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Released: April 2017
ISBN: 9781370803514
ASIN: B06WVZDNRQ
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GRAY PLACES
Author: Julia Byrd
Length: Novel
Genre: Gothic Romance
Price: $3.99

1790s Yorkshire, England - Katherine Gilbert sets out for Wainforth Manor in North Yorkshire to fulfill her father’s last request. The master of Wainforth, Thomas Norcliffe, does not welcome her unannounced arrival, so Katherine must tread carefully around his dark moods while attempting to unlock the history buried in his ancestral home.

After she receives more than one whispered warning from the townspeople in Wainforth Village, Katherine’s initial audacity begins to waver. Deadly secrets from the Norcliffe family’s past are resurfacing, and Katherine begins to realize that the biggest danger lies within herself—the wisest course is to leave, but she wants to stay at Wainforth Manor and uncover the truth about Thomas Norcliffe.

Excerpt
Rattling down the road in a musty carriage toward a strange man’s home with the intention of introducing oneself and securing an invitation to stay awhile is a good moment to discard concern for societal approbation. So when I heard a female voice holler out from the hedges along the country thoroughfare, I did not hesitate to scramble hastily across the width of the carriage bench in order to trace the source of the noise. I had just stuck my head through the small window when I heard her again.

“Whoa!” she cried, and I craned my neck behind us to catch a glimpse. “Whoa, driver!”

I did not stop to think about whether she might have had ill intentions or been working on behalf of a gang of highwaymen. I pounded on the roof of the carriage interior to alert the driver, Mr. Brown. I had hired him that morning in Peterborough to take me to Wainforth Village, and his courtesy was buffed to a shine by a substantial fare.

Mr. Brown brought the horses up sharply. I had unwisely failed to renegotiate my center of gravity prior to this deceleration and thus slid to my knees on the carriage floor. While giving thanks for the privacy of a hired hack, I clambered back to the bench and untangled my skirts. Mr. Brown was responding to the woman’s hail.

“Yes, sister? What’s this fuss?” he called back as the vehicle jerked to a halt. I decided the situation was safe enough, and curious enough, for me to emerge, especially in my new independent incarnation. To my considerable surprise, our delay was created by a nun in a black-and-white habit who scurried toward us at a swaying trot. Before I could say a word, she resumed her shouting.

“Did you see him? Did you see our lord and master? We must follow his lead, we must not stray from his path!”

She had already trotted past the carriage in the narrow space between it and the hedge, but then she suddenly halted and reversed course. She swung around to face me. Her skin was damp and hectic, her expression desperate. I hung half out of the carriage, clinging with my left hand to a strap just inside the door. The muscle in my upper arm began to quiver as the holy woman hissed at me.

“Cease this delay immediately. You must come with me now, and we will find him together. He cannot elude me much longer.”

I gaped at her for a moment, then fell naturally into my most well-trod mental pathway, which was calm and factual. “Sister, you appear to be overexerted. I am headed to Wainforth Village. Would you care to accompany me these last few miles?”

The nun reached out as if to clutch at me, then recoiled. Her mouth twisted to a sneer. “Foolish woman! We all have only limited hope in this world or the next, and you are too blind to see when hope must be chased.”

With that cryptic pronouncement, she turned and angled for a stile in the stone fence that bordered the road. I caught a glimpse of a sturdy black shoe and pale ankle as she clambered over the gate and off toward a copse of trees between the fields.

Mr. Brown craned his head around the side of the carriage from his perch on the front bench. “Do you want me to go after her, Miss Gilbert?”

I considered the question. On the one hand, clearly the nun should not be left alone overlong in the countryside, even fairly close to the village. It would be dark in another few hours, and the air would surely be much colder overnight. She did not seem, at the moment, capable of undertaking rational thought. On the other hand, I knew neither her name nor anything else about her. She was hardly my business. Finally I shook my head. “No, Mr. Brown, please drive on. That woman is long gone now.”

It was true, I could no longer see her black habit. Maybe she went to pray at a secluded altar hidden in the trees, I told myself, not believing it for a moment.

What the reviewers are saying
5 fangirling, hysterically squealing stars. Need I say more? Yes I do . . . This isn't just some historical costume drama-slash-romance. No, this is a costume MYSTERY. Which kind of surprised me at first, but when I got into it, I was left completely intrigued (and confused - what's actually going on here?). Is Mr. Norcliffe, brooding and dark as he is, the bad guy? Or if he isn't, then who is? Because something truly sketchy is going on. Luckily we've got a headstrong and witty female protoganist prepared to dive in deeper as she arrives as Mr. Norcliffe's estate - as an uninvited guest, mind you . . . Katherine Gilbert is sharp-tongued, brave, down-to-earth and everything you'd want in a heroine, especially in a book set in this time and age. I adored her to bits, although she does have some weak, human moments that I can easily forgive her for. I truly loved this book, and it gave me a taste of - and thirst for - romantic mysteries, a genre I really haven't explored until now. ~ Carina Elise, Goodreads

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. . . many of the elements fit well into the gothic-genre. There is death and darkness, unexplained events, and a mystery that is gradually introduced and uncovered, and this easily had me hooked. All in all I think this ties up nicely into an entertaining debut novel that is both character- and plot-driven. The author told me she had fun writing it and I can definitely tell; a lot of care has gone into the plot, the characters, and the research for the world-building. Recommended if you’re looking for a light read that includes both romance and mystery! ~ Ann Reads Them blog

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