I am very pleased to welcome Elizabeth Hutchinson Bernard today with an excerpt from her book, Temptation Rag as she tours with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
Read an Excerpt from Temptation Rag:
Mike pulled out his pocket watch, checked the time. Only five minutes to go. Ensconced behind the piano, he took a private moment to absorb the atmosphere of the theater that was to be his new home, at least for a while. The interior of Tony Pastor’s was designed to inspire awe. The elaborate carvings of the proscenium arch were framed in cream and gold, the drop curtain decorated with allegorical figures, and the oval fresco above the auditorium painted with cupids, roses, and clouds. The walls were a pale shade of blue, while the seats on the main floor, in the boxes, and on the two levels of galleries were upholstered in dark-blue velvet. Clusters of electric lights attached to the gallery balustrades twinkled like bouquets of stars.
Tonight, nearly all of the theater’s twelve hundred seats were filled, the patrons reputed to be an egalitarian mix of working, middle, and upper classes. Mike breathed deep, inhaling their various scents—perfume, sweat, stale tobacco—mingled with the warm, salty aroma of freshly roasted peanuts from the lobby concession stand. He detected, too, the faint odor of cloves, a common way to mask the smell of liquor on the breath. Though Tony Pastor maintained the family-friendly atmosphere of his theater by banning alcohol, a bar was conveniently located next door. Undoubtedly, some of the men had already been there, including a fair number of the musicians now warming up in the pit.
Mike had never played before such a large audience, yet he felt fairly calm about his debut, assuming what he did this afternoon was unlikely to be judged with a critic’s ear. He imagined there was little room for seriousness at Tony Pastor’s vaudeville theater, little expectation of the sublime. This crowd was here to be amused and amazed by the lineup of a dozen separate acts ranging from singers and dancers to a jump-roping dog and a shark-swallowing regurgitator.
And, of course, the headliner, Ben Harney.
Pastor gave him the nod that meant it was time to begin. Mike signaled the orchestra, the house lights dimmed, and, with appropriate musical fanfare, the curtain rose.
The first attraction was a waltzing monkey. The little beast, dressed like a harem girl, was ordered about by a bare-chested man in billowing silk pants and a flowing headdress. For background, Mike led the orchestra in its rendition of “The Blue Danube,” punctuated periodically by strains of an oboe meant to sound like a snake charmer’s pungi.
Next were the singing Jemm sisters, followed by a comedy dialogue between two bums on a park bench that garnered plenty of laughs despite having been scrubbed clean of its funniest but marginally off-color material during the morning rehearsal. For the audience’s further delight were the all-male Liberty Quartet, a professional regurgitator—who started by swallowing a goldfish and worked his way up to a small shark—a dog and donkey act, and, last before intermission, the British-born singer and dancer Pauline Markham. She had once been a popular favorite but was rumored to be on a downward slide. Still, this afternoon she earned a standing ovation and returned for two encores.
Mike accompanied all of them, sometimes with the pit orchestra, sometimes solo. While he took special care not to step on the Jemm sisters’ vocals, for which he received an approving nod from Pastor, he was not so timid with some of the other numbers, diverging from the score just enough to wow the audience with a few bars of grandiose intro or a fast and flashy finale. As a classical musician, he had been bound to the printed page. His job was to interpret, and that was all. Indeed, to alter a single note of the masters would be blasphemy. But here at Tony Pastor’s, nothing was sacred. Here, he was free to be his own master.
Already, to his surprise, he was starting to like it.
About Temptation Rag:
From the author of The Beauty Doctor, Finalist for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award, 2017 AZ Literary Awards, and a Medallion Honoree of the Book Readers Appreciation Group.
Seventeen-year-old May Convery, unhappy with her privileged life in turn-of-the-century New York City, dreams of becoming a poet. When she meets the talented young Mike Bernard, an aspiring concert pianist, she immediately falls in love. But after their secret liaison is discovered, neither is prepared for the far-reaching consequences that will haunt them for decades. As Mike abandons serious music to ruthlessly defend his hard-won title, Ragtime King of the World, May struggles to find her voice as an artist and a woman. It is not until years after their youthful romance, when they cross paths again, that they must finally confront the truth about themselves and each other. But is it too late?
The world of ragtime is the backdrop for a remarkable story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness. From vaudeville’s greatest stars to the geniuses of early African American musical theater, an unforgettable cast of real-life characters populates this richly-fictionalized historical saga.
ALL PURCHASE LINKS ARE AFFILIATE LINKS WHICH MEANS IF YOU BUY ANYTHING THROUGH THEM I WILL RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION (AT NOT ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU)
About the Author:
Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard is an award-winning author of historical fiction. Her novel The Beauty Doctor is a suspenseful tale that takes place in the early days of cosmetic surgery—when the world of medicine was a bit like the Wild West and beauty doctors were the newest breed of outlaw. Temptation Rag: A Novel immerses readers in the bawdy atmosphere of vaudeville and early twentieth-century African American musical theater in a story about the price of freedom, the longing for immortality, and the human need to find forgiveness.
Elizabeth currently lives in Arizona with her husband and their much-loved and very spoiled black Lab.
During the Blog Tour we will be giving away copies of Bernard’s other novel, The Beauty Doctor. One paperback and two eBooks are up for grabs. To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.