Please give an extra warm welcome to Joan Hall and her latest story, “House of Sorrow! Here’s my review for this wonderful prequel:)
House of Sorrow: February 1980
Thank you for hosting me today, Denise. I’m delighted to be here, to visit with your readers, and talk about my newest release.
House of Sorrow is a short-story prequel to my upcoming novel Cold Dark Night, book one of my Legends of Madeira series. It’s the story of Ruth Hazelton, a reclusive older woman who lives in a two-story Victorian house in the fictional town of Madeira, New Mexico. Ruth reflects on her life, particularly when she and her husband Lee first moved to town.
This story began as a 350-word blog post years ago. From there it evolved to around 2,000 words. While planning Cold Dark Night, I decided Ruth’s story would be perfect for a prequel.
Most of the scenes occur in the late 1960s/early 1970s, so I used actual events in the story. I also drew on a few of my memories from that time. The part I’m sharing today takes place in February 1980.
Probably the biggest story of February 1980 was the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. I was recovering from a hospital stay and spent much of my time watching the games, saddened that Tai Babalonia and Randy Gardner wouldn’t be able to compete in pairs figure skating. I cheered Eric Heiden won five gold medals for speed skating and celebrated the “Miracle on Ice,” when the US Hockey team beat the Soviets for the gold.
Public Domain photo of Lake Placid Olympic Medals
But while the rest of the US was celebrating, something was afoul in Madeira, New Mexico. Let’s hear more.
February 16, 1980
I wish Lee would confide in me more often. Something is bothering him. I can tell by the way he acts. He’s always been the quiet one. Never wanting to burden me with his problems.
After twenty years of marriage, doesn’t he realize we’re in this together? I want to help. He’s always been there for me, but I know better than to push him. If and when he’s ready, he’ll talk.
Maybe I’m reading too much into things. He turns fifty in a few days. Could be a mid-life crisis. I’ll probably be the same way when the time comes for me.
Ruth closed the journal then went into the kitchen to check on the pot of stew. It was one of Lee’s favorites—a hearty meal perfect for a cold winter night. She lowered the burner. Looked out the window toward the driveway. There was no sign of her husband.
The clock read six-thirty. He was already half an hour late. She debated on calling the station but decided against it. She’d never been one to phone him at work unless it was an emergency.
There was nothing more to do than wait, so she went back to the living room. This time she opted for the television.
An hour later, Lee still hadn’t shown up.
“Okay. It’s been long enough. I’m calling.” Ruth started to pick up the phone when the doorbell rang.
She opened the door to find Detective Juan Garcia and another police officer who she didn’t recognize.
“Hello, Juan. Lee isn’t home, but I’m expecting him any minute. In fact, he should have been here by now.”
“May we come in?” Juan’s voice was somber. His face expressionless.
“Of course. No reason for you to wait outside. The living room is nice and warm.”
The officers entered the foyer. Ruth closed the door against the bitter cold.
“Would you like something hot to drink?” she asked.
The younger officer shook his head then glanced toward the seasoned detective.
“Ruth, why don’t you sit down?” Juan spoke softly.
Her heart plummeted. For the first time, she noticed the wording on the second officer’s badge.
Nathan Turner, Chaplain.
She sank into a chair, her hands shaking, and her stomach in knots. A million scenarios raced through her mind, searching to find an explanation for Juan’s demeanor and the presence of a chaplain.
Other than the obvious.
But in her heart, she knew. They weren’t here to see Lee. They were here to tell her about Lee.
Dream home or damned home?
Ruth Hazelton is over the moon when her husband Lee agrees the nineteenth-century Victorian in Madeira, New Mexico, is the perfect home for them. While he starts his new job as police chief, she sets about unpacking and decorating.
But it’s not long before Ruth needs more. She becomes a fixture in the community, making time for everyone, volunteering, hosting events—she’s every bit the social butterfly her husband is not. Through her friendships, she learns several former residents of her home met with untimely deaths. If she were superstitious, she might fear a curse, but such nonsense doesn’t faze her.
Until the unthinkable happens.
Now, as the end of Ruth’s life draws near, she must find a way to convey her message and stop the cycle to prevent anyone else from suffering in the house of sorrow.
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