Friday, March 17, 2023

#NewRelease from Lisabet Sarai: OPENING NIGHT

I'm happy to welcome Lisabet Sarai to Journeys with Jana. Her new release, OPENING NIGHT, is a historical gay romance set in the theatre world, Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Welcome Lisabet!

A Lifelong Passion

When I was five years old, my parents took me to see my first Gilbert and Sullivan concert. I remember it surprisingly well. Organized outdoors as part of a summer music festival on the Boston Common, the performance featured the legendary Martyn Green from the D’Oyly Carte Opera company – the same troupe that originally mounted William Gilbert’s and Arthur Sullivan’s comic operas in the nineteenth century.

My father and mother were both G&S aficionados. The family must have had phonograph records of at least some of the operettas, because I could sing many of the songs by the time I was in my teens. Certainly we took advantage of whatever opportunities came along during my childhood to indulge ourselves in the topsy-turvy world of the famous pair. 

The day I met my husband-to-be, he happened to mention that he was a G&S fan. I will admit, I took this as a sign that we were meant to be together. Later, he and I lived in a town that had its own G&S amateur group, who mounted a different operetta every year. Those were heady days! My parents would often travel cross-country to join us in what became a beloved ritual. During those years, I believe we saw performances of the entire G&S catalog.

Though not as generally popular as The Mikado or Pinafore, Ruddigore is probably my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan opera. This is partly due to the hints of darkness – Sullivan’s music echoing the eerier strains of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – but also the humor. The paradoxical logic that allows Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd to argue his way out of the witches’ curse is some of the best comic sleight-of-hand in any G&S play. Ruddigore also includes one of the most outstanding female characters in the oeuvre, Mad Margaret – a village woman driven to insanity by her passion for Ruthven’s Bad Baronet brother Despard. (Yes, I know, just the sort of person to whom a romance author would be drawn...)

There’s another bit in Ruddigore, though, that gave me the initial idea for Opening Night. Rollicking seaman Dick Dauntless is the foster brother and (supposedly) the bosom friend of the disguised Ruthven, and loudly proclaims his love for his brother in one of the scenes. What if that scene were to develop into a homo-erotic confession? I wondered. And then I thought about the possible repercussions, during the straight-laced Victorian period, if Gilbert were to find himself falling in love with another man.

Opening Night quotes liberally from the original play (courtesy of my mother’s Complete Works of Gilbert and Sullivan, which I inherited), but I admit to playing fast and loose with both history and the plot. I hope the result justifies this distortion – and that Gilbert would recognize the romantic appeal of my artistic license.

If you’ve never experienced Ruddigore, you’ll find a variety of recordings on YouTube, for instance:

And for those of you who don’t have the patience to watch the opera... you might enjoy this four minute summary of the plot:

In any case – I hope you’ll also check out my story!


Let your heart be your compass

It’s January 1887, a few days before the opening of the audacious new operetta “Ruddigore”. As if librettist William Gilbert doesn’t have enough to worry about, one of the D’Oyly Carte stars breaks his leg doing the horn pipe. Fortunately, the understudy Frank Wilson turns out to be immensely talented, as well as devilishly handsome. Wilson has set his heart on Gilbert – and he’s not going to be swayed from his course.


Gilbert found Wilson down by the Embankment, smoking and staring at the river. The sleet had stopped but the sky was still piled with leaden clouds. He watched the young man for a few moments before calling out to him.

The understudy had a distinct grace about him as he lounged against the rail. He wore a gray worsted overcoat and felt bowler with a hat band of green silk. He half-turned, revealing an elegant profile, and Gilbert noticed the matching cravat. Gilbert wondered how the young man could afford such snappy clothing on an actor’s wages.

“Mr. Wilson!”

Frank faced Gilbert. His face was alight, glowing like a misplaced sun in the grimy dusk. Gilbert took a deep breath. Yes, the lad was handsome, with classic features, a cleft chin, and dimples that spoke of mischief.  It was more than that, though. Despite his youth, this man had presence, a powerful attractiveness that drew the eye and the heart. Charisma, that was the word.   

“Mr. Gilbert.” Wilson deliberately mashed his cigarette out against the iron rail. “What’s wrong, sir?”

“Are you up on the Dick Dauntless part? The lines? The songs?”

The light in the young man’s face brightened. “Yes, of course. Why? Is poor Mr. Lely ill? How unfortunate!”

Gilbert was not deceived by the concerned words. Wilson was burning to take over the injured tenor’s role.

“He has suffered an accident and is effectively incapacitated as far as the play is concerned. However, we cannot afford to delay the opening. We resume rehearsals at four o’clock.”

Frank Wilson beamed. “I’ll be there.” He climbed the steps to Gilbert’s side, and took his arm. The director caught a whiff of scent, lilac with some sharper undertone. “May I accompany  you, sir?”

Gilbert swore that he could feel the heat of the other man’s flesh, even through the heavy wool coat. He swayed on his feet, suddenly woozy. Damn, Kitty was right, he was coming down with the grippe, if not something worse.

Frank steadied him. Gilbert had an impression of great strength.  He felt a momentary impulse to give in, to do nothing but lean against the solid young man and be supported, succored. He was so very tired of all the tension, the conflicts, the bickering of the cast, the acrimonious exchanges with Sullivan. How easy it would be, to yield to this handsome young man...

A few chill drops of rain on his face woke him from his reverie. He extricated himself from Wilson’s arm and strode back up the slope to the theater. “Come on,” he called, “the cast is waiting.” He didn’t need to look back to know that Frank Wilson was scrambling after him.   

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About Lisabet:

Lisabet Sarai became addicted to words at an early age. She began reading when she was four. She wrote her first story at five years old and her first poem at seven. Since then, she has written plays, tutorials, scholarly articles, marketing brochures, software specifications, self-help books, press releases, a five-hundred page dissertation, and lots of erotica and erotic romance – over one hundred titles, and counting, in nearly every sub-genre—paranormal, scifi, ménage, BDSM, GLBT, and more. Regardless of the genre, every one of her stories illustrates her motto: Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

You’ll find information and excerpts from all Lisabet’s books on her website (, along with more than fifty free stories and lots more. At her blog Beyond Romance (, she shares her philosophy and her news and hosts lots of other great authors. She’s also on Goodreads, Pinterest, BookBub, BingeBooks and Twitter

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1 comment:

  1. Hello, Jana,

    Thanks so much for allowing me to share my latest release with your readers!