The Return of the Ishness!

Ishnesses of Late a.k.a. the Return of the King Ishness!

Heya lovely blog-readers! ❤

It’s been quiiite awhile since I did an ishness post of any sort (it comes to my attention I haven’t Ishness-ified anything from 2017 yet…) so here’s some of the ishnesses I’ve been up to in the last two+ months, ever since 2017 began!

LIFELY THINGS

GRAPHIC DESIGN IS FUNNNN. ❤

I designed my first “official” website for the Vintage Jane Austen series, as I may have mentioned.

I’d like to possibly get into setting up websites for people, as well as freelance copy-editing, so I’m starting to think about working toward these things. 🙂 I’ve just discovered that I really enjoy designing websites, graphic design work, and freeing the world from pesky typos, so I’d like to pursue these things in the future!

In related news, reading the punctuation section of The Chicago Manual of Style is beautifully refreshing because the punctuation is all correct. Be still my beating heart; what a breath of fresh air. ^_^

(On a related note: It pains me to use incorrect punctuation etc. on Twitter, but I often have to. The problems of being a long-winded perfectionist with only 140 characters in which to say something. -_-)

I started a Bullet Journal this week… It’s really mostly things I’ve been doing for ages now, but streamlined into one notebook with a couple new ideas. (Thanks to Lisa Pickle for introducing me to the concept, and Kyle Robert Schultz for a wonderful post on How To Make An Ugly Bullet Journal which inspired me to stop procrastinating and start).

Hopefully it will help me be more productive! (The notebook was a lovely birthday present from my sis. ❤ The epic Sherlock bookmark I won in a giveaway — and got in the mail today AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH — and was made by Hannah McIntyre of simplywalkintomordor @ Etsy. :))

WRITING

I’ve been creeping cautiously into writing this year. I’ve done more than I had this time last year, but less than I used to; I’m just trying to get back into it, carefully, without overwhelming or stressing myself. (I’m aware this makes me sound like a very small, very startle-able rabbit. Excuse me for being twitchy after burning myself out on writing and having too many expectations. XD)

I wrote a short story (Wintertale) and worked a little bit on The Other Half of Everything and The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (also know as Teague and Tare, respectively). And some random stuff like for a dare etc.

I’ve written 6000+ words this year so far, though I’m not keeping too close track (another thing I’m trying… less hounding myself like a police dog — remember the startled rabbit, self!).

SNIPPETS

“That’s none of your concern,” Greg said.

“I’ll find out,” Tare said. He raised one eyebrow, adding, “But you’re right, I’m not concerned. Threats don’t work on me.”

“Then what does?”

“Maybe I’ll let you know if I find that out.”

The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (KW2)

***

Tare tilted his head. “Oh, I’m not playing this game.”

“What makes you think,” Greg said, bared teeth glittering, “that it’s a game, little boy?”

Tare smiled.

The Secret of Kedran’s Wood (KW2)

“With how absentminded you are, it’s a wonder your food doesn’t always burn to a crisp,” I grumbled.

“Oh, it usually does,” Teague agreed placidly. “Just not with so many—erm—flames.”

The Other Half of Everything

***

“What is it you do?” I asked, unable to stop my curiosity.

Teague beamed, staring dreamily off into the middle distance, and announced, as if it was the most natural thing in the world: “I write books.”

That was when I knew I had made a horrible mistake.

The Other Half of Everything

READING

Aside from short stories, re-reads, and beta-reads, this is what I’ve read lately (a.k.a. new novels I’ve read this year).

  1. Magician’s Ward by Patricia C. Wrede — Regency Fantasy with a former-street-thief heroine and a one-of-a-kind magician hero and humor and shenanigans and a dash of romance and basically Austen + magic? Gimme. (Seriously, I need more Regency Fantasy — where has it been all my life?) 5 stars
  2. Nyssa Glass and the Hall of Mirrors by H.L. Burke — Steampunk/sci-fi reminding me of Doctor Who a bit, with a catburglar heroine and a snarky computer? Yum. A little creepy for me and a touch short, but I quite enjoyed it. Humor makes me happy. Looking forward to the rest of the novellas in this series. 4 stars
  3. The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton — Historical fantasy; I admit, I’m only here for the faeries in Victorian (?) England and the mysterious dark guy named Rieker; oh yeah, it also features thieves (is this a trend??) and the heroine annoyed me etc. but still fairly fun. Ought to be 3 stars, but make it 4 stars for Rieker and creepy faerie things and the prince.
  4. King’s Warrior by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt — I FINALLY READ THIS ONE. Dragons and fantasy goodness and BRANT AND KIERNAN KANE. <333 I’m very attached, I tell you. ^_^ 5 stars
  5. The Firethorn Crown by Lea Doué — Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling? I’M ALL THERE. Great fun, a few annoyances, fun princes, conflicted about the villain. 4 stars
  6. Wild Robert by Diana Wynne Jones — Very short, very strange, stopped too suddenly but enormous fun and I loved the twist. One of the only books I’ve ever considered writing fan fiction to continue because I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Oh well. 😛 5 stars
  7. Aunt Maria by Diana Wynne Jones — MORE STRANGENESS BUT WOW. I can’t even describe it. Definitely one of the more strange DWJ books (but they all are) and… yeah, haven’t totally wrapped my mind around what I think, but it had time travel and a girl who writes, and actually delved into some deep stuff too, and was very interesting and fun. Plus Chris is the best. 😄 5 stars
  8. Mort by Terry Pratchett — Um. It’s full of strange Discworldness because how else do you describe these shenanigans? I got very attached to Mort — he’s a great hero — and it’s dark in a way, so not for everyone, but quite funny. 4 stars
  9. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen — Finally read all the main 6 Jane Austen books! It was so difficult for me to read about all the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE PEOPLE in this book… ahem. But I ended up finding it a pretty good book all the same. 🙂 4 stars
  10. Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett — Another Discworld book, sequel-ish to Mort. Everything I said about that one applies; though Mort himself is not in this one. Bizarre/funny. 4 stars

I’ve also been doing much beta-reading, trying to catch up.

And re-reading lots of things, including the rest of the Chrestomanci books. ❤

I also read Howl’s Moving Castle for the 5th time. #NoRegrets

(See everything I’ve been reading here.)

WATCHING

  • The Deputy — I finished this and enjoyed it muchly. ❤ Favorite Western show ever! The humor and characters Deputy Marshall Clay McCord and Chief Marshall Simon Fry (Henry Fonda). Such a great “buddy story”!
  • Sherlock season 4 — I… um… don’t know what to think about this except the last episode was too creepy and the first episode was… yeah. But the middle one I liked muchly (I think?) and overall naturally it’s fun to have Sherlock and company doing stuff again. 😀
  • Gladiator — So I’ve heard a lot about this? A lot of people I know like it for some reason? I guess it was okay, but I don’t care much for Roman things and SOMEBODY neglected to tell me what happens at the end, so… yeah. But it figures. 😄 I like the music, though.
  • Archer’s Goon — I had no idea this existed until recently (a BBC mini-series from 1992 which is a total of 2.5 hours) and while it was super cheesy and 90s and lacking in budget and the actors weren’t quite right, nevertheless there were a lot of lines from the book and I just greatly enjoyed seeing a Diana Wynne Jones story onscreen. 🙂
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) — Yes indeed, I FINALLY saw the one with Anthony Andrews and Ian McKellen, and I must say, although it wasn’t totally like the book, I did quite enjoy it. 🙂 (Gandalf was young and black-haired and a villain once?? :O) Percy was cool (although huuuugely annoying sometimes XD), Chauvelin was an interesting villain, and Marguerite and Armand are like the most adorable siblings for some reason? I just irrationally enjoyed it a lot, so yes, quite fun. 😄
  • Persuasion (1995) — Yes indeed, this is the one with Ciaran Hinds, another one everyone always said I needed to watch, so I finally was able to because I won it in a giveaway (thanks, Rachel!), and ’twas quite enjoyable. 🙂 Now I want to re-watch the other one to compare them. 😀

LISTENING

I’ve been listening to smatterings of gorgeousness by Michael Card and Lindsey Stirling, and various Celtic things like by Andy M. Stewart.

There’s so much gorgeous music in the world, and I don’t often remember to listen to it, so I’m trying to remind myself!

I’ve also been listening to Stars by Skillet, their acoustic version of it (which I hear is for a movie or something but it’s just SO PRETTY). Seriously if you haven’t heard this, go listen to it. ❤

ONLINE THINGS

I live on Goodreads and Twitter a lot lately. *gasp* So if I’m not blogging much about life or reading, I may still be talking about it over there!

In case you missed them… (Feel free to skip this bit. XD)

Book Blog posts this year:

Posts around here:

It’s March Magics! Celebrating Diana Wynne Jones (and Terry Pratchett) all month long. ❤ I’m having a blast, y’all. 🙂

It Is Not Too Much To Ask For A Happy Ending (from The Invisible Moth) — THIS POST MAKES ME HAPPY. PLEASE READ IT. ❤

Speaking of happy endings… This is the end of this (long) post, because that’s all I can think of just now. I hope you enjoyed the Return of the Ishness! Thanks so much for reading! Thoughts? Share them below, along with what you’ve been up to lately! ^_^ I hope you’re having a lovely March, roadlings! ❤

C is for Cade Peregrine (Songkeeper Blogtour + Giveaway)

c-is-for-cade

Greetings, Roadlings!

I’m so excited to be a part of the blog tour celebrating the one-year book-birthday of Songkeeper by Gillian Bronte Adams!

#ExploreLeira is an A-to-Z blog series making the rounds through the blogosphere, focusing on different characters, places, etc. in the land of Leira within the Songkeeper Chronicles, and it’s going to be loads of fun! 🙂

(If you’re not familiar with this series, you can read my review for book 1, Orphan’s Song, and book 2, Songkeeper.)

Today, I’m super pleased to have Gillian herself over for a guest post about Cade!

Cade happens to be my favorite character in the Songkeeper Chronicles, and although he’s not a general reader favorite, I maintain he’s misunderstood and is a fascinating character, and fairly epic, to boot. 😉 I hope you’ll enjoy this post’s insight into his character.

And now, I give you Gillian Bronte Adams and her guest post on Cade Peregrine! 🙂

Thanks, Deborah, for hosting me here and helping me celebrate the (almost) one year book birthday for Songkeeper! It is the second book in the Songkeeper Chronicles, which tells the story of a girl who can hear the song that created the world. If this is your first encounter with the blog tour, we are continuing a series of alphabet posts looking at the world and characters and magical creatures of the Songkeeper Chronicles (you can follow the tour at gillianbronteadams.com) and we have an awesome giveaway that you can enter below!

Today, we’re looking at the letter C.

c-is-for-cade

C is for Cade Peregrine

A tall boy stood before him, clad in a ragged white blouse and tattered breeches, with a fine leather vest on top and a sword belted at his side. His arms were folded across his chest, and his chin lowered so that his eyes seemed to look straight through Ky. Cade, the leader of the Underground.

– Orphan’s Song

Ah, Cade. In another tale on another day, Cade Peregrine could have been the hero of the Underground, instead of Ky. He is a young man rooted in conviction, strengthened by pride, and determined to uphold the legacy of resistance left by his father and the outlaws of Kerby.

“It is insane. For now.” Cade’s eyes glittered in the firelight. “Now, it’s just a dream, but one day it will be a reality. Even now, every dagger we steal, every purse, every coin is a step toward breaking the soldiers’ hold on Kerby. And when we’re ready, we’ll fall upon them and drive them from the city. Then we’ll be free again.”

Orphan’s Song

It was Cade who first saw the desperate need of the children of Kerby who were left orphaned and abandoned when their parents were taken by the Khelari. He realized that their best chance of survival came if they banded together, so he decided to form the Underground. In a cavern below the city, down tunnels where outlaws once roamed, the children found a new home. In the assigned brother and sister pairs, they found both the family they had lost and mentors to teach them how to survive life on the streets. And in Cade, they found someone to look up to and aspire to. A hero, like the legends of old.

Cade is a warrior, trained in the art of the sword by his late blacksmith father. He is a boy of the streets, versed in the skills required to disappear without a trace into a crowd. He is a born leader, capable of managing, organizing, and caring for the orphans of the city. He is a skilled orator, capable of drawing a crowd in so that they hang upon his every word and are swayed to his way of thinking.

“And what is all this?” Cade turned a circle with his hands spread wide then moved toward the digging, forcing Ky to fall into place behind. “Digging your way out, are you? Like rats in a hole.”

By now all activity in the tunnel had ceased, and Cade’s voice grew to fill the silence. He always had been good at speech-making and crowd-wielding. The runners hearkened to his words like starving men begging for bread.

“Running isn’t the Underground way. Out on the streets, it may be every man for himself because that’s what we have to do to survive, but not here—not in our stronghold. Here we stand and fight together. Here we are free. We cannot run away and leave our home behind!”

Songkeeper

He is stubborn and accustomed to getting his way, so it is no surprise that he frequently butts head with Ky—one of the main characters in the Songkeeper Chronicles. Both are convinced of their own rightness and ready to fight for that conviction. Both are willing to sacrifice for those that they care about. It is ironic that the two are more alike than either of them would care to admit. If they could just learn to work together, they would be an unstoppable force.

“It was your half-baked idea to leave Kerby behind. Now what? You have a plan for where we should go and how to get there? Or do you intend to walk thirty runners across the Nordlands in search of refuge with barely enough supplies to last another four days and half our number falling to the white fever already? How far do you think we would get? These are the things a leader has to think about, Ky.” He released his grip so suddenly that Ky wound up sitting on the ground. “So stop whining and think.”

Songkeeper

Not going to lie, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Cade. He means well, but he so often gets the short end of the stick. In the Songkeeper Chronicles, we typically only see Cade from Ky’s perspective, so it’s usually a slightly unbalanced view. Admittedly, Cade can be a bit over-bearing at times, and he occasionally has control issues, but Ky isn’t always completely fair in his assessment.

Cade is the sort of secondary character who has a story that is just begging to be told. As in, there is a file, quite literally, sitting on my desktop begging me to write it. Maybe one day we’ll get to hear a bit from his point of view …

But for now, you can read about him in the Songkeeper Chronicles! Check out the links below for a place to purchase the books.

songkeeper1-2

Amazon: Orphan’s Song, Songkeeper

Barnes and Nobles: Orphan’s Song, Songkeeper

blog-tour-giveaway-promo-image

And before you leave, don’t forget to enter the giveaway! One lucky winner will take home a copy of Orphan’s Song, Songkeeper, and a gorgeous handmade mug. Two lucky winners will take home copies of Songkeeper! Enter through the Rafflecopter below and be sure to visit www.gillianbronteadams.com to continue following the blog tour. You can earn new entries for each post that you visit along the way. Winners will be announced after April 15th.

Follow this link to enter –> ***a Rafflecopter giveaway***

About the Author

Gillian Bronte AdamsGILLIAN BRONTE ADAMS is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. She is the author of Orphan’s Song, book one of the Songkeeper Chronicles, and Out of Darkness Rising. Visit Gillian online at her blog, Twitter, or Facebook page.

About Songkeeper

SONGKEEPER-FRONT-COVERWar ravages Leira and the Song has fallen silent.

Freed from the hold of a slave ship, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, and Ky, a street-wise thief, emerge to a world at war. Hordes of dark soldiers march across Leira, shadowed by whispers of plague and massacres, prompting Ky to return to his besieged home city in hopes of leading his fellow runners to safety.

Desperate to end the fighting, Birdie embarks on a dangerous mission into the heart of the Takhran’s fortress. Legend speaks of a mythical spring buried within and the Songkeeper who will one day unleash it to achieve victory. Everyone believes Birdie is the one, but the elusive nature of the Song and rumors of other gifted individuals lead her to doubt her role. Unleashing the spring could defeat the Takhran once and for all, but can she truly be the Songkeeper when the Song no longer answers her call?

(Eep, I so want some of Cade’s point-of-view someday! Ahem. 😀 )

So what do you think, readers? Is this your first time “meeting” Cade or have you read Orphan’s Song and/or Songkeeper? What do you think of him? Are you as excited for the third book (whenever it may happen) as I am? And are you looking forward to exploring Leira in this fun A-Z blog tour? Tell me all! 🙂

With Blossoms Gold Cover Reveal!

withblossomsgoldbanner

G’day, my Roadlings!

Today is a fabulous day, for many reasons… which I will magnanimously list for you. 😉

  • It’s the first day of March (hello) which is the best month of the year (besides November)
  • It’s Aragorn’s birthday (happy birthday! *gives out cake*)
  • It’s day one of March Magics (because celebrating Diana Wynne Jones all month is brilliant and necessary)
  • It’s the day of my 10-year anniversary of deciding to be a writer (I’ve been writing “officially” for a whole decade!)
  • It’s the day of the COVER REVEAL for With Blossoms Gold by Hayden Wand, which is what I’m here today to talk about!

Yes indeed, that AMAZING Rapunzel retelling, my absolute favorite story in the Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales collection (which I reviewed in December) is releasing on its own in paperback next month!

Which means it needs a gorgeous cover of its own.

And I’m here today to help share that with you!

I’M SO EXCITED.

Scroll down to view the cover!

*drumroll*

*trumpets*

*dramatic music* Dun-dun-dunnnnn…!

….

…..

……

…….

……..

………

……….

………..

…………

……………………………

A little further…

ISN’T IT GORGEOUS? ❤

withblossomsgoldfrontcover

Synopsis

She never wanted to leave the tower. He never wanted to rule the country.

Nella has lived quietly in her tower in the woods for over a decade. After dangerous accusations drove her and her grandmother away from their village, they escaped deep into the forest where no one would try to harm them. Now, after her grandmother’s death, Nella is alone, and she is determined to stay that way. She has no patience for a world she deems judgmental and ignorant.

Or so she tells herself. In reality, her paralyzing fear prevents her from stepping foot outside of the tower.

Prince Benedict Allesandro is an adventurer- a rescuer who prides himself on saving the weak and unfortunate. When he hears rumors of a beautiful damsel trapped in a tower, he rushes to her rescue…only to find a woman who most definitely does not wish to be saved.

But when war breaks out, this reckless prince and reclusive maiden are faced with overcoming their deepest fears in order to determine not only their own fate, but that of their entire country.

Coming April 2, 2017

withblossomsgoldfrontcover

Add to Goodreads

About the Author

Hayden Wand is the author of the novel HIDDEN PEARLS as well as the novella “The Wulver’s Rose,” which was published in the FIVE ENCHANTED ROSES collection. A Christian and a 2012 homeschool graduate, she currently attends a local college where she studies history and haunts the campus library.

Visit Hayden’s Blog

What do you think, Roadlings? Isn’t the cover gorgeous? Are you excited for this book to come out?? Does the story sound cool? (Hint: it was one of my absolute favorite reads last year! ❤ ) Do you like fairytale retellings?? (Particularly of Rapunzel, in this case.) Tell me all in the comments! Thanks for reading! ^_^

Wintertale: A Short Story

wintertalecover

Note:

I’m posting this short story (written January-February 2017 — one of those comfortable plotbunnies mentioned in my December Ishness) in honor of Jenelle Schmidt’s February is Fantasy Month short story challenge, which is to write and post a short story of 3,000 words or less, which is fantasy and contains the word snow.

This half-written (at the time) story seemed to fit. (It’s slightly over 3K words, but close enough. ;))

I hope you enjoy. 🙂

february-fantasy-month-banner-1024x263

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Caroline Knightley for Kendric’s accidental name, Jenelle Schmidt for the finish-inducing challenge, Christine Smith and my sister for timely encouragement and much-needed support, and the epic sounds of Celtic Christmas music (including this one) which helped inspire this story. And to you, reader, for stepping for a moment into this little tale.

wintertalecover

Wintertale

by Deborah O’Carroll

Snow had fallen, snow on snow
Snow on snow
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago

In the Bleak Midwinter (Traditional Carol)

~ ~ ~

Dusk fell, and with it his restraint. He had to go—no matter the cost.

Kendric left the lonely woods and strode out across the moor. His long black hair was tied back at the nape of his neck, and a threadbare coat of midnight blue hung from his shoulders—little comfort against the unforgiving chill of this crisp winter night, but he could bear it—for love.

White clouds of mist swirled up from the cold hollows he wandered through as he crossed the moor, the heather touched with frost. His way was lit only by the sky’s silver-grey waning light, and here and there the touch of a will o’ the wisp or other fae lights in the growing shadows. The faerie lights glimmered through the winter-bare trees and shone through the white mist on the moor, as though the stars themselves had come down upon the earth.

More lights appeared ahead—the evening star hung directly above the old mansion on the moor, its dark bulk black against the darkening sky. Golden light filled the windows, brighter in the darkness, like the sun looking out of the windows of Night.

He drew nearer and stopped just outside, watching through the nearest window. Figures moved within, dancing, and strains of music came softly to his ears—the low half-melancholy purr of a violin, a harp like a tinkling brook, the distant strains of the pipes.

Kendric stood alone outside in the darkness as the snow began to fall, watching the scene inside the place he had long known.

A place from which he was forever barred.

“With the face I call my own, at least,” he murmured.

From within his threadbare coat, he took out a black mask like a raven’s face and pulled it over the top half of his face. He slipped inside the mansion through a side door.

Music enveloped him, along with a crowd of dancers in masks, through whom he pushed his way unobtrusively, brushing past the Steward of the house and other faces he knew behind their masks. The midwinter ball was well underway. Ladies’ full gowns twirled around the floor, and men’s dark coat-tails flew as they danced and spun their ladies about in the light of a thousand candles.

One lady was more radiant than them all, at least to Kendric’s eye. She wore a dress like snow, lacy, glistening, pristinely white. Fair hair piled in abundance atop her head, like a mound of sunshine, tendrils escaping to frame the white mask like a swan which graced her gently smiling face.

With one purpose, he approached her, and in the heartbeat between two melodies he whisked her away from her last partner who stepped away, and they were off into the next dance.

Laughing, she tilted her head to look up into his masked face. For a moment, she did not know him; the next, recognition brought a gasp which stole her laughter away. She mouthed his name, but no sound came to her lips as she stared into his smiling eyes.

Kendric gave a quiet nod. “Vanessa,” he murmured in acknowledgment as they continued to dance.

She tensed in his arms, worry creasing her brow, and threw a look over her shoulder—but no one seemed to pay them particular heed.

“How have you come here? Did no one see you arrive?” she whispered.

Kendric shook his head. “No one; unless the stars above or the stones of this house would tell of it.”

Vanessa relaxed. A smile bloomed on her face, radiant as the light through the windows or the sun-like hue of her hair. “Then we will be happy, and not speak for now,” she said. “Nothing in the worlds exists besides us two.”

Kendric smiled too. “As you say, love,” he said softly.

They danced. The music wove a path for their feet, and their hearts carried them together in complete harmony. In that moment, all was perfect.

But like the last glimmer of the sun before nightfall—like the evening star gleaming reflected in a still pool before a stone drops and destroys the reflection in a splashing ripple—it could not last.

The Steward of the house, one of the few who wore no mask, his face solemn, slim, and craggy as a stone, pushed his way silently through the dancing crowd. He had returned with his master—the young man with a black coat, fair hair, and a hawk mask, who was called the lord of that place. Lost in their bliss of dancing, Vanessa and Kendric did not notice them at first.

The Steward stood aside, and the lord of the mansion pounced like a hawk on the dancing lovers. Thrusting himself between them, so that they were forced to stop in sudden startlement, he tore the raven mask away from Kendric’s face.

The music ceased. The crowd stopped dancing—some of the couples moved away, creating a bare space around the two young men standing eye to eye, with the white-gowned lady at their side.

“Skandar,” she began, addressing the lord with hair as fair as hers; but he did not turn away from the black haired young man in the threadbare midnight-blue coat.

“Step away from my sister,” Skandar said—although they had already stepped apart.

Neither moved further. Skandar’s furious gaze through his hawk mask never wavered from Kendric, who did not back down and eyed him levelly, calm.

“You would show your face here?” Skandar demanded.

“I did not intend to, and in fact did not—until you knocked my mask off. You have only yourself to blame for showing my face,” Kendric said mildly.

Skandar clawed his own mask off and flung it to the floor. The quiet sound rang through the hall like a thunderclap in the still silence. Every eye present remained fixed on the two young men facing each other . . . they who once had been as brothers.

Skandar’s voice was dangerously even. “You were banished—a mercy too good for you, but I gave it. Did I not swear that if you set foot here again I would see you punished with death? You have come. And now you will pay for it.”

“Skandar, please,” Vanessa pleaded, taking her brother’s arm.

He spun to face her. “Kendric killed him—in this very mansion!”

“I know you’re upset—” she began.

“If anyone should be upset about the murder of the lord of this mansion, I should. It is my father we’re talking of,” Kendric said gravely.

Skandar’s voice tore from his throat like a wounded animal’s howl as he shouted in Kendric’s face: “He was like my father too!”

Vanessa turned desperate eyes to Kendric. Her voice cracked in an almost-whisper. “Why did you come?”

Kendric glanced at her. His look said it all: that he could not stay away. Instead of answering aloud, he passed her an expression which said plainer than words, “I love you.” Then he was gone—slipped outside past the standing figures before any could catch him.

“After him!” Skandar cried.

Several men in the room surged outside in his wake. Skandar urged them all to horse, and with their grim lord at their head, they galloped in pursuit of Kendric, who rode away across the moor on a black horse with the white evening star on its forehead.

Kendric looked back, once, before he was lost in the snowy midwinter darkness—looked back at the woman in white who stood alone on the steps outside. Their gazes met across the distance. Snowflakes fell around her like the melancholy chords of a harp now silenced as she watched her love ride away in the night.

Vanessa would have done something to help him—anything—if she could.

But it was night, and that was her brother’s hour.

It would be long before the dawn.

~ ~ ~

Kendric galloped hard through the night, the men on horses galloping relentlessly after him.

The chase left the whitening moor under a blanket of hoof-print disturbed snow as Kendric rode into the forest, snowflakes falling about him in the blackness, driving into his eyes with a bitter wind. His hair whipped back behind him, and his horse’s mane and tail streamed in the wind to meld with the embracing shadows as he galloped through the woods.

The bare trees welcomed him into their stronghold, and the shadows of their branches intertwined, lining the ground in interlacing patterns beneath the speed of his passing.

The hoof beats pounded unrelenting behind.

Kendric bent lower to his horse’s neck and rode for all his worth.

Faerie lights lit his way, and moved off in false trails in attempts to misdirect the pursuit. Shadowy and fae beings flitted in the shadows half-unseen, giving him what aid they could, which was little—they could not well come between these two lords. The trees made a way for him and the land beneath guided him onward, while slowing his pursuers and tangling their way with branches—for the land loved Kendric.

But Skandar rode after, disregarding the distractions and obstacles, almost unchecked; for he was Night, driven by a rage born of a broken love like a wounded animal, and nothing would stand in his way.

So they galloped through the night: quarry and hunters, matched; Kendric always a little ahead, but unable to escape completely.

When his horse could carry him no further, he released it and it melted into the shadows, save for the fading evening star which guided Kendric through the wood.

He ran on alone now, through the trees with shouts behind him. At times a stone would trip him, but still he ran. He passed a river which flowed in the winter night over a waterfall, its rushing sound like the wild call of the pipes as the wind sighed through the trees like a violin, the snow falling like the harp chords which had carried Kendric and Vanessa through their joined dance . . .

He could not run much longer. The night had been long and the sky began to silver with the hint of dawn. The snow ceased falling. In a last effort, Kendric scrambled up a rocky hillside through the thinning trees. The treacherous stones threatened to dislodge him with their slippery ice, but he made it to the top, his breath ragged wisps of white on the air.

Skandar and his men had dismounted and climbed behind him, gaining.

Stumbling forward, Kendric emerged from the last of the bare trees and onto a flat hilltop clothed in an untouched blanket of white snow in a circle of standing stones with a natural rock formation behind them. Kendric ran into the ring of standing stones which stood nearly black in silhouette against the sky just before dawn.

“Kendric!” Skandar shouted. He was mere steps behind, crossing into the ring himself, sword in one hand—with the other, he seized the flapping end of Kendric’s coat and wrenched at him.

Kendric swung around and pulled free of his grasp. Skandar swung his sword and Kendric took a couple of quick steps backward to escape it, but a stone hidden in the snow betrayed him, catching his heel.

Kendric fell backward and lay full-stretch on his back, his black hair, outstretched arms, and blue coat spread out to either side atop the blanket of white. The blade had merely nicked his arm, but he lay there without attempting to get up, looking up at Skandar, who stood over him with the sword pointed at him. They remained motionless like that for several heartbeats.

Kendric stared calmly, unblinking, unresisting, at the face of the fair-haired young man who had once been like his brother, who now held a sword ready to end his life. In Skandar’s eyes was only betrayal and anguish. A single drop of blood fell from the tip of the sword blade and blossomed scarlet on the glistening snow.

“Why?” came Skandar’s voice in a hoarse whisper with a wisp of frosty breath. “Why did you do it?”

“I’ve done nothing wrong of which you accuse me,” Kendric said quietly.

Excruciating conflicting doubt twisted across Skandar’s features. “Then who did?” he challenged.

Kendric glanced past Skandar’s form looming above him, to the other men from the mansion who stood fanned out motionless behind their lord just within the ring of standing stones. “Only the stones of the mansion could tell you that.”

“You can prove nothing of your own innocence?” Skandar demanded.

Kendric blinked passively. “Of course not. You have only my word.”

Skandar drew a hissing breath of indecision.

“That used to be enough,” said a new voice.

In their focus on one another, neither Kendric nor Skandar had noticed the new hoof beats.

Just as the sun rose in a flash of golden dawn light bursting from behind the rock formation, Vanessa rode around it into view on a horse as white as the snow all around them; as white as her gown. She swung to the ground—in a swish of her long dress with the lace like a bushel of snowflakes poured down the front—and landed lightly on the snow, the brilliant sunrise behind her sun-gold hair. In a moment she was beside Kendric.

Kendric got to his feet and stood by the lady, who slipped her arm through his as they faced Skandar together.

“He has done nothing,” Vanessa said. “And in your heart you know it, brother. I know you loved his father as your own, but you seek revenge and justice blindly, in the wrong place. Kendric loved his father beyond anything, except perhaps you and I. He would never murder his own father, as much as it may appear that he did. Can’t you trust him, as you used to? No one knows what really happened, but I know—and you should know—that Kendric had nothing to do with it.”

“No one knows what happened . . .” Skandar repeated, half under his breath. “. . . Only the stones of the mansion.” Abruptly, he spun on his heel, the flashing arc of his sword glinting in the sunrise as he still gripped the handle and strode toward the edge of the circle to return to the mansion. His voice turned to harsh determination. “Then we’ll ask them.”

Kendric and Vanessa shared a brief look before stepping quickly after him.

But as Skandar moved to pass between two of the standing stones, he ran up against an invisible force which flung him backward into the snow, sword flying from his grasp as snow exploded into the air around him. The ring of stones shook violently.

The blast made to knock the other men over too, and they all staggered. Kendric stepped before Vanessa to shield her from whatever was happening, keeping her from the brunt of the blast.

Everyone slowly regained their steady footing as the shudder of the stone circle stilled, and they looked at one another.

“The stones are keeping us here, my lord,” one of the men said to Skandar.

“Why would—?” Vanessa began.

Skandar regained his feet in an angry jerk and retrieved his sword, looking around as if for something to wield it on.

But Kendric had already spied the one man who stood outside the ring of stones, watching them distantly from his emotionless stone-like narrow face. Kendric lightly touched Skandar’s arm and wordlessly jerked his chin toward the Steward.

Skandar’s eyes fixed on him and he went suddenly cold and ominous. “What is this?” he demanded.

“The stones of the mansion will tell you nothing,” the Steward said coolly. “They serve only me. As do these.” He nodded almost imperceptibly at the ring of standing stones. “Just as the rest of the land will serve me when all of you are gone.”

Fury crossed Skandar’s face and he pounded his fist against the invisible force which held them within the ring. The stones shuddered again. “This was you, was it? Just let me get my hands on you—!”

“You will not leave this circle,” the Steward said.

“We’ll see about that,” Vanessa said softly.

But the standing stones writhed and began slowly moving inward, in jerks, as if reluctant. The men of the mansion uneasily backed toward the center of the constricting circle of stones, which would crush them if they continued.

Skandar fixed his gaze on the Steward a moment longer, then sheathed his sword, drew a calming breath, and stepped back. “It seems I was wrong about you, brother.” He placed a hand on Kendric’s shoulder and bowed his head. “I . . .” He looked back up and could not continue.

He had no need to.

Kendric’s face remained serious under the life-threatening situation of their traitor Steward, but Kendric’s eyes smiled forgiveness at Skandar—a forgiveness which had been there for a long time.

A look between brother and sister and all was right with them.

Then the three faced the Steward who stood without the circle as the stones continued shifting nearer the doomed group within.

Kendric spoke. “We call the stones to witness.” He glanced at the stones—still grinding forward inch by inch—and went on. “If he has unlawfully slain the former lord of this land and some of your number were witness to it, then show it now by disclaiming his power over you.” Kendric drew himself up, Skandar on his left—a hand on Kendric’s shoulder—and Vanessa on his right with her arm through his, and he went on, voice ringing clear in the frozen dawn air.

“The rightful lords of this land and its lady call upon the timeless stones to free themselves from their enslavement to this unfaithful one who has forfeit his authority over them by his base treachery.”

A deep shudder ran through the standing stones, which shook the ground at their base.

Then they stilled.

A calm fell across the circle. Everyone there could sense the absence of the invisible force holding them inside the ring. The cluster of men breathed again.

The three standing alone remained unmoving and looked across at the Steward. His craggy rock-like face twitched very slightly, but that was all, and his stony eyes stared back at them.

“As for you . . .” Skandar growled.

Kendric cut him off, calm but authoritative, fixing the Steward with an unwavering look. “Begone. Return to your mountain fortress or wherever you dwell, and do not come to this land again.”

The Steward seemed to bend against his will, crumbled stone-like for a moment, and an instant later was gone, leaving a bare patch of ground in the snow where he had been.

As one, Skandar, Kendric, and Vanessa all collapsed to their knees and the next moment had clasped each other in a three-way hug as they knelt in the snow together.

“I think you missed me, then,” Kendric managed to gasp out, half laughing, as soon as he could breathe through the tight clasp the other two held him in, which he returned.

“Missed you!” Skandar scoffed. “Why would such a scoundrel be missed—you interrupted my midwinter ball!”

“And you, brother mine,” Vanessa said, shooting Skandar a laughing look, “interrupted our dance.”

“And you interrupted my death,” Kendric remarked to Vanessa.

She smiled. “Always.” He smiled back.

Skandar sobered a moment, then recovered. “Well, that’s one we don’t need to continue. But for the other two—well.” He surged to his feet, the other two rising with him, and they turned to join the group of men who had been stamping cold booted feet in the snow and moving arms to warm them, murmuring about heading home but cautious of disturbing the lords and lady.

“Yes . . . for the other two?” Kendric prompted, still smiling, his arm around Vanessa.

“We’ll go amend their interruptions by returning to the mansion and finishing them properly, shall we?” Skandar said, a mischievous half-smile quirking his lips. “After all, there’s no interrupted ball or dance which can’t be even better when taken up again.”

Vanessa smiled too. “With all my heart.”

Kendric, Vanessa, and Skandar followed the others to the horses, Kendric in the middle with their arms about him and his about them, the three claiming each other as their own once more—dark head between two fair ones.

Together they left the ring of standing stones to the glistening snow under the brilliant light of a golden dawn.

Emma Retold: Emmeline by Sarah Holman (Review)

emmeline3d

Hey, everyone! 🙂 As promised, I’m here today with:

My Review of…

Emmeline by Sarah Holman

5starrating

I beta-read this book awhile back, and I’m so delighted that it’s released to the world now! Seriously, if you like Jane Austen or the book Emma (or films!) at all, you’re going to want to try this one out! 🙂

Emmeline is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, set in the 1930s during the Great Depression. This book is the first of a series of such retellings, The Vintage Jane Austen.

Now, as a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, that I’ve never (to my knowledge) read a book set in the ’30s, and that before this I hadn’t read any retellings of Jane Austen’s novels… Yet even though it was not my usual reading fare, I enjoyed it immensely!

I read Emma for the first time not long before reading Emmeline, so the original story was fresh in my mind when I read the retelling, which only added to the delight I found in reading it. Retellings have always intrigued me, and I adored this one. 🙂 It was fun connecting the parallels of events and characters in this retelling to the older tale, their similarities and differences and twists, and seeing how well the story translated into the new time period.

It was well written and engaging (possibly Sarah Holman’s best work yet!) and I was impressed with so much about it, including how well put together it was, as a retelling and as a book in general. It’s a fairly short read (I read it in two days), which left me impressed also that it fit in all the important Emma-type things, in far less space than the original book, without feeling condensed.

Fredrick Knight (the Mr. Knightley of this version) is so awesome! His character was pretty much my favorite thing about the book — well, him and his relationship with Emmeline. 😉 He’s like a mix of the original Mr. Knightley, and some sort of Hardy-Boys-type character (thinking of the time period), though more grown up, of course, and so very REAL. Fredrick was just an amazing character — so good and kind and firm, not afraid to tell Emmeline when she’s wrong about something (which is often. XD) but also willing to have fun. HE’S THE BEST.

Another thing I loved was the relationship and banter of Fredrick and Emmeline — their dialog was priceless! And the thing about the hat. 😄 Their interactions were just SO well written!! BASICALLY THEY’RE THE BEST THING ABOUT THIS BOOK AND I LOVE THEM AND THEIR STORY SO MUCH! ^_^ ❤

The ending was a little quick (but I loved it so much anyway!), and a circumstance about Morgan’s ending surprised me a little, so I’m not sure if I liked that, but otherwise I have no complaints and just really enjoyed it. 🙂

Other fun things:

  • The details like the food they ate (yum!)
  • Literary references (the Rover Boys! <3)
  • All the little feelings of the ’30s which felt authentic and pulled me directly into the time period.
  • A Christian theme runs through the book which I really liked and felt was done well.
  • Humor and drama and banter, which I loved! 🙂

Overall, a very enjoyable read — I loved it! Recommended to any fan of Jane Austen, or Christian historical fiction with a dash of romance, or the ’30s… or just a good clean enjoyable read!

(Also, can we talk about how absolutely GORGEOUS the stunning cover my dear friend Hannah designed? Just. Just. Yes. <3)

I can’t wait for the rest of the Vintage Jane Austen series of retellings in the ’30s (each by different authors) to come out, and I’m very much looking forward to re-reading Emmeline!

About the Book

img_3447What if Jane Austen’s Emma lived in America in the year 1930?

The talk of stock market crashes and depression isn’t going to keep Emmeline Wellington down. Born to wealth and privilege, Emmeline wants nothing more than to help her new friend, Catarina, find a husband. Emmeline sets her sights on one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, but nothing seems to go right. Even her friend and neighbor Fredrick Knight seems to question her at every turn.

Will she help Catarina find the man of her dreams? Why is her father acting so strangely? Will the downturn affect her life, despite her best efforts?

Find the Book

Amazon  Goodreads

You can find out more about the author of Emmeline, Sarah Holman, at her blog, www.thedestinyofone.com, and more about The Vintage Jane Austen series at www.vintagejaneausten.com.

Give me your thoughts, dearest Roadlings! Is or is not Mr. Knightley the best? (The correct answer is YES! ;)) Does Emmeline intrigue you? Have you read any retellings of Austen’s novels that you can recommend to me? Tell me all! 🙂