Saturday, 5 July 2014

An unusual hero

The hero in Scandalous Lady is an enigmatic man, an ice-cool diplomat and accustomed to command. The inspiration for his character came from a photo, which implied a serious personality yet at the same time someone who liked to tease. Of course, that is merely my interpretation of the photo. But I am grateful to Santiago Cabrera for inspiring a truly gorgeous hero for my tale. 

Below is a small extract to show the hero in all his arrogance at the beginning of the story, which is set in Constantinople in 1811.

She unplaited the tight braids, swearing as the string of pearls snagged repeatedly in her hair. At last she worked it free and pushing the pearls into her thick sash, she combed her fingers through her hair, relieved to feel it flowing free down her back and rising into its usual mass of curls.
            'Hah!' she muttered, encouraged by this small act of defiance, 'now perhaps I can smash a window.'
            She looked around for a suitable tool. Maybe a chair…? Feverishly she rushed to pick one up. Then froze as one of the doors opened and a tall, black-haired man appeared. He was dressed in a gorgeous tunic over silken oriental trousers. Gems winked on his chest. The door closed behind him and he advanced into the large room. He surveyed her with huge dark eyes. Olivia clutched the frame of the gilded chair as if it could hide her. She suddenly remembered her flimsy clothes and crossed her arms over her bosom.
            He came closer. 'Why so modest all at once?' he drawled. 'I know your reputation, Olivia Hartford.'
Olivia stared at him in shock. This was the man who had saved her from the snake, the man whose eyes mesmerised her. She had longed to meet him again. But now he was revealed as just another arrogant rake, like Lord Craybrook who had tried to compromise her and who had told such wild tales about her in the newspapers. She felt a surge of anger that everywhere in the world, men were always the same, intent on seduction and their own pleasure.
            He watched her face, his mouth curved in an ironic smile. Olivia's stomach churned. How could this man know what the London papers wrote in their gossip pages? Her knees shook as she realised why he had kidnapped her, and why she had been perfumed and dressed in these garments. At least he spoke English. She raised her chin defiantly. 'How dare you do this to me! I demand to be taken home at once.'
            He gave a short laugh. 'Oh, not at once. Later perhaps - after we have talked.'
            She gulped. 'Talk' indeed! She glared at him to disguise the rising sense of fear, knowing she was completely in his power. As if to confirm this, he strolled up to her and put a finger under her chin, forcing her face up. Although his beautiful eyes were closer now than ever before, Olivia did not waste a second admiring them. She thrust her knee up but he was too quick and moved back, laughing.
            'You have spirit,' he admitted, 'I like that in a woman. But I guessed it when I saw the colour of your hair.' He frowned. 'I gave orders that your hair was to be braided with pearls. The effect would be pretty against the red. Why did they not obey?' His tone implied there would be a severe punishment.
            Olivia blinked in shock. So every detail of her appearance was due to his orders. 'But why - ' she began when the door opened again. She stared, astonished at a procession of servants, all bearing covered dishes. A huge brass tray was set upon a low frame and cushions placed by it. The tray was soon completely covered with exotic looking food. A delicious savoury aroma wafted to Olivia's nostrils, making her stomach rumble in protest at its emptiness.

            While these preparations were going on, she retreated to one of the windows and stood with her back to the room. Reflected in the glass she saw the man walk over to give some order to the doorkeeper. Her eyes widened as she watched how the folds of his heavy silk trousers shifted against the muscled contours of his long legs with each movement. It was incredibly alluring. Her mouth went dry.

( C) Beth Elliott 2014  

Later in the story, Selim, a keen musician, plays Mozart's Turkish March for Olivia. 

Here it's performed by Turkish pianist, Fazil Say


 Sultan Mahmud II, seated in state with his officials [about 1810]. The description of his yellow robe is in John Cam Hobhouse's account of the audience he and Lord Byron had with Sultan Mahmud in July of that year.

 By 1827 the Sultan had banned this traditional dress in favour of modern European costume.