(photo from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/)
The circus was a big part of British life in the mid-1800s. Much like the one run by Belinda’s great-uncle, traveling troupes featured side shows, trick riding, acrobats, clowns, and animal taming, along with early carnival rides. Some traveled by train, others by caravan, and my imagination has applied the steampunk elements. For a good article on Victorian circus, you can go here, to an article from the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Here’s a tiny taste of what Connor and Belinda find when they go undercover in the circus: (excerpt ©2013 by Cindy Spencer Pape)
The morning of the circus opening was hectic, but Connor couldn’t help a sense of exhilaration. A crowd of people crowded around the fence watched anxiously as Nicky Smith, the owner’s nephew and mechanical army survivor, stoked the calliope, and performers scurried back and forth getting ready. The scents of animals and roasting peanuts filled the air.
Connor, in his role as assistant ringmaster, was meant to patrol the grounds, nominally overseeing all the workers, but mostly watching the crowd for their adversaries. Today’s goal was to establish that the magick in the circus as real and make sure it was impressive enough that word would spread. He’d spoke to Merrick and Fergus about the Builders’ Guild and the Architecture and Arts Association the night before, and Merrick would look into those today while the circus was busy here.
About half an hour before the gates opened, Connor ducked into the fortune-teller’s tent to make sure Belinda was ready to go. Rowan’s tail thumped as Connor walked in and the dog stuck his big head up for Connor’s scratch. Connor rubbed a wiry ear, but he only had eyes for Belinda. He’d grown used to her simple gypsy clothing of bright skirts and a peasant blouse during the last few days, but today she’d added to it, with brassy bangles on both wrists, big hoops in her ears and a red scarf covering the top of her head, while her dark curls spilled out from underneath. Even in layers of mismatched styles and colors, she still looked good enough to eat as she smiled up at him, her grandmother’s tarot cards in her hands.
“All set?” Willow and Rowan, sprawled on either side of her, shifted to make room for Connor.
Belinda nodded. “I remember my lessons on how to fake a reading in the crystal ball, and I’ve memorized what the various lines on a palm are supposed to mean. I practiced this week on most of our co-conspirators, so I think I’m ready.”
He slid into the chair opposite hers. “Show me.”
Belinda lifted an eyebrow. “You want me to read your fortune?”
“Exactly.” He winked.
“Very well, most honored sir.” She slipped into the persona he’d seen her practicing all week. “Would milord prefer the cards, to have his palm read or to plumb the mysteries of the crystal ball?”
“Oh, the crystal ball, by all means.” He settled into his seat, enjoying the show.
Her dark eyes twinkled up at him. “For the spirits to come, you must honor them with silver. Five shillings, if you please.” She held out her palm.
Connor handed her a five-shilling coin.
“You are most gracious, sir, as well as handsome.” Belinda laid both hands on the large quartz globe on a silver-plated stand in front of her and peered into it. “Think of a question, concentrate on the answers you wish the spirits to provide.”
“Very well.” He grinned back. “I have my question.”
He could feel her gaze dart to him when she wasn’t looking into the ball. “I see an image beginning to form,” she said. “A man? No, ’tis a woman. Her hair is dark, ah yes, but it isn’t your wife, no…she’s younger. A sister, perhaps? I see. Her eyes are just like yours—no, not in color, but the expression, the intelligence and humor, those are the same, are they not?”
“Give over,” Connor said, impressed by her acumen. “How did you know I was thinking of Melody?”
Contest: In conjunction with the release of Cards & Caravans, Cindy is running a contest for a $25.00 gift card to the e-book distributor of your choice, plus the chance to name a character in the next Gaslight Chronicles story. To enter, visit the “Contact Cindy” page on her website and send her a note. Mention which blog you saw this on and some little detail about the post. One entry per person per blog post. The complete rules and a list of post locations and dates are available on the “Contest” page on Cindy’s site.
About the Book: Cards & Caravans is book 5 in the Gaslight Chronicles steampunk romance series, and releases from Carina Press on March 18. Find out more here.
Blurb: Belinda Danvers isn’t a witch. But that won’t stop them burning her at the stake…
Connor McKay can tell at a glance that Belinda’s magickal powers are minimal at best. She can’t be guilty of murdering village children. There’s something suspicious about her arrest and lightning-quick sentence. Unfortunately, telling anyone how he knows would mean revealing his own powers. He’s been sent by the Order of the Round Table to help and he can’t just let her die.
Escaping from jail and running from vindictive villagers in her grandfather’s steam-powered caravan is more excitement than Belinda’s had in years. And despite the danger–or maybe because of it–she loves the time spent with her sexy rescuer. But there’s more to his magick than he’s letting on…
There’s something going on that’s bigger than the two of them. It’s time for good to make a stand.
Review: 4 Stars from Romantic Times: “All the trappings of a good steampunk novel are here..but most enchanting of all is the love that develops between the hero and heroine.
About the Author: Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 16 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book. Catch her online at:
Newsletter group: http://yhoo.it/ni7PHo