Friday, July 4, 2014
I've been reading the latest volume in Loretta Chase’s Dressmakers series and enjoying the clothes. The three Noiret sisters run a high-class dressmaking establishment in 1830s London and the gowns play an active role in the stories – beyond being removed by the heroes. Readers of The TwoNerdyHistoryGirls blog know how devoted Chase and her cohort Isabella Bradford are to costume history.
It got me thinking about dress
designers as heroes: As a Project Runway aficionado I know there’s a token
straight guy in every season. A quick google of “straight fashion designers”
brought up Roberto Cavalli, Tommy Hilfinger, Ralph Lauren, Oscar De La Renta, and
Christian Lacroix, to name a few. To get historical (as you do), Charles Worth,
the father of haute couture, was married with children.
The point of this exercise is not
to make a point about stereotyping in the fashion industry, but rather to
wonder why designer isn’t a suitable job for a romance hero. I could remember
only one––a book by Mary Burchell I had read decades ago. An appeal to Twitter gave
me the name of the Burchell––Under the
Stars of Paris
––and one other title, thanks to Fiona Marsden––the aptly
named Designing Man
Lindsay. A quick trip to Amazon and a week later I had both volumes in hand for
an all-too-brief orgy of reading.
I’m glad I read Designing Man
first because it’s the
lesser book. Originally published by Mills & Boon in 1964, it was reissued
as a Harlequin Presents in 1979. I think some updating had taken place––I’m
fairly sure people weren’t drinking margaritas in London in the early 60s––but
the heroine’s situation is quite advanced. Alix Smith runs her own public
relations business and makes it very clear she enjoys her work and doesn’t long
to be married. She has a would-be boyfriend, who is a successful architect, and
a male assistant of whom she is very much the boss.
The title could just as well be
Designing Men because Alix is hired by the fashion house of Duval whose
founder, Henri Duval, is at loggerheads with his son Paul. Henri, who has
failed to move with the times, creates lavish mother-of-the-bride type outfits
for an aging clientele; Paul’s garments are innovative and modern. Alix gets
her actress friend Dina to wear Duval clothes in her new play but of course she
picks Paul’s designs. The rivalry between father and son is exacerbated when both
appear to be pursuing Dina. Someone steals the new Duval collection at the last
minute and private information about the family is sold to a gossip column.
Paul, who didn’t want his father to hire her, seems to blame Alix for the
I appreciate that Paul is not a
typical hero. Oddly, he is several times described as resembling a faun––I’m
not altogether sure what this means. Here is his first appearance:
“Where Henri Duval was a powerful
six-footer, his son was slight in build and only a few inches taller than
herself; where the father was blond, with a florid complexion and firm voice,
the son was pale and brown-haired, with a quiet voice and the faintest
suggestion of a stammer.”
Paul is no pushover, however and I
liked him a lot. I just wanted more of him. Things start to heat up when he
makes Alix a gorgeous gown for a big party. (There’s a hint, girl! He likes
you!) Then someone is killed and the story veers off into a whodunit.
I enjoyed the book for the
characters, the setting, and quite a decent murder mystery, but the romance is
a little thin. While I’m all for a bit of plot in my romances, I want to see
the hero and heroine fall in love. They don’t spend enough time together for my
taste, and once it is clear they are attracted to each other, the obstacles
thrown in their way seem contrived.
In Mary Burchell’s enormously
entertaining book, our heroine Anthea Marlowe, stranded in Paris with only 50
francs to her name, falls into a job at Florian’s couture house. Anthea is
renamed Gabrielle for modeling purposes and she closes the show in the wedding
dress, designed by Monsieur Florian for a girl of her type who broke her leg.
Anthea is suffering from pride: her
father has remarried a woman called Millicent––“the type of good-looking,
sophisticated, slightly malicious person who always amused him”––and her fiancé
Michael has ditched her for another woman. She isn’t in danger of starvation
but neither does she wish to go home to London looking pathetic. The job at
Florian saves her and she finds she loves the work and the place: the
excitement of showing the Collection, the vendeuses, the sewing women, the
other models (except the bitchy Héloïse).
|Dior gown, 1954, just because|
And then there’s Florian, the
creative genius behind the operation. Like Paul, he does not at first appear
typical hero material: “a slight, fair-haired man with beautiful hands,
thinning hair and the air of an exhausted and impatient schoolboy.” He is also
38 to Anthea’s 21, a fairly typical age difference in books of that era. Make
no mistake, Florian is a raging alpha. He is dictatorial, ruthless, and not
always very nice; the pages fairly crackle whenever he appears. He treats
Anthea well, protecting her from some of the salon politics, but initially his
kindness is almost whimsical. Anthea admires and respects her boss, but she’s
still getting over Michael and she has a new admirer in British diplomat Roger
(“solid, dependable, a darling––the stuff of which good husbands were made.” In
other words, a romance dead end.)
Anthea is a wonderful heroine, a
little bit naïve but never stupid or spineless. She prefers to think the best
of people and accepts Florian’s careless generosity at face value, until he
uses her in a malicious plot against his opera singer ex-mistress. This
involves her wearing a white mink cloak to a performance of Tosca
. (Can you tell how much I love
this book?) When Anthea catches on to Florian’s attempt to upstage the diva,
she ruins the plot and tears a strip off him for his poor behavior.
After that, of course, Florian is a
goner. It takes Anthea a bit longer to realize her feelings: “In all the world
there was no other dress house where Florian would come in––worn and impatient,
smiling and indulgent, sardonic and amusing, arrogant and brilliant.”
But Florian, besides thinking he’s
too old and cynical for her, believes her in love with Roger. We don’t get his
point of view, but Burchell manages to convey the progress of his feelings to
the reader while concealing them from the despairing heroine:
Odette had once declared that he
could be a monster. She had also spoken of his occasional quick cruelty. But
Anthea felt she could have forgiven all those theoretical faults, if only he
had not been so coolly, monumentally indifferent.
|Another 1954 Dior. Green!|
The declaration is beautiful.
Florian thinks she wants to go back to England with Roger; she thinks he wants
her to go. Terribly hurt, she asks why he wants to get rid of her and forces
him to admit his feelings. Finally, kisses.
I absolutely loved Under the Stars of Paris
. Loved, loved,
loved. Originally published by M&B in 1954 (Harlequin 1978), the fashions
gave me delicious New Look vibes. I cannot tell you how much I want the “dress
of stiffened lace in an indescribably beautiful shade of iridescent green” that
plays a dramatic role in the plot. (Bitchy Héloïse misleads Anthea into
borrowing the gown for a party. Florian sees her in the illicitly borrowed
dress and someone spills red wine on it. Florian spirits her upstairs where he
rips away the stained lace, removes a panel from the skirt, and drapes a new
bodice on the gown in about five minutes. Now there’s a useful man.)
Burchell is a delightful writer
with a nicely acerbic turn of phrase that keeps me smiling throughout. Her
secondary character are well drawn and nuanced. Florian addresses Anthea as
“petite” and “mon enfant” which I usually dislike but, given the age difference
and the fact that she is his employee, I didn’t mind it here. I believe in their
HEA and know that Anthea will be no doormat. In the last scene, when a senior
employee disturbs the declared lovers, we get a sharp Burchell observation. “In
her bright, knowing, already respectful glance, Anthea suddenly saw herself
reflected, not as Gabrielle, but as Madame Florian.”
I am a definite convert to designing heroes. I am told that Rose Lerner's historical A Lily Among Thorns has a tailor hero; I look forward to the book's re-release in September. If you know of any other titles, please let me know.
Labels: heroes, mary burchell, rachel lindsay, romance
Friday, June 13, 2014
Join my Postcard Mailing List
I've started a new mailing list to announce my new releases. Email me with your actual snail mail address and I will send you a postcard near release day.
Do you read digitally? I still buy printed books but these days I read most fiction on my Kindle. It means I don't see either the covers or the book descriptions, except when I buy the book. My postcards will be of full color cover images so you don't need to miss out.
If you haven't already, you may also join my email list.
To join my postcard list email me
and INCLUDE ADDRESS (international OK). Check the box for email too.
To join my email newsletter list use this form:
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Libraries & Librarians: An Appreciation
My editor asked me to write a post for Avon Loves Librarian’s
Week because I used to be a librarian. Well, sort-of-not-really. I spent
several years writing catalogs of rare books and manuscripts for major auction
houses in London and New York. My love for the rare book
business made its way into my historical romance series, The Burgundy
, featuring a group of Regency era book collectors. Later I worked in
Special Collections at the Dartmouth College Library in Hanover, NH,
cataloguing a collection of plays, playbills and other items relating to the
theater. I’ve used some of what I learned and saw in my books. (Writers are
champions of mental recycling.)
|The Radcliffe Camera, |
My earliest library memory is of the mobile library van that
toured our part of rural England. It stopped about half a mile from our house
and my mother would walk us there to stock up on enough books to last two
weeks. (I always ran out.) Since then, I’ve used all kinds of libraries, from
the local library in my small Vermont town to the greatest of all, like the
British Library, the New York Public Library, and Paris’s Bibliothèque
Nationale. No matter how large or small, there’s magic in entering a room full
of books, a feeling of endless potential. You never know what treasure of
knowledge or entertainment awaits you.
At Oxford University, the library I used most was the
Radcliffe Camera, the great domed building that housed the history and English
collections of the Bodleian Library. Later I used another famous circular
library, the Reading Room of the British Museum, where luminaries like Karl
Marx, Oscar Wilde, and Bram Stoker worked. The British Library has now moved to
new premises and I love it for it’s breathtaking efficiency. In the old reading
room it could take hours, days even, to get a book and quite often the item you
requested had been lost. But the staff were always wonderfully helpful. I
remember once needing to look up one section of a work that came in dozens of
volumes and I didn’t have the proper citation. Against the rules, a librarian
snuck me into the stacks to find what I needed.
|The old round Reading Room at the British Museum|
|The old British Museum stacks. |
I've been there!
In New York, I got to know the legendary Lola Szladits,
curator of the NY Public Library’s Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
Her motto was “what Lola wants, Lola gets.” The tales of how she bribed and
cajoled the archives of numerous writers into her hands were fascinating. Lola
is an example of how a great librarian can make a collection.
Lola tried to persuade me to go to library school and become
a librarian myself but I never wanted to be on that side of the library desk. I
enjoyed the two years at Dartmouth but it was enough. Working as a library
cataloguer did make me appreciate a side of librarians that most patrons don’t
see: the painstaking and frequently tedious work of cataloging and shelving.
Because if a book is wrongly described, or shelved in the wrong place, it is
basically lost and useless, unless discovered by serendipity.
|The main reading room at the New York Public Library|
This weekend my local library holds its annual summer
festival and fundraiser. It is with great pride that I see my name listed as
sponsor and local writer. None of us, readers or writers, would be where we are
without libraries and the dedicated people who run them.
Labels: avon, Burgundy Club, luvlibrarian
Saturday, May 31, 2014
What Was Your First Romance?
What was the first romance you remember reading? Mine was Powder and Patch. I was about eleven or twelve and I'd pretty much exhausted Jean Plaidy's historical fiction. My mother and elder sister came back from shopping and handed me this paperback. "We think you'd like Georgette Heyer." They were right. I quickly went through all her books and I have continued to reread them ever since. Here's the Pan edition that my mother gave me, along with the Bantam one that currently resides on my nightstand. I love the cover of the first, because it shows a scene from the book and bears the subtitle "A gay romance of the 18th century."
Hanging out on Twitter last night, I asked the same question and got a lot of answers. I was interested to see how many romance readers and writers started with the older historicals. If you'd like to add your "first," I'd love to hear. You can tell me in the comments here, on Twitter (@Miranda_Neville) or on Facebook
@julieinduvall - Susan Elizabeth Phillips' FANCY PANTS. ;-)
@GrowlyCub - Heyer's Arabella
@AmandaMarie309 - Toss up: Candice Proctor's Night in Eden or Katherine Woodiwiss' The Wolf and the Dove.
@MaireClaremont - Its a toss up. Wild Swan by Celeste DeBlasis. She didn't call it romance but family Saga. Or Catherine Coulter's The Heir!
Nora Roberts's MacGregors. But Barbara Michaels was a gateway author for me.
@IsobelCarr - Fires of Winter by Lindsey. Turned me off the genre for a decade.
@dizzheart - If we're not counting Sayers, Austen or Eloise Jarvis McGraw, then it was one of those early Ace Heyer pbs
@evangelineh - Valentine Legacy by Catherine Coulter. It's still funny.
@PirateQueenKate - Amanda Quick's Mistress
@sunita_p - Heyer's April Lady. I may have read a Stewart and/or Holt before that but AL felt like a real romance.
@dougalgodfrey - The Wolf and the Dove. Then my mum gave me Seton's Katherine. Not strictly rom but still.
@badass_romance - Read both Jane Eyre and GWTW summer I turned 13 and became avid Holt/Heyer/Seton reader. Also dozens of Cartlands ensued.
@e_bookpushers - either The Bride by Julie Garwood or A Rose in Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss
@LisaHendrix - The Wolf and the Dove.
@YasmineGalenorn - For me, I consider it Anna and the King of Siam. (I consider that a romance)
@karinacooper - Mine was Johanna Lindsay’s Defy Not the Heart. :D
@miss_batesreads I was assisting directing Wizard of Oz in gr. 6 & reading Woodiwiss Flame&Flower. (I was in gr. 6 too.)
@juliabroadbooks - Barbara Cartland. I don't remember which I read first but I promptly read about a hundred more. Am afraid to re-read.
@Laforesta1 - Nora's MacGregor Brides. And that was it-from then on, I was totally hooked. Loved the premise of the matchmaking grandpa!
@mharvey816 - Kathleen Woodiwiss "Ashes in the Wind" It was like Gone with the Wind with a HEA, but slightly more rapey.
@balletbookworm - The Wedding by [a first name I don't remember] Beverly; Ok contemporary with a side character with a cat named Chaucer
@alisonkent - The Flame and the Flower
@FionaMMarsden - My first pure romance was either The Beads of Nemesis by Elizabeth Hunter or Crown of Willow Elizabeth Ashton
@Meljean - ONLY LOVER by Carole Mortimer, Harlequin Presents #502.
@JenniferRNN - I dont' remember my first. I do know that Diana Palmer was the first author I fell in love with
@writerlexiryan - Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux. I was in middle school. :)
@MarniBates - Prince Joe by Suzanne Brockmann
@essayareayaitch - It was a Harlequin American Romance from the late 80s/early 90s … okay Google is my friend. Book was from 1983/84, Twice in a Lifetime. Apparently I knew the number, just not the title.
@VivianArend - Anne MacCaffrey Dragondrums. Side <3 and="" menolly="" omg="" p="" sebell.="" sexual="" story="" tension.="" the="" with="">
@lillie_80 - The Bride by Garwood
@BookishK - The Wolf and the Dove in the mid-70's when I was about 12 years old. I'd never read anything like it before.
@lizcook - Dark of the Moon, by Karen Robards, purchased in the Washington DC Hilton gift shop on a HS class trip… My friends & I hid in under the table and read it loud at a youth in govt awards banquet. And then Warren Berger spoke. 2/2
@KatiD - Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts (adult), Fifteen by Beverly Cleary (ya)
@jennellens - Whitney, My Love. Hooked me. Read D Steele as teen but don't consider those true romances.
@runemima - Whitney's Spindrift
@Limecello - first HP I *remember* reading I was in elementary school - the Honey is Bitter by Violet Winspear. These Happy Golden Years
@chloeneill - Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey. :)
@TheresaRomain - This was one of the first R-rated romances I read. I sneaked it from my older sister's bookshelf.The Viking's Woman by Heather Graham
@dizzyandbookish - I don't think it was first per se. But it was one of them. It was "One Tough Cookie" by Carole Dean.
@VoireyLinger - I *think* title was Outlaw's Caress. Author was Mary Martin. I was in 8th grade & it was the filthiest thing I'd ever seen.
@AuthorEmmaBarry - Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels, about 3.5 years ago.
@natalincay - the Thorn Birds, given to me by 6th grade school librarian (what was she thinking?)
@EricaJMonroe - Secret History of the Pink Carnation.
@MuseofIre - Green Darkness by Anya Seton
@elisabethjlane - Mm. I first found Julie Garwood. I wouldn't read anything without a man in a kilt.
@Sara_Ramsey - BRAVE THE WILD WINDS by Johanna Lindsey. I was 12. They had sex on a horse. It was both magical and traumatizing.
@NobleRorick - tracked it down a year ago thanks to a HaBO. Called Charity's Gambit.
@WW2HistoryGal - Cut my teeth on Kathleen Woodiwiss and Jude Deveraux.
@Cecilia_Grant - Does Phyllis Whitney count? If so, Hunter's Green. Don't remember a thing abt it except that the heroine had a green coat.
@emilyjanehubb - HERE COMES THE SUN by Emilie Loring.
@cass_oleary - Can't remember the titles but excerts from steamy romances in Cosmo sealed section, age about 15.
@BellRomance - The first one I remember was Desire by Amanda Quick, at 13. I promised my mom I'd skip the racey parts, but I didn't.
@ros_clarke - Heyer for me and many others, obvs.
@RoseLerner - I started with Regency trads: "A Lord for Miss Larkin" by Carola Dunn, when I was 12.
@susannafraser - First I remember was Amanda from the Sunfire series. YA historical romance with gloriously 80's covers!
@ScribblingSandy - The first romance I read as a romance was Stephanie Laurens's A Rake's Vow.
@CatsBooksRom - I really remember 15 by Beverly Clearly. Still a great love story.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
The First Review is a Good One!
I was thrilled to read the Kirkus review of Lady Windermere's Lover. "A smart, witty and emotionally dense love story that explores friendship and trust along its passionate and compelling journey." You can read the complete review here
. It's less than a month now until June 24th when the book releases.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
One Book, Two Books
Because I am a relatively slow writer, I usually only have a new book out every nine to ten months. Somehow (it might just have something to do with the fact that I was really
late with LWL), Lady Windermere's Lover
and The Duke of Dark Desires
are both coming out this year, only six months apart. For once I won't be madly scrambling to finish a book while writing promotional blogs for the previous one. Win.
Lady Windermere's Lover
will be out on June 24th, less than three months from now. It has my most gorgeous cover ever and a married couple who are in a lot of trouble. Damian, Earl of Windermere, and his convenient bride Cynthia have a lot to deal with before they can live happily ever after. Muddying the waters is Julian, Duke of Denford. Julian used to be Damian's best friend until they had a falling out. Now Julian thinks it would be amusing to seduce Cynthia and ruin Damian's marriage.
SPOILER ALERT: He doesn't succeed.
Julian has his own demons to wrestle with and they are about to show up on his doorstep for a bout. But that's the story of The Duke of Dark Desires
, to be released December 31st.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Happy Holidays: A Scandalous Rumor on Christmas Eve
For the past couple of years I've written Christmas short stories for blogger Dani's holiday celebration. This year my designated theme (I like do like an assignment!) was A SCANDALOUS RUMOR ON CHRISTMAS EVE. You can still read it (and other wonderful stories) on Ramblings From This Chick
, and enter many wonderful drawings. The story of Alice and Amville finds a more permanent home here.
A SCANDALOUS RUMOR ON CHRISTMAS EVE
dear,” Lady Chatterby said to her Aunt Maria who was growing a little deaf.
“Did you hear that the younger Kilpatrick girl is increasing?”
the married one. Annabel.”
Kilpatrick is with child.”
you mean Annabel?”
Lawson was taking tea with her best friend Lady Susan. “Miss Kilpatrick …” Then
she lowered her voice because one could not speak of such shocking things
Boodle’s Club young Lord Helmsley and his three boon companions were into their
fifth bottle. “M’sister Susan tells me that Alice Kilpatrick has raised her
petticoats and dropped her drawers with the predictable result.”
Kilpatrick is a slut.”
Mrs. Kilpatrick had been confined all week with a cold, she heroically arose
from her bed of pain to chaperone her daughter to the Countess of Porton’s
Christmas Eve ball. No trifle like a sniffle would keep her from her triumph:
Sir James Banfield, a Buckinghamshire baronet, had asked permission to pay his
addresses to her elder daughter. And Alice, the choosiest daughter to ever
afflict a mother, had finally agreed to accept a proposal.
at the ripe age of four-and-twenty, Alice would achieve that summit of every
girl’s ambitions: a good match. There was nothing wrong with Sir James and
everything right: the right age (thirty), the right income (twenty thousand a
year), the right county (his estate was less than thirty miles from that of her
sister Annabel’s husband). Even the right looks. For a young unmarried man of
good fortune he was a veritable Adonis. Most of them looked like toads.
was a lucky girl to have attracted his attention. Everyone agreed, including
Sir James. Especially Sir James. He might propose to her on bended knee, but
Alice had a feeling she was the one who should be in the supplicant position.
Along with everyone in London, he thought she was getting the best of the
Porton ball was a sad crush. Alice and her mother–her father had been delayed
by government business–were stuck at the foot of the handsome staircase,
waiting for the throng of guests to greet the hosts on the landing and
disperse, like chicks released from the coop, into the rooms beyond. Sir James
was ahead of them, almost at the top. He offered an admirable view of
well-shaped shoulders, in a neat but conservative coat of dark blue superfine,
and perfectly cropped hair. Even his ears were tidy. When he turned to answer a
remark from an acquaintance he exhibited a classical profile and an air of
a handsome man,” Mrs. Kilpatrick said.
Alice wished she felt more enthusiastic about the betrothal that would be
concluded and announced tonight. She needed to be married. Her younger
sister was expecting her second
child. Very soon the dreaded word
spinster would be attached to her and she might even, perish the thought, be
expected to wear a cap. If only Sir James made her heart dance, her skin
tingle, and her belly glow.
in dispiriting reflection on the stolid nature of her emotions, she had failed
to notice the whispering that, from years of experience at London assemblies,
told her there was scandal afoot. A certain quality in the ambient sound always
meant trouble for someone. It wasn’t hard to guess the subject of tonight’s
gossip. The Marquess of Amville had been grist to the scandal mill for as long
as Alice had been out, and longer. He was accepted in the ton
, barely, because of his rank, wealth and connections, but not
everyone received him.
mother did not approve.
tsk,” Mrs. Kilpatrick said. “I believe Lady Porton is his godmother so he had
to be invited. I wish people wouldn’t bother.”
leaned against the bannister at the very top of the staircase. He stood out
from the fashionable company by wearing his coat unbuttoned, his neckcloth
askew, and his smile devilish. A lock of gold-streaked hair tumbled over his
brow. As always, Alice couldn’t stop looking at him.
danced with Amville in her second season. She’d never before or since had a
partner for the waltz that whirled her around the floor with such exuberance,
or made her laugh so much. Then an affair with the wife of the Chancellor of
the Exchequer had him dropped from government guest lists and they met only
occasionally. Somehow they always managed to exchange a few words. Five minutes
in his company made everyone else seem flat and colorless. With him the most
banal topic seemed new, and she also felt they’d known each other forever. His
presence now brightened the prospects for a dull evening.
What was she thinking? This was the evening in which she was supposed to
celebrate her engagement.
staring at him,” her mother hissed. “I do believe he came out this evening
was true. The shadow on his chin made him even more raffish, also more
alluring. He turned and noticed her for the first time. A meeting of the eyes,
a shared smile, and the yards of air in between them seemed to crackle.
heart danced, her skin tingled, and her belly glowed.
Kilpatrick was the only reason Amville attended these affairs. Nothing in life,
jaded by endless debaucheries, gave him greater pleasure than their brief,
innocent encounters. She was lovely tonight, a deep green silk setting off her
dark hair and bright complexion. She always glowed with life and joy. For the
hundredth, no thousandth, time he tormented himself with thoughts of what might
have been. If only after that first waltz he’d set out to court her as she
deserved. If only he hadn’t already been involved with the Chancellor’s wife.
If only they had not been discovered in virtual flagrante delicto at the Prime
Minister’s garden party. If only Mr. Kilpatrick were not a respected member of
the government. If only….
what was the use? He’d been doomed long before, steeped in inevitable infamy
and vice through his upbringing in the household of his uncle, a man of
reputation so deservedly foul that even Lady Porton wouldn’t have him in the
house. When he’d died of a seizure in a low brothel no one had mourned him,
least of all his nephew.
Amville had to live with his uncle’s legacy, making it impossible for him to
aspire to the hand of London’s brightest jewel, the daughter of the
incorruptible Kilpatrick. Word was she’d accepted Banfield, a dry stick of a
man who’d never permit his wife to maintain the slightest acquaintance with a
dissolute marquess. Tonight might be the last in which he would enjoy those precious
five or ten minutes with Alice, dizzied by her voice and scent, yearning to
possess what he could never even touch.
gazed down at her with an ache in the area of his heart. Yet that organ could
not be so affected for it had long since been atrophied by the senselessness of
took his time before he approached her, endured the dreary assembly for an
hour, enjoying the anticipation of a few minutes’ happiness. Passing through
Lady Porton’s suite of reception rooms, he was aware of voices rising in
surprise and falling in pretended horror, the shocked intake of breath and the
deliciously appalled laughter. In short, the familiar sound of scandal.
was something different tonight. Instead of falling silent at his approach, the
outrage reached him, like surf washing up on a beach. Tonight he was not the
object of the gossip.
he heard what was being said he was incredulous and then, for the first time in
his life, scandalized. How could they believe such things of Alice? Not that he
would judge her–he always eschewed hypocrisy–but couldn’t these blind idiots
see that she would never betray her betrothed? And poker-backed James Banfield
would never anticipate his vows. Amville would wager his very considerable
fortune that Alice Kilpatrick was neither impure nor pregnant.
happened to see her just as she learned what was being said. Her eyes widened,
a hand covered her mouth. Two ladies turned their backs on her and she looked
as though she had received a mortal blow.
one must be allowed to distress his Alice.
hackles rose and he charged to the rescue, but Banfield reached her first.
Amville stopped abruptly. It was her fiancé’s right to defend her against
Kilpatrick!” Banfield was bristling with indignation. “I am horrified at what I
have heard.” Alice opened her mouth, but the baronet’s ire was not to be
contained. “I demand to know if it is true.”
turned to astonishment. “Of course it is not. I don’t know how such a rumor can
too.” Banfield, who had been a priggish arse since Amville knew him at Harrow,
folded his arms and looked down his nose. “You must have done something to give
rise to such a report.”
they always say, there’s no smoke without fire.”
fists clenched and she appeared about to throw an unladylike punch and
terminate her engagement, a move Amville would have applauded. But of course
she did not. She would deny the charge, reason would prevail and her betrothal
and eventual marriage would progress as planned.
he had an idea. A wicked idea. He shouldn’t, but resisting temptation had never
been his strong suit. He took a deep breath and committed the most dishonorable
act of a life filled with iniquity.
dear Alice,” he drawled, stepping up beside her and placing her hand on his
arm. “Are you having trouble?”
stared at the use of her Christian name, her pink mouth forming a kissable
oval. He wouldn’t let her pull away. Her hand felt perfect there and he
intended to keep it.
James recovered his wits, or at least his voice. “Amville! You
are Miss Kilpatrick’s debaucher and the father of her child.”
James!” she squeaked, still trying to escape.
do you mean? I don’t believe for a minute that Alice is with child.” A small
huff of breath told him she appreciated his defense. She stopped struggling and
relaxed. Prematurely. He smiled nastily. “You see, Banfield, a wise man knows
how to take precaution against accidents.”
sputtered, Alice gasped. Amville had made it impossible for the rumor to be put
to rest. There wasn’t a soul in England who’d ever believe he hadn’t seduced
her. Now for the coup de grace
will, of course, be asking for Miss Kilpatrick’s hand in marriage.” He brushed
a kiss over her knuckles. “Better luck next time, Banfield.”
was ruined. Yet a bubble of joy, hardly bigger than a mustard seed, formed in
her heart. Did Amville mean his bizarre proposal? He wasn’t the marrying kind;
if he were, she’d never have contemplated wedding Sir James. It came to her in
a blaze of enlightenment that she’d turned down half a dozen perfectly eligible
suitors because of one miraculous waltz in her second season.
James stalked off in high dudgeon while other guests hovered, fascinated
spectators of the drama. Amville was ghostly pale without a hint of his
devil-may-care bravado and he held her so tightly her hand hurt.
was all he said, and dragged her through the staring crowd. Her heart beat a
tattoo as she tripped after him, brushing past friends, acquaintances and her
horrified mother, into a small sitting room. Amville slammed the door and
wedged a chair under the doorknob.
as though he’d run a mile, he put his hand on her shoulders, regarding her with
anxious eyes. Mesmerized, she stroked the shadowed jaw. His dawning,
devastating smile put her fears to rest. Her heart danced, her skin tingled,
and she wanted to laugh out loud with joy.
when he kissed her. This was no polite caress but the devouring possession
she’d waited for all her life. He kissed her until her brain turned to wool and
held her fast against him, body to hard body. Her belly didn’t merely glow; it
too soon he let her go. And, as expected that evening, a man got down on his knees
before her. “Please marry me, Alice.” He looked humble, uncertain, supplicating.
“By any standard I should make a wretched husband but you won’t find one who
loves you more. I swear by whatever shreds of honor I possess to spend the rest
of my life making you happy.”
have you never said anything?”
shrugged. “My reputation, your father. But tonight I seized my chance. I
believe even Mr. Kilpatrick will say you have no alternative. I’m sorry.”
swept the disorderly lock of hair from his forehead, with a delicious shiver
that she was now permitted to touch him. “I’m glad.”
long as you never go near the wife of any cabinet minister again.”
be on the safe side you’d better not leave me alone in the vicinity of Downing
Street.” Humility had vanished and Lord Amville was back, and she didn’t care
how wicked he was as long as he was only hers.
how shall we celebrate Christmas?” she asked
I have my way, we’ll spend the rest of the winter in bed, with the curtains
Labels: christmas, free reads
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
New Cover, New Copy
The cover for LADY WINDERMERE'S LOVER is now public and Avon Books have outdone themselves. I am so thrilled with it. Cynthia (or her back at least) is just as I imagined her. Plus the fabric and color is gorgeous. Readers of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED and THE RUIN OF A ROGUE, have met Cynthia. Lady Windermere. Her husband, however, is a mystery. That is about to change. The book won't be out until June 24th. I'll post an excerpt much clser to release day. Meanwhile, like my Facebook page
for book news and occasional sneak peeks.
Damian, Earl of Windermere, rues the day he drunkenly gambled away his family's estate and was forced into marriage to reclaim it. Now, after hiding out from his new bride for a year, Damian is finally called home, only to discover that his modest bride has become an alluring beauty—and rumor has it that she's taken a lover. Damian vows to keep his wife from straying again, but to do so he must seduce her—and protect his heart from falling for the wife he never knew he wanted.
Cynthia never aspired to be the subject of scandal. But with her husband off gallivanting across Persia, what was a lady to do? Flirting shamelessly with his former best friend seemed like the perfect revenge . . . except no matter how little Damian deserves her loyalty, Cynthia can't bring herself to be unfaithful. But now that the scoundrel has returned home, Cynthia isn't about to forgive his absence so easily—even if his presence stirs something in her she'd long thought dead and buried. He might win her heart . . . if he can earn her forgiveness!
Pre-order the book Amazon Barnes & Noble
Monday, September 30, 2013
A Photo from the Old Country
I'm in England, visiting family, fighting jet lag, and finishing a book. This afternoon, after a trip to Tesco (a large grocery chain) I stopped by Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, a narrow steep street built along the ramparts of the ruined Shaftesbury Abbey. This highly picturesque street has been much photographed - I've seen jigsaw puzzles of it in U.S. stores. It was featured in the 1967 film Far From the Madding Crowd.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Attention New Jerseyites!
Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 17, I'm doing an author event at Barnes & Noble in East Brunswick at 7:30. There will be book talk (of course), Q&A, book signing and refreshments. I may even read an entertaining (ahem) bit from THE RUIN OF A ROGUE! My fellow historical romance writer Sophie Barnes
will also be there and we'd love to see a big crowd of readers.
Barnes & Noble is at Brunswick Square Mall, 753 Rt. 18, East Brunswick. 732-432-0100.
Friday, September 6, 2013
Natalie Garbett is an English costume expert with a smashing blog
. Here she demonstrates the actual size of a Regency era shawl. Those ladies in white muslin needed something to keep them warm in the cold, damp climate.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Mark Your Calendars
Next Tuesday, September 4th, I'm participating in an all-day historical romance release party. Join me and my dear and wonderful fellow authors Shana Galen, Katharine Ashe, Kieran Kramer, Theresa Romain, and
Erin Knightley for blogs, giveaways and live chats. The whole schedule can be found here
. Kieran and I will be chatting from 11 to noon ET. If you have a moment, please stop by and say hi - or stay for the whole hour. Instructions for joining are on the event page.
On Monday I am blogging with The Dashing Duchesses and on Friday with The Romance Bandits. I'll be giving away books at both events, but even more important will be the fun. I can tell you that Jennifer McQuiston (Duchesses) and Anna Campbell (Bandits) know how to ask good questions!
Lastly, I'll be making a live appearance at the Barnes & Noble in East Brunswick, NJ on September 17th, along with lovely historical romance writer Sophie Barnes. If you happen to be in the area, please come and say hello!
I'll be posting details of each event closer to the time.