Itzel’s story, or how she came to be in a thriller

Itzel’s story, or how she came to be in a thriller

Many of the pivotal moments in my life have happened over a good meal.

One time, however, the meal wasn’t even cooked.

There was a thriving expatriate community in Mexico City when we lived there. Soon after arriving, I met Delia from South Carolina. Her husband worked for a cell service company and they had two boys, both younger than my kids. Delia and Bob ended up renting a house near ours in the upscale Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood. Delia and I both belonged to a small English-language writing group and the Newcomer’s Club.

Neither Delia nor I had ever hired domestic help when we lived in the United States but in Mexico it was somewhere between an obligation and a necessity. Domestic help was a big segment of the local economy. Salaries were low compared to the US. Houses were huge and pollution left a fine black ash on everything. Everyone had at least a maid and a gardener.

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Expatriates had a lively underground network when it came to hiring. We heard which maids were looking for a post because their family had moved back to the US, who was lazy, who ran around, which placement services were reliable, and so on.

Delia hired a full time maid through a placement agency. Shortly thereafter, she invited us to a dinner party.

After drinks in the dining room, we four couples sat in the dining room set with Delia’s antique silver and crystal. Itzel, the new maid was very young and her navy blue uniform hung on her thin frame. She served the appetizer on individual plates and darted back into the kitchen through the swinging door. Later, she collected the empty plates and again disappeared into the kitchen.

We chatted while we waited for the main course.

And waited.

And waited.

Delia finally excused herself and went into the kitchen.

A minute later she asked me to come into the kitchen, too.

I found Itzel sobbing. Delia, whose Spanish was still at the beginner level, had no idea why there was no dinner.

The mystery was soon cleared up. Itzel had seasoned the fish as instructed, turned on the oven, and put in the pan.. But the fish didn’t cook. She fiddled with the scary knobs on the scary range, but 45 minutes later, the fish was still raw.

I’d seen this problem before. The young woman had put the fish into the storage drawer at the bottom of the range, not into the actual oven.

We quickly fried the fish in butter on the stove. Dinner was saved.

Later, I talked to Itzel. She was 16 and this was her first job as a muchacha planta, a live-in housemaid. It was also the first time she’d lived in a house with a stove, an oven, and a flush toilet. She was overwhelmed by the size of the house, all the different things she was expected to know, and the challenge of communicating with a family still learning Spanish.

But she was earning good money and got every other weekend off, when she went home to Veracruz.

Itzel unwittingly provided me with the outline of a character. Over the next few months, I colored in that outline until I had Luz de Maria, the woman who would anchor THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY.

Get THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY on Amazon

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Detective Emilia Cruz series

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Romantic Suspense Who’s Who: Brilliant Academic Meets Iraq War Vet

Romantic Suspense Who’s Who: Brilliant Academic Meets Iraq War Vet

AWAKENING MACBETH was recently reviewed by Kirkus Reviews and there was so much emphasis placed on the characters that it read like a Who’s Who guide to romantic suspense. The book’s premise of an academic falling for an Iraq War vet (“Both Brodie and Joe are relatable characters; indeed, he’s so perfectly flawed that many readers may fall in love with him, too”) is one part of the intrigue, plus there is an overlay of the supernatural that complicates each character’s life.

Related: Romantic Suspense’s Newest Hero is a Wounded Warrior

So who are these romantic suspense review-worthy characters?

Brodie Macbeth

Brodie is a mix of small-town girl and international academic. Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, as a toddler with her widowed father. She has degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Virginia, where she is now a full professor of history, a best selling non-fiction author, and an in-demand speaker. A former student athlete, she’s tall, blonde, and very physically fit. Reserved by nature, in part because of s strained relationship with the father who raised her, Brodie avoids conflict and emotional scenes. She’s a fan of country music and her German Shepherd dog, Mouse.

Related: Travelling My Dreams in AWAKENING MACBETH

Joe Birnam

Joe is a retired Marine and an Iraq War vet who lost a leg in combat. While his memories of the war still haunt him, Joe has built a new and successful career as a contractor and carpenter. He grew up as the son of a diplomat, has travelled the world, and is serious about personal values such as loyalty and honesty. Tall and athletic, Joe enjoys competitive sports. Joe’s family is large and warm; they love each other without reservation and are always happy to host big happy and noisy gatherings. Perhaps because of his upbringing, Joe has an uncanny ability to make friends wherever he goes. Yet his war injuries make him skittish when it comes to serious relationships.

Stanton Sloane

Stanton is a noted professor at the University of Virginia who has parlayed his academic credentials into a concurrent national broadcasting career. He is very focused on appearances, success, and influence. Stanton is always well dressed, mindful of tradition and routine, and not above intimidation and manipulation to get what he wants, which is a television studio at the University. His house is a showplace full of antiques and his clothes are from Brooks Brothers. He approves of Brodie’s academic success and has dubbed the two of them the “power couple of the College of Arts and Sciences.”

Diana Johnson

Like Brodie, Diana is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she was a star student athlete. After a career in the WNBA, she returned to the University to coach the women’s basketball team. Stylish and confident, she is married to one of the football coaches. They have a strong and durable relationship peppered with humor. She is Brodie’s best friend and a honest and steadying force.

Wallace Macbeth

Although the novel starts with his death, Wallace’s presence is felt throughout. From Edinburgh, Scotland, he took his daughter Brodie to Charlottesville, Virginia after the shocking death of his wife. He happily raised his daughter while a professor at the University until she was 12, when without explanation he enrolled her in boarding school and actively distanced himself from her. Their relationhsip was changed forever, despite the fact that they became professional colleagues. His mantra was “Macbeths don’t cry.” Aloof, eccentric, academically curious, and a brilliant scholar and interpreter of British history. His sister believes he never recovered from his wife’s death and killed himself in order to rejoin her.

“A suspenseful, page-turning paranormal romance” — Kirkus Reviews

Check it out today on Amazon

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

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