When I chose Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall, I was just in the mood for a good ghost story. I had no idea it was based on a real place in Manitou Springs, Colorado that is said to be quite haunted. How cool is that? All of you who love creepy historical ghost stories are going to love this one. It’s set in the late 1800’s and it’s got a bit of everything – a French aristocratic family with dark secrets, a young girl who’s inherited the gift or curse of seeing people’s deepest secrets, a diabolical aunt and her odd son, and the story of how Miramont Castle came to exist in the wilds of Colorado. If you’re looking for a creepalicious novel to read on a cold winter evening, this one is definitely worth exploring.
“And oh, how she would love to start fresh, to unburden herself of all that had happened. Because no matter how she had tried over these many years to justify her behavior, no matter how she tried to blame the situation and the circumstances that had led her to that point, the truth was that she had committed the worst of all possible sins. She had taken a life – and in fact, more than one.
She had thought, at the time, that it would end her torment, would allow her escape. But that was not the case. If anything, she was more trapped, more isolated, more haunted than before.”
In 1884, Adrienne Beauvier is the much loved four-year-old granddaughter of the Comte de Challembelles, a French nobleman who adores her and protects her. From the time she is a small child, Adrienne sees things no one else can see. It is something she inherited, something that has driven women in her family mad who didn’t know how to control it. It is also something the uneducated people in the village surrounding the Comte’s castle view with great suspicion. They have labeled past generations with this gift as witches, and witches never come to a good end when a village’s suspicions are aroused.
The Comte is determined to protect Adrienne from the fate of her grandmother but he isn’t quite sure how to do it. At first he tells her that the things she sees are her imagination, fun stories her mind is creating. And she believes him. She has no idea that what she is actually seeing are the secrets no one knows – things hidden in the minds of those around her. It all seems innocent enough to her and to the Comte, at least at this point. Her governess knows the truth but vows to protect this dear innocent child at any cost. The servants also suspect but they won’t tell anyone. They have all taken it upon themselves to mother her as much as possible since her own mother is completely self-centered and doesn’t seem up to even considering that task, and they have grown to love her almost as much as the Comte does.
“She loved how small the village looked from her window on the hill, as if it were a collection of toy dollhouses built just for her. Standing in this window, surveying the kingdom, she felt like a fairy princess, straight out of one of Grand-pere’s storybooks…A story opened before her.
Adrienne could see Madame Celmenceau standing before the mirror in her bedroom. She was admiring herself in her new hat, turning her head this way and that…Adrienne watched as madame’s eyes grew large and her features froze with fear. The woman moved quickly, snatching the hat from her head and stuffing it in the hatbox. She dropped the box to the floor, and shoved it with her foot so that her skirts covered it. Adrienne watched as her husband entered the room, his face puffy and red. He looked like one of the seven dwarfs and Adrienne covered her mouth with her hand and giggled.”
Adrienne lives a very sheltered and privileged life as she grows into a young woman. She has no idea that she is clairvoyant. The only thorn in her existence is when her Aunt Marie visits. Marie is the oldest of the Comte’s two daughters. When their mother died, Marie took over as lady of the castle and ran it with an iron fist even as a child. She grew into a harsh, judgmental, demanding woman and both the family and the servants dread her visits. And each time she visits, she leaves with more and more of the most valuable items from their home – items she considers hers by divine right. Yet no one questions that right, including her father. It appears no one has a will strong enough to cross swords with the formidable Marie.
“He [the Comte] stared at her, his eyes filled with sadness. He would not have wished this gift on his worst enemy.
Adrienne gave his wrinkled hand a squeeze.
The Comte sighed, and glanced up the hill. ‘We should be getting back now. Your Aunt Marie should be here soon.’
‘Yes, I know,’ Adrienne frowned. She dragged her foot back and forth through the dirt. ‘She isn’t very nice, is she Grand-pere?’
The Comte stared at his granddaughter. She couldn’t possibly remember Marie; she had only been a few months old the last time Marie had been home. But she was right. Marie was not very nice, though he would never say so out loud about his own child.”
For some reason, Marie has always loathed Adrienne and is intent on making Adrienne’s life as miserable as possible. Adrienne has an instinctive fear of her and wonders why no one else seems to see the darkness that radiates from her. Adrienne can’t help but be relieved when Marie leaves to join her son, a priest, at his parish in New Mexico even though she’s sure her cousin took such a remote posting to get away from his mother. At last the house will no longer be subjected to her surprise visits and inspections, and hopefully will no longer be plundered by her.
And then something catastrophic happens. Marie’s son is poisoned at his New Mexico parish. Someone puts poison in his chalice and he almost dies when he drinks from it. Before she’s even told about it, Adrienne has a clear vision of it happening, and she suddenly realizes her visions are not stories – they’re real. When he and Marie come to France so he can recover, Adrienne knows instinctively that there is much more to the story than any of them are being told. She’s grappling with her realization about what her gift/curse means and has no idea how to control it or who to turn to for help. And she is certain Marie has guessed that she knows something she shouldn’t. Adrienne’s life goes from being carefree and happy to the certain knowledge that she is in grave danger from someone far more clever and crafty that she could ever be.
What can Adrienne do? What has Marie done that is so horrible, and that she thinks Adrienne knows about? Could Marie have poisoned her own son? What horrible thing does Marie have planned for her, and can she survive it?
In his efforts to give Adrienne as normal a life as possible, the Comte actually does her a great disservice out of his love for her. His wife had been locked away to protect her and he didn’t want his granddaughter to suffer the same fate; however, he had no experience to tell him how to protect someone like her. He definitely couldn’t have predicted he would need to protect her from her own family. Adrienne is one of those characters who tugs at your heart from the very beginning. And I don’t have to tell you that Marie is a snake. But what of Adrienne’s mother and her cousin? I’m not going to tell you about them to avoid spoilers. I’m also not going to tell you about how all of this ties into Miramont Castle, to avoid spoilers.
Reading Miramont’s Ghost gave me chills big time. Elizabeth Hall did extensive research into this Colorado castle’s origins and its tales of hauntings, and that research lends a lot of reality to the storyline. She also gives a lot of information about the real Miramont Castle and its ghostly tales in the Author’s Note, which was fascinating. As for the novel, I’m afraid the injustices committed in this family are all too believable. The things family members are capable of doing to each other never cease to amaze, confound, and at times disgust me. Families are supposed to be our shelters from the world and I can never understand how that can go so wrong. If we can’t even get families to work, how can we hope to have the world work? Anyway, aside from that momentary soapbox, this is one hell of a creepy ghost story – and that it’s based on a real family and a real haunted house makes it even creepier.
Can’t wait to read it?
Miramont’s Ghost will be published on February 1, 2015; however, it’s available now for pre-order from your favorite online bookseller below (or in the right column for iBooks).
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