Hi Michele and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Forger!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
The Elite Crimes Unit employs former white collar criminals to go after the same. Ethan Maxwell is a former (maybe?) art forger who works closely with Scotland Yard’s Art & Antiquities Unit. When a bomb goes off behind a famous painting in one of London’s elite museums he is determined to find the culprit.
What’s your favorite line(s) from the book?:
Oh, dear. It’s been a while since I wrote the story! I have to go back in and take a look…
Okay, right. It’s more a conversation snippet than a line. When Ethan first meets Olivia Lawson, the investigating constable…
She offered her hand to shake. “I’m Constable Olivia Lawson, with Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities Unit. And you are?”
“Oh. Uh…” Quite taken aback by her introduction, actually. Ethan slid his hand from her grip, his eyes falling to her cleavage, which wasn’t blatant, but there was so much bosom pushed up amidst the red roses it proved impossible not to notice. Over and over. Then he realized he was staring and blurted out, “You don’t look very much like a constable.”
“And exactly what do you expect a constable to look like?”
Ethan detected annoyance in her tone as she slid a hand to her hip, but he’d never been a man to bite his tongue. “Perhaps a bit less…lush.”
When you sat down to start this book, what was the biggest challenge you faced? What were you most excited about?
The big challenge with any book in my Elite Crimes Unit series is that I’m writing about criminals. And…I haven’t ever forged a painting or stolen jewels or even hacked into a computer database. So much research is involved. And I LOVE that part. So that’s the part I get excited about.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Ethan was a challenge because he is a quiet, self-involved sort who isn’t really out there and in everyone’s face. He is very smart, and knows a lot about art forgery, so again, that challenge of getting inside his head was great. The surprise to me was that he really does have a heart and it can be broken and he needs validation as much as anyone else.
Also, this story is a bit ‘quieter’ than the first in the series, The Thief. While I love filling the pages with action and adventure, the hero and the crime lended to a more subtle sort of intrigue.
What have you learned about your own writing process/you as an author while writing this book?
That sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. 😉
Again, it goes back to writing about characters with an expertise I have no knowledge about. So the challenge is to put in enough research to make them look good and sound official without spending years actually doing all that research!
The First kiss…
This isn’t the first kiss, but rather their first Very Close contact. I love the scene that follows this little snippet…
At the sound of a door creak she panicked. With a glance to seek secrecy she…stepped into the closet, pulling the door almost closed. Why she’d hidden was beyond her, but it had felt the easiest thing to do than to have to explain why she was creeping about in the private areas of the mansion.
Stepping back wasn’t easy because the clothing was packed in tight and she was not reedy thin like most of the woman here tonight. A twist of her shoulder landed the corner of a hanger in her boob. But just as she reached for the doorknob to pull it shut someone tugged the door open and slipped inside. The man’s body collided with hers and she started to protest but his hand slipped over her mouth.
“Shh…” he said. “There’s two of them who just entered. They don’t know I’m in here. Or you, for that matter.”
Did any scene have you crying or laughing (or blushing) while writing it?
Well, the scene that follows the one above did have me blushing (just a bit) but I’m not going to give it away. Suffice, the hero and heroine are stuck together in the closet while outside in the bedroom another couple…ahem. 😉
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters?
Probably the opening scene where the hero rushes in and saves the heroine from getting blown up by a bomb in the museum.
Readers should read this book….
For a fun caper involving art forgery and opposites attracting.
What are you currently working on? What are your up-coming releases?
I just started a new Nocturne story! That one features a demon reckoner.
August: The Forger
October: The Witch’s Quest
November: The Witch and the Werewolf
November: rerelease A Kiss of Frost
December: The Chameleon (#3 in Elite Crimes Unit series)
March ’18: An American Witch In Paris
and more Nocturnes scheduled for June, Sept and Dec ’18!
Note: December ’18 is the last month Nocturnes will be published. Big sigh… It makes me very sad.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: I have 2 digital copies of THE FORGER to give to 2 winners.
[note: I believe these can be read on any ereader. It is through the Enthrill program and is a coupon code provided by my publisher. It may be US only though.]
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Do you have a favorite piece of art? What does it mean to you?
Excerpt from The Forger:
This is the entire 1st chapter:
Olivia Lawson stood before the most hideous painting she had seen hung on the esteemed walls of the Tate Britain museum. Around her the forensics team and various police constables had begun to trickle in. Olivia had arrived twenty minutes ago, as soon as dispatch had forwarded her the call from Camila Wright, the museum’s director. The director had been frantic, and had suspected a vandalism, and possibly worse, a theft.
Olivia had called in backup officers from Scotland Yard to search the outer perimeter of the museum. As she’d headed out, she’d stopped into her boss’s office. Superintendant Wellbrute had just been informed a gallery in Soho, not far from where she lived, had been hit last week with similar methods to the Tate Britian. He didn’t understand why she hadn’t been on top of that one. It was her job with the Arts and Antiquities Unit to investigate art crimes.
Apparently the gallery owner had gone directly to Interpol instead of Scotland Yard. Which had miffed her boss. And baffled Olivia only so much. Private galleries had a lot at stake in keeping thefts quiet from the public. They couldn’t have their reputations tarnished should Scotland Yard release information to the press.
But it did stab at Olivia’s pride to have her boss angry with her. She should have heard about that one or picked up information from the art world grapevine. Her lacking knowledge wasn’t going to help her status at Scotland yard.
She needed to solve this case to show her boss she had what it took, and that she was not expendable. A promotion from constable to detective constable was her goal.
Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities Unit had been reduced to two police officers, her and Nigel Bellows, who, at the moment, was out with shingles. Not a day passed that Superintendant Wellbrute didn’t grumble about lacking funding, and who cared about art crimes anyway? Wasn’t as if the perpetrator caused physical damage or violence to people such as with robbery or murder. Wouldn’t she be happier in dispatch or even—and this was always delivered with a wink—bringing him coffee and answering phones as his receptionist?
The cuts and insults never ceased, but Olivia would not break under such demeaning treatment. She was proud to be a woman working in the field of law enforcement and she would show the men exactly how valuable she was to Arts and Antiquities.
But before she tied herself up with worry knots over not learning about the Soho incident, she had to decide if this call to the Tate had been a theft, was related to last week’s gallery vandalism, or…was something else entirely.
Approaching the painting on the wall, she took careful note of all surroundings, moving her gaze from the periphery and inward. As she reached the painting, she scanned the pale gray wall for fingerprints, smudges, disturbed dust. No dust. The museum was meticulous.
Standing three feet away from the piece, hands to her hips, she journeyed her gaze over the ornate gold frame, which the director had insisted appeared to be the original that had framed the John Listen Byam Shaw masterpiece, Now Is Pilgrim Fair Autumn’s Charge, which had been the painting displayed on the wall. Or maybe it still was that painting. It was difficult to determine such.
Because pinned over the original—or whatever was beneath—was a stretched canvas, on which had been painted a copy of the Byam Shaw. An awful copy. Even the worst forger in the world would never take credit for such an aberration.
Trying not to look overlong at the horrible piece, she took in everything else. No dust in the curves and arabesques carved into the frame. Forensics would dust for prints and do a thorough run-through of the crime scene, but she always asked for a few minutes alone to take everything in. To make notes, both physical and mental. The painting hung about a foot above the green marble base that bordered the walls. Numerous other paintings from the Pre-Raphaelite period hung on the wall, closely spaced but looking untouched.
Using her cell phone, she snapped a picture that fit the entire frame and pinned canvas into the shot. A few more. Some closeups of the frame, the texture of the paint on the new canvas, a few brushstrokes. It was a slapdash job, but yet, she sensed whoever had painted this copy had sincerely attempted to make a go at imitating the master. The colors in the original were bold oranges, reds and browns. The copy had matched those perfectly. And the wispy ghost-like creature crawling out of the water in the foreground was also executed with a careful hand.
She stepped back, and bumped into a man wearing white scrubs over his jeans and tee-shirt. “Oh, sorry…Howard.”
Howard Leeds smiled at her and nodded toward the painting. The man was deaf, but didn’t need speech to have received commendations as the expert technician in London forensics for the past two years. She signed to him that she needed a few more minutes, then he could do his job.
With a beaming white grin, punctuated by some killer dimples, the man walked over to a wooden viewing bench and began to set out his equipment.
Camila Wright clicked in on high heels and stopped beside Olivia. Sheathed in drab gray, and looking a stick in the shapeless dress. After noting her badge, the woman had introduced herself to Olivia upon arrival but hadn’t taken the time to ask who Olivia was. Tension shimmered off her thin frame and she held her fists so tightly her knuckles looked ready to burst from the skin. “I just said goodbye to the Byam Shaw last night as I was leaving the building.”
“Said goodbye to it?” Olivia asked.
“It’s one of my favorites. I talk to the ones I love.”
Olivia could, oddly, relate to that. Sometimes the characters depicted in oils and watercolors did seem to take on a life of their own.
She offered her hand to shake. “We didn’t have a chance for proper introductions earlier. I’m Constable Olivia Lawson. I’ll be heading the investigation.”
“Yes, Lawson.” Miss Wright took a moment to think about it and then her demeanor changed as she gave Olivia that look she’d thought she was long over receiving. Derision. “Oh, the Olivia Lawson who once worked at the now-defunct Hawhouse Gallery? And now you’re actually investigating art crimes? Interesting.”
The unspoken condemnation crept down Olivia’s spine, but she wasn’t going to allow it to affect her work. She was over that horrible incident. Mostly. Her best defense was to ignore the attitude, which she got more often than expected.
“It appears to be the original frame,” Olivia offered. More from a hunch, than actual evidence. She’d asked Miss Wright to pull the details and catalog for the Byam Shaw upon arrival, but hadn’t received that information yet. She glanced upward. The roof was two stories up and featured four curved skylights. They were the only windows in this well-lit gallery. “Before I begin to consider possible entrances for theft,” she said, “I want to spend more time studying it on the wall. If you don’t mind?”
“Of course not. I’ve blocked off the entire hall so when we open in half an hour, no patrons will be aware of what is going on down here. I’ve instructed the police to enter from the employee’s entrance. Our media team is on top of keeping this hush-hush until we know what’s up.”
“Thank you. Do you believe the original lies beneath?” Olivia asked thoughtfully, as she tapped her lower lip, eyes on the painting.
“I certainly hope so. But if so, the pins will have damaged the original artwork,” Camila said with dread. “This is awful. Will you be working with a partner?”
“I usually don’t. Is there a reason you ask?” She would not allow the woman to condemn her for no reason.
“Uh, no.” Yet her flittering gaze revealed her worry. “Just asking. I’ll leave you to go check on the files you requested.”
Olivia nodded and approached the painting. She stopped but eight inches away and shifted her shoulder, bending forward to view the hung painting from the side. The intense chemical smell of cheap oil paints was evident. Had the thief replaced a valuable work of art with a slap-dash piece? What was the meaning behind such a work? Did it have a message?
Generally, she believed it should. Thieves were crafty, and art forgers especially, were pompous ego-maniacs who liked their work to be known. Had the thief—or perhaps she should think of the person as a vandal until she could confirm theft had occurred—merely been after a grab and run they would have left the wall bare, no trace of evidence.
A glance to the upper corner by the ceiling confirmed a small white security camera. She’d look at security footage as soon as possible.
Leaning in closer to the travesty, she noted that indeed, there were stick pins holding the new canvas over what she suspected could be the original canvas beneath. The pins stretched the overpainting taut. And each pin had a bit of paint smeared on it, indicating the forgery was recently done. The paint hadn’t time to completely dry.
Leaning forward until her shoulder-length red hair brushed the wall beside the frame, she clicked the light on the end of her pen and flashed it behind the painting. There was about a quarter inch space where it did not meet the wall from top to about a third of the way down. It allowed her to see the hook that held the painting and the wire secured to the back of it. It was standard museum hanging procedure and it was all attached to the frame, not the canvas.
Curious. If the thief had removed the Byam Shaw from the frame he would have had to carefully slip in a replacement. Something to pin the newly-painted canvas to. The original must still be intact.
She moved to stand before the piece again, and studied the inner edges of the frame. In a few spots, fresh paint smeared the gold wood frame. She clicked a photo of that, and noticing that Howard stood waiting, she signaled him over and pointed out what she’d seen.
He gave her a thumbs up. Then he pointed to the top of the picture and gestured that he might take it down for her inspection.
“We should take more photos before removing it from the wall.” She signed to him to bring in the photographer from the Evidence Recovery Unit.
Ten minutes later, the ERU photographer had clicked through hundreds of shots of the entire room and the painting in situ.
“I think we can take it down and get to the nitty gritty,” Olivia announced to the few officers in the room. “Howard, if you’ll assist me.” She signed to him that she would help him remove it from the wall and he approached the painting.
Wearing latex gloves, Olivia slid one hand up to the top of the frame and gripped the bottom. Howard was slipping on new gloves…
While lifting the bottom corner of the painting away from the wall, Olivia glanced over her shoulder and spied a tall, handsome man who raced toward her. She smelled sulfur. Something flashed in the corner of her eye as the man’s body collided roughly with hers, tumbling them both to the hardwood floor.
Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
When Interpol’s covert behind-the-scenes Elite Crimes Unit looks for new talent, they recruit someone who knows all the tricks—and sometimes a troublemaker is exactly who’s needed for the job…
Olivia Lawson’s bosses at Scotland Yard don’t take her work very seriously. Art and antiquities? Bor-ing! But her latest investigation, at London’s world-renowned Tate, is turning out to be far more explosive than anyone expected. In fact, the vandalized, booby-trapped painting hanging on the gallery wall would have blown her off her feet if it wasn’t for the tall, dark-haired stranger who tackled her at the last second—a stranger as finely sculpted as any masterpiece in the museum.
Ethan Maxwell is working this case for the Elite Crimes Unit because it was a choice between that and lockup. A (barely) reformed art forger, he’s got the expertise to lead Olivia through a dangerous manhunt. But the crime may have a more personal connection to him—and the all-too-real feelings he’s developing toward Olivia could pull her into the line of fire too . . .
Meet the Author:
Award-winning author Michele Hauf has published over 80 novels in historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance, as well as writing action/adventure as Alex Archer and erotica as Michele Renae. The launch author for numerous series at Harlequin, she likes writing in a variety of genres and instead of ‘writing what she knows’ prefers to write ‘what she would love to know and do’ (and yes, that includes being a jewel thief and/or a brain surgeon).