The Curtain Falls is in Stores Now!
Read about Olivia's amazing encounter with the sexy, enigmatic, and powerful Julian Sterling, master magician in THE CURTAIN FALLS!
A Sexy Magician Entices
an Innocent Young Girl
to His Magical, Dangerous Theatre ...
Trapped beneath her overbearing mother's control, beautiful teenager Olivia Nichols longs to break free. She wants to be an actress and live a magical life. In her own imaginary world, she's a star upon the stage.
Yet her dreams stay merely daydreams and all for herself - until a mysterious stranger gifts to her an enchanted ticket. What wonders it will unleash!
Olivia goes to the theatre, where glowing gaslights, strange voices, and golden mirrors are controlled by a masterful magician. What is the deadly secret behind his powers?
Olivia had better be careful, or she could get trapped in his theatre forever ...
Praise for The Curtain Falls
"This book had everything, from romance to mystery, to a heart-felt story about a mother and daughter at odds with each other struggling to come to a truce. It was wonderful to [...] read into the cold months of autumn. Pick this one up - you won't regret the journey it takes you on!"
- Amazon reader
"Meg North's descriptions of Victorian Portland are so atmospheric that it felt like a true escape to another era."
- Amazon reader
"This was a big surprise given the story lines of her first two books ( which were excellent). But like Meg's previous tales she held me close and emotionally involved. I enjoyed the ride."
- Amazon reader
"The book is fast-paced and you'll never get bored by it. The story finds its logical conclusion and doesn't leave any questions unanswered. I'd recommend it, if you like romance and magic and are looking to get away from the present for a bit."
- Amazon reader
Free Sample Chapter
In this chapter, 17-year-old Olivia Nichols has just stepped into the Portland Theatre, which she thinks is deserted. All she has is the magical ticket a mysterious man gave her ...
Creaking, the door swung shut behind me. All lights extinguished, and I stood quietly in the inky blackness.
"Hello?" I called.
Was that man from the portrait studio here? I could not see my own skin, let alone anyone lurking in the dark. I did not feel afraid, since a spicy, buttery fragrance enveloped me. I breathed in the cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and vanilla.
The ticket sparked and crackled. As soon as I opened my fingers, it darted from my grasp and zipped about the room. Golden embers fizzed and popped like it was a comet. A light here, a light there. Oh, it was turning on the gaslights. One by one, tiny flames sprung up, illuminating my surroundings.
I was in a lobby. Of course, Olivia, I thought. You are in a theatre. Plush floral carpeting spread beneath my feet, and tufted sofas and chairs were scattered about the perimeter. The wall before me curved outwards, a pair of huge arched wooden doors on either side. Wall sconces, standing gaslights, and glittering chandeliers glowed.
Despite its elegant decoration, the surfaces were dull with dust and grime. Cobwebs obscured the corners. Smoky gaslight globes emitted enough light to reveal how threadbare and tattered the upholstery was. Torn posters sagged behind broken frames, and the painted wall murals were pockmarked and faded.
My heart jumped into my throat. An enormous figure entered the theatre. Donned in a stunning sapphire dress, she strode across the carpeting towards me. Her deep red hair piled into curls and silver combs, her skirts luminous in the gloomy lighting. She stopped and thrust out her black gloved hand.
"Well," she sniffed, "Please hand over the ticket."
Her manner was so forceful I didn't say anything. I was not about to give my ticket to this imposing madam. She folded her arms across her ample bosom and regarded me with a red-lipped smirk.
"You do look the part, I'll give him that much. Yes, Mr. Port knows how to find the best fruits wherever we go."
"Mr. Port?" I repeated.
"Chester Port," she said as if I were a dull pupil. "He is the theatre manager. The man who gave you the ticket? You must have met him this afternoon."
She scoffed, rolling her eyes. "He did not tell you his name, did he? Oh, men. Why must they not comply with the simplest social niceties?"
"I'm not sure," I said, feeling more and more confused. She had not extended the social nicety of greeting me.
"No matter. You are quite a bedraggled slip of a thing. He'll have you well taken care of while you are here."
A tall golden clock struck the hour. The lady reached forward and grabbed my hand, then bustled across the room. I stumbled after her, clenching the ticket, the clock bonging in my ear. My weak frame was no match for her robust strength. Why could she not let me alone? I was none too eager to see that man from the portrait studio. He leered at me as hungrily as the old tippler outside the gates. She dragged me across the lobby to the left-hand wall. The spiced scents were heady and strong, as if baked into the wall murals.
We stopped beneath a gigantic lithograph poster. A richly clothed red-headed woman of ample proportions posed on a grand stage. Her mouth was open, her thick arms outstretched, and painted music notes surrounded her. Angels paused with their hands cupped to their ears as if to hear her sing.
"Maxine Gilbert," I read aloud. "The Portland Sensation."
"I am." The lady gazed at herself like a rapt audience. "I've posed for many such posters. You must have seen one of my operatic performances."
I shook my head. "No, ma'am. Mama didn't allow me to come to the theatre."
Maxine kissed her fingers, then touched her fingers to the poster. "Everyone in the city knows of me. I'm sure you simply don't recall."
She thought I was joking. Her fingers pinched my arm and pulled me down the length of the wall. Her smile vanished, replaced by a set look. She adjusted her black velvet gloves, then leaned forward and spoke in a confidential tone.
"I'm to take you inside Chester Port's office. He requested your presence, so you have kept him waiting. It is a good thing you came tonight."
"It is?" What this woman said made so little sense my head clouded with confusion.
"You have the ticket, so that should suffice for payment," she said.
"Payment?" I repeated.
Maxine reached into the pocket of her dress and drew out a small red velvet bag, such as the kind ladies took to fancy balls. At the top was a golden tassel, which she untied.
"Hold the ticket over the bag. Do it! He is kept waiting."
I had half a notion as to what would happen, but I did as she said and held the ticket over the bag. Magical golden dust flowed into the red velvet bag. Maxine watched it greedily, as if it would change to gold bars in front of her eyes.
"My, my," she whispered. "What a show we shall put on!"
What did she mean? I couldn't venture a guess. As soon as the little bag was filled, she tied the tassel cord around its top, securing the contents. She held it up to the gaslight, the red velvet rippling.
"How beautiful," I said.
"Beautiful, yes," Maxine said. "Yet these payments are for Mr. Port and for him alone. Do you understand?"
Her instruction confounded me, but her green eyes were so intense and her words delivered with such force I nodded. To the right-hand side of Maxine's poster was a large painting of a beautiful woman draped in silks seated upon a silver throne. She had a scepter in one hand and at her feet were large sacks spilling over with golden coins.
Cradling the little red velvet bag, Maxine pressed one of the painted coins. The coin abruptly slid out from the wall, transforming into a round brass doorknob. Fascinated, I watched Maxine tap three times on the wall. The coin doorknob unlocked itself, turned, and pushed outwards. The painting was a door! It separated from the rest of the wall and swung outwards. The chambers it revealed beyond its splendid exterior were dark and dim, and I could not see a thing. Maxine nodded to me.
"Is that Miss Gilbert I hear?" asked a smooth, silky voice.
I recognized it at once as belonging to the man from the portrait studio. Maxine reached out to pinch my arm, but I moved out of her way. She would not force me to do this.
As soon as I entered Chester Port's office, I dared not move any further for fear of disrupting the chaos. Tilting shelves bent under the weight of ripped posters, fluttering ticket stubs, programs, scripts, books, leering masks, paint tubes, scattered playing cards, staring porcelain dolls, and long black wands with glowing tips. A massive scratched mahogany desk occupied the center of the room. Black iron candelabras dripped globules of yellow wax, cementing them to the desk's surface. Yellowed papers, rolled parchments, silver fountain pens, translucent glass dip pens, feathery quill pens, and a jumble of inkwells made the desk compete with the shelves to see which could feature more detritus.
Like a king of clutter, the theatre manager occupied his throne-like chair behind the desk. But at the sight of me, he deftly scrambled to his feet. He wore a patched, dingy brown suit of faded checks, a stained muslin shirt, and a frayed cravat buried under his flabby neck. A twitching mustache obscured his lips, long droopy ends resting on a doughy chin peppered with bristly whiskers. He slid his wide bulk around the desk, tiny piggish eyes leering at me with an odd sense of wonder.
"Remarkable," he breathed. "Quite remarkable."
He reached forward, for the office was too compact for me to escape him, and ran his finger down a strand of my hair as if he was polishing it. When Maxine bumped me aside I was grateful since it caused Mr. Port to let go of my hair. His disappointed look was quite pronounced. Maxine extended her velvet bag towards him.
"The payment," she said breathlessly.
"Ah!" He accepted the red velvet bag from her and dangled it before the sickly light of the candelabras. "I thought I heard your lovely voice. Welcome back to our theatre, Miss Gilbert."
Her practiced curtsy would have impressed Mama. "Why, thank you, Mr. Port. I am available should you have need of my talents."
He set the bag on his desk and held out his hand to her. She put her gloved fingers in his, and he kissed the air above her hand.
"I am pleased to hear that, Miss Gilbert. I was about to inquire as to your readiness. You do remember where your quarters are, I trust?"
"Here?" Her smile froze and her hand went to her throat in amazement. "I did not think that would be possible - "
"Of course," he interrupted. "I shall see you tomorrow evening at six o'clock."
"I will have more payments?" she asked, her tone cautious.
"Quite enough for the duration of your stay," the manager replied. "A good night to you, Miss Gilbert."
She bowed politely to him, then stepped back and vacated the office. Once the door shut behind her, I felt quite nervous. With Maxine here, her presence could protect me. Left alone with Mr. Port, I could only imagine what was in store for me.
"Ah, so you have come to us," he said, his tone reverential. "What is your name, my dear?"
I licked dry lips. Perhaps I could give him the ticket so he would not be interested in me any longer, though it possessed such powerful magic I was not keen to part with it. I reached into my dress pocket and drew out the ticket. Mr. Port's eyes widened and he cupped his fat hands. I placed the ticket upon his palms.
Sparkling like a firecracker, the ticket zipped from Mr. Port's hands and flew to the top of his head. It tipped sideways and golden dust streamed upon him. The force was so strong I backed away, for it was like a barrel of sand gushed out of the ticket.
Suddenly, Mr. Port muttered something unintelligible beneath his breath. The dust abruptly stopped and reversed its flow back into the ticket. Startled, I realized Mr. Port could control it! I unobtrusively opened my hand, hoping the ticket would return to me.
But as soon as the dust vanished, the ticket sailed back into Mr. Port's hand. He held it up to his eyes, grinning with a fearsome delight.
"You will do well here," he said. "Olivia Nichols."
He knew my name. What was this golden dust?
"Sir," I whispered.
Chuckling, Mr. Port waved his hand. "Quite an interesting story you have, Miss Olivia. A child of this theatre, born to a Nicholas Halstead and Regina Abbott seventeen years ago. Your mother was a famous actress of her day."
I stared at him. How could he know so much about me? In thirty seconds, he'd mentioned more details of my past than my mother had in ten years.
"So," he continued, "you returned to the place of your childhood. You see how altered it has become. But I believe you have the ability to restore it to its former glory - if that is what you desire."
How he was so sure about my abilities left much to question. But I could not help the thrill I felt when he mentioned it. My excitement flamed, and I nodded.
"Yes, sir. I want to be a part of this theatre. If you will accept me."
"At once!" He planted the ticket on the desk. "You have given me your ticket, have you not? As of this night, Miss Olivia, you can be anything you wish to be."
He offered his hand. His ogling stare was quite off-putting, and I almost regretted my decision. But he could give me what Mama never could - my dreams. My small fingers were lost in his fleshy hand. Warmth radiated through my skin, and I inhaled a spicy fragrance.
"Welcome," Mr. Port said. "Welcome to my theatre."
The office door creaked open. A young man stood in the lobby, his arms folded casually over his chest. He was quite tall and slender, but gave an immediate impression of strength. He wore a white muslin shirt and ribbed corduroy pants, the cuffs jammed into scuffed brown boots. His face was quite thin and boyish, a sprinkle of light freckles on his cheeks. At the sight of me, he pushed his tweed cap back, and his arms dropped to his side. His hazel eyes widened.
"Mr. Westland," Mr. Port said curtly, "please escort Miss Olivia to her chambers. She is our guest."
The young man put a fist to his mouth and coughed.
"Um," he said awkwardly. "Good evening."
"Hello," I mumbled.
"Well, Miss Olivia," Mr. Port said, "I hope you enjoy your stay here. A good night to you, and I will see you tomorrow evening."
He disappeared into his crowded office, and the painted door swung shut.