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R.J. Halbert (Author)



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Novus Press Works
5 X 8 in
280 pg

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A family desperate for a fresh start finds themselves tangled up in a strange connection to a mysterious old house.

After experiencing marriage troubles and dark pasts, Ian and Lyana Keane are ready to leave Boston behind and move with their two kids—Ariel (15) and Zach (12)—to the sleepy New Hampshire town of Littleton. They are inexplicably drawn to an old house that they all feel an immediate connection to—a home complete with a rich history, extensive grounds, intriguing character, and a Caretaker.

But as time goes on, strange things begin to happen with the house and the family living within its walls. They see recurring symbols, experience realistic hallucinations, uncover mysteries they can’t explain. One by one the Keane family realise that dark forces - or something stronger - are afoot. Be it cursed ancient mythology, dark magic, or just chilling coincidence, the Keane family are forced to rely on Marshall the caretaker for help, but is he really as kind and cooperative as he seems?

One thing is clear: the Keane family is more connected to this house than they could have ever anticipated.

But will it have the power to save their family from tragedy? Or will it tear them apart for good?

R.J. Halbert
Author Bio

R.J. Halbert is the husband and wife team behind CARETAKER - Book One of The Goodpasture Chronicles, a supernatural tale about breaking generational curses to forge new bonds of hope.

Jason Halbert, one-half of R.J. Halbert, is an Emmy and Grammy Award winning producer and songwriter. His songs have reached millions of listeners worldwide through multiple #1 and Platinum selling records. In addition to his 20+ year career as Music Director and Producer for Kelly Clarkson and several other notable artists, he has left his unique creative mark on numerous works in film and television.

When not creating music, he loves bee-keeping, Sci-Fi, and is known to be quite a storyteller.

After homeschooling their two children around the world on a tour bus, Rhonda Halbert, the second half of R.J. Halbert, has spent the past 10 years as a successful music and television manager, guiding her clients’ relationships with labels, networks, and producers. She is also a published photographer, music supervisor, passionate cook, garden enthusiast, and spiritual practitioner.

Together, Jason and Rhonda have woven their 30+ years of life together into a riveting story, based somewhat on truth and experience, but even more so, brimming with imagination.

Review text - IndieReader

R.J. Halbert's CARETAKER is a heady read once the pace starts to pick up, making for a promising start to this supernatural thriller series.


A Boston family moves into a rural house with a mysterious past.

In CARETAKER, Ian and Lyana Keane are a Bostonian couple with two teenaged children who move into the stereotypical grand old New England house in the country, which has an unusual characteristic: it comes complete with a reclusive caretaker, Marshall, who lives in a corner of the plot. Author R.J. Halbert (a pseudonym for married couple Rhonda and Jason) shows an impressive grasp of atmosphere and tension. As the family settles in, Ian and Lyana start to experience uncomfortable flashbacks to unhappier times in their lives. Before long, strange things are happening to their children: they have the same dream, of a life in an ancient city; and disaster soon strikes from an unexpected source.

Notwithstanding the fact that this New England supernaturalism is familiar territory, CARETAKER has a lot going for it. Traces of Stephen King-esque suspense, as well as a little Hitchcockian horror, are discernible in the slow-burn treatment; and the twist is a decent one. The only real issue—a substantial one at that—is with pacing. At a shade over 200 pages, the work is fairly short; yet well over a third of the novel has gone by before the plot really begins to cohere. While the substantial character-building that goes on in these opening chapters does tell us a great deal about Ian and Lyana (their childhoods spent in abusive circumstances; the familiar story of a problematic work-life balance almost destroying the couple’s marriage), it seems extravagant to expend so much effort on backstory in such a short work.

In a sense, the real protagonist of the book is Farr Hill itself: the house’s puzzling geometries, bottomless mirror, and chimerical aspect are just as worthy of exposition as the main characters. CARETAKER is meant as the first volume in a series, The Goodpasture Chronicles, so it may be that subsequent installments take a less ponderous approach. But for those who like slow-burning thrillers, there is a great deal here of interest.

R.J. Halbert’s CARETAKER is a heady read once the pace starts to pick up, making for a promising start to this supernatural thriller series.

~Craig Jones for IndieReader

Review text - Booklife by Publisher's Weekly

A family in dire need of a fresh new start, a mysterious house tied to the past - its own and theirs. As past emotional wounds are re-opened, the Keane family’s once idyllic new home takes a sinister turn, threatening to end their new beginning forever. With a cast of diversely gifted characters, Caretaker is a supernatural tale about braking generational curses to forge new bonds of hope. A book with soul inspired by the real life journey of the authors.

Husband and wife team Halbert offers up a twisty reflection on a flawed, overwrought family in this heart-pounding thriller, the first of their Goodpasture Chronicles. Ian Keane and his wife Lyana have lived in Boston for too long. Still devastated from an earlier miscarriage and desperate for a fresh start to put the pain behind her, Lyana stumbles onto the enigmatic Farr Hill mansion in the bucolic town of Littleton, New Hampshire. Despite the property’s eerie ambiance, the family is hooked; even 15-year-old Ariel and her 12-year-old brother Zach can’t wait to start exploring—though some creepy discoveries, ever-present fog, and a mysterious caretaker suggest there might be more to the house than meets the eye.

Ian and Lyana embody the far-reaching effects of generational trauma, as their troubled childhoods and marital discord seep into the family’s new beginning. Lyana’s disturbing flashbacks to her younger years intensify the moment she sets foot in the mansion, aided by some chilling reflections in an old pantry mirror and whispered voices trailing around the hallways, while the kids bump into their own setbacks. Neurodivergent Zach harnesses the house’s energy to exert power over his popular sister, but the cost is more than he expected, and Ariel’s deterioration is unsettling to watch. Meanwhile, Ian faces his own demons, including a drinking problem and a secret room that transports him to a terrifying event from his childhood.

Despite the family’s excitement at their clean slate, something unusual is definitely happening at Farr Hill, and the suspenseful energy driving the story never lets up. The Keanes are far from perfect but infinitely relatable, rich with undeniable affection and rough edges, and their fight for a new start quickly devolves into a fight to survive, topped off with a shocker of an ending that will leave readers eager for the next installment in this promising series starter.

Takeaway: Troubled family seeks a new beginning in this chilling page-turner.

Comparable Titles: Gilly Macmillan’s The Manor House, Elizabeth Brooks’s The Whispering House.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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