• Tantra Bensko

Encore ARCs Now Available for Interested Reviewers of this Seductive Psychological Suspense Novel

Miriam is whisked away to a castle by a man who has hypnotized her to believe she is his wife, the star performer of the most famous dance troupe in England. Her friend Colin tries to save her, though in her hypnotic state, she no longer recognizes him and is told he is a crazed criminal.

This Seductive Psychological Suspense is 110,000 words, set in contemporary times, with historical references to the fascinating history of intelligence agents using occult legends to persuade the masses internationally.

Why do I label it Seductive Psychological Suspense? It should appeal to readers of Psychological Suspense, the popular subgenre of Crime Fiction that is most commonly associated with intellectual reading material and a near-Literary tone. Like Mysteries, there is a convoluted puzzle to solve, but unlike Mysteries, Psychological Suspense readers are horrified and intrigued by the suspenseful descent into hellish mental states of the amateur sleuths, who are often trying to figure out if they, themselves, have committed a crime, who they really are, what their loved ones are really up to, if what they believe about reality is accurate, and how to hold themselves together long enough to figure it all out.

However, though there are sometimes tortured love stories embedded within Psychological Suspense, the books aren't expected to satisfy adventurous fans of Romantic Suspense. The novels aren't usually particularly sexy or encouraging of the possibilities of achieving true love. But Romance is by far the most coveted type of fiction, and people resonate with it so deeply, why not incorporate it into a Psychological Suspense as part of what is endangered, what is held out as hope, and what breaks apart people's psyches? For some people, can the breaking apart of the psyche sometimes even allow love to become more expansive?

Gothic novels were the progenitors of Psychological Suspense. Gothics include both Horror and Romance within each single book, but they ultimately can be divided into either Gothic Romance or Gothic Horror. Gothic Romance traditionally ends with a commitment of some sort by the end. In Gothic Romance, we don't know if we can trust the dark, brooding, charismatic, Mesmerizing love interest. By entering his domain and becoming isolated there, the vulnerable heroine discovers secrets within the castle, monastery, mansion, underground tunnels, cave. . . The secrets usually relate to family, inheritance, wrongdoing, "curses," esoteric obsessions that drove people mad, dangerous occult practices, and things that at least at first seem potentially supernatural. Sometimes the dark love interest turns out to be trustworthy, and other times, she flees the castle in a white nightgown.

There is also often a light love interest, blond, responsible, happy, loving, straightforward, stalwart, a solid citizen, but maybe seeming to be boring, someone to put in the friend zone when compared to the infatuation of the dark lover. Choosing between them, and sometimes including the Friends to Lovers Romance trope, is a common motif of the Gothic. Gothic Romance is basically Seductive Psychological Suspense, but many people now associate Gothics with only historical fiction or Paranormal or Supernatural, with vampires and ghosts.

What I am describing could also be labeled Romantic Suspense, but recently, the trend has narrowed that field to fetish stories with strong, capable FBI agents, Navy SEALS, detectives, and other men hired to protect people. These are different from Psychological Suspense, in which reality becomes impossible to determine, ambiguity, uncertainty, and dissociation run rampant. But sometimes, running rampant can be surreal, fascinating and mystical. It doesn't always have to relate to mental illness.

Gothic Romances are not like other forms of Romance, which are structured with alternating Dual 3rd Person POVs. As in Encore, Gothics are Single 1st Person POVs, because the readers must wonder along with the heroine about what is going on with the love interest. Romances begin with the first spark between lovers and the couple are torn apart and recombine at the end -- like alchemy. They have both external and internal reasons they can't easily be together, which they must resolve by the end to commit to each other.

In the meantime, in Gothics, there are the tropes: the clash of the past and present, mysterious family portraits, strange sounds of footsteps, grimoires, the desire for immortality, magical elixirs, abduction, isolation, dopplegangers, mirrors, curses, crypts, manipulation, gaslighting, and more. It's the gaslighting that is especially core to Psychological Suspense as well as to all of my Agents of the Nevermind series (and also in Floating on Secrets.)

This is Book III in The Agents of the Nevermind, a series of standalone novels, though they do go in chronological order and though it's not at all necessary, the reading experience can be enhanced by reading the others first. Throughout the series, the intelligence agents use hypnosis, blackmail, bribery, theatrics, mass media propaganda, mysticism, occult promises and murder to persuade the public of their military agenda. The history mentioned within this series is accurate, is our own until the creation of this Agency around 1990, forming from psy-op specialists in agencies such as the CIA within the United States and Britain.

Some historical figures at the juncture of secret agents and the occult who are alluded to in the book include Queen Elizabeth I's right hand man, John Dee and his con artist companion Edward Kelley, the alchemist. Together they created Enochian language, which was a spy code and also a magical language supposedly to call in the angels. That language is still used today and Aleister Crowley incorporated it into ceremonial magick. Madame Blavatsky was a Russian woman told by her superiors, spies, to create a new religion that amalgamated Eastern beliefs, and she basically created Theosophy. Nicholas Roerig was another Russian with a political agenda, a Theosophist who, like many influential people of his day, he got very dramatic about the legends of Moldavite, which is the rarest gem on earth.

Moldavite has been associated with both Atlantis and Shambhalla mythologies, and people like Roerig tied it to Shambhalla as a way to entice Tibetans to ally with Russia. Meanwhile, others tied Moldavite to Atlantis, which they claimed was really Britain, and tried to draw the Tibetans to ally with them instead. This fascinating historical pattern of appropriation of legends is core to Encore. In the series, the Agents keep mystical beliefs at the forefront of public interest because that makes them easier to manipulate.

Today, in the real world, many, many people still buy Moldavite because it is claimed to endow its owners with supernatural abilities. In Encore, the avant-garde performance troupe acts out the history of Moldavite, and they focus on the Atlantis/British side of things. But hecklers disrupt the show to protest against that bias and against the difficulty of buying Moldavite. It's in limited supply because it was created from a meteor in Bohemia, and in the novel, it's even harder to get ahold of because of a recent buying spree. The hecklers feel sales should be regulated to make sure everyone has a fair chance of obtaining it.

Miriam is the standby for Susan, who is the star of the show and the wife of Dune, the hypnotist who works for the troupe. Dune hypnotizes all the standbys to believe they are the actors they substitute for (standbys are similar to understudies.) When the final curtain goes down, the post-hypnotic suggestion is broken, and they remember who they truly are. Susan disappears before the show, and Miriam takes her place. However, before the curtain hits the floor, Dune whisks her away. Believing she is his wife, she is taken to the castle of a modern-day alchemist who creates elixers from Moldavite and other gems. The alchemist and his assistant are on vacation, and they have the place to themselves. The family castle is kept like the old days, with no mirrors, no modern conveniences, and no access to the outside world.

Miriam's good friend, Colin, had just that day kissed her for the first time. Though her infatuation with Dune prevented her from being open to him before, she was beginning to see the possibilities for them, and he was watching the show when she was abducted. How will he react to this startling situation? And will Miriam regain her awareness of who he really is before the ritual on the Equinox?

Does this sound interesting to you? If so, you may want to help this book succeed by reviewing it during its launch in August. Contact me, Tantra Bensko, for free copies, ebook or print, if you review on Amazon, Goodreads, or blogs or would like to interview or invite me to a podcast. And perhaps you might simply want to wait until August to purchase it and then if you love it, write a verified review on Amazon and elsewhere. Thank you for opening your life up to this entertaining spectacle, this love story of cinematic scope.