Monday, July 18, 2016

This Madness of the Heart by Blair Yeatts | Blog Tour with Excerpt, Review, Guest Post, Giveaway

The Blurb

Bad religion can be deadly. So Miranda Lamden, small-town religion professor, discovers in This Madness of the Heart. The dark hollers of Eastern Kentucky offer fertile soil for shady evangelist Jasper Jarboe, new president of Grace and Glory Bible College, as he beguiles the small mining town of Canaan Wells with his snake-oil charm.

When Miranda isn’t teaching at Obadiah Durham College, she’s investigating paranormal phenomena — or enjoying a turbulent romantic relationship with backwoods artist Jack Crispen. JJ’s inquisition-style gospel has alienated her long since, but when he announces his plan to transform her forest home into an evangelical Mecca, complete with neon cross and 40-foot Jesus, Miranda girds her loins for war. But JJ isn’t finished: he goes on to launch an attack on her friend and fellow professor Djinn Baude with an avalanche of vicious rumors. Not only does he accuse Djinn of demonic communion with the old Voudon witch whose curse killed the college’s founding family, but he also smears her with insinuations of lechery and vice.

With JJ’s urging, hate boils over into violence and tragedy, sweeping Miranda up in its flood. One death follows another as a miasma of evil overwhelms the tiny community, and only Miranda can see clearly enough to halt its spread.

This Madness of the Heart is the first in a new series of Gothic mystery-thrillers featuring Professor Miranda Lamden, whose spiritual gifts have drawn her beyond university walls to explore the mysteries of other world beliefs. Her unique vision brings her into repeated confrontations with evil, where too often she finds herself standing alone between oblivious onlookers and impending disaster.

This Madness of the Heart by Blair Yeatts
Series: A Miranda Lamden Mystery, #1
Genre: Gothic Mystery Thriller  
Publication Date: April 15, 2016
Publisher: CreateSpace
Paperback: 328 pages
ISBN-10: 1530824966
ISBN-13: 978-1530824960
eBook File Size: 3503 KB
Amazon | Smashwords | Goodreads

This Madness of the Heart is
FREE at Smashwords through 7/22/16.

The Excerpt

I had to stop him! Now, before the damage was done!

I never even got to try.

Like a sullen current of arctic air pouring through a cracked door, cold snaked down over us, coiling around my senses, freezing my anger, congealing my blood: an implacable sister to the malevolence in the garden. I ground my teeth to stifle the scream begging to be born. Even so, a small voice spoke from outside my fear, detached and curious.

“This cold is not the same,” the voice observed. “There’s a difference. It’s not threatening so much as warning, ‘Keep off! Stand clear! Don’t interfere!’”

Immobilized by fear, I was incapable of interfering.

At first I thought my teeth were chattering. A split second later I realized the wind had dropped without warning, the riot of sound had ceased, and a clicking sound had filled the darkness. “Tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch-tch,” the sound ran on and on — no more than a field of insects, of snakes, singing in the night.

The light from JJ’s lantern brightened, bloomed, and died, shooting soft rainbows into the night. Cold weighed even more cruelly upon my breast, pressing me against the rough wall at my back, blotting all light from my eyes. Then the clicking stopped, and in the utterly empty dark, I heard the sound of stone rasping on stone, of crumbling brickwork tearing loose from rotten mortar, and the hollow thunk of heavy masonry falling ponderously onto yielding clay. 

A soft sigh whispered through the grove. Then there was silence.

[Note: this brief excerpt is from Ch 18. 
A longer excerpt, Chapters 1 - 6, can be found here at booklife.]

The Review

I just read an amazing book, y'all — This Madness of the Heart by Blair Yeatts. Let me tell you a little about it.

This Madness of the Heart is amazing. I was intrigued from the beginning, and hooked from the first chapter (which I read, on Author Blair Yeatts' website, before signing up for the blog tour). 

Many of the characters in This Madness of the Heart are Appalachian mountain folk, who use Appalachian mountain speech. Ms Yeatts has written their speech in dialect, as she discusses here in a blog post. I thought this dialect added a lot to the book, by increasing the realism. With its Appalachian setting, mountain folk, and speech, Madness reminded me of novels by Sharyn McCrumb.   

I haven't read such a good gothic mystery in ages! The suspenseful writing reminded me of a Barbara Michaels mystery. You can get a taste of the suspense in the excerpt, that I chose for its "creepy factor." 

This Madness of the Heart is not all dark with suspense and thriller-ness. Here are some lighter passages, to give you an idea of main character Miranda's (and Author Blair Yeatts') sense of humor.
Mary's dire prophecy had finally come true. How many times had she warned me that I'd be having dreams of the devil if I didn't stop brushing my hair after dark! Thank God she didn't know I slept with cats as well.
I still didn't believe Jack's heart had been in his failed attempts to corral Mutt: convincing a dog of the seriousness of your intent isn't easy when you can't stand up for laughing.     
There are many twists and turns in the plot. Several times, after a climactic moment, I thought I must be nearing the end of the book. I soon realized that Ms Yeatts had made yet another twist in her fabulous plot, because another even-better climactic moment was turning up. (And each time, I thought, "I did not see that coming!")

I highly recommend This Madness of the Heart to all fans of gothic mystery and suspense. I think it will particularly appeal to fans of Barbara Michaels and Sharyn McCrumb. 

I loved This Madness of the Heart by Blair Yeatts, and award it our highest rating of Five Kitties! 
Five out of five kitties
Note:  I received a complimentary copy of This Madness of the Heart in exchange for my honest review. 
All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Follow the tour here, plus read interviews and other reviews and guest posts. 
The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. 

The Guest Post

Real-life Inspiration for Character Elmus Rooksby

Elmus Rooksby laughed with his whole body when he was happy. Almost like a glowing sphere of faerie dust, he brought joy wherever he went. His bald head shone, his blue eyes sparked, his feet almost danced, and even if he didn’t actually do it, his arms seemed to stretch out and gather you into his warmth. He was a huge teddy bear of a man, and my pleasure at seeing him was genuine. For the first time in days I felt myself relaxing, safe in the comfort of his limpid goodness.

Rev. Elmus Rooksby, founder of Grace and Glory Bible College (later taken over by arch-villain Jasper Jarboe), is the character in This Madness of the Heart most closely modeled after someone I’ve known. All my characters have roots among real-world people — after all, who can write in a vacuum? But with Elmus, I was always conscious of one real man, a professor of mine.

I find goodness extraordinarily difficult to portray. It’s like wrestling with the Pillsbury Doughboy: no matter what I do, it wants to snap back into something cloying, boring, superficial, sugary — and white. Villainy, now — that’s easy. Just like it’s easier to rake someone over the coals than tell them you love them. Goodness finds its strength in being vulnerable. Evil has its roots in rage and hate — and wards its weakness behind colorful walls like nested puzzle boxes. Take JJ, for example: 
From where I stood I could see his piercing, electric, “Billy Graham eyes” — in another man perhaps even bedroom eyes. But not in Jasper Jarboe. Those deep-set blue eyes opened out on the world like caves of dirty ice, radiating none of the heat of the sensualist. His lips were thick and red, repellent on such a man in their woman’s softness. His tongue flicked out serpent-like, leaving a sheen of spittle in its wake. His absurd ski-jump nose sloped out from puffy cheeks, overshadowing a too-small chin and incipient jowls. The powerful lights exposed his teased pouf of thinning hair for what it was, chilling me with the unsettling image of a malicious overgrown infant, bald but for its newborn peach-fuzz.
Comparatively, such descriptions are so easy to write!

But back to Elmus. Perhaps good people are difficult to describe because they’re so rare. How many truly good people do you know? Really? And what constitutes a “good” person, anyway?

I spent uncounted hours across the desk from this professor through the years, watching his every move with the critical suspicion that becomes second-nature to a woman competing for a place in academe. Never did I detect a flicker of sexual tension (always on my radar), or defensiveness — physical, emotional or intellectual. He met me with his whole person, right there, open, available to me, always eager to offer anything he could that might be of help. The man listened. And when he listened, he heard. He expressed compassion for impossible situations without offering meaningless solutions or platitudes. He looked across the desk at me with real grief in his eyes when I was in trouble. On the rare occasions when he actually offered advice, his words were wise. And he never, ever turned the conversation to himself unless I asked.

In his less serious moments, I used to imagine that his habitual joy was about to burst the constraints of his portly body until nothing would remain but brilliant dancing motes of light. I never heard him spread a vicious rumor or tear another person down. His apparent love for humanity — individually and as a whole — never struck a false note. 

He didn’t tolerate viciousness or grandstanding in his seminars. I always wondered after he’d shut down such displays just how he’d done it. His soft word spoken into student chaos was like oil on troubled water. The calm was immediate and irreversible, although the culprits often seemed confused by their sudden silence. 

The only times I remember seeing him roused to anger were during the days that inspired Madness: when vicious, self-serving bullies were taking over some local colleges, firing brilliant and gentle scholars, and replacing them with doctrinally “pure” puppets. I realized then the absolute rightness of my professor’s emotional presence also embraced righteous rage in the face of injustice . . . righteousness without the slightest taint of self-righteousness.   

Elmus Rooksby, a good man. The man behind the character is gone now, but I’m pleased with my memorial to him.

The Author

About Blair Yeatts

Blair Yeatts grew up in the midst of a large, old southern Virginia family, much like the family of her main character. She followed her parents into a career in academia and taught religion at the college level in Kentucky for many years. Her special areas of expertise are psychology and Earth-based religions, in which she has done considerable research. 

From childhood, Ms. Yeatts has been a fan of mystery fiction, starting with Nancy Drew and moving through Agatha Christie to twentieth century giants like Dorothy L. Sayers, P.D. James, and Nevada Barr. She is fulfilling a life’s dream in writing her own mysteries.

Ms. Yeatts shares her home with her photographer husband, two cats, and a dog. She has a lifelong love of wild nature, and prefers to set her stories in rural areas, where threads of old spiritual realities still make themselves felt. 

Blair Yeatts’ first mystery-thriller, This Madness of the Heart, introduces a series featuring Miranda Lamden, professor of religion in a small Appalachian college. The second in the series, Blood on Holy Ground, is scheduled for release in autumn of 2016. The first three books in the Miranda Lamden series take place in or near the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Find Blair on the web at

The Giveaway

Blair Yeatts will award a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card 
to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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