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An Extraordinary Woman

A reader asks, "What is Fortune's Wheel about?"

An extraordinary woman, her three extraordinary men, and an adventure that spans a continent and two decades of war. The birth of our world, of our modern ideas about life and liberty, about human rights and the place of women, about the clash of ideas and the death of medieval Europe. Fortune's Wheel is the first of my books about the Age of Revolution, and about a remarkable woman who not only witnessed it all, but changed the course of history.

With Charmian and Lydias I was writing about real people, but people so lost in the distance of time that very little about them comes down to us, a few lines here and there, their names and not much more. In the Age of Revolution I'm much more fortunate! Fortune's Wheel (and the other Age of Revolution books) are based on the memoirs of Ida St. Elme. Her autobiography, Memoirs of a Contemporary, is a political memoir and is as biased as political memoirs usually are. Written under the oppressive and reactionary government of the Restoration, she evaded the censors by a variety of strategems, including having it published in Bavaria rather than France, and by focusing on the sensational and titillating while slipping in the politics to the side. Imagine the story of the Wars of Revolution told by Paris Hilton while living under a government which could (and did) arrest her!

Therefore there is a lot of connecting the dots for the novelist to do, a lot of figuring out who has been omitted from scenes (to protect her friends in the present when she was writing her memoirs), where the timelines she gives do not work, and precisely what has been occluded by a ditzy giggle and the breathless sigh that as a mere woman she didn't understand all this politics anyway! (This from a woman who wrote sixteen books....)

So who's real in Fortune's Wheel? Our main character, Elza, aka Ida St. Elme, is of course real. So are the two main male characters of the book, Michel Ney and Victor Moreau. Of course many readers will be familiar with Napoleon and Josephine! Therese Tallien also appears, as does Paul Barras. A number of other characters are present under the aliases she gave them, including her friend Isabella Felix. Many of the more minor characters are real as well, including Rene Gantheaume, Jean-Baptiste Corbineau, and M. Chaptal of the National Theater.

What is she like? Cross Charmian with Georg from The Ravens of Falkenau. Ruthless and hardscrabble, pleasure loving and clever, a brave fighter, a loyal friend, a dangerous survivor no matter what the cost, a hostess par excellence -- courtesan and soldier both. She is Companion in both senses, hetaira and hetairos in one person. And it's a wild ride!