And now for a quick stopover back in Adelaide before heading out for the next leg of the book blog tour - and a bit about my books for those who are reading about me for the first time. I'm currently finishing off the third book in my Victorian steampunk mystery series - The Adventures of Viola Stewart. You'll find out more about the characters on Friday (Australian Central Standard Time) in my final stopover in this tour.
The Illusioneer & Other Tales: The Adventures of Viola Stewart Journal #3 (paperback collection of all three stories) is the final set of Viola's adventures in this series and is currently scheduled for publication late October. There are three novella-length stories:
- 'From the Depths' - Viola needs a holiday. But even at the beach, things are afoot.
- 'Tomorrow, When I Die' - A knock on the door could change everything. It's just a matter of time.
- 'The Illusioneer' - Seeing is believing. Or is it?
'From the Depths' and 'Tomorrow, When I Die' are currently available as eBooks.
Find out where to buy your copy.
Here's an exclusive excerpt from: 'The Illusioneer'
©2017 Karen J Carlisle
Chapter 1: Promise
The limelights hissed and flared into life as the audience dribbled into the hall. Boots clacked on the wooden floors. The echoes of voices faded as the hall filled, coalescing into a background murmur.
Viola wove her way through the crowded aisle, around huddled clusters of eager on-lookers jostling for the best seats. She paused, waiting for Henry to catch up - and to avoid catching Lady Calthorpe’s eye. She had been particularly attentive to Viola’s state of affairs since Christmas. Too attentive.
Viola stepped into the shadow of a rotund gentleman, deep in conversation with his friend. She glanced over the man’s shoulder at occupied seats in the front row. Lady Calthorpe would be there - no doubt - keeping watch on the aisle, having secured front row seats for both Viola and Henry next to her and Lord Calthorpe.
Rank had its privilege, and Lady Calthorpe was always offered the prerogative to exercise that privilege. Viola bit her lip. That was unkind; Lady Calthorpe had every right to her privileges. There were few women who would not accept such concessions, nor welcome respect from the male establishment.
Warm fingers wrapped around Viola’s hand. She turned to see Henry’s brilliant blue eyes smiling at her.
“Tell me again, why are we here?” she asked.
“I thought I’d present you with an alternative detectiving challenge. One less perilous than your usual fare.” He winked at her.
Viola sighed. “You know what I think about hypnotists, Henry. Poking around in someone’s subconscious will only lead to no good.” It was a woolly science at best; outright quackery at worst.
“Then, see if you can solve how the trick is done. The Mighty Alessandro is supposed to be the fastest hypnotist in London. His record is twenty subjects at one assembly.” He patted her on the hand. “And it could be fun.”
“Fun?” Viola raised an eyebrow.
Henry nodded in the direction of the front row. “Lady Calthorpe is here.”
Viola turned to face the stage. Lady Calthorpe grinned from under a massive orange bonnet; its feathers jiggled as she waved them forward.
“Doesn’t she know it’s all just an act?”
Henry shook his head. “She’s been talking about it for days. I do hope they ask for volunteers. She would not hesitate to offer up herself as a subject, if given the chance.” His moustache twitched. “Wouldn’t you adore seeing her cluck like a chicken?”
Viola tugged her hand free from his grip. “Henry, don’t be so cruel.” She slapped him on his wrist. “Lady Calthorpe is a very generous woman and is always willing to offer support.” She leaned closer to Henry. “They don’t pick subjects at random; they only use paid volunteers placed amongst the audience. And Lady Calthorpe would never agree to humiliate herself in front of society and friends.”
Henry's moustache drooped. “You can be a stick-in-the-mud, sometimes.”
“I don’t want to encourage them.”
“Charlatans and fraudsters like this Alessandro.”
“Perhaps their methods could be useful. There have been some studies in France. A doctor there has postulated its use to manage patients in the asylum.”
A gaggle of socialites squeezed past them. Viola grabbed her skirt and tucked it behind her.
“He also said hypnotism was a manifestation of hysteria,” whispered Viola.
“Ah.” Henry waved on the socialites’ top-hatted companions.
“And I suppose you believe in fairies as well?” asked Viola.
Henry dropped his gaze.
Lady Calthorpe beckoned them closer and patted the seat next to her. Lord Calthorpe closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Viola and Henry made their way toward the front seats.
“Do we have to…?”
“No,” replied Henry. “But we should. Lady Calthorpe did invite us.”
Viola examined Lady Calthorpe’s enthusiastic face. Her cheeks were blushing and her eyes sparkled. Viola would never hear the end of it if she absconded. She took a deep breath and edged past a tall gentleman standing at the end of the front row of seats. Henry followed her along the row.
Lady Calthorpe jumped to her feet. “Doctor Stewart, you came. And you brought Doctor Collins. Excellent. Do sit.”
Henry leaned forward and shook Lord Calthorpe’s hand. “Congratulations on your appointment as Commander of Windsor Sky Cannon and Armoury. Her Majesty will be in good hands.”
Viola nodded, settled into the leather chair and straightened her skirts. She glanced in the direction of the stage. Shadows bobbed up into the light as the stage hands skittered around the front of the stage. One remained at the foot of each light fixture.
The stage curtains twitched. The hall lights dimmed. The drone of the crowd hushed. A crack appeared in the centre of the heavy curtains; its corners lifted and peeled apart to reveal a tall, black-clad man, his face hidden in the shadow of his top hat. He extended his hand toward the audience; his cloak hugged his arm, revealing a brilliant ruby-red lining.
Violin music wafted up from the orchestra pit.
The man stepped forward. The gathered curtains dropped behind him with a soft thud. He lifted his chin and smiled. The stage lights brightened, until they glinted off his cravat pin.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.”
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