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From the author of the New York Times bestseller Juliet comes a mesmerizing novel about a young scholar who risks her reputation—and her life—on a thrilling journey to prove that the legendary warrior women known as the Amazons actually existed.
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Oxford lecturer Diana Morgan is an expert on Greek mythology. Her obsession with the Amazons started in childhood when her eccentric grandmother claimed to be one herself—before vanishing without a trace. Diana’s colleagues shake their heads at her Amazon fixation. But then a mysterious, well-financed foundation makes Diana an offer she cannot refuse.
Traveling to North Africa, Diana teams up with Nick Barran, an enigmatic Middle Eastern guide, and begins deciphering an unusual inscription on the wall of a recently unearthed temple. There she discovers the name of the first Amazon queen, Myrina, who crossed the Mediterranean in a heroic attempt to liberate her kidnapped sisters from Greek pirates, only to become embroiled in the most famous conflict of the ancient world—the Trojan War. Taking their cue from the inscription, Diana and Nick set out to find the fabled treasure that Myrina and her Amazon sisters salvaged from the embattled city of Troy so long ago. Diana doesn’t know the nature of the treasure, but she does know that someone is shadowing her, and that Nick has a sinister agenda of his own. With danger lurking at every turn, and unsure of whom to trust, Diana finds herself on a daring and dangerous quest for truth that will forever change her world.
Sweeping from England to North Africa to Greece and the ruins of ancient Troy, and navigating between present and past, The Lost Sisterhood is a breathtaking, passionate adventure of two women on parallel journeys, separated by time, who must fight to keep the lives and legacy of the Amazons from being lost forever.
Praise for The Lost Sisterhood
“Impossible to put down . . . Meticulous research, a delicious mystery, and characters that leap from the story make this brilliant book a Perfect 10.”—Romance Reviews Today
“Anne Fortier tells two tales of adventure, mystery and romance . . . reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code with a hint of A Discovery of Witches.”—Fredericksburg Free Lance–Star
“Boldly original . . . will intrigue lovers of ancient worlds as well as those who are just fans of a good story.”—Bookreporter
“A gorgeous journey from England to North Africa to Greece, thrilling readers with beautiful settings, courageous women and breathtaking adventure.”—BookPage
“Grounded in a thorough knowledge of classical literature, this skillful interweaving of plausible archaeological speculation, ancient mythology, and exciting modern adventure will delight fans of such authors as Kate Mosse and Katherine Neville.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“The Lost Sisterhood is a spellbinding adventure, a tale of two courageous women separated by millennia but pursuing interwoven quests: one to protect and lead her sisters through a dangerous ancient world, the other to prove that the legendary tribe of women truly existed, and that their legacy endures.”—Jennifer Chiaverini, author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker and The Spymistress
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||7.90(w) x 5.10(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Nine days then I was swept along by the force of the hostile
winds on the fishy sea, but on the tenth day we landed
in the country of the Lotus-Eaters . . .
—Homer, The Odyssey
In her own obscure fashion, my grandmother did what she could to arm me for the carnage of life. Stamping hooves, rushing chariots, rapacious males . . . thanks to Granny, I had it more or less cased by the age of ten.
Alas, the world turned out so very different from the noble battleground she had led me to expect. The stakes were puny, the people gray and gutless; my Amazon arts were futile here. And certainly nothing Granny taught me during our long afternoons of mint tea and imagined monsters could buoy me for the currents and crosswinds of academia.
On this particular October afternoon—the day it all started— I was knocked down by an unexpected gust of wrath halfway through a conference paper. Prompted by the almighty Professor Vandenbosch in the front row, the discussion leader sprang to her feet and drew a cowardly finger across her throat to let me know I had precisely zero minutes left to finish my lecture. According to my own wristwatch I was perfectly on time, but my academic future depended on the favor of these distinguished scholars.
“To conclude”—I stole a glance at Professor Vandenbosch, who sat with his arms and legs crossed, peering at me with belligerent eyes—“it becomes clear that despite all the graphic descriptions of their mating habits, these Greek authors never saw the swashbuckling Amazons as anything more than fictitious, quasi-erotic playmates.”
A rustle of enthusiasm went through the auditorium. Everyone had been sodden and rather glum coming in from the rainy quad earlier, but my lecture had clearly done its bit to warm up the room.
“However”—I nodded at the discussion leader to assure her I was almost finished—“the knowledge that these bloodthirsty female warriors were pure fiction did not stop our writers from using them in cautionary tales about the dangers of unbridled female liberty. Why?” I panned the audience, trying to count my allies. “Why were Greek men compelled to keep their wives imprisoned in the home? We don’t know. But surely this Amazon scaremongering would have served to justify their misogyny.”
As soon as the applause had waned, Professor Vandenbosch short-circuited the discussion leader by standing up and looking around sternly, mowing down the many eagerly raised hands with his gaze alone. Then he turned to me, a little smirk on his venerable face. “Thank you, Dr. Morgan. I am gratified to discover that I am no longer the most antiquated scholar at Oxford. For your sake I hope the academy will one day come to need feminism again; the rest of us, I am relieved to say, have long since moved along and buried the old battle-ax.”
Although his charge was disguised as a joke, it was so outrageous that no one laughed. Even I, trapped behind the lectern, was too shocked to attempt a riposte. Most of the audience was on my side, I was sure of it—and yet no one dared to stand up and defend me. The silence in the room was so complete you could hear the faint plunking of raindrops on the copper roof.
Ten mortifying minutes later I was able to flee the lecture hall at last and retreat into the wet October fog. Drawing my shawl more tightly around me, I tried to visualize the teapot awaiting me at home . . . but was still too furious.
Professor Vandenbosch had never liked me. According to a particularly malicious report, he had once entertained his peers with a fantasy in which I was stolen away from Oxford to star in a girl-power TV series. My own theory was that he was using me to ruffle his rival, my mentor Katherine Kent, thinking he could weaken her position by attacking her favorites.
Katherine, of course, had warned me against giving another lecture on the Amazons. “If you continue down this path of inquiry,” she had said, blunt as always, “you will become academic roadkill.”
I refused to believe her. One day the subject would catch, and Professor Vandenbosch would be helpless to smother the flames. If only I could find time to finish my book, or, best of all, get my hands on the Historia Amazonum. One more letter to Istanbul, handwritten this time, and maybe Grigor Reznik’s magic cave would finally open. I owed it to Granny to try.
Scuttling down the soppy street, my shirt collar up against the elements, I was too preoccupied to notice someone following until a man caught up with me at the High Street crosswalk and took the liberty of holding his umbrella over me. He looked a sprightly sixty and was certainly no academic; underneath his spotless trench coat I spied an expensive suit, and I suspected his socks matched the tie.
“Dr. Morgan,” he began, his accent betraying South African origins. “I enjoyed your talk. Do you have a moment?” He nodded at the Grand Café across the street. “Can I buy you a drink? You look as if you need one.”
“Very kind of you”—I checked my wristwatch—“but unfortunately, I am late for another appointment.” And I really was. Since it was recruiting week at the university fencing club, I had promised to pop by after hours to help demonstrate the equipment. A convenient arrangement, as it turned out, since I was very much in the mood to lunge at a few imaginary foes.
“Oh—” The man proceeded to follow me down the street, the tips of his umbrella stabbing at my hair. “How about later? Are you free tonight?”
I hesitated. There was something unsettling about the man’s eyes; they were uncommonly intense and had a jaundiced tint to them, not unlike those of the owls perched on top of the bookcases in my father’s study.
Instead of turning down the dark and mostly deserted Magpie Lane, I stopped at the corner with what I hoped was a friendly smile. “I’m afraid I didn’t catch your name?”
“John Ludwig. Here—” The man rummaged around in his pockets for a bit, then grimaced. “No cards. Never mind. I have an invitation for you.” He looked at me with a squint of deliberation, as if to reassure himself of my worthiness. “The foundation I work with has made a sensational discovery.” He paused and frowned, clearly uncomfortable with the public setting. “Are you sure I can’t buy you a drink?”
Despite my erstwhile apprehensions, I couldn’t help a twitch of curiosity. “Perhaps we could meet tomorrow?” I offered. “For a quick coffee?”
Mr. Ludwig glanced at a few hunched passersby before leaning closer. “Tomorrow,” he said, his voice dropping to an intimate whisper, “you and I will be on our way to Amsterdam.” Seeing the shock on my face, he had the nerve to smile. “First class.”
“Right!” I ducked away from the umbrella and started down Magpie Lane. “Good day, Mr. Ludwig—”
“Wait!” He trailed me down the alley, easily matching my pace on the uneven pavement. “I am talking about a discovery that is going to rewrite history. It’s a brand-new excavation, top secret, and guess what: We’d like you to take a look at it.”
My steps slowed. “Why me? I’m not an archaeologist. I’m a philologist. As you are doubtlessly aware, philology is not about digging, but about reading and deciphering—”
“Precisely!” Burrowing into the same pockets that had failed to produce his business card, Mr. Ludwig extracted a bent photograph. “What we need is someone who can make sense of this.”
Even in the murk of Magpie Lane I was able to see that the photograph showed an inscription on what appeared to be an ancient plaster wall. “Where was this taken?”
“That I can’t tell you. Not until you agree to come.” Mr. Ludwig stepped closer, his voice low with secrecy. “You see, we’ve found proof that the Amazons really did exist.”
I was so surprised I nearly started laughing. “You can’t be serious—”
Mr. Ludwig snapped upright. “Excuse me, but I am very serious.” He opened his arms, umbrella and all, as if to demonstrate the enormity of the matter. “This is your field. Your passion. Is it not?”
“Yes, but—” I glanced at the photograph, not immune to its lure. Every six months or so, I would come across an article about an archaeologist who claimed to have found a genuine Amazon burial, or even the legendary city of women, Themiscyra. The articles were usually headlined new find proves amazons really did exist, and I always read through them eagerly, only to be disappointed. Yes, another weather-beaten diehard with a hooded parka had spent a lifetime combing the Black Sea region for women buried with weapons and horses. And, yes, occasionally he or she would find evidence of a prehistoric tribe that hadn’t prevented females from riding and carrying weapons. To claim, however, that those women had lived in a manless Amazon society that occasionally clashed with the ancient Greeks in spectacular battles . . . well, that was a bit like finding a dinosaur skeleton and deducing that fire-breathing fairy-tale dragons had once been reality.
Mr. Ludwig looked at me with his owl eyes. “Do you really want me to believe that after spending, what, nine years researching the Amazons there is not a tiny part of Diana Morgan that wants to prove they really lived?” He nodded at the photograph he had given me. “You’re looking at a hitherto undeciphered Amazon alphabet, and get this: We are giving you the chance to be the first academic to take a stab at it. Plus, we’re going to compensate you handsomely for your time. Five thousand dollars for one week’s work—”
“Just a minute,” I said, my teeth chattering with cold and the shock of it all. “What makes you so certain this inscription has anything to do with the Amazons?” I waved the photograph in front of him. “You just told me it has not yet been deciphered—”
“Aha!” Mr. Ludwig pointed at my nose, almost touching it. “That’s precisely the kind of smart thinking we’re looking for. Here—” He reached into an inner pocket and handed me an envelope. “This is your plane ticket. We leave from Gatwick tomorrow afternoon. I’ll see you at the gate.”
And that was it. Without even waiting for my reaction, Mr. Ludwig simply turned and walked away, disappearing into the flurry of High Street without looking back once.
Reading Group Guide
Chasing Down the Amazons
Readers often ask me to pinpoint the very moment I decided to write a book about the Amazons. The truth is, there was nothing sudden about it; those fiery warrior women have roamed my imagination for as long as I can remember. Not only did my mother make sure I was well versed in Greek myths from the earliest age, but Myrina’s and Diana’s parallel journeys of discovery have deep roots in my own lifelong experiences as a scholar and traveler.
When I was fourteen years old, my mother took me on a holiday trip to Tunisia—-the northernmost country in Africa. One week was all she could afford, and had she been alone, she would probably have preferred to spend it in Italy. But Mom knew I was fascinated by the Sahara Desert, and she was, as always, prepared to leave her own comfort zone to nourish my interests. I still remember her telling the travel guide that I was writing a novel set in the desert, and I certainly remember the bemused disbelief in the guide’s eyes. Little did he know that, indeed, three decades later, many of my impressions from that amazing time in Tunisia would eventually find their way into The Lost Sisterhood.
I can still recall the mélange of exotic smells that struck me the moment we stepped off the plane in the tourist hub of Monastir in central Tunisia, on the Mediterranean coast—-the jasmine and wild spices, the sizzling hot asphalt, the musky cologne . . . all completely different from the rather sedate scent palette of the Scandinavian climate in which I had grown up. And I still fondly remember the friends I made that week: shy Habib, who taught me to write my name in Arabic letters (and to always check my shoes for scorpions); fun--loving Mohsen, who took me on a breathless horseback ride through lemon orchards; and of course, above all, the nameless, unsmiling sheikh who pulled me up on his horse and galloped off with me . . . because Mom paid him two dinar for the privilege. Thus our motto “what doesn’t kill you makes for a great novel” was born.
Four years later, my friend Line and I went backpacking in Greece in order to finally explore all those ancient excavation sites we had learned about in high school. Even at eighteen we were already aspiring classicists, and the character of Rebecca in The Lost Sisterhood is very much modeled on Line. It was on this trip, standing on the Acropolis in Athens for the first time, that it occurred to me what an extraordinary thing it was for the ancient Greeks to have allowed the Amazons—-filthy, uncivilized warrior women that they supposedly were—-a place on the Parthenon frieze. And frankly, as Line and I stood there in all our grimy splendor, feeling rather hardened and nomadic among the color--coded group tours, I’m sure we both felt a growing kinship with our Amazon cousins once removed.
During our month in Greece and on Crete, Line and I had many close calls that still make us shiver. As we keep saying to each other, we’re lucky to be alive! One night, after zigzagging all over Piraeus and taking multiple buses in wrong directions—-Line was already a pro at ancient Greek, but unfortunately, bus tables hadn’t been part of the school curriculum—-we noticed we were being followed. It was not merely in our imagination; wherever we went, the Man went, too. He was not particularly big or threatening to look at, but what was so eerie about him was his complete lack of shame in following us: he didn’t even try to hide the fact.
As chance would have it, we were headed up a lonely hillside that night, in search of a restaurant rumored to have genuine Greek live music and folk dancing. As we walked up the narrow path in near darkness, we were trying to figure out what to do. What was the Man’s plan? Was he going to jump us? Or did he want to see where we were spending the night before calling his friends? I still remember the ominous sound of his footsteps behind us in the darkness; I had never been so afraid in my life.
In the end, Line and I decided that we had to confront this lowlife, and so we stopped, picked up some sticks, and waited. Our fear was turning into anger, and I remember visualizing precisely how I was going to hit him if it came to that. And so we waited. And listened. But there were no more footsteps. Nothing.
We never saw the Man again. I still believe it was our decision to turn and fight that drove him away. Somehow he sensed that his prey had turned into Amazons.
A few years after my big trip with Line I was back in Turkey, once again poking around in ancient ruins and dreaming about the past. This was when I almost literally stumbled across the name “Myrina” for the first time. As it turns out, the modern Turkish city we know as Izmir was once called Smyrna—-named, some theorize, after the Amazon Myrina. And lo and behold, a few hundred kilometers farther north is the site of ancient Troy where, according to Homer, a local hill was named after this mysterious Myrina, too. While it is true that many place names in the Aegean region bear semblance to legendary Amazons, the unusual thing about Myrina is that she belongs to a different strain of the Amazon legend—-a strain normally associated with North Africa and with a long--lost civilization that was, over time, swallowed up by the Sahara Desert.
Partly because of my own love of North Africa, and partly because we know so little about her, Myrina was always the Amazon who intrigued me the most. According to one ancient historian, Myrina was a warrior queen who commanded a near--invincible army and made innumerable conquests not only in North Africa but also throughout the Aegean region. While it might have been interesting to fictionalize this particular account, I do find that endless tales of conquest and war tend to get monotonous after a while. And so instead, I chose to focus on Myrina’s link with the Greek Amazons we know so well from classical literature and to use her as an eyewitness to a bygone world that has inspired poets and artists—-and the rest of us—-for centuries.
As a consequence of this perennial fascination with Antiquity, hardly a year goes by without a new Hollywood blockbuster about the Trojan War, sun--bronzed gladiators, or related swashbuckling demi-gods. The cinematography has improved over time, and so have the special effects, and yet the stories hardly appear to have evolved at all. This is not necessarily a criticism, because I’ll be the first one to confess that I do love traditional tales of heroism, but it does -puzzle me that so few have dared to break the old Homeric mold—-especially now, with modern science and scholarship constantly expanding our knowledge of the past.
The figure of the mounted, bow--slinging Amazon is a good example of a stereotype that hasn’t changed much since Antiquity. After living with them for so long, I felt these extraordinary women deserved a renaissance that didn’t just apply another coat of veneer to the existing myth, but rather stripped it down to the frame, took it apart, and reassembled it all over again in a new, more thought--provoking form. So too with the Trojan War, which has never ceased to haunt us, perhaps precisely because of all the still--unanswered questions, contradictions, and downright improbabilities of the -classic version of the legend. Rather than simply regurgitating the Homer-Hollywood archetype, I felt it was time to give voice to some of the experts who have long challenged the established opinion about what actually happened at Troy.
The problem of espousing controversial ideas, of course, is that readers get bewildered and wonder what is true and what is fiction. In fact, this confusion applies to historical novels as a whole. To what extent, we wonder, is the author working on the basis of trusted sources? Is the book a sincere attempt at re-creating the past, or is the story merely inspired by past events? Such questions are important, and the answers are rarely short and simple.
In the case of The Lost Sisterhood, a good part of the novel is set in a prehistoric era, which by definition rules out the existence of truly trustworthy written sources. Our knowledge of the period is largely based on archaeological finds and literary hearsay. In other words, we know more about the journey of a chipped clay dish than we know about the life of our warlike Queen Myrina—-worse, we can’t even prove she ever existed.
To make up for the fact that Myrina’s world is spun from myth and scientific guesswork, I injected the modern--day story with as much theory as I thought it could carry. Whenever Diana and Rebecca discuss the past, their thoughts reflect the opinions of scholars currently working in the field—-some more controversial than others. And hopefully The Lost Sisterhood will inspire readers to delve into other books about the great mysteries of Antiquity and—-as I have done—-walk the ruins, breathe in the past, and feel the connection to our heroic ancestors, whether real or imagined.
1. The Amazons are traditionally portrayed as strong and masculine, with one breast removed in order for them to better handle the bow and arrow. How do the Amazons portrayed in The Lost Sisterhood contradict the stereotype, and how—-if at all—-do they confirm it?
2. Diana and Myrina are on parallel paths throughout much of the book. In what ways are the two women on a similar quest?
3. Do you feel that Granny should have done more to help Diana along on her path of discovery?
4. Did Myrina do the right thing in leaving the sisterhood for Paris? Would you have done the same?
5. If you were in Diana’s place, how would you have felt about Nick?
6. Can Diana’s parents be held responsible for their daughter’s scars?
7. After the disastrous earthquake at Troy, Myrina and Lady Otrera decide to go their separate ways, and only a handful of Amazons opt to follow Myrina into the great Northern unknown. If you had had to make the choice, whom would you have decided to follow? Why?
8. Could one argue that James is more of a victim than a crook? Did you feel sympathetic toward him at any point?
9. Do you feel museums should be forced to return ancient artifacts to the countries from which they were, at some point in the past, unlawfully removed?
10. What do you think Diana’s future looks like?
11. Do you think there is a need for a group like the Amazons in our modern world? Would you join them if you could?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Like Juliet, this novel is an enjoyable new twist of a well known classic, this time centered around the myths of the Amazons. The book revolves around two different timelines. One is about Diana, a philologist from Oxford who is reminiscent of a modern day Indiana Jones. The other is about the life journey of Myrina, the first Amazonian queen who lived at the time of the Trojan War. The book cycles between the two stories nearly every chapter, which keeps the pace brisk and always leaves you wanting to read more. And though it's a lengthy story at nearly 600 pages, it flew by in a blink and I was truly sad to see it end.
Diana Morgan, lower-rung Oxford lecturer, has a not-so-secret passion: the legendary Amazons of ancient times, a tribe that some scholars doubt even existed. When an opportunity arises to go on the trail of the REAL Amazons, she can't resist, and as a philologist (someone who studies the language of written historical sources), she's got an advantage; an "Amazon dictionary" with translations of the Amazon language composed by her grandmother. Who may or may not have been schizophrenic and delusional. I received an advanced reading copy of this novel via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Told in parallel, the story follows Diana and her journey through Algeria, Crete, Mycenae, Troy, Germany, and Finland, and also follows Myrina, founder of the Amazons, through HER journeys. Despite being semi-familial with many of the legends, this novel takes unexpected but logical twists on many of them, the battle of and fall of Troy being particularly intriguing. All throughout, there is also the issue of who ancient artifacts should/do belong to, from private collectors to respected museums, to their lands of origin. While I've noted that there are non-white lead characters; Myrina and her original group of Moon Goddess priestesses in North Africa having a deadly encounter with "pale-skinned" barbarians who attack from black-hulled ships, this novel is really not about skin color or ethnicity. It's more about how in the ancient AND modern world these things can be incidental when there is a greater purpose. We never know what skin color Diana has, and the man she's attracted to, Nick, has an Arab father and Brazilian mother - or does he? Nothing and nobody are entirely what you expect, and I was kept on the edge of my seat the whole time. It did have a somewhat slow start, but once it got moving, it MOVED. Despite being a long book (600+ pages), the tension and pacing stayed the same, until the last climactic scenes. Which tied up all the loose ends AND both storylines in a very satisfying way.
A wonderful story that kept me interested throughout!
Awesome story (ies) It will stay with me for a long time!
Loved, loved, loved this book!!!. I don't usually read books like these (murder, thrillers are what I usually read) but this kept me interested through the whole thing. Highly recommend it to anyone who loves greek mythology and ancient history.
This book drew me in, kept me riveted until the end and eishing for more. Highly recommend!
Truly enjoyed this story and was sad when it ended. I was kept engaged in the telling and hated to put the book down to do other daily jobs. I had loved the author's other book, Juliet, and this one did not disappoint me at all!
There’s something about an athletic woman wielding a long bow that really helps me find my stride on the highway. What proved most interesting were the pieces about the Amazons and their sparse history, as THE LOST SISTERHOOD overflowed with Greek mythology. But that was where this tale and I parted ways on the positive side, as many of the negatives pressed into my flesh. First, this novel splayed itself across a few too many pages, and then it managed to develop an ambitiousness best reserved for politicians and CEOs. It may have been historical, or women’s fiction, or action & adventure, or literary, or possibly even fantasy. Had the fantasy only been in my head, I would have been perfectly fine with the outcome. Instead, the fantasy spread itself across over 600 pages of stilted prose, as I held my nose with one hand and flipped each page of my Kindle with the other. The characters proved a bit hard to swallow—like thumbtacks as I asked for my life back—and the ending felt like it was sprung upon me, like a dirty pair of drawers. Had this novel discovered the pace and precision of The Da Vinci Code, I would have gladly hung on for the ride. Instead, though, I gripped this story with two fingers held firmly away from my face, and waited for the ride to end. The end, though, didn’t come soon enough. I received this book for free through NetGalley. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Diana is a professor at Oxford, and she has a very personal (and well known) passion for the legend of the Amazons. She is hired to fly out to an excavation of a purported ancient Amazon site, to try and translate an ancient language that was unearthed. She winds up being teamed up with Nick, and adventure ensues! This story really reminded me a little of a YA or romance novel. It could be a little silly and ridiculous at times, and it read like a romance novel much of the time. And sometimes it was just plain fun. At times some scenes had an overly-dramatic feel, and occasionally the writing could get a little hokey, but most of it was engaging and pulled me along with the story. My final word: Overall this was a pretty fun story, full of adventure, if a little ridiculous at times. It was unusual and original, and well worth my time. And I absolutely love that cover!
I enjoyed this book so much, I couldn't put it down. I loved the characters and throughout Myrina's and Diana's journey, i enjoyed seeing both characters grow and discover a strength that they didn't know they possessed. I highly recommend this book to anybody that loves adventures and mysteries.
Mesmerizing storytelling once again from Anne Fortier! As with Juliet, I was once again drawn so deeply inter her story and cared so much about her characters that I was loathe to put it down! I do hope she's in the midst of writing her next adventure.
Loved this book - couldn't put it down!