Nine years after leaving in disgrace, Olivia Morrison is coming home again with her eight-year-old, Sara, to put things right with the Archer clan. But there is no welcome for the prodigal daughter at the lavish Louisiana estate. Her stepcousin, Seth, once her only comfort, is icy, dangerously attractive - and engaged. Her formidable stepgrandfather collapses with a heart attack at the sight of her, gasping her dead mother's name: "Selena!" The bayou echoes with memories of her mother's mysterious death. Suicide by drowning, they said. But Olivia's terrifying nightmares suggest another story. She is determined to learn the truth, and to face a newly ignited passion for Seth, who is too close for comfort, despite his vows. When a new danger threatens her and her daughter, Olivia must find the courage to confront her old demons ... and uncover a shocking secret buried in the long-forgotten past.... From the Paperback edition.
The fainthearted should be warned: Robards (The Midnight Hour) has crafted a mossy modern gothic drenched in gore. In northern Louisiana, little girls die at the hands of a twisted villain, and the author's detached style makes the killings' gruesomeness especially hard to take. The psychotic murderer has kidnapped four girls over the course of a decade, and he's ready to strike again. Will the next victim be eight-year-old Sara, weight-conscious daughter of broke, divorced Olivia Morrison? Or will it be eight-year-old Chloe, glamorous offspring of single dad Seth Archer, Olivia's stepcousin? Livvy and Seth remain blissfully ignorant of lurking danger, consumed with the welter of contradictory emotions kicked up by the ongoing drama in their family. Raised by her stepfamily, the wealthy Archer clan, Livvy left La Angelle Plantation nine years ago to become the teen bride of a no-good cowboy. She has just returned to the Louisiana estate, humbled by her greatly reduced circumstances and with daughter Sara in tow. Though she is welcomed back, Livvy is haunted by shadowy, frightening nightmares and the mystery surrounding her mother's death almost 20 years ago. Robards conveys the dusty heat of the Louisiana summer, and has an ear for the nuances of dialogue. But the cast of characters is so big, and the dramatics so unrelenting, that readers never have a chance to fully absorb the dynamics of the clan, and the serial killings remain an unintegrated subplot till the very end. When the bogeyman makes a move close to home, and Livvy and Seth get romantically involved, the murder mystery and the love story finally, satisfyingly, converge. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 08, 2001
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Excerpt from Ghost Moon by Karen Robards
"Mom, I wet the bed." The small, shamed voice and the little hand that went with it tugged Louise Hardin out of a deep sleep. She opened one groggy eye to discover her daughter Melissa, standing at her bedside in the darkened room. Behind her, the alarm clock glowed the time: one a.m.
"Mom." Missy's hand tugged once more at the long sleeve of Louise's pale green nylon nightgown.
"Oh, Missy, no! Not again." Louise's whisper was despairing as she rolled out of bed, careful not to disturb her husband, Brock, who slumbered peacefully beside her. Brock had to get up early, at quarter to seven, to be at the office by eight. As he said, the rest of them could sleep all day if they chose, but he had to earn a living. Besides, he hated the fact that Missy sometimes still wet the bed. He was a pediatrician, he knew Missy should be over wetting the bed by now, and he tended to take her frequent accidents personally.
Consequently, Louise, Missy, and her ten-year-old sister, Heidi, conspired to conceal Missy's accidents whenever possible.
"I'm sorry, Mom," Missy offered in a tiny voice when they gained the relative safety of the hallway outside the bedroom. The blue shag carpet felt soft and warm beneath Louise's bare feet. Through the hall window, left uncurtained because it was small and high and on the second floor, Louise could see pinpricks of tiny stars and a wan sickle moon drifting against the black sky. "At least this time I dreamed I was on the potty. It seemed so real! And then I was all wet, and I woke up and I wasn't on the potty at all."
"All your dreams seem so real." If Louise's voice was just a tad dry, she couldn't help it. She was really, really tired, and this was getting to be almost a nightly occurrence. As a seven-year-old, Missy was getting her up at night almost as much as she had when she was a baby.
Light glowed around the partially closed door of the hall bathroom, illuminating the path to Missy's bedroom, which was at the far end of the hall, past Heidi's bedroom and a smaller guest bedroom. Louise had started leaving the light on at night because, in addition to wetting her bed, Missy had suddenly become afraid of the dark. She had nightmares about monsters hiding in her room and watching her as she slept. Sometimes she woke up screaming, and Louise would jump from bed like she had been shot and race down the hall to find her daughter huddled in the center of her bed, in a ball, with the covers pulled over her head, crying her eyes out and gasping something that made no sense. Inevitably, Louise ended up bringing Missy into bed with her and Brock, a practice of which he strongly disapproved. That, Brock informed her, was undoubtedly a large part of Missy's problem. Louise treated her like a baby, rewarding her misdeeds by giving her attention (which was what Brock said she wanted all along) when Missy should have been disciplined instead. Louise knew that Brock probably knew best--as he frequently pointed out, he was the expert--but she could not find it in her heart to punish her seven-year-old daughter for being afraid of the dark. Or for wetting the bed. Or, as Brock said, for nearly anything at all.
The ammonialike smell of urine struck Louise in the face as soon as she stepped inside Missy's room. She sighed. Missy's hand twitched in hers.
"I'm really sorry, Mom," Missy offered again.
Without a word, Louise let go of Missy's hand, closed the door, turned on the light, and crossed to the chest to extract a clean nightgown from a drawer. When she turned around, nightgown in hand, she was frowning. Maybe Brock was right, she thought. Maybe she should try being a little tougher on Missy. She was really becoming tired of getting up in the middle of almost every single night.
Accustomed to the ritual, Missy had already pulled her wet nightgown off and was in the act of dropping it on the floor. Lips thinning, Louise moved to her daughter's side and tugged the dry nightgown over Missy's head. As the gown fell into place, she reached around behind Missy's neck to free the long dark brown braid of her daughter's hair. When Missy glanced quickly up at her, her big hazel eyes questioning, Louise gave the braid a small tug.
"You can help me change the sheets," she said, with more sternness than was usual for her.
"Are you mad at me, Mom?" Missy asked humbly, as the two of them worked together to strip the wet sheets from the bed. Louise's heart smote her. Missy was so very little, after all. And she was small for her age. She'd been born six weeks premature, and Louise had often thought that her early arrival might account for some of Missy's problems. Her body had just not yet matured as much as that of most seven-year-olds. Brock, of course, said that was nonsense.