Today I'm pleased to bring you fellow Pelican Book Group author, Shirley Raye Redmond with her novel, Viper's Nest....
My romantic suspense novel Viper’s Nest (Harborlight/Pelican Book Group) is a set in Jacksonville, Illinois. Allan Partner, a handsome history professor and his widowed research assistant, Wren Bergschneider, find themselves in danger when they explore an old insane asylum slated for demolition, unearthing a scandal someone is willing to kill for to keep secret.
I actually had a private tour of the Jacksonville Insane Asylum many years ago before it was torn down. Mary Todd Lincoln was a patient there briefly following the death of President Lincoln. Built in the mid 1840s, the asylum was the product of humanitarian Dorothea Dix’s impassioned plea to the Illinois Legislature to provide care for the mentally ill. Miss Dix was a stalwart advocate for these individuals—many of whom were mistreated by society. Some were locked away in cellars and attics. Others were put on display in county jails. No medical aid or social services were available at the time for those declared insane. Everyone was lumped into the same category too—whether one was a cruel psychopathic killer or a melancholy young mother suffering from postpartum depression. Dorothea Dix changed all that.
Interweaving both historical and fictional threads through the story plot was both a challenge and a thrill. I am hoping readers will enjoy both. Here’s an excerpt from the novel:
Certainly there would be ghosts, even in broad daylight.
That was Wren Bergschneider’s first thought as she stared at the ominous, ramshackle exterior of the state hospital, nearly two centuries old. Crunching across the carpet of fallen leaves, she tried to keep up with Professor Allan Partner, her employer, as he strolled around the exterior of the imposing structure taking photos.The edifice loomed over them, while Allan made a large, safe orbit, as if he feared the condemned building would suddenly suck them in.
Jacksonville Insane Asylum. The words engraved in stone over the main entrance were no longer politically correct. Decayed, uninviting, and slated for demolition, the old place looked just like every asylum depicted in those old black-and-white horror movies.
“Look at those windows,” Allan told her, pointing his digital camera for a shot.
Wren glanced up. She thought of all the faces that must have once peered down to where she now stood. Sad, confused, guilty, young, and even vengeful faces, old and hopeless ones, too. How had those patients coped? She thought particularly of the women who suffered from what doctors now call postpartum depression, PMS, and various other hormonal imbalances. Confinement in places such as this had been their treatment in the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century.
“I keep thinking of Nellie Bly,”she told him.
“So you finished reading Ten Days in A Madhouse?”Allan looked over his shoulder and quirked an eyebrow.
Wren nodded. In 1888, the famous New York journalist had willingly allowed herself to be committed to a mental institution such as this one on Blackwell's Island. According to a plan devised by Nellie and her editor, Bly had feigned mental illness and was promptly declared insane by six doctors, who had examined her on the court's behalf. She was duly admitted to Blackwell's and for ten days endured a horrible nightmare. When her editor finally arranged for her release, Nellie wrote a startling feature article about the conditions at the asylum, which resulted in a grand jury investigation. The spunky Miss Bly later wrote a book about her unforgettable adventure.
“And now you’re following in her footsteps,” Allan said with a half smile.
“Hardly! I’m not that daring,” Wren admitted.
Once, she’d considered herself to be, if not daring, at least strong and capable. But since the death of her husband, Peter, last year in a car accident, she felt rather weak and vulnerable. Only the necessity of caring for her eight-year-old daughter kept her from succumbing to fear about her future.
An award-winning writer and occasional conference speaker, Shirley Raye Redmond is the author of two dozen children’s books, five clean romances, and more than 400 magazine and newspaper articles, which have appeared in a wide variety of publications including Focus on the Family, Shotgun Sports, and Woman’s Day. Shirley Raye holds an M.A. in literature from the University of Illinois. She has been married to her husband Bill for more than 40 years. They have two grown children, two grandsons, and a feisty Scottish terrier named Duncan. Find out more about Shirley by visiting her Website and connecting with her on Facebook.
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