I'm excited to announce the upcoming release of my latest novel, A Secret Legacy. It's a family saga / historical saga set in 1800s Paris. If you would like a sneak peak and would like an advanced review copy, please click on the link above and fill out the form. 

Here's the book description: 

Juliette is abandoned shortly after her birth; a nameless babe left to fate's unpredictable whims. In exchange for a hefty sum, she is left in the care of a destitute country doctor, a man whose stoic resolve guides her transformation from fragile infancy to a beautiful young woman of strength and vitality. Yet, within the walls of their home, resentment simmers like an ever-present storm, as the doctor's wife and daughter begrudgingly share their lives with the enigmatic orphan.

In a moment of audacious bravery, she rescues a stranger, the enigmatic Francois, from the merciless clutches of a raging river. It is here, amidst the roiling waters, that she discovers her one true love, a love that will reshape the very fabric of her existence. Francois descends upon her quiet town with a mission far grander than the quaint streets and rustic facades suggest. He is Juliette's tether to a destiny unimagined, a journey to Paris and the chateau of a wealthy old uncle she has never known. Yet, all is not as it seems, for her uncle reveals a harrowing truth about her true mother, a revelation that shatters Juliette's world and exposes a devastating secret.

Hidden within the shadows of her past lies a sinister legacy of unimaginable proportions, a burden so grievous it compels Juliette to make a heart-wrenching choice. In the face of an agonizing decision, she must forsake her beloved Francois, shielding him from the dangers her secret threatens to unleash.

This is the story of a resolute young woman, thrust into a world as harsh as it is unforgiving, a world that demands she confront her fate with unwavering determination and indomitable will. As Juliette unravels the enigmas encircling her existence, her quest for love and happiness drives her to unearth the darkest truths, to overcome the insurmountable, and to emerge victorious in the face of an all-consuming legacy.

A fascinating re-imagined retelling of the classic novel, 
Her Dark Inheritance, by E. Burke Collins originally published in 1892



 Chapter One


Ville de Pantin

Outside of Paris

November 1856




AN ANGRY GALE shrieked its wrath, battering Doctor Laurent Fontaine’s surgery. He sat at his desk reading a medical publication. A solitary candle and the fire in the hearth shed the only light. The mantel clock struck midnight. He peered out the window at the street with its sleepy-looking shops and vacant inn. Having worked late, and with the onset of the storm, returning home was impossible. 

Unease plagued him, and the journal he read did little to dispel it. No longer able to concentrate, he slammed the book shut, stood, and ambled to the hearth. The doctor leaned against the mantel and stared at the flames, pondering his financial problems. As a poor village physician, he struggled to support his family. Payment for his services often came as food or goods. That made it impossible not to fall into debt.

Laurent raked his fingers through his graying hair. He dreaded the morning when he would have to return to his humble villa. His wife, Élise, constantly nagged him for fine clothes and a larger house. Their eight-year-old daughter, Simone, influenced by her mother, made her own demands for dolls and games. He often stayed longer at his surgery to avoid their petitions. 

For ten long years, he had owned this medical office with its weather-beaten sign. People almost never needed him at such a late hour or in tempestuous conditions. Illness was rare in Pantin and most villagers died of old age rather than disease.

A loud thud caught his attention. He listened, but heard nothing other than the storm. He decided the sound must be the blustery weather, knocking debris against the building. An urgent pounding followed. He rushed to the entrance, unbolted the latch, and swung open the door. A gust of rain-filled wind forced him back a step and sucked away his breath.

On the other side, a tall man stood huddled in a dark cloak with the high collar turned up over his ears. He wore a rain-sodden hat. No feature of his face was visible except for a pair of flashing dark eyes and a prominent nose. Laurent gestured for him to step inside and closed the door in his wake.

The man blew warmth into his hands. “I saw the firelight through your window. I’m glad you are here. Doctor Fontaine, I presume?”

“I am he. You need my services?”

“Yes, please…one moment.” The man rushed back outside and dashed toward the large black carriage waiting on the street. Its driver, wrapped in an oilskin coat, sat hunched beneath a wide-brimmed hat. Darkness and rain made it impossible to make out the crest on the carriage door.

Laurent waited in the open doorway as the stranger opened the door and reached inside.

The doctor shuffled from one foot to another, fighting a growing sense of foreboding. To his shock, the stranger reappeared, carrying an unconscious woman. A black veil covered her face.

He stepped aside to let the stranger pass. “What ails her?”

“She is my wife and became sick.” The man shivered as he placed her on the examination table. He glanced back at his waiting carriage. “I’ve to go to the inn and arrange a room. May I leave her with you?”

Laurent, his back to the stranger, searched the cabinet for brandy. “I will do everything in my power. Have you come from afar?” He withdrew several bottles and turned around to face the man.

The stranger had vanished, leaving the door swinging back and forth in the wind.

Laurent rushed to the entryway. The carriage was no longer there. How had it disappeared so fast? Not a living thing stirred anywhere in sight. Perplexed, the doctor pushed the door shut and turned his attention back to the woman. She had not moved. He could not see her expression for the black veil hiding her face.

As he measured brandy into a glass, an unmistakable infant’s whine, a single small lament, broke the silence. He abandoned the brandy and hastened to the woman. Unfastening her cloak, he found a sleeping newborn clutched in her arms and pressed against her breast. Laurent tried to take the baby, but the woman clung to the helpless little creature.

“Please, allow me, Madame. The babe is heavy, and you are weak and ill. I must check the child too. Can you tell me what afflicts you?”

No answer. Bothered by the woman’s utter stillness, Laurent studied her silent, recumbent body. Apprehension crept into his gut.

“Madame.” He laid his hand on her shoulder. “You are suffering? Where is your pain?” When she gave no answer, he lifted her veil. She was dead and had been for hours.

A striking woman of no more than twenty-five years, she wore a dress of amber-colored embroidered silk. Wisps of chestnut tresses clung to her damp cheeks. A plain gold ring glimmered on the third finger of her right hand. She clutched something. He pried open her fingers and discovered a brown vial. Examining it against the firelight, he read the label. It bore the skull and crossbones of poison, and the words Laudanum.

Wrapped in a rose-colored shawl, the child slept. A folded paper, addressed to him, was pinned to her dainty gown. Bewildered, Laurent read the note.


 I’m aware of your financial circumstances and your need to improve your wealth. I’ve heard you are a benevolent man, and it would please me to help you and your family. In the pocket of this woman’s gown is a leather pouch filled with three thousand francs. It is yours in exchange for keeping this child and raising her as your own. Each year, I will send you another sum of the same amount, enough to support her and your entire family. I must hold you to one condition. Never try to discover the identity of the child’s parents or her history. Should you try to do so, the monetary remittance will stop. All you need to know is she is legitimate, well born, and from an excellent family. Her name is Juliette. 

Laurent pried the vulnerable little infant from her mother’s arms. Despite the jostling, the little girl slept. He slid his index finger into her tiny palm and watched as she curled her hand around it in her slumber. Her soft breath caressed the back of his hand. She felt so light, looked so perfect, with a mass of brown curls on her head. Her aroma was divine. His chest swelled with compassion.

Could he trust the note? Would the promised yearly stipend help him provide for this child and his family? If he did not accept, what would happen to the girl? Whoever wrote the letter made it clear he was the one to raise her. Anger boiled inside him for this abandoned baby. Why would anyone do such a terrible thing?

To raise this discarded child would anger his wife, Élise. He had little doubt the extravagant sum would convince her. Already he felt an outpouring of love for this little mite. A strong yearning to protect her arose in him. Destiny had already made her his daughter. 

Juliette stirred a little. The movement shifted the shawl. A gold chain encircled her delicate neck. An oval-shaped pendant hung from it. Set in its center, surrounded by rubies, was an ornate letter D.

He removed the necklace and weighed it in his hand. The front was exquisite, the back mother-of-pearl, but he could see no engravings. With care, he pulled the gold ring off the woman’s finger and hung it on the chain. Laurent slipped the necklace into his pocket. This was Juliette’s legacy. One day, she might ask about her origins. He would present it to her and together they would unlock the secret mysteries of her past.

The doctor examined the child and found no marks, wounds, or ailments. Satisfied, he cleaned and wrapped her in a fresh cloth, and took her into his arms. Forsaken, the infant had only him to love and care for her, and he vowed to do so for as long as he lived. The baby was the greatest gift God could give and he would do right by this child.

Laurent waited until morning’s first light before summoning the town guard, Henri. The burly, crimson-cheeked man arrived with Yves, the village’s lanky undertaker.

The doctor paced back and forth, bobbing to calm the hungry, wailing baby in his arms. He relayed what had occurred during the night and showed them the small bottle. “The woman clutched this empty vial of Laudanum. There are no marks or wounds on her body, so this caused her death. What is uncertain is how she came by it or who administered it. Laudanum is not so easy to get in these parts.”

“What of the infant?” Henri asked.

Laurent shrugged. He did not tell them about the note, or the pouch of francs intended for the child’s upkeep. Nor was he going to mention the jewels he had hidden in his pocket. The less the villagers had to gossip about, the better. “The father made it clear he wanted me to keep the child.”

“Well, it seems you have little choice in the matter. The mysterious man and his carriage are long gone. Keep the child if you must, but it is another mouth for you to feed. Are you certain?” Henri asked.

Laurent nodded.

“Very well. She is yours.”

Henri’s ready acceptance put Laurent at ease. The man was known for laziness and poor investigations.

“God will provide. All will be well,” Laurent said.

At hearing this, Yves stopped wrapping the corpse and stared at him.

Laurent was not surprised at the man’s reaction. Everyone in Pantin knew of his wife’s vitriolic nature. He shrugged and bobbed to soothe the child’s unabated cries. The poor mite was hungry. He needed to feed her.

The undertaker finished his work. He carried the woman’s body out to his cart where he laid her in a makeshift coffin before driving to his shop.

Henri stared at the howling child in Laurent’s arms.

“Please fetch Rosalie to bring the infant some milk,” Laurent asked.

Henri nodded and hurried away down the street.

Rosalie, a local mother of nine children, soon arrived. She brought milk in a glass bottle with a pierced metal tip shaped like a nipple. A small sponge covered it to prevent the child from hurting its gums while sucking. Without a word, she took the infant and inserted the bottle into Juliette’s mouth. She sat on the sofa. The baby’s sobs faded as she sucked.

Bleary-eyed and exhausted, Laurent watched Rosalie hum and soothe Juliette with soft words. Soon, the infant downed the entire bottle and fell asleep, sated, in the woman’s arms.

Before long, Henri returned. “Villagers say they saw an elegant carriage driving through the village last night. But it vanished almost as soon as it appeared, and no one knows where it came from or disappeared to.” He shook his head. “Mystery shrouds this entire affair, Laurent. I doubt we will ever know anything more; best to leave it at that.”

Henri’s glance flitted to Rosalie, who still held the sleeping infant in her arms. He glanced back at Laurent. “Any idea why the man chose you to care for the baby? It makes little sense.”

Laurent shrugged. “I don’t know. Perhaps he did so because I’m a physician and can tend to the child’s future health.”

“If she has an illness, are you certain you want to take the infant home?” Henri asked. “What will your wife say? I doubt she will be happy.”

Embarrassment washed through him. “The man trusted me. My wife has no choice and will do as I say. The babe will live with us. It is the least we can do for this motherless, fatherless child. Now, if you don’t mind, it is best for me to head home.”

Rosalie planted a kiss on Juliette’s cheek and ran a hand over her head. “Bon chance, ma petite,” she whispered before handing the baby to Laurent and leaving. 

Henri slapped Laurent on the back and followed Rosalie outside.

Laurent watched them leave. Like an angel, the babe slept in his arms; he caressed the newborn’s cheek with his fingers. “Pauvre bébé…so pure…so innocent…what is the dreadful secret of your family legacy? It matters naught to me. In my arms, in my house, you will always be safe, and for as long as I live and breathe, I promise to love and protect you.”

Laurent reached for his hat, set it on his head, and walked out of the surgery, locking the door behind him. With Juliette sound asleep in his arms, he made his way home.