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Scarab in the Storm (The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles, Book III)

Scarab in the Storm (The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles, Book III)

A Strategic Murder. A Desperate Act. A Broken Heart. One Last Fight for the Crown.

Egypt is divided and conspiracy runs deep--the boy King Tut inherits a nation of chaos, and his wife, Queen Ankhesenamun, is desperate to earn his trust.

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Main Tropes and Themes

  • Power at a Price
  • Unrequited Love
  • Tragic Rose
  • Family Disunion
  • Forgiveness
  • Sacrifice

What is this story about?

Egypt is divided and conspiracy runs deep--the boy King Tut inherits a nation of chaos, and his wife, Queen Ankhesenamun, is desperate to earn his trust.

Pharaoh Tutankhamun must decide Egypt's path amid political turmoil and corruption while Queen Ankhesenamun struggles to convince Pharaoh that their lives are at stake.

With truth shrouded in mystery, doubt attacks the royalty as a power mercilessly pursues the crown. Egypt's fate is determined by Pharaoh's and Queen Ankhesenamun's success or failure in the coming storm.

Who is this story for?

Perfect for Egyptophiles and fans of heart-wrenching stories.

Anyone who loves epic historical sagas, slow-burn closed-door romance, and Ancient Egyptian historical retellings, the highest rated volume of The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles offers a compelling and imaginative take on the most famous pharaoh, King Tut, of the 18th Dynasty's Amarna period.

With its richly detailed world-building and complex characters, Scarab in the Storm is a must-read for anyone who loves tales of love, loss, and rebellions.

Grab this gripping historical drama today.

Content Disclaimers

Author Rating:

The author rated this book for ages 14+ for violence, closed-door romance, and adult themes, such as:

  • disability (character with)
  • child death; and what we call abortion in modern-day
  • romance (in non-romance genres)
  • sexually active underage teens or tweens (due to the time period)
  • spousal or parental abuse
  • closed-door incest (time period appropriate)

Chapter 1 Preview

The Time of Learning

Aketaten, 1332 B.C.

Queen and chief royal wife Ankhesenpaaten lunged at Sennedjem, her fighting stick raised over her head. She chopped it down, but Sennedjem parried upward, blocking her advance. His stick swung around, trapping hers pointed at the ground. They locked eyes as she considered releasing her weapon or risking another tap from him. She hesitated—and then it was too late. He brought the back end of his stick up to her face and halted his training weapon right before it smacked into her nose. Ending the match, he brought his feet together and straightened his back as he lowered the fighting stick from her face to his side.

He bowed to her, his student, as the Overseer of the Tutors in the royal harem.

Her cheeks flushed; if it had been a real fight, this life’s end would have followed. Her heart beat within her chest as the sun poured over the two of them in the training yard. She couldn’t quite catch her breath as she remembered her mother’s body lying lifeless in the council room. Tension filled her jaw despite her labored breaths, and she wrapped her hands tight around the fighting stick until her knuckles lost their color. Knowing her mother’s murderer, Pawah, lurked about the palace fulfilling her duties while Pharaoh was away only intensified her glare fixated on her tutor.

“Again!” Her order rebounded off the distant stone walls surrounding the royal harem’s spacious training yard.

With every purposeful stride, Ankhesenpaaten envisioned Sennedjem as Pawah, remembering Pawah’s threat and the hot stench of his words upon her cheek—

“Even your own throne room is not yours.”

Her teeth shone through her curled lips as she swung her stick at Sennedjem, who blocked it and countered. Ankhesenpaaten parried and attacked again, her eyes narrowed in fury as she heard her mother’s scream echo in recent memory.

Sennedjem let out a short, disappointed breath. With ease, he became the attacker, putting Ankhesenpaaten on the defensive, until, shortly thereafter, he once again ended the spar with a halted strike to her neck. She fell to a knee but willed herself to stand upon her wobbly legs, using the fighting stick as leverage.

The only person she could trust—her grandfather, Ay—was in Waset by order of Pharaoh. Loneliness made sleep elusive as she wondered who stayed loyal to the throne, who stayed loyal to her, and who followed Pawah. The lack of sleep, in turn, made her tired in her lessons and thus an easy target.

A doomed vicious cycle . . . but this I know: I will not fall victim like my mother.

“Chief royal wife,” Sennedjem said, interrupting her thoughts as he looked at her wobbly legs. “My Queen, perhaps we rest for now.” He gazed up at the sky, shielding his eyes from the sun’s rays; they had been out in the sun for the better part of the day.

“No,” Ankhesenpaaten huffed. Her muscles twitched as she slid the tip of the fighting stick into the dirt to stand erect beside her. “Again!”

With her exhale, she let out a yell and drew her stick into an offensive stance as she advanced on Sennedjem. He blocked her swing, stepping into a defensive retreat.

The weight of the fighting stick drained the strength in her arms until, on her last swing, she collapsed to her knee again, and the air before Sennedjem’s swing burst on her face as his fighting stick stopped short of her nose yet again. It disappeared from her sight as quickly as it had come.

“My Queen, you are tired. Practicing this way will not increase your skill. You need rest and drink.” Sennedjem stood straight, awaiting her command.

“No,” Ankhesenpaaten said as her forehead fell into her arms. The sun made her head swell and her vision blur.

“Drink, my Queen,” Sennedjem repeated. He snapped his fingers, and the servant boy ran to them with water pulled from the palace’s royal well. Sennedjem drank from the goblet before handing it to her.

Ankhesenpaaten stared at Sennedjem as she drank. The last of the warm droplets passed her greedy lips, and she took in a deep breath, handing the goblet back to the servant boy. She had noticed Sennedjem drink before her when a cupbearer could not be found; she wondered if the act was a ploy to gain her trust on behalf of Pawah, or if he truly took his oath to the throne with his life.

“Shall we step into the shade, my Queen?” Sennedjem dipped his chin in deference.

“No,” Ankhesenpaaten said.

She attempted to stand but lost her balance from the scorch of the unforgiving sun. Sennedjem caught her before she fell into the dirt and pulled her to standing.

“I have only seen a few battles, but when men stumbled like this, it usually meant they needed rest—or else they would certainly be killed in the next skirmish, and not necessarily by the enemy’s hand.” His brown eyes traced the outline of her face as he pulled his hands away from her arms as she regained her balance.

Ankhesenpaaten’s jaw drew tight. Her mother’s scream echoed in her ears. Pawah would not kill her in the same way. She would be ready for him when he came for her, and she would be ready to take her revenge for her mother’s murder. She opened her mouth to speak, but Sennedjem spoke first.

“My Queen, I admire your determination, but even the fiercest of warriors still need rest.”

At this, she felt a weight drop from her shoulders. She looked to the ground. He took a step back from her as she noticed how close they were. She looked up at him as he stepped and felt the ground spin as she dug her toes into her sandals to keep her balance. He reached out again to steady her, and she let out a stubborn breath as she gave in—But only for this one moment, she promised herself.

“You are a good tutor, Sennedjem. We shall rest now.”

Sennedjem nodded, and she led them to the shade, using Sennedjem’s arm as a counterbalance. Once there, Sennedjem ordered the servant boy to get more to drink.

Secretly, Sennedjem wanted to know if what Ankhesenpaaten told Tutankhaten that day in the training yard was true. He had stood right there when she told the crown prince that Vizier Pawah had killed her mother, Pharaoh Neferneferuaten, but since then, he dared not ask her. To him, it seemed too coincidental that the very day she relayed her eye-witness account, news traveled that Pharaoh Neferneferuaten had gone to the Re in her sleep.

Now, watching her drink from the goblet, he could only assume it was true. She had been in his training yard every day since her husband, the now-Pharaoh Tutankhaten, had left for war in the North, and it seemed to him that she was possessed with an unquenchable desire to learn to defend herself . . . and, even more so, to attack. Her vigor and sweat made him appreciate her grit, but there lay a sadness in her eyes, just behind the rage. He could only assume why she trained so hard: to protect Pharaoh, should Pawah attempt to kill him too . . . and perhaps to kill Pawah for taking her mother from her.

But that seemed too primitive for a chief royal wife; he rebuked himself for the thought. Regardless, her determination sparked a certain primal admiration in him.

Just then, she caught him staring at her while he thought. Hoping to avoid the questions that were sure to follow, he looked to the yard and bit his tongue.

“Why do you stare at me, Tutor Sennedjem?” Ankhesenpaaten asked him, her voice low.

“Few are granted the privilege of looking the chief royal wife in the face,” Sennedjem said, and felt the day’s heat seep into his bones in contrast to the cold lump growing in his chest. “I do not disrespect you. I only admire your desire to learn my trade.” He kept his eyes on the training yard, examining the training weapons that hung on the walls. But I want to know why, he thought.

“No,” Ankhesenpaaten said with a curt shake, and tossed her empty goblet to the servant boy.

“What?” Sennedjem asked, snapping his head to her.

“You want to know why I learn a man’s skill with so much, as you said, ‘desire.’ ” Ankhesenpaaten stood as he tried to form a response. “I will tell you,” she whispered, making sure the servant boy could not hear them. “You already know why.”

Sennedjem dared himself to look into her eyes. “It was true, then, what you said to Pharaoh . . . ?” He studied her face: straight nose, heavy lids covering big brown eyes, high cheeks, full lips.

“Yes. Pawah killed my mother. But we mustn’t say that, lest the position of Pharaoh were to fall in the people’s eyes.” Ankhesenpaaten peered up at him and lowered her eyebrows at the widening of his eyes. “Pawah bribes the people with royal grain in return for blind loyalty.”

His jaw fell ajar.

Her eyes darted between his own. “Are you in his favor?”

“No . . . I have never received royal grain other than my payment as a tutor.” Sennedjem looked her straight in the eyes and stood tall, his chest growing into a proud stance. “Nor would I ever accept such a bribe. I am loyal to Pharaoh.”

“I wish I could believe you,” Ankhesenpaaten whispered as she cocked her head to the side and narrowed her eyes at him. “Although I trust you in some regards, I do not fully trust anyone here.” She circled him and then stepped backward toward her chair.

Sennedjem watched her cautious actions and thought it funny, albeit sad. If he wanted to kill her, he could have done so already. Could she not see this? He held their stare as he chewed the insides of his cheeks, wondering what he had done to his queen to garner so much distrust.

“Why do you still stare?” she asked him, her voice tense as she crossed her arms.

“Chief royal wife, my Queen Ankhesenpaaten.” His words held strong in the air. “I am no traitor.”

Ankhesenpaaten ran her eyes up and down his body until she finally accepted his response—for the moment—and commanded him to sit next to her. Swallowing a hesitant lump in his throat, he pulled up a stool beside her, although slightly behind her chair.

“I want to believe you are no traitor, Sennedjem. You taste my drink before me . . . and yet all I wonder is if it is an act to gain my trust.” She stared into the training yard as she spoke. She ran her tongue along her dry, cracked lips as her throat longed for more to drink, but she dare not ask after insulting perhaps her only friend left in the palace.

“My Queen, may I speak freely?” Sennedjem asked.

Ankhesenpaaten tapped her bottom lip as she debated his request, but finally nodded.

“The way you speak tells me you are headed for a lonely life if you always second guess who you can trust,” he said, and then at the snap of her gaze toward him, he quickly added, “I do not wish that life for anyone, and especially my Queen. I have always been true. You have my loyalty. I will give my life protecting Pharaoh and his family.” He bowed his head and then lifted his eyes to find her stare again.

Ankhesenpaaten shook her head. “I cannot—” Her words died before they reached her throat. I cannot what—trust him? He has shown me no reason not to trust. Then again, Chief Royal Guard Jabari had never shown any of us that he could not be trusted, yet he led Mother to her murder. She stiffened as the breeze chilled the sweat on her body. “I cannot . . .” Again, the words failed her.

“I would never hurt you, my Queen.”

His soft voice cushioned her mind. “How can I be sure?”

Her whisper summed all of her fears in five little words: sure of loyalty, sure of safety, sure of the premier and sole god of Egypt. All her life, she had worshiped the Aten disc, but then, at the end of her mother’s life, she tells her, “No! The premier god of Egypt is Amun-Re.” Where did that leave her with her journey west? To the Aten? To Re? Was there a god of Egypt at all? Was she to go only to dust at the end? She lifted her chin, so as not to give away her mental debate under Sennedjem’s stare.

“I am teaching you to defend yourself and how to attack, but otherwise you have only my oath, for which I will journey west before I break.” Sennedjem’s mouth opened again, but no sound came out. With nothing else to offer her, he closed it and laid his arms by his sides.

Ankhesenpaaten’s eyes somehow rummaged up a glisten despite the sweltering heat and her own dehydration. “I mean you no insult, Sennedjem. I apologize if I have offended your oath.”

“No, my Queen, you do not apologize, even if you are wrong. Pharaoh and his Queen do not apologize.” Sennedjem chuckled softly.

Ankhesenpaaten knew the expectation of her position, but, more than that, she needed to talk to someone or her insides would burst forth. He already knew most of what happened; why not tell him more of the truth? She needed someone to help carry her burden. He needed to know why she did not trust him—and yet, in telling him, she would lend him her trust. But before she could stop her words, they flowed unimpeded, her whisper barely reaching his ears: “I heard her scream, Sennedjem.” She pressed a fist to her lips as she shut her eyes. Two tears, each from one eye, raced down her suddenly pallid cheeks to her chin.

Sennedjem leaned forward. His gaze dropped to the ground, and he shook his head. His mouth moved, but words never came out until he finally mustered, “I am sorry.”

Ankhesenpaaten drew a deep breath and looked all around, making sure they were indeed alone, the servant boy still on the other side and out of earshot. “My mother trusted Jabari, and he led her to her murder.” Her hands trembled as she leaned back, away from Sennedjem. “Who to trust?” she whispered. “Who to trust?”

“I will never hurt you,” he repeated, and reached for her arm in an attempt to comfort her, but stopped just short of touching her sweat-glazed skin.

Ankhesenpaaten shook her head. “I want to believe you.”

Sennedjem was silent for a moment, having decided words would mean nothing to her; but he vowed to try his entire life if that was what it took to prove himself loyal to her and to the throne. He nodded his head. “I understand.”

Then he stood and signaled for the servant boy to bring more drink; he tasted hers before handing her the goblet. Together they drank from their goblets, and then he grabbed their fighting sticks. He tossed one to her, which she finally caught after a few months of practice. A light smile crept into the tiny corners of her mouth—but she still had much work to do and much to learn, and so she erased it. Sennedjem tapped the dirt in front of him. “Are you ready to fight, my Queen?”

She stood, let out a captive breath, and wiped the tears from her eyes. A hard scowl plastered on her face, she nodded and lunged for him. His offense had slackened since earlier in the day, as she noticed he could have struck but refrained.

“Lessen your rage. Think through your next steps. Anticipate my advance.”

They circled around each other each with their sticks raised, and then he lunged, but she parried. He missed her counterstrike, and, she assumed, let her strike him on the arm. Blood rushed to the spot on his skin where she hit him, but he showed no pain.

“Good, my Queen. If someone betrays you, they will be sorry.” He nodded.

“When he comes for me, I will kill him,” she murmured as she lunged again, faking a right attack, and smacked Sennedjem in the left leg. That one, she knew, she landed with her own skill.

Sennedjem winced. “Who comes for you?”

“Pawah,” she said through her teeth, remembering his ultimatum.

To stay by my side as my wife and Queen, or to die with what is left of your family.

She lunged again, but this time Sennedjem did not allow her to hit him.

He stopped cold in the heat of the day. “Did he tell you he would come for you?”

Ankhesenpaaten narrowed her eyes at Sennedjem. Maybe she could trust him, but her mind toyed with her. What if it was all just a ploy to gain her trust and then kill her? What if Pawah had contracted Sennedjem to kill her in an accidental training incident?

No. She put to bed the possible scenario.

Sennedjem already knows enough. Just tell him. Sennedjem is my only chance at learning to defend myself. He needs to know the source of the threat. He is very concerned and genuinely surprised. Pawah said if I ever told anyone, he would kill me; no choice, just death . . . after he had his way with me.

The memory of Pawah’s touch sealed in her mind that she needed Sennedjem, whether he was truthful or not. She slammed her eyes shut and shook away the fear of dying by Pawah’s hand.

“Yes . . . he said he would come for me.”

Sennedjem grimaced. “Then you have much more training to do.”

She opened her eyes at his blunt response, thinking there would be a smirk or an “Aha, now I can kill you,” but instead, he gave a serious response to a serious threat.

She half smiled and felt a weight somewhat lift from her chest. Maybe he wasn’t lying after all.

Sennedjem lowered his fighting stick. “Why have you never told me this? I didn’t know what you were fighting against or why you wanted to learn to fight.”

Ankhesenpaaten stood straight. “I didn’t trust you.”

Sennedjem shook his head. “We should have been learning how to use a dagger, not fighting sticks. They will be of no use if he attacks you. A dagger would be the better weapon.”

Ankhesenpaaten went cold at the word dagger.

He grabbed her stick from her limp hand and threw it and his own stick against the wall. He snapped at the servant boy. “Get the training blocks,” he yelled as he went to the wall and grabbed the small training blades. He came back and handed one to Ankhesenpaaten. “Here.” He thrust it into her hand and then noticed her ashen face as her empty gaze fell upon the weapon. “My Queen?”

As she held the training dagger in her hand, Ankhesenpaaten only heard her mother’s screams; she pictured the bloody dagger on the floor next to her mother’s body. Then, without a moment’s notice, she dropped the training dagger and the drink which had for a moment felt good in her belly came back to the surface.

Sennedjem stepped back as she vomited, then offered her a rag to wipe her mouth. “The sun can do that to a person.”

She looked at the rag and wondered if poison lay on its surface, and instead wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “No,” she whispered as she grabbed the training dagger from the dirt. “I will not be my mother. I will be ready when he comes for me.” She stared the dagger down to conquer the harrowing memory of her mother’s murder, and then lifted her gaze to Sennedjem. “Prove your loyalty to me.”

Sennedjem nodded, then took her hand and adjusted the way she held the weapon. “We train now because your life depends on it.”

* * *

At the end of the day, Ankhesenpaaten’s feet ached, and her arms twitched in exhaustion. Sennedjem gave her a real dagger and showed her how to conceal it in her belt. It was a little awkward at first, untying her belt in front of him so he could show her, but he seemed not to think anything of it. Why would he? He was an official, a professional; he was Overseer of the Tutors. After he tied her belt around her waist for her, he resisted putting a hand on her shoulder and let her turn to face him.

“My Queen, I only have domain here in the training yards. Should you be here, know you are safe. However—” He looked up at the royal guards, Hori and Ineni, who had come to escort her back to her bedchambers and stood off at the entrance. “I cannot protect you when you leave. You need to find others who are loyal to you as well. Remember our training today. Come back when you are able—tomorrow, even—and I will teach you more. I promise you, chief royal wife Ankhesenpaaten, you will be able to defend yourself when Pawah comes.”

A brief wave of comfort fell over Ankhesenpaaten’s expression. She had not told him everything, but it felt good to at least have an ally—for now, anyway.

She nodded. “Thank you,” she whispered. “I will no longer doubt your loyalty.”

But her eyes made the true message clear: Unless you give me reason.

Sennedjem smiled, and she noticed his eyes did too as she turned and left with Hori and Ineni.

* * *

Hori and Ineni escorted her to her bedchambers in silence. Tut had yet to name a chief royal guard in Jabari’s absence, and with Pawah literally sitting on Pharaoh’s throne, Ankhesenpaaten’s mind drifted to what horrible things either of these men would be ordered to do to please the Vizier of the Upper and be bestowed the honor of Chief Royal Guard. Hori had stood guard at the door to her bedchambers for many years now. She felt he of the two would have more loyalty, but she would not assume anything—that was how her mother had gotten herself killed.

I need a test, she thought. A test to see where their loyalty lies.

They had given her no reason to doubt them, but corruption filled the whole palace and city of Aketaten, from servants to high-ranking officials. They were all under Pawah’s thumb; it was how he’d escaped accountability for her mother’s murder.

She peered over her shoulder as the door closed behind her, and her steward, Hentmehyt, came to her and bowed, her smooth voice cutting into Ankhesenpaaten’s thoughts.

“My Queen, we have drawn you a bath after your day at the training yard.”

Her body longed for the water, but she remembered the dagger Sennedjem had tied in the folds of her belt. Ankhesenpaaten studied her steward’s face and chewed her lip, deciding to keep her belt close just in case. Hentmehyt gestured toward the bath chamber, and Ankhesenpaaten followed as other servants added blossoms to the water to perfume it. She could smell her own stench, but letting the servants see her with a dagger might bring more doubt than she wanted—or maybe she did want them to know her doubt in their loyalty.

A servant came to her, bowed, and began to untie her belt. An impulsive “No!” fled Ankhesenpaaten’s lips, which made the servant girl jump back a bit. 

Ankhesenpaaten caught her breath as she clenched the gold-lined linen belt between her fingers. She turned to Hentmehyt, who nodded to her Queen and ushered the two servant girls from the room. She grabbed both doors to the bath chamber as she left and turned and bowed again to her Queen.

“We shall leave you to yourself, chief royal wife.”

When she was alone, her clenched-white knuckles slowly released the captive fabric, and her heartbeat fell back to a normal pace. She looked around the room; she knew she was alone, but somehow she felt as though she wasn’t. She undressed and slid the hidden dagger close to the bath’s edge so that she could clutch the wrapped handle as she leaned her head back, yet still, she was unable to close her eyes. The water beat against her heat-flushed skin and cooled her aching muscles. Her head dipped as she began to doze, but at the water’s touch against her chin, she snapped back, looking at the closed doors, and grabbed the handle of the dagger a little harder as she realized her grip had weakened when she lost her focus.

“I am alone,” she told herself, and the thought sunk even more. “I am alone.” The statement held a deeper meaning. “Who can I trust?” She leaned her head back again, but her eyes stayed on the door. “Sennedjem, for now. Perhaps Hori. Maybe Hentmehyt.” She rocked her head from side to side, feeling the cool water slosh on her neck. “Trust no one at Aketaten.”

A deep breath filled her lungs, and soon she fell asleep, and she dreamt of her mother’s cold, lifeless body on the floor of the council room—all because she had misplaced her trust.

Ankhesenpaaten woke to water in her nose, and her hands sprang into action, trying to defend herself. She coughed and gagged as she splashed around, thinking someone was trying to drown her, but soon she realized she had only fallen asleep in the bath. She looked around and shivered as her heart rate and breath fell into a normal rhythm. The water had fallen to room temperature, but she sunk lower in its comfort until the tingling in her fingers and toes ceased.

She opened her mouth to call in her servants but clamped her mouth shut. Were they on Pawah’s payroll and so would not hesitate to kill her, making it look like she had slipped and hit her head?

No. She took a deep breath. Pawah said when Tut came back, he would give me a choice. But can I trust what Pawah said?

“No, I can’t,” she whispered to herself.

Ankhesenpaaten looked at the dagger, still on the edge of the bathtub, and heard her mother’s screams.

“I will not be my mother. I will not be killed defenseless. I will not be killed as a victim. I will not be killed because of who I trusted.”

She climbed out of the bath and dried and dressed herself, trying her hardest to repeat the folds Sennedjem had made to hide the dagger.

She came out of the bath chamber and saw her servants and steward waiting for her, and the sight of them caused her to jump. They could have killed her at any time she was in the bath, but instead, they had waited for her and pulled back her bed linens.

It didn’t matter—they were just biding their time.

Her eyes darted between the three of them. “You are dismissed.”

As soon as the doors closed, she ran over and pulled a chair to their back. Her shoulders slumped as she let out her breath, finally thinking she might be safe in her room. She climbed into the woolly and feathery bed, and as the soft, padded headrest absorbed the ache from her body, she had no choice but to obey her eyes, despite her intense watching of the door, she fell asleep yet again.

Product Information

Paperback Size: 5" x 8"

398 pages

Hardcover Size: 6" x 9"

422 pages

Book Information

Publisher: LLMBooks Publishing
Published: March 2020
ISBN-13: 979-8621192891
Genre: Historical Fiction

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  • (★★★★★)

    "Scarab in the Storm is one of the most intricate, richly detailed and exceptionally well-woven books I have ever read." -Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

  • (★★★★★)

    "...a fantastic read that no history fan should be without.Scarab in the Stormis a highly recommended novel." -K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

  • (★★★★★)

    "This novel brings to life a forgotten world and unveils the beauty and trials of ancient Egypt." - Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite