In his first novel, the national bestselling The Book of Shadows, James Reese beguiled readers with a boldly imaginative, darkly erotic tale of awakening that introduced the captivating and deeply unusual Herculine. Now this extraordinary writer continues Herculine's incredible journey of self-discovery -- a search that will lead her into a world of shadows and perils, where she will taste the forbidden and find redemption. September 1826. Taught to trust ... and to learn by a quartet of remarkable saviors, Herculine is bound for America, leaving behind a strange and violent past in France for an uncertain future in an exotic new land. Arriving in Virginia, Herculine is led by fate to Mother-of-Venus, a mysterious old slave woman who is blessed with gifts both terrifying and strange, and to a young poet named Edgar Poe who is haunted by evils of the past. Under the mystical guidance of Mammy Venus, Herculine soon calls upon her powerful legacy to rescue Celia, a beautiful, damaged slave.
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August 31, 2006
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Excerpt from The Book of Spirits by James Reese
As I watched from the wharf, my stomach went sour; for here she came, down the bouncing gangway, in a collar and chains.
They were five in the debarking party: Celia, in a violet dress, with her matching eyes of amethyst; her wrangler; and two other men who'd come aboard to carry the stretcher bearing Celia's shivering, stammering master. He called himself Hunt: a name to shield him from scandal. Tolliver Bedloe, he was; possessed of plantations on the western shore of the Chesapeake, properties in Baltimore, Annapolis, and Richmond, stock certificates in banks and incorporated companies all down the seaboard, the lot of it inherited along with herds of livestock and some two hundred slaves. Of which Celia was one.
They made their way down a steeply set plank at the bow of the boat. The stern was already aswarm with stevedores and the like, the boat's holds thrown open, pulleys and slings and ropes swung into place. The gangway was set with strips of timber, meant for footholds; but they were placed to align with a man's stride, and so it was I watched Celia stumble. Her step was stunted. She showed none of her grace. But it was the odd sway of her full skirt that told it: she was shackled at the ankle as well as the wrist.
What had she done? Yes: I'd witnessed certain acts in the cabin across from mine, but of late I'd heard not the least discord. With Bedloe growing ever sicker -- a touch of le mal de mer, I thought -- all had been quiet.
Yet here she came, enchained. The collar -- more like a yoke -- around her long, lissome neck was of canvas, stretched drum-tight upon a wooden frame; through it poked iron prongs, upraised like beckoning fingers. The manacles were of rusted iron, and glinted red in the late-day light.