Calling All Romance Lovers…
♥Happy Valentines Day!♥
Without a word we followed Eugene down into the darkness as the cellar doors closed behind us. We were forced to creep in the silent oppression, listening only to the sounds of our racing hearts and ragged breaths while smelling what surely was the awful, unmistakable scent of death. Along the way, I had begun to beat myself up for not having the foresight to put a stop to this charade earlier. We should never have followed him down to this pit. I’d had a bad feeling from the beginning, and now, we were underground in the middle of nowhere, walking into what I imagined would be a horrific death. I opened my mouth to shut this mission down. For the first time ever, I did not care what waited in the unknown. I did not even care if my suspicions were unfounded. “It’s time we…”
“We’re here.” Eugene’s excitement filled the cold space. “This isn’t the way I’d hope you’d discover my treasure trove, but, Ally, I’m so glad it is you. I’d always hoped your parents could come here. But alas, they were the ones who got away. Not you, Ally. I knew I could depend on you.”
Darkness thickened around us, and I fought an urge to tell my crew that I was sorry, though I didn’t know for what, when Eugene struck a match and lit a couple of old oil lanterns, casting an eerie, dull light around a large chamber illuminating an unimaginable sight…
If you liked Excavation Murder, you’ll love Victoria’s Clapton’s work!
Inspiration is all around us and sparks uniquely in each person. That is the beauty of individualism and creativity. So when I read an article about a Roman poisoner, I’m guessing I’m the only one who envisioned her in Tudor England.
Locusta was a female poison assassin from Rome (Gaul) and is considered to be the first serial killer. Days of research later, I discovered there is not much known about Locusta, but that only incited my imagination. The fact the first serial killer was a woman also struck me. As a female engineer, I relate to the challenge of going against traditional stereotypes. I imagined the challenges Locusta must have faced and wondered if her gender ended up being an asset in a field where surprise would provide an advantage. And with the little historical bits I could find, a story began to weave in my mind.
During this time, my priest gave a sermon about how easy it is to fall into a cycle of sin and penance. How often we realize our actions are incorrect and then feel guilt and perform penance. But after a while the guilt wears and it becomes easy to commit the sin again. Of course he was talking about minor offenses, but as a matter of reductio ad absurdum, I applied this concept to a murderer. My main character, Lavinia, believes she can continue to murder because confession forgives the sin.
Inspired by the notion confession could provide a source of false permission, I lifted Locusta’s inspiration out of Rome and placed my novel at the height of the Catholic church in Tudor England, my favorite period of history. The exact year is open within the book, but I imagine it to be ~1520. During this time, the priest was a powerful official at the local level and the historic practice of “indulgences” helps bolster why Lavinia may (falsely) think she can simply go to confession to be forgiven for mortal sin.
APRICOTS AND WOLFSBANE follows Lavinia’s career as a poison assassin, however Lavinia could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves. When the magistrate uncovers her ruse, he pressures her priest into breaking her confessional seal. Lavinia must decide between the magistrate or her love of her craft, but the betrayals are just beginning. This Historical Novel Society Editor’s Choice novel was also shortlisted for the 2018 International Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction, among other awards and honors.
If you do decide to google Locusta for yourself, you’ll discover she was ultimately executed for her crimes. I do not believe the lore she was raped to death by a giraffe, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination . . . (Now you want to google her, don’t you?)
K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife, proud mother of two young children, and an aerospace engineer who works in Mission Control. She operated guidance, navigation and control systems on the Space Shuttle and is currently involved in development of upcoming manned-space vehicles. A Cheesehead by birth, she now resides in Texas for her day job and writes to maintain her sanity. Her other hobbies include ballet and piano. K.M. has come a long way from the wallpaper and cardboard books she created as a child. Her award-winning historical fiction thriller, Apricots and Wolfsbane, is published by Filles Vertes Publishing.
Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies, to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Her morbid desires are balanced with faith since she believes confession erases the sin, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.
At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s revengeful instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. The dilemma distracts her struggle to develop a pledged tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.
With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder, but the betrays are just beginning.
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Lock leaned against an arched doorway as security shooed tipsy guests from Steven’s apartment. “Gentlemen, one last sweep for stragglers.” He snapped his fingers. “At Mr. Banitierre’s standing request.”
The guards finished scurrying and stood at attention. “All clear, boss.”
“Always remember.” Lock pointed at Steven, obsessively straightening bottles behind the bar. “He, is the boss.”
“Brilliant. I’ll see everyone again on…” Steven sighed at the silence when the door finally clicked shut. He slouched his shoulders and dragged his feet into the bedroom. “On Thursday evening. Can’t wait.”
“That look on your face.” Lock took measured steps across the stone floor. “Makes me want to cry.”
“I loathe these parties.” Steven unsnapped cufflinks and flung them in a drawer. “Juggling maniacs and their fragile egos—”
“Building alliances. We’ll need them when Sorcha comes home.”
Steven ripped his tie off and slumped against the antique armoire. “I lost her.”
“She’s not lost.” Lock place his hand on Steven’s shoulder and squeezed. “Just hiding, for now.”
“I didn’t sleep a wink yesterday. This place reminds me of family…especially during the holidays.”
Lock straightened Steven’s collar. “My apartment is just across the square.”
“Can I just shower first?”
“You smell delicious. But, come over whenever you’re ready. I have a surprise.”
Steven’s eyes followed the vapor trail of energy left when Lock flashed out of the room.
On this longest night of the year, darkness was still waltzing in her own glory when Steven stepped into deserted Jackson Square. Sharp wind swirling down the alleys reminded him of the damp red curls around his neck. He savored rare crisp air while his eyes roamed galleries ringing both Pontalba buildings and holly wreaths adorning empty flower boxes.
This used to be my favorite season. Steven strolled around a wrought iron fence decorated with red bows, and stared up at the spires of St. Louis Cathedral framed by a steel-grey sky.
The best view in the world. His mind flashed back to evenings when he walked the flagstones with an armful of friends and family.
Not a care in the world except shopping and celebrating.
Until the sky fell.
A closer look at the iron barrier revealed crooked and charred rails. Ugly scars left over from that fateful night.
Sorcha’s cape. The Allemand’s spell.
The first shots of a war that crashed an empire.
Exploding Christmas trees. A murdered nun.
Without Raimond, our family will never be…
“Damn it.” Steven collapsed against the fence and coughed so hard, he wheezed.
That was years ago.
He swiped a blood-tinged tear from his cheek and flashed to Lock’s apartment on Rue Ste. Anne. Beyond the plain white door, spiral stairs loomed at the end of a dark and silent corridor.
All right, Lock Dorge. Surprise me.