Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Read an #Excerpt from The House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton

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About the Book

The House on Biscayne Bay
by Chanel Cleeton

Format: 336 pages, Paperback
Published: April 2, 2024 by Berkley
As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s atmospheric new novel.

With the Great War finally behind them, thousands of civilians and business moguls alike flock to South Florida with their sights set on making a fortune. When wealthy industrialist Robert Barnes and his wife, Anna, build Marbrisa, a glamorous estate on Biscayne Bay, they become the toast of the newly burgeoning society. Anna and Robert appear to have it all, but in a town like Miami, appearances can be deceiving, and one scandal can change everything.

Years later following the tragic death of her parents in Havana, Carmen Acosta journeys to Marbrisa, the grand home of her estranged older sister, Carolina, and her husband, Asher Wyatt. On the surface, the gilded estate looks like paradise, but Carmen quickly learns that nothing at Marbrisa is as it seems. The house has a treacherous legacy, and Carmen’s own life is soon in jeopardy . . . unless she can unravel the secrets buried beneath the mansion’s facade and stop history from repeating itself.

Berkley Trade Paperback Original | On sale April 2, 2024

I cannot for the life of me imagine why anyone would want to live in Florida.

The house looms before me, a pale stone behemoth jettisoning from the swampy earth. It casts a long shadow, towering three stories high with a parapet on top as though it's readying itself to guard against intruders. Its palatial size and exterior appear to have been plucked from some European city and dropped on this godforsaken plot of land in Miami. There are arches and flourishes all around the building, the fanciful embellishments reminiscent of a wedding cake's intricate design. Enormous glass-paned windows dominate the facade, equally impressive doors leading out to a front patio set atop a stone staircase made of the palest coral that matches the house's exterior walls.

The grass sways a few feet away conjuring images of snakes slithering through the tall blades. What sort of reptiles do they have in Florida? Large ones capable of felling a full-grown person? This feels like the end of civilization as we know it-a far cry from Manhattan and the sensibilities we have grown accustomed to.

The house is nearing completion, the progress an undeniable sign of just how long my husband has been keeping this secret.

Robert took me to Italy for our honeymoon years ago, and it appears he gathered a great deal of his inspiration from the grand houses we saw on our trip there.

There weren't alligators in Italy, though.

And it wasn't this hot.

A thin line of sweat trickles between my shoulder blades, my already dampened gown sticking to my skin as I trudge away from my husband's roadster toward our future home. As a little girl sitting in the pews of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, I often thought about the fires of hell as I prayed for my immortal soul. I envisioned the devil's playground to have a climate like this one, but in all my wild imaginings, Lucifer didn't have iguanas.

Men mill about the property, working on the construction Robert has planned. It looks to be rough work, heavy pieces of stone being carried from one side of the house to another, the radiant sun beating down on the men. It must be hell doing such strenuous physical labor in this stifling heat.

A few cast curious glances our way, no doubt wanting to get a measure of the new owners; some low chuckles drift toward us, and my cheeks burn as I realize they're likely laughing at me and how out of place I look in such a rugged environment. When Robert told me he was taking me for a trip to Miami for my birthday, I fancied a romantic weekend at one of the luxurious resorts that have cropped up along Florida's east coast. I thought the surprise he mentioned would be an elegant necklace or perhaps a pair of earrings. After all, forty feels like a momentous occasion that should be marked, albeit with something smaller than real estate.

"What do you think, Anna?" my husband asks, spreading his arms out expansively as though he could encompass the whole of the property in his reach, seemingly oblivious to my obvious discomfort. "Isn't it amazing? There's no other house for as far as the eye can see and then some."

I'm saved from a response by an insect swarming perilously close to my face.

It hovers in midair, likely calculating its plan of attack, before it finally retreats with an irate buzz as though recognizing me as an interloper and reluctantly ceding its territory.

I wish I could hie off with it.

There are those who hate city life, the houses close together, the streets teeming with people, the noise, and the bustle, but I've grown accustomed to it, find familiarity in the sounds that play in the background of my days.

The silence here is deafening.

"Anna?" Robert asks again.

I take a deep breath, lifting my skirt out of the swampy muck.

"I would like to see the rest of it," I announce, biting back a string of blistering curses.

"You should see the best part," Robert announces, pointing past the house to the view of Biscayne Bay. "You can't put a price on this location."

I could, and my price would have one zero attached to it whereas I fear Robert's has quite a few dangling behind an astonishing number.

I trudge past the house, and I walk toward the water's edge, careful to keep a healthy distance between me and the bay. I've always had an uneasy relationship with the ocean. It's lovely to look at, but never having learned to swim, I am terrified by the crashing waves.

The closer we get to the bay, the breeze grows, offering a respite from the heat.

The water is undeniably stunning, sparkling beneath the sunlight, nothing but horizon before us. For an instant, a breath, I can understand what drew Robert to the property. I imagine there's a great deal you would put up with for a vista such as this one.

I glance down at the rocky seawall, a nearly six-foot drop between the land and the water. The turquoise sea crashes against the coral, forming white foamy caps. It's an abrupt change from land to ocean; should we put up a railing or something for safety?

Robert laughs when I posit the question. "And ruin the view? Besides, to do it the length of the property would cost an absolute fortune. We'd be better off just heaving our money into Biscayne Bay."

It feels like we're already doing that.

"What about hurricanes?" I ask, turning back to face Robert lingering behind me.

"The architect working on the house has built it to withstand hurricanes."

Is such a thing possible? It seems hubristic to assume that anything man makes can meet Mother Nature's fury.

I turn and peer over the edge of the seawall. Fish flit back and forth beneath the water, their bright colors like vibrant jewels flashing in the sunlight.

You don't see that in New York, I suppose.

I lean forward-

A bloodcurdling shriek peals through the air.

Excerpted from The House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton Copyright © 2024 by Chanel Cleeton. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Chanel Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana, When We Left Cuba, The Last Train to Key West, and The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba.

Originally from Florida, Chanel grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law.

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