Thursday, 14 July 2016

Guest blog: Laura Ellen Scott - 'The Juliet'

I’m really grateful to Historical Fiction Excerpts for the chance to write about the real life inspiration for Lily Joy, a character in my novel The Juliet, recently released from Pandamoon Publishing. The Juliet is about the search for a cursed emerald in Death Valley, but it’s also about legends, and Lily Joy’s story springs from the legend of Mona Belle, the working name of a prostitute murdered by her lover in the boomtown of Rhyolite, Nevada in1908.

In The Juliet, Lily Joy is the working name of Becky Skinner, a tarot-reading prostitute from the early 1900s who plies her trade in Centenary, a boomtown much like Rhyolite. When Becky kills off her sex worker persona, she rings the final bell on a short but golden era, and Centenary collapses just as Rhyolite did. However, my version is a superstitious take on Rhyolite’s socio-economic reality. At the time of Belle’s murder, Rhyolite was reeling from a financial crash in 1907 that would soon be followed by poor mine assessments in 1908, causing stocks to plummet and citizens to flee. By 1920 there were virtually no inhabitants left, and most of Rhyolite’s structures were picked apart for building materials, leaving the town in ruins that made it appear much more ancient than it actually was.

Today Rhyolite is one of the best preserved of Death Valley’s ghost towns, and its remaining broken walls, piles of square stones, and outlines of foundations make it easy to imagine the city as it was in prime, when it was a testament to prosperity and industry, owing to a huge investment in infrastructure by the famed Charles Schwab. In its heyday, the town boasted a rail depot, two banks, a stock exchange, a school, a hospital, and an opera house.

Yet, civility has limits. Rhyolite was not without its murders, suicides, and other violent crimes, especially in its notorious Red Light District. A reminder of that can be found all the way down past the ruins of the jailhouse where there is a single gravesite marked by a white cross with the name Isabella Haskins stenciled on the horizontal bar and Mona Belle on the vertical. The grave is strewn with trinkets from visitors, including booze bottles, high-heeled shoes, toys, beads, fans, and artificial flowers. It’s a riveting sight, especially out there in the desert. The only other time I had ever seen so many tributes was at Saint Louis Cemetery in New Orleans as the purported tomb of Marie Laveau.

Who was Mona Belle? Sadly, the 20 year old hardly made a mark on the world during her short life. We do know that she adopted several aliases, married young, and left her husband to run off with a violent gambler named Fred Skinner. They lived in Rhyolite for only a year, and their turbulent relationship ended when he shot her to death during a drink-fueled argument. It was a shocking crime, and Skinner was moved out of town to avoid a lynching. Belle’s estranged husband claimed her body and took it back to be buried in Washington State where her parents lived. Blogger Osie Turner put together a great post about Belle’s life and death, but if you want a more thoroughly researched account, I strongly recommend Robin Flinchum’s excellent book Red Light Women of Death Valley.

The legend of Mona Belle focuses less on her life than on what happened to her after death. Despite the inconvenient detail that Belle’s body was claimed by her husband, this particular story persists: as the casket of Mona Belle, AKA Isabella Haskett was being carried to the Rhyolite/Bullfrog cemetery by the grief-stricken men of Rhyolite, the women of Rhyolite stopped the procession and successfully prevented the prostitute’s interment with the rest of the Christian community. As an alternative, Belle’s loyal customers buried her behind the jailhouse. Alone but honored in a place of ignominy.

So, is the Belle story true?
No.
Then who is buried in her grave?
Probably no one.

Most people agree that both the site and the story were fabrications concocted by a woman who ran a souvenir shop out of the old depot in the 1950s. Post-collapse, Rhyolite became a tourist stop, allowing a steady trickle of entrepreneurs to trade on the more ghostly aspects of the ghost town. And it should come as no surprise that Mona Belle, being Rhyolite’s most notorious murder victim, is said to haunt its ruins.

That shopkeeper knew what she was doing. The legend of Belle’s funeral procession being turned back is very compelling, offering a twist on the story of Julia Bulette, a beloved Virginia City madam whose funeral procession was attended by thousands. Murdered in 1867, Bulette had become the symbol of prosperous times, and her untimely passing united the community. That Belle’s legend ends with a divided community is a troubling correction, but one that resonates, especially with the mystically inclined.


Blurb:

During Death Valley’s great wildflower bloom of 2005, retired cowboy actor Rigg Dexon gives a rootless woman a gift that will change her life forever: the deed to The Mystery House, a century old shack long thought to be the hiding place of a legendary emerald known as The Juliet. Willie Judy remembers Dexon from cereal commercials she watched as a kid, but now she’ll spend the next seven days searching for the truth about him, the house, and herself, as the history of The Juliet reveals the American Dream’s dark side—one that is corrupt, bawdy, and half insane.


Excerpt:

February 1908: Centenary, NV

Becky made her list for the week ahead. She was a list-maker now. Traveling up and down the bluff was simple enough, but not with supplies in tow. Before she made the journey to Centenary Mercantile she had to write it all out, and be careful with her numbers. Gone were the days when she could step outside her door and pick up a saddle of rabbit and few turnips to improvise the evening meal.
Becky paused over her work. It was too late to start a garden, wasn’t it? In the basin, gunshots echoed, something that didn’t happen as often as it used to.
The contest was over, the results announced, and Hogg’s Bottle house was now called the Skinner place. Though it was only the middle of the day, long shadows kept the house a little too cold for Becky’s taste, but Marcus reminded her how grateful she would be come summer.
She was grateful already, quite glad to be out of common contact with the citizens of Centenary, especially after Marcus’s report was made public. The town’s collapse, which had begun as soon as the mines showed signs of petering out, suddenly sped up. She watched it change from her vantage point on the bluff. First the clusters of tent homes disappeared, then construction stopped on the school. Some of the burros that patrolled the weeds around their home seemed awfully thin and confused. She assumed their owners had let them go in the hopes that they would join a wild herd.
Then, one night, the electric lights of High Street were not switched on, and they remained unlit from that point onward. Centenary would no longer turn night into day.
Becky put more wood into the stove, but just enough to keep the embers going. Even after unpacking all of their belongings there was still so much to do. The Hogg children had managed to make a young house look old, and one of the first things Becky wanted to do was plaster over the bottles. It made her uneasy, feeling as if she lived in a glass house.
A sharp whistle from below the bluff meant a message had come for Marcus, but Marcus was in town. He still went into the office on a daily basis. Becky went out to the edge to tell the courier just that, but when she looked down there was no one waiting.
“Boy?” she called out. “Are you there?” There was no reply. If the kid was still down there he was probably passed out drunk. A year ago she would have climbed down to his aid, but a year ago he would have delivered his news and received a tip before going off to drown in the beer. Centenary was crumbling around the edges.
Becky returned to the bottle house, pausing on the threshold. She could smell him. The sweat, the filth, the alcohol. Someone was inside her new home, and it wasn’t the courier, either.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

False Pretences, Regency Romance Mystery and Suspense


 

I am delighted to announce that the 2nd edition of my *5 Regency, romance, mystery and suspense, paperback, False Pretences, has been published by Books We Love

 

“Five-year-old Annabelle, who does not know who her parents are, arrives at boarding school fluent in French and English. Separated from her nurse, with few memories of her past, a shadow blights Annabelle’s life.

When high-spirited, eighteen-year old Annabelle, who is financially dependent on her unknown guardian, receives an order to marry a French baron more than twice her age, she refuses. 

Her life in danger, Annabelle is saved by a heroic gentleman, who promises to help her discover her identity. Yet, from then on, nothing is as it seems. To protect her captivating champion, broken-hearted, she is forced to run away for the second time.

In spite of many false pretences, even more determined to discover her parents’ identity, Annabelle must find out who to trust. Her attempts to unravel the mystery of her birth, lead to further danger, despair, unbearable anguish and even more false pretences, until the only person, who has ever wanted to cherish her, reveals the startling truth, and all’s well that ends well.”

 Please visit my website to read the first four chapters.


 False Pretences is available from:


www.amazon.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

False Pretences Regency Romance, Mystery and Suspense


 

I am delighted to announce that the 2nd edition of my *5 Regency, romance, mystery and suspense, paperback, False Pretences, has been published by Books We Love

 “Five-year-old Annabelle, who does not know who her parents are, arrives at boarding school fluent in French and English. Separated from her nurse, with few memories of her past, a shadow blights Annabelle’s life.

When high-spirited, eighteen-year old Annabelle, who is financially dependent on her unknown guardian, receives an order to marry a French baron more than twice her age, she refuses. 

Her life in danger, Annabelle is saved by a heroic gentleman, who promises to help her discover her identity. Yet, from then on, nothing is as it seems. To protect her captivating champion, broken-hearted, she is forced to run away for the second time.

In spite of many false pretences, even more determined to discover her parents’ identity, Annabelle must find out who to trust. Her attempts to unravel the mystery of her birth, lead to further danger, despair, unbearable anguish and even more false pretences, until the only person, who has ever wanted to cherish her, reveals the startling truth, and all’s well that ends well.”

 
Please visit my website to read the first four chapters.


 False Pretences is available from:


www.amazon.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

False Pretences Regency Romance, Mystery and Suspense


I am delighted to announce that the first edition of my Regency novel, False Pretences, which received *5 reviews, has been re-published as an e-book by Books We Love.

Five-year-old Annabelle arrived at boarding school fluent in French and English. Separated from her nurse, a dismal shadow blights Annabelle’s life because she does not know who her parents are.

High-spirited Annabelle, who is financially dependent on her unknown guardian, refuses to obey an order to marry a French baron more than twice her age.

Her life in danger, Annabelle is saved by a gentleman, who says he will help her to discover her identity. Yet, from then on nothing is as it seems, and she is forced to run away for the second time to protect her rescuer.

Even more determined to discover her parents’ identity, in spite of many false pretences, Annabelle must learn who to trust. Her attempts to unravel the mystery of her birth, lead to further danger, despair, unbearable heartache and even more false pretences until the only person who has ever wanted to cherish her, reveals the startling truth, and all’s well that ends well

 

False Pretences is available form www.amazon.co.uk, www.amazon.com, Smash Words,  All Romance – e books, Barnes and Noble  Kobo,  the Apple i Store, and at other sites where e Books are available.

 

All the best,

Rosemary Morris

Multi-Published Historical Novelist.

 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

18th c. novel The Captain and The Countess - Special Offer


I am delighted to announce the Captain and the Countess, has been republished by Books We Love.

The Captain and The Countess by Rosemary Morris is available for £0.99 and $1.45 from the 8th of June to the 15th June from www.amazon.co.uk and www.amazon.com.

 
London. 1706

 Why does heart-rending pain lurk in the back of the wealthy Countess of Sinclair’s eyes? 

 Captain Howard’s life changes forever from the moment he meets Kate, the intriguing Countess and resolves to banish her pain.

 Although the air sizzles when widowed Kate, victim of an abusive marriage meets Edward Howard, a captain in Queen Anne’s navy, she has no intention of ever marrying again.

 However, when Kate becomes better acquainted with the Captain she realises he is the only man who understands her grief and can help her to untangle her past.

 

 

 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Where Dragonflies Hover

For some years I have had a fascination of what is known as the First World War, or the Great War. (World War I 1914 – 1918)
This was a time of enormous change in the world. For the first time countries banded together to fight a common enemy. I’ll not go into the politics of the time or the reasons why the war happened, that is for professional historians to determine, but the effects of the war were far reaching, particularly in Europe.
In Great Britain the changes impacted on all walks of life, from the wealthy to the poor. Women were asked to step into the space left behind by the men who went to war. Not only did they have to work the men’s jobs, but they also had to keep the home running as well. Not an easy task to a female population who was expected to simply marry and have children and keep a nice house. Women of that time were sheltered from the world, innocent. All that was soon to change.

In my book, Where Dragonflies Hover, modern woman, Lexi, finds a diary written by an Australian nurse, Allie.
Allie wrote about her time as a nurse in Great War, and of falling in love with Danny, an English officer. She wrote of her struggles to help injured and dying men who came to her straight from the battlefield, covered in mud and blood.


To write Allie’s story I had to do a lot of research about World War I. I enjoy researching, and because the Edwardian Era is one of my favourite eras, it was no hardship to spend hours reading sources from that time.  
I really wanted to make Allie’s story as real as it could be. One of my research sources was reading, The Other Anzacs by Peter Rees. A truly extraordinary book detailing the true stories of Australian nurses in WWI. A lot of my inspiration came from that book. What those nurses went through was simply remarkable.


Another book I read was The Roses of No Man’s Landby Lyn MacDonald. Another interesting account of what the allied nurses and VADs from other countries went through. These women went from the comfort and security of their homes to the heart of battle zones.  They had to learn new skills swiftly, for even dedicated career nurses had never experienced before the types injuries and wounds they encountered only miles from the front line. Those women had to sustain difficulties they never thought of, for example at times they were food shortages, hygiene hardships, danger from bombings, homesickness and many more problems. Yet, these women, some just young girls, dutifully headed into an alien world without the promise of survival.

It is, of course, impossible for me, or anyone, to know exactly how these women felt during this challenging time, we can only read about their experiences. However, simply reading about them is enough for me to give them my heartfelt gratitude and admiration for what they endured.
I hope I did justice to their stories, to what they gave up and for the sacrifices they made to help us win the war.


Where Dragonflies Hover blurb:

Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …
Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it. 
Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.
Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the ho
use leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …

Excerpt:
The late sunshine enveloped the house in a golden glow. Again, it seemed to call to her, begging for attention. A path on the left of the drive looked inviting as it meandered through a small strand of poplars. Lexi grabbed her keys, locked the car and took off to explore again. She had nothing to rush home to now, and if she got caught for trespassing, then so be it.
The overgrown pathway brought her out on the far side of the grounds near the end of a small lake. She gazed over the water towards the back of the house and noticed a paved terrace area. From there the lawn then sloped down to the water. She’d not been around the back before and fell even more in love with the property. She could imagine the serenity of sipping a cool drink on a hot summer’s day and looking out over the lake.
Lexi stepped out along the bank. A lone duck swam by, its movement serene on the glassy, dark surface. This side of the lake was in shadow from large pine trees, and she stumbled on fallen pinecones hidden in the long grass. On the opposite side of the water were some small buildings, a garage, fruit trees in early blossom, and an overgrown vegetable patch, complete with a broken, rejected-looking scarecrow.
She wandered over to a narrow shed on her left and peered through its sole, dirty window. Unable to make out much in the dimness, she walked around to the front and was surprised when she was able to pull the bolt back on the door. Why didn’t people lock things? A covered rowboat took up most of the space inside. She smiled, seeing herself rowing it on the lake. Growing more excited, Lexi edged around it to peer at the workbenches and the odd assortment of tools and useless things one found in abandoned sheds. It was like treasure hunting in an antique shop. She used to love doing that with her grandfather.
She glanced about and spied a dusty painting leaning against the wall. The scene was of a child and a brown dog. Behind the canvas were more paintings, some framed, some not. Lexi flicked through them. The ones that caught her attention she took out and set aside.
She looked for somewhere to sit and study the paintings. A small tin trunk wedged under a workbench seemed the only offering. Thinking it empty, she went to tug it out, but it remained fast.
Using both hands, she heaved it out and was showered in a puff of dust. Squatting down, she inspected the latch that was held tight with a small lock. ‘Why are you locked?’ she murmured. The shed was open to anyone passing by, yet this ugly little chest had a lock on it. The trunk was nothing special, plain and in parts rusted. No ornament or writing hinted at its use.
Intrigued, she grabbed a hammer from the workbench, but then hesitated. She had no right to open someone else’s property. Lexi closed her eyes momentarily.What was she thinking of breaking into the trunk? What am I doing? Never had she broken the law and here she was guilty of trespassing and breaking and entering! She looked around the rowboat as though expecting someone to jump out and arrest her.
Something inside urged her on. She knew she couldn’t stop now. Sucking in a deep breath, she bent and hit the lock hard. The ringing sound was loud in the quiet serenity of the garden. The metal dented and with another few solid whacks the lock gave.
Shivers of excitement tingled along her skin. Gently, she eased up the lid.

Buy links:
Also available in Apple ibooks, etc.


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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Craigsmuir Affair

"Ms Black delivers an excellently executed classic romance firmly rooted in a beautifully depicted
historical setting. The last few years of the 19th century come vividly alive, and both Daisy and Adam rise above the clich├ęd cut-outs to become characters it is easy to relate to and care for. The plot is well-constructed, the dialogue is enjoyable, the villains are agreeably villainous, and all in all this is a book warmly recommended for those who enjoy a well-written historical romance." Historical Novel Sciety reviews, Anna Belfraga.

EXCERPT:
He kept his gaze on the hem of her blue silk gown as it slid across the worn carpet. She glanced over her shoulder, then halted in mid-step and laid a graceful hand on the newel post at the foot of the stairs. ‘You don’t suspect I stole the wretched picture, do you? Is that why I am not allowed to go alone to my chamber?’
She was clever, too. It had not taken long for her to make the connection. Adam’s momentum carried him two steps up the staircase before he looked down into her wide eyes and saw the flash of temper there.
‘Oh!’ Her fingers tightened on the post. ‘Once in my room I shall tamper with the evidence. Is that what you think? What a silly idea!’
He looked down from his vantage point. With every breath she took, her breasts rose against the deep blue silk of her gown. His body tightened in response, startling him. Was he mistaken, or did the faint thrum of lust hang in the air?
‘Damn it all,’ he said softly. ‘Can we just collect the wretched lists and be done with it?’
The CRAIGSMUIR AFFAIR, published 20th July on Amazon kindle.

and for the UK -