"Death of the Mad Hatter" by Sarah J. Pepper

NEW RELEASE and REVIEW
Death of the Mad Hatter
by Sarah J. Pepper
Death of the Mad Hatter by Sarah J. Pepper has just been released. You can read my review below. You can also join the Facebook online release party for your chance to win some great prizes.

Description
If the king loses his head, then the Queen with a Bleeding Heart would rule the Red Court until Time ceased to move forward. When a second carried on for infinity, every creature in Wonderland would tip their Hat to the misfit girl with a Boy’s name (or was it a boy with a Girl’s name?) who’d end the Reign of Terror. However, it all hinged on the One-Eyed Hare being able to convince an uninspirable Heir that the impossible was indeed possible – like stopping time – and that Love was worth a Beheading.
Heads would Roll…
Hearts would Break…
In the end, would it matter who Reigned?
Excerpt
The Queen of Hearts kissed the King one last time before the Joker ripped the King’s head from her hands and tossed it alongside the rest of his body. The queen’s personal guards picked up the pieces and clumsily carried the dead king out of sight.
No one spoke. Only the sound of a ticking clock interrupted the stunned silence of the night. Standing next to the pool of blood, the queen let a love-letter the king had written slip through her fingers. It made no noise as it cascaded to the floor.
Appearing out of thin air, a Cheshire kitten, affectionately named Chez, who was distinguished by his white and blue stripes, playfully pawed at the letter. Extending his claws, he shredded it. The queen did nothing. When the Joker bent over and reached for the remaining pieces of the letter, the kitten bit him, drawing blood. Chez’s hair stood on end as he guarded the letter.
“If you want to play dirty, may I suggest a play date, Chez?” the Joker asked, inspecting the bite mark. His voice was as innocent as a child, but the look in his beady eyes was that of a psychopath’s. “I have all sorts of modified toys collecting dust in the dungeon.”
“Don’t antagonize the Joker, Chez. He is a bit of a schizoid,” Hearts said, picking up the kitten. She stared at the pieces of the love-letter for so long that her eye twitched. “Burn it so that no one finds out that the king loved a seamstress.”
The Joker picked up the pieces and fisted them. The recipient of the letter showed through his fingers. Dearest Genevine — He held his hand up to his mouth and blew. Pieces of the letter flew into the air and burst into flames. They flickered and fell to the floor in a pile of ash.
“I’m required to scold you for leaving your sharp toys scattered all over, Joker. It’s a pity the king had to pay for your untidiness,” Hearts said, glancing at the guillotine that was drenched in the king’s blood.
“Then I shall only take out my biggest toys when you order me to do so… again,” the Joker said and winked. “Since this is a hush-hush operation, I assume you don’t want me to kill the seamstress? Oh! Or perhaps she could have a misfortunate accident as well?”
“No, that would be far too coincidental,” the queen said, as a matter-of-fact. “Keep her alive. Isn’t it fitting that she must live, knowing her lover is dead? Oh, and see to it that she never leaves Wonderland. Everything considered, she is still the most talented seamstress in the court, and I’ll need someone sew me a black dress to wear at King Edward’s funeral.”
***
The Jack prophesied: If the king loses his head, then the Queen with a Bleeding Heart would rule the Red Court until Time ceased to move forward. When a second carried on for infinity, every creature in Wonderland would tip their Hat to the misfit girl with a Boy’s name (or was it a boy with a Girl’s name?) who’d end the Reign of Terror. However, it all hinged on the One-Eyed Hare being able to convince an uninspirable Heir that the impossible was indeed possible—like stopping time—and that Love was worth a Beheading.
Heads would Roll…
Hearts would Break…
In the end, would it matter who Reigned?
“Reign of Terror—everyone acts like it’s a bad thing,” the Queen of Hearts said, reading the script that Jack, the prophesier, had scribbled on an ingredients page of a violet book entitled, Sweets for the Rabbit Hole Voyager. The Mad Hatter’s crest, M.H. and a top hat, was printed on the top of every odd number page inside the book.
Hearts tore the last stanza from the Bleeding Hearts Prophecy, crumpled it into a ball, and smashed it between the pages of The Lazy Killer’s Poisons, another of the Mad Hatter’s works.
What a silly notion—dying for love. Ugh! (Cue eye-roll)
However, the faux love of her life did “misplace” his head, and he was king, until today. These two happenstances made Hearts believe that the Bleeding Heart Prophecy was about her and that her head would roll. And furthermore, it always mattered who reigned!
She pushed both of the Mad Hatter’s editions back onto the shelf, but made sure the one about poison was flipped upside-down, just to see if any of her feline servants would notice the disarray of her library. With her hands behind her back, Hearts stepped down from her golden step stool and paced around the library, which was filled with more books than anyone could read in a single lifetime.
“I have no heirs,” Hearts said, thinking out loud. “But Robby will make a fuss about sitting on the throne if I don’t act in haste. I’ve never been fond of hares. Hence, it would behoove me to damage the reputation of all the rabbits in my court, just in case this Bleeding Hearts Prophecy holds some weight.”
Wandering aimlessly around her library, she spotted a speck of dust on the third shelf. She walked over to the fainting couch and rang a silver-plated bell. Quickly, a glaring of cats raced through the door. They stood at attention on a glittering line that Hearts drew years prior, when she still loved the king.
But, that was a long time ago.
All of the cats toed the line, except for the little Cheshire kitten, Chez. His butt was high in the air as it got ready to pounce on a hopping bug near the king’s personal chambers.
“It’s filthy in here,” Hearts said as she walked past each cat, giving them a look of severe disapproval. She stopped in front of a black cat whose tail fluttered whenever she passed. “You have forty eight seconds to remove the dust I located in this room, or you’ll spend a week in solitary confinement with the Joker.”
In a panic, the cats raced around the polished library, frantic to locate the speck of dust that the queen spotted. The smaller cats flipped onto their backs and let the bigger cats use their furry bodies as dust rags. In the meantime, the queen collapsed onto a golden couch. The Cheshire kitten, who missed the formation on the glitter line, pounced on the cushion beside her. A feisty grasshopper wiggled in his mouth.
“What did you bring me, Chez?”
Chez dropped the grasshopper on the queen’s lap. The bug wore a tiny dress coat with the King’s initials and a torn heart on them: E.E. The bug wheezed, which made the kitty’s incisive purr grow louder.
Chez pawed at the grasshopper and said, “I found this creepy-crawly snooping around in rooms where it didn’t belong, like the king’s chamber.”
“Spare me from this vile kitten, my Queen! I did nothing wrong,” the grasshopper begged. He held up a miniature violin and a mangled rod. “I was only near the king’s chambers tonight because he enjoys my music before resting. I barely cracked his bedroom door when this feline attacked me! The king would never allow such behavior; so unbecoming!”
Hearts petted Chez behind his ears and talked in a baby voice when addressing the grasshopper. “Haven’t you heard? The king had a terrible misfortune earlier this evening.”
Every single cat in the library skidded to a halt. Their eyes glowed in the darkness of the night. The grasshopper swallowed noticeably hard.
“The Joker’s guillotine broke his fall,” Chez said.
“Accidental beheading,” the queen recited. “I was beside myself with horror as it happened. I’ve already spoken to the Joker about leaving his toys around. It shall never happen again.”
“Eddie, the King of Hearts, is not clumsy,” the grasshopper said and cleared his throat. He glanced at the other cats. One shook his head ‘no’ like it was a plea for the bug not to disagree with the queen, but the grasshopper didn’t listen. “Eddie would never have accidentally tripped on the weapon.”
“Are you calling me a liar, grasshopper?” Hearts spat.
“I’m saying that Eddie was not clumsy,” the grasshopper said, nervously.
Hearts’ cheeks were beat red. She was panicking.
“Edward, not Eddie,” Chez corrected, “tripped over me and fell onto the Joker’s big boy toy.”
“That’s right!” the queen said, giving Chez a quick pat on his head.
“That’s not what I saw when I was on my way to play for the king,” the grasshopper said and then slapped his hand over his mouth.
“Did you see something to contradict my claim?” Hearts lowered her face so that she and the grasshopper were eye-level.
The grasshopper shook his head. The more visibly his legs trembled, the wider the queen’s smile grew.
“Leave us, my glaring,” Hearts demanded. “The grasshopper and I have much to discuss regarding this unfortunate accident.”
The cats scampered out of the library, leaving Chez behind. The grasshopper’s eyes darted to the exit when the last cat locked the door behind it.
“Well, the King might have tripped over an unsuspecting kitten right before the Joker lost his grip on the guillotine rope, but Edward took the risk of death when he broke my heart!” The queen blinked away a nonexistent tear. “Edward wanted to leave me and our so-called loveless marriage, for a seamstress! Leave me? For a seamstress? Can you imagine my humiliation?”
The grasshopper took off hopping toward a window that overlooked the room belonging Edward’s brother.“Robby! Robby! Help me!”
“Sic him, Chez!” the queen ordered.
Chez disappeared, only to reappear on the windowsill. The kitten flicked out his claws. He slashed the red drape, allowing the moon’s light to shine through. It glistened on Chez’s claws. After jumping off the windowsill, Chez circled the injured grasshopper. When he came to face with the grasshopper, he got down on all fours. His butt went up in the air as he fixated on the grasshopper with blood thirsty eyes.
The grasshopper gulped and with his last breath, he shouted, “Hearts killed him, Robby! She pushed him over Chez so he’d land on the guillotine! Long live the rightful king, Robby Edg—!”
Book Trailer
Review
The Queen of Hearts beheads her husband, King Edward, after finding out he has been having an affair with the Seamstress. Because of the Jack’s prophesy, the Queen is now on the lookout for a boy with a girl’s name (Ryley) or a girl with a boy’s name (Alice, also known as Al) who will bring about the end of her reign. Alternately told from Ryley’s and Alice’s points-of-view in the present and through Alice’s past visits to Wonderland, we slowly piece the story together. It’s a puzzle worth solving.
Even though it’s inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this is a highly original story, full of dark humor, nonsense, quirky characters, and riddles. It is a fine tribute to Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The main character is even named after Lewis Carroll’s inspiration for his Alice, Alice Mae Liddell. There are a few minor editing errors but, overall, the author’s writing style makes this book a pleasure to read. I loved the dynamic between Ryley (a normal high school student) and the eccentric Alice, and I especially liked the description of Ryley’s and Alice’s first kiss. This is definitely an author to watch.
From the Author
I specialize in dark, paranormal romance – think “happy ever after” but with a twisted, dark chocolate center. Real-life romance isn’t only filled with hugs, kisses, unicorns, and rainbows. True-love can be more thoroughly described in times of darkness and tribulation. It’s in those harsh moments where you see what a person is truly capable of – both the good and bad. Sometimes prince-charming isn’t always on time, and the glass slipper is a little snug. However, it doesn’t mean Charming is not Mr. Right, and who says every shoe is the perfect fit?
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