Available at Amazon

Other Vendors

Victorian gothic tale of murder, madness, and curses. A family estate plagued with tragedy. A young woman who mysteriously disappeared. And the young woman who finds herself embroiled in a treacherous, life-threatening plot.  

In 1870s Boston, on the night of her betrothal to the successful, Regan Lockhart, Amelia Belleville suffers a devastating loss. She faces sudden poverty and homelessness. With nowhere else to go, Regan invites her to live with him and his family at Edenstone, his family mansion.


But the idyllic estate is not all that it seems. A dream warns her to beware of black petals. A mysterious and beguiling spirit of a young red-haired woman appears pleading for help. And she discovers a long-lost diary revealing a deadly family curse and a trio of heart-wrenching tragedies. The troubling occurrences set her on a treacherous path to uncover dark secrets that lead to murder, madness, and death.


Torn by the binding terms of her betrothal contract, Amelia must learn who she can trust and who she cannot, including her beloved Regan. In a difficult position, she must choose between love and trust, or settle for duty and expectation. One thing is for certain, nothing in her life will ever be the same.


Chapter One


North Chelsea, Massachusetts

March 1875


AMELIA BELLEVILLE PAUSED at the top of the staircase. Her gaze roamed over the guests gathered below. She’d have to go down, but hesitating allowed her a few moments to compose herself.

Somewhere among those gathered was Regan Lockhart, the man her father had arranged for her to marry. It did not take long to spot him. The two stood together in the center of the hall, deep in conversation, crystal goblets of burgundy wine in hand.

Tonight’s celebration was for her; the array of finely dressed guests, their laughter and buoyant chatter, candlelight dancing in candelabras and chandeliers, the luscious aromas flowing from the kitchen. Before the end of the evening, her father would announce her betrothal to Regan. All the reasons not to marry him flooded in. What if the kindness and respect he had shown her over the past few months disappeared once they married? Would they grow to love each other over time or find themselves trapped in a joyless marriage?

Her throat tightened. How could she marry a man she barely knew? Life was ever changing, shifting. What if he was not all he appeared to be? Or what if he turned out to be a better man than her father extolled? This was her chance. She could accept her fate and bravely face her future or succumb to these doubts plaguing her. Gripping the bannister, she resisted the urge to turn and flee. With shoulders back and chin held high, she inhaled a fortifying breath.

As if he sensed her gaze, Regan glanced up. Time stopped for her as she saw how he studied her, his eyes alight with admiration.

Amelia gathered the skirts of her silk gown, patterned with tea-roses, and went down the stairs.

“Ah, there she is, Thomas,” she heard Regan say to her father.

All heads turned in her direction as she descended and cut through the clusters of people, nodding and greeting them as she strode forth.

Regan stepped forward to meet her. His warm gaze bathed her with appreciation. “You look beautiful. More enchanting than ever.”

She returned his compliment with a nervous smile. “A woman announces her engagement only once in her life.”

Regan lifted a glass of wine from a servant’s tray and handed it to her.

She sipped the light, sweet white wine and studied him. He cut a suave figure in his midnight-blue frock coat and trousers. A light blue waistcoat and white shirt with a black cravat set off his lustrous, raven-colored hair and piercing ocean-blue eyes. His features were strong and well-defined, his lips fuller than those of most men.

In the beginning, she had resisted her father’s entreaties to marry Regan, a man she had recently met and barely knew. But little by little, the more she came to know Regan, her heart had softened. Whenever they were together, he treated her with utmost respect and admiration. Nothing seemed untoward about him. She had finally relented to her father’s powerful persuasions and agreed to marry him. Many couples grew to love each other. She hoped it would hold true for their marriage.

She stood by his side, mingling with the guests who seemed to take an instant liking to him. A nod here. A compliment there. Laughter and warmth filled the candlelit room, and Amelia relaxed amid the congeniality.

When Seeton, their butler, announced dinner, Regan offered his arm, and they led the guests into the dining room. Her father took his usual place at the head of the table. She and Regan sat facing each other. Her father had spared no expense for this meal; they dined on clam chowder and entrees of lobster and crab, roast beef, and vegetables.

Throughout dinner, she could barely concentrate on any of the conversation. The more serious talk focused on rebuilding shops, offices, and warehouses after the fire that had devastated Boston three years ago. Her father’s shoe warehouse and offices among them. But she heard little of their talk. Tangled thoughts of her own future distracted her.

From across the table Regan occasionally glanced at her, offering a smile or a nod whenever she gathered her thoughts enough to speak, a mild distraction that helped ease her tension.

While they enjoyed their apple pudding dessert, her father tapped his wineglass with a fork and rose.

Amelia tensed.

The guests grew quiet.

Thomas dabbed the sweat from his brow with his napkin before beginning.

“Now that I have everyone’s attention, I thank you all for joining us this evening. If you haven’t met him yet, I’d like to introduce Mr. Regan Lockhart, a new business associate of mine, who hails from the nearby town of Winthrop. As you know, and like many of you gathered here tonight, the Boston fire burned down my entire business. I’ve been running it from a temporary location just outside of Boston. Recently, I asked Mr. Lockhart to invest in my company so I can rebuild. I’m pleased to say, he eagerly accepted, and my warehouse and factory will soon be ready for a grand reopening.”

There was a round of applause, and Amelia couldn’t help but be pleased. Every bit of good news brought on such a reaction. What had started as a small fire in the basement of a warehouse on Summer Street, spread quickly, demolishing sixty-five acres in the heart of Boston, and consuming nearly eight hundred buildings and the entire financial district. Thirteen people had died in the inferno, two of whom were firemen. Losses amounted to millions of dollars. Everyone in their social circle had experienced damages and financial defeats of one sort or another. It was no minor victory that his business had survived. He had not only rebuilt but also expanded. Her heart filled with pride at her father’s business acumen and resiliency.

“And, of course, you all know my lovely daughter, Amelia.”

Amid the nods and smiles, Amelia held the stem of her wineglass, bracing herself for the forthcoming announcement. Everyone glanced expectantly from her to Regan. Secrets were impossible to keep among so many close friends.

Regan sat back in his chair; his head cocked to one side, as if waiting for her reaction.

The time had come. Her entire life was about to change. Could she marry a man she had known for only a few months? A man not of her choice but of her father’s? Her mouth ran dry, and her stomach churned. She fought the impulse to kick her father under the table to halt the announcement. But it was too late. She must trust his judgement. He would never knowingly put her in an unhappy, tenuous situation. So, she formed an obligatory smile and pushed aside her unfounded doubts.

“Amelia has been the best of daughters, caring for me after my dear wife died two years ago. I’m proud of the lovely young woman you see here tonight. However, I’m not getting any younger, and I would be remiss if I didn’t look toward her future. My greatest wish is to see her well settled instead of caring for me and running our home. I’m delighted to say I can now be at ease. Please stand and raise your glasses.”

Utensils clinked against dishes, chairs scraped, and the rustle of silk and satin filled the room as everyone stood.

Her father paused. His face lost all color and his hand trembled. In a forced, jagged voice, he said, “I’m happy to announce the betrothal of my daughter, Miss Amelia Belleville, to Mr. Regan Lockhart.” Again, he paused, and in a grinding voice, little more than a whisper, said, “The wedding is to take place in the spring.”

The goblet tumbled from his hand and shattered when it struck the hardwood floor. He clutched his chest and struggled for breath. Swaying, he seemed about to lose his balance.

Panic welled in Amelia’s chest.

Too late, she and Regan sprang forward to catch him as her beloved father crumpled to the ground.

A woman screamed.

By the time they rushed to his side, her father was dead.


STEADY RAIN POURED from a slate-colored sky. A bitter, wintery wind swirled and tossed dead leaves and debris over tombstones and graves. Somber mourners huddled beneath black umbrellas. She was utterly alone in this world, with no family or distant relatives. All who had gathered were friends and acquaintances of her father. Numb with grief, Amelia watched the gravediggers lower his coffin into the dark slot in the ground. Now was the time for her to toss the traditional handful of dirt onto the coffin, but the earth was too wet and muddy.

Regan stood beside her. He had been a constant presence over the past few days, helping her plan the funeral arrangements to the smallest detail.

He noticed her hesitation, placed his hand on her arm, and leaned his head closer. “Toss in the daffodil you’re holding.”

She dropped the flower into the grave, then sagged against him.

The inclement weather forced a hasty end to the service. The pastor stepped forward to comfort and provide her with his condolences for the last time. One by one, the mourners followed him, the downpour of icy rain hastening their steps.

Regan guided her into his coach. He closed the umbrella, followed her inside, and sat across from her. After removing his top hat, he offered her a warm rug to wrap around her legs. Then, with a tap of his cane on the ceiling, he signaled the driver to set off.

The vehicle jolted forward. His expression one of worry, Regan gazed at her.

“I’m grateful for all you’ve done, Regan. I couldn’t have managed without you.”

His deep blue eyes seemed to probe her soul, his expression soft and compassionate. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you. And for your father, a dear friend and mentor, I could have done nothing less.”

Amelia managed a weak smile. Too grieved to keep up a conversation, she retreated into silence.

When they arrived at the house, Sarah, her maid, welcomed them. In the parlor, a fire danced in the hearth. She led Amelia to a chair, reached for a blanket that had been warming near the blaze, and handed her a cup of hot, sweet tea.

Soon, the mourners arrived. With plates of food in hand, they lingered. They spoke in hushed tones about her father and came to her one by one to express their condolences.

Numb, every muscle in her body ached with exhaustion. She craved privacy and the comfort of her bedroom but had to persevere until the mourners left. Though the dismal weather had kept some away, there were many more who had come. Thomas Belleville had been well-loved. She was grateful when the guests didn’t tarry, eager to return home before the penetrating rain turned the roads into a sodden hazard.

Soon, only Regan and William Finnerty, the family attorney, remained. She led them to the library for a brief discussion. In the doorway, she halted. Her father’s favorite sweater hung on the back of his chair. On the desk, a book lay open at the page he had last read. The sight of the objects, so personal, tore at her emotions. Here, in her father’s private domain, she felt his presence. It was in the air she breathed and in every item she saw.

She crossed the room and stood behind the desk, resting her hand on the sweater before slowly lifting it and holding it to her face. Her throat clogged at his familiar scent that still lingered amid the threads—the aroma of his favorite pipe tobacco, the pungency of the liniment he used for his arthritic hands. Clutching it to her chest, the tears she had fought to keep at bay, now flowed unrestrained.

Regan’s soft footsteps creaked on the wooden floor as he stood behind her and helped her to sit.

How small she felt in her father’s chair. In all the years of her life, never once had she sat in it. It was odd to see the room from this unique perspective.

William, a balding, robust man in his fifties, poured brandy into a glass and offered it to her. “It’s been a long day, Miss Belleville. You look chilled. This should help restore you.”

Amelia took a long sip that burnt her mouth. Warmth trickled down her throat to her belly.

“Today isn’t the right time, Miss Amelia,” William said. “But there’s the matter of the will. When do you think you might feel ready to have it read?”

She wiped her tears with the handkerchief Regan had handed to her. “Tomorrow afternoon?” she asked, hesitating.

“You’re certain?” William asked.

“I can’t see any reason to wait.” It was good to have Regan and William looking after her interests.

He exhaled, as if relieved. “Then tomorrow it shall be. Until then, I offer you my sincerest condolences. I also grieve this loss of my childhood friend. The world is much diminished without him.”

“I’ll see you to the door,” Regan offered, and the two left.

Amelia stared into the hearth’s crackling wood and took another sip. The heat from the brandy and fire warmed her.

Regan returned. He sat and studied her from across the desk. “I’d like to talk to you about our wedding.”

She had expected this. The topic had lingered silently between them since the night her father died. Was he going to call off the wedding now? It wouldn’t surprise her. Amelia braced herself.

“I think we should postpone it, to respect the required mourning period of one year. You’ll need time to adjust, to heal, especially when...” He paused, as if unsure of himself.

“Now that I’m alone in the world?” she added, surprised he still wanted to proceed with their nuptials. “You may say it. It’s the truth, isn’t it?”

He frowned. “I wouldn’t have stated it in quite that way, but yes. I’m worried about you living here all alone.”

“Sarah is here, and so is Mrs. Appleton, our housekeeper. And Seeton, of course. Please don’t worry, all will be well.”

An awkward silence followed. He seemed to want to say something more, so she waited.

“I’ve been thinking.” He stared down at his hands, then looked back up at her. “What would you say if I asked you to move into Edenstone with me and my family? As you know, my Aunt Beatrice and Cousin Clara live with me. It wouldn’t be inappropriate. They can be your chaperones until we marry.”

“Move into Edenstone with you?” For the briefest of moments, her heartache disappeared.

His brows rose when he noticed her expression. “The days to come will challenge you. There’ll be many decisions to make, both big and small. Please consider it. Your future family would surround you. You needn’t decide right away.”

His offer was more than generous, but it felt improper for her to live with him in his house despite his cousin and aunt who would act as chaperones. Her stomach twisted. “I promise to consider it.”

Sarah appeared in the doorway. “Would you care for a bath, miss?”

It was exactly what she needed, solitude and tranquility away from the attention and demands that had consumed her this past week. “Thank you, but I’m far too tired. All I crave is sleep. I’ll bathe in the morning.”

Regan rose and came around the desk to offer her his hand. “I agree. You need your rest. I’ll leave and come back tomorrow.”

She gave him a slight smile. “I look forward to it.”

He walked with her to the staircase. She felt the hefty weight of his gaze upon her as she ascended. At the top, she turned to look at him. He smiled encouragingly and then walked out of sight. A moment later, she heard the front door click shut behind him.

With her hand on the bedroom doorknob, she paused. An eerie silence lingered in the house. It seemed empty, bereft of life and laughter. Sarah, who waited for her in her room, had already turned down the bedcovers and laid out a bed-gown.

“Let me help you undress.” With deft fingers, she unlaced Amelia’s gown. “There’s chamomile tea in the pot on your nightstand to help you sleep.”

“Chamomile tea is perfect,” Amelia said with gratitude.

“A good sleep will serve you well. It’s been a strenuous day. Everything may seem bleak, miss, but with a little time, you’ll feel better. Besides, you have Mr. Regan. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. A good catch, he is. More than one young lady has set their sights on him in the past.”

Too exhausted to engage in further talk, Amelia let Sarah babble as she washed her face with a warm cloth. Soon, tucked in her bed and propped up on pillows, she sipped her tea. She let out a small breath as some tension eased from her body.

Sarah gathered the discarded clothes. “Will there be anything else, miss?”

“No, thank you, Sarah, you’ve thought of everything.”

Sarah’s smile was warm, but a little frown betrayed her worry as she left the room.

A sudden silence followed. After a few more sips, Amelia set her teacup on the nightstand and snuffed the candles. Nestling against the pillows, she burrowed beneath the warm covers.

An incoherent surge of grief surfaced. She’d lost both her parents and was alone in the world. Fears about what the future held swirled in her mind as she cried herself into a deep, exhausted sleep.

An increasing light stirred her slowly awake until she finally opened her eyes.

Her father stood at the foot of her bed. A dazzling glow of light surrounded him, its brilliance enveloping her in its warmth. He wore his burial clothes but looked different somehow. He no longer bore the signs of age. His bald head with its wisps of gray hair was now rich and thick with the chestnut-colored locks of his youth. The fine lines in his face had vanished, as had his portly belly. He gazed at her with soulful eyes that shined with a warmth which had not existed when he was alive.

“Father.” Amelia reached out to him.

He frowned. “Forgive me, Amelia.”

Myriad emotions coursed through her, yearning and sorrow among the strongest. “What could there be to forgive?” She crawled to the foot of her bed, reaching out with her hands, her heart aching to touch him.

But he backed away from her reach as a frown crossed his features. “Beware the black petals.” Then his spirit, and the bright nimbus that engulfed him, faded into nothingness.