HOME SCHOOLING: The Fire Night Ball is the debut novel in a trilogy. It’s a perfect choice for readers who like their paranormal suspense spicy but also intelligently focused on the dilemmas of contemporary women–in this case, sexual relationships and reproductive rights.
Set in 1977 at the height of sexual revolution, this cautionary tale about a rude moral awakening heats up when an unplanned pregnancy throws a curve ball into the heroine’s erotic, vainglorious dreams of a rosy future with her powerful client. Marlena Bellum, blessed with modest paranormal ability, is a beautiful San Francisco architect who’s back in her home town of Alta, Wyoming, for a holiday family reunion with her mother and older cousin. The three similarly gifted women have much to catch up on. But will the youngest survive to see 1978?
Enter the ancestral curse, underlined by a lurid hexing from mannish Letty Brown-Hawker, who is obsessed by Marlena’s physical resemblance to a notorious ancestor, Cassandra Vye. A remote mountain outpost, Alta has a history of witch-hunts among a faction of the natives. The religious fanatics are bent on ridding the town of Satanic influence by targeting B. L. Zebub’s Poolhall Saloon, a hip private club at the castle-like five-diamond Alta Hotel. Marlena is the brains behind its design and phenomenal success. Fatefully, her torrid relationship with owner/development mogul Harry Drake echoes the storyline of an accursed couple from 1900 who were ancestors of the illicit lovers. Their connection awakens an ancestral curse.
Marlena is looking into her crystal ball for a happily-ever-after, but she keeps getting tripped up by the past. Harry is looking for a three-way romp and blames his mistress for surreal vandalism that is threatening his bottom line. Meantime, she discovers her ancestral Victorian home is slated to be sacrificed on the altar of real estate development. Should she pit herself against Harry’s entrenched interests and align herself with a native who champions historic preservation?
A budding romance develops between Marlena and small town doctor Ron Huddleston, an old flame still carrying the torch. Her estranged husband comes to town in hopes of rescuing the marriage. The older kinswomen advising her are motivated by their own hidden agendas. Faced with these competing interests and her lover’s silence, Marlena is tempted to drop everything and run away to Key West, where a job rehabbing a mansion for a wealthy lesbian can be had for a snap of her fingers. During the reunion week, those who want something from her and the fanatics after her are thrown together in close quarters, with the ancestral curse never far behind.
Will the two deaths foretold by the curse hold true? Will the “pink house” be saved from the wrecking ball? Is Dr. Ron the silver lining in the storm clouds gathering around Marlena? Her journey of decision comes to a dramatic conclusion as this darkly comic spellbinder climaxes amid bonfires, natural disasters, and attempted murder at the Christmas Fire Night Ball.