The Fortune Teller's Garden

Frances DeleCourt Winters
The Fortune Teller's Garden
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Black Lyon Publishing
Release Date
October 2014
Book 1 of A Cobweb Corners Romance
Chick-lit, Contemporary Romance, Literary Romance, New Adult

She sold hope, and maybe a little magic too ... In the sleepy seaside town of Cobweb Corners, Keighley Woodson tells fortunes from her grandparents' old Victorian home. Hidden inside the safety of her lush tea garden, stone paths, paintings, and the love of everyone who knows her, she has everything she needs-except a forever romance to call her own. Driven by pain, reporter Connor Jakes is bent on exposing the frauds inside New England's psychic industry. But Keighley is no fraud, that much is plain to see. Her beauty stirs him. The way she guides those in trouble back toward their dreams touches his soul. Maybe, just maybe, he'll find in her a dream he thought he'd given up on long ago.

Book Review by Shakera (reviewer)
Oct 03, 2017   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
36 people found the following review helpful
Quite the most charming story I've read in quite a while.

Keighley's grandmother is a renowned fortune teller. She and her grandmother had different styles of reading fortunes and she's quite lonely. She's quite great at telling others what they need to hear, but you know how it is… you know what's good for others, but not for yourself. In walks Connor Jakes, a journalist, dead set on exposing Keighley as a fraud. The problem… there was a spark.

I thought this was quite magical. Their interactions were beautiful. While everything between them was subtle, it was sweet. It was a fun read and I adored every minute of it.
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BOOK INTERVIEW on September 2016
Interview by Laura

Hi Frances, welcome to The Romance Reviews, and let's talk about THE FORTUNE TELLER'S GARDEN.

Q: Where did you get your inspiration? Your heroine, Keighley Woodson, is a psychic. What is your fascination with psychics and things paranormal?

Well, she's not really a psychic and never claims to be, though she in known throughout her small town of Cobweb Corners New Hampshire as a talented palm reader. She is simply a caring and insightful young woman who knows how to help heal emotional pain, and beautifully too.

Let me explain. I teach Victorian literature at a mid-sized university in Pa, where I focus on Victorian pop-culture, and believe it or not, female mediums were extremely popular to the Victorians. In fact, the 1870's was the decade known as the Golden Age of Spiritualism.

I am taking a sabbatical this spring to research female Victorian spiritualists and the suppression of the 19th century female voice. Many of the women who claimed to be spiritualists were not psychic. They were instead, extremely socially and emotionally insightful, yet they had no place to voice their insights due to the strict patriarchal codes that silenced them. Spiritualism was a way for them to earn money, offer insight, and gain a bit of independence.

Yes, many were charlatans, and many faked their talents earning a healthy income along the way. However, we never hear about the women who used spiritualism as a cloak to offer emotional insight to grief, fears, frustrations, and heartbreak. Many women who claimed to be spiritualists were simply intuitive and used their insight to help heal the emotional wounds of those who sought their help. This is the subject of my sabbatical and the inspiration for my contemporary heroine, Keighley.

Q: That's fascinating. Please tell us more about Keighley. What kind of person is she? How does she tell fortunes?

Keighley Woodson is twenty-six and lost her parents when she was an infant. She was raised by her grandparents in a creaky Victorian home in a small New Hampshire town. In fact, the house is as much of a character in the novel as Keighley is! She had to drop out of art school to care for her aging grandfather, a once well known artist. Money is tight, so she waits tables part time and earns a little extra money palm reading.

Here's a brief quote introducing the heroine and her talents:

She read palms and doled out gentle advice based upon her observations. She wasn't psychic. She was simply observant and carried on her grandmother's tradition in the very parlor her grandmother had used. Her grandmother, Hattie, kept a crystal ball on the center of the dark maple table adorned by two tall candles, and truly convinced her clients that her special gifts and polished crystal ball could reveal their futures.

In truth, like her grandmother before her, Keighley's powers were simply based on a sharp eye, keen observations and a healthy dose of kindness.

Though the rest of the old house was in need of repair, Keighley did her best to keep the parlor looking the way her grandmother had, with a few minor adjustments that only time can create. The dark oaken floors that once reflected spectacular amber light from frequent beeswax polishings, now seemed to absorb that light and held onto it selfishly, as if craving its warmth.

If you looked closely, you could see the dried yellowed tape her grandmother used to join the seams of ancient peeling wallpaper, and the ruby velvet curtains that draped the tall windows had faded a bit. As sun bleached caresses gave away their true age, the drapes absorbed the parlor's confidential conversations and held their secrets like a wise sentinel holding court.

Though most of Keighley's clientele were elderly locals, from time to time she would get the occasional stray. The wife who feared her husband's infidelity and sat nervously as Keighley revealed the heartbreak in her young client's eyes, or the occasional frat boy looking for a good laugh—and left, shamed, head over heels in love with Keighley's natural beauty and grace. Each session lasted about forty-five minutes, and at twenty-five dollars, most left feeling it was money well spent."

Though she advertises herself as a palm reader, what her clients really want is her conversation and company, served with a hot pot of tea she makes from the herb garden in the back yard.

Keighley's tea was known throughout Cobweb Corners.

Indeed, it may have been the real reason she was so well liked by her clients. Once the palm was read and the fortune was told, Keighley set out Hattie's ancient Staffordshire tea set and poured them both a cup of hot tea. Keighley still used Hattie's tea recipe made from herbs and flowers she picked herself in the tea garden out back and sweetened it with a touch of local honey. The delicate tea cups were so thin, the flowers adorning each cup seemed to glow with colorful translucent light from within each petal. As the steam rose, the fragrance of lavender and chamomile haunted the air of the old parlor, and the two ladies settled into their respective armchairs and talked.

Well … Ruth talked and Keighley smiled as she listened to her old friend's chatter about the Cobweb Corners of her past. As each memory was spoken, Ruth's sorrow was momentarily lifted and carried away in the sweetly scented air."

Throughout the novel, Keighly never claims to be psychic. In fact, most of her clients know this too. She is caring, insightful, intuitive, and most importantly, she knows that love is the healing balm we all need to survive …and she's right. Her theory is put to the test when Connor Jakes walks into her parlor asking for a reading.

Q: What about Connor Jakes? What makes him a swoon-worthy hero?

Connor is a writer for a quirky New England magazine. He is a beta-male, a tough exterior hiding a wounded soul. He lost his pregnant wife over a year ago. Heartbroken and furious at the rise in supernatural TV shows, ‘Crossing Over' talk shows, he sets out to expose what he sees as a fraudulent psychic community. He just never counted on meeting someone as sincere and magical as Keighly. He shows up for a reading and is totally unprepared for what he finds in Keighley. He is instantly drawn to her, something he never expected in his experiences with psychics.

Enjoy this excerpt:

"Now, before we begin, I just need to clear the space a bit, okay? Give me your hands?"

He gulped. Perhaps too loudly. He reached across the table and between the lit candles, placed his hands into her open palms, hoping she wouldn't notice he was trembling.

Though her hands were soft, the slight calluses gave evidence that this woman was not unaccustomed to hard work. They cradled his own and with great relief, he felt the heat travel straight to his core. Had it been that long?

He tried to ignore her slight stroking as her fingers met his rough palm.

Stop! he told himself. Agitated, he tried to shake off any thought of joy and comfort, women and soft skin. Distracted, he tried to focus on the task at hand.

The fortune teller was watching him.

Was she smiling?

Or was that a flirt?

Or just simple curiosity?

"Connor," she said reassuringly, "this works better if you close your eyes for a moment and try to clear your brain. I'm sensing a lot of activity going on in there." She smiled.

Oh man, you don't know the half of it, he joked to himself.

So he closed his eyes. He took a deep breath and let "it out, slowly.

"That's it," she reassured. "Just relax and quiet your thoughts for a moment."

So the two strangers sat silently at the small table for a moment or two, hands linked. The house slowly settled around them, took a breath, and it, too, found its past was calmed by the presence of these two strangers momentarily united in the amber glow of candlelight.

"Okay, that's great," she said slowly, and released his sturdy hands.

The spell was broken.

The air was suddenly normal again and Connor, opening his eyes, found himself disappointed to return to the world of sunlight.

Q: What makes them perfect for each other?

Both Keighley and Connor are carrying wounds from the past, and they don't know how to break through to the present. They are both spirited and creative people, yet they both block their own potential, like we all do, due to fears and insecurities. Keighley teaches Connor to open up his blocked heart and she reignites his passion, (with a few major conflicts along the way)!

Ultimately, like all good love stories, the couple must learn how to nurture and enhance the other's potential for loving authentically. That's why we read romances isn't it? Loving authentically? Seems like the perfect anecdote to our troubling times, doesn't it?

Q: What for you is a romantic moment between them?

Oh, this one is easy. It's probably when Conner arrives for his first interview with Keighley. He's writing an article on local psychics for a quirky New England magazine called "The Road Less Traveled." What Keighley doesn't know is the tone of that article. He's writing to expose the entire industry as frauds and fakes. However, he never intended to meet someone as sincere as Keighley and he quickly finds himself succumbing to her charms. I wanted to make sure that her ‘charms' are indeed sincere. Connor has to fall for her, and he does, hard.

Enjoy this excerpt:

Turning the corner, he faced the garden. His heart leapt into his throat. There she was, kneeling in one of the concentric paths of the herb garden, pulling weeds among mounds of silvery leaves in the fresh morning air. Enrapt, he watched as she abstractedly whisked away a strand of hair that stubbornly refused to stay behind her ear. This gesture, so simple, so graceful, suddenly filled him with a warmth he hadn't experienced in years.

Was it the sun that made her so bright? Her cotton dress? She seemed to radiate. Hoping not to be noticed, he watched as she lazily picked a few leaves off a greyish twig and rubbed them briskly in her slender hands. When she lifted her palms up to her nose, she inhaled deeply. She smiled at the scent and softened as she held it in her lungs for a moment. He noticed a large orange cat had curled around her knees, and with a smile and a sigh, she exhaled and got back to the task at hand. He longed to sit by her, to bathe in the scent of her long hair, the color of glowing wheat. He wanted to know what it would be like to hold her scent in his lungs the way she inhaled those leaves, like a forgotten lover. He wanted to know a smile like that again, to release his own inhibitions that grew from his years of drought. Watching her was like watching the rain. Gentle, cleansing, and desired.

He didn't want to be seen. He wanted this silence to continue for eternity. As long as he could gaze upon this beautiful young woman, absorbed in her work, he was happy.

He noticed that.

For the first time in two years, he suddenly felt happy."

Q: What's up next for you?

I am currently finishing Part II to THE FORTUNE TELLER'S GARDEN. It's set in the same small town of Cobweb Corners, New Hampshire, where small, yet lovely, magical events occur between a young baker, Lorelei, who has just moved to town, and her love interest, a local cop.

It explores the way her magical baking effects the locals and how they re-examine their lives, awakening them to richer aspects of themselves they either hid or forgot about.

It's a blend of romance with a teaspoon of Magic Realism: sweet, romantic, and very celebrational. Ultimately, this will be a series of three romances, all set in the same quirky town where small, slightly magical events are just a part of everyday life.

Sounds exciting! Thank you, Frances, for taking out time from your busy schedule for this interview!

Bio of author Frances DeleCourt Winters:

I have a PhD in Victorian Literature and teach at a mid-sized university in Eastern PA. I have several academic articles published on Victorian Sensation Fiction and the Penny Dreadful Genre. In 2013, influenced by some of my students, I began researching contemporary Romance novels and decided to change gears for a while. I dove into Romance writing and I am loving every second of it!

I also write under the pen name Daniel Stephens and my romance Surfacing was a featured interview on The Romance Reviews in June 2016.


Writing as Daniel Stephens


Writing as Frances DeleCourt Winters



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