Book & Author Details:
The Heartbeat Thief by A.J. Krafton
Publication date: June 12th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult
Haunted by a crushing fear of death, a young Victorian woman discovers the secret of eternal youth—she must surrender her life to attain it, and steal heartbeats to keep it.
In 1860 Surrey, a young woman has only one occupation: to marry. Senza Fyne is beautiful, intelligent, and lacks neither wealth nor connections. Finding a husband shouldn’t be difficult, not when she has her entire life before her. But it’s not life that preoccupies her thoughts. It’s death—and that shadowy spectre haunts her every step.
So does Mr. Knell. Heart-thumpingly attractive, obviously eligible—he’d be her perfect match if only he wasn’t so macabre. All his talk about death, all that teasing about knowing how to avoid it…
When her mother arranges a courtship with another man, Senza is desperate for escape from a dull prescripted destiny. Impulsively, she takes Knell up on his offer. He casts a spell that frees her from the cruelty of time and the threat of death—but at a steep price. In order to maintain eternal youth, she must feed on the heartbeats of others.
It’s a little bit Jane Austen, a little bit Edgar Allen Poe, and a whole lot of stealing heartbeats in order to stay young and beautiful forever. From the posh London season to the back alleys of Whitechapel, across the Channel, across the Pond, across the seas of Time…
How far will Senza Fyne go to avoid Death?
“Senza.” Felicity held her arm fast and hissed her name. “What are you doing?”
Senza faltered, disoriented. She felt as if she emerged from a fog to find herself back on the ballroom floor. What had she been doing?
“Are you well?” Felicity whispered, nodding and smiling to those around them. “What were you doing?”
“I…I don’t know.” Senza struggled to regain her composure. “There was a…a stranger. He was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen in my life.”
“If a stranger was visiting someone here, surely, we would have heard something. Someone that handsome wouldn’t remain unannounced for very long. Not with Miss Senza Fyne available for the marrying.”
“Oh, Felicity.” Senza stifled a groan, the desperate chase all but forgotten. “If you only knew how I dread these parties. I feel like I’m up for sale.”
Felicity grinned and snapped her fan with a coy giggle. “It only happens once, Senza, so you’d better learn to shop around yourself. You’ll have the pick of the lot and we less fair folk will have to settle for what is left. Be kind, and set aside a good one for me.”
An announcement from the far side of the room caught their attention. Senza scanned the crowd, the faces, hoping for another glimpse of the mysterious gentleman.
But he was nowhere to be seen.
Felicity linked arms with Senza and tugged her back into to the ballroom. Obediently, she followed, half her mind still focused on that handsome face. Half her mind, and half her heart.
By then, hopeful young men all but lined up for a chance to claim her hand, even if for a single dance. Senza was very obliging. After all, her husband would likely come from this clutch of eager bachelors and, despite her dislike for being treated like an object, she tried to keep an open mind.
After all, she had a job to do. She grimaced as she recalled her mother’s frequent words.
Being open-minded didn’t prevent her mind from wandering, however. Throughout the evening, she danced and smiled and laughed, all the while snatching peeks of the crowd, hoping to see that stranger.
The orchestra finished with a flourish as another dance ended, and she curtseyed to her partner. Mister…Bradley, was it? Charming man, strong hands. A bit quiet. Senza liked that. A quiet man wouldn’t be busy making ardent proclamations. She preferred a suitor to woo with action, not words, especially when a marriage was contract first and love match second.
If she were fortunate.
She reached to take Bradley’s arm, preparing to be handed off to yet another partner, when a gentleman spoke up from behind them. “May I?”
Shivers cascaded like a river of sparks down her back. That voice. Deep, hypnotic, the question curling itself through her. Bradley looked like he swallowed a feather and choked out a pleasantry, handing Senza off to the man who had appeared at their side.
Him. The stranger.
He took her captive hand and raised it to his lips, his dark eyes glittering.
A flush warmed her throat, spilling up into her cheeks. Who was he? They hadn’t been properly introduced. He shouldn’t be speaking to her, let alone pressing a kiss to her hand. It simply wasn’t done—
“Will I have the honor this evening?” He released her hand, but held her still with his gaze. That smile again, like he had a secret. Like he knew something about her and would love to tease her with it.
She couldn’t look away. For a moment, she was connected to him in a way she’d never felt before or would ever understand.
“Um—” She stammered, her cheeks on fire. “I’m sorry, I’ve promised the next several numbers.”
“Serves me right for waiting so long, bien-aimé. I will be content to wait for you.” He bowed low, sweeping out a slender hand in an eloquent gesture. “I would wait for you forever.”
A flash of that smile, deeper this time, deep enough to send flutters through her entire body. A smile and he was gone, like smoke on a breeze, like a shadow retreating from the sun.
“Miss Fyne.” Mr. Pembroke stepped through the crowd. “I believe I have the honor. Shall we?”
She nodded, quite at a loss for words, still in thrall of that brief interlude with the man who had no name. His voice echoed through her head, drowning out Pembroke’s polite chatter and frequent admirations for her friend, the darling Miss Keating.
One word repeated, over and over, a heartbeat in her head.
French, for beloved.
Although the stranger was not to be seen again for the remainder of the evening, Senza danced every last dance with him, even if only in spirit.
AJ Krafton is the author of New Adult speculative fiction. Her debut The Heartbeat Thief is due out on Kindle in June 2015. Forthcoming titles include Taking’ It Back & Face of the Enemy. She’s a proud member of the Infinite Ink Authors. AJ also writes adult spec fic as Ash Krafton. Visit Ash at http://ashkrafton.com