141 - Grace 2

Welcome back to Where History Meets Mystery. This week, I will be reading excerpts from my 1920’s murder mystery Grace in the Wings. When we last left off, Grace had just entered the ballroom on the yacht of the famed Mary Pickford, where the celebration of her sister’s marriage to Jack Pickford was in full swing.

 

Grace pulled at the waist of her beaded, organza dress in an attempt to win a momentary reprieve from her tight corset. On any other occasion, Grace would have been honored to wear the garment designed and crafted by her idol and mentor, Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon, but tonight, wearing a gown made by “the designer of the decade” seemed to sanction, even glorify, the farce that was her sister’s marriage. Grace felt little reason to celebrate.

 

Like her, her new brother-in-law walked in the shadow of his famous sister, who was very much in the spotlight. His union with Sophia seemed to be a desperate grasp at the limelight, and ever since they’d begun courting, Sophia had been increasingly lured into his dark web of alcohol, drugs, and gambling.

 

When Grace’s eyes landed on her sister, she cringed to find Sophia dressed in a purple satin gown, her lips painted a garish shade of red that clashed with her auburn hair. She should have stayed in her wedding white—it enhanced her elfin beauty. She had once been voluptuous and striking, with a voice that rivaled the angels, but now Sophia’s lithe, twenty-one-year-old body and usual liveliness appeared dimmed from too much alcohol. Where she’d once been Grace’s strong, determined older sister—if only by a year—Sophia now seemed a ghost of her former self.

 

Jack, Sophia’s lanky, too-tanned groom, stood with her near the bar, both of them likely readying themselves to give what Grace feared would be theatrical, overly dramatic speeches. Grace scanned the room, searching for colleagues and friends until, finally, her gaze settled on Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., the famous Broadway producer—and her savior. Flo had rescued Grace, aged twelve at the time, and Sophia, age thirteen, when he’d found them, homeless and huddled on the sidewalk near the theater. Captivated by Sophia’s beauty, he wanted to make her a star. He took them in and gave them jobs.

Now, dressed in a dark tailcoat and trousers with a red waistcoat, stiff winged collar shirt, and white bow tie, he looked like a lion lording over his pride. Flo’s face glimmered with amusement as he swirled a glass of brandy in one hand and lifted a fat cigar to his lips with the other. His expression seemed to convey that all was well and everything was going smoothly, but Grace recognized a slow burn rising to the surface.

 

Come back tomorrow to hear more of Grace in the Wings.

 

In the meantime if I’ve sufficiently enticed you to read the book, I have some happy news for you! The e-book is currently on sale on Amazon for just 99 cents, so head on over there and check it out.

 

 

 

140 - Grace

Welcome back to Where History Meets Mystery. This week, I will be reading excerpts from my 1920’s murder mystery Grace in the Wings. I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

APRIL 17, 1920 – NEW YORK HARBOR, NY

Grace Michelle braced herself for a possible spectacle as she threaded her way through the shimmering swarm of the wealthiest and most famous people of New York City. A wedding reception on a yacht would make anyone giddy, but Grace couldn’t really appreciate the extravagance. Her sister Sophia’s marriage to Jack Pickford promised nothing short of a disaster.

 

Grace drew in a sharp breath as she entered the glittering grand ballroom of the yacht Jack’s sister, actress Mary Pickford, had let them use for the occasion. High ceilinged and skirted with rows of windows on each side, the Extravaganza’s ballroom showcased a sparkling nighttime view of the skyline. Gas lamps from the city burned in the distance, their radiance reflecting on the rippling water of the bay. Candle chandeliers lit the parquet dance floor, making everything glow.

 

“Champagne?” A tuxedoed waiter approached her with a tray bearing crystal flutes filled with pink bubbly stuff. She raised her hand, declining the offer.

 

Grace sought a familiar face in the throng of elegant women, all wearing chiffon and satin gowns, accessorized with diamonds, pearls, and luxurious furs. She looked at the men wearing custom-made, long-tailed tuxedoes but saw no one she knew. Knitted together in groups, the guests sipped champagne or danced the Shimmy and the Charleston, laughing with abandon.

When the music paused between songs, the white-tied, tuxedoed master of ceremonies, the actor Eddie Cantor, tapped a table knife against his champagne glass, introducing the guests as they entered the room. His eyes shifted to Grace.

 

“I’d like to present the sister of the bride, Grace Michelle.”

 

A hundred heads turned to look at her, sending a rush of heat to her cheeks. Grace nodded to people as she passed by, her heart in her throat. Her sister was the famous Ziegfeld star, not her; Grace preferred to stay in the background, assisting in the creation of the elaborate costumes for the Follies.

 

Come back tomorrow to hear more of Grace in the Wings. If you think you’d love to read the book, I have some happy news! The e-book is on sale on Amazon for just 99 cents, so head on over there and check it out.

 

 

139 - Ziegfeld

Welcome back to Where History Meets Mystery. I hope you enjoyed hearing about Roxalena, the slave girl who became Queen of the Ottoman Empire earlier this week. Today, I’m leaping forward to the early 20th century to talk about the legendary Broadway showman, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. And, next week, I will be reading some excerpts from my novel Grace in the Wings, which takes place on the Ziegfeld stage and beyond.

Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., (Flo)  born of a German father and Belgian mother in Chicago, March 1867, was one of the first and ultimately most successful Broadway producers of his time.  Known for “the Ziegfeld Touch” he was an expert at turning plebian dramas and comedies into art without losing their mass appeal.

Many have said that Ziegfeld Jr. was foolish, extravagant, and cruel, which may be true, but, above all, he was an artist driven by the pursuit of beauty.

His career started in 1893 with a vaudeville act headlining German strongman Eugene Sandow.  Sandow, a perfect male specimen, would perform daring feats of strength .  He would set a man on the palm of his hand and lift him up, wrestle three men at one time, and once let three horses walk across a plank on his chest.  He was wildly popular with the women in the audience and Flo would charge money for them to come backstage and feel Sandow’s muscles.

Ziegfeld’s career was long and varied and produced many stars such as Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Marion Davies, Irene Dunn,  W.C. Fields and Olive Thomas among others.  He hired some of the most talented musicians and composers for his musical scores, among them George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.

Flo had extravagant tastes and would often shower his stars with expensive baubles and gifts.  With some shows, he would amass a fortune, only to spend it all on women or the gaming tables.   There were times in his career that he would be so in debt, the banks would no longer lend him money, but he always found it somewhere.  He was extremely adept at publicity and would often orchestrate elaborate ruses to get his name and his stars names in the papers.  The beauty and grandeur of his shows never suffered.

Ziegfeld was married twice, first to the beautiful French actress Anna Held.   It is said that they never were actually married but were together long enough to constitute a common law arrangement.  She left him years later because of his affair with starlet Lillian Lorraine.  He then married actress Billie Burke of Wizard of OZ fame (Glenda the Witch of the North) and was with her until his death in 1932.

Come back next week to hear some excerpts from my 1920’s mystery, Grace in the Wings which takes place on the Ziegfeld stage and beyond. And, if you haven’t had a chance to buy the book yet, I am pleased to tell you that the e-book will be on sale for only 99 cents on Amazon starting Monday, December 14.

 

137 - Roxalena 3

Welcome back to Where History Meets Mystery. This week, I am talking about Roxalena, the slave girl who became Queen of the Ottoman Empire.

 

Roxelena and Suleiman had a marriage based on love and mutual respect. When separated by travel and the responsibilities of the Sultanate, they wrote many love letters and poems to one another. Suleiman also consulted with Roxelena on matters of state. She corresponded with the King of Poland and other important world leaders on the Sultan’s behalf. Having access to the Sultan’s riches, she used the money to build mosques, schools, baths, and a hospital.

 

Despite a happy marriage and the privilege of power, Roxelena also experienced her share of controversy. Not only did the Sultan’s subjects believe Roxelena had bewitched him, they also believed she was instrumental in the assassination of several rivals to the throne. The most prominent being Mustafa, the son of the Sultan’s former favorite, Mahidevran.

Mustafa, the eldest of all the Suleiman’s sons, was next in line to rule. According to Ottoman Imperial custom, when a Sultan came into power, he had his brothers killed, to ensure the stability of the empire. Some believed that Roxelena, with the help of the grand vizier Rustem Pasha, and fearing for the safety of her own sons, influenced the Sultan against Mustafa.

Previously, one of Mustafa’s supporters, a commander in Suleiman’s army and later his grand vizier, Ibrahim Pasha, suffered execution at the hands of Suleiman. Although Ibrahim committed several grievances against the Sultan, many thought Roxelena, through her influence, encouraged his execution to make way for her own sons.

Come back tomorrow, for the final installment on the life of Roxalena, slave girl turned Queen.

In the meantime, have you had a chance to pick up my latest release, Bones of the Redeemed?

New Mexico, 1950. Archaeology grad student Ruby Delgado is plagued by guilt after losing her son. So when her latest excavation drops her down a sinkhole filled with suspiciously mutilated bodies, she’s driven to bring the murderer to justice. But when digging deeper brings her dangerously close to a sinister religious sect, she could be their next sacrifice…

 

Discovering the victims were crucified, Ruby pushes hard to give the evidence to the authorities. But when her trail crosses the path of a beaten man left for dead in the desert, she realizes she may be the only person who can save the community.

 

Can Ruby stop the sacrifices and slay her inner demons, or will hers be the next body laid to rest?

 

You can find Bones of the Redeemed on Amazon.

 

 

136 - Roxalena 2

Welcome back to Where History Meets Mystery. This week, I am talking about Roxalena, the slave girl who became Queen of the Ottoman Empire.

 

Historians agree Aleksandra was about fifteen years of age when she became Suleiman’s concubine, around the time he came into power as Sultan. Aleksandra then became known as Hurrem, or “cheerful one” for her sunny disposition and cheerful nature. The name Roxelena came later from the Europeans, in reference to her Ruthenian roots.

 

As one of Suleiman’s two hundred concubines, it might have taken a girl a long time to get noticed by the Sultan, but not Roxelena. She quickly became his favorite, and a life-long love affair began—much to the disappointment and resentment of the other concubines, particularly Mahidevran, the previous favorite. A rivalry developed between the two women.

 

Ottoman Imperial custom dictated that when a concubine gave birth to a son, she was elevated in status, but removed from the Sultan’s bed. This prevented undue influence over the Sultan and also prevented future feuds between the concubines’ sons for the crown. But when Roxelena gave birth to her son, Mehmed, Sulieman kept her close to him, in direct defiance of Imperial custom. As his most favored concubine, not only did Roxelena remain in Sulieman’s bedroom, but she bore him four or five other children.

 

Suleiman’s subjects did not know what to make of this affront to a hundreds-year-old tradition, so they surmised it must be witchcraft on Roxelena’s part. Suleiman further mystified his subjects when he married Roxelena—something else a Sultan rarely did. Any son a sultan bore became an heir, so marriage was unnecessary, especially marriage to a slave. In marrying Roxelena, it meant she became a free woman.

 

Come back tomorrow to hear about the continued controversy Roxalena endured during her lifetime.

 

In the meantime, have you had a chance to pick up my latest release, Bones of the Redeemed?

New Mexico, 1950. Archaeology grad student Ruby Delgado is plagued by guilt after losing her son. So when her latest excavation drops her down a sinkhole filled with suspiciously mutilated bodies, she’s driven to bring the murderer to justice. But when digging deeper brings her dangerously close to a sinister religious sect, she could be their next sacrifice…

 

Discovering the victims were crucified, Ruby pushes hard to give the evidence to the authorities. But when her trail crosses the path of a beaten man left for dead in the desert, she realizes she may be the only person who can save the community.

 

Can Ruby stop the sacrifices and slay her inner demons, or will hers be the next body laid to rest?

You can find Bones of the Redeemed on Amazon.