Intensity (A Poem)

Kaleidoscope of senses vying for singular attendance,
A convergence of tangential thoughts and actions focusing on one.
The world fades as the senses fill with sharp, poignant wonderment:
a husky scent, tinted with a tang of greenery, tantalizes fleeting memory,
the soothing warmth emanating, growing steadily
between bodies moving in rhythmic, close embrace,
darting tongue over lower lip, laving a glistening
path and tasting one’s exertion firsthand,
a glance upwards caught by dark eyes
gazing downwards in questioning intensity, seeking—
music’s pulse soaring, entwining with dueling heartbeats,
faint catch of breathe, soft laughter brimming with dawning joy.

A Moment in the Dance

 

My Date from Hell ~ Tellulah Darling

  • Title: My Date from Hell
  • Author: Tellulah Darling
  • Series: Blooming Goddess #2
  • Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy
  • Format: ARC
  • Source: Author
  • Reviewed by: Erica
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Sophie Bloom’s junior year has been a bit of a train wreck. After the world’s greatest kiss re-awakened Sophie’s true identity as Persephone (Goddess of Spring and Savior of Humanity), she fought her dragon-lady guidance counselor to the death, navigated mean girl Bethany’s bitchy troublemaking, and dealt with the betrayal of her backstabbing ex, Kai (sexy Prince of Darkness). You’d think a girl could catch a break.

Yeah, right.

With Zeus stepping things up, it’s vital that Sophie retrieve Persephone’s memories and discover the location of the ritual to stop Zeus and Hades. So when Aphrodite strikes a deal that can unlock Sophie’s pre-mortal past, what choice does the teen goddess have but to accept?

The mission: stop media mogul Hermes from turning Bethany into a global mega-celebrity. The catch? Aphrodite partners Sophie and Kai to work together … and treat this suicide mission as a date. Which could work out for Sophie’s plan to force Kai to admit his feelings for her–if she doesn’t kill him first.

Add to that the fact that BFF Theo’s love life and other BFF Hannah’s actual life are in Sophie’s hands, and suddenly being a teenager—even a godlike one—seems a bit like … well, hell. Whatever happened to dinner and a movie?

The YA romantic comedy/Greek mythology fireworks continue to fly in My Date From Hell. Love meets comedy with a whole lot of sass in book two of this teen fantasy romance series. Breaking up is easy; dating is deadly.

Review:  Having really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy I was understandably excited to be offered an ARC for its sequel, and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. Be warned though, this review contains spoilers for the first book.

At the end of My Ex from Hell we left Sophie at the mercy of her father Zeus, with whom she is not on the best of terms, to put it mildly. It was a major cliffhanger, and thankfully we go pretty much straight into the action at the start of this book. Zeus wants to know how and where Sophie and Kai had planned to overthrow him and Hades. The trouble is of course that Sophie still doesn’t actually remember everything from her past life as Persephone, including the details of their plot, and the last time she saw Kai he had betrayed and abandoned her and her friends to die.

Sophie manages to escape (of course, or there wouldn’t be much of a book to follow), and returns to her school only to discover that her arch-nemesis Bethany’s popularity has grown to world-encompassing proportions, thanks to her magical popularity tattoo and the help of mega media mogul Jack, who is actually Hermes. Oh, also, Sophie has only one chance left not to be expelled. Which would be bad, since the school is the only place where she’s safe from Zeus and Hades’ minions.

Cue a convoluted plot involving Aphrodite wanting Bethany stopped (because no one should be more popular than Aphrodite) which results in Sophie and her friends hopping all over the world in search of Jack/Hermes.

What I liked: oh, so many things. The bickering and bantering is as snarky as it was in the first book, and the book often had me sniggering. The reunion of Sophie and Kai is very, very sweet and sexy, and it confirmed my notion that Kai really isn’t the dick he appeared to be in the first book. In fact: I really liked Kai in this book, even if his actual behaviour isn’t much different than in book one. The devil is in the details, really.

I like that Theo is gay without being camp, because too many authors make their protagonist’s gay best friend the most ridiculously clichéd camp ‘get outta here, girlfriend!’ kind of person. I liked the various spins on the traditional Greek gods while at the same time keeping important details (like Hephaestos’ manky foot). I loved all the scenes between Sophie and Kai, which were everything they needed to be to illustrate the journey of two people who are attracted to each other yet don’t really want to like each other, but kinda have to.

What I didn’t like: there were a few times when I was confused, and it took a while before I understood what was going on, such as when Kai was hit by Aphrodite’s arrow. Did it have an effect? Didn’t it? I’m sure it took me three chapters to fully understand what had actually happened. There were a few other places where I felt the same – sometimes the plot felt a bit rushed and I would have liked to see a little more explanation about where a character came from and what he was suddenly doing there. It’s not that the explanation is missing altogether, it was just very perfunctory.

That said, the writing is solid and very entertaining, and the book ends with a major plot twist that I didn’t see coming at all, and another cliffhanger that makes me want the next book yesterday. If My Ex from Hell was a just-about 4-star effort then My Date from Hell is a very, very solid 4-star effort, almost a 4.5.

City of Ashes ~ Cassandra Clare

  • Title: City of Ashes
  • Author: Cassandra Clare
  • Series: The Mortal Instruments #2
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 2 out of 5

Description:  Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

*This review may contain spoilers.*

Review:  Cassandra Clare is back. City of Ashes is the follow-up to her fun, young adult urban fantasy adventure City of Bones. This second book of the Mortal Instruments series is everything that the first book was not, and I don’t mean that in a good way. The first book was light on teen wallowing and focused on more on their adventure through a dangerous magical world.

City of Ashes, on the other hand, is a story about a group of spoiled teens in the midst of a big ole angst fest. Clary and Jace are all angsty about their Luke and Lei sibling attraction since they still think they are brother and sister. (Clearly, at some point it will be revealed that they are not actually siblings, because otherwise, eww!) Jace is also wallowing in Vader/Valentine father drama and acting bratty because nobody believes him, because dishing up disdainful attitude is always helpful in getting others to see your point of view. Simon is battling his angst driven jealously over any attention that Clary is paying to her brother, Jace. Alec is drowning in a whole vat of youthful melodrama, struggling with his sexuality, his unrequited love for Jace, and perhaps a hidden romance? Isabelle is not so much angsting as she is rebelling against nothing. Oh, and they are aware of the magical world around them and they are trying to fight evil.

Eventually, we see some opportunities for action and adventure. However, it feel like every time a conflict arises, someone breaks out into an angst-driven monologue. How many times are they going to feel swayed by Valentine’s fanatical ranting? Really? He’s right THERE! Less talky talky, more stabby stabby. When we are not interrupting this regularly scheduled not-a-fight scene, we are flash-forwarding to the end only to experience yet another heart rending near death episode. Surely Simon’s nine live are up??? Oh, the drama!

This book is guilty of SO many fiction faux pas plot devices that I may have lost count. The top five kind of looks like this:

  1. Overreaction in place of action – like going to a werewolf bar to pick a fight because you are mad at your stepmom
  2. Overuse of the monologue – battle is raging all around us, my sweet, but let me try to convince you why my evil plan is great
  3. Logic is overrated (not sure which is my favorite example) – I hate demons SO much, that I want to rid the world of half demons by allying myself with full demons OR I know you are my sister, but will you still be my girlfriend and we can keep it a secret?
  4. Smart characters make stupid decisions – The bad guy is looking for someone like ME? Why then, let me run off into the night alone and take back alleys so he can capture me!
  5. And the worst plot device used in this book is . . . Love triangles, or in this case knots – A hot werewolf girl is in love with me, but I’m in love with you. You are in love with your brother. He loves you, too, but you can’t be together, obviously. His teenage foster brother is in love with him, but dating a 300 year old wizard who may be in love him (eww). The foster sister seems to be in love with herself. Let’s not even bother with the “adults.” It boggles the mind.

I pretty much liked the characters in the first book. Well, I didn’t dislike them, at least. However, in City of Ashes I think that everyone could use a swift boot to the head. Jace spends the book sneering and throwing abuse at others, meanwhile whining that no one believes in him. Clary is trying to martyr herself for every bad thing that happens to her in between bouts of saying really nasty things to people. Simon acts like a pouty douche who seems to have lost at least 30 IQ points since that last book. I could go on. Suffice it to say that Valentine wiping them all out starts to look appealing by the end of the book.

As for the conclusion, Clare serves up an ending so ambiguous that when examined you realize that there really wasn’t closure to any of the plot threads of this book. In fact, if you remove all of the angst and over emoting, I think that this book contributes maybe a single chapter, two at the most, of relevant information that moves that series plot arc forward.

On the positive side, the cover art for City of Ashes is fantastic. In keeping with the theme of the first cover, it features the city skyline with an otherworldly teen figure rising from the behind the city. This time the figure represents Clary with an almost flaming quality to her red hair. Too bad the contents of the book do not live up to the promise of the cover.

Now, I am left with a decision. Do I give the series another chance? I DID like the first book. However, my eyes are still sore from the number of times I rolled them while reading this book. Perhaps I’ll give it some time, let my eye muscles recover, and see how I feel with a little distance. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. We shall see.

Forged in Blood I ~ Lindsay Buroker

  • Title: Forged in Blood I
  • Author:  Lindsay Buroker
  • Series:  Emperor’s Edge 6
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy, Steampunk
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3 out of 5

Description:  The emperor has been ousted from the throne, his bloodline in question, and war is descending on the capital. Forge, the nefarious business coalition that has been manipulating the political situation from the beginning, has the ultimate weapon at its disposal.

 If it was difficult for a small team of outlaws–or, as Amaranthe has decided they should now be called, rebels–to make a difference before, it’s a monumental task now. If she’s to return idealistic young Sespian to the throne, earn the exoneration she’s sought for so long, and help her closest ally win the respect of the son who detests him, she’ll have to employ an unprecedented new scheme…preferably without destroying the city–or herself–in the process.

Review:  Soooo. This one took me much longer to get into than the last 5. It may well be because it didn’t have the impetus of reading them back to back to back. Therefore, I had to pick up and get back into the characters and the ongoing story. I considered re-reading the first 5 before picking this one up – and I even intended to do so. However, I have had such a reading ‘tude going on that I was just not of a mind to re-read anything.

Even though it took me a bit, I did enjoy this one. We get a bit more a feel for Sicarius and who and what he is. I didn’t think I would, but I really enjoyed getting into his brain. Much less of the sillyness that is Maldynado – and I think I missed that a bit. For most of the book, two teams are split up trying to accomplish different goals toward the same end – and I missed their camaraderie.

I don’t know that I am a fan of the typical fantasy plot set-up – slow going at the beginning, build up to discover what is happening toward the middle – until we get to the big, really climactic finish. I mean, most of the stories these days are told in series, and when each book follows the same model, it makes it hard for me to enjoy. I have already had the slow build up – I read the first book. I deserve some action now, doggone it! I shouldn’t have to wait until the end. And, oh yea, when I *do* get to the end, it really isn’t the end – but a darn cliffhanger which means to get to the end of the darn story I am going to have to wade through the beginning of yet another book. (Um, in case you, dear reader, cannot tell, I really don’t care for the slow beginnings.)

Which brings me to the end. Lindsay did not lead us astray here – she warned us of the cliffhanger at the end of book 6. This would be why I did not pick up this one until the next was out. Here is the problem. I was hooked – hook, line and sinker – right up to the last sentence. The VERY LAST SENTENCE. It made me mad. The cliffhanger actually made me mad. I don’t like it. I don’t like where the story must go from here. I don’t think I want to travel that path.

In truth. I bought the next book. I read the epilogue. (So, shoot me. I wanted to know where the story went – though I was fairly certain I knew.) I still don’t know if I will read that book in its entirety. I am still angered by the plot device caused by the cliffhanger.

That single paragraph – on which the book ends – took the book down to 3 stars from 4. Sorry. But, there is the truth of it.

Making Money ~ Terry Pratchett

  • Title: Making Money
  • Author: Terry Pratchett
  • Series: Discworld #36
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: Olga Godim
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  Who would not to wish to be the man in charge of Ankh-Morpork’s Royal Mint and the bank next door?
It’s a job for life. But, as former con-man Moist von Lipwig is learning, the life is not necessarily for
long.
The Chief Cashier is almost certainly a vampire. There’s something nameless in the cellar (and the cellar itself is pretty nameless), it turns out that the Royal Mint runs at a loss. A 300 year old wizard is after his girlfriend, he’s about to be exposed as a fraud, but the Assassins Guild might get him first. In fact lot of people want him dead.
Oh. And every day he has to take the Chairman for walkies.
Everywhere he looks he’s making enemies.
What he should be doing is . . . Making Money!

Review: 

A terrific book, one of the best in the series. The story follows the continuing adventures of Moist von Lipwig, which started in Going Postal. To tell the truth, in this particular novel, the plot and the protagonist do not exist separately. I can’t imagine the events of this novel happening to anyone else but Moist von Lipwig, a reformed (almost) conman, a sweet talker, and a genius troubleshooter who revived the Post Office for Lord Vetinari, the ruler of Ankh-Morpork.

Now the postal service of the city works like a clock, Moist has no more challenges, and he is bored. He picks locks in the post office building (despite having all the keys as the Postmaster General) and climbs walls at night to relieve the boredom.

When Vetinari offers him a new job – to revitalize the Royal Mint (why is it Royal, when there hasn’t been any king in Ankh-Morpork for decades?) and reorganize one of the biggest city banks – Moist declines. He’s set on becoming a respectable citizen. Unfortunately for Moist, the choice is taken out of his hands. Through no fault of his, he inherits a dog who is the chairman of the bank – this is Discworld, remember – from its deceased owner. With the dog goes 50% of the bank’s shares, so now Moist has no recourse but to make the mint and the bank work for the city and for himself. 

Of course, there are all sorts of problems our resourceful hero must face. First, he has to learn how money-making really works. Another quandary: the rest of the shareholders are unhappy about the situation and will stop at nothing to remove the pesky chairman (dog) and its innovative new owner. Furthermore, the bank is almost bankrupt, and the mint’s overheads cost more than the coins it produces. Only Moist’s creative thinking can save both from imminent collapse… if he can dodge assassins and embezzlement charges for long enough to make his (his dog’s) bank function. Perhaps he can even invent paper banknotes?

The protagonist, recognizable from his previous postal novel, is his usual charming self, moderately honest, slightly prone to dangerous pranks, and a glutton for fools and misers. They are practically inviting him to trick them.

The antagonists are sufficiently evil. And the city is the author’s version of our reality, with the added fun of trolls, werewolves, and the openly twisted morality. Laugh at you own peril. Enjoy the show. Read and learn. This book is a mirror, and we’re all staring into it. Whatever we see is up to us.  

The action is very fast, and a couple of small incongruities along the way don’t spoil the effect, while the occasional nuggets of wisdom sparkle in the text, making for laughter-inspiring quotes. I love the guy who can think like that and put every pre-conceived notion upside down.

Moist talks to the mint workers during his introductory visit:

“Well, at least you’re in a profitable business,” said Moist cheerfully. “I mean you must be making money hand over fist!”
“We manage to break even, sir, yes,” said Shady, as if it was a close-run thing.
“Break even? You’re a mint!” said Moist. “How can you not make a profit by making money?”
“Overheads, sir. There’s overheads wherever you look. … Y’see, it costs a ha’penny to make a farthin’ an’ nearly a penny to make a ha’penny…”

The logic of making coins at a loss escapes me, just as it was incomprehensible to Moist.  

Here he wonders:

…how illogical logical thinking can be if a big enough committee is doing it.

 Obviously, he is not a fan of committees. Are you?

 Moist ponders the phenomenon of stamp collecting:

Stamp collecting! It had started on day one, and then ballooned like some huge … thing, running on strange, mad rules. Was there any other field where flaws made things worth more? Would you buy a suit just because one arm was shorter than the other? Or because a bit of spare cloth was still attached? Of course, when Moist had spotted this he’d put in flaws on purpose, as a matter of public entertainment, but he certainly hadn’t planned for Lord Vetinari’s head to appear upside down just once on every sheet of Blues. One of the printers had been about to destroy them when Moist brought him down with a flying tackle.

 Moist contemplates his own flexible ethics:

I wonder… Am I really a bastard or am I just really good at thinking like one?

 The Post Office workers, who have had the measure of their ingenious boss, vouch for him:

“And we talked to some of the lads from the Post Office last night and they said we could trust Mr. Lipwig’s word ’cos he’s as straight as a corkscrew.”
“A corkscrew?” said Bent, shocked.
“Yeah, we asked about that too,” said Shady.  “And they said he acts curly but that’s okay ’cos he damn well gets the corks out!”

Note the names of the people who work for the bank and the mint: Bent, Shady. Aren’t they fabulous? Overall, a marvelous read and a delightful mockery of our money system… and our other systems too.  


A Shire Romance (Part Twenty-eight)

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.

PART TWENTY-EIGHT – BACK TO THE SHIRE

With the truth now out, Tamsyn spent all of her remaining time in a frenzy of activity with Andy, planning her departure down to the minutest details. She made sure that to the public and the paparazzi she still presented the same melancholy image of the past months, but as the twenty-second of May came ever closer, she became jittery with anticipation.

Much as she hated to fake something as traumatic and serious as suicide, Tamsyn had not been able to think of any other way to accomplish her disappearance, and she and Andy had decided that it would ‘take place’ at Beachy Head on the south coast of England. Sadly enough it was a popular location for it, but the lack of a body could be attributed to it being washed away with the tide. Tamsyn would leave her car there with a suicide note, then disguise herself and take public transport to Somerset, paying in cash all along the way.

Andy booked himself and Rhys onto a two-week Caribbean cruise which was due to start a week before the designated date of the meeting with Radagast, and the night before his departure he and Tamsyn spent talking and saying their goodbyes.

“I will miss you, you know,” Tamsyn said at one point, squeezing his hand.

“I know,” he replied, squeezing hers back. “I’ll miss you too. But I’ll know where you are, and that you’ll be happy, and I’ll have Rhys to distract me.”

“I’m sorry you can’t tell him what will really happen to me.”

“That’s a secret I’ll just have to live with. I’ll be fine, Tam. Just look after yourself, and make sure you don’t get recognised on your way to Somerset.”

“Mmm, I’ve got a foolproof way to ensure that,” she said with a smile.

“Oh?”

“I’ll wear a pair of shoes.”

 o–o-o–o

The last few days on her own Tamsyn spent pacing around the house, then on the twentieth of May she could finally set her plan in motion. She checked her disguise in the mirror – a plain headscarf to hide her hair and baggy, nondescript clothing to hide her figure – then tucked a pair of running shoes in her bag and left the house. There was a lone photographer camped on the pavement, and she made sure he got a good shot before she got in her car. She knew she had gained little weight and that her pallor was unfashionably pale, which would confirm her distressed state of mind.

The drive to Beachy Head took a few hours, and she arrived there late in the evening. She knew there were always suicide patrols scanning the area, so when a man approached her car she quickly drove away again and returned an hour later.

She abandoned the car and walked through the night, then just before dawn she donned the scarf and put on the shoes. They felt tight and constricting after so many months without, but she shrugged off the feeling and headed for the nearest village to find a bus going west.

The trip to Bristol was long and dreary, made worse by the usual hiccups and glitches in the British public transport system, but once there she found a local bus service which took her to the village near the site. From there she set out on foot, as if going out for a hike.

She was tired to the bone when she finally got to the site. The fences had gone, since the nature reserve was accessible to all, and at the first bin she could find she took off everything but her underwear, then wrapped herself into a picnic blanket. A pile of abandoned clothes might raise suspicions, but an abandoned blanket was unlikely to. She wasn’t certain about the underwear, but she had to draw a line somewhere, even if she was almost too tired to care. Once she reached the portal she wrapped herself into the blanket and fell into exhausted sleep.

Dawn tickled her awake, damp and shivering. To pass the time she combed out her hair with her fingers, then started counting birds, wondering with every one whether it was one of the shrikes. Around mid-morning her nerves got the better of her and she started pacing, increasingly worried that Radagast wouldn’t show. Then, after yet another fifteen-pace circle, she turned and found him looking at her.

“Radagast!” she called, weak with relief, and ran to him, hugging him with one arm and clutching the blanket to her with the other.

“Good day, Tamsyn,” he said, giving her a bemused look. “Do you have good news for me?”

“Good news, and a request,” Tamsyn said, her heart now beating in her throat.

“Very well, I’m listening.”

“The news is that the site is secure. It is a nature reserve for as long as my money can pay for it. I’ve made sure that that’s a very long time.”

Radagast breathed a sigh of relief. “That is the best news you could give me. I have news for you too. Or rather, a message.”

“From…?”

“From the Thain. He listened to my story, and asked me to pass on his gratitude, if I ever saw you again. He said he understood, though it saddened him.”

“And… and Perry?”

“Peregrin did not look well, I’m afraid. He cried when I passed on your message, and his words in return are that he loves you still, and misses you more with every day.”

Tamsyn let out her pent up breath. “When did you speak to them?”

“When I returned, six months ago. I have not seen them since. I have been at home, in Rhosgobel. Now, what is your request?”

Tamsyn straightened and looked him in the eyes. “Please, take me back with you.”

He looked at her for a full minute before he spoke. “You are sure of this?”

“Absolutely. There is nothing left for me here. Please, take me back, turn me back into a hobbit and let me stay in the Shire forever. The spell… the spell is permanent, right?” She felt a sudden stab of terror as it occurred to her that it might not be.

“Yes, the spell is permanent,” he replied, and she nearly collapsed in relief.

“I’m serious, Radagast. All my affairs are in order and Andy will take on everything I own. But for me… Well, matters are very simple. I cannot live without Perry.”

He looked at her for a moment more, and Tamsyn felt like he was scrutinising her soul again, like on the first day she had met him. Then he smiled, and it was as if the sun appeared from behind the clouds. “Very well, Tamsyn Moriarty,” he said. “I believe you will make a certain young hobbit very happy today. Let us delay no further.”

He held out his hand, and this time she gripped it willingly, closing her eyes in anticipation as the wind started whipping round her and Radagast’s voice echoed in her ears. For the third time, the world around her went black as she lost consciousness.

o–o-o–o

The first thing she noticed when she came to was the purity of the air around her. This time it smelled like spring, and the slightly moist ground felt warm to the touch. Once her dizziness and blurred vision had passed she checked her feet, and nearly cried with joy when she found them to be large and hairy. Her ears were next, and tapered to a very satisfying point. She once again wore a shift-like garment and nothing else, and when she called for Radagast and found him, he towered over her like a giant. He was also exhausted again, and she tried to catch him as he sat down hard on the ground.

“I’m afraid I can’t carry you this time,” she said, “but I’ll send help for you, I promise.”

“It’s fine, Tamsyn, there is nothing here that could or would harm me. Go find your young man, I’ll be fine.” With that he fell asleep, and Tamsyn looked around to try and get her bearings. It had been mid-morning back in England, so logic dictated it would be mid-morning in the Shire too. She peered at the sun through the trees, determining an approximate south, then turned west, towards where she knew Great Smials should be.

She started off at a walk, but broke into a trot when she found a well-worn path. By the time it led to the big boulder that marked the boundary of the Smials garden proper she was out of breath, though she didn’t slow down. The bright green Smials door was wide open and she dashed inside and to the kitchen, knowing that even if Perry wasn’t there, she’d at least find Esme.

The hobbit matron sat at the table, together with a young woman who bore a striking resemblance to Perry, though her hair was brown like Faramir’s. She was nursing a baby with a head of bright auburn hair, and both women looked up in surprise at Tamsyn.

Esme gasped and fainted, sliding to the floor with a thump.

“Oh, shit,” Tamsyn muttered, running over and trying to drag the woman back upright. She gave a sheepish grin at the younger woman, who was hampered by the baby at her breast, and said, “Uh, hi. You must be Diamond.”

The woman’s smile widened. “So I am. And I can guess who you must be, judging by your looks and my mother’s reaction. Here, use this.” She handed Tamsyn the baby’s wiping cloth and pointed at a cup of water on the table.

Tamsyn poured a little water on the cloth and wiped Esme’s forehead with it until the woman came to. When she focused on Tamsyn she nearly fainted again, but then she clamped her into an embrace that left her breathless.

“Tamsyn, is that really you?” she whispered.

“Yes, Esme. I’m back.”

She helped the woman back to her feet and suffered another rib-cracking hug. “Oh, you’re a sight for sore eyes! Let me look at you!” She pushed Tamsyn to arm’s length and tutted. “You look as bad as he does, poor lamb. Come, sit down, tell me everything! Are you here to stay? Do you want something to eat?”

“Mother!” Diamond’s voice was amused. “Don’t you think there’s someone else she’d rather speak to first?”

Tamsyn gave her a grateful look, while Esme put a hand to her mouth. “Oh! Of course, what am I thinking?”

“Where is he?” Tamsyn asked, turning to Diamond for further help.

“He’s on the hill with my husband,” the woman replied with a warm smile. “I’m sure you know the spot.”

“I do, thank you,” Tamsyn said, then rushed back outside without a further word.

o–o-o–o

How has Perry been 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.