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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book Review: Emma, to Begin Again by Debbie Brown

Emma, to Begin Again by Debbie Brown
Genre: Young Adult (Science Fiction/Fantasy Romance)
Date Published: March 20, 2013
Publisher: Mythos Press

As an ER nurse, Emma knows life can change in the blink of an eye. When fate comes knocking, she finds herself far away from the city and back on the mountain ranch where she grew up -with the intention to close up and sell the house so she can move on. 

But fate isn’t done with her yet, and that’s when she finds him, the one Two-Feathers calls ‘Star Brother’. Wounded and unconscious, Emma assumes he’s a military test pilot, until he opens his amethyst eyes and stares into the very essence of her being.

Emma, to Begin Again by Debbie Brown caught my attention with the blurb. I enjoyed the story very much in the beginning. Emma and Dthau Mahaz were fun to read about. Their relationship was believable, and I found myself rooting for them. One thing that didn't add up was that Dthau Mahaz told Emma that if he was ever found by his people he would have to re-join them again. There would be no choice. He also told her that they would never find him so there was no reason to worry. As a reader, you know as soon as a character says something like that, it's bound to happen. What Dthau Mahaz didn't tell Emma was he was micro-chipped, not once, but twice. Of course his people will find him! So, that made me wonder about him. Otherwise, I really liked the story. There was something very attractive about their relationship and their interactions with one another. It made for a pleasant read until the end. Endings make or break books for me, and I wasn't happy with this ending at all. That couldn't be it. There had to be more. So, I tried to find out if there were more books. I don't know if this is part of a series per say, but I found out that there are more books out there, but what I read in the blurb of one of them really disappointed me. It seems like this was just a prequel to a story that was already going on. I wish I knew that ahead of time, as I grew attached to these characters. Emma, to Begin Again was different and creative, so I imagine I wouldn't have been quite so upset had I read Amethyst Eyes first.

Emma, to Begin Again by Debbie Brown was provided to me by GMTA Publishing for review. The opinions are my own.

Chapter One
Emma walked into the dark living room and was immediately assaulted by the smell of abandon and neglect. She coughed and raised a hand to her mouth. No matter, she could manage to improve it somewhat, she hoped. Her heart felt heavy as she realized just how lonely this place felt. Unpacking would have to wait until she’d managed to clean up a bit first. In any case, all she had to do was perk it up so she could sell it; then she’d be gone from here for good.

The room looked like something from an old creepy movie, complete with cobwebs and drop cloth covered furniture. This had been her grandparent’s farm house, where she had lived with her parents, but the only ghosts here were the ones inside of her. Ghosts that haunted her day and night, no matter what she did. Swallowing her guilt, she held back her tears. It had been five years since her parents had died flying out to her graduation and it was time she took care of business. Life as a nurse and teacher in Vancouver had kept her busy, had allowed her to ignore her responsibilities, but with her roommates moving on, it was time for her to deal with her past. She was done teaching at the university until September, and had taken personal time off from the hospital. She had four months to finally settle her affairs.

Emma surveyed the room again, feeling small before the task at hand, and in all honesty, she didn’t know where to start. Dust caught in her nose as she opened the curtains. Room after room, she pulled open the drapes, letting daylight in, and secretly hoping the light would somehow reach her soul. The broom still hung in the mudroom, just off the kitchen as expected. Everything was as she’d remembered, everything that is, except for the loneliness, something that had never been there before. She shivered and pushed the thoughts away.

Back at her starting point, she swept around the covered furniture, pushing the dust right out the door and onto the wooden porch that ran around the two-story house. The vacuum would come later, once the electricity had been restored. No one had come back here since her parents had passed away, since the funeral, she realized, and no one had even bothered to clean out their belongings. As an only child, she couldn’t blame anyone but herself. Somehow, she hoped she could go on and rekindle the spark that had fuelled her love of life so long ago. She’d tried to ignore her loss, throwing herself into her work in the city, but with her roommates, Renata and Maggie moving on, the past had come rushing back to slam into her with a force that had shaken her, leaving her right back where she’d been five years ago.

After spending a few hours getting rid of the dirt and dust from the floors she lifted the sheets off the furniture, revealing the antiques that had once belonged to her grandparents. Time had stood still in the living room. She removed the heavy drapes from the windows, watching millions of dust particles float on the rays of light that streamed in through dingy windows. “Charming,” she said out loud. She’d have to dust again.

“It’s about time you showed up,” a gravelly voice said from behind her. Startled, Emma whirled around so fast that she became entangled in the thick fabric of the drapes and tripped, landing soundly on the floor. She clutched her chest. “You scared me.” She stared up at Two-Feathers, a close family friend who had been watching over the house these past years.

The old shaman gave a slight smile, but his dark eyes twinkled brightly. “Hmm, apparently.” He walked over and pulled her to her feet. Emma recognized the embroidered dream catcher on the left front pocket of his chambray shirt. It had seven feathers representing the seven Kutenai tribes, and he belonged to the Ktunaxa band. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror over the antique settee and grimaced. Her overalls were covered with dust and her blond, wavy locks had come out of her hair clip, sticking out in every direction. Two-Feathers drew her into a hug, in spite of her appearance, and she accepted the gesture, needing the comfort.

“It’s good to see you, Emma.” He pushed her back after a long moment and took a good look at her, his dark eyes searching her face. “Why did you stay away so long?” She wrung her hands, the same way she had done as a child. At barely five foot three, and all of one hundred and ten pounds, she still looked like one. Except for the lines around her blue eyes, and the tension around her mouth that betrayed her age, people still occasionally mistook her for a teen. “I’ve missed you,” she said, meeting his gaze but avoiding his question. How was she supposed to answer it, by admitting she’d ignored her past and responsibilities?

He grunted. “Still plan on selling the place?” Guilt washed over her. She swallowed hard and nodded. “What other choice do I have?” Her mind drifted back to when she was a child, running carefree through the house, laughing. Where had that little girl gone, she wondered. “Why are you here?” she asked him.

He nodded for her to follow and walked out the door to the barn.

She paused a moment before she hurried after him. “You mean to say the animals are still here?” Her heart pounded as she braced for the worst. If the state of the barn and animals looked anything like the house, she wasn’t sure she wanted to see.

he familiar smell of hay and horses surrounded her. God, she loved that smell. The barn was well-kept and filled with life. Rooted in place, she looked around slowly, taking it all in.

“I’ve been tending to the animals since you left, but had I known it would take so long for you to return, I would have moved them elsewhere.” Two-Feathers paused. “We use the barn when we come out here for our vision quests, bringing extra horses for the participants. “Here.” He handed her Gram’s old egg basket, and waved her off in the direction of the nests along the far left wall. “While you’re at it, feed them too. You’ll probably want to get a few more chickens and another rooster.”

There were only five hens left, but each had laid an egg. A cappuccino colored one clucked loudly; announcing her contribution and Emma added it to her basket. Reaching out to stroke one of the colourful brown hens, she half expected it to pull back, but instead her touch seemed welcome. A smile lit her face as she lightly slid her fingers down the silky-soft feathers, watching as the tiny lids closed over the hen’s reddish-brown eyes. It brought her back to a more carefree time in her life.

“Do you think you could give me a hand?” Two-Feathers called out to her. He was holding a saddle blanket. “I come every day to milk the cow and collect the eggs, but I don’t take both horses out together, and I can only stay long enough to properly exercise them each once a week.” His dark eyes searched her face. “When was the last time you rode?”

She started to answer, but she just shook her head. “I –it’s been too long.” She gave him half a smile. “I really don’t remember.”

He nodded and turned away to saddle the dark brown quarter horse. She noticed a few grey hairs mixed throughout Two-Feathers’ black braid. She was not surprised when she saw the two owl feathers, tied to a concho with a leather strap, which adorned his hair. He glanced over his shoulder at her. “You gonna saddle yours or not?”

Emma blinked, realizing what he was saying. A spark of anticipation ignited at his suggestion. Why not, she thought. “Let’s do it.” She could feel a tiny flicker of joy in her heart.

An hour later, they headed back to the barn. Emma’s heart pounded as she worked to keep up with Two-Feathers. The wind cooled her face before it whipped through her hair, and for the first time since her parent’s death, she felt as though some invisible weight had been momentarily lifted. Her blood raced through her body, making her feel alive and aware of leg muscles that had been dormant far too long.

“Not bad for a city girl,” Two-Feathers teased as he dismounted. He grabbed hold of Emma’s blonde quarter horse as she slid to the ground. “I guess I should pull out your mother’s old mounting block.” He walked the horses back into the barn and handed Emma a brush.

She took the brush and made a face. “The cowboy way,” she said. “You want to ride; you care for your horse.” She loosened the cinch and flipped the straps over the top to lift the saddle off the horse. God, this thing was awkward. She stumbled slightly.

Two-Feathers took it from her and set it on one of the sawhorses. “The Indian way,” he corrected her. “They stole it from us.” He winked before turning back to his horse.

They tended to the chores in the barn together, before heading back to the house. The sun had started its descent behind the Rocky Mountains, and without electricity, the house was already dark. Two-Feathers headed to the mudroom and pulled open the electric panel. Pushing the main breaker up, he brought power back to the house and a few lights came on, followed by the hum of the refrigerator.

All her life, Debbie has spun stories in her mind, watching characters come to life, seemingly by themselves. After working as a nurse, teacher, martial arts instructor, artist, and CIC officer in the Canadian forces, not to mention her many hobbies from woodworking to auto mechanics and holistic medicine, her life reads like a story itself. And yet, her favorite thing is still a cozy fire, a good book, and country living with her husband JP and her youngest of four children. After graduating from the Institute of Children’s Literature’s advanced writing course, she is finally devoting herself to writing these stories down, taking us all on a ride we won’t quickly forget.

To learn more about Debbie Brown and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads & Facebook.

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