Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thoughts about STARLING, plus an excerpt!

Hi. There seems to be some confusion about the third book in the Secrets of the Eternal Rose series. Originally the book was called FORBIDDEN. This title was in place before I even began to write the book, and when I was finished  my editors and I all believed that the book needed a new title. STARLING was suggested by my Penguin editor, along with two other possibilities, both of which didn't capture the feeling of the narrative arc the way STARLING did.

We all felt STARLING was a good choice, but it was March of 2013 when we made this decision and the VENOM paperbacks were already at the printer. So if you bought a Venom paperback (thanks!) the end of your book will announce the title of book three as FORBIDDEN. That is no longer the title. Apologies for the confusion :-)

Note: many readers believe STARLING to be a spoiler for the end of the trilogy, since that's the nickname that Falco gave her. The reason we went with this title is because it fit Cass's journey of learning to fly, to free herself from the expectations on her under her own terms. It has nothing to do with the romantic resolution.

Here's a short excerpt to give you a little idea of what Cass and Luca are up to at the beginning of the book!

Excerpt from Chapter 4, edited slightly to remove spoilers
The next day, Luca awoke free of fever and feeling stronger. Cass informed him of everything Narissa had told her.

“Vampire attacks in Venice? Could it be a coincidence?” He stretched his injured shoulder across his chest, massaging his stiff muscles with his other hand.

“I don’t know, but we should find out more before we go to Florence,” she said. “If Belladonna has come to town, it quite possibly means that she believes the book is here.”

Luca looked down and noticed Slipper still curled up on the wool blanket. He petted the cat gently. “What do you recommend?” he asked.

“I suppose we could do like Narissa and eavesdrop at the market,” Cass suggested.

“What about that workshop you told me about, the one with the symbol for the Order? Perhaps we should go by there and see if there’s any obvious activity.”

Cass blanched. She had mentioned Angelo de Gradi’s workshop to Luca but had never told him that she had broken in with Falco. He didn’t know about de Gradi’s collection of body parts or how the physician had nearly caught Cass trespassing. He didn’t know the mere mention of the place terrified her. She scooped Slipper into her arms, nestling the cat against her chest. He blinked sleepily and then started to purr.

“Cassandra,” Luca said. “You’ve gone white as a seabird. I don’t mean for us to go inside. I thought we might watch the building for a bit and see if anyone comes or goes.”

She nodded, but the thought of it made her breath go taut and her heart slam against her rib cage. The room with the tin basins appeared before her. She could smell the tinge of balsam in the air. She could feel the fabric of her nightgown catching on the broken shutter.

Angelo de Gradi’s hands reaching out for her...

“Or I could go alone,” Luca offered. “You could wait here for me.”

Cass knew they would be in little danger if they were only going to watch the de Gradi workshop from afar, but she never wanted to go anywhere near that horrible place again if she didn’t have to. But how to explain that without divulging that she had been inside, with Falco?

“What if you go to the workshop and I go to the market,” she suggested, releasing a squirming Slipper to the floor. “Then we can meet back here later and discuss what we’ve found.”

Luca watched as the cat pounced on a ball of dust. “It’s not safe for you to go wandering around the Rialto by yourself.”

“Luca, be reasonable. I’ll borrow a servant’s outfit and no one will even notice me. The market is always crowded. I’ll blend in with the masses.”

He reached out to touch the diamond necklace that hung in the hollow of her throat—a lily. He had given it to her before his arrest. “You’re a little well adorned to be a servant,” he said drily.

Cass tucked the pendant inside her bodice and chemise so that even the chain was hidden. “All better,” she declared. “Besides, consider this: if anyone is still looking for us, there’s a greater chance we’ll be recognized if we stay together, right? It’ll be safer for us to split up.” She wasn’t sure if this was technically true, but it made a logical kind of sense. The Senate knew she and Luca had escaped as a pair. They would most likely be expecting them to still be together.

Luca appeared to be thinking it over. “Just the market?” he asked. “You promise you won’t go anywhere else without me?”

“I promise I won’t do anything foolish,” Cass said. “Between the two of us, perhaps we’ll hear something about Dubois or Belladonna, or if not them, then something about this sudden scourge of vampires. If we don’t, we’ll plan to head to Florence tomorrow.”

Luca frowned. “I know how strong you are, Cassandra, but I hate the thought of leaving your side even for an instant. Perhaps we’re crazy to fight the Order by ourselves. Perhaps you should remain here and I should take the pages we have to the Senate and ask them to hear my testimony.”

Cass shook her head vehemently. “Don’t be ridiculous. Dubois owns the Senate. They wouldn’t hear your testimony. They’d probably execute you immediately.” Leaning close to Luca, she ran her fingers through his hair and then pressed her lips to his cheek. “I risked the world to get you back. I will not lose you again.”

Luca turned toward her. Cradling her face with one hand, he closed the gap between them until his forehead rested against hers. “I never imagined you . . .”

“What?” Cass whispered, the soft word melding with Luca’s breath. The sharp smell of the theriac balm tickled her nose. She could see the beginnings of a beard already growing out on his cheeks. “Wouldn’t want you to die?”

He leaned away so that he could look into her eyes. “That you would look at me as you are, and speak in this manner. Not as if you’d feel responsible if something happened to me, but as if you’d feel . . . lost.”

Cass felt her heart opening. It was like Luca had put into words something she hadn’t been able to herself. “Without you, I would be lost,” she admitted.

Want more STARLING? The book goes on sale March 20, 2014.


  1. I love this trilogy! The Renaissance era has always fascinated me and the novel brings beautifully to life- love, lust and evil!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the trilogy! They were fun to write but historical is tough and I'm excited to hang out in the contemporary/slightly futuristic world for my next few books. Thanks for the comment!


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