“A talented writer can convince a reader that fantasy is real; a gifted author makes it look easy from the opening scene. Such is Krafton’s brilliance in The Heartbeat Thief.” –Rachel McClellan, Author
Haunted by a crushing fear of death, a young Victorian woman discovers the secret of eternal youth–she must surrender her life to attain it, and steal heartbeats to keep it.
In 1860 Surrey, a young woman has only one occupation: to marry. Senza Fyne is beautiful, intelligent, and lacks neither wealth nor connections. Finding a husband shouldn’t be difficult, not when she has her entire life before her. But it’s not life that preoccupies her thoughts. It’s death–and that shadowy spectre haunts her every step.
So does Mr. Knell. Heart-thumpingly attractive, obviously eligible–he’d be her perfect match if only he wasn’t so macabre. All his talk about death, all that teasing about knowing how to avoid it…
When her mother arranges a courtship with another man, Senza is desperate for escape from a dull prescripted destiny. Impulsively, she takes Knell up on his offer. He casts a spell that frees her from the cruelty of time and the threat of death–but at a steep price. In order to maintain eternal youth, she must feed on the heartbeats of others.
From the posh London season to the back alleys of Whitechapel, across the Channel, across the Pond, across the seas of Time… How far will Senza Fyne go to avoid Death?
It’s a little bit Jane Austen, a little bit Edgar Allen Poe, and a whole lot of stealing heartbeats in order to stay young and beautiful forever…
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This was a really great Choosy Bookworm review opportunity, and I’d like to thank the author for making it even more special with some exclusive content! After reading my thoughts, be sure to see the tea time post below!
Ok, the Masque of the Red Death is my all time favorite Edgar Allan Poe story, so I’m immediately riveted by the references here. This atmospheric gothic tale lingered in places, but that only allowed me to savor the scenery a bit longer. Senza didn’t quite grow as much as I would have liked though she did have her mind set on a single mission, so there’s not as much opportunity. I certainly did think it was an intriguing bent on the supernatural myths surrounding vampires and soul thieves, and absolutely adored the weirdness of Mr. Knell. I’m not quite sure where to place this other than YA, as there’s nothing really unsavory to behold, however it wouldn’t be as engaging for a 10 year old as it would for a 16 year old, so just keep that in mind. With all the pomp you’d expect in a period novel, plus a healthy dose of good humor and gripping suspense, The Heartbeat Thief is one to read on a cold day by a warm fire, and maybe with an extra light on (or two!)
Time for Tea: Victorian Tradition and its Place in THE HEARTBEAT THIEF
Victorian tea time wasn’t always a thing.
Tea has been around for thousands of years. In many cultures, it was customary to share tea
with company. Tea was ceremonial, a sacred part of social law.
In England, mealtimes evolved to include two main meals: breakfast and dinner. Dinner became
an evening phenomenon, which was held after the work day. In the case of the upper classes,
dinner was an event that lasted hours into the night. Afternoon meals tended to light and on-
the-go and had no real structure.
What we’ve come to know as “tea time” began with Duchess Anne of Bedford. Anne
experienced a “sinking feeling” around three or four o’clock and would ask her maids to sneak
her tea and pastries, since supper wouldn’t come until much later in the evening. At first, she
had tea alone but eventually the practice was expanded to include her close friends.
Thus, a tradition was born and tea time became a thing.
Less food, more talking
Victorian tea time carried on the tradition of offering tea to guests. Tea was served in wide-
mouthed shallow cups (nothing like our 16 ounce paper cups from the coffee shop). That way,
tea could be sipped without waiting all afternoon for it to cool (or blowing on it, which could
lead to sloppy accidents). Tea time became synonymous with company and socializing and was,
in itself, a social event.
And Victorian events were elegant, spectacular things.
It was customary to have tea in the parlor or garden. It provided a chance to show off the
hostess’s best china and linens, as well her abilities to command the skills of her kitchen staff.
Tea served not only to quiet the rumblings of a belly, it was food for the social soul. Dishes were
customarily light and easy to eat without worry of a catastrophic mess. Eating was a dainty
dance in itself.
Tea sandwiches, cakes, scones, biscuits, candies and nuts were usual fare for low tea (named
for the low tables around which guests gathered—think “coffee tables” in the living room). I
found a website with loads of recipes here:
create a special little something.
Trays of snacks were laid out so guests could serve themselves. Affluent hostesses could afford
an elaborate tea service such as
(By comparison, my tea service looks like this: http://www.adagio.com/teaware/triniTEA.html Not quite as shiny but it makes a perfect pot, every time.)
The overall goal of these tea parties was to ensure that guests enjoyed themselves so
thoroughly that they completely lose track of time, ensuring the hostess’s graceful place in the
hearts and esteem of all invited.
Senza and her Tea
In The Heartbeat Thief our heroine, Senza Fyne, took much comfort in the ritual of tea time.
Despite her longer-than-usual life, she never lost her affinity for a well-set tea. It connected her
to precious memories of family and friends and times long gone by. Here’s a brief excerpt from
The Heartbeat Thief, in which Senza prepares tea for company for the first time in a very, very
The Heartbeat Thief
The tea kettle hissed, the steam building up to a whistle. She plucked it off the heat before it
could reach full shriek. She didn’t like noise. She’d become far too accustomed to quiet and
stillness. It had been ages since she made tea, a proper tea with a full service and decorative
sugars. She’d missed the routine.
Grandmother had always taken three lumps of sugar in hers. She’d preferred a Darjeeling,
earthy and fragrant, over the milder Assams and startling Keemuns that Father would bring
home. Darjeeling, she’d insisted, was an expression of liquid divinity. If you could taste the
earth, you could touch the stars. Be one with everything.
Senza blinked, stirring herself from the hazy memory. Grandmother had always told her to
live in the moment. Senza seemed only to live in the past.
Wrong moments in which to live.
She rubbed her temple with the bend of her wrist and spooned tea leaves into the pot.
Funny that he’d procure a tea service for her in this rustic shanty, a proper set with a silver
empress tea strainer and matching sugar and creamer pots. Odd that he’d provide a service for
two people, especially since she’d always been completely alone.
Senza arranged the service on a broad silver tray and arranged a spread of biscuits onto a
saucer, next to a plate of cucumber and spread cheese sandwiches. A small bowl of candied
fruits completed the tea. All had been conveniently located in the small pantry, as if she’d
shopped the list on her own.
Stepping back, she surveyed her work. Grandmother would approve. A good host always
saw to the tea herself, taking every pain to ensure her guests lost track of the time of day.
Hefting the tray, she carried it into the front room, still startled by its shocking
transformation. A small but cozy fire blazed in the simple brick fireplace, near to which an
unfamiliar tea table stood. Hand-embroidered flowers trimmed the edge of the linen, matching
the elegant bunch of flowers that topped a grey ceramic vase.
Senza enjoyed a small tea in that scene, but I love this post here
Perhaps the next time you’re experiencing a “sinking feeling” you’ll treat yourself to a cup of
Darjeeling and a cinnamon scone and have a happy moment to yourself (or, better yet, with a
friend). There’s no reason to let go of the past when it’s full of sweet traditions like tea time. No
wonder Senza Fyne never surrendered her fondness for the practice, even as the years took
everything else away from her, bit by precious bit.
For more images of tea time and the book THE HEARTBEAT THIEF by AJ Krafton, visit
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