Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Guest Post: Celestine by Azriel Hope

Please join me in welcoming Azriel Hope to Let Them Read Books! I'm pleased to have Azriel here today with a guest post about her inspiration for her new historical romance, Celestine. Read on and check out some of the images she used to bring her story world to life!

A 1900's Parisian Fairytale Romance about the Courtesan who came to Christmas Dinner. Celestine is a rags to riches love story that will take your heart on an arduous journey from heartbreak to whatever lies beyond.

Inspired by the Moulin Rouge and Bridgerton, Celestine will take you behind the curtains of the famed Palais Rose to meet its shining star, the most coveted courtesan in all of Paris.

Adrien Louis is a rich merchant successful in international trading who is in Paris for the World's Fair. With business to attend, he shuts himself away in his cold and forgotten townhouse, left empty after the death of his wife and infant son four years prior.

Ravenously curious sisters who reside across the street notice the arrival of the dashing Monsieur Louis and each plot to entrap him in marriage. Both lonely and unattended by their neglectful and business-minded father who has no interest in securing them matches, they dream of the day when Monsieur Louis will sweep one of them away.

Lost to his melancholy and ready to be rid of the world, Monsieur Louis joins a business associate at the Palais Rose to appease his client's interest. There Adrien sees the stunning Celestine and despite his dark mood, finds himself drawn to her. After paying for an hour's conversation with the bright spirited Celestine, Adrien decides to bring her as his companion to a Christmas Feast his neighbors have insisted he attend. When Adrien realizes how hungry Monsieur Baudelaire's two daughters are to make a match with him, he hires Celestine as a means to thwart them. What he hasn't bargained for is that the beautiful Celestine might just capture his cold heart if only he'd let her in...which he vows to never do.

Celestine is a lightly steamy stand-alone historical romance that will have you clutching your pearls...

I ghostwrite for a few bestselling romance authors, and for them I write contemporary alpha male, billionaire romances with enough steam to drive a locomotive. As a writer for my own pen name, I play with different levels of steam and storytelling. Well, cut to my screenwriting partner and I writing a Christmas romance movie for a very famous Christmas Romance Television Channel. (Which I can’t announce yet because it hasn’t been announced on the channel.) 

I am in a Zoom meeting for this conservative, family-oriented romance brand and my partner and I are talking about the story, and suddenly I feel like the whore who came to Christmas dinner. I almost laughed out loud in the meeting. I mean, my ghostwriting characters are often pregnant with surprise babies before they have “the kiss.” And that road to pregnancy is fraught with graphic detail. I felt so scandalous! I wanted to blurt out, “Do you have any idea what I actually write for a living?” The analogy in my mind was like putting an adult toy store next to a church…So I figured, why not write a story about the Whore Who Came to Christmas Dinner?

I had just seen Moulin Rouge and fell in love with that glorious film all over again. What ended up materializing out of the laugh I gave myself was a beautiful story of sacrifice, grief, and love in 1900’s Paris during the age of women’s enlightenment and the World’s Faire. Add to it my grieving a loved one and the story began to take on this amazing textured tone of surviving pain with resilience and hope.

Paris was ahead of the rest of the world in allowing women to modernize their ways of dressing, doing business, and creating partnerships. Artists and writers were celebrating the burgeoning women’s liberation, and places like the Moulin Rouge and others gave women a better alternative to the streets for sex work and employment. I figured, why not turn it all into a fairytale?

While this picture is from 1920, around the turn of the century women were wearing trousers. This was the inspiration for Celestine to wear Adrien’s clothes. 

Celestine is a dancer and also an expensive courtesan forced by her father to service patrons of the theater. I wanted to play with the idea of immigration and poverty and thought of Morocco being a likely place where Celestine’s mother may have been born. She found her way to the theater and, because of her beauty, performed there only to have an illegitimate child with the theater’s lecherous owner.  

Celestine’s father is the Swedish owner of the Palais Rose (like the Moulin Rouge) who rules Celestine’s life without regard for her happiness.

Despite all, Celestine is an indescribable beauty with a remarkably bright spirit. 

For Adrien Louis, our wealthy and mysterious merchant, I thought of finding a man with naturally handsome looks, but a sad and pained disposition. This photo fit Monsieur Louis perfectly. 

I explored women of the 1900's Moulin Rouge and courtesans of the era.

I also researched the World's Faire and Christmas in 1900's Paris.

And from these images and my imagination,
Celestine: A 1900’s Parisian Fairytale Romance was born. 

Visit Azriel's website to learn more about her books!

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