A ghost haunts the halls of Stafford House. When Raine Brinsley arrives and accepts a position as a house servant, the ghost is determined to let Raine know who murdered her. Derek and Lyman Stafford race against time to produce the first male heir and secure the title to Stafford House. The brothers will do anything to win…including murder.
A dark, Gothic novel with romance, mystery, suspense and thrills
Raves for this historical Gothic novel
"An absolutely wonderful book. I was captivated and submerged from the beginning to the end. This is not your typical love story but nonetheless spellbinding. Diablo is a master when it comes to historical romance and has proven once again that she is a delightful storyteller." Blackrose Reviews
"Diablo did a brilliant job with this historical romance novel. It had great romantic conflict, a bit of mystery and suspense and subtle paranormal undertones. She had me on an emotional roller coaster and by the end I was surprised to find myself liking Derek a lot." Book of Secrets Reviews
"Sojourn With A Stranger has a slightly gothic air with ghosts and witches of the tea-leaf reading, herbal-potion brewing kind. I loved how the paranormal aspects of the book were in keeping with the historical time period. The presence of bibles and laying-on-of-hands healing, the witchy midwife in the woods, the poltergeists of those wronged give the book that Gothic touch I so loved." D. Dunbar
Setup and Excerpt:
The ghost - Lucinda, once mistress of the manor - follows Raine to the family graveyard.
Remembering her intent to find the burial ground, she switched subjects with the house servant. "Where is Lucinda buried?"
"In the family plot, left of the gardens."
"The area is enclosed by a wrought iron fence?"
Crete nodded. "Do you want me to accompany you?"
"Oh, no," she said with a wave of her hand. "I will find it."
"You'll be trudging through snow."
"And chilled when I return. Perhaps a bath would be nice―"
"Of course, child," she said. "We'll haul the tub to your room while you’re gone."
Raine rose and touched the woman's cheek. "Thank you for your kindness."
She donned a pair of boots, her cloak, and moments later trudged past the snow-capped gardens. The black fence loomed before her. She opened the gate and scanned several dozen granite markers rising from the ground. Taking one row at a time, she plodded through the snow and stopped to look at the names on the tombstones.
In the second row, she found three small headstones. Half-spent candles protruded from the snow, their bright flames in stark contrast to the dreary burial ground. How odd. Someone must have been there before her and placed candles by the nameless markers.
To her left, she spied a new marker. Lucinda's. She picked up a candle, stood in front of the woman's headstone and closed her eyes. Perhaps if she concentrated hard enough, she could call her forth.
The wind took flight and her heart fluttered like a captured sparrow's. She clasped her hands together and whispered a prayer. A keen whistle―or a woman's mournful wail—echoed around her. She had known cold in her lifetime; frost and snow were nothing new to the natives of Maine, but she had never felt the bone-numbing iciness gripping her now.
It dawned on her. The arctic blast did not come from the snow, but from Lucinda’s spirit. The ghost stood beside her, touching her shoulder. The firm pressure urged her toward the row of graves she passed moments ago. To test her disbelief, she pivoted to the left and the pressure intensified. Lucinda’s spirit wanted her to go right.
Her feet stopped of their own volition before a mammoth headstone. Etched in stone, the likeness of a stern-faced man gazed back. She lifted her head and scanned the writing on the marker: Lyman Stafford, born 1759, left the earth 1820. Husband of Lottie, father of Julian, Rose and Isabelle. Beneath it: Forever in Our Hearts.
An icy chill swept the land when the distant sun disappeared, and flurries of snow lashed about her ankles. She fought down the terror. Recalling her grandfather's words about spirits, she took a deep breath and called forth his strength.
She read aloud, aware of the hand pressing into the small of her back now. "Lyman Stafford, born 1759, Derek's grandfather, Julian's father." The heaviness of Lucinda's hand on her back-- for it could only be the ghost, Lucinda―vanished. The sun emerged again and the flurries stopped their frenetic motion. The woman had accomplished her mission, but what did her mission consist of? A subliminal message rattled Raine's befuddled mind, vague and murky.
She studied the man's headstone with the awareness a connection existed between him and Lucinda's tragic life―or tragic death―but the man had died before Derek's wife was born. Raine shivered, tightened the cloak about her shoulders and fled from the graveyard.