Their secret didn’t die with her.
Colorado, 1918: Millie Boylan is a nurse who sees darkness marking those soon to die. When she falls for a doomed soldier named Edward Gainsbury, she vows to save his life. But Millie soon finds the greatest danger is the one she cannot see.
Colorado, 1943: With a brother gone to war, Dinah must learn how to fend for herself. She spends her days scouring the old mine for ore and her nights longing to escape her dying town. When Dinah sees a young soldier who looks just like Edward Gainsbury out in the snow—though he supposedly died in 1918—she follows him into the woods.
Dinah is quickly drawn into the mysteries surrounding the Gainsbury family. Unexplained events begin to follow her wherever she goes—strange footsteps appearing in the snow, hands pressed to windows of buildings long abandoned. But what she discovers will force Dinah to confront the true history of her town and the darkness hiding inside those she least suspects.
For fans of Wendy Webb, Simone St. James, and Jennifer McMahon—a chilling ghost story that spans two world wars, two brave young women, and the terrible secret that binds them.
For as long as I can remember, people have said that our town is dying. But today is the first time that I’ve really felt it. Today, my brother is leaving. He’s boarding a train that will take him away to some faraway place–whether a battlefield in Europe or an island in the Pacific, he can’t yet tell me–and I might never see him again.
“Hurry up,” my mother says. She drags her fingers through my short hair as we walk. “You have gravel behind your ears. You didn’t even stop to wash?”
“Nate doesn’t care.” My breath comes out in white wispy clouds. Makes me crave a cigarette.
“He cares if his sister looks decent. You’re nearly grown, too old for this tomboy foolishness.”
The train whistles. It’s pulling in. She grabs my wrist and makes me run. We’re a sight, the two of us; Mother running in her nicest pumps and me shlepping along, holding up Nate’s old trousers so they don’t fall off my hips. It’s my fault we’re late. I was cleaning out the shed, like Mother had asked me and Nate to do a million times, but I picked today. As if mind-numbing chores would somehow slow this moment from coming.
On the platform, Papa is talking to Nate. My brother bends over Papa’s chair to listen. Nate’s dark green uniform is handsomely pressed, and his hat is set at a jaunty angle. I want to run over to him, grab that hat, muss his hair. Used to be, he’d have a laugh. Now that he’s an army Joe, I’m not certain. He’s off to do more important things.
He used to promise he would never leave me behind.
Nate comes over and hugs me tightly. “You’ll be OK,” he says into my ear. Even though he’s the one we’re all worried about.
“Sure I will. I’ve got your record collection to play with.”
He groans. “Go easy, will you? I don’t want to come home to a bunch of scratched up–“
Mother interrupts us, and Nate lets me go.
I’m not the only girl in town to watch a brother take that train to war. Nate is the last one left: the very last male in Powder Ridge who could be drafted. But to me, Nate’s not some number on a card. He’s the only part of my life that’s not bleak. Without my brother, who’s going to talk me through the endless days up at Cherry Mountain? Or the monotonous nights at home? I can’t do it without him, I just can’t.
I reach out to tug on his coat, but the fabric slips from my fingers.
A porter steps off the train to help Nate carry his bag. It’s happening too fast. The past two weeks that Nate’s been home, I’ve been pretending this day wouldn’t come. Suddenly I want to hug him again, tell him I love him. Tell him to be careful. There’s so much I didn’t say–didn’t know how to say. And now there’s not enough time.
“Nate,” I call out, “wait, please–“
The whistle shrieks. He leaps up and waves at us from the stairway, grinning like this is the best day of his life. The train begins to pull away. Mother is bawling, and that’s the only thing that keeps my tears inside.
We stand there in the cold until the last car is gone, until even the white puffs of steam from the engine have disappeared. My heart has a scratch down the middle of it and it’s skipping, skipping, skipping.
A week later, the first real storm hits. It’s a rager. Snow flying sideways at the windows, wind screaming in the eaves. I’m up half the night from the noise. In the morning, Jim Gainsbury stops by to shovel us out. I could’ve done it myself, but I’d hurt Jim’s feelings if I said no.
I trudge my way up to the mine in my snowshoes. There’s not a single footprint ahead of me on the mile-long path. Everything is quiet, like the snow is a thick goosedown blanket and the world hasn’t quite realized it’s morning yet. Flocked evergreens line the path on one side. On the other is a steep drop-off. Every once in a while, a mound of snow slips from a branch and thumps onto my hat. I swear, it’s like the trees are aiming.
Finally, the path curves around and the view opens up into a panoramic vista. Craggy mountain peaks reach up into the clouds. The old mining encampment lies before me. The sun is shining in from behind, casting the whole expanse in shadow: ramshackle buildings, rusted mining carts, and a scattered field of debris. The gigantic piles of waste rock are iced with white.
Nate and I have eked out a living up here for years, ever since Papa’s accident. We scavenge ore for the mining company so they can squeeze every last drop of money out of the mine they abandoned.
I pass through the cluster of buildings that used to be the main drag. Farther on about a quarter mile, there’s a bunkhouse that once housed three hundred men a night. Now it’s boarded up and its red paint is peeling. I walk toward it on my way to the waste rock piles beyond.
Something moves in one of the few remaining windows–third floor, last one on the left. I stop and stare. There shouldn’t be anybody in that boardinghouse, especially not up there. I must’ve imagined it.
But as I watch, two handprints appear on the glass. Like whoever’s in there is looking back out. At me.
My skin burns with heat. The feeling of violation is like a punch in the center of my chest. Somebody’s up there messing with our stuff. Nate’s and mine.
I pull the scarf back up over my face and hurry toward the boardinghouse.
The building has been rotting a little more each year. Last winter, a glancing blow from an avalanche collapsed one side. Now, the only safe way to get inside is to climb–which you would’ve thought was enough to keep nosy parkers away.
I unstrap the webs from my shoes, and they drop heavily into the snow. I reach for a vertical slat of wood at the corner of the building, pulling myself up. Splinters scratch at my gloves. Ice crystals prick at the inside of my nose.
I reach the third floor and carefully edge my way over to the window. The two handprints are still there on the glass. As I watch, they fade away like fog on a mirror. I peer in.
The wooden crate where Nate and I store our things–it’s pulled out into the open. Somebody’s taken off the lid.
Since we were little, Nate and I have been keeping some of our possessions in that third floor room. Just stuff that matters to us. Books, comics, souvenirs that we didn’t want Mother to find and throw out. We certainly never thought some low-life would be prowling around up there, trying to filch our childhood memories.
It’s probably McGrady. My brother’s only been gone a week, and already McGrady has been complaining that the mine’s no place for a seventeen-year-old girl on her own. It ain’t my job to look after you. That old scumbag thinks he can force me out. But I can hold my own.
I push up the window and ask, “Hello? McGrady?”
Nobody answers. Then I remember–there weren’t any footprints in the snow. Even Terrance Jameson isn’t up at the mine yet, and he’s usually the first one. My brother likes to say, “You never look before you leap, Dinah.” Guess I still haven’t learned.
I squeeze inside and land gently on the floor.
The room seems empty. Whoever was up here is gone.
This used to be a common room of some kind. A couch tilts toward a hole in the center of the floor, where rotting planks have given way. In a nearby corner, an abandoned bookcase lies on its side. The room smells like an old icebox. Stale and cold. A tattered curtain flutters. The door to the hallway is closed. Ages ago, Nate locked it, but who knows if the lock still works.
I crouch and pull the crate toward me. Our copy of The Time Machine rests on the top. I glance quickly through the rest, but there doesn’t seem to be anything missing.
The light shifts, and I look up, my rapid breathing the only sound.
“Hello?” I ask again. Not a peep.
My nerves are starting to hum. I don’t like this. Not one bit.
How Much It May Storm
by A.N. Willis
Published :Observatory Books (October 16th 2020)
Genre: Occult, Horror, Historical, Paranormal, Suspense Romance, Supernatural Thriller, Gothic Mystery, Ghosts, Supernatural Suspense, Novels, World War II, and World War I
Amazon | Goodreads
A.N. Willis writes gothic mysteries, supernatural suspense, and science fiction for teens and adults. She loves the creepy, the suspenseful, and the otherworldly. Her next release will be How Much It May Storm, a historical ghost story, coming in October 2020. She’s also the author of the Byrne House gothic mystery duology, and the YA science fiction duology The Corridor.
A big shout out to Book Sirens and the author for this Arc in exchange for a honest review.
This is the first from A.N. Willis that I have read and the cover along with synopsis made me want to read it. I wanted it to be a such loved book in mystery as one would hope when putting their claws into a new novel that they feel excited over. At times through this one seem to fragmented at times which seemed more than the genre tends to have. Although, at points during the story I was very invested in and quite entangled into it. Needless to say the story was very much conjoined to what we are experiencing today. You know.. Covid-19 mass pandemic. It has been fun but I kind of miss outside gatherings as a introvert but meh. I can go another six months like this – I’m not sure my extrovert spouse can though.
Regardless how this book seems to focus on the happenings between the time lines and a pandemic during a different time Willis really did a wonderful job. She pulled a story that takes you through two timelines set between 1918 and 1943. During each chapter more is revealed in the deep-seated secrets of a family and their nurse. I couldn’t get enough of this storyline and am truly amazed at all the details Willis described in her book is so well thought out. These characters, their loves and their lives; an incredible and beautifully written book in every way.
This novel is defiantly WWi / WWII time frame in a thriller type story. So if you enjoy those things then your in for a treat as the horror isn’t exactly on point but it did have me gasping from the thriller – Author did a fantasy job at that.
4 out of 5 stars