Thursday, February 11, 2016

The beautiful side of Paradise; Setting of Noble Assassin

Paradise, yes, that's the word we conjure when we think of the Caribbean.

My newest novel is set in the Caribbean, near St. Kitts. It takes place in 1808, and so, it is set in the backdrop of The West Indies.

You've met the characters, Ambrose Duchammp and Juliet Wallingford in previous posts, and toured the landscape to view the creatures on the islands, specifically the more imposing creatures.  

Today I present another side, the more alluring side of the Caribbean, the romantic side, if you will.

Juliet is from England so to her, the island is a wonderful place unlike anything she's ever known.

Butterflies of every color and tropical blooms.

Hibiscus flower after a tropical shower

The landscape is dotted with exotic tropical flowers, such as hibiscus and bouginvilla creeping up the garden wall or along hedges. Bouginvilla can be white, pink, coral, red, or purple. Juliet sees it infringing everywhere.  When she goes to the port city to shop, Ambrose gifts her with pink orchids. Does he know it's her favorite color?   Who can resist the magic and beauty of the Caribbean landscape.
It's the perfect place to fall in love.  

Imagine the bright colored parrots flying about, landing on trees, greeting you with their sharp caws.

And imagine living in a land that is forever warm after spending your life in a damp, cooler climate such as England. The heat and humidity take some getting used to, but it's worth the discomfort. Every day, you can walk the beach if you wish, enjoy the sunshine and collect sea shells.  Imagine taking a carriage ride at night with your sweetheart, and making love on the beach, beneath a canopy of stars.

So, if you are looking to get away from winter this February, slip into the romance of the Caribbean with a historical romance set near St. Kitts.  Noble Assassin will be released this weekend.

Tomorrow, on release day, I'm posting an excerpt from the first scene of the book.  
Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Jane Eyre in the West Indies: Meet Juliet, Heroine in Noble Assassin

Juliet, Governess and Dreamer

It takes guts to pack up your few belongings and flee to a strange land. It takes a lot of courage to sail across the ocean in 1807 and take a job as a governess in order to hide from a man stalking you. 

Juliet Wallingford does not consider herself a heroine. In her own mind, she's not a brave soul. She's a bastard child of a nobleman and has not even met her father. When her mother died, she was taken to a school for girls, and spent her childhood there as a ward to a mysterious benefactor. Once she reached an age of adulthood, her father stopped paying for her lodgings. She had the choice of going out on her own to support herself, or staying at the school as a teacher to earn her keep. She chose the latter, with very bland results. A boring day job in an institution where she lived and ate as well as taught, a place where she has about as much chance of meeting a potential husband as meeting the Emperor of France. 

She answers an ad for a governess and goes to a remote estate on the Yorkshire moors. A little like Jane Eyre, but with disastrous results. There is no Mr. Rochester waiting for her there, only a wicked man who preys upon her innocence, and has done so with former governesses coming to his home to fill the position. 

hibiscus flowers from West Indies

After fending off his attack, Juliet plucks up her courage and flees to the Indies. She finds her new position most favorable as the family is loving and kind, to their children and to their staff. She's content. Sort of.  She's also dreamed of having her own home, her own children to fuss over and a husband to share her life with.  She had a slight crush on the sea captain who brought her to the Indies, as he was attentive and kind to her, asking her to join him for dinner in his cabin each night with his senior officers, and generally giving her an idea of what a true gentleman behaves like. She daydreams about marrying the captain, of joining him on his adventures at sea. It's a sweet dream for a lonely governess with no family or home of her own. 

Not your typical Mr. Rochester

Our Jane Eyre doesn't know that Mr. Rochester is waiting for her in the Indies: Mr. Duchamp is blissfully unaware that his life is empty and lonely without her.  He's an intimidating, dangerous man, rumored to be a killer. He'll teach her the art of self protection, instruct her in how to use a dagger, tease her, make sport of her, and offer a pretend courtship to protect her reputation while engaged in said lessons--something she finds insulting and humiliating but must play along out of fear her employers will let her go if they know the truth, that she's a fugitive from English shores. 

Her penchant for dreaming of that knight in shining armor sweeping her away arises again, and she can't help but wonder what it would be like to be Mr. Duchamp's Bride. The only problem is, he's not in love with her, he's just pretending, she believes. 

Juliet is tortured by the future, when the pretense is finished and she's left alone again, embarrassed to have not truly captured Mr. Duchamp's attentions. He's a hard man, with his heart locked away in a steel box.  How could she ever hope to inspire a true affection in him? 

She might be surprised to learn she's not the drab little mouse she believes herself to be. Not in Mr. Duchamp's mind. But . . . that's not the whole story. It's her story, her perceptions in the matter.  

Juliet is forced to trust him as her enemy closes in. Will her heart survive intact?  

Available for Sale Feb. 12th, 2015

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Monkeys, Sharks and Snakes, Oh My! Creatures of Noble Assassin

Copyright: violin / 123RF Stock Photo

Noble Assassin is set in the Caribbean, so naturally, we think of sunsets, bright flowers, sandy beaches and benign surroundings.

The story is set on an imaginary island near St. Kitts. So, yes, there are sandy beaches, and tropical flowers, brilliant sunsets, and . . . snakes.

Copyright: byrdyak / 123RF Stock Photo

The hero of our story, Ambrose, has a cottage on the edge of the sea. Behind the cottage is jungle brush and a large, long lagoon.  He has pets in his backyard paradise.  There is a group of Vertvet Monkeys, or Green Monkeys as they are often called. Ambrose, our bad guy hero, has trained one among them to come when he calls. Titus Andronicus  (Shakespeare, a dark story full of nasty murders) is the name our noble assassin has given his pet. Titus will sit on his shoulder and let him feed him by hand. Meet Titus

Copyright: mattiaath / 123RF Stock Photo

The tropical landscape is beautiful of course, with vibrant blooms and green jungle foliage. There are parrots, and butterflies, lizards, and snakes. Tarantula's also live here, but don't make too much of a showing in our story.  The nine year old twin boys in the story like to play with small lizards. Well, boys will be boys, after all.

Copyright: magphoto / 123RF Stock Photo
Ambrose also has pets in his backyard lagoon. Two tiger sharks swam in one day, infant sharks that slipped through the coral barrier. Ambrose kept feeding them, and made a barrier so they could not escape. The lagoon is fed fresh ocean water with the tides. He's named his two pet sharks, now nearly fully grown, Louis and Maria, after the French King and his queen who were executed by guillotine during the French Revolution. He's showing his sentimental side in the choice of names.

Copyright: kiankhoon / 123RF Stock Photo

These darlings are more than pets, they also provide backyard surveillance so that he's not attacked in the night by enemies trying to land in the lagoon. And land they do! Crunch, Crunch.

His monkey tribe also serves as an alarm system, as they screech warning whenever intruders enter their backyard habitat.  Ambrose is adept at using the tools at hand as weapons or defense mechanisms, you see.

Copyright: nirut123rf / 123RF Stock Photo
Other creatures on the island that make an appearance in the book are jungle snakes.  Yes, snakes play an integral part of the rescue event at the end of the story. Couldn't resist as my Gothic side kicks in. Dark Hero, the first book in the series is a Gothic Romance set in the Caribbean. Noble Assassin also has Gothic elements, such as a brooding hero, a woman in danger, an isolated estate and a sometimes forbidding atmosphere.

Most of the snakes on the island of St. Kitts and the mirror island of Ravencrest are not poisonous. However, with any rule there is always an exception. But, consider this; if you were confronted with a room with writhing snakes on the floor, would you want to take your chances by walking thru them?

Make no mistake, Noble Assassin is a historical ROMANCE. But it has some suspenseful elements, and a paranormal twist, as most of my romances do. You can pick up a copy this week, just in time for Valentine's Day.  Escape to the Caribbean this winter and enjoy a romantic adventure with Ambrose and Juliet.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Meet Ambrose; Assassin turned Hero

He likes sharp and pointy things!

Writing an assassin as a hero took some work. Ambrose Duchamp cameoed in my first published novel, Dark Hero, as a support character. He frightened the heroine back then, and most of the crew of the hero's ship. He was known as a ruthless sort, the one guy you didn't want to piss off. He spent his time on deck playing with his dagger, showing off his skills to make his mark. This time, he's the hero in the romance. Meet Ambrose Duchamp, former royal assassin, retired pirate, all around bad boy when it comes to crossed swords.  He likes sharp and pointy things, and is remembered from Dark Hero as the man with the sharp dagger at the ready. 

Ambrose escaped France at the start of the Revolution in 1798. After some wild and quite violent adventures in the East Indies as a pirate, he's contentedly spending his days in paradise, given the job of overseeing Ravencrest plantation as the steward for his long time friend. He likes the quiet life, and living on an obscure island plantation in the West Indies. He has a dark past and a heart crushing secret that makes him loathe himself. He's mystified when his housekeeper, Mrs. Fitz, says she worries about him. He hates himself so can't fathom that others would care for him. He believes he does not deserve to be loved. When his friend warns him that Aphrodite will find him regardless of where he hides, and will bring his true love across his path, he scoffs at the idea. 

Juliet, a romantic dreamer

And then, fate knocks on his door in the form of a pretty but shy governess named Juliet. She's the opposite of him, soft, kind, tenderhearted, and naive. She's in danger. She has left England to hide in the Indies. She's asking him to to take an interest in her problems, without telling him the true reason for her flight from England. Should he help her? Why? What has she done that is so horrible that a nobleman would send men on a six week journey to the Indies to find her?  She's hiding something very dark and disturbing and refuses to give him the particulars. She just wants him to protect her without giving him a good reason why she's being stalked by a vile man.

Ambrose is the man to handle a dangerous mission. Dark is his middle name. We're talking about a man who was trained from childhood on a thousand ways to kill and then steal away in the night. A man who keeps sharks in his back yard lagoon as a security measure. Miss Juliet has sought out his valuable services and his honor will not allow him to walk away from a woman in jeopardy. 

But will his heart survive?  

Available Feb. 12th 2016

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A tribute to Alan Rickman: AKA Colonel Brandon, the unsung hero in Jane Austen's Classic

Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon in 1995 Sense & Sensibility

When I heard that Alan Rickman died a few weeks ago, my response was to watch Sense and Sensibility, the 1995 version where he plays a Regency Hero with finesse.

Sometimes a hero is unsung, unnoticed by the crowd. Sometimes, he slips away at the end of a book, overshadowed by another man with more flash and appeal.

This seems to be the case with Colonel Brandon, the gallant hero in Sense and Sensibility. He's there, in the background, waiting to rescue a lady.  That lady is young, full of silly ideas about love, and about what makes a romantic hero.

I'm talking about Marianne Dashwood, of course. She's fancied herself in love with Mr. Willoughby. But Mr. Willoughby, a young, handsome and dashing man, is a terrible rake. She is obsessed with him, and disdains the noble hero waiting in the wings, our beloved Colonel Brandon.

As you might guess, our noble hero endures. He is taken with Marianne: her youth, her exuberance, her energy, as it reminds the Colonel of a lost love from his past.

As Marianne allows danger to court her, and takes risks based on her emotions, he watches her, and admires her while her older sister, Eleanor chides her for her actions. Eleanor, if you are familiar with the story, is the sensible sister, stoic and realistic, where Marianne is sensitive to her passions and does not apologize for her actions. She sees Eleanor as a prude.

Colonel Brandon first meets Marianne Dashwood at a friend's house. He walks into the room (in the movie) when Marianne is playing the piano and singing, and he is entranced.

Colonel Brandon's noble behavior is contrasted by that of Mr. Willoughby. Willoughby leads Marianne on, giving her the impression that he plans to marry her. Even her family is fooled by his 'devotion'.  Eventually, the need for money overshadows his feelings for poor, penniless Marianne. He becomes engaged to a woman who can support him.

Marianne is crushed. Her heart is broken. My favorite scene in the whole movie is the one where Colonel Brandon goes out searching for her, and brings her in from the storm, bearing her in his arms. He still cares for her, even after she's been rude to him and pushed him off. His love for her endures.  And this wonderful man is portrayed by Alan Rickman in the 1995 movie, with Kate Winslet playing the lovely and impetuous seventeen year old Marianne.

Okay, if your heart doesn't increase at the thought of Colonel Brandon and his quiet devotion, wait, there is more!

After Marianne is snubbed and hurt by Mr. Willoughby, Brandon agrees to take the sisters home from London. They stop at a friend's mansion to spend a day or so before continuing the journey (where the famous scene of his rescue takes place). Marianne learns she can see Willoughby's manor house from the estate she's staying on, and goes for a walk. She doesn't return for hours, and a storm sets in. Brandon goes off to find her and carries her home.  After her despondent wandering in the cold rain, Marianne takes ill. She's in serious danger, and our hero, Colonel Brandon, is beside himself with emotion.  He wants to do something to help. He needs to do something.

So he goes to Eleanor, gripping the doorknob behind him as he begs her in a serious mien
"Give me a vocation (task) or I shall run mad!"  Can you imagine Allen Rickman's deep British voice saying that?  Gives one shivers, it does.
Colonel Brandon begging for a task while Marianne is ill. 

Eleanor sends him to her mother, feeling that Marianne will rest better during her fit of fever if her mother is present. The Colonel speeds to their home on his noble steed, and brings mama to the house by dawn the next day. Fortunately for him, after a hellish night where the doctor is uncertain the girl will live, Marianne pulls through and the fever abates. Her mother comes rushing to her side, and our dear Colonel lurks at the door, peeping in at his beloved Marianne.

Finally...... Finally! Marianne notices him, and the efforts he has made on her behalf. 

And it gets even better. Once she is home but still recovering from the dangerous fever that nearly took her life, Brandon sits by her side and reads to her. Such devotion. And now that Marianne has grown up a little after her misadventures with Willoughby, she appreciates the attentions of an honest and honorable suitor, despite their age difference.

Brandon (Rickman) is an enchantingly noble hero! 
To sum up the rest of the story, he leaves her for a short time to go to London. And buys her a Broadwood piano small enough to fit her mother's small parlor.   Needless to say, this handsome, mature, and noble hero gets his happily ever after in the end.

Yes, I know when the 1995 Sense and Sensibility was released, everyone was swooning over Hugh Grant as Mr. Edward Ferrars and Greg Wiese as Mr. Willoughby.  If you look at the cover of the video or movie poster, you see Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson. Alan Rickman isn't even given a place on the cover, even though his character's noble actions play an important part of the plot of the story. It's a shame!

Granted, Hugh is hot, but, his character for the part is weak, and walks about rather confused by circumstances and is ordered about too much by his mother and elder sister. Hot but sort of a wimp, sorry to say. Edward takes no action to rectify his situation, he lets others do things for him.  Rickman's character, on the other hand, Colonel Brandon, is strong man, a wealthy gentleman and a former officer of the Army. His actions--yes--actions to care for and protect those he loves are those of a true hero.

I salute Colonel Brandon, created by Jane Austen, and the wonderful actor Alan Rickman who first brought him to life for me in a movie.

It's clear that Rickman's most popular and most remembered role is Professor Snape in Harry Potter, and he did an amazing job in those movies. However, in my heart, I will always remember this talented, smooth, handsome British actor as Colonel Brandon, the unsung hero in Jane Austen's novel

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Tale of Three Suitors: Far from the Maddening Crowd

To start the New Year's New blog Posts, I wanted to give a Timeless Lovers's salute to a movie, and an old classic book I just discovered. This past weekend I watched an incredible romance movie, one that is also a 'costume drama' that delighted both myself and my spouse. It was in theaters May of 2014, and is now out in DVD.

We didn't feel the story was too long or too slow. We didn't want it to end. In comparison, we watched the recent incarnation of Madame Bovary, and were so bored we turned it off nearly at the halfway point, so that just goes to show that every remake of a classic movie doesn't succeed.

Far from the Maddening Crowd is a novel written by Thomas Hardy and published in 1874. The story is set in Victorian England, a contemporary novel at the time it was written. It takes place in the lovely English countryside of Dorset.

Our heroine, Miss Bathsheba Everdene (yes, Bathsheba!) lives with her aunt and works the farm.
She is a headstrong, independent woman who really isn't searching for a husband. She is made an offer of marriage by a neighboring farmer, a young, virile and handsome Gabriel Oak. Funny thing about the last name, as he ends up being as solid and reliable as an oak tree in the course the story.

She turns him down, because, well, she doesn't love him.
And she doesn't wish to be a farmer's wife.

Mr Gabriel Oak, a handsome and reliable man
Gabriel Oak's fortunes turn bleak in one night. He's been training a sheepdog named George who is not as well behaved as a dog should be that has the singular responsibility of herding and guarding sheep. As Gabriel awakens in the night after hearing a noise, he finds the sheep pen open and the sheep are gone. His older dog, retired, leads him up to the cliffs where he discovers the younger dog has herded his entire flock off the cliffs.

He's ruined, and must leave the farm he's been renting and hoping to buy after the sheep shearing.

Meanwhile, after turning Mr. Oak's proposal down,  plucky Bathsheba gets news of an inheritance. Her uncle has left her his farm in his will. She's thrilled, and packs right away to go claim her inheritance.

When she arrives at the farm, she is presented with a terrible situation. A fire nearly destroyed the barn, as a cart piled with hay near the edifice caught fire. A stranger happened upon the farm looking for shelter and work the night before her arrival, and he rallied to help the farm hands extinguish the fire. This bold stranger heroically climbs the roof of the barn to stamp out the flames on several of the shingles. Guess who this brave man turns out to be . . . Gabriel Oak.

Homeless and penniless, he's been wandering the countryside looking for work. In the movie version, Bathsheba arrives the morning after the fire and meets her rejected suitor. Since he helped save her barn, she hires him on as the master of the sheep.

But now, she's his boss, so there is tension between them.

Mr. Boltwood, an older, mature suitor who is kind
Along comes the second suitor, a neighboring landowner, Mr. Boltwood (played wonderfully by Michael Sheen). He is a mature man, a shy, introverted, but he is much more cultured and prosperous than our heroine. At first meeting, he snubs his nose at Bathsheba as he discovers her working on her land. She's shooting birds that are eating a harvest, so she appears somewhat bold for a woman as she greets him holding a loaded rifle.  Mr. Boltwood is one of those 'gentlemen farmers' you see. He doesn't actually work on his farm, he has hirelings for that, so seeing a female landowner actually working the farm is a shock to his sensibilities.

As time goes on Boltwood is taken with our heroine. Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba and does a superb performance in the leading role. (She was also in The Great Gatsby as Daisy). Bathsheba is bold, unconventional and independent for a Victorian Era woman. She's far ahead of her times. The scene with her shooting birds with a rifle, coupled with her refusal of Mr. Oak's offer and a clip of her riding hard across the countryside astride a horse tell us she is not a meek, easily managed woman.

Like the first suitor, Boltwood proposes to Bathsheba. His proposal is different. He keeps saying he wants to provide for her and protect her all her days. In other words, he wants to put her in a box or on a high pedestal. He even suggests she might still run her own farm as sort of a hobby. He offers her a huge manor house complete with a full staff, prestige as his wife, money, fancy clothing, jewels . . . . it's like a dream come true for most women, a Cinderella storyline.

Except Bathsheba is not a woman to be bought by the promise of pretty things and a life of ease.

Suitor number one, Mr. Oaks, wanted her to be his wife and help him run his farm.

Mr. Boltwood wants her to be his cherished doll to pretty up his mansion. She wants neither option.

She confides that she'd rather be tamed by a man, implying these two are no match for her bold temperament. Well, she does have a point with Mr. Boltwood. He appears to be quite the Milquetoast fellow. Dithering and blundering about.

Sergeant Frank Troy, a bit riskier, but dashing all the same

Be careful what you wish for, Bathsheba!

Enter suitor number three, Sergeant Frank Troy. He's a soldier who is at present not working. He comes in, all bold and dangerous, dashing in his regimental uniform and brandishing his sword. He appears to be everything she hoped for, dashing, brave, strong minded. They have a secret tryst in the village, and then she marries him impulsively. And soon learns her mistake; our dashing hero is a drunk and a gambler. Their marriage was based solely on passion and great sex. As the passion wanes, things sour. He keeps racking up debts, and siphons money she has saved up for farm business and repairs. She resists his plundering of her funds, and he starts berating her, threatening her verbally. Her two prior suitors, both actually still love her, are both appalled and worried about her. Abuse is hinted at in the movie.

There are numerous plot twists I won't go into. Sergeant Troy has secrets, one being a woman who carries his child. Bathsheba sees them together at the local fair, and confronts her husband about the woman. She is told by the cruel man that that woman is the one he truly loves, and that she (Bathsheba) means nothing to him. Well, that's quite a slap in the face. She now knows he married her only for her money. His lover dies and he goes off into a funk. We see him strip off his clothing and swim out to sea. He drowns.

Bathsheba is sad but also relieved to be free of him at last. Months go by. She dutifully wears black and attends his grave. Mr. Boltwood resumes his courtship, and she seriously considers his suite. After all, she married for passion the first time and it turned out badly. A good pushover in a man might be refreshing after what she's come through with her choice of a spouse.

Things are complicated when Mr. Oak is now interested her hand again. (He loves her and never really stopped pining for her throughout the story-line. But he works for her, so he is beneath her socially).  So she has the choice oset before her again of Boltwood or Oak.

And just when you think her life has turned for the good, Sergeant Troy turns up alive, and angry. He faked his death months ago and now he's back, demanding money. He tries to force her to go home with him at Mr. Boltwood's magnificent Christmas Eve house party.  A party, I might add, where Mr. Boltwood is expecting her to give him the decision about accepting his offer of marriage. Troy strikes Bathsheba in front of Mr. Oak and grabs her arm, dragging her away. And then Mr. Boltwood emerges from the house surprises everyone . . . . turning from a mouse into a fierce lion as he sees the woman he loves being mistreated by her suddenly returned from the dead husband.

I know, I know . . . sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? But it was written one hundred and forty years ago!  Not all classic literature is boring.

I won't reveal the ending, and spoil your enjoyment of the movie. But I will tell you that our heroine, Bathsheba, faces an emotional choice this time, and it will surprise you.

Note: I have not read the book. It is classic English literature, but somehow I missed that one. I plan to read it soon. The book is much longer than the movie. In an interview in the bonus material, the directors said that if they tried to follow every plot thread in the book, that it would be a six hour miniseries, not a two hour movie. I enjoyed this new discovery more than I can express. This movie will go on my desert island keeper shelf, one to watch and fall in love with again and again.

The love story featuring three suitors vying for Bathsheba's hand, each one equally appealing in their own way, is incredibly romantic. The landscape where the film was shot is gorgeous, in Dorset where the story was originally set. So, the mix of a good, suspenseful romance, the depicted charm of country life in Victorian England, the lovely costumes and the setting make this a bewitching combination.

I highly recommend this film to those who love such period pieces as Jane Austen. You will be mesmerized by this lush romantic film.

Enjoy a sneak peek with the trailer below:
Far From the Maddening Crowd Movie Trailer

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Update on Books that Celebrate Paris Fundraiser

Update on our Paris Fundraiser after the November Terrorist Attacks. Today was the deadline for our book sales to be counted and the donations made from proceeds of the sales of our Paris themed books.  If you are curious, bleow is the link to the main landing page of our Fundraiser and the list of authors participating. I'd

I am pleased to say that I donated $50 to the French Red Cross this afternoon from sales of Some Enchanted Dream. Thank you to all who participated in this fundraiser by buying my book or one of the seven other author's featured books. It was a huge success and we each made our donations separately to th FRC.  

My featured book in th fundrasier

Best wishes for a Happy and Safe New Year! 

Lily Silver