My new novel, Indiscretion, is set in 1950s Spain.The story of love and families, lies and indiscretions, is steeped in the culture of Andalusia. Of course I could not write a book set in that time and place without weaving in the most emblematic and masterful of Spanish archetypes, the matador.
The matador is an experienced torero (bullfighter) who takes the lead at a corrida (bullfight). It is the matador who is at the centre of the spectacle, and who kills the bull – his title in full is matador de toros (killer of bulls). He has earned that title after a long period of fighting novillos (young bulls).
Bullfighting isn’t considered a sport, but rather a performance – and so the matador is handsome and charismatic and dramatic and fantastically flamboyant in his gold-embroidered suit, which the Spanish call the traje de luces (suit of lights).
Attractive, dominating, strong, powerful, brave: does the matador sound to you like a man my heroine in Indiscretion could admire?
The setting is La Plaza de Toros in Ronda, a huge, tragic amphitheatre reminiscent of a Roman arena. Alexandra is seated in the president’s box, along with the family of the matador who has invited Alexandra to the corrida (bullfight) today. Enter Don Felipe:
He was wearing the dress of the matador: black silk breeches drawn in at the hips and a bolero in gold brocade, decorated with sequins, tassels, studs and epaulettes, which set off his golden hair, his sun-tanned complexion and his proud bearing.
Taking the large red cape in both hands, he waited. The animal paused, sniffed the air, and then charged, head down, in a bold attack, horns gleaming.
Don Felipe stood motionless, defying his opponent. He leant slightly forward until the last moment; then, just as the horns were about to strike the cape, he moved his arms slowly in a sweeping motion, pivoting lightly on the balls of his feet, causing the head and body of the bull to pass by him.
His veronica was greeted by enthusiastic shouts from the masses. It was plain to Alexandra that Don Felipe was the star of this lethal duel, in which man and beast confronted each other in a game of skill and death.
After another round, in which Don Felipe stabs the bull, it is time for the third and final death match, the terciodelamuerte. Before it can commence, Don Felipe walks to the grandstand to salute the president.
Don Felipe suddenly stopped in front of her, a brilliant smile lighting up his hard features. He peered at her through long dark eyelashes that only partially concealed the smouldering look in his eyes. Against the blondness of his hair, his eyes appeared almost unnaturally black. He bowed low, then, his gaze becoming more intense, he threw Alexandra his black velvet hat with a theatrical gesture, thereby dedicating the bullfight to her. In a moment, he turned to face the danger alone, walking deliberately up to the bull, his sword hidden under the scarlet folds of his muleta.
What happens next? Well, of course I don’t want to spoil the story for you. But have I roused your interest in Don Felipe? What do you think of a man following the traditions of his predecessors like this? How would you feel in Alexandra’s place, looking on with the fight dedicated to you– thrilled, frightened, repellent, enchanted? Could a matador be the hero of a romance novel? Could Alexandra fall for Don Felipe?
Pick up a copy of Indiscretion to find out!