Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Love Me, Love Me Not" by Alyxandra Harvey

Love Me, Love Me Not
by Alyxandra Harvey

Love Me, Love Me Not is currently on tour with Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Dating isn’t easy when you’re in the middle of a blood feud.
Anastasia Vila’s family can turn into swans, but just once she’d like them to turn into responsible adults.
After hundreds of years, they still cling to the blood feud with the Renard family. No one remembers how it started in the first place - but foxes and swans just don’t get along.
Vilas can only transform into their swan shape after they have fallen in love for the first time, but between balancing schoolwork, family obligations, and the escalating blood feud, Ana’s got no time for love. The only thing keeping her sane is her best friend, Pierce Kent.
But when Pierce kisses Ana, everything changes.
Is what Pierce feels for her real, or a byproduct of her magic? Can she risk everything for her best friend? And when the family feud spirals out of control, Ana must stop the fight before it takes away everything she loves.
Including, maybe ... Pierce.
This Entangled Teen Crave book contains language, violence, and lots of kissing. Warning: it might induce strong feelings of undeniable attraction for your best friend.

Chapter One
On the night of the full moon, we danced.
And you’d think with seventeen of us, no one would miss me. You’d be wrong.
It’s not that I don’t like dancing—but every month, every full moon? I mean, I have homework to do.
Not all of us are home-schooled—much to my aunt Aisha’s disgust. I was ducking under the grapevine arbor when she found me. Aisha’s totem shape was the prettiest, and the meanest. Ever taken the tip of a swan wing to the head? It’s not fun. And try explaining why you have a huge bruise on your forehead.
She flapped her wings again, just enough to pull at my long hair. We’re not allowed to cut it. They say there’s power in hair—and you have no idea. I tried once when I was six. I thought Aisha’s head was going to explode. Dad was the one to take the scissors away and I didn’t get them back until I was fifteen.
A feather floated down, brushing my shoulder briefly before it fell into the tall grass. I tucked it into my pocket. “Okay, okay,” I muttered, turning around to take the trail to the hill. The aunts had their own gatherings, but the cousins went as deep as we could into the forest behind Cygnet House.
It was a perfect summer evening, warm enough that I didn’t need the traditional blue Vila family cloak over my white dress. The hem floated and billowed around my knees. When we danced, it was like we were made of dandelion seeds. Who knows? Maybe we are. It’s as good a theory as any. But the truth is our feet blister and our ankles creak and still we dance. Without it we wither, turning first to thorn then to nothing at all. That was why my aunt’s reminders were so violent. Because I knew better. And I wanted my swan wings as much as the others. I just wanted to pass my last year of classes, too.
But, homework or no homework, we gathered every month and moon to sing the old songs and dance.
I crossed the lawn and across the garden of white roses climbing up trellises and down over benches perfect for kissing—or so my cousins kept telling me. I didn’t know because Edward was annoyingly uncooperative, no matter how many times I awkwardly stared at him in school. He was sweet and serious, always wearing black and looking thoughtful. We’d had the same English classes all through high school, but I had yet to say anything remotely intelligent to him. Or anything at all, really. Mostly I just stared while trying not to stare. It was kind of pathetic.
We were supposed to be really good at flirting in my family. Clearly, I was defective. At this rate, I’d never get my feather cloak.
The cousins had started without me. The moon waits for no one. They all wore white dresses too, some short, some long, sleeveless or slinky or sweet. We were as pale as the moon, especially with our identical white-blond hair. Even Mei Lin, and Julia whose father moved here from Mexico; we all have the same light hair, no matter our heritage.
Story threw a bright smile my way. Her shoulders gleamed with sweat, exposed by her glittering white sari. Next to her, her sister Sonnet was fierce and sharp, like an icicle. I was really glad my mother named me something relatively innocuous like Anastasia. Ana is so much better than Story or Sonnet or poor Soliloquy. It wasn’t at all obvious that Aunt Agrippina was obsessed with poetry.
I gave in to the moment, the hard slap of my feet on the ground, the wind sighing through the grass when we sang. It fed us, the wild and the wind. It made us who we were, connected us to the beetles and rabbits and the owls with blood on their beaks. I wasn’t sure how long we’d been bounding and twirling, but it was long enough that the space under my ribs burned. I could have been flying instead of leaping.
Sasha stepped out of the chain and toward the cloak of white feathers on the boulder crowning the hill. She wore so many roses I could barely see her hair. This was her night. She was only fifteen, but she was giving up the blue cloak of childhood. She’d found her swan cloak. She’d fallen in love.
Which also meant she’d had to sew swan feathers onto her old blue cloak until it turned into something else, until it turned her into something else. We gathered those feathers as soon as we were old enough to know what they were. If you fell in love and you had nothing with which to turn your cloak, you were lost. I could see the bloody pinpricks on Sasha’s fingertips, the gooseflesh on her bare arms. Our song crashed at her feet like the tide coming in, full of broken sailors and drowned hearts.
As she flung the cloak over her round shoulders, there was a flash of summer lightning, pink as cotton candy. I could taste it, electricity and sugar. Sasha’s face was peaceful, perfect, until a twinge of panic, of pain, and then she was in the air. Her arms turned to shadow and light and feather. Her neck was long and slender. Story wept, desperate for her own cloak. Sonnet sneered. She’d end up in the woods with the feral aunts. I had no idea where I was going to end up if Edward didn’t notice me soon.
Sasha flapped her powerful wings until tiny downy feathers wafted around us like snow. They clung to our hair, to the roses, to the milkweed pods not quite ready to burst. She flew away to join the aunts. There was a brief whirlwind, pressing us together, stirring the grassy fields like a cauldron. And then Sasha was gone.
But we weren’t alone.
I almost didn’t hear it. It was such a small squeak of surprise, lost in our excited laughter. The lightning forked, leaving its pink cloud. Another squeak. There at the bottom of the hill, lying in the grass.
Two guys.
Sonnet was the first to reach for her bow. The arrows were wrapped with our hair to cause forgetfulness. Sometimes they worked too well and boys forgot everything. And if they weren’t Renard boys, there’d be a new family feud.
And if they were Renards, there would be blood. A lot of it.
Sonnet loosed her arrow, the bowstring singing its own song. I jostled her, breaking her aim. When the arrow thudded into the grass, she shot me a glare that may as well have been a hissing serpent tossed at my head. The others split around her like a river around a rock. The moon followed us, stabbing light between the trees as we ran. How had they found us? Where did they come from? What had they seen? Questions pounded through me in time with my thudding pulse.
If they’d seen Sasha’s transformation, I wouldn’t be able to help them. Even I’d have to shoot them with an arrow. No one knew our family secrets, and we worked hard to keep it that way. Sometimes, we did things I wasn’t entirely proud of.
The boys were fast, fueled by panic and confusion and possibly beer, but one of them kept glancing back and stumbling to a stop. He’d seen enough to be half in love already, entranced and bewildered. Usually it was enough to protect us, even without the arrows. “Dude, don’t stop!” His friend pulled him into a run again with a strangled, disbelieving laugh. The voice was familiar.
I tried to trip Sonnet and she punched me so hard I dropped to my knees. Someone else’s arrow whistled by, nearly taking out her left eye. She snarled. Someone giggled, Rosalita maybe. She was the one who flirted like it was her life’s calling. We had other weapons, after all. Some of the prettiest flowers are poisonous.
I got to my feet in time to see the guys stumble out into the fields. If they hadn’t seen Sasha, we’d just be the story of the girls they saw dancing at midnight. We circled, barely noticeable among the birches. One of them thumped at his chest, gasping. “What the hell, Jackson?”
Jackson wiped the sweat off his face with his arm. “Did you see that?”
“Shit,” I muttered. The voices were familiar because these were Pierce’s younger brothers: Jackson and Eric. Pierce Kent was my best friend and he knew everything about me. His brothers most definitely didn’t. When Pierce first found out about me, Aunt Aisha terrorized him into agreeing to complete silence. Otherwise, he’d have been shot with an arrow and forgotten all about me. I’d cried so hard at the thought that Aunt Aisha had actually relented. Well, she did what passed as relenting for her, anyway. It was enough. I had my best friend and no one would take him from me.
“Abort mission!” I hissed to my cousins. “Hold your fire!” An arrow flew past my head. “Just stop it!”
Rosalita stepped out first, mostly because she was too far away for me to tackle to the ground. Her blond hair curled into ringlets down to her hips. Jackson nearly swallowed his tongue. She spent most of the time luring swans to the lake behind the house. She’d raised a gosling once but it kept biting her.
“Y-You…” Jackson stammered at Rosalita. “I saw—”
“Hello.” She smiled. Sonnet lowered her bow, disgusted. She much preferred shooting boys with arrows to flirting. Rosalita’s weapons were glossy hair and pouty lips, and as often as not, they worked just as well. That pissed Sonnet off even more.
Jackson blinked as though he’d looked into the sun for too long. “I’m Jackson Kent. This is my little brother Eric.”
“Younger brother,” Eric hastened to point out, scowling. “By like eleven months.”
Rosalita reached out to trace the collar of Jackson’s shirt. Even without the whole swan-first-love thing, Rosalita was a menace. I almost felt sorry for him.
“We’re in a dance troupe,” I explained, joining Rosalita before the others could move in. Jackson couldn’t tear his gaze away from her, but I assumed he could still hear. “We were rehearsing.”
Sometimes it worked, if they were too drunk or besotted to wonder about dance troupes who practiced in the middle of the night with the mosquitos. But we lived just outside of Stratford, where they put on Shakespearean plays and built faux Tudor houses for the tourists. Someone was always rehearsing something. And there were swans everywhere. Seriously, every spring, twenty-four swans were piped down to the river with great ceremony by men in kilts, and I was related to at least half of them. The swans, not the pipers. It became another one of our own personal family traditions.
“Ana, hi.” Eric nodded once, finally noticing me. His Adam’s apple twitched when he swallowed. His body was reacting to danger, even if Jackson was too befuddled to notice.
Then Pierce came through the trees, swearing. “Jesus, you two. What the hell do you think— Oh.” He saw me and stopped. “Ana. Shit.”
Rosalita sneered before vanishing into the undergrowth, Jackson moving to follow her. An arrow slammed next to his foot. “Don’t,” I advised him. The next one would go through his heart. It wouldn’t actually kill him, but it might feel like it had.
“But she’s so beautiful.”
“And clearly not interested, asshat,” Pierce said.
Jackson blinked at me. “You’re kinda pretty too, Ana.”
“Gee, thanks,” I said drily. I sang a verse of an old song, just enough to have them blink at me, confused. Pierce and I exchanged a commiserating glance.
“Wait in the truck, idiots,” he said. He watched their retreating backs and flailing limbs. “It’s like watching ostriches run.”
“You’d better make sure they don’t come back tomorrow night,” I said. “Or one of my cousins really will shoot him.” He grinned at me. I frowned. “What?”
“I’ve never seen you in a dress. It’s so…girly.”
I shoved him. “Shut up, Kent.” He just laughed.
I grabbed the back of Jackson’s jacket and propelled him toward the truck. Eric scrambled after him. “Both of you shut up and get in.”
“Wait until Nana hears about this.”
“Don’t even think about it.” I glared at him, mustering every ounce of older-brother-intimidation I had; memories of Nana hanging him upside down, throwing him into lakes, and forcing him to clean out the barn with a hangover. That would come in the morning. I’d make sure he had barn chores before the sun rose. “Leave it alone. You know how she is.”
“Crazy.” Eric snorted. I glanced at him through the rearview mirror. He shrugged. “Well, she is.”
I didn’t say anything, mostly because he wasn’t wrong. I drove away with a lurch of spit gravel, searching the trees for a glimpse of a white dress all the way home.
The storm winds cleared up by the time we reached the cabin. Either the alcohol or the blood had finally gotten to Jackson, who lurched into the bushes to be sick. Eric just ducked his head down and hurried inside, the screen door slamming behind him. The blue light of the television flickered from the living room window onto the lawn. Nana would be asleep in her chair, beer on the table and rifle by the door. The iron wind chimes she made and hung in the trees clinked like dinner knives.
I texted Ana at three in the morning, because if I had to suffer, so did she.
Jackson is singing an 80s love ballad about Rosalita. Save me.
She replied instantly. Rock on, dude. Maybe he’ll grow a mullet.
If he starts with the air guitar, I’m moving in with you.
You wouldn’t like it. We mostly sing bloody sea shanties and ballads about dead lovers.
You’re a ray of sunshine, Vilaas always.
Go to sleep.
But I knew I wouldn’t sleep tonight. Instead, I sat on the wooden step and stared up at the stars for a long time, trying to forget the way Ana’s soft simple song had tightened around me like a rope.
She had no idea what she did to me.

Praise for the Book
"I loved this book. The characters. The premise. It’s so refreshing to get a story with a different kind of take on the shifter genre. Now don’t get me wrong … I love typical werewolf type read but there is something so magical (excuse the pun) about a swan shifter. Swans are such beautiful creatures that I couldn’t fathom them as anything but the majestic bird that they have always seemed to be for me. So to be thrust into this world were girls shift into swans and happen to be some fierce kick ass swan girls, was totally refreshing and enthralling." ~ Tipsy-Ink
"I loved this newest Alyxandra Harvey book! It was very much the style of her other creative books. The book was a mashup of Romeo and Juliet with The Swan Princess. The romance was so sweet throughout the plot. I loved the richly imagined setting of this story." ~ Andrea Heltsley
"The swan magic is intriguing, there's a lot of action and the romance is cute. All in all I think this is a good read. I like Alyxandra Harvey's ideas and the world she's created very much." ~ Suze Lavender
"The concept is fantastic. It’s a play on Romeo and Juliet with a fairytale twist and tons of swoons." ~ YA Book Madness Blog
"I thought that this story was very unique in the way that Alyxandra Harvey used names for the characters and referenced it to Mythology and included some of Shakespeare type blood feuds. Very interesting in the way that she does this. I thought that it made for a very interesting read and I am glad that I picked this one up." ~ Melanie Hutchinson

Guest Post by the Author
My Inspiration Behind this Book
I have written about vampires, fae, ghosts, werewolves, and witches. I love writing paranormal stories and I was itching for something different - something magical I hadn’t yet explored.
I went through an encyclopedia of magical creatures searching for inspiration (inspiration isn’t mail-order - sometimes you have to hunt!) and swan maidens jumped out at me.
I could see Ana and her family, and the quirky rituals required by their magic, and mostly, I could hear Ana’s wry opinion about it all. I also wanted to explore the way magic might make love even more complicated.
In the old stories, swan maidens turn into swans and often have power over the weather and healing. In Love Me, Love Me Not, Ana has to fall in love before she turns into a swan. Without love, she cannot get her feather cloak - and without her feather cloak, she might go a little bit insane.
The Renard family of foxes was my own addition - to me, foxes just feel old-world and folkory. And since they are a swan’s natural predator (there are surprisingly few), it worked as a magical feud.
And I wanted them to live in Stratford, Ontario, because sometimes I want to live there too. And every spring Stratford processes the swans to the river with great ceremony, including bagpipes. I like the idea of Ana’s aunt letting themselves be paraded around.
Also, something about Shakespeare and foxes and swans just works for me.
I definitely agree with Elizabeth Gilbert who says "creativity is a scavenger hunt". I made a puzzle of pieces I loved and when I put them together, Love Me, Love Me Not was born.

About the Author
Alyxandra Harvey lives in a stone Victorian house in Ontario, Canada with a few resident ghosts who are allowed to stay as long as they keep company manners. She loves medieval dresses, used to be able to recite all of "The Lady of Shalott" by Tennyson, and has been accused, more than once, of being born in the wrong century. She believes this to be mostly true except for the fact that she really likes running water, women’s rights, and ice cream. Aside from the ghosts, she also lives with her husband and their dogs. She likes cinnamon lattes, tattoos and books.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win $200 Amazon gift card and a feather pendant necklace inspired by the one worn by Ana in Love Me, Love Me Not (US only).