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How I came to writing

Like most authors, I've been fascinated by books since an early age. Because my parents were working (yes, I had a very modern mummy, ...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Love reading: Dead Souls (Elsebeth Egholm)

When you have read my previous post on this site, you know I just love reading Egholm. Yesterday I finished the second novel with Peter Boutrup in the leading role - and it was one of the best crime novels I've ever read!

Egholms's writing keeps you reading on until the end, wanting to know how everything ties together. And then you must consider that I read in translation, so probably the Danish version is even better.

In this volume, Peter has coped with the loss of Felix (who has returned to her family in Spain). His boss Manfred and himself are now working in a convent named St. Mary's. One evening, Peter sees how a man approaches a young nun.

Not much later, he is approached by Sister Beatrice, to look into the disapperance of Sister Melissa. While Peter conducts his investigation, albeit unwillingly, the body of Melissa is found in the moat of the convent. She has been garotted...

In the meantime, diver Kir has found a box filled with human bones somewhere in a deep in the Kattegat. The bones are brought to the forensic unit to be inspected - and they turn out to be more than 60 years old. Both Mark Bille Hansen and Peter have a feeling these two finds are connected however, and so they prove to be.

More people get murdered, others disappear. It is Peter who finally can tie the loose ends and finds out the identity of the killer. But before he does, lots of things happen.

This book is full of aciton and also shows a lot of psychological insight. It also deals with things we all can come into contact with.

A must-read!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Love reading: Three Dog Night (Elsebeth Egholm)

After having watched the tv-series 'Dicte' - based on the novels of the above mentioned author - I was curious to find out more about her and her writing.

Unfortunately I don't speak Danish (I can understand some of it, though, having taken a two-year course of Swedish when I was about 24) so I definitely should not try to read those books in that language.

A pity, because there is not yet an English translation of the Dicte books. Here (Bene)Dicte is introduced, a women of around 40 who is a journalist in the town of Aarhus. She's newly divorced and has a daughter, Rose. But years ago she also gave birth to a son, whom she had to give up for adoption because her parents were Jehova's Witnesses.

Now Elsebeth Egholm has begun a series of novels featuring Dicte's son Peter. There are already two books, and better still, they have English versions! Peter Boutrup is an ex-convict. If you have seen (or read) the Dicte series, you know he only confessed to shooting down an intruder to protect his then girlfriend My. You also learn he has spent his early childhood in a care home with a cruel guardian. Yet he is a man who values honesty and will not use violence when not necessary.

After having been released from prison - and shortly met his mother and sister - Peter wants to start a new life. He buys a house on a cliff and works as a carpenter. When he is walking his dog on New Year's Day, he finds a body down the foot of the cliff. And - he knows the victim. He also meets his new neighbor, Felix Gomez. Felix is the sole survivor of a helicopter accident in which her husband and little daughter were killed.

You can already figure out that Peter and Felix will be the center of the investigation. The police officers - Mark Bille being the local police chief - have many clues, but it's Peter who manages to link everything together.

This was an excellent read and I'm gonna start on the second book pretty soon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

When reading a novel...

do you also like the fact you're familiar with the places described in some of the scenes?

Right now, while reading the latest Peter Robinson - Abattoir Blues (the 22nd Inspector Banks thriller) - I can view some of the places Banks goes in my mind. You see, these novels are set in Yorkshire, and just a while ago my sister and I visited there.

When Banks goes to Pizza Express near the Corn Exchange in Lees, I know where it is. I also know Granary Wharf, where one of the suspects has his office. Our hotel in Leeds was at Granary Row.

Also, there is a Scottish TV series with a coroner in the headrole, set in Edinburgh. Whenever he walks through the streets, I can walk along, just like I did last year in July.

I have this thing about places I've read about in a novel. When I read one where the scene was set in Newport, Rhode Island, we went there the next summer. Just the same with Hyannis. This also figured in another book.

How about you? What are your experiences with novels, places and characters in it?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Love reading: Mary of Carisbrooke (Margaret Campbell-Barnes)

Thank God for Amazon! Recently most my youth's favorite novels have been made available for Kindle reading.

One of those writers I so very much loved is Margaret Campbell-Barnes. She wrote beautiful books about certain episodes in English history. I have read most of her books in Dutch translation, but nowadays you can't  find back those books in the public library.

While browsing for lost treasures, I came across Mary of Carisbrooke, one of the books I loved to read over and over.

What is the best about Ms. Campbell-Barnes's writing is that it is so very humane. She tells a story about some historical character from the viewpoint of ordinary people- who fall in love, are betrayed, do all the stupid things we all do.

Mary of Carisbrooke tells the story of Mary Floyd, daughter of Sergeant Floyd of the garrison at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. Her ordinary (but happy) life stops when King Charles I seeks refuge on the island. It is the period of Civil War. The governor, appointed by Parliament, is in doubt of what to do, but his second in command, Captain Rolph, has less scrupules.

Soon afterwards, Mary meets the men who are to form the court of the exiled King. Among them are two young men: Harry Firebrace and Richard Osborne. Mary falls in love with Firebrace, who 'forgets' to mention he is already married. He's the one to think out a plan to let the king escape the castle and seek refuge in France. But his plan is thwarted not once but twice.

When the king tries to climb through his window for the second time, Mary's father is killed by Rolph. The king is tranfered to England where he will meet his death.

In the end, it is Richard Osborne who can give Mary some solace. He has loved her ever since he came to Carisbrooke, and finally she finds she can also love him.

Together to go to Holland, where they are going to be part of King Charles II's court in exile.

A beautiful story, and well-written!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Read for Halloween

Hello folks! If you are looking for a good (and lightly scary) read for the Halloween days, please have a look at my collection of short stories, Face In The Mirror and Other Stories.

This bundle is a good mix between romance and horror. Some of the short stories deal with fairies and supernatural forces, but have a happy ending. Others don't end that well....

You can find the volume at Amazon, of course, but you can also purchase the e-book from my publisher, Rogue Phoenix Press.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Love reading: The Glass Guardian (Linda Gillard)

Recently, I read a book which I just loved! It's a novel by Linda Gillard, and it's titled The Glass Guardian.

The novel tells the story of RuthTravers, a 40-ish woman who comes to the isle of Skye (Scotland) because her aunt Janet has died. Just before that, Ruth's father and her boyfriends passed away as well.

The loneliness of the place and the house she inherited suit Ruth just fine. She wants to be alone to deal with her grief. But sometimes she feels so abandoned... It's then she thinks back to Heckie, her former playmate.

Heckie (Hector) is not a boy, though, but a grown man of 35. And now Ruth realizes he's not alive either, but a ghost - as Hector Munro died in 1915 during the Great War. Although she doesn't believe in ghost, she's now talking to one - and starting to like him (it) more and more.

While staying at Skye, Ruth gets a message from a Canadian musician and professor. This (Athel)Stan is very interested in her aunt's music (she was a composer) and wants to do a piece about her. He proposes he comes to Scotland to find out more.

'The Glass Guardian' is a beautiful love-story. You must't even believe in ghosts to get into the action. (I do now, as I've seen a ghost myself lately, yet not spoken to him.)

Hector (the ghost) has lost the love of his life during the war and now he desperately wants to find out what happened to his beloved. He knows she was with child, but doesn't know what happened afterwards. Frieda was half-German and she probably changed her name when she moved away from Scotland.

I can recommend this novel!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Love reading: Lady Blues (A Gus LeGarde Mystery)

Some time ago, I wrote a piece about The Seacrest, a novel by Aaron Paul Lazar. This time I want to talk a bit about another of his writings.

I got the book via a free download the author was so kind to point out. Apparently there have been other Gus LeGarde mysteries, but this doesn't mean you can't read Lady Blues. You easily pick up what's happened to Gus on a personal scale. And very soon you're right into the atmosphere which makes Lazar's book so lovely to read.

After his first wife died in tragical circumstances, Gus remarried and now shares his home with his new wife and a daughter from her first marrriage. There is also Siegfried, his late wife's brother. And Gus' daughter Freddie with her fiancé and her three kids.... Not to mention the housekeeper! So you see it's pretty busy in the old farmhouse in the Genesee Valley.

In this story, Siegfried has a crunch on Lily, a Korean woman who lives with her brother Thom in a tailor shop. One day, when he brings something to repair, they see the shop is on fire. Gus and Siegfried manage to rescue Lily and her brother, but Thom is badly burned. Gus offers to take Lily under his wings and gives her a place to stay. She barely knows English though.

Around the same time, Gus meets 'the music man'. This is a gentleman who stays in a home for the elderly. According to nurse Debbie nobody has come to see him in over 30 years and he also doesn't know who he is. But once he begins taking a new medicine, some memories return.

Of course, the company who makes the medicine is not too thrilled about the (very) good results of their medicine, especially as they own a lot of old people's homes around the States. So they replace the drug by another derivative which is not as good as the previous one.

You can guess where this goes, but I repeat, the story makes a very good read. I can really recommend it to everyone who reads this.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Love reading: The Lincoln Myth (Steve Berry)

I've always been a fan of Steve Berry's books. Since I accidentally bought The Romanov Prophesy, I was hooked.C

When all of Berry's books are great reads, I especially like those which feature Cotton Malone. Cotton used to work for a special branch of the secret services, but now he runs a bookstore in Copenhagen, Denmark. He's divorced and has one son.

His former boss, Stephanie Nelle, however occasionally calls upon his services and these bring him all along the world into dangerous situations.

The strenght of Berry's novels is his thorough research. He always visits the places he writes about, together with his wife Elizabeth. Often his works deal with a secret or lost item from centuries past.

In his previous book, Malone has to investigate the myth around Queen Elizabeth the First of England. Stories go that Elizabeth was a man, dressed as woman, and it's up to Malone to prove this right. Well, Berry could be right. Queen Elizabeth never married and acted more like a man than as a frail woman.

In his new novel, Malone is called upon again. This time he has to find documents, secreted away by President Lincoln. The storyline deals with the big question if the 50 states of the US have the right to be independent again. Apparently a document, signed by the Founding Fathers, exists to prove this to be the truth. A fanatic Mormon wants to find the document too, because he sees a future for a new state (which is now Utah).

These are the kind of books that keep me glued to my chair as I read on to find out how everything comes together. They're a great read!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

World War II through the eyes of a German girl

Just before we left for Jersey, I finished proofreading a novel by Christa Holder Ocker, about a family in World War II, seen through the eyes of a young girl.

We have been acquinted with this war through the views of the Allies. We seldom heard how the Germans fared.

Only recently, the Germans themselves made films and series about this war, like Das Boot and  Unsere Mutter, Unsere Väter. And now there is auf Wiedersehen.

auf Wiedersehen (which means goodbye, see you later) is the compelling story of young Christa, who lives with her mother and sick sister in dire circumstances. Somtimes the tears come into your eyes when you read how she has to go through every day life. For instance, there is a scene where she befriends one of the workhorses, and some time later the boss of the plant treats his workers to sausages from horse flesh...

Here's a short excerpt:

“But when will we come back?” my sister asked, an edge of desperation  in her voice.
Mutti stopped in the open doorway, turned around, and as if to avoid  the question, she pointed to the distant wall. “Look Kinder,” she whispered.
A shaft of sun had found its way through the ice-laced window, spilling  its silvery light on the painting above the couch, illuminating the wake on  a river flowing still.

Sadness crept into my heart, as my eyes returned to my mother – so tall,  so graceful, her ash-blond hair knotted in a bun at the nape of her neck. A tear rolled down her high cheekbone. She wiped it away with her fingertips; then closed the door with a decisive click.

The book is for sale from Rogue Phoenix Press and from online booksellers.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Prophesy Revealed (Ron Hartman)*****

When I received another manuscript to proofread, my first thought was: no, not another fantasy novel! I really am not fond of fantasy books. I remember starting in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - a long time ago - and closing the book after having struggled through the first three pages. Nothing for me.

So I began with dread into this book. But hey, I managed to get through the first pages and before I knew it, I was drawn into the story.

This is the second novel in a series. I did not read the first one, but it was the story was easy to follow even when you hadn't read the first installment. It's the story of Daniel Marten who believes himself to be the Prophesied One and tries to keep his beloved Naphthali from danger. Naturally it's filled with fantasy elements but they are quite believable. Having crossed the Burning Sea, Daniell now meets the Tene'breon, a people very close to nature and its forces, like the Weave. He is looking for their help in going back to Naphthali, where a new governor brought a reign of terror.

I quickly read through the book, wanting to find out how Daniel fared and if he would succeed in his task. I am now more than eager to read the first book as well, and of course I'm looking out for the next one.

This book gets a five star rating!

Here's an excerpt:

The four burst into the room. Bastion let Daniel go and he stumbled several feet forward before catching himself. He sensed Broken Bow and Meadow Song move off in opposite directions, and heard the door snick quietly closed behind them. Waves of agony rolled up Daniel's arm. He bent over at the waist, trying to control a grunt of pain. He saw stars and had time to think, I'm going to pass out, before the voice, filled with power, spoke. "Who are you?"

Daniel gasped and pulled in a lungful of air, forcing down the agony. Still bent over at the waist, he snapped his eyes forward, to where another man just entered the room from the opposite side. He was at least six and a half feet tall, his head wreathed in wavy brown hair. He wore silk robes, beneath which muscles bulged and tensed as he studied Daniel, his bright eyes narrowing. It had to be Bertolli.

Daniel forced himself to stand upright. "I…" was all he got out before everyone reacted on reflexes alone.

The man cut him off, bellowing, "Guards!" He started to take a step forward, but then sensed movement to his right. He spun to his left just before Broken Bow's great sword made a low whistle as it sailed through the air where he'd been standing. Without even realizing he was doing it, Daniel pulled his throwing knife and let fly. The large man was too fast, though, prancing back the other way before the blade reached him. He reached around his waist and launched all three throwing daggers in rapid succession, but the man merely knocked the small blades away with the backs of his hands.

Behind him, Daniel heard guards slam into the door, but Bastion was able to push it back and hold them out, at least momentarily. Bertolli spun away from another unseen attack by Broken Bow and froze, reversing course at the last moment. He ripped a dagger from his belt as he did so and whipped around again, aiming low. He led with the blade until it stopped, seemingly in midair. What Daniel heard next made his blood run cold.

Meadow Song cried out and the air shimmered before the big man. In seconds, she was visible, impaled through the stomach. "No," Daniel cried as he darted forward, reaching for the A-blade. Meadow Song's eyes were wide in surprise as her robes stained scarlet around the dagger. Bertolli's face was transformed into a savage grimace of triumph, until he saw his victim. The beauty there made him pause, but only for a moment.

Daniel and his friends froze when Meadow Song cried out. Before anyone could react, Bertolli spun behind her. He pulled the dagger free as he went, wrapping his left arm around her bosom. Meadow Song whimpered when the slow stain on her robes became a torrent as the cloth soaked through. He pulled the bloody blade up to her throat and roared, "Halt! Show yourselves or she dies."

Daniel's suddenly nerveless fingers fell from the A-blade. "No, don't! We'll stop."

The air shimmered right beside the big man as Broken Bow came into view, holding his great sword at the ready. Behind Daniel, he heard the door give way and soldiers rush in. In seconds he felt a sharp blade poking him in the back, and knew Bastion stood down as well. He couldn't take his eyes off Meadow Song's pain-filled face as he heard the heavy thud of a club hitting flesh, then Bastion was shoved off to the side, a large welt forming above his left eye.

"Drop your weapons," Bertolli growled, poking the tip of his dagger under Meadow Song's chin.

With leaden fingers Daniel pulled the A-blade from its sheath and dropped it to the stone floor with a clang. A distant part of his mind registered the dagger Bertolli held had a broad short blade and wide pommel, not the Blade of Endar. Well, at least there was that. He raised his left hand in a placating gesture as Broken Bow's sword hit the floor as well. "Okay. We've done it, please just let her go."

Bertolli didn't move the dagger from Meadow Song's chin. Daniel could see beads of sweat forming on her brow, and a small line of blood trickled down her neck. She was shaking, her eyes rolling back in her head. His eyes bore into Daniel's as he growled, "Remove your hood."

Daniel's attention was on Meadow Song, so he didn't immediately obey Bertolli's command. Fire burned in the governor's eyes as he glared at Daniel. He jabbed the dagger up slightly and at the same time the guard behind Daniel pressed forward with his sword, splitting Daniel's robes and skin. He barked in pain and stumbled forward. "Alright." Blood trickled down his back as he reached up and pulled back the hood.

Bertolli's hard glare softened in momentary surprise when he saw Daniel's scars. His eyes shot down to Daniel's right arm, which was still sheathed within his robes. Even though Bertolli couldn't see it, Daniel saw the recognition in his eyes, the knowledge Daniel had been maimed like so many of his victims. 

On sale from Rogue Phoenix Press and online booksellers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Love reading: Song of the Sound (Adam Armstrong)

In the older days, when I still picked up books whenever I was travelling, I found this jewel of a book named Song of the Sound. It was by an author quite unknown by me, but the cover looked promising.

And what a great read this book made! I just loved all of it - and have re-read the book often by now. 

Song of the Sound tells the story of Libby and her daughter Bree and of John-Cody. Libby is a marina biologist who is specialized in whale observation, and she is offered a job in New Zealand, in an area known as the Fiordlands. Therefore she has to leave France, where she is currently working, much to the distaste of her daughter Bree who finds herself once more without friends.

Mother and daughter arrive in New Zealand, where they meet their landlord, John-Cody Gibbs. He is a widower, who is still in mourning for the death of his wife Mahina. He made her a promise though, to protect the Fiorlands area and the whales who make it their home.

But Ned Pole and his wife have other plans. They want to make the Fiordlands into a tourist attraction, which will generate much more money...

There was a lot of conflict in the book (among which nature protection against profits) and of course there is also a love story between Libby and John-Cody. What's more, John-Cody has a secret he doesn't want found out.

I can certainly advise this book, it makes a good read. I finished it in one session the first time I read it.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: Sapphire Angel *****

I must admit I'm not too fond of vampire stories. I once read Anne Rice's but they got pretty boring to me. Always the same: vampire needs blood to survive and you guess what's happening next.

But to my surprise Aussie author Khloe Wren manages to write a vampire story with flair. You're instantly into the narration, when you meet Darcy. She is a young woman, who's out of work and has quit her relationship with a guy who turns out to be a real loser.

While out drinking in a bar, she meet Angelo. What she doesn't know is that Angelo is a real vampire! And what's more, he's looking for his Eternal Bride. Because vampire can love a single woman, and once they are united with her, they remain faithful all of their life.

Darcy slowly falls for Angelo, but when things are getting cosy between them, she is kidnapped by his enemies. They are a race that hunts vampires and takes away their brides. From now on it's open war between Angelo and the rest.

Khloe Wren writes with panache and the story moves fast forward. Some scenes are pretty spicy but never too much. I really loved reading this book and I think this will be a novel that can attract lots of readers.

My evaluation: 5 stars

A sample of the novel

“Who do we have here?

Angelo quietly muttered in his native Italian under his breath. He'd been sitting at this di moda bar called Frost Bites for a couple of hours now, trying to drown his sorrows. He'd spent the last seventy-five years travelling the globe, searching for the one thing missing from his life. A vampire would never be able to settle or find any peace until he found his Sposa Eterna, his Eternal Bride. Angelo had been beginning to think he was destined to not find his, until his travels had led him to South Yarra in Victoria, Australia.

He'd carefully selected a table in a back corner where it was dark enough he could watch everyone coming and going in peace. He had a drink in front of him, a fancy icy beverage. As a vampire, the alcohol had little effect on him, but he could appreciate the sweetness of the novelty drink. Behind the bar they had a series of slushy machines - dozens of frozen cocktails ready to go. The bar was busy tonight, it had been a hot day in Melbourne and no doubt, everyone was now searching for a way to cool down before heading home.

He continued to watch the bella piccola cosa that had just walked up to the bar. He hadn't been able to see her eyes yet but her naturally blond straight hair casually hung down to the small of her back. From the side he could see her high cheekbone and her perfectly straight nose. She was smiling, her naturally light pink lips curled up at the side. His body came to life as he watched her but he needed to be sure before he made his move. Once their eyes connected, he’d be sure it was her, in addition he also needed to check her age. The fact Australian laws allowed alcohol to be drunk at the age of eighteen didn’t help him in guessing her age. She didn't look like she was much over twenty. An Eternal Bride could not be claimed until her twenty-third birthday.

She chatted happily with one of the staff behind the bar. He focused his hearing, tuning out all the other voices until he only heard hers and the female bar tender.

"So which one will it be tonight?"

"Love Potion Number Nine. It's my twenty-first birthday tomorrow and I want someone to help me celebrate it!"

"Generally speaking, you try to give the other person the love potion, you know?"

The bar tender chuckled as she turned around to get the drink.

Dannazione. If she was his, he would have to stand back and guard her for the next two years before he could claim her. She couldn't meet him until after her twenty-third birthday, if she did, his enemies would be alerted to her presence. If the Nobles were to find her, they would try to ‘save’ her from him. Holding her hostage then using her as bait. There was no way a vampire would leave his Eternal Bride to be held captive, and in his effort to rescue her, he would surely be killed like so many before him had been.

He watched as she spun around to survey the bar while she sipped at her red drink. The flavored liquid wasn't quite as red as blood but still, the sight of her drinking the red beverage left him sweating with need for her. He forced his gaze from her mouth up to her eyes and froze. He'd finally found her. La sua Sposa Eterna. Her clear sapphire blue irises shone brightly under the bar's lights.

Angelo settled back into his seat and watched his Bride move around the bar, chatting to various people. She obviously came here often as she knew a lot of the patrons. He sat up straighter as a man approached her and wrapped an arm around her waist. She leaned back into him and giggled. Angelo’s nostrils flared as he fought the urge to bear his fangs. Using every ounce of his self-control, he white knuckled the table in an attempt to contain his rage - it was that or he’d fly across the room and kill the human who dared touch his Bride. He took deep breathes to help calm himself and caught the male’s scent. Filled with lust and greed, he had no real feelings for her. He was not a threat. Angelo relaxed a little and continued to watch.

As she prepared to leave at the end of the night, that lustful male made another pass at her. Angelo's entire being was tense with fury as she agreed to go on a date with him. After she left the bar, he discreetly followed her. He needed to know where she lived so he could find her again and guard her. It would take time to find someone he could trust to handle the duty during the day, but at night, he would make sure she was always safe.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Love reading: Angélique

When I was a girl of about fourteen, my most favorite series of books where those of the French author couple Anne and Serge Golon, who created Angélique.

A young noblewoman born in 17th century France, Angélique goes through about anything a woman could suffer in those days. A love that could not be, being covetted by a king, forced into another marriage she doesn't like, the destruction of her castle, becoming an outlaw - you name it.

But still she endures and remains strong. She's the kind of woman I admire and try to mirror myself on. My own grandmother was like Angélique. She also suffered a lot but nothing could break her. She remained strong and independent and shared her insights with me. I flatter myself I take after her in a lot of ways.

I  never read the Angélique novels in French - probably should have done that. I always read them in Dutch translation. Now I now translations are not the best most of the time. I prefer to read in the language the book was written. That's ok for English and German, but I struggle more with French. But one of these days I'm certain to make the effort.

The novels were also put to film, and I remember how the whole of our class was waiting in anticipation when the first of the films was broadcasted on our national TV. That was Angélique, Marquis des Anges.

And of course I must admit I 'borrowed' the scar of her first husband to fit my hero in The Medici Diamonds. I always thought it made a nice touch. Marguerite also takes to the French underworld when she is in trouble, just like Angélique does. But hey, we all adapt these general themes.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Love reading: Mara, Daughter of the Nile (Eloise McGraw)

When I grew up, one of my favorite books in the lending library was Mara, Daughter of the Nile. I don't know how many times I read this book, because I loved the story so much. But then one day, the book disappeared. Probably some lend it and never returned it.

The years went by and I never saw the book again. In those days, it was nearly impossible to get English books in Belgium.  My local bookseller also could not help me.

I had nearly forgotten about Mara, when the internet came in the early 1990's. And then I discovered Amazon. Did you know, they had the book for sale! I remember I had to pay rather a lot to get it (it had to be imported from the States) but right now I have my own copy of this book I loved so much.

Mara is a young slave girl. She works for a master who doesn't care much about his slaves. Being clever, she has hopes of finding a new life soon. When her mistress sends her to the market to buy some items, she steals some fruit out of hunger. The shopkeeper doesn't notice it, but someone else does.

This mysterious man is a spy for Queen Hatshepsut. He needs someone to get close to the princess who is to marry Prince Thutmosis, who is the heir to thone. Some nobles want him to be Pharao instead of Hatshepsut and so he needs to be spied on.

Mara agrees to become a spy, because she is promised freedom afterwards. But soon after her meeting with Nahere, she meets young Sheftu, who claims to be a simple laborer. She knows better. Also he wants her to work for him.

From then on, Mara needs to be very careful balancing what she says to each master. It doesn't help when she falls in love with Sheftu, even knowing he doesn't trust her. The only one who believes in her sincerity is Captain Nekonkh, who ferries them across the Nile.

But this is a story with a happy ending - just as I love it. In the end, everything come to right and Mara is at last a free woman - and a loved one.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Love reading: The Three Musketeers (Alexander Dumas)

As I related before, I grew up mainly with my grandparent. They minded me while my parents were out working.

As a two-year-old I sat on my grandpa's knee and listened to him when he read from his favorite novels. He had a library full of French classics (he was French-speaking by birth) and he loved to read. I remember the first novel ever read to me was 'La Reine Margot' by Alexandre Dumas. I must not have known French at that tender age, but I still remember what the story is about. Funny thing, eh?

But that poor queen Margot was not my favorite story. No, that was by far Dumas' masterpiece, The Three Musketeers. First it was read to me in French, later on I read it myself in its Dutch translation and only much later I tried the French version once more. I prefer reading novels in their original language, as long as I understand it. I can read in Dutch, English, German and French.

The characters in The Three Musketeers appealed to me. As a young girl, I'd daydream that d'Artagnan was madly in love with me (while the other day it would be a handsome Native American warrior). What I especially liked about the book was the way in which Dumas mingles action, adventure, romance and a little bit of mystery. After all, we keep guessing about the identity of Lady De Winter at first.

I was also a lot interested in history - still am. Before the days of the computer, I remember reading about some historical facts in a book, and then going to the library to find out more about it. I still have a box with index cards filled with historical facts - and these come in quite handy when I'm writing one of my own novels.

Dumas definitely inspired me to write The Medici Diamonds. Of course my novel is not set in the same time frame - the seventeenth century under the reign of Louis the Thirteenth. My story is set in the early eighteenth century, when Louis-Philippe d'Orléans was Prince Regent until his nephew, Louis the Fifteenth, came of age. But I did borrow the way in which Dumas writes his epic story. I also like to mix adventure with action, romance and mystery.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: The Rhythm of Rain (C.L. Scholey) *****

As I've told before, I am a proofreader for Rogue Phoenix Press (next to being one of its authors, of course). I don't always like the books I go through, but sometimes I come across one I really enjoy. An example of this is The Rhythm of Rain.

Rain is a young (black) ballerina. Dancing is her passion. When it rains, she is driven outside to dance in the downpour, as in trance. She doesn’t know why she does this – this mystery is revealed later on in the novel.

Telor, who lives in the neighborhood, often watches Rain dancing in the dark. He loves the girl, but isn’t sure she has the same feelings for him.

One day, Rain meets another dancer, Jaron, in the studio. There is something familiar about him, but she can’t pinpoint the memory.

Rain has to go back to the past and solve the mystery involving her. She is helped by the two men who love her.

I found this novel well-written and keeping pace. The author sets the tone with the first pages already and you’re quickly drawn into the mystery of Rain’s need to dance.

My evaluation would be 5 stars

To give you a taste of the book, here's an excerpt:

From the recess of the darkness he watched her. Why on earth she had been named Rain he would never know. She was a tempest; she was a flurry; she was poetry in motion, and she meant absolutely everything in the world to him and more.

The storm crashed around them in the midsummer night. Thunder pounded out a staccato rhythm in sync with his drumming heartbeat. Lightning lit up the sky, zipping across the heavens—a force to be reckoned with—and still Rain danced, unfazed. Her clothing was saturated, as was his. Water plastered her white shirt to her chest, molding across the generous swell of Rain's breasts.

It was the same dance Telor had watched since he was a boy of eight and Rain was four. Ever since she and her grandparents had moved to his "nothing ever happens" little hick town eighteen years ago. Their houses were on a lonely dirt road, side by side, and backed onto a sparsely wooded forest near a small creek. They shared a gravel driveway that veered into a Y at the end.

Telor had seen Rain dancing from his window that first night many years ago—as he had tonight. Her movements over the years had matured with experience to create a story only she could tell, but didn't seem to know.

Telor remained frozen, hypnotized by her movements. Rain was a flurry of freestyle and ballet. She twirled, then dropped and crawled across the grass. Her movements were painstakingly slow. She let her head fall forward as though something were trying to defeat her.

Then determinedly, or perhaps defiantly, grass was ripped from the ground in chunks as she pulled her hands from the sodden earth. She rolled, jumped to her feet, and leaped gracefully in a grand jeté into the air over a stump. Her luscious legs stretched to their limits, one before her, one behind. Landing, Rain then spun in place with a fouette rond de jambe en tournant.

Around and around she went as the raindrops flew from her as fast as they landed. One deliciously slender foot tucked quickly behind the knee, then down, then up. All the while she whirled in place, making him dizzy as he tried to focus on her beautiful face.

Rain slumped to her hands and knees, remaining motionless for brief seconds while Telor caught his breath from the sidelines. She swung her head right then left in quick succession.

Slowly Rain stood; her body arched forward and went rigid as she let her hands slide sensually up her sides. She was on the move again, faster. She twisted and dropped, then up and spinning. Rain laced her fingers through the long strands of the tall willow tree to her right. Farther ahead she pirouetted. Whirling, turning her feet a batterie as they beat together in the air to the sound of thunder.

Telor felt his heart pound in his ears with the storm as Rain became one with the ferocity of the elements. Her movements were best described as a duende: Rain wasn't one with the dance—she was the dance. One could almost see rhythm flow through her blood with an undenied force. Making him—making him believe in an emotion so powerfully gripping, he went with her on her journey into the unknown…even if it caused his demise with his heart in his throat and his pulse pounding.

Then suddenly down Rain dropped once more and lay still, gasping, her hand to her chest. Telor clutched at his own chest, waiting. His breath caught and held. Oh God. Rain's rise to her feet was heartbreaking—a broken ballerina. With her legs shaking she fluttered her hands, but it was hopeless. Telor's eyes always went teary at this part. Her legs buckled and down she went. "Death of a dancer" was what Telor called this dramatic end.

Rain curled into a tiny ball, then emerged and drifted to her feet. It was as though her spirit came to life. Her gaze was mournful as she cast a woeful glance on where her body would be. Arms across her breasts, head bowed, she took tiny, flittering steps away from the scene as though unwilling to leave—but she had to. When she moved forward, she outstretched her hand with hesitance, reaching for something, someone.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Love reading: The Seacrest (Aaron Paul Lazar)

I don't often read modern day romance (rather prefer regency romance) but every now and then one comes across a work that catches the imagination.

One of these is The Seacrest, by multi-award winning autohr Aaron Paul Lazar. It's a romance, but not too sweet. There is also some mystery attached. As the author is male, this proves without doubt that men can write good romance too!

What is the book about? Here's a blurb:

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Finn McGraw disagrees.

He was just seventeen when he had a torrid summer affair with the girl who stole his heart—and then inexplicably turned on him. Finn may have moved on with his life, but he’s never forgotten her.

Now, ten years later, he’s got more than his lost love to worry about. A horrific accident turns his life upside down, resurrecting the ghosts of his long-dead family and taking the lives of the few people he has left.

Finn always believed his estranged brother was responsible for the fire that killed their family—but an unexpected inheritance with a mystery attached throws everything he knows into doubt.

And on top of that, the beguiling daughter of his wealthy employer has secrets of her own. But the closer he gets, the harder she pushes him away.

The Seacrest is a story of intrigue and betrayal, of secrets and second chances—and above all, of a love that never dies.

Having read the book in one sitting, I can testify it's a great read. One of those books which give you a sense of feeling good, of having witnessed something beautiful

I can only recommend you hurry to the bookshop (or online bookseller) and order your copy!

Monday, May 19, 2014

While I'm completing my next novel...

I thought I can keep you interested in this blog by posting some posts about the books I like reading (LOVE READING) or writing reviews of the books I've been reading as a proofreader for my publisher (REVIEW).

When I'm writing reviews, I'm going to rate them as well:

***** (5 stars): an excellent read, worth my recommendation

****   (4 stars): good, but lacks that ultimate polish

***     (3 stars): not bad, not good either

**       (2 stars): lacks points of interest

*         (1 star): not worth reading

Please keep this in mind when reading my future posts. Thanks.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Review 2: The Gold Crucifix

August 2012: Bookmaven623

This was an excellent historical romance. I really enjoyed the independence of the characters and how they dealt with the situations they were put into. I loved Richard and Sarah’s love story and how it did take them to the new world. I was saddened with the whole relationship with Richard’s brother. I almost felt like he was used when he was dying. I know that’s not what the author meant but it just kinda felt like Sarah was in a bad position and she used the Earl of Linfield to get security. The incorporation of Drury lane and the players was excellent. Also, the illustration of King Charles’ activities and how amorous and varied his affections could be were very historically accurate and made for a nice addition to the story. How all that fits in you will have to read the book to find out. You will love Sarah and Richard no doubt. I would definitely recommend this book and any other historical romance by Ms. Fleming.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Review 1: The Gold Crucifix

September 6th, 2012: Love Saves the World

Born in the aftermath of Civil War to Charles Davenport, a royalist, and to Rebecca Flint, daughter of the vicar of Cherwell St. Mary, Sarah Jennings never felt she fit into her family. Her mother's favorite, she was educated better than her half-siblings were and encouraged to dream grander than they were.

When her mother dies, Sarah is left alone and uncertain of what to do next. Opportunity comes in the form of Walter Carey, current Earl of Linfield -- recently returned from his exile in France. He is impressed with this clever and beautiful girl and invites her to stay at Linfield Grange as the housekeeper.

Her idyllic life and relationship with Walter is tested when Walter's younger brother, Richard, arrives from France. And history threatens to repeat itself as Sarah is seduced by Richard's sophisticated ways.

Richard is clear that he only wants Sarah as a mistress so Sarah runs away to London where she finds work in the tavern. But not long after, she catches the eye of Charles Hart, who happens to work for Sir Thomas Killigrew of the royal theatre.

Reminiscent of
Bertrice Small's Blaze Wyndham -- this is a sweeping story that takes the reader from the Civil War to Cromwell's England and finally to the Restoration and tells the story of Sarah Jennings.

It takes Sarah and Richard over a decade to discover a love that overcomes class difference. In that period, Fleming treats us to historical tidbits about the royal court, theatre life and the Great Fire of London.

This book has a lot to recommend it: it was a fascinating read. I loved how Fleming was able to blend the fictitious life of Sarah Jennings into the very historical world of Nell Gwynne and the court of Charles II.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Excerpt 2 from The Gold Crucifix

King Charles the Second of England plays a rather important role in the story. I won't tell you more, but here is where he meets Sarah for the first time:

As Hart had predicted the performance went smoothly. When Sarah appeared on the stage, her armpits were wet with transpiration. Nevertheless she said her first lines without the slightest hesitation and then became fully absorbed with her role.

She not once looked into the auditorium and therefore was not aware of the fact that most of the male audience was paying more attention to her than to the actual play.

In the royal box the king and his brother were more attentive than normal. Charles looked more than once at the leading actress, to his brother’s amusement.

“I won’t pretend Shakespeare is my favorite playwright,” the king whispered into James’s ear. “But this Ophelia… She’s a damned good actress and a pretty wench as well. Is she a new acquisition?”

“I don’t know,” James answered.

“Her name is Sarah Davenport,” George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, interrupted. The duke was one of the gentlemen in the king’s suit. He also was a frequent visitor of the theatre. “She is one of Hart’s new discoveries and he thinks rather well of her.”

“Davenport? Interesting,” Charles commented.

He kept silent for a while, completely forgetting the presence of the others. His thoughts lingered away and a secretive smile curled his mouth.

Oh yes, this could become a special occasion indeed…

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Excerpt 1 from The Gold Crucifix

This is where Sarah meet Richard for the first time:

It happened in the last bend of the lane, just before the clearing where the lawns and flower-beds of the manor became visible.

All at once Sarah heard the thundering of a horse in full gallop, and before she could even jump to safety, she was pushed off the road into the soft grass of the verge. She was so stunned she did not hear the curse of the horseman and how he pulled his mount to a standstill.

Slowly, she crawled to an upright position and immediately noticed the pain in her right knee. Neglecting the fact that her basket had fallen and its contents were shattered over the path--some of them trodden on--she started to rub her knee fiercely. Only then did she notice the man, who had turned his horse and who was now throwing disdainful looks in her direction.

Suddenly, she realized what danger she had barely escaped. This notion triggered a fit of anger, which became so violent she turned hot and enflamed. Returning his glances with eyes that shot fire, she snarled, "You fool! You could have hurt me!"

The look in his eyes remained cold, but the tone of his voice revealed a show of interest.

"In case you shouldn't know, let me warn you that you find yourself on private property," he said.

She refused to be intimidated and was quick to answer. "So right you are. But I am the housekeeper of the Grange…sir," and she put all her contempt into the word, "and I have every right to be here. I was walking alongside the road and you should have been more careful! The least you can do is offer your apologies to me, and if you're a gentleman, you will help me pick up my belongings."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Gold Crucifix

When I originally wrote this story - years ago, when I was only in my early twenties! - I titled it 'Sarah Jennings' after the heroine. Since then, the story underwent various changes, but the main line was strong enough to maintain. The Gold Crucifix is the result of all these re-writes.

The action takes place in England and begins during the straining years of Civil War. Roundheads against Cavaliers, and a young woman and young man caught in the middle of the storm.

Just before the Restoration, 13-year-old Sarah learns on her mother's deathbed that innkeeper Amos Jennings is not her real father. Her mother can't tell her the name of the man responsible for her being. She only suspects he was a nobleman. She only has one item belonging to him: a beautiful bejeweled crucifix on a golden chain.

Sarah doesn't feel at home at the inn anymore. So she is glad when the local lord offers her a position at his manor house. As years go by, her intelligence earns her the job as housekeeper.

It is at Linfield Grange she meets Richard Carey, brother of Lord Walter - and his heir. Walter has consumption and will not live very long. She feels attracted to the young rascal, but realizes soon enough he will never marry her. Still she becomes a victim of his charms on the night of his leaving. Not wanting to share the same faith as her mother, she leaves the Grange and seeks her fortune in London.

There she meet Charles Hart, who is the main player in His Majesty's Theatre. He thinks she could be an actress and persuades her to give it a try. As Sarah Davenport she begins a career on stage, becoming good friends with Hart and his girlfriend Nell Gwynne.

As her success grows, Sarah draws the attention of various men - among which even His Majesty, King Charles the Second. But then Richard returns... to claim what he once owned. Hard times are ahead for Sarah, who can't say 'no' to Richard but knows in her mind he is not the right man for her.

The Great Fire and the pest play a part in this novel, as well as the restored theatre and the court of Charles the Second.

Suffise it to know that the story has a happy ending. Sarah marries the man she loves and even finds out who her true father is!

You can buy the book at Rogue Phoenix's website or an online bookseller, either as e-book or paperback.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Review 3: The Medici Diamonds

Written by Deborah McGillivray:

Who is Marguerite de Vallencieux? Marguerite does not know. There is a big gap in her memories, years missing from her consciousness, and when bits and pieces float to the surface, it makes her physically ill. Physicians have been no help, just advise her not to push it, let the memories return on their own. The problem is they don't return, and it puts Marguerite's life in danger. Someone murdered her husband, in what looked like an act of robbery, only the mysterious, shadowy figure, Le Chevalier, warns Marguerite it was a contract killing. Someone paid for her husband's murder. He warns Marguerite's her very life may be in danger and advises her to leave the city.

Marguerite does so, meets, falls in love with a Marquis and marries him, but on her wedding night, he beats her and takes a whip to her. Later, he claims to have made a mistake, that he thought she was Margot de Bassy and he was getting even for a wrong she had done him. He claims Margot has the same green eyes, the same face as Marguerite. Can Margot has some connection to Marguerite, a connection to the period in her life she cannot recall?

As Marguerite's life spirals out of control, she learns a priceless, cursed, diamond necklace is at the center of the plots swirling around her, and her memory holds to key to the riddles. Le Chevalier is out to avenge the murder of his wife,and the necklace and Marguerite are pieces in a chess game of revenge.

This is Fleming's newest book, and her writing style shows strong growth, spinning a true book of historical fiction. It's fast paced, the mystery keeps you involved, her prose showing a polished, assured style of a writer who has arrived. I hear constantly, from American readers, you cannot find old-style historical fiction any more. Thanks to gutsy writers like Fleming and the new age of technology with fresh publishers offering books that readers WANT, not what they are told they should want, you could find some super reads. It's mystery, adventure, duels in the night and a damsel in distress...in the old tradition of Scaramouche, The Three Musketeers and a Tale of Two Cities!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Review 2: The Medici Diamonds

A Scottish Lass for Angel Eyes’ Reviews
Rating: 5 angel eyes

The Title and Cover are outstanding as if a curling finger beckons the potential reader.

The plot is revealed in an almost quiet unassuming manner and as I settled into the book I could almost imagine the mystery was being woven through the story as a Navaho Lady would weave her shawl of assorted colors for each character. The author tied the entire story together and there were no loose ends. There were no ho-hum moments and I found myself going back to read again and again until I had finished.

The descriptions of the City, the characters and the time frame present the reader with a comfortable and intimate feeling that they are a part of the story. I must admit that I was wishing for the ending to be as I wanted it to be and when it happened there were some tears of joy. After all I am an Irish-Scottish Lass


A Scottish Lass

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Review 1: The Medici Diamonds

This is a review by Vivien Crystal:

Are you looking for a well-written, adventurous mystery with some historical connections to add to the intrigue? Here it is in Nickie Fleming's tale about the Medici diamonds, reputed to be cursed to whoever is the current owner but sought by thieves. In fact, they are willing to murder anyone who possesses these priceless jewels.

The tale begins with a young woman waking up in a Burgundy convent. Unable to remember anything about her past, she is dependent on her brother for her future. She experiences three marriages, fraught with convenience, brutality, and finally passionate love.

Before that dream of true love happens, however, Marguerite (or Margot as she is called by her peers) undergoes horrific nightmares about her unknown past, physical debilitation when the emerging memories strive to surface, a beating that leaves her mentally scarred but determined to protect her well-being at all costs, several murder attempts which wind up accidentally killing several people around her but which fail to remove the intended target, and finally an escape to a safe place where all of her tortured memories begin to emerge.

The returned memory portion of the novel is no less exciting than the previous sections and it is here that the reader discovers how the Medici diamonds have passed from victim to victim as well as the history of the diamonds.

The world of 18th Century France is portrayed accurately with its Prince Regent, Philippe d' Orleans and his court, as well as those constantly vying for his favor. Masqued dances, fashionable dress, the acquisition of riches to gain inclusion in the royal court, the loose marital agreements that allow and even expect affairs of the heart to supercede fidelity in monogamy, the secretive but powerful underworld of the Quartier Saint-Denis, a lost child and more fill these pages with enough action to totally mesmerize every reader. While the plot is certainly a familiar one to most readers, Nickie Fleming is adept at crafting the novel into sections that keep the reader guessing and thoroughly enjoying the progress of Marguerite's insecure journey and that of her friends and enemies.

This is a grand read - buy it and lose yourself in Nickie Fleming's imaginative presentation of France in the 1700s.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Excerpt 3 from The Medici Diamonds

This is my own favorite passage from the novel. It's the scene where Marguerite finds out she only loves one man...

Chapter 10


She had dressed in all her finery, had greeted the Regent and had done what was expected of her. But right now, she wanted to be on her own for a while. She thought for a moment, considering the risks then sent a lackey for her cape. Soon afterwards she left the interior of the palace. Outside, the cold was intense, but she did not feel it. At the deserted courtyard of the Palais Royal she found the peace she craved. She studied the twinkling stars in the firmament and wondered what the next year might bring to her. She did not startle at the sound of nearing footsteps – somehow, she had been expecting them.

“You seem to appreciate the festivities as much as I do, Madame,” spoke Lord Newton.

She turned around to look at him. “I’ll never feel at ease here,” she answered. “I really don’t belong at the court. My husband would not understand those sentiments. He wants me to shine on every occasion and win the Regent’s favor. Yet I feel out of place in such a role. It just isn’t me!”

She smiled apologetically. “Here I go again! I don’t know what makes me say all those things to you – nor what you must be thinking of me now.”

He avoided an answer by asking if she cared for a stroll. He offered her his arm and led her away from the courtyard, into the surrounding gardens. For a long time the rustle of her satin dress was the only noise that could be heard.

At last Lord Newton broke the silence. “Someone told me what happened to you this afternoon. Nevertheless you came to the ball, looking better than ever and were able to face the curiosity. I admire your courage, Madame!”

It sounded like a compliment, and it meant more to her than the sympathy Hilaire had shown. “I’m not so brave,” she however denied, sensing honesty was at its place here. “I came to the ball because I did not want to stay home with my husband.”

He let the last remark go, although he seemed to register it. “You won’t deny it was a scaring experience,” he said instead. “There may be danger for you here. Perhaps you should have stayed home.”

“That would not solve anything,” she replied. “You know, fear is a fierce emotion. It reaches a point where you are so scared that nothing seems to bother anymore – and then you become half as careful as you ought to be.”

He nodded to show he appreciated her sharp psychological insight. “I repeat: you are a brave woman. And know you are quite safe with me. Nobody will try to rob you of your jewels or money in my presence.”

She snorted. “Those scoundrels were not out for my possessions. They meant to kill me.”

He accepted her statement without apparent surprise, but because of the close contact of their arms, she sensed how his muscles tightened. Suddenly she felt a strong urge to take him further into her confidence.

“I need to talk to somebody,” she addressed him frankly. “Please hear me out.”

She told him the entire story without exaggeration, and he listened without any comment. By the time she finished talking, they had reached a frozen fountain where he let go of her arm. He did this so she could not feel how his hands trembled. He still was not prepared to trust her entirely, nor his own feelings.

“Why me?” he wanted to know when she stopped speaking. “Why not share this with your husband? He’s the one who ought to help you in your troubles.”

She did not need to think. “I am not very close to him,” she replied. “We only married because it was… convenient. I feel he’s more of a stranger to me than you are.”

He made an irritated movement which she did not catch immediately. Instead she went on: “I’ve had this feeling from the day we first met. Since then I became more and more convinced that destiny brought us together.”

“I’m afraid destiny had little to do with it,” he said hoarsely. “I saw you and wanted to possess you. Sometimes I indulge in my evil ways.”

“I don’t believe you,” she stated with inner certainty. “Not after last time. You said other things then. I thought we had become friends, so why can’t you be straightforward too?”

“Enough, Madame!”

Now his tone was rude and had the intention to hurt. He succeeded easily in this. Marguerite came to an abrupt standstill and a look of profound pain manifested itself on her face.

“Is this the way you treat friends?” she cried out. “What are you trying to prove?”

“Nothing!” he responded. “Didn’t they warn you about me, Madame? I am an outcast – and do you know why society shuns me? Because I was convicted for having murdered my wife.”

His revelation shocked her, but did not reach the objected goal. She did not turn away from him in horror.

She waved aside any possible doubt and said: “I can’t believe you’re capable of murder. There must have been a mistake.”

When she tried to lay her hand on his arm, he shook it off, with a violent gesture. “You’re wrong!” he shouted, undergoing the old hurt once more. “I could easily have killed her! I used to imagine how I’d lay my hand around her slender neck and press…press… so that she could scorn me never again. Only – I didn’t. Someone crossed my plans and was clever enough to put the blame on me. I was condemned to be beheaded, but my stepfather used his influence with the old king and got me a pardon. The sentence was changed into lifelong banishment. I had to leave France, and I shall never forget those years. The humiliation, the anger, the pain…”

“It has passed now,” she dared to remark.

He laughed unpleasantly. “Oh yes, it all turned out so nicely! My uncle, whom I never heard of since my father became estranged from his family, died of typhoid fever and shortly afterwards his two sons succumbed to the disease as well. Luck! Now I happen to be the sole heir of the Duke of Shrevenport… and because of that, the Regent restored me to my rights and allowed me to return to France. And what did I gain? Entrance to the court, and the openly displayed contempt of those who did not give me a chance to prove my innocence in the first place.”

Now she was no longer offended by his harsh words. His outburst gave her the chance to better understand how bitterness had turned him into the person he was now, and why he found it so easy to use irony and sarcasm. She realized she gained field in winning his total confidence.

“I believe you are not guilty,” she said. “Have you never tried to find out who killed your wife?”

He looked away and did not answer straight away. He appeared to be brooding over something.

“Can’t you tell me?” she urged him.

He looked into those beautiful eyes and realized she really wanted to know all. He bit his lip and pressed his nails deep into his skin, until pearls of blood appeared. Still he did not speak.

“You shut yourself off from those who care for you,” she concluded. “And I do care… You simply won’t give me a chance.”

“Marguerite, please!” It was a tortured man who spoke, a man who did not make it easy on himself. He was determined to continue on the path he had chosen. She had enough worries on her mind already. Why burden her with his guilt? “How can you understand?” he went on. “You don’t know half of the truth!”

“Not when you keep throwing such high barriers,” she stammered, losing courage at last. She swallowed through the tears that welled in her throat. Then she decided.

“I am sorry,” she said. “I won’t bother you any longer. I suppose I went too far with my curiosity. Goodbye.”

Decidedly she turned her back on him and headed back to the palace. One step, two steps, …

He felt as if his heart was being ripped out. The pain became too severe, too unbearable.

“Marguerite, don’t leave,” he whispered, finally giving up the battle with his self-discipline and needing to give in to the overwhelming desire to take her into his arms.

She stiffened in her stride and looked behind. Then everything seemed like a dream come true. He swept her into his embrace and ravished her mouth with hungry kisses which she eagerly returned.

He felt how his heart leaped up in pure joy, when he sensed her response. She completely surrendered to him, without the least bit of restraint. If it were not so deadly cold, he would have made love to her there and then. Now he lifted her into his arms and hastened to find his carriage.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Excerpt 2 from The Medici Diamonds

1720, Paris

“Hold the thief!”

The cry came from a little woman who sold apples. To Marguerite’s surprise two guardsmen showed up rather quickly and set in the pursuit of the pickpockets. People were brushed aside, stalls overturned, creating more hassle.

One of the thieves bumped into Marguerite. He was a boy, not older than ten. Without thinking, she got hold of his arm. “Keep still,” she warned him, “unless you want the guards to arrest you.”

A dirty face with dark and challenging eyes looked up to hers. Thick black hair curled over his ears and collar, the mouth was broad and ready to laugh. His bold stare told her something. She followed his gaze and noticed how she kept two fingers crossed – as an obvious sign the boy well understood.

A deep feeling of confusion took possession of her. What was she doing?  What did this mean?

She had no time to think further. An officer of the guard approached her. The man bowed politely, but his face stood grim. “Madame?”

Monsieur l’officier?” she responded with a friendly smile.

“I believe you are protecting a notorious thief and street robber,” he stated in a cold voice. “The boy next to you is well known to us, and it is my duty to arrest him.”

“I’m sure there is a mistake, Officer,” she corrected him swiftly. Her raised eyebrows indicated an air of mischief. “Jean,” she added, “the boy you see here, is the nephew of my valet. Henri can testify to that.”

The lawman frowned, especially when the servant replied.

“Indeed, I can vow to that,” Henri said. He knew where his loyalty lay.

“I’m helping my uncle to carry Madame’s purchases,” the boy peeped up, unasked. His feeling of self-confidence returned after a brief moment of panic. He grinned.

The officer sighed, seeming to admit to his defeat. This time he had to leave without prisoner. His opponent was a lady of quality, more precisely the wife of his highest chief, the Attorney General of Paris. Even though he knew she was lying, he could not question her.

“My apologies, Madame. I won’t bother you any further.”

“Don’t worry, Officer. I do admire the way in which you perform your task,” she answered. “I shall recommend you to my husband.”

As soon as the police officer moved out of sight, the boy tried the same. The game was over now. But before he could move, Henri’s hand came down on his shoulder, pinning him. “You will thank the baroness properly for saving your miserable hide,” he told him in a firm tone.

The boy wriggled but could not free himself. He looked around, hoping to see any of his mates. They were long gone. He would have to solve this problem alone.

“Thank you, Madame. And may I go now?”

“Why the hurry?”

“I have to catch up with my mates,” he said. “They must wonder where I am.”

“My guess is they’ve seen the officer right behind you, and now they think you’re his prisoner. Did they come back for you?”

“My uncle will come for me!” he tried to reassure himself, rather than her. However, his tone seemed not all too convinced.

Marguerite gazed at him more carefully. She realized he was only a child – a child who was feeling afraid and insecure. The brutality he showed was a pose, a necessity in these environs. Right there – influenced by something she could not explain – she took a decision which would change her life.

“Granted that your  uncle hasn’t given up on you, he’d better try and find out where you are, because I’m taking you home with me,” she said. “There’s always room for a little page in a household as large as ours.”

“Madame, you must be out of your wits!” Henri cried out, sooner than he knew. This was going too far; he felt it his duty to protest in his master’s name.

“I won’t tolerate such behavior, Henri,” she admonished him sharply.

“But Madame! Don’t you realize you’re taking an enormous risk? This brad will steal everything that is not too big or too heavy, and pass on information to all of his accomplices. One night they will come and cut our throats.”

Marguerite burst out into laughter. She did not often do that, Henri knew. Most of the time she looked somewhat forlorn, ever since the day she became his master’s wife.

“Don’t be so dramatic, Henri. None such thing will happen – I will personally see to that. The boy must promise me to be honest. If he should take something away, just like this…,” she held up a pocket-watch on a golden chain and dangled it before Henri’s nose, ‘…then I would feel obliged to notify the law!”

The astonished expression on both the valet’s and the boy’s faces was worth a lot. She kept on laughing, until it slowly dawned on her she just gave a masterful demonstration on how to pick a man’s pocket. Another thing that totally perplexed her. What did this mean?

The problem was, she had no recollections of the past. Her conscious life had only started nine years ago, when she woke up from a coma in a Burgundy convent. Everything before that was a total blank.

The little rogue put a hand in his pocket and found nothing but a dirty handkerchief. Now he really was at a loss. Who had ever heard of a noblewoman who mastered their own special skills?