Guest Author Thursday: Joan Hall with House of Sorrow #newrelease #mystery #psychologicalfiction @JoanHallWrites

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

It’s my pleasure to welcome good friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall, to my blog today. Joan is here to share her new release House of Sorrow, the introduction to her Legends of Madeira series. You can find my five star review for this fantastic novella that blends history and suspense HERE.

As someone who has an extensive set of books about Robert F. Kennedy, I’m particularly fond the post she’s sharing today. Take it away, Joan!


House of Sorrow: June 1968 & Bobby Kennedy

Mae, thank you for hosting me today. It’s a pleasure to visit today. I’m excited to tell your readers about my newest release.

House of Sorrow is a short-story prequel to my upcoming novel Cold Dark Night, book one of my Legends of Madeira series. It’s the story of Ruth Hazelton, a reclusive older woman who lives in a two-story Victorian house in the fictional town of Madeira, New Mexico. Ruth reflects on her life, particularly when she and her husband Lee first moved to town.

I included some historical events in the book, as well as some personal memories. Most of the scenes occur in the late 1960s. One event is the assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy.

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“Senator Kennedy has been shot.” 

I still recall waking up to my mother’s words. Mom often had “premonitions” something bad was about to happen. It happened the day of JFK’s assassination and again with Bobby. She’d been unable to sleep that June night, so she turned on the television to hear the sad news. 

In the days following Bobby’s death, I saw his funeral train on television and remember how crowds lined the tracks between New York City and Washington, DC. I was only ten, but it made a profound impact on me.

Robert F. Kennedy at podium, standing in profile, crowd gathered around him
Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles shortly before his assassination (public domain photo)

Only two months earlier, I had been the one to first learn of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I hurried into the other room to tell my parents. It’s safe to say 1968 was a volatile year in America.

A few years ago, my husband and I visited DC and Arlington National Cemetery. Seeing the simple marker and single white cross on Bobby’s grave touched me more than the eternal flame at JFK’s.

Single white cross and headstone on field of green lawn, gravesite of Robert F. Kennedy
Photo by Joan Hall

Some may think this is weird, but when I looked at the surrounding hillside, the last line of the song, “Abraham, Martin, and John” came to mind. I could almost picture the four men strolling together on the hill, and it brought tears to my eyes.

In this passage, Ruth has just moved to Madeira and met her neighbor, Sam. It’s only a few days after RFK died. 

Excerpt:

Sam sat in silence for a few minutes. “Damn shame about Bobby Kennedy.”

“Yes, it was. I watched the funeral on television. So sad for Ethel, especially with her being pregnant. That poor child will never know his or her father.”

“Guess it wasn’t surprising at the number of people who lined the tracks as the train made its way to Washington. Not to mention those at the funeral. President and Mrs. Johnson. Even Nixon was there.”

“Coretta Scott King. You know it had to be hard on her, having lost her husband only two months ago. And Jackie, of course.” Ruth had long been an admirer of the former first lady. She’d watched JFK’s funeral on television and was impressed with Jackie’s poise and elegance in such difficult times. She managed to look classy in her black mourning clothes, her brother-in-law at her side.

“First Jack, now his brother. Not to mention Joe Jr. and their sister. I believe that family is cursed. What do you think?”

“I really don’t believe in curses.”

Sam scoffed. “Curses are real.”

“You think so?”

“I do.” He made a sweeping motion with his hand. “Take some of the people who have lived in this—” Sam shook his head. “Never mind.”

“Lived where? Madeira?”

“It’s not important. Besides, I take it you’re not superstitious.”

“I’m not. This may sound callous, but both President Kennedy and Bobby were politicians and public figures. They were bound to have enemies.”

“That’s true, but what about the other Kennedy children?”

“The oldest brother was killed during World War II. Kathleen’s death was simply a tragic accident.”

“You may be right. On the other hand, Jack’s and Bobby’s assassinations could be part of a conspiracy. They got rid of both brothers. Murdered Martin Luther King. With that war over there, this world is a mess.”

Blurb:

Promo graphic with book cover for House of Sorrow shows porch swing on covered front porch

Dream home or damned home? 

Ruth Hazelton is over the moon when her husband Lee agrees the nineteenth-century Victorian in Madeira, New Mexico, is the perfect home for them. While he starts his new job as police chief, she sets about unpacking and decorating.

But it’s not long before Ruth needs more. She becomes a fixture in the community, making time for everyone, volunteering, hosting events—she’s every bit the social butterfly her husband is not. Through her friendships, she learns several former residents of her home met with untimely deaths. If she were superstitious, she might fear a curse, but such nonsense doesn’t faze her.

Until the unthinkable happens.

Now, as the end of Ruth’s life draws near, she must find a way to convey her message and stop the cycle to prevent anyone else from suffering in the house of sorrow. 

Purchase Link

Connect with Joan:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |   Bookbub  |  Goodreads  |  Instagram

Bio box for author, Joan Hall

I was six when Bobby Kennedy died. I only have a grainy memory of a newscast. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I became fascinated with him, devouring books on his life, and collecting DVDs—both documentaries and TV movies. One of the things I loved best about House of Sorrow is how Joan spins back the clock to bring so many events of the 1960s and early 1970s to life in her story. It’s an entertaining novella which acts as lead in for what promises to be a most excellent series. I recommend heading to Amazon to ONE CLICK and snatch up your copy today!

Book Review Tuesday: House of Sorrow by Joan Hall @JoanHallWrites, The Street Party by Claire Seeber @claireseeber @bookouture #psychologicalfiction

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Thank you for joining me for another Book Review Tuesday. Today, I have a short story from friend and Story Empire colleague, Joan Hall. House of Sorrows serves as an introduction to Joan’s upcoming release Cold Dark Night, the first in her Legends of Madiera series. The second novel, The Street Party by Claire Seeber is the first of many NetGalley ARCs I hope to review in the weeks and months ahead. Both of these excellent novels fall into the category of psychological suspense.


BOOK BLURB:
Dream home or damned home?

Ruth Hazelton is over the moon when her husband Lee agrees the nineteenth-century Victorian in Madeira, New Mexico, is the perfect home for them. While he starts his new job as police chief, she sets about unpacking and decorating.

But it’s not long before Ruth needs more. She becomes a fixture in the community, making time for everyone, volunteering, hosting events—she’s every bit the social butterfly her husband is not. Through her friendships, she learns several former residents of her home met with untimely deaths. If she were superstitious, she might fear a curse, but such nonsense doesn’t faze her.

Until the unthinkable happens.

Now, as the end of Ruth’s life draws near, she must find a way to convey her message and stop the cycle to prevent anyone else from suffering in the house of sorrow.

MY REVIEW:

This short read is set mostly in the 1960s and serves as an introduction to the author’s upcoming Madeira series. Ruth Hazelton and her husband, Lee, have just moved into a beautiful old Victorian home. Lee has accepted a job as Madeira’s new police chief and the world is looking up for them.

Ruth is a wonderful character. Social and outgoing, someone who quickly establishes herself as a friendly face in her neighborhood and community. I particularly liked her friendship with her neighbor Sam. He’s a bit of a curmudgeon, opinionated, but highly likeable at the same time. He also believes in curses. It’s through Sam that Ruth learns several of her new home’s former residents died unexpectedly. The history of the house is a mystery that serves to open the door for Hall’s series.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the way the author wove events from the 1960s into the story. Some are delivered via journal entries from Ruth, others through narrative and dialogue. As someone who has long been fascinated by that time period, those references were highlights for me.

I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing how this series unfolds, and can’t wait for the release of the first full-length novel which will be set in present day. I have a passion for books that combine historical elements, old legends, and contemporary settings. Legends of Madeira promises to deliver all three!

5 STARS


BOOK BLURB:

The party was supposed to be the highlight of the summer. If only I’d known that night would destroy our lives…

All the neighbours were laughing, drinking out of plastic glasses and getting along. I almost felt happy. Almost forgot about the terrible argument earlier and the sinister messages I’d been receiving from a strange address all week, threatening to expose the lies behind my perfect life.

As we finished with the red and gold fireworks and welcomed everyone back to our house, I believed that everything would be okay.

But I didn’t know who I was inviting in.

I never could have imagined what would happen here, in our home, after I’d gone up to bed.

Everyone saw something different.

It’s my daughter’s word against the story the boy from down the road is telling. But how can I find out what really happened that night without everyone finding out the truth about me?

An absolutely gripping story of the secrets you would do anything to keep hidden, with a twist you just won’t see coming. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl, Big Little Lies and The Girl on the Train.

MY REVIEW:
Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for the ARC!

I was initially drawn to this story by the cover of the book, then I read the blurb which sounded delicious. The Street Party is told from the first person POVs of three different women—Ruby, Melissa, and Nella. Ruby and Melissa are good friends, while uber-rich Nella is a client of Melissa’s (who teaches yoga). When a street party is planned as a community fund-raiser, all three become involved, along with their teenage children.

The novel is written by a British author, so there was a slight adjustment for me with various references and slang. After a while I settled right in, especially as it became clear not everyone was as they appeared. There are enough crackling undercurrents and hidden motives to start a fire. As the lives of the three women and their families unfolded, I had specific opinions about each, but several of those changed over the course of the story.   

The first half of the book is pre-party, with the last half post-party. There is plenty of set-up and several seemingly random events which later come into play. When Nella’s daughter accuses Ruby’s son of inappropriate behavior toward Melissa’s stepdaughter (got that?) it sets off a chain of events that will alter the lives of all three women. The book takes a while to get off the ground, but keeps you flipping pages to discover how it all plays out.

This is a story that looks at what some people are willing to do to fit in, the sacrifices others make without even realizing the hole they’ve fallen into, and the fragility—and strengths—of family and friendships. Several of the plot threads surprised me. There is a large cast of characters but they’re easy to keep track of. By the end of the novel the various threads (and there are many) have all been woven into a neat bow. I wouldn’t term this a thriller as much as slow-build suspense with layers of mystery. Ruby is a strong, likable character. I was really cheering for her and Melissa throughout, but even the less than savory characters are presented in a way to make you understand their actions. Some of the men (and women) are positively wretched but their story arcs are well done. The writing is casual, which makes it easy to say “just one more chapter” which I did on several nights. I would read this author again.

4 STARS


And that’s another wrap for this week on reviews. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for a Book Spotlight, and on Thursday for a Guest Author post. Both feature new releases from authors I admire and have read before. I can’t wait to share their latest with you! In the meantime, I hope one of the above novels have snagged your attention, or you’re currently immersed in a book that won’t let you rest until you finish it. Aren’t they the best kind?

Happy reading!