|As part of my 15 year anniversary, I can’t help but look back on the first book I ever published. (The first book I actually wrote has never been published so that one has to be dug out of the cyber graveyard.)|
When I started, I thought I would only write historical romances. I liked the challenge of building a world within specific parameters and creating characters that had to conform to the era in which they lived.
After my first book, a Regency ghost romance, published (2004), the editors contacted me needing authors to fill out their Sci Fi Romance list. I agreed with the idea I’d go back to historical “my true passion.”
I laugh at younger me now. Those first Sci Fi PNR books, Dragon Lords series turned into the Qurilixen World collection with 37 books within 8 series installments and growing.
I’ve written in almost every genre of romance: fantasy, dark paranormal, paranormal, contemporary, historical, futuristic, chick lit, Scottish, sci-fi, suspense, urban fantasy…
Even with all of this, I still have a special place in my heart for that first published book. I’m including an excerpt so you can all check it out. I hope you’ll give it a try.
Michelle M. Pillow
From NYT Bestselling Author Michelle M. Pillow comes a tragically beautiful love story that defies perception.
|Forget Me Not|
(Previously Titled: The Mists of Midnight)
Regency Paranormal Gothic Romance
|“Colonel Wallace is rather taken with your charms, my dear,” her father answered.|
“Yes, quite taken,” echoed her mother with a nod of her head.
“What are you saying, Father? By all means, speak plainly.” Isabel gripped the sides of the chair, her gloved hands working hard against the rough material. Her cheeks burned with the first simmer of anger.
“He wishes to marry you, daughter, and I have given him my consent. We have agreed that, after some intensive training of your mind and actions, he will claim you as his wife and formally introduce you to his uncle.” The Viscount appeared a bit puzzled by her reaction. “Surely, you know of his feelings?”
“No, I do not,” Isabel answered.
“Isabel, your tone,” her mother scolded.
“I will not mind my tone.” She stood, desiring nothing more than to run away. “You must send him notice at once that you have changed your mind.”
“I will do no such thing.” Her father remained calm. “A gentleman does not rescind on his word without good cause. And you can forget Mr. Tanner. I will never consent to such a disagreeable man as he.”
“But the Colonel? He wishes to change me,” Isabel whispered in a mix of anger and mortification. “Am I not suited as I am? He would turn me into a meek and mild plaything?”
“You overreact.” The Viscount scowled in displeasure. His tone became hard. “We merely wish to see your more desirable traits polished before you are to be a wife.”
“Our family remaining in this home may very well be dependent on the impression you make upon his uncle,” her mother inserted.
“And you will not be entertaining Mr. Tanner tonight or again unless it is with the Colonel’s consent,” her father said. “Mr. Tanner has been a most unwelcome influence over you, Issie.”
“You will receive the Colonel’s attentions tonight, daughter,” her mother insisted.
“I will not,” Isabel growled through clenched teeth. “If he wishes to speak to me, he will hear my thoughts. I will not have him. He will be wasting his time for the very character of my person, which he finds so objectionable, cannot and will not be changed. So I beg you, spare the Colonel the embarrassment of asking.”
“Will not have him? He is worth nearly seven thousand a year.” Her mother fluttered her hands nervously before her face, hovering between the desire to scold her daughter and the need to faint to prove how upset she was. “You could not hope to do much better. And as to change, a wife’s place is nothing if not sacrifice.”
“And, after his uncle passes, he will own Rothfield Park,” put in her father logically. “He will be the new Marquis of Rothfield.”
Isabel took several deep breaths. They were serious. They wanted her to give up her chance at happiness for a man with seven thousand a year and a house whose location she abhorred.
“If you don’t marry him,” her mother threatened, “I shall never speak to you again. And neither shall your father.”
“Then I look forward to a long and happy silence,” Isabel shouted. She rushed through the library door. Seeing Jane’s worried face as she passed through the front hall, Isabel met her sister’s stricken expression and experienced a moment’s regret. She refused to cry as she ran from the house as fast as she could.
Ignoring Jane’s gentle entreaties, Isabel made her way quickly to the stables. The angry red of outrage and horror stung her porcelain features, burning violently against her skin.
Not seeing a groom to help her, she went to her mare. Grabbing a set of reins from the stall, she fashioned them about the horse’s neck. Then, leading the palfrey out into the diffused sunlight, she brought the horse to the stairs so that she could maneuver onto its back with as much incensed grace as possible. Seated without the benefit of a sidesaddle, she nudged the mare and tore off toward the north field where the grass was the most open.
The spirited mare bolted forward with a jerk. Isabel, having ridden since the age of four, did not think twice about her wild ride. Her skirts flew behind her, pressing against her legs and fanning over the backside of the horse. When she was well into the field, she discovered she had two choices. Either she could ride out into the clearing, obviously within view of the library window, or she could ride into the mist, far from her father’s watchful gaze.
Isabel chose the mist.
Once out of sight, she swung her leg over the mare’s back and adjusted her skirts so that she was better seated astride the horse. The mist grew heavier, but she ignored it. She raced past shrubs and then trees. The mare found an easy path. Its hooves pounded down a gentle incline, through a limb covered alcove.
The fog thickened. Isabel reined the mare to a rough stop. She could hear the gentle babble of the nearby stream, but she could not see the water. The horse’s hooves pattered nervously. The mist continued to expand and thicken until she could barely detect the trees in front of her.
She looked around in mounting terror. Her attention snapped to one side and then the other. The trees faded completely, leaving behind an all-consuming whiteness. The water grew louder until she could not tell from which direction it came. Maneuvering the horse around, she urged the palfrey to move. In the beginning, the animal resisted but finally obeyed as she yelled at it to go.
Isabel leaned close to the horse’s neck, willing it to feel its way home. The fog only thickened. The horse’s movements were slow and cautious. The animal’s ears twitched, and its head bobbed in agitation.
Isabel forced a scared laugh, even as she trembled. The flesh on the back of her neck prickled in warning. She hugged closer to the skittish mare. She could feel its hot, sweaty flesh pressing into her gown. As they moved, she watched the white fog, willing her eyes to detect anything familiar. A tree limb passed close to her face. She jolted back in alarm.
And then she heard singing, the sweet chime of a child’s voice in play. The melody was haunted and hard, despite its joyful laughter. It echoed in the trees. At first, it was behind her, running through the mist. However as she urged the horse faster, it was beside her, keeping pace with the mare.
“Play,” she heard the childlike whisper near her ear.
Isabel jolted in fright. Tears slid over her cheeks. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. The singing came from her side, growing louder. The fog became so dense she could barely see the horse’s ears pointed with alertness.
“Hello?” she called, her voice cracking. “Who’s there?”
“Play,” demanded the pouting voice.
“Who are you?” Isabel insisted. She couldn’t see her hands. Her limbs shook. She was too afraid to move from the comfort of the horse’s back. She felt the mare shake and jolt with each ring of laughter, each start of an eerie ballad. “What do you want?”
Suddenly, the laughing turned to tears. The mist seemed to press into Isabel’s skin. She breathed it into her lungs like the smoke from a fire. Coughing, she wheezed to catch her breath. Almost instantly, perspiration dotted her flesh. The horse neighed and bucked in protest. Her fingers found her throat, tearing at her gown as she fought for air.
“I want to play with you,” the child answered with a sulk in her voice. The sound of her words were hollow, garbled by a roaring Isabel couldn’t make out. She coughed louder, desperate to get out of the fog. Sweetly, the voice asked, “Are you my mother? Are you the girl from my bedchamber?”
“No!” Isabel kicked her horse in the ribs, urging it forward, not caring if she was still within the trees. She would much rather take her chances against the forest.
As the startled mare began to gallop, a hand shot out from the fog trying to stop her. The masculine fingers reached for the horse’s reins. It was the hand of a man—pale, strained, and strong. She saw the ruffling of a shirt. Isabel screamed louder. Her mare jolted violently, and she lost the reins. The hand disappeared behind her. She sat up, looking over her shoulder to see if the man was coming for her. There was nothing but mist all around.
With a relieved sigh, she turned to look forward. Her eyes did not have time to focus as a branch materialized out of the fog. It struck her across the forehead, knocking her back with a sharp crack. Blood filled her mouth. Her head hit the jolting movements of the animal’s galloping rump. Her feet loosened their hold, and she flipped over the back of the horse to the ground. And, as her head struck the earth, the white mist turned into enveloping darkness.
Buy the Book:
Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D. on The Gothic Wanderer wrote:
If you enjoyed books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, then Forget Me Not should give you plenty of ghostly pleasure. If you’re a fan of television shows like The Ghost Whisperer or films like The Sixth Sense, you’ll also find more enjoyable modern spins on ghosts and the Gothic in these pages. After you finish Forget Me Not, I suspect you will want to read more of Michelle Pillow’s novels—fortunately, she has written plenty in both the romance and paranormal genres.