Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One Thing Leads to Another: Grace Elliot

My guest this week, and all for your delight, is the delightful Grace Eliot, another British author (am I sensing a trend here?) I think you'll enjoy. Here's her answer to the classic question: Where do ideas come from?

            Have you ever noticed how one thing leads to another? As a writer, I find this is often the case.
            I love living in the past, and by this I mean visiting the places where my ancestors once walked; to touch the fabrics they once wore and look through the same window glass as an orphan at the Foundling Hospital. To climb the same sweeping staircase as kings at Kensington Palace, gives a real sense of the past…and ideas, lots of ideas.
            One of my hobbies is to visit places of historic interest. One of my favourites is the Foundling Museum, London, where the sense of closeness to the past is amazing. I think this is because many of the artefacts were left by the desperate mothers whose babies were brought up here; these scraps of fabric and half coins, the heart-rending tokens the means of reclaiming a child should the mother's circumstances change. These set me thinking about charitable values in Georgian England and how a foundling might make their way in life (fodder for #3 The Huntley Trilogy: Verity's Lie, and also #1 Foxhall series: Percy Persephone.)
            And talking of one thing leading to another, the idea for Hope's Betrayal came from a family holiday on the Isle of Wight. Whilst exploring a quaint fishing village on the south coast, I spotted a cottage where an 18th century female smuggler once lived. (This woman led a remarkable life and eventually married into the French aristocracy, but that's another story!) Inspired to find out more about her I visited a local second hand book shop. Bingo!
            In this gloriously musty bookshop, not only did I unearth a pamphlet published in the 1920s about this woman's adventures, but I eavesdropped on a conversation between two sales assistants that gave me the perfect character for a short story. But I digress, to return to the smuggler, it transpires that she was so beautiful when a custom's officer caught her red-handed, he was so entranced he let her go free (I'm deliberately being a tease and withholding her name, because one day I may write her life story.)
            As for one thing leading to another, it set me wondering about what would happen if two people with very different values fell in love. For instance, what would an upright naval officer, who lived and breathed duty, do if he fell in love with a law-breaker, such as a female smuggler? And thus, the idea behind Hope's Betrayal was born.

an excerpt from Hope's Betrayal
by Grace Elliot

Captain Huntley Makes a Discovery About his Prisoner

Alone with his prisoner the Captain set to work, his face all harsh angles in the lamplight. First to stem the bleeding. Working with deft hands, he pulled the bloodstained scarf from the felon's head. Surprise registered, as he noted the delicate ears and elegant neck. The boy’s hair gleamed like polished-coal in the lamplight; tied back in a pony tail, black-as-the-devil’s heart.
     Huntley reached for a rag to wipe blood from the boy's eyes and cheek. Soft skin emerged from beneath the clotted mess. The boy was young…a round face with pointed chin, a tipped nose …and lips, softly parted and provocatively plump….just ripe for kissing. A flush of heat warmed Huntley's cheeks. What was he thinking?
     Wiping his sleeve across his eyes he forced himself to continue. He bathed the laceration, cleaning away sand and blood. Something about this lad had stirred deep emotions and the captain didn’t like it one little bit. He glanced toward the door, not wanting to be alone with the smuggler and these strange feelings he stirred.
     “What the devil's taking that wench so long?”
     The fire was crackling nicely now, steam rising from the lad's clothes. But it wasn’t warm enough; cold could kill every bit as much as blood loss.
     ”Hell's teeth, do I have to do everything myself?”
     With rising irritation, Huntley set to stripping the lad of his wet clothes.
     He peeled back the patched jacket, twice its weight with water, and dropped it to the floor. A patched and frayed shirt, sticky with blood, clung to the lad’s lean frame. Huntley tugged the shirt-tail free of the lad’s sodden breeches and off over his head, with the result that the Captain's pulse raced alarmingly.
     “Get a grip, man.” Huntley muttered.
     The lad had unexpectedly slim shoulders, a silver stiletto strapped to his thin upper arm.
     Unsheathing the knife he held the elegant blade toward the firelight; a finely crafted weapon of silver filigree over an ivory handle— a lady’s weapon, and obviously expensive.
     “Who did you steal this from, then?”
     Placing the stiletto safely out of reach, he turned back to the table. Stripped of his shirt, it seemed the lad had broken ribs, for his chest was strapped. The bindings were soaked and must come off. Shifting the unconscious lad into a sitting position, balancing him against his shoulder, Huntley unwound the bandages.
     As he lay the lad back down on the table, Huntley was suddenly struck by the peculiar shadows playing across the boy’s chest. A flush of blood heated his cheeks. That explained a lot!  Huntley’s mouth dropped open; he threw back his head and laughed aloud with relief.
     “'Tis not a lad….but a lass!
     Alone in the scullery with a half-naked girl…no, not a girl, for she had the soft curves of a woman. Huntley took a step back. The sense of relief was overwhelming, that it was a woman who had excited his body so. He looked around for someone to share his astonishment, but the maid had not yet returned.
     In his experience women were tiresome, wearisome creatures that sapped the spirit and drained the mind, but he studied this one with interest. Dark lashes lay brushed against her cheek, an almost catlike tilt to her closed eyes. Her skin was clear, fresh, and unblemished. Her face was wide, round even, but with a pointed chin and a nose turned up at the end. In all he decided, she was beautiful with the stubbornness of a mule and fragility of a china doll. She had been a worthy advisory on the dunes; agile, brave and resourceful and it thrilled him to the core. Lost in thought, Huntley shrugged off his outer coat and covered her over, then removed himself to a respectable distance.
     Nothing had changed, he told himself. She was a felon and would pay the penalty demanded by law. And if Huntley felt uneasy at the prospect he suppressed the emotion, it was just that he had to get used to the notion of interrogating a woman.

Find Hope's Betrayal on Amazon

     One wild, winter's night two worlds collide.
     Known for his ruthless efficiency, Captain George Huntley is sent to stamp out smuggling on the south coast of England. On a night raid, the Captain captures a smuggler, but finds his troubles are just beginning when the lad turns out to be a lass, Hope Tyler.
     With Hope as bait, the Captain sets a trap to catch the rest of the gang. But in a battle of wills, with his reputation at stake, George Huntley starts to respect feisty, independent Hope. Challenged by her sea-green eyes and stubborn loyalty Huntley now faces a new threat—his growing attraction to a sworn enemy. But a love where either Hope betrays her own kind, or Captain Huntley is court-marshaled, is not an easy destiny to follow.

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