Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
I FIRST FELT IT in the school canteen on Monday morning. For a moment it was like being on a roller coaster when you’re racing down from the very top. It lasted only two seconds, but that was long enough for me to dump a plateful of mashed potatoes and gravy all over my school uniform. I managed to catch the plate just in time, as my knife and fork clattered to the floor.
“This stuff tastes like it’s been scraped off the floor anyway,” said my friend Lesley while I mopped up the damage as well as I could. Of course everyone was looking at me. “You can have mine too, if you fancy spreading some more on your blouse.”
“No thanks.” As it happens, the blouse of the St. Lennox High School uniform was pretty much the color of mashed potatoes anyway, but you still couldn’t miss seeing the remaining globs of my lunch. I buttoned up my dark blue blazer over it.
“There goes Gwenny, playing with her food again!” said Cynthia Dale. “Don’t you sit next to me, you mucky pup.”
“As if I’d ever sit next to you of my own free will, Cyn.” It’s a fact, I’m afraid, that I did quite often have little accidents with school lunches. Only last week my pudding had hopped out of its dish and landed a few feet away, right in a Year Seven boy’s spaghetti carbonara. The week before that I’d knocked my cranberry juice over, and everyone at our table was splashed. They looked as if they had measles. And I really couldn’t count the number of times the stupid tie that’s part of our school uniform had been drenched in sauce, juice, or milk.
Only I’d never felt dizzy at the same time before.
But I was probably just imagining it. There’d been too much talk at home recently about dizzy feelings.
Not mine, though: my cousin Charlotte’s dizzy spells. Charlotte, beautiful and immaculate as ever, was sitting right there next to Cynthia, gracefully scooping mashed potatoes into her delicate mouth.
The entire family was on tenterhooks, waiting for Charlotte to have a dizzy fit. On most days, my grandmother, Lady Arista, asked Charlotte how she was feeling every ten minutes. My aunt Glenda, Charlotte’s mother, filled the ten-minute gap by asking the same thing in between Lady Arista’s interrogations.
And whenever Charlotte said that she didn’t feel dizzy, Lady Arista’s lips tightened and Aunt Glenda sighed. Or sometimes the other way around.
The rest of us—my mum, my sister Caroline, my brother Nick, and Great-aunt Maddy—rolled our eyes. Of course it was exciting to have someone with a time-travel gene in the family, but as the days went by, the excitement kind of wore off. Sometimes we felt that all the fuss being made over Charlotte was just too much.
Charlotte herself usually hid her feelings behind a mysterious Mona Lisa smile. In her place, I wouldn’t have known whether to be excited or worried if dizzy feelings failed to show up. Well, to be honest, I’d probably have been pleased. I was more the timid sort. I liked peace and quiet.
“Something will happen sooner or later,” Lady Arista said every day. “And we must be ready.”
Sure enough, something did happen after lunch, in Mr. Whitman’s history class. I’d left the canteen feeling hungry. I’d found a black hair in my dessert—apple crumble with custard—and I couldn’t be sure if it was one of my own hairs or a lunch lady’s. Anyway, I didn’t fancy the crumble after that.
Mr. Whitman gave us back the history test we’d taken last week. “You obviously prepared well for it. Especially Charlotte. An A-plus for you, Charlotte.”
Charlotte stroked a strand of her glossy red hair back from her face and said, “Oh, my!” as if the result came as a surprise to her. Even though she always had top marks in everything.
But Lesley and I were pleased with our own grades this time, too. We each had an A-minus, although our “preparation” had consisted of eating crisps and ice cream while we watched Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth and then Elizabeth: The Golden Age on DVD. We did pay attention in history class, though, which I’m afraid couldn’t be said for all our other courses.
Mr. Whitman’s classes were so intriguing that you couldn’t help listening. Mr. Whitman himself was also very interesting. Most of the girls were secretly—or not so secretly—in love with him. So was our geography teacher, Mrs. Counter. She went bright red whenever Mr. Whitman passed her. And he was terribly good-looking. All the girls thought so, except Lesley. She thought Mr. Whitman looked like a cartoon squirrel.
“Whenever he looks at me with those big brown eyes, I feel like giving him a nut,” she said. She even started calling the squirrels running around in the park Mr. Whitmans. The silly thing is that somehow it was infectious, and now, whenever a squirrel scuttled past me, I always said, “Oh, look at that cute, fat little Mr. Whitman!”
I’m sure it was the squirrel business that made Lesley and me the only girls in the class who weren’t crazy about Mr. Whitman. I kept trying to fall in love with him (if only because the boys in our class were all somehow totally childish), but it was no good. The squirrel comparison had lodged itself in my mind and wouldn’t go away. I mean, how can you feel romantic about a squirrel?
Cynthia had started the rumor that when he was studying, Mr. Whitman had worked as a male model on the side. By way of evidence, she’d cut an ad out of a glossy magazine, with a picture showing a man not unlike Mr. Whitman lathering himself with shower gel.
Apart from Cynthia, however, no one thought Mr. Whitman was the man in the shower-gel ad. The model had a dimple in his chin, and Mr. Whitman didn’t.
The boys in our class didn’t think Mr. Whitman was so great. Gordon Gelderman, in particular, couldn’t stand him. Because before Mr. Whitman came to teach in our school, all the girls in our class were in love with Gordon. Including me, I have to admit, but I was only eleven at the time and Gordon was still quite cute. Now, at sixteen, he was just stupid. And his voice had been in a permanent state of breaking for the last two years. Unfortunately, the mixture of squealing and growling still didn’t keep him from spewing nonsense all the time.
He got very upset about getting an F on the history test. “That’s discrimination, Mr. Whitman. I deserve a B at least. You can’t give me bad marks just because I’m a boy.”
Mr. Whitman took Gordon’s test back from him, turned a page, and read out, “Elizabeth I was so ugly that she couldn’t get a husband. So everyone called her the Ugly Virgin.”
The class giggled.
“Well? I’m right, aren’t I?” Gordon defended himself. “I mean, look at her pop-eyes and her thin lips and that weird hairstyle.”
We’d gone to study the pictures of the Tudors in the National Portrait Gallery, and in those paintings, sure enough, Queen Elizabeth I didn’t look much like Cate Blanchett. But first, maybe people in those days thought thin lips and big noses were the last word in chic, and second, her clothes were really wonderful. Third, no, Elizabeth I didn’t have a husband, but she had a lot of affairs, among them one with Sir … oh, what was his name? Anyway, Clive Owen played him in the second film with Cate Blanchett.
“She was known as the Virgin Queen,” Mr. Whitman told Gordon, “because…” He paused and looked anxiously at Charlotte. “Are you feeling all right, Charlotte? Do you have a headache?”
Everyone looked at Charlotte, who had her head in her hands. “I feel … I just feel dizzy,” she said, looking at me. “Everything’s going round and round.”
I took a deep breath. So here we go, I thought. Lady Arista and Aunt Glenda would be over the moon.
“Wow, cool,” whispered Lesley. “Is she going to turn all transparent now?” Although Lady Arista had repeatedly told us that under no circumstances were we ever to tell any outsider what was special about our family, I’d decided to ignore the ban when it came to Lesley. After all, she was my very best friend, and best friends don’t have secrets from each other.
Since I’d known Charlotte (which in fact was all my life), she’d always seemed somewhat helpless. But I knew what to do. Goodness knows Aunt Glenda had told me often enough.
“I’ll take Charlotte home,” I told Mr. Whitman, as I stood up. “If that’s okay.”
Mr. Whitman’s gaze was fixed on Charlotte. “I think that’s a good idea, Gwyneth,” he said. “I hope you feel better soon, Charlotte.”
“Thanks,” said Charlotte. On the way to the door, she swayed slightly. “Coming, Gwenny?”
I grabbed her arm. For the first time I felt quite important to Charlotte. It was a nice feeling to be needed for a change.
“Don’t forget to phone and tell me all about it,” Lesley whispered as we passed her.
Feeling slightly better outside the classroom, Charlotte wanted to fetch some things from her locker, but I held her firmly by the sleeve. “Not now, Charlotte! We have to get home as fast as possible. Lady Arista says—”
“It’s gone again,” said Charlotte.
“So? It could come back any moment.” Charlotte let me steer her the other way. “Where did I put that chalk?” As we walked on, I searched my jacket pocket. “Oh, good, here it is. And my mobile. Shall I call home? Are you scared? Silly question, sorry. I’m so excited.”
“Humorous, romantic and suspenseful, the plot is fast-paced and impossible to put down . . . . The final romantic cliffhanger will leave you thirsty for the next book in this ‘jewel' of a series.” ―Justine magazine
“Sixteen-year-old Londoner Gwyneth Shepherd comes from a family of time travelers. The gene was supposed to have skipped Gwen, but sneaks up on her unexpectedly in the middle of class one day and hurls her way back to the 18th century, where she meets an insufferable-turns-lovable time-traveling boy named Gideon. ” ―TeenVogue.com
“Gier succeeds on her own terms, keeping the reader moving along, forward and backward in time, and ending with a revelation and a cliffhanger. Both will leave readers anticipating the publication of the next installment, ‘Sapphire Blue.'” ―The New York Times Book Review
“What makes this such a standout is the intriguingly drawn cast, stars and supporting players both, beginning with Gwen, whose key feature is her utter normality… Adventure, humor, and mystery all have satisfying roles here.” ―Starred, Booklist
“The characters in Kerstin Gier's stellar story come fully to life, and veteran translator Anthea Bell (who translated Cornelia Funke's Inkheart books) preserves the book's abundant humor . . . . There's something here for everyone.” ―Shelf Awareness
“Teen readers will be eager to find out what happens to Gwen and Gideon in their next adventures, to be revealed in the second book of the trilogy, Sapphire Blue, followed by Emerald Green.” ―BookPage
“Gier's romantic story is an excellent opportunity to explore fashions of the past, if nothing else, but it's also a page-turner that will have you wanting to learn German so you don't have to wait for the next translation to be published.” ―Channel One.com
“As she narrates this fast-paced puzzler, Gwen convincingly conveys the bewilderment, fear and excitement of a teen rooted in the present but catapulted from her school-girl routine into the past. Bell's deft translation captures an engaging heroine with a cell phone and a sense of humor, an emerging romance and a complex, unresolved time-travel mystery spanning four centuries.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“This first installment of a trilogy will soon find a new crop of fans in the United States. It's a fun, engaging read that will be an easy sell for teens wanting to time travel with a delightful narrator.” ―School Library Journal
“The first in a trilogy, Ruby Red offers romance, adventure, small details of various eras, and the complications that families can bring. It will mostly appeal to teenage girls who have a preference for reading romance.” ―VOYA
“…Gier's characters and plotting are first-rate, creating an adventure that should leave readers eager for the rest of the trilogy.” ―Publishers Weekly
“A smart, entertaining read . . . Gwen, an outsider in her own family, is the perfect spunky, skeptical heroine.” ―Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“An extremely appetizing mix of mystery thriller, science fiction and romantic adventure that readers will most likely devour in one sitting.” ―Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung
“Thrilling and witty.” ―Radio Bremen
“Guaranteed to be addictive.” ―Badische Neueste Nachrichten
“As soon as you have managed to open this wonderful book, you won't want to close it anymore! Superbly romantic, witty and--thank God--only the first part of this emotional time travel trilogy.” ―Daisuki
“A sophisticated and adventurous fantasy story with a sense of humor.” ―Nordbayerischer Kurier
“Bestselling author Kerstin Gier has written a romantic and funny story that will captivate readers until the very end. Truly mesmerizing.” ―Kölnische Rundschau
“Exciting fantasy with lots of wordplay and a pinch of romance. Now the impatient waiting for Volume Two will start.” ―Westfälische Nachrichten
“The very finest reading stuff.” ―Buchmarkt--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.