I remember last summer, a friend kept after me to read this terrific story that had her riveted. I was elbows deep in some things, vacation came along, blah blah blah. You know how the excuses of life go. Needless to say, I never got around to reading the story, and much to my chagrin of epic proportions (thanks SM) I never did end up reading it.
Well Friday night the miniman and I were recovering from a marathon cookie making junket. We'd just stretched out on the couch, and I'd hit play on How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After a few minutes, I knew I needed something to ease the pain of the fifteenth viewing of Jim Carey this season, so I pulled up fan fiction and started trolling.
My requirements were easy: a completed story, preferably AU or Canon. I decided to be bold, and dig through people's favorites (you can tell a lot about a person by their faves, but that's a different topic). I knew what I was in the mood for, and figured if I hit twitter, I would get inundated by AH or something I'd already read. I needed different.
After a few minutes of exploring, I tripped across Letmesign's Marble and Mahogany. I wanted to pound my palm against my forehead in one of those duh moments. This was the fic that had been rec'ed so hard over the summer, the one I'd kept putting it off. Well, it was complete now, and fit the criteria, so I dug right in, armed with fresh baked Christmas cookies and large hot chocolate.
Never has two hours of tuning out Jim Carey been so lovely.
The story throws out all the traditional Twilight elements. No high school setting, no infamous meeting in biology. The basic canon mythology is the same; the seven Cullens finding a place to live for a few years. Carlisle practices medicine while the rest blend in and live their lives using academia as a cover, this time as college students. They feed of animals, and Edward is still painfully alone.
But this is where Letmesign flips the traditional facets we've come to know so well on their head. Instead of meeting Bella as a human, where Edward would be entranced by her smell and silent mind, we meet Bella the vampire, who feeds off humans. Bella's bond is strongest with, well...someone other than Alice. And just because Bella isn't Edward's singer doesn't mean she doesn't meet one of her own.
Yep - you read right. Throw out all your predispositions, cause they don't hold water here.
Bella's been a vampire for going on sixty years after being turned on the eve of her wedding by, well... that's one of the surprises. As an unwilling member of the Volturi guard, she recently won her literal and figurative freedom, and fled to the US to pursue her dream of a semi-normal life.
The story starts off with a quick back story on Edward and Bella, then tumbles headfirst into their meeting and instant attraction. The build up is a slow burn, one that is crafted with love by Letmesign. It would have been easy to jump right in and have the mad rush of attraction take over, but this is a more nuanced, detailed story, which takes the time to explain motivations, and much to my happiness, develop characters.
Yep, you read that right, there are some good characterizations in here. The way Letmesign handles Jasper, Carlisle and my beloved Emmett all give me warm fuzzies. Carlisle in particular - in a series of pivotal scenes, just...wow.
But back to the story, there is a lot going on, but at heart, M&M is a love story about two emotionally flawed individuals who are isolated for two very different reasons. The detail spent delving into Edward's emotional isolation and Bella's trauma at the hands of the Volturi is so incredibly well done, and lends so much to the typical 'they see each other and fall in love' tale. There is so much evolution in these characters as they open up, have faith, start to believe not only in what they have, but what they could be.
Important to note, this story is not all sunshine and roses. Bella's experiences with the Volturi, viewed in a series of flashbacks, are horrific. There are clear warning notes on the chapters that contain potential offensive content, and they are by no means done in a gratuitious manner, but go in advised, for it can be strong stuff. I asked Letmesign about why she chose to go that route, and her answer surprised me:
Bella does conquer her past, in a way that will have you cheering, doing a few fist punches, and singing I Will Survive at the top of your lungs. A strong Bella is a personal favorite of mine, and I adore how it's dealt with here. A woman facing her ghosts, surrounded by family that will support her and a man who loves her. Yeah, that's what it's about.
This story kept me enthralled all through the Grinch, and well into the night (I did switch to wine along the way - there is some lovely citrus in later chapters, that well, let's just say that it was red wine worthy). As much as I wanted to drown out Jim Carey, there was one line of the Grinch that fit this story so incredibly well:
Inside a snowflake like the one on your sleeve, there happened a story you must see to believe.
It's true. Dig in to Marble & Mahogany, you have to see it to believe it.
HMonster4, recently redubbed MonstyH, is an admin at TLYDF, and is currently entering cookie dough rehab. She inexplicably loves both Emmett and spreadsheets.