly what happened to her.
With the aid of Lucy’s attractive but volatile brother Tony, Diana finds out that Lucy was in a small chapel behind the house when the incident occurred, kneeling before a statue when it fell over on her. The event has never quite set well with Tony either, it seems, and Diana also learns that there seems to be some kind of curse on the Devareau family. So many of the women die young, including Lucy and Tony’s mother. Is Lucy subject to some curse? What secrets does this family have to hide? And most importantly, will Diana survive all the attempts that are made on her life – or did she simply imagine them?
I chose to read this one first because I had seen it mentioned previously on another blog, and that reviewer had thought favorably of it – or at least that’s what I had perceived until I looked again, and found they only liked the cover…
In the beginning, I was very excited about it. It started out well, jumping right into the action with the main character driving toward her destination, meeting the reality of her friend’s condition. It certainly had me going for a bit, but as it went on, it was less and less impressive to me.
Plot: The overall plot was interesting in the beginning, but in the end, played out more like a murder mystery. Even though there was introduction of a few supernatural elements – a curse and a seer – those things didn’t have as much impact as I might have liked. The main events mostly consisted of the main character trying to see her friend but being thwarted by an overprotective nurse, her interacting with two potential love interests who were pretty boring, a not-so-creepy swamp rat, and a few boring attempts on her life.
The book was clean: There was no sex, no bad language, not really much drama. Nah, there really wasn’t much flavor at all.
The peril consisted mostly of warnings, a bit of trouble from an unusual hermit, and a rather lame murder attempt with a pitchfork falling from a hayloft.
Writing: The writing was not terrible. The story jumped right into the action and the setting was described well. Oddly, there were a few typos! But they weren’t so bad that I couldn’t read over them. It was written in third person, but really lacked the skill to make me feel close to the characters, which is really important even when writing in third.
Setting: In this type of story, the setting is as important as any other element. The ‘house’ is as much of a character as the female lead. In this story, the house was not so important. There was really very little emphasis on the house and more attention to the small chapel in the woods, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t very creepy.
Characters: The main character, Diana, was just sort of there – an instrument in solving the mystery of what happened to her friend as an outsider, but I couldn’t help but feel like she just didn’t have a personality. The author wrote her with a bit of snarky dialogue, there was a hint at an unfortunate childhood, but there wasn’t enough of here there for me to know her or like her. She was also faced with a love triangle of sorts between two very different guys who she has only known for, oh, a day. She had romantic interludes with both, but I really didn’t feel that she was into either of them that much.
All in all, it was just a little too tame for me. I was hoping for a haunting story full of twists, drama, memorable characters but I wasn’t really feeling it. Still, to say that I finished it says something. I felt it was written more like a mystery than the dark, dangerous story I was looking for.
Rating: Ultimately, I give it 2.5 Stars