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Archive for January 2011

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Top Fifty Favorite Romance Novel Themes

THE HOUSE ON BLACK LAKE HAS BEEN ADAPTED TO SCREENPLAY. GO TO HOME PAGE TO VIEW PROVOCATIVE CINEMATIC TRAILER

In my travels promoting my novel, I have asked women what themes they most desire to read about in books.  Asterisks are placed next to topics touched upon in The House on Black Lake, The list is in no particular order, latest topic first.

l. A broken heart.*

2. Man uses woman for revenge, kidnapped, seduced, etc.*

3. Good sex scenes, either explicit or implicit.*

4. Heroine nearly dies, hero is terrified, realizes how much he loves her. Even better, is when hero is directly, or indirectly responsible for putting heroine in jeopardy.*

5. Second chance ex-spouses.

6. Cheating hero.* This one is very popular. But, some want him to realize he loves his wife and family and wants them back.

7. Less than perfect heroes/heroines – scarred or disabled.

8. Rugged cowboy-types.*

9. Hero helps deliver his baby.

10. Heroine saves or rescues hero from harm.

11. Bad Boys.*

12. Pent up sexual frustration – repression.*

13. Great grovel scenes – where rugged hero breaks down.* This is very popular!

14. Hero disappears and reappears years later.

15. Steamy AND emotional scenes between lovers.”*

16. Romance – candlelit dinners, walks in the park. Etc.*

17. Obsessed or deeply in lust.*

18. Villain in love with heroine.*

19. Dominant, alpha males.*

20. Romance and thriller.*

21. Widowed hero grieving over first wife.

22. Vampire and paranormal love.

23. Vikings!.

24. Smutty historical romance.

25. H/H in historical garb.

26. Men with long (preferably dark) flowing hair*.

27. Alpha female who isn’t borderline abusive*

28. Hero bribes heroine to be with him.

29. Heroine playing hard to get.*

30. Drunken sex.*

31. Bad boy falls for nice girl.*

32 Virginal or repressed heroine who falls apart at the touch of the RIGHT man.*

33. Forced mate scenario in paranormal.

34. Jealous bad boy.*

35. Ménage romance.*

36.Incest.*

37. Two men competing for woman.*

38. Forced sex where h/h have strong connection.*

39. Sheik books and big hunky H’s and the feisty heroine.

40. Bad boy who bosses H around until they fall in love.*

41. Spanking/forced sex scenes.*

42. Love triangles.*

43. Bisexual love.*

44. Older women/younger men.*

45. Rugged/outdoorsy men.*

46. Heroine enjoys sex.*

47. Haunted places/ghosts.*

48. Tattoos, piercings, branding, etc.*

49. Beauty and the beast themes.*

50. Time travel – men in kilts, on island, or anywhere ancient.*

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Book Clubs - Romance Novel Discussions

THE HOUSE ON BLACK LAKE HAS BEEN ADAPTED TO SCREENPLAY. GO TO HOME PAGE TO VIEW PROVOCATIVE CINEMATIC TRAILER

 In the process of promoting my novel, I have spoken with many romance enthusiests and spent time researching forums devoted to the romance genre.  I have compled a list of the fifty most popular themes. Asterisks are placed next to topics touched upon in The House on Black Lake.

Book Clubs may want to use  list as  beginning of discussion, or have members write their own and create an extended list that can be forwarded along to community sites. Knowledgable readers may add title examples for each topic to create a resource for individuals to find books that appeal to them.  It is also helpful to the writers of romance novels to be aware of what their readers desire to experience. This is especially true if topics considered taboo are broached. Reading offers a great opportunity to release fear and repressed desires, and explore various aspects of ourselves and our life journey through the experiences of others.

 A number of the themes listed below, such as alpha males, dominant males, cheaters, and forced love are dealt with in my other blogs, including reading examples. I plan to add lists, and will soon make site open to readers suggessions, so please return for more information as it is gathered.

The list of popular themes in in no particular order.

l. A broken heart. The greatest reading choice for this seems to be "Stormfire.*

2. Man uses woman for revenge, kidnapped, seduced, etc. "Stormfire" again, this must be a great read.*

3. Good sex scenes, either explicit or implicit.*

4. Heroine nearly dies, hero is terrified, realizes how much he loves her. Even better, is when hero is directly, or indirectly responsible for putting heroine in jeopardy...*

5. Second chance ex-spouses.

6. Cheating hero.* This one is very popular. But, some want him to realize he loves his wife and family and wants them back.

7. Less than perfect heroes/heroines – scarred or disabled.

8. Rugged cowboy-types.*

9. Hero helps deliver his baby.

10. Heroine saves or rescues hero from harm.

11. Bad Boys.*

12. Pent up sexual frustration – repression.*

13. Great grovel scenes – where rugged hero breaks down.* This is very popular, and an ideal topic for discussion.

14. Hero disappears and reappears years later.

15. Steamy AND emotional scenes between lovers.”*

16. Romance – candlelit dinners, walks in the park. Etc.*

17. Obsessed or deeply in lust.*

18. Villain in love with heroine.*

19. Dominant, alpha males.*

20. Romance and thriller.*

21. Widowed hero grieving over first wife.

22. Vampire and paranormal love.

23. Vikings!.

24. Smutty historical romance.

25. H/H in historical garb.

26. Men with long (preferably dark) flowing hair*.

27. Alpha female who isn’t borderline abusive*

28. Hero bribes heroine to be with him.

29. Heroine playing hard to get.*

30. Drunken sex.*

31. Bad boy falls for nice girl.*

32 Virginal or repressed heroine who falls apart at the touch of the RIGHT man.*

33. Forced mate scenario in paranormal.

34. Jealous bad boy.*

35. Ménage romance.*

36. Incest.*

37. Two men competing for woman.*

38. Forced sex where h/h have strong connection.*

39. Sheik books and big hunky H’s and the feisty heroine.

40. Bad boy who bosses H around until they fall in love.*

41. Spanking/forced sex scenes.*

42. Love triangles.*

43. Bisexual love.*

44. Older women/younger men.*

45. Rugged/outdoorsy men.*

46. Heroine enjoys sex.*

47. Haunted places/ghosts.*

48. Tattoos, piercings, branding, etc.*

49. Beauty and the beast themes.*

50. Time travel – men in kilts, on island, or anywhere ancient.*

Well, that’s a beginning. The list says a lot about what women really want, and discussing these topics is a great exercise in female empowerment.

When Alexandra Brighton enters Black Lake she only knows what she has been taught by contemporary society. The lessons she learns in the underground teach her about her deeper desires and instincts. Some of the topics are a bit disturbing, but I believe all women desire to reconnect with baser animal instincts and enjoy the powerful union between the sexes.

Most of us love a good vampire tale.

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Rebecca - A Classic Gothic Romance

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. . .” is the most quoted opening line from Daphne du Maurier classic gothic romance, “Rebecca”.  The novel, which was written during her husband’s tenure in Alexandria, Egypt and published in 1938 in the UK, is one of the most well known examples of gothic romance.

“While working as the companion to a rich American woman vacationing on the French Riviera she becomes acquainted with a wealthy Englishman, Maximilian (Maxim) de Winter. After a fortnight of courtship, she agrees to marry him, and after the marriage accompanies him to his mansion, the beautiful West Country estate Manderley.

Only upon their arrival at Manderley does the new bride realize how difficult it will be to lay to rest the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca. Rebecca is understood to have drowned in a sailing accident off the coast next to the mansion a year before, but her memory has a strong hold on the estate and all of its inhabitants and visitors, especially the domineering housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, one of literature's most infamous female villains.

Mrs. Danvers, who was profoundly devoted to Rebecca, tries to undermine the second Mrs. de Winter, suggesting to her that she will never attain the urbanity and charm that Rebecca possessed. Whenever the new Mrs. de Winter attempts to make changes at Manderley, Mrs. Danvers describes how Rebecca ran Manderley when she was alive. Each time Mrs. Danvers does this, she implies that the new Mrs. de Winter lacks the experience and knowledge necessary for running an important estate such as Manderley. The second Mrs. de Winter is cowed by Mrs. Danvers' imposing manner and complies with the housekeeper's suggestions.

Lacking self-confidence and overwhelmed by her new life, the protagonist commits one faux pas after another, until she is convinced that Maxim regrets his impetuous decision to marry her and is still deeply in love with the seemingly perfect Rebecca. The climax occurs at Manderley's annual costume ball. Mrs. Danvers manipulates the protagonist into wearing a replica of the dress shown in a portrait of one of the former inhabitants of the estate—the same costume worn by Rebecca to much acclaim the previous year, shortly before her death.

In the early morning hours after the ball, the storm that had been building over the estate leads to a shipwreck. A diver investigating the condition of the wrecked ship's hull discovers the remains of Rebecca's boat. It is just prior to this shipwreck that Mrs. Danvers reveals her contempt for and dislike of the second Mrs. de Winter. Taking the second Mrs. de Winter on a tour of Rebecca's bedroom, her wardrobe and luxurious possessions, which Mrs. Danvers has kept intact as a shrine to Rebecca, she encourages the second Mrs. de Winter to commit suicide by jumping out of an upstairs window, but is thwarted at the last moment by the disturbance created by the shipwreck.

The revelations from the shipwreck lead Maxim to confess the truth to the second Mrs. de Winter; how his marriage to Rebecca was nothing but a sham; how from the very first days of their marriage, the husband and wife loathed each other. Rebecca, Maxim reveals, was a cruel and selfish woman who manipulated everyone around her into believing her to be the perfect wife and a paragon of virtue. She repeatedly taunted Maxim with sordid tales of her numerous love affairs and suggested that she was pregnant with another man's child, which she would raise under the pretence that it was Maxim's and he would be powerless to stop her. Maxim, truly hating her, shot Rebecca and disposed of her body on her boat, which he then sank at sea. The narrator is relieved to hear that Maxim had never loved Rebecca, but really loves his new wife.

Rebecca's boat is raised and it is discovered that holes had been deliberately drilled in the bottom and the sea-cocks were opened, which would have caused it to sink. There is an inquest and despite it not being clear who drilled the holes, a verdict of suicide is brought. However, Rebecca's first cousin (and also her lover) Jack Favell appears on the scene claiming to have proof that Rebecca could not have intended suicide. Favell attempts to blackmail Maxim because he believes that Maxim killed Rebecca and then sank the boat.

Rebecca, it is revealed, had an appointment with a Doctor Baker shortly before her death, presumably to confirm her pregnancy. When the doctor is found he reveals Rebecca had been suffering from cancer and would have died within a few months; furthermore, due to the malformation of her uterus, she could never have been pregnant. The implication is that knowing she was going to die, Rebecca lied to Maxim that she had been impregnated by another man because she wanted Maxim to kill her. Maxim feels a great sense of foreboding and insists on driving through the night to return to Manderley. However, before he comes in sight of the house, it is clear from a glow on the horizon and wind-borne ashes that it is ablaze.

It is evident at the beginning of the novel that Maxim and the second Mrs. de Winter now live in some foreign exile. The events recounted in the book are in essence a flashback of the narrator's life at Manderley.”

The novel did not receive critical acclaim when it was published, although the novel was very popular. It continues to this day to be a pristine example of the gothic romance genre which include supernatural forces, a woman trapped, repressed sexuality, powerfully erotic undertones, and a charismatic male with unclear intentions. Most notable in “Rebecca” is the figure of Mrs. Danvers, a female antagonist obsessed with the diseased Rebecca, who incorporates a homoerotic thread that seeks to break the bond of male and female. The book was translated into a stage play by du Maurier and subsequently adapted to film and television. The story is a classic tale that in its essence explores the unequal power of a man and woman.

Plot summary from Wikipedia

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Sarah Palin's Parlor

One can only imagine the entrance to Sarah Palin's Parlor. Likely it is homey, filled with the smell of freshly cook jam, and the stuffed and mounted relics of her gamesmanship - perhaps like the picture featured below.

The photograph was taken in the parlor of the Chateau Tivoli in San Francisco while shooting film trailer for scene in “The House on Black Lake”.  In novel protagonist Alexandra Brighton is ushered into the stately summer home of Ruth and Ramey Sandeley and is aghast to see the lineup of exotic animal head trophies and artifacts decorating the elegant room. Ruth tells Alexandra that her husband believes when you look into a powerful animal’s eyes and take its life you are bound forever. Of course, this is not a good omen for Alexandra.

 Most hunters keep a souvenir of victims when they kill for sport, and not for survival. Yet, rarely do women lust for blood. “A woman gives life, and God, the father, takes it”, Ramey informs Alexandra. In the course of her journey she is betrayed by women with a thirst for second hand power and ultimately led into a patriarchal trap. Sarah Palin's hunting partner is not her mother, sister, or girl friend - it is her father. In her videotaped journey she finds a pioneer soul sister squatting in the depths of the Antarctic, who sews her own  flesh wounds and professes to love blood and guts in the manner in which other woman covet jewels. She is not a not bold feminist in a frontier land, but rather a conservative leader in a modern world. She does not shoot for sustenance, but rather for the glory of the kill, and the camera that records the killings seeps a taste of the barbaric into mainstream experience. A female who gives and takes life for sport is clearly an anomaly, in all of nature. Dominance cannot succeed without its hand maidens, and there are rewards for those who are willing to play the game. What the protagonist in the story does not realize is that she is the trophy. In the course mankind's recorded history the display of a sacrificed victim has always been a symbol of power and domination.

 Perhaps it is time for Sarah to clean her parlor of the relics of domination and fill it with trophies of empowerment. When she puts down the rifle and embraces mother earth, all creatures will feel more secure. A female role model that embodies the unique powers of the feminine, while igniting the loftier attributes of the male, carries the hope of a remarkable new world order.

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Movies Featured At Sundance Film Festival 2011

Following are the 200 indie movies chosen by The Sundance Festival to be shown January 20-30. Most are sold out for the entirety of the run, but tickets can be found if you show up at box office before 8:00 on the day of the show, or get a wait list number of an individual film two hours before showing. Except for the most popular movies, or ones in smaller venues, it is usually possible to get into movies. There are also very interesting discussion panels, and some of the most memorable experiences I have had have been in restaurants, bars and on the street. Robert Redford usually shows up at his restaurant, Zoom, in Park city and is very open to discussing his passions with patrons.  Hope to see you there!!

http://sundance.slated.com/2011/buzz

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Sundance Film Festival 2011

I plan to attend The Sundance Film festival this year to support indie film makers and meet with industry professionals. The festival is held every year in Park City Utah. This year the festival is scheduled for January 20-31. Last year  two film maker friends had their movies shown and were recipients of awards that furthered international exposure. Not only are there great films, informative seminars, and an abundance of actors, producers, directors on hand, but there is also incredible scenery and great skiing.

More about the festival at www.sundancefilmfestival.org.

From Sundance Website:

HISTORY

In 1981, Robert Redford gathered a group of his friends and colleagues in the mountains of Utah to create an environment designed to foster independence, discovery, and new voices in American film. That spring, ten emerging filmmakers were invited to the first Sundance Institute Filmmakers/Directors Lab where they worked with leading writers and directors to develop their original independent film projects. In the remote natural setting and removed from the pressures of the marketplace, each emerging artist was encouraged to take creative risks and to craft a film true to their own, unique vision. In 1984, the Institute's activities expanded to include development programs for theatre when the Utah Playwrights Conference became the Sundance Playwrights Lab.

Since those first Labs, the Institute has grown into an internationally recognized resource for thousands of independent film, theatre, and music artists. The programs of Sundance Institute include the annual Sundance Film Festival, held in and around Park City, Utah, each January. Widely considered the premier platform for American and international independent film, the Festival has introduced audiences to some of the most original stories of the last three decades including Reservoir Dogs, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, American Splendor, An Inconvenient Truth, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Cove.

Through year-round support and a series of Labs and Fellowships for screenwriters, directors, and producers, the Institute's Feature Film Program has supported more than 300 feature films, including Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's HOWL, Cherien Dabis' Amreeka, Cary Joji Fukunaga's Sin Nombre, Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know, and Walter Salles's Central Station. Documentaries ranging from Tia Lessin and Carl Deal's Trouble the Water to Laura Poitras' The Oath to Ross Kaufman and Zana Briski's Born into Brothels are among the 500 films that have been supported by the Documentary Film Program, which offers grants from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund along with a series of Labs in editing and storytelling.

With a series of Labs and retreats that provide a creative environment in which to develop new work with dramaturgs and full casts, the Theatre Program has supported the development of more than 200 plays, including Taylor Mac's The Lily's Revenge, Tracey Scott Wilson's The Good Negro, Stew and Heidi Rodewald's Passing Strange, and Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik's Spring Awakening. The Native American and Indigenous Program hosts screenings, panels, events, and workshops throughout the year designed to foster community and the exchange of ideas among Native American and Indigenous filmmakers. Connecting filmmakers with musicians, the Film Music Program's Composers Lab allows accomplished musicians to explore composing for film while introducing filmmakers to the importance of music in film. The Creative Producing Initiative encompasses a year-round series of Labs, Fellowships, and events focusing on nurturing the next generation of independent producers. Our work in the arena of Short Films recognizes the importance of this groundbreaking form in the world of cinema and has long been established as a place to discover talented directors.

Sundance Institute also continues to support film and theatre artists beyond their participation in our Artist Programs through a commitment to building audiences for their work. In order to create a record of cultural history, the Sundance Institute Archives preserves the organization's history and documents the creative processes of the artists we support. The Sundance Institute Collection at UCLA provides a ground-breaking educational archive devoted to the collection and preservation of independent cinema. The Alumni Initiative cultivates connections with our alumni to foster a continued relationship between the Institute and the artists who have developed or shown work through the Institute's programs. The Art House Project is a collaboration with art house cinemas in cities around the country to create specialized screening programs of Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival-supported films for local audiences and our Community Programs are a series of Utah-based activities that offer many free and open to the public events for more than 25,000 Utah residents each year.

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A Miracle at St. Joseph's Oratory on Mt. Royal

The prelude to "The House on Black Lake" describes a woman's experience of having her face paralyzed after the birth of her first child. The paralysis comes nine month's to the day since she laid eyes on a charismatic man that turned her "perfect world" upside down. After living nearly a year as a recluse and viewing herself as a freak, she makes a pilgrimage from the U.S. to St. Joseph's Oratory where the faithful are said to be healed. Coincidentally, the man resides in Montreal, nearby the sacred spot, although he is more akin to heathen than saint. She kneels at St. Andre's alter and makes a vow ,"beauty for truth" - an unmarked face for a pledge to seek her manifest destiny. Unfortunately, that means she must give up everything she has been taught to believe. Soon, her life is in shambles and she begins to sorely regret the pact she made in the sacred church.  In order to find resolution she travels to Montreal to confront the man so that she can regain some measure of closure and peace.

I personally experienced a similar miracle, a divine intervention, at the Oratory and believe it holds special powers, but one must always be prepared to pay a price for a miracle, as nothing is given back without a debt to be paid. In some ways "The House on Black Lake" is my repayment, as it is a story of transformation and redemption.

A visit to the sacred place is a powerful experience, both for those who walk away healed, and those who seek a spiritual experience. Rarely does one see a wall filled with the canes and crutches of those who have walked away healed. More can be learned about St. Andre and details regarding visitations can be found at:

http://www.saint-joseph.org/en_1001_index.php

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Power Exchange

A perfect  example of power play between a man and a woman can be found in "The House on Black Lake".  In chapter twenty-two, titled "The Beast In The Cage", Alexandra Brighton and Ramey Sandeley engage in a fierce power enchange that leaves each altered and prepared to take their relationship to the next level.

Following is complete chapter:

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

The Beast in the Cage

 

I watch a myriad of my reflections in the eyes of the exotic stuffed animals, as I move through the entryway.

          “Where have you been, Alexandra?”

            He moves up behind me, baring touching.

          “What are doing up so late, Ramey?”

          “I might ask you the same question. St. Agathe closes up tight by ten o’clock, unless you’ve been invited to a private party.” 

          “I was invited to a private party.”

          “Was it good?”

          “Beyond words.”

          Ramey digs his fingers into my arm and swings me around to face him. He looks dreadful, with hair sticking up in tufts, the corners of his lips caked with dried blood, and his T-shirt stained with perspiration. What is more alarming are the gray hairs mingling in the growth of stubble on his chin - the first sign of anything that has staked a claim on his perfection. A wave of repulsion rides up my spine and spikes a fit of nausea, disgust unfathomable in my former carnation. The God has fallen from his pedestal. This grim satyr looks and smells like nothing more than a filthy drunk.

          “I need to talk to you; come back to my room.”

          “Take your hands off me. Enough is enough! I don’t welcome the sexual advances of my friend’s husband, or anyone else’s for that matter.”

          “You sure rode in on a high horse.”

           “I’ve paid a high price for my freedom, unlike you. I have no respect for men who seek the safety of the cage and the thrill of the wild, but don’t have the courage to commit to either.”

          “Don’t lecture me, dear.”

          “Fuck you, Ramey.”

          “I don’t take seconds.”

          “Is that so?”

          “What’s that supposed to mean?

          “Where’s Ruth?”

          “She stayed the night in Montreal.”

          He digs his fingers deeper into my arm and guides me roughly through the house.

          “I said no! Let go of me.”

          “Quiet. You’ll wake the children,” he says, then draws me inside the room and engages the bolt lock.

           “Sit down.”

          “I prefer to stand.”

          “Suit yourself, baby.”

          He moves to a hanging chair, upholstered in brocade, with interlocking chains connected to hooks in the ceiling. 

          “I’ve seen your little warlock’s den, Ramey. What are you, some kind of wizard?”

          “I have a fascination with science and magic. Does that frighten you?” he says, and sits in the chair with legs spread wide.

          “You don’t frighten me.”

          “Did you fuck Andre Labat?”

          “Jealousy doesn’t suit you, Ramey.”

          “Answer the question.”

          I’m silent.

          He rides his hands up the chain and draws a tongue over cracked lips.

          “I’m disappointed; I thought you had higher standards.”

          “Why did you row me out to stay in the house on the island?”

          “I love a good game. Terror and Titillation is one of my favorites. I also like Pain and Pleasure. They’re goal posts on the same playing field. Rowing you out on the lake and leaving you there, was like tying you up without tethers. The thought of you alone and frightened got me off - knowing I could set you free . . . or not.”

          “You have a very sick mind.”

          “Freedom can only be attained through absolute containment. The body is a vessel for the soul and the soul is the conduit to the spiritual world. When your body is contained, your soul is released. The soul’s escape is a powerful, life-changing event. And when it happens, there is no turning back.”  

           He stops the motion of the chair.

          “Don’t pretend you don’t understand.” He gets up from the chair and moves across the room to where I stand next to the door.

         “You know exactly what I mean, don’t you? You’ve had a taste of it, haven’t you?”

           I clasp the palm of my hand against my chest to calm my wildly beating heart. 

          “It started in the house, didn’t it? And last night in the hallway, you went there with me, didn’t you?”  

           “Is this the warlock talking? Or do you worship a darker deity?”

          “Yes, it’s happened, Alexandra. That’s why you fell for the pathetic charms of Andre Labat. But giving yourself to that little worm is like a sailor dipping his cup in the sea when he’s dying of thirst. He’ll never be able to quench what I see in you.”

           He stands only inches from me now - so close a bead of sweat drops from his forehead onto my cheek.

         “I made love to Ruth the night we left you on the island and pretended she was you.”

          “Save your confessions for your satanic priest.” 

          “But you had to fuck with it and move into my basement.”  

          “Nothing matters to you, does it, other than satisfying your perverted needs?” I say, and turn to walk out the door. 

          “I didn’t give you permission to leave yet.”

          He blocks my movement to the door.

         “You stay in my house, eat my food, drive my car, and expect me to babysit your son so you can go out and fulfill your perverted needs?”

          “I refuse to defend myself. You invited me to stay in your home. I’m your guest. I will be leaving soon, so you shall be relieved of your burden shortly. And with whom I choose to share my bed is certainly none of your concern. I’m a single woman and free to do whatever I desire. I was once contained, but I had the guts to release myself. You, on the other hand, are completely contained. You wear on your hand the gold band of ownership, proof you’ve been tamed. You are no different than your marked and pierced livestock. You have no claim on freedom. You’re branded, Ramey.” 

          The look in his eyes terrifies me. They are the eyes of a killer.

         “Listen, Ramey, I’m tired and you’re drunk, and this isn’t the best time to have a discussion. We can talk tomorrow if you like, preferably with your wife present. Now, please move away from the door . . . I need to check on Sammy.”

           Ramey’s perfect teeth glimmer inside his parted lips.

          “I want you to consent to a punishment for your behavior, for being such an ungrateful houseguest. Five lashes would be fair, wouldn’t you agree?”

          “This has gone far enough.”

          “Have you ever taken a beating?” 

          “What are you saying?”

          “Have you ever taken corporal punishment from a lover?”

          “I have no idea - ”

           He gestures the bed against the wall, a four-poster bed swathed in yards of parachute silk and covered with a plush crimson duvet and lace pillows.

          “You’re acting crazy, Ramey. I’m leaving.”

           “You walk out that door and I’m taking you and your son to the airport tonight.” He spits out while grabbing my arm.

          “Get out of my way. I’m leaving this room."

          “Go . . .” he says, motioning to the door. As I turn to leave, he whisks me up into his arms and carries me across the room to throw me roughly onto the bed.

          Like a prodded beast inside its cage he paces the room. His eyes glow, dark gray eyes transformed to a vivid gold. Or perhaps the change in color is a reflection of the flames from the studded candles stationed on wood pedestals next to the bedposts. 

          “Stand up and bend over,” he orders.

          “No.”

          “There’s only one way for it to happen. We’re the same you know; we’re the same kind.”

          “I’m nothing like your kind.”

          “I haven’t slept since I met you,” he says in a chilling voice. “I wander through a maze of empty houses filled with dark shadows. When I awake in the darkest hours I want to take you into my arms and lose myself inside you. Some nights I feel I might succumb to the gloom and follow the curse of my legacy.”

           He observes me with a strange curiosity, as though he is aware I have been plagued by similar dreams.

          “We’ve been together since the first moment I took your eyes - the night you walked into the crazy house in the desert on the arm of your asshole husband. You looked like an angel dressed in white, with snow falling outside the windows behind you, and Mozart echoing in the rafters - a fucking angel sent on a mission to destroy me. I’ve waited for you a very long time - it feels like more than a lifetime, and perhaps it is. My quest is only to release you I’ll give you what you deserve, and more importantly I’m offering what you need to spread your wings and fly.”

          “You’re not listening to me. I said no! You are not used to hearing that word, so it may sound foreign to a man like you - one who has never been refused.”

          “There is no other way,” he says with calm assurance.  There’s no other way for you to break out, to crack the shell.  You say you’re free, but you’re not. You took off your ring, but you still live inside the cage. Your perfect world was never your own, and now it’s impossible to return. You can refuse, but we both know it has to happen, sooner or later.”

          “Who are you to lecture me about perfect worlds? If you were true to yourself, you’d be living in hell, or at the least in a cave instead of this castle.”

          He stops his pacing and moves to where I sit perched at the edge of his bed. He grazes his hands along the heavy leather belt holding up his jeans and begins to unfasten the buckle.

          “I could tie you up and torture you with love first, but you don’t deserve it.”

          “You’ve tortured me long enough.”

          “Well then, let’s get to it.”

          “How does beating someone free them, for God’s sake?” I ask, and avert my eyes from what is impossible to explain, ignore, or understand, for that matter, the male thing, the strength of not knowing, wanting to know, what lies beneath.

          “It’s a method used by tribes and most civilizations throughout the history of the world. When used in initiation, to help the initiates ascend to a higher level of spiritual awakening. The experience is powerful for both the giver and the receiver.”

          “How do you know?”

          “I’ve experienced it.”

          I struggle to gather my thoughts. I don’t know how to express my feelings, so I let something deeper take over and speak for me. “You may be a sorcerer, but you are neither my master nor my priest. My body and soul are not for your taking. That privilege is earned through trust and commitment. You are correct. I am not yet free. But when I am, I will only supplicate myself to a man who worships me as much as I worship him.”

          I shift my focus to gaze at a picture in a gilded frame, set on the nightstand next to a crystal bowl of fragrant potpourri. It is a photograph of Ruth and Ramey wrapped in each others arms, surrounded by their five young children, standing in front of a Christmas tree trimmed in colorful balls and ribbons and brimming with dozens of gaily wrapped packages. 

          “We’ve been conjoined by fate, and there’s no turning back,” he says, and a strangled thread of emotion seeps into these words, a mixture of sorrow and regret that makes me shudder. 

          There is a long and terrible silence, a silence like no other. It is the stillness after an upheaval, after the squeal of the tires and the sound of the catastrophe. It is the hush when you know your life will never be the same. It is the dead calm when you have crossed the line of time into a new existence. Something has changed. This interlude of sadism has changed me forever. 

          “Look at me . . . look into the pupils of my eyes, Alexandra. They are the only place in the body where you can look inside the mind and see what it is thinking and feeling.” 

           I straighten myself on the downy silk comforter, wipe the tears from my lashes and gaze directly into Ramey’s eyes.  Beyond the fading anger, I see other emotions flicker. There are nuances of more vulnerable feelings, and something else, more profound and meaningful than the vain and shallow substances floating on the surface. A shadow lurks there; a glint of the unspeakable hides beneath the wreckage of his heart. He holds a terrible secret in the unfathomable depths. It is wild, crazy, unbelievable, and eminent, yet I have no idea what it is.

           “You’re moving away from me, baby. It’s like you’ve fallen into the bottom of a well. You’re crouched down there, but I can’t get to you. I can’t save you.”  

          “Forgive me, but you are mistaken. I didn’t ask you to save me.” I stand up from the bed and move across the room.

           “I believe it’s you who’s looking to be saved. You need to save yourself, Ramey,” I say, then turn and walk out the door.

Power Struggle

 

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The Best Romance Novels

The Following is a list compiled by the Manchester Library, and so offers an English opinion (and they are masters of the genre) of the best written written romance novels in genre of contemporary gothic suspense,  romantic suspense, modern romantic thriller, historical romance, modern romantic suspense.

I will soon be compiling a list with an American perspective of what consititutes the best romance novels of all time.

Not listed in order of preference:

1. Sailing to Capri  An English tycoon dies mysteriously and leaves a note naming six people he suspects might have wanted him dead, by Elizabeth Adler.

2. The Scarlet Thread A British nurse and an American soldier meet, fall in love, and secretly marry during the Second World War. Years after the events of war separate them, a chance meeting brings the couple together to consider their lost love, by Evelyn Anthony.

3. Tregaron's Daughter A young woman from a small English village finds romance and mystery when she embarks on a voyage to Venice, by Madeleine Brent.

4. Rebecca  Classic Gothic tale of love and deception, by Daphne du Maurier

5. Darkwater Gothic romance with deep mystery and danger by Dorothy Eden

6. The Property of a Gentleman  Set in England's Lake District, this novel revolves around the world of art and antiques, by Catherine Gaskin

7. Savannah Purchase  Savannah in the early 19th century is the setting for this novel of romance and intrigue, by Jane Aiken Hodge.

8. The Silk Vendetta Historical romantic suspense set in 19th century England, by Victoria Holt

9. The Shrouded Walls and the Dark Shore  Two spellbinding tales of romance, danger and death , by Susan Howatch

10.  I Came to the Highlands  During the 1700s, with a heavy heart, a young woman leaves America and her true love to accompany her ill and destitute father to his family's castle in the Scottish Highlands. Unwelcome at the castle after her father's death, she is certain her life is in danger, by Velda Johnston

11. The House on the Left Bank In this late 19th century historical novel set in Paris, a young American woman faces many dangers as she seeks to solve a horrifying crime...a classic combination of Gothic romance and suspense. 

12. Shattered Silk The world of vintage couture is the setting for this suspenseful tale of romance and intrigue, by Barbara Michaels

13. Airs Above the Ground. . .The Stormy Petrol Mystery, danger and love await the reader of novels written by this classic romantic suspense author Mary Stewart

14. The Turquoise Mask In this novel by a master of romantic suspense, a woman returns to New Mexico to uncover secrets surrounding her mother's death, by Phyllis Whitney

15. China Silk Despite warnings, a young girl accepts a marriage proposal from a British government official stationed in colonial Hong Kong in the 1920s, by Anne Worboys

CONTEMPORARY ROMANTIC SUSPENSE 

16. Hello Darkness. . . White Hot. . .Chill Factor . . . RicochetPopular author Sandra Brown delights fans with her fast-paced romantic thrillers.

17. A Grave MistakeA novel of mystery, deceit and desire set in contemporary New Orleans, by Stella Cameron 

18. The Cove. . . The Maze. . . The Target Historical romance author Catherine Coulter delivers suspense and romance in her first three FBI thrillers.

19. Illusions The breathtaking mountains of Aspen, Colorado, form the backdrop for this romantic thriller by Janet Dailey

20. Slow Burn, Murder List, Killjoy
An author known for her historical romances pleases her fans with novels of contemporary romantic suspense - Julie Garwood.

21. Danger in the ShadowsIn this novel with Christian fiction overtones, a woman in an FBI witness protection program faces danger when she finds herself falling in love.
 

22. Prior Bad Acts Readers will find spine-chilling suspense and seductive romance in Tami Hoag's thrillers set in Minnesota. 

23. Haunting Rachel Gothic overtones mark this modern romantic thriller, by Kay Hooper

24. Open SeasonA small-town librarian, looking for a lover and trying to reinvent her boring life, faces danger when she becomes the target of a killer, by Linda Howard.

25. Lost and FoundThe world of art and antiques is the setting for Jayne Ann Krentz's novel of mystery and romance.

26. The Wrong Hostage. . . Always Time to Die Elizabeth Lowell is an award-winning master of contemporary romantic suspense, and this duo is sure to please her many fans.

27.  In The Dark A young woman is named sole beneficiary in her estranged aunt's will and then is suspected of murder when her aunt suddenly disappears. Can she trust the handsome investigator to whom she is is helplessly drawn?, by Meagan McKinney.

28. Night Train to Memphis More mystery than romance, this fifth installment in Elizabeth Peters' popular series features art professor, Vicky Bliss.

29. The Midnight Hour . . . To Trust a Stranger Fast-paced suspense with emphasis on romance, by Karen Robards

30. The House on Black Lake An obsession with a charismatic man leads an American woman on a seductive and harrowing journey through the Montreal underground.

31. Midnight Bayou  A winning combination of romance and mystery in New Orleans, by Nora Roberts

32. Hot Ice Exotic Madagascar setting...hot passion... highly-charged suspense, by Nora Roberts. 

33. Expose. . . The Last Lover TV journalist Sally Harrington is featured in this contemporary romantic suspense series
by Connecticut author, Laura Van Wormer.

Courtesy of Manchester Public Library

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Trapeze Pro Sonoma

         A quest to fulfill a lifelong dream of performing the flying trapeze led me to Trapeze Pro Sonoma. The school is situated on magical Sky Ranch, which is owned by reknowned author, professor and philosopher, Sam Keen. The school is run by Marek Kaszuba, who is a world class trapeze and circus arts instructor, who has had students go on to careers at Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Brothers. I visited the school a number of times as I wrote "The House on Black Lake". The ranch will soon be the site of a music video incorporating static and flying trapeze with Marek and Tanya Hoover with new song "Dangerous Games" by Peter Busboon. 
         It is a spiritual experience to fly like a bird and be caught by a man in mid air. I recommend it to everyone, no matter your age, physical strength, or flexibility.
More info about Trapeze Pro Sonoma at :
http://www.trapezepro.com/
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