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We’ve just returned from an epic weekend of graduation festivities as Teddy’s Notre Dame adventure has come to a close.  Four years flew by, as they are wont to do when you have kids, and it won’t be long before I’ll be writing a melancholy post about having a child leave the nest for good to start adult life very far away.

But I won’t go there today! This weekend was fun and I didn’t feel melancholy, or too stressed, or anxious, or any other way I expected to feel.  And I took lots of pictures!

We (and by “we” I mean me, John, Emily, William, and Lorelei) left Knoxville Thursday night and drove about halfway, stopping in Florence, Kentucky just outside Cincinnati.  This enabled us to get a (relatively) early start the next morning and make it to Notre Dame by around three, because Teddy had plans for John and me.

We left the “little people” (which is surely a ridiculous thing to call them at this point) with Emily, who took them out to eat at a conveniently located (actually in the parking lot of the hotel!) Asian restaurant and then to the hotel pool, and headed for campus, where one of Teddy’s favorite political science professors had invited him and other students to attend a Mass and reception.  This event was really for kids who were in a program that Teddy was not a part of, but it was lovely to start off the weekend with Mass in one of Notre Dame’s many beautiful residence hall chapels and then to meet some of his professors.

We didn’t get to stay long, though, because we had another event to attend.  This one was a party hosted by Scott Malpass, Notre Dame’s CIO, for students in a program he sponsors at the university.  These students were allowed to invite some of their friends, which was how we ended up at this utterly amazing party held downtown at Cafe Navarre.

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Alcohol of all kinds flowed freely, along with canapes, caviar, a raw bar, a full buffet dinner . . . y’all, it was insane.  Many people were having a VERY good time, and I enjoyed the people-watching and the music as well as the food.

Predictably, John and I tired of this before Teddy did, so we left him there and went back to the hotel, to get some sleep before the next full day of activities.

The next morning we were all invited to brunch at someone’s lake house, but I bowed out of that and Teddy took John, Jake, and Jessica (that’s Jake’s girlfriend–they had arrived late the night before and were crashing with Teddy at the house where he lived off campus with several friends).  The rest of us drove over to campus because Lorelei and William had never seen the place and I wanted to show them a couple of things.

We started at the Grotto, then walked up to the Basilica, made sure we saw the Golden Dome, and stopped by Teddy’s residence hall, Saint Edward’s (called Steds by the boys, and the oldest one on campus).  Then we took a short walk by one of the lakes.  Notre Dame’s campus is huge, so if you are ever up that way and have limited time to spend, those are the sights I recommend you see.  Of course, I took some pictures:

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Then it was back to the hotel to change clothes and meet up with the rest of our people and time for the serious stuff to begin.

First up was the Political Science Senior Recognition Ceremony.  Teddy is a Business School grad, but he double-majored in Finance and Poli Sci.  We enjoyed this relatively short and low-key ceremony, where we were encouraged to clap and walk down as close as we could get to take pictures.

From here we walked straight across the parking lot to the Joyce Center, where so many of the events that have made up our Notre Dame experiences have taken place.  We were attending the Baccalaureate Mass in the Purcell Pavilion, and we wanted to get there early enough to find a seat and avoid being placed in the overflow room.

We sat very high in the arena and had an hour to wait for Mass to begin. (There was a LOT of sitting and a LOT of waiting over this weekend, y’all!)  There was music to make it more bearable–throughout the weekend the musicians were amazing and added so much to the experience.

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There’s something special about attending Mass with thousands of other people.  And, as always, we ended by singing the Alma Mater.  I’ve said this before, but anyone you’ve ever heard complaining about Notre Dame’s lack of Catholic identity can’t have ever been there.

Next we attended a much-anticipated event:  a catered dinner in the vacant lot across from the row of house where Teddy and 15 of his friends spent their Senior year.  This event was planned by one of the mothers and many other families pitched in to help with the arrangements.  I’ve met some of the mothers before, and it was great to get to see them again.

All the family joined us for this celebration, as well as my friend Mary Jo, who was in town visiting family.  It was certainly a highlight of the weekend to catch up with her, and she came back to the hotel with us when the kids grew weary and wanted to leave (we left John and Jake and Jessica there with Teddy and they continued to have a great time!).

The threat of bad weather hung over the entire weekend, and it was raining pretty hard when we left the party (thankfully we had sprung for tents!).  The administration decided to delay the start time of the commencement ceremony the next morning, for which we were very grateful!

Because of tight security, we needed to arrive around 8 a.m. and wait in a VERY long line (it moved pretty quickly, though).  There were many items we were not allowed to bring inside, including umbrellas–but rain ponchos were provided! (It sprinkled at one point for maybe five minutes.)  Once inside and seated we had a long wait ahead but it wasn’t so bad as there was music and several screens with pictures of the graduates lining up outside the stadium.

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As is customary, the ceremony began with the academic procession, which took awhile as there were 2,081 graduates plus the faculty who had to get to their seats.  Here is a picture showing the Business School candidates starting to come in.

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The ceremony followed the usual predictable format for such events.  If you’ve ever been to one you don’t need a description.  I came expecting to be bored, to be honest.  But I was wrong–very wrong–and this turned out to be a highlight of the weekend for all of us.

It started with the introduction of Vice-President Pence, who was the Commencement speaker.  Around 100 kids stood up and quietly left the stadium as part of a previously planned protest.  This wasn’t a surprise to many people, including the administration, who had already indicated there would be no repercussions for those who chose to participate, but it was a surprise to me!

Before you ask, no, Teddy did not walk out.  And while I don’t have any issue with peaceful protests, I have a feeling Mr. Pence (who graciously took no notice of the protest and gave a largely unobjectionable, if unremarkable, speech) was more impacted by the other two speeches we heard than by the walkout.

The valedictory address was amazing.  What kind of bravery must it take for a 22-year-old to stand on the same stage with the man who may well be President one day and say, “Our generation must stand against the scapegoating of Muslims. Our concern for freedom of religion must mean freedom for all religions, not just our own, otherwise none of us is free. . . . If we are going to build walls between American students and international students, then I am skewered on the fence . . . Our mission calls us to act on behalf of justice. It is precisely in response to the suffering of Syrian refugees, fleeing war, that the arms of Jesus outstretched on God Quad call for a courageous response.”

And then there were the words of Laetare medal winner Father Greg Boyle (who is a Jesuit so I already had a soft spot in my heart for him): “You go from here to dismantle the barriers that exclude.  And there’s only one way to do that: and that is to go where the joy is, which is at the margins, for if you stand at the margins, that’s the only way they’ll get erased, and you stand with the poor, and the powerless and the voiceless. You stand with those whose dignity has been denied, and you stand with those whose burdens are more than they can bear, and you will go from here and have this exquisite privilege once in a while to be able to stand with the easily despised and the readily left out, with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop, and with the disposable, so the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”

We all felt blessed to have had the opportunity to hear such wisdom, and that’s what I am still thinking about days later.

One unfortunate consequence of the rain delay is that there was no time for lunch before the next and thankfully last event:  the Mendoza College of Business Diploma Ceremony, otherwise known as the ceremony that wouldn’t end.

Y’all, this is the one where they call out the names.  I don’t know how many names there were but it was a lot.  We were there for an hour waiting for it to begin on extremely uncomfortable bleachers, and then I think it was at least 2.5 hours before Teddy’s name was called and there were about an hour’s worth left to go.

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I felt rude but I couldn’t stand it.  I took Lorelei and William out and went to the student center and got them snacks and drinks.  Then I went back inside to watch Teddy walk out and then thank God in Heaven it was over and time to take pictures!

Teddy (and I) would have appreciated a more scenic background but we were pressed for time and there were members of our party for whom walking long distances is an issue.  Jake was like, “Here’s a nice tree.  Stand in front of it,” and we got the whole thing done in maybe five minutes.

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And now, AT LAST, it was dinner time!

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Y’all have heard of Studebakers, right?  My Uncle Charlie had one MANY years ago, as I recall.  Well, they were once manufactured in South Bend, and the guy who founded the company lived in this 40 room mansion.

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Only now it’s a restaurant–Tippecanoe Place–and I hope y’all will indulge me because I just couldn’t stop taking pictures:

I didn’t get any interior pictures except for the group shot below because it just seemed kind of awkward but it was as beautiful as you might imagine–grand staircases, marble fireplaces, fancy woodwork everywhere.  And the food largely lived up to the surroundings, as did the service.  It was the perfect special spot to end our celebration.

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Teddy (who I should tell you goes by Theo everywhere other than with family and old friends) graduated summa cum laude.  He received the Raymond P. Kent award for outstanding work in Finance courses.  He’s had a job lined up for months and will be heading to San Francisco in July to start work as an investment banking analyst.  As this chapter closes, a new adventure is just beginning for him.

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Our Notre Dame adventure is about to come to a close.  The day this is published, we will be in South Bend for Teddy’s graduation, and I’m sure there will be stories and adventures to share!

But before that, let’s go back to last February, to Junior Parents’ Weekend, which for some reason I did not write up at the time.

Many colleges have special weekends each year for families.  Spring Hill did, and I attended four Family Weekends, bringing along various family members each time.   Because Emily did not have a car and we had to pick her up for every vacation, our visits to Mobile were quite frequent, and we grew very familiar with and fond of the city.

Our Notre Dame experience has been different.  In contrast to the over 20 times one or the other of both of us drove back and forth to Mobile, we’ve been to Notre Dame maybe six times.

So JPW was a big deal.  It started off rockily, as we were a little late to the big dinner gathering Teddy’s friends and their families–three tables full of them, with Italian food served family style.

JPW 27JPW 28JPW 29 Afterwards, we headed to the Joyce Center for the Opening Gala, but we only milled around there for a bit because we were tired.

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The next morning we attended the Open House at the Business School (Teddy has double-majored in Political Science and Finance).

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We spent the rest of the day walking around campus and seeing sights.

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We’ve visited Notre Dame in summer, fall, and spring, and for this winter visit I was hoping to see some snow, but I suppose I should be grateful that it was unseasonably mild as you can see.

Notre Dame boasts its own art museum, the Snite Museum of Art.   We thought we were going in for a quick look but remained for some time, impressed by the size and quality of the collection.

Of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to walk around one of the lakes with Teddy.

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There’s no such thing as a special weekend at a Catholic college without a special Mass, so next we headed back to the Joyce Center for Saturday evening services.

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Then it was just a short trip to another area of the building for the President’s Dinner.  Check out the Irish detailing on the dessert below!

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The REAL fun happened after the dinner and the speeches, when Teddy and a group of his friends hosted a party for us at one of their off-campus residences.  Some of dads in particular had a lot of fun reliving their misspent youths.  There was certainly much alcohol, and beer pong was played, but what I enjoyed much was talking to Teddy’s friends and renewing friendship with some of the moms I had met on my last visit.

It was a LATE night, and then there was brunch in the morning followed by the long drive home.  I can’t believe that it was more than a year ago already, but what is even more unbelievable is that Teddy’s four years at Notre Dame have gone by so quickly.

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Until very recently, worry and anxiety have not been challenges for me.  I have the kind of mind that just doesn’t hold on the those kinds of things.  Unlike my husband, who is consumed with worry pretty much all the time, making him miserable, I have always been able to put problems aside to deal with whatever is right in front of me.

Lately, I’ve suffered from anxiety of the free-floating variety.  Because it isn’t rational, it doesn’t respond to rational techniques.  I tend to treat it by whiffing essential oils or going outside to sit in the sun.  What’s worse is when it attaches itself to legitimate areas of worry that I would have been able to put out of my mind in the past.  When that happens, and chanting my usual mantra (Cast your cares on God; that anchor holds.) isn’t working, there is one Scripture passage I turn to.

You know the jokes about Catholics–we don’t read our Bibles and we can’t quote chapter and verse like our Protestant brethren.  Of course that’s not true of all Catholics, and the fact is that most of us are exposed to a lot of Scripture via the Mass readings.  According to this source, a Catholic who attends Mass on Sundays and major feasts will hear about 41% of the New Testament and 4% of the Old (that doesn’t count the Psalms), even if they never crack open a Bible at home or in a study group.

So I know lots of Scripture, even if I don’t always know exactly where to find it.  But I always remember that the passage about anxiety is in the book of Matthew, Chapter 6:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

Even if I have trouble believing it right in the moment, I know that if Jesus said it, it must be true.  Even if I can’t see how, I know He is working all things out for my good.  Even though I can’t always manage it, I want to live as though I really, REALLY believe these words all the time.

And thanks to a new prayer practice I adopted this Lent, I am growing in this area.  More than once, after I have shared my anxieties with God in my prayer journal, insight, answers, and comfort have followed within days.  I find my thoughts turning toward journaling when I am facing a knotty problem in my life or when I am overcome with worries and anxiety.  I find myself really trusting that it is all in God’s hands.

 

This post is part of the Catholic Women’s Blogger Network Blog Hop.  For more articles on faith and worry, click below.

How My Faith Helps Me Worry Less

 

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I’m blessed to still be a member of the very parish in which I was baptized as an infant.  Most of the past nearly 50 years of Sundays have found me sitting (standing and kneeling) in a pew at Immaculate Conception Church.  And like most Catholics, I’m usually in the same pew–or as close to the same pew as I can get.

Our church is an old one and when I was a little girl there were still some names written on the pew cards–names of folks already long gone by then.  We most often sat in the former pew of Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. O’Brien.  It was about two-thirds of the way back on the left side of the main aisle.

Today I still sit on the left side of the main aisle.  When some crowded event like First Communion or Christmas forces me over to the right side, everything looks new and strange and uncomfortable.  Even the people sitting around me aren’t the people I’m used to!  But I no longer sit two-thirds of the way back.  Instead, my family and I for years now have occupied the second or third pew when available.

You know why? Coats.

When I think back to the Sundays of my childhood, I don’t remember anything much about what was going on up on the altar.  It was too far away and my view was blocked by a bunch of grownups.  All I could see was the back of their coats, which no one took off during Mass during winter because the radiators we had then didn’t do the best job of keeping the church warm.  Sometimes (with permission) I would stand on the kneeler to try to get a better view, but mostly I looked at the people in the nearby pews and waited for Mass to end.

The Masses I do remember quite well were at Saint Joseph School, and I don’t think it’s just because we went daily.  No, I think it’s because we First Graders got to sit in the very first row, where we could hear and see everything Father Henkel was doing.  I can still recall his exact intonations, and I remember clearly the way he tidied up the altar after Communion.  I could see, and so I paid attention.

Nervous about public breastfeeding and a baby who might disturb people with her cries, John and I sat closer to the back on the side aisle when we were new parents.  Early on, though, having read that kids would behave better if they could see what was going on, we made the move the the front and that’s all my kids have ever known.

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Lorelei waiting for Christmas Eve Mass in one of the front pews

This Passion Sunday, we arrived on the hilltop right at 11:30 to see crowds milling about on the sidewalk where no crowd should still have been at that time.  Then I recognized the Bishop in the crowd and realized Confirmation was being celebrated.  The candidates would be in our favorite pew, and their parents and other relatives would have come early to grab the other choice seats.

Sure enough, we ended up (on the left side, thankfully!) in one of the very last pews.

It was a strange experience.  We couldn’t hear the Bishop (who is rather soft-spoken).  Lorelei couldn’t see at all.  William, at 6’2″, fared better, but still opined, “That was dreadful!” Both he and Lorelei said later that they couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to sit back there on purpose.

As for me, I spent most of the time watching the cute little kids around me, because apparently their parents keep them near the back in order to be able to escape with them quickly should they make noise.  And likely because they cannot see anything and are bored and tired, they do make noise.

Sitting so far back, I didn’t feel like a full participant in the Mass.  I felt like a spectator.  “It was like being at a concert,” I said later.  You know the kind–where the performer on stage could almost be anyone if there were no Jumbotron to display closeups.

Funnily enough, because it doesn’t happen often, I had tickets to an actual concert the following week.  Kenny Rogers is on his farewell tour, and my sister Betsy had given tickets to my mother, Anne, and I for Christmas so we could all experience The Gambler’s Last Deal together.

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It was an incredible evening.  Not only were we treated to a behind-the-scenes chat with Kenny’s tour manager (Gene Roy, who’s been with him for 38 years), we got to go up on stage and get our pictures taken in Kenny’s chair, and then later we each exchanged a few words with Kenny before posing for commemorative photos with him.

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And perhaps best of all, we were seated right in front of the stage for the performance.  It was intimate.  It was personal.  When Kenny wanted to make eye contact with his audience, he was looking right at us.  It wasn’t like being at a concert; it was almost like having a conversation.

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We were sitting in the third row.

My sister paid extra for those up-close-and-personal seats.  But you know what?  The front pews are free on Sunday.  They are free of charge, and most likely they are free of occupants.

Maybe sitting way in the back of church is your thing.  Maybe you feel connected and can participate and pray just fine back there.  I’m not here to tell you what to do.

But if you have little kids, I will GUARANTEE you that they don’t feel like a part of things when all they can see is the backs of grownups and while they are distracted by all the other kids in the last few pews doing what kids do when they are bored.

If you want your kids to be spectators at church, longing for Mass to be over so they can get their doughnuts, then stay in the back row.  If you want them to be engaged in a relationship, come on down to the front.

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So today’s post is brought to you courtesy of the Catholic Women’s Blogger Network.  It’s part of our monthly blog hop and I totally would not be writing it if it weren’t.

Because here’s where I peek out from under my somewhat ill-fitting Catholic blogger hat and admit that my true feelings about Confession are a mixture of guilt and discomfort.  I hate that but it’s the truth.

I wrote the whole story here if you want to read it.  When did I write it?  A little over four years ago, which is the last time I went to Confession.

I can’t tell you how I long for the days when we were marched regularly into the cafeteria of St. Joseph School, with no advance warning or choice in the matter, and told that we were going to confession in the dark little closet where Father Henkel waited.  I’d stand in a red plaid line, leaning against the radiator for warmth and secretly wondering about how long certain people were taking.  Before I knew it I was all finished, back on the hard wooden kneeler saying two Our Fathers and one Hail Mary, and my soul was white as snow.

Clearly this is the Lent of hard things for me with lessons to be learned, and if I am really paying attention it would seem that this is one of them.  Will I go to our parish’s upcoming Lenten penance service and find a friendly priest in the basement to hear my uncomfortable and unprofessional recitation of sins? Only time will tell.

To read more reflections on the Sacrament of Confession, click the image below.

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I’m grateful that I’m committed to contributing a post to the Catholic Women Bloggers Network bloghop today, because the truth is  our family has been needing to reevaluate “how we Lent.”  What was once a pretty intense observance has in recent years become fairly cursory and my husband and I are not happy about that.

Why did this happen?  I’m going to blame a combination of factors–our move five years ago to a house half an hour away from our parish church,  no current affiliation with a Catholic school (after 14 years), and having less and less of an inclination to leave home for church events or any other events (caused probably by burnout after years of extreme involvement).

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I often feel out of place when wearing my Catholic blogging hat because (as you will no doubt see if you–as you should!–read the rest of the posts in this hop) the majority of Catholic mom bloggers seem to be living faith-filled lives and setting great examples for their little kids and basically being all Catholic all the time better than I’ve ever been able to manage.  But maybe I am not the only one out there who feels this way and so I’m going to go public as Catholic slacker blogger to encourage all the rest of you to do better this Lent.

Now I am tempted to say, “We are so bad and sinful and we have been doing Lent all wrong! We are going to be so holy for forty days!  We will do all the Lent things there are!”  But I kind of feel like that is a recipe for disaster.  For several years I prided myself on my extremely strict Lenten fasting:  No meat at all–even fish–for forty days (except at the Friday fish fry).  No eating between meals.  No food at all on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday.  Nothing but liquids until supper on every Friday.  And no Sundays off!  I stopped doing that a few years ago and I am not going to do it again.  Honestly, I think that strictness is part of what triggered my “failure” in subsequent Lents.

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So here is what we ARE going to do (insofar as we have planned at this point).  We will all make some form of Lenten sacrifice; we will follow all rules regarding fasting and abstinence; we will go to the Stations of the Cross EVERY Friday; I am going to participate in an online book club; and at least some of us are going to take part in this Lenten meditation.  We may do more, but that will be icing on the cake (presuming no one gives up cake!).

For more ideas for Lent observances, please visit the other posts in the hop by clicking the picture below.

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How do you “do Lent” in your family?  If you want, you can tell me in the comments!

 

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You might remember a little over a year ago when I reviewed–very favorably–Page Zaplendam’s Order of the Blood.  I encourage you to click over and read my first review, which also includes an interview with the author.

I enjoyed this far from typical vampire novel very much and so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read an advance copy of the sequel, The Egyptian Elixir.  I was provided with a free copy in exchange for my honest review.

From the book jacket:  When John Grissom and Van Helsing find themselves witnesses to an assassination attempt on the Marquis of Wellesley, they discover London’s most notorious purveyor of stolen goods at the bottom of it.  But his ability to influence people is odd to say the least.  The vampire and the hunter investigate, but the Egyptian elixir may prove the undoing of them both.

John Grissom is a Catholic, and doctor, and a gentleman, who also happens to be a vampire.  Van Helsing (not THAT one, but rather his ancestor) is a vampire hunter.  They form an unlikely crime-fighting duo in Regency-era England.  Throw in some English aristocrats, a dimwitted giant, and a mysterious Egyptian pharmacist and you’ve got a fast-moving and engaging tale.

I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that what I enjoyed the most about this installment of the Unofficial Chronicles was the budding friendship between Van Helsing and Grissom.  Henrietta Isherwood, Grissom’s erstwhile assistant and potential love interest, is physically absent from this installment but obviously remains on Grissom’s mind.  She returns in the next book but her absence here allows the author to focus on the “bromance,” a good choice for this volume.

Now THIS is exciting.  To celebrate the release of the new book, you can get a free Kindle edition of Order of the Blood right here.  After you read it I promise you will want to buy the new book, which is available at a very reasonable price here.

If you want to learn more about Page’s work, and keep an eye out for her future stories (hint: there’s another book coming soon!), you can find her website here.

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