by Carla Caruso
Fledgling romance author Simona Gemella is hoping the rugged wilderness of South Australia's Kangaroo Island will help reignite her creative spark after her husband walked out on her (calling her a workaholic and filing for divorce).
She's joined her best friend, Nessie, on a health and wellness retreat at a mysterious old manor on the island, run by an astrology guru.
Though Simona's sworn off men, she can't help being distracted by a darkly dangerous man with a scorpion tattoo - Denham Cobalt - who's also staying at the manor. Then strange things start to happen, including uncanny accidents and even a possible murder.
It all culminates at a masquerade party on the night of a total lunar eclipse. Will Simona survive - with her heart intact?
Simona woke with a start, her heart pounding. A dream featuring dark-eyed strangers and clawing scorpions had been interrupted by the sound of footsteps. Real ones. Growing closer. Not far from her bed. She could have sworn it. Although, the pitch black revealed nothing.
The noise had seemed to come more from the right side of the room, behind the wardrobe. Almost inside the wall. Which was ridiculous. She turned her head, peering into the darkness. 3:08 glowed in fluorescent green digits on the alarm clock radio.
Grasping the covers under her chin, Simona lay still, waiting for more, her ears pricked. Three glow-in-the-dark star stickers shone down from the ceiling. She imagined a travelling mum sticking them there to soothe their child, remind them of home. Unfortunately Simona needed more than that to placate her.
Aside from the occasional breathy snort from Nessie, though, silence reigned. Her friend had finally hit the pillow after kicking on to play pool with some backpacker. She had called Simona a stick-in-the-mud earth sign for leaving the pub early. Nessie always had a knack for making her feel dull.
Simona strained her ears. Still nothing. Her writer’s imagination had obviously conjured up the footsteps. Pity, as she had found it hard to get to sleep in the first place. Phone in her possession again, she had been kept up, mulling over a three-star Goodreads review from a writers’ group pal. Yup, three measly stars. Friends were meant to give you five stars, or four at least to look realistic. It was an unofficial rule.
But her supposed mate, who had hidden behind a code name (undone by the profile pic of her pet dog), hadn’t been so generous. She had written: I fell in love with the rugged hero and the unique story. The only shame was that some of the more intriguing plotlines weren’t further explored, sacrificed for the romance aspect of the book …
Um, it was a romance novel, hence, the emphasis on that particular component. Really. Of course, any criticism only hurt because she feared it was true: she was her own worst critic.
Then, just as Simona was drifting off, Nessie had crashed home, flicking on the lamp so that she could put on her so-called ‘lucid dreaming’ sleep mask. Another bizarre Nessie-style item. This one, she reckoned, helped encourage creative thinking. Though what Nessie needed it for, Simona didn’t know. Dreaming up more crazy holiday ideas? If anyone required it, it was Simona with her severe case of writer’s block.
And now? Now she was imagining things that went bump in the night.
Why oh why had she been fooled into believing going on holiday with a friend would be fun? It never was. She would have had more luck with inspiration striking at home. Where the internet was never far from her fingertips, and her thoughts weren’t clouded by no-good men.
Willing sleep to come soon, Simona unearthed an arm from beneath the doona and stretched to tap the bedside table three times. For luck — in case she wasn’t crazy and someone really was lurking about. Touching wood was a vice of hers. Nessie would probably say it had something to do with her being an earth sign and needing to be close to Nature. Really it just meant she was a tad OCD. Besides, the footsteps she’d heard before probably were just in her head — a symbol of her fear of being walked out on again.
Carla will be awarding an eCopy of Starcrossed to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.
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TV Shows with Zodiac-inspired Names
I have a not-so-secret confession. I am a horoscopes addict. I always read my dailies from www.forecasters.co.nz and regularly check what’s happening in the skies for my sign in the magazines.
So it was only a matter of time before I wove an astrology theme into one of my novels – that being my latest book, Starcrossed (Harper Impulse)! It surrounds four women who go on a cosmic retreat on South Australia’s rugged Kangaroo Island… and strange things start to happen. The book mixes contemporary romance, suspense, and magical realism. (There’s also a hunky hero with a scorpion neck-tattoo in the mix!)
With this in mind, I thought I’d look at a few TV shows, which sound a little zodiac-inspired…or are they really?
AQUARIUS. The show’s poster features actor David Duchovny, peering over psychedelic-coloured shades. Looks promising… Hang on a sec. Who’s that creepy guy reflected in Duchovny’s lenses? Uh-oh, it’s hippie serial killer Charles Manson. It seems Aquarius is actually a gritty 1960s drama about an LA cop who goes undercover to track down Charles and the Manson Family before their infamous murder spree. ‘Aquarius’ obviously refers to ‘the Age of Aquarius’ sung about in the Hair musical. Not so zodiac-inspired then. But the ‘sex, drugs and rock-and-roll’ bit does sound intriguing…
SCORPION. The clawing scorpion is a symbol of the star sign, Scorpio – known to be dark, moody, mysterious types. Could the TV series, Scorpion, hence, be in some way horoscope-inspired? Of the show, the Internet Movie Database says: “An eccentric genius forms an international network of super-geniuses to act as the last line of defence against the complicated threats of the modern world.” Erm, no, darn it. Scorpion is actually based on the real life of Walter O’Brien, who has an IQ of 197. The whiz-kid was bullied in school for being socially awkward — until one day when he snapped, letting loose with five years of karate training. “From then on, they called me ‘Scorpion’,” O’Brien told the New York Post, “because apparently it’s a very docile creature until it’s pushed too far.” That’s still pretty cool.
DANCING WITH THE STARS. Okay, I’m just joking about this one, because we all know Dancing’s just a reality show about B-list celebrities trying to shimmy their way back onto the A-list. But some of the starlets do wear frocks with enough sequins they could be seen from the moon. So that counts for something, right? Right?
STAR TREK. Yes, I admit it. Now I’m being really silly, because we all know Star Trek is a sci-fi franchise where, in the old episodes, as my husband puts it: “They always find an alien planet or spaceship, Captain Kirk hooks up with an alien chick each time, and from the four away on an expedition, all survive or leave the planet except for the one newbie you’ve never seen before.” Still it was fun reminiscing, eh?
The verdict of my research? There really needs to be more shows based around star signs. But (cough), in the meantime, horoscope devotees, I hear Starcrossed is a good read… ;)
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Carla Caruso was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only 'escaped' for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide's daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman's Day and Shop Til You Drop.
These days, she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James. Visit www.carlacaruso.com.au.