A Woman Of Words
Before World War I, my life stretched before me like the neat and orderly rows of marigolds in my neighbor’s garden. I’d married the man I loved, a young lawyer. We’d rented the perfect cottage in Savannah, Georgia, a city filled with grace and beauty. The pattern of my days made sense. I woke up in my husband’s arms. I cooked breakfast and sent him to his office with a smile. I maintained our home and cooked and cleaned and met him at the door with a kiss. In the evenings, we sat on the porch or before a fire, reading our books, talking, as close as we could get to one another. I’d found my safe harbor, the life I loved, the man who led me into marriage with humor and strength.
And then the war came and everything changed.
When Alex was killed on a European battlefield—a hero who saved the lives of his fellow soldiers–I clung to the new routine I’d developed in his absence. I’d become a schoolteacher. English literature and grammar, at the local high school. Stunned by my husband’s death, I continued with the solitary life I’d built, and had thought was only temporary. Never had I anticipated I would live without Alex.
When my Uncle Brett Airlie invited me to spend the summer on his Mobile, Alabama, estate, Caoin House, I almost declined. He’d planned a weekend party in my honor, and the thought of staying in Savannah alone with no students to teach for the summer finally convinced me to board the train to Mobile. I was prone to depression when I was alone.
My uncle’s estate is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Acres and acres of pecan groves, gardens, live oak trees, forests, and swamps. Coain House is the crown—a vast house with porches, balconies, and a gracious charm that epitomizes the Southern way of life.
Uncle Brett is an inventor—and a very social man. He loves a good party, dancing, drinking (even though it’s illegal), and spending time with friends. He’s a bachelor, but he has a lovely friend, Isabel. She’s smart, kind, and social, a perfect companion for his parties and occasional mischief. Uncle Brett is after me to stay at Caoin House, permanently. He’s a man with modern views, and he supports my ambition to become a writer of ghost stories. I want to be the female M.R. James or Sheridan Le Fanu or Henry James. That’s my secret ambition, one I’m almost afraid o speak aloud.
Some people think that writing is not a profession for a woman. Especially not stories of ghosts and ghouls and the dead. That terrain is the fertile ground of Mr. Poe and other men. While I love their stories, I believe I, too, can spin a tale of mystery with a bit of a chill. I want to try, and Uncle Brett encourages me. I’m proud to say my uncle is a modern man, one who believes a woman deserves the vote and the right to own property and determine her own fate. He is not averse to the current fashions and finds the flapper to be a “charming invention.” As I said earlier, he loves inventions. Most of his have been applied to powering steamboats.
As much as I love staying at Caoin House, there is something amiss her. My uncle sees the spirit of a beautiful woman. It must be none other than Eva Whitehead, the first mistress of Caoin House.
And late at night, the ghostly image of a handsome Confederate cavalry officer wanders the oak grove in front of Caoin House. He wants something from me, and I’m almost afraid to find out what.
If I’m to be a writer, I need to determine what these restless spirits want. That’s my mission at Caoin House. I want to explore the spirit world by whatever means possible, including a visit with the famous medium, Madam Petalungro, in New Orleans.
Perhaps I’ll stay the summer in Mobile with Uncle Brett. Maybe longer. And while I’m here, maybe my heart will start the long process of letting go of Alex.
Maybe if I can put the ghosts of Caoin House to rest, I can help my own ghosts settle into the long sleep of the grave.
The Book Of Beloved is the first book in the Pluto’s Snitch mystery series, published by Thomas and Mercer, August 2016.
Murder, Mystery, Ghosts And All That Jazz
As a young woman widowed by World War I, Raissa James is no stranger to ghosts. But when an invitation arrives from Caoin House, her uncle’s estate in Mobile, Alabama, she’s finally ready to cast off the shadows of her past. And what better way to do so than with a grand party in her honor? An aspiring authoress, Raissa’s eager to soak up more of life—and immerse herself in the dark history that haunts the estate.
But the revelries come to an abrupt end when one of her uncle’s guests takes a deadly plunge. And when a ghost from the property’s past, a Confederate soldier, reveals himself to Raissa, she’s more determined than ever to get to the heart of the mysterious deaths that plague Caoin House. Enlisting the help of Reginald Proctor, a self-proclaimed medium, she holds a séance to shed light on old secrets. But she discovers that some secrets, even those long dead, still have a startling hold on the living…
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About the author
USA TODAY bestselling author Carolyn Haines is the author of over 70 books. The Book Of Beloved is the first book in a new series published by Thomas & Mercer. She is also the author of the popular Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series. Haines is the founder of Good Fortune Farm Refuge, a 501c3 animal rescue. Learn more about her books and animals at www.carolynhaines.com and sign up for her newsletter. We invite you to follow the author on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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