Theater is supposed to be an imitation of life. But what if it's really the other way around?
The Harlequinade takes everything you think you know about theater and turns it inside out. Actors in real life learn how to manipulate the emotions of the audience--most famously using the Stanislavski method. But in the world of the Harlequin, the greatest actors are secret empaths...powerful mages who psychically bombard the audience into sharing their emotions. Reality fades, and the world of the play becomes reality for two hours. This is a secret that only a few actors know about: the members of Phillip Lewis's Royale Theater Troupe. When Catherine Brighton learns how to deliberately use empathy after being cast in the company's new play, she knows what she's found. This is the Holy Grail of theater and it will take her to Broadway. She calls it the "theater of seduction" which is exactly what the troupe and the actors do every performance they give.
However, outside the comfortable and familiar world of American theater that Cat loves lie other realms where immortals play a particularly vicious game with the mortals they oversee. Cat quickly discovers that the play's not the thing, that empaths don't just project emotions but can be punished by them, that death is just another role, time is just an imaginary barrier, and that when love and arcane power are combined, tragedy is sure to follow. But she loves the theater, she's fallen in love with her leading man Dominic LeClair, and the theater of seduction is something she is dangerously good at. It's just a short step from the fantasy of the play to the nightmare of history, and while time is fluid...terror is not.
And through it all dances an enigma--the Harlequin. Sinister yet seductive, vindictive yet vulnerable, predatory yet protective, the Harlequin is as bound to Cat as Dominic is. Make no mistake: while the show must go on, the script is all his.
In the theater of seduction, vengeance can last for centuries.
Crippling panic attacks drove Catherine Brighton from her theatrical career, but when enigmatic director Phillip Lewis casts her in his troupe, she knows it’s her ticket to Broadway. Catherine quickly discovers that the company isn’t what it seems. Phillip has a strange hold over the cast, and the lines between reality and the play blur into a dangerous emotional minefield…one that’s cost previous leading ladies their lives.
The danger is compounded when Catherine falls in love with one of the male leads, Dominic LeClair, who is torn between his love for Cat and the secrets pressing in around them. As the tragedy unfolds on the stage, Catherine discovers that the plot extends well beyond the script, and empathy can be used for much more than wowing an audience. If she can’t find a way to free them all, they'll be trapped in the theater of seduction forever.
There is no illusion greater than fear.
Six months after Catherine Brighton’s theatrical troupe finishes its Broadway run of the Carnival trilogy, the company mounts a new play: Harlequin. The character fits perfectly into the theater of seduction—a magical power that compels an audience’s emotional responses. However, rehearsals are tense. Her husband, Dominic, distrusts the actor playing the lead role. Cat and Alistair, Dominic’s brother, struggle to keep the peace.
Soon something inimical is dancing around the company, spinning strands of danger that entangle Cat in a shockingly familiar web. She fears that Phillip has somehow returned from the dead—not that Dominic believes her. Whoever her unknown enemy is, he’s masquerading as the title character from Harlequin—a character both sinister and seductive—which terrifies her. But when she unexpectedly finds herself trapped two centuries in the past, Cat learns that there are far worse things to fear.
The theater of cruelty shows no mercy.
Violence is swirling around the Royale Theater Troupe as they prepare to open Harlequin on Broadway. After confronting the ultimate treachery when d’Orléans dragged her back in time, Catherine has learned two brutal truths. First, the Duc d’Orléans has figured out a way to cheat death. And second, the Harlequin has an agenda quite different from her old enemy’s…a very personal agenda.
While Dominic and Alistair desperately search for a way to protect the company from these dual threats, Catherine is slowly becoming convinced that’s impossible. As the Harlequin pushes ever harder to force her to submit, her old fears begin to swallow her once more.
But if there’s one thing Cat does well, it’s stubbornness. Her quest for answers takes her to the famed Hellfire Caves, where an unexpected betrayal puts everything she loves on the line. The theater of cruelty takes no prisoners, and Cat must find a way to fight the powerful entities ranged against her. If she can bear the cost.
The only element that can defeat war is Time.
The last thing Catherine Brighton expected when she fought against the Duc d’Orléans was for her family to be thrown back into the turmoil of eighteenth century France. But when Dominic vanishes, she has no choice. She must follow his trail through time if she wants to bring him home. There’s only one problem with that. Alistair, Dominic’s younger brother, is the only person who can travel through time. The longer they remain back, the less they’ll remember of their modern lives.
Then, too, the sinister Harlequin is always watching, always dancing closer to Catherine. She’s not certain what his ultimate goal is, but it’s becoming clear that she’s the key to some plan. In order to have the future she craves with the man she loves, Catherine is going to have to find the answers somewhere in the maelstrom of Time.
In the theater of desire, old enemies become new allies.
Nothing could be more exciting for Catherine Brighton than having the company’s shows booked on London’s West End. Bringing the Carnival trilogy to England allows her to fulfill an ambition beyond any other. After defeating the Harlequin and destroying most of the window of Time, the strange world of magic has receded from her daily existence. But Catherine has a secret. Since Dominic's last capture by d'Orleans, she's not been able to recover emotionally. Her panic attacks are getting worse, and the knowledge of her husband's infidelity broke her spirit. And now Benjamin Franklin has warned her that the company has come to the notice of other immortals—many of whom want her for themselves. The only thing standing between her and this terrifying new threat is a promise the Harlequin made her: one favor in exchange for the kin debt he owes her. As the magic of the Carnival trilogies winds around them once again, that favor is a lifeline. The Harlequin is no longer trying to take Catherine but seems to be working to protect her instead. Can she overcome her distrust and learn to work with the Warden of Time? Or will another immortal break through his guard?
The theater of vengeance changes everything...and everyone.
Catherine’s world has turned into a nightmare. The immortal who rules over Desire taught her—brutally—that she cannot withstand the might of an immortal’s magic. On top of that, immortals are starting to injure the innocent, hoping to force Cat to surrender.
But Dominic has a plan to overthrow Desire, and the Harlequin is protecting her whenever she’s threatened. In order for Dominic’s plan to succeed, the Harlequin must be at his full strength. Unfortunately, Cat destroyed much of his magic, and he’s weakening himself further as he teaches her how to wield Time.
Catherine must restore the Harlequin’s magic if there’s any chance of defeating Desire. She also must confront the knowledge of the Harlequin’s growing love for her…and her increasing emotional connection to him. But when Desire finds a way to shatter Cat’s world, knowing who to trust—or love—is no longer easy.