Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Word Count: 70,000
Pitch: Angelique, a 17-year-old free woman of color, is determined to find her own place in the racial web of 1825 New Orleans, until yellow fever threatens her mother’s life and her desires become too costly.
New Orleans, July 1825
I twirl the stick in my hand, a thin piece of wood wrapped in silk. The attached mask follows, circling above my hand like a bird. Flawless dove feathers rise from the right corner. I brush my fingertips along the edge of one. It tickles, and I smile for a moment. I love costumes—or I did. Dressing up as something else, escaping the reality of my life in search of boundless possibilities that chase each other around my head like a cat after its own tail. Yet when I raise the mask to my face, it cannot hide what I am expected to be, a seventeen-year-old free woman of color, caught between Maman’s expectations and my own. My fingers tighten around the stick. It cracks in two.
“Angelique,” Maman says, my name sliding like silk in her perfect French marred only by the hint of disapproval that sharpens it. She accepts the broken pieces from me and, for a second, her lips pinch then ease as she turns back to the seamstress, all sweetness again. “It looks exquisite, Madame.”
It is the costume for the performance of living pictures, which will involve me standing still on a stage, posed for the viewing pleasure of wealthy white men. When Madame Lebrun announced the theme for the performance, the Creation story, Maman snapped her fan closed and tapped my arm with it.
“You must be a dove. It is too perfect for your first ball.”
MURDER MOST FOUL
Mr. Boddy is slumped against the back door, two stab wounds centered in his chest. He clutches a newspaper folded to the gossip column where a local attorney is rumored to be having an affair.