Today, I’m delighted to feature Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey on the blog #HistoricalMystery #MontmartreParis #BlogTour #TheCoffeePotBookClub

I’m delighted to share an excerpt from Floats the Dark Shadow.

Protest Against Women Being Admitted to the Ecole des Beaux Arts—Floats the Dark Shadow

“Down with women! Down with women!”

The shouts of the male students clanged in Theo’s head, as she watched them march inside the huge iron gates of the École des Beaux Arts. She had woken groggy and wretched after crying late into the night, but determined to meet Carmine here, for Mélanie’s sake.

“They are yapping dogs.” Carmine didn’t yap, she snarled.

“Puppies with power,” Theo agreed unhappily. Her headache grew worse with each angry shout. She probably should have gone back with Averill yesterday, but she’d needed to be alone after seeing Alicia in the morgue.

“Out with the women! Out! Out! Out!”

“No!” “Stop!” “Cowards!” Cries rose from the crowd as a new pack of male students drove the two distraught women students across the vast courtyard, through the gate, and into the street. The protesters outside quickly drew them into the center of a protective circle. Theo had seen the same arrogance and brutality when she marched for the vote in San Francisco. Why had she expected Frenchmen to be any better, especially when they granted their women even less power than American men did? Her friends were the exception, and even they preferred the image of the perfect muse—a seductive, destructive Salomé who would rend their souls the better to inspire their poems.

“Go back to your embroidery!” a whey-faced student taunted.

“Go back to your diapers!” Another student surged to the front of the pack. He looked like a scruffy fox—a rabid fox.  “You can use baby caca for your paints!”

“They are the ones full of caca,” Carmine fumed. “Only men can create le grand art! You remember Mélanie’s Cassandra.”

“It was beautiful!” Theo affirmed as insults pelted them like rocks. “It was everything they say art should be and it had soul. It had passion.”

“That’s why they didn’t give it an award. Too much life. Not posed pain—real pain. They need their art to be dead, like a rabbit strung up for a still life.”

The futility of Mélanie’s sacrifice tormented Theo, but Carmine brought back Mélanie’s hope for her art, her courage in fighting for what she believed. The demonstrating women shared that hope and that courage.

“Your brains are stuffed full of ruffles!” the whey-faced one sang out, winning hoots of laughter from his friends.  

Theo thrust off the smothering misery of the morgue and stalked to the gates, looking into the paved quadrangle where the irate students marched and shouted. Men she presumed to be professors and administrators hovered anxiously in the background, but some of the male students and teachers squeezed through the gates to join the growing crowd supporting the women. Turning to look across the street, Theo saw a man who must be a journalist scribbling madly in a notebook. Behind him, half-hidden in the arch of a corner doorway, a young woman watched the protesters. Theo caught her eye and beckoned her to join them. She smiled a little but shook her head, looking anxiously from side to side.

“You’re ruining everything!” a petulant voice called out. “All sorts of stupid new rules and restrictions came trailing on your petticoats.”

“We don’t need new rules!” Theo shouted back, adding her voice to the other women. “We don’t want special treatment! We want the same treatment, the same classes, the same models!”

“And the same medals!” Carmine yelled. “That’s why you’re really afraid! You’ll have to compete with women for the prizes you’ve been keeping to yourselves.”

“Why should I be afraid of that!” another student taunted. “No woman is better than I am!”

Remembering Mélanie, Theo seethed with scorn. “These women got higher scores than you did.”

That brought a deluge of cries. “Liar!” “Bribery!” “You don’t belong here!” “You belong on your backs!”

The whey-faced student yelled out above the others. “Go find yourself a husband!” 

The scruffy fox lifted his cane above his head, waving it furiously. “Yes! A husband will teach you to paint with your tongue!”

The men laughed and wagged their tongues at them. The crass insults gave Theo a surge of furious energy. “Did you swing the same cane at the Charity bazaar?” she yelled at the fox. “Did you beat your way through those women too?”

“I was never there!” he yelled back, though the whey-face one suddenly turned even paler and backed out of sight. The fox looked stunned, then shrugged off the defection.

Theo put a hand to her head, remembering the painful cut that some man had inflicted. Hot anger flowed through her. “You are just as much of a coward!” she accused the fox. “More of a coward. Your life’s not at risk—just your vanity!”

Suddenly, the woman she had seen half-hiding in the doorway darted from her haven and ran down the street. Perhaps because of their silent communication, she came straight to Theo and Carmine. She was quite petite, barely five feet. She had a gentle, shy countenance, lit by eyes full of steely determination.

“The police are coming,” she warned, pointing back down the cross street.. “I saw them at the end of the block.”

“Let’s hope they arrest these men!” Carmine said. “But with our luck, they’ll punish us for daring to protest.”

“Go now,” one of the women students said to the protesters. “But thank you for joining us.”

“We should leave,” Theo said to Carmine as the women began to disperse.

“I will walk with you to the corner and circle back around. I don’t want to be arrested!” the young woman said.

Quickly they walked down the rue Bonaparte toward the quai. “You’re American, aren’t you?” Theo asked their companion.

She nodded. “Yes, and you?”

“From Mill Valley, California. That’s near San Francisco. My name is Theodora Faraday.”

“And I am Julia Morgan. We were neighbors. I am from Oakland. I came to Paris last year because the École promised women would soon be admitted.”

“You see they will use any excuse to refuse you,” Carmine muttered, squaring her shoulders. She set her hat at a jauntier angle and plucked at her sleeves to puff them out.

“I want to study architecture,” Julia said firmly. “This is the most prestigious school in the world. There is no equivalent.”

“What are you doing meanwhile?” Carmine asked.

“I am working in the architecture atelier of Marcel de Monclos and submitting my designs to international competitions.”

“Have you won any?” Carmine asked.

“Indeed I have. I am gaining a reputation. Surely the École will admit me.”

“Surely they will,” Theo affirmed.

“Perhaps,” Carmine said gloomily.

Julia stopped when they turned the corner that brought the Seine into view. “I must go back to work.”

Bonne chance,” Theo wished her good luck. Tiny and soft-spoken as she was, Julia obviously had the tenacity to triumph over the forces allied against her sex.

Here’s the blurb:

Young American painter Theodora Faraday struggles to become an artist in Belle Époque Paris. She’s tasted the champagne of success, illustrating poems for the Revenants, a group of poets led by her adored cousin, Averill. 

When children she knows vanish mysteriously, Theo confronts Inspecteur Michel Devaux who suspects the Revenants are involved. Theo refuses to believe the killer could be a friend—could be the man she loves. Classic detection and occult revelation lead Michel and Theo through the dark underbelly of Paris, from catacombs to asylums, to the obscene ritual of a Black Mass. 

Following the maze of clues they discover the murderer believes he is the reincarnation of the most evil serial killer in the history of France—Gilles de Rais. Once Joan of Arc’s lieutenant, after her death he plunged into an orgy of evil. The Church burned him at the stake for heresy, sorcery, and the depraved murder of hundreds of peasant children. 

Whether deranged mind or demonic passion incite him, the killer must be found before he strikes again.

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Meet the Author

Yves Fey has MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon, and a BA in Pictorial Arts from UCLA. Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing at twelve.  

She’s been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, creator of ceramic beasties, writing teacher, illustrator, and has won prizes for her chocolate desserts. Her current obsession is creating perfumes inspired by her Parisian characters. 

Yves lives in Albany with her mystery writer husband and their cats, Charlotte and Emily, the Flying Bronte Sisters.

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