Is there life after the circus has left town?
Circus performer Justine Belmont works with big cats, but when the circus is disbanded and the old lion is sold to a private menagerie at a stately home in Norfolk, she is asked to spend a few weeks settling him into his new environment. When she arrives at the estate, however, she receives a mixed welcome.
The groundsman Tom Yates resents her presence as he doesn’t feel he needs her help with the lion. He revises his opinion when he sees the bond between her and the big cat, and she and Tom grow closer, although Justine remains torn about her feelings for him. The lady of the house, Priscilla – who is married to the reclusive owner, Lord Brooks’s, grandson – is not so easily convinced. She perceives Justine as a threat for the male attention and her plans for the manor. And her two young daughters are a little too curious about the lion for their own good.
When unsettling events occur, Justine begins to wonder if there is more to Priscilla’s animosity than meets the eye. Can Justine keep herself and everyone else safe until it’s time for her to leave again and start a new life elsewhere?
I am pleased to share a guest post with you.
Desperately Seeking… A Cast of Characters
When writing a book it goes without saying that having a plot or story line is essential, but it’s the characters in your book and their goals and motivations which drive the story, as well as the conflicts they face.
In my head most stories start with a character (or two) who wants something, and from that the basic story line is born. Then, slowly, the story gets populated with other characters – main and subsidiary parts, and even walk-on parts, who are all intertwined somehow and have an impact on each other’s lives.
Here are the main players and their different situations as they are at the start of A Lion Is Not Just For Christmas:
The daughter of the circus owner, Elijah Belmont, and his wife, Beth. Justine assists her father in his act as a lion-tamer, but she also has her own short act as a wire-walker, which used to be referred to as a line-dancer. When the circus is disbanded due to financial difficulties, she feels cast adrift because this is the only life she has ever known. On top of that, she’s angry and deeply resentful that Rexus, the lion, whom she’s very attached to, is being passed on to a private menagerie.
The groundsman at Stonybrook, the estate which has acquired the lion. He is also a distant relative of Henry, the baronet’s grandson. Tom spent some time working on a reservation in Africa and feels he knows enough about big cats to look after the lion on his own. He therefore resents Justine’s presence on the estate, where she’s been given the task of settling the lion in his new environment. A tricky divorce has also left Tom rather suspicious of pretty women.
Is the kind and doting grandson of Lord Brooks and the heir to the title of baronet. However, since Stonybrook is not entailed (which means it can only be passed to the oldest living male descendant of the owner in a straight line, and can’t be split up), he’s only the steward and not the heir to it. He has accepted this fact with good grace and just wants to live the quiet life of a country gentleman, but is constantly harassed by his wife for not having more ambition than that.
Henry’s beautiful wife. Although she’s a loving mother to their two daughters, Portia and Cordelia, marrying the grandson of a baronet has brought with it a set of expectations in her mind which Henry can’t quite live up to. She resents that her husband is only the heir to the title and not to the estate as well, and also dislikes competition for the male attention, so she doesn’t welcome Justine’s presence either.
Portia, aged 9
The older of Henry and Priscilla’s two daughters. Portia is very clever and sometimes a little too street-smart for her own good, although this fact is well-hidden beneath the polished manners which she copies from her mother. Initially she looks down upon Justine because of her traveling background, but in the end she has to admit that having a circus girl for a friend is kind of cool. Portia is unhappy at her boarding school and creates mischief in order to get her parents’ attention.
Cordelia (Dilly), aged 6
The younger of the two girls. Although she has a very sweet temperament, she has a tendency to copy everything her older sister, Portia, does and is also easily led by her sister. However, Dilly has wilful streak too which gets her into trouble at the end of the book. BIG trouble!
The elusive baronet who keeps a tight grip on the estate purse strings, much to Priscilla’s frustration.
Justine’s father, a well-regarded lion-tamer, who longs to retire from the ring. The financial difficulties of the circus gives him the impetus to seek a different type of employment.
Justine’s mother, who used to assist her husband in his big cats act until she was injured by one of the tigers. Now in charge of catering.
Plus various circus people, villagers and Christmas guests! All these characters come together on the stage I have created, and from writing the book and spending a lot of time with them, I feel as if they have almost become family to me
Thank you, Henriette Gyland and RachelsRandomResources.
About the author
Henriette Gyland grew up in Northern Denmark but moved to England after she graduated from the University of Copenhagen. She wrote her first book when she was ten, a tale of two orphan sisters running away to Egypt, fortunately to be adopted by a perfect family they meet on the Orient Express. Between that first literary exploit and now, she has worked in the Danish civil service, for a travel agent, a consultancy company, in banking, hospital administration, and for a county court before setting herself up as a freelance translator and linguist. Henriette recently began to pursue her writing in earnest winning the New Talent Award in 2011 from the Festival of Romance and a Commended from the Yeovil Literary Prize.