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A Beth-Hill Novel: Karen Montgomery Series, Novella 2: The Secret of Redemption by Jennifer St. Clair (Fantasy)

A Beth-Hill Novel: Karen Montgomery Series, Novella 2: The Secret of Redemption by Jennifer St. Clair (Fantasy)
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Karen Montgomery is embroiled in another otherworldly adventure...

A member of the Wild Hunt wants help to find peace between who he once was and who he is now. A little girl has gone missing. And the one most likely responsible for her disappearance is the one Karen must prove innocent.

Also available in print (paperback) - as part of the Karen Montgomery Collection. Containing Karen Montgomery Series Books 1 - 4 PLUS Companion Novel Capture!

A bargain with the elves, worth its weight in gold...
A plague of ladybugs--and rogue vampire hunters...
A vampire hunter who turns a new leaf--with disastrous consequences...
A member of the Wild Hunt, who wishes for redemption...
And more, in the first Karen Montgomery Collection.

ISBN/EAN13: 1922066508 / 978-1922066503
Page Count: 480 pages
Trim Size: 5" x 8"

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A Beth-Hill Novel: Karen Montgomery Series, Novella 2: The Secret of Redemption by Jennifer St. Clair (Fantasy)
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Polly for Bitten by Books (http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=255)
"I was no priest to absolve him, or grant him redemption. But libraries were often confessionals of sorts, something I have never understood."

Malachi, a remorseful and contrite Hound of the Wild Hunt, makes an unexpected visit to the Amington Library and is coaxed into offering his storytelling services to Assistant Director Karen Montgomery. Later that same day, Malachi isn't so sure he has made the right decision because Jenny Green, the young woman who accompanies the day care children to the library for story hour, is a Water Hag, one of those nasty creatures who eat little children. When a little girl goes missing, Karen and Malachi, accompanied by the dangerous Water Hag, find themselves deep in a sinister section of the faery forest searching for the missing child.

As much as this second story in the chronicles of Karen Montgomery is about redemption and Malachi's need to find atonement for the atrocities he committed as part of the Wild Hunt, it is also a story about trust. Who can be trusted? How much evidence of faith is needed to prove one trustworthy?

In the Amington/Beth Hill area of Ohio where the Montgomery stories take place, Faery (the land of the Fe) lies close to the unbelieving, mundane world. Indeed, the area has an unusually large population of arcane creatures masquerading as human. The mystical inhabitants, of course, are more in danger from one another than they are from their human neighbors because they do not trust one another. Elves are deceitful; no one trusts the Wild Hunt; Water Hags are despicable; dryads are nasty; dragons are obsessed with gold and value it above all else; and vampires, well, they're murderous bloodsuckers. This lack of trust makes up the controlling theme of The Secret of Redemption.

No one can accuse author Jennifer St.Clair of skirting the issues or short-changing her readers. She has mastered the skill of short-form storytelling through character action and dialog. Once again her crisp prose and revealing speech develop the characters, illustrate the central theme, and move the story toward its completion. This lazy afternoon read has it all and offers it up in a well-orchestrated , craftily executed novella form.
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Sample Chapter

"Ms. Montgomery?" Penny's voice burst from the intercom on my phone, startling me out of a wonderful daydream that involved a book, a beach, and no reporters.

I jerked upright. "Yes?" Did my voice betray the fact that I'd been asleep?

"There's--someone here to see you," Penny said. Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I think--I think he's blind."

For a moment, my mind went blank as I tried to imagine who my visitor could be. Not a reporter--or at least, not a reporter that I'd seen before. Someone local? A concerned patron who wanted more books in Braille?

"Send him in if you don't think he's a reporter in disguise," I said. "What does he want?"

"He said he wanted to talk to you," Penny said. "And he looks familiar. He might have been at the Christmas party."

The Christmas party. My mind cast back, struggling to remember a blind--

"Oh." My heart leapt. What was he doing here? "Ask him what his name is before you bring him back."

I heard Penny's voice, distant now, as if she didn't just sit down the hall. "Sir, can I ask your name?"

I didn't hear his reply. His voice was too soft for the microphone to pick up.

Penny picked up the phone again. "He says his name is Malachi."

I would not make a member of the Wild Hunt wait. "I'll be right out."


He stood in the reception area, his sightless eyes fixed on Penny's desk, his hands clasped together, as if in prayer. When he heard my footsteps, he raised his head. I could barely see the scars that ravaged his face. I still didn't know the story behind those scars. Considering my lack of authority concerning the Wild Hunt or any other supernatural person who lived in the county, I doubted I ever would.

"Ms. Montgomery." His voice was just as smooth as his Master's, but I sensed something hidden behind his calm. "I apologize for disturbing you without notice."

"You're not disturbing me," I said. "In fact, I'm delighted to see you. Do you want to come into my office and talk? Is everything okay at home?" With Penny only a few feet away, I had to watch what I said about the Hunt's cave in this world, and their rambling house in Faerie.

Malachi cocked his head. "You are--delighted to see me? Why?"

"Come into my office," I said, keenly aware of Penny's sharp ears. I held out my hand, then realized he couldn't see the gesture. "Do you need to--" How did I phrase an offer of help without sounding facetious? "Do you need my help?"

"If you allow me to touch the back of your arm as we walk, I will be fine," Malachi said. "I can't--I do not know this place." He hesitated. "That's one of the reasons why I came."

I stepped in front of him and turned around, offering him my arm. "I'm right in front of you, then. We don't have far to go."

He was silent until we reached my office, his fingers trailing across the walls here and there to familiarize himself with his surroundings. I noticed that he touched the chair I led him to, swiftly determining its height and width so he would not become off balance when he sat down.

He sat stiffly, as if unused to human furnishings, tense and wary, his face a mask.

"Would you like something to drink? I have tea--"

"No, thank you," Malachi said. "I won't take up much of your time. I came--" His hands clutched the arms of the chair, hard enough to make the old oak creak.

"Did you come here by yourself?" I asked, hoping to put him at ease.

He bristled. "I am not helpless!"

"I didn't think you were," I said. "But I've never seen you without another member of the Hunt." In fact, I'd only seen Malachi three times. Once, in their house when I delivered the invitations to the Christmas party. The second time, at the Christmas party, in human form, just as unhappy as he was now. The third time, in the library with Emle and Eri, almost three weeks ago.

And now, of course--so four times. Math was never my strong suit in school.

Malachi took a deep breath. "I am unused to this," he whispered, but I didn't know what he meant. "And I need--help."

Speaking those words out loud drained much of the tension from his body. He slumped in the chair, shrinking in on himself until he lost much of the otherworldly quality that made the Hunt so--seductive. They were, after all, the Wild Hunt. Ancient creatures out of myth and legend.

But like all the stories, once you moved past the myths and legends; once the fairy tale was over and you looked beyond the happily ever after, they became something more. Something vibrant. Alive. Individuals in their own right, with their own wants and desires.

I kept my voice soft. "What kind of help do you need?"

"I feel no pity from you," Malachi said. "And you are a good person. I am not. But I think I would like to be. Now that the Hunt is not bound, now that we are free, I think I would like to learn."

This was the most I'd ever heard him speak. I gaped at him for a moment, unsure how to respond. Why had he chosen me? And what was I going to do about it?

"Why aren't you a good person?" And why did I feel like I was interviewing a potential employee? "And bear with me if I ask you a stupid question. I'm still new at this, after all. I don't know more than you realize."

He nodded slowly. "You know the stories of the Hunt. You know what we once were."

"I've heard the stories," I said. "Some of them, at least. As much as the Council everyone holds in such high esteem has allowed me to know." Which wasn't much. Ivy had told me much more than the Council.

In fact, the press releases about the library's endowment had been Council-approved. But only the Director knew that.

"The Council is a necessary evil," Malachi said. "And while I did not agree with their binding, it helped us become what we are now." He hesitated. "Some of those stories--most of those stories hold grains of truth that cower in our darkest memories. I would rather those memories remain in the darkness. Our Master calls us family now, but we still serve him with our lives and loyalty."

We meaning the Hunt, of course. And I had noticed more than once their deference to their Master, even now.

"You said the Hunt was free. But you still serve your Master, so you're not really free, are you?"

Malachi's eyes narrowed as he tried to put his thoughts into words. "Free--it depends on whom you ask," he said. "I gave my loyalty to my Master, yes, and he still holds my life in his hands. But we are free enough to make our own decisions now, up to a point. We are allowed to argue. To protest. Before--before, we obeyed without thought or question."

"What happened if you questioned an order before?" I asked. Again, I'd heard stories. Mostly from Ivy, who was not at all impartial, and could give an opinion on almost everything. Sometimes I forgot she was older than me by almost thirty years.

Malachi shuddered. "Sometimes we died." He caught his breath, as if the memories had grown too strong for him to bear. "I disobeyed him once. And he almost killed me."

"Is that when you lost your sight?" There wasn't any tactful way to ask. But if Gabriel had blinded him, then why keep him around? What good was a blind Hound to a Wild Hunt?

"No." He did not elaborate. "Gabriel did not blind me. In fact, I expected him to cast me out when he found out I was blind, but he did not."

"I see," I said, but I didn't, not really. Not yet. "But let me get this straight. You think you're a bad person because you obeyed your Master's orders without question? Only, if you had tried to disobey him, he would have killed you?"

"After that first time, I made the choice that I wanted to live," Malachi said. "And people suffered because of my choice. People died."

It was an interesting dilemma. But I had no idea why he thought I would be able to help him resolve his guilt, if that was what he truly wanted. I was no priest to absolve him, or grant him redemption. But libraries were often confessionals of sorts, something I'd never understood.

Before I could speak, he continued, the expression on his face tortured now. More memories. How could they sleep with such horrible memories lurking in their minds?

"We spent most of our time with the Hunt as Hounds. And we truly could not disobey--when I am a Hound, I feel compelled to do whatever my Master wishes. But when I am in human form--when I am in human form, I realize what I have done." He shuddered. "Do you understand?"

I thought I did, at least this part of it. "Hounds have no conscience. But when you're in human form, you have one?"

"As a Hound, when we are told to hunt, everything is potential prey." Malachi twisted his hands together. "I am not explaining this well. I'm sorry."

When had I left my job as Assistant Director and become a Psychologist? "What do you need me for?" I asked, still unclear about that piece of the puzzle. "You can't change the past, Malachi. I know you know that. And you certainly don't need me to tell you that."

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