As some of you may know, in August I dragged my family to England for a vacation, and then I dragged them to castles and museums. (I’m so mean.) Anyway, I had the good fortune to tour the restored apartments of Edward I at the Tower of London. A few days later I visited a peasant’s cottage at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.
I thought it might be helpful if I shared some of my photos with you. Edward I ruled from 1239 until his death in 1307 and the cottage is dated from 1310 so these pictures will give you an idea of the disparity between the rich and poor in the same period.
First, I’ll show you the king’s apartments. You’ll notice the walls are plastered and painted with a delicate ornate pattern. There is glass in the windows. Lead glass was commonly used in the living quarters of most castles, but only on the windows that faced into the bailey. Edward had his own personal chapel with stained glass windows, where he would have heard mass. His bed was luxurious even by today’s standards and the curtains would have been drawn, while he slept, to keep in the heat. He also has a fireplace in his bedroom with a chimney. The earliest known hearth with a chimney, in England, dates from 1185, but they weren’t commonly used until 15th or 16th Century.
The peasant lived in misery. The family would have slept together on the floor sharing blankets and body heat to keep the cold at bay. All the fixtures are basic and serve a purpose. Every minute of the day would have been taken with providing for the family’s meager needs. You’ll notice the rustic furniture, pieces of wood hammered together to meet their basic requirements. There is also a storage area in the roof beams. This would have been safe from rats and other vermin, and is a reminder of the hardships these people faced on a daily basis. It also reminds me of the nursery rhyme ‘Rock a Bye Baby.”
I hope you enjoyed my pictures.
Jaimie Newberry is jobless, her rent is due, and her cat just died. On top of that, she was accused of embezzling before she was fired. When her friend invites her for a weekend of kinky fairytale role playing, she agrees to go as Cinderella. What has she got to lose when sex with a handsome prince is involved?
CEO Bryce Langston needs to know if Jamie is innocent of embezzlement or just very clever. He arranges for her to be his weekend sub but soon realizes the pretty scullery maid is naïve to the BDSM lifestyle. As her prince and her Dom, he intends to not only learn the truth but to make sure she has a fantasy come true.
Bryce spotted his Cinderella entering the parlor below. The ruffles of her skirt swirled playfully around slender thighs, and the low cut of her simple top revealed a nice swell of breasts. Deep inside, anticipation hummed, and not just for learning the truth. Annie had been gone five years now, and while he hadn’t been celibate during those long years, he hadn’t participated in the games he hosted either. This would be his first.
And only because he needed to know the truth.
Jaimie had uncovered an embezzling ring in one of his accounting firms. Her boss implicated her, her files backed the man up, but as he’d found out, the man himself had proved to be a liar, and the leader in the group of employees caught.
Lucy, his personal assistant, swore Jaimie was innocent, that she was the one who’d discovered the theft, then been fired because of it. The fact Jaimie had blown the whistle lent her story credence, as did the files she gave Lucy to give to him, all dated before she’d been fired. He’d hired auditors, and they thought she was innocent. But he wouldn’t know until he spoke to her. A study of her employment files indicated the woman was smart. She could easily have done what she did to make herself look innocent and then gotten out before being caught.
“Does it matter if she is as guilty as the others?”
Bryce nodded. “Yes. If she was part of it, I’ll press charges. No one steals from me.” He’d already gotten confessions out of the rest of his employees and fired those who were supposed to oversee that department. Fools were more concerned with their ladder climbing and brown-nosing instead of doing their job.
Determining Jaimie’s level of involvement was unfinished business. Was his Cinderella truly innocent, or had she been framed? He couldn’t find any money trails leading to her bank accounts, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have money squirreled away elsewhere, under another name. No, he needed to know for sure.
Glorie laughed low in her throat. “My, your little playmate looks ready to bolt, and it’s not even midnight.”
Bryce narrowed his eyes. Glorie was right. Jaimie was staring at some of the costumes with mouth agape. He couldn’t see her eyes but imagined they were wide with shock. Even from where he stood, he could see her face was flushed with embarrassment. She took a big gulp of her champagne then grabbed Lucy by the arm. Though he couldn’t hear the conversation, it was clear his sub was having serious doubts.
Rocking back on his heels, he grinned. From the questionnaire, he knew Jaimie was new to this world, and he was looking looked forward to introducing her to some light BDSM.
Enter my Celebrating Cinderella’s Release from my website. Prizes (Once Upon A Dom tote bag, mug and other goodies) and pictures at: http://sydneystclaire.com
Sydney St. Claire is the pseudonym of Susan Edwards, author of 14 Historical Native American/Western/Paranormal romances and the author of the popular "White" Series. During her career, she has been nominated for the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Western Historical and Reviewer's Choice Best Book Award.
Sydney loves writing and sharing stories of love, happiness and dreams come true with her readers. She credits her mother for her writing as she was encouraged to read as a child and preferred happy endings which meant romances were her favorite genre. When the writing bug bit, she followed the sensible advice to “write what you know” and has been writing and publishing her stories since!
Sydney takes her readers into the world of erotica romance where her characters come together in explosive passion as they solve life's problems and find true love along with the best sex our hero and heroine have ever experienced.
Sydney resides in California. Her office is quite crowded with two small dogs at her feet, another huge girl in her recliner and five cats to keep her company while she writes. Three cats always insist on beds on her desk, barely leaving enough room for her monitor and keyboard. Life gets fun when all five insist on supervising...
When not writing, she enjoys crafts of all sorts including quilting, sewing, cross-stitch and knitting. Knitting and crochet are her current passions. She and her husband of 30 + years are avid gardeners. He takes care of the veggies, and Susan is in charge of the 'pretties'. Her medicine wheel garden is in a contact state of war: flowers vs. weeds. Sadly, right now the weeds are wining...
Camping, fishing, biking and hiking (when not hot) are other outdoor pursuits she and her husband enjoy. She is of course, an avid reader and hates cooking and housework. While writing, she listens to a wide variety of music, including Neil Diamond, Celtic, Native American, New Age, Classical, and mood music (bagpipes and howling wolves drive my family nuts). Her current favorites are Blackmore's Night and David Lanz.
I’ve recently been chatting to my fellow authors about research. What kind of research do they do? Do they research characters? Or build their characters from their own experience?
My old writing partner and very gifted author, JM Stewart, shared this poignant, heartfelt, and touching account of how she created her heroine in her latest book – Risking it All
The heroine of my latest release, Risking It All, and I have a lot in common. I originally began writing Kyle and Ceci’s story over ten years ago. In fact, the story was originally published in shorter form by a small press, under the title Staking His Claim. When I first started writing Cecelia’s story, I didn’t intend for her to get quiet so much of me. But, over the years and the many revisions this book has gone through, I started to realize that she and I were quiet a lot alike. She suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And so do I. I suffer from PTSD from some ugly things that happened to me as a child.
Ten years ago, back when Risking It All was a work-in-progress I called Crossing the Line, something in my life had triggered my PTSD. For six years, I became lost in my disorder. I call it flashback hell, because that’s what it was for me. Life became about trying to make it day to day. Sometimes hour to hour. For me, everything was a trigger. Something as simple as something my husband said to me when we were arguing could send me off to another time and place, and I’d find myself reacting. Took me a while to learn when I’d hit a trigger. There for a while, I was on three medications and seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist just to make it through the day.
Which is funny. Because growing up, and even long after I’d moved away from that place, I just thought that stuff was normal. I wouldn’t have told you my life was any different from anyone else’s. Which, on doing some research for another book coming up in March (Someone to Rely On will be releasing from Crimson Romance somewhere around March 2015), I learned is actually the norm for abused children.
And those are the small details I tried to include in Ceci’s story when I did the revisions for the book. So, a lot of what you’ll read in Ceci’s story comes from personal experience rather than research. Ceci’s nightmares, for example, are based on my own experiences with the same. Mine aren’t as realistic as hers. That little bit comes from what little research I actually did on her story.
Another place where Ceci gets bits and pieces from me are her flashbacks. For those scenes, I tried to put into words what it’s like for me when I experience one. Flashbacks aren’t always visceral. It’s not always like going back and reliving a certain time or place. Sometimes it’s a remembered emotion or sensation. And those are the things I tried to put onto the page for her.
For example, in the book, Ceci is going through her grandmother’s belongings when she comes across a necklace. There’s something familiar about the necklace that reminds her of her nightmares, something haunting about it she can’t put her finger on.
Ceci also feels a longing for the past she can’t remember. It pulls at her. So when she has her nightmares, she wakes with a sadness, a grief, she can’t explain. She only knows she feels as if she misses the people in her dreams. Or, in the beginning, when she comes to Kyle needing something as simple as not being alone for the night. To sleep in his bed while he’s at work. Sometimes, for me, it’s as simple as having something of my husband’s close, something with his smell on it. Which is the way it works for Ceci as well in that particular scene.
Her loss of memory is also mine. I have very little memory of the first 7-10 years of my life. I did recover a few memories, as does Ceci in the end, and recovering them happened a lot the way I described it for Ceci.
I don’t know about you, but when I read a book now, I find myself wondering where the line is/was for the author. How much was research and how much of themselves did the author put into their book? What about you? Do you like knowing how much of the author went into a book?
Buy link (the page contains all the links to all major retail sites): Penguin
She’s everything he wants…
For years, Kyle Morgan has hidden his true feelings from the gorgeous girl next door that he grew up loving and protecting. But when she shows up at his apartment in the middle of the night, desperately needing comfort and support, his iron will begins to waver…
…and the only thing he can’t bear to lose.
Kyle was always the big brother Cecelia Anton never had, but suddenly her goofy best friend has become a sexy man she can’t keep her thoughts—or hands—off of. As their deep connection melts into uncontrollable desire, Ceci is willing to put it all on the line for a shot at true love. Only Kyle is keeping a terrible secret about Ceci’s past that could destroy not only their lifelong friendship but their happily-ever-after…
“You want the truth? You really want to know how I feel about you, what you do to me?” His frustrated tone mocked her as his hands slid down her back. He cupped her bottom and tugged hard, grinding his hips against hers. The hard length of his arousal pressed into her belly, showing her exactly how she affected him.
A soft gasp escaped her as her intentions blew up in her face. Every inch of her trembled as a lethal dose of intense, undeniable desire snaked through her, coiling low in her belly.
“I don’t know how to be any more honest than this.” He dipped his head and brushed his lips over hers, whispering against her mouth. “You drive me crazy. Every time you look at me, touch me. Do you have any idea how hard it was to lie in bed with you Friday night? To hold you so close I felt your heartbeat but not be able to touch you like this?”
His hot mouth skimmed across her jawline, and he nipped at her earlobe. “I almost lost my mind tonight, seeing you dance, watching you watch me. You look at me like that, too, you know. Like you want me, and it makes me crazy. Then you had the nerve to wrap your arms around me. I appreciated it when you told me we’d always be friends. I was afraid I’d really screwed this up. But your breasts against my back and your hot breath on my neck are equal parts bliss and torment.”
JM Strewart is the author of passionate, heartfelt contemporary romance. She’s a wife, a mother, a spiritualist, and lover of puppies, and happily addicted to coffee and chocolate. She lives in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her husband, two sons, and two very spoiled dogs. She’s a hopeless romantic who believes everybody should have their happily-ever-after and has been devouring romance novels for as long as she can remember. Writing them has become her obsession.
You can find out more about JM or her books here: Website /Blog /Twitter /Facebook
Mitch Mingan has chosen to remain a bachelor; he doesn’t want anyone else to suffer his destiny. But when his cousin Ken dies leaving behind twin boys, it is up to Mitch to ensure his nephews are ready for what lies ahead. Inviting Ken’s widow Sarah and the boys up for the summer seems like a perfect start.
For Sarah, a summer up north is the perfect opportunity for her sons to get to know their father’s family. It’s also a chance for Sarah to learn the truth behind why her husband left his childhood home at such an early age. What she doesn’t count on is falling for their handsome host. She also doesn’t count on finding out the family legacy: Mingan means wolf!
Sarah stood to leave. “Mitch, can I ask you a personal question?”
“Shoot,” he replied.
“Have you ever been married?”
“No. I’m what you would call a lone wolf, I guess.”
She shivered as a breeze blew off the bay, across her wet, naked back. “May I ask why?”
He appeared thoughtful as he sipped the cabernet. “My life is too…complicated. A woman would have to put up with a lot around me. I don’t think it would be fair and I’m not sure I’m worth it.”
Nothing since she arrived at the camp caused her to think negatively of Mitch. She could not begin to guess what drove the wedge between the two cousins. The man who invited her up here, played with her sons, cooked a great steak, and was very easy on the eyes, appeared to have a lot to offer. Any woman would be lucky to find such a man to spend her life with. Even one night.
Forbidden territory, Sarah. But she couldn’t help herself. Quickly she got out of the hot tub. She wrapped a towel around her torso and picked her wine glass off the deck.
She opened the door and then stopped, turning around.
“You know, Mitch, I don’t think you give yourself enough credit,” she said before she continued into the cottage.
Charlotte Copper lives in Stouffville, Ontario - that is in Canada, eh - with her husband, daughter, and two part-time step-daughters. When she isn't working at her full-time job or driving her daughter around for volleyball, Charlotte likes to craft, read, go to the movies, and, of course, write. Charlotte admittedly tries to juggle far too many balls at once while working on a series of (mostly paranormal) romance stories. Charlotte hopes to have all of the stories published some day because, as a romance writer, she believes in happy endings! You can visit her website at http://charlottecopperauthor.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also check out Charlotter on Pinterest.
I would like to thank the two historians at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum for this post. They made it clear to me that daily life of the medieval peasant improved significantly after the Black Death.
Before the plague, in 1348, England was vastly overpopulated which suited the landlords perfectly. They had an abundant source of cheap labour to work their fields for little or no pay. Each peasant was obligated to work his master’s land for at least three days a week. Then he still had to cultivate his own meagre portion of land hoping to grow enough to feed his family.
It’s known that there was a climate change at the beginning of the fourteenth century which resulted in colder winters and wetter summers. Between 1315 and 1322 crops failed and people starved. And yet the nobility who owned the land still demanded their taxes and labour. By and large, generosity towards the peasant class seems to have been non-existent.
So how did the Black Death of 1348 change all this? It will come as no surprise that the plague hit the peasant class the hardest. They were, after all, the poorest, most malnourished members of society. It’s estimated that approximately 50% of the population died, most of them from the peasant class. In some areas the death toll was even higher.
In fact, it killed so many people that there was hardly anyone left to work the land. For the first time those on the lowest rungs of society had a bargaining chip. Instead of working for their lord they could go and work for another landowner and demand a better wage. The nobility fought back. In 1351 they past an act of parliament that stated;
“It was lately ordained by our lord king, with the assent of the prelates, nobles and others of his council against the malice of employees, who were idle and were not willing to take employment after the pestilence unless for outrageous wages, that such employees, both men and women, should be obliged to take employment for the salary and wages accustomed to be paid in the place where they were working in the 20th year of the king's reign , or five or six years earlier; and that if the same employees refused to accept employment in such a manner they should be punished by imprisonment, as is more clearly contained in the said ordinance.”
It failed. Wages rose and with it the standard of living for the common man. Because so many of its educated clerks had died Parliament was forced to pass a statute, in 1362, stating that all pleas should be heard in English. This is the moment when English replaced French as the official language of England. I imagine it also made the legal process more accessible to the ordinary man.
Before the plague English society was divided into three main groups; the nobility, the church and the peasants. After the Black Death with the increase in commerce and wages there emerged a class of merchants and yeoman farmers; people who weren’t nobility, but who weren’t peasants either. These were the landed freemen; they were a class of society that hadn’t been seen in England before. They were, what I would call, the beginnings of a middle class.
Within a generation of the Black Death preachers like John Wycliffe and John Ball started to spread their message that all men were created equal.
John ball is quoted in the medieval document The Froissart Chronicles as saying;
“Ah, ye good people, the matter goes not well to pass in England, nor shall not do so till everything be common, and that we be all united together and that the lords be no greater masters than we. What have we deserved or why should we be thus kept in serfdom? We be all come from one father and one mother, Adam and Eve. How can they claim to prove that they be lords more than us, save by making us produce and grow the wealth that they do spend?”
Commoners listened and thanks to their new social freedoms, garnered after the Black Death, they seemed to have a new confidence when it came to demanding their rights. In 1381 The Peasants Revolt swept through England. The revolt itself was a reaction against over taxation caused by the Hundred Year’s War, but it was a revolt for commoners and led by commoners, the first of its kind in English history, and something that would’ve been unimaginable a hundred years earlier.
For me this idea that all men are created equal is the beginning of democracy in England. Not that democracy or the middle class were new ideas even in the medieval period. Greek philosopher Aristotle said,
“The most perfect political community must be amongst those who are in the middle rank.”
And scholars today believe that to maintain democracy you need a strong middle class. In England the middle class was born out of the suffering and devastation that was the Black Death.
To quote H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
“By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth.”
We have paid for our democracy with millions of lives, not just those who have died for an ideal, but also those who suffered and died so that the ideal of equality could be formed.
Sloane Osborne is a paranormal real estate agent in the business of selling haunted houses. The problem is, she’s only searching for one ghost.
Sloane Osbourne is a paranormal realtor in the business of selling haunted houses but, in truth, she’s only searching for one ghost. And her time is running out. It’s the 366th day after her fiancé’s death. Michael used to like putting things off for “a year and a day”—so tonight’s the night. Sloane will do anything to make contact with him before the clock strikes midnight. When she gets a call to check out a home in Waukesha, Wisconsin, it’s the last place she thinks Michael would contact her. Sloane is dead wrong. Michael appears…and tells her to get out of the house. Immediately.
“Hello?” Sloane’s voice was tentative, even to her own ears. It was one thing to talk to Michael, but he was a ghost she known in life. It was another to start a conversation with a dead stranger. “Can you hear me?”
The woman didn’t turn, her whole body focused on the next drop of water until it had floated through her hand again.
The woman sighed, sitting back on her heels as she watched the wall.
“Water,” she rasped. “Do you have any water?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t have anything.” Sloane said. “I tried to give you water last night, but no one drank it.”
“What are you doing here? You aren’t supposed to be here!” The woman’s voice was so raspy Sloane could barely hear her. She turned her head slowly as though removing her gaze from the little bit of water seeping through the stone was painful. When her gaze finally rested on Sloane, her eyes were dark black pits, swirling with tiny dancing lights.
Sloane stepped back involuntarily, then gathered her courage to approach the apparition. She could sense the poor girl wasn’t dangerous. She was trapped here as much as Sloane was herself.
“I found the secret door and got pushed in.” Sloane said. “Then the door shut behind me and I couldn’t get out.”
“Ah, you must have been at Alvin’s house,” the woman rose to her feet. “Not a safe place to be. Though nothing about this area is safe.”
Kat Green is the alias of authors KAT de Falla and Rachel GREEN.
Author Kat de Falla was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she learned to roller-skate, ride a banana seat bike, and love Shakespeare thanks to her high school English teacher. Four years at the UW-Madison wasn’t enough, so she returned to her beloved college town for her Doctor of Pharmacy degree and is happily employed as a retail pharmacist where she fills prescriptions and chats with her patients. She is married to her soulmate, classical guitarist, Lee de Falla and raising four kids together ala the Brady Bunch.
Kat de Falla is also the author of The Seer’s Lover, a dark fantasy released by The Wild Rose Press.
Author Website: www.katdefalla.com
Kat Green’s Website: www.hauntsforsale.com
Newsletter Sign Up: http://eepurl.com/MFZ55
Author R. A. Green’s debut novel is First Contact, Book One of the Sloane Osborne Haunts for Sale Series that she co-wrote with Kat. She is also an editor of Romance Flash. She lives with her husband and two young children in Wisconsin where she owns an in-home daycare so all of her writing gets done in short spurts during nap time.
Author Website: http://rgreen1017.wix.com/ragreen
Kat Green’s Website: www.hauntsforsale.com
Romance Flash: www.romanceflash.com
Niki Driscoll won the $25 Amazon e-gift card. Her name was drawn at random by Rafflecopter. I would like to thank everyone who entered. I would also like to extend a special thank you Marianne and Judy at Goddess Fish Promotions and to my gracious hosts:
August 25: Susana's Parlour
August 25: Kahleena MacCarthy
August 26: Emma Weylin
August 27: Our Wolves Den
August 28: Cathie Dunn writes...
August 28: Punya Reviews...
August 29: Rachel Brimble Romance
September 1: Hope. Dreams. Life... Love
September 1: Imagine a World
September 2: Booklover Sue
September 3: Kinky Vanilla Romance
September 3: The Certifiable Wenches
September 4: Room With Books
September 5: Book Skater
September 5: Brooke Blogs
Thank you for making my book tour a memorable one.
On 2nd November 2013 I wrote a post for this blog entitled “Three reasons Why You Shouldn’t Travel Back in Time.” And maybe I should have called this post “Another Three Reasons Why Time Travel Isn’t a Good Idea.” I don’t know why I’m fixated on this subject perhaps because Outlander is airing here in Canada. For those of you who don’t know the storyline (Although I can’t believe there’s someone out there who hasn’t heard of it.) It’s about a woman who accidently travels back in time to the eighteenth century Scottish Highlands. Now, I have to admit I don’t know much about Scotland in the time period of Diana Gabaldon’s fabulous novel, but I do study the middle ages and trust me you don’t want to go there.
Anyway without further ado I will list another three reason why you shouldn’t travel back in time to the middle ages.
To be honest, I don’t know that medieval healers were as ignorant as the movies would have us believe. I do think that people had a basic understanding of cleanliness. Everyone washed their hands before eating, and many towns had communal bathhouses, although these weren’t places a respectable woman would frequent, it does indicate that bathing was more common than we’ve been led to believe. And there is evidence that some patients did undergo primitive forms of surgery such as: trepanning (Cutting a hole in the patients skull to relieve inflammation) This is a procedure that actually has scientific relevance but without modern equipment, reliable anesthetics and antibiotics there can’t have been a very good chance of survival and you would think it would be a last resort but there are cases where it was used to treat epilepsy, migraines, and depression.
The problem is that even though medieval physicians wanted to heal the sick they lacked a basic understanding of how diseases were spread and had little or no understanding of how the human body worked. It wasn’t unusual for a physician to examine, smell and taste the patient’s urine. (Yes, taste urgh!) This is an era where a common cure for hemorrhoids was a hot poker to the affected area. Talk about cures that kill.
There are estimates that put mortality rates for medieval women and children as a result of childbirth as high as 20%. But I don’t see how these figures could be accurate as surviving medieval records are spotty at best. There is a paper by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine that shows the mortality rates for mothers in 19th century until the early 20th century somewhere between 1% and 6%. This is an age where trained physicians attended births, and there was a greater understanding of medicine as we see it today, and still 6% of women died. As far as I can ascertain in the middle-ages doctors rarely attended births. The midwife would rub the mother’s stomach and genitalia with oil and bloodletting at the ankle was a common treatment to hasten delivery. (And you’d hope she used a clean knife)
Contrary to what you might believe during the medieval period a midwife was generally considered a respectable member of the community. Her word was respected in the courts and because so many mothers and children died in childbirth she was able to deliver last rites. But still how many women would want to go back to a time where childbirth was lethal and even if the mother survived there was a good chance her child would die before his fifth birthday. As a mother myself that idea upsets me.
As I said in my last post most of you would have been peasants or villains, at least ninety percent of the population worked the land and paid their lord for the privilege in either work or service. Their daily life was grim and shaped by backbreaking labour, hunger, and mistreatment. Their living conditions improved after the Black Death (I’ll be going into this in more detail in next week’s post.) But for the majority of the medieval period they carried the burden of working the land and providing food not just for themselves but for the nobility too.
Although, not all peasants were created equal some were freemen, they didn’t have to ask their lord permission to marry, travel, and most importantly they had the right to bear arms.
Whereas, the unfree had to stay and work their lords land. They could be put in chains to prevent them from running away and his lord had the right to exercise corporal punishment over him. This last point is pretty scary when you consider the fact that most lords were murderous thugs who thought nothing of murdering innocent women and children.
There you have it another three reasons we should be thankful that Outlander is a work of fiction.
The Wild Rose Press
Rafflecopter Giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card
Now through September 30, 2014
When her aunt steps off a grain elevator into the emptiness of a prairie evening, Mira Piper loses her one protector. Chloe, her flighty mother, impulsively drags her daughter to Bramblewood, an isolated spiritualist retreat in northern Michigan, run by the enigmatic Dr. Virgil Simon.
Chloe plans to train as a medium but it's Mira who discovers she can communicate with the dead. When her mother abandons her, Mira discovers a darker aspect to Bramblewood: the seemingly kind doctor has a sinister side and a strange control over his students.
Then one winter's day Troy Farrington arrives, to fulfill his mother's dying wish and deliver her letter to the doctor. But calamity strikes and he finds himself a captive, tended by a sympathetic Mira. Haunted by her dead aunt and desperate to escape Bramblewood, Mira makes a devil's deal with Dr. Simon. But fulfillment comes with a steep cost...betrayal.
“You are absolutely stunning, Mira.”
I stole another glance in the mirror. The material was a rich, shimmery gold that fell from my shoulders in folds of liquid light. It looked like something a Greek goddess might wear. Oh, how I wished the girls from Amberville High School could see me in this dress!
“When you came here,” said Dr. Simon, “I had a vision of you like this. I looked at the girl before me, but I saw the woman you are now.”
“Thank you,” I murmured, gesturing toward the piles of clothes on my bed. “You’ve been so generous. I know you’ve spent a good deal of money on me—”
“Money means nothing,” he interrupted abruptly. “I have more than I could ever spend, more than I know what to do with. Don’t consider the cost.”
His tone was brusque, and I wondered if I had offended him.
But the next moment Dr. Simon smiled. “I think of you as my charity case. You were like a doll thrown out in the garbage. I simply rescued you from the trash, cleaned you up, and dressed you in something decent. But the beauty was present all along.” He touched my cheek. “Here.” Then he touched my forehead. “Here.” Then he touched my chest. “And here.”
I knew he was referring to my heart, but even so, his hand on my chest made my face warm with discomfort.
“You blush so easily,” he laughed. “You’ll never be able hide anything, Mira, with such a transparent face.”
“That’s all right,” I said, taking a small step back. “I don’t have anything to hide.”
Christy Effinger’s poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in various print and online publications. She lives near Indianapolis. Her website is www.christyeffinger.com.