A young writer becomes entangled in an illicit gypsy love affair, pulling her into a world of secrets, deception and dark desire.
Summer, 1976. Luz de Rueda returns to her beloved Spain and takes a job as the biographer of a famous artist. On her first day back in Cádiz, she encounters a bewitching, passionate young gypsy, Leandro, who immediately captures her heart, even though relationships with his kind are taboo. Haunted by this forbidden love, she meets her new employer, the sophisticated Andrés de Calderón. Reserved yet darkly compelling, he is totally different to Leandro but almost the gypsy’s double. Both men stir unfamiliar and exciting feelings in Luz, although mystery and danger surround them in ways she has still to discover.
Luz must decide what she truly desires as glistening Cádiz, with its enigmatic moon and whispering turquoise shores, seeps back into her blood. Why is she so drawn to the wild and magical sea gypsies? What is behind the old fortune-teller’s sinister warnings about ‘Gemini’? Through this maze of secrets and lies, will Luz finally find her happiness… or her ruin?
Masquerade is a story of forbidden love, truth and trust. Are appearances always deceptive?
Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: writing full time at her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breath-taking views of the Mediterranean.
To date, Hannah has published four novels: Burning Embers, ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’, set in Kenya; the award-winning Echoes of Love, ‘an epic love story that is beautifully told’ set in Italy; and Indiscretion and Masquerade (from the Andalusian Nights Trilogy), her fieriest novels yet. She is currently working on her forthcoming book, Legacy, the final title in the trilogy, which is due to be published in spring 2016.
I think I would choose Lawrence Durell: not only a wonderful writer and poet, but also a great traveller who, like myself, considered himself a cosmopolitan person rather than belonging to one country. He had a great sense of humour and a good, although rather cynical, knowledge of human nature.
2. What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
I write every day. Writing is my life and also a job – a very enjoyable job.
I wake up very early, and do my chores first thing. After a cup of passion-fruit tea, in the morning I start off by looking at my online marketing on Twitter and Facebook for an hour or so. Then most days I sit at my desk and work through the day, with an hour for lunch and errands. I take some time in the afternoon for a long walk when I’m dreaming up a plot.
In my home in Kent, I write in a wood-panelled room, surrounded by books – we call it the library. In France, I write overlooking the most fabulous view of the Mediterranean from a large picture window in my bedroom, or if it is not too hot, outside in our gazebo. I really can’t complain!
3. What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
The most challenging parts for me when I write are the opening paragraph and the closing paragraph. The first must encourage the reader to continue his or her journey into the novel, to want to get to know the characters and their story; and the second must leave the reader with a feeling of contentment and maybe a tinge of melancholy because the voyage has come to an end and it is as if he or she is saying farewell to a friend. I write and rewrite those two paragraphs many times!
4. When and why did you first start writing?
Stories and writing have always been part of my life. My father was a great raconteur and my governess used to tell the most fabulous fairy stories – I could listen to them for hours. When I was seven she and I came to an agreement: for every story she’d tell me, I would invent one in return. That is how my passion for storytelling began.
At school I consistently received first prize for my essays and my teachers often read them aloud in class. As a teenager I used to write short romantic stories during lessons and circulate them in class, which made me very popular with my peers (but less so with the nuns!). In addition, since a young age I have kept some sort of a diary where I note my feelings, ideas and things that take my fancy (or not).
My grandmother was a published author of poetry and my father published a book about the history of our family, so writing runs in my veins. I guess I always knew that one day I would follow in those footsteps and forge my own path in that field – a subconscious dream which finally came true.
5. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
The hero Leandro was a face in a crowd of gypsies on a beach in France that triggered my imagination and was the muse for this story. He was in my mind throughout the writing; if only he knew how he had haunted and inspired me!
6. Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
Yes, I am never without a book. I read an eclectic mix of genres, but of course romance is my favourite. I am currently reading – and very much enjoying – The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig, which is a historical romance full of passion and revenge. In due course I will write a review of the book for my blog, www.hannahfielding.net.
7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
First and foremost, write from the heart. Be true to yourself and don’t compromise to please the market. Markets change, fads come and go; your work will remain.
Read, reread and reread. Edit, edit, edit. Go through your manuscript again and again and edit it. I know that it will break your heart to delete a phrase or even one word you have spent time agonising over, but sometimes less is better than more. Not easy advice to follow, but in the long run it does work. If you can leave the manuscript alone for a few weeks and revisit it at a later date, reading it as if it were someone else’s, then that’s even better.
Do not get discouraged. Continue to write whether you think your work is good or bad. There is no bad writing. There are good days and bad days. The more you write, the better at it you get.
Luz set eyes on him for the first time from her seat on Zeyna’s back as the fine white Arab mare stepped down the narrow path from the cliff that led to the beach. He was sitting on the edge of the track, leaning nonchalantly against a wild carob tree,watching her while chewing on a sprig of heather. As she drew nearer, she met his steady gaze, spirited and wild. At that moment she had no idea this man would have the power to change her world and create such havoc in her heart, that she would emerge from the experience a different person. Fate had not yet lit up the winding pathway of her life nor the echoes of history along it, but now, in front of this stranger, a disturbing awareness leapt into flame deep inside her and began to flicker intensely. Without thinking, she tugged on Zeyna’s reins to slow the mare down.
For a moment they stared at each other. He was clearly a gitano, one of those people that Luz’s family had always warned her to steer clear of. The frayed, cut-down denims sat low on his hips, revealing deeply tanned, muscular long legs, and his feet were bare as though he had just walked straight from the beach. Unruly chestnut hair, bleached golden in parts by the sun, tumbled to his shoulders; his smooth copper skin glowed more than that of any gypsy she had ever seen. As she allowed her gaze to flick back to his face, Luz caught the flash of amused, provocative arrogance in those bright, burning eyes, mixed with something deeper that she didn’t understand. She swallowed. The overwhelming masculinity of the gitano unsettled her. Luz lifted her chin resolutely, but felt the pull of his magnetism reaching out and gripping her, beguiling and dangerous, so that instinctively she nudged her mount and they broke into a smooth canter. The thumping of her heart sounded loud in her ears. She could sense his eyes on her, as a palpable touch, even as she rode away, trembling, and the feeling remained with her until she knew she was out of sight.
Had Zeyna picked up her mistress’s inner turmoil? Luz was pulling on her bridle as the mare tossed her head this way and that, snorting. Surprised by the horse’s unusual behaviour, Luz looked down at her hands and realized that she was clutching the reins much too tightly. She relaxed her hold. ‘I’m sorry, old girl. My fault,’ she whispered, leaning forward to pat the mare’s neck. Feeling free, the handsome creature surged forth without hesitation. The wind blew warm and salty; it touched Luz’s long black hair like a caress, threatening and tantalizing, wrapping a few silky wisps around her face. An unusual heat coursed through her, even though she was dressed only in a T-shirt, jeans tucked into riding boots. She raised her head against the breeze, letting the briny air course over her body, willing it to drive away this unfamiliar disquiet from her mind.
Gradually her sense of foreboding subsided and the awesome setting regained its hold. She felt an exhilaration and breadth of freedom in the vast solitude of the deserted beach and the wide horizons of the sea. The intense blue of the bay lay before her in the late afternoon sun. The lines of the land were so recognizable to her: no trees, no shrubs, no delicate tinting nor soft beauty, but a pure, distinct outline of form, almost terrifying in its austerity. Then, from time to time, there were the shadows of great clouds moving overhead, staining this infinite expanse of dunes that stretched before her like a vast tapestry, in shades of cream, greys and silver. Galloping in the wind on the back of her beautiful white mare, Luz felt in harmony with the Andalucían landscape and with herself. She had left her flat in Chelsea, finished her job in Scotland, and now she was back in Spain, a newly born post-Franco Spain, ruled by an energetic young king, and teetering on the edge of new possibilities. She was back at last in her beloved country, this time to stay.
Luz María Cervantes de Rueda was the only child to Count Salvador Cervantes de Rueda and his beautiful half-English, half-Spanish wife, Alexandra. At the time, their love story had made newspaper headlines and had been a favoured subject for wagging tongues in the drawing rooms of Spanish society. There had been a scandal involving Count Salvador, a young gypsy girl and her ne’er-do-well brothers. To add to the gossip, Alexandra de Falla was not from a pure Spanish background. Her foreign ways had caused suspicion and disapproval among the cloistered circles, their traditions still so deeply rooted in 1950s Andalucía. The fact that she was a romantic novelist, too, had caused many raised eyebrows. Some predicted doom when the couple’s fairy-tale marriage was announced, but as in all fairy tales, the pair had surprised everyone and were still living happily ever after.
For the first eleven years of her life Luz had lived in Spain, spending July and August in Kent with her Great-Aunt Geraldine. Later, when she was sent to boarding school in Gloucestershire, she would return three times a year to El Pavón, the ancestral home of her father outside the city of Jerez: at Christmas, Easter and for part of the summer holidays.
Luz had just arrived in Cádiz that morning, straight from England. She intended to spend at least a week at L’Estrella, the family’s summer house, before going on to see her parents at El Pavón. She was excited, pulsing with life, feeling as though she was on the verge of embarking on a great adventure.
It had been a long haul that had started with Cheltenham Ladies’ College when she was eleven, through a master’s degree in history and modern languages at Cambridge, and finally two years spent in the Highlands of Scotland penning the biography of an ancestor for one of the great families of Britain. Now that book was delivered, she could feel that Spain was where she was meant to be, where she was always meant to be. Here, she could breathe, feel her body come alive under the Spanish sun, and let all the pent-up, reckless instincts she had tried so hard to tame all through boarding school in England run wild and free. Luz had never thought that those compulsive feelings she had were the secret machinations of ‘destiny’; there was a sceptical, no-nonsense side to her inherited from her mother, along with a talent for writing, but she knew that the fiery Spanish nature that was her father’s – and always got the better of her – had finally pulled her back to Andalucía.
Only that morning, when Luz had arrived at L’Estrella laden with suitcases, Carmela handed her a letter that had come the day before. Ever since she had replied to an advertisement in the local paper for a biographer, she’d been praying for an interview. And here it was: a letter inviting her for a first meeting that week. Luz had barely been able to contain her relief and joy as she pulled the housekeeper into a delighted hug. She had really set her heart on this job, not only because she would be writing about Count Eduardo Raphael Ruiz de Salazar, one of the great painters of modern Spain, but also because the artist was from this part of the world and a large portion of the research would be done locally in Cádiz and its neighbouring towns. It seemed that now Luz had been given her reason to stay.
She brought Zeyna to a halt at the edge of the shore. The wild salty air seemed to be sweeping up from the beach as it brushed her cheek. She closed her eyes to savour its breath, delicious odours laden with iodine and fruits of the deep. The sun was setting in the late afternoon and the sky, gloriously mottled with apricot-pink and lilac, was broken here and there by shafts of light reflecting on the surface of the water, turning the calm ocean into a spectrum of peacock colours.
Now she could make out the fishing boats in the distance returning after a day’s work: black toy insects, the antennae of their masts bristling against the flamingo-tinted sky. Gulls and terns mingled overhead, screeching, impatient for the laden fleet’s arrival. Luz did not care much for birds. She found them – even the beautiful ones – eerie and menacing. It was time to be starting back.