Thursday, March 20, 2014

Seasons of the Heart

I grew up in New England, where the march of the seasons more or less demands your attention. The exquisite stillness of a landscape smothered in snow - the tender green tracery of new leaves on skeleton branches – balmy endless twilights, full of the succulent aroma of the neighbor's barbecue and the cries of kids playing ball in the street – achingly blue October skies arching over flame-hued hills – the changing weather and moods of the northeastern US have imprinted my soul.

My stories are often set in New England, and almost always in a particular season. In Almost Home, my heroine and heroes are snowed in together in a rural Massachusetts farmhouse after a record-breaking blizzard. Truce of Trust unfolds at high summer on the glorious rocky coast of Maine. Necessary Madness, set in the gritty industrial city of Worcester, Mass, begins in the bleak chill of November but warms toward the holidays. Mastering Maya unfolds in Boston, a bit earlier in the autumn. And my romantic erotica novel Incognito takes place in late Spring, in one of my favorite places in the world, the historic district of Beacon Hill.

I choose the season, like the setting, to mirror the tone of my tales. Incognito traces the emotional and sexual awakening of a woman scarred by an early betrayal. It makes sense that the events in the novel should take place during May – the “lusty month” according to Rogers and Hammerstein – a month of growing heat, ripe with possibility.

Hence it seemed appropriate to share a snippet of that book here in my post for the Spring Fling Blog Hop. The excerpt below is PG, but I hope it captures a bit of my heroine Miranda's vernal restlessness.

For my hop prize, I'm giving away an autographed print copy of Incognito. plus a bonus print book. Just post a comment below, including your email. Tell me which season is your favorite, and why. I'll randomly draw the name of one commenter on the 25th of March.

Meanwhile, use the Rafflecopter link below to be eligible for our amazing array of grand prizes:

Kindle Fire (Donated by Blushing Books) 
$75 Amazon (or B and N) Gift Card
$25 Starbucks Gift Card (Donated by Sue Lyndon)
$25 Blushing Books Gift Card (Donated by Patty Devlin)
$25 Loose Id Gift Card (Donated by Cara Bristol)

You can enter at each blog you visit. The more times you enter, the greater your chances of winning! For a full list of links to participating blogs, go to:

Incognito by Lisabet Sarai


Shy and serious by day — insatiable by night.

Betrayed and abandoned by her first lover, shy and studious Miranda Cahill freezes in response to any sexual attention from someone she knows and likes.

During the day, she works diligently on her doctoral thesis. At night, though, she finds herself drawn into increasingly extreme sexual encounters with strangers. Her anonymous secret life begins to take over when she discovers that the masked seducer she meets in a sex club and the charismatic young professor courting her are the same man.

Miranda felt delightfully free as she strolled down Charles Street, enjoying the afternoon. It was only May, but already the trees were in full leaf, dappling the brick sidewalks with patterns of shadow. Girls passed her in tank tops and shorts, legs and arms bare and already burnished with sun. She felt warm in her long-sleeved pullover and overalls.

She loved this district, with its historic buildings and narrow lanes. Most of the townhouses dated from the middle of the previous century. They offered a delightful jumble of architectural detail; wrought-iron balconies, fanlight transoms, stained glass, mullioned windows, Corinthian columns. Many of the brick-fronted buildings were draped with ivy. Some were traversed by aged trunks as thick as her wrist, twining around doors up to the many-chimneyed roofs. The tall windows offered glimpses of chandeliers, Oriental carpets, Siamese cats, and bookshelves that stretched floor to ceiling.

In Beacon Hill, gas lamps lined all the streets, burning day and night. Her own apartment looked out on a private alley, flanked by ivy-hung brick walls and lit by gas lights. Miranda appreciated the irony of her living in an environment that dated from the same period as her research. Perhaps, she sometimes thought playfully, I had a previous life as a Victorian matron.

Most of Beacon Hill was entirely residential, but Charles Street was lined with shops and caf├ęs. There were many vendors of books and antiquities; Miranda loved to rummage through the crowded, chaotic shops, savouring the atmosphere of the past, although she rarely made a purchase.

She entered one of these places now, a dim, comfortable space half below street level. She had to duck her head as she entered. A silvery bell tinkled to announce her arrival.

The proprietor, an energetic, fussy old man with wire spectacles, knew her by sight. “Hello, hello,” he said as he emerged from a back room. “Can I help you find anything today?”

Miranda smiled. “No, thank you. I’m just browsing at the moment.”

Well, if I can be of any assistance, just let me know.”

Miranda wandered happily through the shop. It was much larger than it first appeared, with several rooms stretching backward into the building. The front room, near the street, was crowded with furniture of obsolete categories, armoires, commodes, carved dressing tables surmounted by triple mirrors. There were other rooms with porcelain, jewellery, cutlery, iron fittings, tarnished brass. Finally, Miranda found herself in the book room.

Books were piled everywhere, in boxes, on shelves, in pillars that reached up from the middle of the floor. Although most were in English, Miranda noticed volumes in French, Russian, and Arabic. The room was veiled in dust, but Miranda did not mind. She loved the rich smell of the leather bindings, the tarnished gold embossing, the fragile texture of the old paper.

Rummaging through a box of miscellaneous tomes, she made her find. It was a leather-bound diary, about the size of a modern paperback book. There was a brass lock, crusted with verdigris, but it was broken. The leather strap that had sealed the diary shut now flapped about ineffectually.

The paper was wonderful, thick and ivory-toned. Miranda rifled through the heavy pages, which turned lazily under her fingers. She found no sign that the diary had ever been used.

Miranda wondered about the age of the volume. She held it to her nose, smelled oiled leather but no mildew. The cover was plain, save for a manufacturer’s imprint too small for her to read in the dim shop.

She wanted it, suddenly, knew that she had to have it no matter what the cost. She made her way back to the front of the shop, where the proprietor sat behind his desk.

How much are you asking for this?” she asked, trying to sound offhand.

The little man took the diary and turned it over and over in his hands. “A hundred dollars,” he finally said.

Miranda knew she would pay that, if she had to, but something made her object. “A hundred? That’s outrageous! There’s no text, so it has no historical value.”

The shop owner pursed his lips firmly. “It dates from the eighteen-eighties,” he said. “This is a real antique.”

The lock is broken,” Miranda insisted. “And corroded. I’ll give you fifty dollars.”

The watery blue eyes behind the wire frames looked at her fixedly. She stared back, unfazed. Finally, he shrugged. “All right, fifty dollars. It has been in my collection for years; it is about time that I got rid of it.”

Miranda felt inordinately pleased with herself as she took her prize back to her apartment.

She put the diary on her bedstand and sat down at her desk, determined to work. She felt somehow uncomfortable returning to the text from A Maid’s Tale, so instead she started reviewing and organising her notes on other manuscripts. For several hours, she doggedly tried to make progress, but her thoughts were scattered.

Heathcliff sat on the corner of her desk as he often did when was working, his owl-like eyes unblinking as he watched her shuffle papers and scribble notations. Normally he didn’t distract her, but now she found his curiosity and intensity unsettling.

Restless, she prowled around the apartment. Dusk was falling. Her senses felt stretched, amplified. She could hear a dog bark half a block away, smell the garlic being fried by her Vietnamese neighbours upstairs. She threw open the window to the alley and leaned out, breathing the soft, fragrant spring air. Spring fever, she thought, but she knew this was a fever of another kind.

Finally, she gave in, picked up the card she had found in the raincoat, and dialled the number. She held her breath while the line rang once, twice, three times. She was about to put down the receiver, almost with a sense of relief, when the line was picked up.

It was a recorded message, a melodious, controlled female voice. “Welcome to the Fantasy Factory, where you can build adventures from your dreams. We offer an exciting, safe environment where adults can explore, and fulfil, their fantasies.” Miranda listened, learned that Wednesdays were fetish nights, Fridays for couples only, Saturdays and Sundays open to all. She noted the address, in an industrial area on the fringes of the city, then hung up. She was breathing heavily.

Almost as if she were sleepwalking, she drifted into Lucy’s room, and opened her closet.

Don't forget to leave a comment to be eligible for my prize! And do visit all the other great blogs participating in the hop!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Witchy Woman said...

Hi Lisabet,

The plot on Incognito is awesome. Can't wait to see the heroine's reaction when she discovers the professor is also the "other" guy. Not to mention, the title choice is spot on.
O.k., in response to your Q:
I love...autumn and everything about it, but mostly I love PUMPKINS! (LOL) To decorate, for making pies. Then there's Halloween, which I "always" dress-up for and the slight temp. change.
Regardless of the reason(s), it's my favorite time of the year. Yep, even beats out winter in my book.

Email: witchywoman064(AT)yahoo(DOT)com

joe hawk said...

I like summer here in Michigan the spring is nasty here it rains to much.

petula said...

I'm a summer girl, that's Why I left England to come and Live in the sun in Spain. The book looks good. Thanks for the chance to win.

petula said...

I'm not being greedy trying for more than one entry. I forgot to include my email last time.

Anonymous said...

I like fall, because the weather cools down and the colors change.

Trix, vitajex(at)Aol(Dot)com

Felicity Nichols said...

I love fall because of the weather change and I love Halloween!


Elise-Maria Barton said...

Summer is my season because I'm at total beach bum. I live on the Gulf coast and try to make it to the beach a couple of times a week no matter the weather, but in the summer I'm a fixture!

ilookfamous at yahoo dot com

Colleen C. said...

I am an Autumn girl... love the cooler temps, the change of colors, Halloween, etc.! :)
greenshamrock at cox dot net

nora snowdon said...

I love the start of summer when flowers are in bloom, it's not too hot, and winter seems like years away. great excerpt!

ShirleyAnn said...

I was born in October so it's Autumn for me I love the crispy, cold and sunny mornings with the beautiful colours of the leaves.

J Bur said...

Enjoyed the post & excerpt. Thanks for the giveaway.

Heather said...

My favorite season by far is fall. I love the cooler crisp weather, the changing leaves, and the sound of leaves crunching under my feet!

Terri said...

I love spring, but I think my favorite season would have to be fall. It gets so hot and miserable here, I get excited about the cooler temps. Also, I love when the leaves change colors.
Thanks for being part of the blog hop!

Anonymous said...

I'd rather have summer right now instead of mucky wet dirt in the yard from the snow that's still there.

bn100 said...

like Spring for the flowers

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Judy said...

I guess I would by an Autumn and Spring person!! I like the cooler temperatures, but I love all the blooming trees and flowers in the spring.

Judy- magnolias_1 at msn dot com

helene said...

omg lisabet I gotta ask just a question if I should win one of the big prizes can I trade it for smaller one say the print books or maybe even pay it forward you know how I love the feel of those pages turning lol

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Helene,

Unfortunately, the print books are my prize and the grand prizes are being managed by the hop organizer. However, I give away a lot of print hang in there!

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, everyone! Just dropping in to say thank you for your comments. Keep 'em coming, okay?

magic5905 said...

My favorite is winter. Thanks.
magic5905 at embarqmail dot com

Brandi said...

My favorite season is spring because the weather is just right & I can go outside & walk by the water & read a book out on the porch! =) I loved reading your excerpt! I'm from Massachusetts, so it's nice to read books that have to do with the area because I can picture them more clearly since i'm familiar with it all. =)

Thank you for having this giveaway! I hope you have a great weekend! =)

BLeigh1130 at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

I think it's easier to tell you that from least favorite season is Winter. I love Spring because everything is slowly waking up and renewing itself. I love Summer because nature is at its zenith with its vibrant colors and the animal kingdom at its peak. I love Fall because the colors are now burnished with darker hues as nature once again becomes dormant. Thank you for being a part of the Hop.

Corinne Alexander said...

My favorite season is Fall with October being my favorite month. Spring is great because it gives hope as the earth awakens from it's long winters sleep. Fall will always have a special place in my heart because of the colors, the food, bonfires, and hikes.

tammy ramey said...

Hi Lisabet,
thank you for the chance at such a great contest, i love these hops their lots of fun. :)
My favorite season is Autumn. i love all of the different colors and it isn't to hot or cold during the day but the nights are still pleasantly crisp. then you get several holidays during that time too, Halloween with all of it's adorable littles ones in costume, thanksgiving with family and others that may be centered around your beliefs. pumpkin pies, trees changing color, crisp winds, costumed kiddies, what's not to like? LOL!

tammy ramey

Natasha said...

Fall is my favorite season.
I love the weather, how beautiful it is at that time and Halloween!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Book Attict said...

I live in Florida, where there really aren't seasons----just Hella Hot and a little cooler/rainier Hella Hot.

Thanks for the amazing excerpt & giveaway!
elizabeth @ bookattict . com

Eva Millien said...

Autumn and Spring! Thanks for sharing the hop and giveaway. evamillien at gmail dot com

Skeeter Lee said...

My favorite is Spring. The weather is lovely, birds are chirping, and the trees have leaves. If only it didn't have the pollen...

Thanks for hosting the giveaway. Fingers crossed to win.

skeeterlee63 [at]

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi everyone!

Here I am, late as usual, picking my winner. gave me the number 1, which means my winner is Witchy Woman. Congratulations! And thanks to everyone who left comments and who participated in the hop. (Congratulations to Eva, who won one of the grand prizes!)

Oh, and my favorite season, in New England at least, is autumn, hands down. Luminous. Magic. Takes your breath away. (When the weather cooperates...!)

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