A Tale of Two Houses
Since the release of my newest romance, In Love’s Own Time (Rebel Ink Press) this past February, I’ve been telling people it’s a contemporary/historical/paranormal/time travel/fantasy story but I’m not sure if they believe me – until they read it. In Love’s Own Time offers elements of all the sub-genres. As far as inspiration goes, I’ve shared several places the connection between a huge old Edwardian beauty in the small town where I live and my subdivision. In short, my neighborhood was a flourishing fruit farm with apple and peach orchards, strawberry fields, and more in the early 1900’s. Profits from the farm enabled the owner to build the house in 1904 but he died, unmarried and childless the next winter from pneumonia. Although some of the inspiration comes from this, it’s also a tale of two houses.
One is the house built with strawberry season profits. The home stands on almost a full block of land. Back around 1900, it was the upscale neighborhood for the up and coming to build homes but today it’s just another vintage neighborhood. This house acquired the name of “Twin Oaks” long after Howard Speakman built the place but I’ve admired it since moving to town. I discovered it by accident, a wrong turn onto a side street just off the beaten path and wondered for years about the story behind it. Because it reminded me of my own childhood home, I never forgot about it. When I moved to my present home and researched the history of the land, it delighted me I had a small connection between my place and the old beautiful house.
The second of two homes is the house where I spent my first and formative years in my hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri. Also brick, my childhood home – which my cousin and I sometimes called ‘Tara’ like Scarlett O’Hara’s plantation – rambled three stories tall too but it was built in the early 1880’s so it’s Victorian rather than Edwardian. The distinct differences might be visible only to a student of historical architecture or someone with a lot of diverse interests like me but they’re present. Built by a family of medical doctors who practiced at the hospital just up around the corner on the next street, our home passed back and forth between two prominent physicians’ families thanks to some intermarrying of sons and daughters (or maybe it was daughters and sons). When my parents bought it in the 1960’s, they were the first non-related folks to own the place.
So I grew up in a similar sort of house, one considered by many to be haunted. And the paranormal did seem like our normal there. When you live with the odd little things everyday you don’t think of them as unusual until you live somewhere else where glitch odd moments don’t happen.
Between these two houses, the actual history, and the idea of a ghost in the house, I came up with the story for In Love’s Own Time. Factor in my almost lifelong fascination with time travel, ghostly encounters, and love of history – you’ve got the elements for the story. And maybe the fact I adored the old movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir as a child and bought a DVD of it to share with my kids adds into the recipe too. I always thought it unfair the sea captain and the widow couldn’t be together until her death, sweet as the end of the movie might be so I conjured up a way someone in love with a ghost could cross the veils to be together in the flesh.
Here’s the blurb and an excerpt from In Love’s Own Time:
There may be no place like home and nothing like love…..when history teacher Lillian Dorsey inherits a three story Edwardian brick mansion from the grandfather who banished her pregnant mother decades before, it’s a no brainer. She’ll visit the place, see it and sell it. Instead Lillian’s captivated by the beautiful home and intrigued by the ghost of the original owner, Howard Speakman. Soon she’s flirting with the charming, witty gentleman who’s been dead for more than a century and before long, they admit it’s a mutual attraction. Still, when she’s alive and he’s dead, any shot at being together seems impossible.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way….one afternoon while pretending to visit the past the impossible becomes a brief reality. If they visited 1904 before, Lillian knows they can do it again and if so, she can prevent Howard’s untimely death. With a combination of love, powerful hope, and stubborn will, Lillian bends time to her will and returns to the summer of 1904. But Howard’s death looms ahead and if she’s to find a happy ending, she must save him from his original death.
“Lillian.” Howard sounded hoarse, his voice cracking with emotion although she wasn’t sure which one, fear, elation, or sorrow. “This is 1904.”
“How could it be?” Even as she protested, she knew it was true. The old house was new. The smell of fresh paint mingled with the Dutch cake aroma and as she’d noticed earlier, the book covers were bright. Howard’s sheet music pages never yellowed but sparkled unblemished white. It was true and if it was 1904, then Howard was alive. He wasn’t a ghost.
Lillian reached for him, stretched out her hand to touch him, and closed her fingers over his arm. Through the wool of his sleeve, his skin was warm, so alive, and tears formed in her eyes. Her right hand stroked the curve of his cheek and she clasped his hand with the other. He twined his fingers through hers, tight as if he might never let go, and pulled her right hand to his lips, brushing her skin with a faint, soft kiss.
“Oh, Howard.” Her voice broke. “Howard, you’re real.”
She could touch him now and she could smell him, a rich masculine aroma of soap and leather, and the outdoors. Before, he’d been a ghost, not tangible, not touchable but for now, he was both and she reveled in him with every sense. She touched his hair with trembling fingers and rubbed her cheek against his suit jacket. When she lifted her face, his eyes blazed with emotion and she knew before he bent down they’d kiss.
In her dream, the kiss’d been sweet but in reality, it was sweeter. His lips heated hers, melted, and moved against her mouth until she couldn’t breathe. She put her arms around his neck and he held her, one hand flat against her back. Until now, he’d been unattainable, almost fantasy, but now he was a man, a man who held her in his arms, and she wanted him. Desire burned like a wavering candle flame but without warning, Howard released her.
“Lillian, I forgot myself. You must forgive me.”
Her lips, bruised from his mouth, stretched into a smile. “I’ll never forgive you if you don’t kiss me again, Howard.”
“I shouldn’t.” His voice sounded muffled. “But I’ll, sweet Lillian, though I shouldn’t. However, for the moment I’m alive. Carpe diem!”
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