Friday, May 10, 2019

"Past Presence" by Nicole Bross


REVIEW and GIVEAWAY
Past Presence
by Nicole Bross

Past Presence by Nicole Bross

Past Presence by Nicole Bross is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.


Description
Audrey Eames is happy living the wanderer’s life. After a near-death experience in her teens, Audrey can see people’s past lives whenever her skin touches theirs, and afraid of being labeled delusional, she’s never stayed in one place too long or made any deep connections.
So when Audrey’s estranged aunt dies and leaves her the historic Soberly Inn and Public House on the scenic Oregon coast, Audrey wants nothing to do with it. She’s determined to sell the inn and leave town before someone discovers the power she’s been hiding from the world, but clauses in her aunt’s will seem to block her at every turn.
Yet once ensconced in Soberly’s small town life, the people - particularly the inn's bartender, Kellen Greene - start to grow on her, and she begins to feel that maybe she’s finally found a place of her own. As accepting as the townspeople seem, Audrey fears their reactions - and Kellen’s rejection - and decides to keep her visions a secret. But all is not well in Soberly. Soon after Audrey arrives, people in town start dying in the same manner as in their past lives - but in this lifetime it’s murder. When suspicion starts to fall on Audrey and Kellen, Audrey vows to use her gift to find the murderer and protect the people she loves - before it’s too late.


Excerpt
“It’s been nice chatting with you, Miss Eames.” The night coach driver offers me his hand, palm up, as I prepare to step down and off the bus. With a smile, I accept—careful not to put any weight onto his fingers, which look swollen and red with age and the decades he’s been gripping the wheel.
He handed a woman, all swirling skirts, and ruffles, off the carriage-and-four. She was laughing at something her mother had said, but before she stepped up the gravel path leading to the doors of the grand estate, flung open to welcome guests to the ball within, she turned to give him a nod and a half-smile.
Enjoy your evening, Miss.” He returned her nod as the heat crept up under his stiff white collar, but she had already caught up with her mother, and he didn’t think she had heard him.
The way his hand clasps mine is the same. Some habits carry over from one lifetime to the next, as I’ve learned. The vision lingers in my mind even after I pull away and shoulder my duffel. The manor home looked English, and the woman’s dress was definitely late Victorian.
The sun is cracking the horizon, bathing the village of Soberly, Oregon, all twelve streets of it, in a glow that changes from sepia to marigold. The bus pulls away behind me in a cloud of exhaust and fine yellow sand, off to the next tiny hamlet along the coastal highway, leaving me standing in the empty street.
My destination is clearly visible—there is only one hotel here, the sensible, if unoriginally named, Soberly Inn and Public House. Standing one block away, it faces the sea and even from here I can see how the salt spray has faded the once-cobalt blue paint to a dull cornflower over the years. For reasons I don’t yet understand, the Soberly Inn now belongs to me, and I am here to claim it.
I had no idea my Aunt Roz had even owned the inn. The last time I saw her I was an awkward pre- teen, and she was less than twice my age. I sometimes remembered to email her on her birthday, but not, I’m ashamed to say, every year, although she never forgot mine. Yet despite our distant, superficial relationship, she had left this place to me, rather than the wife she left behind when she died of a rapidly progressing cancer ten days ago. Maybe she was an ex-wife now. I had no idea. We weren’t even Facebook friends. The notification of her death had come via her lawyer, not my father, along with the news that, for the first time in my life, I was a property owner. The news had affected me deeply, more so than I expected. Now, looking at Roz’s prize for the first time, the quiet ache in my chest ramps up to a throbbing spasm before fading again.
This was what my carefree aunt gave up her vagabond life for, and now she wanted me to do the same? I stare up at the building, taking note of the aged wooden siding where the paint has curled away in places, the cracked cedar shingles, and the plain-lettered sign swinging from two chains beside the entrance. ‘Shabby’ was the word that came to mind, and not ‘shabby chic,’ either. I could only imagine the interior was just as dusty and unremarkable as the exterior.
“What were you thinking, Roz?” I say under my breath. My feet are still planted in the same place because I don’t know where to go. There isn’t a soul in sight at this time of day, nor are any of the assortment of shops and businesses that line the main street open. I know there will almost certainly be someone at the front desk of the inn, but although I’ve come all this way, I’m not ready to make an appearance there yet, not without knowing what I want to say, something I’d neglected to plan on the long bus ride. I scuff one toe of my battered Chucks in the sand that’s accumulated along the curb, stalling. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the beach, I decide, as I step into the street with the rising sun at my back. The inn is a problem I delegate to Future Audrey. Right-now Audrey is going for a walk along the coast.
***
As it turns out, the only thing four hours of roaming the beach does is add hunger and the intense need to find a bathroom to my problems. Possibly a sunburn as well, judging from the pinkish hue my skin is taking on. I’ve always felt the injustice of not inheriting the platinum blonde or fiery red hair color that usually accompanies my level of fair skin. There’s nothing even remotely exotic or attention-getting about the flat, medium- brown I ended up with. At least I can be thankful it doesn’t frizz in the humidity, otherwise, I’d look like a positive nightmare right now.
The sun is almost directly overhead when I make my way over the last dune to the boardwalk. Although the village’s one cafe is now open and will serve my requirements, I trudge past it to the inn, standing a bit apart from the businesses surrounding it by virtue of its height, the only three-story building in a two-story town.
Faced with two doors, one into the inn itself and one into the pub, I choose the latter. It takes my eyes a moment to adjust to the dimness, but my stomach reacts to the environment immediately, growling audibly as the scent of fresh-fried fish greets me.
The pub is classic seaside kitsch, decorated with fishing nets and glass buoys, old traps, and a well-worn rowboat suspended upside-down from the ceiling. Maps of the coastline and faded photographs decorate the walls, as well as other assorted nautical ephemera, and together it paints a portrait of the rich coastal history of the town.
I’m still blinking away the daylight, taking this all in, when someone steps into my field of vision.
“Grab a seat wherever you want,” a guy holding a large plastic tub says. He’s clearing empty glasses and plates as he says it. I nod my acknowledgment because the pair of red Beats headphones he’s wearing will certainly drown out any verbal reply. His head is bobbing in time to music only he can hear as he disappears through a door leading to what I assume is the kitchen.
I duck into the washroom first, eliminating one of my problems. The maritime theme continues, with signs for pirates and wenches on the doors, and mirrors framed to look like portholes. Girls can be pirates too, and I don’t see why boys can’t be wenches. Geez, Roz. Sexist much? She’d been an ardent feminist in her early twenties. Had she stopped caring, or was I reading too much into a couple of bathroom signs?
The only table free seats six, so I choose a high stool at the near-vacant bar instead. I’ve arrived right in the middle of the lunch rush, from the looks of it. I still don’t know what to say to anyone here. “Hi, I’m the new owner,” seems arrogant, especially since I have no intention of keeping the place.
A menu appears in front of me, startling me out of my ruminations. Across the polished walnut bar stands a man whose skin is a shade lighter than the wood he’s resting his hands on. His smile widens as he stares at me expectantly.
“Sorry—what?” I shake my head, flustered. Who has teeth that straight, that white? Self-conscious, I half-cover my mouth with the back of my hand. Mine show clear evidence of my two-pot-a-day coffee habit. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe someone of the same vintage as the decor, but it definitely wasn’t someone younger than me, although maybe only by a couple years.
“Drink?” he repeats, jerking his head at the long row of taps, each with a branded handle. Most of them I’ve never heard of, and I’m not a daytime drinker anyway. “This is a pub,” he adds and winks. The bartender who’s well aware of his good looks. I’m familiar with the type. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it my type, but I’d gone home with enough of them over the years.
“Sweet tea,” I say. “Extra ice.”
“Sure you don’t want a pint? Maybe a cold glass of white?”
I shake my head. “Tea’s fine.”
“G&T? I’ll put lots of ice in it.” He’s polishing up a tumbler, reaching for the bottle of Bombay on the shelf behind him. I roll my eyes, but I can’t keep the side of my mouth from twitching.
“Put that back. I just want the sweet tea. Are you on commission or something?”
“Nah, I just want to card you so I know your name,” he says. Unrepentant, he points to the sign nailed to a pillar that states We ID Anyone Under 25.
“You’re off the mark by a few years, my friend,” I tell him. He’s finally pouring my sweet tea from the soda tap into a massive glass full of ice.
“Bullshit.” As soon as he sets it down in front of me, I’m chugging it back, not breathing until the glass is half-empty. He snags it back and refills it while I wipe my mouth with a cocktail napkin. What I want to do is scoop the ice out and rub it all over my arms and face, which are starting to feel alarmingly hot. From all the sun, I tell myself. Not from the attention of this cocky bartender.
“We ID for all food orders too, you know.”
I lean in close and pause before speaking, making it clear I’m appraising him. “Maybe I’m not hungry.”
“You are. I saw you drinking in the smell of the fryer when you walked in. You got this dreamy smile that said you knew exactly what you wanted. So, let’s see it.” He holds out his hand with a crooked, teasing smile, but I push it away with the menu I haven’t even glanced at. He’s right. I don’t need to look at it at all, but I don’t want to admit that he can read me so well.
“You don’t have to show ID to order food here. You made that up.”
“So what? I can make up the rules if I want.”
“Oh, you must own the place?” I mirror his teasing tone, but I’m watching him closely, seeing how he’ll respond. I expect a smart ass reply in the same vein as our banter, but a shadow crosses his face and the smile slips. Shit. The owner just died, you idiot. As usual, the words spilled out of my mouth before I had a chance to think them through.
“I’m not, actually,” he says.
“I know. I’m sorry, that was stupid of me to say.” I bite my lip and plunge forward. “I’m Audrey. Audrey Eames. Roz’s niece. Umm, I’m the owner, I guess. So, they tell me. For now.” The silence stretches out between us as he takes all this in, frozen in place while I sit there, feeling like an utter moron with my hand outstretched, waiting for him to shake it. I’m just about to withdraw it into my lap when a wide grin cracks his face. He grips my hand so our forearms touch and our elbows rest on the bar, like we’re about to arm-wrestle. I’m drawn forward in the process so we’re almost nose-to-nose.
A gaggle of children ran through the field ahead of her and scrambled over the stile. They were jostling each other and shouting raucously, overjoyed to be free of the classroom for the afternoon. All but one, a small boy whose hand was clasped snugly into hers.
Look, Miss Dean, a nest. The others missed it.” The boy spoke with a thick country accent as he pointed up at the treetops.
Good eye, Wil. What sort of bird do you think made it?”
Something big. A kite, maybe.” She nodded in agreement, and they continued on in companionable silence, following the sounds of laughter ahead.
“You totally played me, Audrey. I thought you were just another tumbleweed. I’m glad you’re not. Kellen Greene. It’s very nice to meet you.” The vision of his past- self fades from my mind, and I wonder what qualities he and the teacher have in common.
“A tumbleweed?” He squeezes my hand before releasing it, the pad of his thumb tracing a line up the side of my index finger like he’s trying to maintain contact up to the last possible second.
“Tourists that roll on through town with the wind, here and gone before you know it. They don’t bring anything with them, and they don’t take anything away either.”
“My bag should have clued you in that I wasn’t just passing through,” I point out, kicking it where it rests at my feet.
“Ahh, but there’s only one place to stay in Soberly,” he nods toward the ceiling and the rooms above, “and it’s full up, at least until Sunday.” Kellen walks over to the door leading into the back and swings it open. “Hey, Ma,” he shouts, drawing the attention of everyone in the pub. “Come meet your new boss.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]


Praise for the Book
Past Presence is Nicole Bross's debut novel, and what a debut it is. She delivers an imaginative and clever story […] Bross's writing is smooth and open; her characters, contemporary. […] Past Presence is a thoroughly satisfying curl-up-in-your-pajamas-and-read-it-straight-through supernatural delight. You're sure to enjoy it whether this is your first lifetime or your fifty-first.” ~ Colorado Book Review
“I just finished Past Presence and enjoyed it very much. This is the author's first book (I hope there will be many more) and she did an excellent job of creating a believable story and keeping me engaged to the end. Past Presence has it all - interesting characters, romance, masterful suspense, and a clever ending full of surprises.” ~ mint girl
“Nicole Bross, where have you been! Excellent story, superb character development. The descriptions of the town, the people and the other surroundings make you feel as if you are there breathing the salty, costal air. I absolutely could not put it down! Keep it up!” ~ Jim Tindle
“This is a well written book with strong characters and a unique story line. The author does a great job building the story and pulling you in with the interesting mystery as well as the romance. I loved how she mixes past and present with all the different time lines. The story feels very realistic, moves quickly and smoothly and I enjoyed reading.” ~ Brenda
“Author Bross rolls out multiple timelines, from Audrey’s very modern life to a tiny Russian mountain village, with evocative prose, a skilled lens, and a fair amount of bedroom-based heat, that asks the deeper questions about why people are drawn to the same souls, no matter the era, and if the sins of our pasts can ever be redeemed. A thrilling read combining historical fiction, paranormal suspense, and good old fashioned mystery, I can’t wait to see what’s next for both author Nicole Bross and her fearless hero, Audrey Eames.” ~ Norman E Thoeming

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.
Much to her surprise, Audrey Eames inherits the Soberly Inn and Public House from her Aunt Roz, who she hasn’t seen since she was twelve. Audrey loves her job as a consulting historian, which allows her to travel from place to place, never staying for more than nine months. Now, after meeting the friendly locals – especially bartender Kellen Greene - Audrey contemplates giving up her carefree life, staying in the tiny town of Soberly, Oregon, and taking over the business. But Audrey also has a secret: she can see a person’s past lives just by touching them. When people start dying in the same way they died in a previous life, Audrey decides to use her ability to actively pursue the leads her visions provide, even though she may be putting herself and her new friends in danger.
What a fascinating idea for a book! I was intrigued by the concept that our past lives reflect who we will become and that we remain connected to certain people over our different lifetimes. The story is woven around the present and the past, with Audrey’s visions written in italics. There are also chapters that tell the past-life stories of the townspeople and how they were connected previously. While I did guess the identity of the killer, the story kept my attention throughout.
An interesting mix of contemporary, historical, mystery, paranormal, thriller, suspense, romance, family drama, and humor. In other words, something for everyone.
Warnings: coarse language, sexual references, sex scenes, violence.

Some of My Favorite Lines
“Reconnecting physically with Kellen after such an emotionally draining ordeal feels like I’ve reached an oasis after crawling, parched, through the desert …”
“I’m encircled with a mixture of warmth and sternness that feels like she’s hugging me with her words …”

About the Author
Nicole Bross
Nicole Bross is an author from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she lives with her husband, two children and one very large orange cat. When she’s not writing or working as the editor of a magazine, she can be found curled up with a book, messing around with her ever-expanding collection of manual typewriters, or in the departures lounge of the airport at the beginning of another adventure. Past Presence is her debut novel.

Giveaway
Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.

Links
Amazon (Kindle Unlimited)

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