Message From The Author
by Laurie Davie
I read Susan Carrolls St. Leger series backward, starting with the marvelous final installment, MIDNIGHT BRIDE, thenutterly compelledwent on to The Night Drifter (Lance St. Legers story) and The Bride Finder (about Anatole, Lances father). I was initially afraid that might give me an odd impression of the series, but shouldnt have worriedthe unique fictional world that Carroll creates embraces oddity, wonder, enchantment, in all its forms. Its a world filled with a sort of cheerful, practical magic, completely believable, where supernatural powers are used to ease the pain of childbirth, among other things, and ghosts casually converse with young girls.
MIDNIGHT BRIDE tells the story of Valentine St. Leger, Lances twin, who possesses the gift of healinghe is able to take the pain of others into his own body. His own pain, however, is not so easily cured, especially the sorrow that comes from being told by the family Bride Finder that he is doomed to a solitary life; there will never be a bride meant for him. However, this is just fine with Katethe foundling child first seen in The Night Drifter, a little terror who scorns dolls to play at swords with Lance, rejects frilly dresses to tear around in breeches, and has a major crush on Val. Kate is now a lovely young woman, but shes still a spitfireand she still loves Val with all the power and passion of her soul. Shes determined they will be together, regardless of the Bride Finders edicts or the terrible curse that may befall any St. Leger who disobeys them. To this end, she steals one of the wizard Prosperos magic books and casts a love spellwith unexpected results!
How does Susan Carroll make this world so real? I believe that a person is greatly influenced by what they read when theyre young, she says. Even as a young girl, I had a great fascination for books dealing with psychic phenomenon and the supernatural. Like her heroine Rosalind in The Night Drifter, as a girl Carroll devoured fairy stories, myths and ghost stories along with tales of King Arthur and Robin Hood.
She also absolutely adores the Harry Potter books, and has read all four of themtwice! As with her own novels, the Harry Potter series works, in part, because of its straightforward yet vivid approach to magic. J.K. Rowling has blended in a healthy dose of reality with the magic, Carroll points out. In spite of the fact he is studying to be a wizard, Harry Potter is still a real boy with the kind of emotions, wishes, and needs that other children can relate to. I think this is what the best paranormal books do, blend reality with the supernatural, and this is what I try to do in my own books, create believable characters that my readers can identify with and set them in extraordinary circumstances.
MIDNIGHT BRIDE may actually be the best book of this wonderful trilogy, in part because of Kate, its bold, rebellious heroine. Much of Susans inspiration for this wild child came from her daughter, Serena. My heroines flashes of fiery temper, her intelligence, her gruff exterior that conceals a very vulnerable heart were all borrowed from Serena, she reveals. Also like Kate, when she was a little girl, Serena had no patience for hair ribbons or dolls, much preferring to go play soldier with her brother!
And indeed, MIDNIGHT BRIDE is dedicated to Serena as well as to Susans dear friend, fellow author Kimberly Cates. Kim is the person whos had the greatest influence on her work, Susan says. We are critique partners and the excellence of her writing both inspires and spurs me on to improve my own. She has been my closest friend and staunch supporter through the toughest times of my life, both professional and personal.
Susans other inspiration for the St. Legers is the mystical land of Cornwallaccording to legend, the home of King Arthurs Round Table and the wizard Merlin. Though her last visit was nearly 20 years ago, Susan still remembers it well: On a bleak September day, I walked the coast line
at Lands End, watching the waves breaking against the rocks, the only sign of habitation a single cottage nestled on the rugged landscape behind me. The loneliness, the wild beauty of the place made a lasting impression on my mind. Susan is also a great fan of Daphne du Maurier, most of whose classic romantic suspense novels are set in Cornwall, where she herself lived. Du Maurier also wrote two non-fiction booksVanishing Cornwall
and Enchanted Cornwalldescribing this area, which Susan has used in her research.
Du Mauriers dark, brooding heroes certainly seem to have influenced MIDNIGHT BRIDEs other main character, Rafe Mortmain, who comes back to Cornwall for vengeance, but finds something very differenta new life. The St. Legers have been feuding with the Mortmains for centuries; the last we saw Rafe, in The Night Drifter, he had stolen a piece of the ancient St. Leger swords crystal and sailed out to sea. Now, close to death, hes come back, but when he encounters his mortal enemy, Val St. Leger, he is shocked at what he receivesVals compassion and healing power. As Val tries to ease Rafes mortal pain, an odd soul trading happens, and suddenly , not only does Val possess some of Rafes wickedness, his bitterness and anger, but Rafe in turn receives a measure of Vals kindness and sympathy for othersmuch to his consternation. Though both men are initially confused and disturbed by their new-found urges, each gains more than they lose by understanding each other.
Susan agrees, For all that they appear to be so different, Val and Rafe share a common problem. Because of family heritage and expectations, both of them have become locked into roles that are stifling them, Val as the saintly doctor and Rafe as the villainous Mortmain. The transference caused by the crystal brings both men to a better understanding of each other, themselves, and their ability to grow and change. In a way, their exchange seems symbolic of what happens in all important relationshipsthe give and take of trust and understanding, the necessity of compromise and change.
It turns out Susans had a soft spot for Rafe all along; she admits, I often find the villain in stories complex and intriguing, sometimes even overshadowing the hero, and cites Georgette Heyers The Black Moth as a book with a particularly attractive villain. I dont believe in writing pure heroes or completely dark villains, Susan comments. One of my favorite themes is a man overcoming his character flaws and painful past to emerge a better person, and this is what I tried to do with Rafeand even in his darkest moments, he displayed sparks of decency in his courage and the depth of his friendship for Lance St. Leger, she finishes, sounding slightly defensive. And who can blame her? Rafe becomes a deliciously dark hero, and his story is just as fascinating as Valsreaders will find themselves hungry for more of his adventures.
Whats up next in the mysterious, enchanting world of Susan Carroll? Well, though she has an idea for another St. Leger storythis one concerning an ancestor of the original family, in a modern-day setting!she wont be starting on it immediately. I need to take a break from writing about the St. Legers so that I can come back to that series refreshed, she explains.
Her new trilogy, though, sounds like it has all the magic and wonderment weve come to expect from a Carroll book. This historical series presents a new legend about a group of women known as the Daughters of the Earth, initially revered for their wisdom and knowledge of white magic. However, Susan goes on, As time passed, they were slowly denied more of their rights to govern and to learn Some of these women became embittered and took their vengeance by learning to employ the darker arts. But a brave few persevered, passing on the secrets of white magic from mother and daughter for generationsa dangerous proposition, for the Daughters of the Earth were no longer revered as wise women. They came to be known by a far more sinister termwitches.
THE BETROTHAL RING is the working title of the first of this next trilogy, which chronicles the romances of three sisters who have inherited the legacy of white magic from their mother. Ariane Cheney, the oldest of the sisters, is by far the most wise and prudent, skilled in the arts of healing and the ability to read minds, Susan continues. The middle sister, Gabrielle, is unusually worldly-wise and sophisticated, but her cynicism conceals a wounded heart. She has lost both her innocence and her ability to do magic. Miribelle, the youngest, is what one would call fey. She is far more attuned to the world of nature than she is to the world of men. The setting for this exciting new trilogy is one of historys most exciting periods, England and France during the Renaissance, a time of great art, literature, and learning, but also the era of the Inquisition and witch-hunters. And in Susan Carrolls hands, its another magical world her fans will be clamoring to enter!
Fans can write to Susan in care of Ballantine Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.
Excerpt from MIDNIGHT BRIDE
With trembling fingers, Kate delved beneath her cloak and produced the purloined spell book; half dreading that at any moment Prospero would rise before her in a dark cloud of smoke, wrathfully snatching back his stolen treasure The cunning Prospero had chosen to write out his spells in the ancient alphabet of Egypt, hieroglyphics. Kate had Val to thank that she was able to decipher them at all.
She remembered all those long ago rainy afternoons, curled up beside Val near the library fire while he had shared with her his latest course of study. He had peered quizzically at her over the ponderous tome that detailed the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, the tablet that had finally unlocked for scholars the mystery of Egyptian writing.
I am sorry, my dear, he had said. I oft times get carried away in my enthusiasms. This must all be incredibly boring to you.
Oh, no, she had cried. How could she possibly make Val understand that although she had spent her youth in the vast city of London, it was not until she had met him that she had realized how narrow those streets were? That it had been his patient teaching and love of books that had opened her eyes to far off times and places, entire worlds she had never dreamed existed.
I like learning about the pyramids, and the pharaohs Tis like learning a special language only you and I understand. As though you trust me enough to share a great secret with me.
I would trust you enough for anything, my Kate.
How his words had warmed her, she who had been reviled as a thief and a liar from her earliest years, she who had never been valued or trusted by anyone.
Aye, Val trusts you. To be his true and honorable friend. To respect his family and their customs. To never do anything that might bring him harm.
Kate flinched from the sudden sharp prick of her own conscience.
But Im not trying to hurt him, she murmured. What she was about to do was not so very terrible. No different from the other village lasses who sought to work their love charms upon the young men they desired.
What a dreadful liar you are, Kate Fitzleger, she told herself. It was very different and she knew it. If something should go wrong
Kate glanced at the dancing flames and for one awful moment fancied she saw Prosperos exotic slanted eyes glaring back at her, heard the fearsome whisper of the great wizards voice.
It is always dangerous to use magic to trifle with the human heart.
Kate gave a frightened squeak and leaped back.
If she didnt find the courage to go through with this tonight, she would never feel his arms around her again. Tightening her grip on the book, Kate resumed her place before the standing stone like a priestess taking up her position at the alter.
A low rumble sounded through the night as though the sky itself had cracked open to issue her a warning. Kate turned her frightened gaze heavenward, seeing a flash of light on the far horizon
Oh, Val, she whispered. Please forgive me for this. But youve left me no other choice.
Steeling herself, Kate opened the book.
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