The death of Jessica Mortimer’s husband of five years has plunged her into such intense grief that she is unable to pick up the threads of her life. This has been conveyed by her mother in one of her regular letters to Lady Eleanor and Sir Matthew Rensby in England, by whom Jessica’s parents were employed until the tragic and mysterious disappearance of Jessica’s sister Jane when Jessica was nine years old.
Suggesting that a change of surrounding might help Jessica, Lady Rensby offers her a job; that of helping Sir Matthew organize the family archives. Jessica accepts, not realizing until she arrives at the Rensby estate how much power some of her long-forgotten memories would still have over her.
There is much else she finds unsettling: Sir Matthew and Lady Eleanor are alternately over-solicitous or strangely cold and remote, and their nineteen-year-old daughter is openly hostile. While the family awaits the imminent arrival of the Rensby heir, Peter, to celebrate his 21st birthday, Jessica hears voices and sees phantoms that make her doubt her sanity.
The Covenant is contemporary gothic horror at its unusual and original best.
Pauline’s notes on Covenant
By the time Scroll of Saqqara was published I was tired of research and wanted to try something else. The Covenant was my venture into the genre of gothic horror.
I imagined an English family with a long and uninterrupted history, living comfortably in a country manor house. My heroine Jessica’s mother had worked in the house when the girl was young, but had emigrated to Canada many years previously, after the mysterious disappearance of an elder daughter. Jessica, whose husband had recently died, was invited to return with the offer of a temporary position sorting material for a family history. She agreed to go, and in doing so she placed herself in supernatural danger. There was a reason why generation after generation of Rensbys had remained rich and secure.
I set the action of the novel in a combination of the village in Buckinghamshire where I lived as a child and the equally picturesque one where I went to school. Like Stargate, this deviation from my books based on Egyptian history did not sell well, but it had provided me with the change of pace I needed, and after finishing it I was ready to go back to familiar surroundings.
The Covenant has been translated into German.