“Imaginative, unique, spine-tingling, and just the right amount of eerie, Ruby Falls is what a reader wants a psychological thriller to be.” — Sandra Brown, NYT bestselling author

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“Secrets abound in this bang of a book, a haunting tale sure to give readers chills. A stunner with some serious Gothic vibes.” — Kimberly Belle, internationally bestselling author

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Lights, camera and action take center stage in Deborah Goodrich Royce’s new psychological thriller, Ruby Falls (Post Hill Press). Soap opera star Ruby Eleanor Russell has daddy issues, but who wouldn’t after being abandoned by her father on an underground tour of Ruby Falls in Tennessee? He simply released her hand, and six-year-old Ruby was alone in the mist with a group of strangers. 

This childhood trauma has since influenced every aspect of her present life in the late 1980s. She’s abandoned the name Ruby — lost that terrifying day — to adopt her middle name, Eleanor. Now she’s intent on starting fresh with a whirlwind marriage to British aristocrat Orlando Montague, the starring role in a gothic remake of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, and a new rose-covered cottage in the Hollywood Hills. 

Her life continues along a similarly rosy path as she befriends her psychic cat-lady neighbor, Dottie Robinson, and adopts one of her kittens, Bel. Howard, her agent, dotes upon her, and Orlando opens a glamorous antique shop in Los Angeles. But then …

LINES BETWEEN REALITY AND FANTASY BLUR

In the gothic tradition, Eleanor shortly enters an Alice Through the Looking-Glass existence. As in the movies, reality and fantasy blur, where every word, action and thought can be interpreted from contrasting perspectives. A dedicated actress, she becomes more and more embedded in her movie role as Lavinia Lange, and her actual life assumes a surreal quality echoing that of the tormented, innocent bride. 

Orlando, whom she married only weeks after they met, suddenly becomes possessive and suspicious of her. He accuses her of concealing her father’s media-grabbing disappearance, as well as her real name. And she suspects him of having an affair and seeking to steal a valuable family heirloom, an antique secretary.

Eleanor’s deeply ingrained fear of abandonment and growing paranoia threaten her new marriage and her new career. She wonders whether she is reliving the events of Rebecca and whether she is the unnamed heroine or the evil Mrs. Danvers. Or perhaps she’s found herself in Gaslight, the 1944 film where a manipulative husband intentionally toys with his hysterical wife to make her believe she’s crazy. Most importantly, her obsessions over whether her father, gone missing for 20 years, will ever return to her, and whether he left any clues to his whereabouts, swirl out of proportion.

ROYCE’S HAUNTING GLIMPSE AT HOLLYWOOD

In Ruby Falls, Royce incorporates her experience as an actress in daytime drama (Silver Kane, evil half-sister to Erica Kane on All My Children), prime-time television (21 Jump Street, St. Elsewhere, 90210) and the movies (Out on a Limb) to take the reader backstage at the soap-opera studios and on the soundstages of Hollywood. Through her haunting references, Royce pays homage to Old Hollywood greats like Hitchcock, Truffaut and Cary Grant as Eleanor searches for answers about her past and present, and grapples with the tension between reality and imagination.

Royce has crafted a wily protagonist with many layers of fact and fiction. Each suspenseful page peels away another layer of Eleanor’s facade until her true core is exposed. We learn she loved her enigmatic father more than anyone else in the world, and she mourns him every day of her life. We learn that in acting, she can step into another person’s shoes to escape her past and that her tragic memories are fluid and open to her distorted interpretation. And that she, too, is an enigma, which keeps us turning the page.

Royce leaves the reader wondering whether her protagonist was the innocent child, Ruby, abandoned at the falls or whether she is the emotionally fragile Eleanor who struggles to survive every day. Ruby Falls will enthrall readers who love clever, twisty psychological thrillers, and the fabulous Hollywood ending will leave them wanting more.

Visit Deborah Goodrich Royce’s BookTrib author profile page here.


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Photo Credit: Kit Kittle

Deborah Goodrich Royce launched her acting career in 1982 in the lead role of Silver Kane (sister of the legendary Erica Kane) on ABC’s All My Children. She went on to star in feature films such as Remote Control, April Fool’s Day, and Just One of the Guys, television movies such as Return to Peyton Place, The Deliberate Stranger, and Liberace, and television series such as St. Elsewhere, Beverly Hills 90210, and 21 Jump Street. In 2008, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lake Erie College. Her first psychological thriller, Finding Mrs. Ford, was published in 2019 to rave reviews.