If she tells him who she really is, she will lose the man she loves. If she honours his highest values and does her duty, then he will be hanged.
Stuart Sutherland-Bruce arrives back in England after being posted to China as a member of the English diplomatic corps. He meets the astonishingly beautiful Bian, an exotic woman who proceeds to turn his life upside down with her mysteries and the power of his desire for her. As she continues to astonish him at every turn with the unexpectedness of her life and her responses to him, he falls deeply in love with her. She is an enigma, yet she has taken his heart.
But Bian did not wander into Stuart's life accidentally. She has also returned from China with express orders to become intimate with him, and find proof that he has been giving English secrets to the Chinese. Yet as she works her spells on Stuart, she discovers that he does not seem to be the traitor she thought him to be. In fact, he is a good man, who loves his country, and puts duty above all else.
Bian feels a pain she has never felt before. If she tells him who she really is, she will lose the man she loves. If she honours Stuart's highest values and does her duty, then Stuart will be tried for espionage and hanged.
Not all stories are the product of an author's divine inspiration. Some of them have a more ordinary birth as a result of an author sweating out the need to meet the next deadline and an absolute vacuum for inspiration.
Masquerade's Mate was a result of neither.
It's no secret that Julia Templeton and I have co-written a couple of sensual historical romance novels under the pen name Anastasia Black. Julia writes almost exclusively in the historical romance field. I roam around the historical periods, but nearly always write some sort of romantic suspense story, wherever it happens to be set. Writing as Anastasia Black was a great break from both our usual styles, and the two titles, Forbidden, and the sequel, Dangerous Beauty (both from Ellora's Cave) still continue to do well.
We don't plan on writing any more titles under the Anastasia Black pen name, but we've remained good friends. In late October last year, Julia made the observation that EC didnít have another another title quite like her novella, Masquerade. No other title matched its length (35,000 words -- a good afternoon's entertainment), the historical setting (Regency England), the style (light and frothy) -- and yet still throbbed with sensuality.
Because we're friends, I nudged my elbow in her side via cyberspace, and threatened to write a matching novella, just to ruin her smug satisfaction.
"Uh-huh," she said, deadpan. "Do it. Go on."
I could hear the gauntlet hitting the floorboards in those five words. Julia knows I prefer Victorian settings to Regency, and light and frothy stories are something I've never been able to pull off. I have also been accused of an inability to write anything short to save my life.
She also knows I can't resist a professional challenge of this kind.
It took me twenty-four hours to drop all my commitments, clear the decks, and begin writing a story that matched Masquerade. I called it, quite simply, Masquerade's Mate, and that was where the inspiration for the story itself came from.
Julia's novella, Masquerade, is a Regency romance, featuring twin girls who swap identities in order to avoid unwanted marriages. It's light, frothy, fun, and takes place during the spring and summer.
I preserved the uniqueness of Julia's story by going in the opposite direction on every count. Masquerade's Mate is a dark Victorian romantic suspense, featuring twin guys, one of whom is the hero, Stuart, and there is identity swapping involved, too.
"Masquerade's Mate" is actually a person -- the heroine, Bian, who is the secret love child of an English duke, and a Vietnamese princess. "Bian" is Vietnamese for "secretive, hidden".
While Julia's story is light
and fun, mine is dark and dangerous Ė a romantic suspense
involving spies and danger. It's set in autumn and winter.
Mine is the Yang to Julia's Yin.
I often get asked who I would cast
in the movie of my book, if it should ever come to pass, so just
Bian: Ziyi Zhang