Synopsis of Masquerade
Celebrated actress Lavinia Hargraves performs her most challenging role offstage.
Although born in 1872 to Daniel Taylor, a white man and wealthy landowner in southern California, Lavinia’s mother, Lori, is a Negro and former slave.
Lavinia, who appears white, is desperate to hide her Negro ancestry, as well as pursue her dream of becoming the world’s greatest actress.
After eloping with the much older Vernon Hargraves, owner of New York’s premier theater troupe, Lavinia is provided with all she could ever want: a new life as white, stardom on the stage, and an abundant supply of money.
Soon Lavinia’s seduction by a young and handsome actor sets in motion a devastating turn of events. Dashing millionaire contractor Andrew Standish comes into Lavinia’s life at a time when she needs him most. However, Lori's existence could demolish her daughter's carefully constructed facade. To what lengths will Andrew go to uncover Lavinia's past?
Read an excerpt from the prologue below, and please stop by Amazon.com on June 11 to read a sample of Masquerade: Book Two of the Unchained Trilogy!
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Masquerade: Book Two of The Unchained Trilogy
“Now, not only will you have to speak with an accent,” Vernon said, closing the script he’d just read with his new wife, “you’ll have to speak slowly.” Beginning to feel groggy from the soothing sway of the locomotive, he yawned, then placed the script on the center table in front of him. “You gotta keep in mind that the sailor has taught your character English, and it’s a new language for her.”
“Oh, Vernon, I realize that.” Lavinia clutched her husband’s arm. They sat on a green velvet love seat in his private rail car. “Sometimes you talk to me like I’m a child.”
Vernon chuckled. “Sometimes I forget you’re old beyond your years.”
“I’m seventeen, hardly a child.”
“Well, to an old man like me—”
“Oh, Vernon...you’re not that old.”
Her words were sweet, Vernon thought, but at fifty-four, he was old...and probably losing his mind. Since he’d married Lavinia only days earlier, not a moment had passed when he hadn’t questioned himself about what he’d done. She was young, beautiful and determined—and he was in love with her.
Vernon Hargraves, owner of New York City’s premier theater company, The Hargraves Players, had never considered himself a marrying man. But that had all changed, once he’d set eyes on Lavinia Taylor. Who would’ve thought that Vernon’s desire to buy land in California, would instead result in his gaining a wife?
“Vernon,” Lavinia arrested his thoughts, “what should I wear in the production?”
He looked into his young wife’s eager face, one of unearthly beauty with high cheekbones, sensual lips, and cat-like green eyes that sparked wildly with excitement. Vernon smiled, patting her hand. “My seamstress will fix you up in some clothes that are—island-like.”
“Yeah. Sarongs and such.”
Lavinia’s emerald eyes widened. “Sa—sarongs?”
Vernon’s rotund middle joggled as he laughed. “They’re long pieces of fabric that you wrap around the waist.”
Lavinia’s mouth opened in wonder, then she giggled. “That’s scandalous! What about the rest of me?”
“You’ll be well-covered.” He squeezed her hand. “Your costumes will only be suggestive of the South Pacific. And your hair,” he gazed at the thick black tresses piled high, “you’ll wear it down. With your exotic look, and your...mystique, the starring role in Hidden Splendor is just right for your debut.”
“My debut!” Lavinia exclaimed. “Oh, I can’t wait! Vernon, you’re just too good to me! Do you think people will love me?”
“Of course,” Vernon’s eyes began to grow heavy and he leaned his head back, “but none as much as I do...”
In moments, Vernon was asleep. His large belly rose and fell, and his rasping snores kept time with the rhythmic chugging of the locomotive.
Using a lace-edged handkerchief, Lavinia patted dust from her brow. The heat from the train ride and its bitter smelling ash didn’t faze her. She was too busy dreaming about her future plans. Lavinia lusted for the role of the island girl and wanted more than anything to reveal her talent to the world.
“Mrs. Hargraves.” One of Vernon’s servants, an Irish girl in prim and proper black attire, approached Lavinia and bowed slightly. “Dinner will be served in thirty minutes.”
Lavinia suppressed a giggle. This maid suspected nothing. The thrill of a white servant kowtowing to her, as if she were a rich and powerful white person, was only too exhilarating!
She raised her head in a masquerade of white superiority. “Very well, then. Thank you.”
The maid returned to the car’s dining room, leaving Lavinia alone with Vernon once more. Soon, she’d need to wake her husband for the evening meal. But that slipped her mind. Instead, Lavinia’s thoughts gravitated back to Hidden Splendor; not the play itself, but the title, which so brilliantly reflected her circumstances. She’d successfully escaped from California, and was now journeying to New York in search of the hidden splendor that awaited her!