Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood is the continuing the story of the classic TV show, Dark Shadows by series star, Lara Parker.
“My name is Victoria Winters, and my journey continues . . . .”
An orphan with no knowledge of her origins, Victoria Winters first came to the great house of Collinwood as a Governess. It didn’t take long for the Collins family’s many buried secrets, haunted history, and rivalries with evil forces to catch up to Victoria and cast the newcomer adrift in time, trapped between life and death.
At last returned to the present, Victoria is called back to Collinwood by a mysterious letter. Hoping to fill in the gaps of her memories by meeting with the people who knew her best, Victoria returns to the aging mansion. However, she soon discovers that the entire Collins family is missingexcept for Barnabas Collins, a vampire whose own dark curse is well known. Victoria discovers that she has been named sole heir to the estate, if only she can prove her own identity.
Beset by danger and dire warnings, Victoria must discover what dread fate has befallen Collinwood, even as she finally uncovers a shocking truth long hidden in the shadows . . .
About the Author
LARA PARKER has written several original Dark Shadows novels, including Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising and Dark Shadows: Angelique's Descent. She played the role of Angelique during the first run of the iconic, cult television show. She grew up in Memphis Tennessee, attended Vassar College, majored in Drama at the University of Iowa, and received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University at Los Angeles She lives in Topanga Canyon, California.
Read an Excerpt
Heiress of Collinwood
By Lara Parker
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 Dan Curtis Productions, LLC
All rights reserved.
Even though I had promised Peter never to leave the cottage without him by my side, nor to wander into the village alone — people were still suspicious and many persisted in the belief that I was the witch — that afternoon I found myself in the woods on the other side of the stream from the gypsy camp, peering through the trees and trying to get a glimpse of the settling in.
I had heard the wagons passing before dawn, the snorts of the tired horses whose hooves had been padded with straw, and the squeaking of wheels in the ruts. I crept to the window and pushed open the shutter to watch the vardoes with their rounded roofs lumber down the road like giant snails silhouetted against the brightening sky.
Peter woke and mumbled into his pillow, "Stay away from the commons, Victoria. Those wretched people are not to be trusted."
I withdrew and closed the latch thinking I should heed his words, but there was so little excitement in sleepy Collinsport, a fishing village where the only topic of conversation was whether the sea was calm or violent, or who had drowned in the last storm. Watching the caravan pass in the mist had flushed a longing in me to catch sight of the earliest gypsies, to see how they managed, these roaming travelers who called no country their own. I thought I would only observe them from a distance, and I would be back in my kitchen before dark.
The day was warm and windy with thin streaks of cloud painted across the sky, and I breathed in the rank odor of the marsh as I made my way out of the woods and across a field of tall grass stitched like an enormous quilt with blue asters, ox-eye daises, and Queen Anne's lace. Summer had come at last with its butterflies and bees, but it had not lifted my spirits, nor had it dried up the bog at the edges of the stream. My ruined boots sucked in the mud and the hem of my skirt grew soggy from the damp.
I picked a handful of wildflowers to form a bouquet, but soon let them drop, thinking they would wilt in the heat before I carried them home. Upon reaching the stream I had begun to wade through it when melodious morning birdsong was disturbed by the harsh cawing of ravens, and I looked up to see a flock spiraling, drawn perhaps by the promise of discarded food. The gypsies, who cooked on fires and ate out of doors, were known for scattering their garbage in the grass.
I heard a dog bark, a man's voice cry out, and the ringing of an ax before I came over the rise, but I was disappointed when I looked down at the field.
The camp was smaller than I had expected, and although the ground was already bruised by the gypsies tramping about, there was only a handful of clumsy wagons drawn into a circle. I had been anticipating the sort of pageantry I had seen in my own time when the Roma came to Collinsport every summer, a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors like a Bruegel painting with all the music and wild dancing, and of course, the gypsy horses. These tired steeds had sunken necks and heads that drooped low, and the encampment resembled a squalid hamlet, one that might lie outside castle walls, the dingy sites like piles of wet leaves in the bright green grass.
The people I saw milling among the wagons were dark skinned and roughly clad, and the many children were near to naked, their clothes little more than rags. I had forgotten that I was now living in the year 1797, long before the great diaspora of gypsies from Eastern Europe, and the bands sent to America before that time had been the shunned and despised. As I drew nearer and looked down at the disheveled tribe, I tried to remember what I had learned about their history. I knew they had struggled to maintain their traditions, and that the earliest gypsies were outcasts and drifters. Didn't Napoleon ship gypsies to Louisiana before he sold the territory to the United States, just to be rid of French convicts? I wondered if these I saw before me were the same sort.
The black ravens careened in the sky riding a gyre, and I shivered to hear their echoing caws, like an omen from a world beyond the clouds. Were their cautions for me, I wondered, wandering so far from home and safety? I had a fleeting thought that I should return at once, but a cool breeze traveled over the meadow like a benediction, and instead I hesitated on the hillside and watched the gypsies unload their wagons.
They had such possessions! I was reminded of the homeless I had seen on the streets of New York when I had been living there, all their diverse and mismatched valuables piled into a shopping cart. Women tugged pillows and flowered quilts out of the wagons to air them in the sun, and the timbre of tin pots and kettles clattered on the breeze, along with the shouts of children. An old grandfather dragged an armload of kindling from the copse. A youth hung axes and knives from his wagon's rack. Worn leather harnesses were drying on the tops of the wagons, boots and trousers were strewn in the grass, and a fire or two lifted a smoky halo in the morning air.
For some reason I was drawn to these nomadic peasants who would have their own songs and dialects, their own rituals and demons. As I watched the life of the camp unfolding, I thought they might seem uncivilized, but they were enticingly picturesque, people who rejected ordinary social conventions in exchange for the open road, and I found myself envying them. What would it be like to be so free? My curiosity stirred, I crept down the hill toward the wagons. I knew I was being reckless, and I told myself that if I saw anyone from the village, I would leave at once.
When I entered the camp I felt oddly inconspicuous. I knew the Roma were secretive and distrustful of strangers, and as all the new arrivals had tasks to occupy them, no one seemed to notice me. Voices rang out and their speech baffled me; their dialect seemed to be more from India than from Spain or Hungary. I felt that I was a stranger walking through some foreign village unable to understand the customs or speak the language. At first I wondered briefly whether I was invisible, a nagging worry since I had returned to the past, but I was relieved to see proof that I was corporeal, my footprints in the mud and my shadow trailing me in the sunlit grass.
However, when I glanced around, I was disturbed to see that there were, in fact, a few older villagers who had come to visit the gypsy camp, perhaps as curious as I was, none who knew me, but I recognized them by their farmer's overalls. I moved away, hoping I wouldn't be noticed, and wandered in among the wagons. There I began to sense a mood of vitality and comradeship.
Two young boys cried out, "Gaja!" and one tried to grab my skirt before they ran away. A young mother seated on the back step of her wagon hummed an atonal melody in a high keening voice, and cradled a small child in her arms. She lowered the shoulder of her blouse and nestled her breast inside the little mouth while giving me a secretive smile. A very old man with a gray beard, leaning against a tree and smoking a clay pipe, nodded to me just as I heard the tinny sound of a guitar. I turned toward the music and I saw seated in a wagon a middle-aged man in a slouched cap who leaned over his instrument. He, too, smiled, flashing white teeth, and near him, a very old woman pulled a clothesline between two trees and frowned at me as her faded blanket flapped in her face.
Then I did see a man I recognized and I felt a stab of fear. He was talking with several farmers from the village who were unfamiliar, but his face was one I thought I knew. They were haggling with a tinker over some copper cups, and the gypsy had poured rum in them as proof of their worth. Did he give me a mean look from under his eyebrows as he took a sip?
I turned my back and almost tripped over a large pot tended by two women in long ruffled skirts. It steamed with a thick broth where lumps of some root vegetable swam, and I inhaled a spicy odor. I hesitated because the two boys who had teased me had returned with a dead muskrat, and collapsing on the ground beside the women, began to skin it. I was amazed to see the skill with which they slit the stomach, and with filthy fingers and fierce jerks, peeled back the fur. Then, placing it on a stone, one of the boys removed the entrails while another dismembered the muskrat's naked torso. All the pieces went into the pot except for a handful of innards thrown to a yellow dog who wolfed them down eagerly.
The longer I remained at the camp the more painful was the weight in my heart. Compared to the cheerful atmosphere, my own life seemed stagnant and colorless, and although the gypsy camp was destitute, it was as if a circus had come to town. I was an outsider with no true community, and the gypsies seemed bound together as one large family. As I watched them, hypnotized by their industry, an unexpected urge to crawl into one of the vardoes took hold of me, and leaving the farmers on the far side of the wagons, I sat down on a fallen log and drew my shawl over my hair.
There, as was my wont, I fell into a reverie, contemplating my predicament, and my gaze fell upon a discarded melon rind that had already attracted a swarm of yellow jackets feasting on the orange flesh. With an embittered heart I was reminded of the narrow-minded villagers whose bigotry and intolerance had stolen my freedom and for the hundredth time I thought what a mistake I had made to follow Peter Bradford back into the past.
He had warned me, "Marry me, and you will be marrying a corpse," but stubborn as I was, I had ignored his protestations. "I cannot live without you," I had wailed, caught in the throes of love.
Now I knew I did not belong in Collinsport in 1797, any more than I had the first time I had appeared here. It had been after the séance at Collinwood when the family had gathered around a table and attempted to contact the ghost of young Sarah. They were distressed because she had been appearing to David in the woods, and the family believed she was trying to reach them from the past — nearly two hundred years earlier. With painful clarity I remembered that ill-fated evening.
I had been drawn into the circle as a mere spectator with no part in the plan. As always, I was on the sidelines, an anxious member of the audience. Fingertips touching, candles flickering, Roger had evoked the spirits. And unexpectedly, I had been the one whisked magically — and disastrously — back to 1795. There, trapped in an age of ignorance and religious fervor, my modern ways had aroused suspicion, and I had been called a witch. I had been helpless to dispute the charge, and in spite of Peter's devotion, his skills, and his valiant efforts to defend me, I had been sent to the scaffold. It was my death, agonizing and terrifying, that released me from the spell cast by the séance and thrust me back to my own time.
There a new life awaited me! I left Collinwood to seek employment and began a fascinating new career in Bangor, Maine. I became a diligent working girl dressed in trim business suits, my hair pulled into a bun, an eager smile on my face. For a while I was busy and happy, delighting in my independence, savoring the taste of freedom.
But I was also lonely, and at night I pined for Peter's affection. For some reason I no longer understood, I fastened my heart to the idea of becoming his wife, an impossible dream, as he lived in another place and time. I fantasized a miracle, as in Brigadoon, but it was only the whimsy of a romantic girl. And then, through my discovery of an enchanted watch that had belonged to him, my wish came true! Longing for my champion spun a thread strong enough to pull me back into his world, and he came for me through the fog of centuries and drew me into his arms.
But, as in any fairy tale, not without a price.
In small towns, superstitions do not die, and the malicious buzzing was like that of a busy hive. A hive of yellow jackets with lethal stings, I thought, as I looked over at the discarded melon and watched the insects devour the soft flesh, digging for the green rind. They were unrelenting and merciless. When I shook my shawl at them, they flew away, but soon they returned, fiercer than ever. Soon the melon would be stripped of its fragrance and its juice.
I shivered. Still in danger of being accused of witchcraft, I was trapped in a closeted dwelling, a small cottage outside of the village. Boredom bewildered me, every day was like the one before, and my tasks were menial and repetitive. I was ashamed of my restlessness, but the monotony made me want to scream inside. I hungered for a fuller life, something more vital and challenging, my talents exercised, my mild-mannered personality enlivened in a busier, more bustling world. I remembered my time in Bangor and my new and exciting responsibilities with a wistful nostalgia. I knew there must be dreamers, poets, architects of fate, and I longed to live among them, but they were not here in Collinsport in 1797.
I also knew, outside of town, along the cliff that fell to the sea, there was a grand mansion with lives and loves within, but I was loath to return there, not knowing what I would discover or if they would even allow me to enter. In my own time I had been the governess there, a brash young boy in my charge, and I had been well cared for. But they only knew me now in this era as the Collinsport witch who had caused heartbreak and havoc.
I found myself remembering that last night at Collinwood, before I fled to Peter and the past, before I became a phantom — for that must be what I was now — when still a flesh-and-blood woman, I had received and turned a cold heart to a disturbing proposal of marriage from Barnabas Collins.
Once again I wondered what sort of marriage would that have been, wed to a supernatural creature. I had rejected my tormented suitor believing that I loved Peter Bradford more than life, and now I was haunted by my decision, just as I was tortured by the memory of the vampire's anguished entreaty, his fierce gaze, his hands gently sliding up my back, and his lips beneath my hair. I knew I should feel guilty for calling up these memories, but as they were only vague reminiscences, I gave them leave.
These days, forbidden to wander about, expected to remain an obedient wife, I spent many hours staring out the window at a garden full of weeds where all that flourished in that barren plot were jumbled and confused regrets. Again and again I suffered my moments on the scaffold, my throat twisted on fire. How had I survived? It was still a mystery, and all I knew was some poor woman had taken my place. I had returned magically to the twentieth century, and I had a strong recollection of a move to Bangor and an exciting job as a news reporter. This seemed a dream now, impossible to contemplate. Why had I thrown away a life of independence and self-respect? All that had come to an end when I was sucked into the vortex of centuries gone by, and back into Peter's arms. I still had no idea how it had happened, only that I had died. And lived again.
But nothing had prepared me for a solitary life of mending rough baskets, knitting socks, churning butter, or stirring porridge over a fire — no familiar culture to embrace me, no mother or sister to train me, or neighbor to instruct me. It was not the hard work that I minded — I was used to kitchen chores from my time at the orphanage — but the dreary, uneventful days. Peter's promise to take me to Boston was never mentioned, and moving west had become a forgotten dream. I was left alone in the cottage while Peter went off to work in his small law office, defending farmers and tradesmen, just as he had defended me. I knew he worked hard, and because he said it was all for us, for the hundredth time I thought how selfish I was to be dissatisfied.
I heard the shouts of children and, coming back to the world around me, I shook off my ennui, and I became aware of the now-bustling encampment. I rose and wandered again through the wagons, where I watched older women peeling potatoes in their laps and tending the cooking pots. Some were even chopping wood. Smoke rose from the fires, and I could taste a tangy odor in the air. Among the drab and dusty garments I began to see flowered skirts, vibrant colors, and a sprinkling of gold coins. Children raced after a dog — gleaming smiles in their smudged faces — and played with a stick and a rock, or waded in the mud. Two toddlers chased a bedraggled rooster under a wagon, but it turned on them with its sharp spurs and sent them squealing.
Excerpted from Dark Shadows by Lara Parker. Copyright © 2016 Dan Curtis Productions, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A great addition to the serie!
Not the best of The Dark Shadows that she has writen, but Lara is a fantastic and underrated writter,