Sunday, November 27, 2016
When the late Jamison Howard built the strange stone mansion in a "small town tucked away in the mountains of northern California," the locals wondered why construction workers kept adding rooms. Word was that "the matriarch Marguerite Howard was kept prisoner here by her three grown sons since her husband's death years ago."
Readers are ushered into this "Devil's Domain" when young divorcee Holland Wallace, 28, in town to care for her aunt, visits the strange abode and is mistaken for a newly-hired nanny by Jamison's stepson, Gage Langdon, 36.
So begins a romantic suspense novel of intrigue and revenge. "New Beginnings" ($16.00 in paperback from Fireside Publications, firesidepubs.com; also for Amazon Kindle), by Olivia Claire High, unfolds the story of a dysfunctional family and the power of love to set things right. The author, an Oroville resident and prolific novelist, puts a baby at the center of a mystery.
The child is the son of Gage's younger brother, James Howard, and his wife Kim. Little Jamie seems to be sickly. Holland's heart melts for him (and it doesn't hurt that there is something about the strong-willed Gage that's mightily attractive), and it's clear that the household needs a new caregiver.
Kim lives in the house, but suffers from postpartum depression and cannot care for her child. Marguerite is there, too, but though kindly she is agoraphobic and can't bear to leave the residence (so her world gets bigger by adding more rooms). James is flaky and his twin brother, Jonathan, is something of a mystery. Money seems to be no object; Gage, James and Jonathan are the "propertied brothers," and there's a connection south of the border that complicates the family dynamic.
Holland has a past of her own ("My dad's a geography buff," she tells Gage early on; "My sister's name is France and my brother's is Scotland"), but she is determined to protect Jamie when she discovers that the previous nannies had been driven from the house by drugged nightmares, and that someone is messing with the baby's food. But why?
The novel probes the recesses of the human heart but always holds out hope that there can indeed be "new beginnings."