We’re are thrilled to reveal both the title and this amazing cover today! Read on for more details about Megan Boley’s upcoming release, The Darkness All Around Us!
The Darkness All Around Us
by Megan Boley Expected Publication Date: Early 2024 Genre: Dystopian Thriller
Post-disaster / post-apocalyptic, dystopian, near-future world
Saving the best friend, saving the world
Morally gray characters
Facing your demons is hard. It’s even harder when one of them will not stop talking.
It’s 2085 in a barren world. Manufactured creatures and warring factions abound. Pharmatrox controls the country and disastrous consequences wreak havoc on the remaining population.
In Stella’s case, she gets the pleasure of being annoyed by a snarky hallucination of her dead brother. But his irksome specter is the least of her worries.
She’s being hunted.
Penny, the sly leader of a dangerous gang, pursues Stella with ruthless conviction. And she’s closing in.
In the chaos of the collapsing country, Stella’s best friend is captured by Pharmatrox. She must rescue him before he’s subjected to lethal experiments—or worse.
When Stella discovers she holds the key to the country’s salvation, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to take down the company and save her friend—even if it means teaming up with her worst enemies and dragging her darkest demons into the light.
And time is running out. Pharmatrox’s plans are nearly complete…
Contains explicit content, profanity, violence, and subject matter that may be sensitive to some readers. Recommended for ages 18+
About the Author
Megan Boley is a science fiction and urban fantasy author. She loves writing stories with badass women, grumpy men, and a healthy dose of plot twists. If she’s not plotting the triumph (or demise) of her next set of characters, you’ll find her at jiu jitsu or reading on the beach.
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.
More secrets are about to be uncovered, beginning with the arrival of a handsome stranger, and the discovery of bones long buried beneath the river …
Leslie Moore is struggling to get through her last semester at St. Benedict High. Even her relationship with her boyfriend Derek is falling apart. But after receding floodwaters from the Bogue Falaya River expose the bones of a woman, Leslie becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer.
Sightings of an apparition haunting The Abbey send Leslie and her friends back to the scene of the horrors from last Halloween, but no one is prepared for what they find.
After a stranger—the handsome Luke Cross—arrives in town, another girl goes missing, and the sheriff suspects the newcomer is hiding something. Leslie believes the Devereaux family is connected to everything going wrong in St. Benedict. And she means to uncover the truth, no matter the cost.
Not all secrets can be kept silent. Some eventually find their way home.
Read an excerpt:
“Come not within the measure of my wrath.”
Sweat gathered under the brim of Kent Davis’s Stetson as he walked the sandy beach along the Bogue Falaya River. He didn’t feel the brisk January breeze or pay attention to the mutterings of the forensic team. The unease burning in his gut shut out all distractions. He rested his hand on his belt, brushing against his Louisiana sheriff’s badge. The rub of metal reminded him of the oath he’d sworn to protect and serve, but on days like this, he hated his job.
Dispatch had initially deemed the early morning call from a frantic jogger a hoax. After an officer confirmed there was a body, Kent arrived at the scene to confront his worst nightmare—another murder. He already had three unsolved deaths weighing heavily on his department. Two high school students and a woman from out of town had died there in a matter of months. City leaders had been breathing down his neck for answers.
Kent studied the black body bag the technicians carried. This was only going to make his job harder.
His crew combed the beach, where receding floodwaters had exposed a young woman’s grave. From the looks of her bleached bones, partially covered in the remnants of a red dress, she’d been there for quite some time. He doubted they’d find anything admissible. There would be trace evidence, but no footprints, no debris, no blood, and no signs of struggle.
He climbed the steep hill from the beach to the parking area, scanning for any clues. Everywhere was a potential crime scene. After years of being in law enforcement, he doubted he could see the world in any other way.
“I don’t like this one bit, Bill,” Kent said, approaching the heavyset coroner waiting by the open doors of his van.
“What’s there to like. We got a dead girl who’s been buried here a long time.” Dr. Bill Broussard removed a pair of black-framed glasses from his egg-shaped head. “You might find a lead in old missing persons reports.”
“I’ll access the St. Tammany Parish database when I get to the station. Until then, she’s a Jane Doe.” Kent eyed the coroner’s van. “How long will it take to know something?”
Bill cleaned his glasses and moved out of the way while a technician slammed the doors closed. He waited until the man climbed into the driver’s side before responding. “You realize workin’ with old bones makes it harder to identify the cause of death. Let me get her to the lab, then we’ll see.”
“I got enough going on with Beau Devereaux, Dawn Moore, and Andrea Harrison.” Kent tipped back his hat. “This makes four bodies and no leads.”
“As soon as people catch wind of this, the gossip mill will run wild.” Bill motioned to the van. “We already got enough rumors flying around about serial killers and rapists on the loose.”
“But at least we know this isn’t a serial killer.”
“Do we?” Bill flipped through a few pictures on his phone and showed Kent the screen.
Kent looked at the bloody mess that had comprised the remains of Beau Devereaux. The golden boy of St. Benedict had been a football star and heir to the Devereaux fortune. The day Kent found his mutilated body along the river had been one of the worst of his career. Beau’s death, on the heels of the rape and grisly murder of Dawn Moore, had shattered his faith in their small town.
He squinted at the picture. “What am I missing?”
Bill pointed at Beau’s bruised and bloody neck. “Trachea isn’t midline. It’s in two pieces. In the autopsy, I discovered his neck had been broken.”
Kent thought of the murder cases that cluttered his desk. “Same as the Harrison girl. Her neck was broken. Any chance wild dogs could have done this?”
Bill’s meaty lips thinned into a line. “Harrison had no bite marks. Only Beau suffered extensive puncture wounds. For a dog to snap someone’s neck, it would have to be big and have impressive jaw strength. Until your men find me an animal like that, I’m leaving Beau’s death a homicide.” He wiped his damp brow. “What worries me is this woman’s bones show there might be a break in her neck, too. If that’s the case, someone around here could have a long history of murder.”
Kent grew irate. He’d left the turmoil of working for the New Orleans Police Department to get away from the steady dose of homicides. Ten years ago, St. Benedict had been the answer to a prayer for him, his wife, and their two boys. He didn’t want to think such horror could have remained hidden for so long in the idyllic town.
“Send me the preliminary results of the autopsy as soon as you get them.” Kent pinched the bridge of his nose, fighting off a headache. “I want it in my hand when I tell Gage Devereaux what we found. He might recall someone who went missing. He’s lived here all his life and is bound to have heard something.”
Bill swatted at a passing fly. “He won’t be happy to hear about another body. You know how protective he is of St. Benedict.”
“Yep. I expect this will piss him off.”
The patriarch and owner of the biggest employer, Benedict Brewery, Gage oversaw everything in the town. Some called him a control freak—a trait many had seen in his son, Beau—but to Kent, Gage was thorough, detail-oriented, and would have made a great detective if he hadn’t taken over the family business.
“He’s gonna ask you if this has anything to do with the investigation into Beau’s death.” Bill frowned. “What’re you gonna tell him?”
Kent clenched his jaw. “We don’t know if any of these deaths are related.”
“Yet,” Bill added. “Seems like an awfully big coincidence to me.”
Kent pulled keys from the front pocket of his jeans. “There’re too many coincidences going on around here, and they all seem to center on this damned river. When can you get me a DNA report?”
“Might take a while.” Bill scratched his head. “Budget constraints and the backlog of cases clogging the system have slowed everything down.”
“How long are we talking? A week?”
Bill snorted. “More like weeks. A long-dead Jane Doe isn’t exactly a priority. Otherwise, we could get a rush on it.”
“Then we’ll just have to wait and see what we get back,” Kent grumbled.
Bill went to the driver’s side of the van and spoke to the technician. He then waved at Kent before walking away.
The sheriff waited as the van slowly eased onto the main road, with Bill’s black SUV following close behind.
Alone, Kent removed his hat and gazed up at the tall pines rimming the parking lot. Cresting above the tallest of the trees was The Abbey’s single charred limestone spire—its twin lost in the fire.
The serene place had witnessed so many atrocities—suicide, fire, and Dawn Moore’s murder. Kent would never understand what the Benedictine monks who founded the seminary ever saw in that cursed land. Legends about the abandoned abbey and its wild dogs had floated around the community for as long as anyone could remember.
When the dogs appear, death is near.
He’d never believed any of the stories until now. Kent feared there might be some truth to the legend, after all.
And the worst was yet to come.
Excerpt from River of Wrath by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor. Copyright 2023 by Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor. Reproduced with permission from Alexandrea Weis & Lucas Astor. All rights reserved.
Author Alexandrea Weis, RN-CS, PhD, is an award-winning author, advanced practice registered nurse, and wildlife rehabber who was born and raised in the French Quarter. She has taught at major universities and worked with victims of sexual assault, abuse, and mental illness in a clinical setting at many New Orleans area hospitals. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers Organization and Horror Writers Association.
Co-author Lucas Astor is an award-winning author and poet with a penchant for telling stories that delve into the dark side of the human psyche. He likes to explore the evil that exists, not just in the world, but next door behind a smiling face. Astor currently lives outside of Nashville, TN.