Welcome Lisa Marie and Thank You so much for being here with us today at Yankee Romance Reviewers.
Terra, I’d like to thank you and Yankee Romance Reviewers for having me back this year to celebrate the release of Stolen Promise.
Terra ~ I haven’t read any novels before with gypsies in them, can you tell us why you picked this particular race of people?
Lisa Marie ~ I had the good fortune to meet a group of Gypsies who were traveling through the Los Angeles area when I lived in California, and I found them fascinating. I’ve always been interested in different cultures, and these were unique, intriguing individuals. The idea that I’d eventually write a story featuring a Gypsy as a main character has been a sort of theme in my life. My Mom tells an amusing story about the time Gypsies came through her hometown when she was a child and her mother told her to stay away from them because her mother believed they’d carry her off with them. Films with Romany characters also left an impression on me. There’s an obscure black and white film called “Gypsy Girl” starring Haley Mills that featured a very young Ian McShane as a dashing Gypsy character. The movie was an out-of-the-box romance, and it also realistically captured how Gypsies are maligned by those who don’t understand them. It made me want to learn more about them, and to try to portray their culture realistically and respectfully.
Terra ~ How hard was it to create a romance of such major status differences? Do you think if Evan had been from England that his status would have prevented him at all costs from someone like Jade and why?
Lisa Marie ~ I like the juxtaposition of the backgrounds of Evan and Jade. Evan’s a southern gentleman who’s known a life of privilege, while Jade’s circumstances have been far less secure and comfortable. But, based upon a single turn of events, everything changes and Evan is forced to confront a completely different lifestyle than the one he’s always known, while Jade has a glimpse of a life she’s always yearned for. If Evan had been a member of the English aristocracy, the outcome might have been different because Evan didn’t come to England with the same preconceptions and prejudices that an English duke might have had about Gypsies. Still, kings have abdicated thrones in order to marry the women they loved, so my money will always be on the human heart overcoming all obstacles.
Terra ~ I have to say that Dimitri is the bastard you just have to hate and actually relish doing so. How did you come about making his character so primal and harsh?
Lisa Marie ~ Dimitri’s the guy who’d have an order of protection filed against him if he were living in modern day America. The unfortunate woman in his life would find herself seeking assistance from her local women’s shelter. Dimitri exists in every culture and every era, and not just as a fictional character. I needed a catalyst that would send Jade fleeing her camp, and I couldn’t think of a better motivator than being pledged to a man who terrified her. He’s also the trigger who makes Evan agree to the indentured service arrangement that Jade proposes after Evan drags Jade back home against her will. Once Evan meets Dimitri, the complication of the situation increases because Evan realizes his own actions have sealed Jade’s fate with Dimitri unless some other solution can be found. Plus, Evan has begun to fall in love with Jade and he’s not about to stand by and allow another man to abuse her.
Terra ~ In this story we have a hero, a heroine and the dastardly evil villain, was it difficult having three major characters to write about? Oh, and let’s not forget the stupid evil villainesses? How could you possibly keep your thoughts straight with such a tag team running around in your head? Sheesh!
Lisa Marie ~ When I run through the list of people in Stolen Promise, it does seem like a lot of characters, but they’re all separate individuals to me, with distinct personalities, goals and motivations. I’d never confuse Evan with his brothers Patrick and Colin because they’re all such different men, and Jade is nothing like her sister Liberina. Dimitri is an abusive bully, and Evan’s fiancée Glorianna is Dimitri’s equal in terms of being conniving, selfish, and without a conscience.
Terra ~ I love the necklace you have on the cover of the book. Is that how you would have imagined Jade’s necklace or would you have made it look a bit more or less accented?
Lisa Marie ~ I’d like to express my gratitude to Mr. Arturo Delgado, the cover artist for Stolen Promise. Medallion Press is unique in that they actually solicit their author’s input on the cover art, and I had suggested a necklace surrounded by a vivid color as an appropriate cover for this book. The galbé (Romany necklace) Jade owns at the beginning would have been a simple design consisting of a gold chain with gold coins attached, but she ends up with something much finer, as readers will find out! The necklace featured on the cover represents a blend of the two necklaces and—in a larger sense—the blending of two cultures.
Terra ~ Who is your favorite character in Stolen Promise and why?
Lisa Marie ~ I have to say Evan’s bad-boy brother Colin, because he could have easily ended up a villain, but he matured during the course of the story and finally exhibited some decency by the end. Plus, Colin’s very gullible, and there are some humorous situations in the book as a result. I’ve tried to portray him as someone who is good at his core, but you have to chip away at the exterior a bit to find the good underneath.
Terra ~ Is there any possibility of you writing another book pertaining to Jade’s sister? I think it would be interesting to elaborate on her a bit more than just leaving her as being the satisfied bubbly younger sister.
Lisa Marie ~ The first draft of Stolen Promise was over a thousand pages. It told two concurrent love stories, Evan and Jade’s story, and Liberina and Patrick’s story. In its original form, I decided that neither romance was satisfactorily developed because there was simply too much going on, so I made the decision to focus on Evan and Jade’s romance. I would never rule out telling Liberina’s story if readers wanted to read it.
Terra ~ You also have Evan’s two brother’s that I could see possible storylines for especially Colin. I think he would be a hoot with all his flaws. Hoot baby I get all tingly thinking about the fun that could be had with him as payback. Any possibilities continuing the brother’s storylines?
Lisa Marie ~ I love your strong reaction to Colin, LOL. Yes, I think he’d be fun, and I do have ideas for what could happen to bring him down a notch or two yet redeem him in the end. The reality of my situation is that Stolen Promise is only my second release, and with only two books out at the moment, I need to focus on the single-title (non-series) releases that will allow me to build a reader base. I have friends who are newer authors who have found themselves in the situation where the first books they wrote were all part of a series and the full series did not sell, no doubt due to the tougher economy we’ve been experiencing for some time now.
Terra ~ What type of reference material did you use to come up with the gypsy language and the normal everyday cultural habits and rituals?
Lisa Marie ~ When I first started researching Stolen Promise, there wasn’t much information about Gypsies on the internet, so I spent a great deal of time at the library going through a variety of resources and references that were based upon first- hand experience and historical data. The use of Romany language in Stolen Promise is limited in the book because I discovered there were numerous dialects and it’s possible that a word in one dialect could have a completely different meaning in another. The Gypsies have long been a closed, largely undocumented society, so the references I trusted most were those endorsed by the Roma Rights Network. The last thing I wanted to do was support stereotypes or propagate prejudice in any form.
Terra ~ What are your up and coming plans in the literary world? Do you have a set number of storylines in the thought process that you might choose from or are you more of a one story at a time from beginning to end writer?
Lisa Marie ~ I’m currently working on a new historical romance called“The Red Parrot,” set in the criminal underground of early nineteenth century London. I have many story ideas, but I’m definitely a“one book at a time” writer because I’m aplotter/pantser and I don’t think I could keep track of multiplestory lines simultaneously. My brain just isn’t up to the task, but I’m in awe of the writers who are able to do that, and those who can release several books in the same year, which is an amazing feat, in my opinion!
Contest Time: Leave a question or comment for Lisa Marie about the interview or the excerpt along with your email addy to have a chance to win a copy of Fire At Midnight and a copy of Stolen Promise. One winner, two books. Don't miss out cause these are really good.
Excerpt from Stolen Promise
"Not a bad disguise."
Evan inspected his reflection in the tavern window. The dark blue captain’s uniform had been tailored for the figure of the man from whom he had stolen it, although the fawn colored suit underneath filled it out well enough. Measured to end above the backs of the knees, the coattail didn’t reach as far on his tall frame. The fit was convincing enough if one didn’t look too closely.
He tucked his hair beneath a black cocked hat and entered the tavern. The men searching for him wouldn’t expect him to be wearing a British military uniform. On the other hand, if the British authorities discovered him masquerading as one of their own, he would be hanged.
Situated by the London docks, the smoke-filled tavern sat near a ship ready to sail for the Carolinas. Evan could dispense with his disguise once he and his uncle Joseph were safely aboard ship. If he never saw England again, it would be too soon. The six months following his mother’s death had been filled with revelation. Everything he had believed to be true about his heritage and his life had faded like the ink on the pages of his mother’s diary. Learning her secret had shattered his world.
The pub interior smelled like rancid fish and bilge water. It was still preferable to being outside. A torrential downpour had driven many to seek shelter in the pub. Conversation swelled around Evan as he chose one of the knotty maple tables near the entrance. He scanned a wall filled with posted notices while he waited for Joseph to arrive.
He glanced toward the entrance as a young woman in a dark, hooded cloak slipped inside the pub. Tall and slender, she carried herself with fluid grace, brushing rain from the garment as she crossed the room. She shook her head when the barkeep nodded toward the row of bottles and decanters behind him as he polished a tankard.
She drew back the hood of her cloak, yet didn’t remove it, despite the clammy, crowded atmosphere. Was she among the many who sought temporary shelter from the storm? The murky light lent her an exotic appearance. Her long, inky hair shimmered with seductive blue highlights, the contrast rendering her creamy olive skin flawless. In daylight, she would either fulfill her promise of beauty, or be exposed as a maid whose features were softened by shadows.
Evan forced his gaze back to the doorway, but couldn’t keep his attention from returning to the woman. A drunken sailor staggered toward her, dragging a well-worn chair. He placed the chair in front of her and made a sweeping gesture toward it.
"Rest yerself in me chair, bonnie."
He placed a dirty hand on her shoulder and shoved her into the chair. She frowned at the man’s greasy, shoulder-length hair, his crumpled, filthy cotton shirt, threadbare breeches, and mud-caked boots.
The sailor’s gaze sharpened, and he reached out and tugged at the collar of her cloak, revealing a necklace of gold coin. "Thass a Gyppie purse." He snagged the necklace from around her throat, swiftly levering it over her head.
She lunged for the necklace, but the sailor dangled the treasure out of her reach. The coins fluttered with a soft metallic jingle.
Evan bolted from his seat, then froze and looked on in astonishment when the woman shrieked in outrage and dropped her ladylike demeanor with the speed of a ship dropping anchor. She dove at the sailor, her gaze fixed on the coin-studded strands of gold in his hand.
"No, bonnie, it be mine." The sailor chuckled at her attempts to grab the treasure he held aloft.
He continued to make sport of her until she kicked him in the shin. He howled and stomped in outrage as the necklace fell to the floor with a noisy jangle. She launched herself after it and pocketed the gold within the folds of her cloak.
The sailor lunged at her, sucking in air and gasping as he grabbed her by the hair and hauled her up to face him. Evan kicked the chair aside and moved toward them.
"Ye’ll pay fer tha’, Gyppie. Ye’ll ‘ang by a long rope," the sailor warned.
She paled and went still. The intensity of her wide green eyes stunned Evan, and his jaw clenched at the image of her hanging from a rope at Tyburn or caged in a gibbet along the roadside.
"No, bonnie, dinna be afrighted. I be yer friend." The sailor chuckled, and a number of the men in the room joined in, their laughter ugly, lewd, and tense.
She attempted to twist from the sailor’s grasp, but he jerked her back. She bit down on her lower lip. Evan couldn't decide whether her eyes sparkled with fear or defiance. Most women of Evan's acquaintance would have succumbed to an acute case of the vapors by now.
"Let her go." Evan’s voice was loud, even in the din.
The sailor scoured him with a look of contempt. "Yer lordship," he sneered, spitting out the title as though it were a morsel of an inedible meal, "ye best leave."
Evan’s gaze swept the room and settled upon a posted sign banning Gypsies, among others, from the establishment.
"Not without my prisoner," he said, flattening his tone to conceal his Southern drawl. To his own ears, his words still sounded like nah withou’ mah pris’ner.
"What law have I broken?" she asked.
Evan frowned at her. He couldn’t rescue her if she wasn’t going to cooperate.
"That one." He pointed to the curling yellowed parchment as he stepped forward and tugged her out of the sailor’s slackened grip. He urged her toward the door when she looked askance at him, her expression wary.
"No. The gyppie will go wie me." The sailor drew a stiletto from beneath the sagging waistband of his filthy breeches.
Evan grunted in surprise and stumbled forward when the woman shoved him toward the sailor. The sailor lunged, slicing the air with the knife blade as other men joined in the fight, blocking the sailor’s path to Evan. Knocked off balance, Evan staggered into the boisterous crowd, catching glimpses of the woman as she fought to avoid grasping hands on her way to the door.
Skirting the common room, he made his way toward the entrance. When he suddenly found himself face to face with her again, he seized her wrist and pulled her toward the exit as the skirmish deteriorated into a drunken brawl.
Her fingernails bit into his forearms as she struggled to be free of his grip.
"I’m trying to help you, foolish woman. I won’t hurt you."
"I know, but you won’t be helping me if they hang me, Gadjo."
If I’m caught wearing this uniform, it’s likely I’ll hang beside you. He pulled her closer, locked an arm around her waist, and dragged her toward the door. He’d see her safely outside, then the ungrateful chit could go her own way.
She gasped and stopped struggling. Evan followed her gaze to two men blocking their path. Dressed in vibrant shades of blue and green festooned with red and orange ribbons, the men stood out like peacocks in the coarse, drab pub. The gaze of the shorter, heavier man rested on the woman at Evan’s side.
"You will come with us, Jade."
"I will not go back, uncle." The quaver in her voice undermined her show of defiance.
The man’s eyes flickered. The Gypsy’s callused hand swept toward her face, missing her cheek by inches when Evan caught the man’s hand in his own. The hand he gripped shook as the man wrenched it from his grasp. The gold earring looped through the Gypsy’s right ear swung in echo of the movement.
"Don’t try that again," Evan growled.
"Who is this Gadjo?"
Jade glanced at Evan and bit her lower lip. Apprehension shafted through him when she grimaced, then stared at the rough plank floor.
"He is my lover. I ran away to be with him."
The Gypsy’s gaze turned flinty, and his jaw tightened. His attention shifted to Evan’s hand around her waist. He dragged her from Evan’s grasp and pushed her toward his companion.
Evan nodded toward the posted notice banning Gypsies. "Leave now, or risk arrest," he said in the most authoritative, British accented voice he could manage.
When the Gypsy hesitated, eyeing the uniform Evan wore, the woman elbowed his companion in the stomach and bolted for the door.
Shouting and gesturing, the Gypsies abandoned Evan to chase after the woman. They split up to search for their quarry, and quickly disappeared from sight.
Evan stepped outside and gulped in the salty tang of the chill night air. She hadn’t wanted his aid. He should not be concerned over her fate. Still, he couldn’t abide a man who would hit a woman. He would not have abandoned her to those men.
Scanning the area, Evan saw his horse, Raven, tethered to a post nearby. His uncle Joseph had arrived. Evan drew a sigh of relief and forgot to exhale when he spotted the woman from the tavern slipping through the shadows in a crouch, creeping toward Raven. She’d refused his help, yet evidently intended to avail herself of his horse. Under different circumstances, he might have found her audacity amusing.
"So, you’re a horse thief as well as a liar?"
She stopped, turning to face him. Her chin lifted. "I’m not a thief," she said. She swiftly changed direction, moving away from the horse.
She walked for a short distance before rounding a corner leading into an alley. A sudden volley of voices raised in confrontation rang out. Evan cursed under his breath and slipped deeper into the shadows when he recognized the voice of the Gypsy man. He moved with stealth, edging closer to the woman and the two men.
"I will not go back!" she said, her voice breaking. "I have taken a lover. Not even Dimitri will accept me now."
"You will return to camp, even if we have to drag you."
"I will scream for the law, and then we shall see," she threatened.
If she made good on her threat, he did not want to be found impersonating a British officer. Evan stripped off the outer uniform, stashing it behind a wooden barrel.
He overheard a few muffled words followed by the sounds of a scuffle, then a loud, angry curse. Groping about in the dark for a weapon, his hand closed over a rock. Evan plunged the rock into his pocket and straightened just as she rounded the corner and crashed into him.
The force of the impact jarred him, and his arms came around her, muffling her yelp of surprise as he pulled her into the shadows and gathered her to him. Her heart pounded beneath his, and she trembled.
Evan made a soft, hushing noise, suspecting her behavior owed more to bravado than bravery. He felt an inexplicable need to comfort her. Warm and vital, her curves molded against him in a manner capable of distracting him from any peril. She clutched his forearms to steady herself as she glanced up at him. The precise moment she registered his change of clothing was evident when her expression darkened with suspicion.
"Me," Evan agreed.
"Let me go." When he didn’t immediately release her, she brought her foot down on his instep.
Evan mumbled a curse and shifted his hands to her shoulders, hooking his thumbs into the folds of her cloak. He jerked her forward with such force she stumbled into him.
"What do those men want with you?"
As the Gypsies drew near, she tugged frantically to escape Evan's grip. She glanced in the direction of the voices, her face growing pinched with alarm.
"Please," she whispered. "I cannot stay here."
The plea in her luminous eyes made Evan swallow hard. Every gallant instinct within him fought common sense as he looked down at her. I am going to regret this.
"I'll take you some place safe." He started to guide her through the shadows.
"No, Gadjo, just let me go. This is not your fight. They will hurt you."
She hung back, and Evan squeezed her wrist. "Do you want to escape, or not? I’d be just as happy to tie a ribbon around your neck and hand you over to them."
"Where are you going?"
"To get my horse." The Gypsies emerged from the alley. Evan sprinted into action, pulling the woman along with him. "Run!"
His gaze locked on the horse, Evan concentrated on the slap of shoe leather against stone, the shouts of the men chasing them, and the soft, warm hand tucked into his as they ran.
When they reached the horse, he tossed the reins free of the tether and hoisted the woman onto the beast’s broad back. She made a noise, as if his touch had hurt her, and the men pursuing them spun in unison at the sound. Two men had joined the Gypsies. Evan's mouth felt stuffed with cotton. His pulse pounded in his temples.
He climbed onto Raven’s back, the musty smells of straw and leather filling his nostrils. The woman’s arms settled around his waist, and he tensed when she plunged her hand into his pocket and withdrew the chunk of rock. He glanced back at her warily.
"It was the only weapon I could find."
She nodded, hefting the rock in her hand. "Clever Gadjo."
The horse suddenly reared as men ran toward them, shouting and gesturing as they approached. The woman clutched Evan’s middle to keep from falling. As he fought to control the spooked animal, she used the rock to lash out at the short, heavy Gypsy who tried to drag her from the horse’s back.
Startled by the sound of Joseph’s voice, Evan nearly tumbled from the horse. His uncle stared up at him and stumbled back in surprise. The woman hurled the rock at the Gypsy as he tried again to wrestle her from the horse.
"This man is stealing my niece," the Gypsy accused.
"He’s lying!" Evan cringed at the expression on his uncle’s face, but before he could offer further explanation, the woman slapped Raven’s hindquarter.
The horse uttered a shrill scream and sprang forward, nearly unseating them both. The woman’s shout of triumph rang out as distance separated them from their pursuers. Cursing, Evan fought to gain control of the panicked animal.
They sped past the docks with dizzying speed and sprinted onto the open road. The shadows of buildings gave way to tall trees until Raven slowed from an invigorated gallop into a trot, snorting as vapor rose from his flanks. Evan pulled on the reins and spoke in a low voice until the horse came to a rambling halt. He dismounted and glowered up at the woman still seated on the horse.
"I’d offer to help you down, but I’m afraid if I touch you right now, I’ll wring your neck."
She stared at him for a moment before sliding to the ground. She straightened her cloak, tucked the edges of her blouse into the waistband of her skirt and tapped pebbles from her thin leather shoes. Sweeping her waist length hair over her shoulder with a flick of her wrist, she marched toward the road.
"Where do you think you’re going?" Evan demanded.
"Thank you for your help. I am sorry I frightened your horse." She glanced down the length of highway, then up at the canopy of stars above them.
She’s lost, too. "I asked where you’re going."
"I will go on alone now."
"No, you won’t, lover." His tightly clenched jaw ached. "You have some unfinished business here. I’m owed something for my trouble."
Her eyes widened and she took a step back, away from him.
"An explanation was what I had in mind," Evan said, his tone softening.
"I do not understand you." She canted her head, frowning at him.
"I think you understand me well enough," Evan said.
"No, your speech is strange. You sound like music."
She means my accent. Evan sighed. "What are you running away from?"
"You cannot help me." She folded her arms across her chest. "Why do you want to know?"
"I can’t go back to town because of you." Not with Gypsies and the authorities looking for me. "You’re not safe alone."
"I did not ask for your help." Her chin lifted, as if in defense of her lie.
"As I recall, you did." His voice tightened with fury. "I have no idea what you sought to accomplish by claiming we are lovers." And what must be going through Joseph's mind, after the Gypsy claimed Evan had kidnapped the woman?
"I did not mean to cause you trouble, Gadjo. Truly. It was good of you to help me."
Although she sounded sincere, Evan continued to glare at her as he waited for an explanation. She looked down at the ground.
"Only two of those men were after me," she said. "My uncle, and my cousin. I do not know the others, I swear it."
Her chin lifted. Her expressive face revealed the workings of her mind. "You shed those clothes like a snake sheds its skin. The other men were after you."
Fear animated her expression. Did she believe he would hurt her? If she had come to expect abuse from men, he pitied her.
Evan pushed the hair back from his brow with the heel of his hand. There was no point in badgering her for an explanation. What did it matter anyway? He would find a way to rejoin Joseph and leave England.
"Yes, I’m trying to avoid certain people," Evan admitted. "We have that much in common. I’ll be leaving England as soon as possible. You needn’t worry about enduring my company for long."
He extended his hand to her. "Evan Dark, of Charleston, South Carolina," he said, his drawl suddenly more pronounced.
"Jade." Her voice was almost a whisper. She stared at his offered hand, but did not take it.
"The light is poor for safe travel," he said. "We should rest and get a fresh start in the daylight."
"I can find my way at night by looking above me." She made a sweeping motion with her hand, inclusive of all the heavenly bodies scattered in the sky.
He wasn’t certain whether she had challenged him, or was simply proud of her skill.
"My horse is tired. We’ll rest and consider our options in the morning. We’ll be safe enough here for the night."
As the heir to a plantation, Evan was used to giving orders. He opened the pack tethered to Raven’s side and tossed a blanket at her. She caught it with a grunt of surprise. Her expression changed from indecisive to mutinous.
He shrugged. "Stay or go, it makes no difference to me. You were the one who asked for my help, whether you will admit it or not. I haven’t harmed you, nor do I intend to. I’m not sure you can say the same about your uncle. Where I come from, we don’t abandon our women on the road."
She frowned at his tone and stood stiffly holding the blanket as he turned his back to her and bent to examine Raven’s hooves for stones.
"Good night, lover," he said over his shoulder.