Journey In The Pandemic by Angela Stevens

The Hype

Taking a journey is always an exciting backdrop for a novel. Even in fiction, we look forward to exploring the exotic location and immersing ourselves in the food, culture, and the unfamiliar. We like to see what unique elements a foreign climate will throw at the poor unsuspecting characters, and how they will survive the mayhem. However, when planning my current travel to the UK, I was skeptical about whether I really wanted the twisty-turny plot that the cover and book description (A.K.A The News and Covid) were promising me. Actually, I hoped it would be boring and uneventful. I hoped that, for once, the star characters would reach their HEA (happily-ever-after) in a predictable and timely manner.

Journey

The Book Description

The Hero and Heroine have been watching the news for months, waiting for travel to the UK to open up and stay that way. It has been 3 years since they have seen their family, and there are pressing things for the couple to sort out over there. As soon as things stabilized with travel H and h couldn’t deny their destiny any longer. With flights booked, and fingers crossed, they set off on an adventure with high hopes that their travel would be drama free.

This is the second book in the series, and although nervous about traveling in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic world–or at least a popular dystopian plot–the plucky pair are optimistic. Even though in book 1 they had encountered many plot twists–a hunt for fuel, missing planes, a vanished crew, a pilot inexplicably in Wyoming when they were in Denver airport, a case of the wrong paper work, and a weird side story about the perils of the metric v’s imperial math systems and weight calculation, the main characters believed that this time they were prepared for whatever the author through at them.

The Prologue

After booking flights to England, a whole lot of fun and games ensue. Almost from page one, the reader could pretty much guess how this story was going to turn out. When the threat of quarantining for 10 days had been lifted by a surprising early plot twist– those vaccinated now didn’t have to!–our trusty hero and heroine were lulled into a false sense of security. But of course, by the next page, a whole new set of hurdles to jump over were introduced.

Act 1

Our characters now faced three trials to see if they were worthy of the quest. (Have you noticed, all the best stories have things happen in threes?)
Trial 1: 3 days before flying, a Covid test must be taken. The results received before flying (despite tests results taking 3 days or more to be completed!).
Trial 2: a repeat Covid test to be booked and taken within 2 days of arrival. (Not to mention locating the bizarre, mysterious building that the GPS had never heard of).
Trial 3: the hero and heroine must repeat trial 1 before flying home. And they must do so while taking a side trip to an undisclosed destination across the other side of the country.

This didn’t faze the plucky adventurers. They were more than happy to conform. The last thing they wanted was to endanger any fellow passengers or family they might encounter on their quest in England. They took a trip through the CVS drive through, and by some miracle, procured their results in 24 hours. A little too easy, I thought, the author could have created more drama here. After gathering together important secret documents to prove their victory and filling out an extensive passenger locator form, they headed to the airport. (At this point, I suspected that locator form would become a key plot point later, so I squirreled that away, on the look out for when the characters might whip it out and use it to defy the villain, or perhaps the villain would use it against them.)

The characters journey took them to Charlotte airport where they expected to confront chaos and very slow queues. They had been forewarned of such obstructions by an earlier visit to this location. With test one secured in their baggage, they anticipated the next plot twist, so arrived at the airport three hours early.

Balancing expectations

I expected the worst for the characters. The author had already set up a plethora of dangers for them to face. News story full of travel horrors. People being detained in Customs at Heathrow Airport for more than five hours, fainting from lack of air and access to food and water. Two days before flying, another bad seed was sown, severe fuel shortages due to a lack of lorry drivers, should be expected.

Our heroes made peace with their rocky road. After a little wobble, where they doubted their sanity at taking on this quest, they decided there was no choice, they needed to get to the UK and they were prepared to use a whole year of patience to do it.

Plot twists are over-rated

You know when you pick up a book and expect one type of story but get a whole different one instead, and you read that story thinking any minute now, there is going to be one big plot twist and the story will give you what you expected? Well, this tale is not like that.

Arriving three hours early, the characters were through all the new screening processes at the airport, they had navigated the unprecedented short lines through TSA, and they had arrived at the departure gate in less than twenty minutes. After more than two hours wait, they boarded the plane, which took off on time!

Airplane Angela Stevens

I was still waiting for a twist, but none came. It transpired that the plane was quite empty. Passengers were able to socially distance, and used the extra space to stretch out and have a restful trip. On board food was not only provided, but it was delicious, and they enjoyed a couple of glasses of red wine to celebrate.

They arrived in England an hour early.

Aha! Now there would be trouble. The airport won’t be open and they will encounter zombies in the horrendous queues the news anchor man had forewarned us about. Perhaps that passenger locator form was going to rear its ugly head, too.

But no.

There were no queues and no zombies, just helpful staff, and a straight line through border control, where they received a casual ‘welcome back’ from the guard. They then collected their luggage and were at the car rental before the plane’s scheduled arrival time.

I presumed there would be trouble ahead because the heroes had booked a car for 10 am, but now they were two hours early. Except still their luck didn’t falter. Five minutes later, they were on the motorway, heading north on a four hour car drive to their destination.

Act 2

The characters were on the home straight. But avid readers know this is the part in a novel where things go south. Our hero is lulled into a false high. And then things are turned upside down. So, with rain pouring, they set their jaws and kept a look out for the next plot twist. I was sure it was going to involve running out of gas, but as they crept closer to their destination, the ‘fuel not available’ signs vanished, and beautiful rainbows welcomed them.

Act 3

Never happened.

Instead, the heroes headed unscathed towards a HEA. They found the mysterious building for their covid tests and then performed the second trial. And the results came through in less than twenty-four hours. They saw their family and took care of business. The only challenge they faced was rain and they had no umbrellas.

Summary of the Book

Journey In The Pandemic by Angela Stevens is a very boring novel. The heroes arrived all in one piece, with no hiccups, no delays. And they passed the three trials with flying colors. I have my fingers crossed that the sequel, Return Journey In The Pandemic will go as smoothly. Surprisingly, I have found this author’s lack of imagination quite refreshing. Perhaps there should be more stories where everything has gone to plan. And the stars of the novel do not have to go through hell to get their HEA.

Afterword

Joking aside, I want to thank all the people who made our journey boringly quick and tediously uneventful. Especially in these unprecedented times. Every single person we came into contact with greeted us with a smile. And they helped get us where we needed to be. They did a fantastic job against the backdrop of sensationalized news articles, all while wearing masks for our safety. I for one, would like to knight every bloody one of them. Seriously, they all need a pay raise and, if it wasn’t for covid, a great big hug. It has given me a glimmer of hope. The dystopian-esque novel we’ve been stuck in feels like it is almost over. And I am finally beginning to believe we will reach the end with no more plot twists.

For much more interesting and exciting story lines you can check out Angela Stevens books on Amazon, or sample one of her rom-com stories in the Author’s billboard boxed set Cute but Crazy.

Indiana Jones in Petra

I visited Petra almost ten years ago as part of a cruise that took us from Italy all the way to Singapore, sailing the Mediterranean, crossing the Suez Canal, and continuing through the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The blockbuster film Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade was partly filmed in the ancient city of Petra, a place unknown to much of the world before 1989. Indiana Jones was reviewed as “One of the best action-adventure films of all time,” and “One of the all-time greats. Harrison Ford is perfection-plus as Indiana Jones, so iconic a character that the AFI cited him as the second greatest movie hero of all time.”

“Archeology has never been so cool.”

Located between rugged desert canyons and mountains– in what is now the southwestern corner of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan– Petra was once a thriving trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 B.C. and A.D. 106. The city sat empty and in near ruin for centuries. In the early 1800s, a European traveler disguised himself in Bedouin costume and infiltrated the mysterious site. In 1985, the Petra Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in 2007 it was named one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Bab Al Siq’ is Arabic for gateway to the ‘siq’. Here we discovered squared monuments, the massive Djinn blocks, and the Obelisk Tomb, carved in the 1st century AD. Above the tomb are four pyramids as well as a niche with a statue in bas-relief that is a symbolic representation of the five people buried there. An inscription indicated that the tomb was used for Abdomanchos and his family, probably in 40- 70 AD.

The Siq, the main road that leads to the city, is a rock canal that measures 3 to 12 meters in width and reaches up to 80 meters in height. The main part of the Siq is created by natural rock formation and the rest was carved by the Nabataeans.

The siq opens up onto Petra’s most magnificent façade; the Treasury, or Al Khazna (in Arabic). It is almost 40 meters high and intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures and more. The Treasury consists of two floors with a width of 25.30 meters and a height of 39.1 meters, and comprises three chambers. The most recent excavation has unearthed a graveyard beneath the Treasury. 

Almost three decades ago, George Lucas decided to use the monumental Treasury, the centerpiece of Jordan’s ancient city of Petra, as the exterior of The Temple of the Sun in his movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Cast and crew had to travel all the way to Jordan for just one day of shooting, because that’s all it took to make those scenes work.

The Treasury is crowned by a funerary urn, which according to local legend conceals a pharaoh’s treasure. Although the original function is still a mystery, The Treasury was probably constructed in the 1st century BC. However, in reality the urn represented a memorial for royalty.

While the filmmakers were allowed to have free access to the main entrance chamber, access is prohibited to most mortal visitors. The good news is that the most spectacular part of the location is its exterior – as well as the path you need to take to get there in the first place.

The 1.2 kilometer-long walk through a cleft called The Siq is the only way to access the Treasury and come back to the entrance.

Carved directly into vibrant red, white, pink, and sandstone cliff faces, the prehistoric Jordanian city of Petra was “lost” to the Western world for hundreds of years.

Unfortunately with the pandemic going on for almost two years, I have stopped traveling. Instead I write non-stop and have finished writing a series of eight romance novels, LOVE PLANS. The five first books are on pre-order, and SAILING AWAY PLANS will be released tomorrow.

Love Plans Series:

Sailing Away Plans: The successful surgeon quits work to start a new life in the Caribbean, on his new boat and in a new clinic, but love strikes at the wrong time. [RELEASE DAY 9/2]

Dating Plans: Attraction sizzles between a divorced surgeon and a psychologist with a challenging daughter. Things get more difficult when the teenager’s father returns.

Rescue Plans: Arianna fought hard to escape the slums and become a flight nurse. Captain Lopez taught her to conquer fear. Can he help her forget the scum from the past and win her trust?

Wedding Plans: Will the doctor make the right decision between an angry fiancée and a medical emergency?

Baby Plans: They meet at the artificial insemination clinic. Zach is doing research for an article. Audrey is secretly getting a baby. But artificial insemination works in many ways…

A Cruise to the British Isles

An affable cruise representative met us at Heathrow Airport, London, and accompanied us to the bus that drove a whole group of passengers to the ship terminal in Southampton, where we boarded the ship, our home away-from-home for the next twelve days. We didn’t visit London where we have previously spent time.

The next morning we docked in Guernsey Island (St. Peter Port), 30 miles west of Normandy,  where the French author Victor Hugo lived in exile for 25 years at Hautevile House and wrote both Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. We were welcomed with a gorgeous sunny weather and 70 oF temperature for our visit of the island, an idyllic paradise with cobbled streets and picturesque seafront marina.

Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom but it is part of the British Islands. Residents speak English and French, and their money is similar to the English pound. Many of the houses in Guernsey’s west have an unusual strange piece of granite sticking out of them – these are “witches’ seats”. Back when they supposedly ran wild in the western parishes, residents built them onto their houses so that the witches could stop and rest, rather than causing havoc. The world-renowned Guernsey cow produces some of the most rich and delicious dairy products in the world.

St. Peter Port is the main town on the island of Guernsey. It’s full of hills, colors, and super cute shops! The top speed limit in Guernsey is 35 miles/hour. If you drive along the coastline of Guernsey you will hit military fortifications almost every 2 minutes or so. These were built during the Napoleonic wars to protect Guernsey from France.

The Little Chapel is actually the smallest chapel in the world! But the astonishing thing is that the entire chapel, interior and exterior, is covered with broken bits of pottery, glass, and china. 

We sailed to Ireland and stopped in Cork where we visited the romantic ruins of Blarney Castle. In the Blarney garden, the trees were dressed in knitted wool. Many visitors climbed the one-person narrow stairs to the Stone of Eloquence, all the way to the top of the castle (NOT me) and admired the amazing view.

In the Blarney village, we shopped for wool and Waterford crystal, and didn’t buy any, but we enjoyed watching young girls performing an Irish dance for us.

Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland is an old city boasting imposing castles and estates. The Druids believe the shamrock could ward off evil and the Christians believe it represent the Holy Trinity. In Dublin, we visited Trinity College and St. Patrick Cathedral.

Trinity College is huge, with several buildings. We were impressed by the crowd of young people and students. A Ford ancestor was autistic, and bullied by his friends. He was shot and fell from the window and died. They say that his ghost roams the University ground. His sibling left and went to the US. His grandson is Henry Ford.

TRINITY COLLEGE founded in 1592

At St. Patrick Cathedral we saw  the tile of Dean Jonathan Swift, who had been the dean of the Cathedral. When someone dozed during his homily, he had a chaplain drag his sermon chair to the culprit and hit him with his cane. My son-in-law’s grandmother had the same name and claimed him as an ancestor.

Our next stop was Liverpool, England, where we visited a very modern and circular church, the Catholic Metropolitan church of Christ the King and the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral that is humongous, of Gothic style in red brick, with gorgeous painted glass.

We strolled along Penny Lane and took pictures of the street where the Beatles lived.

In Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, we visited the yard of City Hall with Queen Victoria statue and a moratorium for the people who died in the Titanic. The “unsinkable” Titanic was built in Belfast over two years and sailed from Liverpool. After it was built, the engineer said: “Not even God can sink the Titanic.”

In Scotland, we docked in Greenock and drove through Glasgow. Our guide wore a lovely yellow kilt. We passed by George Place, in front of the spectacular City Hall, big square with several statues, among which that of Walter Scott.

After a day at sea, we were still in Scotland. Our next stop was in Inverness and Loch Ness. We woke up at 5:30 am for the long ride by bus. It was rainy and cold but worth it. I stoically waited under the rain with my umbrella while my husband climbed up the old castle.

During my visit to Guernsey, I was greatly impressed by the peaceful island that boasted a tumultuous history. As our guide described the special autonomy and numerous privileges the residents enjoy under the leadership of a Lieutenant Governor, I decided that this Channel Island would become the Principality of Rensy Island, the setting of a new series of romance novels. So far, I have five books relating the stories of the princes/princesses from Rensy Island. I hope you will enjoy reading this series.

A Bride For Prince Paul: She can’t abandon her patients for his crown! A Bodyguard For The Princess: A murder at Harvard in Princess Chloe’s student building. Jingle With My Princess: The doc and the princess… He saves lives but Princess Charlene may save his heart. Prince Philip’s Cinderella: A charming jogger saves her from danger. But he’s a prince… and she comes from nothing. Should she run or risk her heart? A Dance for Prince Eric: A ballerina with a promising career on the run for her brother’s sake. A charismatic prince who saved them both. Do fairytales exist?

Where nothing bad ever happens…

Imagine a nice neighborhood of fancy high-rises lined along the seashore, each looking like a picture perfect resort, with a private beach and a pool sparkling under the blazing sun. I am sure you must have received postcards from well-intentioned friends, rubbing it in that they are sunbathing in Florida while you are freezing in arctic weather.

When you visit friends living in a high-rise, you have to sign in at the front desk. Security officers would check with the people you are visiting before directing you to one of the elevators. In other words, high-rises benefit from a tight and reassuring security.

Nothing bad could ever happen in these places. Right?

Wrong! This crime occurred in a neighboring building. A friend related the story before it was printed in the local newspaper.

The couple have been married for a year. Picture her tall, artificially blond, fashionable with tight dresses and high heeled-sandals. It’d be difficult to guess her age, anywhere between 40 and 50. Her husband, well-tanned, rugged, often looking younger. He likes the beach and often swims. She protects her face with a wide-rim hat when walking to her car. The neighbors regularly see her taking her daily jog in the morning and the security officer at the front desk greets her with an appreciative smile. Mrs. X. is wealthy and gives generous Christmas bonuses to the building employees.

So when Mrs. X didn’t show up for her daily walk for three consecutive days, security got worried. Her car was still in the parking lot but not her husband’s. Security called her apartment several times. No one answered. Having an extra key, the security officer knocked on her door and opened when receiving no answer. The apartment was empty. Maybe she was gone with her husband.

Mr. X returned from his trip in the night and two days later called the police saying that his wife was missing.

The police found her purse and car keys at home. So where was she?

A day later, a woman body dressed in bra and bikini, and high-heeled sandals was found lying on the sand of a beach at a two-hour distance. The woman was identified as Mrs. X.

Mr. X collapsed, crying that his wife has committed suicide.

What is your verdict? Who killed Mrs. X and why?

Police suspected everyone. Husband, security guard, creep from outside, Mrs. X committing suicide.

Then police looked at motives and alibis.

1-Creep from outside could have killed her while she was on the beach but would have thrown her in the ocean in front of her building. Why take extra chance in moving her elsewhere?

2- Security guard had no serious motive to kill her. In the contrary he benefited from her gifts when she was alive.

3-Suicide: how could she have gone to that faraway beach without her car? The way she took care of herself was not characteristic of a depressed woman.

4-husband had a great alibi. He was on a trip and proofed that he met with people, but the fact he took so long to report the crime incriminated him. Also the fact that her car keys were in the purse left at home.

Police report said that the husband killed her by strangulation, shoved her in his trunk, then went on his trip, came back to dump her in the ocean, then went back to meet again with his partners, there by consolidating his alibi.

His motive: Money. Police discovered he had taken an insurance on his wife, and claimed she was depressive because she often visited a friend who was a psychiatrist, but they were friendly visits, not professional. He is in jail, awaiting his sentence. The apartment was sold.

Think you know your neighbors? Reviewed in the United States “This is an enjoyable cozy mystery, its emphasis on the romance between the main characters, Alexa Partson and Dante Cantari. The Italian hunk is every woman’s dream – smart, attentive and a dynamo in the boudoir. As well as on the beach! When Alexa is accused of killing her neighbor and nemesis, Steve Bairey, Dante steps up as her lawyer and protector, too. Through it all, the author skillfully weaves in the high life of condo living on the sands of Fort Lauderdale. And it’s dangers. Because someone in the building wants Alexa dead. And won’t stop until she is. There’s a host of interesting secondary characters, who become suspects in Alexa’s eyes, as she and Dante play amateur sleuths in order to catch the real murderer. The conclusion is fast-paced and the mystery kept me guessing right to the end. I will definitely be reading more from this writer.

“Her French Count is a great romance with an excellent mystery.” ~Publishers’ Weekly
“This is a wonderfully exciting romantic suspense novel. The characters are appealing and the setting is very romantic, a chateau in the Loire Valley. There is an interesting cast of characters. The plot is full of action and the reader is never sure who is on the side of good or evil.” ~ Romance Studio
“Murder, mystery, and intrigue seem to follow Cheryl as she assists Francois on his project. A great contemporary romantic read.” ~Review Your Book
“Mona Risk brings old-fashioned romance back into style… full of mystery and intrigue.  I loved Ms. Risk’s injection of humor into the story. A sweet mystery romance you’re guaranteed to enjoy.” ~ Two Lips Review
“Ms. Risk does a nice job of building the relationship between the main characters while exploring the mystery of the lost statue.” ~ Simply Romance Review
“Mona Risk will pull you in with her amazing characters and in-depth twisting suspense. She takes armchair travel to whole new heights as her characters travel to their heart wrenching and spine tingling doom.”~ Night Owl Romance Book Reviews
“A great romance with an excellent mystery. The instant attraction is met with a slow and sure build up of emotions. The couple are very complementary, compelling, and wonderfully romantic.” ~Coffee Time Romance