SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY has the beginnings of a Pinterest board! This is the most modest of the Pinterest boards for a few reasons. Since the Pinterest TOS make it quite clear that the photos you pin should be your own, I’m careful not to pin things belonging to other people. That means I only pin photos I took or pics of my own covers or events. And while I did a collage for SITS, it’s buried in the attic far from my greedy hands–and I neglected to photograph it before I put it up! I also don’t have research trip photos because this book was written without the benefit of travel. So, that leaves us with covers and a few atmospheric Christmas shots. Now, if you happen to have Victorian/Christmas photos or a Cistercian monastery hanging about–and you own the rights–by all means pass them along and I’ll add to the board!
Since our Pinterest board this week is the smallest, I will add to today’s post by answering a few follow-up questions that have popped up. First, readers have wondered who else I meant to kill off in SITS. I can’t remember the entire body count, but I do vividly recall strangling Charlotte King in a secret passage behind Julia’s bed! Oh, it HURT to cut that scene, chickens. But when I was finished, I actually liked the changes better.
Another reader asked whether my agent reads my books and gives feedback or if this is solely my editor’s job. My agent reads everything I send in and offers her opinion but not specific feedback unless I were to request it. She’s a superb agent, in no small part because she tailors her involvement to the needs of the individual author–and the particular situation. If I’m feeling nervous and need extra hand-holding, she’s right there with the support and advice. If I feel I have something under control or I’m busy in work mode, she gives me space. So, the short answer is that mileage varies!
Now, here’s something UBER-different. Again, because the Pinterest board is wee, I wanted to give you something extra. So, for the first and ONLY time–because SITS is the only book for which I’ve done this–I’m posting the character backstories I wrote up before beginning the novel. I wrote them for just a handful of characters so they aren’t comprehensive, and some details changed before the book was written. Also, please note there are MAJOR SPOILERS included, so if you haven’t read SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY, you might want to give the rest of the post a pass. The rest of you: enjoy!
*Dorcas was the youngest daughter of Lord March’s grandfather. She never married, and her proper title is Lady Dorcas March. She was a Regency belle and the youngest she can be is 78. (This is supposing a debut at 16, in 1825. Strictly, NOT the Regency.) She was deeply ashamed of the elopement of her younger sister, Rosalind, and she and her sisters retired from society to live in Norfolk and raise Rosalind’s child, a daughter who married as unwisely as her mother. Rosalind’s child gave birth to two daughters a decade apart, Emma and Lucy Phipps. Their father surrendered them for a few pounds and a decent horse, never to be seen again. Dorcas and her sisters have exhibited signs of mental illness, including kleptomania and alcoholism, as well as packratting. Dorcas’ favorite sister, Gertrude, accompanied Emma to India with the aim of finding a husband. When Emma fell in love with an unscrupulous native noble, it was Gertrude who insisted Emma had been duped and they must leave for England. Emma miscarried the child after the ensuing argument and blamed Gertrude for the loss of her child. On the return trip to England, Gertrude dies suddenly and at Emma’s insistence, is buried at sea. After this, Dorcas keeps Lucy, but forces Emma to take employment as a governess. Dorcas, mindful of Lucy’s age, takes lodgings in London to find her a husband. They succeed, and Sir Cedric proposes, much to Dorcas’ delight. She thinks he is a fine figure of a man, and although he is in trade, she thinks he is a good match for Lucy because of her “tainted” blood. She has accompanied Lucy to the Abbey for her marriage, and is not happy to find Emma there. Dorcas fears that Emma means to do away with her because she knows what she is. She is jumpy and anxious, sensitive to the atmosphere of the Abbey, ghosts and superstitions. She believes strongly in the powers of the Gypsies. She is determined to get Lucy safely married off, then return to the safety of Norfolk. She is not eager to join the expedition to the Gypsies, because she knows that she will be away from Emma for the duration of the day. She avoids Emma as much as possible, for her own safety. She may even pretend to illness to keep out of her company. She knows NB for what he is and relies upon him because of it.
*Nicholas wants Julia. He is prepared to wait until she has come into herself, and until he has established a fortune of his own and a home for her. He is NOT pleased to see Alessandro. Alessandro is well-born and wealthy, and his title ought to be stressed to needle NB where he is most vulnerable. Alessandro is also nearly fifteen years younger. Perhaps for the first time, NB feels his age. He is eager to resolve the case of the Tear of Jaipur because the resulting title and estate will put him into the realm of eligibility to propose to Julia when the time comes. He tortures himself by keeping in contact with her family, but he is also looking out for them out of love for her. There is a part of him that wishes he could run away from it all, and forget Julia, but he knows this is impossible. He knows instinctively that Julia does not care for Alessandro the way she cares for him, but he does not like having another suitor thrown in his face. He is just cruel enough to enjoy the fact that Julia was set up to meet him without warning. It enables him to gauge her reaction, and although he is frustrated at not being able to keep her out of his investigation, he is pleased she doesn’t buy CK as his fiancée. He is furious with the earl for bringing Julia home. That was NOT the plan. The earl was helping him to corner a jewel thief; bringing Julia home was the earl’s own bit of mischief in order to throw NB and Julia together.
*Charlotte King was nobody. She was the illegitimate daughter of an actress and a gentleman, born with a foot in both worlds, belonging to neither (much like NB). She was educated properly, but romanticized her mother’s occupation. A marriage was arranged for her by her father. She lived dutifully with her husband for some months before visiting her mother during a tour. Her mother introduced her to Edwin, and they ran away together that night. Her father and husband both cut her off; her father was furious, her husband heartbroken. She left a pair of twins behind. Edwin came from a very different background. He was born to a family of thieves and con artists and acting was just an extension of that for him. Tired of treading the boards, and with Charlotte to support, he embarked on a new career: gigolo. With his dazzling looks, he made himself available to rich, bored, vulnerable women. Once they were seduced, he blackmailed them with the proof of it. Only once, and never more than they could afford. He did not believe in going back to the well too many times. Because of his caution, none of the ladies laid charges against him. He finally set his sights on a princess and the Tear of Jaipur. He successfully obtained it, but was taken in for fencing a few stolen jewels. (He was a fair pickpocket as well, with long, nimble fingers and quick reflexes.) Perhaps he was even a stage magician. Charlotte could have worked as his assistant. They made almost nothing and went hungry too many times. This could have turned him to a life of crime. The first pockets picked could have been just for them to eat. After this, it became too easy, and when one handsome older lady offered him fifty pounds to spend the night, he and Charlotte realized their most valuable commodity was Edwin’s face. When Edwin was taken into custody, Charlotte took the Tear and made plans to leave. She cannot pawn the Tear as the police have been after her. Instead, she takes the Tear and a few remaining jewels and creates a new identity for herself as a society widow. She is invited to house parties and musical evenings and always manages to take something of value to keep herself in style. Her idea is to make herself comfortable until she can leave England and arrange a private sale of the Tear. She wants to keep away from the police, but hopes to eventually reunite with Edwin abroad, where they will live in great style. She takes up with NB because he has dropped hints about spending Christmas at the Abbey, and the opportunity is too rich to ignore. Her plan is to take what she can from the Abbey and escape with the Tear and make her way abroad as soon as the house party is over. She does not know NB is an inquiry agent, but she has a criminal’s instincts for danger, and covers her tracks well. She does not think it is safe to travel WITH the Tear, so she has it baked into the pudding as soon as she arrives, with the idea that she will leave before Christmas and have it sent to her. The puddings were meant to be eaten at Christmas, so she must plan to leave before then. She has no attraction to NB whatsoever. She likewise has no attraction to Plum; she is merely using him in order to gain herself an ally once she realizes NB is on her trail. She is exhilarated by the game, but deadly tired of struggling against poverty and a lack of security. She never meant to turn to thieving, but she has made her choices, bad ones, because of the man she loves. She is obsessed with him, and perhaps her hurt at his antics with other women goes deeper than she admits. The backstory works much better if she is fervently in love with Edwin. The fact that he cannot marry her because it would make her a bigamist gives him an even greater hold over her. There is a lack of security and permanence in their relationship that keeps her enslaved. She patterns her behavior after one of her mother’s great starring roles. She tells Julia that she wouldn’t have heard of her mother, she was just a provincial player. Much of this would best be conveyed during a private interview between Julia and Charlotte. Julia is astonished at how her voice changes, her demeanour, her gestures, everything, when she drops the persona of the slightly scatty society widow. She is clever and quick and exhausted. Perhaps she even deserves better, but she will never get it with Edwin. (King must be the name she adopts when she takes on this new identity. Edwin’s last name must be different.)
*Emma Phipps is angry. She has smothered and bitten off her anger for years, but it seethes just below the surface. She is angry that her mother died and that her father took a new horse and a few coins to let her go. She is angry that her great-aunts took her in with so little grace and made her feel the “taint” of her blood every day. She is angry that her March cousins should have so much and she so little. She is angry that her lover was untrue and that her child died. She is angry that Gertrude ruined her life and that people still whisper about her disgrace. She is NOT angry that Gertrude pushed her into murder. She felt it was justice, and views herself as Nemesis, meting out retribution to the guilty. She MUST not see herself as a murderess. She is angry that she must governess for a living, and she is perpetually exhausted. She is angry that Cedric is stealing her beloved Lucy away, but she also sees the potential for bettering their lives. Perhaps even now she is thinking about how useful it would be to slip something into his food or drink. She is angry that Ludlow will never see her as anything other than an object of pity. Must stress during his conversations with Julia that he PITIES Emma; Julia will intuit that this would hurt Emma deeply. She is angry that Dorcas is still around, arranging their lives. It was a surprise that Emma is attending the nuptials. She has given notice to her employers because Cedric has promised a home to her in exchange for services as companion to Lucy and governess to their children. He is not the sort of man to give without expecting compensation. The arrangement is faintly embarrassing to the sisters as there is mention of money, but Cedric is too uncouth to understand this and speaks of it freely, much to their chagrin. She is terrified that Snow will reveal what he knows and expose her as a murderess, as well as rehashing the old scandal of her illegitimate pregnancy. She wants him silenced for simply knowing too much. Whether or not he blackmailed her, we will not know. He was being pressed for money, but Emma is ruthless enough to have killed him in any case. Emma coldly uses Ludlow to her own advantage, plotting to reveal his role if necessary to save her sister. But she waits instead, holding her cards close to her vest. She has heard the family speak of NB, and realizes he will clear Lucy if only they are calm. In the meantime, Dorcas panics and sends the poisoned brandy to the chapel. Emma and Lucy are saved by NB’s quick thinking, but Emma realizes now she must destroy Dorcas. She attempts to discover her whereabouts by means of a tearful exchange with Julia, but she is unsuccessful. Perhaps she even attempts to leave the Abbey itself and must be put to bed forcibly. She and Lucy keep to their room, clinging together as events play out. When Ludlow is taken, they realize he does not mean to speak of it, and he will go silent to the gallows. (Silent to the Gallows is a good title for a future book.) Dorcas only returns after Lucy and Emma leave and she realizes it is safe to do so.