Today's teaser comes from my novel Yesterday. It's an interracial romance set in Pakistan, a city I had the opportunity to visit for three months. At the time, the political atmosphere wasn't as volatile, and I was able to explore my surroundings without fear. With the unrest going on in Iran lately, my mind has been on this story. If you like historical romances in unique settings, I hope you'll give this one a try. It's currently on sale Dreamspinner Press.
In June of 1978 Grady Ormond, eighteen-year-old son of diplomat Peter Ormond, accompanies his father to his new posting as US Ambassador to Pakistan. Neighboring Iran is on the brink of a civil war, with the monarchy in danger of being overthrown.
Grady will be leaving for New York City in late August to study cinematography and has been warned to keep his homosexual orientation tightly under wraps while on vacation. Repercussions in the predominantly Islamic region could be severe.
On their first night in Karachi, his father hosts a cocktail party to meet the local dignitaries. Grady is introduced to His Highness Prince Kamran Izadi, nephew of the shah of Iran. Twenty-three-year-old Kamran has recently returned from the UK, where he spent eleven years, first as a student, and then as a financial analyst.
The attraction is immediate—unforeseen and dangerously powerful—but neither one dares to make a move. Odds are so stacked against them it's futile to even entertain a friendship, but they do, and their world tilts precariously.
With his country in turmoil and Grady about to leave for college, Kamran makes a decision that will change their lives forever.
The cool air blowing out of the air-conditioning vents in the Land Rover was such a wonderful contrast to the squelching heat we’d just escaped. I could have happily stayed in the car for the rest of the day. All too soon, we were bumping up a long dirt driveway toward a white stone edifice sitting on a rise. I was no farmer, but I recognized oranges and lemons and, in addition, several much larger trees with thick limbs weighed down by fat golden mangoes. There were also palm, banana, and other large varieties of vegetation I didn’t recognize bordering the edifice and acting like a natural canopy against the harsh sun.
A pair of sleek black-and-white dogs ran up to the car the minute it rolled to a stop. They looked like greyhounds—deep chested and long legged—but covered with feathery fur on their ears and curved tails. When Kamran stepped out of the vehicle, they ran up to him, tails wagging happily. He got down on his haunches and rubbed each one behind the ears, speaking to them softly in his language. He stood and gestured for me to come close.
“Put out your hand so they can smell you,” he said. “They’re normally docile but have been known to snap at strangers.”
I did as I was told and watched in wary silence as the animals slowly approached. “What are their names?”
“Zena and Sher.”
Naturally, the first thing that came to mind was Sonny and
who were all the rage a few years back. The animals’ large eyes, long, narrow
heads, and silky hair hanging down their droopy ears, framing their faces,
reminded me a lot of the iconic diva, a favorite among so many of my friends.
In the weeks to come, I’d refer to Zena as Sonny because it flowed so much
better with Sher. After a while, Kamran stopped correcting me.
As soon as we walked into the house, I was enchanted. The difference between the nondescript exterior and jewellike interior was unexpected. Colorful mosaic tiles were painstakingly laid out on walls and ceilings, and the floors were covered with large tiles that looked, to my untrained eye, like creamy marble. I supposed that given the opulence of the rest of the place, it wasn’t too farfetched. The house was built around a courtyard with open arches on one side of the walkway and closed rooms on the other. The materials were most likely chosen to withstand the rain that supposedly fell in pummeling sheets once monsoon season started. A small fountain in the center of the courtyard provided the soothing sounds of running water as it cycled through a pair of dolphins that appeared to be leaping out of its depths.
There were several iron birdcages strategically placed along the walls of the room with different varieties of exotic birds. One cage in particular caught my attention. A pair of birds in varying shades of green with deep garnet markings on their sides watched us as we approached.
“Are they parrots?” I asked curiously. They looked like them only smaller. As soon as they heard me talk, they began to screech loudly, swaying back and forth, long claws tightly gripping the wooded perches. They had large reddish-orange beaks that would probably do some serious damage to a finger if provoked.
“They’re Alexandrine parakeets,” Kamran informed me. “Named after Alexander the Great, who’s credited with bringing them to this region.”
“Do they bite?”
“Absolutely,” he said. “Don’t try petting them, or you’ll regret it.” Despite the warning, he opened the cage, stuck his hand inside, and one of the birds hopped right onto his outstretched forefinger. Slowly, he took him out, all the while crooning to the creature in Farsi.
“He’s obviously trainable,” I commented, watching in fascination as Kamran and the bird communicated mysteriously. “Does he have a name?”
“Xandar,” he said with a quirk to his lip. “And the female is named Rhoxana.”
“Naturally,” I said. “I should have guessed.”
“Are you a history buff?” he asked, pleased that I’d made the connection. He slowly put the bird back on its perch and firmly shut the door.
“To a certain degree,” I admitted. “Alexander sparked an interest when I had to do a paper on him and found that half of the information I uncovered was more myth than fact. They’ve credited him with everything from inventing chess to sleeping with snakes. That snake bit probably referred to his relationship with his eunuch servant, who supposedly serviced him when women weren’t around. In any case, to answer your question, history interests me as a spectator sport. I would love to have another go at Lawrence of Arabia someday.”
“Make a new film?”
I bobbed my head. “It’s not that inconceivable, is it? By the time I’m a bona fide cinematographer, the current movie will be decades old. A new and improved version would probably be welcomed.”
“It’s a lofty goal,” Kamran said, looking at me admiringly.
“My mother always taught me to aim for the stars.”
“She sounds like a wise woman.”
“Was,” I said softly. “She died a year and a half ago.”
Kamran looked stricken. “I’m so sorry.”
“I miss her every day.”
“Come,” he said gently, looping his arm through mine. “Let’s share a meal. Afterward, we’ll stroll through the gardens and take a walk down to the beach for a refreshing dip.”
“You didn’t tell me you were this close to the Arabian Sea,” I said in surprise.
“It’s a bit of a hike down a winding path, but accessible nonetheless. The actual beach is tiny, though, and ignored by your green turtles.”
“That’s probably for the best. I can imagine it gets pretty hectic once they start coming onshore and laying their eggs.”
“We’ll soon find out,” Kamran assured me.
He pushed open one of the wooden doors to our right, and we stepped into a room with high ceilings bordered with carved molding and floors layered with Persian carpets. I was certain they were the hand-knotted variety and probably cost a small fortune. Kamran left his sandals at the door, and I did the same, following him barefoot as he led the way to a low table surrounded by floor pillows one could recline on comfortably. There was an assortment of dishes scattered on the table with baskets of flatbread. My mouth began watering when I smelled the exotic spices mixed in with the familiar scent of tomato and garlic.
A large tapestry of a lion holding a scimitar against the rising sun drew my eye. “Does that represent anything?” I asked.
“The Persian lion is the ancient emblem of our people and the monarchy in particular. He has a prominent spot on our flag.”
“I never noticed before.”
“You probably didn’t even know
existed until you met me,” Kamran teased. Iran
I smiled guiltily. Of course I knew of its existence, but the country was so far off my radar I could honestly say Kamran hit the nail on the head. I knew nothing about
. Today was
one revelation after another. “I’m ashamed to admit you’re right, but I’m eager
to learn everything about you and your people.” Iran