House Beside the River by David Burnett
A coming-of-age novel with a strong heroine, a sweet love story, and the eternal struggle between good and evil
Running from vile rumors and merciless ridicule, thirteen-year-old Nicole Beaumont flees her home in Parsons Valley, Georgia. She leaves Chris behind, the boy who had been her best-friend-for-life, her soul mate, the one with whom she was supposed to spend her life, and she takes refuge at a boarding school in rural Pennsylvania.
In the farming community in which she lived, almost any transgression could be tolerated, excused, or overlooked. Any transgression, save one that smacked of sex, and, according to rumor, that was exactly what she and Chris had done while lying on the bank of Parsons Pond. It was a lie, the worst part at any rate, but Chris? ? refused to deny the rumor. Never again, Nicole vows, will she trust another person as she had trusted Chris.
Such vows can be difficult to keep, but Nicole perseveres.
Then, she meets Richard. He seems different from the others. He accepts Nicole as she is. He keeps her secrets. When others doubt her, he stands in her defense. Nevertheless, even as they fall in love, the full story of what happened at Parsons Pond remains off-limits to him, and her memories of Chris, which tempt her, tugging her into the past, threaten to betray her,
Chris re-enters her life in a most unexpected way, and Nicole finds herself emmeshed in a deadly game that pits Chris, the boy she once loved, against Richard, the man who loves her, now, a game from which only one will emerge unscathed. Nicole faces an impossible decision. Which will she choose? Who will live?
House Beside the River is a romantic, true-to-life coming-of-age novel featuring a violent culture, a strong woman, and a sweet ending. Buy House Beside the River today!
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
House Beside the River explores the decisions we make, even small decisions, those we may consider trivial, affect our lives. In the final chapter of House Beside the River, Nicole looks back over her life to that point.
I had shaken my head, not for the first time, puzzling over the twists and turns our lives had taken. Had the afternoon Chris and I spent playing in the woods and splashing in the pond set in motion the ruin of so many lives? That one decision of mine to shed my clothes? Or my choice to dive from the limb of the Great Oak?
Does the course of one’s life truly hinge on a single decision made on the spur of a single moment?
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Many of my books have three main characters, one female and two males. The female, Nicole Beaumont in House beside the River, is a strong, assertive, independent woman who is loyal and kind. One of the men is a classic “bad boy,” and the other is a “good guy.” The resulting story is an interplay among the three characters.
The past two days were, hopefully, the worst of my life.
On Sunday, a woman who I loved and trusted had beaten me so badly, my body was still sore to the touch. I had known Ms. Miller since infancy. I had been in intensive care after I was born, and my mother had almost died from childbed fever. When I finally left NICU, Chris’s mother had stepped in to help. She’d taken complete care of me for fourteen days, I was told, even nursed me. She was my second Mom. She had taught me to fry chicken and smoke pork, things not part of Mom’s repertoire. She sat with me on the grass, watching animals mating in the pasture, telling me that what we saw them doing would produce calves. Mom had been furious, and the fact Ms. Miller had neglected to extend the discussion to human behavior was her only saving grace. We could discuss things I feared Mom might think silly, like the to-die-for movie star on whom I had a major crush.
Ms. Miller had betrayed me.
Sylvia Atkins, the girl who started the rumor was—had been—my friend since preschool. The Atkins farm was next to ours. Many times, we’d ridden horses across their farm and through the woods to Parsons Pond. We’d even taken them down the highway to the Feed and Seed to buy candy. We’d had sleepovers and spent rainy Saturday afternoons on our porches reading books and playing games. I had gone on vacation with her family just three months earlier, and she was the one who had taught me to dive from the high board, like an Olympic diver.
Sylvia had betrayed me.
The other students, my “friends” who had met me on the road and assaulted me, the boys who smirked, the girls who laughed, whoever wrote the note. All of them, they had betrayed me, too.
The boy I had loved all my life. As recently as the day before, we had stood together, played together, laughed together, cried together, just as we had through all things life had presented us. We had opened ourselves to each other completely.
When Sylvia suggested I’d had sex with him, I had denied her accusation, and I had looked to Chris, awaiting his support. He had smiled slightly. He had turned away. He’d said nothing. Everyone had taken his behavior as confirmation of Sylvia’s story. He lifted no finger to help me or defend me.
When Joel, Tommy, and Jimbo accosted me after school, saying gross things, pulling on my clothing, demanding equal time, wanting to see what Chis had seen, he had been watching. I had glimpsed him, hanging in the parking lot, taking it all in, allowing them to attack me, but again lifting not a finger to help.
Worse than all the others, Chris had betrayed me the most.
Our farm, though, was the same, day after day, year after year.
Our farm did not betray me.
I felt the metal disk with the image of my saint bump against my chest as I stepped up onto the bottom rail of the fence. Saint Jude was a constant companion, with me always.
Saint Jude had never betrayed me. I would never, ever take his medal off. Never.
The stars that filled the clear, black sky were as changeless as the scent of the farm. True, they moved across the sky each night and the earth showed us different constellations as it rotated around the sun, but they were predictable. A chart would show you where each would be on any given night at any given hour.
The stars did not betray me.
I searched for the constellation Virgo. One story tells us the constellation formed when Astraea, the goddess of innocence, purity, and justice was driven from the earth by human wickedness and took refuge among the stars. I could identify with her. Humans were not just, not to be trusted. I yearned to escape as she had.
Mom had told me living in Parsons Valley could turn one’s heart to stone. I now understood how that would happen, but, while Mom saw a hardened heart as a tragedy, I saw it as powerful protection.
I raised my hand as I took an oath.
Never again would I open myself to another person. I would not share my feelings with anyone, completely trust anyone, love anyone.
Never would I depend on another person to keep his promise, to have my back, to protect me, to take up for me, to support me.
I called on our farm.
I called on the stars.
I called on Saint Jude, my patron saint.
I called them all to witness.
I would harden my heart. I would be an island.
One alone, Unum solum, would be my motto.
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