Calypso “Caly” Mendelsohn expected a normal day reading Tarot Cards for the tourists in Salem. She definitely didn’t expect her former partner Sandro to show up and demand Caly return the little book she stole. She also didn’t expect her life as a reformed con-artist to get turned upside down. Everything Caly has worked so hard to build is threatened by Sandro’s visit – but before Caly can run from the danger, her next client slides into her booth and things get even more complicated.
Dan Saint James has inherited a shipping company from his grandfather, but he’s made his own mistakes and needs help to make sure the past stays hidden. There are particular skills required to deal with a collection of stolen artwork, and Dan needs Caly’s help to keep the secret stash from being discovered by the wrong people.
Caly’s entire past has sauntered through the front door of the Psychic Parlor and forced her to decide if she really is committed to helping her clients in the most ethical and honest way possible – or if she’s just a con-artist waiting for the perfect scam. Dan’s problem could be profitable to Caly and that might just be more temptation than her black little soul can resist. In order to help Dan, Caly must use her less than savory skills to outwit others who would love to use her past – and Dan’s past – against them.
When there’s a fortune at stake, it’s not always easy to get a second chance.
The Story Behind Fortunes Bought and Sold
The first time I visited Salem, Massachusetts, I fell in love with the way the city embraced its heritage and the way it managed to profit from a terrible past. Salem took a chilling event and turned it into a way to teach tolerance and acceptance while refusing to forget the horrors of the witch trials – and it has a lot of fun doing it. During a tour on the Salem Trolley, I thought about twisting the idea into a story about someone with a past they were not proud of. How could that person move on and put a positive spin on something that was awful? It was on that tour when Calypso Mendelsohn was conceived, and it’s been an interesting experience watching her grow!
So many people go through life trying to keep a tight lock on their less savory attributes, only to discover that those hidden things bubble up at the worst times. Think of the man who cheats on his diet while lauding his willpower, or the woman who consoles a friend while secretly cheering that their perfect life isn’t so wonderful after all. These are not bad people, but their inability to acknowledge their faults leaves them on a slippery slope where guilt and deceit lurk in the periphery and threaten their good intentions.
Most of us delude ourselves to some extent, but I didn’t want Caly to suffer the same fate. There’s something admirable to me when people own their faults and I wanted Caly to have a bit of that honesty. She is not blind to her own faults; if anything, she is well aware of her “black little soul” and “larcenous heart” and struggles to acknowledge her benevolent motives – she would laugh if you called her altruistic. Her ability to embrace her faults and repent her dishonesties is one of her greatest strengths, but it isn’t until another desperate and guilt ridden person needs help that she realizes her own jaded past makes her uniquely qualified to help someone else untangle a sordid past and get a second chance – and that is something Caly believes in.
Caly is the honest con artist who risks her own comfort to help someone else start over. In order to do that, she must rely on the very skills she finds so distasteful – those less than charming talents are exactly what Caly needs to employ in order to set things right. She walks the fine line between doing wrong for the right reasons; she’s good at being bad.
That brings me back to the story of the city of Salem where Fortunes Bought & Sold takes place. While the tragedy of the Salem Witch Trials remains a prominent part of the town’s past, it has also become a lesson for the future. The town has embraced the tale and used it to educate and further the understanding of how hysteria is spread and how the whisperings of malicious people can cause real destruction. The legacy of the Witch Trials is tolerance, and the message contributes to the positive vibe of the city despite its sordid past.
The tragedy in Salem was brought about, in part, by vicious rumors and an inability to stand against the crowd. Sure, there was a belief in wickedness and evil, but the more familiar sins of greed and jealousy played no small part. We are so familiar with those emotions that we tend to ignore their power. Those two emotions play an important role in Caly’s story.
She encounters these unpleasant feelings in her journey and must deal with them because unless they are brought out in the open, they can erode the very foundation of Caly’s plan. The lesson for Caly is the same as the one Salem so brilliantly learned: Embrace and acknowledge the bad, then forgive yourself and do everything in your power to make sure it never happens again – and don’t forget to have fun while you’re doing it!