How far would you go to fulfill your terrifying ancient vow?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Outlander in this “hauntingly beautiful debut” (Julie McElwain, A Murder in Time). Take a plunge into this mind-blowing, genre-bending world of historical fantasy, suspense, romance, and time travel.
If not for “The Ghost”—her FBI husband’s gruesome case—Siena Forte’s life would have been perfect. But not when the D.C. serial killer is hunting women like her, and when her husband is so unsettled by this case, he refuses to discuss it. It’s a miracle her art career is thriving at all. And not only her career.
When Siena lands a medieval mural commission at the National Gallery of Art, she discovers a bizarre knack for astral projecting to her past life. In a lucky strike, her visions of love and prominence in medieval Ireland are just the creative inspiration she seeks.
What Siena doesn’t know is her vivid depiction of the past exposes her to someone she has met before—the serial killer, reborn in this century just like her. But when a vicious attack from the past reverberates into the present, Siena’s life unravels in a chilling parallel.
Silenced and alone, she discovers the true reason for her visions. They’re not the creative inspiration they seemed, but a harbinger of her centuries-old revenge vow, and the killer cannot be stopped until she fulfills it. But there is another person from the past with unfinished business—her husband. And another unwelcome déjà vu—their crumbling marriage, once again precipitated by the serial killer’s crime.
His words were a blast that made something inside me snap.
Why couldn’t I unlock my eyes from his? Unclench my knees despite an unbearable compulsion to run? I dug my fingernails into my sweaty palms to break the paralysis, drove the graphite shards into my flesh.
“Do you ever wonder what becomes of your characters?” His vacuous smile didn’t reach his eyes. “What comes after your painstaking freeze-frame? Your warrior—” He pointed his chin at the mural. “He’s cocky, but he doesn’t know what he’s riding into. Yet hours from now, he could be lying in some field, stripped of his weapons, bleeding out into the ground as the vultures peck at his baby blues.” His eyes widened.
“Leaving his beautiful young widow all alone.”
His impossibly soft voice was a ringing blow in my ears. A tremor braced my throat. I drew a frantic breath against it.
“I’m sorry,” I squeezed out, “I’m not sure I follow.”
“I’m sure you do.” He chuckled. “But don’t look so stricken,
Siena Forte. It’s only a painting, a fantasy. Nothing more.”
“Excuse me…” I edged past him, cold all over.
I rushed into the nearest restroom, tossed the broken graphite into the trash can, and locked myself in a stall. I hugged myself. Tight. Tighter. Gasped for air, not drawing any. My vision swam at the edges. Flickering. Fading. My heart thudded, and breath came faster in my chest, choking me.
Fragments of his words whirred around me, and I grasped my head to stop the awful cacophony. But it wouldn’t stop. The image he drew cut like a knife, piercing through something soft and vulnerable inside.
Something I’d buried deep down and wished to keep that way. But he’d driven it to the surface and laid it out in the open, raw and exposed.
Someone entered the restroom, and I froze at the squeak of the adjoining stall door. But it was only a pair of black pumps through the divider gap. Heartbeat in my ears, I dropped the toilet lid and sat down.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.
Worgen was a narcissistic egomaniac, pissed off at not getting his way. Certainly, he could neither read my mind nor know anything about my visions. He was messing with me. Of course, he was!
Pygmalion was a mythical sculptor, whose ivory creation came to life after he’d fallen in love with her. And here I was, a female artist, painting a man.
As for the widow, it wasn’t a big leap to imagine a handsome warrior leaving a young wife at home. Worgen didn’t have to know about me to understand this mental image would upset me.
I couldn’t tell how long I stayed in the restroom, but I emerged more determined than ever to continue with my project. I only needed to go outside and get some fresh air first. But Worgen was still there, talking to a visitor, and the only way out was past him. I clenched my jaw and went toward them.
Vera Bell is the author of the time-travel romance trilogy Always & Forever, set in sixteenth-century Ireland and present-day United States. Book One, Through the Veneer of Time, is her debut novel. Besides being a writer, she is a wife to her high-school sweetheart, a mother to two teenagers and one fur baby, a former commercial artist and boutique owner, and a member of the Historical Novel Society, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and Romance Writers of America. Her favorite place to write is on her porch, overlooking a pond lined with river birches and magnolias. The topics she never tires of are Ireland, past lives, and love that transcends time and space.
A haunting legend. An ominous curse. A search for a secret buried deep within the castle walls.
In 1870, orphaned Daisy François takes a position as housemaid at a Wisconsin castle to escape the horrors of her past life. There she finds a reclusive and eccentric Gothic authoress, who hides tales more harrowing than the ones in her novels. With women disappearing from the area and a legend that seems to parallel these eerie circumstances, Daisy is thrust into a web that threatens to steal her sanity, if not her life.
In the present day, Cleo Clemmons is hired by the grandson of an American aristocratic family to help his grandmother face her hoarding in the dilapidated Castle Moreau. But when Cleo uncovers more than just the woman’s stash of collectibles, a century-old mystery of disappearance, insanity, and the dust of the old castle’s curse threaten to rise again. This time to leave no one alive to tell the sordid tale.
Award-winning author Jaime Jo Wright seamlessly weaves a dual-time tale of two women who must do all they can to seek the light amidst the darkness shrouding Castle Moreau.
Praise for The Vanishing at Castle Moreau:
“An imaginative and mysterious tale.”
New York Times bestselling author RACHEL HAUCK
“With real, flawed characters, who grapple with real-life struggles, readers will be drawn into this gripping suspense from the very first page. Good luck putting it down. I couldn’t.”
LYNETTE EASON, bestselling, award-winning author of the Extreme Measures series
“Wright pens another delightfully creepy tale where nothing is quite as it seems and characters seek freedom from nightmares both real and imagined.”
“Wright captivates. A thrilling tale. . . . Readers won’t want to put this down.”
The Vanishing at Castle Moreau Trailer:
Read an excerpt:
The one who rescues, who loves, and who stands in the gap. God knew I needed you.
MAY 8, 1801
When I was a little girl, my father would often come to my bedside after my screams wakened him in the night. He would smooth back my damp ringlets, the mere feel of his callused and strong hand inspiring an instantaneous calm. “What is it, little one?” he would ask me. Every night, the same question. Every night, I would give the same answer. “It is her again, Papa.” “Her?” He would tilt his head, giving credence to my words and refraining from scolding or mockery. “Yes.” I would nod, my head brushing the clean cotton of my pillowcase. “The woman with the crooked hand.” “Crooked hand, hmm?” His query only increased my adamant insistence. “Yes. She has a nub with two fingers.” A tear would often trail down my six-year-old cheek. My father would smile with a soothing calm. “You are dreaming again, mon chéri.” “No. She was here.” He must believe me! “Shhh.” Another gentle stroke of his hand across my forehead. “She is the voice of the mistress of your dreams. We all have one, you know. Only yours needs extra-special care because she isn’t beautiful like the rest. She is the one who brings the nightmares, but she doesn’t mean to harm you. She is only doing her best with what she has been given, and what she has been given are her own horrors.” “Her hand?” I would reply, even though we repeated this explanation many nights in a row. “Yes,” my father would nod. “Her hand is a reflection of the ugliness in her stories. Stories she tells to you at night when all is quiet and your eyes are closed.” “But they were open,” I would insist. “No. You only think they were open.” “I am afraid of the ghost, Papa,” I urge. His eyes smile. “Oui. And yet there are no spirits to haunt you. Only the dream mistress. Shoo her away and she will flee. She is a mist. She is not real. See?” And he would wave his hand in the air. “Shoo, mistress. Away and be gone!” We would survey the dark bedroom then, and, seeing nothing, my father would lean over and press his lips to my cheek. “Now sleep. I will send your mother’s dream mistress to you. Her imaginings are pleasant ones.” “Thank you,” I would whisper. Another kiss. The bed would rise a bit as he lifted his weight from the mattress. His nightshirt would hang around his shins, and he would pause at the doorway of my room where I slept. An only child, in a home filled with the fineries of a Frenchman’s success of trade. “Sleep, mon chéri.” “Yes, Papa.” The door would close. My eyes would stay open. I would stare at the woman with the crooked hand, who hovered in the shadows where the door had just closed. I would stare at her and know what my father never would. She existed. She was not a dream.
The castle cast its hypnotic pull over any passerby who happened along to find it, tucked deep in the woods in a place where no one would build a castle, let alone live in one. It served no purpose there. No strategy of war, no boast of wealth, no respite for a tired soul. Instead, it simply existed. Tugging. Coercing. Entrapping. Its two turrets mimicked bookends, and if removed, one would fear the entire castle would collapse like a row of standing volumes. Windows covered the façade above a stone archway, which drew her eyes to the heavy wooden door with its iron hinges, the bushes along the foundation, and the stone steps leading to the mouth of the edifice. Beyond it was a small orchard of apple trees, their tiny pink blossoms serving as a delicate backdrop for the magnificent property. Castle Moreau. Home to an orphan. Or it would be. Daisy clutched the handles of her carpetbag until her knuckles were sure to be white beneath her threadbare gloves. She stood in the castle’s shadow, staring at its immense size. Who had built such an imposing thing? Here, in the northern territory, where America boasted its own mansions but still rejected any mimicking of the old country. Castles were supposed to stare over their fiefdoms, house lords and ladies, gentry, noblemen, and summon the days of yore when knights rescued fair maidens. Castles were not supposed to center themselves inside a forest, on the shore of a lake, a mile from the nearest town. This made Castle Moreau a mystery. No one knew why Tobias Moreau had built it decades before. Today the castle held but one occupant: Tobias’s daughter, Ora Moreau, who was eighty-six years old. She was rarely ever seen, and even more rarely, ever heard from. Still, Ora’s words had graced most households in the region, printed between the covers of books with embossed golden titles. Her horror stories had thrilled many readers, and over the years, the books helped in making an enigma of the reclusive old woman. When the newspaper had advertised a need for a housemaid—preferably one without a home or ties to distract her from her duties—it was sheer coincidence that Daisy had seen it, even more of a coincidence that she fit the requirements. And so it was a surprise she was hired after only a brief letter inquiring after the position. Now she stood before the castle, her pulse thrumming with the question why? Why had she accepted the position? Why would she allow herself to be swallowed up by this castle? The stories were bold, active. Women disappeared here. It was said that Castle Moreau was a place that consumed the vulnerable. Welcoming them in but never giving them back. Daisy stiffened her shoulders. Swallowed. Tilted her chin upward in determination. She had marched into hell before—many times, in fact. Castle Moreau couldn’t possibly be much worse than that.
TWO YEARS BEFORE PRESENT DAY
They had buried most souvenirs of the dead with the traditions of old, and yet what a person didn’t understand before death, they would certainly comprehend after. The need for that ribbon-tied lock of hair, the memento mori photograph of the deceased, a bone fragment, a capsule of the loved one’s ashes—morbid to those who had not lost, but understandable to those who had. Needing to touch the tangible was a fatal flaw in humanity. Faith comforted only so far until the gasping panic overcame the grieving like a tsunami, stealing oxygen, with the only cure being something tangible. Something to touch. To hold. To be held. It was in these times the symbolism attached to an item became pivotal to the grieving. A lifeline of sorts. For Cleo, it was a thumbprint. Her grandfather’s thumbprint. Inked after death, digitized into a .png file, uploaded to a jewelry maker, and etched into sterling silver. It hung around her neck, settling between her breasts, just left of her heart. No one would know it was there, and if they did, they wouldn’t ask. A person didn’t ask about what was held closest to another’s heart. That was information that must be offered, and Cleo had no intention of doing so. To anyone. Her grandfather was her memory alone—the good and the bad. What he’d left behind in the form of Cleo’s broken insides were Cleo’s to disguise. Faith held her hand, or rather, she clenched hands with faith, but in the darkness, when no one was watching, Cleo fit her thumb to her grandfather’s print and attempted to feel the actual warmth of his hand, to infuse all the cracks and offer momentary refuge from the ache. Funny how this was what she thought of. Now. With what was left of her world crashing down around her like shrapnel pieces, blazing lava-orange and deadly. “Pick up, pick up, pick up,” Cleo muttered into her phone, pressing it harder against her ear than she needed to. She huddled in the driver’s seat of her small car, all of her worldly possessions packed into the trunk and the back seat. She could hear the ringing on the other end. She owed it to Riley. One call. One last goodbye. “Hey.” “Riley!” Cleo stiffened in anticipation. “. . . you’ve reached Riley . . .” the voice message continued, and Cleo laid her head back against the seat. The recording finished, and Cleo squeezed her eyes shut against the world outside of her car, against the darkness, the fear, the grief. This was goodbye. It had to be. The voicemail beep was Cleo’s cue. She swallowed, then spoke, her words shivering with compressed emotion. What did a person say in a last farewell? “Riley, it’s me. Cleo. I—” she bit her lip, tasting blood—“I-I won’t be calling again. This is it. You know. It’s what I hoped would never happen. I am so, so sorry this happened to you! Just know I tried to protect you. But now—” her breath caught as tears clogged her throat—“this is the only way I can. Whatever happens now, just know I love you. I will always love you.” Desperation warred with practicality. Shut off the phone. There was no explaining this. There never would be. “Goodbye, Ladybug.” Cleo thumbed the end button, then threw the phone against the car’s dashboard. A guttural scream curled up her throat and split her ears as the inside of the vehicle absorbed the sound. Then it was silent. That dreadful, agonizing silence that came with the burgeoning, unknown abyss of a new start. Cleo stared at her phone lying on the passenger-side floor. She lunged for it, fumbling with a tiny tool until she popped open the slot on its side. Pulling out the SIM card, Cleo bent it back and forth until it snapped. Determined, she pushed open the car door and stepped out. The road was heavily wooded on both sides. Nature was her only observer. She flung the broken SIM card into the ditch, marched to the front of the car, and wedged the phone under the front tire. She’d roll over it when she left, crush it, and leave nothing to be traced. Cleo took a moment to look around her. Oak forest, heavy undergrowth of brush, wild rosebushes whose thorns would take your skin off, and a heap of dead trees and branches from the tornado that had ravaged these woods decades prior. The rotting wood was all that remained to tell the tale now, but it was so like her life. Rotting pieces that never went away. Ever. She climbed back into the car and twisted the key, revving the engine to life. Cleo felt her grandfather’s thumbprint until it turned her skin hot with the memories. Memories of what had set into motion a series of frightful events. Events that were her responsibility to protect her sister from. Goodbye, Ladybug. There was no explaining in a voicemail to a twelve-year-old girl that her older sister was abandoning her in order to save her. Cleo knew from this moment on, Riley would play that message, and slowly resentment would seep in as she grew older. Resentment that Cleo had left and would never come back. But she couldn’t go back. Not if she loved Riley. Sometimes love required the ultimate sacrifice. Sometimes love required death. Death to all they knew, all they had known. If Cleo disappeared, then Riley would be left alone. Riley would be safe. She could grow up as innocent as possible. So long as Cleo Clemmons no longer existed. *** Excerpt from The Vanishing at Castle Moreau by JAIME JO WRIGHT. Copyright 2023 by Jaime Sundsmo. Reproduced with permission from Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Jaime Jo Wright is the author of six novels, including Christy Award winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She’s also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her cat named Foo; her husband, Cap’n Hook; and their littles, Peter Pan and CoCo.
I am so excited that THE REBIRTH by V.P. Evans is available now and that I get to share the news! If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book, be sure to check out all the details below. This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $10 Amazon GC courtesy of Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, check out the giveaway info below
A night where everything begins . . . and everything ends.
For the past decade, police homicide consultant Mark Gilliam has been wasting his life with corpses, drugs, and alcohol. Things weren’t always like this. Ten years ago, he was a soldier, a husband, a . . . father. But it’s what he deserves. He couldn’t protect his son from the monsters that took him away.
For the past decade, Jason Roneros has been living a reclusive life, forced to spend the rest of his days in isolation. Things weren’t always like this. Ten years ago, he was a well-respected author, a fighter, a . . . dreamer. But it’s what he deserves. He trusted these monsters.
For the past decade, Mark and Jason haven’t seen each other.
But everything is about to change . . .
A murder brings them together one night, trapping them in the streets of Chicago in search of redemption down a cryptic path that could unlock the darkest scandal in history. As the path unrolls secrets buried in great works of art and philosophical writings, the shadiest aspects of the human soul come to the surface. Soon, the two men realize that those hunting them, closing in with each passing minute, are equally dangerous as the ghosts of the past . . .
“All the twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat . . . The tension builds up to an unexpected climax which I did not see coming, and it was a big surprise to me.”–Readers’ Favorite review by Alma Boucher (five-star review)
“I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough . . . hard to believe it is a debut novel.”–Books Go Social
“V.P. Evans delivers excitement at every turn in this tense thriller novel, which starts with a gripping and intriguing premise before ramping up its murderous twists and turns with each new discovery.”–Readers’ Favorite review by K.C. Finn (five-star review)
“V.P. Evans creates a multifaceted story that draws on different levels . . . Its special brand of mysticism, psychological discovery, interpersonal interactions, and close inspections of monsters and men makes it a highly recommended read for a broad audience.”–D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“The Rebirth can best be described as a cross between The Da Vinci Code and Rule By Secrecy. What sets The Rebirth apart is the incorporation of historic reasoning and its inclusion of the philosophical ideologies of some of the world’s greatest minds.”–Readers’ Favorite review by Jamie Michele (five-star review)
Excerpt—From Chapter 1
Jason seemed so changed from the last time they’d met: his skin was yellow, as if forgotten by the coltish tickle of life. His face appeared exhausted, as if feckless to carry the striking features of the past. Two brusque lines around his mouth resembled deep snicks. Fitful creases whipped his forehead. His white, medium-length hair was combed back, just as it had been ten years ago, though a receding hairline now marked his forehead. His skeletal hands seemed incapable of keeping the watch fastened on his wrist, while his legs were so bony they seemed likely to break. Although Jason, like Oscar, was in his mid-sixties, he looked at least a decade older.
“There’s no time left.”
His voice remained rich, though. It still carried the slight British accent from his days in Oxford.
A mild shaking started traversing Oscar’s body. He put his glasses on the newspaper and stood up, using the desk for support. “You need to leave.” He struggled to sound calm. “They were clear, Jason. We cannot be together. The deal—”
“The deal doesn’t exist anymore.” Jason scratched at his neck, above the collar of his white shirt, where an already reddened patch of eczema had become even more inflamed. “Dermot Walsh is dead.”
“What? How do you know—?”
“He told me himself. A few minutes ago. Texted me, pointing out his killers.”
“Murdered?” Oscar soughed, terrified by the ensuing sentence.
“By them,” Jason added, confirming Oscar’s dread. “The Imperatores are already after me.”
“Jesus.” The Imperatores. That name. Saliva filled Oscar’s
mouth, choking him. “After all these years … now? Why? We had a damned
agreement!” He slammed his hands on the desk, trying in vain to expel the fear
inside him. His palms burned from the hit.
“To stop me,” Jason said, his words faint yet filling the huge office.
About V.P. Evans:
V.P. Evans is the pen name of an average (and perhaps boring) guy who seems desperate to disappear into lands far away. You would probably find him lost in a secluded village in Estonia, wandering among the wild islands of the Azores, or backpacking across vague paths in Asia. And sometimes, as the fading lights and the thick darkness of this mysterious cosmos unfold before him, he has an idea and writes it down.