"Bellacera's riveting and romantic suspense shows the seamier side of the fight for the Northern Irish independence and the toll that has been taken on its people."Booklist
Spotlightby Carole Bellacera
On January 6, `972, ten-year-old Devin O'Keefe takes part in a peaceful demonstration march through the Catholic ghetto of Bogside, Northern Irelandnever suspecting that the demonstration is doomed to become Bloody Sunday, and that he will watch the British Army kill his brother along with twelve other defenseless marchers. Wounded in the arm himself, Devin vows revenge on his British oppressorsand steps into a cycle of violence that will leave him with a shattered family and an empty heart.
Eighteen years later, Devin has become an earnest rock-n-roller who uses his songs to relate the horrors he's seen to an international audience of millions. His American tour photographer, Fonda Blayne, is falling in love with himbut she has no idea that his brooding silences may be rooted in a very real danger. Devin hopes that he's left the violence of his homeland in the pastbut some very powerful and deadly forces are hoping to take advantage of his life in the spotlight...
- Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.84(d)
Read an Excerpt
January 30, 1972
Derry, Northern Ireland
Rain misted the street as ten-year-old Devin O'Keefe pushed his way through the throng. In his right hand he carried an unwieldy sign that had been clumsily painted with five words: NO INTERNMENT. RELEASE CONOR O'KEEFE. It was a sentiment he believed with all his young heart, but he was tired and the sign had grown heavy since he'd joined the anti-internment march several kilometers out of town. They'd reached the middle of the Bogside, the Catholic ghetto where no sane Protestant dared venture for fear of becoming a target in the gunsights of the Provisional IRA.
As the marchers swept past the expressionless British soldiers dressed in battle fatigues and armed with Enfields, a new spirit of camaraderie seemed to pass through the crowd. Devin felt it. It was like an invisible current of electricity surging from one marcher to the next. Oh, how proud Da would be if he could see me now!
But his father wouldn't be seeing any of this. He'd been lifted by the Brits five months ago and locked up in the H-Blocks, the jail for political prisoners.
Along both sides of the road, Irish Catholics stood in the rain and cheered the crowd, some of them joining the march. Even priests and nuns were among the throng, many of them carrying banners like Devin's. A few faces along the roadside were implacable, some apprehensive, but most were jubilant. In America, Martin Luther King, Jr., had gathered blacks and whites alike to march upon Washington. Now, the Irish Catholics were doing the same, marching to Deny to win freedom for the oppressed.
Devin stood on tiptoe, searching the crowd for his brother,Glen, and his friend Pearse. His sign brushed a matronly woman's beehive, she glowered at him. "Watch where you be goin', laddie." She smelled of cheap perfume and sour body odor.
"Sorry, mum. Excuse me, I must get through." He'd spied the black head of Glen up ahead. "Wait up, Glen!" Eagerly, he jostled his way through the crowd. His sixteen-year-old brother hadn't wanted him to tag along today, but Devin was determined to be a part of this historical march for freedom and justice. Stay home with his mum and sisters? No bloody way.
At the sound of his name, the tall, slender teenager turned. A pained expression crossed his face when he saw Devin. "Jaysus, Devin. Now, didn't I tell you to stay home?"
Next to him, Pearse laughed. "Since when does Devy listen to you?"
Devin brushed past the last of the marchers to reach him. "Bugger you," he said, grinning up at him. "I came anyway."
Glen's brown eyes glimmered with worry. "You hardheaded little imp. Can you never do as I tell you? There could be trouble here today."
Devin shifted the heavy sign to his left hand and held it higher. "I have to do my part for Da. You know that. Sure, maybe this will make the Brits release him. And all the other prisoners as well."
Pearse nudged Glen. "Ah, give the little squirt a break, Glennie. Sure, his heart's in the right place."
Glen stared at his little brother for a moment, then his eyes softened. His hand fastened on the boy's arm. "All right. Stay with us, then. But don't be doin' anything foolish."
Devin grinned. He knew Glen didn't really mind that he'd come. After all, it was for Da.
Glen gave him a sidelong glance. "I thought by leaving you the guitar, it would keep you busy for a time."
"It did. I made up a new song." Devin threw him a teasing grin. "It's about Rosalie." He waited for the blush to spread over his brother's cheeks, and when it did, he laughed. "Ah, she is a nice piece of crumpet, isn't she, now?"
Pearse laughed, shooting a knowing look at Glen. "She is that!"
Glen glared at Devin. "Make up all the songs you'd like about Rosalie O'Connor. It's nothing to me. Anyway, what made you leave my guitar and come join the march?"
Just as Devin opened his mouth to answer, the peaceful Sunday afternoon exploded in chaos. Gunfire. Devin spun in the direction it came from, his eyes searching for the source. But before he could see anything. Glen--or someone--shoved him hard in the middle of his back. He fell to the ground, his face and hands grinding into the pavement. Terrified screams erupted around him. Devin tried to move, but his brother held him securely to the ground. Glen's savage, suddenly adult voice growled into his ear: "Bloody hell! Keep your head down, Devin."
Devin obeyed. Seconds later, he heard a dull thump and felt Glen flinch. A soft sigh whispered from his brother's lips, just inches from Devin's ear. Devin's bowels tightened as an ice-cold fear ate its way through his insides. He knew what this meant.
"No!" With renewed strength, he struggled up. Glen's limp body rolled away. His lifeless eyes stared at Devin, still showing the surprise he must've felt as the bullet entered his head just above the right temple. For a moment, Devin felt weightless, as if his body hovered above the still form of his brother, watching with a detached sort of curiosity. Then reaction set in. It was as if a leaden pipe had plowed a hole through his stomach. He gasped for breath, reaching a shaking hand toward the ominous trickle of blood oozing from Glen's wound.
"Glennie. Jaysus, Glen." Devin crouched on his knees, his hands touching Glen's face, brushing his black hair away from his forehead. His skin was still warm. He was still alive, wasn't he? Nothing could happen that fast, could it? "Blessed Mary, Mother of God..." Devin's voice broke. He couldn't go on. He bit his trembling bottom lip and leaned in to his brother. "I'll get help for ya. Just hang on, Glen. Ya got to."
Devin scrambled to his feet, eyes darting frantically. "Help me, Pearse. Glen's been hit!"
His voice was lost in a swirling vortex of activity. Desperately, he peered around. Where was Pearse? Wasn't there someone who could help him?
All around him, the marchers huddled on the ground, cowering from bullets still whizzing through the air. He didn't see Pearse anywhere. Had he been hit, too? Amid hysterical screams, Devin heard someone murmuring the Lord's Prayer.
A hand reached out and grabbed his ankle. "Help me..."
Startled, Devin looked down. It was the woman he'd bumped against only minutes before, her beehive was now matted with blood. Everywhere he looked, he saw blood. Even the air was rank with it.
"Devin! Get down!"
Blankly, he turned to look in the direction of the panicked voice. Pearse was stumbling toward him, motioning frantically, but Devin could only stare at him in numbed confusion. Blood covered the older boy's jeans and black shirt in paint-like splotches.
Suddenly, a hot white fire speared Devin's upper left arm. In slow motion, he could feel himself falling. He could not protect himself from the impact with the concrete; it scraped his cheek, imbedding bits of dirt and gravel under his skin. Another searing pain shot through his nose, driving needlepoints into his skull. But it was nothing compared to the agony in his arm. Groaning, he lifted his head and saw blood from his smashed nose dripping onto the street. He sat up, shaking his head groggily. Almost immediately, everything dimmed; he slumped to the ground. His hand moved to the painful left arm and came back covered with blood. In amazement, he gazed at the crimson liquid. So much blood. Funny, Glen hadn't bled like this. There had been only that one little round hole.
Devin's head swam. In the distance, he heard the singsong whine of a siren growing closer. The rain fell harder now, its cool wetness a balm against his flushed face. His mind drifted as he stared up into the scudding gray clouds. The dull throb in his arm faded.
Suddenly, Pearse appeared above him, peering down anxiously. Then he began to pull on his body, dragging him away. It hurt. Oh, Lord Jesus, it hurt. Finally, mercifully, Pearse stopped tugging on him and knelt down at his side. He ripped at his shirt and quickly tied a strip of cloth around Devin's bleeding wound. A black armband. Did Pearse know about Glen, then?
Tears welled in his eyes. "They killed him, Pearse. They killed Glen," he whispered. "Why are they shooting at us, Pearse?"
"Hush, now. Save your strength. You're still losing blood."
It was true. His vision blurred, and Pearse's voice faded in and out. Devin bit his lip so hard he tasted blood. He couldn't pass out now. He had to make his brother's friend understand.
"Pearse, please, I..." He grasped the older boy's hand, hot tears spilling down his face.
"What is it, Dev?" Pearse cradled him, bewildered tears in his blue eyes. His image wavered, growing close and then fading away.
Devin felt the curtain of darkness around him. No. He wouldn't give in. Not until he had the chance to make Pearse understand. Despite the pain that sliced through to his very fingertips, he struggled up onto his elbow so his weakened voice could be heard. "Pearse, I don't care if I burn in hell," he whispered. "I'm going to make those bastards pay for what they did to Glen!"
Part One: Fonda: Chapter One
Newark, New Jersey
Fonda Blayne reached for her fourth cup of coffee, took a sip, and grimaced. Cold. She hadn't touched it in twenty minutes because she'd been so involved in scribbling notes about the "Live Aid" concert. Hard to believe she was sitting here watching it on TV instead of actually being there. But that's what happens, she told herself, when you end up as an entry-level staff writer on one of the most popular rock music magazines in America. You sit home while more privileged writers get to go off on exciting assignments. But someday...
Fonda stared blankly at her notebook, thinking about "some-day" until the MC's voice caught her attention by announcing Madonna. From the bathroom of her small apartment, she heard the shower tap turn off. She waited for a moment until she was sure Kari had stepped out from behind the glass doors, and then called out, "Kari! She's on."
A heavily accented masculine voice spoke through the bathroom door. "Madonna?"
A moment later, the door opened and a tall, well-built man in his mid-thirties padded into the room, a damp towel wrapped around his middle. His electric blue eyes zeroed in on the TV screen and he grinned, revealing straight white teeth. "Oh, ja! Come to me, baby."
Fonda shook her head, a wry smile on her lips. "What is it you find so sexy about her?"
"What? Are you kidding? Look at her!"
"I am. And I just don't get it."
On screen, Madonna was joking about her unauthorized nude photos in Penthouse.
Fonda rolled her eyes. "Gee, maybe if I wore my bra on the outside of my clothes and skipped washing my hair for a month, I could keep you from going into work on Saturdays."
Kari reached down and tangled his hand in her mass of light brown hair. "Don't you change a thing about yourself, babe. I said she was sexy, but that doesn't mean I'd sleep with her. It's purely a professional observation." He bent down and kissed Fonda soundly on the lips. His blue eyes were warm when he pulled away. "Good morning."
"Good morning, Mr. Jarlsberg." Fonda touched his damp face. His thinning blond hair was swept back, revealing a broad forehead beaded with water. "You're dripping on me."
"So?" He kissed her again. "I wish I could stay. But as you'll find out someday, being an editor of a major magazine is more than a full-time job."
"If I climb that high."
"Oh, you will. Believe me, I see ambition in those lovely hazel eyes of yours. I predict you'll have your own magazine within a decade. Thank God, I won't have to worry about you competing with me and my new European mag."
"Right." Fonda grinned. "I'm sure you'd be shaking in your boots if you stayed in America."
He squatted down in front of her, his face growing serious. "God, I'm going to miss you. Are you sure you won't change your mind and come to Sweden with me?"
"You know I can't do that." Fonda traced a finger down his shoulder to his hard bicep, still damp from the shower. "Much as I want to be with you. But America is my home, and I'm starting to work my way up at Spotlight. I just don't want to start over somewhere else."
"You know I'll give you a good position at Pop Musick. You'll be able to work your way up there much quicker."
Fonda shook her head. "And have everyone say I got where I was because we're sleeping together? I don't think so. No, Kari. I thought you'd accepted my decision."
"I have. But I keep hoping you'll change your mind. We have something good together, you and I."
"Yes, it's called friendship ... combined with sexual attraction. But it's not enough." Fonda bit her lip, wishing he wouldn't do this. From the TV, Madonna's sweet little-girl voice sang "Like a Virgin."
"Ja, I know. But you can't blame me for trying." He stood up. "I'll go get dressed now."
On his way to the bedroom, Kari dropped the towel from his midsection. Fonda's eyes followed the line of his brawny shoulders to where his body narrowed at the small of his back. A strip of white revealed where the line of his surfer-style swim trunks had hugged his attractive rear. She shook her head, thinking she must truly be crazy to let a man like that go back to Sweden without her.
He disappeared into the bathroom. With a melancholy sigh, Fonda turned to the TV screen where Madonna was just finishing her set.
Kari was such a special guy. She wished she were in love with him. Only a year ago, they'd started out as boss and employee, the editor of Spotlight magazine and the newly hired staff writer, but their relationship had quickly developed into friendship. Then, five months later, after the annual Christmas party, they'd surprised themselves by becoming lovers and had been together ever since. But Fonda didn't kid herself. Even though they knew each other's bodies intimately, they were still more friends than lovers.
When the opportunity arose for the handsome Swede to return to his native country to start up the European version of the rock magazine he edited, he'd suddenly proclaimed himself in love with her. Fonda knew better. Oh, there was love of a sort between them, but it wasn't the all-encompassing kind. She'd seen that kind of love between her twin brother, Michael, and his wife, Maggie. It was out there. Question was, would she ever find it?
A commercial break gave Fonda the opportunity to get a Pepsi from the fridge. Her craving for caffeine hadn't been quenched by her morning coffee, but it was growing too hot in the small apartment to drink more. It looked like it would be another hot and humid New Jersey day.
When she returned to the small living room, she saw that the telecast had switched to the concert at Wembley Stadium in London. They were announcing a new Irish group called "O'Keefe." As the camera fixed upon the four members of the band, Fonda was immediately caught by their clean-cut look. Except for the drummer, who had shimmery shoulder-length blond hair, the other three guys wore their hair in neat graduated lengths, layered short on top and longer in the back. They were dressed conservatively in jeans, dark T-shirts, and boots. A far cry from some of the new metal groups today with their Spandex, chains, and leather.
As the lead singer began the first song, the camera focused on him, and Fonda was arrested by the gravelly quality of his voice and the wiry grace of his body as he moved about on stage. But it was his intense brown eyes that captured her and held her transfixed. What a stage presence he had! How come she'd never heard of these guys before?
"Kari, come here. You've got to see this."
"I'm shaving, babe," he called from the bathroom.
Fonda's eyes remained glued to the TV. "You ever heard of O'Keefe from Ireland?"
"They sound vaguely familiar." Kari's reply was muffled as if he'd buried his face in a towel. "I must've heard something."
"Come here and see this lead singer. He's great!"
There was a grunt from the bathroom, then, "I can hear them. They sound good."
"Yeah, but you've got to see them. This guy has the audience in the palm of his hand. I've never seen such charisma."
"I'll take your word for it. I'm late."
O'Keefe segued into a second song without acknowledging the enthusiastic applause from the first. Fonda found her foot bouncing to its thundering drumbeat. These guys were fantastic! They had a sound that was definitely unique. Not an easy trick to accomplish these days.
O'Keefe's second song ended to even more tumultuous applause than the first. When the noise died a bit, the lead singer spoke into the mike: "This next song is called 'Belfast Girl.'"
O'Keefe began to play a slow ballad, a melody that had the unmistakable flavor of Celtic music. The love in his voice as he sang of his Belfast girl came through loud and clear.
Fonda felt another tide of melancholy rush over her. Was she the only person in the world who couldn't fall in love? What was wrong with her?
As O'Keefe's lead singer finished the lilting song about his Belfast girt, Fonda found herself envying this unknown woman across the ocean. Whoever she was, she was a very lucky lady. What would it be like to have a man love you so much he immortalized that love in the lyrics of a song?
Fonda sighed and slumped in her chair. That was something she'd probably never know.
"Well, that's it then. Unless anyone has anything else?"
Kari closed his notebook and began to move his chair back to get up from the conference table.
"Uh ... I have something I'd like to discuss," Fonda said.
Six pairs of eyes fastened upon her as if she were an anomaly of science. She felt her face redden. It wasn't easy being the lowest-ranking employee at the weekly editorial meeting. Most of the time, she just took her notes and remained silent. But today was different. Today, she had a great idea.
She kept her gaze fixed on Kari. "I'd like you to send me to Ireland to interview O'Keefe."
"O'Keefe?" said Adam Bragg, the art director. He was a tall, skinny chain-smoker with red hair and a beard. "What the hell is that?" he asked, his teeth clenched around a Camel.
Fonda resisted the urge to fan the smoke away from her direction. Instead, she spoke directly to Kari. "Remember the Irish group on Live Aid, Saturday? You came in just as they were finishing."
"Oh, ja." Kari rubbed his chin thoughtfully, his blue eyes musing. "I don't know, Fonda. They're very obscure."
"So?" Fonda fired back. "The more reason to get an interview now. Before they get big. And believe me, they will get big."
Corey Newton, the executive editor, twisted the diamond stud in his left ear, his blue eyes bored. "Oh, well--if Fonda is so sure they'll be big, then we should go for it." He gave a little grin. "After all, she was right on the money with ... what was the name of that three-man pretty-boy group last fall who lucked out with a Top Ten hit? What was it you said about them, Fonda? Something about America's version of the Bee Gees?"
Fonda smiled sweetly at him. May your nose hairs grow and get tangled in your teeth, Newton. She turned back to Kari. "Okay, so I was wrong about Question Mark. But this is different. Kari, I have a feeling about O'Keefe. There's something very different about the lead singer. He's arresting."
Corey cleared his throat and ran a manicured hand over his blond bristle. "A feeling? What is this feeling, Fonda? Women's intuition?"
Fonda concentrated on counting to ten before responding. How on earth was she going to survive at this magazine when Corey Newton took over? He was such an insolent jerk. For a moment, she entertained the idea of actually going to Sweden with Kari. At least there, she'd have some input in the magazine's editorial content. Here, with Newton at the controls, she'd be lucky to be able to caption her own photos. Still, she knew she wouldn't go to Sweden. She loved the energy of working at an established music magazine. There were so many perks--the occasional trips to Los Angeles to interview famous faces, the excitement of living near New York, attending Broadway plays or simply gazing at the skyline outside her apartment window. No, she could never leave.
"Call it what you like, Corey. But remember this. I'd bet my career that within five years, O'Keefe will be superstars." Her eyes returned to Kari. "That's why I want to interview them now. So we can get the jump on everyone else."
Sheryl Mitchell, the associate editor, pushed her red-framed glasses up on her hose with an index finger and pursed her ruby lips. "You know, experts in LA. are predicting the trend in rock is switching from Europe to America again. I think we should keep that in mind before we start saturating our pages with unknown Irish bands."
"I'm talking one interview," Fonda said through clenched teeth. "Not saturation."
Sheryl shrugged her elegant shoulders and returned to nibbling on the end of her pen.
"Well, perhaps we should table this for now," Kari said. "It's lunchtime. Thanks, everyone. You've been doing a great job."
Papers rustled and notebooks slammed shut. Conversation rose with a low murmur and swelled to a buzz as chairs were pushed back and the editorial staff filed out of the conference room. Fonda sat stiffly, staring down at her notebook where she'd printed in block letters: O'KEEFE. Damn! Why did they have to be so obstinate? If this magazine were mine.... How many times had that thought passed through her mind? How many more times would it come before she got any respect?
A hand clamped down on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Fon. I know how disappointed you are."
She glared up into Kari's sympathetic blue eyes. "Thanks for your support. I hope you didn't strain anything."
He pulled out the chair next to her and sat down. "Love, I'm leaving in less than a month. It's not my magazine anymore. I'm a ... what is it you call your president when another one has been elected and the first one no longer has any power?"
"A lame duck," she said glumly.
"Ja. That's what I am. Your fight is with Corey. And here's my advice; Keep fighting for what you want. Make yourself a presence here, be a thorn in his side if you have to. I guarantee you, if you keep turning in great copy and those extraordinary photos that scream out 'Fonda,' he'll have no choice but to go along with you. You just have to hang in there, babe. But of course, if you choose not to, there's always Sweden."
Fonda smiled and reached out to touch his bristled jaw. "You are such a wonderful man. Do you have any idea how much I'm going to miss you?"
He grabbed her hand and kissed each finger one by one. "Ja, I think so."
Fonda had to blink quickly to hold back sudden tears that threatened. Why was it that everyone important to her always had to leave? First Michael when he'd chosen to go to the police academy instead of accompanying her to college, and now Kari. Would anyone ever stay?
Meet the Author
Carole Bellacera is the author of Spotlight, a 2000 Holt Medallion finalist, and Border Crossings, a finalist in two categories for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA Award. She also boasts more than two hundred publishing credits in commercial and literary magazines, and was featured in the recent collection Chocolate for a Woman's Soul. She lives with her family in Manassas, Virginia.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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A scene near the end of the book will have them sitting on the edge of those seats. What a couple Fonda and Devin make! Their relationship is electifying and any woman who has ever had posters of rock stars gracing the walls of their bedrooms as a teenager is sure to fall in love with Devin...I can't recommend SPOTLIGHT highly enough. For me, it was one of the best books I read in 2000. Readers will delight in this memorable read. I flick my Bic in awe of Carole Bellacera's amazing writing. Encore! Encore!
This novel is filled with terror of the revolution and death and destruction fill your senses while your emotions soar with love and hope for a new beginning for these three-dimensional characters.
SPOTLIGHT is a beautifully written book that takes the reader on a swooping ride through Northern Ireland's troubles and the current world rock music scene...wonderfully drawn characters...a breakneck pace, leading to a dramatic and thoroughly satisfying conclusion.
They are connected in two ways. Both have suffered losses of beloved brothers due to violence. He lost his sibling during a Northern Ireland rally that turned ugly in 1972. In 1985, she lost her twin, a police officer, when a suspect shot him. Their love of rock music also links the duo. Irishman Devin O¿Keefe is becoming a music superstar, as the lead singer of O¿Keefe while American Fonda Blayne is an up and coming photojournalist working for SPOTLIGHT magazine. In 1990, Devin¿s manager feels a photo-book of the group¿s American tour will make them international headliners. Though he prefers only to do the music, Devin agrees on the condition that Fonda does the book because he is impressed with her work. She agrees. As they tour together, Devin and Fonda fall in love, but other individuals in his life have a different agenda that involves Northern Ireland. SPOTLIGHT is an exciting contemporary tale that uses music and romance as a means to provide insight into the complex Northern Ireland issues. The story line is enjoyable and the lead couple is a dynamic pair. The support cast provides focus to how complicated the issues in Northern Ireland really are. With this tale and BORDER CROSSING, the SPOTLIGHT is sure to fall on Carole Bellacera. Harriet Klausner