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Like ink running down a sheet of black paper, the darkness at the edge of my vision wavered, sending a chill of foreboding shivering across my skin. What the hell? I peered into the shadows. Nothing. Just an empty, starless night that had turned cold and windy.
Clearly I was losing my friggin mind.
The Fomorian War had been over for months. No winged demons lurked about waiting to pounce on me. I mean, please, I was in the middle of my own temple, which, despite its beauty, had been built as a fortress. Even had some kind of freaky monster been loose upon the world (and in this world, one never knew), I was more than perfectly safe. Seriously, I was in more danger of being pampered and adored to death than I was being monster-grabbed. Yet I still had the awful "someone just walked over my grave" feeling. And tonight wasn't the first time I'd felt as if something was wrong.
As I followed the marble path that led to the monument I thought about the weird sense of foreboding I seemed to be carrying around with me. Had it been weeks? Damn! Now that I really thought about it I realized that it had been at least two or three weeks that I'd been feeling off. I'd definitely been off my food, which was bizarre in its own right because I seriously love food. But a lingering stomach virus and/or stress could account for that. What was most odd was the way I'd been jumping at shadows. And the shadows seemed dark and thickand filled with something definitely malevolent.
Okay, yes, I'd just been through a truly awful war in which the good guys (naturally, the ones on my side) had to battle horrid demonic creatures and save the world from enslavement and annihilation. Literally. And yes, that could make a girl slightly jumpy. Especially if the girl was really a high school English teacher from Oklahoma who had accidentally been exchanged for the Beloved Incarnate of a Goddess in a world that more closely resembled a weird mixture of ancient Scotland and mythological Greece than Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (a lovely suburb of Tulsa). All true. But the war was over. The demons extinguished, and (supposedly) all was right with the world. So why did I feel like the damn booger monster was out there in the darkness waiting to leap on me?
Jeesh, I had another headache.
When I got to the MacCallan's memorial I tried to still my roiling thoughts by breathing deeply and savoring the peace and serenity that always blanketed me when I visited it. Tall, graceful columns ringed a three-stepped marble dais, whereon an ornately carved pedestal stood as the resting place for a weighty urn that was kept perpetually filled with sweet-scented, forever-burning oil.
Tonight the silver-gray smoke curled lazily up through the circular hole in the domed roof. I walked slowly toward the urn, enjoying the way the brilliant yellow flame contrasted with the backdrop of the starless night's sky. I had specified that the monument be built with no walls, just columns, a dome and this ever-burning flame. I believe the man memorialized here would have liked the freedom it symbolized.
A breeze stirred my hair and I shivered. The cool air was almost moist. I was glad I'd let Alanna bully me into wearing my ermine-lined cloak, even though the memorial was only a short walk from my chambers.
"Lady Rhiannon!" A young maiden rushed between the columns on the far side of the edifice. She paused long enough to drop almost to the floor in a fluid curtsy. "May I bring you some warmed wine? The night has become chilly."
"No." Distracted, I barely glanced at her, quickly searching my memory for her name, "Maura. I don't need anything. You may go back to bed."
She smiled at me shyly. "Yes, my Lady." Then she blurted, "But you will call if there is anything you require?"
I returned her smile with a tired one of my own. "Yes, I will call."
She bounded away.
I looked sardonically at the urn and rolled my eyes. "The annoying exuberance of youth," I muttered at the smoking flame. "But I'm probably preaching to the choir here. Heck, you'd probably consider me filled with youthful exuberance." Getting no audible answer, and, of course, expecting none, I climbed to the top level of the dais and sat down with a sigh, tucking the thick folds of my cloak around my knees before I rested my chin in my hand. "But then I don't really know what you would think. I never actually knew you." I sighed again, plucking irritably at the escaping curl that was tickling my cheek.
I had hoped visiting the monument would lift my spirits as it usually did, but tonight I couldn't shake the depression that threatened to engulf me. I rubbed my right temple where the needle prick of a headache throbbed with each beat of my heart.
Another wisp of breeze ruffled my cloak. Again, the hair on the back of my neck lifted eerily. I turned my head to check the leather tie that knotted my thick tresses back from my face, and my eyes caught the movement of something liquid and dark as it skittered just outside the line of my sight. Forgetting the escaping hair, I sat up straighter, ready to chastise whoever was encroaching upon my privacy.
"Who is it?" I demanded imperiously.
I studied my surroundings. The low-hanging clouds curtained the night sky. The only illumination came from the flame burning steadily before me. I could see nothing out of the ordinary—except that the darkness of the night mirrored my mood. Nothing sinister stirred or skulked or crept in the dim non-shadows.
Jeesh, Shannon. Get a grip, girl!
It was probably just the wind in the nearby trees, mixed with a healthy dose of my always-active imagination. That was probably it. Nothing was really wrong...
...Then another movement caught at the edges of my vision. I turned my head quickly, but all I could see was darkness on darkness—more ink running across a page of black paper. I shivered again and my memory stirred. What was it Alanna had told me not long after I'd come to Partholon? Something about dark gods who were better left unnamed. My stomach clenched in an unexplained spasm of fear. What was wrong with me? I definitely didn't traffic with dark gods. Hell, I didn't even know anything about them. Why should just the thought of such beings cause me to be afraid?
Something was definitely not right.
As it had been for weeks, a feeling too deep to call sadness and too thick to call loneliness nagged at the edges of my mind. I put my face in my hands, stifling a sob.
"I wish you were alive, Dad. I need to talk to you about what the hell is going on inside of me."
He's not really your father. My errant thoughts taunted me. And this is not really your world. Interloper. Usurper. Fraud.
"It's my world now!" I yelled before I spiraled down into an endless wash of tears. My voice split the night with its strength. The sound echoed eerily off the columns like a tolling bell, which made me start in response. My unexpected reaction caused me to laugh out loud at my own foolishness.
"What the hell am I doing sitting here yelling at myself and imagining the booger man in night shadows?" The humor in my voice helped to ease my morose mood. As I wiped the tears from my eyes and took a deep breath, I watched the almost full moon suddenly break through the misty sky and appear over the trees. I smiled in pleasure at the ethereal beauty of the timeless orb.
"I don't care if I wasn't born into this world. I love it here. This is where I want to be, and it's where I belong." I said resolutely.
And, of course, it was true. Rhiannon, the original Incarnate and Beloved of the ancient Celtic horse goddess Epona, had jerked me out of twenty-first century America—Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, to be specific—where I had been content to be Shannon Parker, an incredibly attractive, witty and broke high school English teacher. Rhiannon had succeeded in casting a spell that caused us to exchange places. Almost six months ago I had awakened from what I'd thought was a horrible car accident to find myself in Partholon, a parallel world where mythology and magic lived. To add to my initial confusion, some of the people of Partholon mirror those of my old world. In other words, people looked familiar, they even sounded and maybe acted familiar, but in actuality they weren't. Which is where the monument to the MacCallan (my dad/nondad) came in.
For a moment I felt a wave of sadness, not just because my beloved father was a world away, but because his mirror image in this world, Rhiannon's father the MacCallan, had been brutally killed not long after I had arrived here. The power of my Goddess had allowed me to witness Rhiannon's father's death so that I could warn this world of an encroaching evil. My mind told me that the man whose death I had witnessed, Lord MacCallan, Chieftain of his Clan, was not actually my father, but my heart whispered something else. The MacCallan had been a leader and a warrior. My father, too, was a leader of men—mostly young men. His chosen field of battle was the football field. I couldn't help feeling unalterably bonded to the dead man who so closely resembled my father.
"It's damn confusing sometimes," I said as I rose and gave the side of the urn a pat. MacCallan's body wasn't entombed here. He lay with his men within the charred ruins of Mac-Callan Castle. I had felt the need to erect this monument to him, to show him the respect I would want accorded to the memory of Richard Parker.
There were a lot of things I had learned about Rhiannon that mortified and embarrassed me, but her love for her father was not one of them. Now I enjoyed having the status of Lady Rhiannon, High Priestess of Partholon, Beloved of Epona and Goddess Incarnate in her place. And I supposed that she "enjoyed" being an underpaid Oklahoma public-school teacher.
The thought made me laugh as I walked toward the path that would lead me back to Epona's Temple.
"Yeah," I whispered sarcastically. "It was obvious how much she had been enjoying her change of status when she attempted to re-exchange places with me a few months ago."
The memory of that failed attempt sobered me. Even though I hadn't been born to this world I had become bound to it. Partholon was my home now; these people my people—Epona my Goddess. I closed my eyes and sent a quick prayer to her. Epona, please help me to stay.
My stomach lurched and I swallowed hard. Maybe that was what was wrong with me. Maybe Rhiannon was up to her old tricks and was trying to pull me away from Partholon and back to Oklahoma so that she could return here, and this creepy, bullshit sick feeling was Epona sending me a premonition of trouble so that I'd keep my eyes open. Ugh. Just thinking about losing Partholon—and the husband and people I'd come to love here—was enough to cause another wave of sickness to wash over me. Damnit! I was completely tired of feeling like this! I shivered again as a breath of chilled wind caressed my cheeks and slipped within my cloak. I thought of the weird, running darkness I kept imagining around me. Now it seemed I had started hallucinating.
Great—my husband was gone for one month to make sure the land was recovering from battle and I go totally nuts.
Squaring my shoulders, I told myself to knock it off. Rhiannon was in Oklahoma. I was here in Partholon, which was how things were going to stay. I'd just be on my guard against unusual weirdness (easier said than done, but still). And about the sick feeling in my stomach...well...I had probably just caught a nasty flu bug, which was adding to a bad case of the I'm-a-newlywed-and-my-husband-went-on-a-trip blues. Anyway, he was due home any day. Things would get back to normal then.
At least that's what I told myself as I ignored the crawling night shadows. The lights of the temple beckoned and I picked up my pace, whistling the theme to The Andy Griffith Show. Loudly.
Excerpted from Divine By Choice by P.C. Cast Copyright © 2006 by P.C. Cast. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 1, 2006
Six months after her entry to Partholon, Shannon Parker has fully embraced her role as Beloved of Epona and wife of ClanFintan. She is even expecting her first child and the only problem in her world seems to be morning sickness. Then, while trying on a ride in hopes of calming her steed, Epi, Shannon is drawn back to her original world by Clint Freeman, her husband's mirror in this world. Although she and Rhiannon, the woman she replaced, are polar opposites, Clint and her cherished centaur are pretty much clones of each other in their souls. He brought her back to Earth, hoping to stop Rhiannon's evil, but what he did was disrupt Shannon's life and the natural balance in Partholon. Moreover, her evil twin has summoned Nuada back from the dead, and he is determined to destroy everyone Shannon loves. Though she must return to her true home, Shannon knows she has to stop the dark mage first, no matter what the sacrifice. ............... ***** I've waited for this story since I read the first version of Divine by Mistake when it was released earlier (which was released originally as Goddess by Mistake in 2001). It was worth the wait. Shannon's story still has humor, but there is a poignance that adds depth to it as well. At one point, Shannon fantasizes about the hero of the Outlander novels, but if I could speak to her, I'd tell her that her story surpasses that series by far. Add this book to your Christmas list A.S.A.P.! *****
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Posted September 22, 2010
I really enjoyed the first book in the series, Divine By Mistake. So I was excited to start Divine by Choice. My hopes for it were that it had the same writing style that captured me in to first the story and that the main character would be just as enjoyable. I got all that, plus an unbelievably exciting plot! This book wasn't as long as the first one, but it held just as much action as the first.
In the beginning, Shannon is enjoying her new life with her centaur husband and ready to start a family. Then she is pulled back into her old life in Oklahoma. I enjoyed seeing more of Shannon's life before Partholon. I love the concept Cast has created of mirror twins. Shannon has only the help of her husband ClanFintan's mirror, a man named Clint. But he isn't just an ordinary man, he is a shaman in our world. At first, I hated Clint. Only because I loved Clanfintan so much in the first book. How dare this new guy come along! But once I got over that, I could see Shannon's dilemma. It would be a hard and confusing thing for any girl to be around your husband's mirror image, especially if you are afraid you may never get to see your husband again. I think the die hard romance fans will become upset at Shannon in some points, but for me Clint added a very exciting element into the story.
I was glad to have all my questions answered about Rhinannon. It was nice to know how Shannon and Rhinannon became such different people. I still think that Rhinannon is a horrible person that does some evil things, but hearing about her past, I couldn't help but sympathize with her. Parts of her past were very intense to read about, to the point that I was peaking through my fingers while reading it. This book is definitely for adult readers.
The same monster Shannon has to fight in the story is back, except it is now in our world. Shannon has to stop it before it harms her family. I felt so bad for Shannon, she had to go through so much emotionally in this book. Yes, I really sympathized with her, because that is how emotionally invested I have become in this character. When Shannon was going through something, it felt like I was going through it. I love how Cast can make the characters feel that real to you. Even though Shannon goes through hard times, she still had the same great sense of humor and snarky side that I loved in the first book.
The ending had me crying and was tearing me up a little inside. But the last few pages made me hopeful Shannon might be able to gain back and keep her happily ever after. I am excited to jump in to the next book and see the conclusion in Shannon's story. Divine by Choice was a fantastic sequel. I usually don't enjoy a sequel more than the first book, but I did here. I have high hopes for Divine by Blood!
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Posted February 8, 2013
I was in tears towards the end of this book, which held me enthralled all of the way through. I felt as much a part of Shannon, as if I was going through everything with her. Must read!
Posted January 29, 2013
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Posted November 8, 2010
you definitely had to read Divine by Mistake to follow this book, i LOVED it, again Shannon Parker one of my favorite characters EVER. If you are into books taking you on emotional trips this is the series for you.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 5, 2010
Overall, I find the Partholon series entertaining, funny and romantic. There are only a few things that occasionally annoy me while reading this trilogy...
1) The repetitive usage of snarky defensive comments in parentheses. I know it's used as a comedic tool in P.C. Cast's writing but sometimes it's a bit much.
2) The protagonist, Shannon Parker, uses the word "Please" a lot. It makes her sound more like a teenager than a thirty-five year old woman.
3) I understand that Partholon is a matriarchal world where a goddess is the deity of choice but does that necessarily mean the female protagonist should be so...errr..."loose"? For a jealous middle-aged woman, Shannon sure seems to live a double standard in expecting her husband, ClanFintan, to be utterly faithful to her but yet she can get away with cheating by using the "Goddess made me do it" excuse.
Like any modern-day woman, I appreciate the strength of Shannon as a female protagonist but sometimes I don't like her much. Zoey Redbird, the female protagonist of the House of Night series behaves in a similar manner in terms of having three boyfriends at once in one of the books. One can be a strong woman with a mind for independent thinking while still being a one-man only woman. If I expect my man to be faithful to me the least I can do is offer him the same degree of respect.
Posted November 11, 2009
I am currently reading the last book in this series, Divine by Blood, simply because since I started reading this series, I haven't been able to put it down!
This series contains a twisting and gripping tale of an average English Teacher from Oklahoma who suddenly finds herself thrown into another world that mirrors our own. She finds that rather than being a mundane underpaid teacher, she is now the Goddess Incarnate of Epona, with a generous helping of adoring and worshiping followers. Among other things, she enters into this world to find herself being rushed to prepare for her handfasting ceremony with none other than a centaur. A huge, extremely handsome centaur at that.
The story continues as love begins to form between her and her centaur husband, who can magically transform into a human man for one night at a time so they can be together as husband and wife.
What else could you ask for in a book? There are dangerous battles of good and evil, and mystifying plot twists.
In this second book in the series, I was truly hooked as the story continued. The main character Rhea/Shannon, winds up back in Oklahoma with a man that mirrors her husband from Partholon, whom she has grown to love so deeply. The similarities between the two are striking, and she finds herself battling whether to love her husband look-alike or not.
Again she is smack in the face of evil, as the dark force that was banished in the first book comes back to haunt her, and everyone that she loves in this world.
She ends up coming face to face with Rhiannon, her mirror image who switched places with her in the first place. Rhiannon had been flourishing in her new world, while tarnishing Shannon's good name in the process. Rhiannon is also the one who has been calling this dark evil back from the grave, so to speak.
That is all I can say, I will leave the rest to be found out by the reader!
My only complaint about this book series, is about the main character, Rhea/Shannon-whichever you prefer to call her. In the midst of a beautiful story unfolding before me, I get very annoyed at times with how rude and crude she can be. I suppose this is the "true Oklahoman" coming out in her. But many of her side comments and self narration of her story contain a plethora of cussing, and to be honest, just straight smut. It's very irritating to be reading a beautiful part of the story of lovemaking between her and her husband, for her to interrupt with the thoughts of hoping that her a** doesn't jiggle too much. Just doesn't seem very fitting for the story at times.
Otherwise, if smut talk is not something that bothers you, get this series! Besides what I have listed as clearly being a bother to me, I have also enjoyed the twisting tale.
Posted December 9, 2008
In the magical world of Partholon, where creatures of myth and legend exist, Shannon Parker, known as Lady Rhiannon, with the help of her allies has won the war with the demonic vampiric race the Famorians and killing their leader Nuada. Shannon was originally from Oklahoma but the real lady Rhiannon High Priestess Incarnate and Beloved of the goddess Epona created a spell that had the two women change places. Shannon is happy in her new world and in love with her husband the centaur ClanFintan.----------------- She is pregnant with his child and is happy until another spell is cast and Shannon is returned to Oklahoma. The spell caster Clint was hoping to send the real Rhiannon back to her world but that part of it failed. He hates her perverted uses of sex, the murders she has committed, her need to be rich and powerful. Shannon wants to return to her home but she can¿t because in our world, Rhiannon has raised the spirit of Nuada who intends to kill all those she loves. She must find a way to banish him and she hopes with Clint¿s help, they can defeat the dark evil that that Rhiannon has called up.----------------- DIVINE BY CHOICE is a delightful continuation of the adventures of the former Oklahoma schoolteacher and her evil ¿twin¿ (see DIVINE BY MISTAKE). Readers curiosity about Rhiannon is totally satisfied and the love Shannon feels for her husband and Clint takes away from neither because it is blessed by Epona. P.C. Cast is a magical storyteller, a worldbuilder and a creative fantasist.-------------- Harriet Klausner
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