Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ian Smith's THE ANCIENT NINE Blog Tour with a Spotlight and Excerpt

 

I am so excited to have Ian Smith here at Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews with a Spotlight and Excerpt.

Thanks Ian and St. Martin's Press for allowing me to join The Ancient Nine Blog Tour!

Please take it away, Ian! 






Author Bio

Ian K. Smith is the author of nine New York Times bestselling nonfiction books, several of them, including Shred and Super Shred, #1 bestsellers, as well as one previous work of fiction, The Blackbird Papers. He is a graduate of Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine.







Summary

Spenser Collins

An unlikely Harvard prospect, smart and athletic, strapped for cash, determined to succeed. Calls his mother — who raised him on her own in Chicago — every week.

Dalton Winthrop

A white-shoe legacy at Harvard, he's just the most recent in a string of moneyed, privileged Winthrop men in Cambridge. He's got the ease — and the deep knowledge — that come from belonging.

These two find enough common ground to become friends, cementing their bond when Spenser is "punched" to join the Delphic Club, one of the most exclusive of Harvard's famous all-male final clubs. Founded in the nineteenth century, the Delphic has had titans of industry, Hollywood legends, heads of state, and power brokers among its members.

Dalton Winthrop knows firsthand that the Delphic doesn't offer memberships to just anyone. His great-uncle is one of their oldest living members, and Dalton grew up on stories of the club's rituals. But why is his uncle so cryptic about the Ancient Nine, a shadowy group of alums whose identities are unknown and whose power is absolute? They protect the Delphic's darkest and oldest secrets — including what happened to a student who sneaked into the club's stately brick mansion in 1927 and was never seen again.

Dalton steers Spenser into deeper and deeper recesses of the club, and beyond it, to try to make sense of what they think they may be seeing. But with each scrap of information they get from an octogenarian Crimson graduate, a crumbling newspaper in the library's archives, or one of Harvard's most famous and heavily guarded historical books, a fresh complication trips them up. The more the friends investigate, the more questions they unearth, tangling the story of the club, the disappearance, and the Ancient Nine, until they realize their own lives are in danger.

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Excerpts

PROLOGUE

Halloween Night, 1927
The Delphic Mansion
Cambridge, Massachusetts

EMPTY ROPES CLATTERED
against flagpoles, and street signs flapped
helplessly in the shadowy night. Two boys sneaked down a cobblestone path
crowded with heavy bushes and enormous signs that warned against trespassing.
They stood there for a moment, their bodies dwarfed by the gigantic
brick mansion

“That’s enough, let’s turn around,” Kelton Dunhill whispered. He had large competent hands and knots of compact muscles that bulged underneath his varsity letter sweater. He carried a long silver flashlight he had borrowed from the superintendent’s office of his residential house.

“I’m going all the way,” Erasmus Abbott said firmly. “I didn’t come this far to chicken out. Just a few more minutes and we’ll be inside.”

Dunhill looked up at the tall wrought-iron fence that had been reinforced with solid wood planks to obstruct any potential view into the rear courtyard. He was a tough, scrappy kid, a varsity wrestler who had been undefeated in almost three years of college competition. He was many things, but a quitter was not one of them. Very little intimidated Dunhill, the son of a banker and elementary school music teacher, but when he looked up at the mansion’s towering spires and turrets set against the ominous sky and the royal blue flag that snapped so loudly in the wind, something made him feel uneasy. At that very moment, if Erasmus Abbott had not been standing next to him, he would’ve turned on his heels and run like hell. The only thing that kept his feet planted was his greater fear of the humiliation he would face once the others got word that the scrawny Abbott had showed bigger nerve.

“If we get caught, we’ll be fried,” Dunhill said in his most persuasive voice, trying to sound rational rather than scared. “Technically speaking, we’re trespassing, and they can do anything they want to us since we’re on their property. I don’t need to remind you of what happened to A. C. Gordon.”

Erasmus Abbott took the milk crates they had been carrying and stacked them in a small pyramid against the fence, then slipped on his gloves and pulled his hat down until it settled just above his eyes. He was dressed all in black. Now completely disguised, he turned and faced Dunhill.

“There’s no proof Gordon ever made it this far,” Abbott contested. “And besides, I never believed the whole business about his disappearance anyway.” Abbott turned toward the platform of milk crates, then back at Dunhill, and said, “So what’s it going to be? I’m making history tonight with or without you. The answer is in there, and I’m not gonna stop till I find it.”

“Jesus Christ,” Dunhill mumbled under his breath before pulling down his own skullcap and stepping up to the fence. It all started out as a dare, but Abbott had taken it more seriously than anyone expected. This would certainly not be the first time a student had tried to break into the well-guarded Delphic mansion. There had been many attempts over the years, but according to legend, the farthest anyone had gotten was the external foyer. No one had ever penetrated the interior. What most worried Dunhill, however, was that few had lived to share their story.

“And what’s your plan once we get on the other side of the fence?” Dunhill said.

Abbott ran his hand over the small canvas bag strapped to his waist. “Everything we need is in here,” he said. “Once we get to the back door, I’ll have the lock open in well under a minute.”

Abbott had been practicing on diferent doors all over Quincy House in the middle of the night. His best-recorded time was twenty-nine seconds with a blindfold covering his eyes and a stopwatch hanging around his neck.

Abbott was not particularly athletic, but he scaled the crates easily and in one motion hoisted himself over the top of the fence and its row of pointed spears. Dunhill heard him land hard on the other side, then made a small sign of the cross over his heart, climbed onto the crates, and hurled himself over the fence. He landed on the firm slate tiles with a jolt.

They stood on the perimeter of a large courtyard dotted with elaborate marble sculptures and a fountain whose water sat motionless in a wide, striated basin. There were no lights to guide them, but moonlight cut through the heavy canopy of trees that towered overhead. A formidable, sturdy brick wall that was even taller than the fence they had just climbed surrounded them on two sides. Abbott had correctly chosen their entry point into the yard.

A gust of wind sent small piles of leaves flying sideways from one corner of the courtyard to the next. The mansion was eerily dark except for the dull flicker of a light in a small window just underneath the sloping angle of the tiled roof. The enormous building looked cold and menacing and unforgiving.

“She’s massive,” Abbott whispered. “I didn’t think she’d be this big. Must’ve cost them a king’s fortune to build it.”

“It’s not empty,” Dunhill said, pointing at the lighted window. “I still say this isn’t a good idea. We’ve already proved our point. Let’s get the hell out of here while we still can.”

Abbott pretended he hadn’t heard a word Dunhill said. He walked quietly across the courtyard toward a set of stairs that led to a large door with small panes and a brass doorknob that glistened under the moonlight’s glow. He cupped his face to the glass and looked inside. He turned and waved Dunhill over, but Dunhill remained motionless underneath the fence, still not believing they had actually gotten this far.

Abbott unzipped the canvas bag, pulled out a couple of tools, and quickly went to work on the lock. That’s when Dunhill glimpsed a shadow moving across the courtyard. He looked up toward the lighted window and saw something that he would never forget. It was the ugliest, scariest, blackest face he had ever laid eyes on. His heart tightened in his chest, and his lungs constricted. He tried to scream but couldn’t get the air to move in his throat. He turned to Erasmus to warn him, but it was too late. The door was open, and he was already inside.

Harvard College

Cambridge, Massachusetts

October 2, 1988

IT SHOULDN’T HAVE
been enough to wake me, but I had just drifted off on the couch in the common room that separated my bedroom from my roommate’s. It was a short scratchy sound: a pebble or sand being dragged across the linoleum floor. I looked toward Percy’s bedroom. His door was closed and his light off. I sat up on the sofa, swiveling my head in the darkness to see what could’ve made the noise. Mice were not exactly uncommon sightings in these old Harvard houses, some of which had been built more than a century ago, so I was preparing myself for vermin out on a late-night scavenge. But when I turned on the lamp and looked down at the floor, what sat there took me completely by surprise.

Someone had slipped a small cream-colored envelope underneath the front door. There was no postage or return address, just my name and room number elaborately inscribed.

Spenser Collins
Lowell House L-11


I turned the envelope over, hoping to find some indication of who might have sent it, but what I discovered was even more puzzling.

Embossed on the flap were three torches — so dark blue, they were almost black — arranged in a perfect V shape.


I heard footsteps just outside the door, slow at first, but then they began to pick up speed. I pulled the door open, but the hallway was empty. Our room was on the first floor, so I grabbed my keys and ran a short distance down the hall, jumped a small flight of steps, then rammed my shoulder into the entryway door, forcing it open into the cool night. I immediately heard voices echoing across the courtyard, a cluster of three girls stumbling in high heels, dragging themselves in from a long night of drinking.

I scanned the shadows, but nothing else moved. I looked to my right and thought about running across the path that led to the west courtyard and out into the tiny streets of Cambridge. But my bare feet were practically frozen to the concrete, and the wind assaulted me like shards of ice cutting through my T-shirt. I retreated to the warmth of my room.

Percy’s bedroom door was still closed, which was not surprising. He wouldn’t wake up if an armored tank tore through the wall and opened fire.

I sat on the edge of the couch and examined the envelope again. Why would someone deliver it by hand in the middle of the night, then sneak away? None of it made any sense. I opened the book flap slowly, feeling almost guilty ripping what appeared to be expensive paper. The stationery was brittle, like rice paper, and the same three torches were prominently displayed in the letterhead.

The President and members of the Delphic Club

cordially invite you to a cocktail party on

Friday, October 14, 7 o’clock

Lily Field Mansion at 108 Brattle St. Cambridge.

Please call 876-0400 with regrets only.


I immediately picked up the phone and dialed Dalton Winthrop’s number. Fifth-generation Harvard and heir to the vast Winthrop and Lewington fortunes, he was one of the most finely pedigreed of all Harvard legacies, descending from a family that had been claiming Harvard since the 1600s, when the damn school got its charter from the Bay Colony. Dalton was a hopeless insomniac, so I knew he’d still be awake.

“What the hell are you doing up this time of the night?” Dalton said. “Some of us around here need our beauty sleep.” He sounded fully awake.

“What can you tell me about something called the Delphic Club?” I asked.

The phone rustled as he sat up.

“Did you just say ‘the Delphic’?” he said.

“Yeah, do you know anything about it?”

There was a slight pause before he said, “Why the hell are you asking about the Delphic at this ungodly hour?”

“They invited me to a cocktail party next Friday night. Someone just slipped the invitation under my door, then ran.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? The Delphic invited you to a cocktail party?”

“Unless there’s another Spenser Collins I don’t know about.”

“No offense, Spenser, but don’t get your hopes up,” he said. “This is probably some kind of prank someone’s pulling on you. The Delphic isn’t just a club, like any fraternity. It’s the most secretive of Harvard’s nine most exclusive clubs. They’re called final clubs. The Delphic goes all the way back to the 1800s and has some of the world’s most prominent men as members. An invitation to their cocktail party is like an invitation to kiss the papal ring.”

“So, what you’re really trying to say is that they would never give an invitation to a poor black kid from the South Side of Chicago.”

“Spenser, you know I don’t agree with that kinda shit, but that’s how these secret societies operate. They haven’t changed much over the last century and a half. Rich white men passing off the baton to the next generation, keeping their secrets shielded from the rest of the world. Yale has Skull and Bones, but here at Harvard we have the final clubs. It’s no exaggeration when I tell you that some of the country’s biggest secrets are buried in their old mansions.”

“If I don’t fit their image, then why did someone just slip this invite under my door?” I said.

“Because it’s not real,” Dalton said.

“What do you mean?”

“Guys joke like this all the time. This is the beginning of what’s called punch season, which means the clubs are secretly nominating sophomores to enter a series of election rounds. Whoever survives the cuts over the two months gets elected into the club. You’ve heard of the hazing they do in fraternities. Well, this is a little like that, but it’s a lot more formal with much bigger stakes.”

“What makes you so sure my invitation is fake when you haven’t even seen it?”

“Are you alone?”

“Percy’s here, but he’s out cold.”

“Pull out the invite and tell me if you see torches anywhere.”

I was sitting in the chair underneath the window, still eyeing the courtyard, hoping I might see who might’ve dropped off the envelope. The ambient light cracked the darkness of our common room. I held up the envelope.

“There are three torches on the back of the envelope,” I said.

“What about the stationery?”

“There too.”

“How many?”

“Three.”

“What color?”

“Dark blue.”

“Is the center torch lower or higher than the others?”

“Lower.”

Dalton sighed loudly. “Now take the stationery, turn it over, and hold it up to a light,” he said. “Tell me if you see anything when you look at the torches.”

I followed Dalton’s instructions, carefully removing the shade from one of Percy’s expensive porcelain lamps that his grandmother had proudly given him from her winter house in Palm Beach. I held the invitation next to the naked bulb. “There’s a thin circle with the initials JPM inside,” I said. “But you can only see it under the light. When you move it away, the letters disappear.”

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ, Spense, it’s the real deal!” Dalton yelled as if he were coming through the phone. “The Delphic really has punched you this season. I can’t believe this is happening. Tell me the date of the party again.”

It was rare to hear this level of excitement in Dalton’s voice. Few things got him going, and they typically had to do with either women, food, or his father, whom he hated more than the Yankees.

“Next Friday at seven o’clock,” I said. “It’s at a place called Lily Field Mansion.”

“Lily Field, of course,” Dalton said. “It’s the biggest one up there on mansion row, and it’s owned by the Jacobs family, one of the richest in the country. Stanford Jacobs used to be the graduate president of the Delphic, so it makes sense that he’s hosting the opening cocktail party.”

Secret society, mansions, ultra-wealthy families, an invitation delivered under the cloak of darkness. It was all part of a foreign world that made little sense to me, the son of a single mother who answered phones at a small energy company.

“So, what the hell does all this mean?” I asked.

“That you’re coming over here tomorrow for dinner, so we can figure out some sort of strategy,” Dalton said. “This is all a long shot, but if things go well for you on Friday night, you might make it to the next round. I’m getting way ahead of myself — but one round at a time, and you might be the way we crack the Ancient Nine.”

“The Ancient Nine?” I asked. “Is that another name for the clubs?”

“No, two different things,” Dalton said. “The Ancient Nine are an ultrasecret society of nine members of the Delphic. A secret society within a secret society that not even the other Delphic members know much about. Most around here have never even heard of the Ancient Nine, but for those who have, some swear it exists, others think it’s nothing more than another Harvard legend.”

“What do you think?”

Dalton paused deliberately. “I’d bet everything I own that they exist. But no one can get them to break their code of silence. According to rumors, they are hiding not only one of Harvard’s most valued treasures but also century-old secrets that involve some of the world’s richest families.”

Copyright © 2018 by Ian K. Smith in The Ancient Nine and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press.

Chapter 2

EVERYTHING ABOUT ELIOT House was so goddamn superior. It wasn’t just one of the river houses; it was the river house, prominently located at one of Harvard’s busiest intersections, the corner of Memorial Drive and John F. Kennedy Street. Eliot’s exalted position in the Harvard housing system was cemented when the architects positioned it so that it’s the first house seen when taking the eastern approach to campus over the famed Anderson Memorial Bridge. College brochures proudly displayed the splendid brick mansion with its shiny white tower and the sun lifting softly in the distance.

Like everything else at Harvard, Eliot had its own story. One of the seven original houses at the college, it was named in honor of Charles William Eliot, Harvard’s twenty-first and longest-serving president, and modeled after the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. This particular house had always been shrouded in an air of self-importance, mostly because those who run the house affairs have gone to great lengths to preserve its aura of privilege and exclusivity. According to an underground student survey — one that the administration would never confirm nor deny — Eliot housed the largest percentage of trust fund millionaires and by far the greatest number of prep school graduates. In effect, it had become an extension of Harvard’s feeder boarding schools, places like Phillips Exeter, Andover, St. Paul’s, and Deerfield Academy.

I flashed my ID to the security guard stationed in front of the main entrance of tall French doors and polished brass. The short foyer then opened into the majestic dining hall. It was one of those typical Harvard affairs, dark expensive wood, sweeping chandeliers, and bigger-than-life portraits of stonyfaced white men, deep creases carved into their foreheads and a smattering of rose coloring the paleness of their gaunt cheeks. Every Harvard house had its own dining hall, not to be called a cafeteria. I had made that mistake once, in my public school ignorance, never to do it again.

I ate at Eliot only once every other week, as Dalton’s guest, and as far as I was concerned, that was more than enough. Most of the residents looked like clones, with their heavily starched oxfords, suede bucks, and that unmistakable air of superiority. The women always seemed to be dressed for a garden tea party, their makeup perfectly applied and their hair coiffed and sprayed into helmets. The guys always looked like they were heading to a polo match on some country estate.

I spotted Dalton sitting alone at one of the tables nearest the window. He acknowledged me with a short wave and went back to reading something he was holding in his hand. I ducked into the serving line just inside the kitchen.

One of the good things about eating in Eliot House was that the line always moved faster. It was an open secret that thanks to a deep-pocketed alumnus, Eliot had been afforded a larger kitchen staff than the other dining halls and a more spacious kitchen. After grabbing my tray and silverware and joining the line, I instantly froze.

The most beautiful girl I had ever seen was standing a few feet away from me on the other side of the serving station. Tall, golden-honey complexion, eyes the color of warm caramel, she had tied her long, curly black hair underneath a crimson baseball cap required of all kitchen personnel. She robotically scooped mashed potatoes and dumped them onto plates as students walked by in assembly-line fashion. She was on autopilot, accepting the plates with her left hand, scooping and dumping the mashed potatoes with her right. She never made eye contact with the students, her blank facial expression that of someone who had a million other places they’d rather be.

I asked the first server for a helping of beef and gravy, and while I normally would have had french fries instead of mashed potatoes, I quickly decided there was no better time than the present for a healthy change in eating habits. I could feel my throat tighten as I neared her station, and I prayed like hell I wouldn’t let out a squeaker.

“How’s it going?” I managed.

She didn’t respond. Instead, she held out her left hand for my plate and looked annoyed.

I held the plate far enough away that she couldn’t reach it; then I stood on my toes and looked over the food hood and read her name badge—ashley. Her skin was as smooth as a pebble weathered by the sand, her cheekbones high and angular. “How’s everything going, Ashley?” I said.

“Do you want potatoes or not?” she answered, icing me with a stare that only made her more beautiful.

“Not until you answer my question,” I said. I felt a soft nudge from the tray of an impatient girl waiting behind me.

“Then I guess you don’t want potatoes,” she huffed, and looked beyond me.

“And I guess you’ll have to serve around me while I stand here,” I shot back.

She blew out a long sigh. “Fine, you wanna know how it’s going?” she said. “Just peachy. So great that when I get home tonight, I’ll be doing cartwheels just thinking how much fun I had standing over these hot plates, serving a bunch of spoiled brats like you.” She reached out and grabbed my plate, then dumped an absolutely perfect pile of potatoes. “Next.”

I walked out of the kitchen, feeling that if I died that very second, I had at least seen the most beautiful thing God had ever created.

“Her name is Ashley Garrett,” Dalton said as I settled into my chair. “Born and raised in Roxbury, parents are divorced, and she’s already spoken for.”

Who hit the jackpot?”

“Some guy from Somerville who fixes roofs for a living.”

I wasn’t surprised that Dalton already had the inside scoop. I forgot to mention that not only was Dalton filthy rich, but he was also ruggedly handsome with the charm to match and had a fan club of coeds that even a rock star would envy. He had a special appreciation of the opposite sex, especially women of color, any kind of color—black, Latin American, South American—so long as they had a drop of ethnicity swirling in their blood. I think a lot of their appeal for him had to do with his eternal rebellion against his domineering, magisterial father, whom he derisively called “the Emperor.” Conversely, he despised the blond, blue-eyed WASP types his parents were always arranging for him to meet at parties and other society affairs he was forced to attend on weekends. At the tender age of fourteen, Dalton had unofficially declared war on not only his parents, but also the pretense and elitism of their country club circuit of friends, and his fellow scions anointed to inherit the world.

“She’s amazing,” I said. “But not the friendliest girl I’ve ever met.”

“How friendly would you be, standing over those hot lamps all night and serving food to a bunch of rich kids?” Dalton said.

“You have a point.”

“But, man, is she gorgeous.” He whistled. “I’d crawl on my knees backwards all the way down Mem Drive to the Commons if I could get her out on a date.”

“I’d do the same, but on broken glass,” I said.

Dalton took a long pull on his iced tea. He had four small glasses sitting on his tray. He wiped his hands, folded the letter he had been reading, and stuffed it back into the envelope.

“What was that?” I asked.

“The Emperor’s continuing punishment.”

“He wrote you a letter?”

“Are you kidding me? He’s never even signed his own name to one of my birthday cards. It’s from the trust lawyers. I applied for an emergency loan, but they just flat-out denied me. No extra money for another two years, my twenty-first birthday. Their final opinion was that my being cut off from that heartless bastard doesn’t constitute an emergency. Then they had the nerve to say that there are plenty of student jobs that would help me cover my incidental expenses. Assholes. Easy for them to say, when managing the Winthrop money for the last hundred years has made all of them millionaires several times over.”

“I’ve got a hundred and fifty in the bank,” I said. “Not much, but if things get tough, what’s mine is yours.”

“Thanks, Spense, but I can’t do that,” Dalton said. “That’s exactly what the Emperor wants me to do, borrow and beg and be humiliated. Not a chance I’ll give him the satisfaction. Anyway, enough about my shitty affairs. Do you have the invite?”

I reached into my jacket and handed over the small envelope. He inspected it carefully, first the envelope, then the stationery, turning it around and holding it up to the light. I felt like someone who had taken a family heirloom to the jeweler to get it appraised.

“It’s the real deal, Spense,” he finally said, sliding the envelope back to me across the table. “Do you know anything at all about the final clubs?”

“Not till you mentioned them last night.”

“Okay, so you’re a virgin,” he said. “Makes our job a little tougher, but we’ll get it done. He drained another glass of iced tea and pushed his tray to the side. “First some important background. As you now know, there are nine Harvard final clubs — the Porcellian, Owl, AD, Fly, Delphic, Fox, Spee, Phoenix, and DU. Each one has a gigantic old mansion here in Cambridge that they use as a clubhouse. They are exclusive, members-only, all-male clubs that date all the way back to the 1700s. Back then, Harvard had three major types of clubs arranged in a pyramid hierarchy. The Dickey was a secret society that evolved from something called the Institute of 1770 and the Hasty Pudding Club. The Dickey was at the bottom of the social ladder.”

“Is that the same Hasty Pudding that gives out the awards every year to famous actors?” I asked.

“Exactly. It started out as a secret society, but then it became a theatrical club. About forty years ago, they started awarding a Man and Woman of the Year Award, giving the honorees a parade down Mass Ave into the center of Harvard Square. It’s the parade with all the male members of the Pudding wearing drag. Anyway, above the Dickey were what they called waiting clubs. Students joined these, hoping to one day reach the top of the pyramid — the final clubs.

“The Porcellian, or the Pork, was the first and only final club for several years. Only students from the wealthiest families with the most important pedigree were even considered for the Pork. They held private dinners and outings and played in the most expensive private building in Cambridge. But what set them most apart was how tightly they kept their secrets. Except for the staff, no one including the president of the university could step foot in their mansion. Their rituals and traditions became the stuff of legend. Then, as the years passed, other final clubs were slowly established from some of the old fraternities that were on campus.”

“And these clubs have never been coed?” I asked.

“Never. And that’s not gonna change. They’ve stood up to every kind of pressure imaginable — lawsuits, protests, sanctions — and nothing has come close to working. It’s only made them stronger. The Princeton eating clubs were forced to open their doors to women, and so were some of the clubs at Yale, but the final clubs remain alone, the oldest, most elite all-male college social clubs in the country.”

“So how do you become a member?” I asked.

“In the past, it was all about money and status,” Dalton said. “You needed to come from the right prep school, and your parents had to live in one of the big eastern cities like Boston, New York, or Philadelphia. Your family had to do all the society shit, travel to Florida in the winter, then north to Cape Cod or Europe in the summer. The who’s who of Harvard were members of these clubs, from President Teddy Roosevelt, who was a member of the Pork, to President Kennedy, who joined the Spee. Teddy’s cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, couldn’t get into the Pork, so he settled on the Fly Club.”

“If you’re not a member, can you still go inside?” I asked.

“Definitely not. Male Harvard students who aren’t members must enter through the back door. They must stay in the billiards and TV rooms in the basement. They’re never allowed inside the main rooms of the clubhouse.”

“What about women?”

“It depends on the club. Some let them in, but they’re allowed only on certain floors. Some clubs even have these elaborate schedules — what doors women can enter on certain days, sometimes only through the back door, other times through the kitchen. It’s crazy.”

I looked at the three torches on the envelope, wondering why one of these clubs would invite me to a cocktail party when I seemed to be the opposite of everything they represented. No money, no lineage, and a public school education, I was exactly the type of student they wanted to keep out. The more I thought about it, the less sense it made, but the idea that someone thought I was worthy enough to be part of this privileged world excited me.

“So, what’s this cocktail party about?” I asked.

“It’s the official kickoff event for what’s called the punch season, which lasts from now until the end of November. Just like fraternities have a rush, the clubs have what they call a punch. You can only be punched as a sophomore or junior, but most of the punchees are sophomores. Each club secretly selects about a hundred students to enter their punch. Years ago, it was open only to prep school kids and legacies, but now very few blacks and Jews are being invited. The punch is made up of a series of rounds. Each round has a major event, like a dinner, lunch, or outing. After each round, the membership holds a long meeting in the clubhouse to decide whom to cut from the list and who will continue in the punch. The initial cocktail party is usually held at a graduate member’s house or at some fancy hall they rent for the night.”

“What’s so special about the Delphic?” I asked.

Dalton’s eyes suddenly lit up. “The club of secrets,” he said. “The stories and rumors are endless. Generations of Harvard students have tried breaking into their fortress of a clubhouse, but no one has ever succeeded.”

“If the club is so secretive, how do you know their stories?” I asked.

Dalton leaned across the table. “Because my great-uncle Randolph is a torch man,” he whispered. “I haven’t seen him in several months. He’s holed up in his estate down in New York, dying from some kind of respiratory disease. But when I was a teenager and we were at family events, he’d pull me into his study and tell me these great stories about the Gas House, most of which I was too young to even understand or remember, but he liked telling them to me.”

“Why the Gas House?”

“That’s what the old-timers call the Delphic. Their mansion was one of the first buildings in Cambridge to have electric lights. Uncle Randolph always wanted me to be a Delphic man and not a Porker like the Emperor. He always said my temperament was much better suited for the Delphic. Of course, the Emperor got me punched by the Pork, hoping I would follow in his footsteps. I flat-out refused to participate in any of the clubs. He was mad as hell. Practically had a seizure. The look on his face and the way his head shook — the sweetest revenge ever. But I’m excited that you got punched. The Delphic is the club. It’s the richest club by far and has one of the biggest clubhouses. They own that enormous old pile with the Carolina blue door over on Linden Street. You’ve probably passed it a thousand times heading back and forth to class and didn’t even know what it was. It has four big columns in front and a brass nine in the middle of the front door.”

I vaguely recalled the building. There weren’t many on Linden, since it was such a short street. There were Adams House and Claverly Hall and the Bureau of Study Counsel farther up the street. I remembered this old brick mansion I never paid much attention, because I thought it was just another one of Harvard’s administration buildings. Occasionally I would notice a couple of guys quietly going in and out, but there wasn’t much else to it.

“What’s it like inside?” I asked.

“I’ve never been, but it’s supposed to be complete luxury. No expense spared. They have a collection of cockfight paintings in their first-floor reading room worth several million dollars. Their antique furniture was imported from some English castle destroyed in World War II, and their Persian rugs once decorated palaces as far away as Macedonia. You don’t hear so much about the Delphic, because they’re very private.”

“Do you know what the letters JPM inside the circle mean?” I asked.

Dalton picked up his last glass of iced tea and drained it in one tilt. “That’s J. P. Morgan Jr. of the famous Morgan banking family,” he said. “One of the original members and founders of the Gas. The Pork wouldn’t let him in, so he took out his checkbook, paid for the mansion, then started his own club. After Morgan came the Astors and Rockefellers and other big names. Getting into the Delphic became so impossible that by the time the Emperor was a student, some guy who lived down the hall from him committed suicide when he didn’t get elected.”

My head was spinning as I tried to process all that Dalton was telling me. Secret societies, millionaires, mansions, and private rituals — it was the stuff of movies. Yet of all people, I had arrived at this intersection, a poor kid from the wrong side of a midwestern city, now holding an invitation to peek into this clandestine world.

“I know it’s a lot to take in at once,” Dalton said. “But there’s something else I must tell you. It’s the real reason why I’m so excited you got the invitation.”

Dalton paused and looked around as if others might be listening, though by now only a handful of people were left in the dining hall. He pushed his tray aside and leaned toward me.

“The Delphic Club stole what people have called Harvard’s Holy Grail,” he said. “No one’s sure exactly what it is, but in the early seventies, at least ten students were arrested trying to break into the club to find it. None of them made it past the first floor, but when they were questioned by police, they all said they were looking for the lost treasure.”

“What kind of treasure?” I asked.

“Some think it’s a rare printing of Shakespeare’s First Folio,” Dalton said. “Others think it’s the jewel-encrusted tiara worn by Pope Clement V during his coronation in 1305. I’ve even heard that it’s a rare Vermeer painting that once hung in the president’s office but was stolen in the early 1700s. Whatever it is or was, no one’s talking. But lots of people are convinced it’s hidden somewhere in that mansion.”

“Who do they think stole it?”

“There are nine special graduate members who supposedly have guarded the grail with their lives. But to this day, no one has been able to prove that they exist. They’re called the Ancient Nine. Some people have said they’ve seen an old man who occasionally leaves the clubhouse late at night.” “What does the old man do?” I asked.

Dalton shrugged his shoulders. “Nobody knows except the guys inside, but people believe he lives somewhere in the mansion and protects their secrets.”

“Did you ever ask your uncle Randolph about him?”

“Of course I did. Many times.”

“And what did he say?”

“That it’s all a bunch of crazy stories made up by kids with big imaginations and too much time on their hands.”

“Do you believe him?”

“Not one bit.”

“Why not? You believe everything else he told you.”

“Because I think Uncle Randolph is a member of the Ancient Nine. That’s something he would never tell even me.”

Copyright © 2018 by Ian K. Smith in The Ancient Nine and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press.
 




 


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Allison Brook's Read and Gone Blog Tour with a Spotlight, Excerpt and Giveaway

 

I am so excited to have Allison Brook here at Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews with a Spotlight, Excerpt and Giveaway.

Thanks Allison and Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for allowing me to join your Read and Gone Blog Tour!

Please take it away, Allison! 

Excerpt

Wednesday morning I was enjoying my second cup of coffee when the landline phone rang. Did Sally need me to come in early for some reason? My pulse quickened. Or had Dylan found a free moment in his busy schedule to call me?

“Carrie, you have to come and get me out of here!”

“Jim? Where are you?”

“In jail, dammit. They think I killed Parr, but I swear I didn’t.”

“Benton’s dead? I just saw him last night. Why do they think you killed him? How did they find you?”

“Caro, slow down. I went to his store before opening time. The lights were on, so I went inside, figuring he was in the back room. Only he was lying on the floor. There was all this blood coming from his abdomen. The kid who works for him came in and called the cops. I took off, but they nabbed me a few blocks away. Knocked me down. I’m bruised and all scratched up.”

“You need a lawyer.”

“I don’t have money for a lawyer.”

“I’m calling Uncle Bosco.”

He let out a long exhalation. “I don’t know, Caro. I haven’t spoken to the man in twenty years.”

“I know a lawyer. He doesn’t handle criminal cases, but he’ll know who to call.”

“All right, honey, call who you want. But please get down here as soon as you can.”

Uncle Bosco was not happy to hear my father was back in town. “When did he get here, Carrie? Why did he come?”

“He arrived a few days ago. I think he wanted to see me.” Both accurate statements, but far from the whole picture. “There’s more, Uncle Bosco. Benton Parr is dead. Murdered. And the police arrested Jim. He insists he didn’t do it.”

My uncle let out a long sigh that sounded very much like the one my father had exhaled only minutes earlier. “My poor brother. He’d turn over in his grave if he knew what his son has become.”

I cleared my throat. “Would you be willing to put up bail? I don’t have much savings, but I’ll take out a loan if I need to.”

“Of course I’ll put up bail. Your father’s a Singleton, whether I like it or not. I can’t let him rot in jail until his trial. Meanwhile, I’ll speak to John. Find out exactly what they have on him.”

“Thank you, Uncle Bosco. I’m going to call Ken Talbot. Have him recommend a good criminal lawyer for Jim.”

“The man doesn’t deserve to have you as his daughter.”








Read and Gone: A Haunted Library Mystery
Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Crooked Lane Books (September 11, 2018)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1683317340
Digital ASIN: B078M7MXGR




Twenty million dollars’ worth of missing gems bring Carrie Singleton’s long-lost and larcenous dad back into her life and it’s up to Carrie to clear his name.

A devoted dad is as precious as diamonds, but Carrie Singleton wouldn’t know since her dad Jim’s been on the lam most of her life. In an unusual family reunion, she finds Jim breaking into her cottage in the middle of the night. The fun really starts when he begs her to help him recover his half of a twenty-million-dollar gem heist he pulled off with the local jeweler, Benton Parr. When she refuses, Jim takes off again.

Carrie finds her father again behind bars for the recent murder of Benton Parr. Who made the connection? Unbeknownst to her, Carrie’s boyfriend Dylan, an insurance investigator, has been searching for the gems. Determined to find the jewels herself, she starts examining every facet of Parr’s life. She turns up a treasure trove of suspects, one of whom bashes her on the head as she’s searching the victim’s country cabin.

Retreating to the quiet confines of the library where she works, Carrie watches as Smokey Joe, the resident cat, paws at a hole in the wall. Is he after the library’s ghost Evelyn, or something shinier?








About the Author

Allison Brook is the pseudonym for Marilyn Levinson, who writes mysteries, romantic suspense, and novels for kids. She lives on Long Island and enjoys traveling, reading, watching foreign films, doing Sudoku and dining out. She especially loves to visit with her grandchildren on FaceTime.

Author Links

Website: http://www.marilynlevinson.com

My Amazon page: http://amzn.to/K6Md1O

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marilyn.levinson.10?ref=ts&fref=ts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/161602.Marilyn_Levinson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarilynLevinson

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/marilev/

Purchase Links

Amazon B and N BookBub

Giveaway

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/02887792759 

Please follow the rest of the tour here, thanks:

https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/books-currently-on-tour/read-and-gone-a-haunted-library-mystery-by-allison-brook







 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Releases 2018 (Sept 18)




New Releases








Something lurks beneath the surface

Brodie McFadden is supposed to be on vacation, getting some sunshine and deciding if he wants to join his brothers in the Krewe of Hunters, a special paranormal investigation unit of the FBI. But a diving excursion with an old navy buddy to a historic shipwreck uncovers a crime scene — and the corpse is new.

Museum curator Dakota “Kody” McCoy just wants her Key West culture festival to succeed. She’s always had a deep connection to her home, including being regularly haunted by some of the resident ghosts. Then, in the middle of a performance, a beloved local musician drops dead. It seems accidental, but Kody isn’t so sure.

Brodie thinks the recent deaths are linked, and he needs help from Kody. Something about her festival is dangerous. And the threat is creeping ever closer. Has she uncovered a treasure from the past that someone will kill for?

 


 
New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands brings the heat in this new Argeneau novel, as one woman is rescued by an irresistible immortal

“Vampires...”


When Raffaele Notte pulls a barely dressed, disoriented woman from the ocean, the last thing he expects is for her to utter that word. The immortal has come to the island resort to help his cousin, but now, it seems, there are rogue vampires dining on unsuspecting tourists. And he soon realizes that not only is Jess a target, she’s also the life mate he’s been waiting for.

Vampires are real. Jess would’ve never believed it until she saw them with her own eyes. She knows she has to get off the island, and her gallant rescuer has offered to help. There’s something about Raffaele that’s unlike any man she has ever met, and his touch sends pleasure through her that is beyond all imagining. But when Jess discovers who he really is, will she risk life as she knows it for a chance of forever by his side?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Weekly Book Reads (Sept 17)




Weekly Book Reads


Weekly Book Reads is a weekly Monday Meme that is hosted by Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews:

Post the books read last week and books you plan on finishing this week.

Read Last Week:

1.  Tailspin - Sandra Brown
2.  Paradox - Catherine Coulter

Weekly Book Reading:

1.  Tear Me Apart - J.T. Ellison
2.  Dark Sentinel - Christine Feehan

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Library Haul 2018 (Sept 16 - 22)



Library Haul


Here's the list of books/manga/manhwa/yaoi manga I picked up this week at the library:

Hardcover:

1.  Abandoned - Allison Brennan
2.  Death is Not Enough - Karen Rose
3.  Imposter's Lair - Carla Neggers
4.  Tear Me Apart - J.T. Ellison
5.  Hitting the Books - Jenn MacKinlay
6.  Dark Sentinel - Christine Feehan

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bunny Express Saturday 2018 (Sept 15)


Bunny Express Saturday is hosted every Saturday at Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews.

I received these in the mail this week.  



 




 
Lieutenant Eve Dallas puzzles over a bizarre suicide bombing in a Wall St. office building in Leverage in Death, the latest in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from J.D. Robb.

For the airline executives finalizing a merger that would make news in the business world, the nine a.m. meeting would be a major milestone. But after marketing VP Paul Rogan walked into the plush conference room, strapped with explosives, the headlines told of death and destruction instead. The NYPSD’s Eve Dallas confirms that Rogan was cruelly coerced by two masked men holding his family hostage. His motive was saving his wife and daughter ― but what was the motive of the masked men?

Despite the chaos and bad publicity, blowing up one meeting isn’t going to put the brakes on the merger. All it’s accomplished is shattering a lot of innocent lives. Now, with the help of her billionaire husband Roarke, Eve must untangle the reason for an inexplicable act of terror, look at suspects inside and outside both corporations, and determine whether the root of this crime lies in simple sabotage, or something far more complex and twisted.







Dragon Hunter Wanted:

Sword supplied. No experience necessary.


One moment, I was a normal (if somewhat germaphobic) math teacher getting ready for summer vacation. Then my sister died in a pile of black ash, leaving me with a sword and her destiny as dragon hunter. It turns out there's a whole other world out there filled with demons, dragons, and spirits. Now my job is to protect mortals - and I haven't got a clue what I'm doing.

Then there's tattooed hotness Ian Iskander. Part dragon hunter and part demon, Ian's got some seriously creepy business associates and keeps trying to steal my sword. So why do we keep getting lost in hungry, crazy-hot kisses? Ian is the only person who can help me figure out who - and what - I am. But trusting a half-demon is dangerous because when you play with dragon fire, someone always gets burned.

Dorothy St. James’s In Cold Chocolate Blog Tour with a Spotlight and Giveaway

 

I am so excited to have Dorothy St. James here at Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews with a Spotlight and Giveaway.

Thanks Dorothy and Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for allowing me to join your In Cold Chocolate Blog Tour!

Please take it away, Dorothy! 






In Cold Chocolate: A Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Crooked Lane Books (September 11, 2018)
Hardcover: 350 Pages
ISBN-10: 1683317432
ISBN-13: 978-1683317432
Digital ASIN: B078M3N9TC




In Dorothy St. James’s third delectable Southern Chocolate Shop mystery, a new batch of chocolate and troubles of the heart cause a string of disasters for the Chocolate Box’s new owner, Charity Penn.

The vintage seaside town of Camellia Beach, South Carolina seems like the perfect place for romance with its quiet beach and its decadent chocolate shop that serves the world’s richest dark chocolates. The Chocolate Box’s owner, Charity Penn, falls even further under the island’s moonlit spell as she joins Althea Bays and the rest of the turtle watch team to witness a new generation of baby sea turtles hatch and make their way into the wide ocean.

Before the babies arrive, gunshots ring out in the night. Cassidy Jones, the local Casanova, is found dead in the sand with his lover Jody Dalton — the same woman who has vowed to destroy the Chocolate Box — holding the gun. It’s an obvious crime of passion, or so everyone believes. But when Jody’s young son pleads with Penn to bring his mother back to him, she can’t say no. She dives headfirst into a chocolate swirl of truth and lies, and must pick through an assortment of likely (and sometimes unsavory) suspects before it’s too late for Penn and for those she loves in Dorothy St. James’s third rich installment of the Southern Chocolate Shop mysteries, In Cold Chocolate.







About the Author

Mystery author Dorothy St. James was raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina with her husband, a neurotic dog, and a fluffy cat. Though writing has always been a passion for her, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Urban Planning. She put her educational experience to use, having worked in all branches and all levels of government including local, regional, state, and federal. She even spent time during college working for a non-profit environmental watchdog organization.

Switching from government service and community planning to fiction writing wasn’t as big of a change as some might think. Her government work was all about the stories of the people and the places where they live. As an urban planner, Dorothy loved telling the stories of the people she met. And from that, her desire to tell the tales that were so alive in her heart grew until she could not ignore it any longer. In 2001, she took a leap of faith and pursued her dream of writing fiction full-time.

* Dorothy St. James is the alter-ego of award-winning multi-published author, Dorothy McFalls. She enjoys writing in several different genres. Her works have been nominated for many awards including Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Reviewers International Organization Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award, and The Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10! Award. Reviewers have called her work: “amazing”, “perfect”, “filled with emotion”, and “lined with danger.”

Author Links

Website: www.dorothystjames.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dorothystjames

Twitter: www.twitter.com/dorothymcfalls

Purchase Links

Indie Bound Amazon Kobo Google Play Barnes and Noble BookBub

Giveaway

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/02887792760

Please follow the rest of the tour here, thanks:

https://www.escapewithdollycas.com/great-escapes-virtual-book-tours/books-currently-on-tour/in-cold-chocolate-a-southern-chocolate-shop-mystery-by-dorothy-st-james







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