From the author of It Comes in Waves and The Guest House comes a novel of three lives entangled in the secrets of the sea and the enduring bonds of love.
Thank you so much for having me here today!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
The Last Treasure tells the story of a marine archeologist caught between her reckless but devoted husband and her by-the-book ex-boyfriend when the three reunite to salvage a shipwreck off the Outer Banks—and solve a mystery that has haunted her for years: What happened to the schooner carrying Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia that disappeared without a trace in 1813?
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Sam: I hope this email finds you, and finds you well. Last week, our curator discovered a logbook in the home of a Buxton collector. It appears the last few entries were written by Theodosia Burr Alston in the months following the Patriot’s disappearance, so of course I thought of you right away.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- The Last Treasure features a real-life shipwreck involving Aaron Burr’s daughter, Theodosia—Burr being the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel—but amazingly when I first started writing the book, Hamilton the Musical hadn’t yet come on the scene to become the incredible phenomenon it is today. Now, thanks to the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda, lots of people will know who Theodosia and Aaron Burr are before they even crack open the novel!
- Late in the book, Whit explains that he’s got a buzz cut because he accidentally rested his head on the lid of a marine paint can and had to shave off his hair, because marine paint doesn’t wash out—which I only know because it happened to my dear husband who had to do the same!
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
I have often explored love triangles in my novels, and this book has my favorite one yet. At the center is Liv, a passionate marine archeologist whose marriage to Whit is in crisis when she is reunited with her old boyfriend, Sam, who brings back more than just unresolved attraction—but also the chance to solve a mysterious shipwreck that has haunted Liv nearly all her treasure-hunting life.
Liv is a fascinating contradiction: On one hand, she is a fiercely-independent woman, determined to blaze her own trail. Despite having asthma, and a dangerously-over-protective father, she learned to scuba dive and left school to pursue her dream of traveling the sea in search of sunken treasure. She is deeply in love with her husband Whit, but when she reconnects with Sam, she questions her life choices. I found her at turns to be deeply sympathetic and utterly confounding—but I savored her journey toward finally listening to her heart, and I hope readers will too.
The two men in her life are no less complicated. Sam, from the first time Liv meets him at a graduate school lecture, appears to be the perfect guy: interested, romantic, serious. But his need for control might not be what Liv needs.
Then there’s Whit. On the surface, he’s fearless and impulsive, as swashbuckling as the pirates whose treasure he’s looking to find, but his love for Liv is unwavering. Sure, he’s far from perfect, but unlike Sam, Whit wears his heart on his sleeve. And just like Liv—even though she doesn’t admit it for a very long time—I fell for Whit from the first minute he blew into the room.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
I love this question! Since my novel centers around a love triangle, I’d pick a scene with the three main characters—such as when Whit, Sam, and Liv (who Whit has nicknamed Red) travel to the Outer Banks for their very first treasure hunt together, hole up in a borrowed beach house, and go down to the water for a tipsy, late night game of truth or dare:
“I dare you to jump in,” she said.
Whit took a swig of wine and scoffed. “If you want me to get in the water, at least dare me to do something impressive, like swim to Ocracoke and back with steaks strapped to my legs.”
Why did she believe he just might if she suggested it?
Sam reached out and snatched the bottle from Whit’s hand. “Points deducted for stalling.”
“All right, all right.” Whit climbed to his feet, unsteady in the sand. He flicked his cigarette into the fire and began to free his shirt buttons. “Personally I think Red just wants to see my junk.”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” she said. Still she felt a blush burn across both cheeks, her skin already pink from the fire. “Besides, I didn’t mean for you to skinny-dip. The water’s freezing.”
“Too late.” Whit unbuckled his belt and snapped it out like a whip. “Don’t write checks you can’t cash, lass. You’re playing with a pro here.”
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
The feeling that they’ve just spent a long, sun-drenched weekend on the beach, watching people fall in love, and maybe getting a bit hot and bothered along the way with them. I want people to lose themselves so deeply in the story that they swear they feel sand in their sheets and smell bonfire smoke in the air. When I read, I seek escape, and I hope to give that to my readers.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?
I have just started a new project that I’m really excited about—but since I am, like 99% of other writers I know, deeply superstitious, I don’t dare say anything yet—but I promise to share news on my Facebook page and in my newsletter when I can!
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Print copy of THE LAST TREASURE by Erika Marks
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Whit will go to any length to win back his wife’s heart—name your favorite book or movie that featured a hero who had to do the same.
Excerpt from The Last Treasure:
Liv bolts upright, her chest squeezed like a fist. She needs a breath, just one, but there’s no air, only hollow wheezing. She reaches into the dark and slaps at the nightstand, finding the drawer pull and tugging hard, sending the clutter of shells and hair clips inside it skidding to the edge like unbelted children in a swerving car. When her fingers finally land on her inhaler, she shoves the cylinder into her mouth and sucks in as she depresses the top, relief shuddering through her to feel the rescue of air.
She falls back against the headboard, blinking into the black, and waits for her breathing to slow.
Stupid, awful dream. Third time this week. Whit would surely blame the leftover Thai she devoured shortly before ten, or the cup of mocha chip she indulged in afterward.
She reaches out for the long compass of her husband’s sleeping body, but her fingers land on the empty mattress.
She feels for her phone and clicks it to life.
He did return from dinner with Phil Edwards, didn’t he?
Or did she just dream the crash of him coming into their bedroom, the groan of the bed when he fell on it, still dressed, the two thumps of his shoes hitting the floor? What about when he rolled against her and reached up under her T-shirt, wanting to make love, then falling asleep before he could get her underwear off?
She scans the dark, listening. The familiar clanging of metal blows through the screens, the telltale clamoring of movement on the boat, then the frothy growl of Theo’s propellers spinning to life.
She kicks herself free of the sheet and lands on the cool Mexican tile of their bedroom floor, knotting her red hair as she rushes down the hall to the living room. Through the sliders, beyond the line of palms that separate the lanai from the concrete of the dock, she can see him on the upper deck of their thirty-foot dive boat.
She yanks the door open, no time to close it behind her. The humid air clings to her bare legs, a curtain of moisture, as if she’s stepped through a giant spiderweb.
“Whit!” She yells as she runs down the steps, terrified he won’t hear her over the whir of the motor. “Whit!”
Miraculously he turns and sees her, a drowsy, pleased smile spreading across his face. He’s wearing only a pair of boxers. Her immediate thought: Please, God, don’t let him fall in. Sober, he is the strongest, surest swimmer she knows; drunk, he will sink like a stone, and with his six-three and two hundred twenty pounds, his rescue will be impossible for her small frame.
“Avast, me beauty!” He swings his glass high, sending a necklace of liquor arching through the dock lights, and her pulse quickens.
He only speaks pirate when there’s bad news.
The concrete is damp and prickly under her bare feet. “Whit, what are you doing?”
“I thought I’d take the old girl out for a moonlight ride. Join me?” His blue eyes are wild, wolfish.
“There’s no moon,” she says, as if the correction might deter him. “And you’re not even dressed.”
“Right you are, lass.” He tugs a faded Marlins cap off the throttle handle and snaps it over his tousled blond hair, giving her a satisfied grin. “Better?”
She rushes onto the boat and climbs the ladder to the flybridge, feeling the tremors of panic soften when she arrives at the helm. This close, she could lunge for the ignition if she had to—but the current of dread still sizzles in the muggy air. A nearly drained bottle of scotch sits by the wheel, the amber liquid shuddering with the vibration of the engine. He’s done something foolish, but what? The possible transgressions race through her: An impulsive purchase they don’t need? The coltish blond he flirted with at Rachael and Daniel’s solstice party? Has he totaled the van . . . ?
Despite his height and sturdy build, her husband looks fragile, something glued and not yet dried, and it scares her.
She can hear the tremble of uncertainty in her voice. “Love, shut her down and come back to bed. You need sleep.”
“God, I love this boat.” He drops into the captain’s chair and swivels around, his expression wistful as he scans the controls. “Do you realize that we could chart our entire life together on this boat, Red? That every moment of significance for us happened right here?”
She nods, nostalgia falling like a shawl over her too, snug and warm. Even now, beneath the diesel fumes, she can still find the scent of rusted metal and warm rubber, the intoxicating smells of a perfect dive.
But when Whit lifts his gaze to find hers, his eyes crackle with lust—it’s not their early memories of treasure hunting that he’s recalling.
“The first time I kissed you was on this boat,” he says. “The first time I held that gorgeous hair in my hands.” He opens his huge palms and closes them in fists. “Christ, I couldn’t get deep enough inside you.”
His eyes slide down her body, drinking her in, and the familiar tug of longing pulls at the space below her stomach, the weight of wanting his words could always coax from her like a fever.
But despite desire, impatience burns. She just wants it over with—wants to know what he’s done. Let it be something small, something easily and quickly repairable. They have only two weeks before they are scheduled to begin their next mission in North Carolina, the one Whit has promised will bring them the success their recent salvage missions haven’t.
“Whit, please.” She’s begging now. “What’s wrong?”
He spins the chair back around and lands under the glare of the spotlight. For a blissful moment, she thinks the crescent of purple under his right eye is a trick of the night, a reflection from the surface of the canal, and her heart holds for a second before it crashes.
“My God, your face!”
“It’s not so bad,” he says cheerfully. “Feel worse for the table.”
“You should be putting ice on it.”
“Good idea.” He slams his tumbler against his eye and winces. “Shit.”
She tries to help guide the glass to the worst of the bruise, but he waves her off. “It was all a big misunderstanding.” His voice is conversational, as if she might actually enjoy this story. “Phil and I were waiting for our beers, and this knucklehead next to us accuses Phil of stealing his seat, so I tried to—”
Phil? Blood rushes to her forehead. “Whit, please just tell me you didn’t let our project archaeologist see you get into a bar fight.”
He squints his uninjured eye. “I don’t think he saw much after that unfortunate pop to the side of his face.”
“He got hit?”
“It was just a tap, really. I doubt he’ll need more than a couple stitches. Serves him right for having such a lousy swing.”
“Whit!” Liv claps both hands over her mouth, sure if she doesn’t she will let go a scream that will draw every one of their neighbors out of bed.
They have spent months putting together this salvage project of the Siren, a blockade runner buried off the coast of Wilmington that sank with a fortune in her hold, and he has blown it up in a single night. All the pieces they’ve secured, the beach house in Topsail that is to be their base of operations, already rented. A seventy-eight- foot commercial dive boat, already chartered.
Panic sends her heart into a gallop, thumping hard against her ribs. “What are we supposed to do without an on-site archaeologist?”
Whit tugs off his cap and tosses it behind him. “We’ll just hire someone else.”
“Who? There isn’t anyone left on the planet who’ll put up with you!”
“Then you’re stuck with me, lass.” His eyes flash wickedly. “Let’s go below and I’ll shiver your timbers.”
“Aye, so be I,” he growls playfully, yanking her into his lap and getting a bite on her neck before she wriggles free and moves for the ladder. “Red, wait.”
She hears the engine go quiet, but she is already back down and across the deck, training her eyes on the water and trying to find focus in the calm surface.
Two weeks. Maybe there is still a chance they can find someone else to take over the PA role in that time, even on such short notice. It would have to be someone familiar, with a good reputation. Someone who could step right in, no handholding. Someone who could keep Whit straight, keep him coloring in the lines, as Sam used to say—
Gooseflesh flares up her bare arms. She grabs herself and rubs hard, afraid Whit will see the tiny, traitorous bumps.
She takes a seat on the bench and waits for him to descend the ladder. “What about Sam?” she asks.
Whit’s eyes cool, the teasing cornflower blue darkening to pewter.
“He used to be one of the best marine archaeologists out there, Whit.”
“Until he went back to law school.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s washed his hands of the field completely.”
Whit stares down at her with disbelief. “Felder left, Red. He left you—he left us. He made it clear he wanted out.”
“That was nine years ago. Maybe he’s let that all go.”
No wonder he continues to look at her as if she’s lost her mind. Sam who believed sentimentality was a character flaw; Sam who could—and did—turn off emotions like car engines?
Still she presses on. “Maybe he’s forgiven us.”
“Forgiven us?” Whit frowns at her. “What the hell did we ever do to need his forgiveness?”
We fell in love, Liv wants to say but doesn’t—and she doesn’t need to. Whit’s eyes find hers and flash with understanding.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
As students with a shared passion for shipwrecks, Liv, Sam, and Whit formed a close bond searching for the mysterious Patriot, a schooner that disappeared off the Carolina Coast in 1812 with Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia aboard. But as the elusive ship drew them together, love would bring them even closer—and ultimately tear them apart.
It’s been nine years since Liv left Sam to be with Whit, and the once close-knit triowent their separate ways. Liv has given up her obsession with Theodosia Burr to focus on her career as a salvage diver and her passionate but troubled marriage to the reckless and hedonistic Whit. But when a diary of Theodosia’s is discovered in a collector’s estate, she is pulled back to the world of the Patriot, this time with startling new clues to what might have really happened.
Diving back into the lost history of the Patriot could be just what Liv needs to find closure to a mystery that still haunts her. But when she and Whit reunite with Sam for one last salvage in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, buried romantic tensions begin to resurface, and once again Liv must choose between two men with very different hearts.
Meet the Author:
Erika Marks has worked as an illustrator, an art director, a cake decorator, and a carpenter. She currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their two daughters. The Last Treasure is her fifth novel, following It Comes in Waves, The Guest House, The Mermaid Collector, and Little Gale Gumbo.
Website | Facebook | Instagram |