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 Fyne is a privileged young Victorian debutante, graced with exquisite beauty and elite social position. She’s sure to have her pick of eligible young men and seems to be destined for a most advantageous marriage.
But beauty and youth do not last forever. What if the flower fades before it can be plucked? And even the most beautiful rose will eventually wilt after its cutting. Death waits and claims everyone.
Such is the mindset of Senza, who despairs after losing her loved ones to Death’s cold, uncaring embrace. With help from a mysterious stranger, she becomes spellbound and immortal, free of the ravages of Time, safely beyond Death’s reach. Stealing heartbeats maintains the spell which preserves her beauty and her youth.
Her journey is a fabled one…but what if it were true? What if it could happen? What if it were me?
If Knell stood before me, dangling the magic locket and whispering dark and pretty promises, would I do it? Would I become a heartbeat thief?
Sometimes, I think so…
I remember when I was a kid and time seemed eternal. Summers lasted forever, each individual school day just as long. Hours felt like, well, hours. As a kid, I crammed as much as I could into each and every day, reading books, climbing trees, riding bikes. I barely slept, wanted to be active and busy all the time.
A heartbeat thief could achieve that fullness of time, forever.
I’m not a kid anymore. I have kids myself, both in high school, and my days are just as crammed full with day job stuff and housework and the kids’ activities. Now that school is back, I can look forward to one idle evening each week, if I’m lucky. (Thank goodness for the DVR.)
But something has changed. Unlike the passage of time in my youth, there seems not to be enough hours in a day anymore. I blinked yesterday and thought, wow. It’s September. What happened to the plans I made for June? I never found the time.
Time has changed for me. It was once my friend, full of promising hours and blissful minutes. Now I find myself at the day job wishing the day was over already. Trouble is, when the day is over, it’s gone. Forever.
My daughter has her driver’s permit. I sit in the passenger seat while she drives and I glance in the side view mirror to the backseat. I wonder where her car seat went. Then I turn my head to the left and realize she outgrew it.
I look at photos and mementoes I’ve collected over the years, souvenirs of a life lived. The layers of dust that have collected are proof of expired minutes and I sweep them away, hoping to resurface the memories and relive them once more, even if only for a moment.
It’s a bittersweet wish to be able to live outside the march of Time. I’d love to be an eternal eighteen, full of hopes and health and the promises of youth. But would I want to watch the world bloom and wither and fade around me? Would I be able to bear watching the ones I love slip away from me, like flat stones dropped into dark water, drifting and dropping out of sight forever?
I don’t know if I have the strength Senza possesses. My self-exploration led me to tell the story of the heartbeat thief Senza Fyne, the Forever Girl, the woman who shook free the shackles of time. She wanted to escape the clutches of Death.
But did she, really?
I’m not sure. The only thing I’ve learned is that, while eternal youth and beauty sound too perfect to pass up, the opportunity to gain them would exact a price too high for my pocket.
Perhaps when I was eighteen and had nothing to lose it would be a much easier decision to make. Eighteen possessed a freedom from responsibility and an immunity from the future. Eighteen was the last stop before Infinity. All the world was open and ready for me to conquer and possess and experience it all.
But eighteen is behind me and a full life stands between now and then. Now, when I look at my family and my life with them, I think: it’s enough to have them, to live and grow with them, to appreciate each day I have and remember the places I’ve been.
It makes me sound like an overly-cautious old lady, I know. Maybe I am. I’d make a terrible thief, for one thing. I’d be stuck with these freckles forever and I’d worry that immortality would be a very lonely place.
If Death came for me and promised a way out, what would I do? Would I make the same decision Senza had made? Today, no. I wouldn’t.
But at eighteen? Maybe. Just maybe…
And maybe that’s why I write stories. The maybes of this world are endless. The lives I live vicariously through writing are full of chances to be immortal, even for a moment, without having to give up the life I love. Maybe I have thwarted Death, in a sense, without having had to make that dreadful decision.
That’s life enough for me.