Along with Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and Barbara Michaels (Elizabeth Peters), Phyllis Whitney was one of the authors who, in the 60's and 70's, showed just how good a gothic novel could actually be. Derided by some and read by millions - mostly women - a good gothic was the emotional equivalent of today's romantic suspense stories which, to my mind, are often much less fun.
I always liked the 'trimmings' that came with these stories: especially the broody, jewel-toned covers showing a frightened woman running from the dark recesses of a castle or mansion which was usually (but not always) perched on a windswept cliff. I liked the dark, brooding heroes with secrets to hide - lots of 'brooding' going on in these books. I liked the 'governess aspect' which was the mainstay of these books ala Charlotte Bronte's JANE EYRE - the mother of all gothics.
Some of these books are still fun to read today if you're in the mood for a good romantic suspense story but don't want to deal with blood splatter and ten page descriptions of sex. I mean, sometimes that just gets fatiguing.
A favorite from that time was/is WINDOW ON THE SQUARE by Phyllis Whitney. This book is a little out of the ordinary because its setting was not a windswept country estate but a darkly luxurious brownstone in downtown Manhattan of the 1870's. When Megan Kincaid enters this house of secrets, she has no idea of the danger that is waiting for her. Forced by circumstance to earn a living, the well-bred Megan thinks she's being hired as a seamstress but in reality, the head of the house, the dark and 'brooding' Brandon Reid, wants her to devote herself to the care of his very troubled nephew, Jeremy. The boy is the son of the late Dwight Reid once the District Attorney and a rising political star. It is the shocking death of Brandon's younger brother which continues to haunt the occupants of the brownstone including the sad and beautiful Leslie Reid, Brandon's wife and widow of Dwight.
Megan soon learns that the 'truth' the adults in the house are all tip-toeing around is their belief that Jeremy - who has a ghoulish fascination with guns - was responsible for his father's death.
This is actually one of the darker 'gothics' primarily because the crime and the secrets involved are vile and the boy at the heart of the story is in grave psychological danger. There is also a heavy 'claustrophobic' aspect to the novel which adds to the suspense. But as Megan and Brandon grow closer, you can be sure that somehow, the eventual truth will save the day.
A terrific book.