Friday Feature: Jessica Cale
After saving the life of the glamorous Marquise de Harfleur, painfully shy barmaid Alice Henshawe is employed as the lady’s companion and whisked away to Versailles. There, she catches King Louis’ eye and quickly becomes a court favorite as the muse for Charles Perrault’s Cinderella. The palace appears to be heaven itself, but there is danger hidden beneath the façade and Alice soon finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue, murder, and Satanism at the heart of the French court.
Having left his apprenticeship to serve King Charles as a spy, Jack Sharpe is given a mission that may just kill him. In the midst of the Franco-Dutch war, he is to investigate rumors of a poison plot by posing as a courtier, but he has a mission of his own. His childhood friend Alice Henshawe is missing and he will stop at nothing to see her safe. When he finds her in the company of the very people he is meant to be investigating, Jack begins to wonder if the sweet girl he grew up with has a dark side.
When a careless lie finds them accidentally married, Alice and Jack must rely on one another to survive the intrigues of the court. As old affection gives way to new passion, suspicion lingers. Can they trust each other, or is the real danger closer than they suspect?
1. What do you enjoy most about being a published author?
It’s nice to have the validation that your passion means something to others. I’ve been writing most of my life and I probably would regardless, but getting published does give you a boost to your confidence that you need to keep going on the days you doubt yourself. Everyone has good days and bad, but it always means so much to me just to hear that my books made someone’s day a little bit brighter. Reading has helped me to get through some really difficult times in my life, and if I can help someone else in that way, that’s terrific. It makes the work worth it.
2. Describe your favorite heroine archetype.
I don’t really think in terms of archetypes, but I like my heroines to surprise me. I like them to be strong (whether they know it or not), realistically flawed, and I want to be able to relate to them. I get distracted when I read books where heroines are more ideals than real people, or when they seem shallow or materialistic and this is just accepted rather than something she has to overcome. I hold my heroines to high standards. I want them all to be warriors, however that manifests for them.
3. Who are your favorite authors? What authors have influenced your book?
I love Romance and I definitely have a few favorites who have made me want to write in the genre (Jude Deveraux, Maggie Robinson, and Julie Anne Long immediately come to mind), but my biggest influences in terms of style tend to be on the gothic side (Poe, Lovecraft, Sacher-Masoch, Emily Bronte, and later F. Scott Fitzgerald). This book in particular was definitely influenced by Judith Merkle Riley, who wrote The Oracle Glass looking at the Affair of the Poisons from a different perspective. They take place during the same time period, and although they are very different books, they kind of exist alongside each other in the same setting. Her sense humor and the care she took with her research inspires me to do better every day.
“Do you have a sweetheart?”
Alice’s spine went rigid at the question. Why would he care?
“That is to say, a man. A person, rather. A lover?” Jack cleared his throat. “That’s none of my concern, really. I apologize. Forget I asked.”
How could she answer that? She couldn’t very well tell the strange man Jack had grown into that she’d dreamed of him to the exclusion of all others for eight years. If her freakish memory didn’t frighten him off, her obsession definitely would.
She turned, very slowly, and forgot what she was thinking when she saw him. Jack was reclining on his elbows, looking at the stars. The odd posture only really drew attention to the span of his chest, the slight rise and fall of his breath. He’d dressed in a hurry and his collar had come undone, revealing an inch of collarbone and hinting at the lean muscle beneath. His dented chin was pointed heavenward, lengthening his bare neck. If Alice stared any harder, she’d be able to see the blood flowing within.
She thought about putting her lips on his throat and the fluttering she usually felt in her heart moved decidedly lower.
That was new.
“Just you.” She sighed and then cringed as she realized she’d said it aloud. “Married, remember?”
Jack turned and gave her a boyish smile that made her toes go numb. “I suppose we are. What do you make of that?”
Alice blinked. It was everything she’d ever wanted, but Jack…he was young, handsome, kind, wonderful, and everything that was right in the world. He could have any woman he wanted. Or could have, before she ruined that for him. She wiped away another tear. “I’m sorry, Jack.”
He shrugged. “Whatever for?”
“You deserve a wife of your own choosing,” she said, feeling brave.
He lay on the roof, stretching his arms behind his head with a smile. “Don’t shed any tears for me. I got the prettiest Henshawe girl. The boys back home will be sick with envy.”
Alice’s laugh came out as a snort. She held her nose in embarrassment. “Don’t jest.”
Alice curled up on her side facing him, reasonably certain she was dreaming. The cool tile beneath her cheek was real enough. She contracted her nails against the rough surface, wondering if she imagined the vibration in her fingertips. Any moment now, she would wake up.
“I don’t expect you to keep me, of course. That would be something, wouldn’t it? You stuck with someone like me?” He laughed.
“This will be good, though, truly. I can protect you, and we can spend some time together, like the old days.”
Alice sighed. Yes, like the old days, but I’m talking to you now, and making a mess of it, and you’re all grown and gorgeous while I’m more awkward than ever.
Jack smiled, his teeth bright in the night. “It’ll be great fun to pretend to be married.”
Alice fell onto her back with a disappointed grimace. “Fun.”
Connect with Jessica Cale and Her Books
Giveaway: Win* an e-book copy of the first book in the series, Tyburn (The Southwark Saga #1). Tyburn won the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for Best Historical of 2015.
Answer this question in the comment section below to get in the drawing: Alice in The Long Way Home is whisked away to Versailles. If you could go back in time and visit one castle, palace, manor, cottage, abbey, etc. in its heyday, what place would that be?
*Random drawing done at noon ET 9/3.