Julie N. Ford
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Suspense
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Date of Publication: April 2013
Number of pages: 286
Word Count: 88,000
Cover Artist: Steve Novak
When Marlie agrees to attend a cadaver ball at Vanderbilt Medical School, she did not expect to actually see any cadavers. Or, that a strange apparition would issue her a chilling message.
Despite the cadaver's warning, Marlie is married a year later to Tennessee State Senator, Daniel Cannon, and living in a plantation-style mansion with two step-sons. Add to the mix her growing suspicion that something is amiss with the death of Daniel’s first wife, Gentry, and newlywed Marlie is definitely in over her pretty Yankee head.
What begins as an innocent inquiry into her new husband’s clouded past ends with Marlie in the midst of a dangerous conspiracy.
A modern twist on the classic Gothic romance novels of Rebecca and Jane Eyre, Replacing Gentry follows Marlie’s precarious journey as she learns the truth about the man she married.
Paul leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table. “Next question.” His eyes took a discerning turn around our fellow dinner guests as if he were about to say something profound. “Do you believe in love at first sight? And if so, if you met the man of your dreams and he asked you to marry him right then and there, would you say yes?”
As had been the case the entire night, my thoughts rushed to Finn, how I’d fallen for him the first time we’d met. And how two weeks later I had boarded a plane to Vegas where I’d become his wife.
Obviously, my true answer would be yes. “I’d like to send the dilemma to the social worker,” Paul’s voice sailed
across the table, bringing everyone’s focus to me. “Marlie is a therapist for the California Department of Corrections,”
Anna-Beth corrected. Her reproach was polite, as always, with a touch of perkiness. She
slanted another salacious look to the dark-haired, fair-eyed plastic surgery intern she’d introduced earlier as Steven. A far cry from the teary-eyed socialite who had picked me up at the airport the day before after insisting twenty-four hours earlier that she couldn’t possibly go on living without the support of her “dearest friend.” Yesterday she’d been practically suicidal after the loss of her latest “future hus- band.” Tonight she’d evidently discovered that there was at least one more potential spouse left to explore.
“Psychiatric social worker,” I clarified. “And, my training and experience has taught me that a man willing to jump quickly into marriage is more than likely hiding some unfortunate character flaw, something he’s afraid he can’t keep hidden for long,” I answered, feigning a professional confidence.
I was looking into the black hole of my thirty-first birthday, doubting with every day that slithered by I’d ever again meet a man I could pledge my heart to. Besides, what woman, over thirty or otherwise, doesn’t secretly fantasize about a chance meeting with the man of her dreams?
Paul considered my answer with a shrewd stare. “I don’t believe you. I think you, like all women, would jump at the chance to be married,” he said, his drawl stained with a hint of headiness.
Despite the fact he was clearly wearing a platinum band on his left ring finger, Paul had been ogling me all evening, and I could sense a growing affinity. But I was one hundred percent sure I wanted no part of it. I inwardly groaned. This impromptu game of Scruples was getting on my last nerve. It ticked me off that Paul had accurately called my bluff, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of yielding to the fact.
I fixed him with a cold stare. “I’m wondering why you bothered to ask me the question when you’d already made up your mind as to my answer?”
Paul’s smirk, downright creepy now, tugged at his lips again. “Fair enough,” he conceded. “Your boss congratulates you for a brilliant suggestion and hints at a promotion. One of your subordinates gave you the idea. Do you mention this to your boss?”
Clearing my throat, I offered up an answer. “Of course I would give my subordinate his or her due credit.”
Paul leaned forward. “Even if it meant you’d get passed up for the promotion?”
I squared my shoulders. “How could I feel good about a promotion I hadn’t earned?”
Shaking his head, Paul grunted out a snort. “I’m sorry, Marlie, but no one subscribes to such outdated, bogus ideals of integrity anymore.” He sent his gaze around the table for confirmation. “I say she’s bluffing.”
I rolled my eyes in return. “So, outdated stereotypes regarding women are perfectly alive and well but showing a little integrity ... that’s old fashioned?” I retorted, though an announcement had every- one shifting toward the front.
From the stage, the emcee was lamenting about a doctor—Dr. Peter Daschle—a pioneer in the field of reconstructive plastic surgery who’d been strides ahead of his time when he’d met with tragic death and how his expertise would be sorely missed ... Then, after a minute of silence, the emcee introduced the band and invited everyone to the dance floor. The buzz of attendees taking one last drink, or bite of dessert, before pushing back their chairs was quickly overpowered by the band’s version of Hip to My Heart as everyone paired up and filed out to the dance floor.
Glancing across the table, I could see Paul fighting the flow of bodies, cutting a path straight for me. A look of cool, self-assuredness seemed to be driving him against the fray. My gaze flitted quickly around the room as I considered my options. I had two choices: run for the safety of the service exit and spend the rest of the night hiding, or turn, face him, and let him know exactly what I thought of his presumptions. Given that I had a general dislike for cowardice, option number two was my obvious choice.
I’d just started in his direction when I heard a voice asking, “Would you like to dance?”
“No, not right now,” I said through tight lips. “I’ve got something I need to take care of first.”
The voice came back along with the light touch of fingertips on my elbow. “I think what you’re fixin’ to do can, and should, wait for a more appropriate settin’.”
I hesitated. It wasn’t like I was planning to make a scene, and who was this man that thought he knew what I had in my mind to do? Whirling around, I shot a bothered stare into the face behind the voice.
Gazing down at me, the hint of a smile on his lips, was a man Anna- Beth had introduced as her cousin, Daniel something-or-other. In his early forties, he had thick dark hair tapered neatly around his neck and ears but longer on the top and combed back. His nose was slightly crooked, his chin distinctive. A trace of gray at the temples gave him the look of striking maturity, a man accustomed to the finer things in life.
His dark blue eyes conveyed a subtle insistence as he stepped to the side and motioned to the dance floor. “After you,” he said with all the graciousness of a Southern-born gentleman.
Swallowing back a portion of my resolve, I found myself at a sud- den loss for words. Unnerving since I rarely, if ever, found myself with nothing whatsoever to say. After a final glance back at Paul—I would deal with him later—I adjusted my course and headed for the dance floor. Daniel pulled me in close and proceeded to lead in a smooth cowboy cha-cha. After a few silent turns around the parquet floor, I glanced up to see that his eyes, dark blue like a moonless night, were searching mine as if looking for a truth that eluded him.
“Back at the table ... your answers, were they sincere, or were you playin’ devil’s advocate?”
My head spun under the heat of his gaze. At the moment I couldn’t recall each and every response, there had been so many, but thinking back, I was fairly certain I’d meant them all.
“As hard as it may be to believe, they were all my true opinions.” Pulling me closer still, his mouth was just a kiss away as he whispered,
“Just so you know, I don’t think integrity is outdated.”
About the Author:
Julie N. Ford graduated from San Diego State University with a BA in Political Science and a minor in English Literature. In addition, she has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Alabama. Professionally, she has worked in teaching and as a Marriage & Family Counselor.
In addition to Replacing Gentry, she is the author of two women’s fiction novels, The Woman He Married and No Holly for Christmas, published in 2011. She also wrote a romance/chick-lit novel, Count Down to Love, published in 2011. Count Down to Love was a 2011 Whitney Award finalist.
Currently, she lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, two daughters and one baby hedgehog. For more information or see what Julie is working on now, you can visit her at JulieNFord.com.