ARC Reviews

19/08/2015

House of Crimson & Clover Box Set Volumes I-IV by Sarah M. Cradit. Fantasy; Paranormal; Romance ; Urban Fantasy

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The House of Crimson & Clover Box Set Volumes I-IV
Publication Date: August 17, 2015 
Tour: The House of Crimson & Clover Box Set Volumes I-IV by Sarah M. Cradit
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The Sullivans, a family of hard-working Irish lawyers, came from nothing and built a life they can be proud of. The Deschanels amassed incredible wealth by siding with the North during the Civil War, betraying their people. Both New Orleans families have a dark and rich history, painted with secrets, treachery, and colorful, supernatural abilities.
The House of Crimson and Clover unravels the mysteries surrounding both families, pulling us further into their tangled, enigmatic lives.
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EXCERPT FROM ASUNDER:

4- Jacob

Q

Jacob sat on his lopsided balcony, overlooking the river. Ahead, the Steamboat Natchez slowly eased back into port for the evening. Beneath, the loud sounds of proletarian commerce, police sirens, and crimes not-yet-committed filled the air.
He could have afforded better, but there was a peacefulness about returning to the raucous and lively Irish Channel. His years there were not the happiest, by any stretch, but they remained the backdrop for a period of greater control than he currently possessed.
At the tender age of ten years old, Jacob was handed off to Sister Agnes at Saint Louise Parochial Academy, after his last living relative in Ireland decided he was too much of a burden. Not only pulled from the safety of his mother’s arms, but from the country of his upbringing. Our orphanages are overflowing with wee brats n’one wants. Ye’ll get better care fro’ th’ one Father O’Connor recommends in the states, were the closest to tender words Jacob would ever get from his aunt.
For most coming through the doors of Saint Louise, it was an expensive Catholic school, but for the few, unfortunate children without family, like Jacob, it was also an orphanage, with none of the accouterments of the school itself.
“Ye poor, sweet dear,” Sister Agnes had lamented, eyeing his torn clothes and lack of luggage. “Keep yer nose down and focus on yer studies and you’ll be fine, lad.” But he didn’t miss how she looked away as the words floated off her lips. Not the first unfortunate orphan who’d passed through, apparently. It didn’t take much to guess how their tenure had ended.
He quickly discovered the difference between the orphans and students at St. Louise was bigger than where each rested their heads at night. The academy was largely funded by some of the wealthier Uptown families (including the Deschanels, though Jacob wouldn’t learn that until much later), some of whose children were students. Allowing housing for orphans made it possible for those same benefactors to increase their charitable tax deductions.
The sisters were understandably terrified of angering their source of support, and so what passed for structure and discipline at St. Louise was nothing more than gentle scolding… unless you were one of the orphans, in which case martyrdom was not far off.
Nearing adolescence when he arrived, it was painfully evident from the beginning that Jacob’s chances of finding a family were slim. And it didn’t take long for the other children to figure out why Jacob had been shipped all the way from Ireland, alone and with nothing to his name.
Jacob came to know his bullies by their features, rather than their names, a trick his father taught him. Don’ see yer aggressor as a person, Jacob. It softens yer heart, and exposes yer weaknesses. Reduce them to naught more tha’ a word that makes them nothin’.
The worst of the bullies was an overweight redhead, with freckles so dense they seemed as if they might eventually swallow up his eyes. Jacob thought of him as Speck.
About a month after Jacob showed up, Speck tore the Saint Jude medal from Jacob’s neck; a gift from his mother. “Your dad musta prayed to Jude about what a lost cause his family was, and he replied ‘Yep, kill ‘em and start over!’“ Speck’s group of buddies rallied around him, ready to nod and give agreement. “Way I see it, you’re already dead, you dirty mick. Killing you would be doing God a favor.”
“I don’ know wha’ God ye pray to, but mine doe’nt require favors,” Jacob replied, already squaring his stance, as Pa showed him. Ready.
“Take the cock out of your mouth and try that again,” Speck cracked, and his friends roared. It wouldn’t be the last time they ridiculed his rural Irish brogue, but Jacob would be sure they remembered the first.
“I suggested th’ same thing to yer ma last night, but she was enjoyin’ herself too much to heed th’ advice,” Jacob quipped back.
Speck threw the first punch.
Jacob’s father had been an amateur pugilist back in Ireland, supplementing his unreliable income with fights several nights a week, accepting a portion of the wager proceeds. And while he granted little time for his children, he spent what he did have teaching Jacob and his brother, Enoch, how to fight.
Yer stance is everything. Only let him hit ye for misdirection. Next most important is knowin’ yer opponent. Yah fightin’ a big boy? Wear him out. Then strike when he’s winded.
Over time, Jacob would fill out, but as a child he was small and wiry; an easy target. But no target was easy while moving, and so Jacob danced and dodged until Speck coughed and wheezed, all the while taunting his apparent lack of courage. And then Jacob waylaid the bigger boy with blows that would have made Liam Donnelly proud.
It took several of Speck’s friends, and Sister Agnes, to stop him, and Jacob was still swinging when they hauled him away. No one was surprised when Speck was given comfort, and Jacob solitary detention.
Sister Agnes came to see him in punishment, to tend to his split lip. “Jacob, don’t ye know you’re the best o’ the lot? This is no way to go through life.”
Jacob had looked up, grinning through a mouthful of blood. “But I won, Sister.”
She shook her head with a heavy sadness. “Tis not a victory if it comes at the cost of yer soul.”
“Then there’s no use in talkin’ about it, Sister, ‘coz my Pa a’ready took my soul when he dragged my family wit’ ‘im to hell.”
The match with Speck marked the beginning of Jacob Donnelly fighting his way through his studies. Over time, only the bravest, and boldest, dared take him on.
But as he grew older in Saint Louise’s, and he received fewer challenges, Jacob slowly came to the awareness he was not fighting for self-defense. He fought to reclaim something critical he’d lost. His soul, perhaps. And the longer he went without a fight, the worse his studies fared. His knuckles ached, and his shoulders itched.
When he reached the age of fourteen—the cutoff for Saint Louise—he was sent to a sister private school in Uptown, where fighting meant immediate expulsion. But the loss of Sister Agnes, and her constant steadying, hurt almost as much as losing his physical outlet.
Sister Agnes, as it turned out, was from an Irish village not far from where the Donnellys met their gruesome end. For this reason, and many others, she had a soft spot for Jacob the moment he walked through the venerable doors of Saint Louise. Her Pa was also a fighter, and she recognized the hunger, and need, in Jacob’s eyes all too well. She seemed to understand telling him to stop would be like asking him not to breathe. And so, she introduced him to a young Russian who ran a fight club on the river.
Vasily was not much older than Jacob, but his face bore the tale of a full life already lived. He immediately witnessed the fire in Jacob, but cautioned him he would find fighting with Russians a completely different experience. While naturally lean like Jacob, they spent their days and nights in the gym, building muscle mass and pushing themselves far beyond their natural limit. For Jacob, fighting was a release; for them, a way of life.
They called themselves the Kremlin; an ironic jab at the government they’d eagerly left behind.
In the beginning, Jacob lost nearly all his bouts. The Russians laughed, wheedling him to go back to his school and fight little kids. This didn’t deter him in the slightest. He walked away with broken ribs, cracked jaws, and eventually got used to seeing through one eye at a time. Sheer Irish stubbornness meant he worked harder, and started training with Vasily, who, impressed by Jacob’s determination, took him personally under his wing. He learned to be an effective southpaw outside fighter, discovering a way to blend technique and instinct. He “had a chin,” as Vasily would say; a fighter who could take the big hit and find the inner resolve to remain standing. And eventually, he started winning.
He became known as “Fightin’ Irish” amongst the Kremlin, and when they opened up private matches with other fight clubs around the greater New Orleans area, they always pitted him against the biggest opponents. A pugilist remake of David and Goliath, Jacob could dance around them for untold time, wearing them down, before going in for the victory. Though he hit his growth spurt as a sophomore in high school—shooting up to over six feet—it did not dull his quickness, or gift at reading opponents.
For the first time since his father murdered his family, he was alive with purpose.
But Jacob never mistook the satisfaction he drew from fighting with happiness. He’d long ago given up hope of ever finding that. Fighting was surviving.
When he was fifteen, Sister Agnes formally adopted him, leaving her post at Saint Louise to tend to his care. And each night, when he came home, she would be awake, ready to tend his wounds, and then help him with his homework.
It was Sister Agnes who followed the Deschanel tragedies, and piqued Jacob’s interest in the subject. Thanks to scholarships, and a modest trust fund established upon her retirement, she paid for his higher education at Tulane, seeing him securely ensconced on campus before returning to her own family in Ireland. And so Jacob had her to thank for not only helping him first find his control, but then paving the way for him to meet the one person who could make him forget about boxing altogether. The scars on his hands healed, just as the one on his chest, where his father’s bullet had pierced. His heart burst with the recognition of what it meant to finally discover a means of being whole.
But Amelia was gone now, and with every day that passed, it grew increasingly doubtful she was ever coming back.
And once again, Jacob felt the ache in his knuckles, and the itch in his shoulders.


Though Jacob had been out of the fight scene for nearly a decade, he’d kept in touch with Vasily, who’d since retired from the ring, but still checked in on the old crew from time to time.
There’s a new club in Algiers, Vasily said. New crew. New rules. But they’ll take a man they don’t know, if you catch my meaning. If you’re having a rough patch, they won’t ask questions.
Jacob stopped outside the doors of the unmarked bar with hesitation. Once he stepped through, he might never be able to turn back. Embracing this old release was his equivalent of accepting all hope was lost.
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!” a familiar voice externalized his feelings. Jacob whipped his head up to see a man tottering for balance, clutching a piece of paper he flapped belligerently in greeting. Over the exhaust, Jacob smelled the rancid liquor on his breath, wafting up on the artificial breeze from passing traffic.
“Tristan… what are you doing here?”
“Signing up to get my ass kicked, I hope?” Tristan grinned, stumbling against the building. Under the awning lights, Jacob was granted a clear view of the younger man’s face, which boasted a split lip and developing black eye. “Oh, the other guy looks worse, trust me. Who do you think gave me the address?”
“You shouldn’t be here,” Jacob muttered, casting a searching glance at the old building, before reluctantly turning back to Amelia’s cousin. He sighed, understanding Tristan was reading his thoughts. He’d been too distracted to stop him. “This place is bad news, Tris.”
Tristan scoffed, kicking at a piece of upturned sidewalk. “You’re here. Can’t be that bad if the Prodigal Son of Ireland is a patron.”
“I’m not a patron, and there’s a lot you don’t know about me,” Jacob countered, slipping a hand over Tristan’s shoulders. The latter stumbled into the embrace as he tried to move away, but then erupted with laughter as he nearly knocked them both over.
“I know you’re a pathetic son-of-a-bitch for letting Amelia walk away like that,” Tristan replied. His words were so slurred that “son-of-a-bitch” came out more like “splunchsbish,” but Jacob got the gist. “But I can’t talk, I guess. I let my pregnant girlfriend kill our baby, so I suppose that makes me a pathetic son-of-a-bitch, too.”
“Amelia has a right to her choices,” Jacob started, then frowned. Reasoning would be lost on Tristan, so instead Jacob eased him down the dark alley, toward his parked car.
He fully expected Tristan to put up a fight, but instead the young man crumpled into a heap in the front seat, whimpering against the window.
As Jacob struggled to secure the passenger seatbelt, he told himself, Tomorrow. I’ll come back tomorrow.


Connor thanked him when he pulled up to the Sullivan house, declaring through his exhaustion how Tristan had been troubled since Elizabeth died, and how he felt helpless to stop his destructive behaviors.
But all Jacob could think of was the disturbed young boy he had been when he came to Saint Louise, eyes wide, ready to fight the first person who dared say a word about him or his family. He didn’t have a father to guide him, and keep him safe. But Tristan did.
“You can thank me by giving him the support he needs,” Jacob replied, out the passenger window. “Tristan is a good boy, but he needs you to show him how to be a man.”
Connor looked stricken, but his expression faded to benign acceptance, and he nodded.
Jacob pulled away, beleaguered by sadness at realizing Tristan fell into the same category as the rest of Amelia’s family. People he once cared about as his own clan.
Now they were simply people he knew.

About Sarah M. Cradit

Sarah M. Cradit
Sarah is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Paranormal Southern Fiction series, The House of Crimson & Clover. The series was born of her combined loves of New Orleans, family dramas, and the mysterious nature of love and desire. Her books combine elements of paranormal, mystery, suspense, intrigue, and romance. She is always working on the next book in the series, and absolutely loves connecting with her fans. Sarah lives in the Pacific Northwest, but has traveled the world from Asia to Europe to Africa. When she isn’t working (either at her day career, or hard at work at writing), she is reading a book and discovering new authors. The great loves of her life (in order) are: her husband James, her writing, and traveling the world.

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