Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lisa Kleypas: Mine Till Midnight

Mine Till Midnight: B-
Amelia Hathaway & Cam Rohan


A little spin-off of the Wallflower series, Lisa Kleypas takes us into the world of chaos and of the Roma.

The Hathaways are a family of misfits, with four sisters (Amelia, Poppy, Beatrix, and Winnifred), one brother (Leo), and a gypsie (Kev Merripen). They are truly a strange bunch, with Leo cynical and bitter from losing his first love to the scarlet fever, Beatrix's problem of stealing things - albeit accidentally and her curious collection of animals, including her pet ferret, Dodger; Win's weakness as a result from contracting scarlet fever; and Kev - the wordless and almost menacing gypsie.

In charge is Amelia, practical and steadfast Amelia, spinster but too busy worrying about the state of the family to truly think about herself. Besides, she had given her heart away before, only to have it be smashed into a thousand pieces.

She meets Cam when she searches through brothels for her brother, Leo, who is a complete mess after the death of his first love. He saves her from drunken fools, fighting for her, because he is attracted to her, for some strange reason. She is unlike the other women he's had, perhaps the reason why Amelia is so intriguing to him.

He then shows up on the Hathaway estate - the estate that had not been taken care of for years - and offers to help Amelia out.

She is attracted by his different, part Roma looks and his suave way of handling difficult situations.

Cam Rohan is a hero unlike any other. He is ridiculously wealthy, but it is wealth that he has no desire for because of the bad stigma the Roma associate with money, especially a white man's money. He is in the strange limbo of not being accepted by the British and yet not being accepted by the Roma because of his mixed bloodlines. Trying to figure out his identity - who he really is - is an endeavor, and he finds himself at peace with the Hathaways, who are all far from being conventional.

I loved that Cam was the hero for Amelia; he was her knight in shining armor, even though she was fully capable of handling things on her own. Not to say that all women need men to save them or any foolish things like that (*grin*), but sometimes, it's nice to have someone take care of you, even if you can do it yourself. It's always nice to know that someone is watching out for you.

I wasn't as into the Hathaways as I'd hoped, but it was a good read, full of surprises and laughs. I'm especially excited for Win and Kev's book, which is next in the series - and also the next review for LK week!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lisa Kleypas: Scandal in Spring

Here is my review of the fourth Wallflower novel from a couple months ago, being reposted for LK extravaganza!

Okay, I really want to do a reread of it now. ASAP.




Scandal in Spring: A
Daisy Bowman & Matthew Swift
The Wallflower series 4 (last)


“I want you to do everything you’ve ever imagined doing with me…” With those scandalous words, Daisy Bowman, the sole “Wallflowre” yet to be married, seals her fate with the last man she ever expected to tempt her.


After spending three London seasons searching for a husband, Daisy Bowman’s father has told her in no uncertain terms that she must find a husband. Now. And if Daisy can’t snare an appropriate suitor, she will marry the man he chooses – the ruthless and aloof Matthew Swift.


Daisy is horrified. A Bowman never admits defeat, and she decides to do whatever it takes to marry someone…anyone… other than Matthew. But she doesn’t count on Matthew’s unexpected charm…or the blazing sensuality that soon flares beyond both their control. And Daisy discovers that the man she has always hated just might turn out to be the man of her dreams. But right at the moment of sweet surrender, a scandalous secret is uncovered…one that could destroy both Matthew and a love more passionate and irresistible than Daisy’s wildest fantasies.


Since I’ve been proclaiming my love for Lisa Kleypas, I’ve decided to write a haiku dedicated to her.


Oh, Lisa Kleypas
Please write your novels faster
I love your stories


I should become a poet, you say? So I’ve been told my entire life. I’m kidding. But I do love 99% of Ms. Kleypas’s stories, and Scandal in Spring was a fabulous end to the Wallflower series.


Daisy is romantic. She loves to read. She is also very short. (At this point, I’m thinking I can substitute in Daisy’s name and put in Alice.) Her father is a mean hag. (What’s the male form of hag?) He orders that she marry – soon. Or else she will have to marry the self-made super-wealthy American Matthew Swift.


It can’t be too bad, right?
It isn’t, except for the fact that her father ordered her to do it.


So her lovely (but kinda naggy and kinda bossy) older sister Lillian (book 3: It Happened One Autumn) hosts a hunting/fishing/ some-sort of a cool party where lots of eligible gentlemen (and few ladies) are invited for Daisy’s choosing pleasure. It’s been three years since Daisy has last seen Matthew, and to her, he remains an awkward but ambitiously avaricious type of fellow, one who reminds her greatly of her own unpleasant father.


But when she finds out the mysterious man who has been on her mind is Matthew – her mind is opened to a world of possibilities. She and …Matthew…!


I love how Daisy and Matthew meet – it’s a bit of a tease and sigh-worthy.
I love how there is chemistry in the air between them – you can practically hear crackling.
I love how she seduces him – hot hot hot!


Spoiler:

The whole locking-the-door, dropping key-down-bodice was so hot. Seriously!! Ingenious of Daisy and something I so would not have the guts for, unfortunately.


End notes


I love how he’s loved her ever since way back when – aw!!
I love how he tries to stop himself from loving her because he’s so damn honorable. Okay, I don’t really love this, but it’s still endearing.
I love how they love each other.
I also love the little cameos of the other Wallflowers.
I don’t particularly particularly love it when the scandal explodes since it was a little predictable, but I still kind-of love it because well… I just do!


Read this book and the other Wallflower books. (Well, you might be able to skip the first because I remember not being so fond of it, but I might have to re-read it. I might have been delusional.)


The Wallflower series


  1. Secrets of a Summer Night - Annabelle
  2. It Happened One Autumn - Lillian
  3. The Devil in Winter - Evie
  4. Scandal in Spring - Daisy


Have fun reading! Cheers to good friends and great books.


Lisa Kleypas: Devil in Winter

Devil in Winter: A
Evanegeline Jenner & Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent

A devil's bargain

Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: marriage!

Sebastian's reputation is so dangerous that thirty seconds alone with him will ruin any maiden's good name. Still, this bewitching chit appeared, unchaperoned, on his doorstep to offer her hand. Certainly an aristocrat with a fine eye for beauty could do far worse.

But Evie's proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. She will never become just another of the dashing libertine's callously discarded broken hearts -- which means Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions...or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.


At the end of the last book - It Happened One Autumn, we discover that Sebastian is in need of a bride - the wealthier the better.

Evie's father is seriously ill and her awful relatives treat her like a pile of cow dung, so she escapes and proposes to Lord St. Vincent, hoping that marriage will grant her the freedom to tend to her ailing father.

Sebastian finds the proposal is highly comical. Evie is the shyest Wallflower, with the painful tendency to stutter when talking. While she is unconventionally beautiful with her flame-red hair and freckled face, speaking with her is known to be a trying ordeal. So to have her propose to the cynical Sebastian is unheard of!

However, she asks that they not do the dirty deed in bed, a condition that Sebastian isn't hard-pressed to agree to.

So off they go to Gretna Green!

It is the months after the marriage that is completely fun to read. St. Vincent needs to manage Evie's father's famous gaming business - Jenner's - and look over Evie. He is surprised to find that there is so much more underneath her stuttering and he is strangely attracted to her tenderness.

When I first read the Wallflower series, I loved this Evie and Sebastian's story the most. LK stays true to Evie's shy nature, while bringing out the core of who she (and he) really is (are). One can really see the dramatic change in Sebastian and when they both make their love known to each other - oh, it's grand!

A great read, I'm always thrilled to snap open their story and reread it, just for old times sake.

Lisa Kleypas: It Happened One Autumn

It Happened One Autumn: A
Lillian Bowman & Marcus Marsden, Lord Westcliff

Continuing with the Wallflower series, is Lillian Bowman's story.

The Wallflowers are back at Stony Cross, the home of Lord Marcus Marsden, a duke with bloodlines greater than any other's. A progressive peer, he is the definition of conventional and honorable, with a small dash of 'uptight' mixed in.

He is horrified, absolutely horrified, with Lillian Bowman. She's loud, rambunctious, and hell - he's seen her playing rounders (baseball) in her undergarments! He's convinced she's in England to wreak havoc. And the more they come across with each other, the more she gets on his nerves. Why did she have to talk and walk so funny? Why couldn't she be like everyone else? Spectacularly, Lillian feels the same way about Marcus as he does for her.

When he loses self control and kisses her, she uses it as a means to trap him into agreeing to get his mother to sponsor her and Daisy into society. After all, it means nothing that they are mega-rich; their social graces are atrocious.

Frustratingly, Marcus grows increasingly attracted to Lillian, and is upset when she catches the eye of the ultimate devilish rake - Lord St. Vincent, a gorgeous but cynical peer. And when he finds her completely and adorably drunk in his library, one autumn afternoon...

Read on to find out!

I love that LK's characters are flawed and realistic, and yet, readers grow to love them. Lillian is bossy and impulsive; Marcus high-handed and domineering - and yet when they are together, they soften each other by first infuriating the other person (LOL) and then bringing out the side of the person that is hidden from the world.

I loved the scene where Lillian unknowingly seduces Marcus, I also love the perfume motif in the story.

And of course, I loved seeing them fall in love. Their 'hatred' for one another (the hatred that each freely express towards each other) is full of chemistry and tension, and while they bicker like cats and dogs, it is so adorable how they cannot get enough of each other.

*sigh*

more Lisa Kleypas

I guess when I wrote that it was going to be Lisa Kleypas week, I failed to mention that it was going to be Lisa Kleypas weeks.

I hope your Christmas went well and that it was as hectic as mine - lol.


Trekking onward, with our LK glory: It Happened One Autumn.



Monday, December 22, 2008

Lisa Kleypas: Secrets of a Summer Night

Secrets of a Summer Night: A
Annabelle Peyton & Simon Hunt
The Wallflowers Series #1


Annabelle and Simon's story is the first in the Wallflower series. I read it ages ago and didn't like it because I didn't like Annabelle. whom I viewed as a shallow, greedy, money-grubbing punk.

But in honor of I-love-Lisa-Kleypas-week, I re-read it and to my surprise, loved it.

How could I have not liked it the first time around? There must have been a misunderstanding!


Annabelle Peyton is a gorgeous on-the-wall spinster at twenty-five years of age. Without a dowry and the poor economic state of her family, she finds it impossible to find an adequate suitor.

It is at a ball that she finally speaks with three other young ladies who have also been labeled as "outcasts" in the ton. They choose to call themselves the Wallflowers and agree to help themselves find husbands. Of the young ladies, there are the Bowman sisters - Lillian and Daisy, whose family is ridiculously wealthy but to everyone's chagrin, the Bowmans are American and uncultured. The last is Evangeline Jenner, the daughter of the man who owns a famous gaming house in London. She has flame colored hair and a freckled face; unconventionally beautiful but is horribly shy and speaks with a stutter.

When Annabelle realizes the dire situation she, her mother, and younger brother are in, she decides to marry wealthy and a peer, no matter the cost.

Unfortunately for her, she has caught the eye of Simon Hunt, a son of a butcher ...from the working class! He is handsome, tall, and arrogantly aggressive. His alpha attitude intrigues her, but she knows she cannot marry him because he is of the working class.

Simon Hunt has worked his way up, amassing ludicrous amounts of money as a businessman. He finds himself in a limbo when he realizes he is neither accepted by the ton (because of his family origins, and because he works for his living) nor his true middle-class peers (because he is so wealthy and he interacts with the British peers).

He sees Annabelle and immediately falls for her. He senses that she is the one for him... except for the fact that she continuously rejects him.

The Wallflowers decide that since Annabelle is the oldest, they ought to work together to find her a husband first. They all venture to Stony Cross, Lord Marcus Marsden's country home.

Annabelle meets Simon there and is horrified. But excited.
At Stony Cross, Annabelle deems Lord Kendall to be the best candidate as her husband, knowing that he is all wrong for her and her for him.

And things get serious when Lord Kendall develops an interest in Annabelle....



What I love about LK's novels is that usually the heroes are self-made. They're from ordinary background and make something out of themselves. Simon is an excellent example of this. He works his tail of, knowing that he would never be satisfied as a butcher's son.

Another characteristic I love about Simon is his determination in making Annabelle his. He genuinely cares for her and expresses this to Annabelle. He speaks to her and shows her that he knows who she is.

Annabelle is another story; she cares for her family and therefore decides to marry wealthy, however, her stubbornness and pride prevent her from pursuing her attraction to Simon. Even after they are together, she seems to be embarrassed of Simon's humble origins.

However, this is remedied and she redeems herself when.. *spoilers - highlight to read*

she shows her love for Simon by risking her life for him. She redeems herself 1000%


*end spoiler*

... how can you not love her and Simon both?

The end of the story is fabulous. All the lead-up to the ending is worth it and wonderful.

All I can say is: Secrets of a Summer Night is what a love story ought to look like.

Is it May yet??

On a non-Lisa Kleypas note...














I just finished Elizabeth Hoyt's To Seduce a Sinner. It was just okay.

But!!! I am so excited for the third in her The Legend of the Four Soldiers series, To Beguile a Beast.

It. Sounds. Amazing.

*squeal!!*

...I just want May to come. Is it May yet?

Do you think if I emailed Elizabeth Hoyt profusely, she would pity me and send me the text or send me an ARC?

...sigh...

Lisa Kleypas: A Wallflower Christmas

A Wallflower Christmas: A
Hannah Appleton & Rafe Bowman

The Wallflowers are four young ladies in London who banded together in their wild and wickedly wonderful searches for true love. Now happily married, they join together once again to help one of the world’s most notorious rogues realize that happiness might be right under the mistletoe.…

It’s Christmastime in London and Rafe Bowman has arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie Blandford, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford. His chiseled good looks and imposing physique are sure to impress the lady in waiting and, if it weren’t for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Rafe realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen. And winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe Bowman anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts... (amazon)


YAY for Lisa Kleypas!

It's a little strange singing praises for Ms. Kleypas, especially when I haven't read all of her novels. However, she has become one of my most favorite authors, who is unlikely to disappoint through her charming and sensual novels.

A Wallflower Christmas is perfect for the HOLIDAY SEASON (and upcoming Christmas, in a scant three days!!) and also perfect to start off my I-Love-Lisa-Kleypas extravaganza!

For those of you unfamiliar with the Wallflower series, it is a story of four young ladies who were the outcasts - the wallflowers - during their debut. They quickly befriend each other and strive to marry, and coincidentally fall in loooove.

The Wallflower series are as follows:
1. Secrets of a Summer Night
2. It Happened One Autumn
3. Devil in Winter
4. Scandal in Spring

Reviews for these novels will be here in the days to come, however, in A Wallflower Christmas, we are introduced to Rafe Bowman, Lillian(book 2) and Daisy's (book 4) eldest brother.

He is a magnetic "rake" from the United States, as is the rest of the Bowman family, and comes to London to secure a marriage that his parents have deemed worthwhile and pleasing to them and everyone else.

The chosen bride is Lady Natalie, beautiful but uninteresting. Rafe quickly loses interest in her, but acknowledges the fact that she would be a "good match" because of their dull compatibility.

He, however, meets her chaperone and a common woman, Hannah, and is utterly intrigued with her wit and personality.

They try to resist each other, however, sparks fly and the chemistry between them in intense.

Rafe is left to make a difficult decision: marry Natalie and live without the one whom he loves, or marry Hannah and be cut out from his family (aka parents).


It is surprising that I was able to relate to these characters since the novel itself is quite short.
Unsurprisingly, one of the qualms I had with this story was that it was too short. Too short too short too short! Boo!! If I have to wait another several months for her next contemporary release, she might as well have made the story some five-hundred pages, or something along those lines...

But I digress. In a meager two-hundred something pages, I fell in love with "common and plain" Hannah and the devilish Rafe.

I loved how Rafe loved Hannah and how Hannah loved Rafe.

And, ohmygosh, I'm a total sucker for heroes who write passionate love letters to or about the woman they love.

Rafe did so and the letter was magical.
If I was Hannah, I pretty much would have been like, "See ya! I'm going to elope with Rafe." or maybe even, "Sure Rafe, I'll sleep with you. Right now? Okay, let's go!"

(um.. TooMuchInfo? Sorry folks.)

Anyway, this story was beautiful and Christmas-y, so it left me feeling all gooey and mushy and all holiday-seasony. I also loved seeing all of the former Wallflowers (especially Daisy and Matthew) and how (unrealistically) happy they are in their marriages.

What a (sigh) delicious read.


It's Lisa Kleypas week!




































I've declared this coming week (December 15-22) to be Lisa Kleypas week!

I know, I probably should have done this when one of her novels this fall (Seduce Me at Sunrise or A Wallflower Christmas) , but ..um... I like to be different and unique!

Regardless, I've decided that my task this winter is to glom LK's books, even though I'll probably be depressed after I finish. What will I have to keep me company if I fall into a book slump?? However, this glomming must be done!

So this week will be full of Lisa Kleypas reviews and probably love letters to the author, herself.

My wish is that she never come upon this blog. I would be mortified......and thrilled because I'm a punk like that.

Let the LK love begin!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Julia Quinn: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever: C-
Miranda Cheever & Nigel Bevelstoke, Viscount Turner

At the age of ten, Miranda Cheever showed no signs of Great Beauty. And even at ten, Miranda learned to accept the expectations society held for her--until the afternoon when Nigel Bevelstoke, the handsome and dashing Viscount Turner, solemnly kissed her hand and promised her that one day she would grow into herself, that one day she would be as beautiful as she already was smart.

And even at ten, Miranda knew she would love him forever.



This was the most disappointing read, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why this book won the 2007 Best Regency Historical Romance in the Romance Writers of America's annual RITA Awards. (But then again, I don't understand how JQ won it for her novel, On the Way to the Wedding because that one wasn't too great either...)



The breakdown of the story, short and un-sweet. Miranda Cheever writes in her diary every day. (I like that. Yay, journals!) She is not a Great Beauty. She accepts this. She meets Nigel Bevelstoke, older brother of her best friend...and she falls in looove.

Years later, Nigel has gone through a nasty marriage and is now a widow. His wife was a total loser, cuckolder, and what-not. Unsurprisingly, he's grown bitter.

He sees Miranda when she hangs out with her still-best friend, Olivia. He doesn't really notice her, but she's having heart palpitations from being in his presence.

And then one day he notices her.
And then he marries her because ...hm, I can't remember the reason.
But then after the marriage - they have great sex.
And then some more time passes, and she's about to give birth and is having complications. (She might die)
He realizes he loves her... *yawn*


Definitely not one of JQ's best novels. Not very interesting and not too romantic. No post-reading obsession of the book. In fact, I do believe I read this book in September... and a mere three months later, I fail to remember the details. This usually never happens to me. (Perhaps the tears of boredom made the words blurry to me - too blurry for me to remember...?)

With that said, I shall leave with the unanswerable question: since TSDOMMC won the 2007 RITA..... are the RITA awards rigged?

Think about it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SQUEAL!














I don't think I've ever blogged about the sister-duo, Dixie Cash (Pamela Cumbie and Jeffery McClanahan), but let me just say that their books are wickedly funny. (By wicked, I mean "very." LOL)

The first thing that caught my eye was Cash's book's title.

My Heart May Be Broken But My Hair Still Looks Great

...um, awesome!!

Intrigued, I checked the book out, giggling to myself. When I cracked open the spine and started reading - I laughed aloud at the hilarity of Debbie Sue and Edwina.

MYMBBBMHSLG (lmao) was fabulous so then I borrowed the 'prequel' to it: Since You're Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash. Oh goodness, who comes up with these amazing titles? It's a wonderful advertising ploy - the titles alone are enough to entice an innocent victim into purchasing the novel!

Their third, one that I haven't read yet, is called I Gave You My Heart But You Sold it Online. I have yet to read because the novel entails the antics of a 12-year old girl... and pre-pubescent teenagers tend to mildly irritate me.

However - here's the reason for the squeal - Cash's fourth novel is out (HOORAY!) and awesomely titled, Don't Make Me Choose Between You and My Shoes. Just for the title... just for the title, I shall read IGYMHBYSIO and then proceed to devour DMMCBYAMS.

So, readers, if you have a niggling for big-haired, hairdressers who also manage a private detective business (The Domestic Equalizers), or hunger for a light-but-hilarious romance, read Dixie Cash.

Note: I heartily recommend MYMBBBMHSLG (the second).
[A review will be coming shortly.]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Emily Giffin: Love the One You're With

Love the One You're With: A+


The New York Times bestselling author of SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE, and BABY PROOF delivers another captivating, straight-from-the heart novel. This is a story for everyone who has ever wondered: How can I truly love the one I'm with, when I can't forget the one who got away?

Ellen and Andy's marriage doesn't just seem perfect, it is perfect. There is no question how deep their devotion is, and how naturally they bring out the best in each other. But one fateful afternoon, Ellen runs into Leo for the first time in eight years. Leo, the one who brought out the worst in her. Leo, the one who left her heartbroken with no explanation. Leo, the one she could never quite forget. When his reappearance ignites long-dormant emotions, Ellen begins to question whether the life she’s living is the one she's meant to live. LOVE THE ONE YOU'RE WITH is a powerful story about one woman at the crossroads of true love and real life.



Let me rave of a book I just recently finished that I love. It's the fourth novel of chick-lit writer, Ms. Emily Giffin. Giffin shot to the bestseller lists with her debut novel, Something Borrowed, and then Something Blue.

When my book buddy, Nance, told me about how much she loved Giffin, I quickly jumped onto amazon to investigate these amazing books. I was horrified when I read the synopsis of Something Borrowed. The heroine gets drunk at a party-thing and wakes up the next morning next to her best friend's fiance.

Adultery is a big no-no for Alice.
Adultery with your best friend's lover is an even bigger no-no.

"No, Nance, no way jose," I told her.

A couple months ago, she texted me, telling me how much she loved Love the One You're With. "You have got to read it, Alice!" LTOYW is a story of what happens when your old love - the one that got away - reappears in your life.

I agreed and told Nance I'd read it, if only to discuss with her. I read... and loved it.
I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.
I got no sleep the night I started the story.


Ellen is a thirty-three year old newlywed. Her marriage to her husband, Andy, is perfect; he is a wonderful, wonderful man who is incredibly thoughtful, handsome, caring, and loving.

It's a couple of months into their marriage when Ellen sees her ex, Leo. The one with whom she had a flaming, passionate relationship. The one who she loved with everything she had. The one who was probably 'the love of her life.'

And it's after she sees Leo, after she start re-talking to him, that she starts to question her marriage - and the love - she has for Andy. She wonders if she made the correct decision in marrying him.

I was reading this, praying that she would make the correct decision. It's really a compliment for Giffin - as an author, you know you have talent when your reader is rooting for both Andy and Leo.

Oh, if only Ellen hadn't married Andy.
Oh, if only Leo had appeared sooner.
Oh, if only Ellen hadn't seen Leo.
Andy! Leo! Andy! Leo!

...see, it's chaos. Absolute chaos.
And I loved it.

Giffin's words are powerful and you can feel - almost tangibly feel - the love, frustration, aggravation, and confusion pouring out from Ellen. She is an excellent writer - a smart chick-lit writer (sorry, I kind-of think chick-lit authors write less-than-great, with all the italicized words and parantheses and what-not) and one whose words you want to keep on reading.

If you've ever had a 'the one that got away' type experience, or have felt the slow crumble of a relationship with one whom you've loved deeply - you'll relate to this story. And you'll love it.

In short: READ!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Catherine Anderson: Baby Love

Baby Love: DNF
Maggie Stanley & Rafe Kendrick
Kendrick/ Coulter series 1


Though I usually love Catherine Anderon's novels, I found this one to be most uninteresting. It is the beginning of her series (one with many, many novels - like eight or nine?) and I'm glad I read some of the other books in the series before reading this one or else I would have given up on the entire series.

From reading roughly half the book (approximately 160 pages), this is what I got:

Rafe lost his beloved wife and child.
He proceeded to lose himself and "ran away" from his home and duties, traveling around to different cities on trains.
He meets Maggie on one of these trains.
She's a damsel in distress.
He falls in love with her - almost overnight.
He takes care of her when she needs to be taken care of at the hospital.
He immediately makes amends with his estranged family - and they welcome him back with open arms.

..and then I stopped.

What?!

First, I hate second-love stories.
Like, when the hero or heroine has desperately and passionately loved XYZ and XYZ dies. They're heartbroken. Then the new hero/ heroine steps in and takes the place of the former love. (Ex: Susan Elizabeth Phillip's Dream a Little Dream, Lisa Kleypas's Where Dreams Begin..)
I am a huge advocate of first-love stories and therefore, losing one's first love only to move on and love a second love, though realistic, is not something I'm chum chum with.

Second, how unrealistic is this story?
Not that I look for realism in a romance, per se, but the whole journey of falling in love (aka the reason why I read romances) was lost in this story. Rafe falls in love with Maggie ...just there and then. No real explanations. And even after the story progresses with him loving her, it never really explains why he loved her. Bogus!!, I say.

Third, I flat-out lost interest. I put it down - in mild exasperation - and never wanted to pick it back up.

Sadly, this one is a no-go, DNF.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Joanna Bourne: My Lord and Spymaster

My Lord and Spymaster: C-
Jessamyn Whitby & Captain Sebastian Kennett


Bourne's latest espionage-based series historical (following The Spymaster's Lady) entices with subtle subterfuge and heated romance. Jess Whitby, daughter of suspected spy Josiah Whitby, is doing everything in her power to exonerate her imprisoned father. In order to free him, she must prove that someone other than her father is the Cinq, a notorious mole. But Jess has met her match in Capt. Sebastian Kennett, wealthy bastard son of an English nobleman, equally as clever at keeping tabs on Jess as she is at tracking him. Sebastian is responsible for Josiah's arrest; Jess believes that Sebastian may be the Cinq; their mutual attraction proves a lovely foil for their suspicious minds. (amazon)


I just know I'm going to be in the minority, but I didn't find much in this story that I really enjoyed.

The plot, after a while, became tedious, as did the characters. I felt like the plot moved really slowly and I lost interest half or a third-way through. I chugged along, hoping that the romance between Jess and Sebastian would outweigh the dullness of finding Cinq, going after the suspected Cinq candidates, and Jess's constant visitations with her father.

The romance was lukewarm. It was a lot of Sebastian trying to empower Jess, but Jess resisting, and then them showing their love for each other in dangerous ways. Example: Jess going off to her previous master (when she was a thief) so that Sebastian wouldn't have to go himself since the master is a feared and very dangerous slumlord, etc. Those and other kinds of actions that I would normally find sigh-worthy grated my nerves.

Then there was the suspicion between Jess and Sebastian, since Sebastian was one of the candidates who could possibly be Cinq. Then Jess trying to un-love Sebastian because of the uncertainty, and yadda yadda yadda...

Before I knew it, I wanted the novel to be over and I didn't care much if Sebastian and Jess ever did get together.

I hate to say it, since I did enjoy Ms. Bourne's debut novel The Spymaster's Lady, but I would have rather passed on this one.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sasha Lord: In My Wild Dream

In My Wild Dream: D-


Kassandra & Cadedryn Caenmore

Wild series #5



For years, Kassandra has dreamed of a strong Scottish laird, surrounded by a cloak of evil, whom she's destined to marry. When the dreams begin to change, and a dream-world knife follows her into the waking world, she fears for the man in her dreams and persuades her half-sister, Princess Kalial, to take her to court where she may find and help him. Kassandra's intended turns out to be Cadedryn, a powerful warrior dedicated to regaining the land and title his murdered father lost when he married for love rather than politics. Determined not to repeat his father's mistake, Cadedryn rejects Kassandra, pronouncing his intention to marry the landed Lady Corine. Abandoning her courtly accoutrements, Kassandra pursues Cadedryn by posing as peasant. Soon, Caderyn falls for the fiery, flame-haired commoner he knows as Kaitlynn, threatening the plans of Lady Corine-as well as other, more sinister forces.



The fifth of Ms. Lord’s Wild series is of Kassandra, “wild child” and of Cadedryn. They are…interesting.



Let me give a prologue-y sidenote before I begin:



I understand that in the medieval times, girls married in their early to mid-teens, from fourteen to seventeen. Anything older = spinster!! This age gets progressively later as time passes. So when a girl is sixteen in medieval time, I immediately equate it to modern day of maybe twenty six, twenty seven. Therefore, a girl of marriageable age ought to be …not quite so childish and at least, be somewhat mature.

Perhaps this is my mistake: maybe girls in the medieval times at age sixteen were still… girls, not quite women. Weird. (But didn’t everyone die a lot younger back then? So their sixteen is like today’s thirty five… no? Oy…!)



Okay, back to the review.



Kassandra is a “wild child,” raised in the woods, running about the woods with her wild animal pet, weasel Triu-cair. She is also the half-sister of Kalial (now Kalial McTaver from book one). With her strange prophetic powers, she sees her beloved soulmate in her dreams. It gives her a precious sword and asks her to look for him.

Being a romantic, she is determined to search for this mystery man. She convinces Kalial to take her to the city (I forget which but the King is there) and on her trips, she meets an infuriatingly annoying man by the name of Cadedryn. He, of course, is her hero, something she doesn’t realize.




Cadedryn is in the city to regain his family’s name, something that was lost when his father disobeyed the King’s orders to marry a woman – he, instead, chose to marry the woman he loved and in turn, the King stripped the Caenmores of their wealth. To Cadedryn’s horror, his father was murdered when he was a young boy, and Cadedryn went to live with Laird McCafferty and his son, Curtis. It’s been Cadedryn’s desire to regain his family’s honor by proving himself as a worthy warrior and by marrying advantageously. By meeting the king and agreeing to an arranged marriage, he feels he will right the wrongs of his father.



When Cadedryn falls for the wild Kassandra – surprise!



Things get a little twisted when Cadedryn mistakenly believes Kassandra has a twin sister, and he falls for both… and someone is trying to kill both of them…



Kassandra acts like a sixteen year old – foolishly in love with her romantic notions and heady with the desire for love, yet it is clear that she is not a strong enough heroine. I just can’t picture her to soothe Cadedryn when he is in need of her arms and yadda yadda yadda. She is fickle. Young. And holy cow, she really does sound like a modern teenager going through growing pains.



Skip this melodramatic bore.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Sheri Cobb South: Brighton Honeymoon

Brighton Honeymoon: A
Polly Hampton & Sir Aubrey Tabor

Suddenly unemployed and with no place to turn, orphaned Polly Hampton refuses to abandon the project that brought her to London in the first placeDthe search for her unknown noble father. In a flash of audacious inventiveness, she presents herself at the home of wealthy weaver Ethan Brundy, claiming to be his long-lost sister. Although Ethan sees through her ruse immediately, his aristocratic wife decides to take Polly under her wing, with rewarding and highly entertaining results. Good attention to period detail, a lively, witty style, and wonderfully atypical characters combine in a sparkling story vaguely reminiscent of Georgette Heyer's classic These Old Shades. Here, South nicely continues the story begun in The Weaver Takes a Wife...(amazon)


In the continuing glomming of Ms. Sheri Cobb South's books, I was delighted to discover that there was a sequel to The Weaver Takes a Wife. As you know, I loved TWTAF so I opened Brighton Honeymoon with high expectations.

I was not disappointed.

In Brighton Honeymoon, we are introduced to Polly, a sweet girl who came to the city in search of her father. She was a child born out of wedlock and was assured by her mother that her father was someone of importance; after her mother passes away, she is determined to find her father, envisioning their reunion to be glorious, filled with happy tears, and all that jazz.

She finds employment at a bookstore, partially because of her love of books (ooh, I love characters who love to read!) and partially because she hopes that her father will magically walk in.

The situation quickly turns sour when she is fired from her job. With nowhere to go, she goes to our beloved Mr. Ethan Brundy's home and claims she is his long-lost sister!

His wife, Helena, who is not nearly as snotty as we once believed, embraces Polly, however, Ethan remains unconvinced. He knows that he is extraordinarily wealthy and he knows that the world is full of people hoping to snag a piece of his hard-earned dough. (er, money..)

Ethan calls upon his friend, Sir Aubrey Tabor. Aubrey knows something is not right with Polly and tells Ethan he will rid the newly-wedded couple of her.

Unfortunately for Ethan, Aubrey, Polly, and Aubrey's mother (cranky, hoity-toity haughty woman) join him and Helena on their honeymoon to Brighton!


This is a delightful romp and it is filled with giggles, impeccable characters, and Ms. South's exquisite writing. It is so delightful that you will overlook the cliched and very coincidental ending - it somehow works.

Another must-read in my book.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Meredith Duran: The Duke of Shadows

The Duke of Shadows: A
Emmaline Martin & Julian Sinclair, Duke of Auburn

In a debut romance as passionate and sweeping as the British Empire, Meredith Duran paints a powerful picture of an aristocrat torn between two worlds, an heiress who dares to risk everything...and the love born in fire and darkness that nearly destroys them.

From exotic sandstone palaces...

Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé's betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.

To the marble halls of London...

In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous -- and that a single decision can alter one's life forever.

Destiny follows wherever you run.

A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Julian must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned...and some passions never die.


I saw Trollop from the book bitches searching for this book, an I can see why. After waiting patiently for several months, I got my grubby little hands on my very own copy (well, my own copy for the next three weeks). I read it through the night (horrible habit, I woke up looking atrocious the next morning) and folks, it was a damn good read.

Debut author, Meredith Duran, has done the very difficult and almost-unthinkable: she has managed to write a romance that can effectively serve as a saga - in three-hundred and something pages.

Emmaline and Julian meet in Delhi in 1857, where tensions are running high and the country's turmoil is glaring. She has come to India to be with her fiance and after a disastrous journey, she arrives, only to realize that her fiance is a flaming jerkwad. Emma also meets Julian, the notorious Duke of Auburn, known for being a quarter Indian. He has been grudgingly accepted by British society because of his dukedom, however, he is neither liked nor admired - much.

When situations in India explode, Emma is caught in the middle. Julian saves her and they abscond to a village where he leaves her - in safety.

Things do not go well and they are separated.


They meet again in London after years of separation, and their experiences have changed them into different people. And the love that was so strong between them has turned into something akin to rage and bitterness.

It is, of course, reading of their journey to reconciliation that was so satisfying and so lovely.


Ms. Duran is a doctorate student in cultural anthropology and I can see that she loves her field and she loves this era of time through her precise and descriptive writings. Furthermore, her prose is beautiful (she uses "meaty" sentences - remember when your English teacher told you to stop being a pansy and to beef up your sentences with details?) and her writing sucks you in.

I didn't love the last thirty pages as much as I wished because I felt it was a little roundabout and a little long-ish, but I decided that was trivial in comparison to her skills as a debut author.

Do give this a try.

PS: Julian is quite delicious. :)

Happy Gobble Gobble Day!

I hope you spend this wonderful day with your family members and loved ones.

Please remember all of the things you are blessed with!

I am grateful for:
good books that I can curl up and enjoy because it allows me to travel many places and be many characters; Hazelnut lattes because they hit the spot; my old, junkie laptop because I have one; my iPod Miss Daisy because I am never lonely with music playing in my ears; my book club ladies because they're so much fun; Judith McNaught because she made me believe in romances; authors that can make you laugh and cry; this blog that I can abuse; for libraries because you can read books for free; librarians because they help you when you get confused; my bed because I love to sleep; my evil little dog; my family and friends...

and to you - thanks for reading!

..really, I'm not that mean in real life.
......oh fine, I am, but usually have candy with me so I can make you like me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lauren Weisberger: Chasing Harry Winston

Chasing Harry Winston: C+
Chick lit-ish romance-ish

Emmy is newly single, and not by choice. She was this close to the ring and the baby she's wanted her whole life when her boyfriend left her for his twenty-three-year-old personal trainer -- whose fees are paid by Emmy. With her plans for the perfect white wedding in the trash, Emmy is now ordering takeout for one. Her friends insist an around-the-world sex-fueled adventure will solve all her problems -- could they be right?

Leigh, a young star in the publishing business, is within striking distance of landing her dream job as senior editor and marrying her dream guy. And to top it all off, she has just purchased her dream apartment. Only when Leigh begins to edit the enfant terrible of the literary world, the brilliant and brooding Jesse Chapman, does she start to notice some cracks in her perfect life...

Adriana is the drop-dead-gorgeous daughter of a famous supermodel. She possesses the kind of feminine wiles made only in Brazil, and she never hesitates to use them. But she's about to turn thirty and -- as her mother keeps reminding her -- she won't have her pick of the men forever. Everyone knows beauty is ephemeral and there's always someone younger and prettier right around the corner. Suddenly she's wondering...does Mother know best?

These three very different girls have been best friends for a decade in the greatest city on earth. As they near thirty, they're looking toward their future...but despite all they've earned -- first-class travel, career promotions, invites to all the right parties, and luxuries small and large -- they're not quite sure they like what they see...

One Saturday night at the Waverly Inn, Adriana and Emmy make a pact: within a single year, each will drastically change her life. Leigh watches from the sidelines, not making any promises, but she'll soon discover she has the most to lose. Their friendship is forever, but everything else is on the table. Three best friends. Two resolutions. One year to pull it off.



This, by far, is the worst book out of the three that Lauren Weisberger has written.

While the premise of the book might be interesting, the book is fast paced... a little too fast-paced. There isn't much time to invest energy into the characters and not enough time is spent on each of the three characters. It's a whirlwind, flipping back and forth between Emmy, Leigh, and Adriana.

I still get confused - which one was Leigh again? Was she the one who got dumped or was she the one who is neurotic?

The outline of the book also made a huge difference for me, strangely. Instead of starting new chapters, there are those page gaps in between paragraphs to indicate the passing of time, by which I mean - the passing of months and months of time.

Before you know it, it's Fall. Then it's Christmas. Then it's the end of February.

The time passes and passes and the reader doesn't realize the year is almost over... until it's over. The ending was cheesy, which isn't too bad (I like cheese a decent amount) but a little too coincidental.

And for purely subjective, non-concrete reasons, I can't say that I really really enjoyed this read. Not because I really hated one aspect of the book, but because it was just... un-outstanding.

A C+ for being decently entertaining.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tom Godwin: The Cold Equations

The Cold Equations: A++
Short Story
Science Fiction


I first read this short story when I was in the eighth grade (many a year ago).
I believe I was at home, in my room, doing what good eighth graders do: my English homework.

Little did I know that this reading would impact my life in the way that it has.

I love this short story.
I feel that it is so powerful and it gives a glimpse of what it means to have a world with blacks and whites.

It is not a romance, but I ask that you take a chance and read it. (It won't take you more than 15 minutes.)


I'm sure this is violating some sort of a copyright rule, but I found the text online and I'm pasting it here.

Let me know what you think of it. :)


The Cold Equations
Tom Godwin

He was not alone.


There was nothing to indicate the fact but the white hand of the tiny gauge on the board before him. The control room was empty but for himself; there was no sound other than the murmur of the drives—but the white hand had moved. It had been on zero when the little ship was launched from the Stardust; now, an hour later, it had crept up. There was something in the supplies closet across the room, it was saying, some kind of a body that radiated heat.


It could be but one kind of a body—a living, human body.


He leaned back in the pilot's chair and drew a deep, slow breath, considering what he would have to do. He was an EDS pilot, inured to the sight of death, long since accustomed to it and to viewing the dying of another man with an objective lack of emotion, and he had no choice in what he must do. There could be no alternative—but it required a few moments of conditioning for even an EDS pilot to prepare himself to walk across the room and coldly, deliberately, take the life of a man he had yet to meet.


He would, of course, do it. It was the law, stated very bluntly and definitely in grim Paragraph L, Section 8, of Interstellar Regulations: Any stowaway discovered in an EDS shall be jettisoned immediately following discovery.


It was the law, and there could be no appeal.

* * *


It was a law not of men's choosing but made imperative by the circumstances of the space frontier. Galactic expansion had followed the development of the hyperspace drive and as men scattered wide across the frontier there had come the problem of contact with the isolated first-colonies and exploration parties. The huge hyperspace cruisers were the product of the combined genius and effort of Earth and were long and expensive in the building. They were not available in such numbers that small colonies could possess them. The cruisers carried the colonists to their new worlds and made periodic visits, running on tight schedules, but they could not stop and turn aside to visit colonies scheduled to be visited at another time; such a delay would destroy their schedule and produce a confusion and uncertainty that would wreck the complex interdependence between old Earth and the new worlds of the frontier.


Some method of delivering supplies or assistance when an emergency occurred on a world not scheduled for a visit had been needed and the Emergency Dispatch Ships had been the answer. Small and collapsible, they occupied little room in the hold of the cruiser; made of light metal and plastics, they were driven by a small rocket drive that consumed relatively little fuel. Each cruiser carried four EDS's and when a call for aid was received the nearest cruiser would drop into normal space long enough to launch an EDS with the needed supplies or personnel, then vanish again as it continued on its course.


The cruisers, powered by nuclear converters, did not use the liquid rocket fuel but nuclear converters were far too large and complex to permit their installation in the EDS. The cruisers were forced by necessity to carry a limited amount of the bulky rocket fuel and the fuel was rationed with care; the cruiser's computers determining the exact amount of fuel each EDS would require for its mission. The computers considered the course coordinates, the mass of the EDS, the mass of pilot and cargo; they were very precise and accurate and omitted nothing from their calculations. They could not, however, foresee, and allow for, the added mass of a stowaway.

* * *


The Stardust had received the request from one of the exploration parties stationed on Woden; the six men of the party already being stricken with the fever carried by the green kala midges and their own supply of serum destroyed by the tornado that had torn through their camp. The Stardust had gone through the usual procedure; dropping into normal space to launch the EDS with the fever serum, then vanishing again in hyperspace. Now, an hour later, the gauge was saying there was something more than the small carton of serum in the supplies closet.

He let his eyes rest on the narrow white door of the closet. There, just inside, another man lived and breathed and was beginning to feel assured that discovery of his presence would now be too late for the pilot to alter the situation. It was too late—for the man behind the door it was far later than he thought and in a way he would find terrible to believe.


There could be no alternative. Additional fuel would be used during the hours of deceleration to compensate for the added mass of the stowaway; infinitesimal increments of fuel that would not be missed until the ship had almost reached its destination. Then, at some distance above the ground that might be as near as a thousand feet or as far as tens of thousands of feet, depending upon the mass of ship and cargo and the preceding period of deceleration, the unmissed increments of fuel would make their absence known; the EDS would expend its last drops of fuel with a sputter and go into whistling free fall. Ship and pilot and stowaway would merge together upon impact as a wreckage of metal and plastic, flesh and blood, driven deep into the soil. The stowaway had signed his own death warrant when he concealed himself on the ship; he could not be permitted to take seven others with him.


He looked again at the telltale white hand, then rose to his feet. What he must do would be unpleasant for both of them; the sooner it was over, the better. He stepped across the control room, to stand by the white door.

"Come out!" His command was harsh and abrupt above the murmur of the drive.


It seemed he could hear the whisper of a furtive movement inside the closet, then nothing. He visualized the stowaway cowering closer into one corner, suddenly worried by the possible consequences of his act and his self-assurance evaporating.


"I said out!"


He heard the stowaway move to obey and he waited with his eyes alert on the door and his hand near the blaster at his side.


The door opened and the stowaway stepped through it, smiling. "All right—I give up. Now what?"


It was a girl.


He stared without speaking, his hand dropping away from the blaster and acceptance of what he saw coming like a heavy and unexpected physical blow. The stowaway was not a man—she was a girl in her teens, standing before him in little white gypsy sandals with the top of her brown, curly head hardly higher than his shoulder, with a faint, sweet scent of perfume coming from her and her smiling face tilted up so her eyes could look unknowing and unafraid into his as she waited for his answer.


Now what? Had it been asked in the deep, defiant voice of a man he would have answered it with action, quick and efficient. He would have taken the stowaway's identification disk and ordered him into the air lock. Had the stowaway refused to obey, he would have used the blaster. It would not have taken long; within a minute the body would have been ejected into space—had the stowaway been a man.


He returned to the pilot's chair and motioned her to seat herself on the boxlike bulk of the drive-control units that set against the wall beside him. She obeyed, his silence making the smile fade into the meek and guilty expression of a pup that has been caught in mischief and knows it must be punished.


"You still haven't told me," she said. "I'm guilty, so what happens to me now? Do I pay a fine, or what?"


"What are you doing here?" he asked. "Why did you stow away on this EDS?"


"I wanted to see my brother. He's with the government survey crew on Woden and I haven't seen him for ten years, not since he left Earth to go into government survey work."


"What was your destination on the Stardust?"


"Mimir. I have a position waiting for me there. My brother has been sending money home all the time to us—my father and mother and I—and he paid for a special course in linguistics I was taking. I graduated sooner than expected and I was offered this job on Mimir. I knew it would be almost a year before Gerry's job was done on Woden so he could come on to Mimir and that's why I hid in the closet, there. There was plenty of room for me and I was willing to pay the fine. There were only the two of us kids—Gerry and I—and I haven't seen him for so long, and I didn't want to wait another year when I could see him now, even though I knew I would be breaking some kind of a regulation when I did it."


I knew I would be breaking some kind of a regulation— In a way, she could not be blamed for her ignorance of the law; she was of Earth and had not realized that the laws of the space frontier must, of necessity, be as hard and relentless as the environment that gave them birth. Yet, to protect such as her from the results of their own ignorance of the frontier, there had been a sign over the door that led to the section of the Stardust that housed the EDS; a sign that was plain for all to see and heed:


UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL
KEEP OUT!


"Does your brother know that you took passage on the Stardust for Mimir?"


"Oh, yes. I sent him a spacegram telling him about my graduation and about going to Mimir on the Stardust a month before I left Earth. I already knew Mimir was where he would be stationed in a little over a year. He gets a promotion then, and he'll be based on Mimir and not have to stay out a year at a time on field trips, like he does now."


There were two different survey groups on Woden, and he asked, "What is his name?"


"Cross—Gerry Cross. He's in Group Two—that was the way his address read. Do you know him?"

Group One had requested the serum; Group Two was eight thousand miles away, across the Western Sea.


"No, I've never met him," he said, then turned to the control board and cut the deceleration to a fraction of a gravity; knowing as he did so that it could not avert the ultimate end, yet doing the only thing he could do to prolong that ultimate end. The sensation was like that of the ship suddenly dropping and the girl's involuntary movement of surprise half lifted her from the seat.


"We're going faster now, aren't we?" she asked. "Why are we doing that?"


He told her the truth. "To save fuel for a little while."


"You mean, we don't have very much?"


He delayed the answer he must give her so soon to ask: "How did you manage to stow away?"


"I just sort of walked in when no one was looking my way," she said. "I was practicing my Gelanese on the native girl who does the cleaning in the Ship's Supply office when someone came in with an order for supplies for the survey crew on Woden. I slipped into the closet there after the ship was ready to go and just before you came in. It was an impulse of the moment to stow away, so I could get to see Gerry—and from the way you keep looking at me so grim, I'm not sure it was a very wise impulse.


"But I'll be a model criminal—or do I mean prisoner?" She smiled at him again. "I intended to pay for my keep on top of paying the fine. I can cook and I can patch clothes for everyone and I know how to do all kinds of useful things, even a little bit about nursing."


There was one more question to ask:


"Did you know what the supplies were that the survey crew ordered?"


"Why, no. Equipment they needed in their work, I supposed."


Why couldn't she have been a man with some ulterior motive? A fugitive from justice, hoping to lose himself on a raw new world; an opportunist, seeking transportation to the new colonies where he might find golden fleece for the taking; a crackpot, with a mission—


Perhaps once in his lifetime an EDS pilot would find such a stowaway on his ship; warped men, mean and selfish men, brutal and dangerous men—but never, before, a smiling, blue-eyed girl who was willing to pay her fine and work for her keep that she might see her brother.

* * *


He turned to the board and turned the switch that would signal the Stardust. The call would be futile but he could not, until he had exhausted that one vain hope, seize her and thrust her into the air lock as he would an animal—or a man. The delay, in the meantime, would not be dangerous with the EDS decelerating at fractional gravity.


A voice spoke from the communicator. "Stardust. Identify yourself and proceed."


"Barton, EDS 34G11. Emergency. Give me Commander Delhart."


There was a faint confusion of noises as the request went through the proper channels. The girl was watching him, no longer smiling.


"Are you going to order them to come back after me?" she asked.


The communicator clicked and there was the sound of a distant voice saying, "Commander, the EDS requests—"


"Are they coming back after me?" she asked again. "Won't I get to see my brother, after all?"


"Barton?" The blunt, gruff voice of Commander Delhart came from the communicator. "What's this about an emergency?"


"A stowaway," he answered.


"A stowaway?" There was a slight surprise to the question. "That's rather unusual—but why the 'emergency' call? You discovered him in time so there should be no appreciable danger and I presume you've informed Ship's Records so his nearest relatives can be notified."


"That's why I had to call you, first. The stowaway is still aboard and the circumstances are so different—"


"Different?" the commander interrupted, impatience in his voice. "How can they be different? You know you have a limited supply of fuel; you also know the law, as well as I do: 'Any stowaway discovered in an EDS shall be jettisoned immediately following discovery.'"


There was the sound of a sharply indrawn breath from the girl. "What does he mean?"


"The stowaway is a girl."


"What?"


"She wanted to see her brother. She's only a kid and she didn't know what she was really doing."


"I see." All the curtness was gone from the commander's voice. "So you called me in the hope I could do something?" Without waiting for an answer he went on. "I'm sorry—I can do nothing. This cruiser must maintain its schedule; the life of not one person but the lives of many depend on it. I know how you feel but I'm powerless to help you. I'll have you connected with Ship's Records."

* * *


The communicator faded to a faint rustle of sound and he turned back to the girl. She was leaning forward on the bench, almost rigid, her eyes fixed wide and frightened.


"What did he mean, to go through with it? To jettison me. . . . to go through with it—what did he mean? Not the way it sounded. . . . he couldn't have. What did he mean. . . . what did he really mean?"


Her time was too short for the comfort of a lie to be more than a cruelly fleeting delusion.


"He meant it the way it sounded."


"No!" She recoiled from him as though he had struck her, one hand half upraised as though to fend him off and stark unwillingness to believe in her eyes.


"It will have to be."


"No! You're joking—you're insane! You can't mean it!"


"I'm sorry." He spoke slowly to her, gently. "I should have told you before—I should have, but I had to do what I could first; I had to call the Stardust. You heard what the commander said."


"But you can't—if you make me leave the ship, I'll die."


"I know."


She searched his face and the unwillingness to believe left her eyes, giving way slowly to a look of dazed terror.


"You—know?" She spoke the words far apart, numb and wonderingly.


"I know. It has to be like that."


"You mean it—you really mean it." She sagged back against the wall, small and limp like a little rag doll and all the protesting and disbelief gone. "You're going to do it—you're going to make me die?"


"I'm sorry," he said again. "You'll never know how sorry I am. It has to be that way and no human in the universe can change it."


"You're going to make me die and I didn't do anything to die for—I didn't do anything—"


He sighed, deep and weary. "I know you didn't, child. I know you didn't—"


"EDS." The communicator rapped brisk and metallic. "This is Ship's Records. Give us all information on subject's identification disk."


He got out of his chair to stand over her. She clutched the edge of the seat, her upturned face white under the brown hair and the lipstick standing out like a blood-red cupid's bow.


"Now?"


"I want your identification disk," he said.

She released the edge of the seat and fumbled at the chain that suspended the plastic disk from her neck with fingers that were trembling and awkward. He reached down and unfastened the clasp for her, then returned with the disk to his chair.


"Here's your data, Records: Identification Number T837—"


"One moment," Records interrupted. "This is to be filed on the gray card, of course?"


"Yes."


"And the time of the execution?"


"I'll tell you later."


"Later? This is highly irregular; the time of the subject's death is required before—"


He kept the thickness out of his voice with an effort. "Then we'll do it in a highly irregular manner—you'll hear the disk read, first. The subject is a girl and she's listening to everything that's said. Are you capable of understanding that?"


There was a brief, almost shocked, silence, then Records said meekly: "Sorry. Go ahead."


He began to read the disk, reading it slowly to delay the inevitable for as long as possible, trying to help her by giving her what little time he could to recover from her first terror and let it resolve into the calm of acceptance and resignation.


"Number T8374 dash Y54. Name: Marilyn Lee Cross. Sex: Female. Born: July 7, 2160. She was only eighteen. Height: 5-3. Weight: 110. Such a slight weight, yet enough to add fatally to the mass of the shell-thin bubble that was an EDS. Hair: Brown. Eyes: Blue. Complexion: Light. Blood Type: O. Irrelevant data. Destination: Port City, Mimir. Invalid data—"


He finished and said, "I'll call you later," then turned once again to the girl. She was huddled back against the wall, watching him with a look of numb and wondering fascination.

* * *


"They're waiting for you to kill me, aren't they? They want me dead, don't they? You and everybody on the cruiser wants me dead, don't you?" Then the numbness broke and her voice was that of a frightened and bewildered child. "Everybody wants me dead and I didn't do anything. I didn't hurt anyone—I only wanted to see my brother."


"It's not the way you think—it isn't that way, at all," he said. "Nobody wants it this way; nobody would ever let it be this way if it was humanly possible to change it."


"Then why is it! I don't understand. Why is it?"


"This ship is carrying kala fever serum to Group One on Woden. Their own supply was destroyed by a tornado. Group Two—the crew your brother is in—is eight thousand miles away across the Western Sea and their helicopters can't cross it to help Group One. The fever is invariably fatal unless the serum can be had in time, and the six men in Group One will die unless this ship reaches them on schedule. These little ships are always given barely enough fuel to reach their destination and if you stay aboard your added weight will cause it to use up all its fuel before it reaches the ground. It will crash, then, and you and I will die and so will the six men waiting for the fever serum."


It was a full minute before she spoke, and as she considered his words the expression of numbness left her eyes.


"Is that it?" she asked at last. "Just that the ship doesn't have enough fuel?"


"Yes."


"I can go alone or I can take seven others with me—is that the way it is?"


"That's the way it is."


"And nobody wants me to have to die?"


"Nobody."


"Then maybe—Are you sure nothing can be done about it? Wouldn't people help me if they could?"


"Everyone would like to help you but there is nothing anyone can do. I did the only thing I could do when I called the Stardust."


"And it won't come back—but there might be other cruisers, mightn't there? Isn't there any hope at all that there might be someone, somewhere, who could do something to help me?"


She was leaning forward a little in her eagerness as she waited for his answer.


"No."


The word was like the drop of a cold stone and she again leaned back against the wall, the hope and eagerness leaving her face. "You're sure—you know you're sure?"


"I'm sure. There are no other cruisers within forty light-years; there is nothing and no one to change things."

She dropped her gaze to her lap and began twisting a pleat of her skirt between her fingers, saying no more as her mind began to adapt itself to the grim knowledge.

* * *


It was better so; with the going of all hope would go the fear; with the going of all hope would come resignation. She needed time and she could have so little of it. How much?


The EDS's were not equipped with hull-cooling units; their speed had to be reduced to a moderate level before entering the atmosphere. They were decelerating at .10 gravity; approaching their destination at a far higher speed than the computers had calculated on. The Stardust had been quite near Woden when she launched the EDS; their present velocity was putting them nearer by the second. There would be a critical point, soon to be reached, when he would have to resume deceleration. When he did so the girl's weight would be multiplied by the gravities of deceleration, would become, suddenly, a factor of paramount importance; the factor the computers had been ignorant of when they determined the amount of fuel the EDS should have. She would have to go when deceleration began; it could be no other way. When would that be—how long could he let her stay?


"How long can I stay?"


He winced involuntarily from the words that were so like an echo of his own thoughts. How long? He didn't know; he would have to ask the ship's computers. Each EDS was given a meager surplus of fuel to compensate for unfavorable conditions within the atmosphere and relatively little fuel was being consumed for the time being. The memory banks of the computers would still contain all data pertaining to the course set for the EDS; such data would not be erased until the EDS reached its destination. He had only to give the computers the new data; the girl's weight and the exact time at which he had reduced the deceleration to .10.


"Barton." Commander Delhart's voice came abruptly from the communicator, as he opened his mouth to call the Stardust. "A check with Records shows me you haven't completed your report. Did you reduce the deceleration?"


So the commander knew what he was trying to do.


"I'm decelerating at point ten," he answered. "I cut the deceleration at seventeen fifty and the weight is a hundred and ten. I would like to stay at point ten as long as the computers say I can. Will you give them the question?"

It was contrary to regulations for an EDS pilot to make any changes in the course or degree of deceleration the computers had set for him but the commander made no mention of the violation, neither did he ask the reason for it. It was not necessary for him to ask; he had not become commander of an interstellar cruiser without both intelligence and an understanding of human nature. He said only: "I'll have that given the computers."


The communicator fell silent and he and the girl waited, neither of them speaking. They would not have to wait long; the computers would give the answer within moments of the asking. The new factors would be fed into the steel maw of the first bank and the electrical impulses would go through the complex circuits. Here and there a relay might click, a tiny cog turn over, but it would be essentially the electrical impulses that found the answer; formless, mindless, invisible, determining with utter precision how long the pale girl beside him might live. Then a second steel maw would spit out the answer.


The chronometer on the instrument board read 18:10 when the commander spoke again.


"You will resume deceleration at nineteen ten."


She looked toward the chronometer, then quickly away from it. "Is that when. . . . when I go?" she asked. He nodded and she dropped her eyes to her lap again.


"I'll have the course corrections given you," the commander said. "Ordinarily I would never permit anything like this but I understand your position. There is nothing I can do, other than what I've just done, and you will not deviate from these new instructions. You will complete your report at nineteen ten. Now—here are the course corrections."


The voice of some unknown technician read them to him and he wrote them down on the pad clipped to the edge of the control board. There would, he saw, be periods of deceleration when he neared the atmosphere when the deceleration would be five gravities—and at five gravities, one hundred and ten pounds would become five hundred fifty pounds.


The technician finished and he terminated the contact with a brief acknowledgement. Then, hesitating a moment, he reached out and shut off the communicator. It was 18:13 and he would have nothing to report until 19:10. In the meantime, it somehow seemed indecent to permit others to hear what she might say in her last hour.

* * *


He began to check the instrument readings, going over them with unnecessary slowness. She would have to accept the circumstances and there was nothing he could do to help her into acceptance; words of sympathy would only delay it.


It was 18:20 when she stirred from her motionlessness and spoke.


"So that's the way it has to be with me?"


He swung around to face her. "You understand now, don't you? No one would ever let it be like this if it could be changed."


"I understand," she said. Some of the color had returned to her face and the lipstick no longer stood out so vividly red. "There isn't enough fuel for me to stay; when I hid on this ship I got into something I didn't know anything about and now I have to pay for it."


She had violated a man-made law that said KEEP OUT but the penalty was not of men's making or desire and it was a penalty men could not revoke. A physical law had decreed: h amount of fuel will power an EDS with a mass of m safely to its destination; and a second physical law had decreed: h amount of fuel will not power an EDS with a mass of m plus x safely to its destination.


EDS's obeyed only physical laws and no amount of human sympathy for her could alter the second law.


"But I'm afraid. I don't want to die—not now. I want to live and nobody is doing anything to help me; everybody is letting me go ahead and acting just like nothing was going to happen to me. I'm going to die and nobody cares."


"We all do," he said. "I do and the commander does and the clerk in Ship's Records; we all care and each of us did what little he could to help you. It wasn't enough—it was almost nothing—but it was all we could do."


"Not enough fuel—I can understand that," she said, as though she had not heard his own words. "But to have to die for it. Me, alone—"


How hard it must be for her to accept the fact. She had never known danger of death; had never known the environments where the lives of men could be as fragile and fleeting as sea foam tossed against a rocky shore. She belonged on gentle Earth, in that secure and peaceful society where she could be young and gay and laughing with the others of her kind; where life was precious and well-guarded and there was always the assurance that tomorrow would come. She belonged in that world of soft winds and warm suns, music and moonlight and gracious manners and not on the hard, bleak frontier.


"How did it happen to me, so terribly quickly? An hour ago I was on the Stardust, going to Mimir. Now the Stardust is going on without me and I'm going to die and I'll never see Gerry and Mama and Daddy again—I'll never see anything again."


He hesitated, wondering how he could explain it to her so she would really understand and not feel she had, somehow, been the victim of a reasonlessly cruel injustice. She did not know what the frontier was like; she thought in terms of safe-and-secure Earth. Pretty girls were not jettisoned on Earth; there was a law against it. On Earth her plight would have filled the newscasts and a fast black Patrol ship would have been racing to her rescue. Everyone, everywhere, would have known of Marilyn Lee Cross and no effort would have been spared to save her life. But this was not Earth and there were no Patrol ships; only the Stardust, leaving them behind at many times the speed of light. There was no one to help her, there would be no Marilyn Lee Cross smiling from the newscasts tomorrow. Marilyn Lee Cross would be but a poignant memory for an EDS pilot and a name on a gray card in Ship's Records.


"It's different here; it's not like back on Earth," he said. "It isn't that no one cares; it's that no one can do anything to help. The frontier is big and here along its rim the colonies and exploration parties are scattered so thin and far between. On Woden, for example, there are only sixteen men—sixteen men on an entire world. The exploration parties, the survey crews, the little first-colonies—they're all fighting alien environments, trying to make a way for those who will follow after. The environments fight back and those who go first usually make mistakes only once. There is no margin of safety along the rim of the frontier; there can't be until the way is made for the others who will come later, until the new worlds are tamed and settled. Until then men will have to pay the penalty for making mistakes with no one to help them because there is no one to help them."


"I was going to Mimir," she said. "I didn't know about the frontier; I was only going to Mimir and it's safe."


"Mimir is safe but you left the cruiser that was taking you there."


She was silent for a little while. "It was all so wonderful at first; there was plenty of room for me on this ship and I would be seeing Gerry so soon. . . . I didn't know about the fuel, didn't know what would happen to me—"


Her words trailed away and he turned his attention to the viewscreen, not wanting to stare at her as she fought her way through the black horror of fear toward the calm gray of acceptance.

* * *


Woden was a ball, enshrouded in the blue haze of its atmosphere, swimming in space against the background of star-sprinkled dead blackness. The great mass of Manning's Continent sprawled like a gigantic hourglass in the Eastern Sea with the western half of the Eastern Continent still visible. There was a thin line of shadow along the right-hand edge of the globe and the Eastern Continent was disappearing into it as the planet turned on its axis. An hour before the entire continent had been in view, now a thousand miles of it had gone into the thin edge of shadow and around to the night that lay on the other side of the world. The dark blue spot that was Lotus Lake was approaching the shadow. It was somewhere near the southern edge of the lake that Group Two had their camp. It would be night there, soon, and quick behind the coming of night the rotation of Woden on its axis would put Group Two beyond the reach of the ship's radio.


He would have to tell her before it was too late for her to talk to her brother. In a way, it would be better for both of them should they not do so but it was not for him to decide. To each of them the last words would be something to hold and cherish, something that would cut like the blade of a knife yet would be infinitely precious to remember, she for her own brief moments to live and he for the rest of his life.


He held down the button that would flash the grid lines on the viewscreen and used the known diameter of the planet to estimate the distance the southern tip of Lotus Lake had yet to go until it passed beyond radio range. It was approximately five hundred miles. Five hundred miles; thirty minutes—and the chronometer read 18:30. Allowing for error in estimating, it could not be later than 19:05 that the turning of Woden would cut off her brother's voice.


The first border of the Western Continent was already in sight along the left side of the world. Four thousand miles across it lay the shore of the Western Sea and the Camp of Group One. It had been in the Western Sea that the tornado had originated, to strike with such fury at the camp and destroy half their prefabricated buildings, including the one that housed the medical supplies. Two days before the tornado had not existed; it had been no more than great gentle masses of air out over the calm Western Sea. Group One had gone about their routine survey work, unaware of the meeting of the air masses out at sea, unaware of the force the union was spawning. It had struck their camp without warning; a thundering, roaring destruction that sought to annihilate all that lay before it. It had passed on, leaving the wreckage in its wake. It had destroyed the labor of months and had doomed six men to die and then, as though its task was accomplished, it once more began to resolve into gentle masses of air. But for all its deadliness, it had destroyed with neither malice nor intent. It had been a blind and mindless force, obeying the laws of nature, and it would have followed the same course with the same fury had

men never existed.


Existence required Order and there was order; the laws of nature, irrevocable and immutable. Men could learn to use them but men could not change them. The circumference of a circle was always pi times the diameter and no science of Man would ever make it otherwise. The combination of chemical A with chemical B under condition C invariably produced reaction D. The law of gravitation was a rigid equation and it made no distinction between the fall of a leaf and the ponderous circling of a binary star system. The nuclear conversion process powered the cruisers that carried men to the stars; the same process in the form of a nova would destroy a world with equal efficiency. The laws were, and the universe moved in obedience to them. Along the frontier were arrayed all the forces of nature and sometimes they destroyed those who were fighting their way outward from Earth. The men of the frontier had long ago learned the bitter futility of cursing the forces that would destroy them for the forces were blind and deaf; the futility of looking to the heavens for mercy, for the stars of the galaxy swung in their long, long sweep of two hundred million years, as inexorably controlled as they by the laws that knew neither hatred nor compassion.


The men of the frontier knew—but how was a girl from Earth to fully understand? H amount of fuel will not power an EDS with a mass of m plus x safely to its destination. To himself and her brother and parents she was a sweet-faced girl in her teens; to the laws of nature she was x, the unwanted factor in a cold equation.

* * *


She stirred again on the seat. "Could I write a letter? I want to write to Mama and Daddy and I'd like to talk to Gerry. Could you let me talk to him over your radio there?"


"I'll try to get him," he said.


He switched on the normal-space transmitter and pressed the signal button. Someone answered the buzzer almost immediately.


"Hello. How's it going with you fellows now—is the EDS on its way?"


"This isn't Group One; this is the EDS," he said. "Is Gerry Cross there?"


"Gerry? He and two others went out in the helicopter this morning and aren't back yet. It's almost sundown, though, and he ought to be back right away—in less than an hour at the most."


"Can you connect me through to the radio in his 'copter?"


"Huh-uh. It's been out of commission for two months—some printed circuits went haywire and we can't get any more until the next cruiser stops by. Is it something important—bad news for him, or something?"


"Yes—it's very important. When he comes in get him to the transmitter as soon as you possibly can."


"I'll do that; I'll have one of the boys waiting at the field with a truck. Is there anything else I can do?"


"No, I guess that's all. Get him there as soon as you can and signal me."


He turned the volume to an inaudible minimum, an act that would not affect the functioning of the signal buzzer, and unclipped the pad of paper from the control board. He tore off the sheet containing his flight instructions and handed the pad to her, together with pencil.


"I'd better write to Gerry, too," she said as she took them. "He might not get back to camp in time."


She began to write, her fingers still clumsy and uncertain in the way they handled the pencil and the top of it trembling a little as she poised it between words. He turned back to the viewscreen, to stare at it without seeing it.


She was a lonely little child, trying to say her last good-bye, and she would lay out her heart to them. She would tell them how much she loved them and she would tell them to not feel badly about it, that it was only something that must happen eventually to everyone and she was not afraid. The last would be a lie and it would be there to read between the sprawling, uneven lines; a valiant little lie that would make the hurt all the greater for them.

Her brother was of the frontier and he would understand. He would not hate the EDS pilot for doing nothing to prevent her going; he would know there had been nothing the pilot could do. He would understand, though the understanding would not soften the shock and pain when he learned his sister was gone. But the others, her father and mother—they would not understand. They were of Earth and they would think in the manner of those who had never lived where the safety margin of life was a thin, thin line—and sometimes not at all. What would they think of the faceless, unknown pilot who had sent her to her death?


They would hate him with cold and terrible intensity but it really didn't matter. He would never see them, never know them. He would have only the memories to remind him; only the nights to fear, when a blue-eyed girl in gypsy sandals would come in his dreams to die again—

* * *


He scowled at the viewscreen and tried to force his thoughts into less emotional channels. There was nothing he could do to help her. She had unknowingly subjected herself to the penalty of a law that recognized neither innocence nor youth nor beauty, that was incapable of sympathy or leniency. Regret was illogical—and yet, could knowing it to be illogical ever keep it away?


She stopped occasionally, as though trying to find the right words to tell them what she wanted them to know, then the pencil would resume its whispering to the paper. It was 18:37 when she folded the letter in a square and wrote a name on it. She began writing another, twice looking up at the chronometer as though she feared the black hand might reach its rendezvous before she had finished. It was 18:45 when she folded it as she had done the first letter and wrote a name and address on it.


She held the letters out to him. "Will you take care of these and see that they're enveloped and mailed?"


"Of course." He took them from her hand and placed them in a pocket of his gray uniform shirt.


"These can't be sent off until the next cruiser stops by and the Stardust will have long since told them about me, won't it?" she asked. He nodded and she went on, "That makes the letters not important in one way but in another way they're very important—to me, and to them."


"I know. I understand, and I'll take care of them."


She glanced at the chronometer, then back at him. "It seems to move faster all the time, doesn't it?"


He said nothing, unable to think of anything to say, and she asked, "Do you think Gerry will come back to camp in time?"


"I think so. They said he should be in right away."


She began to roll the pencil back and forth between her palms. "I hope he does. I feel sick and scared and I want to hear his voice again and maybe I won't feel so alone. I'm a coward and I can't help it."


"No," he said, "you're not a coward. You're afraid, but you're not a coward."


"Is there a difference?"


He nodded. "A lot of difference."


"I feel so alone. I never did feel like this before; like I was all by myself and there was nobody to care what happened to me. Always, before, there was Mama and Daddy there and my friends around me. I had lots of friends, and they had a going-away party for me the night before I left."

Friends and music and laughter for her to remember—and on the viewscreen Lotus Lake was going into the shadow.


"Is it the same with Gerry?" she asked. "I mean, if he should make a mistake, would he have to die for it, all alone and with no one to help him?"


"It's the same with all along the frontier; it will always be like that so long as there is a frontier."


"Gerry didn't tell us. He said the pay was good and he sent money home all the time because Daddy's little shop just brought in a bare living but he didn't tell us it was like this."


"He didn't tell you his work was dangerous?"


"Well—yes. He mentioned that, but we didn't understand. I always thought danger along the frontier was something that was a lot of fun; an exciting adventure, like in the three-D shows." A wan smile touched her face for a moment. "Only it's not, is it? It's not the same at all, because when it's real you can't go home after the show is over."


"No," he said. "No, you can't."


Her glance flicked from the chronometer to the door of the air lock then down to the pad and pencil she still held. She shifted her position slightly to lay them on the bench beside her, moving one foot out a little. For the first time he saw that she was not wearing Vegan gypsy sandals but only cheap imitations; the expensive Vegan leather was some kind of grained plastic, the silver buckle was gilded iron, the jewels were colored glass. Daddy's little shop just brought in a bare living— She must have left college in her second year, to take the course in linguistics that would enable her to make her own way and help her brother provide for her parents, earning what she could by part-time work after classes were over. Her personal possessions on the Stardust would be taken back to her parents—they would neither be of much value nor occupy much storage space on the return voyage.

* * *


"Isn't it—" She stopped, and he looked at her questioningly. "Isn't it cold in here?" she asked, almost apologetically. "Doesn't it seem cold to you?"


"Why, yes," he said. He saw by the main temperature gauge that the room was at precisely normal temperature.


"Yes, it's colder than it should be."


"I wish Gerry would get back before it's too late. Do you really think he will, and you didn't just say so to make me feel better?"


"I think he will—they said he would be in pretty soon." On the viewscreen Lotus Lake had gone into the shadow but for the thin blue line of its western edge and it was apparent he had overestimated the time she would have in which to talk to her brother. Reluctantly, he said to her, "His camp will be out of radio range in a few minutes; he's on that part of Woden that's in the shadow"—he indicated the viewscreen—"and the turning of Woden will put him beyond contact. There may not be much time left when he comes in—not much time to talk to him before he fades out. I wish I could do something about it—I would call him right now if I could."


"Not even as much time as I will have to stay?"


"I'm afraid not."


"Then—" She straightened and looked toward the air lock with pale resolution. "Then I'll go when Gerry passes beyond range. I won't wait any longer after that—I won't have anything to wait for."


Again there was nothing he could say.


"Maybe I shouldn't wait at all. Maybe I'm selfish—maybe it would be better for Gerry if you just told him about it afterward."


There was an unconscious pleading for denial in the way she spoke and he said, "He wouldn't want you to do that, to not wait for him."


"It's already coming dark where he is, isn't it? There will be all the long night before him, and Mama and Daddy don't know yet that I won't ever be coming back like I promised them I would. I've caused everyone I love to be hurt, haven't I? I didn't want to—I didn't intend to."


"It wasn't your fault," he said. "It wasn't your fault. They'll know that. They'll understand."


"At first I was so afraid to die that I was a coward and thought only of myself. Now, I see how selfish I was. The terrible thing about dying like this is not that I'll be gone but that I'll never see them again; never be able to tell them that I didn't take them for granted; never be able to tell them I knew of the sacrifices they made to make my life happier, and I knew all the things they did for me and that I loved them so much more than I ever told them. I've never told them any of those things. You don't tell them such things when you're young and your life is all before you—you're afraid of sounding sentimental and silly.


"But it's so different when you have to die—you wish you had told them while you could and you wish you could tell them you're sorry for all the little mean things you ever did or said to them. You wish you could tell them that you didn't really mean to ever hurt their feelings and for them to only remember that you always loved them far more than you ever let them know."


"You don't have to tell them that," he said. "They will know—they've always known it."


"Are you sure?" she asked. "How can you be sure? My people are strangers to you."


"Wherever you go, human nature and human hearts are the same."


"And they will know what I want them to know—that I love them?"


"They've always known it, in a way far better than you could ever put in words for them."


"I keep remembering the things they did for me, and it's the little things they did that seem to be the most important to me, now. Like Gerry—he sent me a bracelet of fire-rubies on my sixteenth birthday. It was beautiful—it must have cost him a month's pay. Yet, I remember him more for what he did the night my kitten got run over in the street. I was only six years old and he held me in his arms and wiped away my tears and told me not to cry, that Flossy was gone for just a little while, for just long enough to get herself a new fur coat and she would be on the foot of my bed the very next morning. I believed him and quit crying and went to sleep dreaming about my kitten coming back. When I woke up the next morning, there was Flossy on the foot of my bed in a brand-new white fur coat, just like he had said she would be.


"It wasn't until a long time later that Mama told me Gerry had got the pet-shop owner out of bed at four in the morning and, when the man got mad about it, Gerry told him he was either going to go down and sell him the white kitten right then or he'd break his neck."


"It's always the little things you remember people by; all the little things they did because they wanted to do them for you. You've done the same for Gerry and your father and mother; all kinds of things that you've forgotten about but that they will never forget."


"I hope I have. I would like for them to remember me like that."


"They will."


"I wish—" She swallowed. "The way I'll die—I wish they wouldn't ever think of that. I've read how people look who die in space—their insides all ruptured and exploded and their lungs out between their teeth and then, a few seconds later, they're all dry and shapeless and horribly ugly. I don't want them to ever think of me as something dead and horrible, like that."


"You're their own, their child and their sister. They could never think of you other than the way you would want them to; the way you looked the last time they saw you."


"I'm still afraid," she said. "I can't help it, but I don't want Gerry to know it. If he gets back in time, I'm going to act like I'm not afraid at all and—"


The signal buzzer interrupted her, quick and imperative.


"Gerry!" She came to her feet. "It's Gerry, now!"

* * *


He spun the volume control knob and asked: "Gerry Cross?"


"Yes," her brother answered, an undertone of tenseness to his reply. "The bad news—what is it?"


She answered for him, standing close behind him and leaning down a little toward the communicator, her hand resting small and cold on his shoulder.


"Hello, Gerry." There was only a faint quaver to betray the careful casualness of her voice. "I wanted to see you—"


"Marilyn!" There was sudden and terrible apprehension in the way he spoke her name. "What are you doing on that EDS?"


"I wanted to see you," she said again. "I wanted to see you, so I hid on this ship—"


"You hid on it?"


"I'm a stowaway. . . . I didn't know what it would mean—"


"Marilyn!" It was the cry of a man who calls hopeless and desperate to someone already and forever gone from him. "What have you done?"


"I. . . . it's not—" Then her own composure broke and the cold little hand gripped his shoulder convulsively.


"Don't, Gerry—I only wanted to see you; I didn't intend to hurt you. Please, Gerry, don't feel like that—"

Something warm and wet splashed on his wrist and he slid out of the chair, to help her into it and swing the microphone down to her own level.


"Don't feel like that—Don't let me go knowing you feel like that—"


The sob she had tried to hold back choked in her throat and her brother spoke to her. "Don't cry, Marilyn." His voice was suddenly deep and infinitely gentle, with all the pain held out of it. "Don't cry, sis—you mustn't do that. It's all right, honey—everything is all right."


"I—" Her lower lip quivered and she bit into it. "I didn't want you to feel that way—I just wanted us to say good-by because I have to go in a minute."


"Sure—sure. That's the way it will be, sis. I didn't mean to sound the way I did." Then his voice changed to a tone of quick and urgent demand. "EDS—have you called the Stardust? Did you check with the computers?"


"I called the Stardust almost an hour ago. It can't turn back, there are no other cruisers within forty light-years, and there isn't enough fuel."


"Are you sure that the computers had the correct data—sure of everything?"


"Yes—do you think I could ever let it happen if I wasn't sure? I did everything I could do. If there was anything at all I could do now, I would do it."


"He tried to help me, Gerry." Her lower lip was no longer trembling and the short sleeves of her blouse were wet where she had dried her tears. "No one can help me and I'm not going to cry any more and everything will be all right with you and Daddy and Mama, won't it?"


"Sure—sure it will. We'll make out fine."


Her brother's words were beginning to come in more faintly and he turned the volume control to maximum. "He's going out of range," he said to her. "He'll be gone within another minute."


"You're fading out, Gerry," she said. "You're going out of range. I wanted to tell you—but I can't, now. We must say good-by so soon—but maybe I'll see you again. Maybe I'll come to you in your dreams with my hair in braids and crying because the kitten in my arms is dead; maybe I'll be the touch of a breeze that whispers to you as it goes by; maybe I'll be one of those gold-winged larks you told me about, singing my silly head off to you; maybe, at times, I'll be nothing you can see but you will know I'm there beside you. Think of me like that, Gerry; always like that and not—the other way."


Dimmed to a whisper by the turning of Woden, the answer came back:


"Always like that, Marilyn—always like that and never any other way."


"Our time is up, Gerry—I have to go, now. Good—" Her voice broke in mid-word and her mouth tried to twist into crying. She pressed her hand hard against it and when she spoke again the words came clear and true:


"Good-by, Gerry."


Faint and ineffably poignant and tender, the last words came from the cold metal of the communicator:

"Good-by, little sister—"

* * *


She sat motionless in the hush that followed, as though listening to the shadow-echoes of the words as they died away, then she turned away from the communicator, toward the air lock, and he pulled down the black lever beside him. The inner door of the air lock slid swiftly open, to reveal the bare little cell that was waiting for her, and she walked to it.


She walked with her head up and the brown curls brushing her shoulders, with the white sandals stepping as sure and steady as the fractional gravity would permit and the gilded buckles twinkling with little lights of blue and red and crystal. He let her walk alone and made no move to help her, knowing she would not want it that way. She stepped into the air lock and turned to face him, only the pulse in her throat to betray the wild beating of her heart.


"I'm ready," she said.


He pushed the lever up and the door slid its quick barrier between them, enclosing her in black and utter darkness for her last moments of life. It clicked as it locked in place and he jerked down the red lever. There was a slight waver to the ship as the air gushed from the lock, a vibration to the wall as though something had bumped the outer door in passing, then there was nothing and the ship was dropping true and steady again. He shoved the red lever back to close the door on the empty air lock and turned away, to walk to the pilot's chair with the slow steps of a man old and weary.


Back in the pilot's chair he pressed the signal button of the normal-space transmitter. There was no response; he had expected none. Her brother would have to wait through the night until the turning of Woden permitted contact through Group One.


It was not yet time to resume deceleration and he waited while the ship dropped endlessly downward with him and the drives purred softly. He saw that the white hand of the supplies closet temperature gauge was on zero. A cold equation had been balanced and he was alone on the ship. Something shapeless and ugly was hurrying ahead of him, going to Woden where its brother was waiting through the night, but the empty ship still lived for a little while with the presence of the girl who had not known about the forces that killed with neither hatred nor malice. It seemed, almost, that she still sat small and bewildered and frightened on the metal box beside him, her words echoing hauntingly clear in the void she had left behind her:


I didn't do anything to die for—I didn't do anything—