Saturday, 9 June 2012
Rebel Reasoning New Release Blog Hop - Delighting In Your Company
In Delighting In Your Company, my new paranormal romance with time travel, Amalie Ansett endangers her own life to help a handsome and tortured ghost solve the mystery of his murder in the turbulent Caribbean of the 1800’s and, while doing so, she falls in love with him.
In a recent review on The Romance Reviews, the reviewer commented, “I was blown away by the plot of Delighting In Your Company. How did you come up with such a great idea?” The reviewer gave this book 4 out of 5 stars!
In truth, the plot has been simmering in my mind for over forty years, ever since I first found the tiny island of St. Eustatius in the Caribbean….Ever since I first took possession of an acre of overgrown scrub-land on the side of a volcano I was told was extinct, or at least dormant….Ever since a local friend asked me if I wasn’t afraid, “livin’ out in de bush wif de Jumbies”.
“Jumbies?” I asked, all curiosity. She answered, “De walking dead, de Jumbies.”
This was my introduction to the rich lore of the Netherlands Antilles, the Dutch Caribbean. In the many ensuing years I’ve heard numerous stories about the practice of Obeah (black magic), brought to the islands from Africa by the slaves, about the woman ‘round back of de Quill’ who can work spells, and about the ghost who walks White Wall at night.
In the following scene from Delighting In Your Company I draw on the legends and beliefs of the people of the Caribbean. Amalie’s elderly cousin, Josephina, is showing her through the local Historical Society Museum.
Josephina hesitated. “There’s one further thing I want you to see. It’s why I brought you here this morning.”
Puzzled, Amalie followed her into a drawing room furnished in eighteenth century style with a camelback sofa and wing chairs. Portraits lined the walls.
“Our past Administrators and their wives,” Josephina commented as she walked across the room and looked up at one particular picture.
Amalie followed her gaze and gasped. She was looking at a portrait of herself.
“Amalie Ansett Benstone. Your distant ancestor.”
Amalie studied the image. It could have been her own. Of course the clothing was different, and that other Amalie’s ash blond hair was arranged formally in the long soft curls popular in that day, rather than in the simple casual style today’s Amalie preferred.
The woman in the picture appeared to be younger by nine or ten years. She was perhaps eighteen. There was a softness about her face, it was gentle and sweet where Amalie’s own features were a bit sharper, more defined. That was probably due to the fact that today’s Amalie was older. However, there was one marked difference. Amalie Ansett Benstone’s eyes were brown like her own, but they held no life. They were eyes that saw nothing.
“What happened to her? Why are her eyes so dead?”
I’ll tell you her story when we get back to the house. But first, perhaps you should look at the portrait of her husband, Charles Benstone. He was Island Administrator at the time.
Amalie looked at the picture beside her ancestor’s. An involuntary shudder passed through her. It wasn’t that he was unattractive. He was, in fact, extraordinarily handsome. High cheekbones accented an angular face. He was broad shouldered and powerful looking. His long black curly hair was carefully coiffed. However his mouth was shaped into a sardonic smile and his expression was arrogant, almost cruel. Looking at him, Amalie shivered again. How could a mere oil painting, and not very good one at that, make her feel such revulsion?
She turned to Josephina, questions churning.
“When we get back to the house,” Josephina answered Amalie’s unasked questions.
They made the trip back to Ansett Beach House in silence. Josephina didn’t speak until they were seated on the verandah with steaming cups of herb tea in front of them.
“I don’t know the whole story. No one does. It’s been handed down through the generations, and I’m sure it’s been embellished along the way. But the tale my great grandmother told is that Amalie was expected to marry Jonathan Evans. They’d been sweethearts since they were children and the match was approved of by both families. Among other things, their union would have joined the two greatest plantations on the island. Their properties combined cover the whole lower slope of Mt. Zingara on the leeward side of the island. You can drive out White Wall Road and see the ruins of the two adjoining plantations if you like.”
Amalie nodded. “I’d like to do that. I didn’t know there was any Ansett property other than this one on the island.”
Oh, my, yes. I still hold title to the land.”
Josephina put her cup down and frowned in memory. “It was the night of the slave uprising.”
“It was short lived. No one understood why the Evans Plantation was singled out. Jonathan Evans had the reputation of being a most benevolent owner. According to all written records, his slaves were well housed and well fed. They were looked after when they were sick. No one today can condone the practice of slavery, but there were owners who behaved kindly toward those on whom the whole economy of the island depended. And Jonathan Evans was one of them.”
Amalie nodded, but a part of her wondered how anyone could make excuses for slavery, even in retrospect. She was not surprised that slaves rose up against their masters.
“It was the evening of December 10th, 1810. Jonathan Evans was murdered and the plantation house was burned to the ground. Emile Ansett, Amalie’s father, happened to be visiting at the time and he, too, was killed. A month later, Samuel, Jonathan Evans’ man, was hanged for the atrocity, protesting his innocence.”
The two women sat in silence for a few moments, sipping their tea.
“That’s not the whole story is it?” Amalie said. “There’s something more. Something that explains Amalie’s dead expression in her portrait.”
“Amalie married Benstone.”
“That’s understandable. After all, she was a young woman and, however much she may have loved Jonathan Evans, it was to be expected that she would marry someone else sooner or later.”
“That’s what’s so very odd. It wasn’t ‘sooner or later’. According to island records, their wedding took place that same night. Amalie Ansett was in Government House, being married at the time of the murders.”
“With her father not there? With none of her family in attendance? That doesn’t make sense.”
“No, of course it doesn’t. I suppose that’s why the story has survived for all these years. It’s a puzzle, a mystery that’s never been solved.”
“Perhaps Benstone persuaded her to elope. Swept her off her feet. Handsome men have been known to do that.” Amalie thought of her own disastrous marriage. Brett had been devastating attractive.
Josephina looked into the distance. “Perhaps.” She sighed, “Poor child. She didn’t live for long. According to myth, she never spoke again after that horrendous night. Amalie Ansett Benstone lived only seven months longer. During that time it’s said that she never indicated any awareness of her surroundings and that she never uttered a sound, not even in the throes of childbirth. She died giving birth to a still-born daughter.”
“I’m sure she must have been shocked at her father’s and her former fiancé’s fate. But never to speak again? Was she catatonic?”
“I suppose that’s how it might be diagnosed today. In those days it was said that she died of a broken heart.”
“The portrait was painted after her marriage?”
“That would explain the way she looks. What a horrible story.”
The silence between the two women lengthened. Amalie thought, there’s more. What isn’t she telling me?
Then Josephina continued. “Of course, as with any good legend in the Caribbean, there’s a ghost.”
Amalie smiled. “You’re not going to tell me that my namesake walks at night, scaring little children.”
Josephina laughed aloud. “Of course not.”
Amalie sat back, somehow relieved.
“It’s not Amalie who walks, it’s Jonathan. He’s been seen a number of times over the years, walking down White Wall Road, whistling.”
Amalie looked at Josephina to see if she was joking. Her face was devoid of expression as she picked up the tea cups and took them indoors.
Amalie continued to sit on the verandah for some time, staring at the sea, reliving the story she’d been told, thinking about the man she’d seen on the beach. Then she shook her head. What nonsense. Josephina had said he was probably a tourist.
What she needed was a swim. She stood to go indoors and get into her suit. At that moment she heard the distant echo of whistling. She whirled to look down the length of the beach, but no one was there.
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