Posted by: Jina Bacarr | April 11, 2012

Titanic and the Countess

Mysterious, upswept eyes flutter behind a black veil. Elegant gray silk suit. Finely-stitched leather gloves. Wide picture hat with a swaying red plume.

All eyes are on the countess as she boards the Titanic at Southampton. Dazzling the gentlemen with her smile. Making the other first cabin ladies sigh with envy.

Is she a real countess? they ask.

That question piqued my interest when I started writing my Ellora’s Cave romance, Titanic Rhapsody. I wanted to write about an Irish heroine, Katie O’Reilly, who has her own mind and tends to do things “her way,” while trying to keep her faith intact. That gets her into trouble aboard ship with the notorious gentleman gambler, Captain Lord Jack Blackthorn.

I also wanted to write about the elegance and sophistication of the Edwardian period, but I needed a first cabin lady to bring that glamour to my story.

Then I remembered the 1979 TV mini-series, S.O.S. Titanic, where a beautiful countess is portrayed as a sultry siren, indulging in the pampering found in the Turkish baths, while Colonel Astor’s young bride watches her in awe. And the Irish steerage lads try to get a look at her, drinking in her beauty as if she was the Queen of Sheba. She never speaks during the film, but she is a memorable character.

Was she real?

Yes. Her name was the Countess of Rothes.

She was the only countess aboard the Titanic and was considered an expert oarswoman. Without hesitation, she took over an oar in her undermanned lifeboat when called upon. She was neither temptress nor snob, but a kind, giving woman who worked with the Red Cross for half a century, volunteering and giving funds to the organization to help others.

How could I combine the brash and awe and deep faith of my heroine, Katie, with the elegance of a countess? Simple. I created my own countess, who also boards the Titanic at Southampton.

Fiona-Winston Hale, sixth Countess of Marbury.

A Scottish peeress in her own right determined to save her family home, Dirksen Castle, from ruin by marrying American millionaire, Treyton Brady.

A “dollar princess” in reverse, so to speak, as compared to the American heiresses who married British lords during this time. And to add a bit of spice to the mix, the countess is also in love with Captain Lord Blackthorn, Mr. Brady’s best friend.

Somehow during the four days the Titanic is at sea, my heroine, Katie, becomes the Countess of Marbury. How? you ask. I can’t give away all my secrets. That would be like a lady showing her pink lace garters to a gentleman before he puts a ring on her finger.

But I will let Katie tell you her story in her own words:

New York City

Spring 1963

“I am a fraud, my dear granddaughter. I am not the Countess of Marbury.”

Katie’s hands shook as she picked up the delicate tea cup with its floral design. There, she’d done it, but she wasn’t finished yet. There was more to tell.

“What are you saying, Gram?” asked the young blonde woman, her hair flipped up at the ends, her lipstick matte red, her arched brows twisted in a curious frown.

“The real countess died the night the Titanic went down in the cold North Atlantic more than fifty years ago,” Katie said slowly. “Since that night I have been living a lie, Elizabeth. A lie that hurt no one. Until now.”

“Everyone knows you’re a Titanic survivor,” her granddaughter insisted, not understanding. “And how you’ve helped the victims and their families over the years.”

“But no one knows the true story of what happened that night.”

You can read the entire Titanic Rhapsody Prologue HERE by clicking on VIEW INSIDE symbol on cover then on EXCERPT

Three whistle blasts…check out the video of Titanic Rhapsody as she sets sail .

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