Shannon here: Donna Schlachter shares insight into her characters’ romance from her latest Historical Romance, The Road to Freedom. Comment or answer the question in any post, dated Dec 30th – Jan 3rd to enter the drawing for an e-copy. Deadline: Jan 14th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Donna:
Character Interview – Grace Grimaldi from The Road to Freedom by Donna Schlachter:
Thanks, Shannon, for hosting us today. Grace is an unusual character with an interesting story. I will do my best to bring that out in our interview.
Donna Schlachter: Hello, Grace, and thanks for agreeing to do this interview.
Grace Grimaldi: Well, you promised you wouldn’t ask any embarrassing questions. Be warned that if you do, you won’t like the results.
DS: (chuckle) Forewarned is forearmed, as my grandmother used to say.
DS: So, let’s start with the basics. Where were you born?”
GG: Chicago, Illinois, in 1855. Which makes me forty years old.
DS: Thank you. Any siblings?
GG: No, only child. My parents died before I was married at age 15.
DS: That’s young.
GG: It’s the Italian way. I was promised to Michael Grimaldi when I was around ten, and he was a few years older. It was a business arrangement between our parents. When they died, it was deemed best that I marry quickly.
DS: Did you know what your husband did for a living before you married?
GG: He was the oldest son of the head of the local mafioso. But he promised me we’d escape that life, run away, and be our own people.
DS: What happened?
GG: Shortly after we married, his father was murdered. So Michael, as the oldest, set about to get revenge. He was still hunting those men when he was killed.
DS: We don’t want to give away too much of the book, but that’s when you realized your life was in danger, too, right?
GG: Yes, and that I could trust nobody. Not even family.
DS: So you ran away?”
GG: I did. To Denver, Colorado. It was as far as I could get on the money I had, plus I wanted to leave myself a little to live on when I got where I was going.
DS: Did you ever make it to Denver?”
DS: Can you tell us what happened?
GG: God intervened, providing me an opportunity to start over elsewhere.
DS: And then what?
GG: God has a sense of humor. He led me to freedom in a small town in northern Colorado called Freedom. Don’t think the irony was lost on me, either. But it turns out, I was the answer to another’s prayer.
DS: But things didn’t go well, did they?
GG: Suffice it to say my past followed me. My presence in town endangered another. I wanted to leave.
DS: And that’s when things got ugly?
GG: They did. But we don’t want to spoil the story, right?
DS: Right. Just a couple of more questions. Does anybody call you GG?
GG: No, they wouldn’t dare. Although that was the name I used when I first arrived in Freedom.
DS: Your first marriage was abusive, correct?
DS: What advice would you give a woman in that situation?
GG: There are many kinds of abuse. Let me just say, though, that I believe that if I hadn’t left when I did, I could well be dead. I was planning to leave. I’d given Michael twenty-five years to change, and he didn’t. They won’t. Don’t keep fooling yourself. I wish I’d had a pastor or somebody to confide in. Perhaps they could have counseled me. But when God opens a door for you to get out, do it. Even if you only have a few dollars and the clothes on your back.
DS: Thank you. Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you?
GG: Yes. Don’t listen to the voices that say you’re no good, you’re stupid, you can’t do anything. Listen to God’s voice that tells you how much He loves you, how much He cherishes you, and the huge price He paid for you—Jesus.
DS: Thanks, Grace. Looking forward to reading your story.
GG: My pleasure.
Saturday October 5th, 1895
Riverside, a suburb of Chicago
Grace Grimaldi, wrapped in the finest satin that Cosa Nostra’s illegal money could buy, stood at the top of the massive staircase leading to the main floor of her mansion—correction, her husband’s mansion—and surveyed the gathering below. Anybody who was anybody was present tonight. The mayor, the state’s two senators, the governor. The head of the transit system. The leaders of the stevedore, railway, and teamster unions. The district attorney. Business owners. Financial leaders. Journalists from competing newspapers.
Nobody dared turn down a summons from her husband or his family.
Except JP Morgan. And he turned down almost everybody except personal friends.
Which her husband wasn’t but desperately wanted to be.
A muscle at the back of Grace’s neck throbbed. Her headache hadn’t subsided. And while she’d begged Michael to excuse her from the party, he’d refused. As usual. Many would notice her absence. The media might play on that fact, drowning out the demonstration of his power and importance.
And that would never do.
Grace played with the pearl and diamond choker resting against the base of her throat. A wedding gift from Michael. A constant reminder of how much she owed him.
His words. Not hers.
She’d done her part. Well, most of it. Played hostess. Flattered fat old men. Beguiled them with her beauty and attention. Failed in only one area, so far as she knew.
Now she wanted to leave. Begin anew. But Michael would have none of it. Even after twenty-five years of marriage, she’d produced no heir. And it must be her fault, if such were ascribed. Michael had several children by mistresses. In this still deeply Italian family, guilt and shame were heaped on like coals on a cold winter’s night.
What was wrong with her? His succession of mistresses had no trouble dropping their offspring like a dog shedding fleas. Not that she blamed them. They had as little choice as she. Chosen from a young age by Michael’s father, married when she was fifteen to a man seventeen years her senior.
She drew a deep breath for courage, gripped the polished oak handrail, and descended the stairs. A single lock of hair slipped from its place in the French twist she’d spent an hour on. Her husband loved her waist-length blonde hair loose in the privacy of their suite, but in public, he insisted she restrain it in a modest style. Was he worried the sight of her tresses would cause men to lose control in her presence? The male species was still a conundrum to her.
Michael appeared in the foyer and looked up at her. A flash of disgust, clear in his down-turned brow and pinched lips, instantly replaced by the seemingly genuine smile that had captivated her heart for a short time after their marriage. A very short time. Until she saw him for who—and what—he was.
Michael garnered the attention of everybody within earshot. “Okay, folks, here she comes. My beautiful bride. Join me in welcoming her to our celebration of twenty-five years of blissful marriage.”
Grace pasted on a smile, taking in all present, dipping her head in acknowledgement of their presence. But she knew the truth. Every man in the room would take her in a moment as their own, simply to stake their claim in the hierarchy of crime whose shadow they all lived under.
And the women? Hated her. Because she was beautiful—which wasn’t her fault. If she could, she’d dress in rags and hide in the shadows. But Michael would have none of it. Because she was rich—ill-begotten gains, none of her own doing. Because she was Michael’s—she’d trade with any of them if she could.
Loved and hated for what was out of her control.
She paused on the third step from the bottom. As Michael had instructed. Wait. Wait for his signal. A nod. She continued, and the guests parted like waves before a ship. She accepted Michael’s hand, smiled when he brushed his lips over the back of her fingers, then slipped into step beside him.
Her headache inched up another notch.
Would this night never end? Would she never escape?
Yes. She would. Her life depended on her continuing the subterfuge. For a few days more, at least. Until then, she’d play her part. Do what they expected.
And then she’d surprise them all.
Oh, if only she could be a fly on the wall when Michael—and the rest of his family—realized she was gone.
Question for Readers: Would you consider applying as a mail-order bride back in 1895?
About Donna: A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter. Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive 2 free ebooks simply for signing up for our free newsletter!
About the book – The Road to Freedom:
A young woman runs from her past, straight into the arms of a stranger. Was she going from bad to worse? Or did God hold her in His hands?
A death-bed promise, a family legacy, an unexpected wife–how can he turn his back on them to fulfill a vow?
Available for preorder. Releases in print on December 31st
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Come back Jan 3rd for part 2 with Donna!