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New Release | Censored Angel by Joan Koster #historicalfiction #biographical #bookboost #giveaway



Title Censored Angel

Author Joan Koster

Genre Biographical Historical Fiction

Publisher Tidal Waters Press


Book Blurb


A nineteenth century mystic marriage counselor and her guardian angel battle the Inquisitor of Smut in this biographical historical novel based on a true story. She will not be silenced! Brilliant, corseted, and haunted by spirits from the Borderlands, a young girl turns her back on the constrictions of Victorian society and strikes out on her own, becoming a mystic marriage counselor. Sharing what she views as essential sexual knowledge puts her in the crosshairs of Anthony Comstock, the nation’s Anti-Obscenity Postal Inspector. He promises to silence her forever. She vows to bring him down. With prison looming, Ida and her guardian angels must prepare for a battle they may not be able to win. WARNING: This book contains blunt descriptions of sexual relations judged obscene in 1902, and of suicide.


NOTE: All proceeds from this book will be donated to the Freedom to Read Foundation


Excerpt


CHAPTER 1


Monument Cemetery, Philadelphia, 1875


The angel is my favorite. I trail my fingers over the polished folds of cold marble and stare up at the monument. Stone curls, frozen in wind-tossed perfection, frame a radiant face that shows no anger—only enduring love. I could stand here forever, basking in his gaze.


“Come, Ida.” Mother’s voice is icier than the December gusts whipping at my skirts.


I hurry down the cemetery path, an armful of evergreens clutched tight to my bosom. Up ahead, she stops beside the half-buried stone marking the grave of my long-dead sister. Shears flicking, Mother trims the dried grasses around the granite marker with the same attention to detail she gives everything.


I turn my head. Sometimes, I wish I lay beneath that stone. Maybe then, she would love me, too.


Ignored again, I inhale the sharp scent of the fresh-cut fir and set a bough at the foot of my father’s headstone. The simple limestone slab is gray-green with moss. I press my palm to the chill stone.


There will be no wreath for my father. His weathered tombstone lies untended. No carved angel stands sentinel at his grave. No loving sorrow from my mother marks his passing.


I trace the date, December 1857. He died a mere four months after my birth. How different my life would have been if he had lived.


“Forget him,” Mother hisses. “Bring the garland here.”


I wipe my damp hand on my cloak and slip to her side.


Mother tugs at my sleeve. “Wreath, Ida.”


I hand her the pine circlet with its black ribbon, and she sinks to her knees and rests it on the most elaborate of the six small tombstones.


“Dear lost child, would that you had survived.” Her breath trembles.


She peers up at me. “Men will have their way, Ida. Heedless of the consequences. I begged your father to wait, to let me grieve. Recover my health. But no. An heir to inherit the business—that was all he wanted from me. What choice did I have? Wives must submit to their husband’s will. It is our duty in marriage. Our duty as women. Our path to heaven.”


I pinch my lips together and watch the wind rattle the bare branches of the poplars. It is always the same litany when we come here. If she wants to ensure I never marry, she has done well.


Mother straightens the wreath. “And then to suffer the pain of bearing children”—she runs a hand down her face—“only to lose them.”


I want to shout that I am here. I am alive. But it will do no good. I was not the desired child. Instead, I humble myself, as always. “I know, Mother. But think—she is with God, a blithe spirit cavorting forever in heaven.”


“Does she, daughter? Or does she hover in the borderland?” My mother kisses the damp stone.


Beneath lies my sister, dead from the swoop of the strangling angel—the dreaded diphtheria. Dear Nan. We would have played, shared secrets, and known each other’s innermost thoughts. She would have clasped my hand as we sat straight-backed, feet flat on the floor, for hours during Mother’s wearisome lessons.


But heaven wanted her more than me.


Sometimes, I despise the angels.


For a moment, it is all too much—the cold, the wind, the moldy scent of death. The memories. I fall back on the Bible, more for myself than for my mother. “The Lord loves the little children. The kingdom of God belongs to them.”


Mother pushes to her feet, her eyes wild, the traces of her French accent strong. “The séance table at the Hunters. It moved, Ida, when I asked if my little ones are at peace.”


I rub one foot against the other. “Perhaps, that was a yes?”


She glares at me. “What do you know of the spirits? You are but a foolish child, Ida Celanire. Now stand up straight and stop dirtying your stockings.” She seizes my hand as if I am a disorderly toddler instead of an eighteen-year-old on the cusp of womanhood. “Come. I have borrowed one of those new spirit boards. Together, we will learn the answer.”


“A spirit board?”


The tree branches sway. Bitter cold crawls under my petticoats. I do not need to know if spirits are real. I already know they are.


***


The house is dismal and dark when we return, the fire in the parlor grate reduced to embers, the Irish day girl long gone. But the aroma of the stew she made lingers.


My stomach growls as I slip off my wet cloak. I can’t wait to fill my icy insides with a bowl, and then warm my freezing toes and fingers at the still-hot cook stove in the kitchen. But Mother is on a mission.


“Come, Ida.” She presses her hand against the small of my back and hurries me into the drafty dining room. “We must call the spirits while they are foremost in our minds.” She lights a candle. The flickering flame illuminates the spirit board in the center of the tabletop. The pale, polished wood glows ominously. The black alphabet and red YES and NO spell disaster. The triangular planchette hovers on its tiny feet like a spider come to entangle me in its web.


A chill worms its way through me, and I look longingly toward the door. But escaping my mother’s will is not an option. I am too hungry and too cold to bear a night shut away without my supper for disobedience.


“Sit, Ida.” She points to the chair on the opposite side of the table.


I dutifully take my place, roll my shoulders, and stare at the board. I have heard of these instruments designed to call forth the departed. Something slithers down my spine.


I focus on the stale scent of the dusty drapery and the hard needlepoint cushion on the seat. I am safe. This is our dining room. I have eaten every meal here since I can remember. A candle, a piece of wood, and a metal disk cannot change that.


I hope.


My mother caresses the ever-present, pearl-trimmed pendant of baby hair at her neck, the chestnut brown so unlike my own pale locks. “We must concentrate. Think of the dead. How much we love them.”


I tip my chin. “Yes, Mother.”


“Now place your fingers on the planchette.” She says the word in the French way—planchet—all nasal and arrogant. When she takes that tone, I know better than to disobey.


I set my fingertips on the smooth metal as Mother does the same. She whispers her question with a hesitancy surprising for her. “Are you at peace, my dear Nan? Are you?”


For long minutes, nothing happens. Then, beneath our hands, the planchette moves snail-like across the talking board, heading toward the YES.


My stomach knots. My breath rasps. Shadows dance. Drapes rustle. All my life, I have seen spirits. Are they here?


Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub)






Facebook Party Information


I will be giving away at random 5 Censored Angel ebook copies throughout the day June 28th (8 Am to 8 PM EST) to five commenters (chosen at random) on my Facebook page’s Censored Angel posts https://facebook.com/joankosterauthor/


Special Giveaway


I will give away an e-book copy to one person chosen at random, who comments on my spotlight on Book Heaven.



Author Biography


When she is not writing in her studio by the sea, Joan Koster lives an 1860s farmhouse stacked to the ceiling with books. In a life full of adventures, she has scaled mountains, chased sheep, and been abandoned on an island for longer than she wants to remember.


An award-winning author who loves mentoring writers. Joan is fascinated by history, mystery, and romance. She blends those passions into historical novels about forgotten women, romantic thrillers, and writing craft books. Find Joan’s blog on forgotten women and her workshop offerings at https://joankoster.com


Social Media Links


Youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7Vc5_q59l7Z4jPxE6MwYhg

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