Author: Jessica James
Genre: Women’s Fiction
History, mystery, and a love story that spans centuries.
Two people trying to escape their pasts find a connection through an old house—and fulfill a destiny through the secrets it shares.
Part love story, part ghost story, Lacewood is a timeless novel about love and loss, roots and belonging, and spirits of the past that refuse to be quieted.
MOVING TO A SMALL TOWN in Virginia is a big change for New York socialite Katie McCain. But when she stumbles across an abandoned 200-year-old mansion, she’s enthralled by the enduring beauty of the neglected estate—and captivated by the haunting portrait of a woman in mourning.
Purchasing the property on a whim, Katie attempts to fit in with the colorful characters in the town of New Hope, while trying to unravel the mystery of the “widow of Lacewood.” As she pieces together the previous owner’s heartrending story, Katie uncovers secrets the house has held for centuries, and discovers the key to coming to terms with her own sense of loss.
The past and present converge when hometown hero Will Durham returns and begins his own healing process by helping restore the place that holds so many memories. As the mystic web of destiny is woven, a love story that might have been lost forever is exposed, and a destiny that has been waiting in the shadows for centuries is fulfilled.
A powerful and poignant tale that vividly conveys the heartache of war, the tragedy of loss, and the fulfillment of destiny…even when souls are separated by centuries. Lacewood takes readers on a journey that connects the past with the present—and the present with eternity.
Walking carefully along the neglected path, Katie stepped to the side to touch the bark of one of the trees towering over the front yard. “I’ve seen these white trees before, but I don’t know what they are.” She threw her head back to see how they stretched their skeletal arms toward the blue sky, catching and reflecting the amber rays.
The sheriff stopped and followed her gaze. “They’re sycamores. See how the bark forms a lacy pattern at the bottom? Back in the old days, they called it lacewood.” He turned and bounded up the steps while Katie ran her fingertips over the intricate design. “It’s beautiful,” she said, under her breath. “Lacewood.”
“Of course, another common name for the tree is ghostwood,” the sheriff quipped over his shoulder, as he searched through the keys. “But that wouldn’t make a very good name for a house, now would it?”
Katie lifted her eyes from the multi-colored bark at the bottom to the white limbs overhead. Even in broad daylight, the trees appeared ghostly, with budding branches reaching out like bony fingers.
Suppressing a shiver of apprehension, Katie turned to follow the sheriff. The stately pillars bookmarking the wide veranda, added a grace and charm to the otherwise run-down property. She put her hand on one of them as she walked by, causing the paint to fragment beneath her fingers and shower the ground.
Ignoring its flaws, Katie focused instead on the long-forgotten majesty of the bygone days the house represented. The outward signs might have worn off with age, but the dignity of the place remained intact as far as she was concerned.
The sheriff stood by the door holding an old skeleton key in the air before sticking it in the lock. The thick wooden door creaked open noisily—some might say mournfully—after the sheriff gave it several hard shoves with his shoulder.
Clearing the doorway of spider webs with a few swipes of his hand, he proceeded in without a moment’s hesitation. Katie, on the other hand, eyed the space above her and on each side before cautiously following him through.
When she stepped across the threshold, she let out her breath in one long, “Www-ooo-www.”
“Twelve-foot ceilings,” the sheriff noted. “They really hit you when you first walk in, don’t they?”
Katie merely nodded as she gaped at the antique chandelier overhead. Though time and dust had dimmed the sparkle, the elaborate detail and opulence suggested it was made of nothing but the finest crystal. It was a work of art, breathtaking even in its current condition.
Despite the decades of dirt and decay, Katie felt a welcoming presence here, a warm and friendly vibe. Sure, at first glance the house gave the impression it was too far gone to revive. But Katie preferred to think it was slumbering, perhaps dreaming of a day when someone would open the windows, allowing fragrant breezes to drift through the hallways and sunlight to stream into the rooms.
Making her way over to the staircase, Katie touched the rich wood of the bannister, worn smooth by centuries of hands. Whose? And where did they go? Why did they leave?
The peace of the house and its timeless beauty unlocked something in Katie, causing a prickly sensation to race up her spine. There were stories here. Long-forgotten and hidden just out of her reach. Were they to be forgotten forever?
Turning in a circle, she studied the room again. Faded wallpaper curled and peeled above the dusty wainscoting, but the walls themselves appeared sturdy. Down the hall a set of double glass doors stood open, a gesture of apparent welcome. On the far side of the entryway, and dominating the wall, stood a mammoth fireplace with an ornately carved hearth. Above the mantle hung a captivating painting of a woman in nineteenth-century dress.
“Who is she?”
The sheriff turned to the dusty, sun-bleached portrait in the heavy carved guilt frame. “One of the previous owners, they say.” He shrugged. “The family history kind of got lost with the house. Everyone around here calls her the Widow of Lacewood.”
Katie stood spellbound, riveted on the portrait, unable to speak or even move. The woman was dressed completely in black, but the magnificence of the gown gave the impression of sophistication and class. Her chin was slightly elevated as if to project strength, yet there was more than a hint of sorrow and pain in her eyes.
“She looks so sad.” Katie spoke without removing her gaze. “And so young. How could she be a widow?”
The sheriff had already started to walk away, but he turned back and glanced at the painting. “Not sure, but they say she never remarried. She’s the one out in the cemetery, too, I reckon.”
Katie’s heart suddenly struggled to beat, as if her blood had turned to molasses and would not flow. The anguish in the woman’s eyes held her spellbound. She could see the pain. Feel a heart ripped apart. Sense something missing that could never be replaced. Katie had felt such loss before.
In a way that’s why she was here.
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Lacewood combines an emotional contemporary love story with a poignant love story from the Civil War. You get two books in one!
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Runs January 13 – 23, 2020.
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Jessica James’ award-winning novels are inspired by her love of the land, her belief in everlasting love, and her curiosity about the past.
She is a three-time winner of the John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction, and has won more than a dozen other literary awards, including a Readers' Favorite International Book Award and a Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America. Her novels have been used in schools and are available in hundreds of libraries including Harvard and the U.S. Naval Academy.
To combat the sedentary career of writing, Jessica works as a part-time stagehand at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, Pa., the “grandest small town theater in the nation.”
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