Sunday, August 31, 2014

Serial Sundays: The Gypsy's Curse Chapter 13.2

For those just joining the story, you can start at the beginning if you wish by clicking this link: Presenting Rough Draft Sundays; The Gypsy's Curse serial romance

Each week I have posted a new chapter or scene of the story in progress. It's your chance to see a rought draft of a story straight from the writer's pen.

The Gypy's Curse, Chapter 13 part 2

Did he know the truth about her? Zara’s mind snapped to attention, despite the dizziness. Something in his pleasant, yet, acerbic tone suggested a hidden meaning behind his words.
“Why, our being alone together at the moment, without a chaperone.” St. John’s voice startled her as it emerged from directly to her left. He’d come to stand next the bed, and then her hand was being enclosed between his. “I’d step out, but I’m hesitant to leave you unattended in this state. You look pale, are you well, Miss Jennings?”
Zara rolled her lips and nodded. The movement of her head had the room swim before her eyes in a distorted blur. Her ankle was shrieking as if someone has suddenly twisted it. She gasped aloud with pain and realized that she had been the one responsible as she’d inadvertently moved her foot just now.  “Is the doctor coming back today?” She didn’t like the old physician, but she didn’t quite understand why. He had been kind and yet, there was something in that doctor’s eyes that she didn’t like; greed? Or was something more sinister?
“No.” St. John’s hard reply sliced through the air like a knife blade, startling Zara.
Seeing her reaction, his features softened. “No, my dear. I fired him, in a manner of speaking. He’ll not be bothering us again.”
“The doctor was the only one who knew I was here?”
“Precisely.” St. John’s eyes had warmed as he gazed upon her. “I did send word to an old friend, asking him to come to have a look at you. There is no guarantee he will, and if he does, he’ll be travelling from London. That means we have no one to interfere or intrude upon our little holiday.” He smiled at her. While the tone of his words were cheerful, Zara could not forget the horror she experienced when he chased her through the secret passages while his wolf form. She couldn’t forget the feeling of having been hunted by the wolf. And thus she had left, hoping to be free of this dratted region and the people who accused her of wickedness forever.
Instead, she made a muck of it and had broken her ankle. She was stranded here, his guest or his prisoner. Hadn’t he just informed her that no one knew she was here?
The man next to her yanked a slim rope hanging beside the bed with impatience. He seemed disturbed, in spite of his attempt to appear sunny and cheerful. “My apologies. My house is understaffed. I just arrived last week. You shouldn’t be left alone, not when you’re so weak and you cannot even up without assistance.”
“I’ll manage it.” Zara whispered, wanting nothing more than to close her eyes to escape the agony in her foot and the dull ache that was threatening to become a full blown tempest in her head. “I need only rest.”  Good Mercy, how thin her voice had become.
The door opened, this time without the benefit of a knock. Zara gazed at the intruder through slitted eyes as the pain of her foot overwhelmed her. It was Annie, the older woman.
“Sir?” The woman huffed, as if she’d come a great distance and was breathless. Her face was flushed so it was easy to assume she’d come from the kitchen. “What is wrong?”
St. John straightened, still holding Zara’s hand between his. “Miss Jennings, Annie.” He said in a tone that was more brusque then the one he’d used when speaking to Zara. “I know you can’t be everywhere at once but I do not believe it is wise to leave our injured guest unattended. And even less wise for the maid to leave a young lady’s side when a man is present. It goes against propriety. I realize we are in the country, yet we must still be careful not to incur the slightest hint of scandal where our patient’s reputation is concerned.”
“Aye, sir. Maggie was told to watch over her. She’s young, mind you. Never been in service before, sir.” Annie replied, looking somewhat annoyed. “If you wish, I’ll sit with Miss Jennings, but then, I don’t know what you’ll be eating for dinner, tonight sir.”
“I’m well enough to be alone.” Zara protested, fearing the outcome if the older woman took her in dislike. “Honestly, sir, I don’t need to be watched.”
“A simple meal of leftover venison and vegetables from last night is more than enough.” St. John returned. When the old woman’s face soured at his words, he added. “You are a magician in the kitchen, Annie. Even your leftovers are a treat to be savored.”  
The words were like magic, soothing the frown that had settled on the cook’s brow. Annie almost appeared to be blushing at the praise.
“Ach, the poor lass.” Annie blustered, coming swiftly to the bed and fussing over Zara with motherly concern. “How are you fairing, dearie? I won’t lie, you look a fright. And tis obvious you cannot be left to fend for yourself with that ankle. Now, now, don’t say it. You’re not fooling a one of us, girl. You’ve had a hard time of it.” The older woman shushed her with a raised palm when Zara meant to counter her words. “I’ll speak with Maggie, Sir.” She directed at the master. “She was just in the kitchen, getting breakfast for our girl here.”
“Well then.” St. John squeezed Zara’s hand and then carefully laid it on the bed, as if it were the injured limb not her foot. “I’ll let you rest, Miss Jennings. I will look in on you later. Do you like to read?”
“Well, then, I will see what I can find in the library that might amuse you.” With that, he took his leave.
Zara watched him slip through the arched doorway with a pang of regret. His kindness toward her, a veritable stranger, was as perplexing as it was pleasing. She wasn’t used to anyone making such a fuss over her well being. Much the opposite, she was used to being tolerated by those about her by all except her mother or her uncle. Both were dead, so she had no one to care what happened to her. It was truly kind of St. John to show concern for her and more than anything now she wished not to betray the man’s trust or lose that delicate thread of compassion she’d unknowingly kindled in him.
“How are you fairing, honestly, lass.” Annie asked, as the door closed behind the master. “No sense lying now that he’s gone. You took a nasty fall and could have broken your neck. As it stands, you’ve a nasty gash on your head and broken bone. That can’t be fine, in my book.”
Zara gave the older woman a sheepish look. “Since its truth you seek, I’ll not fib. I feel like something the horse left behind in road.”
Annie giggled, and then smiled at her. “Aye. If it’s any comfort, you don’t look like a pile of horse droppings. You’re beautiful, Miss Jennings. And don’t think the master hasn’t noticed.”
It was Zara’s turn to blush.  Fortunately, she did not have long to endure the older woman’s presence.  As soon as Maggie returned with her breakfast tray the older woman took the girl over to the window and spoke to her in low tone.
Zara glanced down at the tray that had been set on her lap. A silver tray, no less, with a crystal goblet filled with water and an elegant china cup and matching china teapot. There was buttered toast on one small plate and scrambled eggs and a slice of ham on another. It smelled delicious. Her stomach gurgled in response to the wondrous aroma filling her senses. She lifted a piece of toast and began to gingerly chew it as the women near the window spoke in low tones. 
Did they suspect her true identity. Had she behaved improperly and reveal herself as an imposter? 
Copyright Lily Silver, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Serial Sundays: The Gypsy's Curse Chapter 13


For those just joining the story, you can start at the beginning if you wish by clicking this link: Presenting Rough Draft Sundays; The Gypsy's Curse serial romance

Each week I have posted a new chapter or scene of the story in progress. It's your chance to see a rought draft of a story straight from the writer's pen.


The Gypsy's Curse, Chapter Thirteen

The throbbing pain in her head was what awakened Zara. Her mouth was dry and her tongue felt thick inside of it. She sat up with a start, uncertain of her surroundings for a moment.
As she gazed about the strange room and its rich furnishings she had the feeling she’d just awakened into a dream, rather than out of one. It was a beautiful room. Oak paneling lined the walls, and the arched windows were segmented into long rectangular spears with points at each end. The sunlight shining through them made a rainbow of color on the carpeting and the gray stone fireplace opposite the window. Rich velvet hangings of deep red with yellow tassels framed the window. There was a fire in the fireplace, giving the room a welcome feel.
How often as a child she imagined waking to such splendor instead of the small gypsy wagon that had been her only shelter. Zara often daydreamed about what her life would have been like had her mother and father married. Her father was a wealthy man, a lord, she’d been told. Her mother loved him, despite the contempt held for the man by the rest of the tribe. Had Christopher Jennings decided to claim her as his own Zara might have come to view such lush surroundings as her birthright instead of a fanciful daydream. Alas, Zara was a bastard child by English standards and the offspring of a Gadje from her tribe’s point of view. An outcast to both worlds as each would claim she belonged to the other one.
She sat up gingerly. Her backside was still tender from her unfortunate fall yesterday. Oh, she’d done it up right, hadn’t she? Breaking a limb? It was the worst of luck. Now she was stranded here and that was the last thing she needed. Zara wanted to be far from this place, far from the huntsmen and the hounds and far from the gloom of the abbey. Staying here alone through the winter had been her plan but staying in a house full of servants would not work; this she knew. She was afraid of being arrested for trespassing in some wealthy lord’s home, accused of stealing from him and then who knew what other crimes they might tack on just for good measure. And so she had packed her meager satchel and fled before daylight yestermorn.
That was a stupid move. She thought, fuming as she lifted the covers and examined the odd contraption shackling her wounded foot. She’d never seen the likes of it, although she understood its purpose; to keep her foot in one position until the bones mended. It was the same concept used to brace a broken arm; a sturdy board and linens kept the limb immobile until it healed. She’d watched her grandmother set broken arms more than once in the gypsy camp, after a scuffle with angry townsfolk.
“Ssss.” She hissed and sank back on the mattress. Trying to move the limb brought sharp pain. Her eyes blurred for a moment and then fuzzy white shapes danced before them. Nausea rose. For a moment she feared she might retch. Panting slightly, she rolled her lips together, and tried to sit up. This time, she managed but her face was dampened by sweat from her efforts and she felt as if she’d just tried to pull a wagon herself instead of the horse.     
The door opened, and the freckled face girl entered. “Oh Miss, you’re awake.” The girl hurried to her side. “I’m sorry I had to leave you for a short time to help Annie in the kitchen. Oh here, let me help you.”
Unaccustomed to kind solicitation on her behalf, Zara could only stare at the girl with amazement as that one plumped the pillows behind her so she could sit more comfortably.
“I’d ask how you are this morning but I can see you’re in a terrible way.” The girl went on.
“What is this place?” Zara asked, feeling shaky and spent from just the effort to sit up. “And what is your name?”
“I’m Maggie, Miss. I forgot, you was so worked up from pain and what with your head bleeding yesterday and all. I understand if you don’t remember much.” Maggie’s blue eyes seemed huge. They took up most of her thin, narrow, freckled face. “Mr. St. John, the man who owns the Abbey, found you injured in the woods yesterday and brought you here. I wager you remember the doctor trying to fix yer leg, given the pain it caused. Are you hungry, Miss?”
“No.” If anything, she felt sick in her belly not hungry. “Thank you.” She added, grateful for the kind concern of the girl. “I do need to use the privy chair. How am I to--?”
She gestured to her wounded leg.
“I’ll bring it to you.” Maggie bobbed a curtsy and quickly crossed the room to the odd chair with a pot beneath the seat that served the purpose of an indoor privy.
Zara watched as the girl dragged the privy chair to the bedside. The widow Kendall had used what she called a ‘chamber pot’ when the weather was bad or if she had to relieve herself in the night. Zara’s grandmother used a chamber pot in the wagon at night in her later years instead of going into the woods to relieve herself. Even so, after a lifetime of not needing the so called necessary chair, Zara couldn’t help seeing it as a curiosity.  The Gadjas certainly liked their comforts.
Scrawny little Maggie had managed to drag the heavy, carved chair over next to the bed. It was like an ancient throne, a pissing chair!  Zara giggled, amused by her thoughts as the girl helped her up out of the bed and held her firmly about the waist with both arms. Zara placed her arms about the girl’s slender shoulders and was careful not to put her weight on her injured foot. With Maggie’s aid, she turned about to sit on the Gadje throne.
“I’ll leave you for a moment.” Maggie said and did just that.
The girl discreetly knocked moments later and came in to help Zara back into bed.
Zara allowed the young girl to wash her face and hands and brush out her hair. Maggie braided it for her with nimble fingers, chattering all the while as she did so. By the time they were finished Zara was exhausted and ready for another nap. She lay back on the pillows, feeling like a queen as she surveyed her surroundings and watched the girl bustle about the room.
Another knock on the door. Maggie went to answer it. The girl’s features changed from pleasant to somber, so before she even opened up her mouth to address the visitor, Zara knew it was the lord of the manor.

The tall, lean figure stepped into the room, appearing somewhat hesitant to approach Zara.
That was an odd feeling, to have a Gadje—no, an English man—hesitant to approach someone as insignificant as her. His hands were clasped behind his back as he approached the bed. “Good morning, Miss Jennings.” He said in a deep, rich voice that resonated deep within her. “I trust you are as comfortable as possible, considering your injuries.”
Zara didn’t know what to say. She nodded, unable to take her eyes off the man. Handsome didn’t do the fellow justice, in her mind. He was absolutely beautiful, in the masculine way. Dark russet hair surrounded his head in a bounty of waves, a natural crown of burnished red and brown. His eyes were like smoky diamonds, glittering beneath the ash gray depths. And his complexion, for an Englishman, was darker, tawny rather than the usual pasty white pallor she was accustomed to in the upper classes that rarely spent time in the sunshine.
“You look well.” He commented, offering a frugal smile. She knew better, after Maggie’s comment and her own study of herself. He was generous, and very gallant, as they said.
“Thank you.” She offered, surprised by the strain evident in her voice. “You have been a most gracious host, St. John.”
He studied her carefully, his alluring eyes capturing her and holding her prisoner. What was he thinking? Could he be wondering who she was? Did he suspect she was lying about her origins?  Zara felt a slow burn of panic start simmering in her belly. She resented feeling so helpless, unable to direct her own destiny due to her inability to walk. She couldn’t just get up and flee the manor if he caught her out in her deception. She might be able to escape inside the house via the secret passages, but even there with her injured foot, she’d have to limp along the dark passages and that could be dangerous.
“Have you had anything to eat yet?” St. John asked, still scrutinizing her with severity. “Have you been given pain medicine today? Dr. Mulleins left a bottle of Laudanum to that end.”
“She’s not eaten yet, sir. She just woke up.” Maggie intruded, relieving Zara of the effort to need to speak. “I’ll go get something for you, Miss.” She bobbed a quick curtsy to the room at large and fled before anyone could stop her.
“Maggie---“  St. John called after the girl’s retreating form but it was too late, the girl was gone. “Well then,” he turned back to Zara. “I apologize, Miss Jennings. I have no wish to bring scandal on your head. Be assured, my staff, though small, is very loyal. There should be no gossip regarding our situation here. In fact, I’ve ordered my staff to keep your presence here a secret from the outside world. You are safe, Miss Jennings, entirely safe, I assure you.”
“What . . . what situation is that?” She managed to say with difficulty. Was the sun going behind the clouds or was it merely her perception that the room was getting dim. 
Copyright Lily Silver, 2014 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Read a Romance Month: August 2104

This month is Read a Romance Month.  I'm excited and I'll tell you why. I've been reading romances for many years. I started young, around 20 years of age. I was swept up in the grandeur of the historical romance genre. 

Back then, I read Georgette Heyer, Kathleen Woodiwiss and Jennifer Blake. Kathleen Woodiwiss was my all time favorite, because she gave me such rich stories of lovers in another time. I not only got swept up in the romance, but also in the historical backdrop, the time in history the story was set in. I loved that most of her stories were in the late 18th century or early 19th.

My favorite read in 1982

I devoured romances.  Why, because it spoke to my heart. Amid the dirty dishes, dirty diapers of not one but two babies, and the daily grind of making a living, I could escape for a few hours each night in a book, be swept away, as they say, to another world. 

It was glamorous to read about beautiful heroines marrying rich lords, having lovely gowns, and servants to clean the house and empty the chamber pot. What's more, the heroes always seemed to come to some realization about their relationship to the heroine in a way my own young husband---and yours, never would!  Romance gave me hope, hope that it all would work out in the end. Hope that romance can endure, and be rekindled . . .

I kept reading romances, through the years. I read contemporary, gothic, paranormal, but my favorite stories today, some thirty years later, remain as historcial romance.  I'm proud to say, "Yes, I do read those kind of books!" when people turn up their noses at 'just romance' and cite reading something more literary as their normal fair. Go for it, Literary is usually dry and boring, and most of it is just stuff we were forced to read in High School or College and is touted as 'classic'. I'll take passion, love, emotion, humor and drama any time. I'm enjoying myself, immensely. It used to be that one had to hide their taste for romances because those were considered so cheesy, so empty and silly. 

Well, then came Nora Roberts.  Betcha those people who scoff at the romance genre don't make as much as that author, and guess what, her bread and butter that made her millions is ROMANCE! Yes, she's got a ton of books out, and voracious readers. So, somebody's buying those things. Hey, I'm one of them.  Romance reader and proud, how about you? 

Romance gives us hope. It uplifts us. The story of two people coming togther against all odds, choosing each other despite the dictates of family, job social position or a nation's history  (read my post on this)  Can True Love Change History?  is inspiring.

Today, I still read romance the most. Once in a while I'll read the latest horror or a historical fiction story. I always return to romance, because there is just something about that Happily Ever After at the end fo the book that satisfies me. Sure there is conflict, but in the end, I know that all will be right with the world, at least in the book I'm reading. There's hope in that.

My favorite authors today are Lisa Kleypas---absolutely love her Wallflower Series, and Her Hathaway Series. In the Wallflowers, we meet four unwed women in the 1840's. There is Annabelle, an English woman with no dowry, Evie, an Englishwoman with a dowry and interfering relations and a speech impediment. Then there are the Bowman sisters, American girls from New York: Lillian and Daisy. These girls are all sitting on the sidelines of every ball, watching as other young women are chosen by dance partners. They are rivals, as most women are in this time period when husband hunting. Nevertheless, these witty, fun, exuberant girls form an alliance, and embrace the title Wallflowers as a sort of secret club. They plan to help each other, one by one, find husbands.  So, there are four books in the series, one about each woman's quest to marry and find happily ever after. But the most wonderul part of this is the friendship of the four women, and how in each story, we get to see the other girls, not just the one featured. There is also a bonus story, see left, a Christmas story where the now married ladies try to help the Bowman sister's brother, Rafe, find true love. Magical. I love these stories. Thank you Lisa Kleypas for creating these characters. For more info on this delicious series, see post A Wallflower Christmas

Elizabeth Hoyt is another favorite. Her Maiden Lane series set in the Georgian ere England, and her Prince series.
The Maiden Lane series gives us a historical glimpse of characters that are not all lords and ladies. It starts with the first book, poor siblings trying to hold together an orphanage in the Gin Lane section of London, (the Slum area) in the early 18th century. The siblings are carrying on their parent's tradition, but barely scrapping along. There are six books in the series. And the most interesting part is that this series has a mix of classes, the rich do marry the poor, and that gives us hope. It's not all snooty balls and grand ladies, there are gritty scenes of street violence that are historically accurate and bring a different vision of London in the 18th century, that of the common folk. Gin distilleries, river pirates, theives, and the like. But there is also romance, that special spark that makes two people of very diverse backgrounds fall in love and come together against all odds. Love triumphs in the end. That is what makes romance such an uplifting read.
For more on Elizabeth Hoyt and her unusal series, read my post An interview with Elizabeth Hoyt

  These books have given me hours and hours of entertainment, and the stories stay with me long after I've finished them. We come to love the characters. So, go ahead, read a romance! It's Read a Romance Month, and we, as men and women, thrive on romance. It's part of our emotional make up to seek out love, to pair off and become a couple.

Over the years, romance, historical romance, has affected me deeply. I credit Kathleen Woodiwiss with giving me the love for history I have today, and that love of history made me go to college as an adult and earn a degree in history. I love the romance genre. It's given me warm memories and happy moments through my life. Read a Romance, you just might find the world is a brighter place when you finish that love story! 

Here's another dirty little secret. I not only read romance novels, I've dedicated my life to writing them!  Yes, I'm a historical romance author and a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and WisRWA, Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. If you are an a romance author seeking other writers to connect with, I highly suggest joining these writing groups.