The Virgin’s Tears

The Venetian had come to stand by us. “Oh, but it’s true! I have seen it for myself, in London. He’s a genius. The Comte is descended from the Kings of Portugal.”

“Really,” I could barely mind my tongue in his vicinity. The Venetian had oiled his way into my favourite drawing rooms in Paris. I couldn’t turn around without sniffing his cologne. He’s a blot on my love of all things Italian. “I heard he’s the son of a Transylvanian prince. An Alsatian Jew. A snake charmer, a ventriloquist and a philosopher. Isn’t it rather ambitious for a man to be all those things at once?”


This was one of the first stories that I wrote but it went through dozens of rewrites before it was accepted.  My folks had a copy of Reader’s Digest Mysteries of the Unexplained when I was a child. It used to fascinate me- crystal skulls, spontaneous human combustion, hauntings and Nazca lines. It was where I first read about St Germain, who rose to prominence in the mid-1700s at the French court. It was said that he was an adventurer, physician, musician, alchemist and that he was immortal.

Once I started writing I realised that he wasn’t going to be the star of the story after all.

  “The Virgin’s Tears” appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of On Spec.


In the reign of Louis XV, the young alchemist called the Comte de St Germain shows up in Paris and begins to climb the social ranks. He is befriended by Sophie, an aging saloniste who is soon inappropriately infatuated, to the point of jealousy. But St Germain’s real interest may be in her library, where she has a rare volume describing the properties of the Virgin’s Tears, said to confer immortality.This historical fantasy plays with the rich material of the Parisian salons. A novel take on St Germain, who of course is a figure of legend that has long fascinated fantasy authors, but this time, it is Sophie who stands out as a character, interestingly flawed. Recommended. Lois Tilton for Locus Online

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