Thursday, August 27, 2015

Goodbye Summer – September 2015 Line Up

Yeah its a very bittersweet time of year for me. While I love the crispness of autumn weather I know what's coming right around the corner too!

Here's whats on tap for September on The Reading Frenzy

September 1- Interview with Kim Harrison about her debut series novel The Drafter

September 2- I am so excited about this
Dinner + meet and greet at my local library with Kristan Higgins whose touring with her new release If You Only Knew

September 3 - Interview/Giveaway with H Terrell Griffin Chasing Justice

September 8 - Interview Nicole Dweck - The Debt of Tamar

September 11- Interview Kate Forsyth - The Wild Girl

September 14 - Monica Beggs by Sheri Fredericks Blog Tour stop

September 16 - Interview Karen Katchur- The Secrets of Lake Road

September 22 - I'm so excited to present debut author CA Higgins who is the daughter of my dear friend and author extraordinaire, Lisa Verge Higgins with her exciting wonderful Sci-Fi series debut novel Lightless - interview-review.

September 28 - I'm also excited to be a part of the Partners In Crime blog tour of yet another favorite author Mary Anna Evans upcoming novel Isolation I'll be featuring an interview and a review.

Well that's all I've got planned for now but I know there will be additions, subtractions and giveaways added on too, so the best way to stay on top of things is to visit every day.

Today's Gonereading item is
The all important Gift Card
Click HERE for the buy page

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

**GIVEAWAY** Interview/Review If You Only Knew - Kristan Higgins

I'm so happy to be hosting one of my all time favorite authors as part of her blog tour, please welcome the fabulous Kristan Higgins. She's here answering a few questions about the economy, the state of the union, ;-) okay not really – she's here talking about her brand new, just out today, novel, If You Only Knew.
Enjoy our conversation a short excerpt then her wonderful publicist, Little Bird Publicity is sponsoring a giveaway of one print copy US ONLY of her new book, details below.
And be sure to check out Kristan's website for a list of where she's going on her book tour, I'll be meeting her in person at my local library in just a week and I'm still pinching myself.

ISBN-13: 9780373784974
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: 08/25/2015
Length: 416pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/Indiebound/Audible


The drama, hilarity and tears of sisterhood are at the heart of the thoroughly captivating new novel by New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins—a funny, frank and bittersweet look at marriage, forgiveness and moving on
Letting go of her ex-husband is harder than wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate expected…especially since his new wife wants to be Jenny's new best friend. Sensing this isn't exactly helping her achieve closure, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she'll start her own business and bask in her sister Rachel's picture-perfect family life…and maybe even find a little romance of her own with Leo, her downstairs neighbor, a guy who's utterly irresistible and annoyingly distant at the same time.

Giveaway is for one print copy
If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins
please use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Thanks Little Bird Publicity
Good Luck!

Monday, August 24, 2015

**GIVEAWAY** Guest Post by P. J. Brackston The Brothers Grimm Mystery series

Please welcome back to the blog a frequent visiting author, Paula Brackston, who today comes to us under the guise of her new alter ego, P. J. Brackston under which she pens her new adult fantasy series staring Gretel (yes that Gretel) whose now 35, living with her older brother Hans (yes that Hans) solving crimes in her quaint Bavarian village.
Her guest post is titled "Hearing Voices" enjoy it! At the end you'll find my reviews of both her current releases, The Case of the Missing Frog Prints and Once Upon a Crime. Then stick around because Paula's publisher Pegasus Books is offering one lucky entrant a copy of both novels as a giveaway. 



Giveaway is one print copy of each
Gretel and the Case of the Missing Frog Prints
And Once Upon A Crime
Please use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Thanks Pegasus Books 
Good Luck!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Interview with Bradley Somer - Fishbowl

Please help me welcome Bradley Somer to the blog, he's here to chat about his fantastic new novel, Fishbowl. I can't wait to get my hands on my copy and I bet you'll be chomping to get one of your own by the end of the post.

ISBN-13: 9781250057808
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 08/04/2015
Length: 304pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible


A goldfish named Ian is falling from the 27th-floor balcony on which his fishbowl sits. He's longed for adventure, so when the opportunity arises, he escapes from his bowl, clears the balcony railing and finds himself airborne. Plummeting toward the street below, Ian witnesses the lives of the Seville on Roxy residents.
Read an excerpt courtesy St. Martin's Press:

In Which the Essence of Life and Everything Else Is Illuminated There's a box that contains life and everything else. This is not a figurative box of lore. It's not a box of paper sheets that have been captured, bound, and filled with the inkings of faith, chronicling the foibles and contradictions of the human species. It doesn't sport the musty smell of ancient wisdom and moldering paper. It isn't a microscopic box of C, G, A, or T, residing within cell walls and containing traces of everything that ever lived, from today back through the astral dust of the Big Bang itself to whatever existed before time began. It can't be spliced or recombined or subjected to therapy. It's not the work of any god or the evolution of Darwin. It's not a thousand other ideas, however concrete or abstract they may be, that could fill the pages of this book. It's not one of these things, but it's all of them combined and more. Now we know what it isn't, let's focus on what it is. It's a box containing the perpetual presence of life itself. Living things move within it, and at some point, it will have been around long enough to have contained absolutely everything. Not all at once, but over the years, building infinite layer upon infinite layer, it will all wind up there. Time will compile these experiences, stacking them on top of each other, and while the moments themselves are fleeting, their visceral memory is everlasting. The passing of a particular moment can't erase the fact that it was once present. In this way, the box reaches beyond the organic to the ethereal. The heartbreaking sweetness of love, the rending hatred, the slippery lust, the sorrow of losing a family member, the pain of loneliness, all thoughts that were ever thought, every word ever said and even those which were not, the joys of birth and the sorrows of death and everything else will be experienced here in this one vessel. The air is thick with the anticipation of it all. After it's all done, the air will be heavy with everything that has passed. It's a box constructed by human hands and, yes, if your beliefs trend that way, by extension, the hands of God. Regardless of its origin, its purpose is the same and its structure reflects its purpose. The box is partitioned into little compartments in which all of these experiences of time are stored, though there's no order to their place or chronological happening. There are compartments stacked twenty-seven high, three wide, and two deep that house this jumble of everything. Melvil Dewey, the patron saint of librarians, would cringe at the mere thought of trying to catalog the details of these one hundred and sixty-two compartments. There's no way to arrange or structure what happens here, no way to exert control over it or systematize it. It just has to be left a mess. A pair of elevators connects all of these compartments. Themselves little boxes, each with a capacity of ten people or 4,000 lb./1,814 kg., whichever comes first. Each with a little plaque attached to the mirrored wall near the panel that says it's so. The irritating pitch of the alarm that sounds when there's too much weight inside also says it's so. The elevators trundle tirelessly up and down their dingy shafts, diligently delivering artifacts and their custodians to the different levels. Day and night, they shuttle to one floor and then to the next and then back to the lobby. There's a staircase too, in case of fire or power outage, so the custodians can grab the artifacts most dear to them and safely exit the box. The box is a building, yes. More specifically it's an apartment building. It sits there, an actual place in an actual city. It has a street address so people who are unfamiliar with the area can find it. It also has a series of numbers so lawyers and city surveyors can find it too. It's classified in many ways. To the city it's an orange rectangle with black crosshatching on the zoning map. "Multi-Residential, High-Density High-Rise," the legend reads. To many occupants it's a "one-bedroom apartment for rent, with underground parking and coin laundry facilities." To some it was "an unbelievably affordable way to experience the convenience and excitement of downtown living. This two-bedroom, one-bathroom condo with uninterrupted city views must be seen to be believed," and is now home. For a few, it's a place to work on the weekdays. For others, it's a place to visit friends on the weekends. The building was constructed in 1976 and has hobbled through time ever since. When it was still new, it was the tallest building on the street. Now that it's older, there are three taller ones. Soon there will be a fourth. For the time, it was an elegant and stately building. Now it seems dated, belonging to a period in architectural history that has its own name, a name that was not known at the time it was built but is applied knowingly in hindsight. The building was renovated recently because it was in much need. The concrete was painted to hide the spalling cracks and compiled graffiti. The drafty windows and gappy doors to the balconies were replaced to keep the evening chill outside and the temperate air in. Last year, the boiler was upgraded to provide adequate hot water for washing up. The electrical was updated because building codes have changed. It was once a building entirely full of renters. Now, it is a condominium where most people own but others still choose to rent out their suites to offset other investment risks, to "diversify their portfolios." The building fulfills an Arcensian mission of carrying everything mentioned thus far, housing the spirit and the chaos of life and those beings in which they reside, through the floods and to safety every time the water recedes. Depending on where you live, this box may be just up the street. It may even be within walking distance from where you read these words. You may drive past it on the way home from work if you work downtown but live in the suburbs. Or you may even live there. If you see this building, pause for a second to ponder what a marvelous arcanum it is. It will sit there long after you turn the last page in this book and long after we are dead and these words have been forgotten. The beginning and end of time will happen there within those walls, between the roof and the parking garage. But for now, only a handful of decades old, it's a growing marvel in its nascent days and this book is a short chronicle of its youth. Spelled out above the front door, bolted to the brick in weeping, rusty black metal lettering, is the name of the building: the Seville on Roxy. Copyright © 2015 by Bradley Somer

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Interview with Martha Cervantes - Pedro

Please welcome yet another new to me author, Martha Cervantes whose novel Pedro will surely thrill fans of psychological thrillers. Read on to learn more about the novel and about Martha too!

ISBN-13: 9781909477926
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Release Date: 09/15/2015
Length: 608 pp
Available for pre-order: B&N/Amazon/Kobo

Abandoned as a baby to an old couple who kept him outside in their barn, Pedro suffered years of abuse and neglect. Looking for a way to rid himself of a life as a beast of burden, he begins to seek immortality in all the wrong places. Pedro's desire to live a life free of the burden and fear of fatality ultimately leads him to a cantina where a man playing the guitar as if in a trance tells Pedro of the Great Spirit. Eager to live a new life, Pedro sells his soul to the Great Spirit but at a great cost. Immortality may not be all that he bargained for, as Pedro suffers the consequences of having his wish granted.

Monday, August 17, 2015

**Giveaway** Blood Rose by Danielle Rose Blog Tour - Interview - Showcase

Thanks for stopping by my stop on the Blood Rose Tour 
Sponsored by

Book Blurb:
There's no wrath like that of a witch scorned.

Avah Taylor has been given a death sentence: as one of the only spirit users in her coven, Avah has been chosen to wield The Power, the ultimate weapon against the immortal vampire species witches have been at war with for centuries. The Power, given by the gods to one witch of each generation, is considered a great honor, but every witch before has died trying to master this all-too-powerful gift, one that the shell of a mortal can’t contain for long.

On the night of her birth rite, Avah’s coven is attacked, and Avah is left for dead. Confronted with a terrible choice, Avah must decide to either die or save herself by becoming like her enemies. Forced to seek refuge among the very beings she has sworn to kill, Avah vows revenge on those who took her former life from her. 

As Avah slowly transitions into a life of blood and war and battles her own feelings for a man she is supposed to hate, she realizes everything she’s been told is a lie.

First Prize is one signed copy of Blood Rose
Second Prize(s) 5 e-copies
Please Use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Good Luck!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Showcase - Deadly Assets - W.E.B. Griffin & William E Butterworth IV

Please enjoy a little showcase I put together in celebration of W.E.B. Griffin and William Butterworth's new timely novel, Deadly Assets! Number 12 in the Badge of Honor series.

ISBN-13: 9780399171178
Publisher: Penguin Books US
Release Date: 08/04/2015
Length: 400
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound/Audible


The dramatic new novel in the Philadelphia police saga by #1 New York Times–bestselling author W. E. B. Griffin.
In Philadelphia—suffering among the country’s highest murder rates—the tension between the Philadelphia Police Department and its Citizens Oversight Committee has long been reaching a boiling point. That turmoil turns from bad to worse shortly after the committee begins targeting police shootings—especially those of twenty-seven-year-old Homicide Sergeant Matt Payne, the “Wyatt Earp of the Main Line”—and then the committee’s combative leader is found shot dead point-blank on the front porch of his run-down Philly row house.
As chanting protesters fill the streets, the city threatens to erupt. Payne, among many others accused of being complicit in the leader’s death, becomes quietly furious. He suspects there’s something deeper behind it all, but what? Ordered to stay out of the line of fire, he struggles ahead to do what he does best—his job. He’s been investigating the murder of a young family. A reporter, working on an illicit drug series for Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Mickey O’Hara, has been killed with his wife and child, a note stapled to his chest warning that the drug stories are to stop. Period. While Payne knows that he, like his pal O’Hara, cannot back down, he also knows that they damn sure could be among the next to die. . . .

Thursday, August 13, 2015

**GIVEAWAY** Interview - Tiffany Quay Tyson - Three Rivers

Please welcome another debut author Tiffany Quay Tyson whose chatting about her novel, Three Rivers. Enjoy our conversation then enter for a chance to win a copy for yourself sponsored by Tiffany's publisher St. Martin's Press! Contest details below.

ISBN-13: 9781250063267
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 07/21/2015
Length: 304pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound


A massive storm was coming straight for Mama's little plot of land in the Mississippi Delta and there was no way any of them could outrun the weather.

For three years Melody Mahaffey has been on the road, touring as a keyboardist with a terrible Christian pop band she can hardly stand. So when her mother calls, full of her usual dire news and dramatic pronouncements, Melody is relieved to pack her bags and call it quits. But at the sprawling, defunct Three Rivers Farm her family calls home, Melody is shocked to discover her father is dying. Even worse, her mother has abandoned the family, leaving Melody the sole caretaker of her father and brain-damaged brother. Sure that her daughter will do the right thing, Geneva leaves to seek spiritual guidance and break things off with her long-time lover.

Giveaway is for one print copy US ONLY
of Three Rivers by Tiffany Quay Tyson
Please use Rafflecopter form below to enter
Thanks St. Martin's Press
Good Luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Interview Marci Jefferson Enchantress of Paris

Please welcome back to the blog Marci Jefferson who was her last year talking about her novel, Girl on the Golden Coin,  she's back talking about yet another fascinating historical novel based on an actual person, Marie Mancini, Enchantress of Paris.
Welcome back Marci, we're all ears!

ISBN-13: 9781250057099
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 08/04/2015
Length: 336pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound


Fraught with conspiracy and passion, the Sun King's opulent court is brought to vivid life in this captivating tale about a woman whose love was more powerful than magic.
The alignment of the stars at Marie Mancini's birth warned that although she would be gifted at divination, she was destined to disgrace her family. Ignoring the dark warnings of his sister and astrologers, Cardinal Mazarin brings his niece to the French court, where the forbidden occult arts thrive in secret. In France, Marie learns her uncle has become the power behind the throne by using her sister Olympia to hold the Sun King, Louis XIV, in thrall.
Read an excerpt courtesy St. Martin's Press:

Palais du Louvre, Paris

December 1656
Servants struggled under heavy black mourning velvet, draping it across gilt-framed paintings and tapestries that adorned our uncle’s apartment at the Palais du Louvre in Paris. They worked their way around the chamber until even the windows were covered, though they couldn’t dim the opulence. From candles twinkling in crystal chandeliers to the incense of frankincense and myrrh wafting from a golden brasier to the polished marble floors, everything around us signified my uncle’s power. For such wealth stemmed from power, and my uncle was Cardinal Mazarin, the most powerful man not just in France but in all Europe. In a chair beside me, my sister Hortense eyed the mourning velvet and muttered, “Mamma isn’t dead yet.”
I gripped my favorite novel tight. Our uncle had brought me into Paris days earlier in case Mamma requested me. He would send me back to my cold convent cell the moment she died. But what would he do with my dear sisters?
Victoire, the eldest of the Mancini girls at twenty-two years, put a hand on Hortense’s arm. “The mourning cloth shows deference.” Victoire’s marriage to the duc de Mercœur elevated her rank to princess of the blood. Pregnant with her third child and adored by her husband, she brought pride to our family. “But prepare yourself, for the physicians say Mamma will not live.”
Hortense turned to me with tears in her eyes. I was seventeen years of age, but this little ten-year-old sister was my closest, and perhaps only, friend. She was not only the prettiest Mancini but easily the prettiest creature I’d ever seen. It hurt to see her beautiful face look sad, and I pulled her into my embrace.
Mamma had been ill, as we had all known she would be, for months. Our uncle had moved her from Palais Mazarin to the Louvre for access to the king’s physicians. Though busy as chief minister to King Louis the Fourteenth, the cardinal spared no expense trying to restore his sister’s health. We came every day to see her, and every day Mamma called in one of my sisters or my brother. But not me.
Marianne, the youngest sister at six, eyed how I hugged Hortense and promptly started sniffling. Soft-hearted Victoire turned to comfort her. Marianne’s sniffles amplified to sobs.
I myself was too fearful to cry, which seared me with guilt. When Mamma summons me, I must seize the moment. I must beg her to convince my uncle to keep me at court. God willing, my request wouldn’t kill her. I patted my skirts to ensure the bottle of lung-wort syrup was still tucked safely in my hanging pocket. My astrological judgment of her disease suggested that lung-wort, ruled by Jupiter, might comfort her.
Hortense pulled away to study me. “Will His Eminence send you back to the Convent of the Visitation, Marie?”
Too many of my childhood years in Rome were spent in the Benedictine Convent of Santa Maria in the Campo Marzio, while my oldest brothers and sisters were permitted to live in Paris with Uncle Mazarin. When our father died and Mazarin summoned the rest of the family, my mother intended to leave me at the Roman convent. I’d begged her to bring me, pointing out Paris had convents, too. She’d brought me reluctantly, and I’d hoped my uncle would let me live at court. He had taken one look at me and declared I was too scrawny, not pretty enough. He put me in the Convent of the Visitation beyond the city walls, sending Hortense sometimes to keep me company. I’d spent two years there. The thought of returning to the convent, where life offered no color, no light, and where nuns with hairy chins woke me at all hours of the night for matins, filled me with dread. “He will not send you back because of how lovely you’ve become.”
A blush rose on her cherub-pink cheeks. She had no idea how her loveliness had cost me.
The doors to my mother’s sickroom opened. Cardinal Mazarin emerged, red watered-silk cassock swishing around him, waxed mustache curved perfectly upward at the ends.
All four of us scrambled to our feet. “Your Eminence,” we said in unison.
He glanced over us. “Victoire, Hortense, and Marianne, your mother wants you.”
She doesn’t want me. Again. My heart grew heavy. My sisters proceeded through the doors.
But Hortense stopped short. “What about Marie?”
His Eminence did not look at me. “Your mother has not summoned her yet.”
Hortense glanced back. “She’ll be lonely.”
Our uncle’s face softened. “Stay. I will tell your mother of your generous spirit.”
Hortense didn’t mean to please, it just came naturally. A trait I had never possessed. The cardinal closed the doors, and Hortense returned to my side. But as soon as we opened my novel, the king’s herald sounded in the outer chambers. “His Majesty the King!”
A row of pages in the king’s tricolor livery rushed to line the walls. In walked King Louis wearing his austere frown. He had visited my mother’s bedside before, but usually this antechamber was crowded. Now courtiers filing in behind the king encountered a mostly deserted room. One of the courtiers was Olympia, the second-oldest Mancini sister, and the king’s favorite. King Louis had dubbed her his fair-lady and showered her with gifts. She wrinkled her long slender nose at me, which made the courtiers snicker.
King Louis looked at me. Even with his handsome aquiline nose and hooded hazel eyes, the king’s frown always made him seem aloof. It was impolite to stare directly at a king, but as I struggled to overcome my nervousness, I studied him openly. That is when I recognized in that frown an emotion I often saw in my own looking-glass: loneliness. He studied me back, and for the first time, it felt like someone was actually seeing me. I sensed it from the inside out. It swept my nervousness away like mist on the wind. He walked to me. “Mademoiselle Mancini, you hold vigil alone today?”
Hortense cleared her throat. “I am here!”
The king glanced. “So you are.” He gestured behind him. “I haven’t seen so many Mazarinettes in one chamber in weeks.”
He meant us, the nieces of Mazarin. The courtiers chuckled graciously, and my female relatives cast smiles at each other. Besides Hortense, Olympia, and myself, our Martinozzi cousin Anne stood in his throng. The Martinozzis were fair of hair and skin where we Mancinis were dark. Anne had become Princess de Conti by marriage, and our uncle had already sent her sister, Laura, to wed Alfonso d’Este, the Italian Duke of Modena. Like us, they were part of my uncle’s scheme to ally himself with powerful families. He had once tried to arrange a marriage for me. And now, with the king staring so intently at me, I became aware that the man who’d refused to wed me had entered with the courtiers. I wanted to run away. But Armand de la Meilleraye didn’t notice me. He had fixated on Hortense, ogling her. My little sister was so beautiful that the man selected to be my husband had refused me because he loved her.
King Louis followed my gaze, and his expression changed. He leaned close and whispered, “Meilleraye is a fool. You’re better off without him.”
He understands. My face burned. Though the courtiers hadn’t heard, they saw my blush and started whispering. I flushed all the more.
King Louis glanced at my novel, where my knuckles were white from gripping it. “What are we reading?”
I, the Mazarinette known for having brains instead of beauty, couldn’t remember. I looked at it blankly. “It is Gerusalemme Liberata.” He didn’t seem to recognize it. “Jerusalem Delivered. An Italian poem fraught with magic and romance.”
He grinned, a subtle crack in that royal frown. “You ladies with your love stories.” His entourage giggled.
“There are battles.” I held up the book. “The Crusades.”
He seemed surprised. “Combat! That might be worth reading.”
I extended it to him. “It may be why you start, but you’ll finish for the romance.”
The courtiers stared. Were they shocked that I would speak to the king? Or at the daring way I’d spoken? King Louis took my book. My precious book!
He held it up, glancing at his retinue. “Wait until my tutors hear I’ve taken reading suggestions from a convent-educated girl.” They tittered some more. He thumbed the pages. “The nuns let you read this?”
Hortense held a finger up to her lips. “Shhhhh!”
I grinned. “Amazing what you can get your hands on in a convent by bartering silk stockings.”
Some of the courtiers pretended to look shocked. Most laughed. Olympia shot me a warning look.
Hortense didn’t seem to notice. “Marie never forgets a word she reads. Go on.” She pointed to the book. “Test her.”
The king considered this, but Olympia spoke first. “Shouldn’t Marie be reading prayer books while keeping vigil for our dear Mamma?”
King Louis nodded, never turning from me. “My sympathy. Has your mother improved?”
“The cardinal’s physicians say she has not.”
“I shall send my own physicians again.”
I glanced at the curious faces behind him, not wanting to say too much. “What she needs is hope, for I’m afraid she’s given up.”
“That she must not do,” said the king.
Hortense grasped my hand. “Mamma clings too much to our father’s prophecy.”
Olympia glared at Hortense and tried to change the subject. “Your Majesty, shall we go in to visit now?”
But the king looked into Hortense’s innocent face. “What prophecy?”
Hortense must have been frightened by Olympia, for she moved behind me.
So I explained with a half-truth. “Our father predicted long ago, based on the alignment of the stars, that our mother would die before the end of the Year of Our Lord 1656.”
He looked skeptical. “Who can trust the stars?”
But our father had used more than astrology to make such predictions. “Our mother’s faith in the stars gives the stars power. Thus she robs herself of hope.”
“How serious you are, Marie.” He stared.
I didn’t know how to reply, and there were no giggles.
Finally, he nodded. Hortense and I curtsied as he entered our mother’s chamber. Olympia fluffed her skirts to the sides, blocking anyone from taking her place directly behind the king. The courtiers followed in step as if they were one body, slithering like a colorful, silken snake.
*   *   *
Hortense was asleep, head on my lap, when the king left with his train an hour later. Olympia insisted on waking her and taking her to a supper banquet. Olympia didn’t invite me, and I didn’t beg to go. I needed to wait.
I had fallen asleep myself when the summons came. My uncle opened the chamber doors and eyed me. “Marie.”
Bleary-eyed, I leapt to my feet. Huge candelabra stood aglow in every corner, doing little to cheer the black-cloaked walls. My mother lay on a wide gilt bed. She stared at me, searching my face as she used to do, then held open her arms.
I rushed into them. “Mamma,” I cried. Why do you seem to fear me? Why am I always the last one you call?
“My child,” she muttered in Italian. She stroked my hair as I buried my face in her neck, breathing her scent. “You mustn’t be sad for me. You mustn’t cry.”
But I would. “Yes, Mamma.”
“When I am gone you must obey your uncle.”
I sat up. “You must hope to recover.”
“My time has come. Accept it as I did long ago.” She glanced at my uncle. “You will be pleased at His Eminence’s generosity.”
I turned to him, almost hopeful. “Have you found another potential husband?”
He glanced at the maids. Without a word, they gathered their water basins and cloths and slipped from the room. The physicians followed, gripping their bloodstained tools. His Eminence leveled his glare on me. “Offering you to Meilleraye was merely my way of testing him. I counted on his refusal, and now he believes he owes me. I never intended for you to marry, but you shall have a handsome settlement.”
All my dread of the convent returned.
Mazarin cleared his throat. “When your mother dies, you will not only rejoin the Convent of the Visitation, you will take holy orders.”
“Become a nun? Please, no!”
Mamma put her hand on my arm. “It is the safest course for you.”
“My heart breaks at the thought of leaving my sisters.”
His Eminence said to my mother, “You must tell her.”
She gripped my hands, and I listened intently. “Your father was a great oracle. Each of his predictions proved true, from your oldest brother’s death right up to his own. He made predictions about you. They will make you understand why you must take holy orders.” She rose on her elbow, breathless with sudden passion. “He drew up your horoscope the day you were born, then redrew it countless times, always coming to the same conclusion. He consulted the waters, he read the entrails of animals, even called on the spirits of the dead. Every sign confirmed it.” She took a shaky breath, and I started to sweat. “You were born under an evil star. One day you will disgrace your family in ways no woman has ever done before.”
My father hid my horoscope from me? “I would never—”
“When you grew up so headstrong, reading novels you shouldn’t, acting so sullen, I didn’t know how to handle you.”
“If I was sullen it was because I saw fear in your eyes instead of love whenever you looked upon me.”
She stroked my cheek. “This is the best way to protect you from your own destiny. Become a nun and counter your evil star.”
“Your Eminence,” I said, turning to my uncle. “You must not believe this prophecy.”
“You Mancinis always carry the old superstitions too far. I am a Prince of the Church and cannot condone practices that border on witchcraft. But even Christ’s magi followed the stars. I cannot discount what your father read in yours.” He frowned. “Meilleraye must have seen what I see. You are different.”
Different. Not charming like Olympia. Not beautiful like Hortense. Not angelic like Victoire. Not witty like Marianne. Each had potential where I posed a threat. I stood and hoped they wouldn’t notice the bottle of lung-wort syrup bulging in my hanging pocket. “You want me out of the way.”
He looked aside. “It is something in your manner. You don’t take correction. You have too much command of yourself, and others tend to follow commands you make.”
The wary look on the cardinal’s face reminded me of the time I had stolen fresh cannoli from the kitchens of Palazzo Mancini back home on Rome’s Via del Corso. Cook had slaved over them. When she caught me with their sweet nut paste on my cheeks, she chased me outside to the courtyard herb garden and cornered me behind the rosemary hedge. She raised a hand to hit me. In my terror I did what came naturally. I pointed and whispered, You cannot hurt me.As she brought down her arm, she cried out. She cradled her hand, curled in an ugly cramp. Strega! she cursed. You little witch! She’d looked at me then the way the cardinal and my mother looked at me now.
“You are wrong.” I thought of the charm in my pocket. “My sisters never do a thing I say.”
Mamma fell back on the bolsters.
My uncle’s words were a drop of honey in a bowl of vinegar. “We want to protect you.”
I frowned at him. “You want to protect yourself from superstitions you claim have little merit.”
They glanced at each other, and the pain in my mother’s face made my heart drop. I had gone too far.
She closed her eyes. “This fuss is making me worse.”
My uncle tried to usher me away, but I threw myself on the bed, kissing her hands. “Mamma, forgive me. I would never disgrace you. At least make His Eminence give me time!” My tears showered her frail skin, and I longed to give her the syrup. She cupped my face; I met her eyes.
But then she started coughing. My uncle jerked me back so hard I nearly fell on the floor. The physicians rushed in. The women reappeared, darting around, fighting fear and death with cloths and basins of water.
“Insolence,” said my uncle, pushing me toward the door.
But I called past him, “Don’t die and deprive me of my sisters, too!”
I heard sobs between coughs, and the door slammed before my face.

Copyright © 2015 by Marci Jefferson