Fogbound Manor is in Stores Now!
Read about Harriet's amazing journey to Herrick Island, to meet the mysterious Jonah Herrick at his huge Gothic mansion called FOGBOUND MANOR!
Harriet Tate may be a sea captain's daughter, but she doesn't believe in buried treasure. She's logical, practical, and runs her family's shipping company.
So, when Jonah Herrick's mysterious letter arrives from a remote Gothic mansion called Fogbound Manor, Harriet dismisses it entirely. She's not going to Herrick Island and look for pirate gold. That's nonsense.
But her father drowned, the company is going bankrupt, and Harriet has to make a choice: lose everything she ever worked for - or accept Jonah's ridiculous offer and get the money to save it.
Arriving at Fogbound Manor sets Harriet on a course for heart-wrenching love and unimaginable riches she never could have foreseen . . .
Praise for Fogbound Manor
"Great atmosphere - you can almost feel the chill in your fingers and smell the briny sea air. Curl up with a blanket and a warm cup of tea."
- Amazon reader
"Worth the read and can we have more please? I enjoyed it very much."
- Amazon reader
Free Sample Chapter
In this chapter, set in Maine in 1855, Harriet Tate has arrived on Herrick Island. She enters Fogbound Manor, a huge and gloomy stone mansion owned by the mysterious, reclusive Jonah Herrick ...
An incredibly dark and gloomy dimness permeated the hushed interior. I gathered that I was standing in a huge entrance hall, three times larger than my own foyer at home. Cold stone columns supported its high arching ceiling. Small sparks of light emitted from deep within the manor, like stars on a winter night sky. As my eyes grew adjusted to the lack of light, I could make out furnishings as dark and ancient as the manor itself. Gothic wooden benches that resembled Medieval church pews, ancient faded tapestries covering the thick stone walls. An enormous mahogany staircase wide enough for five people to stand side-by-side on its red carpeted steps. Some room close by exuded a smoky smell.
“Stokes!” a hearty voice cried. “Bring her in here.”
The butler took the carpet-bag from my cold fingers and shuffled over the flagstone floor towards a doorway as large as a carriage-entrance. Upon passing beneath it, I entered a cavernous room that must be the main parlor. It reminded me of a cathedral with its vaulted ceiling, gray stone walls, and tall mullioned windows. An assortment of upholstered sofas and chaise lounges provided comfortable seating in front of the impressively carved marble fireplace. The hearth fire crackled with such cheerful vitality I felt renewed.
The master of the manor sat before this fire, wrapped in snuggly blankets. His tapestry chair was as large as a throne, with carved lion's paw feet. His long skinny legs propped up on a small velvety footstool. He turned his face to greet me, but he was bathed in shadow, and all I could make out was more darkness.
“Hello, Miss Tate.”
“Good evening, Mr. Herrick.”
I let down my cloak hood from my hair and walked forward. As I approached, I could see more of him, and any vague guesses I'd previously entertained about his appearance vanished when I saw his entire personage.
His skin was a sickly yellow, like a clouded moon. Dark hair, as brackish and mussed as seaweed, curled haphazardly on his shoulders, as if he'd told it to behave and it did not. His eyes were unusually bright, with black centers like pools of deepest ocean. His fingers were so thin and his arms so skeletal he could have easily passed for a corpse. I felt little but revulsion, and it required every last ounce of my composure to stand before him and appear quite unaffected by what I beheld.
“I am glad you have come.” He set down the mug of tea he had been sipping and leaned forward, extending yellow fingers. “Let us shake hands, that we should be friends. You are to be my companion in this exciting adventure. Together, we shall discover wonders!”
His voice was surprisingly strong, and the force of his greeting seemed to be coming from a more physically robust man. He was such a contrast of health and illness, of life and death, that I felt peculiar.
“Sit, Miss Tate. Draw up the parlor chair there.”
I did as he wished, seating myself at a reasonable distance. In the firelight my skin glowed with a healthy orange, while Mr. Herrick's featured a mottled tone.
“My illness does not prevent me from wanting to stay up all hours of the night discussing our mutual ancestry with you.”
“But I am tired, sir,” I said. “The journey was fatiguing, and I wish to be shown my room for a night of rest. We may begin our discussion at first light, if you so desire.”
He flung himself against the back of the chair and rubbed his forehead vigorously. Then he snapped his fingers.
“Stokes! Stokes, at once.”
The butler emerged from somewhere in the darkness behind us.
“Your room is prepared, miss,” he said. “Please follow me.”
I stood, a gesture that caused Mr. Herrick to roll his eyes.
“You would leave me so soon,” he demanded. “I know I am ill, and my presence may be taxing to your senses, accustomed to seeing healthy men.”
“I am,” I admitted. “None other I have ever met outside of a hospital has had your pallor. I implore you not to overexert yourself. I will be here until the end of March. There is time to do everything you wish. But I must be allowed to rest.”
“My goodness,” he said with a degree of awe, “you are quite determined. I fear I may find an obstinacy in you that contrasts with my own enthusiasm.”
“Call it what you will,” I said.
My head was beginning to ache. What he thought of as stubbornness was common sense. Why unduly tire and wear out your guest when she had just arrived after a three-day harrowing journey? I got to my feet and bowed to Mr. Herrick.
“I bid you good night, sir. I will come down to breakfast at first light.”
He waved me away, dismissing me off-handedly. “We must get started at once!”
That was the last thing I would say, for exhaustion threatened to pull me into the depths of the floor. I gave him a quick curtsy and slipped out of the parlor back into the entrance hall. A dim glow alighted next to the staircase. Mr. Stokes had lit a small chamberstick. Above, a crooked iron chandelier with three tiny candles cast little light on the steps.
“Miss Tate,” the butler said.
He turned and began ascending the steps. Curious, I carefully lifted my skirts and approached the massive balustrade. I tentatively began to climb, keeping an eye on the butler's weak candlelight. The stairs were so massive and steep I could hear my heavy breathing and felt tightness in my lower legs. About twenty steps up we came to a large landing, turned, and kept climbing.
We reached a crooked hallway that disappeared into a dark and dizzying angle. I didn't dare pause for fear of losing Mr. Stokes and abandoning all hope of finding my way back to the parlor again. At length, we ascended to what I believed to be the third floor, though I could not be sure. I felt like we had been climbing stairs for quite some time, yet I sensed we were not even halfway up inside the manor. He turned off into a narrow hallway lined with cream painted doors and wallpaper of an old-fashioned style. I had barely time to think if one of these quarters would be mine before he entered a side passage, where he revealed a second staircase. We ventured even deeper into the manor's belly.
This second staircase was quite drafty and exposed to the elements. A single circular window built into the old wooden wall planks revealed little beyond the dark misting clouds. My skin felt clammy from the moisture in the air, and my nose filled with the relentless briny scent of the sea. I was glad I'd selected an extra petticoat to warm my ankles, for the air grew colder and damper with each rising step.
Another hallway, less formal and more crudely designed than the one below, greeted me. Low candles along small wall pockets cast milky light on the plaster walls and low doors. Mr. Stokes had to stoop beneath the low beamed ceiling, and I was glad of my small frame, for I would not hit my head. Just when I thought this hallway would be our final destination, he turned down the narrowest, darkest passage of all. It looked like we were descending into an old cellar. A prickle of fear brushed across my neck, causing me to shiver. I paused at the threshold, then took a gulp of foggy air and slowly crept after him.
“Here,” he uttered.
We'd come at last to the end of the narrow passage. A large, thick door made of ancient oak planks was shoved into the crumbling plaster. Braced by flat iron bands and featuring a huge black chained latch, it was like the entrance to a Medieval church.
Mr. Stokes reached for a single skeleton key in his trouser pocket and twisted it into the padlock. He lifted the creaky old latch with a loud click, and pushed open the door. A warm golden glow, more comforting than I'd expected, emitted from within. He stepped aside to allow me entry into my new quarters.
From the door's appearance, I'd assumed Mr. Herrick would have me stay in a moldy dungeon. Actually, he'd given me an impressive chamber. It was papered in a strange deep pine green pattern with striking orange and red damask markings. A steeply slanted wall hovered over a low, wide bed with carved pineapple finials. Each item of furniture was at least a century old, but so solidly built I'd no doubt they'd last several more centuries. A large faded tapestry hung from a thick metal bar on one wall. The crooked sitting area featured an old button-tufted leather chair and antique side table. Two tall narrow mullioned windows looked out over the ocean beyond. Between the two windows was a wide, low chest with a flat top, upon which sat a folded wool blanket.
Mr. Stokes set my carpet-bag on the bed, bade me a good night, and shuffled off. I felt like a queen of olde England, ensconced in her Renaissance-styled quarters. Yet, this was only a temporary arrangement. I was leaving in less than four weeks and certainly had no intention of staying one day longer than necessary.
“Treasure,” I muttered aloud. “Nonsense.”
Once undressed to my chemise, I drew a bed-jacket about my shoulders and went to the windows. My view overlooked the back of the manor above the churning waves. Sheeting mist slapped the glass, and I inhaled the sea's salty fragrance. Up four stories above its somber expanse, I felt closer to these bottomless fathoms than upon the shoreline at Kennebunkport. As if my skin had vaporized into fog, and my soul swooshed along with the tides.
Abruptly, I stepped back from the windows. Thank goodness the glass was between me and that infernal wet hell. How could I have guessed that a place named Fogbound Manor would be anything but welcoming.
I turned away from the windows and went over to the bed. Heaped with ten layers of blankets and pillows, it seemed to swallow my small form. With the sheets pulled up to my chin and my body slowly warming, I lay prone, far too exhausted to feel anything but the most acute wakefulness. It reminded me of the first few weeks after Mother's death, when sleep seemed the state furthest from her. I clung to my insomnia until I'd faint from overtiredness - only to wake trembling with the fear that after every rest she drifted further from my memories.
Yet, there was one figure who could never depart from my mind. He loomed in a larger and more fearsome form than he had in life.
It felt like Father was here, and I hated him for following me.