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Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Geekomancy

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Title: Geekomancy
Author: Michael R. Underwood
Buy Link: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Connect: Facebook | Twitter | Website

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Ree is a lovely, geeky lady that sells comic books and lattes for a living. Her dream is to write a screenplay that takes off and launches her career. Until that happens she's content working at Cafe Xombie and hanging out with her friends. A strange customer comes into the comic book store one day and everything in Ree's life changes.

Ree's eyes are opened to magic and creatures that go bump in the night. After talking with Eastwood (the strange customer) she begins to submerge herself into that world. Ree quickly learns more about the powers available and the local hangouts/markets for people in the know. She then decides to help Eastwood solve who is behind the teen suicides.

I can honestly say I was surprised at who was behind the suicides. Geekomancy is a book that all geeks should be required to read. It pretty much collected all things geek and shoved it into a book and made it work. There were tons of references that I came to look forward to while reading. I highly recommend this book.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for an honest review via NetGalley.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dirty Little Secret [7]


Dirty Little Secret is a weekly meme hosted by us at Under the Covers. Every Thursday we get to know other bloggers and our readers more intimately by asking them a question hoping to reveal their dirty little secrets.  We hope that you will all join us!

To participate in the meme all you need to do is:

1. Be a follower of Under the Covers.
2. Create a post in your blog taking the meme image (code above) and copy instructions.
3. Answer the question we propose! This can be done in any way you like, post a video, write a post etc.
4. Then add your link below.
  

This week's question:

"Book abuse!  What's the worst thing you've done to a book."

The worst thing I've done intentionally is dog ear my paperback books.
Accidentally - I've spilled water on a book before and it didn't turn out so great.
 
 
What about you? What is the worst you've done?

TBR Thursday [19]

Here are the next two books on my TBR list. What books will you be reading next?

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The Grimm Chronicles


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Boyfriend from Hell

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

WoW [25] Beneath a Darkening Moon by Keri Arthur

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Find out more information at their blog http://breakingthespine.blogspot.com/.


Title: Beneath a Darkening Moon
Author: Keri Arthur
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Release Date: October 30th 2012

Savannah Grant still harbors deep secrets and carries emotional scars from a love affair gone bad many years ago. She has tried to bury her heartbreak in her job as chief ranger of the Ripple Creek werewolf reservation. But now someone is murdering humans on her turf, and the pattern matches a series of deaths she witnessed a decade ago: the same year that she met—and lost—the love of her life.

The murderer seems to have risen from the grave. Then Savannah’s old love appears. Cade Jones is an Interspecies Investigation Squad officer, determined to catch the killer he let slip through his grasp once before—in part because of a bewitching young werewolf. Now, as moon heat reignites their desire for each other, Savannah and Cade are forced to come to terms with long-buried secrets—not only to stop a monster from killing again . . . but to give their promise to the moon one more chance.

Goodreads Link

Why I am waiting:
I love Keri Arthur books, so this is a must read for me. When I was marathon reading the Riley Jenson series a few years ago I looked into her other books and couldn't seem to find copies of the Ripple Creek books anywhere. Much to my surprise I ran across book one the other day (it is what I'm reading currently) so I'll have to buy Beneath a Darkening Moon when it is released.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Teaser Tuesday [20]


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

This week’s teaser comes from “Beneath a Rising Moon” by Keri Arthur:

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"He might have practiced restraint over the last ten years, but coming back to the mansion seemed to have loosened the control he had over his old habits. Part of him ached to celebrate the rising of the moon as he had in years past - to drink himself senseless and lose himself in the pleasure of a female's body, over and over and over."

Page 85

Monday, August 27, 2012

Currently Reading [24]

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Title: Beneath a Rising Moon
Author: Keri Arthur
Series: Ripple Creek Werewolf #1

There’s no turning back for Neva Grant. To find a killer, she must seduce the boldest male in the Sinclair pack. Her twin sister lies in a hospital bed, fighting for her life, the fourth and only surviving victim of a vicious attacker. The werewolf rangers suspect the Sinclair pack, and the only way Neva can infiltrate their close-knit ranks is to unleash the wildness within and offer herself to Duncan Sinclair.

Duncan’s appetite for women is legendary on the reservation. But when this new woman stirs his hunger, he finds his desire for her goes deeper than anything he’s ever felt before. When he realizes that she’s playing a game and he’s taken the bait, he is determined to push her to the breaking point. As Duncan and Neva engage in a dangerous dance, they must somehow find a way to join forces—before a cornered killer bites back.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Mockingbird


Title: Mockingbird
Author: Chuck Wendig
Series: Miriam Black #2
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Rating: 5/5

Buy Link:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Author: Twitter | Website





I teamed up with one of my favorite bloggers, Braine at TalkSupe to buddy review this book. Braine is a sexy librarian and is addicted to egg rolls/spring rolls, just like I am. The review will mainly be the same on both of our blogs, but we did add a little extra spice on our own pages.

Braine = Purple
Melissa (Me) = Black

STORY

I love how right off the gate Miriam is pissed and people started dying. I know it sounds morbid but that sets the theme of the book if not the series. Here I thought we're going to see Miriam living a quiet domestic life with Louis. So I was pretty surprised to read that their life is far from happy and in fact it has deteriorated since the events in Blackbird.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I can't get enough of Miriam's in your face attitude and brutal honesty. The story quickly morphs from the day-to-day life of Miriam and lack of Louis, to the odd job that Louis finds her. He quickly dumps her at a school to go hang out with a woman he kind of knows. Was it just me, or was The Caldecott School an interesting choice of places to stick Miriam in? The purpose of the school is to reform bad girls, which describes Miriam perfectly.

I know, I feel like maybe Louis set her up or something sending her to that reform school. But Miriam has no rhyme or reason so of course she just goes along with it and find herself in another jam. I never expected a reform school to join the mix, this series is so morbid and such a horror story you know nothing good will come out of it when he adds teenagers to the cast of characters.

MIRIAM

Miriam is still the crazy lady that I grew to love. She still cusses like a sailor and goes looking for trouble.

Still a chain-smoker and still drinks on an empty stomach! LOL

But there are minor changes that I noticed. She actually tries to change for Louis by wearing gloves so she doesn't see how people die. There is also the fact that she lies to a woman about how she dies because she doesn't want to upset her.

I never saw those gloves coming and I never expected her to be the "considerate" type. I know she still has a conscience somewhere. Remember how self-absorbed she was in Blackbirds? Maybe Louis softened her a bit.

I agree, I think Louis is probably the reason why her personality changed and she actually cares about a few people. Dare I say it, but there was even a slightly sweet side that was exposed.

My uh-oh moment was when she touched and saw Lauren Martin's death. I knew she'll  be Miriam's obsession and her quest to stop that vision from happening will set off a series of events that will turn this thriller into a horror story! But this only proves that Miriam's anti-hero complex is superficial, it's her inherent goodness that makes her go into superhero mode and tries to change people's fates. It might anger "the powers that be" but probably it's her way of giving the finger to this force that gave her this "gift". Plus seeing all those deaths is enough to drive anybody insane. No wonder Miriam is always teetering on the edge of insanity.

VILLAINS

Wendig really stepped up the villain(s) in Mockingbird. The bad guy had no qualms on targeting teenage girls, which I think is why this book kind of shook me.
When the identities and back stories of the villains were revealed, I was so revolted by them. It reminded me of the movies Psycho and Wrong Turn. How can you reason with crazy?! Until now I still don't know how Miriam managed to get away from those people. That was a too tight of a situation and to say that she had another close call is an understatement. 

Miriam seems to triumph in impossible situations, but even I doubted she would get away from the villains this time. They were really creepy and on more than one occasion I wanted to throw my nook in the freezer (like Joey from Friends) so the scariness wouldn’t get me.



BIRDS

Aside from fantasy books, I've never really encountered birds, supercharged birds, to be part of the character list much less a major one at that. I would sometimes see crows and ravens outside and while reading MOCKINGBIRD, I developed minor phobia about it. I'm a little superstitious and I have heard that a black bird's call heralds bad mojo but Chuck Wendig took it to another level! 

I haven’t seen birds like this in anything before, so it really freaked me out when they talked. I’m not even going to think about the scene with Louis and the birds, that is the stuff of nightmares. One thing that I did not know, is that some ravens are actually able to talk.

After that video you showed me, the only black talking bird I know are mynah birds, I didn't know ravens/crows can too. In any case, I will never look at a black bird the same way again. 

I hope you enjoyed our review! It was a lot of fun buddy reading and reviewing Mockingbird with Braine. Look for our interview with Miriam (via Chuck Wendig) in the near future.

TBR Thursday [18]

Here are the next two books on my TBR list. What books are next on yours?

Demon Hunting in the Deep South
Demon Hunting in the Deep South

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To Walk The Night

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

WoW [24] Shadow's Claim by Kresley Cole

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine. Find out more information at their blog http://breakingthespine.blogspot.com/.


Title: Shadow's Claim
Author: Kresley Cole
Publisher: Pocket Books

Release Date: November 27th 2012

#1 New York Times bestseller Kresley Cole introduces The Dacians: Realm of Blood and Mist, a new paranormal series following the royal bloodline of Dacia, a vampire kingdom hidden within the Lore of the Immortals After Dark. Shadow’s Claim features Prince Trehan, a ruthless master assassin who will do anything to possess Bettina, his beautiful sorceress mate, even compete for her hand in a blood-sport tournament— to the death.

HE WON’T BE DENIED

Trehan Daciano, known as the Prince of Shadows, has spent his life serving his people—striking in the night, quietly executing any threat to their realm. The coldly disciplined swordsman has never desired anything for himself—until he beholds Bettina, the sheltered ward of two of the Lore’s most fearsome villains.

SHE’S BOUND TO ANOTHER

Desperate to earn her guardians’ approval after a life-shattering mistake, young Bettina has no choice but to marry whichever suitor prevails—even though she’s lost her heart to another. Yet one lethal competitor, a mysterious cloaked swordsman, invades her dreams, tempting her with forbidden pleasure.

A BATTLE FOR HER BODY AND SOUL

Even if Trehan can survive the punishing contests to claim her as his wife, the true battle for Bettina’s heart is yet to come. And unleashing a millennium’s worth of savage need will either frighten his Bride away—or stoke Bettina’s own desires to a fever pitch. . . .

Goodreads Link

Why I am waiting:
Kresley Cole won my heart with her Immortals After Dark series, she is an instant buy in my book. I can't wait to read this new series. *happy dance*

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Teaser Tuesday [19]


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read 
  • Open to a random page 
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) 
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

This week’s teaser comes from “Knight of the Dead” by Jennifer Rae Gravely:

Knight of the Dead

"The sexiness of the SUV fit the attractiveness of the owner. Her heart skipped when Mark waved as he pulled past her clunker into the garage."

Page 114

Monday, August 20, 2012

Currently Reading [23]

Knight of the Dead
Title: Knight of the Dead
Author: Jennifer Rae Gravely

Persephone Richards is in a pinch. With a wrecked car and bills stacking up, the income from her job at the daycare isn’t enough. Mark Lawrence needs a sitter for his little girl and Persephone is perfect for the job. What begins as an employment opportunity leads to romance. However, a secret Persephone hides threatens the happy ever after and puts the three of them in danger.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Flight Blog Tour - Giveaway



Title: Flight
Series: The Crescent Chronicles, #1
Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy
Genre: Mature YA/New Adult Paranormal Romance
Publisher: self-published
Format: Ebook
Words: 55,000

Purchase:

Not yet released, to be released on August 16th

Book Description:

Sometimes you just have to take flight.

A summer in New Orleans is exactly what Allie needs before starting college. Accepting her dad’s invitation to work at his hotel offers an escape from her ex-boyfriend and the chance to spend the summer with her best friend. Meeting a guy is the last thing on her mind—until she sees Levi.

Unable to resist the infuriating yet alluring Levi, Allie finds herself at the center of a supernatural society and forced to decide between following the path she has always trusted or saving a city that might just save her.

Excerpt:
Closing my eyes, I tried to block it all out. Convinced I was about to die, I was only partly aware of his arms around me.

“You said you wanted an adventure,” he said quietly, teasingly, as he tightened his hold.

My stomach dropped out as an intense and complete feeling of weightlessness engulfed me. The wind stung my face as memories flooded my mind. I thought of my parents, of all the things I wanted to tell them but never did, my friends from home, and the experiences I longed for. Quickly my thoughts changed to more recent memories, to Levi.

“Open your eyes,” he whispered, somehow knowing my eyes were clenched shut.

Against my better judgment, I listened. The scream died in my throat as we hurtled toward the water that had seemed so beautiful from the roof above.

About the Author:


Alyssa Rose Ivy lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young children. Although raised in the New York area, she fell in love with the South after moving to New Orleans for college. After years as a perpetual student, she turned back to her creative side and decided to write.

Find the Author:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads |



 GIVEAWAY: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Loving Lady Marcia Tour


This is my stop in the Loving Lady Marcia tour presented by Innovative Online. My tour will include the first chapter of the book. If it looks like something you are interested in you should check out the other blog stops, there will be reviews, giveaways, etc.


Title: Loving Lady Marcia
Author: Kieran Kramer
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: August 28th 2012
Buy Link: Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Nook, Indiebound, iBooks
Connect with the author: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Street Team, Group blog of writer moms, Free Droid app, Free iPhone app



About Kieran:
Double Rita®-finalist and USA Today bestseller Kieran Kramer is the author of the
lighthearted Regency historical romance series, The Impossible Bachelors, published by
St. Martin’s Press. She has a new six-book contract with St. Martin’s for another
Regency series called The House of Brady, premiering in August 2012 with LOVING
LADY MARCIA. A former CIA employee, journalist, and English teacher, Kieran’s also
a game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer. Without doubt her
greatest adventure, which she’s taken hand-in-hand with her husband of 23 years, a
commander in the US Navy Reserves, has been mothering their three children.

Kieran Kramer was very sweet and is offering a giveaway through all of the IO Tour stops. Here is what you can win.
Giveaway   40 Super Swag  packs
  • 1 Loving Lady Marcia mini book wine charm
  • 1 pink Loving Lady Marcia pen  (
  • Romance Trading Cards (Loving Lady Marcia and Impossible Bachelors)
  • 1 Kieran Kramer post-it notes  
  • 1 signed bookplate  
  • 1 Impossible Bachelors bookmark  
  • 1 Loving Lady Marcia bookmark 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chapter 1

            1814

            A girl knows when her life really begins, and for fifteen-year-old Lady Marcia Sherwood, daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Brady, it was the moment she met the two Lattimore brothers.

            When the first one took his seat in the Brady carriage, she had to clamp her teeth together to keep her mouth from falling open. If her friends at school could only see him. They’d never believe he was this handsome.

            “I’m Finn,” he said. “Pleased to meet you.” He gave a half-grin, his eyes gleaming with something.

            He must guess. He must know she found him attractive. Or perhaps he found her attractive.

            Oh, dear. Could that be so?

            That would make life so much more interesting. The brothers were to be her traveling companions to Liverpool, and then across the Irish Sea to Dublin, where she’d reunite with her family.

            Marcia smiled, being careful to keep her expression demure, but inside, her heart was pounding. “I’m Lady Marcia Sherwood,” she said, feeling like an idiot. “But please--call me Marcia.”

            Her maid nudged her in the side. “Lady Marcia will do, young man.”

            His clothes were of the finest tailoring, setting off his good looks so well that Marcia had to wonder how he lived with himself.  Had he gotten used to being so handsome? 

             “Right,” he said lightly, “of course,” and smiled at her as if to say, When we’re alone, I’ll call you Marcia.

            She already adored him.

            A shadow fell across his face as another figure entered the carriage. This young man was just as tall but more solidly built and definitely the older of the two. Marcia had to move her knees sideways to allow him proper room to settle. Once he had, he looked directly at her.

            He was striking in his own way, with compelling dark brown eyes, but he lacked the charm—or should she say, the obvious delight in his surroundings--that the younger brother exuded. In fact, his tightly furrowed brow suggested he was slightly irritated before the trip had even begun.

            The very exciting, adventurous trip she’d been looking forward to for ages.

            “Good morning.” His imperturbable gaze encompassed both her and her maid. “I’m Lord Chadwick,” he threw out in bored tones, as if they should be very grateful he’d spoken at all.

            “Good morning,” Marcia answered.

            She did not like him. Her body felt all prickly and hot, and it was clearly his fault.

            The maid smiled at the earl. Marcia could tell she was gratified that he’d included a mere servant in his greeting. But Marcia didn’t give him credit for it. She wouldn’t. He’d put her off.

            The carriage rolled forward.

            Lord Chadwick inclined his head at her. “You must be Lady Marcia Sherwood.”

            It was a statement, not a question. And he said it as if he didn’t give a fig who she was.

            “Indeed, I am.” Marcia forced a corner of her mouth to tilt up--to please Mama. She’d been brought up with manners, after all.       

            “I’ve heard much of your family.” His tone was cordial but cool.  He was going through the motions of polite behavior, nothing more.

            What would Mama do?

            She’d probably say something complimentary—and sincere--to put the person at ease, so Marcia wracked her brains. “My parents and I are grateful for your escort all the way to Dublin. That’s a trek.” She gave a little laugh.

            His distracted gaze didn’t change. “It’s no trouble.”

            “Of course, it’s not,” Mr. Lattimore interjected warmly. Thank God for him. He was like a knight in shining armor sitting next to a knave. “Why not travel together? We’re going to the wedding ourselves.”

            His older brother didn’t bother acknowledging the interruption. “I understand the rest of your family is currently ensconced at your Irish estate?” he asked Marcia.

            Poor Mr. Lattimore. To be treated like…like a nobody. Yes, Gregory treated Peter that way, and Peter did the same to Robert, but still! It must be humiliating, and Marcia was sure Lord Chadwick was far worse a brother than any of hers.

            “Lady Marcia?” Lord Chadwick asked.

            “Oh, yes. You must mean Ballybrook. It’s the greenest place you’ve ever seen. Daddy”—she pronounced it the Gaelic way, Doddy—“and Mama retire there when Parliament isn’t in session. Otherwise, they’re quite comfortable on Grosvenor Square in London. It’s a busy life, but they say they have the best of both worlds. One green and comfortable--and one sooty...but terribly elegant, all the same.”

            There was a faint gleam of something in Lord Chadwick’s eye. Was it amusement? And if so, why? Marcia felt indignation surge in her breast, but of course, she wasn’t permitted to show it.

            Instead, she turned to look at Mr. Lattimore and was gratified to see that he didn’t appear amused. He seemed to understand her completely. His large amber eyes gazed into hers with utmost sympathy, and she returned the look as discreetly as possible.

            She was forced to look at his brother, while Mr. Lattimore had to sit next to him.

            It was hard to say who had it worse.

            “She’s got a point.” Mr. Lattimore elbowed the earl. “We can have the best of both worlds, too, now that you’ve got the title. Why stay in Kent when we can be in Town?”

            “Because the estate in Kent needs a great deal of work.” Lord Chadwick’s tone was distinctly annoyed. “And I’m not ready to take up my seat in Parliament. Not yet. I’ve a great deal of reading to do on a host of topics. Not to mention that London soot is a bit off-putting.”

            “That’s not it at all,” Mr. Lattimore stage-whispered to Marcia. “London’s too amusing for him. My brother is all about duty.”

            “As you should be, too,” Lord Chadwick muttered, his eyes on the window.

            The maid stopped knitting a moment.

            “Well, then,” Marcia said brightly, whereupon the maid’s needles began flashing in and out of a skein of wool once more. “We have a long way to travel together, don’t we?”

            “Indeed, we do.” The earl’s tone was dry. He turned from the window to study her a brief moment then pulled a small book out of his pocket. “If you don’t mind, I’ll be reading much of the trip.”

            “Not at all,” she said courteously.

            Mama would be proud of her composure in the face of such rudeness. Or grown-up-ness. Marcia couldn’t tell which was which sometimes.

            The title of the book was something about the politics of war. Lord Chadwick cleared his throat and became immersed in it immediately.

            Marcia exchanged the briefest of bemused glances with Mr. Lattimore. The earl thought to dismiss them as if they were children, didn’t he?

            She suppressed a sensation of pique. Couldn’t he see that his younger brother was far from a child? And that she was a young woman?

            She had brains. She could carry on an adult conversation. Not that she wanted to about the politics of war, of course. Perhaps something about the politics of fashion. There were definite sides to be had on so many issues--bonnets, ribbons, sleeve styles--although she could talk of war if she had to.

            Lord Chadwick turned a page of his book. The maid’s knitting needles clicked and clacked. Mr. Lattimore raised his brows in a comical way and angled his eyes toward his brother.

            Marcia stifled a giggle. She was too grown up to giggle, of course.  But Mr. Lattimore was…well, he was simply adorable. He brought out the mischievous in her.

            Lord Chadwick looked up briefly, his gaze neutral yet somehow intimidating. When he went back to reading, Mr. Lattimore’s very expressive eyes expressed relief.

            I’m sorry for you, her own eyes said back.

            We won’t let him ruin the trip, she read in his.

            Understanding swelled between them. His mouth tilted up, just barely—a secret smile meant just for her. He leaned forward, the sharp-eyed maid’s needles flashing close by. Close enough to stab him in the thigh or arm if she so wishes, Marcia had the incongruous thought.

            Thankfully, Mr. Lattimore appeared oblivious to any danger. And if he were aware of it at all, I suspect he’d scoff at it, Marcia thought.

            He was that sort of young man. 

            “Fine weather for traveling,” he whispered to her.

            His voice was like a caress.

            “Yes,” she whispered back.

###
            But the fine weather hadn’t lasted. In fact, their carriage lost a wheel en route to Liverpool, in the midst of a great, slashing storm. Thankfully, they’d been near enough a market town that Lord Chadwick had walked there with the driver to procure another. But then another deluge prevented any travel for several days.

            When they finally managed to board a packet to Ireland, Marcia was already head over heels for Finnian—Finn, she called him.  How else to explain that she felt completely new? Joyful? Needy? And very, very confused?

            But mainly joyful.

            Although perhaps blissful was a better word. Blissful and aching.  How she ached! Yet it was a blissful ache. Which made no sense—

            Good Lord, she needed help. But she couldn’t tell Mother what was going on. It was too…private at this point.

            Janice would be a lovely confidante, but she’d have her two childhood friends with her at the wedding. She and Marcia both would be distracted by the festivities—and Marcia needed a good, long coze with her sister to explain what it felt like to fall in love. This wasn’t something she could toss off in casual conversation.

            There were her close friends at school, of course—she could write them letters. Wouldn’t they read her story avidly! But she didn’t feel comfortable revealing her feelings in a missive that could possibly pass through many hands. What if her classmate Lysandra read it? She and the two foolish minions she’d managed to recruit from among the student body would make fun of her, and that Marcia couldn’t bear.

            On the packet, she’d passed several girls on deck her age, but even if she were to befriend them, who wanted to reveal such deep passion to someone one had only just met?

            Of course, she’d only just met Finn, too, but that was different. They’d been through so much together already. He wasn’t a stranger in the least. Riding together in a carriage for days on end tended to make one familiar with someone rapidly.

            Her heart warmed. And standing at the prow of the sailing packet, she realized didn’t need any of her favorite people’s advice or shoulders to lean on, much as she loved them.

            She simply needed Finn.

            It was a startling, exhilarating conclusion, and she would bask in it in private, staring out at the sea and the endless horizon, where the sun hung huge and low. Life was so much bigger than she’d ever imagined it could be….

            “There you are.” The deep, dark, and now familiar voice of Duncan Lattimore, Lord Chadwick, intruded upon Marcia’s thoughts, and he joined her at the bow, at her left.

            She was shocked. Nay, astounded. Why was he talking to her suddenly? He’d made no effort to speak to her the entire trip, except when he’d been forced to at meal times. At dinner one night in a respectable inn, he’d asked several other young ladies closer to his age what they liked to do—what books they liked to read, for example—but he’d never asked her anything.

            He was too important to be bothered with his younger brother’s friends, Finn had told her. That’s what happened when one inherited a fortune, a title, and properties at a young age.

            But perhaps she should give the earl another chance.

            “Hello, Lord Chadwick,” she said now, attempting to feel charitable toward him. She focused on the one day on their journey when a wheel had broken on the carriage, and he’d walked through rain and mud to a village to procure help.

            “Have you seen my brother?” he asked her without preamble.

            Her friendlier feelings dissolved. “No,” she said, “but I was hoping he’d make an appearance above decks soon.”

            Hoping was a puny word. Praying was more like it.

            “He’s not in our cabin,” Lord Chadwick said in that distracted way he had, as if he had more important things to do than speak to her.

            Marcia felt another wave of dislike. Didn’t he even notice that the sea was awe-inspiring? That she was wearing a pretty bonnet that deserved to be complimented?  That she was also a skilled conversationalist, if he’d give her a chance?

            “I don’t know where Mr. Lattimore is,” she admitted, “but if I should see him, I’ll tell him you’re looking for him.”

            “Very good,” he said, but made no motion to leave.

            Perhaps he stayed because they were leaning over the prow, a compelling spot to be in those pressing few minutes between dusk and night at sea. It was a place to show fortitude--and a time that drew people to stand together against the vastness of the ocean and the impending darkness, sharing confessions they otherwise might not share.

            Marcia felt no such affinity with Lord Chadwick, however. No desire to find solace in his company, no curiosity to know him any better than she already did.

            But as the seconds passed in silence and the rising waves and sharpening wind pressed upon her to be as bold as they, she blurted out, “You don’t like me, do you? I’m that silly girl involved with your brother—“

            A gust of wind lifted Lord Chadwick’s dark brown hair. “Involved?”

            She noticed that he was handsome. He’d always been but in an understated way. Not like golden-haired Finn, who turned feminine heads in every tap room they’d entered, in every street they’d walked.

            Marcia lifted her chin. “Surely, you’ve observed we’ve spent time together.”

            “Of course, I have. Haven’t we all?”

            They watched a cresting wave break into foam, then two more.

            “True,” she said.

            “Just don’t get too attached to him,” the earl replied in his nonchalant way.

            She held fast to the railing, keenly aware that he hadn’t bothered to answer her original question. Not that she cared if he liked her. But she felt a frisson of annoyance—and fear—at his last remark. “What do you mean?” She attempted to sound careless. Inside, she felt anything but.

            “My brother’s got obligations.” The earl kept his eyes on the horizon. “He sometimes forgets that his job is to become a man, not sharpen his skills of flirtation.”

            The implication being that she was nothing more than another girl for Finn to charm.

            The insult came just as a rogue wave slapped the hull, sending spray on Marcia’s face. But she ignored the salt water trickling down her cheek, barely even felt it, in fact. Her middle churned with anger, with a need to put this man in his place.

            “You’re rude.” The wind flung her words out to sea, frustrating her enough that she leaned closer, demanding that he turn his head to look at her. “You’ve been rude to me since the first moment I met you. Why? What have I ever done to you?”

            “Me? Rude?” The earl’s face registered disbelief.

            “You don’t speak to me.”

            He gave a short laugh. “You’re fifteen.”

            “Almost sixteen,” she replied airily. “And I happen to know how to hold a good conversation. Not only that, I’m friends with your younger brother.”

            “Lady Marcia,” the earl said in steely tones. “I’m a busy man. I have much on my mind. And yes, I’ve observed that you’re carrying on a flirtation with Finn—surely, his attentions are enough to occupy you.”

            “It’s not simply a flirtation.” She felt her voice crack and was mortified. “And I’m not a spoiled child, demanding excess attention. All I ask is common courtesy. And respect.”

            Lord Chadwick drew in a deep breath and looked steadily at her. “I’ve obviously disappointed you, for which I apologize. But I’ve no inclination to spar with you this evening or any other.” He turned and made his way down the empty deck.

            It was the dinner hour. But she’d no appetite. For days, she’d had none. Love had taken it away.

            She grabbed onto a swinging line. “You’re wrong about Finn and me!” she yelled after the earl. “But you can’t see that, can you?” She knew she shouldn’t be saying such shocking things, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself. “It’s because you miss out on so much of life. You read books instead of getting to know people sitting across from you in carriages.”

            Lord Chadwick stopped and turned to face her, his expression inscrutable.

            “You adjourn to your room early,” she continued unabashedly, “to look at account books rather than stay up late and tell stories by the fire. And right now you don’t even seem to notice how breathtaking the sunset is. Someday you’ll be sorry you were ever so smug. And someday I’ll prove to you there is such a thing as a perfect love.”

            He looked over the railing at the blood red sun, then back at her. “There is no perfect love, nor a perfect life,” he said, his eyes dark, his gaze boring into hers. “So give up wishing, will you? It would be a shame to see you hurt. Good evening, Lady Marcia.”

            And he resumed walking.

            Oh, if only she could throw him overboard!

            Finn appeared at the prow, thank God, a few moments later. “What’s wrong?”

            Instantly, she felt better. “Your brother—he tried to—“

            “Tried to what?” The concern in his eyes made her care for him all the more.

            “He tried to warn me against you. He said…he said you’re sharpening your skills of flirtation rather than working on your obligations.” She felt some of her anger dissipate when he pulled her into his arms.

            She’d been dreaming of such a moment.

            “What man wouldn’t fall head over heels for you?” he said into her hair. “And put aside work to be with you?”

            “You’re kind to say so,” she said, daring to remain in his arms.

            “I’m not kind; I’m truthful.” He pulled back to look at her, his hands leaving fire where he touched her shoulders. “I’m sorry Duncan was rude.”

            Night was close. No one was looking. Amazing how on a small packet, one could get away with so much.

            “If it means we’ll do this”--she leaned against his chest--“I hope he’ll be rude to me again.”

            “Marcia,” Finnian whispered.

            “Finn,” she whispered back, and closed her eyes, reveling in the knowledge that she could both feel and hear his beating heart.

            He pulled back and lifted her chin. “I don’t know how it happened so fast.”

            “I don’t, either.” She saw that yearning in his eyes, the same one she’d seen in other boys and men in the village in Surrey and on her school trips to Brighton and London. It was a mystery to her no more. She knew it was desire.

            But she wanted him just as much. Wanted him to hold her, to kiss her.

            Please, she thought.

            “I’m falling in love with you.” His voice was rough.

            “And I with you,” she answered.

            She already had. Everything was Finn. Except for that one, small corner of her mind where she saw his brother telling her not to get attached. And then walking away as if she were a nuisance he was glad to leave.

            Duncan Lattimore obviously liked to ruin things. But she wouldn’t let him ruin this.

            The arc of the wind-filled jib sail obscured her and Finnian from view. She put a tentative hand on the side of his face. He leaned into her palm, caressing it with his jaw, an act so tender, her eyes began to sting. And then he drew her hand down, clutched it in his own, and kissed her.

            It was perfect. So perfect she knew in that moment that love was hers for the taking.

            “I must see you as often as possible,” Finn said, as if she were the greatest treasure on earth.

            “I’m leaving my school,” she replied without preamble. “I must be in London. Near you.”

            “Yes. I like London. Much better than the estate in Kent. Or Oxford.” He kissed her again, a possessive, lingering seal of their mutual promise. 

            This time his hand came so close to the underside of her breast, she shivered.

            The words she’d thrown like a gauntlet to Lord Chadwick came back to her: And someday I’ll prove to you there is such a thing as a perfect love.

            With Finn, Marcia knew it could be so.

            It was so.

            Already.
###
            It had been a whirlwind two weeks in Dublin. She’d spent every possible moment she could with Finn. Janice was completely oblivious to her strong feelings for him, caught up as she was in the excitement of being in Dublin with two of her oldest and best friends.

            And now it was the night of Marcia’s sixteenth birthday.

            Her family had rented a private residence on Dublin’s Southside with a beautiful conservatory attached. Long after the rest of the family had gone to bed, in the deepest, stillest part of the night, she and Finn lay on their backs, cradled in each other’s arms, and looked up through the glass ceiling at the stars barely visible—“but still there,” Finn insisted—through the clouds.

            “You only have to be sixteen to marry in Scotland,” he murmured against her hair.

            She almost stopped breathing. “Really?”

            “Yes,” he said, and ran his hand down her flank. “When we get back to England, we’re going to run away. To Gretna Green.”

            “Yes,” she whispered, and held tighter to him, suddenly feeling small.

            This was genuine, their love. All too genuine. And although most of the time, she embraced it bravely and with great joy, like a feather dancing in the wind, at the moment she felt its all-consuming power, its potential to sweep her away to parts unknown.

            “Don’t be afraid,” he whispered back, and kissed her, his mouth tender upon her own.

            No. She wouldn’t be.

            He pulled her ties loose at her back, gently pushing her sleeves and bodice down while he murmured sweet nothings in her ear.

            That night, Marcia let love take her where it would. She gave Finn everything. Everything. 

            In the dark, their coupling was awkward. Fast. The fear of discovery was strong between them. And then much to Marcia’s surprise, there had been pain. Blood.

            More awkwardness.

            But as was typical with Finn, he didn’t dwell on unpleasantness.

            After she’d fumbled about and restored herself to order, he merely pulled her close again. “Right,” he said, and released a long sigh.

            She waited a few seconds. They’d given themselves to each other. It was a profound moment. But when Finn didn’t speak, she realized he might be nervous. Her father and mother slept nearby, as did her siblings. If they were discovered, there’d be hell to pay.

            “I love you,” she reassured him and snuggled close. “You’re the one and only man I will ever love.”

            He stroked her hair a few moments. “We’re splendid together,” he said after a few seconds. “More than splendid.” He kissed the top of her head.

            “We’re perfect,” she sighed, and looked up at him with a grin.

            He grinned back and kissed her once more—a long, lingering kiss--then pulled her to her feet from the extremely crude bed they’d made of pillows stolen from a few chairs.

            “And now I must go,” he said, sounding nervous, as she’d guessed he must be. “We can’t be found out.”

            “I know.” She clung to him. “But I wish you didn’t have to go.”

            This was their last night together. Tomorrow, she’d be off to Ballybrook, and he’d travel to Cork with Lord Chadwick to visit friends and then take a packet back across the Irish Sea to England.

            Soon, though, they’d be together forever.

            “Where and when will we meet to go to Gretna?” she asked him.

            “I’ll plan it all out when I get back to England and write you a letter, of course.” He pinched her cheek. “Silly.” And then he laughed.

            She did, too. She couldn’t help it. Seeing him laugh made her happier than anything else in the world.

            She was still brimming over with it when the next morning dawned cold and gray. Her first thought wasn’t even a thought—it was a feeling that ran like a slow, lazy, warm, wonderful river through her body: Love.

            Love, love, love.

            She smiled at the ceiling, rubbed her lips together, remembering how Finn had kissed her. Ran her hands over her belly, and lower. He’d been there. He’d been everywhere.

            He was a part of her now.

            But then tears blurred her vision when she remembered that she wouldn’t be seeing him that day. She wouldn’t be seeing him for weeks. She lingered in her room, feigning a headache—utterly miserable, ready to snap at anyone who dared speak to her, almost hoping she could, because then she could cry openly, and everyone would think it was because she was sorry for being a shrew. But that wouldn’t be why she’d be crying. Oh, no. She’d be crying because she didn’t belong anywhere Finn wasn’t.

            She was in the midst of packing for the journey to Ballybrook—as if she cared anymore about the new wing Daddy had designed!--when she received a note from Finn.

            Finn.

            Finn, Finn, Finn.

            She wanted to hug the servant who’d brought the stiff envelope. She sniffed it. It smelled of him. Suddenly, her world was sunshine-y again.

            She pressed the paper over her heart and seated herself at her dressing table, luxuriating in the knowledge that she was Finn’s and that a message had come from her beloved.

            It would be a love note to tide her over until she got back to her school in Surrey, a missive she’d keep under her pillow. And perhaps in the letter he’d write about when they could next…be together. Perhaps he had a plan for that. Gretna couldn’t come soon enough. She could hardly breathe, thinking of the risks they were taking.

            Being in love, she decided, was not for the fainthearted.

            When she finished the note, she stared at her reflection in the looking glass. The woman that she’d become overnight looked back at her. But whereas moments ago, that woman had been flush with love, her heart brimming over with it, in fact, the person looking back at her now was an empty shell.

            Finn had written that he was shocked to hear he’d be sailing not back to England from Ireland but to America—in accordance with his brother’s wishes.

            “He’s sending me to a property of ours in Virginia for an apprenticeship in land management,” Finn wrote, “but I know the real reason I’m going. He wants to keep us apart.”

            There was a blob of ink, as if he’d forgotten to sign it--as if his hectoring sibling were standing at his bedchamber door with an open trunk demanding that Finn throw his breeches and cravats into it then and there.

            It was the last note Marcia would ever receive from him.