A Shire Romance (Part Twenty)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.


Sleep proved elusive. Tamsyn dozed a little, but woke again when she felt Perry’s hand stroking her hip. He was spooned against her back, and she could feel his rigid shaft pressing against her buttocks as he caressed her shoulder with soft, nibbling kisses. She crooned and rubbed against him, and he slid his hand from her hip across her belly to cup her breast in his palm.

Tamsyn turned, twisted, wrapped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him to her for a deep kiss, and in one smooth movement Perry rose over her, nudged her legs apart and slid himself into her to the hilt. She closed her eyes, savouring the moment, memorising the feeling, then moaned when Perry pulled out and pushed deep again.

He rode her with long, lazy strokes for a while, face intent as he watched himself disappear inside her and listened to Tamsyn’s murmured encouragements. The previous two times had taken the edge of their desire, and this time they were slower and more absorbed in each other.

When Perry dropped to cover her, Tamsyn wrapped her arms around him and twined her fingers in his curls. She felt his hot breath against her neck, then his lips closed around her earlobe, and her hips pistoned faster in subconscious response.

Perry moaned; a low, lustful sound, then murmured in her ear, “I wish I could have more time with you. Time to explore every last part of you, to try every position it is possible to make love to you in.”

Tamsyn stilled, but he moved his hips, encouraging her back to her grinding rhythm as he continued, “This is so much more than I ever thought it would be… To feel you around me, to be this close to the woman I love. To know that you love me, and that you’ll do this, be like this, make these noises, only for me…”

His voice was enchanting her, a low, husky rumble in her ear, and she writhed against him as she nudged closer to that blissful crest. Perry dropped his hand, seeking out the spot that he was beginning to know so well, and Tamsyn arched against him, letting out a long moan.

“I love you, Tamsyn,” he whispered. “I have a lifetime of love to give to you, and only this one night to give it in.” He was moving faster now, breathing hard, and Tamsyn heard him gasp when she squeezed herself around him.

“Can you feel how much I love you, Tam?” he panted. “Can you?”

“Yes…” was all she could manage to bring out, desperate now for that shattering release.

“Come for me, my love,” he breathed. “Let me hear your voice. Let me feel you, and follow you…” He pushed in deep, and Tamsyn shivered when the bliss hit her,  spreading through her in waves.

“Perry…” she moaned, and then he was with her, his hips spasming in his release, both of them holding on to each other and wishing the moment would never end.

When the last remnants of ecstasy had faded away they snuggled together, and Tamsyn tried not to think about Perry’s hot tears, dripping onto her shoulder where he had nestled his head in the crook of her neck.

Lingering in that mixture of satisfaction and sadness they finally fell asleep.


When Tamsyn awoke the next morning she felt both physically and emotionally exhausted, though she wouldn’t have traded the night’s experience for anything in the world. Beside her Perry was still asleep, looking as tired as she did.

She studied his face, trying to engrave it in her memory forever: his long, straight nose, his square, ever-beardless jaw and determined chin. His coal-black hair, curly and overlong, though the style suited him. She brushed a strand of it away from his face, wishing she could take a lock of it with her, and at the touch he woke, raising his impossibly long lashes to look at her.

Her heart felt like it was being squeezed in her chest. His eyes showed love, sadness, pain, despair, and she lowered her gaze before she started crying again.

At that moment, Esme knocked on the door. “Peregrin, get up! Breakfast is ready.”

Tamsyn shot upright in panic, but Perry pulled her back to him, and she remembered that she had locked the door the night before.

“I’ve only just woken up,” he called back. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“I’ll have some eggs ready for you. Can you wake Tamsyn too?”

Perry looked at Tamsyn and gave a sad half-smile. “I will, mother.”

They heard Esme walk away, then Perry pulled her on top of him. “We have ten minutes,” he whispered, and Tamsyn needed no further encouragement.


 When she slipped back to her own bedroom ten minutes later she quickly ruffled the bed to make it appear as if it had been slept in, then pulled on the first dress she laid her hands on. She entered the kitchen looking pale and wan, and Esme clucked over her like a protective mother hen.

“You look peaky, my dear,” she said. “Did the nerves for the journey keep you up?”

Perry choked on his tea, and Tamsyn looked down to hide the blush she felt creeping up. “Um, something like that,” she mumbled, and was glad when Esme turned back to her stove.

“Well, I expect you will be fine,” Esme said. “The weather has been really good recently. When do you think you’ll be back? We should start planning the wedding soon.”

Tamsyn nearly dropped her cup. “I… I don’t know, Esme,” she stammered, then added in a flash of inspiration, “I can’t get married until my birthday anyway, I’m only thirty-two.”

“Oh,” Esme said, crestfallen. “I might have guessed, you don’t look a day over twenty-five. When is your birthday?”

“M…midsummer.” Tamsyn’s birthday was in June, so she hoped the reply was close enough. It seemed to satisfy Esme anyway, and she ceased her questions.

Tamsyn picked at her breakfast, wishing she could think of something to say to Perry, and then Radagast appeared in the doorway, bent over to stop from bumping his head yet still looming tall. She got a sudden, terrifying taste of how small she really was as a hobbit, finally understanding how Perry must have felt on his trip to Bree.

“Are you ready, Tamsyn?” Radagast asked.

No! she wanted to scream. I’ll never be ready to leave Perry! She found herself shaking her head and said, “There’s one last thing I need to do. I won’t be long.”

She dashed to her bedroom, where she sat on the bed and dropped the potato peeler she had grabbed off the table. She quickly undid her braid and separated off a long, narrow strand which she plaited into a slim cord and tied off with a piece of ribbon. With a quick jerk of the knife she cut it loose close to her head and tied off the other end too. She might not be able to take a lock of Perry’s hair back with her, but she could leave one of her own for him.

In an impulse she chose the freshest rose from the vase by her bed, then ran to Perry’s room and left rose and braid on his pillow. She smoothed out his sheets, savouring the remnants of his scent, then returned to the kitchen and faced Radagast.

“I’m ready,” she croaked, and Radagast nodded.

“We’ll all miss you, my dear,” Esme sniffed as she walked over and hugged Tamsyn tightly. “Do come back soon, or I fear poor Peregrin will be insufferable.”

Tamsyn muttered something unintelligible in response, then turned to face Perry.

“I’ll see her away, mother,” he said, looking at Tamsyn with eyes that forbade protest, and she nodded at him. She had not really expected him to do anything else, though she wished she could somehow spare him the pain of seeing her leave.

Once outside he took her hand, Radagast gratefully stretched to his full height and the three of them set off into the wooded glade beside Great Smials.

“Do we need to be anywhere in particular?” Tamsyn asked, trying to distract herself.

“Not really,” Radagast replied. “Where we originally appeared is good enough.”

Tamsyn dragged her feet, but no amount of dithering could avert the inevitable. Her heart sank into her stomach when she entered a clearing and recognised it as the spot where she had landed a mere six days before, even if it felt like a lifetime ago. She turned to Perry, and with a sob they fell into each other’s arms and clung tightly, neither of them able to let go.

“Come, Tamsyn,” Radagast said, and though his voice was kind, it was also implacable.

“I’ll never forget you, Peregrin Took, never,” Tamsyn whispered, squeezing tears from her eyes. “I’ll always love you.” He started crying with desperate, heaving sobs and she kissed him – a last, frantic kiss that they tried to stretch into eternity.

“Step away, Peregrin,” Radagast said, and his voice now held that commanding ring that told Tamsyn he was about to start his spell. Perry jerked upright and let go of Tamsyn, and was three paces away before he regained control over his body. He tried to take a step back to her, but Radagast had started chanting, and Perry found that he couldn’t.

“I love you, Tamsyn Moriarty,” he said as the wizard took her hand and the magical wind started whipping around them, stirring her hair and dress. “I’ll always, always love you.” He spoke quietly, barely above a whisper, but despite Radagast’s echoing spell Tamsyn heard it more clearly than anything else.

She watched him, tears streaming down his face, and then everything went black and she lost consciousness.


What has happened in England in Tamsyn’s absence? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

Scandal’s Bride ~ Stephanie Laurens

  • Title: Scandal’s Bride
  • Author: Stephanie Laurens
  • Series: Cynster #3
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Format: e-book
  • Source: own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  How can an honourable lady like Lady Catriona Hennessy unite with a rake like Richard Cynster? Though charmed by his commanding presence, she cannot give up her independence. Marriage had not previously been on Richard′s agenda, but perhaps taming the lady was just the challenge he needs – if he can have the rights of the marriage bed without making any revealing promises of love?

Review: I’m very much in two minds about this book. On the one hand it was an easy read which kept me entertained throughout. On the other hand it was repetitive and with a plot so sketchy that it was hard to find sometimes.

Our hero is Richard Cynster, half-brother to Devil, born to another man’s wife somewhere up in Scotland but raised as a full-born Cynster, since his real mother died when he was only a baby, and he was then dumped on the Cynsters’ doorstep.

The book starts when he is called to Scotland because his real mother’s husband has passed away, revealing that he kept back a bequest she had for her son. The Scottish lord is also the ward of one Catriona Hennessy, a stubborn lass with her own holding in the lowlands, who is known as the Lady of the Vale.

There is some convoluted plot to force Richard and Catriona into marriage, which brings the usual conundrum of the Cynster man being very much in favour of this, and the woman in question being very much against it.

What I liked: Catriona is a lady in her own right, used to being in command and making decisions. The bulk of her objections against the marriage stem from the fact that Richard is a true Cynster male, and therefore an alpha, and she does not want him to usurp her authority. Richard, on the other hand, understands her and her position enough to not interfere with this and support her rather than taking over.

What I didn’t like: quite a list, actually, but the main problem is that there are so many repetitive elements in this book that it started to wear on me. Catriona is a pagan who follows The Lady and practices the healing arts, and as such she is a witch. I have no problem with this, but whenever we’re in Richard’s head she is referred to as ‘his witchy wife’ so many times that it started to grate. Apart from that the Cynsters are a right bunch of rabbits, so there was a lot of sex. Again, I don’t have a problem with this in itself, especially since the author is very good at the sex scenes, but it did get a bit samey after a while, and I’d have liked to see a bit more plot instead. I also had to roll my eyes at Richard’s petulance when he couldn’t have sex one morning because his wife had the audacity to get up before him.

There is the usual inability of either party to say ‘I love you’ to the other, which makes any lamentations of ‘I need to make sure that he knows I love him’ a bit idiotic, and after three books of it, that too is getting repetitive.

Considering the list of dislikes one might think that this book is bad and I didn’t like it at all, but that’s not the case. As I said at the start, it was an easy read which kept me entertained without effort. It just wasn’t brilliant.

I also feel it necessary to say something about the terrible editing of this e-book version. I have no idea whether this is any different in other editions, but this had so many instances of two people talking in the same paragraph that it was actually starting to get confusing. Very disappointing to see from a professional publisher.

Bitterblue ~ Kristin Cashore

  • Title: Bitterblue
  • Author: Kristin Cashore
  • Series: Graceling Realm, #3
  • Genre: Fantasy, YA
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle–disguised and alone–to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

Review:  This was a strange book, childish and naïve on one hand, impossible to put down on the other. YA is not my favorite genre, but I read Cashore’s first novel, Graceling and loved it, so I decided to try this one. I wasn’t disappointed. Reading this story felt like eating a chocolate cake: a rich, bittersweet taste of a charming heroine, coated by the tangy icing of politics and betrayals, plus a small cherry of romance.

Eighteen-year-old Queen Bitterblue has been queen since she was ten. Her late father, King Leck, was a mad despot with the terrible ability to control people’s minds. He could compel anyone to believe what he said and do what he wanted. Even now, eight years after his death, the fog of his lies lingers. The minds, cruelly twisted and befuddled by Leck’s mendacity, continue his bloody perversions long after their master expired.

Bitterblue senses that her kingdom is still sick, her citizens still suffering, and she desperately wants to heal them all, but her counselors conceal the truth from her. To find out the secrets behind their smooth words and their mountains of paperwork, she sneaks out of the palace at nights, makes new friends in unexpected places, and discovers a complex knot of treacheries and deceptions. It is up to her to untangle the conspiracies, expose the traitors, and dispel her father’s horrifying legacy once and for all. But her hardest challenge is to figure out whom to trust, to separate allies from enemies.

Many of the characters from Graceling reappear in this book, but it also boasts a slew of new personages; some of them flat and boring, others very colorful. Among the newcomers is a thief Saf, Bitterblue’s romantic interest. In the best traditions of the fantasy genre, the young queen falls in love with the most unsuitable man, and their turbulent, utterly teenage relationship, adds spice to the already multifaceted character of our heroine.

Bitterblue’s controversial nature makes her into a living girl inside the pages of her book. One moment she is an unquestionable ruler, fearless and ruthless. Another – she is a frightened and vulnerable orphan, unsure of herself, bemoaning her plain face and pining for an unattainable guy. Actually, the story would’ve benefited from Bitterblue being less prone to self-pity, but I liked her anyway.

She stirred my maternal instincts. I wanted to hug and kiss this lonely girl and tell her everything would be okay. I wanted to know how her story ended. Not once in this pretty long novel – over 500 pages – was I tempted to stop reading, although sometimes the plot slowed down, like an interlude in a theatrical production: musical curlicues instead of a straightforward momentum.

One of my few complaints about this novel is that most characters behave as much younger versions of their supposed ages. Bitterblue doesn’t think or act as if she is eighteen, more like fourteen. Her cousin, prince Po, one of my favorite characters and a transplant from Graceling, often conducts himself like an eighteen-year-old boy, instead of a man of about twenty-six, his age according to the timeline.

Another problem I have is with the idea of the Council – an international organization of freedom fighters. The notion is immature at best and laughable at worst, absolutely unbelievable. Just imagine: Bitterblue’s friends setting up revolutions everywhere and deposing bad kings. Please!

But the difficulties of the aftermath of Leck’s dictatorship, when a number of people want to forget and move forward, while others need to remember to start healing, shows the author’s wisdom far beyond her target YA audience. The situation is fraught with tension and horribly real, even though it takes place in a fantastic milieu. There are some similarities with what happened in Germany after the WWII, although I’m not sure it was intentional on the author’s part.  

Overall, an absorbing read and a delightful female protagonist. Recommended.

Furies of Calderon ~ Jim Butcher

  • Title:  Furies of Calderon
  • Author:  Jim Butcher
  • Series:  Codex Alera #1
  • Genre:  Adventure, Fantasy
  • Format:  Paperback
  • Source:  Own book
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Description:  In the realm of Alera, where people bond with the furies-elementals of earth, air, fire, water and metal, fifteen-year-old Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. But when his homeland erupts in chaos-when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies-Tavi’s simple courage will turn the tides of war.

**Potential Spoilers**

Review:  I get a lot of book/author recommendations from fellow readers. The name Jim Butcher comes up. A LOT. Perhaps this is because I love both epic and urban fantasy so much. Since my significant other has read the Codex Alera series, Butcher’s traditional fantasy series, I decided to start there. Furies of Calderon is the first book of this series.

The story followed young Tavi, a naive young lad who appears to have no fury, an elemental-based power. He was a smart young man, but unfortunately, in a world where everyone is defined by their fury, he is seen as a bit less than others. His world, and that of his community, started to unravel when they are invaded by the Marat, fierce savage neighboring warriors, as part of a larger plot overthrow the king.

While the book did feel very much like the first book of a series, Butcher did a fantastic job of introducing a rich cast of characters. It was rare to find a character that is purely good or evil in the book. Most tended to be a blend of good and bad. In fact, the author depicted good, bad, right, and wrong as a matter of the character’s perspective. Characters on both side clearly had strong ethics, the only thing making them enemies seemed to be what they felt was best for the kingdom or their community. I look forward to seeing all of their stories unfold.

The political intrigue behind the conflict was interesting, if a little predictable. Butcher has a set up a good foundation upon which to build the series, yet he was able to craft a solid ending point for this book. In fact, Furies of Calderon was a picture perfect example of how to use a traditional plot line. The story got off to a slow start, so it took me a while to get into it. However, it gradually built into a crescendo, pulling me in before I even knew that I was hooked. There was a diverse cast of characters, in different locations and situations, and he gradually pulled them all into a truly epic battle scene at the Garrison. The action in the book was very well written.

It was hard not to fall in love with Tavi. He had this inherent goodness about him, and yet he wasn’t flawless. I had to “bless his heart” when he was bamboozled by a pretty face into shirking his chores at the beginning of the book. Clearly, and bond was created between Tavi and Kitai, daughter to one of the Marat’s leaders, with whom Tavi built a truce. It will be interesting to watch this unfold as the saga continues.

I do want to comment on the cover. It was more than a little cheesy. It looks like a teen who just walked away from a LARP adventure in front of a backdrop with lightening effects. It is a good thing that book was recommended, otherwise I might have overlooked it.

So, I guess that my friends were correct. This book spoke to my love of high fantasy and adventure. I am looking forward to continuing the series.

Immortal in Death ~ J D Robb

  • Title: Immortal in Death
  • Author: J D Robb
  • Series: In Death #3
  • Genre: Futuristic Murder Mystery Romance
  • Format: e-book
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Description:  It is 2058, New York City. Lieutenant Eve Dallas uncovers a world where technology can create beauty and youth, but passion and greed can destroy them.

She was one of the most sought-after women in the world. A top model who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted -even another woman’s man. And now she’s dead, the victim of a brutal murder.

Police lieutenant Eve Dallas puts her life on the line to take the case when suspicion falls on her best friend, the other woman in the fatal love triangle. Beneath the facade of glamor, Eve finds that the world of high fashion thrives on an all-consuming obsession with youth and fame-one that leads her from the lights of the runway to the dark underworld of New York City, where drugs can fulfill any desire, for a price.

Review: The third book in this series continues the pattern so far, albeit with a slight deviation. The first murder seems unimportant: one of Eve’s informants, a lowlife drug dealer cum street thug, is found in the river with his face bashed in. Eve takes on the murder since he was hers, but at this point in time she is distracted and worried about her upcoming wedding and how on earth she’s going to cope with that.

With that in mind, Eve’s best friend Mavis drags her over to her new boyfriend Leonardo, an up-and-coming designer who wants to design Eve’s wedding dress. During the fitting they get a visit from Pandora: supermodel, all-round nasty person and Leonardo’s ex, who isn’t prepared to let him go just yet. This seems no more than a nasty spat, but then a few days later Pandora is found dead at Leonardo’s apartment with her face smashed to smithereens and all the evidence points to Mavis as the perpetrator.

For Eve this gives the case extra pressure and significance. She knows Mavis too well to even think for one moment that she did it, but with her best friend’s freedom in the balance it makes it extra difficult for Eve to find the real murderer.

As before, I had absolutely no clue who the culprit was throughout the book, and it was a major revelation when I finally did find out. I do like a murder mystery which actually remains a mystery until the grand reveal at the end. On the relationship side I was amused by Mavis’ tireless attempts to make Eve pay some attention to her appearance, and the chapter where she is tackled by a hairdresser/beautician at the same time as she is hassled by Leonardo and his assistant over her wardrobe was pure Eve. It’s fun to see her gradually change from hard-ass cop to a woman who can let go a little and enjoy what life can give her outside of work.

However, there is a dark side to this too. Eve’s continuing involvement with Roarke, and the fact that she is starting to have a life outside work, finally gives her mind the impetus to start dealing with her traumatic past. This manifests itself in nightmares – flashbacks – which reveal things about her past that she didn’t want to know about, and which she has difficulty reconciling with her job as a homicide detective. This adds another layer of depth to this book – and this series – which makes it better than average.

Roarke remains much as he was. I know many readers of this series find him too perfect, but personally I have no problems with this, and I find him quite an interesting man. Still, there was nothing in this book to really lift it to amazing levels, so I’ll drop it a little in rating to a 4.5.

The Life List ~ Lori Nelson Spielman

  • Title: The Life List
  • Author: Lori Nelson Spielman
  • Genre: Mainstream, Women’s fiction
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description: In this utterly charming debut — one woman sets out to complete her old list of childhood goals, and finds that her lifelong dreams lead her down a path she never expects.

1. Go to Paris
2. Perform live, on a super big stage
3. Have a baby, maybe two
4. Fall in love

Brett Bohlinger has forgotten all about the list of life goals she’d written as a naïve teenager. In fact, at thirty-four, Brett seems to have it all—a plum job at her family’s multimillion-dollar company and a spacious loft with her irresistibly handsome boyfriend. But when her beloved mother, Elizabeth, passes away, Brett’s world is turned upside down. Rather than simply naming her daughter the new CEO of Bohlinger Cosmetics, Elizabeth’s will comes with one big stipulation: Brett must fulfill the list of childhood dreams she made so long ago.
Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision. Some of her old hopes seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other dreams (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. For each goal attempted, her mother has left behind a bittersweet letter, offering words of wisdom, warmth, and—just when Brett needs it—tough love.
As Brett struggles to complete her abandoned life list, one thing becomes clear: Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.

Review: Without a doubt, this book is a powerful work of fiction, stirring a bittersweet brew of emotions in its reader. Beautifully written, it tells a poignant story of a mother-daughter love transcending death. At least on the surface, it does, but when you dig deeper, you realize that something doesn’t jibe. Although at first glance, the book’s vibrations seem authentic, beneath the cosmetic layer, falsehood resides.

The novel starts, when Brett’s beloved mother, Elizabeth, dies from cancer. Stricken with grief, Brett arrives at her mother’s will reading, only to suffer a terrible shock. While her two brothers inherit millions, Brett inherits zilch. Or rather, her inheritance is delayed and conditional.

To become eligible, she must fulfill a life list, which she herself had compiled when she was 14. Making her life even more interesting, all the items on the list must be completed within one year. Otherwise, she won’t receive a dime. And, as the finishing touch, in her last, posthumous action, Elizabeth decreed that Brett must be fired from her marketing position with the family firm. Now, Brett has no income, no job, and her only consolation is the life list that reflects her mother’s love. Or does it?

Here, my view diverges from the author’s. I think love should include respect and acceptance. When you love someone, you grant her the rights to choose her own path and to make her own mistakes. You give advice, yes, but you don’t force complaisance, don’t foist your way of life on someone you love. You support unconditionally, whatever she chooses. Otherwise, it’s not love at all. When free choice is removed from the equation, it’s called tyranny.

In this regard, Elizabeth’s actions stink of tyranny. They evoke such notions as contempt and mockery, not love. Only someone who despises her daughter would include the item ‘fall in love’ as a prerequisite for inheritance. Within one year too. As if love would adhere to schedule.    

In the book, Elizabeth supposedly knew that her daughter was unhappy in her personal and professional life. She made her will into a weapon, serving one purpose: to steer her daughter into a different orbit, to enforce her happiness (what an oxymoron!). I don’t see love there. I see an autocratic woman who tries to control her daughter from beyond the grave.

Unaccountably, Brett allows it. She complies with her mother’s last wishes instead of doing the logical thing and contesting the will. The novel follows Brett, as she struggles to accomplish all the items on her prescribed list within her crazy deadline. After each goal is attained, Brett is allowed to read one of her mother’s letters, attached to that particular goal. All the letters are part of the narrative; they’re full of loving words, very teary, but they’re just words on paper. Why can’t Brett see that? Her millionaire mother left her penniless. If it’s not cruelty, what is? Why does Brett believe the words and not the deeds? Why does she continue with this impossible charade of her life list?

As I witnessed Brett’s frantic scrambling to appease a corpse, I sometimes got so angry on her behalf, I had to close the book and pace. My stomach knotted. I wanted to scream in frustration at the poor woman: Don’t be such a doormat! See through your mother’s machinations! Fight! Rebel! But she wouldn’t. Even though her mother was dead, Brett still remained the obedient, spineless daughter she has always been. And her love for her mother never diminished.

Of course, in real life, most sane persons in Brett’s position would also jump through hoops to get to their millions, but the author doesn’t want her reader to think that Brett is motivated by money. She writes Brett as an altruist, a goody-good with an infinite capacity for love. Every line of the novel’s marvelous prose thrums true, invokes a wide range of feelings, touches her reader’s heartstrings.  

I wanted to believe her but I couldn’t. It infuriated me that such a great writer would create such a lie. About love, no less. It wouldn’t be so bad, if the writer weren’t so good.