My name is Shula. Today is my wedding day. Today is the day I die.
What would you do if you were betrothed to a monster? Could you be tied to a man whose most terrible secrets are buried with the dead?
What if you were given a way out? Would you take it? Even if it meant you would never truly be free?
A Consummation pulls you into a patriarchal society of secessionist Texas. It's far too real to be merely dystopian or futuristic. It is hopeless from the first sentence, but even though the outcome is bleak, we want to be a witness to Shula Kelley's last day.
We find that it is not her last day, but a first of many. We follow her and the desperate lust she feels for her husband Jared, despite archaic gender roles.
Not To Be gives us first person narratives of the mother and father of the current Agnesson clan. It's a captivating exploration of unapologetic psychopathy as you see James through the lens of his young bride.
Devoutly takes us across Texas, the States, and Mexico. The lives that James Agnesson has touched wait quietly on the sidelines while he distracts himself with judging the sins of others and the wives of his youngest sons.
Shula and Jared still explore desires that contradict their conditioning, while Jude convinces himself that gender is irrelevant when he beds his new wife, Clara.
In To Be Wished, Jared battles his own demons with tragic results. Jude gives his father an ultimatum, and we meet a new brother who has traveled to the States to spread the Good News.
This introduction into the Sins of Lethe world is both seductive and distressing, and will leave you breathless.
I am not afraid of death. Because my mother taught me there are far worse things. But with Jared by my side, I'm ready to live.
EXCERPTShe was newly eighteen, but she still felt so much like a child. Far too young for what was expected of her. Her naked body, covered in constellations of freckles, goose fleshed and covered in the dark remnants of her copious locks, memories of braids and pigtails and innocence. It felt wrong to curl and primp for a man older than her own father, no matter how many might have coveted the position. Though decorating herself for the day's final end did seem to amuse her, she wanted his disappointment of her to be profound, not just in their marriage bed, but as soon as he lifted her veil. So, she had brought out the scissors. She wasn't a girl any longer, and her hair had no purpose as it had served her beauty with ultimate betrayal.
She couldn't abide traitors.
She watched detached, as she brushed the thick dead clumps that covered her breasts and skimmed her belly, and clung to the hair on her pubis. She brushed it away absently at first, but she found her senses heightened by her nudity and the stimulation of her falling hair. She slid her fingers against her clitoris, smiling at the rush of arousal, and realized that she would miss this. Sexual thoughts were taboo, and unless you had the express consent of your husband, self-gratification was punishable by a life married to Christ, sequestered with the rest of the girls who would never be accused of keeping their hands to themselves.
Naturally, Shula was quite adept with masturbation once she'd discovered her clitoris, and once she'd heard about the sacrament of virginity, she'd tried out every vegetable from the garden. She'd tried candlesticks, her fingers, and even the hilt of a very large kitchen knife, though the horsewhip was her favorite.
She would miss it all. James Agnesson ruined everything.
Earlier in the week, when James had come calling, and he had sampled the food she had prepared for him, she would have poisoned him had she known. As it was, her hatred grew for him, rather than their situation, and her plans for their wedding and honeymoon became quite morbid. She found that her future groom's frustration wouldn't be nearly enough, nor her lack of hymen. He would not have the gift of her purity, nor the proof of it, nor would any man now, because even imagining his realization as he's rutting inside her didn't bring her pleasure as it had when she imagined it was his son, Jared. She didn't want to just ruin his day. She wanted to ruin him. For Jared, his confusion would have been satisfactory enough, but for his father…death was preferable than having him touch her.
The day had come, and a more wretched ending was born. She would not have the honor of seeing his face when he gazed upon her in their marriage bed, but like all charity, it's best not to be selfish in your giving. She would strive for humbleness, because martyrdom wasn't effective without a captive audience.
Her mother had probably taught her a great many things, the domesticities of their gender not withstanding, and she'd taken almost all of it for granted. The one thing that she'd always remember though, was the most profane: Sometimes suicide and the Seventh Circle of Hell were a far desired fate if the alternative was life and all the Circles combined.
Today was that day. Her wedding day. Tonight, she would excuse herself early, and he would surely allow it. Women, for she was a woman now, needed time to prepare for bed. To ready themselves for their husbands and their pleasure.
She would pull down the coverlet, open the cigarette case, and fashion a distorted crucifix with her mother's ashes and the water from the traditional roses she was sure to be beside the bed. She would lie down in the center of bed, pull the razor from the cigarette case and slit both wrists quickly and efficiently. She would spread her arms wide.
It was pure drama, but if one gets to choose their passing, make it memorable.
Make a fucking point.
Her only regret was that she was sure her father wouldn't see. James was sure to cover it up somehow, the drama of it, even though he'd have no scruples relaying the slit wrists.
Her father would probably never see her bled out on her mother's ashes and she hated that. She hated her father even more than James Agnesson. She knew it was wrong, but she was prepared for Hell, so all unspoken sins were at the forefront of her mind.
As it was, since she was choosing, she'd rather have the chance of spending an eternity in Hell with her mother than with the likes of James, no matter how horrible.
She wasn't sure she believed in Hell of the after death variety anyway, but her mother spared two years for her. Shula would never forget the fight, nor the sound of the gun. Worse yet, she would never forget the sound of her mother hitting the floor, nor of her father's silence.
And his continued silence.
She hated him.
He was going to give her away to that monster and her mother's death had been in vain. She would have certainly stayed had she imagined this outcome.
Shula had been betrothed to Jared Agnesson since the day she was born and they were to be wed the day after she turned sixteen. She wasn't much happy about it, but all the girls got married at that age, and Jared seemed nice enough. He was painfully shy, quiet, and probably handsome, if one considered a boy handsome. He'd not quite caught up with his brothers in stature and Shula wasn't afraid of him like she was of other newly-made men.
James had told her that Jared had disappeared into the woods after he took the death of Anna, James' late wife, quite hard, and he had shown no signs of returning and fulfilling his contract, so he had deigned to fulfill it himself.
She wanted to be angry at Jared, but found that she didn't care. He hadn't owed her a thing. She could not fault him for escaping when he could. At least he had that option.
Her mother had not wanted it. Shula didn't quite understand as it was normal for girls to marry, and she couldn't imagine Jared had offended her mother since he was so silent and awkwardly polite.
The morning of her mother's death, every muttered curse spoke of Jared's father, and she didn't know what that had to do with Jared himself. Shula belatedly realized that her mother hadn't wanted her involved with the Agnesson family at all, but she was never brave enough to ask her father why. They'd barely spoken these last two years, and she didn't know what her mother saw in him, unless she didn't have a choice.
Of course she didn't have a choice.
But, it must have been something terrible for her to take her own life to prevent a marriage to a harmless boy.
She took comfort that she wouldn't bleed out on her own bed, her grandmother's old bed, because she would be moving into James Agnesson's house, but thankfully she wouldn't be required to be mother to men who were older than her. Surely, he could see the wrongness of it.
A wrongness she wouldn't tolerate. Shula was pleased she could still feel relief.
Her betrothal to Jared had still been under contract, but the death of a mother, by Law, would postpone any such commitments until she reached majority. Her contract was amended, and signed by both her father and James one day before her eighteenth birthday, replacing the son with the father. If she would have known at dinner before, none would have left the table alive.
That was three days ago, and Shula can't imagine why it isn't a scandal. She was appalled when he had married Anna, as they had been close in age and grew up in church together. Shula would be his third. The mother of the five boys: Jacob, Jonah, Josiah, Jared, and Jude, had died during childbirth, and James Agnesson had married Anna, newly sixteen, and she died last year of an apparent suicide. Anna had been the same age as Jude.
The rumor was that Jude had found her in her bed, and that was all Shula had heard about it.
Shula could guess, but that made her feel smug, and she wondered if that even scratched the surface of what her mother might've known. Her mother knew something, and her father knew it too, but curious as she was, she'd rather die than know, unless she could find out today.
Two suicides in two years, especially after his last wife's sudden death, should bring about a much more intense scrutiny. There was a reason her mother hadn't wanted her in his house, and it had been worth her life. Shula had not forgotten that.
She was relieved in a way. She was lonely, but trusted no one, and it was a scary existence.
She watched herself in the mirror as she touched herself expertly. She always had philosophical thoughts on sin. She liked to list them in her head from ones she deemed not so bad to the worst ones, like cruelty and complacency. She didn't understand how this God-given pleasure was only a means to tempt and trap.
As a woman, she wasn't allowed to read The Bible. Only the men were allowed, and it was up to them to explain their sinful natures to them. Sometimes Shula would sneak a few paragraphs when she cleaned her father's room, if he had it out of the locked trunk. It was paragraphs and paragraphs of confusion, and she would turn the pages quickly, looking for the list of sins that would seem an obvious addition. She never found them.
She would write them down, but she hoped that her corpse would display his deepest sins and eat at James Agnesson the way God's disappointment was supposed to.
After Shula brought herself off, she took a few deep breaths and grabbed the broom behind the door. She swept up the remnants of her youth and the death of it, and when she was finished, she looked toward the dress hanging on the hook on the door.
Her mother's beautiful, meaningless frock, yellowed with age, and smelling of decay and mothballs. The lace was matted with cobwebs and even blotting it with a washcloth thickened the strands.
She fished out her father's scissors and snipped the lace from the bodice, eyeing the netting of the veil briefly, knowing it would cover her thoroughly, until it was lifted.
The lace lifted easily and she dropped it carelessly into the trash. She pulled the dress over her head, slipping it onto her naked body, mindful of her mother's ashes. It was a little too snug, but she knew it would give just a little as the day went on.
She stepped up to the mirror and she still looked terribly young. Even with her neutered hair, and her darkened eyes, and low bodice, she still looked much too young.
It was a tragedy.
The only thing that kept her tears at bay was that this was what James Agnesson would see when he lifted her veil.
He would see who he'd chosen to be his wife.
Shula affixed the veil to her head and covered her face and chest. She grabbed her purse and suitcase, and walked it to the front door where her father was waiting. He opened the door without a word, and led them to the car. The veil was sheer enough for her to see images, and the haze of black from the ashes made the sky look like rain.
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Arden Aoide lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband, two daughters, and three cats. Turn ons include men who cry during sex, long walks on the beach, and talking about herself in the third person. Turn offs include mean people and trying to figure out how to write an interesting author bio.
She doesn't write about the typical men you normally read about in erotic romance novels. She likes her men brainy and just this side of manic.
She's an introvert, she loves coffee, Internet, British television, and pot stickers. And pie. She loves pie.