Express Pursuit by Caroline Beauregard Genre: Romantic Thriller
Follow Mara Ellington's trip across Europe riding the Orient-Express where she suddenly gets entangled in a complicated terrorist attack threat.
As she rushed down London’s Victoria Station, feisty Air Traffic Controller Mara Ellington fought her apprehensions about this journey. It was no longer the trip of a lifetime she had dreamed about with her best friend. Instead, fate had turned this exciting adventure into a lonely voyage to honour her deathbed’s wish. After arriving at the train’s platform, a strange incident will leave her baffled but not as much as her unexpected confrontation with Counter-Terrorist Agent Drake Steinfield who has also boarded the legendary Orient-Express, on a mission to thwart a terrorist threat.
The sexy and tenacious agent is on the tail of an elusive Al-Qaeda Extremist leader who has planned a string of massive explosions along the train’s route. Additionally, he may be using the tourist as a pawn in his schemes and according to the CT agent, this makes her his best lead to stop him. Mara and Steinfield will need to join their forces and race against the terrorist’s deadline to prevent these massive tragedies, if they can put aside their clashing personalities and growing attraction. What destiny awaits them down the line of this Express Pursuit?
CHAPTER 1 August 25th, 2017, London, Victoria Station, Morning
I never go back on my word because a promise is a promise. But still, rushing to catch a vintage Express train instead of using a modern aircraft seemed ludicrous to me. Granted, I wasn’t laughing last night when my New York to London flight took off with a ninety-minute delay. Like a maniac, I ran across London’s Victoria Station, afraid that I’d be too late to reach Platform No. 2 in time for my departure. I caught my breath for a second and glimpsed at the legendary train up ahead, painted in milk-chocolate brown and custard gold. Further up, the stationmaster, in full livery, waited for the passengers to complete their boarding procedures. At a small temporary desk, over which stood a banner reading Venice Simplon Orient Express, a steward was greeting the last incoming travelers for the VSOE while handing out glasses of champagne. I, Mara Ellington, was about to embark on a trip across Europe aboard one of the most illustrious trains in history. I resumed my sprint, racing past the different gates. Platform No.2, along with Platform No.1, stood at the extreme end of the station. As I approached, my eyes began to sting and water. After a couple of useless blinks, I had to stop again as my throat also became irritated, as if I had been running at a breakneck speed for hours. The pause allowed me to rummage for my ticket in my overstuffed Chanel purse, but my eyes burned like hell now. I lifted my head and wrinkled my nose from the strong acrid smell coming from a white cloud of smoke spreading on the nearby platform about fifty feet away. The noise level in the station moved up a couple of decibels as I got closer to my destination. A moment later, dozens of travellers were running in all directions, some coughing and crouching. The chaos was denser up ahead at the front of the platform. By now, whistles and automated alarms were ringing all around the platform. I didn’t have time to examine the scene further as something forceful yanked me down from behind. The impact reverberated in my skull when I hit the concrete floor and within seconds, a sharp pain detonated in the back of my head as dark spots flashed in front of me. Did I black out? I couldn’t be sure, but my eyes struggled to focus. The hard surface of the concrete offered no comfort to my aching head and stiff back. What in the world had hit me? It appeared that I was the only one to have been a victim to this invisible earthquake, judging by my quick survey of my surroundings. The white cloud at the next platform had dissipated. Dozens of uniformed security men arrived, running and barking orders. Everything happened so fast and l still had no clue what I was doing on the floor. I took a visual inventory of my body parts, checking for visible injuries. I lay sprawled with my left knee up while my other leg was stretched out at an awkward angle. The slit of my skirt had ripped further up, revealing the full length of my thigh. I pushed the now messy tangles off my flushed face. At least I wasn’t bleeding. There was nothing graceful about my fall. I kept looking around to see what had hit me. My purse's contents, scattered everywhere around me, had likely flown out during the fall. My carry-on had tipped on the floor. As I turned my head the other way, I saw a man crouched beside me. His turned down face was hidden by the hat, sunglasses and bandana he wore over his nose. I couldn’t discern much of his cast down face. Following the direction of his eyes, I caught a pair of hairy hands and a flash of silver, but before I could make any sense of what I saw he was already up and running away toward the exits. Had he stolen anything from me? “Hey! Wait! Stop!” I croaked, unable to yell louder because my throat still burned from the scratch of the pungent smoke. I coughed several times and tried to get up to run after the likely thief, but a fit a dizziness prevented me. This whole situation was beyond crazy. Had the smoke been caused by a fire or had a bomb exploded? I struggled to get up again, pulling down my skirt while straightening myself up. Upon sitting upright, I checked my head, sliding my fingers over the painful small lump forming on the back of my skull. Ouch. A steward rushed in my direction but someone else got to me first. Dressed in black from head to toe, the approaching man reached me with a swift grace and leaned over me. Definitely eye candy. Mid thirties, tousled brown hair, and a light stubble on his jaw. He was sporting a rugged sophistication typical of publicity shots for Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazine. "Are you hurt, Miss?" He frowned with an unusual pair of green eyes. "No, I don't think so, but I think someone may have robbed me. I caught him hovering over my purse for a second but he ran out when I called after him.” He studied me from top to bottom, like a doctor assessing a patient for injuries. Satisfied with his findings, his frown morphed into another kind of expression. This one had nothing professional about it. A slow grin eased his well-defined jaw, a hint of the mischievous nature hiding behind his features. I could have sworn that he was giving me a quick overall glance as if assessing my figure! The man certainly had an imposing presence. Measuring, I’d say, six foot one, with a lean but athletic build, he gave a commanding presence despite the laid-back attitude he had first shown. Not what one would call a beefcake, but he sure exhibited an aura of strength and determination. The easiness with which he could shift from a devil-may-care feline grace to a calculating predator disconcerted me. My primal instincts warmed me against his magnetic animal charm. I hated to admit it, but I was ill equipped to deal with such a potent combination. “Did you see what he looked like? Which way did he go?” he asked, his attitude now turned all businesslike. “Gray trench coat, baseball cap and a bandana over his nose. He ran off toward the exits before I could stop him,” I said. The handsome man turned and scanned the area, but it was already too late. Likely, the mystery man with the bandana must be far away by now. “Here, let me help you...Miss?” He bent, handing me with precise dexterity all the items from my purse that had flown down on the floor. “Ellington, Mara Ellington.” With haste, I stuffed the items back into my purse. When he handed me my wallet, I opened every section to take an inventory. “Anything missing?” A brief look of concern creased his brow. By this time, a security officer was arriving in my direction while an army of other ones where bringing order back on Platform No.1. I frowned, closing my wallet. “No, there is nothing missing.” Now, I should have been relieved, but I was not. This incident was beyond strange. Someone must have pushed me down. This couldn’t be an accident. But if it was not to rob me, what was this about? I scanned the crowd in case I spotted the man I thought was running away, but it was in vain. There wastoo much commotion with the chaos going on in the next platform and whoever he was, he must have used the disruption to disappear quickly. “Did you see the man running away from me?” “No, I'm sorry, I was busy helping the team of security agents by Platform No.1.” “What happened over there?” I pointed my chin in that direction. “It’s still under investigation, but it looks like someone threw a tear gas bomb.” He leaned over, offering me help to get up. His large hands were strong and sure, but the contact of his skin shot a flash of tingling electricity through me. He lifted me without the least bit of effort although my legs were still unsteady. His tall and solid frame exceeded my height by a good six inches. He ran his right hand along the back of my head. “Maybe you should have yourself check out by the paramedics over there.” He jutted his head toward Platform No. 1. “You might have a concussion.” His proximity sped my heart rate and flushed me with erratic heat waves followed by cold sweats. Let's stay calm, I reminded myself. “No. I think I’ll be fine.” “Well, have a safe trip, miss,” he said, extending his hand. His eyes bore into mine as if he was looking for something. Under different circumstances, I might have looked for an excuse to prolong the conversation, but I couldn’t find anything smart to say as my mind remained still half dumb from my fall. I stared at his outstretched hand and mumbled a stupid “Thanks for your help, sir.” “No problem, and stay out of trouble.” He winked, flashing me a killer smile before leaving to rejoin the team of security agents and police force busy with the nearby commotion. Because he wore no uniform, I gathered he wasn’t part of either group, but still his attitude hinted he might be someone working on official business here. That’s it. That’s what I should have asked him about, but it was too late; he was already out of ear shot. Perhaps I was suffering from a distorted imagination because I had been half knocked out, but the moment his warm fingers left my hand, I almost missed their contact on my flesh for some inexplicable reason. I dismissed the fleeting sensation. I must have been jittery from the accumulated stress built over these last few weeks. To start, three weeks ago my lifelong best friend and confidant, Josie, who was supposed to accompany me on this trip, had passed away as a result of a car accident. I felt responsible for her death because I’m the one who had been driving that fateful night. There was not a single day that passed since when I did not feel the snaking tightness of remorse. I didn’t want to go on this journey alone, feeling sorry for myself, but she made me promise, before she died, to go on with this trip as planned. I guess she thought it would give me time to get over another failed relationship and give me the occasion to travel. Two months ago I had caught my boyfriend cheating on me. Could this get any worse? Josie always complained that as an air traffic controller, I insured the safety of thousands of airline passengers daily, but the irony is that I seldom traveled myself. At least, when I arrived at my final destination, I’d get to reunite with my globe trotter elder sister Sylvia whom I hadn’t seen for two years. As I walked along the side of the train glancing through its windows, I noticed that almost everyone had already boarded. Most travellers were darting looks toward Platform No.1 as disorder still reigned in the station. Like me, they must have been wondering if they would be asked to disembark and evacuate the train station. A sophisticated socialite, in her sixties, judging by her Botox-filled face, readjusted her fox fur stole as she stepped out of the wagon-lit car. Poor animal; he hung from her shoulders like a flat roadkill. She had a quick word with the young steward, who was still waiting for me to go on board. She smiled with compassion in my direction. However, on reflection, her arched pencil traced eyebrows betrayed more a look of impatience as a tight calculated smile completed the studied poise. That was the cue for the steward to take a few steps in my direction. I darted a last look at the handsome man who had helped me. He was busy discussing with what appeared to be a SWAT team who had arrived on the other platform. He was pointing at different members of the security team of the train as if giving them orders and directions. Now and then, he tilted his head to the side and touched his ear with his index finger to listen better to whoever was talking to him in his Bluetooth earpiece. During that time, the public announcement speaker called for the final boarding for the VSOE. The loud whistle of the train almost made me jump out of my skin. As if I wasn’t on edge enough, I leaped up with the sudden pressure release from the bottom of the car stationed beside me. I had not boarded yet, and if I didn’t hurry, I’d miss the train. Get a grip, Mara, I chastised myself. To make matters worse, Mrs. “Nosy Fox Stole” was now peering at me with full attention only a short distance away. No doubt she had seen my tumble. The young steward, supervising the boarding of the tardy passengers, slid another glance my way. “Miss, I have received the authorization by the train station security team to finalize the boarding. Please allow me to show you to your cabin,” said the young and eager steward. As I reached my assigned seat situated in the Phoenix car, I remained perplexed about that teargas bomb. Since the train station was not evacuated, I would think it was because it must have been an isolated event. Perhaps even a prank. The gentleman with unforgettable green eyes was the platform about fifty feet away and turned at this moment in my direction, branding a permanent image in my memory. "Welcome aboard, I hope you’ll enjoy your journey,” greeted the steward while helping me put my carry-on up on the luggage rack. His sharp royal blue uniform was trimmed with gold buttons and trimming. It even included a golden VSOE logo embroidered badge. With a sigh, I half collapsed on the plush upholstered sofa and only admired the shiny polished intricate woodwork of the cabin’s cherry wood panels with mild interest. My nose detected a faint mixture of wood polishing wax and the delicate aroma of fresh-cut flowers from a dainty silver vase decorating a small folding table by the window. These elegant touches, aimed for the sophisticated travellers, should have enthralled or at least relaxed me, but I couldn’t appreciate the rich appointments of the fabled train and this magical moment because my thoughts kept drifting elsewhere. What had happened on the platform before boarding? Shaking my head, it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t dwell too much on the incident and instead focus on the refined atmosphere of this compartment, straight out of the Golden Age of fine traveling. This made my unusual encounters appear rather absurd now even if I couldn’t dismiss it all together. Who was this stranger who had fled from me at the station? Why did his behavior seem so peculiar? Was this a rioter who had decided to go for a quick steal during the commotion on the platform? My thoughts replayed my meeting with the handsome man from the station on a non-stop loop. Like involuntary flashbacks assaulting my mind, I kept seeing his forest green eyes assessing me. His virile scent had stirred something strange in me. He had not worn a police or security officer uniform, but his tone had sounded business like and official when he said “under investigation” and “someone threw a tear gas bomb”. I assumed he worked with the official local authority or security agents. I wouldn’t say the events on the platform left me uneasy and worried, because I don't do emotional. I always pride myself on being considered quite a level-headed person, a fast decision maker and a no nonsense kind of woman. At least, that’s what the guys say about me at the John F. Kennedy Airport control tower. Because I juggle over fifty aircrafts per hour in my designated space area, there is no room for sentimentality when I’m dealing with thousands of lives that depend on the efficiency and safety of my split-second decisions. But then again, I had made the wrong decision that disastrous night a little over three weeks ago. That split second decision had cost my best childhood friend her life because of my fault. I would never forgive myself for offering to drive her fancy vintage Porsche for the first time. I didn’t want her to take the wheel. She had had too much to drink. Instead of calling a taxi, I had to be so helpful and take charge of the situation. That was until our encounter with an out of control ten wheeled truck. While I came out with nothing more than a few scratches and bruises, she died the following day from internal injuries and post-operative complications. So here I was, miserable and gripped with an uncontrollable guilt over Josie’s death when I was supposed to be enjoying the trip of a lifetime with my best friend. I could only hope that my promise to go ahead with this journey gave her some measure of comfort. Now, after my delayed flight, arriving in London’s Victoria station in the middle of a tear gas bomb attack and being thrown to the floor, I was even less enthused by the prospect of this journey. I stepped out of my cabin to familiarize myself with the train. Strolling down the hallway, I crossed some of my fellow passengers milling about. Their attires, from casual chic to downright eccentric, suggested they hailed from the middle to upper class of society. Most traveled in pairs except for Mrs. Nosy Fox Stole, who seemed to travel alone. The spitting image of an old movie star who had had too many facelifts. Acted like one too. I spotted a few couples of honeymooners or lovebirds who couldn't keep their eyes or hands off each other. I scanned the station from a window in the narrow wood paneled corridor, getting lost in the sight of the now returning usual hustle and bustle of the crowd moving in different directions to catch their own trains. A black spot in the back of the scenery on the other side of Platform No. 2 attracted my attention. Against my better judgment, I focused on the dark-clad figure in the distance. The train departed with a smooth but slow start. As we began to roll out of the station, I spotted Mr. Jungle eyes through the window--his eyes indeed had a fascinating leafy green iridescence about them. He was in deep discussion with two police officers. He was touching his ear piece again to hear better since the station was noisy at this time of day. He pointed toward this train. The security staff turned to face my carriage. No, that's not it. They were looking ... at me. Why? I wish I had asked him his name. In hindsight, his attitude had seemed official, even if laid-back. So what if this trip was off to a bad start? As we rolled out of the station, I was almost positive that my inauspicious start wouldn’t be the preview for the rest of trip. It might even turn out to be something funny to write about. I returned to my cabin and pulled my spring bound travel journal out of my carry-on and laid it on the seat beside me but left it there as I lacked inspiration to record my rocky start. My heart and eyes filled with a surge of sadness. It was a gift from Josie along with the Chanel purse she had given me on my last birthday in view of this trip. The metallic sound of the rolling wheels on the tracks gradually increased their rhythm. On Platform No. 1, now a fair distance away from my window, things appeared to have settled. The paramedics still helped a few people. I gathered that it was not some kind of major terrorist attack. Otherwise, I they would have surely evacuated the station. Still, had I not been afraid to miss my train, I would have liked to have gone there and offer help to the dozens of people who had been indisposed by the gas. I reverted my eyes to the journal on the seat with its antique world map on the cover. Oh, Josie. My mind returned to that intensive care room three weeks ago. *** "Mara, don’t you cancel the trip; it doesn’t make sense." Josie inhaled another ragged breath through her nasal tube. “I know the trip was my idea, but I really think you need to go on with our plan, now more than ever. Just imagine that I'll be there with you. Do it for me, Mara. Please.” She had every type of tube coming in and out of her; oxygen tube, a drainage tube, a catheter, several intravenous lines, along with a cardiac monitor. She had sustained major internal injuries, and the prognosis was poor. "Josie, come on. That’s ridiculous. I won't enjoy the trip if I'm mourn— if you're not there. You know me. I'm into planes and modernity, not slow trains crowded with fans of Agatha Christie novels." "Listen, Mara, there is nothing much I can do at this point except think”—she paused for a moment to catch her breath— “and I think you need to take this trip. Can’t explain it, but you know what they say? It's not the destination that counts; it’s the journey.” Josie was always good at manipulating me, and she managed to do it again despite being shattered by the accident. "Ok. Ok. I'll do it,” I relented, defeated. "You'd better. Now get out of here and start packing. I’ll phone you tonight,” she promised. She never called, but her mother did, with the heart-breaking news. *** The outskirts of London were blurry when I realized I had been crying. Josie had been like a sister to me. Better than a sister, in fact. As a result of being eight years older, my sister Sylvia was hardly ever home when I was a kid. As soon as she graduated from college, she left to travel around the world, chasing scoops as a foreign correspondent for a well known TV news channel. Josie, bless her soul, had helped me through thick and thin. She’d been my rock through the trials of adolescence and later with the challenges and perks of facing adulthood. Being a loner, I did not easily make friends so now that she was gone, who would I turn to? My recent bad luck with my last relationship was a fiasco I had not foreseen. But then again, whenever I ended up being attracted to a man, either I had misread their intention or I was told I was too independent, which left me wondering what I did wrong. Repeatedly. I took out my pocket edition of Murder on the Orient-Express by Agatha Christie. I had started to read it earlier on the plane. This was another promise I'd made to Josie after much pestering on her part. She was such a fan of the classic ‘Who done it’ book. I seldom had the patience to be at the mercy of authors who tease their captive readers into a guessing game until the last page. But unlike me, Josie devoured those fiction pieces with an insatiable appetite. Actually, the whole trip idea had revolved around her love for this murder mystery novel. Ok, I'll admit it, I was also now curious to know what all the fuss was about. *** During this time at Victoria station, Drake Steinfield, an FBI Counter-terrorist special agent working in association with Interpol, was in a heated phone discussion with his colleague and friend, Agent Jeff Thornhill. The latter worked at the Headquarters of Operations, an FBI International Office Division in New York. "No, I’m still waiting for London’s forensics to analyze the tear gas grenade for fingerprints, but there is something else. Someone on Platform No. 2 may have deliberately thrown a woman on the ground to make it look like a robbery. She confirmed that none of her personal items were missing. The man was already too far away for me to attempt a pursuit, but something’s not adding up here.” “You could have delegated,” said Jeff. “No. I didn’t have time with the incident taking place on the next platform. Maybe it’s just a hunch, but could you get me a profile ASAP. Mara Ellington, about 27 years old, Caucasian. Likely unmarried. Educated, American accent. Booked Sleeping Car No. 3504; I got confirmation from the train master. I need maximum info on this passenger.” “Where is she heading?” asked Jeff. “Paris, Gare du Nord and Gare de l'Est. Notify the authorities along that route too. Increase security levels in both train stations. Ok, talk to you later," Drake said before hanging up. He ran a nervous hand through his dark walnut colored hair, exasperated. He'd been planning this mission for eight months, and there was no excuse for any glitch to happen. But regardless of all the precautions Drake had taken since he’d been following the notorious Al-Qaeda Islamic extremist and his web of followers, the criminal escaped his vigilance. When will we nail this man and bring him to justice? In addition to being on top of the list of the most wanted terrorists in Europe and the United States, he kept evading his traps, despite the most elaborated plans to dismantle his organization. This failure to bring down Omar Ahmed Rachid had, in Drake’s eyes, discredited his other accomplishments as far as his other terrorist captures. The notorious man was his target, and he had managed, yet again, to slip right through his fingers. Drake counted on this mission to advance his career and stop the activities of this criminal. How many lives were still in danger because he had failed to catch him? He didn't know if he was more angry at the elusive terrorist or at himself for losing his best chance to neutralize one of the most vicious leaders of an extremist Al Queda branch. There was something amiss with this botched mission at Victoria Station, but a tear gas grenade and no bomb? That didn’t make sense unless his usual source had been wrong about Rachid intending to make his attack in this Station. He would not dwell on the twisted mind of Rachid, who was likely finding the irony of the situation more than amusing. Rachid, as usual, ran a well-oiled organization. Drake’s instinct was telling him the tear gas grenade was just a diversion, but to what? The authorities still combed Victoria station in case he had left any bombing devices that had not yet been found. But then again, the eel was an astute plotter who liked to innovate with the way he conducted his attacks. But why the sloppy job this time? It made little sense. His thoughts reverted to the petite strawberry blonde damsel in distress he had helped at the station. Her whole story about a clumsy tourist or a mugger who stole nothing from her remained in the back of his mind, making him uneasy. Ok, he had felt a strange connection when he helped her up. Despite her obvious embarrassment, she had an air of confidence, and he had not been immune to her large blue-gray eyes and cute freckles. But still, that whole incident with her fall was drilling in the back of his head like a dentist’s tool. Come on, Steinfield, don’t let a nice pair of legs and a hazy duo of striking liquid sapphires distract you, he scolded himself. When she stared at him with trusting eyes, his usual solid emotional guards had quivered for a fleeting moment. Maybe his problem was that he hadn't been around women for a while. His last casual affair had ended over a year ago when he’d been on an extended mission in Syria. It finished on a sour note. He had no right to complain. Jamila had been kindhearted and accommodating, although he’d never made her promises regarding a serious relationship. Commitment never mixed well with the erratic lifestyle he led. What kind of woman would be interested in someone who seldom spent more than a few weeks in the same place? Most of his relationships never survived his constant traveling and unpredictable schedule. On the rare occasion that the lady was willing to stick around, he’d taken matters into his hands. Better to cut her loose to avoid useless suffering on her part. Her part, he repeated to make sure he didn’t confuse as to whose benefit the break-ups were intended for. This was the life he chose, with all its perks and drawbacks. But with ten years behind him as a special agent, he wasn't positive this lifestyle excited him anymore. He used to get off on the next chance to catch and destroy criminal organizations before they could do any damage. He’d vied for the occasion to nail his enemy, the man involved in the destruction of his family, once and for all. With hindsight, he concluded that out of these ten years on the Counter-terrorist Force, he’d spent six living for the perfect opportunity to ferret out Rachid. But once he’d caught him, what would he do afterward? He was not ready to admit that past that point, he had given little thought about what he wanted to do. However, lately, he’d surprised himself envying his colleague Jeff’s life. The latter, on more than one occasion, bragged about the joy his family brought him. In response, most of the time, Drake made a smart remark about his friend’s too tamed lifestyle. But these past few months, for some inexplicable reason, his mind kept reverting to his partner’s often blissful facial expression whenever he talked about his wife and kids. There was no point pounding on that question as long as his nemesis was alive and running free.
Caroline Beauregard (1964-) was born in Montreal, Quebec. After her nursing degree, she obtained a Bachelor in Anthropology, an MA in Medieval studies, another MA in History of Arts before continuing on to do Phd level courses in History and Comparative literature. She has over 35 years of experience as has a Health Care Professional in geriatrics and works as Health and Wellness Manager in a Senior Residence. A seasoned travel, she loves to write about her trips in her travel journals. Express Pursuit, a romantic thriller, is her debut novel. She lives in Montreal with her husband and two Siamese cats.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author? I have been writing travel journals ever since I started traveling when I was about 19 years old. I come from a family of globe trotters so relating one’s experience while away always seemed natural. While relaxing on the beach in one of those trips I read too books had brought along. They were two old favourite romance novels which, upon a new reading, seemed with a fresh perspective, quite outdated. I began to imagine what flaws I would correct from the story and the ideas slowly formed that I could perhaps try to write a story to reflect a composite of what I liked about those two books and of my favorite types of movies.Express Pursuitwas born out this desire to write the novel I’ve been wanting to read but had not yet found.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
For one thing, as a kid, I didn’t like reading. My parent kept insisting but I just wasn’t interested. Children’s books were deemed boring because I couldn’t identify the kids in the infantile stories. I was an old soul in a children’s body. The first novels that captured my attention were Jaws and 2001 A space Odyssey. Both movies had made an impression on me and I was curious to discover these stories in another media. My parent confiscated the very first book I wanted to read: The Exorcism. Now, I possess a collection of children’s picture book which I cherish for their artistic value as works of art. One of my favourite author, is Jan Brett.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you! Some of the adventures told inExpress Pursuitactually happened to me, although I changed the names and locations.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Crooked wall decoration in my line of vision. I can live with dust on furniture but don’t subject me to a crooked picture on the wall! More specifically about the writing process is the fact that when you do revision, no matter how many corrections you do, you will still end up with a typo or error left behind.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Montreal and lived in the suburban city of Laval. Now, my house is on a tiny island called ILE Bizard, i.e Queer Island!
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
With my husband, two cats, lounging in an all inclusive pool side palapa, a nice drink in hand and a good book in the other.
What are you passionate about these days?
Putting Covid into perspective from health care point of view versus socio-economical needs because I am in front line working in a seniors residence and live everyday with the impact of it on both side of the fence.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
A good movie, a margarita, getting engrossed in a project whatever it may be, oh and shopping!
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Focused, philosophical, honest, a child at heart, full of projects.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I still find it hard to believe I could call myself a writer. I guess I had a new reality check when I first held my first paperback in my hands.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Being a movie buff it’s hard to pick just one. Some I watch every 6 months or so such as the 1950s Sissi trilogy, Bride and Prejudice (Bollywood version), Somewhere in Time, Titanic, Knight and Day.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie? AbsolutelyExpress Pursuit. Like Alfred Hitchcock would do when he directed, the whole movie played in my head as I wrote it.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I would say that after living for 15 years with them as pets I’d say a ferret. I admire their inquisitive nature, their playfulness and they are fearless creature while being so cute.
What inspired you to write this book?
My love of romance, travel, finding yourself in impossible situation which makes you feel emotions on a high level.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Who knows? More books, another creative project? My interests and fabs go in every direction and when it hits me it usually becomes a very intense project to which to get involved into whole heartedly.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I juggled at the beginning about Mara Ellington’s career. I was looking for an unusual job, something that show a sense of character. I even though about making her a thanatologist. I ended up thinking it would make her come out as too creepy! How she became an air traffic controller is quite interesting and comical. But to know why, you have to read the book.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters inExpress Pursuit, a romantic thriller?
The story follows Mara Ellington, an Air Traffic Controller who is taking a trip across Europe aboard the famous Orient-Express. She was supposed to travel with her best friend but a tragic accident involving Mara lead to the death of her friend. The heroine, as she is about to embark on the train encounters of bizarre incidents and least of all, her brushing with a Count-Terrorist agent who thinks she is involved in terrorist activities which could result in attacks along the run of the train. They will need to join their forces and race against the deadline of a notorious faction leader if they want to save the lives of the passenger and arrive alive at their destination.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I wanted to use a train journey on the Orient-Express, make a bit of a travelogue with breaking the usual murder mystery type of story associated with the train because of Agatha Christie. For the main character, I was looking for a slightly awkward loner with borderline asocial tendency while being intelligent and strong willed. She will face circumstance that will bring out her vulnerable side. As for the love interest, a tenacious, determined man with a quirky and at times laid back attitude seemed like an interesting combination which would also clash with Mara’s personality.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Mara is almost like the common Mary but with an added touch of exoticism and softness to it. Ellington stems for my desire to include the idea of hell in her name as her trip must feel to her like one hell-of-a-trip.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Loved, loved, loved doing research. As I wrote it, I felt like I was watching the movie or was experiencing the ride by proxy. Because I had a specific broad line in my head for the story, reading creative writing craft book help me apply what I learned immediately. Fixing technical challenges of the story also gave me satisfaction. On a side note, when doing research, I eventually came across faces that echoed what I envisioned for the look of the characters it gave a sense of casting thrill and reality.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Mara is someone who is fierce and will defend strongly her independence and won’t accept situations and peoples who are not perceived, by her, as unreasonable or illogical. She butts heads and is also puzzled and frustrated with the sexy FBI and Interpol agent who keep following her despite her the innocence she claims about her involvement with terrorist activities.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
Initially I wanted to include “Orient-Express” in the title but that was already adding much characters to a title and short title are often perceived as more desirable on a book cover. I ended up keeping Express to convey the idea of the train and the concept of speed. Pursuit can have several meanings such as pursuing a goal, a dream or following someone in a chase. In this case both Express and Pursuit serves are multipurpose because of their different meanings which befit the novel’s genre.
Who designed your book covers?
It was a joint creative process. Initially, I had purchased, more than a year prior to publication, a cover which I loved. On it, Mara Ellington was staring at me. Then, I purchase another one for fun with a different concept because I figured I should consider more options and not make an impulsive choice. A few months later, after reading about book covers for this genre, I submitted with several Fieverr book cover artists to have more point of views after giving them several parameters to follow. The last artist, the award winning book illustrator Germancreative was worked with me and accepted to take my suggested corrections into account to meet me halfway. I send her back and forth proposal after seeing her first concept. I am knowledgable of the Photoshop software so it was easy for me to make mock-ups update for reviews. In the end, the book cover experience was very satisfying the cost for the finished product was more than reasonable. Nothing to do with artists or agency who ask several hundreds of dollars if not more. Read about the evolution of my book cover in my article on my website here: Newsletter 12.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. It may not be perfect but eventually, after giving it all you’ve got, you have to take a leap of faith and put it out there.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Starting from zero, I had to learn everything but what a ride!
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Spontaneously I would aim for a younger Julian Moore, and Josh Duhamel. But there would certainly be more option. I would like the know who my readers would case in the title roles. See my characters profile pictures in my Website. Spoiler alert.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes, read it! Please review on Amazon and Goodreads. It means the world to new author to have feed-back.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
I would prefer the readers to answer this one!
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Maybe I would like to ride back on the train with Drake and make this a real romantic vacation.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
It is a mix if there is real people that inspired me it is on an unconscientious basis.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I had a pretty good idea of what these characters where “hired” to do but when it came to intimacy and love scenes between the Mara and Drake I must say that I did let them express their feeling in their own way. This is when these characters really took a life of their own. I tossed them for several days in a bedroom and told it was now or never. Like the kind of movie cliche you see, when the medium is transformed by a trance, I let the pen guide me into the actions and dialogue that felt right. The loves scenes are composite of their bedroom tribulations. In the end, the scenes were sweet, in character with the cast while being sexy enough to get there readers sustained attention. The result a PG 13 level of sensuality.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
I would rather let me readers speaks. Here is what they said:
“Overall, a really interesting romantic thriller. Romance, international luxury travel, saving the day from terrorists - there are a lot of fantastic elements that make this story really appealing to readers.”
“A mix of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series (FBI agent, terrorists, etc) and Nora Roberts (Romantic Suspense). It’s classic romantic suspense meets espionage meets history and international travel all rolled into one.”
Wow, is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about this story. This author's debut novel is nothing short of an amazing read. Her characters are so well written and developed you feel like you know them. The storyline so precisely laid out and detailed that you don't just read it, you live with the characters. I immensely enjoyed having the chance to read and experience this story of suspense and just the right dose of romance.
Nikkita Marie Blake
Grab a copy of Express Pursuit by Caroline Beauregard and hop aboard the famous Orient Express, the journey is yours for the taking! Mara, an air traffic controller, is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Will Mara’s journey mimic the famous Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express? Will Mara remain a spectator or will she embrace the journey as she promised her best friend?
Drake Steinfield, FBI agent, is after the elusive leader of a terrorist organization with connections to the 9/11 terrorist attack. Will Drake close in on his mark? Will he keep everyone aboard the Orient Express safe while meeting the demands of said terrorist group?
I absolutely loved Express Pursuit! The balance between suspense and drama, with a splash of comedy, was perfect. There was enough romance and sexual tension to keep me entertained, yet it was clean enough for me to consider buying for my nieces.
I believe you have a hit here! Thank you for the opportunity to read and leave an honest review for an advanced copy of Express Pursuit.
It has been a while since I've read romance novels so this was definitely a change of pace.It's refreshing to read something different once and a while and this was in between my comfort space (thriller/crime) as well as something new. I can't deny that the mention of the Orient Express made me interested in the story. I read it last year and absolutely loved it and it helped me picture the setting better. Being a fan of the book, I can't help but also feel as if I'm one of the other passengers on the trip, enjoying the Orient Express themed journey. Beauregard’s detailed descriptions of the scenes give the illusion that I’m travelling along with Mara across Europe, especially since there's aRestricted Movement Order from the government and I'm trying to compensate for not being able to go outside. It felt nice to be able to pretend that I'm with them on this journey, well, the tourism part, not the 'I'm-in-terrible-danger' part.
The story was predictable.There were a few clues here and there so it all made sense when it was explained in the end. Maybe it could have been a little bit more complex but overall it's quite tame. Then again, if I would be an innocent civilian being entangled in a situation where thousands of lives will be lost, I'd say otherwise.
I liked how the love story blossomed.It's cheesy, expected but still very enjoyable. The two of them complemented each other. I liked how Mara was able to think under pressure which is probably a skill that she developed from her AirTraffic job. I liked that she wasn't a damsel in distress and was able to take care of herself. Agent Drake Steinfield's character on the hand provided a light-hearted feeling with his teasing as Mara's character felt a little dry. I enjoyed the scenes where they interact with one another as it felt sincere despite Agent Steinfield was just an agent going about on his job. There were also many times where I squealed in delight while reading from his point of view. I can't help but be invested in their love.
Occasionally, the point of view will switch between Mara and Drake. It's a little confusing though since there's no clear division so I'll have to reread it. Overall, it's an easy and enjoyable read.
This is a great book from a new author that will keep you turning the pages late into the night. I loved the tension between the two main characters and all of the twists and turns along the way. If you're looking for something to read that will keep you engrossed in a mystery with plenty of romantic episodes, this is the book you crave.
Can't wait to read more from this amazing author.
I congratulate the author on this, her first book. Once I got into it I could not put it down ( virtually) and had to read it all the way through. Being an avid reader I was pleasantly surprised that I could not guess the end ahead of time. The book was also very informative about the various destinations. I look forward to reading more books from this author.
Have you written any other books that are not published? No. However I wrote two memoir for Masters degree. One on criminal law in France Ancient Regime and also, The Iconography of the femme fatale in the art of John William Waterhouse.Express Pursuitis my first venture in fiction.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be? Amber, clove, damask rose, pink pepper, jasmine and gardenia. PS: Why am I so specific with this answer? It’s because I started, a few years ago, to create perfumes as a hobby after taking a perfume class in Grass, in the south of France. I have my own little lab at home!Twilight of Kaizerin Sissi, my creation is my favourite fragrance.
What did you editoutof this book? The prologue and the epilogue. The prologue was a slow scene which ended up compressed as a quick flashback in an early chapter. Chapter 1 needed to start with a bang and give a more active tone to the story. I also took out the epilogue. As one often say, better quit while you’re ahead but you can read the epilogue in my Website, Newsletter 12. Spoiler alert.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book. Sign up to read all twelve Newsletters aboutExpress Pursuit. They contain fun and interesting facts about the story locations, character profiles and insights about my writing journey. Visit my Website here: https://carolinebeauregard.mailchimpsites.com
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
As a side note, I did, ages ago, did a scholarly education as part of a Phd in Comparative literature. That was before the idea even crossed my mind about writing my own book. I was fascinated with the use of fiction to convey the human experience of time. My project centred on 4 favourites books: The Time Machine, by H.D.Wells, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson and Portrait of Jennie by Robert Nathan.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
Lots of internet research, in books also. I also went through some of my travel diaries, as far as writing craft is concerned I used lots books and article such as those featured by Writers Digest, etc. They are excellent books available for new author who prefer to be, like I am auto didactic instead of studying in a creative program.
Do you see writing as a career?
I already have a full time career but I noticed when I get engrossed in writing a book time flies and then I would rather devote my time solely on the book then my daytime job.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
Well, now almost every one who buts a decent book out there can self publish but unless you want to invest a lot of money on promotion, no matter how good the book is, it hard to get visible. Publishing house won’t take a chance on a new author unless you’ve done all the promo for them already or have a huge social media following. I notice that there is also a big market that feed on the hopes and aspiration on new author to “help” them while running a lucrative business on their back.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
Romantic thriller and romantic suspense
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I prefer to write either in silence or in a coffee shop with an even level distraction and noise.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I only write one book at a time but do scribble on occasion ideas or concept for another. When I write a book, a sort of have a love affair with it and it is often one of the first thought in AM and through out the day. It sort of impregnate and color all the period of the research and writing process.
Pen or typewriter or computer?
Actually with this book it usually starts with pen and then type. Holding a pen and gliding it on paper echo more the flow of my though process. However, when the flow come, my rough handwriting becomes even more distorted then usual, the letter become compress and amalgamated to look almost like the work of a stenographer. Needless to say that to read myself and transcribe in type version is often a challenge.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
It would be easy to say the heroine but as a reader, I enjoyed even more Drake because he is the love interest and has a few secrets of his own.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
I never wanted to become an author although who wouldn’t dream of seeing their book on the shelf of a book store? I think writing Express Pursuit was a great experience and I took it almost like an academic project. I got the spark on an idea for the project, studied carefully, applied the excise to do to the project. In a way I consider this debut novel like a graduation dissertation. I have had practice with two Memoirs for Master’s degree and two Phd. scholarly project outline.
Advice they would give new authors?
Study the craft carefully as you write, do research, submit the outline to a writing coach to make sure your premise is viable, hire a few beta reader and submit the best book you can. Don’t count the hours, do it for your own personal satisfaction and don’t write expecting to make sell. If you aim to sell, be careful not to spend more money of promotion and add then when you actually get in royalties otherwise it just doesn’t make sense.
Describe your writing style.
I usually start with a concept, work the mechanics of it, then chose the best cast to bring the story to life.
What makes a good story?
For me a good story is the one that keeps you up at night, that stays a bit in your mind even when you go about your activity of daily living. It’s a story that takes you inside the skin of a character and viscerally makes you experience the adventure. It’s also one that makes you reflect “What if were to happened to me?” “How would I react”
What is your writing process?
First I start with the broad outline with the main goal and points of intrigue in the story. For Express Pursuit, as a second step, I made a spreadsheet of all the increment of revealing the character’s trait, plots increment, romantic progress increment and also time and location lapses. Once all of this is filled and transcribe this into my Scrivener writing software, I am free to outline roughly the outline of what happen in each section of chapter. Then, I can write like a Pantser in any section regardless of the chronology. This way, depending on my mood du jour, I write an action scene, a romantic scene, a savvy dialogue banter, etc.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I will stop writing if I have a “mechanical” technical problem with the story. It is either because I have trouble finding the answer on the net or difficulty to make it work in the story. Some stories are more complicated then other but this peeve can create a writing block if many aspect of the story depend on me resolving this mechanical problem.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
It may be strange to say but I have, I believe, the ability to “forget” that I am the writer when a read back what I wrote earlier. This way, if it’s boring I rewrite. I then end, I wrote the book I wanted to read. I am not a big reader of fiction to start. Hated being force to read books as a kid because I did not identify with them! So, yeah, I takes a lot to get me interested.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I am happy with my initial process but the revisions took more time then the writing. I would hire editor and life proof earlier in the process of revision and spend more money on that. I had the additional challenge of writing in English although this is not my mother’s tongue.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I would say it’s avoiding stereotype and cliches.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The initial project lasted for 2013 to 2020 with two year where I did not work very much on it for two years. So, yes, with sometime working 8 hours a day during health convalescence 5 years!
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Answered above. I would add that when it happens, I would focus on other chapters, do more research, read more writing craft book and generally just do something about the book so you feel you are not turning your back away from the book or feel that you are unproductive.