Today, I'm very excited to be hosting AJ Krafton, author of the Victorian historical fiction novel, The Heartbeat Thief, on my blog. The book is on sale through June 26, so be sure you pick up a copy!
As much as we romanticize Victorian times, life was much different back then—and not always in a good way. Due to sickness and undeveloped medical treatments, many children never had the opportunity to grow up. It is no wonder that birthdays were enthusiastically celebrated—each new year in a child’s life was truly a blessing. A birthday was another year’s victory over Death.
And Death was a huge preoccupation for Senza Fyne, the young Victorian woman whose dark tale is spun in THE HEARTBEAT THIEF. Her seventeenth birthday marked her debut into society…but it did not leave the fear of early death behind. Now of an age to marry, Senza’s mother constantly reminded her that she needed to find her mate before her beauty withered and faded, before her chances of an advantageous marriage was lost.
Senza didn’t want to be set out like wares at a market. She wanted a love-match—but that was one luxury a girl of even her station could not afford. She was trapped in a losing game, each passing day another hand won by Death.
Until she met Mr. Knell, the mysterious man who promised her an escape from all of her worries.
When Senza Fyne makes her dark deal with Mr. Knell, she is freed from the ravages of time and death, and her gives her a special present, a locket in which she must store heartbeats. “A gift on your Unbirthing day,” he said.
And when more than one hundred fifty years, that day was the only day that she remembered. Unbirthdays were remarkable things.
Throughout her long life, Senza forgot to celebrate her actual birthday. Perhaps immortality lessens the importance of another year’s victory over death.
Whom would she have invited, when the loves of family and childhood friends had faded into the past? The world had become a sea of nameless faces, images flickering on a distant screen. Everyone around her would wilt like flowers in late summer, grown brittle in autumn’s chilling wind, and disappear beneath the final snows of eternal winter.
Were there a cake served, a light fluffy delicate creation of sweetness and fruit and frosting, would someone have baked traditional trinkets into it? Would her slice hold the lucky coin? Or would she find a thimble, the harbinger of a life spent alone, unmarried?
And what gift would Knell give her, when he had already stolen her life? His locket hung heavy with memory, with regret, with the pilfered beats of men and women who each lived out their lives in natural order.
No. Mark the day, she would. Remember it, she was thus compelled. But no party. No celebration. Celebrations were for the living.
How dreary! Sometimes my heart aches for Senza Fyne, who, much like the narrator of Poe’s “The Raven” is constantly seeking companionship and release from loneliness. The tapping on her chamber door always yields an empty hall. No one there, and an eternity of it.
Let us give Senza a respite from her fate, and remember her book’s birthday—and therefore her Unbirthday—with a much lighter heart. I, for one, will raise a cup of tea and have a slice of cake and cheer the day I “met” one of my all-time favorite characters: Senza Fyne, the Forever Girl, Death’s Immortal Beloved, the Heartbeat Thief.