Excerpt: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

For fans of Josie Silver’s One Day in December, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a wholly original, charismatic, and uplifting novel that no reader will soon forget.

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live. She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that—just in time—saved her life. Now, finally, she can be a normal twenty-eight-year-old. She can climb a mountain. Dance. Wait in line all day for tickets to Wimbledon.

But first, she has to put one foot in front of the other. So far, things are as bloody complicated as ever. Her relationship with her mother is at a breaking point and she wants to find her father. Then there’s Lennox, whom Ailsa loved and lost. Will she ever find love again?

Her new heart is a bold heart. She just needs to learn to listen to it. From the hospital to her childhood home, on social media and IRL, Ailsa will embark on a journey about what it means to be, and feel, alive. How do we learn to be brave, to accept defeat, to dare to dream?

From Stephanie Butland, author of The Lost for Words Bookshop, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae will warm you from the inside out.


Excerpt

It’s 3 a.m. here in cardio-thoracic.

All I can do for now is doze, and think, and doze again. My heart is getting weaker, my body bluer. People I haven’t seen for a while are starting to drop in. (Good to see you, Emily, Jacob, Christa. I’m looking forward to the Martinis.) We all pretend we’re not getting ready to say goodbye. It seems easiest. But my mother cries when she thinks I’m sleeping, so maybe here, now, is time to admit that I might really be on the way out.

I should be grateful. A baby born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome a few years before I was would have died within days. I’ve had twenty-eight years and I’ve managed to do quite a lot of living in them. (Also, I’ve had WAY more operations than you everyday folk. I totally win on that.) OK, so I still live at home and I’ve never had a job and I’m blue around the edges because there’s never quite enough oxygen in my system. But –

Actually, but nothing. If you’re here tonight for the usual BlueHeart cheerfulness-in-the-teeth-of-disaster, you need to nd another blogger.

My heart is failing. I imagine I can feel it oundering in my chest. Sometimes it’s as though I’m holding my breath, waiting to see if another beat will come. I’ve been in hospital for four months, almost non-stop, because it’s no longer tenable for me to be at home. I’m on a drip pumping electrolytes into my blood and I’ve an oxygen tube taped to my face. I’m constantly cared for by people who are trying to keep me well enough to receive a transplanted heart if one shows up. I monitor everyicker and echo of pain or tiredness in my body and try to work out if it means that things are getting worse. And yes, I’m alive, and yes, I could still be saved, but tonight it’s a struggle to  think that being saved is possible. Or even likely. And I’m not sure I have the energy to keep waiting.

And I should be angrier, but there’s no room for anger (remember, my heart is a chamber smaller than yours) because, tonight, I’m scared.

It’s only a question of time until I get too weak to survive a transplant, and then it’s a waste of a heart to give it to me. Someone a bitter, and who would get more use from it, will bump me from the top of the list and I’m into the Palliative Care Zone. (It’s not actually called that. And it’s a good, kind, caring place, but it’s not where I want to be. Maybe when I’m ninety-eight. To be honest, tonight, I’d take forty-eight. Anything but twenty-eight.)

I hope I feel more optimistic when the sun comes up. If it does. It’s Edinburgh. It’s October. The odds are about the same as me getting a new heart.

My mother doesn’t worry about odds. She says, ‘We only need the one heart. Just the one.’ She says it in a way that makes me think that when she leaves the ward she’s away to carve one out of some poor stranger’s body herself. And anyway, odds feel strange, because even if my survival chances are, say, 20 percent, whatever happens to me will happen 100 percent. As in, I could be 100 percent dead this time next week.

Night night, BlueHeart xxx

P.S. I would really, really like for one of you to get yourself a couple of goldfish, or kittens, or puppies, or even horses, and call them Cardio and Thoracic. My preference would be for puppies. Because I love the thought that, if I don’t make it to Christmas, somewhere there will be someone walking in the winter countryside, letting their enthusiastic wee spaniels off the  lead, and then howling ‘Cardio! Thoracic!’ as they disappear over the brow of a hill intent on catching some poor terrified sheep. That’s what I call a legacy.


Purchase Links:

Publisher


STEPHANIE BUTLAND lives with her family near the sea in the North East of England. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she’s not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. For fun, she reads, knits, sews, bakes, and spins. She is an occasional performance poet and the author of The Lost for Words Bookshop.

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Weekly Wrap Up: October 20th through October 26th 2019

Books I’ve Read:

The Brutal Time

Fever

A Hundred Suns


Books with Pending Reviews:

Fever—Review coming October 29th, 2019

A Hundred Suns—Review coming April 7th, 2020


Books with Published Reviews:

Snowfall on Cedar Trail—Review Here

Small-Town Secrets—Review Here


NetGalley Requests:

A Bad Day for Sunshine


Author/Publisher Requests:

Things in Jars—Publisher Request (Atria Books)

Stranger in a Small Town—Author Request

Small-Town Family—Author Request


Blog Tours/Excerpts/Book Blitz/Cover Reveal:

In Restless Dreams—Cover Reveal

The Merkabah Series—Book Blitz

Masks—Book Blitz

Between Wild and Ruin-–Book Blitz

Slider—Cover Reveal

A Ghost of a Chance—Book Blitz

Veiled Vixen—Book Blitz

Things She’s Seen—Book Blitz

The Fire—Cover Reveal

This Earl of Mine—Excerpt

Sealer’s Game—Book Blitz

The God King—Book Blitz

Haskell Himself—Cover Reveal

Pirate’s Curse: Division One—Book Blitz

Let It Be Me—Book Blitz

Finish What You Start—Book Blitz

Claimed by the Demon Hunter—Book Blitz

The Living Canvas—Book Blitz


Weekly Posts:

Weekly Wrap Up

Top Ten Tuesday

WWW Wednesday

Excerpt: This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman

Book Synopsis:

Introducing the Bow Street Bachelors—men who work undercover for London’s first official police force—and the women they serve to protect. . .and wed?

Shipping heiress Georgiana Caversteed is done with men who covet her purse more than her person. Even worse than the ton’s lecherous fortune hunters, however, is the cruel cousin determined to force Georgie into marriage. If only she could find a way to be . . . widowed? Georgie hatches a madcap scheme to wed a condemned criminal before he’s set to be executed. All she has to do is find an eligible bachelor in prison to marry her, and she’ll be free. What could possibly go wrong?

Benedict William Henry Wylde, scapegrace second son of the late Earl of Morcott and well-known rake, is in Newgate prison undercover, working for Bow Street. Georgie doesn’t realize who he is when she marries him—and she most certainly never expects to bump into her very-much-alive, and very handsome, husband of convenience at a society gathering weeks later. Soon Wylde finds himself courting his own wife, hoping to win her heart since he already has her hand. But how can this seductive rogue convince brazen, beautiful Georgie that he wants to be together…until actual death do they part?


Excerpt:

Chapter 1.

London, March 1816.

There were worse places to find a husband than Newgate Prison.

Of course there were.

It was just that, at present, Georgie couldn’t think of any.

“Georgiana Caversteed, this is a terrible idea.” Georgie frowned at her burly companion, Pieter Smit, as the nondescript carriage he’d summoned to convey them to London’s most notorious jail rocked to a halt on the cobbled street. The salt-weathered Dutchman always used her full name whenever he disapproved of something she was doing. Which was often.

“Your father would turn in his watery grave if he knew what you were about.”

That was undoubtedly true. Until three days ago, enlisting a husband from amongst the ranks of London’s most dangerous criminals had not featured prominently on her list of life goals. But desperate times called for desperate measures. Or, in this case, for a desperate felon

02 K AT E B AT EM A N T HIS E A R L OF MINE 3

about to be hanged. A felon she would marry before the night was through.

Georgie peered out into the rain-drizzled street, then up, up the near-windowless walls. They rose into the mist, five stories high, a vast expanse of brickwork, bleak and unpromising. A church bell tolled somewhere in the darkness, a forlorn clang like a death knell. Her stomach knotted with a grim sense of foreboding.

Was she really going to go through with this? It had seemed a good plan, in the safety of Grosvenor Square. The perfect way to thwart Cousin Josiah once and for all. She stepped from the carriage, ducked her head against the rain, and followed Pieter under a vast arched gate. Her heart hammered at the audacity of what she planned. They’d taken the same route as condemned prisoners  on the way to Tyburn tree, only in reverse. West to east, from the rarefied social strata of Mayfair through gradually rougher and bleaker neighborhoods, Holborn and St. Giles, to this miserable place where the dregs of humanity had been incarcerated. Georgie felt as if she were nearing her own execution.

She shook off the pervasive aura of doom and straightened her spine. This was her choice. However unpalatable the next few minutes might be, the alternative was far worse. Better a temporary marriage to a murderous, unwashed criminal than a lifetime of misery with Josiah. They crossed the deserted outer courtyard, and Georgie cleared her throat, trying not to inhale the foul-smelling air that seeped from the very pores of the building. “You have it all arranged? They are expecting us?”

Pieter nodded. “Aye. I’ve greased the wheels with yer blunt, my girl. The proctor and the ordinary are both bent as copper shillings. Used to having their palms greased, those two, the greedy bastards.”

Her father’s right-hand man had never minced words in front of her, and Georgie appreciated his bluntness. So few people in the ton ever said what they really meant. Pieter’s honesty was refreshing. He’d been her father’s man for twenty years before she’d even been born. A case of mumps had prevented him from accompanying William Caversteed on his last, fateful voyage, and Georgie had often thought that if Pieter had been with her father, maybe he’d still be alive. Little things like squalls, shipwrecks, and attacks from Barbary pirates would be mere inconveniences to a man like Pieter Smit.

In the five years since Papa’s death, Pieter’s steadfast loyalty had been dedicated to William’s daughters, and Georgie loved the gruff, hulking manservant like a second father. He would see her through this madcap scheme— even if he disapproved.

She tugged the hood of her cloak down to stave off the drizzle. This place was filled with murderers, highwaymen, forgers, and thieves. Poor wretches slated to die, or those “lucky” few whose sentences had been commuted to transportation. Yet in her own way, she was equally desperate.

“You are sure that this man is to be hanged tomorrow?” Pieter nodded grimly as he rapped on a wooden door.

“I am. A low sort he is, by all accounts.”

She shouldn’t ask, didn’t want to know too much about the man whose name she was purchasing. A man whose death would spell her own freedom. She would be wed and widowed within twenty-four hours.

From This Earl of Mine by Kate Bateman. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Publishing Group.


Purchase Links:

Website


Kate Bateman, (also writing as K. C. Bateman), is the #1 bestselling author of historical romances, including her RITA® nominated Renaissance romp, The Devil To Pay, and the novels in the Secrets & Spies series To Steal a HeartA Raven’s Heart, and A Counterfeit Heart. When not writing novels that feature feisty, intelligent heroines and sexy, snarky heroes you want to both strangle and kiss, Kate works as a fine art appraiser and on-screen antiques expert for several popular TV shows in the UK. She splits her time between Illinois and her native England. Follow her on Twitter to learn more.

Weekly Wrap Up: October 13th through October 19th 2019

Books I’ve Read:

Christmas Angels

Followers

My Best Friend’s Sister

Ice Hard

The Widow of Rose House


Books with Pending Reviews:

Sweet Retribution—review coming September 17th


Books with Published Reviews:

Christmas in Harmony Harbor—Review Here

Sweet Retribution—Review Here

The Widow of Rose House—Review Here

Cilka’s Journey—Review Here

Lethal Nights—Review Here


NetGalley Requests:


Author/Publisher Requests:

Releasing Keanu (Instant ARC from author)

Jesse and The Return of Antheia (author request/not on Goodreads)

Jesse & The Thinkers (author request)

The Angel of Evil (author request)

The Wrongful Death (author request)

The Die of Death (author request)


Blog Tours/Excerpts/Book Blitz/Cover Reveal:

Winter’s Captive—Book Blitz

Sweet Retribution—Blog Tour

Kingdom of Thorns and Dreams Boxed Set—Book Blitz

Dark Faerie-–Cover Reveal

The Alchemist and an Amaretto—Book Blitz

Samba—Book Blitz

Grayton Beach Dreams—Book Blitz

The Ghost on Firefly Lane—Cover Reveal

Rhodes—Cover Reveal

Kingdom of Darkness and Light boxed set—Cover Reveal

Scorpion Blood—Excerpt

The Widow of Rose House—Blog Tour

Magic Harbor—Excerpt

Alfheim Academy—Book Blitz

To Kill a Fae—Book Blitz

Drowning Lessons—Book Blitz

Winter King—Book Blitz

Seven Letters—Excerpt

Tesoro—Book Blitz


Weekly Posts:

Weekly Wrap Up

Top Ten Tuesday

WWW Wednesday


Excerpt: Shadow Prophet (Midnight Chronicles: Book 1) by Andrea Pearson

This is my stop during the book blitz for Shadow Prophet by Andrea Pearson. This book blitz is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The book blitz runs from 15 till 19 October. See the tour schedule here: http://www.lolasblogtours.net/book-blitz-shadow-prophet-by-andrea-pearson 

Special release day price of 99 cent and special download bonuses!

Shadow Prophet is the first book in Andrea Pearson’s new Midnight Chronicles series. It’s only 99 cents for a limited time. And as a way to celebrate this new release Andrea Pearson has some special download bonuses that you’ll receive for free if you buy a copy of the book. All the information about the download bonuses can be found in the book.

Shadow Prophet (Midnight Chronicles #1)

By Andrea Pearson 

Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Fantasy Romance

Age category: Adult

Release Date: 15 October 2019

Goodreads


Book Synopsis:

Bound to destroy the woman he loves…

Abel hasn’t seen Lizzie in at least seven years, and his experiences since then have changed him significantly. He’s sure he’s moved past his earlier crush, that he’s immune to her carefree and bubbly personality, but the moment his eyes land on her, he knows he’s still in love.

Instead of a joyful reunion, though, he only suffers agony at being in her presence again.

Because he’s being blackmailed into murdering her.

And there’s no way out. The Shadow Prophet has vowed to kill everyone Abel holds dear if he doesn’t complete the job. Abel has tried everything he can think of to break the contract, but nothing has worked, and he has nowhere else to turn.

Complicating things further, he gets recruited by a second client to help Lizzie achieve an impossible mission. One where they must work closely together while hunting immortal demons. One that will either destroy him or force him to kill her before he’s found a way out—before he’s ready to do it.

But how can a man ever be ready to murder the woman he loves?

If you enjoy high-stakes fantasy action, romance with a hint of angst, and fast-moving paranormal stories, you’ll love Shadow Prophet, book one in an addictive fantasy series. Grab your copy now!


Excerpt:

I refused to look in her eyes as I pulled the knife from her now-still heart and wiped the blade, her blood staining the fresh white cloth I’d brought just for this purpose.

She hadn’t struggled.

None of them had yet, though I wasn’t sure why. 

My heart thudded dully against my ribs, making me choke on unwanted emotions. I wouldn’t allow myself to think, to feel. Not yet.

Before her magical powers could flow away, I removed a vial from my backpack, holding it against her temple and chanting words I’d memorized months earlier.

A silver-blue, steam-like gas flowed through her skin like smoke from dry ice. With gentle waves of my other hand, I encouraged it to enter the vial, then put the cap on and very carefully tucked it back into its protected pouch for later retrieval.

Five down.

Two to go.

The last two would be the hardest. 

I still couldn’t believe I’d ever done the first.

Finally, with my jaw clenched, I looked at her face, so stricken now in death. It had been happy, excited even when she’d granted me access to her apartment. I reached over and closed her eyelids, hating that I was the last thing she’d seen.

I’m so sorry. I cleared my throat and shook my head. Plead my case when you get there. I hope you’ll understand.

I took a shuddering breath before lurching to my feet and stumbling away from the body.

No one would miss her, not for a very long time, regardless of how powerful she was or how well known or loved.

He had seen to all those details a long time ago. 

I made sure my things were packed away before pulling my phone from my pocket and sending a quick text to the number I’d saved in my device a few days earlier.

It’s ready.


Giveaway:

To celebrate the release of Shadow prophet Andrea Pearson is running a big giveaway. There will 9 winners!

– 1 winner will win the Grand Prize which contains 22 of Andrea Pearson’s books in print. 

– 5 winners will win a copy of The Glimpses CD

– 3 winners will win a $5 digital gift card to Amazon.com or through PayPal/Venmo

For a chance to win, fill out this form: https://forms.gle/YMepyA1k7wG7YKcU6 

All details about the giveaway can be found there as well.


Purchase Links:

– Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07VHZLPS1 

– Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shadow-prophet-andrea-pearson/1131936437?ean=2940163239672 

– Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/shadow-prophet 

– Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/shadow-prophet/id1466725379?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4 

You’ll receive free download bonuses when you pre-order or buy a copy of the book! The download bonuses can be found in the book.

Grab Discern for free!

Disappearances at a popular national park… Monsters from another dimension… And Nicole can’t use her magic. What could possibly go wrong?

Links

– Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00N1NZIKA 

– Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/discern-mosaic-chronicles-book-one-andrea-pearson/1124213399?ean=2940151892476 

– Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/discern-mosaic-chronicles-book-one/id913407508?mt=11 

– Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/discern


Andrea Pearson is an avid reader and outdoor enthusiast who plays several instruments, not including the banjo. Her favorite sports are basketball and football, though several knee surgeries and incurably awful coordination prevent her from playing them.

Andrea graduated from BYU with a bachelor of science degree in Communications Disorders. She is the author of many full-length novels and novellas. Writing is the chocolate of her life – it is, in fact, the only thing she ever craves. Being with her husband and children is where she’s happiest, and she loves thunderstorms, the ocean, hiking, public speaking, painting, and traveling.

You can find and contact Andrea Pearson here:

– Website: http://www.andreapearsonbooks.com/

– Blog: http://andreapearsonbooks.blogspot.com/ 

– Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/authorandrea

– Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AndreaPearsonAuthor 

– Twitter: https://twitter.com/andreapearson2 

– Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1909134.Andrea_Pearson 

– Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Andrea-Pearson/e/B005CF5NQ4/ 

– Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/andrea-pearson 

– Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andreapearsonauthor/  

– Newsletter: http://andreapearsonbooks.com/myfreebooks.html 



Excerpt: Magic Harbor (Keeper of the Watch: Book 2) by Kristen L. Jackson

Magic Harbor 
by Kristen L. Jackson 
(Keeper of the Watch, #2) 
Publication date: October 10th 2019
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Goodreads


Book Synopsis:

When Alyx Eris convinced him to become a keeper of the watch, Chase Walker knew he gained the ability to traverse the twelve dimensions.

He knew there were others—the hunters—who would do anything to put an end to the watches’ existence.

He knew his status as a keeper was completely binding until his nineteenth birthday.

Most importantly, he knew he’d be spending the year by Alyx’s side.

What he didn’t know was that in this dimension resides a ruling mage that poses more of a threat than the hunters ever could.

He didn’t know that magic-born hybrid beasts lurk in every corner of the surrounding forests.

And he didn’t know that nothing—and no one—is what it seems in the mystical world of Dimension 8.


Excerpt:

The scream ripped through her throat, and she charged the clearing on a battle-cry. Two unfamiliar wolf-creatures sat on their haunches, noses pointed toward the sky, for the moment completely focused on the air directly over them, paying no attention to her, despite being mere meters away. Both animals visibly flinched, shoulders trembling as a high-pitched howl trumpeted from the thing directly over them. Lowering their bodies to the ground, they rolled onto their backs with feet complaisantly in the air in a sudden show of submission. Their small whimpers filled the air, eyes never leaving the creature hovering above, bursts of tremors racking their bodies. 

Her eyes tracked theirs, and she tilted her head. Another sound escaped her, this one filled with despair. 

The beast had Chase’s limp body in its clutches, and it flew above them gaining altitude with each passing second. 

I’m too late! 

As this flying monster gained altitude, her horrified eyes widened when Chase awoke and began struggling with his captor. The thing holding him weaved sideways, thrown off-balance by his struggling, before regaining control. Alyx gasped and fell to her knees, her hand fluttering to her cheek, allowing herself only a moment of despair. 

“Chase!” She lurched back up, for once unsure what to do. Glancing down at the knife and blade disc she clutched in each hand. Both insignificant pieces of metal, of no help to her now. 

The creature began rising into the clouds, size shrinking with each flap of wings, carrying Chase with it. 

“Chase!” 



Giveaway:

Giveaway ends October 24th.

The grand prize is:

  • $25 Amazon gift card

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d04251233332/


Purchase Links:

Amazon


Kristen L. Jackson been a teacher for over twenty years, and lives in Reading, Pennsylvania with her husband, two grown sons, and three large-breed dogs. Books inspire her. From children’s picture books to adult literature in all genres, she has loved reading all her life. Becoming a published author has been her dream come true, and she loves to share her stories with readers of all ages.  Sign up on her website to follow her blog to stay up to date on what she’s working on now! Kristen loves writing, reading, and spending time with her family and dogs at their cabin in the Poconos…her favorite place to escape and write! 

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Goodreads Page

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Excerpt: Seven Letters by J.P. Monniger

Book Synopsis:

The Blasket Islands are the heart of Ireland – once populated with some of the most famous Irish writers, they are now abandoned, filled with nothing but wind and silence. Kate Moreton, a PhD student at Dartmouth, is in Ireland to research the history of the Blaskets, not to fall in love. She has a degree to finish and a life back in New Hampshire that she is reluctant to leave.

But fall in love she does, with both the wild, windswept landscape and with Ozzie, an Irish-American fisherman with a troubled past who shares her deep, aching love for the land. Together, they begin to build a life on the rocky Irish coast. But when tragedy strikes, leading Kate on a desperate search through Europe, the limits of their love and faith in each other will be tested.


Excerpt:

The Irish tell a story of a man who fell in love with a fairy woman and went with her to live on an island lost to time and trouble.

They lived in a thatched cottage overlooking the sea with nothing but donkeys and gulls and white chickens to keep them company. They lived in the dream of all lovers, apart from the world, en- tire to themselves, their bed an island to be rediscovered each night. In all seasons, they slept near a large round window and the ocean wind found them and played gently with their hair and carried the scent of open water to their nostrils. Each night he tucked himself around her and she, in turn, moved closer into his arms, and the seals sang and their songs fell to the bottom of the sea where the shells held their voices and relinquished them only in violent storms.

One day the man went away, mortal as he was; he could not resist his longing to see the loved ones he had left behind. She warned him that he would grow old the moment his foot touched the soil of the Irish mainland, so he begged her for one of the donkeys to ride back to his home for a single glance at what he had left behind. Though she knew the risk, she loved him too much to deny his wish, and so he left on a quiet night, his prom- ise to come back to her cutting her ears with salt and bitterness. She watched him depart on a land bridge that arced to the mainland and then turned back to her cottage, knowing his fate, knowing that love must always have its own island. She raised up

2 J. P. Monninger

the fog from the ocean and she extinguished all light from the island and the chickens went mute and the donkeys brayed into the chimney smoke and the gulls called out her anguish.

After many days of travel, and through no fault of his own, he touched ground and became an old man in one breath. Even as age claimed him upon the instant of his foot striking the soil, he called to her to save him, but she could not help him any longer. In the seasons afterward, on certain full moon nights, she permitted the island to rise from the mist and to appear to him, or to any broken-hearted lover, the boil of the sea stilled for an unbearable glimpse of what had been lost so thoughtlessly. To his great age he lived for the moments when he might hear her voice rising above the sea, the call of their bed and their nights and their love, the call of his heart, the call of the gulls that held all the pain of the world. He answered on each occasion that he was here, waiting, his heart true and never wavering, his days filled with regret for breaking their spell and leaving the island. He asked her to forgive him the restlessness, which is the curse of men and the blood they cannot still, but whether she did or not, he could not say.

1

I had misgivings: it was a tourist bus. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I had booked passage on a tourist bus. It wasn’t even a

good kind of tourist bus, if there is such a thing. It was a massive, absurd mountain of a machine, blue and white, with a front grill the size of a baseball backstop. When the tour director—a competent, harried woman named Rosie—pointed me toward it with the corner of her clipboard, I tried to imagine there was some mistake. The idea that the place I had studied for years, the Blasket Islands off Ireland’s southwest coast, could be approached by such a vehicle, seemed sacrilegious. The fierce Irish women in my dissertation would not have known what to say about a bus with televisions, tinted windows, air-conditioning, bathrooms, and a soundtrack playing a loop of sentimental Irish music featuring “Galway Bay” and “Danny Boy.” Especially “Danny Boy.” It was like driving through the Louvre on a motor scooter. It didn’t even seem possible that the bus could fit the small, twisty roads of Dingle.

I took a deep breath and climbed aboard. My backpack whacked against the door.

Immediately I experienced that bus moment. Anyone who has ever taken a bus has experienced it. You step up and look around and you are searching for seats, but most of them are taken, and the bus is somewhat dimmer than the outside light, and the seat backs cover almost everything except the eyes and

8 J. P. Monninger

foreheads of the seated passengers. Most of them try to avoid your eyes because they don’t want you sitting next to them, but they are aware, also, that there are only so many seats, so if they are going to surrender the place next to them they would prefer it be to someone who looks at least marginally sane. Meanwhile, I tried to see over the seat backs to vacant places, also assessing who might be a decent, more or less silent traveling companion, while also determining who seemed too eager to have me beside her or him. I wanted to avoid that person at all costs.

That bus moment.

I also felt exhausted. I was exhausted from the Boston–Limerick flight, tired in the way only airports and plane air can make you feel. Like old, stale bread. Like bread left out to dry itself into turkey stuffing.

I felt, too, a little like crying.

Not now, I told myself. Then I started forward.

The passengers were old. My best friend, Milly, would have said that it wasn’t a polite thing to say or think, but I couldn’t help it. With only their heads extending above the seat backs, they looked like a field of dandelion puffs. They smiled and made small talk with one another, clearly happy to be on vacation, and often they looked up and nodded to me. I could have been their granddaughter and that was okay with them. They liked “Danny Boy.” They liked coming to Ireland; many of them had relatives here, I was certain. This was a homecoming of sorts, and I couldn’t be crabby about that, so I braced myself going down the aisle, my eyes doing the bus scan, which meant looking without staring, hoping without wishing.

Halfway down the bus, I came to an empty seat. Two empty seats. It didn’t seem possible. I stopped and tried not to swing around and hit anyone with my backpack. Rosie hadn’t boarded the bus; I could see the driver standing outside, a cup of coffee

Seven Letters 9

in one hand, a cigarette in the other. Two empty seats? It felt like a trap. It felt too good to be true.

“Back here, dear,” an older man called to me. “There’s a spot here. That seat is reserved. I don’t think you can sit there. At least no one has.”

I considered trying my luck, plunking down and waiting for whatever might happen. Then again, that could land me in an even more horrible situation. The older gentleman who called to me looked sane and reasonably groomed. I could do worse. I smiled and hoisted my backpack and clunked down the aisle, hammering both sides until people raised their hands to fend me away.

“Here, I’ll just store this above us,” said the old man who had offered me a seat. He had the bin open above our spot. He shoved a mushroom-colored raincoat inside it. He smiled at me. He had a moustache as wide as a Band-Aid across his top lip.

I inched my way down the aisle until I stood beside him. “Gerry,” he said, holding out his hand. “What luck for me.

I get to sit next to a beautiful, red-haired colleen. What’s your name?”

“Kate,” I said.

“That’s a good Irish name. Are you Irish?” “American, but yes. Irish ancestry.”

“So am I. I believe everyone on the bus has some connection to the old sod. I’d put money on it.”

He won a point for the first mention of the old sod that I had heard since landing in Ireland four hours before.

He helped me swing my bag up into the bin. Then I remembered I needed my books and I had to swing the backpack down again. As I dug through the bag, Gerry beside me, I felt the miles of traveling clinging to me. How strange to wake up in Boston and end up on a bus going to Dingle, the most beautiful peninsula in the world.


About the Author:

J.P. MONNINGER, author of The Map That Leads to You, is an award-winning writer in New England and Professor of English at Plymouth State University.