Brilliant and sassy Elizabeth Trumpet fantasizes starring on the London stage, but to become an actress in 1803 is tantamount to losing her virginity in the most debasing way.
After watching her mother die and her father lose his mind, the courageous sixteen-year-old must find a way to save her family. She scores her first acting job as a fencer—the deadly skill she learned from her brother training for the military. Blessed with talent and a rare singing voice, Lizzie pursues her career, learning from theatrical characters high and low.
When reckless actor Jonathan Faversham sets eyes on Miss Trumpet, he knows he’s found the partner of his life. But Faversham carries ruinous baggage from a dark past. Entangled in lust and ambition, Lizzie gives him her heart and they reach the heights together. Until Lizzie gets more applause than he…
From the magnificence of Regency palaces and the Theatre Royal Covent Garden to the sun-baked pyramids of Egypt and the arms of a real-life Samson, Lizzie is never far from trouble. As her brother rides to glory with Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars, great events threaten her survival. Danger lurks behind stage curtains, when a madman sets fire to take her life and she lifts a sword in revenge.
Will this once innocent girl, with her rise to stardom, be remembered for her art? Or for her shame?
Genre: Mainstream fiction, adventure, Regency Era historical
Heat level: 3
Word count: 140k
Cover art by Patricia Schmitt
“Listen child, I know what to do. Dress to look adorable and present yourself at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. They’ll be putting together the summer spectacle now.”
Lizzie looked dumbfounded. “Sadler’s Wells? Auntie, that place is for acrobats and dancing dogs.”
She had never been allowed near the Wells, because of its rowdy reputation. Secretly, Georgie had once crept into a show and enthralled his sister with what he had seen: bawdy singers, a knife-thrower, dancing girls and, most wonderful, the brave-hearted collie Moustache leading a troupe of performing dogs.
Drury Lane and Covent Garden audiences, though noisy, were completely out-shouted by the unbridled behavior of Sadler’s Wells crowds. In the rural suburb of Islington, spectators were gleefully raucous and sexually uninhibited. The ambience was so casually iniquitous the Wells management offered escorts after dark, to conduct patrons in safety to the center of London.
“Besides, Aunt, if Covent Garden refused me, where they know me for William Trumpet’s daughter, what would I do at the Wells? Be a barmaid?”
“I’m certain you’re superior to all those acrobats and dogs you mention, but the fact is you’ve never walked across any stage except in your imagination. Your mother was so set against your being an actress she stopped you playing a fairy in a Christmas panto when you were but three. I remember well. What a lot of screaming that led to!”
Lizzie could just recall the screaming, getting slapped by Jessie and slapping her mother back. She quickly dismissed the recollection. “Papa said Sadler’s is infamous, no better than a raree-show with music.”
“And just down the road, too. As good a place as any to learn performing, and isn’t that what you want?”
Lizzie had hidden her dreams of the stage from her mother, but Peg was not so easily misled. “I have no stage training.”
“They’ll train you! You are young and pretty as a petunia!” Peg slapped the table. “Ye’ll keep a smile on your face and your big yap shut. Look sharp and be willing. Not too willing, mind. The Wells is not quite a brothel, despite what happens in the bushes every night. But that’s life, darlin’. Men will take their cocks out in a lively atmosphere.”
Lizzie had heard such salty talk from her aunt before, but never in regards to herself. It was sobering. But exciting. “And if I fail to be chosen, no one will ever know?”
“You’ll be chosen, darlin’, if ye but try.”
SUSAN SEAFORTH HAYES began acting at age four with the New York Metropolitan Opera in Madam Butterfly and has been performing ever since. Born in California to an actress mother, she attended Los Angeles City College focusing on history. Cast as “Julie” in NBC’s long running Days of our Lives, Susan received four Emmy nominations for best actress in daytime and married the man of her dreams, co-star Bill Hayes. Their romance produced the best-selling autobiography Like Sands Through the Hourglass and forty years of theatrical adventures together.
Hayes has addressed the House Judiciary Committee, served on the board of the Screen Actors Guild, been a docent of Western History, and traveled the globe as a cruise ship lecturer. She lives in Studio City, continues to play “Julie,” attends the opera, and always keeps a good book handy.
BILL HAYES has been a singer/actor his entire adult life, performing in all forms of entertainment—hundreds of recordings, topped by Best-Record-of-1955 ‘The Ballad of Davy Crockett;’ over a hundred plays and musicals, including Broadway (Me and Juliet, Brigadoon), and a national tour (ByeBye Birdie); films (Stop! You’re Killing Me, The Cardinal); literally thousands of hours of television (Your Show of Shows, Days of our Lives), and a surprising list of variety, dramatic, game, and talk shows); concerts and cafes (solo, also with Florence Henderson, Ann Blyth, Gogi Grant and wife Susan).
For four years, Hayes was spokesman for Oldsmobile. He has earned Bachelor of Arts, Master of Music, and Doctor of Education degrees, written songs, and--with Susan--published a successful memoir called Like Sands Through the Hourglass. His five children produced twelve grands and eighteen great-grands.
He still goes to tap-class.