Hey everyone! Today is the release day for THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY, and I’ve got an excerpt of this New Adult mystery to share with you. Check it out!
As the flames rose, Isobel stopped cursing and instead started to make a shrill, screaming whine, much like the sound of the sap boiling in the logs at her feet. It was so eerie, so utterly inhuman that even the executioner, a man long seasoned to the sounds of death, wanted to cover his ears and sob into the skirt of the nearest woman.
The sound carried from the village green, through the streets and narrow wynds, penetrating the windows and doors shut tight against the execution. It was as if not attending could erase the sin of allowing it to happen in the first place. No one who heard that sound could reconcile it with the once melodious voice of the burning woman. The evil thing at the stake was not a woman they remembered or recognized.
Their memories were as short as the day, from the morning after her terrible deeds were revealed and the witch was brought into town in the back of a pony cart. It was suddenly as if none of the villagers knew the poor creature at all. None could recall seeking her help, and none would avow that she had always been kind and ready to bake breads for town feasts or to watch the little ones play while their parents danced together. Acts of kindness linger in the mind less than murder, for it was obvious to all that the woman had murdered at least three souls, if not countless others. Justice was being served, and her blood would not stain the God-fearing hands in St. Andrews. She was not their responsibility, and they wanted to take no claim for her evil.
“I quit!” Lou’s words echoed around the checkout line, and customers craned their necks to see what was happening. Red faced, Lou looked down at her register in embarrassment. Her manager patted her shoulder.
“Let’s go back in the office to talk about this.” He turned, expecting her to follow.
“No!” Louder than she’d intended, Lou stood her ground. “You heard me. I’ve had enough of this store.” As she spoke, she tossed her nametag on the counter, feeling a sense of triumph. She hadn’t rushed through her degree to spend her life selling books to cranky customers. An errant brown curl flipped over her eye, and she pushed it away. Under the shocked gaze of her manager and the curious stares of a snake-like line of holiday shoppers, Lou escaped. Embarrassment set in as soon as she was outside, and her icy blue eyes filled with tears, but she refused to cry. Not yet.
She headed for the nearest T stop, tucking her chin against the bitter December wind. She’d walked this easy route between the bookstore and the T ever since she started college four years ago, and her body took over while her mind churned. She’d landed the job at the suburban bookstore shortly after she arrived in the city, and at the time, it had been perfect; she got a discount on books, and she was able to work with people she really enjoyed. Besides, it wasn’t like she was going to work retail forever. Sighing, she paid her fare and took her seat on the train bound for the city center.
Lou had raced through her studies, finishing her BA in only three years, but then she’d hit a roadblock. She didn’t really know what to do with her liberal arts degree when she’d finished her classes that summer, and so when her manager suggested she shift to full-time at the bookstore, Lou had agreed. It was better than nothing, right?
Suddenly, the weight of what she’d done hit her, and she buried her face in her hands. What was she thinking, quitting her job like that? Lou replayed the afternoon in her mind. Nothing had happened today that hadn’t happened a thousand other times. Maybe it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back: four years of answering bizarre questions and dealing with customers who thought they were always right had finally taken their toll on her psyche.
But now what would she do? She was unemployed the week before Christmas. Lou slumped in her seat. Unless she figured something out, and fast, she might have to move back in with her family. Her mother had been hinting at that, anyway, ever since the summer. It wasn’t that Lou had anything against her family, not really; her parents had adopted her shortly after her birth, and they’d never made her feel like anything but their cherished only child. But she’d just turned 21, and Lou had never planned on moving home. Lou snorted disparagingly; that was funny. It almost sounded like she’d ever had a plan.
ABOUT THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY:
Lou is in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. Fresh out of college, she’s unemployed and unsure of herself. But when she gets the chance to escape to Scotland with her best friend, it could be the answer to her quest for self-discovery. The trip is not at all what she expected, especially when her tour guide turns out to be the dreamy historian Brian, and together they embark on a hunt for information about Isobel Key, a woman accused of witchcraft in the seventeenth century.
They set out to learn the truth of the condemned witch, but Lou isn’t prepared for the knowledge that awaits her. She must face her own demons if she has any hope of righting the wrongs of the past.
Flashing between seventeenth century Scotland and a contemporary romance, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY is a mystery that will please readers of all ages.
About Jen McConnel
Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. Her debut NA novel, THE SECRET OF ISOBEL KEY, is out now from Bloomsbury Spark. Visit http://www.jenmcconnel.com to learn more.
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