From the bestselling author of the Girl Who Knew da Vinci comes the third book in Belle Ami’s Out of Time series, THE GIRL WHO ADORED REMBRANDT.
When art historian Angela Renatus has a frightening premonition that someone is going to steal a priceless Rembrandt family portrait, she goes on the hunt to find out the truth about the masterpiece—but what she finds out could not only put her fiancé in danger, it could seriously alter the course of her life.
Here, author Belle Ami chats with The Big Thrill about her writing style, balancing genres, and shares insight into her new romantic thriller.
Which authors inspire you?
I’ve been a voracious reader my whole life, in multiple genres including thrillers, romance, historical fiction, historical romance, romantic suspense, time-travel, literary, classic literature, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal. On the non-fiction side, I read a lot of research books—biographies and big fat history tomes. I think this diverse array of genres is why I tend to combine multiple genres in my books. For me, writing is an adventure, and I’ve always been an adventurous soul.
As far as authors go, legends like Ayn Rand and Daphne du Maurier are a significant influence on me. In the thriller genre, I love James Clavell, Ian Fleming, John le Carré, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Daniel Silva, Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson, Liane Moriarty, Robert Ludlum, Patricia Cornwell—and that’s just the shortlist.
I also love to discover good books by poking around online. I recently read two thrillers by virtually unknown writers (at least unknown to me), and I was completely blown away. Point of No Return by R. J. Dillon and The Domino Game by Greg Wilson. Both are “edge of your seat” espionage thrillers, and both certainly kept me up late. When I read brilliant books by first-time or emerging authors, my cheerleader pom-poms come out. I want them to do well. The more great writers there are out there, the more we all grow in our craft.
You write in several different genres. What’s your favorite?
My Out of Time thriller series is based on a screen treatment I wrote when I was 21. I rewrote and restructured it, but the bones are the same. Angela Renatus, my heroine, has the psychic gift of seeing into the past. In my new release, THE GIRL WHO ADORED REMBRANDT, she is given a glimpse of the future and witnesses the theft of a priceless Rembrandt painting by a Mexican drug cartel that hasn’t yet occurred. It’s a perfect combination of paranormal, thriller, history, art history, and romantic suspense.
I have no favorite genre in which to write, so I end up blending several into one. I created my own “sub-genre” with my psychic time-traveling art heist/historical mystery thriller series. Fortunately, I love research, but it means a lot more work before putting my fingers to the keyboard. My books all take place on an international chessboard, and even though I’ve been to many of these places, I always need to do a bit of research to paint-in the details that bring them to life. I’m also a stickler for getting the history right, so even though my books are fictional, I strive for accuracy when it comes to the historical parts, and my protagonists must function in reality. My hero Alex Caine in the Out of Time series is a former Navy Seal, so he needs to know his guns and ammo.
You’re quite a globetrotter. What are the best and worst places you’ve visited?
Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, the lovely videos we’ve been watching on the news and social media—of operatic serenades in a hospital courtyard in Poland or a violinist performing a solo from a rooftop in Bologna—lift our spirits with the goodwill in humanity during this challenging time. For me, it’s also made me want to travel even more.
In 2005, my husband, good friends, and I were making our way along the Italian coast. We drove along the Amalfi up to Ravello for lunch. The restaurant overlooked the breathtaking Tyrrhenian Sea and the Salerno coastline. We were seated at an elegant table with a pristine white tablecloth—the ambiance was a 10, the food was a 10—but the highlight of that memorable meal was the person sitting at the table next to us.
Anyone who knows me knows I fancy my wine, and when in Rome as they say… I forgo all sense of decorum and drink to my heart’s content. Low and behold, at the next table, Gore Vidal, one of my favorite authors, was holding court. I could not let the moment pass without saying hello, especially tipsy as I was. Bravely, I made my way to Mr. Vidal’s table and proceeded to gush over the erudite writer as a true groupie/fan would do. Apparently, I went on for quite some time. With a winsome smile on his face, and as gentlemanly as could be, he finally interrupted and introduced me to everyone at the table. I shall never forget Mr. Vidal saying, “My dear, have you met my good friend Senator Eugene McCarthy? Please, let me introduce you. Would you care to join us for dessert?”
The worst experience I ever had was in communist China in the early 1980s. I became violently ill from the pollution. Suffice it to say, when I escaped from the mainland on a hydrofoil and got to Hong Kong, I got down on my knees and kissed the ground.
Mixing romance and crime is an art in itself. Any tips on how to strike a successful balance between the two?
I don’t think many thriller writers nail the romance/happy ending, so it’s an opportunity to set myself apart. All of the books I write have a romance that is essential and relevant to the storyline. In THE GIRL WHO ADORED REMBRANDT, my heroine Angela Renatus investigates the theft of a Rembrandt painting with her fiancé, Alex Caine, a former Navy SEAL/art investigator. Alex and Angela have loved each other through multiple lifetimes. In each past life, they’ve tragically lost each other but, in this life, they are determined to hold on to the love they’ve found. This passionate connection between them is always the backdrop of each book in the series.
How I blend the romance and crime is still a mystery to me, but I do.
As an author, how do you ensure the ring of historical authenticity?
I’ve been reading historical novels as long as I can remember. I like to think that I’ve taken master classes with many of the greats. Before I ever type a word of my manuscript, I spend at least a month reading about my subject and compiling notes. When I’m in research mode, it’s easy for me to put in 12-hour working days. By the time I begin to write the story, I know my historical characters inside and out. I hear their voices, and they speak to me and through me.
As a reader, the worst anachronisms I’ve run into occur when authors take too much poetic license with the historical facts. If you cross the fine line of what is historically recorded or believable, you will lose your reader.
Alex and Angela are soulmates. What qualities do Alex and Angela bring to each other, and what gives them their synergy?
Angela and Alex team up in The Girl Who Knew da Vinci to find a missing da Vinci painting. They fall fast and hard for each other, but when she realizes who she was and who he was in the past, it all makes sense. Perhaps “love at first sight” isn’t really at first sight if the person you fall in love with was someone you’ve loved before in a past life. When they discover the truth about their past lives, everything shifts because of this karmic cycle of love and loss. It makes their present life that much more dangerous and riskier, and it makes them more vulnerable.
Writing about real people (even deceased ones) is something no author should approach lightly. How do you tackle this so you’re true to them without producing a cliché?
I’m a stickler for adhering to historical timelines. However, history is often scanty and filled with empty holes when it comes to a person’s true motivation for doing something or the nuances of their relationships. That’s where the author can breathe life into the story, and as long as I remain accurate about what is known, I’m free to create what isn’t known.
For instance, in The Girl Who Knew da Vinci, I create a friendship between Leonardo and Fioretta Gorini, who was Giuliano Medici’s paramour and bore his child. In The Girl Who Loved Caravaggio, it’s the relationship between the misunderstood Caravaggio and his prostitute/model, Fillide Melandroni, that gives credence to Caravaggio’s fall from grace.
With THE GIRL WHO ADORED REMBRANDT, there is little known about what happened to Rembrandt’s daughter, Cornelia. We know she married shortly after his death and sailed to Batavia, where she had two children. But why didn’t Rembrandt paint her? He painted everyone else in his family multiple times. In THE GIRL WHO ADORED REMBRANDT, I fill in the story—bringing Cornelia and Rembrandt to life and answering the unresolved questions.
Belle Ami is a #1 bestselling author of romantic suspense, romantic thrillers, and international mystery with a time-travel twist. Her first novel was a finalist for a major book award and launched her dynamic writing career. Belle is a 2018 RONE Award Finalist in the romantic suspense category for her novel Escape (Tip of the Spear Series Book 1). The second book, Vengeance, is the gold medal winner of the Readers’ Favorite Awards for Thriller/Terrorism, and The Girl Who Knew da Vinci is the winner of the RAVEN Award for Romance Thriller.
Belle is also a Readers Favorite Book Award Finalist for her time travel Romance The Girl Who Knew da Vinci (Book 1 Out of Time Series). When Belle isn’t working on her next book, she’s most likely in the kitchen whipping up something delicious for her family to enjoy. In addition to enjoying gourmet cooking, Belle is also an accomplished pianist, skier, and world traveler. She lives in Calabasas, CA with her wonderful husband and two kids. She also lives with Cindy Crawford and Giorgio Armani (who just happen to be a horse and a Chihuahua).
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.