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Alice At Heart (The Water Lilies Series Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Deborah Smith
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Shy, charming, peculiar, and web-toed, Alice Riley has suffered for years at the hands of her dead mother's self-righteous family, while she hides a bevy of secret abilities. When Alice rescues a drowning child, her amazing talents are exposed. Alice can remain underwater for extraordinary periods of time, and she can locate submerged objects through some type of natural sonar ability. Her new fame/notoriety puts Alice in the national news, amidst allegations that she has somehow faked or manipulated the rescue for her own glory. Alice is trapped and desperate until three amazing older women arrive in her hometown. They are the regal and flamboyant Bonavendier sisters--dignified Lilith, acerbic Mara, and whimsical Pearl--of Sainte's Point Island, their ancestral home off the coast of Georgia. They've read Alice's story in the news and are convinced that she is their long-lost (and much younger) half sister, conceived in a reckless seduction their elderly father confessed to before he died.
Like Alice, the Bonavendier sisters have webbed toes and certain amazing abilities, though none of them have Alice's marked talent for finding things underwater. Alice is no oddity to them. They explain that--like them--she is descended from a mermaid.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Reclusive, wary, and known locally as Odd Alice, orphaned Alice Riley has always known she was different; but it isn't until she saves a child from drowning by using her phenomenal underwater abilities and links minds with drowning salvage diver Griffin Randolf and saves him, too, that her half-sisters learn of her existence, and she discovers how special she and Griffin really are. Old secrets, revenge, and passion fuel this compelling, intricately plotted story of love, trust, and acceptance, which successfully straddles the line between romance and fantasy and should appeal to fans of both genres. Recalling Susan Krinard's werewolf romances, Smith's new work nicely sets the stage for her projected romantic fantasy series, "Water Lilies." Smith (On Bear Mountain) is a respected writer of romances and other types of fiction and lives in Dahlonega, GA. [This title is also available as an e-book in Adobe Acrobat and MS Reader formats from Ed.]
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Alice, an ugly duckling with webbed feet who never grew into a swan, is taking a frigid winter swim in Lake Riley, high in the Georgia Appalachians, when she has a vision of a drowning diver. She sends Griffin Randolph a mental message to breathe and establishes a telepathic link. At the same time a little girl falls into the icy lake on the opposite shore, and, amazingly enough, Alice is able to save her, but the rescue puts her unhappily in the spotlight and under suspicion. Then the three glamorous Bonavendier sisters of Sainte's Point Island show up at the awards ceremony and inform Alice that she's their father's posthumous daughter. When Alice arrives at the island, she discovers that she and Griffin have a mysterious bond, that a long-standing enmity separates his family and hers, and that the Bonavendiers' past includes a mermaid great-grandmother and accusations of piracy. Readers of Alice Hoffman will enjoy Smith's surprisingly convincing blend of romance and magical realism. Diana Tixier Herald
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 447 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: BelleBooks, Inc. (January 1, 2002)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,538 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful paranormal story September 23, 2002
Courtesy of CK2S Kwips and Kritiques

Alice Riley has always been different from everyone else. She has special abilities and traits she needs to keep secret, for no one from her small town in Georgia could ever understand. She has unusual webbed toes and hair which grows exceptionally fact, requiring cutting every day. In addition, she is an incredible swimmer, extremely fast, able to "sing" underwater similar to what dolphins do, to see her way, and she is able to breathe underwater for hours at a time.

Alice never knew her parents, her mother dying when Alice was a baby and never knowing whom the father was. Her aunt raised her and hated her, considering Alice a freak of nature, as did the entire town. She had been good at keeping her special talents secret, until now, when two things happened. She had a vision of a man dying in a scuba diving accident and rescues him from across the ocean, with only her mind. The very same day, Alice rescued the Governor's granddaughter from drowning after hearing the child fall in the lake, from several miles away.

Griffin Randolph is a professional treasure hunter. He is in Spain working a job, when one of his men gets trapped in the debris of a WWII ship, still holding live ammunition. He gets his friend free but is caught in an explosion as he is leaving the ship, almost dying. The only thing that kept him alive was a vision of a beautiful woman, known only as Alice, who tells him to breathe underwater.

Lilith Bonavendier reads in the paper of the rescue of the young child, realizing Alice is her long lost half-sister, thought to have died at birth. Lilith and her other two sisters, Pearl and Mara go after Alice to bring her back to the family home at Sainte's Point Island, off the coast of Georgia.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical, musical and beautiful March 31, 2003
Alice has never fit in. She was raised by her mother's family, who treated her as a chore, and not a family member. Alice has spent most of her life in and around the water, because that's where she feels most happy and at home. She can't explain why she can spend long periods of time underwater, and why she can swim better and faster than anyone else. She just knows it's what makes her happy.
In one day, the quiet existence she prefers is brought to public attention when she rescues the young daughter of the governor. Suddenly her abilities are questioned...but the publicity also brings her to the attention of the family she never knew she had, her father's family...water people, or what us landers would call them...mermaids.
This is not just a romance, it's a story of learning who you really are and accepting that. There's also a mystery from the past, and lots of old loves to be reunited. For those who have read Deborah Smith's books in the past, you know she always delivers an unbelievably wonderful read. She does not disappoint in this book either. Her writing is lyrical and magical and brings to life the underwater world of the water people. It made me a believer. This is supposed to be the first in the Waterlilies series, and I for one am looking forward to future books hinted at in this story.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opinion from Susan Elizabeth Phillips... September 19, 2002
I know Deborah Smith professionally, but we're not intimates, and this is entirely unsolicited. I picked up ALICE AT HEART last night, pretty much at random. This book just knocked me out. Absolutely magical and, in my mind, a real masterpiece. Kudos to D.S. for producing something so fresh and so perfect.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazingly vivid and romantic book! July 21, 2008
Alice at Heart is one of my all time favorite books! Alice starts out as this rather unkempt, lost, lonely young woman with a mysterious and odd lineage; a woman who has never truly fit in. After she is 'rescued' by her aunts, she slowly emerges as a beautiful, confident, magnificent woman. The great thing about this book is she doesn't really get a makeover, but the odd things about her suddenly fit in with where she is supposed to be, and she is beautiful because of those things. My favorite thing about this book was how fantastically vivid all of the colors, tastes, sounds, and feelings are! I couldn't put it down because I felt like I was there, living that wonderfully odd and beautiful life. I am not a huge fan of romances, but this book was actually romantic, fun, and centered on the independence of the heroines of the story. I also loved the sequel to this book entitled "Diary of a Radical Mermaid" and I am eagerly awaiting another installment!
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical fantasy novel--something special January 14, 2002
This book does a great job of straddling the line between regular fiction and fantasy fiction. You're never quite sure if the characters are what they say they are--descended from mermaids--but they do have some unexplainable talents and it's really fascinating to think of there being a secret society of "Water People" among us. The setting is wonderful and Southern (the Georgia coast) and the three older sisters in the book are like something out of "Designing Women" the way they talk to each other. Plus the main character, Alice, is wonderful and vivid, and the romance with Griffin Randolph is very powerful. I look forward to book two in the series. Also, I read Alice At Heart as an e-book last spring and this paperback edition is different--it has new sections and other things that weren't in the e-book. I love the mythology about Water People in the back of the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I can swim ....
Definitely fun / light reading. Oh to be a Bonavendier!
Published 2 hours ago by KiggerK
3.0 out of 5 stars Just a little over sexy/romantic ..... needed more meat less fluff.
Tried a bit too hard to make it sexy/romantic with that liberal seasoning of the preternatural. I'm engaged enough to be looking for the next book but I'm not sure if I'll actually... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Maryann Z
5.0 out of 5 stars Smith is very quickly becoming my new favorite author. My all time...
Ms. Smith is very quickly becoming my new favorite author.My all time favorite by Ms. Smith is Sweet Hush. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Diligent reader
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent but nothing special
When I first got this book I thought it was just a fantasy book. As I started to read it I realized it was a fantasy with some romance in it. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Heidi Yang
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great read
Published 1 month ago by cheryl Sanchez
4.0 out of 5 stars Webbed feet vs Landers
I am attracted to stories with mer-people in them and this with mer-people who are partials compared to what we would consider a full-fledged mermaid and have some real skills... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I liked it but probably not enough to read the next one.
Published 1 month ago by Jillo
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Premise, Predictabe Delivery
Intriguing premise in the genre of supernatural romances, and the author really took time to research her mythology, but the plot was very predictable--outcast woman (not a young... Read more
Published 1 month ago by SeattleSue
2.0 out of 5 stars too many adjectives not enough plot
I love to read but I could not get into this book! The author spent so much time describing less important things; like jewelry and scenery, that the actual plot line suffered. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it
Published 1 month ago by Barbara Fitzgerald
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More About the Author

Coming in March 2015 -- my new sexy contemporary novella series, THE RIDGE. Written under my pen name, Della Stone. These 40-page ebook novellas are filled with the hottest romances I've ever created. The Ridge, an isolated overlook in the Appalachians, is rumored to be haunted. Women claim to have been seduced by the spirits of men condemned to its wild realms for betraying the women they loved. For world-class escort Gillian, the Ridge is the site of a mountain lodge where her biggest client, a ruthless investor, has trapped her for a weekend with ten genius computer game developers he plans to blackmail. Her job? To get them naked and into extreme sex acts while hidden cameras film their darkest desires. But she didn't count on reuniting with Kelt Evans, who championed a young gamer he knew only as Triple Threat. He won her heart. Now, can she earn his forgiveness with the help of stranger who is not among the living? The Ridge--Gillian and Kelt.

Also coming in March: The Ridge, Rowan and Brake. Her father, a Senator, convinced her to sign a chastity pledge during his failed Presidential campaign. Rowan honored the pledge ever since, but now, at twenty-three, her father reveals his hypocritical secret life as the raunchy lover of Rowan's best friend. Caught on tape with incriminating comments about his corrupt backroom deals as he treats the world to eye-popping closeups of sex with the woman who's his daughter's BFF, he's become a national dirty joke--and the sneering publicity follows Rowan everywhere. An avid hiker, she escapes to her beloved mountains. But a rainslick fall knocks her out, and she regains consciousness in a dreamworld where a gorgeous man transforms himself into her fantasy--Brake Costrane, the wrong-side-of-the-tracks guy she fell in love with when she was eighteen. Brake became an Army Ranger and died in Afghanistan. But now, here he is, just as she remembered him--but only in her dreams. Or is he?

The Ridge--Rowan and Brake


Love is about family, romance, and finding a place to call home . . .

Update: September 1, 2014

The Apple Pie Knights will publish by September 15!This 14,000 word novella leads directly into THE KITCHEN CHARMER, which will be a full-length book. I'm finishing it now for an October pub date.

Update: July 1, 2014

The Kitchen Charmer is set for a fall publishing date. Coming in July is a lead-in story, The Apple Pie Knights. Look for more news soon on that! *And* I've added the first part of a short novel called Forever Yesterday, now available in ebook for 1.99. I'm working to build the world of my Crossroads Cove characters primarily, while adding some of my other projects in the mix as often as possible.

Update: January 26, 2014: Thanks for the questions about the release date on THE KITCHEN CHARMER. I'm predicting April 1. The original dream was for Feb. 1 but my day job decided otherwise.

Bell Bridge Books is an exciting and more-than-fulltime career, and I love working with our growing list of authors plus a staff that now includes former Harlequin editor Brenda Chin. We've got an amazing line-up of books for 2014--romances, women's fiction, mysteries, suspense, fantasy, and more. I'd editing new mystery series by Joann Ferguson and Arlene Kay, dark suspense by John Flynn, and the next book in Virginia Brown's bestselling Dixie Diva mystery series. I'm crazy-proud over the successful launch of Nicki Salcedo's debut romantic suspense novel, ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS, plus looking forward to the launch of Suzan Colon's BEACH GLASS and Bonnie D. Tharp's PATCHWORK FAMILY, which just got a great endorsement from Dorothea Benton Franks.

I do miss being able to write fulltime, which I gave up several years ago, but the kind of novels I love never found an easy fit in the marketplace, and depending on them as a way to make a living was like riding a roller-coaster that regularly crashes with no warning. Yikes.

Anyhoo, more news soon on a possible short story to pair with THE YARN SPINNER. I may be able to get that ready for March. Tentative title: THE YARN LOVER. If it happens, it will feature Gus MacBride and be set in Afghanistan immediately before THE KITCHEN CHARMER. Readers will learn more about the poignant penpal correspondence between Gus and Lucy and see what Gus is dealing with that puts him in danger.

Update: January 17, 2014: publishing today: THE YARN SPINNER, a Crossroads Cafe short story, part of The MacBrides Trilogy, 99 cents ebook. This prequel to the upcoming THE KITCHEN CHARMER tells readers a bit more about Lucy Parmenter, the fragile young woman who has become Capt. Gus MacBride's long-distance text buddy while hiding her history as a rape victim and her on-going struggles as an agoraphobic recluse.

THE YARN SPINNER takes place two years before THE KITCHEN CHARMER. Cathy Deen, the scarred actress from THE CROSSROADS CAFE, meets Lucy on Lucy's first night at Rainbow Goddess Farm, a live-in counseling center for abused woman, high the North Carolina mountains. Cathy is determined to help her, and enlists Delta Whittlespoon's wisdom and biscuit magic. But the emotionally paralyzed and near-suicidal newcomer needs to find a lifeline in a hurry.

Publishing November 15, 2013: THE PICKLE QUEEN, Book 2 of The MacBrides Trilogy, a Crossroads Cafe Novella.


Pickles are mentioned in the Bible. Cleopatra ate them as a beauty regimen. Shakespeare put them in his plays. Mason designed jars for bottling them. So did Ball. Did Mason and Ball fight over the King of the Pickle Jars title? I don't know. I did know this much: I used pickles to keep fear, pride, and my love of Jay Wakefield behind a door I would not risk opening again. Even now.

Wakefields take what they want. MacBrides never surrender. For nearly a hundred years, a battle of wills between these two deeply-rooted Appalachian families has ended in defeat and heartache--most often, for MacBrides. Now the MacBride name is barely more than a legend, and it's up to Gabby MacBride to deal with the pain of her childhood memories and also the challenge of a MacBride legacy she's only beginning to understand.

That will mean coming to terms with her bittersweet love for Jay Wakefield, the lonely rich boy who became her soul mate when they were kids, before the dark demands of his own legacy forced him to betray her.


The modern outlaws, preppers and recluses of the Little Finn Valley called this cozy cavern beneath the mountain the Wolf's Den--a cross between a sports bar, a frat-house TV room, and a co-op, family-friendly pajama-party. There were dozing dogs, sly cats, a few pet raccoons, small monkeys wearing sweaters, and sleeping children among the audience sprawled in chairs around a stage in one corner. Another gaggle gathered near flat screens showing Christmas concerts, ESPN highlights of fall football games, and A Christmas Story.

Ralphie's dreams of gaming Santa for a BB gun was a hit.

There were couches, small tables, recliners and other assorted seating arrangements cobbled from a catch-all collection of furniture. About a hundred people occupied the Den that cold Christmas Eve night, most of them looking mellow--but when the Moon sisters shoved me out of the hallway into their presence the karaoke machine went silent. Eyes turned toward me. I saw a lot of military patches on rugged jackets, a lot of holstered pistols and sheathed hunting knives, and a lot of damp boots drying next to thickly socked feet.

The men were pretty tough-looking, too.

"Greta Garbo MacBride," one of the Moons announced.

A MacBride.

A MacBride had returned to the Little Finn Valley.

Just as before, when I was met on the road down from the ridge, there were looks of awe.

Behind an ornate, marble-topped bar sat some rough biker types in 'do rags and cracked leather lounged on tall stools and a blond woman in a denim jumper over black leggings mixed drinks and guided tall glasses under beer taps. On the wall behind her was a large framed poster with Little Finn River Whiskey in scrolling letters. On one side of it was a sepia photo of a vintage bottle with the caption 1915's Best beneath it; on the other half of the poster was a modern color photo of an updated whiskey bottle with 2012 beneath it.

I called out, "Who wants potato salad and pre-Christmas turkey sandwiches on whole wheat with fresh dill relish and sliced mushrooms drizzled with balsamic vinagrette? Also, pickle-flavored martinis and a blueberry reduction on baked brie with a side of sugar cookies?"

After a startled moment, smiles broke out and hands went up.
One of the 'do rags rose like a bandana-wearing African lion, carrying the fresh double of Little Finn whiskey he'd just been handed by Blond Tats. He offered it to me, and smiled. "The nectar of the mountain gods," he said in a Boston accent straight out of Harvard. "Welcome, a great honor. A MacBride has come home."


Dawn was just three hours away. Christmas Eve was only a few hours old, and the Cavern couldn't shield us from the pit-of-the night mood, emptiness and regrets. The long day had scraped ruts in my throat. My hands hurt, and my attitude was testy; I felt a vise squeezing my temples.

"She's got them eating out of her hand, Jay," Pug told me. "And yeah, that's not a metaphor. She's feeding all the valley's late-nighters like they're baby birds she rescued out of a nest, and they're chirping and asking for more. You know the kind of after-midnight crowd that hangs out at the Den. The ones who've got no family to go home to and too many nightmares to fall asleep. And when the holidays come around their shit is stirred up, times ten. She's their holiday mama bird. It's the MacBride effect. I've read about that in old Caillin's journal but I never really believed in it, until now."

"Food is comfort," I said. "Gabs and her brother and sister understand that. It's that simple."

"Huh," she said, as we walked out of the cold into the warmly lit alcoves of the Den.

Laughter and applause accompanied a group singalong of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" as Pug and I rounded a bend in the wall lined with deer skins, old photos of the Little Finn Distillery and the Woolen Mill.

"Holy singalong, Batman. She's Lawrence Welk without the bubble machine."

Up on the small stage, barefoot, with a mustard-smeared apron over her bedraggled slacks and blouse, her towering height and extraordinary hair filling all the available show space, Gabs waved a glass of whiskey with one hand and led the chorus with a microphone in the other.

Platters of sandwich crumbs and nearly empty stainless serving bowls smeared with the residue of potato salad littered the bar top. Open jars of pickles sat on every mismatched table.

Singing in loud unison, the crowd chorused,
Underneath the mistletoe last night . . .

"They're going to wake up in the daylight and hold their heads and regret this," Pug shouted in my ear.

No, they won't, I thought. They'll be in awe of the way Gabs soothed their hunger.

As the last beats of the song faded from the big amps beside each end of the stage, Gabs took a long swallow of Little Finn whiskey and, as if drugged by the essence of her ancestors, found me instantly. She stiffened, shoulders back, chin up.

She pointed at me in sly challenge. "That man, right there, can sing like a baritone angel." Everyone turned to stare.

She remembers. I nodded, bowing a little.

Her eyes flared. "He has a great singing voice," she continued.

"Sing, Wakefield," someone yelled. People began to clap in rhythm. "Sing, sing, sing."

"You don't have to give in," Pug said. "I'll break out the tequila and distract them."

"I can handle it." I wound my way through the assorted chairs and mismatched tables, the recliners filled with snuggling couples, the dogs curled up by their humans' feet on sheepskin pads, the aura of communal energy, the spirit of the tribe and the cave. Fire crackled on a hearth, and the scent of the stone and the earth reminded us all of this was real, and eternal, and essential.

The welcome and warning in Gabs' deep green MacBride eyes, tearing me apart with the challenge of our history and the promise of what we still might become.

Bell Bridge Books

See the prequel to THE PICKLE QUEEN -- THE BISCUIT WITCH -- here:

The final novella in the trilogy, THE KITCHEN CHARMER, will be published in winter 2014.

Deborah Smith is the NYT and WSJ bestselling author of A PLACE TO CALL HOME, THE CROSSROADS CAFE, and many other novels. She's also a founding partner and VP of BelleBooks and its main division, Bell Bridge Books. Check here for news and updates on the titles she and her partners are publishing.

Deb writes almost exclusively about romance, family drama and "other," and many of her settings are the Appalachian mountain communities of Georgia and North Carolina. Her family heritage is based in those areas and, like many legacies of Appalachian kinfolk, is a mixture of Scots-Irish, Scots, Irish, English, Welsh and Native American, primarily Cherokee and Creek Indian. Her mother's family, the Powers, came from Donegal, Ireland in the late 1700s and by the early 1800s had settled in the wilderness near what would become known as Atlanta. The Powers were a founding family of Cobb County, Georgia, and ran a ferry on the Chattahoochee River. "Powers Ferry" continues to be a well-known place name in that community. Deb's mother, Dora Lee Powers Brown, grew up playing in cornfields on the banks of the river where apartment complexes, office buildings and restaurants now stand. (Precisely: Rays on the River, a popular restaurant in the Atlanta suburbs, is located where one of those cornfields existed.) She recalled playing in the remnants of Civil War trenches as a child, and, in the years before Buford Dam leashed the river, sitting with her brothers and sisters on the one-lane bridge at Powers Ferry where, during floods, the river rose so high that she and her siblings could dip their feet in it.

Asheville, North Carolina, is a favorite setting for Deborah's books. She fell in love with the city during visits to the local rivers (for rafting) in the early 1980s. Many many visits later, she and Hank consider the city and its amazing mountain region their home away from home. The Biltmore Estate inspired the mansion in BLUE WILLOW, the Cherokee and gem mining history inspired SILK AND STONE, and THE CROSSROADS CAFE resulted from a wandering day trip in the highlands above Asheville, where Deb, her mother and their friend Ceil Garrison discovered the best homecooking ever! at a tiny diner at an isolated crossroads near the Tennessee line.

Many of Deb's current and older titles are now also available in unabridged audiobooks here at Amazon and at iTunes also Check out Deb's fantasy romance, ALICE AT HEART, because Deb narrated that audio herself (hey, at least it's unique...)

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