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?
We chose to tell a story of theatricals, because that’s what we are. Real-life characters from history showed us the heights and pitfalls of reputation, today called celebrity. Actors of the Regency age lived in a profligate time, before Victorian restraint made society “polite.” For example, since 1985, we kept a magazine article on Giovanni Battista Belzoni, whose life was amazing. Our heroine, Elizabeth Trumpet, a remarkable creature herself, just had to meet him. Lots of adventurous story spooled out of that.
Choosing which historical moments were indispensible. We adored our heroine Lizzie and stayed with her for a long eventful arc, from sixteen-year-old innocent to wise maturity. The parallels to our own time are very great, the runaway disaster that fame can be was just as true then as now. The years of our story—1803 to 1821—were times of war and conflict. Our Trumpet family lives and loves through experiences the modern reader understands perfectly. Of course, we plunged into research, read over a hundred books, traveled all over the world to touch in person the places we describe. But that wasn’t hard. Over seven years we grew more and more connected to the age, and it was electrifying.
Historical fiction is the fiction of choice in the Hayes house. It was a challenge to see if we could do it. After our first book, LIKE SANDS THROUGH THE HOURGLASS, a double memoir, we knew we were a good team with pen and paper—excuse us, computer and keyboard. Creating a whole world together, Lizzie’s London and worlds beyond kept us keyed up and on fire. We highly recommend writing a book as a bonding experience for the long-married. We have been together for forty years, and writing TRUMPET was sweet icing on the cake of our life.
“Elizabeth, you must perform. I will teach you a style of acting that is revolutionary. You have seen my work. You understand the art I worship.”
She took a step closer. “Since I was a child, watching my father on stage, I longed to be there with him.” Jack watched Lizzie struggle to go on. “You have just described the dream of my life. There is nothing I want more, but…Mr. Faversham—Jack…I am not free.”
He reached for her hands and pulled her down beside him on the stump. “Explain why you are not free.”
In a long and tearful soliloquy, Lizzie told her story of the past year. She was too candid for propriety and too wrought-up by his presence to withhold anything. In this soulful state, she was so beautiful and vulnerable that Jack had to fight to keep his hands off her.
“You need, as in a play, an ailing uncle to leave you a great inheritance,” Jack suggested with sympathy.
“Indeed, I have just been offered ‘protection’ by a gentleman.”
“It must be Dampere, the creature! I guessed as much! That’s why I broke in upon your privacy in such haste. Listen to me, Elizabeth. I promise you a weekly income, not of shillings, but of pounds. From the sound of it, your first concern is caring decently for your family. Join me and you will be able to provide for your father and aunt and whoever else you are carrying on your lovely back.”
The emotional girl looked at him as though he were a god.
Jack turned on his serpent-of-Eden charm. “Why take up with that toad Dampere? Come with me and live your passion while you keep your reputation. I can turn you into a real princess, Pocahontas—a princess of the stage.”
That did it. Dazzled, Lizzie said something irrational that meant yes: “The honor…do all I can…prove your faith.” It was the grateful garble of a person saved.
Satisfied to have gotten his way, Jack sealed the bargain by taking her head in his hands and kissing her full on the mouth. “Gad, we’ll be good; I know it.” He bowed and strode to his hired horse. “I have urgent business in the city. Be glad, Elizabeth. I certainly am.”
He leaped into the saddle and cantered away. Actually, he was off to a backstage intrigue at Covent Garden. Waiting in his dressing room, another would-be actress, of no performing ability whatsoever, was ready to audition what talent she did have on the chaise lounge.
Lizzie watched Faversham until she could see him no more. A freshening breeze lifted the leaves of the oak tree. She touched her tingling lips and thanked God for escaping a sordid life. He is my savior. Now I won’t have to do as Octavia does.