Last month it was a pleasure to feature the writing of H.A. Leuschel as part of the blog blitz for Tess and Tattoos, a short story published as an e-book taster for her story collection Manipulated Lives (you’ll find the feature here). Today, I’m delighted to feature the complete collection.
Five stories – Five Lives
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.
Let me hand over to Helene, introducing an extract…
Malignant manipulation can be found anywhere, at any age and in many guises. It is therefore useful for anyone to recognize warning signs, speak up before it is too late, so a loved one, colleague or friend knows that when the time is right, they can turn to you for support. When you do realize what is going on, re-claim your life by planning your way out or be the one helping a person in need. In either situation, be prepared however that you will have to accept that the abuser will not change, feel sorry or acknowledge their wrong-doing. Ultimately, when the way you look at someone changes, the person you look at also changes. It is a freeing experience and step by step allows you to find yourself again, understand the spiral of toxic manipulation you’d been sucked into, step away from it and learn to avoid it in the future.
In the second novella of my anthology Manipulated Lives called The Spell, the reader meets Sophie, a young woman whose life gets entangled with an attractive older man and his young sensitive son. She soon suspects her new partner’s painful past and is intent on offering his son the motherly love he deserves. But nothing is what it seems, and she ultimately has to make a decision who to believe.
He had a small, delicate body, thin legs and arms, and a torso that was short and fragile. He almost looked supernatural, like a beautiful version of an elf, with his startling light blue eyes and hair as dark as charcoal. Later on, when we were as familiar with each other as a mother and son would be, he wrapped himself warmly around me like a shawl or a small monkey anchored to his mother’s body for the day. His lightness added to my initial impression that he looked like a beautiful, fantastical character who’d walked straight out of a children’s picture book, yet I quickly found out that my female instincts to protect him were undeniably linked to a human child whose cheeks reddened with exertion and whose occasional stroppiness could only be found in the very young. And I need to tell you right from the start that he is not my son, because I am not his biological mother. Yet, we would have both liked to have been each other’s family and, for a short while, we actually were. I know that because of the way he looked at me, the way he snuggled up whenever he saw me, and the way he always saw goodness in me. He had the capacity to make me melt there and then and I would forgive him instantly for small tantrums or cheeky retorts. He seemed to endear himself to my laughs and smiles and I loved his thin, fine fingers reaching out to claim a hug, one of so many he desperately needed.
You will wonder whose son he was and why he is no longer with me; and I will tell you why, so that I don’t go crazy with grief and so that our story, and the stories of those who were involved in it, may come to convey how life can deal you a difficult card.
I met Leo’s father shortly after meeting my little guy. That was a nickname I’d frequently use for my new and very special friend. Leo was a grand name for a small person with fluffy, wispy dark hair and a voice that never carried far, yet if you took the time to lower your ear towards his words, you would be enthralled by their wisdom. This child was unusual in so many ways.
With thanks to tour organiser Rachel’s Random Resources and the author, I’m delighted to offer a giveaway – the chance to win a signed copy of Manipulated Lives (open internationally). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions – Worldwide entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.