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Recommended Reads Saturday: Memory of Morning by Susan Sizemore

Welcome to our new feature.  I had a reader email me to ask where she could buy the First Page piece. I explained that it was from an unpublished manuscript.  We exchanged a couple more emails in which she expressed interest in reading first pages from published books, as a way to discover new reads. However, it didn’t make sense to post first pages up for critique when the book had been published so instead we made up a form where readers can submit a recommended read. I then email the author and ask permission to post an excerpt.  Let me know what you think of the feature.

Recommendation

Memory of Morning by Susan Sizemore is recommended by Shana who is a librarian and avid reader.  Shana says:

I am recommending this book because Because I really like this book. It’s an alternate world without magic, but the flavor she was trying for, and I think got, was Jane Austen crossed with Patrick O’Brian. I love the voice of the first person narrator, who is both highly observant and remarkably clueless at times. I love the worldbuilding, which hangs together well enough that I am able to spend time exptrapolating details. I’ve purchased copies to give as gifts as well as my own copies to keep and recommended it to friends when it was on sale.

It’s one of my three favorite ebook originals. (The other two being Ice Blue ( A | BN), a mystery by Emma Jameson, and Elizabeth McCoy’s Herbwitch / Herb-wife ( A | BN ) duology, an unusual fantasy romance which had me hooked from the first drabble the author posted on her LiveJournal, several years ago.)

Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Memory of Morning posted with the approval of Susan Sizemore.


I think I shall start by telling you about the first time I was ever kissed. You might think that this is romantic, but actually – actually, it was romantic, for me – but it was just before the Battle of the Arum Sea and there was a great deal more going on. Yes, I was there at the great engagement when the Southern Fleet took on the pirates and broke the hold those marauders held over the southern islands. I was a surgeon’s apprentice aboard the frigate Moonrunner. Mind you, apprentice wasn’t the proper term anymore even if it was the official one. I had served my two year contract already and was moving into the twenty-sixth month of service aboard the ship. I didn’t mind one bit that the ‘Runner was late returning to port, except for my need to pass the final exam to grant me the Surgeon Certificate. Not many woman hold the title surgeon and I was anxious to officially be among that small number. I was ambitious and anxious to grab onto our brave new meritocrat society and make my mark. Being Doctor Megere Cliff was not nearly enough for me. The Imperial Navy needed surgeons, so they took on female apprentices when the Imperial College of Surgeons had yet to bend to pressure to allow women in their ranks. Getting your hands bloody delivering a baby was one thing, taking a knife to cut through muscle was unladylike. I’d taken advantage of the military’s need, not only for my own purposes, but from a growing sense of the rightness of serving my country, just as both my brothers had as well. Our generation wanted to war with Framin to end, so a new society would have a chance to grow in the Ang Empire.

Memory of Morning Susan SizemoreWhile I was technically a civilian contractor, my heart and soul had been taken over by love of the sea – adventure, the fear and excitement of battle, the camaraderie – in some ways it was the captain I loved, the brash and famous Dane Copper, but more on that later. The point is, I was a well-trained, efficient surgeon by the time this battle came along. My apprentice master was Dr. Samel Swan, by the way. Fine teacher, brilliant man and I thought my heart belonged to him – though any liaison between us could never be! I was quite young at the time, in case you hadn’t guessed, full of romantic longings I was smart enough to keep under control. And no, it wasn’t Swan or Copper that kissed me. Most folk thought they were more likely to kiss each other, but I knew that wasn’t quite true.

Back to the kiss, and the battle, too, I suppose, though I saw most of it inside the bowels of the ship and what I saw was what I always saw – blood, gore, screams, dying. I sawed off limbs and shut the eyes of the dead. I made choices of who had a chance to live and who was only waiting to die and acted on those choices. I knew well that battle is anything but glorious. Oh, it’s exciting, at least the before and after parts can be, but the fight itself is nothing but gruesome necessity.

The early morning before the battle, just around dawn,  I finished making preparations in the surgery and then made my way up to the main deck. I knew I’d be belowdecks for many hours to come and wanted some fresh air. I wanted to greet as many of the crew as I could and bid them the All’s Protection for the day. I wanted to see what I could of the battle order, though I assumed the nearest Imperial ships might be beyond the horizon, or lost in a morning fog. The Moonrunner was set out as bait, after all. Of course, I also wanted to do my duty as part of that bait.

Civilian or not, I didn’t often get to wear civilian clothing, and the skirt and bodice I wore now wasn’t even my own. My own dresses – of which I had only two packed in my sea trunk – were modest and middle-class, the necklines high and proper. I’d had to borrow something more provocative from Ganna Broom who supervised the laundry crew. Currently, the tight lacing showed off more cleavage than I thought I actually had. The bright scarlet skirt was full and swirling, but the material was thin.

The point, you see, was to appear to pirates as if we were a civilian ship. It should be easy enough for the pirates to believe that we were ripe pickings blown off course by the recent spate of bad storms. Anyone who had ridden out those storms, as the Moonrunner, and the pirate fleet had, would not be surprised by any flotsam spied floating – helplessly – this far south of safe shipping lanes.

So, I walked around the deck, hips swaying with the roll of the waves, my bosoms preceding me, and tried to look like a woman waiting to be ravished.  The other women on deck, officers and able seaman alike, did the same. There are never that many females on board a warship, but we did our best to pretend to be simple passengers rather than, say, capable merchants. The appearance of the whole ship was supposed to plant a sense of vulnerability in the pirates minds. We women had decided to flaunt our femininity.

Of course there’d be women among the pirates, but they’d be armed and dangerous. The point of this exercise was for those aboard our ship to appear lightly armed at most and far from dangerous.

It wasn’t only we women dressed in civilian clothes. I spotted Captain Copper lounging by the wheel, dressed in an emerald green swallowtail coat and black trousers so tight it was evident why the fashion circulars referred to this current male style as Masculine Unmentionables. I know it was wrong to stare at the ship’s commander the way I did – no doubt my mouth hung open – but how could one help it? Captain Copper runs a tight ship and he’d normally be the last one of his crew to be seen in anything but the knee-length blue coat, red vest, buff trousers, black boots and tricorn hat of a proper officer. Well, he wasn’t wearing a hat now. His dark blond hair was loose around his shoulders, and instead of a starched cravat, he wore his shirt unbuttoned down half his chest. The sight was enough to send a hot rush through me, and likely most of the women and some of the men who caught a glimpse of our captain this morning.

If the pirate admiral was a woman, I knew what booty she’d be claiming.

I didn’t notice the man who’d come up behind me until he put an arm around my waist and swung me to face him. I had no idea who he was. Which is certainly an odd thing to say since I’ve already mentioned I’d been on the Moonrunner for over two years. There were one hundred and ninety four crew members aboard the second class frigate and I knew them all well. This man was a stranger. Which was one of the reasons my mouth continued to hang open as he smiled at me.

Not a handsome stranger, either, but very much a virile man. He was a long-faced, hooked-nosed fellow with a beard that made his face seem even longer. Dimples showed through the scruffy hair on his face. He had blue eyes and brown hair, worn long like all sailors, and loose around his face, as we all wore our hair this morning. He pulled me close to a body that was long and lean, the muscles hard as rocks beneath the layers of cloth. And the bulge at his crotch gave evidence of hardness as well. And he was tall. I’m not all that short a woman, but this man towered over me. And the hands holding me were big. Hard, strong, callused sailor’s hands. I couldn’t have broken his hold even if I’d been able to recall the self-defense lessons Lieutenant Breeze had drilled us civilians in so many times.

From the way I instantly melted against him, I guess I didn’t want to break that hold to begin with. The male wants female recognition shot through me, shaking me from my head to my toes and heating my insides far more than staring at the captain had done. Maybe it was proximity. Maybe it was the natural tension before a battle reverberating between us.

It was – devastating.

You might have guessed I was still a virgin when I mentioned a first kiss. Certainly not for lack of opportunity, but definitely for my own reasons, I was indeed a virgin. Neither ignorant or innocent though – please recall that I am a doctor.

“Good girl!” he said when I sank into his embrace.

His accent was distinctly not that of Ang. The words had a lilt to them, but not the same as the rich tones of Welis. The Empire is made up of thousands of islands, large and small, and I’m hardly familiar with the accents of all of them, even if I had run into people from all over while serving on the Moonrunner.

“From the north, are you?” I asked.

“As far north as can be,” he told me.

I knew that this man did not serve on board my ship. Who was he? What was he doing here? Holding me. My hands were on his shoulders, so I suppose it can be said I was holding him back. His coat was of fine brown wool, my sensitive fingers all too aware of heated skin and muscle beneath the cloth.

“Who?”

“A servant of the Empire,” he answered.

I’d never seen anyone’s eyes twinkle with so much mischief. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Then I remembered that the Fleet Admiral’s flagship had been seriously damaged in the most recent storm. For a while it was thought that the ship was lost, but it had limped close enough to the rest of the fleet for crew members to be transferred to other ships before it was scuttled. A boatload of officers had been dropped off the night before. I’d been scrubbing the surgery at the time and had retired to my hammock before meeting any of the newcomers. What an interesting way to make a staff officer’s acquaintance, I thought now. I assumed no one but an officer would dare behave as boldly as he did. Unless he was an able seaman that mistook me for one as well. No, no working class man would have such a bold and assured way about him.

I managed to find my voice. “Sir, I trust your – our – behavior is meant to be spied by the enemy.”

“That too,” he said.

Then he kissed me.

It was obviously a memorable, watershed moment or I wouldn’t be mentioning it. Well, I didn’t know it was watershed at the time, but it was certainly – wonderful.

His lips were demanding and gentle all at once, his tongue teased my lips open and his tongue and mine twined and danced and I quite simply caught fire – brain, body, soul. I loved the taste of him, the feel of our bodies pressed together, the scent of him.

At first I didn’t realize the explosive roar in my ears was actually the sound of cannon fire. And considering how often I had heard cannon fire in the last two years, my mistaking it for the roar of my heart says quite a lot about my state at the time.

But the man kissing me was not so dazzled by the moment. He realized what was happening and let me go.

He was still smiling as he patted my behind. “Battle stations, gel,” he said, and ran toward the bridge, long legs striding in that assured way sailors acquired during a lifetime at sea.

I watched him for only a moment before turning down to my own station belowdecks.

 

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Guest Reviewer

19 Comments

  1. Darlynne
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 13:26:16

    I already love this feature and so look forward to seeing some new-to-me books or authors. I read a Susan Sizemore book once, not this one, and the excerpt sounds very interesting. Thanks!

    ReplyReply

  2. Elyssa
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 13:39:41

    I immediately bought the book after reading this. Sounds amazing!

    ReplyReply

  3. Mary Beth
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 13:49:58

    Just like Elyssa, I bought this immediately after reading the review. I love the excerpt! I think this new feature is going to be very expensive for me!

    ReplyReply

  4. Dana S
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 15:43:27

    Sold. This sounds awesome and I love the excerpt.

    ReplyReply

  5. Angela
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 16:06:52

    I bought this not long ago, it’s moved up my TBR pile now though. I do love this new feature!

    ReplyReply

  6. Peggy P
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 16:27:31

    I bought this book on March 7th according to Amazon, why – well, I have no idea but I did start reading it today and it’s very good! I like this new feature and am always looking for a good rec for something not so well known – a hidden gem … that’s what this feature should be called!

    ReplyReply

  7. Elaine
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 17:47:49

    I hadn’t heard of Memory of Morning. I love the except, and Susan Sizemore’s Laws of the Blood series, so I immediately bought and read MoM. Good thing I didn’t have anything else I wanted to do this afternoon. I loved it.

    ReplyReply

  8. Lynn
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 19:26:23

    Have read and liked other Susan Sizemore books — excerpt intrigued me — right price for my Kindle — sold!!!

    ReplyReply

  9. Angela James
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 20:07:06

    I’ve been a Susan Sizemore fan for a very long time. She was writing paranormal/UF before it was so mainstream. I didn’t know about this book, so I’m glad you recommended it, I’ve bought it now!

    That said, dear Susan Sizemore, if you’re reading the comments, please, I beg of you, please, please hire someone to re-design your website and also update it. This book was released in August 2011 and doesn’t seem to be anywhere on there. I wanted to look and see if it was meant as a standalone or to be part of a series but couldn’t find the book (and thus, also, no answer to my question).

    ReplyReply

  10. Nicole
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 20:45:34

    I also bought this earlier this month because it had been a freebie. Haven’t read it yet, but I think I’ll move it up the line a bit thanks to this review.

    ReplyReply

  11. Keishon
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 22:13:18

    Count me as a fan of Susan Sizemore as well. I loved one of her category romances, The Stranger Beside Me that is actually available digitally. Will go purchase this now. LOVE this feature at DA.

    ReplyReply

  12. ElizabethN
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 23:30:25

    This post and excerpt caused me to seek out and purchase this novel. My ability to spend money on books really needs no encouragement like this.

    Good news, I’d already purchased it and it’s sequel short story, My Dearest. So 2 items no longer in my massive TBR collection. Enjoyed the 2 stories tremendously, will undoubtedly purchase more of her stories. The TBR list never really goes down.

    Bad news, enjoyed the world in the story and wanted to find out if there’s more than those 2 stories. Wasn’t able to find that info easily, I definitely agree with Angela James about the website.

    More good news, somewhere in the comments on Goodreads for one of the 2 stories (desperate for info I enjoyed the stories that much), I discovered that the author has plans for more stories in this world. Links to author’s facebook and twitter are active so off to politely ask the author approximately when.

    ReplyReply

  13. Elaine
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 07:49:51

    ElizabethN: Thanks for the mention of the short story. It went well with my coffee this morning. And thanks for letting me know she plans more stories set in this world.

    ReplyReply

  14. Shana
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 08:20:11

    Susan Sizemore told me that she was planning to do more in this setting. I am eagerly looking forward to the next one.

    ReplyReply

  15. Donna
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 08:54:19

    Well, now I’ve been compelled to buy, gosh darn it! Not a particular fan of Sizemore so had never heard of this title & would’ve probably skimmed past if I just saw the blurb & author, but the excerpt has grabbed me – I can see this new feature may well be costing me lots of money (sighs, but happily resigned).

    ReplyReply

  16. readerdiane
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 11:14:59

    I read this book last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad to hear that there will be more books.
    I am finding more enjoyable books that are being self-published like Terry Reid’s mysteries, Kristen Ashley’s Rock Chick series, and Debora Geary’s Witchlight. The best part is that they are reasonable in price too.

    ReplyReply

  17. Estara
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 16:38:00

    I really enjoyed the voice of the narrator so far – although I would prefer able seafolk to seaman if we’re talking equal society here – so I’m off to purchase, too.

    ReplyReply

  18. Estara
    Apr 09, 2012 @ 16:47:52

    I’ve really enjoyed the book – just not as a romance ^^ – as a historical fantasy. I bought My Dearest and hope to see more in this world.

    ReplyReply

  19. Daily Deals: Secret babies; Manhattan temptations; Witchy Schemes; and Fantastical Romance
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 14:01:20

    [...] Shana recommended this book to DA readers back in March of 2012 who [...]

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