Message From The Author

Author's Message

From among the 40 paintings covering the walls of the portrait gallery at Sandal Hall in London, one in particular always catches the viewers eye. Two handsome young men, one 18, the other 15, stare out from the gilt frame. Their physical similarities leave no question that they are brothers, but while one of them gazes intently, almost challengingly, the other, younger, sitter smiles with easy grace. Those who know the Foscari brothers see in that portrait of them a true record of their
personalities: Ian, the elder, intense and curious; and Crispin, the younger, smooth, careless, and charming.

As THE WATER NYMPH opens 17 years after that portrait was painted, Ian Foscari has mellowed (owing in large part to the ministrations of his wife Bianca), but Crispin Foscari, Earl of Sandal, has lost nothing of his charm or his levityat least externally. For beneath the careless image he cultivates lives the Phoenix, one of Queen Elizabeths most secret and most trusted operatives, a man who has learned to overmaster his emotions and his impulses, to subordinate all desires to his duty. Or thought he had, before he met the completely irritatingand completely intoxicatingSophie Champion.

Set in the London of Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I, this sequel to The Stargazer follows Crispin and Sophie on a dangerous adventure that takes them from the citys most luxurious palaces to its dingiest prison cells. As their trail grows hot, they soon learn that not even friends can be trusted and that love can be far more dangerous than hate.

Writing Crispin and Sophies story was a delicious experience. I never wanted my time with them to end. I can only hope you find their company as sweet as I did.

Write to Michele c/o Pocket Books 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

Excerpt from THE WATER NYMPH

Crispin rode home slowly, in no great hurry to greet The Aunts. The last thing he needed, with all that had occurred since his return to London, were The Aunts, his fathers sisters, taking up residence at Sandal House. He knew they had names, the names had been drilled into him relentlessly by his father, but to him they would always be, simply,
The Aunts. It was enough.

Crispin and his brother Ian were convinced as children that The Aunts ate broken glass instead of food, and routinely sacrificed small animals in the demonic rituals that gave them their strength. During Crispins lifetime, The Aunts had between them run through twelve husbands, mainly by comparing them incessantly and unfavorably with their beloved younger brother Hugo, Crispins father. Since the death of the dozenth Lord, The Aunts had undertaken the authorship of A Compendium of Proper Behavior Every Man and Woman Ought to Know for the Improvement of Social Converse and the Strengthening of the English Nation. It was, of course, dedicated to the memory of Hugo, the ideal picture of English manhood, decorum, and civility and they had been kind enough to send excerpts of it to Hugos heirs every year at Christiantide so they might measure themselves against their father and better feel their inferiorityCrispin would more willingly face the most sophisticated and best-trained imperial army than The Aunts.

And, indeed, he had. As well as cunning ministers, hired assassins, deadly courtesans, suicidal zealots, traitorous courtiers, two firing squads, and a host of strange beasts that had been variously introduced into his chambers to destroy him. The secret commission from Queen Elizabeth that Crispin accepted two years earlier had allowed him
to prove to himself, if not to The Aunts, that he was at least the man his father Hugo had been. During his service as the Phoenix, Crispin had stemmed three invasions of England, disrupted five attempts to assassinate the Queen, prevented sixteen heavily laden English ships from being captured, and saved the exchequer well over eight hundred thousand pounds. But now he had been abruptly recalled from his duties, recalled to London, to infamy. And possibly to death.

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