Tuesday, April 16, 2019

#BookRecommendation with Dreaming Darkly by @caitkitt

Synopsis: Ivy Bloodgood’s mother is dead, and she should probably be sad about it. But she isn’t. Myra Bloodgood was confusing mix of protective and abusive, a manipulative personality who never told the truth—about where she came from, who Ivy’s father was, or why they were living their lives on the run.

Now that Ivy has been sent to Darkhaven, an island off the New England coast, to live with a rich uncle she didn’t know existed, she is forced to reckon with her mother’s past. Ivy can tell right away there are long-held family secrets buried within these walls, but when she wakes up from one of her nightmares covered in someone else’s blood, Ivy fears that whatever demons her mother battled while she was alive have come to roost in her own mind. Scared that she can no longer trust what she sees, Ivy seeks the help of a boy who thinks her episodes are connected to the sordid history of Darkhaven—but what they don’t know might kill them both.

A moody and twisty gothic mystery with an impossible romance, Dreaming Darkly is an atmospheric, fast-paced page-turner written by comics veteran Caitlin Kittredge.

About the Author:  
Caitlin Kittredge has written several comic books and novels for adults and teens. She spends her time in Massachusetts fixing up her 1881 Victorian house, which she shares with several spoiled cats and a vast collection of geeky ephemera. You can follow her on Twitter @caitkitt.

I was eight years old when my mother tried to kill me.
One night, when we stopped outside Topeka, she held my head under the water of our motel room bathtub. I remember how warm her hands felt on the back of my neck and how the water chilled my skin. I heard nothing except the beating of my own heart.
I don’t remember feeling afraid. I don’t remember feeling anything.
When I woke up on the bathroom floor, my mother was gone. She came back later that night, sat on the sticky bedspread in our motel room, and cried. I’ve heard a lot of theories since then from school counselors and child shrinks about why mothers try to hurt their children, but that night, her tearstained face and heartbroken sobs told me everything.
There was something wrong with me—something bad in my blood, under my skin, deep as my bones. Something unnatural, something as dark and cold as the water I’d almost drowned in.
And my mother knew it.

Chapter 1
The small boat churned through waves almost as high as the deck, rocking me so hard I lost my balance and fell into Officer Brant, who caught me and steadied me on my feet.
“You’ll get used to it,” he said. “Can’t live out on the island if you don’t have your sea legs.”
I shook him off. I wasn’t crazy about being touched, especially by a stranger. Except for me and Officer Brant, the only person on board was the captain, a woman with silver hair and orange waders who had introduced herself as Julia. That had been the first and last thing she said to me. From the way she was glaring out at the gray waves, it was clear she didn’t want to be here.
That made two of us. I shivered when another wave hit the bow, salt spray soaking me all the way to my skin.
“When Simon called me and said he had a niece, I was surprised,” said Officer Brant. “I thought all the Bloodgoods except him were gone.”
My uncle, Simon Bloodgood, was the reason I was here, crammed in a stuffy cabin that smelled like fish, my one suitcase sliding back and forth across the deck. I’d never met the man, but I was pretty sure I already didn’t like him. I was allergic to rich people, even if I was related to them. Besides, where had this Simon guy been for the last sixteen years? If he and Mom had ever been close, she must have done a great job of alienating him. She’d had a gift.
“It’ll be nice for him to have some company,” Brant continued. I couldn’t tell if he was totally oblivious or just loved the sound of his own voice. “I’m sure it gets lonely out there in that big old house.”
I turned my back on Officer Brant and stared out the filthy window. He finally took the hint I wasn’t into small talk and started fiddling with his radio.
The fog peeled back layer by layer, and I saw black rocks poking out of the water, hand-sized black seabirds clutching them for dear life. A white brick tower, thin as a finger bone, appeared above us, clinging to the promontory, and I got my first glimpses of the island. The granite cliffs below the lighthouse were pitted and eaten away, to the point where it looked like the tower could collapse into the waves any second. A foghorn blasted so close it rattled my teeth.
The headache I’d had since the social worker put me on the plane in Omaha started up again, throbbing inside my skull.
We passed by the cliffs, into a small harbor, boat engines winding down. Nearby in the channel, a rusty buoy bobbed, bell clanging in the boat’s wake, over and over. I searched the shore for some sign that this might not be as bad as I thought, but all I saw were more black rocks, backed up by dark pines and fog.
I wrapped my arms around myself. I hadn’t dressed for a cold that felt like winter even though it was only September. The boat lurched again as Julia swung us around to line up with the dock, and I felt my stomach lurch right along with it. I didn’t like water. All I thought about when I was near the ocean was drowning.
A shadow f lickered on the shore, and I squinted, rubbing a circle of clear on the dirty glass. I wasn’t seeing things—a boy stood on a rock, watching the boat with an unblinking gaze.
I knew—knew—he couldn’t see me through the salty glass, but I swore he locked eyes with me.
His skin was pale above the dark collar of his coat, and his hair shone blue-black even in the dim sunlight filtering through the fog. I couldn’t tear my eyes away as we passed closer to the promontory he stood on. Close enough to make out his features, I saw his lips part and heard my own name.
“Ivy.” Officer Brant touched my shoulder. “We’re here.” I wriggled away from his touch again, and when I glanced behind me, the boy was gone. I must have imagined him. I was the only person under thirty on the island, as far as I knew. 
Officer Brant walked with me off the boat and up a narrow dock that jutted into the harbor, wood planks slick with algae and rot under my combat boots. A woman as chunky and solid as the rocky shore stood waiting for us, wearing head-to-toe denim and a scowl. She was propped against a four-by-four so rusty I couldn’t begin to tell what the paint color might have been. Everything around me was pitted and weather-beaten, dissolving slowly under the onslaught of the wind and waves.
Julia came after us, tossed my suitcase down, and swung back aboard without a word. Officer Brant winced. “Sorry. Locals don’t like coming out to Darkhaven.”
Looking around at the ramshackle boathouse and the empty beach, I didn’t blame them. didn’t want to be here, so why should anyone else?
“Ivy.” Officer Brant held out a small white card printed with his name and the seal of the town police department. “If you need anything, you can call me. Anytime.”
I took the card and shoved it in my jeans, because I could tell he was just going to stand there holding it until I either took it or the rickety dock fell into the ocean.
“You’ll be all right here. You might even like it,” Officer Brant said. “And again, I’m sorry for your loss.”
I must have given him an especially poisonous stare, because he backpedaled, waving his hands. “Your mother’s accident, I mean . . . I got the gist from social services when they released you to my custody, but . . .”
“You don’t have to try to say the right thing,” I said, to shut him up. I grabbed my suitcase. The familiar grip of the worn plastic handle was the only thing that kept me from screaming. I could remember all the times I’d hauled it from motels to rented shacks to the trailer of whoever my mother was dating that month. When I held it I didn’t have to think about anything that had happened in the last week.
“My mother killed herself,” I told Brant. “She cut her wrists and I had to find her body. The only thing sorry about the whole situation was her.”
All at once, acid boiled from my stomach up into my throat, like my shitty words were turning around on me. I barely had time to drop to my knees and lean over the dock before I threw up my breakfast into the harbor, my insides still rolling in time with the waves out on the ocean even though I was back on land. My head felt thick and hot, pain throbbing between my eyes, but I didn’t close them. If I did, I’d just see what my mother had let me walk in on all over again.
I gasped, trying to pretend for the benefit of Brant I was just seasick, and swiped at my mouth. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to think about my mother. She was gone, finally gone, and she couldn’t make me feel like this ever again. I became aware of a pair of men’s shoes, filled with a woman’s feet wearing bright pink-and-green socks, standing next to me.
“If you’re quite finished,” said the feet’s owner. “The car’s just over there.”
I made myself get up. There’s no real trick to it, pretending everything’s fine when you feel like you could never stand steady again. You can’t think about what’s happening. Lie to yourself, so you can lie to everyone else too. I was a good liar. Years of covering for my mother so nobody else would figure out she belonged in a psych ward had trained me well.
The woman in the denim shirt looked me up and down and sniffed before taking my suitcase from me and walking back to her Jeep.
Officer Brant followed us. “You’re sure everything is all right? I can ride up to the manor, if you need me. . . .”
Manor? Oh, this was getting better and better. My uncle had a manor rather than a house, or even a mansion. I hated the idea of living with him more by the second.
“We’re fine, Officer.” The woman laid a glare on Officer Brant that should have made him burst into f lames. “I’m sure you have real work to do back on the mainland. If we need someone to meddle in the family’s affairs, you’ll be the first person I call.”
In spite of the utter suck factor of the morning so far, I felt a tiny smile creep onto my face. I didn’t know who this old broad was, but I kind of liked her.
She opened the passenger door of the Jeep. “Get in.”
“I’m Ivy,” I said as she gunned the engine and we pulled away from the dock, gravel flying.
“I know,” she said. “If you’re expecting a curtsy, you’re going to be disappointed.” Her voice was as flat and bleating as the foghorn, her accent pure Maine. I gave up on my one attempt to be friendly. One was all you got.
I glanced back toward the dock as Julia’s boat pulled away. We were headed up a steep hill toward the cliffs, and I let my eyes wander to the rock where I’d seen the boy.
Nothing moved on shore but a few gulls, but as I watched the tree line, a dark shadow darted through the forest, following the path of the boat back out to sea.
“You may call me Mrs. MacLeod,” the woman said. She jammed the Jeep into a lower gear as we crested the hill, and I turned around. I’d barely slept since Omaha. I wasn’t seeing things—I just needed coffee.
“So where’s Mr. MacLeod?” I asked. No response, not even a twitch. I tried again. “I thought my uncle was the only person living here.”
“I am Mr. Bloodgood’s housekeeper,” said Mrs. MacLeod. “That does not mean I am your servant. I keep the house, I fix the meals, and I look after Bloodgood Manor and the gardens. I do not tolerate lying, stealing, using drugs or drink, back talk, or tardiness to meals. Do we understand one another, Miss Bloodgood?”
I forced myself not to roll my eyes. If the evil New England version of Mary Poppins thought she was going to order me around, she could go right ahead and enjoy her delusion. “You can call me Ivy, really,” I said.
Mrs. MacLeod’s mouth formed a tight little smile. “That was not the question I asked. I asked, can I expect you to obey the rules of the manor?”
I pressed my forehead against the cold glass, but it didn’t help my headache. “Whatever. It’s not like I have a choice.”
“That is right.” Mrs. MacLeod looked way too pleased with herself. I decided that I didn’t like her after all. In fact, I sort of hated her.
I shut my eyes, hoping I wouldn’t be stuck in the tiny car much longer since I was already feeling sick and smelled a little like puke. Rather than keep berating me, Mrs. MacLeod let out a curse and slammed on the brakes. My seat belt snapped tight, slamming my shoulders back against the hard seat. The Jeep fishtailed, gravel spraying against the back window. My eyes shot open in time to see a dark shape flash across the road and disappear into the woods on the other side. It was as tall as a man, black, and faster than a blink.
“What the hell was that?” I said, trying to catch my breath. The seat belt had knocked the wind out of me.
Mrs. MacLeod snarled, gunning the engine again. “That was the fault of those no-good Irish living up island, is what that was. If I’ve told ’em once, I’ve told ’em a thousand times to keep their animals to their side of the island.”
I blinked at her. “There are other people living on Darkhaven?”
“Oh yes,” she said. “And a worse group of degenerates and wrongdoers you won’t find outside a jailhouse.” She jabbed a finger at me. “This island is seven miles long, but for your purposes the road ends at three and a half. You stay on the Bloodgood side of Darkhaven, am I clear? The Ramseys don’t like trespassers, and the state of Maine gives them ample right to shoot you if you cross the property line.”
“Yeah, sure,” I said, trying to hide my excitement. As soon as I could sneak out, I was definitely going to see what this Ramsey family was up to. Degenerates and wrongdoers sounded a hell of a lot more interesting than Uncle Simon’s manor house.
“Told them once, told them a thousand times, letting those creatures wander all over the damn place . . . ,” Mrs. MacLeod muttered again. I raised my hand.
“Am I supposed to believe that thing in the road was a . . . dog or something?” I’d spent most of my life in the Midwest. I knew a dog when I saw one, bigger animals too—whatever that was hadn’t been a cow, a sheep, or a damn prairie dog.
“Mind your business, miss, unless you want that pert nose clipped off for sticking it where it doesn’t belong,” Mrs. MacLeod snapped. I was going to snap back, but the Jeep rounded a curve and the land flattened out into the grounds of the manor house.
“Holy crap,” I whispered. Perched at the edge of the cliffs I’d seen from the water, the place was made from granite blocks the size of Volkswagens, the same gray as the fog. A turret reached to the sky, while sprawling wings went in all directions. Windows made of tiny, lacy panes stared back at me, and we pulled up in front of iron-strapped main doors big enough to admit a bus.
“I’ll take you through the main entrance, seeing as it’s your first time here,” said Mrs. MacLeod. “After this you’ll be expected to use the servants’ entrance, as Simon and I do. No sense in opening these doors every time you have a notion to take a walk.”
I followed her up the broad steps, still not quite believing what I was seeing. All this time, while we’d been living in rent-by-the-week suites, my mother scamming strangers for pocket change, while I had two pairs of jeans and one pair of shoes to my name, my family had been living here. Not just rich like the kids I’d known in Omaha who got designer clothes and cars for their sweet sixteen. This was 1 percent territory: private island, murder-a-stripper-and-get-away-with-it rich.
Why would my mother have left this behind? She was ruthless, and she loved money. I couldn’t believe poor-little-rich-girl syndrome had driven her out of this spectacular house and away from the credit cards and clothes and cars that came with a family like this. Never mind the inheritance.
I thought about every time I’d had a Coke and a bag of chips from a gas station for dinner, and gone to sleep on a bench afterward because we couldn’t afford a motel, and I wasn’t sure who I was angrier at—Mom for running out on this or the uncle who’d never once, that I knew of, tried to track her down.
Whatever happened must have been bad. The only way Mom would bolt would be if she was angry and trying to make a point, and the only way she’d stay away was if somebody made sure she did. I wondered what could have put that kind of fear in Mom. For better or worse, she wasn’t afraid of much.
Mrs. MacLeod opened the door from a ring of silver keys. The hinges screeched, and a flood of musty air rushed out at us.
It didn’t matter now, I decided. I was here, Mom was dead, and I might as well enjoy the manor while I could. I only had a year and change until I was eighteen. I had a plan for that day—I was getting on a bus to California; I was going to San Francisco, the only place I’d stayed with Mom that I’d been sad to leave—and after that I’d figure it out. Fourteen months until I never had to go where I didn’t want to again. I could survive until then.
“Come on, I don’t have all day.” Mrs. MacLeod shooed me inside and closed the doors. The rumble they made went all the way down to my feet, like the lid of a coffin slamming shut.

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