Gothic romance with a twist.
Elements of The Sound of Music, The Enchanted Garden, Jane Eyre, and “true” ghost hunting shows make this story feel familiar. Gay love makes it unique.
Seeing an ad for a position at a Yorkshire estate, typesetter Graham Cowrie decides to make an upward career move by passing himself off as a tutor. How hard can it be to teach a few subjects to a pair of nine-year-old boys? But on his arrival at the ancient house, he finds the staff creepy, the twins odd, and the widowed master temporarily absent.
His first meeting with brooding, stern, but oh-so-attractive, Sir Richard doesn’t go well, but with no other prospects vying for the teaching position, Graham manages to keep it. His mission soon becomes clear, break down the walls of reserve both father and sons have erected and attempt to bridge the gap between them.
But strange sounds, sights and experiences keep Graham on edge until he finally admits the Hall is haunted by two entities with very different agendas. Graham works to appease one and combat the other while protecting the broken family he’s grown to care for.
This is a perfect blend of paranormal, historical, and romance. Watching Graham Cowrie become the man he invented to better his life is heartwarming as his growing relationship with the twin boys he's hired to tutor. His attraction to the boys' distant father is immediate even with the unanswered questions Graham has piling up in his mind. The chilling addition of the menacing ghost and the equally loving spirit of the boys' mother is a perfect addition to this tale of second chances. If you're like me and love to read some stories "seasonally",with Halloween only a few short months away this is definitely one to keep on your radar but it's an intriguing and eerie read any day of the year.
For the next ten minutes or so, I engaged the boys in my silly game. They raced around chasing the ball with intense fervor. Whit spoke for both of them, asking and answering questions that ranged from history to astronomy to folklore. In very short order, I learned he was smart and surprisingly well-read for a young boy who’d not yet had formal schooling. I wondered who had taught him to read.
Just as I was patting myself on the back for how I’d been able to coax them out of their shyness, both boys suddenly froze. Red-faced and puffing, they stared beyond me. I turned to see what had drawn their attention, and my own body went rigid.
A figure straight out of a gothic novel approached us, striding like a nightmare vision. Tall, broad-shouldered, wearing a black greatcoat and knee-high boots, the man could have easily played the role of a dastardly villain in an operetta. As he drew nearer and I studied the hard planes of his handsome face, I changed my mind. He was definitely the brooding hero of the story, a man mired in personal misery and darkness and just waiting for the heroine to lead him to the light with her love. Sigh.
That was my flight of fancy as I regarded my new employer. My heart pitter-pattered, and other parts of my anatomy went hard as I smiled in greeting. “Good day. Sir Richard, I presume?”
Then the man spoke, and I landed on earth with a sharp thud.
“What is going on here? I don’t believe I hired you to run amok with my children. They should be in the schoolroom this time of day, learning their times tables and Latin.”
Black slashes of eyebrows drew together over deep brown eyes that glittered as they caught the sunlight. Gorgeous and gloomy, dark and dangerous looking—just the sort of man who featured in my fantasies. A wave of powerful attraction surged through me, and I could hardly collect my wits to form a sentence.
“This being my first day, sir, I thought it would be worthwhile to create a rapport with the boys while learning a little about their level of knowledge. The modern approach is for students to learn organically rather than recite by rote,” I lied. Let him think this was some progressive technique all the best people were using rather than simply me flying by the seat of my pants.
Not wanting Whit and Clive to overhear and think I’d manipulated them, I lowered my voice a little. “Once trust is built, I’ve found my pupils are much more willing and eager to learn.”
I needn’t have worried about revealing my intentions to the twins. When I glanced over my shoulder, they’d both evaporated like steam.
The master of the house raked a hot glare over me from head to toe, leaving my flesh scored and burning.
His lips compressed. “Modern approach. It appears more as if you’ve fallen in with the savages. From now on, I expect to find my sons learning their lessons in the schoolroom. They’ve had free rein for far too long.”
Another scathing glance flicked over me like a lash. “Take the boys in hand, set yourself to rights, and come to my study, where we will review my expectations for your employment.”
Sir Richard turned to walk away, and I—governed by too little sense and too well developed a sense of humor—called after him, “You might consider joining the savages for a while yourself, sir. They’re an entertaining lot.”
He stopped walking, and I caught my breath. I’d gone and done it, got myself sacked on the very first day. I’d be on a train back to London before the hour was up.
Sir Richard slowly turned to stare at me with those sizzling eyes. I could’ve crumpled like a cheap suit under the onslaught of his gaze, but forced myself to straighten my spine and smile back at him.
The man blinked. He didn’t say another word, simply faced forward and continued on toward the house.
I exhaled loudly and shook my head at my own foolishness. Bowing and scraping simply weren’t my strong suit, and this wouldn’t be the first position I’d lost by letting my tongue wag at its will.
I searched the area for the twins. We’d been playing ball in an open field. They couldn’t have returned to the gardens without passing their father, and there weren’t that many hiding places. A quick scan revealed a splash of blue squatting behind a stump and a green coat belly down to the earth.
I frowned. Did their father discipline the boys with beatings? I couldn’t imagine why else they’d have gone to ground at his appearance rather than, at the very least, greeting him politely. It was odd Sir Richard hadn’t seemed surprised by their rude behavior or called them to come to him. What sort of strange family was this?
Not my place to worry about it, I realized. For likely I’d be gone soon.
“Whitney. Clive,” I called. “Come here, please.” I spoke as if I expected to be obeyed, and damned if it didn’t work. Whitney rose from the grass, and Clive emerged from behind the stump. They trudged slowly toward me through the long grass.
“Seems we’ll need to resume our game indoors, lads. Will you come to the schoolroom with me?” I tossed the ball from hand to hand.
The brothers exchanged another long silent communication, then looked at me.
Whitney nodded. “All right.”
I felt as if I’d won a small victory as my new charges meekly fell in step with me. I shot the ball to Clive, who tossed it to Whit, who threw it back to me, and we continued to play together as we marched toward whatever punishment Sir Richard had in store.
I began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, I was the designated ghost tale teller. I still have a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.
Writing childish stories for my own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, I dreamed of writing a novel, but at that time in my life didn't have the necessary focus and follow through. Then life happened. A husband and children occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that I began writing again.
I enjoy dabbling in many genres. Each gives me a different way to express myself. I've developed a habit of writing every day that's almost an addiction. I don't think I could stop now if I tried.