Title: Sweetest Taboo
Author: Eva Marquez
Release date: October 1, 2012
Genre and Age Group: *Mature* YA Adult Contemporary Romance/Ages 16+/Females
Event organized by: AToMR Tours
Isabel Cruz was fifteen years old when she met Tom Stevens. She was 15 when they started dating, and 16 when she lost her virginity to him. By the time she turned 18 and went to college, everything had fallen apart. This hadn’t been an ordinary love, though. Not a love between two dear friends, or even high school sweethearts. This had been the most taboo sort of love there was: a relationship between a student and her teacher. Isabel started her high school career as a normal student, but set her sights on Tom Stevens as soon as she met him, and pursued him with an intense – and sometimes reckless – fascination. When he finally approached her after swim practice and told her that he shared her feelings, it was the start of a forbidden and dangerous relationship.
EXCERPT 1 (from the Preface)
My story begins in the early 90s, when a young girl started her high school career. She may have been any girl – young, impressionable, and fresh into the wide world of older boys, harder classes, and more choices. She may have been quite beautiful, well developed for her age, and smarter than most of the other students in her class. She may have been destined for the same high school career as anyone else – honors courses, braces, a few high school crushes, photography classes, a first kiss, and then a straight shot into the college of her choice, and her future as a doctor, or teacher, or architect.
Instead, she fell in love with her swim coach, one of the most popular teachers in the school, and became romantically involved with him.
I don’t believe that I have to tell you how dangerous this would have been. She was a young girl of 15, 16, 17 and he an adult man in his late 30s, old enough to be her father. Although this type of relationship would have passed as acceptable and even normal in Medieval England, the modern world frowns on such dalliances, and prosecutes the men – and women – who take advantage of adolescent students in this way. The two of them, then, would have been facing the threat of discovery, tarnishing of reputation, and even time behind bars; throwing their relationship in the face of society, if you will, but doing so quietly, in order to avoid detection.
Have you guessed, yet, that the story I’m telling you is true? Have you guessed that it’s more than just a rhetorical question, more than an idea that developed in my head one day?
The girl in the story is my mother, Isabel Cruz. She never told her story to the world, though she could have, because she didn’t want her love and relationship to be tainted by society’s judgments. This was a story of an illicit – and illegal – love. It was a story of lying, cheating, and misleading the authorities. My mother’s love for this older man was forbidden, and would have been highly scandalous to the world at large. She might have lost privileges, opportunities, and even her family, had they found out. And for him … his future and very life would have been put in jeopardy if the nature of their relationship were revealed, regardless of whether my mother sought to prosecute him or not. Even when she was older, my mother feared that the truth about their relationship might bring a backlash to the man she had loved so dearly. She fought against that with all her might, with the ongoing wish to keep him from any risk or pain. She never lost her love for him, scandalous as it may have seemed to others.
She is older, now, and the man in the story is long gone. When I happened across her diary from that time and asked her permission to write the story, she acquiesced. It was time that the world knew, she said, so it could see that this type of love – though it may be frowned upon, and even prosecuted – isn’t always what it seems. Sometimes, regardless of the ages of the participants, it is just that. Love. True and pure as it can be between two people, and strong enough to last through the years. It was time, she said, for our family to know its past, and its future.
I have just closed her diary, having squeezed every word from it, and written my own last words, which means that the book is done and her story has been told. I must pass it to you now, Reader, and trust you to hold it dear and keep it safe. I must trust you to see the love that shines through, rather than the social mores of the situation. I must trust you to care for my mother and her past, as I have during the writing of this book.
This, then, is my mother’s story. It starts when she was very young, only 15 …
~ Claire Stevens
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About the Author
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, daughter of European immigrants, Eva Márquez has spent most of her life outside of her home country. At the age of five, Eva accompanied her parents to the United States, where the family settled permanently. After graduating from university, she went on to complete graduate studies in International Relations in Spain. Eva received her Master of International Studies degree from the University of Sydney and went on to work in the global health field in Sub Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Eva currently resides in Southern Africa.
Visit Eva’s Amazon Author Central Page
EXCERPT 2 (from Chapter 1)
“You’re my sweetheart," he told me, his voice sad. "I can’t imagine life without you. I don’t want to have to imagine life without you.”
Tom rarely used terms of endearment with me, these days. When he did – in these rare moments when he called me his sweetheart – my heart melted. All of the turmoil, the sleepless nights, the protracted nature of our relationship, became nothing more than a passing inconvenience and very worthwhile. Tonight, though, I knew that the word came with drawbacks. They gave me the courage I needed to say the words I’d been dreading.
“My graduation won’t affect our relationship, you know that," I told him. "Look at how much we’ve been through together. If we made it through all of that, we can make it through anything. Tom, I want to be with you always, no matter where life takes me after graduation.”
I spoke passionately, fully believing in what I said. I was absolutely devoted to this man. But somewhere deep inside, I knew I was being dishonest. Neither of us wanted our relationship to change, but it was clear that things were going to change, and soon. I had just been offered a place at a small, private liberal arts college on the East Coast. The choice had been difficult because although I wanted to stay close to Tom, I also wanted to move forward with my life. In the end, I accepted the offer. Tom hadn’t really reacted when I told him. It hadn’t affected our relationship. Now, though, the cracks were starting to show.
“I want to believe that,” Tom answered quietly. “I loved the last letter you wrote me. Every time I read your letters, I feel like I’m sixteen again. I feel like I’ve come out of a deep sleep." A pause, and then, "I can’t lose you, Isabel. You’re the reason I wake up in the morning; I can’t love anyone more than I love–”
Suddenly I heard a distinct click on the line. My heart plummeted.
“Did you hear that?" Tom snapped, his tone suddenly terse. "Did someone pick up the phone at your house?”
“Hold on a minute, let me check inside.” I slipped back inside and listened, but the house was completely quiet. The kitchen phone was on the counter, my mom’s office was dark, and I was holding the only other phone in the house.
"Who picked up the phone?” Tom repeated, worry coloring his voice.
The click had not originated on my end of the line. I should've been relieved, but my panic rose even more.
“Tom," I whispered into the receiver. "It wasn’t here, everyone’s asleep..."
“I have to go," Tom interrupted abruptly. "Danielle's coming.”
There was another click, and the line went dead.