Exclusive Excerpt + Signed Giveaway: The Collectors' Society by Heather Lyons - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

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Exclusive Excerpt + Signed Giveaway: The Collectors’ Society by Heather Lyons

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Coming on October 23rd is the newest novel from Heather Lyons, The Collectors’ Society, a strikingly unique fantastical romantic adventure about Alice and her cherished Wonderland. It’s a riveting story unlike anything you’ve seen before and I’m thrilled to share the first chapter of the book with you today!

Synopsis

the-collectors-society-front-coverFrom the author of the Fate series and The Deep End of the Sea comes a fantastical romantic adventure that has Alice tumbling down the strangest rabbit hole yet.

After years in Wonderland, Alice has returned to England as an adult, desperate to reclaim sanity and control over her life. An enigmatic gentleman with an intriguing job offer too tempting to resist changes her plans for a calm existence, though. Soon, she’s whisked to New York and initiated into the Collectors’ Society, a secret organization whose members confirm that famous stories are anything but straightforward and that what she knows about the world is only a fraction of the truth.

It’s there she discovers villains are afoot—ones who want to shelve the lives of countless beings. Assigned to work with the mysterious and alluring Finn, Alice and the rest of the Collectors’ Society race against a doomsday clock in order to prevent further destruction . . . but will they make it before all their endings are erased?

This is the first book in the Collectors’ Society series.

✦ Pre-order The Collectors’ Society: Amazon | iTunes 

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Excerpt

The Pleasance Asylum

The ceiling above me is a mysterious map of cracks and chipped paint, nearly undecipherable in origins or destinations. Voids unsettle me, though, so night after night, as I stare up at it, tracing the moonbeams that flit in between hills and valleys, I assign them my own designations. There, that bump? It’s Gibraltar. That chunk? The Himalayas. The deep groove near the Southeast corner of the room? The Great Wall of China. The smooth patch nearly dead center is the Pleasance Asylum, which is vastly amusing to me.

I shy away from the splattering of flakes in the Northwest quadrant, though. Those ones, whose ridges grow on nearly a daily basis, are far too easy to decipher. I made the mistake of telling Dr. Featheringstone this during a fit of delirium, and he’s not forgotten it. In fact, he’s asked me about them again, just now, and he’s waiting patiently for my answer.

“They’re flakes of paint,” I tell him. “Created from age and lack of upkeep.”

As he chuckles softly, the thick mustache that hides his lip twitches. “Always the literal one.”

I keep my eyes on his face rather than in the area he’s quizzing me about. It taunts me though, just over his left shoulder. “Why shouldn’t I be? Word games are silly and are best left for children or the elderly who seek to hold onto their wit.” The muscle inside my chest works in overtime as I tell him this. He’s heard my ravings, and knows my struggles.

“And you are no longer a child?”

I lean back in the still, wooden chair, delighting in how its discomfort bites into my bones. “I hardly think a woman of twenty-five is a child, Doctor.”

In direct opposition to his faint yet genuine smile, pudgy fingers stroke his bushy mustache downward. “Many ladies of your standing are long married with family.”

He says many when he means most. I smooth the stubborn wrinkles on my gray skirt. “It’s a little hard to meet prospective suitors in . . .” I glance around the room, eyes careful not to settle too long above his head. “A fine establishment such as yours.”

Neither of us mention where I’d been before here, or what I’d seen and done and experienced.

Another chuckle rumbles out of him. “Too true, dear. But you will not be at the Pleasance much longer. What then?”

My fingers knot tightly together in my lap. “I imagine I will be sent to rusticate at our family’s summer house near the seaside. Perhaps I will find a nice stableboy to court me, and by the ripe age of twenty-six, we will be living out our bliss amongst seashells, ponies, and hay.”

Featheringstone sighs, his face transforming into a look I could sketch from memory; it’s given so often to me when I offer up an answer he doesn’t like. I call it Disappointed Featheringstone.

My eyes drift to the one window in the room. “I am still not positive my release is the wisest course of action.”

“You’ve been here for over half a year,” the doctor says. “Most people in your position would be clamoring to taste freedom.”

A thin smile surfaces. That’s the problem. I’ve had a taste of freedom, true freedom, and I’m loathe to accept anything other than such.

“You are in good health,” he continues. “Your need for confinement is gone. Your nightmares have decreased significantly.” His chair creaks beneath his significant girth as he leans forward. “It is time for you to resume your life, Alice. You cannot do that here at the asylum. You are, as you pointed out, twenty-five years old. You still have many years of experiences ahead of you.”

I have many years of experiences behind me, too.

“Perhaps I ought to become a nurse,” I muse, keeping the edge of my sarcasm soft enough to not wound. “What a story mine would be: patient to nurse, a grand example of life dedicated to the Pleasance.”

“I think nursing school is a grand idea.” His ruddy face alights. “There are several reputable ones in London you could attend.”

It’s my turn to give him a patented look, the one he affectionately calls Unamused Alice.

“Your father has sent word he will come to escort you home at the end of the week.”

Unamused Alice transitions to Curmudgeonly Alice.

Featheringstone stands up, glancing up at my past before shuffling over to pat me on my shoulder. He is a nice man, whose intentions for his wards are sincere. It’s for this I both appreciate and resent him. An old schoolmate of my father’s, he was selected upon my return sorely for this purpose. Too many horror stories about hellish asylums and nefarious doctors rage about England, but my father knew his friend would treat me with kid gloves. While the Pleasance may be physically showing its age, it’s amongst the most sought after when it comes to those in the upper class due to its gentle hand and discreet employees.

Sometimes I wish my father hadn’t been so kind. It might have been easier had he thrown me into one of the hellholes, where I could have gotten lost amongst the insane.

Mandatory strolls are required of all patients at the Pleasance, as Dr. Featheringstone believes, “Fresh air is the tonic to many ails.” At first, I was resistant to such outings, preferring to stay in my snug room with the door closed, but after several tours with the good doctor and a team of nurses and orderlies, I determined he perhaps had a point. There is a nice pond that is home to a family of ducks, a small grove of trees, and a handful of boring, quiet gardens that house no red roses after the good doctor had requested them removed. Worn dirt paths lined with benches connect the Pleasance’s outdoor pleasures, and one can experience everything in as little as a half hour. We patients are never left to our own devices during these Fresh Air Hours, though. Nurses and orderlies mingle amongst the residents, setting up tables for games of checkers, chess, or croquet, although I naturally recuse myself from such frivolity.

Half a year in, and I am still a stranger to most of the folk here. That was by my choice; many of the residents did their best to welcome me into the fold, but I was determined to keep my distance out of early fear of spies.

There is nowhere you could go in which we could not find you, little bird.

“A letter, my lady.”

My head snaps up sharply to find one of the orderlies standing over me, an envelope in his hand. I eye the object warily; outside of my parents, whom I requested not to write to me during my stay, no one else of my acquaintance knows I’m here. “There is no need to be so formal with me. We are at an asylum after all.”

I think his name is Edward, but it could easily be Edwin, too. Or perhaps even Edmund. A mere incline of the head is given, but I highly doubt my bitterly voiced suggestion means anything to him. The staff here is the epitome of propriety.

I don’t want what he has to offer. “Toss it into the fire.”

His smile is patient and kind, one borne of tempered familiarity. “Dr. Featheringstone has already previewed its contents.” The open flap is jiggled. “Would you like me to open it as well?”

I sigh and set my sketch pad on the bench next to me. The ducklings in the distance scatter across the pond, leaving me without subject to capture. “Go ahead and read it aloud.”

A slim piece of paper is extracted. Through the afternoon’s golden sunlight, I can determine less than a quarter of the sheet is filled with thin, spidery calligraphy. “Dear madam,” E reads, modulating his voice so it sounds very dignified, indeed. “It is my great hope that I may come and speak to you tomorrow afternoon about a matter of great importance. Yours sincerely, Abraham Van Brunt.”

“That’s it?” I ask once the paper is refolded.

“Yes, my lady.”

What a curious letter. “I am unacquainted with an Abraham Van Brunt,” I tell the orderly. And then, as I reclaim my sketch pad, “I suppose Dr. Featheringstone has already sent off a missive telling him not to bother coming round.”

Naturally, he does not know whether or not the doctor did just such a thing. “Would you like the letter, my lady?”

I’m already turning back toward the pond. “No. Please burn it.”

The crunch of twigs informs me of his retreat, allowing me to reclaim my solitude. The ducks long gone, I spend my time perfecting the tufts of grass and reeds growing at water’s edge on today’s landscape.

Alice.

I focus harder, my charcoal furiously scraping across the paper until I remember I don’t want to do anything furiously. Not anymore, at least.

Alice.

I close my eyes, focusing on the red and orange kaleidoscopes that dance across my lids.

Alice?

The paper in my hand crumples as easily as my heart. I leave it behind on the bench when I make my way back inside, because I’m positive there was an H etched into it. And to think that Featheringstone is convinced I’m sane.

I haven’t been sane in over six years.

About Heather Lyons

HEATHERHeather Lyons has always had a thing for words—She’s been writing stories since she was a kid. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher. Heather is a rabid music fan, as evidenced by her (mostly) music-centric blog, and she’s married to an even larger music snob. They’re happily raising three kids who are mini music fiends who love to read and be read to.

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