Someone who always makes me laugh at her wit, both in person and in print, is the wonderful Miranda Neville. I’m delighted today to host her for a return visit to the lair. She’s here to tell us about the fourth book in her wonderful Wild Quartet, THE DUKE OF DARK DESIRES.
Just a quick alert – I’m travelling today so will only be able to pop in intermittently (hoping I can get onto the internet). In the meantime, I’ll leave you in Miranda’s capable hands.
Here’s the blurb:
Wanted: Governess able to keep all hours . . .
Rebellious Julian Fortescue never expected to inherit a dukedom, nor to find himself guardian to three young half-sisters. Now in the market for a governess, he lays eyes on Jane Grey and knows immediately she is qualified–to become his mistress. Yet the alluring woman appears impervious to him. Somehow Julian must find a way to make her succumb to temptation . . . without losing his heart and revealing the haunting mistakes of his past.
Lady Jeanne de Falleron didn’t seek a position as a governess simply to fall into bed with the Duke of Denford. Under the alias of Jane Grey, she must learn which of the duke’s relatives is responsible for the death of her family–and take her revenge. She certainly can’t afford the distraction of her darkly irresistible employer, or the smoldering desire he ignites within her.
But as Jane discovers more clues about the villain she seeks, she’s faced with a possibility more disturbing than her growing feelings for Julian: What will she do if the man she loves is also the man she’s sworn to kill?
Ooh, doesn’t that sound intriguing? You can find out more about Miranda and her wonderful books at her website: www.mirandaneville.com
Miranda, a very warm welcome back to the Romance Bandits. It’s been a while between drinks. Lovely to have you back in the lair. Firstly, can you tell us about your new release from Avon, THE DUKE OF DARK DESIRES? Fabulous cover, by the way.
The Cover Gods, to whom writers make regular obeisance, have mostly been good to me; in this case they earned a slew of extra votive candles. My shriek of delight when I saw this baby could probably be heard in Australia.
What were the inspirations behind this story?
Julian, Duke of Denford, has appeared in the previous three books of The Wild Quartet series. I always had a plan for him and I’ve dropped vague hints about his traumatic past, but the details didn’t come into focus until I started his book, THE DUKE OF DARK DESIRES. All I knew is that he was haunted by the betrayal and execution of an aristocratic family during the French Revolution. His heroine would be a survivor of that family, out for revenge.
The back story of the French Revolutionary Terror is, of course, heavily influenced by Dickens’ A TALE OF TWO CITIES and the Scarlet Pimpernel stories. In researching the history I learned that there were many English in Paris when the Bastille fell in 1789 and they continued to visit for the next few years until it became too dangerous and France and Great Britain went to war. At that point Julian Fortescue was a mere mister and making his way in life as a dealer in paintings. Later he inherited the dukedom from a third cousin, as so often happens in historical romance! When the story starts he has also inherited the guardianship of three young half sisters. Enter our heroine Jeanne de Falleron, aka Jane Grey, the governess with murder on her mind. But she doesn’t know that the “Mr. Fortescue” she seeks is actually her employer the duke. She falls in love with him before she knows she wants to kill him. Awkward.
Jeanne/Jane’s family owned a fabulous collection of art that is now in Julian’s possession. When the collection is finally revealed I had a marvellous time ransacking the art galleries of the world to find paintings that were similar to the Falleron collection, including those illustrating this blog.
Love it when you talk art, my friend! What’s coming up next?
I’m working on a new historical series but I’m not ready to reveal any details. I have an “under-the-bed” book about an opera singer that’s a labor of love for me – you and I share a love of classical music, Anna. I hope to find time to revise and self-publish it this year. (I also planned to do it last year so don’t hold your breath, ladies.)
I notice you have a story “The Best Laid Planner” out in the recent anthology AT THE BILLIONAIRE’S WEDDING. I’d love to hear more about this! It seems to be a slight departure from your usual territory.
In 2013 Maya Rodale, Caroline Linden, Katharine Ashe and I published an anthology of connected stories called AT THE DUKE’S WEDDING. We wanted to collaborate again and it turned out we all had a hankering to tackle something contemporary. That’s the beauty of self-publishing—you can do anything you want. Maya had written a series of novellas about a Bad Boy Billionaire Duke Austen and his historical romance writing girlfriend Jane. She kindly lent us her characters and we set the stories around their wedding—in an English stately home, naturally. My heroine Arwen (yay, I got to pick a LORD OF THE RINGS name instead of being limited to Regency appropriate monikers) is the New York wedding planner who has to pull together an event in a foreign country at very short notice. In this she is helped and sometimes hindered by Harry Compton, who seems to know everything about Brampton House. Is he merely the handyman or does he own the place? Either way he’s hot as hell and a distraction Arwen doesn’t need.
Writing contemporary was enormous fun and very challenging. Never say it doesn’t require research! If you read the anthology you’ll know why I never want to hear the words “internet connection” again. With an American heroine and an English hero I had to watch the language with every line of dialogue or point of view switch. And while it was relaxing not to have to police myself for modernisms, I had the opposite problem with my characters tending to lapse into Regency speak.
That sounds like great fun. Seeing it’s so close to new year, what are your plans apart from your writing for 2015?
Funny you should ask that. My big plan for the year comes in October when I’m going to London with my writer friends Megan Mulry and Anne Calhoun to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet. A little bird told me that I might overlap with a certain Australian romance writer while I’m there!
I hear that Aussie romance writer is a real jet setter! Do you have a question to get the conversation rolling, Miranda?
Do you have travel plans for 2015? London? Paris? Timbuktoo? Dayton, Ohio? What’s getting you into your car or onto a plane this year?
Get commenting, people! Miranda has very generously offered someone who responds to her post today a copy of THE DUKE OF DARK DESIRES (international). Good luck!
..of goodwill to all men and of great reading for us gals!
Christmas seems to bring a million books out of the woodwork – all that kissing under the mistletoe obviously inspires romantic thoughts.
Today, I want to introduce you to three stories of mine with Christmas themes and mention two more Christmas anthologies well worth your time – and then, just as a ring-in, a new novella from Annie West that while it’s not a Christmas story, will definitely light up your Yuletide.
All are available digitally on multiple platforms. If you’ve got a Kindle, just click on the cover and it will take you to the page on Amazon. We like to make it easy for our Bandita Buddies!
First up is HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA which has been going like hotcakes, I’m pleased to say, including reaching the number 1 spot on a number of Amazon lists, including Regency romance. This is a story of a mishap on Christmas Eve that leads to an unlikely marriage of convenience – and of course true love!
My second recommendation is my 2012 Christmas novella, THE WINTER WIFE, which is a reunion story featuring a Scottish earl and his headstrong countess. You can read an excerpt and the blurb here: http://annacampbell.info/winterwife.html
The last of my Christmas stories is such a bargain, it’s FREE! Last year, I teamed up with Shana Galen, Vanessa Kelly and Kate Noble on an anthology called A GROSVENOR SQUARE CHRISTMAS. My story, “His Christmas Cinderella,” is, you guessed it, a Cinderella story about a girl from a humble background who dares to love a Scottish earl. Scottish earls seem to proliferate in my Christmas stories!
Now for the other books I want to bring to your attention. First up features the debut of multi prize-winning Bandita Buddy Louisa Cornell. Her novella “A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas” is included in the anthology CHRISTMAS REVELS, just out! I’ve got this on my Kindle and I’m saving it as part of my Christmas book wallow. It sounds delicious.
Next is another freebie that gives you so much Christmas reading, you’ll still be going next year! A whole stack of authors including Banditas Trish Milburn, Donna MacMeans, Nancy Northcott, Suzanne Ferrell and Tawny Weber got together to put together a free Christmas themed anthology called TINY TREATS. I don’t know about you but at this time of year, short really suits my reading requirements and this is like a big box of chocolates!
My final recommendation isn’t exactly a Christmas book but it’s just come out from the brilliant Annie West. Annie visited us yesterday to tell us about her latest release in the Hot Italian Nights Series, BOUGHT BY THE ITALIAN. I’ve read this little treasure and it’s a fantastic story – not to mention an absolute steal at only 99 cents.
You’ll notice that none of these books are exactly going to break the bank which is great news at this time of year where everything else seems to require major spending!
The other great thing about all of these is that they’re bite-size chunks of romance goodness. Another item people are short of at this time of year is time. We’re all so busy running around, it’s the ideal occasion for some stress-busting reading, but it’s finding space to indulge in it, isn’t it? Well, all of these will take you a couple of hours at most, mostly less. A sweet moment of bliss to reward you for all your Christmas hard work.
So go ahead, why not treat yourself to some great reading this Christmas?
This is my last blog for the year, so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2015. Thank you for your support!
Don’t miss the exclusive excerpt of Anna Campbell’s Christmas novella, HER CHRISTMAS EARL, in the Members Only section this month. Not a member? Just click on the Members Den button on the tool bar and you get access to exclusive material and prizes and a great newsletter every month!
HER HEART RACING, Philippa Sanders inched the massive oak door into the bedroom open. She prayed that nobody emerged into the lamplit corridor and caught her in a place where no lady of good reputation should be. Especially near midnight.
Quick and silent as a cat, she slipped into the shadowy room and carefully closed the door after her. In the stillness, the latch’s snick resounded like a gunshot. Her breath jammed in her throat, and she stood still and trembling, waiting for someone to investigate the noise. But the rambling old house remained quiet. She sucked in some desperately needed air and berated herself for being a jumpy widgeon.
The room, as she’d known it would be, was empty. Before coming here, she’d checked that Lord Erskine remained downstairs, carousing with his drunken cronies. If the last three nights were any indication, his flirtation with the brandy bottle would continue into the early hours. That left Philippa plenty of time to search his belongings undisturbed.
The thought did little to calm her nerves. Should anyone catch her alone in a gentleman’s bedchamber, worse, such a notorious gentleman, there would be the devil to pay.
If only the stakes weren’t so high. If only her sister Amelia wasn’t such a ninnyhammer. If only Erskine wasn’t a man who turned even sensible women silly.
Philippa sighed and straightened away from the door. “If only” wouldn’t help. It was imperative that she found and destroyed the compromising letter her henwitted sister had sent Erskine before her engagement to Mr. Gerald Fox had been announced last night.
Then Philippa would take to her heels and never think about the rakish Lord Erskine again.
By the light of the fire blazing in the hearth, she surveyed her surroundings with a jaundiced air. The chamber was large and luxurious. Her aunt must be trying to turn Lord Erskine up sweet, in the hope that he’d offer for her horse-faced daughter Caroline. Given the trouble his libertine lordship had caused, Philippa almost wished her vile cousin on him. Over the last few days, she’d observed him closely. She couldn’t approve of the cynical light in his eyes and the way he arrogantly assumed that any chit in his vicinity must swoon at his merest word.
However Philippa wouldn’t be female without admitting that he was a spectacular specimen of masculinity.
She’d worried that it might take too long to locate the letter, or that he might carry it as a trophy, but her gaze immediately fell on a beautiful mahogany writing slope left open on the window seat. She could hardly believe her luck. Pulses kicking with relief, she rushed toward the window.
Then stopped on a horrified gasp when she heard the doorknob squeak as it turned.
Lord save her…
Frantically she dived across the few feet of floor to the dressing room. She had time to notice dark coats hanging from rows of pegs and shelves neatly stacked with clothing. Hands shaking, she tugged the door closed until she cowered in thick darkness. Thick darkness redolent with leather and soap and sandalwood—and something undefined that teased her senses.
Dizzy with fear and that unfamiliar but pleasant scent, she silently prayed that whoever had come in would finish what they were doing and go. Much as she strained, she couldn’t hear a thing, even with her ear pressed to the door. The thick wood blocked all sound, just as it blocked all light.
The dressing room door jerked open, unbalancing her. She only just saved herself from tumbling to the floor in an undignified heap. As she stared up at the looming figure above her, panic hammered through her, turned her blood to ice.
“What have we here?” The Scottish burr in the deep drawl brushed across her nerves like sandpaper.
Sick with dread, Philippa lurched away, crowding against the coats lined against the back wall. This was beyond awful. What must he think? What might he do?
Lord Erskine’s chest was bare and a white shirt dangled from one elegant hand. The wall lamp near the doorway spilled gold over a terrifying expanse of gleaming skin. His lordship’s sardonic green gaze focused on her.
His calmness only built her fright. One would imagine that he was accustomed to discovering well-bred virgins huddled in his undergarments. Curse him, he probably was. Philippa had only met Blair Hume three days ago, but like most of the nation, she knew his reputation for subverting even the most virtuous ladies.
“My lord—” Desperately she struggled not to stare at his impressive chest with its scattering of dark hair.
“Miss Philippa Sanders.” With unconcealed irony, he bowed. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
To her horror, he stepped into the confined space. The dressing room had been tiny before. Now it was suffocating. Her heart pounded with fear. That cursed elusive scent made her head swim as she wedged herself into the wall, wishing she could disappear altogether.
Still his tall body remained scant inches away. Surely it was only in her imagination that a subtle heat radiated out to envelop her.
“I mistook the room,” she stammered.
She made the error of glancing at his chest. Broad. Powerful. Sculpted with muscle. She gulped for air. Watching the farm workers from a distance without their shirts wasn’t at all the same as facing down a half-dressed rake in his bedroom.
A wry smile curled the rake’s thin, expressive lips. “By a whole wing, apparently.”
She straightened and glared at him, struggling to ignore the way his thick black hair was ruffled and his eyes devoured her. A gentleman would pretend to believe her, however feeble her lie.
Clearly Lord Erskine was no gentleman.
“It’s late,” she said with hard-won steadiness, telling herself that if she kept her head, she might yet escape unscathed. By Lord Erskine or by scandal. “I must return to my room.”
He didn’t step aside to let her pass. Definitely no gentleman. “Not quite yet.”
Meeting his gaze required every ounce of faltering courage. “Not before you return my sister’s letter at any rate.”
Surprisingly he laughed. “Huzzah, Miss Sanders. I knew there was more to you than the little shadow glowering at me from the corner.”
She flushed with chagrin. She’d had no idea this darling of the ton had noticed her, let alone remarked her disapproval. “My lord, I insist that you give me Amelia’s letter immediately.”
“Or what?” Dark eyebrows tilted in supercilious inquiry. At least he’d stopped staring at her like he meant to gobble her up like a Christmas bonbon. “You’ll unfold all my shirts and stamp on them?”
Welcome anger bolstered her defiance. “A man of honor would return the letter.”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible.”
“Why?” Her fists clenched at her sides as the urge to clout him thundered through her. “What do you intend to do with it?”
His smile broadened, and in spite of irritation, frustration and fear, his male beauty made her throat tighten. No wonder Amelia had made such a fool of herself over him. Right now, even clever, pragmatic Philippa Sanders felt a little giddy to have all that glorious virility focused on her humble self.
“I intend to do precisely nothing, my sweet little Yuletide burglar.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What does that mean?”
His smile intensified. “It means that I burned it immediately after I read it.”
She drew her first full breath in what felt like days. Since Amelia’s tearful confession of her arrant stupidity, apprehension had knotted Philippa’s belly. If Erskine wanted to cause trouble, he could use her sister’s letter to spark an awful scandal—not to mention scupper Amelia’s newly minted engagement to a nice young man of substantial means.
Philippa paused, knowing she owed Lord Erskine her heartfelt thanks for his unexpected chivalry and, even more urgently, an apology for invading his room. But her response sounded grudging, even in her own ears. “That was…generous of you.”
The mocking smile didn’t fade. “I’m glad you think so.”
All night, anger had lurked beneath her fear. Firstly at Amelia for being such a rattlebrain and creating this mess, then at herself for getting caught. Most futile of all was her anger at Lord Erskine for coming in at such an inopportune moment. Although at least now she knew what had happened to the letter. “I must go.”
“No rush, my fascinating Miss Sanders.” He shifted closer and the light behind him lent his face a suddenly sinister expression.
“I’m not your Miss Sanders,” she snapped with a resurgence of dread. A chill trickled down her spine. Awareness of her own danger swamped any gratitude for Amelia’s reprieve.
“Not yet, at any rate,” he said mildly, pulling the door shut behind him.
Darkness wrapped around them. Rage and terror spurred Philippa to surge forward, shoving hard at Lord Erskine. Her hands met smooth, warm skin and an immovable male body. The silky hair on his chest created soft friction against her palms. “Let me out of here.”
“Devil take you, do you never say please?” He shifted to break the contact, but not nearly quickly enough for her peace of mind.
As he leaned away, she pushed past him to tug madly at the doorknob, but even using both hands, she couldn’t budge it. As she struggled, her shoulder brushed Erskine’s arm. To her surprise, he made no attempt to hinder her departure. If he intended seduction, he was insultingly half-hearted.
Hardly surprising. She wasn’t nearly beautiful enough to appeal to that famous connoisseur of female loveliness, Blair Hume.
She told herself she didn’t mind. And didn’t believe it for a minute.
“Stop this nonsense immediately and open this door,” she demanded breathlessly.
“Have I persuaded you against breaking into anyone else’s room?” he asked without shifting. “Especially if the anyone else is a man.”
Shock made her hand drop away from the doorknob. “You’re trying to teach me a lesson?” she hissed incredulously.
That familiar soft laugh played up and down her backbone like music, and she realized with an unwelcome frisson that the evocative scent filling the room was Lord Erskine’s own. The intimacy of recognizing his personal essence scared her more than being trapped with a rake.
“I am indeed.” In the tight space, she was close enough to hear him draw breath. More encroaching intimacy. “Step aside and I’ll set you free, chastened but unharmed. And hopefully a little wiser.”
Her snort was derisive. If her mother had heard the unmannerly response, she’d have a fit. But then so much of what Philippa did gave her mother the vapors. “Who on earth do you think you are? What a cheek.”
“Miss Sanders, I feel some humility is called for.” He still sounded as though he found her endlessly diverting. “If you’re as clever as you think you are, you wouldn’t be stuck here with a rake while your sister sleeps comfortably in her own bed, safely beyond scandal’s reach.”
The comment’s justice rankled. “You’re a very annoying man,” she muttered, wishing to heaven she’d left Amelia to solve her own problems.
“Undoubtedly,” he said without inflection. “But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong about you needing to temper valor with discretion.”
She bit back a blistering response about profligate libertines following their own advice and waited impatiently for him to let her out. She very much feared that if she spent much longer with the irritating Earl of Erskine, she’d strangle him with one of his neck cloths.
For what seemed a ridiculous length of time, Erskine rattled the doorknob.
“Stop playing games,” she said sharply, tired of his antics. He might find his teasing funny. She just wanted to leave this room and say goodnight and never see him again. “Unlock the door and let me out.”
He stopped tugging on the doorknob. A fraught silence fell. For the first time when he spoke, no trace of humor warmed his deep voice. “It’s stuck.”
HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA by Anna Campbell has hit the number 1 Regency romance spot on Amazon in both the U.S. and the U.K. Still only 99 cents for a bit of romantic historical reading to match the season!
I know it’s far too early to be talking Christmas – even when it’s only Christmas books. Please don’t take this post as a signal to run off and give your list to Santa! It’s still a bit over six weeks until the fat, jolly bloke with the facial hair squeezes down your chimney!
So having got that off my chest, let me tell you about my latest release, HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA!
While it mightn’t be the time yet to wrap the gifts for under the tree, it’s definitely the time of year when it’s nice to have something romantic and short to read while the world goes crazy around us. I think novellas are really great when there’s Holidays everywhere and all the other end of the year madness. You get your romance fix and still have time and attention to deal with any crises that pop up!
Writing a novella at this time of year is almost a public service!
So given how chaotic things get in the lair in the lead up to the festive season, I thought we’d have a practice run so the cabana boys have everything down to a T when the real time comes.
But before I introduce your Yuletide entertainment, let me introduce HER CHRISTMAS EARL. Firstly, here’s the blurb:
No good deed goes unpunished…
To save her hen-witted sister from scandal, Philippa Sanders ventures into a rake’s bedroom – and into his power. Now her reputation hangs by a thread and only a hurried marriage can rescue her. Is the Earl of Erskine the heartless libertine the world believes? Or will Philippa discover unexpected honor in a man notorious for his wild ways?
Blair Hume, the dissolute Earl of Erskine, has had his eye on the intriguing Miss Sanders since he arrived at this deadly dull house party. Now a reckless act delivers this beguiling woman into his hands as a delightful Christmas gift. Does fate offer him a fleeting Yuletide diversion? Or will this Christmas Eve encounter spark a passion to last a lifetime?You can read an excerpt on my website here: http://annacampbell.info/xmasearl.html
And all of that Christmassy Earlish goodness for the measly price of 99 cents!
Goodness, I think you should go and buy 10! Well, I would think that, wouldn’t I?
If you click on that pretty red cover at the top of this piece, it will take you right to Amazon (we like to make things easy for you!).
The story starts on Christmas Eve during a country house party in Wiltshire – a good excuse for me to share a couple of favorite photos from beautiful Haddon Hall which is in Derbyshire but was very much on my mind when I wrote this.
So I asked the cabana boys to turn the lair into a stately home in Regency England at Christmas. But I fear they didn’t get quite the right idea!
Plastic Christmas trees in lovely Hartley Manor in 1823? Sacre bleu as the French chef there is fond of saying!
And what about the plastic reindeers that light up? It’s enough to send Wellington back to Waterloo in disgust! And Napoleon off for a nap!
So if you were arranging a lovely Christmas party in snowy Wiltshire for an Earl and his new bride, what would you do to make the house atmospheric and lovely? Mince pies? Carol singers? Roaring log fires? Lots of mistletoe for the earl and his bride to kiss under – not that they need much encouragement!
I have three downloads of HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA up for grabs today to people who comment so get talking Christmas decorations! Good luck!
Hi Bandits and Bandita Buddies! Today I thought I’d talk about one of my fave historical heroes. He might be over 200 years old, but we all still sigh over Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s immortal Pride and Prejudice.
Last year, I was fascinated (and amused) when a 12-foot statue of Darcy, including nipples under his wet shirt, in his Colin Firth incarnation was placed in the Serpentine in Hyde Park, bang in the middle of London:
Not bad publicity for an old guy. They don’t even do that for the latest pop star! You wonder how many current romantic heroes will pack the same punch in 2215.
As someone who writes romance (and hopefully compelling heroes) for a living, I find the world’s crush on Darcy fascinating. I wonder what he’s got that places him so high in the feminine pantheon of wonderful blokes.
I think part of it is the eternal attraction of the cool boy. Darcy’s richer than anyone else in the story, except maybe the fearsome Lady Catherine de Bourgh. And it would be a brave person who had a crush on her!
Darcy’s handsome. He has a sophisticated sense of humour. He’s impressively clever. Among the many things I love about his exchanges with Elizabeth is that those two are clearly the smartest people in the room. Even while they’re fighting fate, it’s obvious that they’re made for each other.
Another part of his attraction is that he’s so articulate. There’s something about that historical language when it’s used to persuade and seduce that turns me to mush. How about his first, disastrous proposal to Lizzie that starts out with, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”? Wow!
Another heroic aspect of Darcy is that he’s willing to put himself on the line for the sake of the woman he loves. And without any expectation of reward. When he rescues Lydia from the disaster she’s got herself into with the vile Wickham, you know how it chafes at his pride to deal with his enemy. Yet, for Elizabeth’s sake, he does. Not only that, he succeeds – there’s a lot to be said for a competent hero!
We also admire that he sees beyond rank and fortune to Lizzie’s true value. We all love a Cinderella story, and Prince Charming in this particular one comes with the magnificent Pemberley as his palace.
Darcy’s generous enough to see the error of his ways by the end. We adore a self-aware hero who admits to the heroine where he went wrong. And there’s the delicious enjoyment of watching the journey as he struggles with painful change before he reaches his happy ending.
So all round when people start talking literary heroes, I do a time slip and go back to the Regency when men wore coats, neck cloths, breeches and boots, and spoke in perfect sentences. Long Live Mr. Darcy! 201 and still going strong!
So what about you? Are you a Darcy girl? Who’s your favourite book hero, historical or contemporary? Do you think the old guys have something going for them that the current crop of whippersnappers don’t? Do you think any of today’s heroes have what it takes to last 200 years as worthy subjects of a literary crush?
I love it when a package–or a person–looks like one thing on the outside, but turns out to be something entirely different on the inside.
Tracey Devlyn is a smart, beautiful blonde with a sweet face. I was intrigued when I saw her at an author event last month and she said, “You won’t find a lot of ballrooms in my Regency novels.”
A LADY’S REVENGE, book one in her Nexus series of historical romantic thrillers, starts out with British heroine Cora in a really bad situation. In a dungeon. In France.
I was holding my breath.
Never fear though. Because Cora is a tough chick. A risk taker. Tracey is too. Her new Bones and Gemstones series takes readers for a walk on the dark side of Regency. For me, that makes Tracey one of the cool girls.
A fun surprise is that Tracey has been a long-time lurker here in the Lair. But today she’s in the spotlight.
Sven is behind the bar and all the guys are serving drinks and snacks, so pull up a chair, put in your order, and help me give a famous Bandit welcome to Tracey Devlyn.
Cassondra: Tracey, before we get started, tell me what Sven can bring you from the bar. He can make anything.
Tracey: To calm my nerves, I’d love a Fuzzy Navel—light on the Fuzzy, Sven–I don’t want my face to go numb during my debut on the Bandits. First impressions and all that, you know.
Cassondra: Are you kidding me? *glances around the room until she gets a thumbs-up from one of the gladiators* Seriously, we’re the ones who have to worry. We have to keep the rooster from causing some kind of embarrassing mayhem for the duration of your visit.
Cassondra: I like hearing about the early reading that influenced an author. Will you tell us about your earliest memory of books.
Tracey: As a kid, I loved looking through the Scholastic catalog at all the cool books. I could never afford to place an order, but I loved to mark the ones I wanted.
Cassondra: *bounces in chair* Me too, me too!
Tracey: I never enjoyed the books we were forced to read in school, so I rarely visited the fiction section when at the library. Pictures—l loved flipping through big books with pictures of animals and castles and such.
Cassondra: When did you first discover romance?
Tracey: It wasn’t until my mid-20s, when I took a mental health day from work, that I found romance. Talk show host Jenny Jones brought several romance authors on her show. A few days later I was reading my first romance—and I’ve never stopped.
Cassondra: What was that book?
Tracey: THE RAVEN AND THE ROSE by Virginia Henley. Back then, I knew nothing of happy-ever-afters and I expended a whole lot of energy blubbering my way through TRTR.
Cassondra: Tell us about your two series and your unusual approach to the era.
Tracey: Although I LOVE reading about dukes and ballrooms and Almack’s, I don’t think I’m wired right to tell Regency-set stories with the glitz and glamour of the ton as a backdrop. My Nexus series includes a group of aristocratic spies, though readers will find only one ballroom scene in the entire 4-book series. My new Bones and Gemstones series is rooted firmly in London’s underworld where nary a duke can be found.
Cassondra: In NIGHT STORM, Bones and Gemstones book one, your hero, Cam, is a thief taker, and your heroine, Charlotte (Charley for short) is an apothecary surgeon. What draws you to these characters and professions that are more unusual–more “underworld?”
Tracey: Without scaring readers, the best way I can answer your question is to say…I’m most comfortable in the darkness. *Tracey raises eyebrow and smiles*
Cassondra: Ah, soul sister! My coffin-sleeping ways are vindicated! Ahem…
The research for historicals has always seemed daunting to me. Charley relies on Chelsea Physic Garden–a London spot dedicated to medicinal plants–yet she could lose access to that place because she’s a woman working in a man’s field.
Tracey: I had a wonderful time researching the Chelsea Physic Garden. Sir Hans Sloane had tremendous vision for his time. If not for him, the garden and the British Museum wouldn’t be what they are today.
Cassondra: It’s my favorite London garden. I love that you included it. But women weren’t allowed to be members back then, right?
Tracey: *nods* Charley’s vocation will either endear her to readers or they’ll throw her against a wall in disgust.
Cassondra: *frowns* Why?
Tracey: There is no record of female apothecaries or apothecary-surgeons in the early 1800s. But as I mentioned in my Author’s Note of NIGHT STORM, I believe much of our true history never reaches the written page. Women tend to be caretakers by nature. To say with absolute conviction that no female apothecaries existed in the Regency stretches my belief system because history is full of women and men who stepped out of society’s confining box to make a difference. Fist pump to those trailblazers!
Cassondra: *lifts glass of wine in tribute* Yes. And women’s roles in particular were so often left out of history. What exactly was an apothecary in the early 1800s?
Tracey: I’ll do quick “equal to” list …
PHYSICIANS = Considered “gentlemen”; diagnosed internal problems; they did not get their hands dirty; might have a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, but from what I’ve read there wasn’t a set curriculum. They would take whatever classes interested them.
BARBERS = Generally apprenticed; minor surgery—pulling teeth, bloodletting, treating wounds and skin diseases.
SURGEONS = Generally apprenticed; major surgery—amputations, removing bullets.
APOTHECARY-SURGEONS = Generally apprenticed; an apothecary who will also perform surgeries.
APOTHECARIES = Generally apprenticed; filled prescriptions for physicians and sold herbs, tonics, etc. to patrons; treated minor ailments.
Cassondra: Okay tell us about Cam. What’s a thief taker?
Tracey: Thief takers were similar to bounty hunters and were generally hired to capture criminals. They were usually hired by the crime victim though. Most of their crime-solving revolved around stolen goods, rather than murders. In contrast, Bow Street Runners would have been the police force for the Regency period and paid by the magistrate via governmental funds
Cassondra: Would you share a brief excerpt from NIGHT STORM?
In the distance, Charlotte Fielding spotted the simple, white-lettered sign that marked her destination. Apothecary. The tension she’d been carrying in her shoulders since entering the Whitley residence loosened its biting grip. The strain between husband and wife had not lifted in her two-day absence. If anything, it had grown worse, now that Mr. Whitley felt well enough to defend himself.
Charlotte’s brisk pace slowed. A man was slumped on the pavement between her shop and the boarded-up bakery next door. He sat with one leg stretched out across the walkway, the other bent at an angle. The rim of his hat protected his face from identification. So, too, did the long black woolen coat and matching muffler around his neck.
The tension in Charlotte’s shoulders returned full force. Even though she could not identify him, she knew what he wasn’t—a beggar. Everything about him was too fine for him to be living in the streets. She glanced around, checking the evening shadows as best she could with only lamplight to aid her. Anderson’s lending library, Patterson’s coffee shop, Gertrude’s lace boutique, Tilly’s former bakery—they all stood silent and free of loitering troublemakers and customers. If she cried out for help, would the shopkeepers hear her from their snug, upstairs apartments?
She considered entering through the back of her building, an area normally reserved for deliveries, but she couldn’t bring herself to venture down the dank, narrow alleyway at this time of night. Drawing in a calming breath, she reached into her reticule and pulled out her pouch of pepper. A poor defense, she knew, but she always kept it, thinking it would give her a small chance of escape if thrown in an assailant’s face.
Increasing her pace, she stopped in front of her shop’s weathered door, the color of a cloud-streaked blue sky. The man remained motionless, silent. Eerily so. She experienced a moment of indecision. Should she nudge him? Could he be hurt and in need of assistance? Or should she continue on inside her own shop and mind her own business?
“Hello, Charley.” The voice was unmistakable.
A chill started at the base of her neck and swept through her body. Bone deep and breath stealing. With slow, precise movements, her gaze lowered to the source of the too-familiar voice. A voice that belonged to the only man who had ever called her Charley.
The man’s uplifted face revealed itself. Thick, bold eyebrows stood out on a pale, pain-filled face. A once-beloved face. Cameron Adair. What little air she had left disappeared at the sight of Cam—Cameron. Other than a brief glimpse of him a few months ago, she hadn’t seen him for years. But she would have known him anywhere. The shock of seeing him held her immobile, terrified in a way she hadn’t been since the early days of their falling out.
“Charley, I need your help.”
His words, laced with a strain born of hard-fought control, snapped her out of the past and plunged her back into the present. Cameron Adair was sprawled at her door, hurt, needing her help.
She slid her key into the lock. Metal scratched against metal until she heard a familiar click. Setting her bag inside the door, she returned outside. “Are you able to get to your feet?” She managed to keep her voice calm, unaffected. But inside, a violent tremor began and a maelstrom of questions flooded her mind. Why come to her? Where was he hurt? Why show up on her doorstep after complete and utter silence for five miserable years?
Carefully, she folded her hands at her waist and locked her knees before she could humiliate herself with senseless emotion. She had decided long ago to waste no more of it on Cameron Adair.
Something like disappointment flared in his blue, ice-chipped eyes. “Yes, with assistance.”
“Where are you hurt?”
“Left leg, right shoulder.”
“Let’s get you inside out of the cold, and I’ll hail a hansom cab to take you to Dr. Hollingsworth.”
He shook his head and mumbled, “I’ve been shot. Lost too much blood.”
“Cameron, I can’t—”
“You must,” he interrupted. “I haven’t the strength to go elsewhere.”
She knew what it had cost him to admit to such weakness. And because she knew this about him, an unrivaled fear forced her to his side.
Positioning herself in a crouch, Charlotte took a steadying breath before sliding her arm around his broad back. Blood, sweat, and a masculine scent uniquely Cameron’s filled her nose. She gritted her teeth against an overwhelming desire to inhale deeply.
“Ready?” she asked.
He nodded once, his full lips pressed into a thin, determined line. Bending forward, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder to brace himself. The new position put them face-to-face, breath-to-breath.
Cassondra: What’s next for this series? I know Cam and Charley will be featured in future Bones & Gemstones books, but NIGHT STORM is full of fascinating secondary characters. Will they get their own love stories?
Tracey: Cam and Charley’s adventures continue in NIGHT RAIN (2015). In Book 2, I’ll include a secondary love story, featuring a character from NIGHT STORM.
Cassondra: I want to take just a moment to mention two projects you’re involved in at the moment. Both you and Dianna Love—my guest later this month– have donated stories to benefit a fellow author. Tell us about that?
Tracey: LAST HERO STANDING Boxed Set – 11 authors (5 NYT and 4 USA Today bestsellers and 2 Award-winning) are donating every cent earned to fellow author PAMELA CLARE for the medical expenses she’s incurred during her breast cancer treatments.
Cassondra: Right now it’s only 99 cents. As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, the timing is perfect. The set comes out in November, but you can preorder now. It’s a great gift, and it’ll help an author win her own fight.
But Tracey, you’re in another bundle this fall, right?
Tracey: Yes. HEATING IT UP, One Hero at a Time Boxed Set – 7 bestselling and award-winning authors bring readers historical romantic adventures set in Medieval Scotland, Regency England, Civil War America, the Wild West, and Gilded Age America. Heating it up with seductive Highlanders, scoundrels, spies, smugglers, mountain men, and more!
Cassondra: Tracey has a question for you, and she’s giving away a book to one commenter!
Tracey: You can choose a print copy of one of my Nexus series novels, or an e-book of the new Bones and Gemstones release, NIGHT STORM. To be included in the drawing, answer this question…
Have you ever thrown a book against the wall after finding an historical inaccuracy? Or a location inaccuracy? Or a weapon inaccuracy?
Cassondra: In honor of October, since this month is dedicated to saving the Ta-Tas, I’ll add to that by gifting a Kindle or Nook e-book set of the LAST HERO STANDING box set to a second commenter. (Kindle or Nook account required)
Tracey will be here to chat today and answer your questions, so get commenting y’all!