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Ghost Moon

Ghost Moon

3.9 47
by Karen Robards

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Nine years after leaving in disgrace, Olivia Morrison is coming home again with her eight-year-old, Sara, to put things right with the Archer clan. But there is no welcome for the prodigal daughter at the lavish Louisiana estate.

Her stepcousin, Seth, once her only comfort, is icy, dangerously attractive — and engaged. Her formidable stepgrandfather


Nine years after leaving in disgrace, Olivia Morrison is coming home again with her eight-year-old, Sara, to put things right with the Archer clan. But there is no welcome for the prodigal daughter at the lavish Louisiana estate.

Her stepcousin, Seth, once her only comfort, is icy, dangerously attractive — and engaged. Her formidable stepgrandfather collapses with a heart attack at the sight of her, gasping her dead mother’s name: “Selena!”

The bayou echoes with memories of her mother’s mysterious death. Suicide by drowning, they said. But Olivia’s terrifying nightmares suggest another story. She is determined to learn the truth, and to face a newly ignited passion for Seth, who is too close for comfort, despite his vows.

When a new danger threatens her and her daughter, Olivia must find the courage to confront her old demons ... and uncover a shocking secret buried in the long-forgotten past....

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“One of the most popular voices in women’s fiction.”

“Robards is one terrific storyteller.”
Chicago Tribune

“A real page-turner ... Robards has combined edge-of-the-seat suspense with a nicely developed romance.”
Library Journal

“Complex family dynamics and an underlying hint of outside danger ... Ms. Robards is a true master of her craft.”
Romantic Times

Also by Karen Robards:

The Midnight Hour
The Senator’s Wife
Hunter’s Moon
Walking After Midnight
Maggy’s Child
One Summer
Nobody’s Angel
This Side of Heaven
Forbidden Love
Sea Fire
Island Flame

Available from Dell


Robards, Romance, and Riveting

Romantic suspense writer Karen Robards has been steadily building her readership by penning such delights as Hunter's Moon and The Senator's Wife, both of which became national bestsellers. Robards continues this lofty trend with her latest tale of love, hate, and dark family secrets: Ghost Moon.

Olivia Morrison is the prodigal daughter returned. She was only six when her mother died, leaving her to be raised by a stepfamily, the affluent and well-respected Archers. Growing up on LaAngelle Plantation -- a lavish estate in northern Louisiana -- and leading a life of privilege did little to quell Olivia's wild urges as a teenager.

After a promiscuous and rebellious few years, she ignored the advice of her adoptive family and ran off at the age of 17 to marry a charismatic rodeo rider. Now, nine years later, divorced and struggling financially to raise her eight-year-old daughter, Sara, Olivia has been summoned back to her childhood home by her beloved step-aunt, Callie, who has been diagnosed with a deadly form of cancer.

Though Olivia is prepared for a less than exuberant welcome, she isn't prepared for the reaction she gets when she first arrives at the estate. The Archer patriarch, John, takes one look at her and collapses with a heart attack. From this less-than-auspicious beginning, Olivia's visit quickly becomes even more complicated.

There's Seth, her older step-cousin, who was once like a brother to her but now triggers an unexpected passion. There's Seth's fiancée, Mallory, a cool, slender, professional woman who is busy planning the wedding, which is mere weeks away. Then there's Seth's daughter from his first marriage, eight-year-old Chloe, whose temper tantrums and hysterics have everyone on edge. Rounding things out are a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins who all trip in and out of the stately old house, making for an eclectic extended family.

As John Archer lingers near death, Callie's condition rapidly deteriorates, and Seth's marriage date draws ever nearer, Olivia's emotions are further taxed by a recurring nightmare centered around her mother's drowning death years before. Several times Olivia is awakened in the middle of the night, only to smell the lingering traces of her mother's perfume. As time goes by, Olivia begins to suspect there is much more to her mother's death than she remembers. What Olivia doesn't know is that her return to LaAngelle Plantation has resurrected a dark and deadly family secret, one that can provide the answers Olivia seeks but at a horribly high price -- namely, the lives of her and Sara.

Robards's fans will be pleased to find her usual steamy passion and taut sexual tension. As a bonus, Robards has clearly mastered the art of other tensions as well, resulting in a harrowing tale of romantic suspense that explores both the dark and the bright sides of life.

—Beth Amos

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The fainthearted should be warned: Robards (The Midnight Hour) has crafted a mossy modern gothic drenched in gore. In northern Louisiana, little girls die at the hands of a twisted villain, and the author's detached style makes the killings' gruesomeness especially hard to take. The psychotic murderer has kidnapped four girls over the course of a decade, and he's ready to strike again. Will the next victim be eight-year-old Sara, weight-conscious daughter of broke, divorced Olivia Morrison? Or will it be eight-year-old Chloe, glamorous offspring of single dad Seth Archer, Olivia's stepcousin? Livvy and Seth remain blissfully ignorant of lurking danger, consumed with the welter of contradictory emotions kicked up by the ongoing drama in their family. Raised by her stepfamily, the wealthy Archer clan, Livvy left La Angelle Plantation nine years ago to become the teen bride of a no-good cowboy. She has just returned to the Louisiana estate, humbled by her greatly reduced circumstances and with daughter Sara in tow. Though she is welcomed back, Livvy is haunted by shadowy, frightening nightmares and the mystery surrounding her mother's death almost 20 years ago. Robards conveys the dusty heat of the Louisiana summer, and has an ear for the nuances of dialogue. But the cast of characters is so big, and the dramatics so unrelenting, that readers never have a chance to fully absorb the dynamics of the clan, and the serial killings remain an unintegrated subplot till the very end. When the bogeyman makes a move close to home, and Livvy and Seth get romantically involved, the murder mystery and the love story finally, satisfyingly, converge. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When Olivia Morrison ran away from her stepfather and the Archer estate in Louisiana, she thought she was leaving her mother's suicide behind her. Nearly a decade later, Olivia returns home with nothing but her eight-year-old daughter. Her arrival ignites a chain of events that she couldn't have foreseen, including her rekindled attraction to Seth Archer, her stepcousin. But beneath still waters lies a dangerous secret that is revealed to Olivia only in her dreams. And for someone, those dreams are revealing more than may be healthy for Olivia and her family. Dean Robertson reads competently but without spark; she has a variety of Southern drawls at her disposal but never captures the energy and suspense within the story. The author's popularity makes this a necessary purchase for large public libraries, but it is not Robards at her best. Jodi L. Israel, MLS, Jamaica Plain, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
4.15(w) x 6.89(h) x 1.24(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

“Mom, I wet the bed.” The small, shamed voice and the little hand that went with it tugged Louise Hardin out of a deep sleep. She opened one groggy eye to discover her daughter Melissa standing at her bedside in the darkened room. Behind her, the alarm clock glowed the time: one a.m.

“Mom.” Missy’s hand tugged once more at the long sleeve of Louise’s pale green nylon nightgown.

“Oh, Missy, no! Not again.” Louise’s whisper was despairing as she rolled out of bed, careful not to disturb her husband, Brock, who slumbered peacefully beside her. Brock had to get up early, at quarter to seven, to be at the office by eight. As he said, the rest of them could sleep all day if they chose, but he had to earn a living. Besides, he hated the fact that Missy sometimes still wet the bed. He was a pediatrician, he knew Missy should be over wetting the bed by now, and he tended to take her frequent accidents personally.

Consequently, Louise, Missy, and her ten-year-old sister, Heidi, conspired to conceal Missy’s accidents whenever possible.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Missy offered in a tiny voice when they gained the relative safety of the hallway outside the bedroom. The blue shag carpet felt soft and warm beneath Louise’s bare feet. Through the hall window, left uncurtained because it was small and high and on the second floor, Louise could see pinpricks of tiny stars and a wan sickle moon drifting against the black sky. “At least this time I dreamed I was on the potty. It seemed so real! And then I was all wet, and I woke up and I wasn’t on the potty at all.”

“All your dreams seem so real.” If Louise’s voice was just a tad dry, she couldn’t help it. She was really, really tired, and this was getting to be almost a nightly occurrence. As a seven-year-old, Missy was getting her up at night almost as much as she had when she was a baby.

Light glowed around the partially closed door of the hall bathroom, illuminating the path to Missy’s bedroom, which was at the far end of the hall, past Heidi’s bedroom and a smaller guest bedroom. Louise had started leaving the light on at night because, in addition to wetting her bed, Missy had suddenly become afraid of the dark. She had nightmares about monsters hiding in her room and watching her as she slept. Sometimes she woke up screaming, and Louise would jump from bed like she had been shot and race down the hall to find her daughter huddled in the center of her bed, in a ball, with the covers pulled over her head, crying her eyes out and gasping something that made no sense. Inevitably, Louise ended up bringing Missy into bed with her and Brock, a practice of which he strongly disapproved. That, Brock informed her, was undoubtedly a large part of Missy’s problem. Louise treated her like a baby, rewarding her misdeeds by giving her attention (which was what Brock said she wanted all along) when Missy should have been disciplined instead. Louise knew that Brock probably knew best — as he frequently pointed out, he was the expert — but she could not find it in her heart to punish her seven-year-old daughter for being afraid of the dark. Or for wetting the bed. Or, as Brock said, for nearly anything at all.

The ammonialike smell of urine struck Louise in the face as soon as she stepped inside Missy’s room. She sighed. Missy’s hand twitched in hers.

“I’m really sorry, Mom,” Missy offered again.

Without a word, Louise let go of Missy’s hand, closed the door, turned on the light, and crossed to the chest to extract a clean nightgown from a drawer. When she turned around, nightgown in hand, she was frowning. Maybe Brock was right, she thought. Maybe she should try being a little tougher on Missy. She was really becoming tired of getting up in the middle of almost every single night.

Accustomed to the ritual, Missy had already pulled her wet nightgown off and was in the act of dropping it on the floor. Lips thinning, Louise moved to her daughter’s side and tugged the dry nightgown over Missy’s head. As the gown fell into place, she reached around behind Missy’s neck to free the long dark brown braid of her daughter’s hair. When Missy glanced quickly up at her, her big hazel eyes questioning, Louise gave the braid a small tug.

“You can help me change the sheets,” she said, with more sternness than was usual for her.

“Are you mad at me, Mom?” Missy asked humbly as the two of them worked together to strip the wet sheets from the bed. Louise’s heart smote her. Missy was so very little, after all. And she was small for her age. She’d been born six weeks premature, and Louise had often thought that her early arrival might account for some of Missy’s problems. Her body had just not yet matured as much as that of most seven-year-olds. Brock, of course, said that was nonsense.

Damn Brock.

“No, baby, I’m not mad at you.” Her task made easier by the vinyl cover that saved the mattress from total ruin, Louise carefully tucked in the corners of the clean sheets that were kept, along with spare blankets, in a trunk at the foot of Missy’s bed. She smoothed a pink wool blanket over the sheets and pulled back a corner. “Hop in.”

“Don’t tell Daddy,” Missy said, obeying.

“I won’t.” It was a ritual, these words. Some part of Louise felt it was wrong to promise to keep something a secret from Missy’s father, but the larger, practical part didn’t want to listen to Brock’s lectures if he discovered that Missy had wet the bed again. She didn’t want Missy to have to listen to them, either. No matter whether Brock was the expert or not.

Louise tucked the clean, dry bedclothes around her daughter as Missy snuggled onto her side, a small smile curving her lips as her cheek burrowed deep into the pillow with its tiny white hearts on a deep pink background.

“Good night, baby.” Louise brushed her lips across the warmth of her daughter’s exposed cheek, and straightened.

“I love you, Mommy.” Missy’s voice was already sleepy, and her eyelashes were beginning to droop.

“I love you, too, Miss Mouse. Now go back to sleep.” Louise gathered up the wet bedding and nightgown.

“Leave the bathroom light on.”

“I will,” Louise promised.

After opening the door and flicking off the light, Louise paused for a moment in the doorway to look back at her daughter with a faint, wry smile. So much for discipline, she thought. But Missy was only seven. ... Lying there in her little white bed, which Louise had hand-painted herself with the colorful butterflies that were Missy’s favorite creature, Missy looked no bigger than a minute. She would grow out of this bed-wetting phase one of these days, Louise consoled herself. It would be something to laugh about when she was grown....

“See you in the morning,” Louise whispered, turning away. She headed toward the basement, meaning to put the sheets in to wash and thus leave no trace of the night’s misdeeds for Brock to discover.

What Louise didn’t know was that, concealed in Missy’s closet behind a double rack of neatly pressed outfits and a mountain of stuffed animals, a man listened and waited. He’d thought about running for it, when the child had gotten out of bed and gone for her mother. But he’d been afraid that he wouldn’t get away in time, and indeed the little girl and the woman had returned within minutes. If he had left his hiding place, he would have been caught. During the few minutes the mother had been in the room, he’d sweated bullets as he listened to their exchange. All she had to do was open the closet door — but she didn’t.

Now he and his little sweetie pie were alone again.

His heartbeat quickened as he waited, very patiently, for the mother to return to her room. When she did, he waited even longer, listening to the soft, light rhythm of the child’s breathing.

Finally, he eased open the closet door.

The next morning, when Louise went to rouse Missy for her ten a.m. play date, her daughter was stretched out in bed as neatly as could be, lying on her back with the covers pulled up under her chin.

“Time to get up, sleepyhead,” Louise said, laughing because Missy never slept late and, since she had, this might signal the beginning of a whole new phase that did not include bed-wetting. Playfully she jerked the covers down.

In that moment she knew, and her laughter died, leaving her smile to deflate like a punctured balloon. Hoping against hope that she was mistaken, praying to all the gods that had ever existed in any universe that she was wrong, she grabbed her daughter by the arms.

Missy’s body was cold. It was stiff, too. Rigor mortis had already set in.

The child was dead in her bed.

The next week, this banner headline appeared in the New Orleans Times-Picayune: “Prominent Baton Rouge Pediatrician Charged with Murdering Daughter, 7, for Wetting Bed.”

The dateline was May 6, 1969.

Chapter Two

Ghosts. They were everywhere on that steamy summer’s night. Their white misty shapes hovered over the old graveyard that stood sentinel on the bluff beside the lake, played hide-and-seek behind the Spanish moss that dripped from the twisted branches of the bald cypresses, stretched heavenward above the inky surface of the water. They whispered together, their words falling like drops of water through the mist, almost drowned out by the other, more corporeal sounds of the night. Run away. Go. Run away was what they said. Whether the ghosts were real or the product of atmosphere and imagination, though, who knew? And what difference, really, did it make?

It was hot, still, although it was some ten minutes past one a.m. on August 19, 1999, which was a Friday night, or, rather, a Saturday morning. Hot with the thick, damp kind of heat that always lay like a blanket over Point Coupee Parish in August. The kind of heat that curled your hair or made it go limp, depending on what kind of hair you had. The kind of heat that made women “dewy” and men sweat, that exacerbated tempers and passions and bred clouds of mosquitoes and carpets of the slimy green floating plants known as duckweed.

LaAngelle Plantation heat. Courtesy of the swampy Louisiana low country to the south, the Atchafalaya River to the west, and the mighty Mississippi to the east. It came with its own feel, its own smell, its own taste.

She was come home at last, Olivia Morrison thought, inhaling the indefinable aroma of decay, swamp water, and vegetation run amok that she remembered from her earliest childhood. The knowledge both exhilarated and frightened her. Because the truth was that this was, and was not, her home.

“Are we almost there, Mom?” The tired little voice at her elbow was barely audible over the night sounds around them.

“Almost.” Olivia glanced down at her eight-year-old daughter with mixed tenderness and concern. Sara looked dead on her feet, her sturdy little body drooping like a wilted flower. Her thick-lashed brown eyes were dark-shadowed and huge with fatigue. Her upturned face was pale. Tendrils of jaw-length coffee-brown hair, having been pushed back by an impatient hand once too often, curled and clung to the moist skin of her neck and forehead. The yellow and white gingham sundress that had been so pretty and crisp that morning in Houston was now as limp-looking as the child herself. Her dusty black ballerina flats — thriftily bought big to allow for growth — slipped off her heels with every step to slap against the spongy ground. The lace-trimmed white anklets she wore with them were grimy with dirt. They’d walked from the bus stop at New Roads, a distance of perhaps five miles, because nobody had answered the telephone at the Big House when Olivia called, and she didn’t have the money for a taxi.

Not that she would have had much chance of rousting out Ponce Lennig and his beat-up Mercury anyway, Olivia thought, lifting strands of shoulder-length coffee-brown hair away from her own moist neck. LaAngelle’s only taxi service had always been erratic at best, and Ponce had always turned off his phone promptly at six p.m. He didn’t believe in working nights, he said.

Maybe Ponce didn’t have the taxi service anymore. Maybe there was a new, modern taxi service — or none at all. Not that it mattered, since she was down to her last five dollars and change.

Ponce, if apprised of their circumstances, would have gladly given them a free ride out to the house, but Olivia would have had a hard time confessing to him or anyone else just how broke she was. Only to save Sara a five-mile hike could she have made herself do so. Once upon a time, as Olivia Chenier, spoiled and wild and the youngest of the golden Archer clan, she had been as glamorous and above their touch as a movie star to the people of the town.

Once upon a time. A long time ago. Now she was a dental office manager, barely scraping by from paycheck to paycheck. How the mighty are fallen.

No one but Aunt Callie knew she and Sara were coming, and Aunt Callie didn’t know precisely when. Olivia couldn’t blame any of the family for not being on hand when she called to fetch her and Sara home.

She hadn’t seen them, any of them, for nine years.

With a twinge of anxiety, she wondered how they would react to her return. With something short of the proverbial killing of the fatted calf, she guessed. Her hand tightened around Sara’s.

“I think I’m getting a blister on my heel,” Sara complained. “I told you these shoes were too big.”

Olivia focused on Sara again. “I have a Band-Aid in my purse.”

“I hate Band-Aids.”

“I know.” It was all Olivia could do to suppress a sigh. Sara was not usually whiny, or grumpy, but she was rapidly becoming both. And who could blame her? The child had been traveling since seven that morning, first by car and then by bus and then on foot. “Listen, baby, if we keep walking up this path, just a little bit farther, we’ll come to some stepping stones, and when we reach the end of them we’ll go up some steps to the top of a bluff, and you’ll be able to see the house from there.”

Sara’s gaze swept their surroundings.

“It’s spooky here.” She shivered despite the heat.

Meet the Author

Karen Robards is the author of twenty-three historical and contemporary romances, including her recent national bestsellers The Midnight Hour, The Senator’s Wife, Heartbreaker, and Hunter’s Moon. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and their three sons.

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Ghost Moon 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book several times and it is as good as the first time I read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Boring. On chapter three and dont know if will finish reading the book. Slow.
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I have read this book at least a dozen times. I enjoy the story, the descriptions of the lush Louisiana swamp, and it's just a neat little mystery romance!
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