Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday, November 19 2009

I cannot believe November is almost over!! There are Christmas decorations everywhere... I would know, I helped set up for it at work a couple days ago. I don't mind the festive mood; at least not until the Holiday music starts to play. Christmas music is okay two, three weeks before the special day. Playing it before Thanksgiving means the Holidays change into HELLidays.



I've also just committed myself to the fact that my desk will always, always be skanklike. How I get any work done on it is a mystery to me (and to the rest of humanity).





Lately, I've been watching online episodes of How I Met Your Mother and I love it. I realize how much I've been missing out on wonderful shows.

Now, book lovers, it might come to you as a surprise that I've been a very deprived child and growing individual. I'm not familiar with hit bands like The Beatles or singers such as Frank Sinatra, and I am not remotely familiar to any of the classic movie stars: Audrey Hepburn (though I have seen some stuff - and have loved!), Gregory Peck, Katherine something or another...

Heck, I didn't even know Jimi Hendrix was black until... well.. that's really a story for another day. (LOL!)

But in order to culture myself, I've signed up for this really wonderful thing called NETFLIX.

Really, the moral of that random tidbit about myself was to ask you for your recommendations (and you know how much I love recs!).

What are movies that you think I must see?

So far on my Queue list, I have:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Fight Club
Little Miss Sunshine
La Femme Nikita Season 1
Mad Men season 1
Julie & Julia (when it comes out)

and classics like:
An Affair to Remember
Singin' in the Rain
West Side Story
It's a Wonderful life
The Godfather
Scarface

and wonderful things like:
I love Lucy Season 1 (love love love!)


What other movies must I watch?

Elizabeth Hoyt; To Desire a Devil

To Desire a Devil: B-
Beatrice Corning & Reynaud St. Aubyn
Legend of Four Soldiers, book 4 (last)

NOTHING IS MORE INTOXICATING—

Reynaud St. Aubyn has spent the last seven years in hellish captivity. Now half mad with fever he bursts into his ancestral home and demands his due. Can this wild-looking man truly be the last earl’s heir, thought murdered by Indians years ago?

OR DANGEROUS—

Beatrice Corning, the niece of the present earl, is a proper English miss. But she has a secret: No real man has ever excited her more than the handsome youth in the portrait in her uncle’s home. Suddenly, that very man is here, in the flesh—and luring her into his bed.

THAN SURRENDERING TO A DEVIL.

Only Beatrice can see past Reynaud’s savagery to the noble man inside. For his part, Reynaud is drawn to this lovely lady, even as he is suspicious of her loyalty to her uncle. But can Beatrice’s love tame a man who will stop at nothing to regain his title—even if it means sacrificing her innocence? (author's website)


To Desire a Devil is the last of Ms. Hoyt's Legend of the Four Soldiers series. Appropriately, the mystery as to who betrayed the English soldiers is finally solved in an anti-climactic end. At the end of book 3 (To Beguile a Beast), the former soldiers (and the men who were betrayed) had a very telling clue to the identity of the traitor. *HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER* We discover that the traitor is a man with a French mother.

Fingers are pointed at Reynaud St. Aubyn, but that doesn't make much of a difference since Reynaud had died in the battle.

Much to everyone's surprise (and horror?), a wild, dangerous man bursts into Beatrice Corning and her Uncle Reggie's (now, the Earl of Blanchard) room. This man claims to be Reynaud and the true Earl of Blanchard.

Beatrice, who has admired Reynaud (from a painted picture of him) for years, is strangely attracted to him, knowing that if what "Reynaud" claims is true, then her Uncle would be stripped of his title and home. Uncle Reggie has cared for her since she was young and she cannot help but to be loyal to him, however, she cannot resist Reynaud...


Readers, I'm not going to lie: I was hoping for more from this book. I was a little annoyed at Beatrice and Reynaud, a little bored by the mystery (though I had started the book really wanting to know who the traitor was), and overall, a little unsatisfied.

Beatrice is a lovely, proper English lady with a romantic nature. The kind of English girl who wants a boy to love her - to really, passionately love her. She imagines Reynaud St. Aubyn is this type of a man. When she meets him, she's intrigued and vexed by his stubbornness and his change in ...everything. Reynaud is no longer the mischievous carefree boy; instead, he is war-torn, has been tortured, and has come to know one of the harsher realities of life.

The problem I had with Beatrice was her lack of conviction in what she wanted, or needed. Or maybe it was just the way Ms. Hoyt wrote about Beatrice and her actions.

Sexual tension has been leading up.... something bad happens and Beatrice is shattered. She is mourning, and right then!, Reynaud decides he wants her. You know, wanting in the bedroom-tango, hanky-panky type of way. (Jerk!)

Beatrice, while she is grieving, realizes life is short and she needs to grab it for all its worth... and even though she is saddened by the fact that Reynaud doesn't love her (she doesn't even know if he likes her much), she goes, YES! Sleep with me because I'm sad and lonely and emotionally overwhelmed. It doesn't matter that I've been wanting to do this with a really special person, one who loves me because Reynaud, I think you're smokin' hot!

...erm...

Okay, let's, for the sake of well... giving Beatrice a chance, let's say she really needed to feel alive that night and being with Reynaud was the only way she was going to feel this. Fine.

She does it again the next night.

Woman!
Have you no dignity?!

More than anything, it comes down to control. Beatrice couldn't control herself, couldn't say no to Reynaud (didn't want to say no to Reynaud even though she did. You know what I mean..) despite all else.

I hate that.
I hate it when men or women are portrayed to have no control over one's actions. You can control yourself, no matter how hot and Brad Pitty he is. It's a good thing Reynaud ended up loving her by the end of the book (LOL, though did we ever doubt it...?).

Besides from that major beef, I'd say that the ending was a little lackluster. Not that the book was really read for the mystery, but since the mystery spanned four books, it should have ended with a bigger pizzazz...

Bottom line: read but don't be expecting to experience the greatest love story.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

cover complaint

I've made my way through the Julia Grey Mystery series by Deanna Raybourn. Though these books are thoroughly enjoyable, I have a gripe I'd like to share:

Who in the world decided it was all right for the covers to go from awesome to skanktastic? (By skanktastic I mean "lame." Why I don't simply write "lame".. that, readers, is a question for another day.)

Look below for references.













Books 1 & 2 are awesome. Classy and interesting.

And the third... is... what? Some dude (Brisbane?) clutching some dudette (Julia Grey??).
It might be because the third book came out not as a mass paperback but as a Trade Paperback, those blasted books with the awkward heights. But why, oh why, did the publishers condone such monstrosity on the covers?

These books are shelved in the MYSTERY section of the bookstores, not in the romance section, though there is a continuous love story in the books. So why is there a bosom-clutching cover on the last book? It doesn't even match the first two covers!

Gah!

Dumb marketers trying to target the romance-reading audience, I curse you!


Grumbling unhappily,
Alice


PS:
Readers, I've figured out how to follow blogs! Hooray! I know, it only took me two years and something...

Furthermore, Sally, I'm feeling a little left out that I'm not invited to your blog. *ahem*..*nudge*... *cough*

Also, my little CURRENTLY READING widget is working thanks to Namoi and Princess April. Hooray for DNs!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Elizabeth Hoyt: To Beguile a Beast

Happy Wednesday and Happy Veterans' Day, readers!



good morning kitty by luciana on WeGIF

I don't like cats or kittens much, but the one above is so darling... I just had to share!

With that, I shall proceed to Ms. Hoyt's third book in the Legend of the Four Soldiers series,



To Beguile a Beast: B+
Helen Fitzwilliam & Sir Alistair Munroe
Legend of the Four Soldiers #3


CAN A WOUNDED BEAST . . .

Reclusive Sir Alistair Munroe has hidden in his castle ever since returning from the Colonies, scarred inside and out. But when a mysterious beauty arrives at his door, the passions he's kept suppressed for years begin to awaken.

TRUST A BEAUTY WITH A PAST . . .

Running from past mistakes has taken legendary beauty Helen Fitzwilliam from the luxury of the ton to a crumbling Scottish castle . . . and a job as a housekeeper. Yet Helen is determined to start a new life and she won't let dust-or a beast of a man-scare her away.

TO TAME HIS MOST SECRET DESIRES?

Beneath Helen's beautiful fa├žade, Alistair finds a courageous and sensual woman. A woman who doesn't back away from his surliness-or his scars. But just as he begins to believe in true love, Helen's secret past threatens to tear them apart. Now both Beast and Beauty must fight for the one thing neither believed they could ever find--a happy ever after. (back of book)



This novel was unique in several aspects, which I greatly appreciated.

I like to think this novel is one of a higher level than the regular mass romances on the bookshelves, mainly because the both the hero and the heroine are not squeaky clean. Helen Fitzwilliam is a great beauty and surprise, paramour to a high-standing someone in the London ton. She has been with this man for so long, she has two children fathered by this less than spectacular gentleman.

Alistair Munroe, on the other hand, has holed himself up in his castle since returning from fighting in the Colonies. It was there that he was severely tortured. Not a whipped-back has-knife-wound kind of tortured, Munroe is missing an eye and two fingers from one hand, among other "disfigurements." If this story were to be paralleled to the story of Beauty & the Beast, I am fairly certain Alistair would fall under the Beast category (not the Beauty. I think that would be Ms. Helen Fitzwilliam).

Helen finds herself running for her life. She and her children end up on Munroe's doorstep (er.. castlestep) and announces herself his new housekeeper.

He, undoubtedly, is appalled by her bravado and is stunned by her beauty.
She is intimidated by his scars.

And there starts the story of how these two characters fall in love. Why is Helen running for her life? Glad you asked. Something about an overpossessive certain-somebody...

You also get to find out more about the mystery as to who betrayed the British during that war. It wasn't Alistair, as he was tortured the way he was... so who...?!

I felt the characters came to life in this story. While the whole Helen-in-grave-danger part wasn't particularly exciting nor interesting, seeing Alistair and Helen interact was fun. And... I don't see how a hero can be more tortured or "wounded" (physically and mentally) than our very own Alistair Munroe.

Bottom line: Recommended reading.

Side Question: So... does it make anyone else laugh that the men's woohoo is referred to as a "prick?" I understand that this might be culturally and historically accurate from the Regency era, but a prick? I almost prefer "throbbing manhood" to it... okay, not so much, but you get what I'm saying.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Your reviewer, Alice

This is a late post, but believe me, I have a good reason for posting late.

Today's my birthday!

Yes, readers, twenty-something years ago, this exact day, my mother suffered to bring me into this world... most likely for the sole reason of reading romance (and other) novels.


So, I'm going to be vain and share stuffs about me. Awesome, yes.

Alice; 5'1.5", brown eyes, black hair, shoe size - 6,

Occupation: In addition to being a superstar, a tutor, part-time barista, a student (in an abstract sense), closet dancer, and a book reviewer!

Loves:

Movies - Anastasia, Beauty and the Beast, Sweet Home Alabama, The Matrix, Mulan, Legally Blonde,

Books - this list will take forever, but Paradise, Almost Heaven, Again the Magic, Scandalous, Bel Canto, The Alchemist, The Time Traveler's Wife, Wuthering Heights, Like Water For Chocolate

Food - butter and fried goodness... and fries, sushi, great salads, paininis, pineapples, pastas, Korean ramen..

Dessert - Creme Brulee and ice cream.

Curse word of preference: shit.

Makeup must haves: Shu Uemura eyelash curler, Maybelline turbo boost waterproof mascara in very black,

Perfume: Bright Crystal by Versace


All right, good readers, I'm going to have a cup of coffee with my sister.


Your dutiful reviewer,

Alice

Monday, November 9, 2009

Julia Quinn: What Happens in London

What Happens in London: C
Olivia Bevelstoke & Hero (Harry Valentine)
sequel to The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever


When Olivia Bevelstoke is told that her new neighbor may have killed his fiancee, she doesn't believe it for a second, but, still, how can she help spying on him, just to be sure? So she stakes out a spot near her bedroom window, cleverly concealed by curtains, watches, and waits . . . and discovers a most intriguing man, who is definitely up to something.

Sir Harry Valentine works for the boring branch of the War Office, translating documents vital to national security. He's not a spy, but he's had all the training, and when a gorgeous blonde begins to watch him from her window, he is instantly suspicious. But just when he decides that she's nothing more than an annoyingly nosy debutante, he discovers that she might be engaged to a foreign prince, who might be plotting against England. And when Harry is roped into spying on Olivia, he discovers that he might be falling for her himself . . .




I happen to think What Happens in London is a very average book. It has average characters with average writing, with an average... well, average everything. The characters are so forgettable, I've actually forgotten the hero's name. This almost never happens... well, unless the characters are forgettable.

I do remember Olivia Bevelstoke as the heroine. She's pretty and as as a pretty girl in London during the regency times, she has to hide the fact that she has a brain. But she meets the unnamed hero (all right, I'll look up his name for you..!) in a very unsmart, albeit funny, manner: hearing rumors that hero might be a psychopathic killer prompts her to spy on him when he moves in next to her.

He catches her spying on him, they are acquainted, and then somehow, he ends up being her bodyguard. The details are failing me, but something about one of Olivia's suitors (a Russian prince!) being suspicious... in any case, they're around each other all the time and the flames of passion ignite!

Other than the entertaining way in which she spies on hero, I can't remember any significant things about the story... other than the fact that Olivia and hero's sex scene (you know, that ultimate, cataclysmic scene in which both realize they've found the love of each others' lives because of the amazing sex and etc) is the worst sex scene I've ever read. It's worse than an unwritten sex scene (in which you imagine hero and heroine has a soul-shattering moment) and this scene, readers, was so laughable and uncool, I promptly forgot why I found it so horrible; I'm only left with the thought of, 'Worst sex scene ever!!'

I think this is a good place to say that I'm not a huge fan of Ms. Quinn's writing style.
She aims for the cutesy, witty, intelligent style that is lacking in details (of all kinds, including characters, plot, setting...) and fails to be humorous. It just... tries too hard? is unfunny? witty but not really witty? If paired with a decent plot (I did enjoy her The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume though it had the same unfunny writing style) I think the book is enjoyable enough, but without it, the book is just an average read.

With that, I'll end this very average book review.

Oh! While searching for the book's synopsis, Amazon tells me hero's name is Mr. Harry Valentine. Ah yes... Harry Valentine...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Deanna Raybourn: Silent In the Grave

Silent in the Grave: A
Lady Julia Grey & Nicholas Brisbane
Victorian-era mystery, romance


"Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."

These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

Prepared to accept that Edward's death was due to a longstanding physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.

Determined to bring her husband's murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward's demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.


I've decided to start off on a happy note and decided to have my first review from my (slackingness) vacation be a read I enjoyed immensely. I cannot take credit for having "found" the book since I heard of it through a fellow reader friend in Book Club (thanks MeganB!).

Having only mediocre thoughts of the book from last month's Book Club (What Happens in London by Julia Quinn), I wasn't particularly desperate to read Silent in the Grave. My only consolation was that I was told it was a mystery, a genre I am also a fan of.

It's a good thing I'm so open-minded about bookstuffs (LOL) because this one was wonderful to read.

Julia Grey's husband convulses and dies before Julia and a dark, mysterious stranger (hehe!). Later, it is suggested to her that husband's death is not a natural death as they all presumed and suddenly, Nicholas Brisbane is talking of murder and dark motives. He is dismissed, but then Julia finds reason to suspect Brisbane is in fact, telling the truth. Soon enough, Julia and Brisbane are working to discover the truth of the matter.


I loved this book for several reasons, the first being Ms. Raybourn's writing style. The book is written in the first person - Julia's - but unlike other horrible, poorly written, undeserving first person POV books *cough*theTWILIGHTseries*cough*, this one is beautifully crafted with wit and descriptive observations. Though you only get Julia's thoughts, you pretty much get to know all of the other characters in-depth (including her nine brothers and sisters). You do not get Brisbane's anything at all... that man is an enigma.. which brings me to my second point...

The chemistry between Julia and Brisbane is delicious. Unlike regular mass market paperbacks where the hero and heroine must end up together at the end of the short three-hundred pages, this story is the first of the Julia Grey mystery series. This means interactions between Julia and Brisbane are spread out and realistic, doing wonders to build tension between the two characters. The romance is there, but it is budding and in the baby stages, unlike a fast track meet-love-have sex-be happy romance. Granted, there were times when I wanted to throttle Brisbane for not being cliched like the other heroes ("JUST KISS HER, you dolt!), but you will come to appreciate their relationship.

Third, the characters. Julia's family - the March family - is. so. weird. !! In the most amusing and insightful way, that is.
The characters are real characters, from her batty aunts and uncles, to her Shakespeare-quoting father; from her once-married-turned-lesbian older sister to her gypsy laundress... it's so much fun to read about all of them and get to know their stories.

And, of course, the mystery is compelling to read. Very twisty and turny.
Think In Death series by JD Robb (Nora Roberts) ... and actually, most mass paperback "suspense" novels but 100x better.


Verdict: Read! Read! Then tell me about it. I don't bite.
Well, for the most part... (unless you have H1N1. Then I definitely won't bite.)



Naturally, you shouldn't be surprised to discover that I read this book in practically one sitting - despite having had to work all Thursday morning. When I finished two nights ago, I went to the library ten minutes before closing time to borrow the sequel, Silent in the Sanctuary.

I'm happy to say that I had the sequel in my grubby, little hands and after reading it all day (minus the working thing again), I've finished it. No hoorays for me yet: I am trying to get a hold of the third, Silent in the Moor... SILM, donde estas?? Public library of my city, why are you failing me so?!


Read an excerpt of Silent in the Grave here or below:
(I hope I'm not infringing on copyright laws by posting here for your convenience. Retrieved from Deanna Raybourn's website.)

La~ enjoy!

To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.

I stared at him, not quite taking in the fact that he had just collapsed at my feet. He lay, curled like a question mark, his evening suit ink-black against the white marble of the floor. He was writhing; his fingers knotted.

I leaned as close to him as my corset would permit.

“Edward, we have guests. Do get up. If this is some sort of silly prank—”

“He is not jesting, my lady. He is convulsing.”

An impatient figure in black pushed past me to kneel at Edward’s side. He busied himself for a few brisk moments, palpating and pulse-taking, while I bobbed a bit, trying to see over his shoulder. Behind me the guests were murmuring, buzzing, pushing closer to get a look of their own. There was a little thrill of excitement in the air. After all, it was not every evening that a baronet collapsed senseless in his own music room. And Edward was proving rather better entertainment than the soprano we had engaged.

Through the press, Aquinas, our butler, managed to squeeze in next to my elbow.

“My lady?”

I looked at him, grateful to have an excuse to turn away from the spectacle on the floor.

“Aquinas, Sir Edward has had an attack.”

“And would be better served in his own bed,” said the gentleman from the floor. He rose, lifting Edward into his arms with a good deal of care and very little effort, it seemed. But Edward had grown thin in the past months. I doubted he weighed much more than I.

“Follow me,” I instructed; although, Aquinas actually led the way out of the music room. People moved slowly out of our path, as though they regretted the little drama ending so quickly. There were some polite murmurs, some mournful clucking. I heard snatches as I passed through them.

“The curse of the Greys, it is—”

“So young. But of course his father never saw thirty-five.”

“Never make old bones—”

“Feeble heart. Pity, he was always such a pleasant fellow.” I moved faster, staring straight ahead so that I did not have to meet their eyes. I kept my gaze fixed on Aquinas’ broad, black-wool back, but all the time I was conscious of those voices and the sound of footsteps behind me, the footsteps of the gentleman who was carrying my husband. Edward groaned softly as we reached the stairs, and I turned. The gentleman’s face was grim.

“Aquinas, help the gentleman—”

“I have him,” he interrupted, brushing past me. Aquinas obediently led him to Edward’s bedchamber. Together they settled Edward onto the bed, and the gentleman began to loosen his clothes. He flicked a glance toward Aquinas.

“Has he a doctor?”

“Yes, sir. Doctor Griggs, Golden Square.”

“Send for him. Although, I dare say it will be too late.”

Aquinas turned to me where I stood, hovering on the threshold. I never went into Edward’s room. I did not like to do so now. It felt like an intrusion, a trespass on his privacy.

“Shall I send for Lord March as well, my lady?”

I blinked at Aquinas. “Why should Father come? He is no doctor.”

But Aquinas was quicker than I. I had thought the gentleman meant that Edward would have recovered from his attack by the time Doctor Griggs arrived. Aquinas, who had seen more of the world than I, knew better.

He looked at me, his eyes carefully correct, and then I understood why he wanted to send for Father. As head of the family he would have certain responsibilities.

I nodded slowly. “Yes, send for him.” I moved into the room on reluctant legs. I knew I should be there, doing whatever little bit that I could for Edward. But I stopped at the side of the bed. I did not touch him.

“And Lord Bellmont?” Aquinas queried.

I thought for a moment. “No, it is Friday. Parliament is sitting late.”

That much was a mercy. Father I could cope with, but not my eldest brother as well. “And I suppose you ought to call for the carriages. Send everyone home. Make my apologies.”

He left us alone then, the stranger and I. We stood on opposite sides of the bed, Edward convulsing between us. He stopped after a moment, and the gentleman placed a finger at his throat.

“His pulse is very weak,” he said finally. “You should prepare yourself.”

I did not look at him. I kept my eyes fixed on Edward’s pale face. It shone with sweat, its surface etched with lines of pain. This was not how I wanted to remember him.

“I have known him for more than twenty years,” I said finally, my voice tight and strange. “We were children together. We used to play pirates and knights of the Round Table. Even then, I knew his heart was not sound. He used to go quite blue sometimes when he was overtired. This is not unexpected.”

I looked up then to find the stranger’s eyes on me. They were the darkest eyes I had ever seen, witch-black and watchful. His gaze was not friendly. He was regarding me coldly, as a merchant will appraise a piece of goods to determine its worth. I dropped my eyes at once.

“Thank you for your concern for my husband’s health, sir. You have been most helpful. Are you a friend of Edward’s?”

He did not reply at once. Edward made a noise in the back of his throat, and the stranger moved swiftly, rolling him onto his side and thrusting a basin beneath his mouth. Edward retched, horribly, groaning. When he finished, the gentleman put the basin to the side and wiped his mouth with his handkerchief. Edward gave a little whimper and began to shiver. The gentleman watched him closely.

“Not a friend, no. A business associate,” he said finally. “My name is Nicholas Brisbane.”

“I am—”

“I know who you are, my lady.”

Startled at his rudeness, I looked up, only to find those eyes again, fixed on me with naked hostility. I opened my mouth to reproach him, but Aquinas appeared then. I turned to him, relieved.

“Aquinas?”

“The carriages are being brought round now, my lady. I have sent Henry for Doctor Griggs and Desmond for his lordship. Lady Otterbourne and Mr. Phillips both asked me to convey their concern and their willingness to help should you have need of them.”

“Lady Otterbourne is a meddlesome old gossip and Mr. Phillips would be no use whatsoever. Send them home.”

I was conscious of Mr. Brisbane behind me, listening to every word. I did not care. For some unaccountable reason, the man thought ill of me already. I did not mind if he thought worse.

Aquinas left again, but I did not resume my post by the bed. I took a chair next to the door and remained there, saying nothing and wondering what was going to happen to all of the food. We had ordered far too much in any event. Edward never liked to run short. I could always tell Cook to serve it in the servants’ hall, but after a few days even the staff would tire of it. Before I could decide what to do with the lobster patties and salad molds, Aquinas entered again, leading Doctor Griggs. The elderly man was perspiring freely, patting his ruddy face with a handkerchief and gasping. He had taken the stairs too quickly. I rose and he took my hand.

“I was afraid of this,” he murmured. “The curse of the Greys, it is. All snatched before their time. My poor girl.” I smiled feebly at him. Doctor Griggs had attended my mother at my birth, as well as her nine other confinements. We had known each other too long to stand on ceremony. He patted my hand and moved to the bed. He felt for Edward's pulse, shaking his head as he did so. Edward vomited again, and Doctor Griggs watched him carefully, examining the contents of the basin. I turned away.

I tried not to hear the sounds coming from the bed, the groans and the rattling breaths. I would have stopped my ears with my hands, but I knew it would look childish and cowardly. Griggs continued his examination, but before he finished Aquinas stepped into the room.

“Lord March, my lady.” He moved aside and Father entered.

“Julia,” he said, opening his arms. I went into them, burying my face against his waistcoat. He smelled of tobacco and book leather. He kept one arm tucked firmly around me as he looked over my head.

“Griggs, you damned fool. Julia should have been sent away.”

The doctor made some reply, but I did not hear it. My father was pushing me gently out the door. I tried to look past him, to see what they were doing to Edward, but Father moved his body and prevented me. He gave me a sad, gentle smile. Anyone else might have mistaken that smile, but I did not. I knew he expected obedience. I nodded.

“I shall wait in my room.”

“That would be best. I will come when there is something to tell.”

My maid, Morag, was waiting for me. She helped me out of my silk gown and into something more suitable. She offered me warm milk or brandy, but I knew I would never be able to hold anything down. I only wanted to sit, watching the clock on the mantel as it ticked away the minutes left.

Morag continued to fuss, poking at the fire and muttering complaints about the work to come. She was right about that. There would be much work for her when I put on widow’s weeds. It was unlucky to keep crepe in the house, I reminded myself. It would have to be sent for after Edward passed. I thought about such things—crepe for the mirrors, black plumes for the horses—because then I did not have to think about what was happening in Edward’s room. It was rather like waiting for a birth, these long, tense minutes of sitting, straining one’s ears on tiptoe for the slightest sound. I expected to hear something, but the walls were thick and I heard nothing. Even when the clock struck midnight, the little voice on my mantel chiming twelve times, I could not hear the tall case clock in the hall. I started to mention the peculiarity of it to Morag, because one could always hear the case clock from any room in the house, when I realized what it meant.

“Morag, the clocks have stopped.”

She looked at me, her lips parted to speak, but she said nothing. Instead she bowed her head and began to pray. A moment later, the door opened. It was Father. He said nothing. I went to him and his hand cradled my head like a benediction. He held me for a very long time, as he had not done since . . .