Eight years ago, I was visiting Lahaina, Maui when I encountered a painting in a gallery window on Front Street. The painting was called Spirit Lover and it captivated me and has held me in its grip ever since. In it, a young woman is in the arms of a powerful-looking Hawaiian man. He is striking. Solid. Masculine. He is all-consuming.
He is also a ghost.
During the day, the spirit lover’s body disappears below the waist. At night, in certain light, his bottom half reappears. I was fascinated by the painting and since I was staying nearby I kept coming to look at the painting day and night. And then an idea formed in my mind. The young man managing the gallery noticed me one morning he tried to interest me in buying the painting but I didn’t happen to have thousands of dollars loitering in my wallet.
But, as he lifted the painting out of the window and took it inside for me to look at it under special lights, I realized how magical that painting was and I could have wept for not having the money to buy it.
It gave me an idea, though. When I returned to my holiday house, I began work on Phantom Lover and created the story of a local hula master posing for a painting. I named him Kimo Wilder and he became real to me. No. He was larger than life to me. I have no idea where the story came from but a few days later I met a real hula dancer in Lahaina and he was training at a local halau, hula school, and he invited me to come and watch.
I met some wonderful teachers and dancers through him. I learned so much that I never knew about hula. For example, learning hula takes many, many years and requires great sacrifice. Dancers spend a long time away from their families to prepare for competition. It sometimes feels like they are preparing for battle.
Many young children in the islands are taught from an early age. In some areas, the children live with their teachers and fellow students in special schools. They are taught secrets about their culture that are taught by word of mouth since there was no written language until the missionaries came to the islands in the 1800s. The children’s talent is noticed at a young age.
Some hula is very painful, such as one performed on the knees. I watched as young girls cried rehearsing a long dance devoted to the goddess Hina (moon goddess), but they loved the dance. Loved the pain.
For a long time, Hawaiian language, music, dance, and literature were banned in the island state’s schools. Today, a huge movement is holding strong and the artists of the Hawaiian culture no longer practice in secret. The more I learned the more I wanted to know about the Hawaiian culture that it became more important than ever for me to create a character that was authentic to its religion and philosophy. Many of those friendships are still important to me today. I have maintained those ties and cherish them and still continue to learn the role of the male hula dancer in the world yesterday and today.
Hula dancers are storytellers.
They have in their hands and feet the heartbeat of their culture, the history, and their songs. The hula dancer conveys so much with the mere twitch of a finger, which is why people always say “keep your eyes on the hula dancer’s hands.”
I know I always do!
Here is a synopsis of Phantom Lover. It’s the first of 16 books in my series, which I am re-releasing through The Pele Press.
The rest will be coming soon. Once they are all released, I will be writing more. I am giving away 2 copies of the ebook, AND a copy of the audio book to two lucky readers so please post a comment telling me what you think of male dancers…and what do you think of hula?
Phantom Lover by A.J. Llewellyn
Hawaiian hula dancer Bobby Kikawa has deep fantasies about the alluring, mysterious Kimo Wilder, a gifted kahuna and kumu hula, a hula master. He becomes even more fixated after Kimo poses for an erotic painting called Phantom Lover. He plans to seduce Kimo even though the man is straight, married and known for his extreme loyalty to his wife. Alone on a hot night after dance rehearsal on the big island of Hawaii, Bobby manages to persuade Kimo to let him service his neglected, extremely hungry passions. When the young dancer awakens a part of Kimo that nobody else ever has, Bobby both fears and welcomes the incredible power Kimo has over him. The legendary dancer inserts himself into Bobby’s life, but not everyone is happy about their burgeoning romance. Things go from one extreme to another with interference from family and friends. Are the men prepared to sacrifice everything for each other? Their red-hot fling threatens not only Kimo’s marriage but Bobby’s sanity when he discovers Kimo is a “Keeper of Secrets” in the Hawaiian culture…a man born of fire and hidden, taboo, dark magic the ancient Hawaiians called Lua. NOTE: This book was previously published. This reissued version of the book has been re-edited.
A.J. Llewellyn is the author of over 200 M/M romance novels, who was born in Australia, and lives in Los Angeles. An early obsession with Robinson Crusoe led to a lifelong love affair with islands, particularly Hawaii and Easter Island.
Being marooned once on Wedding Cake Island in Australia cured her of a passion for fishing, but led to a plotline for a novel. A.J.’s friends live in fear because even the smallest details of their lives usually wind up in her stories. A.J. has a desire to paint, draw, juggle, work for the FBI, walk a tightrope with an elephant, be a chess champion, a steeplejack, master chef, and a world-class surfer. She can’t do any of these things so she writes about them instead.
A.J. I started life as a journalist and boxing columnist, and still enjoys interrogating, er, interviewing people to find out what makes them tick.
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