My mom was a book snob. Only the “classics” in our house.

As a middle-grade reader, I dug into the Laura Ingles Wilder series, Beezus and Ramona, and of course, Judy Blume, all gifts from my wonderful Godmother, who was a teacher in the Boston Public School system.

But, given my mom’s upturned nose at genre books, by the time I grew into YA, reading lost its luster.

I’d sneak away in Walden Books (I totally just dated myself) and binge read the Sweet Valley High series in the aisles. Those books weren’t allowed to cross our threshold.

Imagine my shock when I found Caroline Farr’s Castle of Terror in my mom’s book stash in her bedside table.

And, man, does it tick all of my boxes!

Not only is it a romance, but it’s a Gothic romance set in the “present day.” (It was written in 1975, so I guess that would make it period now but anyway….)

Megan Wentworth, with her employer, heads up to Maine for a long weekend at their client Count Rienzi’s castle on the bluffs. There, she meets her boss’s dashing nephew Shane, but before they can become an item, castle guests begin to disappear. See, this castle is not so enchanting. It’s home to mysterious torture devices and Count Rienzi is a creep.

I love the final line of the book’s description: “Then when Megan found herself the sole witness to a horror almost beyond belief, she sealed her doom, becoming the helpless quarry of an evil against which Shane might prove totally powerless.”

Oh. My. God.

I can’t say I found Shane particularly swoon-worthy, but the foreboding castle, the mysterious Count, the swirling, tempestuous ocean that almost becomes a character itself, makes it the perfect stormy weather read.

There are some moments where the book dips a tiny toe into BDSM. (Wow, Mom!) But, given the time period that this was written, it never goes the distance and anything potentially naughty  happens “off-screen.”

Reader, I devoured this book. And it’s remained in my collection ever since. Every few years, I give it a reread and while it the writing style (and the trepidatious attempt at some steamy kink) makes it dated, it’s still a cracking read.

Tell me about your first time!