Friday, February 26, 2016

The Black Lotus by Claire Warner


Title: The Black Lotus
Author: Claire Warner
Genre: Fantasy Romance

...though I would dearly love to play court to you, I would hurt you more than any other.

It is 1752.
The year that will change the life of heiress Melissa De Vire. As she makes her first fumbling steps into society, she meets the handsome young cad Justin Lestrade and his world tears her perceptions apart. For Justin is more than he appears and his secrets and enemies are manifold. Drawn irresistibly to him, she finds herself sinking into a realm of feuds, magic and old curses and her life will never again be the same.




Melissa glanced over at her would be saviour. He was dressed in everyday garb and had clearly not been to a ball that eve. His hair was without powder and his dark locks looked black in the bleaching light of the moon. The throbbing pain in her side reminded her of the damage done by Jane’s knitting needles and memories of her near fatal slide into sleep were fresh and gave her cause for concern. Also she could see Montjoy in the distance, what if he returned to bother her further?

He caught her hesitance and leant forward. “I promise you will be safe from him,” He nodded across at the riders and smiled reassuringly.

“Very well Lord Lestrade. I will accompany you,” She noted, watching as his face crinkled with pleasure as she spoke the words. With exquisite courtesy he held out a hand and helped her carefully up the steps and into his coach. After a moment, Jane followed reluctantly. Franklin shut the door behind the maid with a heavy thump, before climbing up and taking the empty footman’s position on the rear of the coach.

Montjoy moved off, losing interest in the group behind him. For a moment the muffled figure stayed in position, his eyes following the scene closer. As she clasped hold of Justin’s arm, the figure clicked to his horse and galloped away, the cloud of dust following slowly behind.

Coll clicked to the horses and slowly the coach turned in the road, leaving the ruined carriage where it lay. Soon they were flying along the road, towards the sleeping hamlets and their estates beyond.

Melissa sat back on the padded seating and stared across at Justin, barely making out his expression in the dim light. Silently he reached forward and handed her a travelling rug, which she tucked carefully about her legs. “Thank you,” It felt like an inadequate response, she was clearly drawing him away from his evening.

“It was the least I could do. I could not leave you there at the mercy of highwaymen or Montjoy, I saw him on the road.” He answered tersely, his eyes on her. She could feel them in the dark scoring into her soul. Beside her she could feel the tense body of Jane as she kept her eyes on Justin, playing the chaperone for all she was worth.

“Still, thank you. I’m sorry to keep you from your evening.”

“Do not concern yourself,” Feather soft and gentle, his words mollified her and she settled back, feeling better about the situation. “I’m glad to have been of service, particularly as Lord Montjoy appeared to be making a nuisance of himself.”

Melissa smiled and thanked him again. “So how did you come to be travelling home without your family?” He asked politely, the cushions creaking slightly as he shifted to a more comfortable position.

The curtains were half closed and even with the moonlight, his face was hidden from view. Reaching down, he plucked a fleck of dust from his breeches. Holding it in the air for a movement as though inspecting it, he smiled enigmatically before he waved it free. Hazel eyes watched the fluff drift lazily to the carriage floor, before he returned his gaze to Melissa and took in the damage. Her dark hair hung in mussed strands, the powder shaken from the long tresses in the accident. A smudge of dirt on her nose, coupled with the state of her dress made her appear vulnerable, a tattered rose lost in the dark. His fingers itched to reach forward and brush the smudge from her face. Controlling the impulse, he arranged his hands carefully on his knees and returned his attention to the conversation.

“I left Lady Shearingham’s ball early,” Her voice was polite yet shaky, a remnant of the nasty tumble she had taken in the coach. “I had a headache.”

“Ahh,” Justin replied, his face unreadable from the shadows. He watched her though; she could not miss the pressure of his eyes upon her.

It should have made her uncomfortable, the frankness of his gaze on her, yet despite the odd twinge, she felt safe in his company. The tenderness he showed as he had helped her into the carriage had impressed itself on her mind. Despite their first meeting, she knew that Justin Lestrade possessed a heart somewhere. They lapsed into silence for a moment, unsure of what to say to each other, strangers that they were. Jane had returned to her knitting. She had picked up a spare set of needles from her basket and the clicking sound they made sounded loud in the carriage.

“Why were you not at the ball?” Melissa broke the silence boldly, ignoring the hiss of surprise from Jane at her elbow.

It was a direct question, one that should be danced about or garnered from friends. It was not done to ask outright news from a stranger, yet she could not keep quiet. She wanted to know if the rumours were true and this was the best way to go about it. Her green eyes stared straight at him and she could almost feel him smiling at her boldness in the dark corner opposite.

“I had a visit from Lord Malison,” He answered directly, with no hint of hesitation. If she could be direct then so could he. “I was given to understand that I was responsible for his daughter’s demise,” A note of bitter anger entered his voice as he spoke. “Since I am clearly a cad, then I must also be a murderer,”

Melissa stared at him, trying to find his face in the darkness before she answered.

“I don’t think you are a murderer,”

“Really?” A note of incredulity entered his voice as he finally leant forward, his eyes shimmering with pent up emotion. “How would you know?” A mocking quality flowed through his tones and she shivered as the notes stroked down her spine.

“I don’t, I just feel that you aren’t,”

“Then you don’t know, you only believe,” He settled back against the chair, his face stormy in the darkness. The air in the carriage became still, Jane watched carefully from the seat opposite, her placid face still and watchful. Throughout the hushed stillness, the sound of wheels sounded loud, almost deafening as they looked at each other. His fingers were curled lightly on his knees and she regarded the elegant digits with a detached feeling.

“I could be anything and you would never know,” His voice was soft, almost hushed and full of a bitter anger that she felt more than heard. In the gloom of the carriage, he became as a statue, immobile and quiet, save for his eyes which searched out her face with an intensity she found unnerving. For several moments, tense quiet reigned in the carriage, save for Jane’s needles and the noise of wheel on stone.


When I was a child, I made up games and characters when my sister and I played with dolls. As I grew older, I would make up scenarios and scenes, fully intending to write them down but never finding the time. In my late teens, I discovered the world of role playing and settled into an avid ‘geeky’ life of D&D, comics, sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Years passed and I finally gave voice to the stories in my head. I write romance, fantasy, action and adventure. I love tales of steampunk and history, tales of magical powers and dark curses lurking in the shadows. Though The Black Lotus is not my first attempt at a novel, it is the first I have finished.

And some fun facts about me:

I sew.

My favourite Disney film is Atlantis.

I’ve been a film extra and stood 5 feet away from Sam Rockwell.

Babylon 5 is my fave sci-fi show.

I cried at the end of Toy Story 3.

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