• Available: June 9th, 2005
  • Published by: Writers Room Books
  • Formats: Paperback, eBook
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St. James Place

A Woman of Today is Called Upon to Help a Woman of the Past

Elizabeth Charles, a New York City social worker, specializing in child abuse cases, is walking down the street in New York’s Lower East Side when her eyes seem to betray her.  A street sign that said, “St. James Place” changes, and she finds herself in the New York City of the early 20th century.  Seeing a redhead in turn of the century clothing marks the beginning of a journey through time where she confronts the issues of that day, which are strangely familiar to her: domestic violence, child abuse, and the impossible gulf between wealth and poverty. Elizabeth, baffled by what she thinks are hallucinations, finds support when an event in the present, that is, the murder of a child abuse victim’s mother by her abusive boyfriend, brings her in contact with two NYPD police detectives, a handsome young assistant district attorney, and a psychiatrist. This cohesive team, bound by love for Milagros, the child abuse victim whom Elizabeth adopts, determines that Elizabeth’s encounter with Katherine, a woman who survived the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911, is inexplicable, but real.  Elizabeth has been inexorably recruited to help this brave woman from the past right a terrible injustice from long ago, an event that joins the past to the present. A novel of suspense, romance, and history, St. James Place is about how justice must be served, and how good will overcome evil. Set in old New York, present day New York, and Bucks County, Pennsylvania, this is a thriller about a strong woman, the gifted child she adopts, their struggle against a violent stalker, and murders in the past and the present which are intricately connected.

Past And Present Collide
Publishers Weekly Reviewer

Past and present collide in the mind of social worker Elizabeth, who has her first hallucination-seeing the New York City streets around her as they were on March 25, 1911-on her way to visit a case in the housing projects on the Lower East Side. Though shaken by the vision, Elizabeth continues with her quest to help abused children, meeting kind D.A. Mark Lewis and taking special interest in the case of Milagros Ruiz, who at Elizabeth’s suggestion was pulled from the home where she’d been abused by her mother’s boyfriend, Chet King. Elizabeth’s own family takes center stage with the revelation that a plane crash has killed her beloved father; when she discovers that Milagros has been severely beaten by her mother’s boyfriend, and left in a coma, she is devastated. With her father gone and King on the lam, Elizabeth seeks solace in the friendship of Mark and her best friend Jane; racing home to meet Jane for dinner, she is horrified to find Jane stabbed to death: a violent act meant to punish Elizabeth. When the hallucinations escalate, developing into visions of women jumping from a burning building-victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire-Mark suggests that Elizabeth meet with psychologist Doris Fisher, who attempts to unravel the mystery. Grief-stricken Elizabeth consoles Jane’s family, keeps vigil over Millie’s bedside, and decides to adopt her. She also forges friendships with the two detectives on the escalating King case, while Doris begins by hypnotizing Elizabeth in order to make sense of the visions. While Millie gains strength and Elizabeth and Mark’s romance blossoms, the two women connect the dots, drawing an incredible picture of Elizabeth’s and Jane’s intertwining family trees.

A Compelling Debut Novel
Paul Weiss

Elizabeth Charles is a young social worker, dedicated to an onerous case load and to what little help and relief she can offer the far too many abused and neglected children in New York. On her way to investigate a report of suspected abuse, Elizabeth suffers an odd hallucination and loses all sense of time and place. The illusion, while disturbing and deeply disorienting, is a brief one and, when it subsides, the concern it causes must be temporarily set aside with the urgency of dealing with Milagros, an endearing child, clearly intelligent and mature well beyond her years, who is obviously in desperate danger if she remains living with her mother and a violent, abusive and obviously psychopathic stepfather.

When her father dies in a plane crash and leaves her everything he owns, Elizabeth Charles becomes an independently wealthy young woman and can acknowledge to herself that she is far too deeply involved with Milagros on a personal level and she is simply incapable of maintaining professional objectivity as a civil servant and a social worker who must deal with multiple cases simultaneously.

She also allows herself to admit that the disturbing hallucinations she is now regularly experiencing have an eerie reality which beg for further investigation. With the help of a paranormal psychologist, Elizabeth is drawn more and more deeply into a tangled historical family web that dates back to the death of a young woman in the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in 1911.

Despite this being a debut effort, Patricia Riley Leyden clearly has the chops of an accomplished author. Her characterization is superb. Elizabeth Charles and her lover, Mark Lewis, her deceased father’s fiancée, Regina Jordan, the abusive stalker, Chet King, and the caring psychologist, Doris Fisher, to name only a few of the characters, are colourful, realistic and exceptionally fully developed. Her description of the deep, caring, warm and cautious romance between Lewis and Charles is heartwarming and believable without once resorting to describing anything more sexual than a kiss or an embrace. The funeral scene that celebrates the life of a policeman shot and killed in the line of duty just about broke my heart!

ST JAMES PLACE is many, many things. It’s history; it’s a multi-generational family saga; it’s a suspense thriller; it’s a paranormal thriller; it’s a psychological thriller; and, it’s a romance. In fact, if I have a criticism at all, it’s that ST JAMES PLACE is simply too ambitious and it’s too many things at once. The story of the rescue of the abused child, Milagros, from almost certain death at the hands of stalker Chet King seems forcibly intertwined with the plot of the hallucinations and the family story from 1911 New York.

A Gripping, Well-Told Story
Karen Joan Siren

ST. JAMES PLACE is a well written, page-turning debut novel from author Patricia Riley Leyden. Full of wonderfully drawn characters, ST. JAMES PLACE reels you in, takes you on an intense and bizarre journey, and leaves you panting and breathless. This book is a unique mix of genres, including paranormal, romance, family saga, historical, murder mystery, and psychological suspense thriller.

Ms. Leyden’s outstanding characterizations are clearly her strength and are what draw the reader into ST. JAMES PLACE. Her characters are real, vivid, alive – you want to know them and to spend time with them. And ST. JAMES PLACE gives us the opportunity to do just that.

In ST. JAMES PLACE, we meet Elizabeth Charles, a dedicated, loving, but over-stretched social worker who does her best for the abused and neglected children of New York City. During one of her investigations of child abuse, Elizabeth suffers a disorienting hallucination that seems to take place in the past. However, Elizabeth must push this odd event aside so that she can help Millie, an intelligent eight year old who is in terrible danger from her mother’s psychotic boyfriend, the violent Chet King. Even though she knows she shouldn’t, Elizabeth becomes emotionally attached to Millie and Millie to Elizabeth. When King beats Millie nearly to death, Elizabeth petitions to adopt Millie. This enrages King even more, and Elizabeth becomes his prime target. Elizabeth must now face a number of serious personal crises, a murderous stalker, and the increasing frequency of her time-shifting hallucinations. What is happening to Elizabeth? Will her life ever be normal again? Will she and Millie become the family they both so desperately need?

Ms. Leyden is clearly a very talented author. Her writing is style is warm and engaging, yet it is wonderfully tension-filled at the same time. Her characters are delightful and some of the best developed that I have read in quite some time. You feel with these characters and for them, becoming quite emotionally attached. Her handling of the suspense is just right; the reader must keep turning the pages to find out what is going to happen next.

  • St. James Place was a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest in 2010.