Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Palace of Deception": A Romantic Suspense Novella by Helena Fairfax

A few years ago we had a terrible summer here in the UK. It rained endlessly, and several major cities were flooded. It just so happened that as the downpours began, I was on my way on holiday, to southern France, and so I escaped all of it. I caught the train home on my last day at work, as usual, and remember my anxiety at the water level creeping nearer and nearer the tracks as we passed by our local river.

The very next week, I was in a completely different location. The skies were a bright, cloudless blue and the Mediterranean glittered under the sun. What a contrast with the gloomy and foreboding weather I’d left behind me. As I explored the south coast of France, I began to think as all writers do: how can I turn this wonderful scenery into the setting for a story?

The mixture of gloom and clear, bright skies took a hold in my mind. Whilst in the south of France I took the opportunity to visit the tiny principality of Monaco, and when I saw the Palace, and the guards parading in their white uniforms, a story began to take root. Now that story has been fleshed out, and has become a novella, full of suspense and romance, and solidly based in the wondrous light of the Mediterranean.

Here’s an excerpt, to give you a flavour of the surroundings:

It was eleven o’clock precisely. Daria dropped back to let me pass. The heat rose in waves from the stone flags, and a bright sun beat down on my bare head as I stepped through the doors. I blinked in the unaccustomed light, casting a brief glance at the blue sky I had only seen through glass for five long weeks. To my starved eyes, its colour was a miracle of purity.

Palace at Monaco--Image Courtesy of Pixabay

The carriage was waiting, gleaming gold in the sun like something from a fairy tale. Two white horses, large and proud, snorted and stamped at its head. Everything had the quality of a dream, and it seemed to me as though I were outside my own body, gazing down at Princess Charlotte of Montverrier as she left for her ceremony.

And then Léon was by my side, and the cool fabric of my dress floated around my ankles as he handed me into my seat. I felt Léon’s fingers press mine—the merest touch of reassurance—before he followed lightly behind me. I sank back into the carriage’s blue silk seat, and the horses swept through the gates.

Léon’s attention turned to the crowds as we emerged onto the avenue. A great roar went up, and in the bright Mediterranean sun everything took on a vibrancy and intensity such as I’d never before experienced. The bright green of the poplars stirring gently overhead, the vivid sky where seagulls whirled and cried, the gold and blue of the Montverrier colours, hanging from every lamp-post. The crowds waved and called out to me from behind the barriers. I leaned forward, returning their well wishes in the manner I’d practised so long, with a smile and a graceful wave, palm forward, the fingers of my hand slightly spread. Children sat on their parents’ shoulders, clutching flags, whilst others clung to the slender trunks of the poplars.

The carriage rattled down the avenue before rounding the corner into the square between the Mediterranean and the Cathedral. What a magnificent sight lay before us! The sea was a glittering expanse of brilliant blue and silver in the sunlight, and the stones of the great Cathedral a blinding white. A red carpet had been laid down for my arrival, lined on each side by trumpeters dressed in gold and blue. A group of maids-in-waiting, all in white, were at the bottom of the Cathedral steps to greet me. As we drew to a halt, a voice crackled in Léon’s ear-piece, and he spoke into his device. And then the carriage door was open, and two footmen helped me alight. The maids-in-waiting darted forwards to arrange my dress with deft fingers while the trumpeters sounded their welcome. Another great cheer went up from the waiting crowds, and it was time to begin the long procession into the Cathedral.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my excerpt, and a small taste of the brilliant heat and warmth of the south of France. Here is the blurb to Palace of Deception:

A sinister housekeeper, a silent bodyguard, and a missing princess—mystery and intrigue in a gripping romantic suspense

When Princess Charlotte of Montverrier disappears on the eve of her Investiture, Lizzie Smith takes on the acting job of her life.

But in the run up to the ceremony, all is not what it seems in the Palace of Montverrier. Why does the housekeeper insist Lizzie keep to her suite of rooms? What danger lies outside the palace walls? As Lizzie learns her role, her only confidant is Léon, her quiet bodyguard…but what secrets is he keeping from her? And above all, what has happened to the missing Princess?

Mystery and suspense against the backdrop of a beautiful Mediterranean city.

Palace of Deception is available in several international sites on Amazon, especially the following…

Other formats will be released in November.


I do hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my escape from the rain, and my romantic suspense! If you’d like to hear more, you can find me on my website, on Facebook, or on Twitter

Thanks so much for having me, Rochelle!

You’re very welcome, Helena!

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