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.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Release Day Thrills and Spills
I always intend to spend book release day in a rational manner: fulfilling my daily word count, eating sensible food, and going to the gym. Guess what? Not happening.
I'm always far too excited, watching the book in its final shiny state going out to meet readers. It's the whole point, the reason for all those hard fought sentences and agonized revisions. The anticipation that someone will eventually read the story. Although not everyone will appreciate my words (bad reviews are always ouchy!), there's nothing like the thrill of hearing from a happy reader.
Today started stressfully. Amazon had, for some reason, decided to unilaterally delay the Kindle edition of The Ruin of a Rogue for a week. While not a disaster on the level of -say - World War III or the death of a hard drive without back up, it wasn't what I wanted to wake up to. So I treated myself to a large cappuccino with an extra shot and thought about the other great books coming out today. The last Tuesday of the month is a big release day and I am honored to be sharing it with such great writers and wonderful friends as Anna Campbell, Katharine Ashe, Mia Marlowe, Kieran Kramer, Sophie Barnes. Not to mention superstars like Mary Jo Putney and Mary Balogh. Reading choices to make me giddy, if deleterious to my word count.
The Amazon thing got sorted out. I bought a bunch of new books. I got a lovely phone call from the New Jersey Romance Writers telling me The Importance of Being Wicked is a finalist in their Golden Leaf Contest.
It's mid afternoon and I have time to write some words and go to the gym. Or I could eat chocolate. What do you recommend?
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Chance to Win THE RUIN OF A ROGUE
Less than a week now until Marcus Lithgow and Anne Brotherton make their bows. Actually, readers of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED have already met them. Anne is a sheltered heiress and very proper. Marcus is, well, very improper. I can't wait for you all to find out how this mismatched pair find Happy Ever After together.
Two copies of the book are up for grabs on Goodreads. Enter now at http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/62895-the-ruin-of-a-rogue
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
At The Duke's Wedding: News & Contest
AT THE DUKE'S WEDDING is now available from Amazon
, Barnes & Noble
, and Smashwords
. (We're waiting for Apple!) It's an ebook only but we'll have it available in print soon. Currently the price is only $2.99
but that's a special deal for our brilliantly intelligent early buyers. It will go up. OK, that's the dull stuff. Now on to the goodies: the four stories in the anthology.
~ I fell totally in love with Jack Willoughby, the hero of Maya Rodale
's THAT ROGUE JACK. His heroine Henrietta is just the lady to sort out a charming bad boy. And watch out for Hippolyta!
~ WHEN I MET MY DUCHESS is exactly what you would expect from Caroline Linden
: witty, sexy, oh-so-romantic, and gorgeously written. You'll laugh and cry as lightning strikes and the very proper Duke of Wessex discovers he's marrying the wrong woman.
~ And then there's HOW ANGELA GOT HER ROGUE BACK. Prepare to be surprised by Katharine Ashe
! Her hero Trent is a true mensch (not a Regency word, I know, but describes him perfectly) and hot too. As for Angela? Here's the surprise: she drops into 1813 England from 2013 Michigan. I adored it and I bet you will too.
~ What else? Oh yes, P.S. I LOVE YOU. That's the title of my story. Rosanne Lacy falls in love with Frank's beautiful letters. But did he write them himself, or was it the dark, mysterious Earl of Bruton?
I can't describe how much fun the four of us had writing this anthology. Each story can stand alone, but they are linked by time and location and we have several shared characters (Sophronia!) as well as our heroes and heroines popping into each other's books. If you would like to learn more about the making of AT THE DUKE'S WEDDING, enter our contest. Six lucky winners will take part in an online chat/party with the four of us and be promise to tell you lots of secrets!
Score a spot at the Bachelorette Party of the Season!
Be one of the 6 lucky readers to join The Lady Authors for an exclusive online chat about At The Duke's Wedding! Entering the contest is easy: just read the anthology and post a review on either Amazon
, Barnes & Noble
. Then send us an email
with the link to your review to be eligible to win a spot at our bachelorette party of the season! We'll chat, spill secrets and mail you a gift bag :)
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Read Chapter One of The Ruin of a Rogue
Curious about the first meeting between innocent heiress Anne Brotherton and the rascal Marcus Lithgow? Read it here.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
You Are Invited to a June Wedding
I have exciting news. Maya Rodale, Caroline Linden, Katharine Ashe, and I have teamed up on an anthology of novellas. All four stories are set AT THE DUKE'S WEDDING, a splendid house party at Kingstag Castle in 1813 England.
The anthology will be available on your e-reader on June 11th (a perfect day for a wedding!). You can sign up for a special email, letting you know when the book is ready and bringing news of contests and prizes. Here's the website
- AtTheDukesWedding.com. R.S.V.P. now and come back again in a week or so for new details about four romantic, sexy, funny tales.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Novella Now Only 99 Cents
The Second Seduction of a Lady has come down in price. This 26,000 word novella (about 100 pages) is now only 99¢ at most ebook retailers.
Eleanor Hardwick and Max Quinton shared one night of incredible passion…that was shattered the next day, when Eleanor learned of a bet placed by Max's friends. Now, five years later, Max still can't get Eleanor out of his head or his heart. He has a single chance to make a second impression—one that will last forever.
The novella is a prequel to THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED but can be read as a stand alone.
Only $0.99 at online stores including Nook Kindle iTunes Kobo