Alice At Heart

Alice At Heart

by Deborah Smith

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Shy, charming, peculiar, and web-toed, Alice Riley has suffered for years at the hands of her dead mother's self-righteous family, while she hides a bevy of secret abilities. When Alice rescues a drowning child, her amazing talents are exposed. Alice can remain underwater for extraordinary periods of time, and she can locate submerged objects through some type of natural sonar ability. Her new fame/notoriety puts Alice in the national news, amidst allegations that she has somehow faked or manipulated the rescue for her own glory. Alice is trapped and desperate until three amazing older women arrive in her hometown. They are the regal and flamboyant Bonavendier sisters--dignified Lilith, acerbic Mara, and whimsical Pearl--of Sainte's Point Island, their ancestral home off the coast of Georgia. They've read Alice's story in the news and are convinced that she is their long-lost (and much younger) half sister, conceived in a reckless seduction their elderly father confessed to before he died.
Like Alice, the Bonavendier sisters have webbed toes and certain amazing abilities, though none of them have Alice's marked talent for finding things underwater. Alice is no oddity to them. They explain that--like them--she is descended from a mermaid.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781935661108
Publisher: BelleBooks
Publication date: 01/01/2002
Series: Water Lilies Series , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 1,064,058
File size: 668 KB

Read an Excerpt

The Old Ones are all wayward women with tales behind them, you might say--luring ordinary men to mate and meander and occasionally drown. Those Old Ones give us, their Halfling descendents, a lurid reputation but also great charm, and we had best remember to use both wisely. By nature, you see, we are very hard to believe in, but very easy to love.



This morning I stood naked beside the icy waters of Lake Riley, high in the Appalachians of north Georgia, above the fall line where the tame Atlanta winters end and the freezing wild mountain winters begin. A mile away, in my dead mother's hometown, Riley, people were just breaking the ice on their gravel roads and barnyards and church lots and sidewalks, stomping the mountain bedrock before little stores with mom-and-pop names, most of which belong to heavy-footed Rileys. But there I was, alone as always, Odd Alice, the daughter of a reckless young mother and an unknown father who passed along some very strange traits. I had slipped out to the lake from my secluded cabin for my morning swim, stripping off my dowdy denim, doing the impossible.

It is February, with a high of about twenty-five degrees, and the lake has an apron of ice like the white iris on a dark eye, narrowing my peculiar view of the deep world beneath. Not that that scares me. The water is the only element in my life I never fear. I stood there in the cold dawn as usual, not even shivering.

As I stretched and filled my body with frigid air, I looked out over the icy mountain world and heard a thin trickle of sound stroking the frosty branches of tall fir trees so far around a bend in the lake my ears shouldn't be ableto recognize it if I were like anyone else. The sound was a child screaming. And then I heard a splash.

I may be a freak or a monster--some unnatural quirk of nature too odd for normal people to accept or for anyone to love--but I couldn't let a child drown just to keep my secrets. So there I went, into the cold, safe water, deep into the heart of the lake, faster than anyone imagines a person can swim, fluting the currents with the iridescent webbing between my bare toes, able to go farther, deeper, quicker, and for much, much longer in that netherworld than any human being possibly can.

We are all bodies of water, guarding the mystery of our depths, but some of us have more to guard than others. I've never known quite who I am, but worse than that, I've never known quite what I am.

And after today, I won't be the only person asking that question.

* * * *

Griffin Randolph fought panic in deep water. In the vast, dark ocean off the coast of a Spanish fishing village, he touched one hand to a small tattoo on his left forearm, where a naked woman held a dolphin in her arms. Now I'll find out which one owns my soul.

As a scuba tank hissed its last minutes of oxygen into his lungs, he once again aimed a cutting torch at the shelving that had collapsed around the legs of his nervous diver, an Italian nicknamed Riz. Griffin and the diver were deep inside the cavernous hold of a sunken American cargo ship named the Excalibur. During World War II, the Excalibur had ferried ammunition to allied warships off the coast of North Africa until a German submarine torpedoed it. Alongside Griffin and the trapped diver were stacked hundreds of gunnery shells, each as thick as a man's forearm, all nearly a half-century old, threatening to tumble to the bottom of the ship's hull.

No problemo, Griffin's head diver, Enrique, had proclaimed when they first surveyed the ammunition. Old and wet. Not going to cause us any trouble. Griffin had agreed until he surveyed the dive on this last day and the storage shelving collapsed on Riz. As the crew worked methodically to free him, Griffin discreetly picked up one of the precariously balanced shells.

The old missile spoke to him, just as he feared it would.


The sensation--which he often felt in the water, but never revealed to anyone--was like hearing a silent song, or feeling a song, the vibrations of sound waves or the tingle of static electricity, only multiplied and softened. In every instance where some object spoke to him, Griffin felt an almost orgasmic shiver, the stroking of an unseen and dangerous hand. Along with that sensation always came knowledge. And this time that knowledge made Griffin's blood freeze.

This shell, or one of its brethren, would kill them all.

Riz's dazed eyes begged him to hurry. The rest of Griffin's six-man team huddled on the surface aboard the deck of the Sea She, Griffin's massive boat, whose high-tech, state-of-the-art computers and dredges and sonar and satellite tracking systems had helped locate some of the world's most famous undersea treasure wrecks. Absolutely goddamned worthless for saving a man's life, Griffin admitted.

He strained to see through the fierce light spewing from his cutting torch in the dark Mediterranean water. The torch finally burned through a thick steel cable, and he began prying the tangled shelving apart with hands too large and brutal for the bourbon-and-magnolias Southern aristocracy that had birthed him amid the wealth of coastal Georgia thirty-nine years earlier.

Riz kicked and struggled. Griffin's muscles burned as he strained to separate the shelving, his gaze always going back to the shells, hundreds of them, ready to fall. All it would take was the right one, just one. Finally, he eased Riz free. The diver's face relaxed into smiling eyes. Griffin squeezed his shoulder, tugged on the guideline attached to a harness, and instantly Riz began to fly upwards through the water, pulled by a powerful electric wench. The shelving shuddered and gave a soft, wrenching groan. A half-century after men had died inside its steel sanctuary, the Excalibur would close like a flower over what remained.

Griffin eased out of the tomblike hull, feeling the ship's sinister memories, the hum of its ghosts inside him, the hum of his own ghosts, too. The Excalibur was just waiting for him to move. No, it wasn't the ship waiting. It was the ocean. Always waiting for him to make one wrong move.

Test me, Griffin told the invisible forces. He surged upward, exiting the hull with a speed and grace that always astonished people when they saw him swim, even when he was hampered by scuba gear. He shrugged off his tank, spit out the mouthpiece, then ripped the mask from his eyes. He propelled himself toward the light, dozens of feet above him.

In the depths of the Excalibur, one shell tumbled from the shelving. It pirouetted downward through the dark water, almost beautiful in its heavy grace. It struck the hull's bottom with a muted clang, its voice the last ringing of any bell for the lost ship.

And it exploded.

The world erupted in billowing, churning chaos. Griffin felt a giant hand slap him from below, then sweep around him, squeezing him between invisible forces. The ocean, which had always been a living monster to him, pressed him in its jaws. Pain shot through his body; his eardrums ruptured. His wet suit tore and then his skin as fragments of the Excalibur's hull sliced him. The explosive concussion slammed into his brain. He went limp and floated, filling the water with his blood.

He opened his eyes, dreaming of death.

You have life inside you that you've never used. Breathe. A voice. Feminine, quiet, strong. She hummed a rhythmic song to him, a stunning vibration of emotion that made the deadly shell pale in comparison.

Griffin struggled. Can't. No one can. Can't breathe.

You can. Try.

He fed on her passion and suddenly his lungs expanded, he expelled the water from his throat, and somehow, life bloomed into blood-red oxygen inside him. The mystery, the knowledge of a miracle, increased with the darkening of his brain, softened only by the stranger's unbelievable voice.

Who are you?

Just Alice.

She was gone. He made himself remember, as darkness surrounded him fully, that he was breathing because of an extraordinary illusion named Alice, singing to him beneath the bloody water.

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Alice at Heart 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Couldn't finish this book. It started out well and I was starting to get interested in Alice, but then it took too many weird turns and turned me off completely. Yuck.
trueturquoise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one is different than the other books I've read of hers, as it has fantasy, however, it was still good! Great even!
new_user on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I expected chick lit when I started Alice at Heart, but this book is far from. There's romance, sure, and the Bonavendier sisters have an eye for fashion. Even the author seems to want to advertise these women as spoiled Southern belles-- but that's just skimming the surface.While those elements are present, particularly that tone of Southern mystery and charm, there's a consistent feeling of knowing, of deep, sad wisdom, present in the novel that suits the ageless characters with their dear dignity so well that when they make grand declarations about life or invent metaphors about love, it comes off as romantic and fitting rather than saccharine or cheesy. There were a lot of moments between characters, simple moments I might have read a hundred times before, that the author reinvents and gives beautiful meaning. Smith doesn't try to burden her story with imagined misunderstandings or aimless resistance. Nothing feels contrived. In such a mystical setting, Alice and Griffin are as commonplace as anyone can be, unhappy and alone. When they meet, their connection is so sweet and simple and pure, so timeless and instantaneous and inviolate. They love each other and that's a foregone conclusion, never doubted. The conflict arises because they are enemies in the most unfortunate, tragic, unstoppable sense of the word. Unwilling, but wise.There are real, important hurdles, within and without themselves, that they have to climb, issues of trust and family. Indeed, the relationships of family are just as important in this novel, and that makes the story more real, more complete because life is about family and struggle and those other concerns. I've concentrated on emotion in this review. Smith writes that the "Water People" are all about emotion, downright vibrating with it-- and that is precisely what sets this book apart. The emotions the characters feel are natural and basic and so moving. I began the book fearing that the three aging, magical sisters would turn into Disney cheese --can you blame me?-- but each of the Bonavendiers is first and foremost a woman, with passions and dreams, and as you learn about them, you come to care for each one, as well as Alice, who brings them all together.I haven't read anything moving in a while, so this book certainly came as a surprise. I'm glad I had the opportunity. It's not my usual reading, it's not as dark, but it was well worth it. I would definitely recommend this book to my friends and any fans of old-fashioned, pure romance with a touch of Southern magic and customs. Yes, there is a bit of the supernatural. It's not just a metaphor, LOL. Very sweet and uplifting. I'm looking forward to learning more about these mermaids (the different kinds too). That word smacks of Disney, but the story's never cheesy, I promise. I was between four stars and five.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not waut to finish it, yet I was sad to end it. If you are a fan of magical realism, you will love this novel.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love all deborah smith novels, amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
Its a charming story of water people, excepting differences in our selves and others. Alice lived most of her life being hated for being different. Boys assaulted her and laughed. Her family hated her. She was told her teenage mom killed herself because of her. Alice lives alone by a lake in a cabin. Where she feels safer and more at peace swimming in the lake. Alice works at a pet store. Alice has never left her area. One day while swimming nude in the freezing water she hears a scream of child fell into the lake. Alice is aways off but swims faster than anyone believes and can hold her breath for over an hour. Rescues the child. Instead of being grateful everyone thinks she might have done it for glory, because no one believes her truth. the child grandfather is the state govenor. Alice is given award but no one really celebrates what she did. Her other side of the family just realizes by the paper who Alice is and comes to take her home with them and tells her about her family. Griff is a treasure hunter and has unbelieveable talents for finding ships and exploring them. An old world war bomb explodes in the water killing everyone else but him he hears Alice in his mind telling him to breath that he can. Griff lives but has broken legs and other wounds and comes back to his home. Alice and Griff learn together about thier families and the journeys they have gone on and what really happened and where they came from. I enjoyed the story.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
Though it is February, Odd Alice swims the icy waters of Lake Riley high in the Georgia Mountains as if it is a summer day. Her idyllic watery solace ends with a splash and a vision. She rescues a child who fell into the lake and Griffin Randolph, the treasure seeker starring in her vision who faces death from an underwater explosion near Spain until just Alice pleaded with him to breath. Because the child she saved is related to the Governor, Alice becomes a publicized hero with the Bonaviendier siblings attending the ceremony and claiming she is one of them. They prove their contention as they share the same webbed feet. Alice visits the three sisters at their Sainte's Point Island home where she also meets Griffin. As Alice begins to learn about her mermaid heritage, she and Griffin fall in love, but their families have been feuding for quite awhile as landlubbers and water people have never mixed. ALICE AT HEART is a tremendous opening book of what appears to be the beginnings of a long delightful series starring the residents of Sainte's Point and the across the bay town of Bellemeade. The story line predominately focuses on a first person account by Alice, but does switch to third person accounts of other prime players deftly handled by Deborah Smith so that the audience obtains a deeper understanding of the cast. Though the tale suffers from the first novel syndrome of introducing the entire universe in one sitting, Ms. Smith provides a powerful and absorbing novel that at its heart is simply fun to read. Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
Deborah Smith is a breath of fresh air and Romantic Times got it right. Alice at Heart is a wonderful read that kept me turning the pages. You won't be able to put this book down. If you like similar titles, I just finished a book that Romantic Times awarded a Top Pick called Shade of the Maple by Kirk Martin. What an amazing story with an end you will never forget. You won't believe it's written by a man! I look forward to Deborah Smith's next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Deborah Smith¿s novel, Alice At Heart, portrays the life of Alice Riley, a woman who has suffered at the hands of her mother¿s self-righteous family. Alice, a thirty-four year old woman is undaunted by the cold, has webbing between her toes, and seems more at home in the water than on land. We witness an act of bravery. Alice risks her anonymity by saving a child from drowning. Unknown to the heroine, the child is the governor¿s granddaughter. We are drawn deeper into the plot when Alice is recognized by her community for heroism. She is also confronted by the Bonavendier women who claim to be her half sisters. Alice, raised in the mountains, begins her trek to the shores of Georgia to discover her roots, the reason for her mother¿s suicide, and to meet the man she has only met in her mind¿s eye. Smith uses Alice¿s voice throughout the book. But when she shifts the focus to other characters, ennoble Lilith, caustic Mara, and whimsical Pearl, Alice¿s half-sisters, or the aquatic entrepreneur, Griffin Randolph, the author employs the third person, providing an effective technique that further captivates our attention. Alice At Heart is the story of a love-hate relationship between two families, the land loving Randolphs and the people of the sea, the Bonavendiers. Only Alice and Griffin have the potential of mending the chasm that separates them. Deborah Smith sparks our interest with the existence of mermaids. She teases us with facts interspersed in the novel with a final climax that makes this fantasy love story an essential book to read. Readers are interested in quality writing, a gripping plot, and characters that we care for. This is the essence of this breath taking novel, Alice At Heart. I guarantee that it will win over yours.