So, I am a liar. What can I say. I told you yesterday was the final day of my blogoversary celebration, but TODAY is. I am sure you won’t mind, especially after seeing who today’s guest is – the delightful Delilah Dawson! Her books are amazing. Like really great. Check out my reviews for The Mysterious Madam Morpho, and The Peculiar Pets of Miss Pleasance (at the end of this post) if you don’t believe me. And of course, Miss Pleasance comes out today, so check out the purchase link at the end of the post. 🙂
And today’s treat … Miss Dawson has graced us with a Sang short about anniversaries and lost loves. It is so sweet, especially for Sang, you might need a toothbrush.
Tish heard an impatient sigh and looked up to find her next customer hesitating, one expensive kid glove holding up the velvet drape.
“Enter,” she said in her official fortune-telling voice. But when the hand disappeared, she quickly rushed in with her regular, soft voice, saying, “Please come in; there’s no need to be scared. I don’t bite.”
After another moment’s pause, an old woman ducked into the tent, her eyes glancing around at the crystal ball, turban, and other accoutrements as if she expected something to bite her, even if it wasn’t Tish. Nervous as a rabbit, she sat, her plum taffeta dress swishing and her ring-laden hands overlapping on a jeweled walking stick.
“Not sure I believe in such nonsense,” she said, chin up.
Tish grinned at her moxie. “I’m not sure I do either, but if you’d care to wager a copper, perhaps we’ll learn the truth.”
With a sniff of disgust, the woman deposited her copper on the table, and Tish swept it into her bag.
“If you’ll be so kind as to remove the glove on your right hand,” she said, holding out her own bare palm.
The woman’s hand was dry and pale under the kid glove, her nails neat and painted a bright red that hinted at a more adventurous spirit than the heavy frown lines etching the woman’s face. The moment their skin touched, Tish felt the jolt, familiar but still electric.
“Oh!” She smiled, patting the woman’s hand. “Happy Anniversary!”
The woman snatched back her arm with a gasp. “How dare you? I’ll have the Coppers here, mark my words!”
Tish watched her, confused. “I’m so sorry. But… I don’t understand. Is today not your anniversary?”
The woman’s stare was cold, her wrinkles cut deeper with lines traced in sadness. “It might have been, had my fiance lived. He died at sea a week before our wedding date.”
“And you never married?”
“Of course I didn’t marry, you gypsy trollop! I had my heart set on that one, no matter how young I was. Honestly, the nerve. To bring your… your… blasphemous lies against an old woman! You should be thrown into irons for daring to make such assumptions. Give me back my copper at once.”
Eyes narrowed, Tish did something she had never done before, not in two years of telling fortunes in Criminy’s Clockwork Caravan: she withdrew the woman’s copper from her bag and placed it, face up, on the velvet tablecloth. “If I might be so bold, madam, you’ll find the Butterfly Circus entertaining, especially at midnight.”
The woman snatched up the copper and stood, eyes wet and skirts snapping.
“Don’t you tell me what I might find entertaining,” she hissed. But her hand flew to the necklace hanging on a thick chain and displaying what must have been a very costly butterfly wing. In a swirl of skirts and velvet, the woman disappeared, leaving her kidskin glove behind.
Tish took a deep breath, steeling herself to greet her next customer. She grasped hand after hand, foretelling dangerous untold and hardships unnumbered, as well as a few triumphs and joys. It was well after dark when an old man pushed pat the velvet curtain to sit heavily on the chair before Tish’s crystal ball, his gait awkward thanks to a carved wooden leg.
“If you would be so kind as to remove the glove on your right hand,” Tish intoned. The man grunted, and she looked at him closely, realizing that he didn’t have a right hand, much less an arm. His jacket was folded up, the sleeve pinned neatly to the shoulder. “Or your left,” she added.
His hand was already bare, and the moment she grasped it, she sighed with relief and struggled to hold on to her professional demeanor.
“You were lost at sea,” she said.
“I was.” The old man’s voice was sharp and suspicious, his light eyes squinting as if the sun still raged overhead, glinting across the water.
“And you in turn lost someone you loved.”
Tish tried not to smile.
“Did you not go back to Penzance to find her?”
The old man chuckled once. “Like this? Go back to a baron’s daughter missing two limbs and riddled with scars from a kraken attack? Of course not. Better this way. I couldn’t give her the life she was born to, the life she deserved. Just stayed with the sea, as she’d claimed me.” He scratched at his stump and stared at her, hard. “Got anything to say of the future, or just going to remind me of what I’ve lost?”
Reaching below her table, Tish placed a kidskin glove gently on the table.
“The spirits tell me that if you return this glove to its owner, your luck will take a turn for the better.”
The man picked up the cream-colored glove, stroking a calloused thumb over the thin leather. “And how am I to find the owner, then, eh? The crowd is thick and Fortune’s a witchy lass, from what I’ve seen.”
“I would suggest starting at the Butterfly Circus,” Tish said. “And look for your favorite color.”
The man stood, glove in hand, and placed a shining white pearl on the table.
“That’s the strangest fortune I’ve ever heard, and that’s the truth,” he said. “But I know to never cross a lady who keeps magic at her side.”
As he stumped out of the tent and turned left toward the Butterfly Circus, Tish smiled to herself and murmured, “Happy Anniversary.”
Expected publication: April 1st 2013 by Pocket Star
In a world ruled by blood, live pets are rare and kindness rarer still. London pet shop owner Frannie Pleasance has a mysterious way with animals and keeps her charges (and heart) locked in a veritable Eden. She thinks Casper Sterling is just another stray…until she takes in the troublesome lodger (and unwelcome suitor) and becomes the victim of a series of strange and dangerous occurrences.
When an unexplained fire threatens to destroy Frannie’s carefully guarded world, firefighter Thom Maccallan is there to extinguish the blaze and help gather the lost creatures. The heat between Frannie and Thom begins to burn, but someone’s still after the lady. Could it be Casper himself, or is Frannie’s new lodger just another victim of fate? Will they be able to figure out who’s pursuing Frannie—and stop them—before she loses everything?
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I love Sang. The world Dawson has created is so complex, with many many layers, and each time I go there, it’s like visiting a favorite vacation spot.
A vacation spot where even the rats can kill you, because they are bludrats. There are also bludmen, bludbunnies (which were certainly missed in this novella, but as it takes place in Sang’s London it makes sense), blud … well, pretty much any mammal has a blud equivalent. And what makes this short story especially challenging, is the main character runs a pet store. I don’t know HOW she gets non-bludded animals, but that must be an accomplishment!
I love that Casper plays an important role in this story, it is a great lead in to Wicked as She Wants, which is Casper’s story. I must admit, I love the cocky bastard. I also loved Criminy in Wicked as They Come, and Thom … I love all the men Dawson creates. I am very excited to learn more about what is going on with him. I have theories, but is history holds true, I will be incredibly surprised, even if I am partially correct.
I am rambling … Frannie is a great character. Strong and independent, yet hurt and scared. She is very believable and real. Her reasons for being shy yet cold and nervous are revealed as you go. By the end you get what is going on, look forward to finding out what comes next, but still have a sense of closure that leaves you satisfied.
And it has to be mentioned … as creepy as this may sound, I love the way the love scenes are written throughout this whole series. They truly are “love” scenes and not just “sex ” scenes. The fact that there is a noticeable difference makes them more meaningful.
If you like steampunk, vampires with a twist, alternate realities, or even just a sweet love story, this series is for you.