Blog Tour || The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and Death
by Martha Brockenbrough
Series: None
Release date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Genre/s: Historical fiction, fantasy
Age category: Young Adult
No. of pages: 352 pages (kindle edition)

Date of Publication: April 28, 2015

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

add to goodreads


          “They’re ready,” he said, thinking of his player in the city far away, a city with a model of Venice’s Campanile built at its train station.

          “If you say so,” Death said.

          The sun and all its light were gone. It would rise again, creating the illusion that the world had been remade, that the cycle was starting anew. But time was not a circle. It moved in one direction only, onward into the dark unknown. Feeling his spirits teeter, Love focused on the sound the water made as the boat sliced through it. A series of small kisses.

          He looked into the heart of the gondolier and discovered the woman the man loved most. He cast that image overhead so that it might settle over the boat like a soft blanket. Surely Death would not object to that small comfort. The gondolier extinguished his cigarette in the canal and opened his mouth to sing. “ ’O Sole Mio.” My sun.

          Love’s light spread overhead, and the darkening sky revealed a moon whittled to near nothingness. Reflections of human-made lights stretched across the water, beautiful fingers that stroked the slender boat as it passed, its captain singing of the glow of his heart’s sun on his lover’s face.

          Love’s pulse steadied. He took Death’s hand so she could better see into his mind, and together, they looked at the city on the young edge of the world. Seattle. ere was a wildness to it. Oceans of corruption, yes. But imagination and hope and wonder that attracted people who yearned to remake bigger and better lives. There were vast fortunes to be cut from forests and chipped from gold mines.

          There was also opportunity for the poor to rise. The landscape itself reflected this. Still, deep lakes and frothing rivers. Snow-covered mountains whose beauty belied their explosive origins. If ever there were a place where the old might give way to the new, where Love could beat Death, it was here.

          He wished he could see into Death’s mind the way she peered into his. He did not know the secret of it. The ride ended, and Love paid the gondolier extravagantly. Arm in arm, the two immortals glided off the boat, up the steps, and onto the arc of the Ponte dell’Accademia, their steps barely audible over the insistent slap of water.

          “Paper?” She held out her hand.

          Love tore a sheet from the book he always carried.

          “You first,” she said.

          Love pricked his finger and offered it to her. She lifted a tear from the corner of her eye and rubbed her fingertip against his. Love handed her the paper and the pen he’d purchased earlier. She dipped the metal tip into their strange ink and wrote two names. The ritual was quick, almost anticlimactic, but they’d performed it many times, and what’s more, knew each other well.

          She blew on the ink. “This binds the players to the game. They live as long as this is intact. When the clock runs out, I’ll destroy the paper and claim my prize.”

          “Only if you win,” Love said.

          “When I win. And what constitutes victory?”

          Love paused. In the past, he’d said a kiss. Or consummation. But neither seemed enough. “They
must choose courage,” he said. “They must choose each other at the cost of everything else. When they
do that, I win.”

          “I do not even know what that means,” she said.

          Love chose to show her with a picture painted in thought. He put his hands on Death’s cheeks and concentrated on the players. On the surface, they were an impossible pair. From two separate worlds. But Love knew something Death did not, at least when it came to hearts. Theirs were twins. He sent her an image of what it would look like when they locked on to each other. The light within them would burst out and rise, two columns of flame winding like the strands of matter that are the stuff of life itself. The image echoed both the creation of the universe in miniature and the elements of life on earth writ large. It was the source of everything, including Love and Death themselves.

          If Love won, it would remake the world, at least for the players.

          Death pulled her face away. “Don’t ever do that again.” She put a hand on her cheek. “We of
course cannot tell the players about the Game.”

          He nodded. To tell them would change everything. “And the stakes this time?”

          Her answer was swift. “When I win, I claim the life of my player.”

          “When I win,” Love said, “both players live on.”

          She shrugged. Her powers were far greater than his, and the Game was only something she agreed to for the fun of it.

          “Is there anything that isn’t allowed?” she asked.

          He hated this question. He’d made the wrong choice many times. “e usual restrictions. Before
time runs out, you cannot kill either player with a touch, just as I cannot instill love.”

          “Unless.” Death held up a finger.

          “Unless what?” She was a slippery opponent.

          “Unless your player chooses me. Then I can kill him with a kiss.”

          Love laughed. Henry would never choose death. Not over life. And certainly not over love. He’d been born for this. “As you wish. Have you chosen your guise?”

          “You’re looking at it. At one of them, anyway.”

          In the near darkness, Love studied Death’s face. Star-white skin. A smart, wavy black bob. Dark eyes. The wide, insolent mouth. He’d seen her face before, but where? She’d also undoubtedly appear as the black cat. How her guises would affect the players was ever a mystery.

          “And now to determine the length of the Game,” Death said. “You have the dice, I trust.”

          Love removed the dice from his pocket. The bones clacked against each other. “You first.”

          “I’ll roll the month, then.” She rattled the dice in her hands and tossed them on the boards of the bridge. “Three and four. The Game lasts until July. Which day is up to you.”

          He could add the sum of the dots or multiply them, so long as their product did not exceed the length of the month. He hated having the choice. He would rather blame fate.

          He squeezed the dice, kissed his hand, and let them fly. Their clatter echoed over the water.

          Death read them. “How droll. A tie.”

          Even the numbers were the same, a four and a three. Love nearly chose the twelfth of July as the day the Game would end. That would give him more time, the thing he always wished for. Sometimes, even minutes would have made the difference.

          But there was something about the symmetry of the seventh that called to him. So he trusted it. The Game would end at midnight on the seventh of July. “When will I see you again?” He liked to know what she was doing so he could adjust his interventions to match.

          “Two days,” she said.

          Love nodded. A pair of days felt right.

          Death disappeared, as she did when she’d tired of his presence, and Love wandered, dazed, in the other direction until he found himself standing in front of a nearly empty café. He ate alone in the ancient square, a simple plate of gnocchi with a tart red wine, watching the stars and their way out of the darkening night sky.
About the author:
Martha Brockenbrough is author of The Game of Love and Death, Finding Bigfoot, The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy, and Devine Intervention, books for young readers. For adults, she has written Things That Make Us [Sic], a hilarious guide to things that can go wrong with English, and It Could Happen to You, a diary of her first pregnancy. She's the founder of National Grammar Day and SPOGG, the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.
Author links: