Okay, so I might be a little sensitive lately. My parents act oblivious to me, my old life is far away in San Francisco, and the gorgeous guy I just met tells me terrible stories about the infamous Madame Arnaud who lived here long ago, and about missing children and vengeful spirits. The kind of stories that are impossible to believe-until you're living in one of them, fighting to protect everyone you love...
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By Lynn Carthage
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Erika Mailman
All rights reserved.
Offered for immediate sale: outstanding 18th-century stone manor built in 1721 for French expatriate family. In failing condition, the house is nonetheless a must-see for history lovers. Three grand stories sit on 30,000 acres, with plenty of room for development. Offered at a bargain by American heir overseas. Please enquire at Hamilton & Sons Estate Agents, 9 Princes Square, Grenshire.
—Grenshire Argus advertisement, run September 30, 2009–present
You know you've done something pretty awful when your family moves because of it. Not just within San Francisco, nor within California ... not even within the country.
My stepdad, Steven, has a remote job, so it was no problem for him to relocate. Mom is a stay-at-home mom for Tabby; her job "traveled" too. As for me, they unenrolled me from school just a month before sophomore year ended.
When you're a major screwup, it helps if your step-dad has an ancestral mansion in England ready to move into. Well, not exactly ready. It's been uninhabited for a long time and needs some serious TLC, I heard him tell Mom. He'd been trying to sell it for years. But at least it's a place to live, and a place for me to reflect on my behavior and improve it.
My therapy would be a lot more effective if I could remember what I did.
Emerging from the tunnel of trees to the clearing where we could finally see my stepfather's manor, I let out a moan of disillusionment. This wasn't the crumbling but still-impressive castle surrounded by broad, grassy lawns I'd imagined back in California, with swans wafting snootily around a lily-ponded lake. Instead, it was a grim, stone-walled prison with the grounds so overgrown they were nearly impenetrable.
I had allowed myself to become interested, had thought there was a lovely poetry to the phrase, "ancestral mansion in England." But nothing could quell the immediate sense of grinding apprehension the manor gave me. Nothing about it felt right.
As we drove up into its shadow, the manor leaned down over us to look. More than idly curious, it practically rubbed its leathern hands together in glee. Visitors. At last.
It was built in the shape of a U, making it hard to see where exactly one of the wings ended since it was lost somewhere to our left in a thick group of trees. The central courtyard that we inched along was cobblestoned, the size of a grand but cheerless park.
"Um, how many ancestors did you have?" I asked.
"It does seem large for one family," Steven answered, sighing and looking at Mom. "The Arnauds were very powerful and wealthy in the early 1700s when this was built."
"And the size of our family ..." said Mom. Steven reached over and touched her cheek.
"We'll make it work," he said. He parked the car, turned off the engine, and got out. Mom sat there for a while, then turned around to check on Tabitha, my little sister, still sleeping in her car seat.
I got out and looked up at the Arnaud house while Steven started pulling luggage out of a hard plastic carrier atop the car. When I looked all the way to the top of the manor, my neck strained with the effort, my head hanging back heavily. God, how big is this place? There were hundreds of windows, dozens of gables, and a million stone designs of birds and beasts carved into the dark stone walls.
The manor's heavy breath stirred the hairs on the back of my neck. It surveyed me. It examined Mom and Steven and Tabby. Each of the windows looked smeared with time, but it seemed like the house could still see through them.
It would be easy to get lost in a house that size—and no one would find you.
I turned around and looked at the surrounding forest, ragged with illicit shrubs. It didn't look like any gardeners came to take care of this overwrought mess.
"No neighbors?" Mom asked.
Steven shook his head. "I think the original landholdings were even larger. There's no one else around for miles. This is the only house on Auldkirk Lane."
Mom unbuckled Tabby and pulled her out. "Welcome to your new home, sweetie," she said. My little sister rubbed her gray eyes, which were huge in her tiny face. She was wearing a headband with a pink flower on it, crooked from her nap. When she turned her head to look at the manor, I could see a tuft of snarled auburn hair in the back.
Steven grabbed the biggest suitcase, my mom's. I expected him to head toward the double wooden doors that clearly marked the main entry, but he ducked into a smaller door on the right wing, marked with a small stone roof.
"You'll be relieved," he called over his shoulder, "to see our quarters aren't quite as ancient as the rest of the house. The information the real estate people sent me was that there is a very comfortable living space in the east wing."
Mom and Tabby went inside directly behind him, and I heard Mom coo in amazement. I hesitated outside, unwilling to go through the portal and enter the house's influence. I waited, listening to the wind sing through the tree canopy. This was our new home. Because of me.
I lowered my head and followed them in—and saw why Mom was so surprised.
It was completely modern inside. Well, modern as of the 1970s. The living room had plaid and leather sofas, adorned with small circular pillows. The rug was a shag sunrise, as the colors moved in a rippling line from pale yellow to bright gold. Giant orbs hung on linked chains from the ceiling, hovering over the furniture to provide lighting.
Mom and I walked into the kitchen, which had avocado-colored appliances. With a little smile, she tried out the stove's gas burners. "Well, at least I won't have to use a cauldron," she murmured.
Behind the kitchen was a den, with a pigeonholed desk, a leather armchair, and a standing floor lamp whose lampshade was decorated with orange and brown stripes.
I looked for the bedrooms next. Oddly, there was a nursery with a crib and a dresser with waddling ducks painted on each drawer. I had to think: Had Steven said he'd been born in this house? Maybe this had been his room once.
The master bedroom, oversized and smelling slightly stuffy, was clearly not for me.
My room had a twin bed covered in a bright green spread, with matching carpet. If the room had windows, I was sure the drapes would have been the same glaring green. The effect was that I was a worm who'd burrowed into the dark heart of a lime.
On the plus side, the room was as large as a master suite, and the tiny bed viewed from the door looked like a forgotten slipper in a queen's dressing room. My room in California had been pretty small; this had possibility. I could have a lot of friends over. That is, if I could make some here in Grenshire.
I didn't mind leaving behind my stuff; everything was from IKEA anyway. Maybe Mom and I could cruise yard sales and do a shabby chic thing for my room.
A mirror hung above the dresser. I didn't look that bad, considering everything I'd been through. My long auburn hair was still reasonably wavy and I didn't need concealer to hide circles under my green eyes.
I'm not a knockout but last year I did manage to snag one of the hottest guys in school, Richard Spees. Total surprise here, because guys don't stop in the school hallway and pivot to keep their eyes on girls like me. I've seen that happen a lot, but always to someone else.
Luckily, I'm an athlete—a swimmer—so at least I don't worry about my weight, although I would really, really like to get rid of that one huge mole right in my cleavage. What little there is of that, that is. I definitely fail the pencil test Bethany told me about—it's when you put a pencil horizontally under your boob and see if it stays by itself.
I read constantly, and subsequently have the kind of vocabulary that makes English teachers' eyes light up (which doesn't exactly help with the guys, but I can't prevent the stuff that comes out of my mouth). Last year I took a creative writing class, and found something I thought I could be good at. I could be a swimming author. A literary mermaid.
I sat down on the edge of the bed. I didn't mind the color scheme, but the room had hardly any light. Why no windows? It sucked not to be able to get some fresh air. Maybe whoever designed this was worried about teens sneaking out the window at night.
I returned to the living room with a big sigh. "My room's acid green" I announced. No one said anything, and I gritted my teeth. They would see it as a complaint, and here I was trying to be a better daughter. Mom and Steven's parenting technique: ignores anything verging on whining. "It's okay," I amended. "Green's good"
Still no response.
"I'm sorry," I said.
Steven rescued me. "Any interest in seeing the rest of the house?" he asked, holding up what looked like floor plans.
"Yeah," I said. I gave him a big smile, but he wasn't ready to return it. Parents are so big on that punishment thing.
"Not right now," said Mom. "You go along. I'll stay with Tabby."
"You sure?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "My guess is, it's not the safest place for babies. You scout it out first."
"I don't imagine it's babyproofed," he said drily, and she laughed.
"Tell me if you see those medieval outlet covers," she said.
"Medieval? It's not that old," he protested.
"Could've fooled me," she said with a grin.
"All right," he said. "If I'm not back in an hour, call the fire department because I've probably fallen through a rotten floorboard."
"That's all I need," she said. "Seriously, be safe."
He kissed her and Tabby, and went back outside, with me following behind. The air was a little cooler now that it was late afternoon. I straightened my back; was someone watching me? It didn't help that the light was fading prematurely thanks to the intense foliage. The shadows of leaves agitated by the wind made strange patterns on the ground.
"Twilight at the haunted mansion" Steven intoned in a deep voice, and then he chuckled.
"Not so funny," I said. "There's a legitimate creep factor here"
He led me toward those big main doors I had seen before, and pulled from his pocket an enormous, antique-looking key. A man's anguished face made of iron was the lock; the key went into his open mouth. He looked like he was in the midst of a scream, and the key was meant to be his gag.
The doors were heavy. Steven's face turned red as he pushed one of them inward. It groaned like it hadn't been opened in centuries.
"Are you sure we should go in?" I asked.
"It'll be good to get some fresh air circulating," he said quietly.
Inside, holy crap. Huge. Dynastically huge. The entry hall with its vaulted ceiling was so large I could have thrown a rock with all my strength and it would only get halfway across the floor. The stones forming the floor were arranged in patterns of dark gray and lighter gray, creating a somber chessboard stretching into the distance.
The grand staircase at the other end was wide enough to hold dozens of people on each riser, and the chandelier hovering over us was so full of glass and iron that if it fell it would plow through the bedrock beneath the flooring, like a meteor. Most of one wall was taken up by a fireplace large enough to roast several standing horses—you know, if you ever wanted to.
The air felt museumlike. Cold. I tried to imagine the hall filled with life, lots of people in high ruffled collars smiling and laughing, and the sound of carriages rolling up to the entry outside, but all I could think was that all of them were long dead, and their dresses and breeches had rotted into sticky threads.
"Hello!" shouted Steven to the ceiling. It echoed back at him seconds later.
I wished he hadn't done that. It seemed—I don't know—-just wrong somehow. He started toward the stairs, and when he was halfway there, I ran to catch up with him. The run was long enough that I was out of breath when I got there—and I'm the girl who can hold her breath. My lungs are hard as canteens from all my years of swimming.
I practically needed my passport to cross that room. The leaded glass windows, at varying levels in the walls, let in a filtered sunlight that made the place more disturbing. Gigantic cobwebs, or maybe they were spiderwebs, hung everywhere, stretched between light sconces like an ethereal tapestry.
The stairs were steep but seemed to draw me upward. Come in, come in.
I remembered my initial aversion to entering the manor ... and now I was climbing up into its timeworn center. Some sort of invitation was being issued to me. Something lonely was made glad by our visit.
Steven climbed ahead of me; I kept some distance between us in case he started to fall. I didn't want to be a pair of dominoes with him.
Halfway up, I turned and looked down. Vertigo overcame me as I wavered there on the steps. For a second I was so sure I was going to fall that I clutched for the banister, furred with grime. After I steadied myself, I rubbed my hands on my jeans.
At the top of the stairs, I took a good look at the stained glass window that presided over the landing. Etched at the bottom was XXX, which made me snort because the image depicted was hardly X-rated. It showed two medieval knights. One was thrusting a spear into the other, who was rearing up with his sword. It looked like the one being impaled was going to seriously damage the other one when the sword came down.
Steven turned left, where he opened another set of double doors. We entered what had once been a ballroom. The curtains covering the floor-to-ceiling windows hung in shreds, their fibers simply too old to keep their shape against the sun's endless onslaught. The floor was a black-and-white marble parquet.
A trickle of sweat rolled from my temple. I felt like we were trespassing and were about to get caught at any minute. I wished Steven would walk a little more softly, but his heavy oxford shoes created their own small echo.
At the other end of the long room was an organ, large as a church's. It dominated the space, looking like a miniature factory with all its pipes and bellows.
Steven took off his sweatshirt and used it to sweep dust off the organ bench. A cloud enveloped him and he began sneezing. "This better be worth it" he said. "I actually really like this shirt" His voice sounded brittle in the huge space.
He sat down and began pushing his feet alternately on two large, slanted wooden panels on the floor. I could hear a sort of wheeze or breath deep within the organ as it came to life. He pressed down one of the keys. Nothing happened, but as he continued to work the pedals, he pressed again and a slender noise came. As he pumped life into the mechanism, music emerged, his fingers moving swiftly over the keys, jumping from octave to octave. He performed something I recognized from the classical music station he always played in the car.
He pulled a round lever that said VOX HUMANA and the sound instantly changed, became eerily like monks singing in the distance, their voices drifting up from the monastery walls.
"I didn't know you could play," I said. He was a master, and I'd never seen him so much as look at a piano before, other than Tabby's four-key toy in the shape of a blue hippopotamus.
"God, it's been a long time," he said. He pressed another pedal and the sound became louder.
"You'll wake the dead" I said. I leaned over his right shoulder and tried to play my own chord. To his credit, he didn't try to rearrange my fingers like my old piano teacher used to. But he had already stopped working the pedals, so I didn't get to hear how monstrous and discordant my guess was.
The profound silence of the vast house settled around us. I had the strange feeling that the house or maybe the organ had not appreciated his sudden, forceful playing ... as if he hadn't been respectful.
Please, get real, I told myself. The house isn't angry at us.
Steven stood up and the organ bench gave a stilted screech at the redistribution of weight. He tied his filthy sweatshirt around his waist and led me through an arched wooden door set in the side wall.
Excerpted from Haunted by Lynn Carthage. Copyright © 2015 Erika Mailman. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What great read!!! could not put it down. Cant wait for book two
Haunted (The Arnaud Legacy #1) tries to give an original twist to probably the most well-known ghost story plot in the world (protagonist moves into large home that turns out to be haunted) and up to some degree, it succeeds. Phoebe Irving is sixteen years old when her parents decide to move from San Francisco all the way to rural England. She knows it must be because she did something bad, something she can’t remember. But she tries to adapt to her new surroundings as well as she can. They live in a smaller appartment next door a collossal mansion that is the family house of her stepfather. But soon enough, Phoebe discovers the mansion is haunted by an organ-playing ghost – and not just some ghost. Madame Arnaud, who used to drink blood of children to stay alive forever. And now this evil presence has set her eyes on Tabby, Phoebe’s kid sister. It’s up to Phoebe, and her new friend Miles, to save her. The descriptions are atmospheric and haunting, and they set a good mood for the book. The book offers gothic horror, with some graphic descriptions of Madame Arnaud, but apart from that, the horror is more of the spine-chilling kind than the gorey type. It’s a solid read in the genre, and our heroine, Phoebe, is a strong and intriguing character. She doesn’t back down from a challenge, but instead faces it head on – a rare quality. Unfortunately, while the plot had some original elements (which I will not spoil here), it was also fairly predictable. I knew how it would end by the time I hit the halfway mark. Still entertaining, just less intriguing. On top of that, the ending left some things unanswered, and I would’ve preferred everything to wrap up nicely. I don’t mind sequels, but you need to tie up loose ends. All in all, it’s an enjoyable read, and the author holds a lot of promise – she writes descriptions well, and knows how to create a tense atmosphere. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
'Haunted' is the first book in a new young adult paranormal series. It follows our heroine, Phoebe, as she and her family move from her home in California to her stepfather's dilapidated family manor in England. Phoebe knows that they had to move because of her - due to something awful that she did - she just can't remember what it is. Phoebe immediately gets a creepy vibe from the house when they arrive, almost as if someone or something is watching her. She hears the local stories about the mansion being haunted by the original owner, Madame Arnaud, who abducts and kills children. Phoebe isn't sure what to believe, especially when she begins to experience really strange things in the manor that she can't logically explain. Nobody in her family will listen to her concerns, so she turns to Miles - the hot guy who has been giving her mixed signals - for information and help. What she finds goes deeper than she ever thought possible, and might just include her too. This was an intriguing and atmospheric novel that sets the tone and scene for the rest of the series. The setting was my favorite part of the book - the 18th-century mansion that has been left to deteriorate over the decades. The manor is the epitome of Gothic architecture, with detailed descriptions of the various rooms - the ballroom, the library, the main entryway - as well as intricate details - the stained glass windows and the pictures they show, the hundreds of small sculptures on the outside walls of the house, along with all the smells and sounds. The manor is a huge part of the story and is definitely the centerpiece of the book - all of the events and occurrences come back to it. The characters are well written, with each having their own distinct personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and problems. Phoebe - our main character - is also the narrator of the story, so we get to know her on a deeply personal level. We learn everything about her - her quirks, fears, the things she loves and hates, her emotions, and all the inner dialogue throughout the story. Seeing things from her point of view allows the reader to feel more connected to the characters as well as the mystery and paranormal events that occur throughout the book. The plot wasn't anything wholly original, but the author gave it a few twists and turns that made it fresh and unique in it's own way. No spoilers here, so I'll just say that the twists are big and alter the reader's perceptions in several ways. The writing was well done with a natural flow and conversational tone. There was just something about it that didn't grab my attention fully enough to pull me into the author's world. Don't get me wrong - there's nothing at all wrong with the story, the writing, or anything concerning the book. The issue is all on my end. I can't pinpoint the reason that I couldn't immerse myself inside of the story - even with the first person narrator. Because of this, I found my mind wandering at times and I wasn't very focused on the story or what was going on. I have to admit that I did grow a bit bored with the story - again, I don't have any specific reasons why this happened, it just did. I felt like it was going too slow and dragging things out, along with some stereotypical elements and boring aspects. All of these things diminished my interest and my overall experience with the book. Overall though, I would recommend this to fans of young adult fiction, especially those who enjoy fantasy, paranormal, ghost stories, and Gothic fiction. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Have you ever read a book where you could just skim through it and only read the conversations but by the end you know exactly what happened without having to read the rest? Well Haunted isn't a book you can do that with. Sometimes I find myself skimming ahead in books if they are slow or sometimes I just do it out of reflex. I found myself doing it out of reflex for this book but after five pages I realized I needed to go back and actually read everything. If I hadn't gone back I would have missed out on the moldering library scene and the beautiful the beautiful simile with the queen bee. So I restarted the book. As a reviewer/blogger, sometimes you feel like you don't have enough time to fully read a book word for word. But, I promise you, that this book is worth the read. Cover to cover, word for word. I think the part the really pulled me into the book was what could this girl have possibly done to warrant moving from California to the English countryside. Did she kill someone? Burn a house down? It has to be something horrendous because even she can't remember. And who is she, you might be asking? Well, I DON'T KNOW. She doesn't use her name for a while and that makes it all the more mysterious, to me at least. But she tells us her sisters, mothers and stepfathers name. And we even learn the name of the hottest guy in her old school. But who is she? Hmmm. I think I will leave that out. So you now have to figure that out for yourself. Haha, just kidding. Her name is Phoebe. I seriously haven't heard that name since Hey, Arnold. But Phoebe likes to swim and seems very eccentric when you first meet her. She goes through a few stages of mentality. First she thinks she is crazy because she hears things. Then she thinks she has schizophrenia because she has been seeing things. If I was Phoebe when all of this started happening I probably would have crawled into bed and stayed there. But, unlike how I would be, Phoebe wants answers. As any good protagonist/heroin would. I give her points for bravery. This book has a strong family aspect to it. Phoebe would do anything to protect her little sister, Tabby. But at the same time there is a lot of resentment and jealousy going on. I can understand that. Phoebe was an only child for almost all of her adolescent life and then all of a sudden her mom is having a baby. That can definitely be something that would hit any child hard. But I don't think Phoebe's resentment is towards her sister. I think it is towards her mother and Steven. She feels like her mother is ignoring her and she feels like she is no longer Steven's child even though he has never treated her as anything less than his daughter. Something felt off with this book. Not meaning the writing or anything. But when Phoebe talked to her parents they didn't really seem to notice her. Steven did, but he also seemed to be trying to ignore her. So this kind of made me wonder what was going on. Later on I obviously found out what was going on but the whole Phoebe being ignored thing kind of tipped me off. I didn't completely guess what was going on but the idea I had went down the same path. But Haunted lives up to its title. It is a very haunting and it had me questioning my mental health one point. To read the rest of this review and others likes it please go to hellojennyreviews.blogspot.com