London, 1914. Lily's visions could stop a killer… if she'll trust a reclusive aristocrat with her darkest secret.
A monster stalks the gaslit streets of Edwardian London, draining the blood of the city's mediums. Lily Albright knows who's next.
Lily is plagued by visions of the future she can never change. When a mysterious fiend threatens someone she loves, she's determined this time will be different.
But she can't do it alone. To save a life, Lily must reveal her darkest secrets to someone she has little reason to trust—the reclusive Lord Strangford, a man haunted by his own unusual powers.
From the glittering galleries of Bond Street to the rookeries of Southwark, Lily and Strangford plunge into a dark conspiracy that lies at the heart of England's rising eugenics movement. To thwart it, Lily must face a past rife with betrayal—and embrace the power she has spent her entire life trying to escape.
The London Charismatics is a gripping historical fantasy series is perfect for those who love supernatural suspense and slow-burn romance.
"Fantastic storytelling, exacting research, and scathing social commentary-with a satisfying dash of magic and mystery."– Olivia Atwater, author of Half a Soul
"A wonderful historical gaslamp fantasy."– Anne Renwick, author of the Elemental Steampunk Chronicles
"Supernatural abilities and the prelude to the Great War are my catnip and this book didn't disappoint."– A.W. Exley, author of the Artifact Hunters
Hampstead Heath, London
February 16, 1914
Lilith Albright rattled across the heath on the back of her motorcycle, pushing for speed as though it were possible to outrun the inevitable.
Dark clouds scudded over the broad, open countryside, the brown fields broken by tumbled stone walls or hedges of twisted gorse. The wind was still sharp with the lingering bite of winter. It was hardly an ideal day for a ride, but Lily had not taken the green, mud-spattered Triumph out for a pleasure cruise.
It was an escape, and it was futile. What she was running from could not be outpaced. That was the trouble with the future.
It began early that morning with the washbasin.
Lily splashed the cold water over her face. Drops ran down the line of her jaw and fell into the enameled bowl, shattering the surface of the water into a thousand tiny ripples.
The ripples coursed across the shallow reflection of her features—her mother's infamous auburn hair, her father's sharp gray eyes. Then the moving water transformed, shifting to become a whirlwind of light, spinning snow.
The blizzard obscured the uncomfortable familiarity of her face, devouring it in a veil of white that parted to reveal a new scene: the open door to her building on March Place in Bloomsbury.
Icy flakes spun around her, blowing in to dust the worn carpet.
In the vision, Lily drifted across the threshold.
Besides the snow on the floor, the hallway looked as it always did. The walls were papered in a rust-hued paisley, accented with a still life painting of a pair of oily pilchards resting next to a mug of flat ale. The air smelled vaguely of boiled nettles.
Light spilled down from the landing above, coming from the open door to the flat that sat directly beneath her own. These were the rooms where her neighbor, Estelle, lived with her companion, Miss Bard.
Lily rose to the landing and looked inside.
The living room was empty save for the dog on the rug. The animal was pale green and split precisely in half. It lay in a pile of ashes, looking up at Lily with sad eyes.
She moved past it, drawn toward the bedroom.
The air felt stuffy, crowded with some unseen presence. Estelle sat at her vanity, gazing into the mirror, her eyes locked on the closet behind her, the door of which sat ajar.
Inside, something moved.
It was a subtle shift of the shadows accompanied by a soft tinkling of glass like bottles dancing in a milkman's crate. The shifting gathered mass, took on speed, and rushed into the room. It swept toward them in a shape both like and unlike that of a man. It thrust forward a long silver weapon, thin and sharp as a fencer's sword. The glittering point met the skin of Estelle's arm and the mirror shattered, cracks spider-webbing from side to side.
In her seat at the vanity, Estelle tipped backwards. Her descent halted abruptly halfway to the floor. Suspended, her thin body swung from the chair and passed out of the room, heels dragging on the rug.
The snow came in, whirling with blinding intensity.
The storm passed and Lily was somewhere else, somewhere strange and wrapped in darkness.
The air smelled acrid, chemical. The walls around her were made of stacked glass, bottles and jars that caught and reflected the ghostly image of a flickering flame, then multiplied it in myriad dark, shimmering facets.
"Thief," said a voice from behind her, hoarse and thick with an unfamiliar accent.
It was Estelle. Lily turned to see her sitting on a flat wooden table, her face white and pale as death. She held a hand to her throat. Blood seeped through her fingers, staining the bright blue of her robe. Her eyes were wide, staring vacantly into the nothingness over Lily's shoulder.
Smoke curled around her feet, tendrils rising to embrace her.
"Murderer," she said, raising a long, trembling hand. She pointed into the shadows. "Alukah."
Estelle vanished, swallowed by the smoke and the darkness. The ground before Lily opened to reveal a pool of dark water, its surface quaking as though disturbed by some sudden intrusion. She fell towards it, and then the dark water was at her feet, spilling across her bedroom floor from where the overturned washbasin spun slowly into stillness.
Lily fought a familiar cocktail of rage and grief as she opened the throttle of the Triumph, taking the motorcycle to its bone-shaking limit, teeth clenched against the jars and jolts of the road. The brown expanse of the heath blurred into an afterthought.
For as long as she could remember, she had been plagued by glimpses of the future.
All manner of horrors paraded themselves across her mind. House fires promised to leave charred corpses in their wake. The bone of a neighbor's leg pointed its splintered end up through the flesh. Ships faltered in the icy waters of the North Sea.
For years, she tried to put the knowledge to use. She warned, begged, lied and manipulated to steer events toward a different outcome. As a girl, she tripped orange sellers to keep them from stumbling into an oncoming lorry or stole travel vouchers from nightstands. She tormented dogs into taking a snap at her before they could inflict more irreversible damage on someone else.
To the rest of the world, it looked like the most rank disobedience. She went through nannies like handkerchiefs. Her mother's airy disinterest in discipline was the only thing that kept Lily from being regularly beaten.
Far worse than any punishment she did receive was the knowledge that her efforts meant nothing.
The fire she averted one day would come roaring through the next week. A bone saved from breaking would find another way to shatter. She would dash into the street to catch a cat no one else knew was about to be hit by an omnibus, only to see the same animal lying by the side of the road the next day, covered in flies.
She kept trying. She fought to win her lonely battle against fate despite the steely opposition of the nannies and the guilt, grief and gutting frustration—right up until the day her mother died.
Lily foresaw it in exquisite detail.
She used every tactic in her extensive repertoire to prevent it. For a brief moment, it looked as though she might actually succeed. Mad requests were made and acceded to. A few key personal items were successfully misplaced. Everything was in place for this future, finally, to turn out differently.
Until it didn't.
Lily finally accepted the truth. There would be no changing what she saw in her visions. It wasn't a gift or a responsibility. It was a curse, her own private torture.
Banished to a cold, gray finishing school for five withering years, she had tried to escape from that curse. Feeling a vision come over her, she attempted everything from pinches to reciting Milton or once, memorably, sticking a fork into an electrical outlet to short circuit the revelation.
None of it worked. She could not prevent the knowledge from coming to her. She could do nothing except try her damnedest to ignore it, then keep living despite the unavoidable, stabbing guilt, and the rage and frustration that threatened to burn her up from the inside out.
Most days, living was enough.
Then there were days like today.
She leaned into a turn, the motorcycle bouncing against a bump in the road. She gripped the handlebars, hands iron-tight, willing the Triumph into submission.
The profile of an old manor rose up beyond the sharp thorns of the hedge. The stone walls were stained with age, the windows fogged with years of dirt. Scaffolding ran along one long wing, tarps flapping in the icy breeze.
There were no other houses here. No cars or carriages cluttered the road. Only the dark figure of a lone horseman riding across the fields broke the isolation of the scene.
Estelle was going to die.
Estelle who made her living speaking to the dead, who loved gossip, turbans, and a particularly unctuous brand of Italian sweet vermouth. She was adept at catching Lily at the exact moment she was coming up the stairs, luring her into a glass or a chat or the whirlwind of some scandal or another.
It was not easy to make friends, living with knowledge that could never be shared. At any moment, Lily might discover that the people she had come to care for would be taken from her. Estelle had been the first one in a very long time to blow past her carefully laid defenses and find a way into her heart. Now some monster was going to make a ghost of her.
So Lily ran. She had run from the flat, grabbing her riding clothes and bolting out into the chill of the morning. She caught the tram to Highgate, on the outskirts of the sprawling expanse of London, and retrieved her Triumph from the garage. She rode it as though grief could be left behind by speed and distance.
Her tires devoured the deserted road, the chill biting at the exposed skin of her cheeks and neck. This was usually a miracle cure, a panacea for all manner of ills. The feeling of racing into the wind, of changing her course with a shift of her weight, must be the nearest thing in the world to flying. Lily could be plagued with frustrations, and an hour or two on the motorbike would leave her feeling peaceful as a monk.
Not this time.
Out in the fields, the horseman kicked into a gallop, flying across the open fields of grass and heather. Lily joined him, leaning low over the handlebars. The engine roared and shook beneath her, straining with what she demanded of it, but it couldn't push the image of Estelle's bloodstained form from her mind. It was impossible to outrun the feeling of her own powerlessness. All her reckless pace earned her were stiff muscles and a chapped nose.
Nothing changed. Nothing ever would.
Then a sharp crack splintered the stillness of the heath.