Saturday, July 25, 2015

Love and Sorcery; An Irish Historical Romance

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I just love Ireland, and Irish heroes. I love the mystical landscape, the lore and legends. One of my favorite heroes from my own stories is Kieran O'Flaherty. He's an Irishman, and has the powers of sorcery.  In this excerpt, he rescues the woman he loves using magic, not brawn.

Excerpt from Bright Scoundrel, copyright Lily Silver 2013
       As he walked the perimeter of the castle inspecting the walls, Kieran noticed a lone figure across the fields on the rise above the creek separating his property from Ashton Abbey’s lands.
       Kieran could see his lovely Rose, with her artist’s smock and her wide brimmed hat to keep out the bright July sunshine. She wasn’t seated on her stool, as usual, painting away. She was standing, her hands on her hips, looking down into the ravine at something. Even from this distance, he could feel something wasn’t right as he watched her.
       A strong presentiment of danger filled him. 
       Kieran was ten minutes away, he figured, by the time it would take to move down the hill on his side of the property line, cross the stone bridge and climb the low grassy hillside to where her painting station was situated. He took a short cut down the steep incline instead of the gradual path created by the road. He moved down the boggy ravine at a slow pace. The hillside was treacherous if one didn’t move carefully around the stones and the deep ruts and roots breaking the landscape. Flowers dotted the soil on either side of the ravine, purple heather. It would make a lovely landscape painting. Perhaps he should commission her to paint it with Roisin Dubh Castle in the distant hills. It would make a nice composition.

© Walshphotos | - Summertime Photo
         He paused, as the continual buzzing reverberated through the blooming heather bushes. The place was alive with bees collecting nectar from the fragrant blooms. The sound of angry voices carried down the ravine. Kieran was near the bottom. He was just about to try to navigate the small creek bed without getting his boots wet when the disturbance of human voices, angry voices, caught his attention. He gazed up the bank to where Rose had stood moments before.
She wasn’t alone any longer, nor were her hands on her hips. They were pummeling a man, a sizable man with dark hair who seized her about the waist and was trying to kiss her.
      “Stop it, you oaf. I’ll have none of your drunken pawing.” She sounded more than angry. Rose sounded panicked.
      Kieran splashed across the creek, his boots be damned. He could afford another pair.
     “See here, is that any way to treat me? I help to keep the roof over your head. I should be given a reward in return.”
      Slap! The raw sound of a palm hitting flesh echoed above. And then the man accosting Miss de Lacy muttered a foul oath, followed by several others.
     “You fucking bitch,” the man shrieked, incensed by her response.  
     “Rose,” Kieran shouted. “You there, leave her be.”
They didn’t hear him.  He tried to hurry up the ravine. It was too steep to run, and filled with potholes, roots and rocks.
      “You little tart, you’re coming with me.” the man bellowed. He seized Rose by the upper arm and made as if to drag her with him. She fought him but he was stronger. He was dragging her away, over the hill and down to the next ravine.
      “Rose!” Kieran shouted, trying to rush up the steep embankment to help her. Where was her damned dog? Who was the bastard manhandling her so?
It was no good. He jaunted up the muddy side and slipped back down. It rained last night. The embankment was wet and slick.
      Damn it. He couldn’t see Rose anymore. He could hear them shouting at each other.
      Kieran had only one weapon at his disposal, magic. He couldn’t reach her to stop the bully.  For all he knew, she was being raped by her assailant while he wallowed at the bottom of the ravine in his attempt to reach her. He started chanting, calling upon nature to aid him.
      The bees. It was the perfect weapon. He chanted in Gaelic, asking the bees to aid him and directing them to attack only the male and not harm the female with him. He climbed up, up, over a rock, stepping carefully so as not to slip again and slide down to the bottom of the ravine. His breeches were soaked from his jaunt through the creek and his slide down the mud slick ravine path.
     The steady, thrumming sound of the busy bees lifted. There was a shift in the air, a queer sort of breeze created by the mass of tiny insects rising from their labors in a swarm and climbing the hill above Kieran. Good. They were going to help Rose, hurrying on ahead to stop the man from hurting the woman he cared for.
*    *    *
Rose de Lacey
“Get off me, you stinking turd.” Rose slapped at him and tried to punch and scratch him to drive him away. Her dress was wet on the back because she was lying on the damp wet ground with Quinn atop her. "How dare you!”  Her voice was shrill, high pitched, and none would hear it out here in the wilds. She never should have left Simon home with Tommy. She should have taken a weapon, something to ward off this wretched cur who believed she was easy prey because there wasn’t a man at the abbey.
      He'd tried coming into her room again last night when the household was asleep. She had locked the door, locked him out. He wasn’t pleased, and so he’d come after her here. His big hands caught her wrists. Her arms were pinned above her head with one of his. She tried to rock and kick at him, but he was holding her down with his knees and tugging her skirts up with his free hand.
      “I’ll tell Bridget,” She screamed, desperate to reach him, to make him see reason.
      “Aye, and I’ll tell her you seduced me. My sister's a dim one, she’ll believe me.”
       A dull roar filled her ears, a peculiar thrumming noise. At first she thought she was imagining it or about to pass out from sheer terror.
      Quinn flinched and released his hold on her wrists. He swore, and flinched again.
      A dark cloud blocked the sun. A living cloud. Rose screamed, and then covered her face with her arms as the cloud descended. Bees. A huge swarm had come to settle over them.
      Quinn was shrieking. He stood and started swiping frantically at his face and neck.
Rose peeked out from beneath her arm. The bees were swarming over him, they were covering him like a living cloak. His hair was alive with bees. His face was covered by his hands, but his coat, his neck even his legs were covered with the wriggling, crawling creatures.
      And he was shrieking with pain.
     “Rose.” She started, as another male voice from above called out to her.  
      Kieran stumbled down the ravine and nearly fell on her in his desperation to get to her.
     “Rose, my dear Rose, are you all right?” The sound of his worry was beautiful.
She struggled to get up, to right her skirts. Kieran was beside her in an instant. He knelt down and hugged her against him. “I couldn’t get up the hill fast enough. Did he hurt you? He’ll pay if he did, I swear.”
      Rose was stunned by his sudden presence and his strong arms about her as he knelt and hugged her fiercely. Both of them were wet, soggy from the damp earth. It didn’t matter. Lord Grey was here and he was holding her close. He was concerned for her.
      The shrieks from the man beside them brought them back to the present. Quinn was dancing a jig and turning about as he moved up the hill. The bees were still following him and many were clinging to the back of his coat as he clawed at the wet earth, stumbled and then cursed. He shrieked every so often, as one of the stingers penetrated his flesh.
      Kieran released his hold on Rose but kept her huddled firmly against him with his left arm. He extended his right hand toward the fleeing Quinn and started chanting in Gaelic.
      Rose didn’t speak Gaelic. Watching Kieran chant and seeing his blue-green eyes glaze over with fierce determination, Rose could only shiver as she watched the swarm of bees lift up and away from Quinn’s fleeing form.
      It was inconceivable. The bees were obeying this man. They lifted up in one great cloud, up and away from their prey. They moved in perfect formation toward Kieran and Rose.
Rose whimpered and hid her face in the crook of her elbow.  
      “Shhh, stay still,” he commanded in English. “They won’t harm you.”
       The massive cloud moved over them, circling them in a whirlwind and then lifted again, moving up and away, over the ravine, toward O’Flaherty lands.
       She could only gaze up at him with horror.
Kieran O'Flaherty
“There now. It’s all right.” His voice was low, gentle and ripe with concern. “Oh.” He reached up and removed something from her hair. He cradled it in his palm. “Thank you, for saving the lady.”  A single bee sat in the palm of his hand, flapping its wings, almost as if it understood his conversation.         “Off with you now. Back to your mates. The bear has fled and left the honeycomb unhindered.”
The bee in his palm lifted and flew away. And that warm, strong palm cupped her cheek and began to wipe away her tears.
      “Shhh. Don’t cry. I won’t hurt you. No one will.”
       She felt like a ninny, and yet she was so distraught she couldn’t stop the frantic tears. She’d never been accosted by a man before, not like this. Or rescued by one, either. Not a mere man--a sorcerer, a magician who commanded the birds and the bees. “H-h-how . . . ?” she stuttered.  
      “Who was that cur?” Kieran asked. His hand was stroking up and down her spine as he held her firmly against him. Her backside was cold. She was cold and wet. She was sitting in the damp grass and the back of her dress was soaked.
       Without a word, he released her and shrugged out of his coat. He slipped it over her shoulders and then took to rubbing her arms brusquely.
      “I know its July, but the rains have left you soaked and you’re probably suffering shock. Let’s get you home and out of these wet clothes.”
      “No.” She couldn’t go home. Not with Quinn there. Suppose he did tell Bridget she tried to seduce him. If so, she’d be hard pressed to argue with him in her present condition. She wanted to kill the man. Nay, she’d be sure to kill him next time. She’d not leave the house again unarmed. She’d not leave the door to her room unlocked in the night . . .  Oh God!
      “Oh, my sweet, wilted Rose.” Kieran whispered. He hugged her close. “I’m here. He won’t hurt you again, I promise.”
      She was sobbing, beside herself with fear. She felt so betrayed. How could she return home with Quinn there, glaring at her, accusing her, behaving as if she were to blame for his lack of self control. “I-I can’t go h-home. That was Bridget’s brother. I can’t go home. Not with him there.”

     “Well, then, my mud spattered Rose, you’ll just have to come home with me.”  He wasn’t smiling when he said it. But his voice, oh, that soft, charming voice was full of sunshine.
End of Excerpt,  Bright Scoundrel, copyright Lily Silver 2013

Thanks for visiting my blog this week. In the future I will be featuring an excerpt from one of my books every two weeks.

Bright Scoundrel is available on

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Paris in the Spring, Part 4: The Exposition Universelle of 1889

Happy Bastille Day, Everyone!

On July 14th, 1789, Paris citizens rose up and seized the Bastille. It was a prison that held few prisoners at the time, mostly just a handful of political offenders. Even so, it was a significant act for the protesters, as the Bastille was a symbol of oppression of the masses by the Aristocracy.

Think of Bastille Day as an Independence Day celebration for the French. 

The French Revolution began with the fall of the Bastille, but it was years to come before true freedom was won for French citizens of every social class.

It's fitting to look at the centennial (100 year) celebration of this event, the Paris World's Fair of 1889. It was a gathering from among nations, a huge exposition of such scale and scope that it boggles the mind, even today. The celebration was in commemoration of the Revolution's beginning, and thus it was scheduled to last from May 6th, 1889 to November 2nd, 1889.  It was a six month long party. With much planning beforehand, the French opened up this event to the rest of the world, allowing other governments to set up exhibits alongside theirs in a celebration of human progress.

Postcard of the Paris Exposition of 1889

Surprisingly, a few governments still using the monarchy system declined to participate; England, Sweden and Germany, to name a few.

The rest of the world, however, was thrilled to participate. There were exhibits set up numerous and diverse nations. Some showed houses of typical nations, like Africa, India, Mexico, South America, Serbia, Egypt, and Indonesian countries. Model life sized homes were built on the grounds showing the unique architecture from distant lands. The buildings created for this massive celebration to house the exhibits were truly amazing. Not only were there displays homes from many nations in contemporary times on display, but also from different eras of history--it featured homes of the Vikings, Renaissance Italy, and Romanesque and Medieval architecture. Scroll to bottom of page to find a slideshow link depicting these wonders! 

postcard of Galerie de Machines. 

For example of the extraordinary architecture on display, look at the photo of the Galerie de Machines above. It was a huge building constructed to house the new mechanical inventions of the age and was made of Iron and Glass. It was reported to be at least a couple of football fields in length. This massive building housed exhibits by Thomas Edison, (over 400 of his alone) and Gottlieb Daimler, and countless inventors of the time. Daimler presented a smaller model of an automobile that featured a gas engine. Many people thought his model was a toy, not realizing it would soon replace the horse and carriage.

By the way, for those of you who are avid historical romance readers, and would like to read an awesome story about a hero trying to compete with Daimler in creating the first gas engine, (a Victorian Romance), I highly recommend Juliana Gray's book,  A Lady Never Lies.  This book is part of a trilogy, and it rocks. I've read this book two times, and would read it again, that's how good it is. The trilogy is awesome, but I mention this first book as it features a unique, ginger haired inventor hero who is trying to compete against Daimler and others in the invention of the automobile discussed above. It takes place in Italy, not France. Finn, the hero, is English, and is holed up in a remote Italian castle to work secretly on his horseless carriage. Of course there are others wanting to stop his progress, adding to the suspense. The lady in the book helps him and they have a lively romance, meeting in his garage and trying to avoid detection by the other guests at the castle. Those of you who regularly visit this blog know I often recommend books I've fallen in love with to my readers.
A Lady Never Lies on Amazon

And back to the World's Fair of 1889:

The 80 buildings constructed on the grounds for this extraordinary event were lovely beyond compare. They were elaborate, with no detail spared. This was NOT your typical county fair experience with aluminum buildings housing exhibits and livestock. This was cultured elegance, a jewel of the Belle Epoque', an experience unlike any other for those attending. The buildings were called Palaces or Pavilions--as in the Palace of Diverse Industries, which featured jewelry and fashion exhibits from around the world, among other items.

The fair featured a live street in Cairo, sort of like a living museum experience we see today. It was an Egyptian bazaar taking up one whole street of the fairgrounds, where Egyptian merchants dressed in native costumes waited upon fair goers who strolled the market booths to purchase exotic items from that nation. It was said that people felt as if they were actually visiting Cairo, as the exhibit was flawless in depicting the market street. You could ride a donkey for a fee, and buy lamb kabobs or other Egyptian treats.

All of this Victorian grandeur was centered around the newly completed Eiffel Tower. The tower was built for this Paris Exhibition, and was not intended to remain standing beyond 1900. The government agreed to keep the tower up for this fair in 1889 and then for the next one in 1900. After that, it was supposed to be torn down. Lucky for all of us, they didn't destroy the Eiffel Tower as they originally intended.

The tower was painted red, yes, a bright red. It had different shades of red for each of the five platforms. It was also festooned with the newly modern electric lights, thousands of them to light the tower up in the night. The fair was open until 11pm, mind you. At dusk the tower was lit up and also a spectacular display of fountains were illuminated to impress the gathered visitors. The tower boasted a restaurant on the first platform, complete with an orchestra playing to the patrons. It cost .40 cents to go up to the first platform, where the restaurant was, and .60 cents to go up to the second platform. The tower featured newly invented Otis elevators to go up to the top of the tower, but they were not working properly until  May 26th. (The Fair opened May 6th, 1889). A small cannon was set up on the top platform, and it was fired every day at specific times during the exhibition to let all of Paris know the party was still going on.

Now then, I've tried to describe this incredible event, quite inadequately, I'm afraid. The sumptuousness and visual beauty of it is impossible to convey in words. I did try in my latest novel, Some Enchanted Dream, to depict the fair as the time traveling hero and heroine visit it and share a few kisses amid the stuffy Victorian crowd.

Thanks for joining me to celebrate Bastille Day. If you are intrigued by the stunning visual beauty of this historic fair, you can find a youtube video slideshow showing the expo grounds. I've included it here, and it is also in the back of my novel for readers to enjoy.

Paris 1889 exp slide show