4 1/2 stars
I’ve not read too many gothic romances, but The Curse of Kenton is definitely one of the better ones I’ve come upon. My Avon 1972 first-edition features the typical Gothic cover, with a heroine (wrong hair color alert: she’s brunette, not blonde) screaming in terror as she runs away from a dark castle.
In this case, it’s Castle Kenton, a place shrouded in a dreadful mystery, as is always the case in these Gothic Romances.
Barbara Ashe is an orphan who works as a pharmacist for a country doctor. One day two dashing lords come racing through town, and the darkly handsome Duke of Kenton requires her services as he is gravely ill. Gilbert is a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars and suffers from a secret, fatal malady which makes him bitter and dissolute.
Despite her better judgment, Barbara falls for the Duke, and they are quickly married, as Gilbert needs an heir before he passes on. What follows is a great Gothic romance and intrigue, a story filled with secrets, and a cruel hero who straddles the lines between romantic, tragically condemned to fate, and villainous.
Gilbert parties it up with friends, engaging in drunken orgies. But Barbara is no shrinking violet meekly accepting her husband’s peccadilloes. What makes this book so very good is Barbara’s strong, resilient character, who won’t put up with her husband’s licentious debaucheries nor placidly accept his belief that his disease is incurable. “The Kenton bad temper is not going to kill my husband! I have resolved on that!” Barbara vows the Curse of Kenton will not destroy their lives.
Final Analysis of The Curse of Kenton
As is usual in these books things are not always what they seem as horrific, hidden mysteries are slowly revealed to a shocking denouement.
The great heroine with a backbone really made this book stand out.