Tuesday, September 25, 2018

3 Love for Two Lifetimes Excerpt and 10-Hardcover Mystery Box Giveaway

I'm excited to wish my latest project a happy book birthday today! Love for Two Lifetimes in my first YA book in a while since I've been writing adult fiction, but I love this story so much. It's what I call my "gift book," because it's the only thing I've ever written where it just wrote itself. Izzy's voice popped in my head while I was working on something else, and I sat down and wrote over 10,000 words in one sitting. And most of those words haven't changed at all since I put them down.

The story is loosely based on the idea of Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and Camilla Parker Bowles, except that Izzy's mom is Princess Diana as the glamorous "other woman" in the marriage. I wondered how that would affect the children of the man and the woman he loves but didn't marry, and that's how this story was born. Izzy follows twenty years of unsent love letters to England and walks into a world of glamour and royalty where she falls in love with a young aristocrats--only to discover that insurmountable obstacles may lie between them.

Here's an excerpt. I hope you'll enjoy it! And be sure to scroll down to the bottom for a chance to win a mystery box of young adult hardcover books!

Izzy: The End

This isn’t a story about death or grief. It’s about grabbing love while you can.

     Malcolm and I are in the hospital corridor in front of the cardiac care unit, and the too-familiar alarms, hurrying feet, and acrid scents of disease melt away around us. There are only the answers we don’t have. And the possibility that loving him may, with the speaking of a single word, turn out to be biblically, terrifyingly wrong.

     His hands shake on my arms. His knees bend so we can look straight at each other. I love the sea-ice green of his eyes beneath the dark swoops of brow, the dimple in his chin, the way he concentrates.

     We’re pulled together, our bodies tipping closer, millimeter by millimeter, my skin alive beneath his fingers, our heartbeats echoes of one another.

     In German, there’s a word for a kiss that makes up for kisses that never happened. In case there can never be more between us, that’s exactly what I need: one last kiss to hold all the kisses that might have been, not only mine and Malcolm’s, but all those that were missing from my mother’s life.

Part One

Izzy: Brittle Leaves

The music wakes me. Mom’s piano is a constant in our house. She listens to her compositions while she sleeps, and she plays—even louder—when she’s awake. I love the magic of it, but sometimes I feel as if her music has taken over my heartbeat, my breathing, my life as well as hers. Today, she’s awake too early, which means she hasn’t yet gone to bed.

Text to Elli:

Me: Higher Grounds?

Elli: Twenty minutes!

     I dress in a scowl and the pink Oscar Wilde T-shirt my mother hates. To be fair, Mom hates all my Oscar Wilde T-shirts. She claims there’s no point wearing quotes that advocate independent thought when I insist on going to a public school that seems to discourage thinking altogether. I tell her that just makes the message even more important.

Oscar Wilde T-shirt

     In the shadow of the moon that still clings to the sky outside my window, I make my bed and gather my books together. The envelope that murdered my future lurks on the corner of the desk, and I grab that, too, before I trudge downstairs.

Scene Break


My mother is in the morning room, coffee cups strewn everywhere, sheet music sprawled on the grand piano and the bench beside her. Rough drafts pour from her fingers to the keyboard in ultra-fast arpeggios—wild, tumbling notes like leaves chased by wind. Four dry leaves flutter to rest with a pile of others against the wall, their sienna and burnt umber stark against the sapphire of the Turkish rug.

     I don’t bother checking the closed window where the sheer white curtains hang unmoving. Beyond it, the trees are still and bare, their leaves only now beginning to bud. In the darkness, daffodils glow like yellow stars uncurling among the black mulch in our flower beds. It wasn’t the season that called the leaves into being; it was the magic of my mother’s music.

     I pad across the carpet and stand beside her. She stops playing to scratch something onto a manuscript page, then repeats a passage she has played already. She’s recording the session, too, but she likes the process of setting the notes on paper. That’s the one artistic thing I’ve inherited from her. The words I type on my computer always trickle one at a time from inside my head, while those I write longhand seem to flow through me instead of from me.

     Mom looks up and smiles, her eyes still a little music-drunk. "’Morning, querida."

     "Good night," I say, "considering it’s still dark outside. Waking me up this early is practically child abuse."

     "So report me," my mother counters in her faint Argentinian accent, and her gaze shifts down to take in what I’m wearing. "That T-shirt, Isabelle! Must you?"

     "Definitely. Also, shouldn’t you go to bed?"

     "Soon." Her brows furrow and form a spiderweb of creases on her normally smooth, warm skin. "Are you going to go tell Elli this morning?"

     "I wish I didn’t have to."

     "In that case, I forgive the T-shirt. Temporarily. But in future, write your own subversions instead of relying on someone else’s." She studies me, sharp dark eyes registering all the things I haven’t said. Her features soften. "What do you say we celebrate this weekend, you, me, and Elli? I’m sure you two will work things out, and my Concerto in E-flat Major is nearly finished. We could fly to Paris."

     I smile, because the concerto that Mom’s composing has been "nearly finished" these past two years. By this afternoon, she’ll either be in despair once more or so far down the rabbit hole of creation she won’t remember mentioning Paris.

     "Sure," I tell her, and I’m typing as I turn away.

Text to Elli:

Me: Leaving now.

Elli: Caffeeeeeine!

     "Hey!" Mom calls after me and taps her cheek. "You forgot something."

     I bend down to kiss her. "Make good art, Mom."

     "Make good stories, mija."

     I cross to the door and glance back from the threshold. My mother’s playing again already, immersed so deep in her music that the rest of the world has faded. Another speed-of-light arpeggio rustles through the room, and another brittle leaf shimmers into being above the piano’s gleaming, swooping curves. One more small piece of my mother’s magic.

Scene Break


Elli’s waist-length hair is lavender, which I not-so-secretly envy. She doesn’t have much of it, which I also envy. I have enough hair for three people, which is like wearing a space-heater when it’s hot, and when it’s humid I look like a Q-tip dipped in walnut furniture stain. This means that, thanks to climate change, I’m doomed to a lifetime of hair-suck. Here in Arlington, Virginia, it’s either humid or raining or snowing about 350 days a year. Today being worse than usual, I slink into Higher Grounds wearing a hot-pink beanie to go with my T-shirt, red coat, and purple sneakers, and Elli gives me a bug-eyed grin. Her grins are happy. They stretch from ear to ear.

     "I knew it was going to be a good day. See? We couldn’t have planned this better." She gestures at her own pink and red outfit, delighted at our color-coordination. Backing up to stand beside me in front of the bakery display that’s lit up to make every crumb of sugar glisten, she aims her phone, angling it down while she draws her cheeks in and pouts her mouth out and does something sparkling with her eyes.

     The hand I raise in front of my face is a half-hearted gesture. My puffy-eyed morning-look doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, and though she be but little, Elli is unstoppably fierce. She wins—as usual—and the photo is up on social media before I’ve even plucked my Caramelized Honey Latte from the counter.

     Carrying the cup to an empty table, I inhale the perfection that is the smell of coffee and absorb the way the music of the grinder and the steam and the water trickling punctuate the indie pop music playing on the sound system. Coffee smells like heaven, but it tastes bitter as heck unless you fill it with de-heckifying additives. Coffee that costs more than the per capita daily income of India is theoretically against my principles. Still. Caramelized. Honey. Latte.

     My principles are a work-in-progress.

     Elli throws herself into a booth, pries the lid off her Macchiato, and blows down into the steam. She picks at her chocolate chunk muffin. About a million calories float toward me across the table and settle onto each of my thighs. Elli eats. I absorb. That’s how our relationship works.

     Between bites, she peers across the table. "You didn’t call me back or text last night, so what’s up with you? Did your mom finish the concerto? Were you celebrating?"

     "Nearly almost."

     I refrain from mentioning Paris and focus on trying to pluck the right explanation out of the useless swirl of thoughts inside my head. For once, words completely fail me. Then again, I don’t need words. Rummaging in my bag, I retrieve the acceptance packet from Princeton that just broke my online waitlist impasse. We’re both silent as I hand it over. Elli’s officially a Princeton reject. One yes and a no should be an automatic pass. That’s what we agreed. But this is Princeton.


     Elli unfolds the letter, runs her thumb over the logo at the top of the page, and reads the first sentence. "Izzy!" Her eyes go moist. "This is fantastic. You have to go."

     I shake my head. "We pinky swore."

     "Pinkies have an unwritten Princeton exception. Also there’s less humidity in New Jersey."

     "I’m not picking a school based on hair-suck. Columbia is great. Or Chicago. And we’re both still waiting at Yale. Anyway, since they rejected you, I have to question Princeton’s judgment. Which makes me question the quality of their education. So, who wants them?"

     "You do. Princeton was your first word out of the womb, just about. And your mom already took the teaching job up there on the presumption that we’d all be together."

     "I’m resilient, and Mom doesn’t have the patience for teaching anyway—and since she’s a literal diva, no one will think less of her for quitting. Really, I’m doing all her would-be students a public service. Think of the fragile young egos I’ll be saving."

     "It’s my parents I blame for this." Elli plops her elbows down on the table and buries her chin in her hands and heaves a dramatic sigh. "If only they did something useful for a living! The Ivies are already drowning in doctor’s kids, which makes me the last thing they need. But you? You have the whole Marcella-Cavalera-as-a-mother thing going for you. You’re a trophy kid. Everyone has to take you."

     "Hey! Watch it!"

     "Oh, fine." Elli’s hands surrender for her. "You know I don’t mean that. You earned Princeton, and I got that stupid C in Freshman English. But seriously, what kind of a fascist teacher hates Toni Morrison? Or trees. Toni Morrison’s trees. It was a darn good essay."

     "It wasn’t a D essay," I concede.

     "Right? A solid B. B- tops." Elli pauses. Leans forward. Looks all serious. "But you know you have to go, don’t you? No arguing, because I’ll never forgive you if you don’t go."

     I’m not sure I will either, but college without Elli was never in the plan. Apart from Mom, Elli’s all the family I’ve ever had. How can I possibly leave her?

Scene Break

Izzy & Elli’s Origin Story Version 3.5

Elli and I met in the hospital nursery eighteen years ago.

     The way the story goes, her dad and my mom were both standing in the hall, staring at us through the glass like we were little aliens they didn’t know what to do with. Dr. Andrew thought baby Elli was impossibly fragile compared to her brothers, who’d both been born looking like future football players. Mom had never held an actual infant and she’d never played with dolls. Even then it was probably obvious a baby was never supposed to be written into her concert program. Dr. A, being no dummy, took inventory of Mom’s hospital gown and robe and asked if one of the babies belonged to her. Mom pointed to me in my pink beanie—baby pink back then, not the hot pink one I wear now—and asked which one was Dr. A’s. He pointed to the bassinet next to mine.

     The way the story goes, Elli and I were already looking at each other, and until the day we went home, we screamed whenever we were separated. I guess we got over that eventually. By then, though, Dr. Andrew and Dr. Eleanor had adopted both me and Mom, and Mom no longer held me like she was afraid to break me.

     Elli and I never needed to adopt each other. We’ve always belonged, the same way Mom and I belong.

     Other friends have come and gone, drifting around our periphery, shuffling with us through the usual series of linoleum-floored, locker-lined school halls and activity-overloaded summer camps. Elli and I are constant. She loves her family, but her messy, turbulent, sports-loving brothers are like alien beings, and she prefers the lack of stinky football cleats and the quiet of my house. I sometimes envy her the messy completeness of having both a mom and dad, not to mention siblings, so I like to borrow them all now and then. I live there, anyway, whenever school schedules don’t let me tag along on Mom’s foreign tours. But it’s Mom and Elli and I who get along the best. Elli can cook carbonado and empanadas better than I can, and we both cook better than Mom, who burns a third of everything she tries to make and is more likely to give us dulce de leche on bread than something involving meat, veg, or actual nutrition.

     The way our story was supposed to go, Elli and I would go off to Princeton in the fall. I would follow in the footsteps of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill, and Jonathan Safran Foer, and Elli would try to figure out why any reasonable human being—much less someone who calls themselves a scientist—could still fail to understand the dangers of climate change. Mom was going to drive up once a week to teach a class, and the three of us were all going to live together happily ever after. Or at least for four more years.

"The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft a-gley."

                                        Robert Burns

     So. What am I supposed to choose? Mom and Princeton? Or Elli?

     Man, I hate decisions.

     The thing is, I know how lucky I am to even get to worry about all this. In the grand scheme of things, I have the best kind of problems. I have a mom I love more than Nutella chocolate tarts, a best friend who knows me better than I know myself, and some of the greatest schools in the world who are willing to teach me things. But no matter what I decide, someone I love gets hurt. Someone is going to lose. Something will change, and our three futures will diverge like that Robert Frost poem about the road not taken, which isn’t about asserting individuality so much as it’s about looking back and finding ways to justify the hardest choices. People always get that wrong.

     I don’t want to look back and have to justify.

Scene Break


Final semester of senior year, not even the teachers care very much. Which explains why we’re watching the travesty that is The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore in AP English.

     The door opens from the hall, admitting the sound of basketballs bouncing from the nearby gym and the hollow slam of a locker down the hall. I don’t bother looking up from the pro/con lists I’m scribbling in my pocket notebook. Not until the rustle of heads turning and bodies unslumping penetrates my Princeton-induced depression.

     For once, Principal Gupta isn’t obnoxiously using the PA system or calling on the phone. Her long braid swings wildly as she duck-walks under the projection screen to Mrs. Murphy’s desk in person. Both she and Mrs. Murphy are dressed in aggressively passive beige, and until this moment, I’ve never considered how similar they are in personality. I wonder if they are friends. Do they sit in the teacher’s lounge together, sipping sludgy coffee and sharing complaints about over-involved or under-involved parents and bemoaning bygone days?

     An imaginary conversation between them writes itself out in my head, but it’s first draft, not even notebook-worthy. Frowning, I dig deeper, try to imagine the secrets they’d be desperate to keep the other from finding out, the secrets they’ve never told to anyone. Secrets are the key to every fictional character. Every interesting one, at least.

     Elli pokes me in the shoulder.

     "What?" I ask.

     She nods toward the front of the room. Reaching over and taking my hand, she squeezes. Hard.

     The whole class has lapsed into a nervous silence, and Mrs. Murphy and Principal Gupta have turned to look at me wearing those horrified, avid expressions that nice people get when something awful happens. I try to think of something I might have done to earn that look, but T-shirts and asking occasionally "challenging" questions are pretty much my main subversions. Neither one rates very high on the scale of offenses that would draw the principal’s attention.

     Still, Mom’s going to say I told you so.

     This is what I’m thinking.

     Then Principal Gupta’s hand is suddenly on my shoulder, and her voice is full of pity, and Elli’s standing up to try to follow me, but Mrs. Murphy’s shaking her head and bending to whisper in Elli’s ear. I’m stumbling out into the hall where there are two police officers waiting, their shirts lumpy over Kevlar vests and their faces serious and sympathetic.


     This is what I’m thinking.

     Because there’s no possible yes in this situation.

     There’s only something horribly awful. There’s only someone hurt.

     And apart from Elli who was sitting beside me a second ago, I really only have one person in the entire world.

     Just one.

     And the police tell me there’s been an accident.

Scene Break


The police turn on the sirens as we drive to the hospital. That’s how bad it is.

     The patrol car stinks of sweat and vomit inadequately masked over with upholstery cleaner and pine-scented air freshener. We pass cars in blurred strands of brake lights.

     Officer Tillman keeps turning to look at me, and I try not to hyperventilate, try not to picture my mother cut out of her car by firemen, hooked up to machines, lying in a hospital bed all alone despite a million doctors and nurses bustling around her.

     Can she hear anything if she’s brain dead?

     She shouldn’t die to the sound of hospital machines.

     I start making a playlist of her favorite pieces on my phone— Liszt’s "La Campanella," Prokofiev’s "Concerto No. 3 in C Major," Beethoven’s "Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major"—because it’s something I can do.

     I will never listen to these pieces again. How could I ever listen to them again? But Mom deserves to go out with what she loves.

     Pausing to dry my phone against my jeans, I ignore the ding of Elli’s zillionth text:

Elli: ???? Izzy! Answer me! Please answer!

Elli: Are you ok? Mom and Dad are coming. We’re all coming.

Elli: What do you need? How’s your mom?

     I can’t answer.

     I can’t type the words.

     I won’t think them.

     I won’t believe them. The universe doesn’t need that out there.

     Mom swears by yoga and meditation. In Sanskrit, intention is called Samkalpa, which literally means what you create in your mind with will or imagination. Karma begins with intention.

     I intend for Mom to be fine.

     I imagine this is all a mistake.

     I will the doctors to be wrong.

Scene Break

Mind Death

My mother is a deflated balloon, lying in the hospital bed. Small and diminishing. Floating away.

     Not awake.

     The doctors insist she won’t wake up, can’t wake up, and they tell me I have to be the one to choose. That’s the downside of being eighteen. As if anyone is ever adult enough to deal with this.

     I don’t want to be adult. I only want my mother.

     She doesn’t look...she doesn’t need this. Her face isn’t damaged. Around the breathing tube, it’s still lovely and almost peaceful.

     I can’t decide. I can’t.

     I place my phone beside her ear on the rough, sterile sheets and start the music playing. Sitting beside her with my knees drawn up on the chair, I rock myself back and forth.

     The music knifes through the air in dazzling notes. I imagine her playing, her fingers skipping and sizzling and gliding and tip-toeing across the keyboard, the music pouring from her heart.

     If I do what the doctors recommend, Mom will never finish her concerto. She’ll never achieve what she’s always worked for. Not the perfect piece. Not any future music. Not any future anything.

     But they tell me that’s over no matter what I choose.

     "Please come back," I whisper, picking up her hand. It’s warm and limp, her and not her. I wait, and wait, and wait. It doesn’t move. It doesn’t change.

     My beautiful, mercurial, passionate mother has played for royalty and performed in the greatest concert halls around the world. She brings audiences to their feet and conductors to their knees. She has never met a batch of cookies she can’t burn or a bill she can’t forget to pay.

     Just last Tuesday, she emerged from her music and threw herself onto my bed, making me bounce where I was studying. "I need a sweet-tooth-ritual," she said. "Pack an overnight bag. Hurry up."

     I gave the usual, token argument. "I can’t go anywhere. I have school tomorrow..."

     "I’ll write the note," she said. "I’ll fawn. I’ll be nice. Please, querida. I need this."

     In the pre-spring lull, Cape Cod was still bitterly cold and quiet. We walked on the empty beach and played Scrabble (which I always win) and chess (which she always wins), and we watched Casablanca for the thousandth time on the hotel cable while eating dessert for appetizers and dessert for dinner and dessert for dessert.

     All that sugar made my stomach hurt, and I groaned and said, "We’re getting too old for sweet-tooth-rituals."

     Mom stole the last of my crème brûlée. "What do I always tell you? You only get one life. You may as well choose to live it brilliantly."

     People who don’t know my mother talk about the blinding speed of her hands, her dexterity, the absolute lack of a dominant side in her playing. She laughs at that. She says it isn’t her hands she’s training with all the practice.

     Studies prove the mind of a pianist is wired differently, that it communicates in syntax instead of words. Pianists multitask. They make decisions at the speed of light. My mother’s mind is what allows—allowed—her to make choices that communicate pure emotion. Choices that make people feel.

     Brain dead. That’s what the doctors call it. Mind death.

     The other driver was texting.

     A scream builds in my chest, squeezing out the air. A scream that has no sound. A scream that has no relief.

     This can’t be real.

     What kind of a text was worth my mother’s life?

Scene Break

Letting Go

I sit on the floor with my hands wrapped around my knees and Elli’s arm wrapped around my shoulders. I’m sobbing so hard I can’t hear what Elli’s parents are saying, shaking so hard my teeth chatter. I understand there are people Mom can help, that she wanted to be an organ donor. I understand I have to decide, even if the thought of life without my mother is impossible.

     I’m supposed to trust what the machines and the doctors and Elli’s parents tell me, that Mom will never breathe or move on her own again. Never think on her own again. I’m supposed to believe she will never be Mom again. She will never see me graduate from high school, or walk me down the aisle at my wedding like she promised.

     Why did I run out this morning to meet Elli at Higher Grounds? That’s an extra hour I could have had, listening to Mom, watching her. Being with her. It never occurred to me that the time I gave up might have been all the time I would ever have.

     I don’t want to let go. I don’t want to, but I can’t be selfish. Mom wouldn’t want life without her mind, without her music. She’d want me to fight for what she wanted, the way she has always fought for me.

     This isn’t about what I want.

     I have to choose for my mother because she can’t choose for herself.

Malcolm: Paper Butterflies

The Duchess of Northumberland created an entire poison garden at Alnwick Castle, and the only ideas I’ve come up with for Halford Hall are a murder tour and paper butterflies. Butterflies. It’s bloody emasculating, that’s what it is. I try to tell myself I’m evolved enough not to mind that I’m spending Friday night hiding insects for the amusement of sugar-sozzled children. Still, I can’t help a Neanderthal knee-jerk reaction that makes me long for a pint and a nice, bruising game of rugby. Not necessarily in that order.

     Percy, my best mate, does little to hide his amusement as I get down on all fours to tack a Large Blue butterfly—only recently brought back from extinction locally—to a life-sized portrait of the eighth Countess of Mortimer. "I should snap a few photos of you doing that," he says, "and hold them in reserve for appropriate blackmail opportunities."

     "Only if you have a death wish."

     "You used to be more fun, you know, once upon a time. Right, so how many Maculinea arion are we up to now? Ninety-five?" He marks this latest butterfly on the tourist map of Halford’s public rooms.

     I knock the eighth countess’s portrait as I scramble to my feet, and she chides me from her gilded frame. She’s the one who introduced dark, arched eyebrows into the Halford gene pool sometime in the fifteenth century, and the way they draw together even when her lips are smiling makes her appear perpetually worried. But she lived here long before having a stately pile in the British countryside required tours, destination wedding weekends, community hearts and minds campaigns, and treasure hunts for children featuring paper insects, maps, and prizes. I doubt my own expression looks any happier.

     "It’s ninety-eight butterflies, not ninety-five," I say. "Don’t tell me you’ve lost track?"

     "Are you quite sure?" Percy’s own blond eyebrows bristle like a pair of caterpillars.

     "Of course I’m sure. But you’re the one meant to be reading Maths at Oxford. I assumed you could count." With a sigh, I amble over, and we both frown at the map.

     Percy’s windblown complexion grows even redder as I take the pencil and mark the missing butterflies for him. His attention shifts strategically to the ceiling. "I’m thinking of changing over to Politics instead, actually," he says. "Which you’d know if you ever showed up for meals or anything remotely social."

     That’s about as close to admitting hurt as Percy’d ever get, and he covers it with a grin and a shake of his head. "The good news is," he continues, "starting out in Maths and Philosophy, I’ve done most of the core for Philosophy, Politics & Economics. I’ll only need to make up a handful of courses."

     I take in his pinched smile, his unaccustomedly rumpled shirt, the mop of hair that’s untidier than usual, and the pallor beneath the ruddy cheeks he gets from rowing. Clearly, I’ve been a rubbish mate. I never twigged that offering to help me set up the butterfly hunt was a pretext for needing a sounding board. And when am I ever around for him to talk to? I’m down here every weekend now that Dad’s seemingly chucked in half his responsibilities.

     Which is no excuse. Friendship doesn’t deserve excuses. I should have noticed Percy struggling.

     "Look, I’m the last person to tell you to stick it out in Maths," I manage to say quite evenly, "but I wonder if it’s escaped your notice that Economics isn’t any better. And also, the PPE-ists are all first-rate dickheads. I can’t see you swanning around college in a suit and planning clandestine coup d’états of the Doctor Who society en route to ultimately taking over Parliament. It’s not your style."

     Percy’s shoulders curl, and his finger twitches on the pencil. "I haven’t got many other options, have I? I revise until my eyes bleed and my grades are still disastrous. Face it, I’m useless at anything to do with science or technology or management. History is soporific—no offense—and I’ve never had your dedication to keeping the family pile afloat. I can’t see myself spending the next six decades of my life supervising meaningful community employment at Malming Abbey and researching the hidden history of long-dead blacksmiths. In which case, I might as well embrace the family tradition and wade into the swamps of government. Honestly, the thought of it wouldn’t be half so bad if I didn’t know it would put a smile on the old man’s face."

     The half-hearted grins we exchange at that are a show of solidarity. Our friendship, Percy’s and mine, was forged in the crucible of admiration for the Leicester City Football Club and a mutual hatred of our paternal members. The reasons may be different—Percy blames his father for destroying the country and mine was only responsible for destroying my mother—but the intensity of feeling brought us together and bonds us still.

     We duck into the state dining room, and I affix another paper butterfly to a sign about Grinling Gibbons, the man who carved the seventeenth-century wall paneling. The last of the hundred >Maculinea goes in a corner of the corridor outside. Then, thank God, we’re done. Technically, I suppose, setting up the new endangered butterfly hunt is one of the things the tour staff could have handled. They’re already overworked, though, since Dad’s too depressed to care about what goes on these days. In the grand scheme of things, my butterfly hunt may not do much to increase the number of mums and dads willing to plonk down hard-earned cash to force march their offspring through Halford’s gardens and twenty-six public rooms. But it’s almost free to implement, and it can’t do any harm.

     "That’s it? Obligation discharged?" Percy marks the final butterfly on the map and checks his watch. "Because it occurs to me I could be convinced to forgo Mrs. Danvers’ roast beef and Yorkshire pud in favor of LiveFriday at the Asmolean followed by an irresponsible night of drinking. We could still make it back to Oxford with time to spare. And in case you need more incentive, that red-haired Catherine was asking if you were coming."

     I’ve no interest in any girl who’s more enamored with an aristocratic title than the person it belongs to, but I refrain from mentioning that. "You swore you’d see me through the weekly dinner," I remind him instead, "and please don’t call Anna ‘Mrs. Danvers.’ First, she’s nothing like that, and second, her hearing is supernatural and her umbrages are legendary."

     "All the more reason to get out whilst we can. You may love her, but your housekeeper very nearly gives me fond feelings about my own family dinners. At least until I remember I’d rather have my teeth drilled out than attend another one. You’ve no idea how good you actually have it with your father."

     "You only say that because you haven’t had to live with him. And don’t think I haven’t noticed you’re trying to change the subject."

     "I changed that five minutes ago. Do keep up, Mal. The point is, I’m bound to be sucked into government sooner or later. I might as well embrace my fate as not."

     "The whole purpose of fate is to give us something to rebel against."

     "Nietzsche would argue that one."

     "True, but embracing life isn’t the same thing as embracing fate, is it?"

     "All the more reason we should take time out to embrace LiveFriday and red-haired Catherine."

     Though Percy’s tone is light, his eyes tell a different story. I can’t help giving in. Anna’ll be disappointed, but I doubt Dad will even notice so long as I’m back in the morning before the tourists.

     Percy and I cut through the book hall and the library, then stop in the office to drop off the annotated butterfly map. Tours are finished for the day and the guests for Sunday’s wedding won’t start trickling in until tomorrow. For the moment, the house is still: ninety-eight cavernous rooms that have witnessed rebellions, treachery, treason, war, wealth, poverty, and everything in between. For me, it’s a comfortable stillness, though, like the pensive quiet of an old married couple who know all each other’s secrets.

     The fight to save Halford is the one and only thing my father and I still have in common. He singlehandedly kept it from being turned into a hotel when he was little more than my age, and if he was able to do that, I can’t see it gutted and sold off piece by piece on my watch.

     Whatever daft schemes and ridiculous stunts I need to concoct, however many children’s tours and community events I’ll have to devise, I won’t let Halford slip away.


Love for Two Lifetimes
by Martina Boone
Mayfair Publishing
Released 9/25/2018

Two generations, two great loves, one impossible choice . . .

When Izzy unexpectedly loses her mother in a car accident, her world shatters. Their relationship has always been so close that Izzy can't imagine life without her. Nor can she begin to understand when she finds a secret box of love letters that her mother wrote but never sent. The idea of her mother hiding such intense feelings for more than twenty years without so much as a hint makes Izzy question everything she thought she knew--including the identity of her father.

Following a trail of clues overseas, Izzy steps into a world of glamour and English royalty, one which years ago forced her mother to choose between her obligation to her musical gift and her lover's obligations to his family, title, and estate. It's a world of secrets and masquerades, of heartache and betrayal. And in the midst of this world, Izzy finds a young man who feels as broken as she does herself. The two are drawn to each other--only to find that their parents' lies may present an insurmountable obstacle between them.

Thrown together on a coming of age journey of discovery that spans two lifetimes and takes them from a grand estate in the Cotswolds to a hospital bedside in India and ultimately to the Taj Mahal, Izzy and Malcolm try desperately not to fall in love. But some things are impossible...

And some loves are worth any sacrifice...

Uplifting, funny, tragic, and unforgettably romantic, Love for Two Lifetimes is a tale of two generations of romance, a lifetime of friendship, a history of good intentions, and one last, heartbreaking and hopeful choice revealed in prose, texts, and love letters. If you enjoy the fairy tale royal weddings or the intense emotion of any story by John Green or Nicholas Sparks, Love for Two Lifetimes will have you turning pages late into the night.

"Heartwarming, lyrical, soulful, and with just the right amount of humor: this book sparkles with authentic, layered characters and beautiful, thoughtful prose." -- Jodi Meadows, NYT bestselling co-author of My Lady Jane and My Plain Jane

Order Love for Two Lifetimes Now

Love for Two Lifetimes is available now in hardcover, paperback, and digital. There's a special early order campaign with exclusive goodies for anyone who orders the book before November 1st. Additional incentives are available if you order from One More Page Books, Martina's local indie.

See here for additional details.

Or order directly from your favorite retailer:


Purchase with Swag at One More Page
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Mystery Box Giveaway

Self-explanatory! Some lucky winner will get ten hardcover YA books in a mix of contemporary, fantasy, and all things in between, along with a set of Love For Two Lifetimes special swag that's in addition to the early order incentives! (Think velvet bookmarks with charms. :))

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  1. I haven't read all of Martina's books yet, but Love for Two Lifetimes is her best work yet.

  2. Is this giveaway US only?


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