From The TakerBy Alma Katsu© Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster, 2011
Shall I tell you about Jonathan, my Jonathan, and then you will understand how I could be so sure of my devotion? He was the firstborn of Charles and Ruth St. Andrew and they were so thrilled to have a son that they named him on the spot, had him christened within the month, recklessly exulting in him in an age when most parents would not even name a child until it had lived for some time and proved it had a chance of survival. His father threw a great party while Ruth was still recuperating in her bed; had everyone from the town come in for rum punch and sugared tea, plum cake and molasses cookies; hired an Acadian fiddler, had laughter and music so close after the boy’s birth, it seemed the father was daring the devil—just try to come and take my boy! Just try and see what you will get!
It was apparent, from the earliest days, that Jonathan was uncommon: he was exceptionally clever, exceptionally strong, exceptionally healthy, and above all, exceptionally beautiful. Women would sit rapt beside the cradle, beg for turns to hold him and pretend that the well-formed bundle of flesh and swirling tendrils of black gossamer was their own.
Even men, down to the hardiest axman working for St. Andrew in the logging operation, would get uncharacteristically misty when brought in proximity to the babe.
By the time Jonathan reached his twelfth birthday, there was no denying that there was something preternatural about him, and it seemed just as obvious to attribute this to his beauty. He was a wonder. He was perfection. That could not be said of many at the time; it was an age in which people were disfigured by any number of causes— smallpox or accident, burned at the hearth, spindly from malnutrition, toothless by thirty, lumpy from a broken bone set improperly, scarrified, palsied, scabbed from lack of hygiene, and, in our stretch of the woods, missing parts from frostbite. But there wasn’t a disfiguring mark on Jonathan.
He’d grown tall, straight, and broad shouldered, as majestic as the trees on his property. His skin was as flawless as poured cream. He had straight black hair as glossy as a raven’s wing and his eyes were dark and bottomless, like the deepest recess of the Allagash. He was simply beautiful to look upon.
Is it a blessing or a curse to have a boy like Jonathan living in your midst? Pity us girls, I say; consider the effect a boy like Jonathan can have on the girls in a small village, in a town so limited there are few other distractions and it is impossible to avoid all contact with him.
He was a constant, inescapable temptation. There was always the chance you might see him, coming out of the provisioner’s shop or as he rode across a field seemingly on some errand but really sent by the devil to weaken our reserve. He didn’t even have to be present to take control of our consciousness: as you sat with your sisters or friends to take up needlework, one of them would whisper about a recent glimpse of Jonathan, and then, he would be all we could talk about. Perhaps we had a part in our own bedevilment, for the girls could not stop obsessing about him, whether on the occasion of a casual meeting (did he speak to you, the girls would want to know; what did he say?), or a mere sighting in town, when even a detail as trifling as the color of his waistcoat was discussed. But what we were really thinking, all of us, was: how he could look you over with an impertinent eye or the way the very corner of his mouth turned up in speculation, and how any of us would die to be nestled in his arms, just once. And it was not just the young girls who felt this way about him; especially as he reached his teenage years, fifteen, sixteen, he already made the other men in the village seem spent, coarse, overfed, or scrawny, and the good wives started to consider Jonathan differently. You could tell by the way they’d appraise him, their feverish looks, flushed cheeks, bitten lips, and the eternal hope in a quick drawing in of breath.
There was the aspect about him of slight danger, too, of wanting to touch him the way a mad voice in your head tells you to touch a hot iron. You know you cannot help but be hurt, but you cannot resist. You must just experience it for yourself. You ignore what you know will come next, the unbearable pain of seared flesh, the sharp bite of the burn all over again every time the wound is touched. The scar you will carry for the rest of your life: the scar that will mark your heart. Inured to love, you will never be quite so foolish in the same way again.
In that respect, I was envied and ridiculed at the same time: envied for all the time I spent in Jonathan’s presence, ridiculed because I had made it plain that there was no romance of any sort between us. This only confirmed in the eyes of the other girls that I lacked the necessary feminine wiles to pique a man’s interest. But I was no different from them. I knew Jonathan had the ability to burn me up with the brilliance of his attention, like a flame to paper. A girl could be destroyed in an instant of divine love. The question was, was it worth it?
You might ask if I loved Jonathan for his beauty, and I would answer: that is a pointless question, for his great, uncommon beauty was an irreducible part of the whole. It gave him his quiet confidence— which some might have called aloof arrogance—and his easy, disarming way with the fairer sex. And if his beauty drew my eye from the first, I’ll not apologize for it, nor will I apologize for my desire to claim Jonathan for my own. To behold such beauty is to wish to possess it; it’s desire that drives every collector. And I was hardly alone. Nearly every person who came to know Jonathan tried to possess him. This was his curse, and the curse of every person who loved him. But it was like being in love with the sun: brilliant and intoxicating to be near, but impossible to keep to oneself. It was hopeless to love him and yet it was hopeless not to.
And so I was addicted by Jonathan’s curse, caught up in his terrible attraction, and both of us were doomed to suffer for it.
The Taker by Alma Katsu
Paperback, 464 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Gallery Books
True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price. On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting a quiet evening. Until a mysterious woman arrives in his ER, escorted by police—Lanore McIlvrae is a murder suspect—and Luke is inexplicably drawn to her. As Lanny tells him her story, an impassioned account of love and betrayal that transcends time and mortality, she changes his life forever. . . . At the turn of the nineteenth century, when St. Andrew was a Puritan settlement, Lanny was consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, and she will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for eternity.
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The Reckoning by Alma Katsu
Paperback, 384 pages
Published January 22nd 2013 by Gallery Books
Love saved her soul . . . but the shadows of the past condemn her. THE RECKONINGIn this “rich, satisfying, and gorgeously written sequel” (Chapters) to her acclaimed debut novel, Te Taker, Alma Katsu pairs a mysteriously alluring young woman with an ER doctor from rural Maine on a harrowing, passion-fueled chase that transcends the boundaries of time.With Dr. Luke Findley by her side, Lanore McIlvrae imprisoned her immortal enemy and has embarked on a new life; now all of London is clamoring to see the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “mystery” exhibit— Lanny’s collections of lost nineteenth-century treasures, including the last precious gift given to her by Jonathan, the man who owns her heart for eternity. But the portal to her past opens once more, as Adair, the Taker, crashes into the twenty-first century to hunt down Lanny and exact revenge for her heartless betrayal—the price she must pay for an endless love.
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About the author:
I'm the author of THE TAKER and THE RECKONING (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster), the first two novels in a trilogy about desire, obsession and the dark things we sometimes do for love. The Taker, which has been widely compared to the ealy work of Anne Rice, was selected by ALA/Booklist as one of the top ten debut novels of 2011 and translation rights have been sold in 14 languages. The third book in The Taker Trilogy, THE DESCENT, is coming May 2013.
Thanks to the fabulous Alma Katsu we have a paperback of The Taker and The Reckoning up for grabs today!
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Ends: April 20th
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