Book Spotlight: The Secret Life of Mrs. London

The Secret Life of Mrs. London
by Rebecca Rosenberg

Rebecca Rosenberg is author of the new historical novel, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, revealing the love triangle between Houdini, Charmian and Jack London.

Only one woman could beguile two legends!

Join Rebecca in a visual romp back to San Francisco, 1915, when famed author Jack London and his wife, Charmian London, attend the Great Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Escape in San Francisco. What happened next was almost lost to history!

About the Book: 

San Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

Excerpt:

Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco, California November 1915

Love cannot in its very nature be peaceful or content. It is a restlessness, an unsatisfaction. I can grant a lasting love just as I can grant a lasting satisfaction; but the lasting love cannot be coupled with possession, for love is pain and desire, and possession is easement and fulfilment.

—Jack London, The Kempton-Wace Letters

I know how magic works—all smoke and mirrors, suffocating doves, and defecating rabbits. Of course, Jack knows these things, too. He rails against the cruelty of using trained animals in vaudeville. But his adoring Crowd from Carmel (that whole arty, hashish-smoking Bohemian clan) insists Jack join them for the Great Houdini show. Front-row seats, they say. The most famous magician in the world, they say.

“We need a little magic in our lives,” Jack says, and I can’t argue with that.

The Orpheum is morbidly gaudy with flocked velvet walls, tooled woodwork, and gilt, lots of gilt. Jack sports his rumpled khakis du jour, while he asked me to dress like a heroine from Martin Eden: chartreuse taffeta suit shimmering with purple undertones in the theater lights.

But this confounded waistline cuts into my expanding middle like a butcher pinching off sausage casing. I don’t know why I haven’t told Jack my good news when I’ve known for a while. That’s a lie. I hold back because he’ll count the months and wonder, like I do.

The Crowd blow kisses to each other in a cloud of pheromones and cigar smoke. They pass the silver flask of gin under my nose, and the odor stretches my brain like the taffy puller in the lobby.

George Sterling slides his lanky frame into the seat next to mine, reeking of patchouli and cannabis. “Looks like this is just what Jack needed to forget about Wolf House burning down.”

“Nothing will make him forget that night.” My head reels around to see Jack deep in conversation with Anna Strunsky. They only talk deep. That young actress Blanche hangs on his arm, pretending she understands. She doesn’t.

“Wolf says Lawrence burned it down and ran off.”

“You’re such a liar,” I say, but maybe it’s true. I haven’t seen or heard from Lawrence since I left him by Wolf House.

“You and Wolf should pick your friends more wisely.” Sterling grins like Satan.

“Funny, I was thinking the very same thing. But unfortunately, Jack likes you.” I make a face.

Thankfully, the sixteen-piece orchestra fires up below us in the pit, and Sterling slinks back to his seat. Brass trumpets glint in the crossing spotlights and raise my spirits with their triumphant sound.

Jack sits next to me, puffing his Imperial. I can’t break his mood no matter how many times I tell him nothing happened with Lawrence.

Nothing I care to share, that is.

The Great Houdini appears in a spotlight and high-steps onto the stage, keeping time with the music, striking in his immaculate tuxedo and gleaming black hair. When the song ends, he marches right in front of the footlights and welcomes the audience, impossibly white teeth flashing, announcing his opening trick.

Women’s mouths drop open. Men scoot to the edges of their seats. His voice, harmonic and commanding, vibrates through the charged air and holds them awestruck. Houdini’s powerful arm points at Jack. Heavens.

“Mr. Jack London, ladies and gentlemen.” Spotlights flood our faces.

How does he recognize Jack?

“Won’t you join us on the stage, Mr. London?” Houdini calls, and the Crowd starts chanting: “Wolf, Wolf, Wolf…” Jack holds up his palms in protest.

The magician persists. “If not you, how about your lovely wife? I promise to take great care of her.”

The Crowd jeers for me to go up, already too much gin passed between them.

Jack leans over and whispers, “My feet are killing me. Take this one, will you?”

I see my redemption in his pleading eyes. But I feel like a bratwurst. I can’t go up there.

“Buck up your courage, Mate.” Jack pushes me to a stand. “The Crowd will get a kick out of it.”

My heart sinks as I make my way to the stairs. He wants to entertain his worshipping Crowd at my expense. Blanche swoops into my vacant seat, snuggling his arm. I yank the pearl buttons choking my neck and one pops off, rolling into the orchestra pit. Lifting my stiff taffeta skirt and crinoline petticoat, I step up, but my foot slips off.

Two strong hands circle my waist and sweep me onto the stage with the grace of a waltz. Black eyelashes rim his eyes with mystery, but kindness crinkles at the edges.

“Trust me,” Houdini whispers, smelling of wood-spice cologne. Then his voice booms out to the audience, “Let’s give the brave Mrs. London a round of applause, shall we?”

A child enters from backstage dressed in tights and velvet knickers, a fluffy beret mushrooming over his jet-black pageboy.

Houdini smiles and holds out his arm. “And another hand for my beautiful wife and assistant, Bess Houdini.”

My stomach hitches, and I look again. The elf bows with a flourish and lifts her face with a wide grin, dimples circled with rouge, throwing kisses to the audience. The miniature woman steals the show with her boyish figure in sequined tights, round eyes that flash and roll and wink and hold us spellbound no matter what Houdini is doing. I would have bought the ticket to watch her.

The magician steps into the spotlight, and the audience hushes. “And now, on this very stage, we will perform our most renowned illusion, the one and original, Metamorphosis! Pay close attention to catch any sleight of hand or cheat, for you will see none. With your very own eyes, you will witness myself, bound, handcuffed, and locked in a trunk, only to be magically transformed into my beautiful assistant, Bess.”

The audience buzzes with excitement while Bess Houdini rolls a steamer trunk to center stage. “Mrs. London, tell the people in the crematorium, have we ever met before?” she asks in falsetto.

“Auditorium?” Confused and tongue-tied looking out from the stage to three hundred San Francisco elite…“No, we haven’t met.”

“And have you ever laid your eyes on this trunk before?” Jack would say something witty, but my mind draws a blank. “No.” The burning footlights blind me mercifully from seeing his disappointment in the front row.

“Will you examine the trunk for any tomfoolery?” She waves her birdlike limbs theatrically, reeking of gardenias.

I unbuckle the leather straps and peer inside the trunk. Feeling along the edges, banging the sides. “No trick doors, if that’s what you mean.”

“I understand you’re an excellent sailor, Mrs. London.” Houdini cocks an eyebrow. “And quite an expert with knots.”

“How would you know that?” I shade my eyes to see Jack and damn if Blanche isn’t canoodling his ear. “I won first place at the yacht club for my knots.”

“Impressive, but can you tie a knot from which the Great Houdini cannot escape?”

“Absolutely.” Jack says it’s over with Blanche yet dangles my dalliance over my head like a noose.

Houdini takes off his jacket and rolls up his shirtsleeves, crossing his muscular wrists together.

Mrs. Houdini hands me the rope and whispers, “Tie a slipknot.” She winks a blue eyelid. So that’s their game.

Mutiny tingles in my fingers. Like hell, slipknot. I tie an anchor hitch that would secure a yacht in a typhoon.

Pulling the sack up over him, Mrs. Houdini leans to kiss him. My God, their mouths open and move like the French. His sensuous lips suck hers like she’s a juicy plum. My belly clenches. How long has it been since Jack kissed me like that?

Mrs. Houdini pulls the feed sack over her husband’s head and winks at me again. But I tie my strongest knot on the bag, a double bowline, tight and secure.

Bess Houdini’s chirp pierces my eardrums. “Now, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll place the Great Houdini in the steamer trunk for all intensive purposes and lock it up.”

We padlock the trunk and wrap it profusely with rope. Feeling smug now, I tie yet another sailing knot: double square knot this time. No way can this trickster get out.

Mrs. Houdini closes heavy velvet curtains in front of the trunk. She smiles at the audience, and her theatrical makeup cracks around her eyes; she’s no child herself. “Mrs. London, do you feel very certain the Great Houdini cannot excape your knots?”

Jack punches his fist in the air and calls out, “Her knots have secured sailing ships from here to Borneo!”

A pang riddles my gut. What if I truly bring down the Great Houdini? The kettle drum rumbles and spectators choose sides, placing bets, laughing nervously.

Mrs. Houdini lifts her arms over her head and claps her hands together three times, accentuated by a clash of cymbals that echoes through the cavernous theater. Spotlights crisscross the frescoed ceiling. The timpani stops abruptly and pandemonium ceases. The audience leans forward.

Spotlights swing to center stage, revealing the Great Houdini stepping through the velvet curtain, fists held high in triumph. The orchestra blares.

My every nerve ending is burning, screaming. No, no, no, no. It’s impossible.

The magic man takes my hand and holds it high, a current charging from his grasp down my arm. The audience explodes with enthusiasm. He smiles intimately at me as his confidant. But I feel betrayed. He’d said, “Trust me,” yet I haven’t an inkling what just happened.

“You’re a natural.” Houdini bows and bows to the relentless applause. When it finally dies down, he looks around the stage.

“Mrs. London, where is my dear wife?”

I turn to where Mrs. Houdini was standing, but she’s gone. “She was right here.”

He taps his index finger on his cheek. “Oh, Mrs. Houdini? Are you back here?” He draws open the velvet curtain, which reveals only the steamer trunk with all my knots intact. How is that possible when Houdini stands beside me?

“Mrs. London, can you untie your knots?”

My chest crackles with curiosity as my fingers struggle with the rope, every knot as secure as I tied it. The oboe plays a sinister tune, which twists my insides.

When all the knots are finally undone, Houdini opens the trunk. Inside, the burlap sack bumps and moves.

“What have we here?” Houdini cuts the bag open with a shining saber, which appears from nowhere.

Bess Houdini pops out, all five feet of her, hands tied behind her back. She cackles like a maniac, then curtsies to the stunned audience.

The orchestra strikes up a rousing number, and the audience cheers and whistles.

The Houdinis take my trembling hands, and we bow together. They step aside, presenting me. My cheeks grow hopelessly hot as I force myself to raise my eyes to the frenzied theater and let the applause wash over me.

The Crowd chants my name from the front row. But Jack scribbles in his ever-present notebook, oblivious to their revelry.

Oblivious to my moment in the spotlight.

Yet I’m gratified. I’ve given him a fresh topic to write about.

About the Author:

California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America, Sonoma Lavender. A long-time student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is her first novel, following her non-fiction Lavender Fields of America.

Rebecca Rosenberg’s next historical novel is Gold Digger, the story of Baby Doe Tabor. Find the author at her website and Facebook. The Secret Life of Mrs. London is available for purchase at AmazonAmazon UK and Amazon AU.

Blog Tour Schedule:

July 9th– Book ReviewKate Braithwaite

July 10th– Book ExcerptJust One More Chapter

July 11th-Book Spotlight and ExcerptBefore the Second Sleep

July 12th– Book ReviewBook Babble

July 13th– Book ReviewStrange & Random Happenstance

July 14th– Book SpotlightFictionophile

July 15th– Book SpotlightLayered Pages

July 16th– Book Spotlight & Book ReviewSvetabooks

July 17th– Book SpotlightA Bookish Affair

July 18th– Guest PostA Bookaholic Swede

*********

It has been a pleasure to co-ordinate with Novel Expressions Blog Tours

and I look forward to more great reading and recommendations!

*********

Advertisements

From the Archives, Volume I: Kicking off the Summer

Recently I’ve been musing about repeat reads and authors whose work I relish so much I look forward to the next almost as soon as I’ve finished their most recent. Some authors, of course, have passed, so there won’t be any new entries from them: Mary Stewart, Willa Cather, Lewis Carroll and O. Henry come to mind. These writers are some who are the reason many people re-read.

Others, however, are current and it’s not been too long since reading and enjoying the stories that leapt from their imaginations or ideas and contemplations sprung to mind upon reviewing accounts of historical figures. Some authors have appeared at this blog more than once, others just a single time, and occasionally I wonder about the worlds they’ve all created or expanded, perhaps the characters or settings: how they might have grown since we’ve last met, or the manner in which we might regard each other since last crossing paths? How might other people perceive them?

So last night I perused some entries from May and June in other years, eventually deciding to showcase a few once more—for the benefit of those who’ve seen them and not. Especially now, in this season of a little respite for many of us (even if only in smaller ways), people are beginning to contemplate summer reading. Of course this goes on for other reasons year-long, so I thought it would be fun to kick it off as a series now, when the warmer weather is making its presence known, drawing us out to decks and yards, to gardens and beyond to revel in the glorious outdoors with the expanse of the sky to signal the limitless possibilities of what we might find in the “golden afternoon.”

Beirut Nightmares by Ghada al-Samman

During a two-week long subconflict of the Lebanese Civil War, al-Samman’s protagonist finds herself trapped in her apartment by competing snipers stationed within nearby buildings during the 1975 Battle of the Hotels. She experiences a series of dreams that begin to merge with her waking world and forces her to confront reflections of herself and the society she not only inhabits but also contributed to. Within events through the fortnight period, al-Samman explores the identity of place and how it affects those within as well as the cost of re-birth.

“Where” exactly an author is coming from, it has become more and more clear in literary studies, often is influenced by geographical location, although not merely a physical space as defined by political boundaries. To be sure, this indeed plays a part in an individual’s sense of identity. However, the topography of a “mental map” serves to create a sense of self as well, and its formation is influenced by a variety of factors, such as the past; emerging or existing words or phrases with nuances peculiar to geographic location; currents events; how and in what way individuals view themselves as well as how they perceive and remember others. Click here to read more.

The Hour of Parade by Alan Bray

The Hour of Parade is the recipient of an indieBRAG Medallion (click image).

One of only two actual reviews in today’s collection, The Hour of Parade sees Alexi Ruzhensky journey in later winter of 1806 to Munich with intent to avenge his brother’s death by killing Lieutenant Louis Valsin, the French cavalry officer who’d recently cut young Mischa down in a duel. Very soon after the novel’s opening Ruzhensky meets up with the concept of a small world when he runs into two soldiers from Valsin’s regiment, necessitating his rapid entry into the scenario he has fabricated as cover: that his father had business dealings in Austria and he means to straighten out his family’s financial affairs.

In these moments author Alan Bray creates a palpable tension for the Russian officer as well as readers, who can sense his apprehension as “the dead and the unknown living” both seem so near to his current moment, the vivid imagery erupts into scenes that overcome his awareness. Click here to read more. 

The First Lie by Virginia King, Guest Post: “Rocking with Rocks”

The First Lie is an indieBRAG Medallion Honoree (click image).

This novel from Australian author Virginia King may be set mainly on Hawaii, but reminds us that Down Under many are pulling out their warmer clothing in preparation for the onset of winter. Lucky for readers, curling up in a nice corner with a great book is also a yummy proposition. And while this guest post leans toward the author’s sequel, The Second Path, whereas I actually reviewed The First Lie, I include it here because it does carry our theme of re-visiting old literary friends—plus I really loved King’s analysis of rock symbolism, and I think you will too.

“The symbolism of objects has always fascinated me. My love of folklore means there’s always a mythical twist to my modern mysteries and ‘magic objects’ with fairy tale credentials often link up to form a matrix of clues. Such as rocks.

In Selkie Moon’s second mystery The Second Path the symbolism of rocks came to me, setting up a chain reaction of events in the story. It’s a good example of how an idea implants itself in the subconscious and multiplies into a theme.” Click here to read more.

March to Destruction (Book II in The Emperor’s American series) by Art McGrath

In addressing how he came to write about an American serving in Napoleon’s Grande Armée, author Art McGrath references his quest to discover how such a circumstance might come to be. “It was discovery through writing, and while it may sound like a cliché, it was as if Pierre Burns was standing over my shoulder telling his story. He wanted to be discovered.”

In March to Destruction, superb sequel to McGrath’s The Emperor’s American, the author indeed employs the Method philosophy to tell Burns’s story—in fact, so effectively that readers would be forgiven for believing this to be the memoir of a real historical figure. Since the series’ opening novel, Burns’s—excuse me, McGrath’s—narrative has tightened as he further employs an economy perhaps reflective of the manner in which a soldier’s self awareness might utilize minimum movement to ultimately provide maximum advancement. Click here to read more. 

Author Spotlight: A Study and Some Personal Experiences of Lewis Carroll

Early edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, inspired by a rowboat expedition up the Thames, with Dodgson, the Reverend Robin Duckworth and the three Liddell sisters: Alice, Edith and Lorina.

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Just about every adult and nearly as many children have heard this cryptic question, though the answer is shrouded in time, lost documents, hearsay and conjecture. Alice herself probed some very curious matters and her beloved creator, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson—better known as Lewis Carroll—seemed to have no end to puzzles and queries with which to bend our minds and provide all sorts of intrigue: a little something for everybody.

However, Dodgson was much more than a quirky children’s author. He was also a mathematician and logician, artist and Anglican cleric who served as a don at Oxford University. In his time the art of photography was in its infancy, and Dodgson was a keen practitioner, later running a successful studio that produced about 3,000 images, though many have been lost.

Dodgson taught mathematics at Christ Church College and, like today’s learners, many of the students were accustomed to blocking the possibility that they could do well in mathematics. He created fun ideas and games to help make the material less dense and dull, as well as syllogisms to aid in the study of logic.

From childhood, even before I fully understood what I was absorbing into my brain, I found Dodgson’s life and career to be fascinating and filled with worlds of information from nearly every discipline. Dodgson was also an artist and he inspired me to give the form a serious study, so for one year I focused utterly and completely on drawing. Click here to read more. 


While there are a few other entries in May and June of previous years, by necessity there are limitations to what could be included here. However, at least two of those authors will be re-visiting the blog, so do keep your eyes peeled! Also, I probably did review others within this time in at least one other year (2015), but they don’t appear via the archives because at that point I’d switched to another host, only to return here a year later. Bit by bit I’ve been re-posting those reviews, so I think they have all by now been added, though in other months on the calendar than initially.

To see other reviews from this or any other time period, see the archive drop down button in the right sidebar. And until next time, happy reading!

(A little something for everybody.)

Book Spotlight: A Jane Austen Daydream

A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard

FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Now with a new foreword and an updated cover showcasing Jane’s own handwriting, this re-imagining of Jane’s life continues to charm and delight readers of literary fiction worldwide.

*************

All her heroines find love in the end–but is there love waiting for Jane?

Jane Austen spends her days writing and matchmaking in the small countryside village of Steventon, until a ball at Godmersham Park propels her into a new world where she yearns for a romance of her own. But whether her heart will settle on a young lawyer, a clever Reverend, a wealthy childhood friend, or a mysterious stranger is anyone’s guess.

Written in the style of Jane herself, this novel ponders the question faced by many devoted readers over the years–did she ever find love? Weaving fact with fiction, it re-imagines her life, using her own stories to fill in the gaps left by history and showing that all of us–to a greater or lesser degree–are head over heels for Jane.

Scott’s writing process for this story

One paragraph!?! I’m going to fail at this one! See, when I came up with the idea of A Jane Austen Daydream I knew it would be a challenge. And if it wasn’t a challenge, I knew I was not doing the idea justice. That might seem strange, but as a writer I knew I was going to attempt multiple things. This was my writing version of climbing Mount Everest.

One, I needed to write a book that felt like an Austen novel, but at the same time, new. Two, I needed to tell a story in the voice of Austen, but yet, I wanted it to be a “friendly” voice for the casual reader. So, everything had to be a recognizable (plot and characters) … and surprising and different and witty and charming and emotional and passionate and unpredictable. Whew!

You see what I mean? Challenge, yes. I had to find that very special path up to where I could stick the flag. This was a very technical experience, which as a creative writer, is not a normal place I live in. I rarely get to an answer by a straight line in my mind and here I had to learn.

I had to take up residence in Austen’s world. That meant reading all of her books, then reading them again, then reading them again, then reading them again… Okay, I could go on and on here, but I ended up with notebooks of notes and heavily highlighted paperbacks. I even had “different levels” for the highlighting colors! There were quotes I wanted to integrate into my books (yellow), to things I wanted to reference (blue), to curiosities to explore (orange).

I looked to Austen’s books to find my “beats” and structure. This may sound like a mirror, but if it is, it is a very dirty mirror. Once I was done with my outline and finding that voice, I could write it. That was the fun part. Of course, the hard work was far from over. For in the editing, the art really emerges (I have always believed “editing” is the key to good writing). That was when I had to find that final climb towards the book and Ms. Austen’s world.

I’m thrilled that my book is coming out in this fifth anniversary edition. I look forward to hearing what new readers say. I hope you enjoy the novel I discovered at the end of my climb!

*********

About the Author

Scott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is also the author of the novels: My Problem with Doors, Megan, Permanent Spring Showers, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and 3 Days in Rome. With his eclectic writing he has found his way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard, where he writes on far-ranging topics like writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his two patient children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.

Author Links

Amazon

Audible

Author Website

Highlighted Reviews

“For those of you who are exhausted by the innumerable retellings of Austen’s novels, this is a style entirely new … be rewarded by a quick paced novel unlike any you can ever have read, which injects new ideas and possibilities into the world of Jane Austen.” –Laura Boyle, The Jane Austen Centre

“Mix one-part biography and one-part historical re-imagining…add witty characters and some surprises and you have A Jane Austen Daydream. This was a delightful read.” – Amelia Rodriguez, Jane Austen Society of North America 

“Lovely, thought-provoking novel. Fans of Austen will adore this book.” – Lori Nelson Spielman, author of The Life List

“Southard has taken the facts about the great author and woven them into a credible, touching, and also entertaining portrait of a life.” -Historical Novel Society

Blog Tour Schedule

April 23rd

Book Spotlight-The Writing Desk

April 24th

Book Review – Kate Braithwaite

Book Spotlight – before the second sleep

April 25th

Book Spotlight – Let Them Read Books

April 26th

Book Spotlight – Locks, Hooks and Books

Book Review – Pursuing Stacie

April 27th

Author Interview –Layered Pages

*********

It has been a pleasure to co-ordinate with Novel Expressions Blog Tours

and I look forward to more great reading and recommendations!

*********

This blog was updated to reflect a corrected link for the April 25 blog tour entry. 

Book Spotlight: Mary – Tudor Princess

Mary – Tudor Princess
by Tony Riches

 New on Amazon, Amazon UK and Amazon AU

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.

Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?

Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.

 Excerpt from Chapter Nine – 1514

Mary noted the look of disdain from Countess Louise. Dressed in white mourning clothes, she’d wasted no time in taking control. The whole of Paris came to a standstill as the grand procession made its way to Notre-Dame, where Louis was laid to rest with undue haste at the side of Anne of Brittany.

‘You must retire now to your mourning chapel, as is our custom.’ It sounded like an order to a disobedient child.

Mary stared at Countess Louise. She had little time for French customs. ‘For how long?’ She tried to sound assertive yet it sounded petulant.

‘Until it can be established that you are not with child.’ Her tone suggested she doubted it. ‘One month or two.’

‘I refuse to be shut away. I must write to my brother the king, there is too much to do.’

‘You cannot refuse,’ Louise’s voice sounded harsher now, ‘and King Henry has of course been informed.’

Mary realised she could make a dangerous enemy by resisting the will of the countess. ‘I agree on condition my secretary is permitted to see me to take letters to England.’

The countess gave a curt nod. ‘I am pleased you respect our customs. You are the Dowager Queen of France and will want for nothing while you are in mourning.’ She softened a little for the first time. ‘You might pray for my son, that he will be a wise and noble king.’

Mary agreed. She had no choice. She entered the darkened rooms of Cluny Palace, overlooking the Seine, and heard the door close behind her with a thump. Looking around she saw an altar with a blue-robed statue of the Virgin and a few prayer books. Worst of all, the windows and walls and even her bed were hung with heavy black cloth, blocking the light.

She shivered in the cold, turned back and tried to open the door. It rattled in the frame as she shook the handle, realising it had been locked from the outside. She called out but heard no reply.

She’d been tricked. The duke’s scheming mother had made sure nothing would stand in the way of her son’s coronation. Even a king who clung to the last of his life despite his pain. Mary crossed to the altar and kneeled before it. Taking a taper, she lit it from the solitary candle and lit a second for Louis. As she watched the yellow flame take hold she recalled the last words Louis said to her, ‘Je t’aime mon ange,’ and wept.

About the Author

Tony Riches is a full-time author of best-selling historical fiction. He lives in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and is a specialist in the fifteenth century, with a particular interest in the Wars of the Roses and the lives of the early Tudors.

For more information about Tony’s other books please visit his website and his popular blog, The Writing Desk, and find him on Goodreads as well as Facebook and Twitter.

 

Additional Links:

Amazon

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

Amazon Author Page

 

 

L.A.P. it Marketing LLC

 

Update: This post’s title has been corrected to reflect its spotlight status,
as opposed to blog tour, which was added in error.