About Against the Tide (released Oct. 1,2012):After a childhood rampant with uncertainty, Lydia Pallas has carved out a perfect life for herself. She spends her days within sight of the bustling Boston Harbor, where her skill with languages has landed her an enviable position as a translator for the U.S. Navy.
Lydia's talents bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man in need of a translator. Driven by a campaign to end the opium trade. Bane is coolly analytical and relentless in his quest. He cannot afford to fall for Lydia and must fight the bittersweet love growing between them.
When Bane's enemies gain the upper hand, he is forced to turn to Lydia for help. Determined to prove her worth, Lydia soon discovers that carrying out Bane's mission will test her wits and her courage to the very limits.
Excerpt from Against the Tide:She was used to working amidst the steady din of background noise of the coffeehouse, so it seemed strange when the noise dwindled away. The drone of laughter and conversation tapered off, a busy waitress stopped her order in midsentence, and even the fiddlers in the corner stopped playing. Lydia looked up to see what had caused the drop in conversation.
Oh my, my.
What was Lieutenant Banebridge doing at the Laughing Dragon? His crystalline blue gaze sliced through the dwindling twilight that illuminated the coffeehouse as he scanned the occupants. The man was not particularly tall. Indeed, compared to the oversized longshoreman who filled the room, he seemed almost slight, but he radiated a calm sense of power as he navigated through the cluster of tables and barrels and headed toward the serving counter.
Lydia's eyes widened as his gaze riveted on her. A hint of a smile lifted the corner of his perfectly shaped mouth, and Lydia's breath froze as he strode directly to her.
"Lydia Pallas?" he asked as he slid onto the vacant stool next to her. How did he know her name? It was the first time he had ever spoken directly to her, and she wondered how he knew where she lived. All she could do was nod.
"I hear you read Turkish," he said as though that were an entirely natural opening line. "Eric recommended you as someone who was willing to pick up a little translation work on the side."
It took her a moment to process what he had said. "Eric? Do you mean Admiral Fontaine?"
"Yes, Admiral Fontain. He said you have a remarkable ability with languages."
"I've never heard anyone refer to him as 'Eric' before," she said. "It would be like calling Queen Victoria 'Vicki.'" She glanced at the insignia on his uniform. "And I certainly did not think that lieutenants ever called admirals by their first name."
That lazy smile could probably slay damsels at a thousand yards. "I don't report to Eric. He is a friend, not someone in my chain of command. I am Alex Banebridge, but everyone just calls me Bane. Eric said you might be able to help me with these."
Excerpt used with permission. All rights reserved.
Gallant ScoreBane is a hero. It isn't going to seem like it at first, and for, well, for a lot of the story. What's more accurate is to say you have to see through the facade he projects to the rest of the world, especially Lydia. Bane is orange heads at the core, and always, always when it counts. That said, he is a man on a mission for the greater good and sometimes that requires some very un-orange-head tactics.
Wounded ScoreBane has a past that predisposes him to the charming rogue, gallant activist, shameless flirt he is in Against the Tide. It will wreck the story to tell you what, and who, put the scars on his heart and forever altered the course of his life. Part of me admired Bane for overcoming such a past, even though I could see where his quest to destroy the illegal opium trade was tainted with his desire for vengeance.
Softie ScoreI'm wondering if I'll be challenged on this score at all but there's not a lot of soft to Bane. When it shows up though, it's powerful, like interacting with the Admiral's children and of course holding Lydia's hair out of her face while she's getting sick and encouraging her through that time.
Stupid StrikesI debated this one a long time, but in the end, had to pop him one. For calling Lydia a "mingy wench" (even in love) and attempting to arrange her marriage to another man. Same with purposefully moving around things on Lydia's desk just to annoy her. One of my favorite lines is at the docks when she's ignoring him, hoping he'll go away, and his response is "Please don't operate under the assumption that ignoring me will work," Bane said. "It just makes me more determined to get under your skin." But in perfect transparency into me and my reader preference, all this only made him more endearing in that "bad boy" way. I know I'm not the only hero-girl who is into that, though I might be the only one who admits it. ;-)
Swoon ScoreOh, did I forget to mention his nickname is "The Adonis?" In case you had any doubts after the excerpt, Bane is as hot as a Boston winter is not. Among his arsenal of skills he can deploy in the blink of an eye is being an unexpected romantic and a shameless flirt, which only add to the charm. For me, it is his care of Lydia at "the end" and those moments when his guard was down and rather than being the man his life and quest had made him, he was simply Bane, that really stacked the orange up here.
The FHF Exclusive Directly from the Author
Although Against the Tide is an entirely stand-alone novel, Bane first appeared as the villain in The Lady of Bolton Hill. In that book, I needed to have the heroine kidnapped by one of the hero’s enemies. My first impulse was to create a scary gangster to kidnap her, but fiction-writing 101 says “never go for the obvious.” Instead, I tried to imagine the absolute last person you would expect to see as a mastermind for dastardly kidnapping plot, and then plunk him into the story.
Immediately I had the image of a golden-haired, angelic looking teenaged boy, a boy so beautiful he should be painted onto the ceiling of the Sistine chapel. I wanted someone charming, brilliant, and almost dazzling in his beauty… which makes the fact that he was an amoral, corrupt soul even more frightening to the heroine when she figures out just who this wicked boy is. So Bane was born: a brilliant, beautiful teenager utterly devoid of a conscience.
For my mental image I latched onto Alexander Skarsgard, the wonderful actor from Battleship and True Blood, who can appear angelically gorgeous one moment, and ice-cold scary the next. That’s Bane!
Because flat villains are boring, I wrote some backstory about why this brilliant teen-aged boy was so devoid of a conscience. As I wrote, Bane became more and more sympathetic. And more interesting. Bane stole every scene he appeared in during The Lady of Bolton Hill, and he ultimately emerges as a true hero in the book. He does a complete turn-around when he decides to funnel all his brilliance toward good instead of evil. I was flooded with letters demanding a sequel for him. Although my publisher did not initially want a follow-up, the chorus of people asking for “More Bane” was a drumbeat that would not stop. I was thrilled when I got the go-ahead to write Bane as a grown-up hero. I like heroes with a little age on them, so Against the Tide takes place twelve years later when Bane is 30. (Oh, the chorus of complaints I had from teenaged girls about that! Many of them assumed that Bane’s story would feature a 17-year-old hero, and were terribly disappointed I made him “so old!”)
The giveawaysAlright hero-girls, same giveaway setup as always. One copy of Against the Tide in the winner's choice of format, but please tell me to toss your name in the clam-chowder bowl. For those who have already enjoyed Against the Tide, leave me the name of a character not used in the excerpt and we'll put your name in the clam-chowder bowl for a $10 Amazon or Barnes & Noble giftcard. Once that character has been used, you'll need to choose another. Winners randomly drawn on July 14th. Be sure to leave your e-mail address in your comment in a spam-fighting format like red.poppies.to.remind.you.i.am.everywhere (at) anopiumfreeusa (dot) com
Anyone else willing to fess up to enjoying an oh-so-bad-good-guy? Do we agree or disagree that they can be heroes?