It doesn’t matter to Valerie Wiggins that most people believe Jason McLain killed his wife. She needs the three-time Oscar winner’s expertise in special effects if they are going to turn their local charity’s annual haunted house into a money maker. Besides, every since she first saw his picture in the tabloids, she’s been attracted to him: his piercing dark brown eyes, unruly brown hair, and unsmiling mouth. And even though he’s come to this small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains to hide, she won’t take no for an answer. Except once he says yes, he fears he’s pulled her into the darkness that continues to haunt him.
Valerie Wiggins parked her white Ford in front of a run-down, peak-roofed mountain cabin and cursed herself for standing up and giving that speech at the last WIN meeting. The squeaking door didn’t get oiled, it got volunteered. It was now her responsibility to create a “different” haunted house, and her job to make sure it was more spectacular, frightening, and mysterious than any other haunted house around.
Just what she needed, another job.
She didn’t have the time. She didn’t have the energy.
Cut the bull, she told herself as she stared at the cabin. The truth was, she did have the time. And the energy. And she didn’t mind being in charge of the project. What she didn’t want to do was talk to the man who lived in this house.
“We have just the person who can help us turn our haunted house into a success,” she’d said at the meeting that night. “Living right outside of town.”
As if every woman in the room didn’t know about Jason McLain.
So now, thanks to her big mouth, she was the one appointed to talk to Slaterville’s newest and most infamous resident. His reputation alone scared most of the other women.
His reputation scared Val.
Unless you knew, you’d never guess a man who’d won three Academy Awards for special effects lived in this house. If he was as rich as the papers had said, he sure wasn’t using his money to upgrade his property. In the six months since he’d moved to Slaterville, he’d done nothing to improve the exterior of the old Dalton place. The fence was broken in several places; beneath the snow, the small patch of lawn that had existed years before was no more than weeds; the bushes around the house were overgrown and dying; and the porch sagged. All of the wood needed a fresh coat of paint.
The only changes she could see from back when the place had stood abandoned for years were the broken windows had been replaced and heavy drapes and venetian blinds kept passersby from looking inside. There were certainly no signs of life. The snow hadn’t been shoveled from the walkway, no smoke curled from the chimney, and no lights showed behind the closed drapes and blinds. There was nothing to indicate anyone lived in the cabin except the tire tracks that led to the garage near the side door.
Or perhaps away from it.
Maybe he’s not home, Val thought as she opened her car door.
*****Jason heard two raps at the side door and grumbled into the near darkness of his living room. It had to be Bud, back from the store. He’d said he was going for a six-pack of beer, but he’d probably bought more and couldn’t open the door.
Again there were two raps.
Jason pushed himself up from the sofa and started toward the kitchen. Why had Bud come anyway? It wasn’t as though an invitation had been issued. The past was better forgotten, and that included friendships. Besides, in the past three years, Bud hadn’t exactly been Mr. Stand-By-Your-Side.
Jason had to admit, if only to himself, that had hurt.
He shook his head as he walked between the sink and the table, both of which were piled with dishes. Dammit all, he’d left Hollywood to find solitude, to get away from the memories. Two and a half years of being harassed by the police and media had been enough. His own doubts were enough.
If Bud expected him to be Mr. Jovial, he’d driven five hundred miles for nothing, and a few beers wouldn’t change that.
Haunted by Maris Soule
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Haunted by Maris Soule is a 2012 publication. I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
If are in the mood for a Halloween read , but want a dash of romance instead of werewolves and zombies, this book is one you might want to try.
Valerie runs a fundraiser for domestic violence victims and the annual Haunted House event brings in much needs funds each year. However, the props are old and outdated. Valerie needs some fresh ideas to make the event more successful.
Enter Jason McLain, former Hollywood special effects wizard. Jason has moved into the small community in Nevada to hide from the public eye. Jason's wife was murdered and he became the number one suspect. Tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, Jason barely escaped prison when the jury acquitted him on grounds of insufficient evidence.
Jason is just the guy Valerie needs for a few suggestions one how to create a spectacular Haunted House on a bare minimum budget.
She is aware of his past, but decides to risk approaching him to help with the fundraiser. Jason lives up to his reputation right away, but some kind of chemistry between the two is sparked as well. Valerie begins to believe Jason is innocent, but even Jason isn't so sure. It seems like bad luck follows him everywhere and his jealousy streak seems to trigger these episodes. But, Valerie is not going to give up on Jason. She is determined to get to the bottom of what happened to Jason's wife. However, her snooping just might be her undoing.
I enjoyed this short and easy to read romantic suspense novel for the most part. The mystery is just a little predictable and some of Jason's feelings were a little ridiculous, especially for a grown man. However, I do think the reminder that innocent until proven guilty is something we all need to hear from time to time. I also like the way Valerie stood her ground, both with her ex-husband and with the community when they were still unsure of Jason's innocence. It is also important to have a person in one's life who will stick with you through good and bad times. Jason didn't have a lot of folks stand by him when the chips were down. There is also the message that domestic violence victims to have a place to go to for help and they can successfully take charge of their lives. Valerie's staunch support brought out the truth and in doing so shamed many people who believed the worst. So, while the book was transparent is many ways it was still a good story with a sweet love story and worth your time and money. I think those who like the lighter type of mystery with a slightly sensual romance without a lot of graphic violence and won't give you nightmares on Halloween, you should check this one out. 3.5 rounded 4
I also love living in the country. I have childhood memories of catching pollywogs in the creek that ran by our two acres in Walnut Creek, California; being able to pick ripe peaches from the tree (also almonds, pears, English walnuts, apricots and more); and sitting in my “thinking” tree making up stories.
When I married my husband, we were living in Santa Barbara, but his father was ill and we decided to move to Michigan to be closer to him. It was supposed to be a short-term move (just a couple years, my husband said). I won’t tell you how many years we’ve now lived in Michigan, but we now have grown children and teenage granddaughters. I haven’t regretted the move. Michigan is a beautiful state, and for 27 years we lived in the rural community of Climax. What a perfect location for a romance writer, and what a neat place to plot a mystery with a lot of suspense. (Yes, there are some similarities between the real Climax and my imaginary Zenith in The Crows and As the Crow Flies, but the events and people in those books are definitely fictional.)
We’ve now moved close to Lake Michigan (so my husband is near his sailboat), and we spend our winters in Florida, not far from the Gulf Coast. Both locations feed my love of being near water (remember that creek I played in and Santa Barbara) and are ideal places to nurture my desire to write. Whether I’m writing a romance, a mystery, or a combination of the two, I’m probably going to include an animal or two and there’s a good chance the characters will live in the country, the mountains, or near water. I’ve often used Michigan and California as settings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Florida shows up in a future book. I’m sometimes asked if the characters in my books are based on me or someone I know. My answer is: Maybe bits and pieces, but my protagonists are always braver and smarter than I am (along with younger) and the antagonists are always nastier than the people I’ve known.
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Sounds Like Love
When Sam Blake walks into The Quarter Note, the bar that Megan McGuire and her father own, they are in desperate need of an entertainer. Sam’s statement that “I’ve been told I’m a pretty good guitar player” is an understatement. He’s not only good, he’s soon drawing in customers and changing their financial situation. He’s also enticing Megan in ways she doesn’t understand. She doesn’t want to get involved a man who will take off any day. She doesn’t want to get involved with any musician. After all, she made that mistake once, and as much as she loves her ten-year-old son, she’s older and wiser now. Or is she?
Set in the resort area of Shady Lake, Michigan, its more than the summer heat that has Megan questioning the crazy desire Sam so easily ignites.
Originally published in the mid-80s by Harlequin Temptation, Sounds Like Love has been revised and updated, yet maintains the sensuous romantic theme of the original story.