I am so happy to welcome Carolyn Haines back to Escape With Dollycas!
She has a new series and this first book is absolutely AMAZING!!
Raissa James and the Spiritualist Movement
I love ghost stories. All kinds of ghost stories. But there are a few which have stayed with me over the years. Some by Edgar Allan Poe, or Sheridan Le Fanu, or M.R. James, or even Henry James, whose “Turn of the Screw” is an epic ghost story that scared the socks off me.
Why am I so compelled to read and write about the shadow land? The truth is, I see dead people. Not all the time, and certainly not when I want to. And not often. But in my life, I’ve seen a few ghosts.
And it’s a phenomena that has drawn me to the “other side” in my reading and research. And in my writing.
When I first thought to write THE BOOK OF BELOVED, I had assumed it would be contemporary, a mystery with a bit of a ghost story. Didn’t happen. Sometimes a story knows best its setting, time period, and focus. When I finally listened to the story, I realized the protagonist was a young, modern woman, but a modern woman of the 1920s. Raissa James is a WWI widow who teaches school in Savannah, Georgia but takes a summer break to visit her uncle in his fabulous estate in Mobile, Alabama.
Raissa is putting her life back together since her husband was killed in Europe in the war, and her ambition is to become a “woman scribbler.” As outrageous as that is in 1920 when women were thought not to have the intellect to write, Raissa takes it a step further. She wants to write ghost stories like the Victorian writers she reads, teaches, and adores. It’s at Caoin House, her uncle’s impressive home, that she realizes ghosts are present.
I wasn’t certain why the 1920s insisted on being the setting for my story until I began the research. In 1920, spiritualism was rife in America and England. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a believer in the abilities of “true” mediums to contact the spirit world. He wrote and lectured on the topic.
To that end he did much research on which mediums were real and which were fakes, because there were many fakes, charlatans who saw an opportunity to capitalize on the loss and heartbreak of others.
This spiritualist movement was a world of séances, spirit visitations, messages from the Great Beyond. Some of the more famous were the Fox sisters from upstate New York. They created a sensation when they were able to communicate with the dead via knocks and raps.
It was later revealed by two of the Fox sisters that they were fakes—they had begun their games to torment their older sister. It’s a fascinating story if you want to explore it.
But there were mediums who connected with spirit on the other side and were able to bring back messages. Doyle was a firm believer, as am I.
In our day, television shows have featured John Edward in CROSSING OVER. James van Praagh was the consultant for GHOST WHISPERER. There are several shows such as LONG ISLAND MEDIUM and A HAUNTING where contemporary mediums explore psychic phenomena and attempt to resolve energetic disruptions. Good television or real—you have to decide.
When I was working on HALLOWED BONES, I went to Reinbeck, NY, to the Omega Center for a weekend on Soul Survival. I heard Dr. Raymond Moody talk about near-death experiences.
Another speaker talked about mind, body, and spirit healing. Dr. Brian Weiss took 400 people on a past life regression. The final day was van Praagh, and he channeled a dozen people who’d died in 9/11.
I grew up on Victorian ghost stories, and if you’d like to sample Le Fanu’s story, “Green Tea,” here’s a link. https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/l/lefanu/green/prologue.html Remember, it’s from the Victorian era so the language is dense, but the mood is delightful.
I confess I have an active imagination. But I’ve also have strange experiences. One night when I outside late looking for my kitty, I saw someone in my pickup truck in the driveway.
He was a tall, thin man with dark hair and eyes. He wore a blue plaid shirt, and he was somehow connected to my red pickup that I bought at auction. This gentleman sat gripping the steering wheel, a strange aquatic blue light filling the cab. He wanted to talk to me, but I was too afraid. Every time I saw him I ran in the house and locked the door (like that would really help).
I became afraid of my truck at night. I wouldn’t even walk near it, which was an extreme inconvenience.
I finally gritted up the courage to speak to him. So I went out to the truck and asked him what he wanted and I offered to help him. That was all it took. He disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. I think he simply wanted an offer of help, then he could let go.
Tell me some of your experiences with ghosts or psychic phenomena.
The Book of Beloved
Paranormal Historical Suspense Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Alabama
Thomas & Mercer (August 9, 2016)
Paperback: 330 pages
E-Book ASIN: B01BXSFGDS
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…
It has been a while since I have had an honest to goodness book induced hangover. The Book of Beloved is responsible for my latest. I started reading it after finishing another book and thought I will just read a couple of chapters and it was almost 3 a.m. when I put the book down after reading the whole thing.
Main character Raissa James travels to Caoin House, her uncle’s estate, which has been said to be haunted. There have been a few mysterious deaths there over the years. She is not there long when she sees her first ghost, a Confederate soldier. Her sighting happens shortly after a man falls to his death at a party at the estate. It is ruled accidental, maybe a suicide, but Raissa thinks it was murder. Raissa uses her desire to become an author to dig deeper into the recent death and those from the past. She thinks the ghosts are key to finding out the truth.
The suicide element of this story should have been a trigger for me after my son’s death and there was a lynching in part of the book as well, but after a couple of short pauses and skimming past a few lines I just kept going. Something just a few months ago that would have made me drop the book and stop reading in an instant, but I am starting to heal more every day and the story had me so enthralled that I just couldn’t stop, I had to know how this story played out. (This may not always be the case but was with this story.) Seances also play into the mystery, trying to get answers, learning more about the people that haunt Caoin House, a way to communicate with those who have passed on. This is something that has really piqued my interest since my son’s death. I truly wish I could communicate with him, maybe someday that wish will come true. So until now I have not been able to read a story with these topics, this one brought them all together in a way my mind and soul could handle.
The reason I was able to read this story is because Carolyn Haines has written it with the hand of a master. She draws the reader in almost timidly. A niece visiting her uncle at an old estate after losing her husband in World War I, then a man falls to his death and the suspense builds, then ghosts begin to appear and secrets starts to be revealed, the suspense builds a little more and things start to get scary. I should have stopped reading then but knew there was no way I was going to sleep then so I kept on reading. Then Raissa makes a startling discovery and I was reading at lightning speed. I can’t say more because I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep even after I finished the book. I would advise you not to read before bedtime.
I will say I really like Raissa. She is an intelligent and independent woman that I can see being very involved in the causes of the time period, the 1920’s, like woman getting the right to vote. I also see her becoming a very successful author. I am interested to see where the author takes this character in the future.
I rarely give a Paradise Rating to the first book in a series because usually the plot takes a lesser role as the author needs introduce us to all the characters and the setting and time period. In this case Carolyn Haines does all that and gives us a fantastic mystery too.
About The Author
USA Today bestselling author Carolyn Haines has published over 70 books in a number of genres, both dark and light. She is an animal advocate and a former muckraking journalist. THE BOOK OF BELOVED, a Pluto’s Snitch mystery, is the first book in a new series. The latest book in the Sarah Booth Delaney series is ROCK-A-BYE BONES.
The author is giving away 1 Copy of Book of the Beloved!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”