It is an absolute pleasure to introduce you to Helena Fairfax’s latest release, Palace of Deception. It is a beautiful romantic suspense novella, with mystery. And to help celebrate it’s release, not only have we reviewed this sweet romance, but we also have a super interview with the author herself, where Helena will not only be talking about her novels, but also her blogging, social networking, her involvement with the Romantic Novelist Association, and much, much more!!
Sweet, sexy & suspenseful
Title: Palace of Deception
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Contemporary, Mystery
Release date: August 2nd, 2015
Length: 76 pages
Blurb: A sinister housekeeper, a silent bodyguard, and a missing princess – mystery and intrigue in this gripping romantic suspense.
Lizzie Smith is contacted by her old drama teacher over the summer and offered the acting job of her life. Princess Charlotte of Montverrier has disappeared on the eve of her Investiture…and Lizzie must take her place.
But in the run up to the ceremony, all is not what it seems in the Palace of Montverrier. Why does the housekeeper insist Lizzie keep to her suite of rooms? What danger lies outside the palace walls? As Lizzie learns her role, her only confidant is Léon, her quiet bodyguard…but what secrets is he keeping from her?
Mystery and suspense against the backdrop of a beautiful Mediterranean city.
There are many reasons to fall for this romantic novella; not only is the suspense powerful and intense, and captivating with a hot bodyguard in Léon, but the story is set in a picturesque town between mountains and the Mediterranean, which is perfect for a romance. Yes, Montverrier is described so beautifully by the author that you can actually picture yourself there.
Lizzie is instantly likeable and the reader can sense that her drama teacher thinks highly of her, especially to ask her to become involved in such a covert task in taking the place of Princess Charlotte of Montverrier after she has disappeared! One cannot deny the ease and optimism that Lizzie has when accepting the job, albeit she is not completely aware of the full situation.
But, I must admit, aside from the scenic setting, it is Léon that makes my head turn. Meeting Lizzie for the first time in his leathers and taking her back to the palace on his bike, it is hardly believable that he is a bodyguard for the Princess. And yet, his whole mannerism, politeness and care do tell a different story, making him very believable and extremely sexy.
I absolutely love the chemistry between Léon and Lizzie. It is clear before too long that Lizzie is expected to remain in her suite for the full five weeks she is to be at the Palace, and with an emotionally cold housekeeper in Daria, Léon is the only human contact with warmth that she has. I love the mild smiles he passes her, over Daria’s shoulder, and the cute winks he makes – all of which help assure Lizzie that she will be okay. Yes, I found myself smiling at some moments.
Regardless of the mystery surrounding the missing Princess, and the fact that Lizzie feels like a prisoner at times, it is the fact that Léon spends day and night with her that provides her with some comfort. Léon’s character is perfect for the suspense. A man of little words, and yet his actions and expressions speak so loud, it is impossible to not be taken in by him. I’m sure every reader will wish to be in Lizzie’s shoes! I certainly wouldn’t mind being guarded by him!
Lizzie is aware that the situation isn’t quite right at the Palace as she is made to remain in her quarters, the housekeeper is a little stern and cold to say the least towards her, and she is aware of the dislike some members of the public have on the Princess’ s Investiture. Just what danger is she in? Does Léon know? And, will he really protect her?
If you’re looking for a short, suspenseful romance, in a setting you can only dream of, then Palace of Deception is the book for you. As always, it is written in the sophisticated and classy manner that Helena Fairfax is known for, and I have no doubt that her fans and new readers alike will love this sweet, sexy and suspenseful novella.
An ARC copy of Palace of Deception was provided by the author in return for an honest and fair review.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker
Author Interview with Helena Fairfax
Hello, Helena, and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some of our questions.
Hi, Caroline and Tina. Thanks so much for having me. It’s lovely to be with you again!
After having just finished reading Palace of Deception, I must say how beautiful the setting is in Montverrier for your story. How did you decide where to set the story?
One summer there were terrible floods in the UK, but I’d been lucky enough to escape on holiday. I was watching the flooding on the news in my hotel room in Nice, where outside the sun was glittering on the sea. The south coast of France is such a beautiful coastline, and the light is like nothing you would find in northern England. Everything seems bright blue and white, and such a contrast with rainy Yorkshire. The holiday stayed in my mind long after I got home and the floods went down. I based the fictional Mediterranean principality of Montverrier on Monaco, which I find a place with a fairy tale quality to it. And in summer it’s lovely and hot!
And, I am very eager to find out how you dreamed up Léon and the intensity between him and Elizabeth.
I had a clear image of Léon in my mind at the start of the story. I wanted to make him someone quiet, who at first is only protecting Lizzie because that’s his job, but then of course they are thrown together, and his desire to look after her becomes much more complicated! The background of suspense and the constant hint of danger add to the way their feelings for one another deepen and intensify. And although Léon is quiet, Lizzie begins to realise that under that silent exterior beats a passionate heart!
Did you plan to write a novella initially, or did you begin writing and waited to see how it worked length-wise?
I first wrote Palace of Deception as a short story, but I realised the characters would have much more depth if I made it longer. I much prefer it now as a novella. Léon is a far more rounded and interesting character now, and filling in the backstory of Lizzie’s life in Edinburgh makes her someone readers can sympathise with.
After writing both full length novels and now a novella, do you find you have a preference? Or is it a case of depending on how the story pans out?
That’s a great question! I really enjoyed writing this novella. It was a lot of fun to do, and I plan to write more – perhaps next time with a winter theme. But I also enjoy writing the full length books, as I can immerse myself in them far more deeply and for a longer period. I really don’t think I can choose one over the other. I like them both, for very different reasons!
I have also noticed that you now have your publishing rights back for The Silk Romance and The Antique Love. Have you any specific plans to relaunch them?
Both books were originally published a couple of years ago. I haven’t made a big deal of relaunching them, but I have put them both back up on Amazon for now, and they’ll be in other online stores from September. It’s been great having control of the books. The Antique Love was a freebie for a few days, for example, and is now selling well in the US in particular. It gained quite a few more 4 and 5 star reviews because of it, which was really nice to see! I plan to do the same with The Silk Romance once the launch of Palace of Deception is underway.
Have you thought about deviating from contemporary romances and writing historical romances, or penning different genres?
Funnily enough, that question has been on my mind a lot recently. Earlier this year I was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize for a young adult novel, which I’ve written in a completely different style to my contemporary romances. I’d love to write both genres – perhaps using a different name for the YA novels – and it’s one of my aims this year to finish off this particular YA novel and to explore this genre more fully.
With the advent of social media and the internet, I imagine the life of a writer is now far less lonely than in previous generations. How useful have you found social media and the internet to you personally in your journey as a writer?
Social media and the internet have been invaluable. A whole new era of publishing has begun now, with e-publishing, and I’ve made great friends with authors all over the world. We’re able to pool resources and support each other in a way that was unheard of twenty years ago. Having my first novel published was a great experience because I was able to share the moment online. I also find it’s far easier to meet up with other lovers of romance (especially through blogs like yours) and discover new authors. Before, I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about my love of romance. Now there’s a whole brilliant tribe online!
We find your blog fascinating with all of the writing tips, author interviews and general writing experiences that you share. How do you find the time to do both your blog and writing? And, which do you prefer?
I’ve been able to reach out to other readers and writers through my blog, and I really enjoy communicating with people this way. When I first started blogging, I decided to post twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and I’ve stuck to that. It does take discipline, but writing in any form takes discipline if you want to make a success of it. If I had to choose between blogging and writing novels, then I’d definitely choose writing novels, but it’s fun to be able to do both!
I noticed on your blog recently that you have a re-worked cover on your previous release, A Way From Heart to Heart. Do you have an idea of the front covers yourself, or do you leave it in the hands of an artist/photographer to design?
My designers have always asked what I’d like to see on the cover, and I give them the germ of an idea – nothing concrete. I don’t want to be too rigid about it, because they always have such good ideas themselves. Then I leave it in their hands, and I’ve always been surprised and delighted with what they’ve come up with. I really enjoy this side of publishing. I used to work in the print industry for many years and have a lot of experience working with designers. I admire what they’re able to do, and wish I had their skill!
Would you like to tell us about your involvement with the Romantic Novelist Association and how it has helped you with your writing career?
I joined the RNA New Writers’ Scheme a few years ago, and it was through them that I wrote my first novel, The Silk Romance. The critique I received in the scheme was invaluable, and helped me on my way to publication. Since then I’ve made many friends in the RNA and met many people in the publishing industry through attending RNA events. I was given the chance to pitch my latest book to several agents at the last RNA conference, for example, which is an opportunity I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I can recommend joining for any romance writer, no matter what stage your career is at.
How helpful do you think entering writing awards are for authors? Would you like to share your experiences of them?
Entering competitions is a great discipline and a great way to get yourself noticed by agents and publishers. As I mentioned before, I entered my YA novel for the Exeter Novel Prize earlier this year. It was shortlisted by Broo Doherty of the DHH Agency. Broo is an agent I really admire, and having my work noticed by her was a real boost, and gave me the confidence to carry on and finish the novel. Bro was able to offer me advice, too, in which direction my career should take. Writing awards can be a great help to authors – and if you succeed, they are an excellent addition to your author profile.
Can you sum up your experience as an author in five words? If this is too much to ask we’d love to hear your thoughts in a paragraph or two!
Stressful, work, exciting, joyful, fulfilling
Are you currently working on a new book? If so, can you share any hints as to the storyline?
I’m currently working on two books – the YA novel I mentioned above, which is a time slip novel, featuring a fifteen-year-old heroine and a Roman soldier. I’ve also just finished a contemporary romance set in an ailing hotel in the Lake District. I’m hoping that one will be published next year. Fingers crossed!
Is there anything else which you would like to share with us and our readers?
Just to say I’ve followed your blog for a long time, and really enjoy it. I’ve found lots of new authors here, and I just love a place where people can get together to talk about their love of romance and reading. Thanks for having me!
Thank you for your time. We wish you every success with the release of Palace of Deception and any future works. – Caroline & Tina xx
You can also check out an author post from Helena – In Praise of Romance Reviewers
And, you can follow Helena’s blog here, where you can find out all about her work, her inspiriations, author interviews with her favourite authors, reviews, writing and publishing tips, and much, much more!!