Investigating a noise in the attic of her historic home, Maggie Holliday encounters a handsome man in Civil War uniform. He calls her “Isabel,” seduces her in ways the shy academic had never dreamed of…then literally vanishes.
With every fleeting visit, Maggie’s mysterious lover—Ethan—takes her closer to the edge of ecstasy and madness. Is he really a ghost? Far from chilling her, his touch is incendiary—it all feels so real and so very, very good. And so familiar.
Ethan insists Maggie is the reincarnation of his long-lost love. And after a few incredible nights in his arms, Maggie is inclined to believe him. But does she dare surrender to a passion that transcends time, tragedy…and even death?
A plastic glass of champagne in one hand and the diary in the other, Maggie stepped out onto her front porch into a picture perfect spring twilight. There was as yet no sign of the predicted storm, and so she wasn’t overly worried about dampness seeping into the diary’s century-and-a-half-old wood pulp pages. Settling onto the swing seat with a satisfied sigh, she set it to a gentle rocking. Every square inch of her body ached but it was a good ache, an earned ache, an ache that brought about a smile because it came of laboring over something you’d wanted for a very long time but never really expected to have.
Like the diary, the dusty bottle of vintage French champagne setting out on her kitchen counter had come as a welcome surprise. There hadn’t been a note, but she surmised it must be a housewarming gift from her realtor. She’d planned to share it
with Richard later that night, but after their argument she’d told herself that a solo celebration was better than breaking open bubbly with a bully.
The argument with Richard, upsetting as it had been, brought one big benefit – he hadn’t stuck around to spend the night. With or without the Big O, from what she could tell make-up sex was way overrated. Maybe it worked better after a bring-down-the-roof shouting match but since she and Richard never really got into those, sex afterward felt just as tepid and tense and lacking in resolution as the argument preceding it. More so actually – at least when you argued, you got to keep your clothes on.
Thank God for her girlfriends. Her romance novelist friend, Becky had sent her off with a hug and a lifetime subscription to Old House Magazine. Her buddy in Baltimore’s Little Italy, Lucia, had lined up her brother-in-law’s moving company and made sure Maggie got the “family” rate. Her other pal, Sharon, who lived in Fredericksburg and worked in the Human Resources department at Mary Washington, had called Maggie on her cell the moment the assistant professorship had hit the university’s job listing web page and urged her to apply.Not once had anyone opened her mouth to voice a negative thought let alone hint that Maggie might be imposing on their time. In contrast, Richard had done nothing but complain since he’d arrived an hour late that morning. As much as he loved to brag about how much weight he could bench press at the gym, during the move he’d barely lifted a finger let alone a hammer. She’d had to nail down that shutter herself while he roamed the perimeters of her property finding problems to point out. Oh, he might talk a good game about his prowess with power tools, but she’d yet to see him do more than change out a light bulb and even then he waited for the last one in a fixture to burn out. The next man she dated was going to be made of sterner stuff. If Richard had lived in the 1860s, he wouldn’t have had a prayer of surviving the Civil War – not even as a civilian.
That thought brought her back to the diary. Setting her champagne on the window ledge, she carefully opened the book. As she did, a sprig of dried lavender fell out onto her lap. Even after more than a century spent pressed between the diary pages, it still carried a hint of the herb’s distinctive fragrance. What a weird coincidence. Maggie had tucked lavender inside her high school and college yearbooks as well as every photo album and scrapbook she owned. Chills trickling down her spine, she adjusted her glasses and began to read.
Before today, you were a blank slate or, in my case, a book of blank pages waiting to be written upon, but then that is what my life has been until now – blank, empty, restless with wanting. With all this talk of war – six more Southern states have joined South Carolina in succeeding from the Union – come spring there may be no balls or barbecues, cotillions or come-outs to attend, which perhaps is just as well, for when folks do get together, all gay conversation swiftly sours to wondering how soon Virginia will follow suit in the fight to preserve Southern liberty.
But I digress, for the very point of this diary entry wasn’t to fret over some silly war that everyone swears the South will win in a matter of months anyhow. No, Dearest Friend and Secret Confidante, the entire purpose of my writing is to describe Him. Captain Ethan O’Malley, the kindest, handsomest, most dashing man I’ve encountered in all my born days. And to think were it not for Mama sending me downtown to fetch flour and brown sugar from Mr. Potter’s store, I might have missed him entirely!
I was headed to the counter to pay for my purchases when men’s raised voices from the front of the store had me stalling my steps. “Get on with you, you damned Yank,” Mr. Potter yelled. “I don’t care how much of Abe Lincoln’s gold lines your pockets, I’d see my family starve before I take one red cent from you.”
“Now see here, sir, it’s a free country and I’ve just as much right to trade here as the next man,” a second man, presumably the Yank, answered. “Whatever money I have was come by as honestly as yours to you – perhaps more so as my interests do not rely on the sweat of slaves.”
Being born and raised in a seaport city such as Fredericksburg, I easily detected the shortened ‘r” and elongated “a” in the stranger’s speech marking him as a New Englander. Accent aside, his bold baritone had me lifting my head to peak above the shelving. Even without my spectacles, I could see he was tall and powerfully built. Standing across the counter from him, poor Mr. Potter looked positively puny.
“Get on with you, you abolitionist devil. The only slave on these premises is me, and I still say you’re money’s no good here.”
Curiosity has always been one of my more lamentable failings, and I will admit if only within these pages that I couldn’t bear the thought of the Yank walking out without my so much as glimpsing his face. I bolted out of the aisle – and ran smack into a pyramid of foodstuffs set out for display.
Cans and jars crashed to the floor, scattering pickles and pork and beans over the clean swept boards, tins rolling to the four corners of the store. I stared about at chaos I’d created, for once unable to credit the evidence of my weak eyes.
Scowl black as Abe Lincoln’s beard, Mr. Potter rounded the counter and bore down upon me. “Isabel Earnshaw, you’ll be the death of me yet. That’s the third display you’ve knocked down this month. When in tarnation are you going to start wearing those spectacles of yours?
I dropped to my hands and knees to gather up the bits of broken glass, hoping to let the tender topic of eyewear die. “I’m terrible sorry, Mr. Potter, truly I am, only please don’t tell my mother. She’ll never let me out of the house again if you do.” I knew I was a vain girl to carry on so over a silly pair of spectacles and yet the fear I’d die an old maid and go to my grave without ever knowing a man’s touch had me shoving them into my pocket every chance I got.
He stood far enough away that his face looked fuzzy, but I could hear the softening in his voice. “Don’t fret yourself, Isabel, and for Lord’s sake don’t go getting cut on account of not being able to see any further than the end of your nose. I’ll fetch the mop from the stockroom. It’ll be our little secret this time again but when next you come in, I expect to see spectacles on that pretty face of yours.”
I was making good progress on gathering up the broken bits when a burning sensation struck my thumb. I looked down to see blood soaking through my glove. Fiddlesticks. I’d gone and cut myself just as Mr. Potter predicted.
Footfalls crunching on glass came toward me. Thinking it must be Mr. Potter returned, I shoved my bleeding hand behind my back. A pair of big booted feet that surely couldn’t belong to the shopkeeper drew up before me, the tops polished shiny as glass. “The wages of sin, I suppose, or in your case, eavesdropping.”
I lifted my gaze and looked up into a grinning and very handsome face. It was the Yank. He must have witnessed my humiliation through the plate glass storefront and come back to gloat.
Minded that even if I was caught out in a compromising position, I was still a lady – a Southern lady, I forced my chin up and my shoulders back. “I assure you, sir, I was doing no such thing. Why, I’ve never been so insulted in all my born days.”
“That only leaves your un-born ones, then.” Before I could answer that glib remark, he reached down a hand to help me up. “Here, let’s have a look at that cut.”
I hesitated. Though he spoke softly and with a friendly smile, I could see he was a man accustomed to command. Like a guilty child, I slowly brought my bleeding hand ‘round from behind my back.
Strong fingers encircled about my wrist, bringing me to my feet. Standing before him, I was keenly aware of how good he smelled, some combination of bay rum and leather and myriad manly scents I couldn’t readily identify but wanted to drown myself in all the same.
He gently peeled off my glove, and I felt the tingle of his touch in not just the hand he held but indeed in all of my limbs. He bent his head to examine my injury, a hank of dark hair falling low over his high brow, and I had the urge to reach out with my free hand and smooth its feathery weight back from his face. “I’ll be as gentle as I may but best brace yourself,” he warned, looking up at me through thickly-lashed blue eyes. “This may sting.” I felt a twinge and realized he’d plucked out the fragment. A handkerchief materialized in his hand, and he wound it about my thumb to staunch the blood.
He gave me back my hand, and I caught myself staring at his – the dark hairs dusting the broad back, the long, thick fingers that had touched me with such knowing, such gentleness. “Better now?”
I swallowed hard, feeling overheated suddenly though it was a might chilly inside the store. “Y-yes, thank you.”
In truth, I scarcely noticed my smarting digit, so caught up was I in studying my savior from under the screen of my lashes. He looked to be a good sight older than I, closer to thirty than my nineteen. Whatever his age, he was quite purely beautiful. His eyes were the bluest I’d ever seen outside of the sky, and I caught myself staring at his mouth, the top lip a bow-shape, the bottom lip full and moist, wondering what it would feel like to kiss him. Not the quick, dry peck I’d experienced once so far from a fair-weather beau, but a real kiss, the kind I’d read about in the naughty novels my friend, Candice, smuggled into my room.
Letting my gaze drop to his powerful torso and slender waist, all at once I understood why Mr. Potter had treated him so sourly. The object of my unabashed admiration wore the dark blue sackcloth coat and kepi cap of an officer in the Federal Army. The broad shoulders I’d been covertly admiring were decked out in the double bars denoting a captain’s rank.
As if reading my mind, he shot me a wink and doffed his cap, revealing a crown of thick, waving hair the blue-black of a crow’s wing. “Captain Ethan O’Malley at your service, miss.”
I took an unsteady step back. “I’m much obliged for your help, sir.”
He shrugged, the movement making me once again aware of the breadth of his shoulders. “I break a lot of things myself…on account of my size,” he added with a sideways wink. “My mother says I’m like a bull in a china shop.”
“It’s my eyes,” I found myself confiding, warming to his easy manner. “They’ve been weak from birth, and I can’t abide wearing spectacles.”
His gaze met mine and a thrill the likes of which I’d never before known bolted through me. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to hide away such beautiful brown eyes.”
Habit had me fluttering my lashes, though in truth I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs. He stood so close I could feel his breath falling upon my cheek, all but taste the rich chicory of the coffee he must have drunk earlier, and see the eagle motif on the four brass buttons fronting his frockcoat.
“May I be so bold as to inquire as to your name?”
Fiddlesticks, where were my manners? “Isabel Earnshaw.” I stuck out my hand, careful to keep my hurt thumb at bay.
He took it, cradling it in his big, warm one. “Isabel, that’s a very pretty name. It suits you though were you my sweetheart, I’d call you Belle.”
Until now the working of my woman’s parts had remained more or less a mystery, but when he slid his gaze over me as though we were sweethearts in truth, I couldn’t help noticing how my breasts budded to life, the points pressing against the confines of my corset as if begging for his touch.
Face afire, I stepped back, shamefully aware of a sweet, stabbing ache striking low in my belly. “You are forward, sir, to make so free with my given name.”
“And you, Miss Earnshaw, are very beautiful with or without spectacles.” There it was again, that flash of white-toothed smile that made everything that transpired between us seem perfectly easy and natural as though it was fated to be.
Hoping to return the conversation to a more respectable footing, I found my voice to inquire, “O’Malley is an Irish name, is it not?”
He nodded. “It is. I suppose you could say I’m a son of Erin as I was born in County Cork, but I don’t remember much of anything about Ireland. When my parents brought me over, I was scarcely out of skirts. America is the only country I own as home, the greatest free nation on earth. I’d give my life to preserve it.”
This time when he spoke, there wasn’t so much as a hint of humor in his bearing or tone, and I was minded that no matter how blue his eyes or how warm his smile, we were on opposing sides of the current conflict, as far apart as if we hailed from two separate homelands indeed.
Mr. Potter chose that moment to emerge from the stockroom with the bucket and mop. Catching his scowl, I gathered that fraternizing with a Federal soldier must not fall into the category of “little secrets” he would be willing to keep for me.
He let the mop drop and marched up to the captain, picking his path through the carnage of canned goods. “I thought I told you to git.”
Stomach dropping to my toes, I turned to Captain O’Malley. His face was flushed, a muscle ticked in his jaw, and his blue eyes wore a dark, dangerous glint.
For safety’s sake – Mr. Potter’s – I stepped between the two men. “It’s my fault, Mr. Potter. I cut myself, and Captain O’Malley was kind enough to come to my aid.” Though it hurt my pride something mortal, I held up my swaddled thumb.
Mr. Potter answered with a grudging nod and handed me my market basket. “I’ll add these items to your pa’s account. You’d best be getting on home.”
My cheeks heating, I turned to Captain O’Malley. “Thank you for your kindness, sir, and I am sorry for your handkerchief.” The latter was a fib if not an outright lie, for already I was making plans to preserve it as a memento.
“May I see you home at least?” His chiseled features wore a look that was at once urgent and sad, and for the first time I considered that perhaps he wasn’t only flirting, that our encounter, albeit brief, had meant something to him, too.
Aware of Mr. Potter watching us, I shook my head. “I don’t live far, just down the street apiece.” What I didn’t say was that if Pa caught wind of me strolling town on the arm of a Federal, he’d skin me alive. “Good day to you.”
Afraid to linger lest I push Mr. Potter beyond his narrow limits, I looped the basket over my wrist and made a beeline for the door. Though I dared not look be so bold as to back, I swear I felt a pair of bold blue eyes burning a hole through me.
Captain Ethan O’Malley. As I write this, I have your hankie pinned inside my chemise just over my heart. It may soon be as good as treason to admit it, and yet I know I shall carry the fond remembrance of you, my blue-eyed, blue-coated captain for the remainder of my earthly days just as I know that someday, somehow, we shall meet again. In the meantime, I must bring this day’s missive to a reluctant close as I hear our maid, Clarice, calling me down to supper.
And yet how can I possibly swallow so much as a single morsel when I am already so very full? Full diary, full heart. Full to bursting...
Wow! Maggie closed the diary, eager to read more and yet feeling the need to stop and absorb that first passion-charged passage. For whatever reason, it had affected her in a very personal way, leaving her feeling giddy and hopeful and at the same time more than a little wistful – okay sad.
Whatever trials and triumphs Isabel had experienced in her life, that life was over and had been for a century, maybe more. And yet looking out onto the very street Burnside’s Federal troops had fought their way across during the First Battle of Fredericksburg, Maggie felt as though the past was still very much a part of the present, as though the whispered voices of the long dead townspeople were tickling the inside of her ear. Smiling at that fanciful notion, she set the diary on the cushion next to her and leaned back, letting her eyes drift shut. With her vision shut off, her other senses came to vivid life. She could smell the gunpowder burning her nostrils, feel the battered street shaking like thunder beneath her feet, and hear the shouting of soldiers and the shrieking of neighbors as all around her chaos erupted.
“Isabel. Isabel! Belle!”
Maggie started. Sitting up, she scanned the street below for the source of the shouting. Aside from a motorcycle whizzing past and a black-and-white cat strolling the sidewalk, her neighbors had turned in for the night, the windows of the tidy townhouses lining the other side of the street dark beyond the occasional flicker of a TV screen. Fredericksburg was an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of town, and it was after nine o’clock, late for a Monday. And yet for a moment, or at least a handful of seconds, she’d been sure she’d heard a man shouting out “Isabel.” It was all easily explained, of course. She’d dozed off and dropped into dreaming. Isabel Earnshaw’s diary, an exciting find on so many fronts, had seeded her already fertile subconscious. Though she’d only read the first few pages, already she was hooked. The journal was what academics liked to call a “primary source,” but it also read like a red hot romance novel.
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ANSWER » You don’t have to worry about birth control, arguing over the TV remote, or dealing with dirty socks on the floor.
Kate and Leopold meets The Ghost and Mrs. Muir in The Haunting. The discovery of a 145-year-old diary found buried behind some loosened attic wallboards propels American History professor, Maggie Holliday back in time to save the life of her sexy soul mate.
Connections: My heroine, Maggie Holliday, and I have more than a few things in common. We were both book worms and history buffs in high school, and we both went on to pursue Ph.D.s albeit in different fields. And, like Maggie, I grew up dreaming of one day living in an historic house with worm-hole riddled floorboards, twelve-foot high ceilings—and a sexy resident ghost.
Hero Worship: Dearly departed hero, Ethan Earnshaw may be a little challenged in the living-and-breathing department but beyond that his other qualities are A-list. Unlike Josh, the hero of It’s a Wonderfully Sexy Life modeled on rocker, Jon Bon Jovi, Ethan is definitely a composite character. As his creator, I’ve gifted Ethan with the penetrating cerulean blue gaze of actor, Jude Law, the broad shoulders actor (and all-around hottie) Josh Duhamel, and the sensuous mouth of hunky actor, Brad Pitt.
Readers familiar with the 40-block Fredericksburg Historic District will recognize such local hot spots as Hyperion Espresso where Maggie and her friend, Sharon stop for lattes and coffee talk, Bistro Bethem where Maggie and Sharon enjoy wonderful Southern-inspired cuisine while taking in Bob Smith and Friends’ Tuesday night Acoustic Jam, and Claiborne’s where a stellar steak proves too great a temptation for putting off an important conversation. Downtown merchants featured in the book include Kybecca Wine & Gourmet, Walker Home, E.E. Smith, and Beck’s Antiques. At Beck’s, Maggie makes a startling discovery while perusing the shop’s impressive inventory of antique and first edition books.
It’s my heartfelt hope that after finishing The Haunting, readers will appreciate Fredericksburg as not only a great tourism destination for American history buffs but also a vibrant arts community for visitors and residents alike. To learn more about the many attractions and events the city offers, visit www.visitFred.com.
To read more about how the city of Fredericksburg inspired me to write The Haunting, read the article on me in the January 2007 issue of Front Porch Fredericksburg where I'm named as one of thirty People to Watch in 2007.
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Name: Willie AKA Prince
Wills or simply The Prince
As many of you may know, one of my non-writing passions is rescuing, spaying/neutering, and re-homing stray and feral cats. Willie, the inspiration for Maggie’s cat, Willie Whiskers came into my life three years ago along with his mom and five siblings. It was the Fourth of July and upwards of 95 degrees. Outfitted with a humane trap, thick gardener’s gloves, and a long sleeved flannel shirt to protect my arms, I met my rescuer buddy, artist Mirinda Reynolds (creator of the Hope Cat), at the site of a local colony. The cats, about twenty in all, fell in various stages of the stray – feral continuum. A well-meaning older lady had been feeding and caring for them as best she could, but she hadn’t the funds or the ability to provide veterinary care such as vaccines let alone spaying and neutering. With her permission, Mirinda and I had spent all that spring and now summer capturing as many cats and kittens as we could, vetting them, and adopting the tamer ones into loving homes.
The day before the holiday, I’d had my eye on a very pregnant cinnamon-colored tabby. I could tell by her bulging sides and waddling walk that she was due to give birth soon—very soon. Armed with canned tuna fish, catnip, and a heart full of good intentions, I made a clumsy grab for her. I had her almost to the waiting pet carrier when she slipped out of my gloved grasp. Damn!
The next day, my friend and I showed up again, but the momma-to-be was nowhere in sight. Who knew but we’d probably scared her off from the property entirely. Once she gave birth, the kittens could quickly turn feral assuming we were fortunate enough to even find them. Dejected but determined to do what good we might, we tried catching a mischievous adolescent male with an angelic face and a demon’s cunning. Perspiration pouring, we chased him over the property’s four corners, crawling on our hands and knees in the backyard where he darted inside a crevice in the foundation of the house. Double damn! My friend and I were dismantling the loose stones (did I mention we were determined) when we heard soft chirping coming from the rosebush in the corner of the yard. A bird’s nest built in the bush’s low-hanging branches in the midst of a colony of cats! Could this day get any worse? Not sure what there was to be done, I was sure of one thing: I had to try. I crept over to the rosebush and knelt down to look beneath.
And found not a family of birds but a family of cats: one very exhausted cinnamon-colored mother cat with six mice-size newborn kittens suckling at her side. Looking at the newly made family, I felt heart fold in on itself.
With the help of my friend, we baited the humane trap with a tempting tuna meal and settled in for a tense wait. The postpartum munchies finally won-out, and we caught the mother cat within. Afterward, we scooped up all six kittens.
Although they looked like wet mice at the onset, within a few weeks, their blue eyes opened and they developed distinct personalities and looks. Three of the kittens were eventually adopted into homes, and the mother and remaining three kittens stayed with me: Willie, Daisy Bud, and China Blue along with proud mother, a tamed and eternally grateful Tessa.
Willie is a Maine Coon mix complete with lion’s mane, short front legs, and flamboyantly fluffy tail. Aside from a proclivity for chewing electrical chords as though they were catnip-flavored Wrigley’s (a potentially Fatal Attraction, hence the sheathing of all wires in the house), he’s a wonderful companion.
Of course, Willie has a pretty high opinion of himself and if we let his princely head get any bigger, well, suffice it to say there’ll be no living with him. Look for Willie’s mother, Tessa, and his sisters Daisy Bud and China Blue in upcoming books.
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“The story was beautifully written and I love Hope Tarr’s style and think she did a wonderful job bringing Ethan and Maggie to life...There is a fantastic twist at the end I never saw coming as it was an idea I never even though of... readers who enjoy “naughtier” books with a strong plot and well developed characters will positively adore this book.”
“The story is fast-paced and enjoyable... It's about fun, light summer reading, pure and simple.”
“What an intriguing, romantic plot The Haunting has. A man wrongly accused and executed comes back to his love to help him prove his innocence. Their scenes together are explosive and passionate, perfect in every way. The plot unfolds gradually and masterfully, keeping you glued to the pages. A delightful, intriguing mix of past and present, love and betrayal, The Haunting by Hope Tarr is sure to find its way into you heart. Add this one to your to buy list.”
Charming paranormal romance
“The Haunting is a charming paranormal romance starring two likable protagonists whose chances of making it together seem time-crossed impossible though fans will root for Maggie and Ethan to find a way. Subgenre readers will enjoy this second chance at supernatural love between the ghost and the professor.”
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I love the history and the story.
“I'm marveling at your ability to spin a tale. Really the tale has me hooked! I love the history and the story. Maggie is such a delightful heroine. You have a new fan!”
Touches my heart
just finished chapter 11, and I have to tell you, this is the best
book I have read, I think possibly ever. The love and the romance,
comes right off the pages and touches my heart so much. I hope you
write many, many
It's a love story you don't want to miss!
"I enjoyed this book as much for the storyline as I did for the descriptions of some of my own favorite haunts (no pun intended!). For me, nothing beats reading a book and being able to picture it in your head, actually being able to see the street that the heroine walks down, see where she's shopping, where she goes to dinner. With this story, not only could I picture it, I could actually drive by if I wanted. That's the beauty of having a Hero from your own Hometown."
“I just read The Haunting. It was GREAT! One of the best books I've read in a long time and one I did not put down until I finished! It was a great love story and I can hardly wait for more from you. It was the first book I read from your works and I intend on buying the rest.”
One of the best books that I have read in years
“First off let me start off by saying that normally I don't contact people that I don't know. But in this case I had to. I am an avid reader and drive my husband crazy sometimes with the amount of books I have in the house but when I saw this one, well here I go again and buy another one. Boy, am I glad that I did. This is one of the best books that I have read in years. I really mean that. I haven't read anything else by you yet but that will change. All I can say is THANK YOU and keep them coming.”
“I just finished reading your book, The Haunting, and I loved it so much. I fell in love with the characters and the story, I was sorry that it ended so quickly and I will be going back soon and re-reading it. Thank you so much, it is definitely going to be a book I go back to time and again.”
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