It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
FaithWords; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)
***Special thanks to Miriam Parker of the Hachette Book Group for sending me a review copy.***
CONTEST! For a chance to win one of two prizes: a Tiffany’s Bracelet OR an All About Us T-shirt, go to Camy Tang’s Blog and leave a comment on her FIRST Wild Card Tour for Tidings of Great Boys, and you will be placed into a drawing for a bracelet or T-shirt that look similar to the pictures below.
Award-winning author Shelley Adina wrote her first teen novel when she was 13. It was rejected by the literary publisher to whom she sent it, but he did say she knew how to tell a story. That was enough to keep her going through the rest of her adolescence, a career, a move to another country, a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Writing Popular Fiction, and countless manuscript pages. Shelley is a world traveler and pop culture junkie with an incurable addiction to designer handbags. She writes books about fun and faith–with a side of glamour. Between books, Shelley loves traveling, playing the piano and Celtic harp, watching movies, and making period costumes.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $9.99
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: FaithWords; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Believe me, there’s no one happier about that than I am—in fact, I probably wouldn’t be alive right now without it—but it wasn’t always that way. My name is Lindsay Margaret Eithne MacPhail, and because my dad is a Scottish earl, that makes my mother a countess and me, a lady.
I know. Stop laughing.
To my friends I’m simply Mac. If you call me Lady Lindsay, I’ll think you’re (1) being pretentious or (2) announcing me at a court ball, and since none of my friends are likely to do either, let’s keep it Mac between us, all right?
On the night it all began, I was sitting in the dark, deserted computer lab, waiting for the digital clock on the monitor to click over: 11:00.
“Carrie?” I settled the headphones more comfortably and leaned toward the microphone pickup.
“All right?” Her familiar voice came over Skype and I smiled, even though she couldn’t see it. She sounded like sleepovers and mischief and long walks through the woods and heath. Like rain and mist and Marmite on toast. She sounded like home.
“Yeah.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. I’d chosen to come to Spencer Academy for the fall term instead of going back to St. Cecelia’s. I’d hounded my mother and, when that didn’t work, my dad, so I had no business being homesick. Besides, being all weepy just wasted precious minutes. Carrie had to leave for school, and I had to sneak back up to the third floor without the future Mrs. Milsom, our dorm mistress, catching me after lights-out.
“Only two weeks to go until you’re home,” Carrie said. “I’m already planning all the things we’re goin’ tae do. Anna Grange has a new flat in Edinburgh and she says we can come crash anytime we like. Gordon and Terrell canna wait to see you—they want to take us to a new club. And—”
“Hang on.” How to put this? “I haven’t actually decided what I’m doing over the holidays. There’s a lot going on here.”
Silence crackled in my headset. “Don’t talk rubbish. You always come home. Holidays are the only time I ever get tae see you—not tae mention all your friends. What do you mean, a lot going on?”
“Things to do, people to see,” I said, trying to soften the blow. “Mum wants me in London, of course, since she hasn’t had me for nearly three months. And I have invitations to Los Angeles and New York.”
“A couple of the girls here.”
The quality of the silence changed. “And these girls—they wouldna be the ones splashed all over Hello! last month, would they? At some Hollywood premiere or other?”
“As it happens, yes. I told you all about it when that issue came out.”
She made a noise in her throat that could have been disgust or sheer disparagement of my taste. “That’s fine, then. If you’d rather spend your vay-cay-shun wi’ your Hollywood friends, it’s nowt to do wi’ me.”
“Carrie, I haven’t said I’d go. I just haven’t made up my mind.”
As changeable as a sea wind, her temper veered. “You’ve got tae come. We’re all dying to see you. I saw your dad in the village and he invited all of us over as soon as you got home.”
“I know. I didna think he’d even remember who I was, but he stopped me in the door of the chip shop and told me I was tae come. He sounded so excited.”
This did not sound like my dad, who wasn’t exactly a recluse, but wasn’t in the habit of accosting random teenagers in chip shops, either, and inviting them up to the house. She was probably having me on. I had a lot of practice in peering behind Carrie’s words for what she really wanted. In this case, it was simple. She was my friend, and friends wanted to be with each other.
The problem was, I had more friends now than I used to. Besides the ones at Strathcairn and in London, there were the ones here at Spencer. And lately, Carly, Shani, Lissa, and Gillian were turning out to be solid—moreso than any friends I’d had before.
“I’ll let you know as soon as I figure out what I’m doing,” I told Carrie. “I’ve got to go. The Iron Maiden stalks the halls.”
Carrie laughed. “Love the pic you sent wi’ yer camera phone. What a horror. Who would marry her?”
“The bio prof, apparently. The wedding’s set for New Year’s Eve to take advantage of some tax benefit or other.”
“How bleedin’ romantic.”
There was another Christmas wedding in the works, but I hadn’t heard much about it lately. Carly Aragon’s mum was supposed to marry some lad she’d met on a cruise ship, much to Carly’s disgust. I could relate, a little. If my mother was going to marry a man who looked like a relic from an eighties pop band, I’d be a little upset, too. So far Carly was refusing to be a bridesmaid, and the big day was sneaking up on her fast.
“I’ll call you over the weekend.”
“I might be busy.”
“Then I’ll call Gordon and Terrell. I know they love me.”
She blew me a raspberry and signed off. Still smiling, I laid the headphones on the desk and got up.
And froze as a thin, dark shape moved in the doorway. The lights flipped on.
I blinked and squinted as Ms. Tobin stared me down. “I thought I heard voices. Is someone here with you?” I shook my head. “You do realize, Lady Lindsay, that lights-out is ten o’clock? And it is now twenty after eleven?”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“What are you doing in here?”
She scanned the rows of silent computers. Not a telephone to be seen. “And you can’t do that from the privacy of your own room?”
“It’s eleven twenty and my roommates are asleep,” I pointed out helpfully. “But it’s seven twenty in the morning in Scotland. I use Skype so there are no long distance charges.”
She rolled her eyes up, as if doing the math. “Calling Scotland? Your family?”
If I didn’t actually answer, I wouldn’t be lying. Instead, I let the smile falter. “I get homesick.”
Ms. Tobin pinned me with her gaze like a butterfly on a board. “I sympathize, but you still broke a school rule. A demerit will be added to your record. Again.”
Oh, please. Who cared about demerits when I needed to talk to Carrie? “I’m sorry, Ms. Tobin.”
“Come along. I’ll escort you to your room.”
And she did, like a bad-tempered Dementor floating along beside me. Only compared to that dreadful brown tweed skirt and round-toed oxfords, the Dementors were turned out in haute couture. Did the woman actually have on knee-high stockings?
“Good night, Lady Lindsay.”
I shuddered and shut the door on her, locking it for good measure.
“Mac?” Carly’s sleepy voice came from the direction of her bed, muffled by a quilt. “Who’s that with you?”
“I called home and got caught,” I whispered. “Ms. Tobin marched me up here.”
Carly groaned and subsided.
I undressed and crawled into bed. The three of us had to make do in a room designed for two. I have to admit, it was kind of fun rooming with Carly and Shani Hanna. Since her debacle with the heir to the Lion Throne last month, Shani has lost a little of her attitude. She doesn’t look at people with scornful eyes like she used to, and when she talks, it’s to you and not at you.
Or maybe it’s just me.
I returned to the problem at hand. With two weeks left to go before the holidays, what was I to do? Home or here? Old or new? Family or friends? And really, what was the difference?
I blinked and stiffened on my goosedown pillow.
That was it. There was no difference. My family and my friends all belonged together. With me. At home.
“Carly?” I whispered. “Are you awake?”
“Do you think everyone would like to come to Scotland with me for Christmas?”
* * *
“DEFINE EVERYONE.” Gillian leaned across her dish of oatmeal and took a tangerine out of the bowl on the table.
I swallowed a spoonful of yogurt before I answered. I hadn’t put a single molecule of porridge near my mouth since I’d arrived in the States. I’d had sixteen years of it, thank you very much, and there was no one here to make me eat the stuff.
Lissa dived into my hesitation. “You don’t really mean that, do you? All of us? At Strathcairn?”
“I do mean it. We have fourteen bedrooms, not counting the old nurseries and the staff floor. Those are closed off, anyway. The beds might be a little dusty, but if I let my dad know right away, he can get some of the ladies from the village to come and tidy things up. There’s plenty of room and tons of things to do.”
“Like what?” Carly put away oatmeal at a scary rate. I shuddered.
“Like skating on the pond and cross-country skiing. And parties.” I saw the Strathcairn of ten years ago, when Mummy had been the most spectacular hostess the old pile had seen in generations. “Lots of parties and balls and live bands and whatever we want.”
“Don’t tell me,” Shani said. “You’re going to teach us Sir Roger de Coverley, aren’t you?”
“No, that’s for babies,” I said scornfully. What did she know about country dances? “I’ll teach you Strip the Willow before we go so you don’t make utter fools of yourselves.”
“Whatever. Doesn’t sound like my thing.” She looked into her fruit cup and fished out the last blueberry.
Something in her face told me what the real problem was. “If you’re worried about the money, don’t. We’ll work it out.”
“How are you gonna do that?” Her dark eyes looked guarded. She may have been dumped by her parents for refusing to go through with an arranged marriage, but her pride wasn’t dented one bit.
“You don’t have to touch your nest egg. My allowance ought to cover a plane ticket. First class, of course.”
“Hmph.” Shani crossed her arms over her chest and looked away.
I knew she had a cool two million socked away in the San Francisco branch of the Formosa-Pacific Bank, and that one of Gillian’s dozens of cousins was her personal investment advisor. But she treated that money like it was two hundred instead of two million, watching over it with sharp eyes that didn’t let a single cent escape without accounting for itself.
Lissa glanced at Carly, who was eating and not talking, like she hoped we wouldn’t notice her. She’s a master of the art of the personal fade. “And mine can cover Carly’s,” she said.
“Let’s throw mine in and split two fares three ways,” Gillian said. “Easy peasy.”
“For you, maybe,” Carly mumbled. “Brett’s already asked me to spend Christmas with his family. Consequently my dad didn’t just blow a fuse. He totally blew out the power grid.”
“What is with your dad?” I demanded. “I’ve never seen anyone so protective. I’d die if I were smothered like that.”
“She isn’t smothered,” Shani said with a glance across the table at Carly. “Between my dad and hers, I’d take hers any day. At least he cares.”
“Is it guilt talking?” Lissa wanted to know. “The whole ‘I’m out of town ninety percent of the time, so we have to spend every minute of the ten percent together’ thing?”
“I guess.” Carly sipped her honey latte. “So if he had that kind of fit about me spending Christmas sixty miles away, guess what he’d say about going to another continent?”
“Good point.” I refused to take no for an answer, though. “But what about you, personally?” Never mind. I answered the obvious myself. “I guess if you had the choice, you’d pick Brett.”
“Not necessarily.” She smiled at me, that warm Carly smile that makes puppies and old people and prickly Scots love her. “His house is nice, but it’s no castle.”
Lissa laughed. “I bet it has central heating, though.”
“Strathcairn has central heating.” I tried not to sound defensive. “In the new part, and the kitchen. And there are fires in every room.”
“I’m not putting wood on a fire and getting smoke in all my clothes.” Lissa held up a “stop it right there” hand.
“Not a wood fire, ye numpty, a gas fire.” I looked at them all. “In the bedrooms, at least. There are real fireplaces downstairs, in the sitting room and library. Honestly, what else has she been telling you?”
“Just that it was cold,” Gillian offered. “Forty degrees, I think she said. Inside.”
I pretended to glare at Lissa, maligning my house behind my back. “If you all came, the place would be at its best—I promise. You’ll love it. And if your parents give you static, tell them to come, too.”
“Ewww.” Gillian looked appalled, and Shani, who has stayed in New York with Gillian’s family before, buried her snort of laughter in her tall glass of pomegranate juice.
“Wait a second.” Lissa looked as if she’d just figured out a new way to ace a bio exam. She flipped out her phone and pressed a button. “Hey, Dad, it’s me. Fine. No, nothing’s wrong and no, I don’t need a favor.” She rolled her eyes at us. “When is the UK premiere of The Middle Window? Yes. Wow, you’re kidding. That’s perfect. So you’re going over.” She mimed smacking her forehead. “Never mind, dumb question. What about Mom? Oh.” She was silent for several seconds, blinking her contacts into place as her eyes filled. She gulped, then cleared her throat. “Well, I doubt it, but I’ll try. Okay. Thanks. Yeah, I’m at breakfast. Finals this week. Need lots of protein and antioxidants and stuff to make the brain retain, you know? Love you two times. ’Bye.”
All round us, the dining room rattled and silverware clashed on plates and people talked incessantly. But at our table, several pairs of eyes watched silently as Lissa tapped her phone off and put it in her glossy Kate Spade tote.
“Are you okay?” Gillian was the only one with the nerve to ask. But then, she and Lissa room together, so they probably share a lot we don’t know about.
Lissa smoothed one hand over her blond hair, making sure her Stacey Lapidus hairband with its little rhinestone love knot was still in place. “Recovering,” she said. “Stand by for reboot.”
Anyone else would have said, “Give me a minute,” but Lissa isn’t like anyone else. None of these girls are. It’s a bit weird that we’ve all found each other here, frankly. Or maybe not weird. Maybe inevitable. There’s the Christian thing, of course. I used to think it wasn’t my cup of tea at all, having quite a horror of Bible-thumpers and mad-eyed conviction. But these girls aren’t like that at all.
I said they were solid, and what they believe is part of it. When I first met them, I used to try to catch them out. Get them to make a mistake, blow up, whatever. But I never could—at least, not that they’d let me see. No matter how badly I treated them—and I can get pretty bad, as anyone will tell you—they didn’t dish it back. Oh, they said a few things. No one is that good, especially considering the provocation. But we slowly became friends, and I slowly got drawn into their circle.
Which isn’t a bad place to be, since they’re what’s considered the A-list round here. Oh, you have your Vanessas and your Danis and your DeLaynes, but they’re more bark than bite. They orbit in a different universe—as a matter of fact, they’ve sort of gone off orbit since Vanessa started going round with the Prince of Yasir. What do you call it when planets lose their center of gravity and start drifting off into space? That clique is like that now.
Lissa took a deep breath and I focused on her. Recovery, evidently, was complete.
“Thing one: Dad says that the UK premiere is on December 19. Term ends on the eighteenth. Thing two: he’s going over for it, and the production team at Leavesden Studios, as well as the people from Scotland, are all invited. Thing three: both your mom and your dad are invited, too, Mac.” I blinked in surprise. Dad hadn’t said a word about it, and I’d gotten an e-mail from him that morning. “And thing four: my mother says she’s not going. Dad wants me to talk her into it. What do you think my chances are?”
The hope in her eyes was almost painful. I knew all about hope. Been there, done that, threw away the T-shirt.
“I guess that means at least you’re coming, then,” I said briskly. “Because of course you’ll talk your mother round. And once you do, your parents are coming to Strathcairn afterward for Christmas. I insist.”
Because if Lissa could talk her mother into coming, then I could talk mine into it as well. For the first time since the divorce.
This was going to be the best, most unforgettable Christmas ever. I’d make certain of it.
See my earlier review dated September 14 at this link.