NICOLE: It's great to have you visit, Stephanie. Tell us about your latest release, "The Faberge Secret."
STEPH: It's a contemporary romantic suspense with an international setting. My heroine, Elise Goodwin, runs a colonial heritage museum in Brattleboro, Vermont. She travels to Boston and acquires a rare Faberge egg. She also meets Dimitri Romanov, a Russian businessman who is the rightful owner of the egg. The sparks fly between Elise and Dimitri, but Dimitri's rival, Gustav Kelch, discovers Elise is in possession of the egg and his pursuit of Elise places her in danger.
NICOLE: Where did you find the inspiration for the story?
STEPH: I've always had a soft spot for exploring a Russian Orthodox Christmas so I wanted the plot to center around Christmas. The Russian royal family was known to give each other the elegant and romantic Faberge egg. They usually exchanged these eggs around Easter, not Christmas, so I put a nice twist in the story to explain the Faberge Christmas eggs in the story.
The inspiration for the story is found in my deep love for exploring the Russian culture. When I was 17, I took a Russian History class in High School and was drawn to all things Russian in a way I can't explain, except to say there is a deep resonance in my soul.
NICOLE: For the "American" part of the story, you take us to Brattleboro, Vermont. Have you ever been there?
STEPH: Yes, I have fond memories of visiting my aunt who lived there. The rolling hills and quaint buildings give the city an early 20th century feel. Since I grew up in New England, I enjoy weaving a New England setting into my contemporary stories.
NICOLE: Did you do a lot of research for the novel?
STEPH: I researched Faberge eggs, Carl Faberge, Orthodox Christmas customs, and St. Petersburg, Russia, as I've never been. I always enjoy the research aspect of a project because I often learn something new.
NICOLE: Tell us a little about your heroine, Elise Goodwin. What's her strengths? What attracts her to Dimitri?
STEPH: I'd like to think that Elise embodies the every day ordinary American girl who is career driven and won't settle when it comes to love. For me, Rachel McAdams comes to mind. Elise's strengths are her loyalty and steadfast nature. Dimitri's been hurt previously, so he finds her loyalty refreshing.
Intitially, Elise is attracted to Dimitri's classic Nordic looks, but what draws her to him is how fiercely protective he is of her.
STEPH: Approximately two months.
NICOLE: Did you make the book trailer yourself?
STEPH: Yes. For the music I choose "Jesu, My Heart is Desiring," by Kevin MacLeod. The song captures the ambience of the holidays and has a nice suspenseful undertone to it. Kevin's music is royalty free and can be found on Incompetch.com. Then I used royalty free photos from Dreamstime. In my trailers, I try to establish the setting and mood of the novel as well as give the viewer a sense of the characters so this way, when you go to read the story, you can draw on the visuals to inspire your imagination.
NICOLE: For fun, what's your favorite TV Christmas special?
STEPH: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Sue Perkins, Author of "Blitz"
The Faberge Secret exceeded my expectations. Definitely worth reading more than once. What more can I say? It is such a good book.
BLURB: Elise Goodwin finds herself faced with danger when she learns the Faberge egg she's bought belongs to a Russian mogul, Dimitri Romanov, but is Dimitri playing a game with Elise's heart to get his heirloom back?
ENJOY THIS EXCERPT:
Dimitri scrubbed his hand against the nape of his neck, and then said, "I've been trying to puzzle this out. Your friend stated that the men who ransacked your room mentioned the name Kelch."
"Yes?" She cupped her mug with both hands.
"Gustav Kelch is my rival. We've been rivals since childhood. He owns the other shipping company in St. Petersburg. He also collects fine art, and he possesses a collection of Faberge eggs. He knows I have a collection of Faberge eggs, as well. Alexi believes Kelch stole my egg, but he has no concrete proof."
"Really?" She paused. What had Alistair said? She snapped her fingers. "Well, Faberge did make eggs for Alexander Kelch."
"Yes, he did." Dimitri measured her with a cool, appraising look. "How did you know that?"
"My appraiser told me Faberge didn't just make eggs for the Romanovs."
"Very good. Gustav's great-grandfather was Alexander Kelch."
"And yours, I suspect, was Vladimir Romanov."
"Yes," he admitted. He paused and studied her thoughtfully for a minute.
A bit unnerved, she continued, "My appraiser knew that Faberge had left this particular egg in Vladimir's possession with the intent that Vladimir give it to the Czar's daughters."
"Very good, Elise. Unfortunately, my great-grandfather never had the opportunity to do that. The eggs stayed with us."
"How was that egg stolen?"
"I loaned the entire set of eggs to a local museum. A man wearing a mask of Prime Minister Putin stole it. My cousin, Alexi, has been working diligently on the case. His contact told him the egg would be sold at auction today."
Fascinated by Dimitri's story, Elise sipped her warm milk. "Boris' van was in front of the auction house. He told me the auction didn't want his items. They didn't think they were valuable enough."
Dimitri snapped his fingers. "Ah, all right. That makes sense, but how could they miss the egg? They had to know it was valuable."
"Perhaps they didn't want it. Perhaps they suspected it was stolen and didn't want anything to do with it."
"So why did you buy it?"
"How could I pass up something so precious? I love the beauty of it."
"I'm glad you appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty of the egg."
"Of course I do. I'm an art history major."
Dimitri continued to look at her thoughtfully. He rubbed his chin. "Alexi didn't tell me, but I wonder... could Boris have been his contact?"
"Boris?" Elise sipped her milk. "I doubt it. If you want my opinion, he didn't strike me as the informer type."
"No... Boris mentioned a name. Anatoly, I believe, when I talked to him. I wonder if he was Alexi's informant."
Elise shrugged. The name wasn't familiar to her.
"Perhaps... yes. Perhaps Anatoly was Alexi's informant, and he stole the goods to give to Boris. Boris was supposed to use the auction house to sell them, but they didn't anticipate the auction house not wanting the items, so Boris sold them on the street," Dimitri mused.
"It's plausible, but how did Kelch's men know to track us down?" Elise asked.
Dimitri scrubbed his eyes with the palm of his hands. "No... no... but..."
Elise put down the mug and placed her hand on his waist. The contact sparked a fire in her limbs. "What's wrong?"
"Your receipt--" He lowered his hands. Guilt splayed across his face. "I saw it, and that's how I knew Boris had sold you my egg. I... I crumpled it up and threw it on the floor of the van. Kelch must have broken Anatoly, and then sent his men to find Boris. And if they found him--"
"Oh." Elise swallowed at the fear glittering in his eyes -- fear for her. "They found the receipt with my name."
"Yes. Damn it! I should have pocketed the receipt, but I was furious. All I wanted was my egg."
Apprehension coursed through her. That's why Lucy had been attacked. Kelch and his men hoped to find the egg because they knew Elise had bought it. Lucy had just happened to be in the hotel room because Elise was on a date -- with Dimitri.
He pushed her hand off his waist, clenched his fists, and marched into the living room, halting close to the window. Was he angry at her, or at himself? Well, a part of her was angry at him, too. She and Lucy were in danger -- real danger -- because of that egg, but a part of her just wanted to reach out to him, to comfort him, to tell him everything would be all right.
Elise shifted from foot to foot. Dimitri truly had protected her and Lucy tonight, but how much could she trust him? Was it all about his egg? That's all he'd thought about when he'd thrown the receipt on the floor. No. This man respected his family. He honored Christmas. He was spiritual. She couldn't let him beat himself up for a mistake.
She left the kitchen and walked up behind him.
He stiffened. "Elise, now is not the time. I want to be alone."
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