The Scandalous Ms. Essex!
Posted by Christina Brooke Aug 11 2012, 2:07 am
Today I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth Essex to the lair! Elizabeth recently finaled in the RITA award’s historical romance category and her lush, sexy historicals have garnered rave reviews. Hi Elizabeth! We’re so happy to have you with us.
Thank you so much for having me back at the lair, Christina! ALMOST A SCANDAL is the first book in my new Reckless Brides trilogy for St. Martin’s, but it is definitely a follow-up to my RITA nominated book THE DANGER OF DESIRE, and features characters readers have come to love, as well as some entirely new characters.
“Essex will have readers longing to set sail alongside her daring heroine and dashing hero. This wild ride of a high seas adventure/desire-in-disguise romance has it all: nonstop action, witty repartee and deft plotting. From the bow to the mast, from battles to ballrooms, Essex delivers another reckless bride and another read to remember.”–Romantic Times
Here’s the blurb:
SHE’S ALWAYS READY FOR ADVENTURE. HE’S ALMOST READY FOR LOVE…
A LADY IN DISGUISE
For generations, the Kents have served proudly with the British Royal Navy. So when her younger brother refuses to report for duty, Sally Kent slips into uniform and takes his place—at least until he comes to his senses. Boldly climbing aboard H.M.S. Audacious, Sally is as able-bodied as any sailor there. But one man is making her feel tantalizingly aware of the full-bodied woman beneath her navy blues…
A MAN OVERBOARD
Dedicated to his ship, sworn to his duty—and distractingly gorgeous—Lieutenant David Colyear sees through Sally’s charade, and he’s furious. But he must admit she’s the best midshipman on board—and a woman who tempts him like no other. With his own secrets to hide and his career at stake, Col agrees to keep her on. But can the passion they hide survive the perils of battle at sea? Soon, their love and devotion will be put to the test…
I’m thrilled to come back to the lair to talk about my latest release, which is a story very close to my heart. I had the idea for this story in my head for a very long time before I wrote it. I had always wanted to write a girl-in-breeches story, and I knew I wanted to put her on a Royal Navy ship and see what sort of mayhem might happen.
I wanted my Sally Kent to be an unconventional heroine in the sense that I didn’t want her to be a ‘duck out of water.’ Once I put Sally Kent aboard HMS Audacious, I wanted her to truly come into her own, and become the person she thought she was meant to be. I wanted her to be as competent as the men around her—if not more so—so that she could come to the hero of the story from a place a greater equality, a sort of professional parity. But ALMOST A SCANDAL is also a love story about how two people who are very much alike have to work to balance each other out, both in their professional lives, and in their private, personal, romantic life as well.
While I was working on the book, the indispensable Mr. Essex kept insisting that I call it “Love Amidst the Cannonballs.” I’m almost a little sorry that he didn’t get his way.
Here’s a excerpt from the middle of the book, when Sally, and especially Col, is coming to the end of his tether of self-restraint:
“Well, Mr. Colyear.”
She looked wary and careful, keeping the breadth of the table between them, yet all her chariness couldn’t obliterate the lovely, warm flush of her skin. The days in the sun and wind and weather had put roses into her cheeks beneath the freckles, despite the purpling of the bruise high on her cheekbone.
“Are you going to tell me how you got that?” He gestured to her bruise. If it had been Gamage he was going to seize the bastard up on a grating and thrash the life out of him with his own hands, and bedamned to the consequences.
She tipped her head to the side and brewed up a small bit of the mischievous Kent smile. “Juggling. Wine bottles. Most ill-advised.”
He had expected so different an answer that the truth left him bemused. And intrigued. “I didn’t know you juggled.”
“Judging from the tenderness of my face, I don’t.”
He chuckled, and she smiled back. But only for a moment, before she looked over at the only two cabin doors that remained open, and faltered, the laughter in her gray eyes fading back into solemnness.
She retreated behind the safety of formality.
“Are you not going to retire, sir? You’ve been on deck today longer than anyone, even the captain. You look tired.”
He was tired. But the walls that separated the cuddies were nothing but canvas spread over battens. If the fellow next door had a lantern, so he might see to wash, or keep a journal, or read, it shone through the light-colored cloth and cast a shadow of their movements. To see her shadow, to know that nothing but canvas would separate them, to imagine that if he listened very closely, he might hear the cadence of her breathing in sleep, would be nothing less than torture.
He already had an unreasonable fascination for her—there was no need to feed it. He would sleep in the bloody chair if need be.
“I was about to say the same of you, Kent.” His voice sounded hoarse to his own ears. Making oneself heard over the guns did that to a man, not the strain of talking to intriguing young women disguised as acting lieutenants. “You look like you’ve been holystoned.”
Her hand rose to touch her cheekbone. “Do I look very bad?”
Her question was devoid of vanity. It held only self-deprecation and astonishment, as if she hadn’t thought about it before. “No. You look fine. Like a sailor. Though perhaps more like a prize fighter, fresh from a good milling.”
“That’s the stuff.” The laughing mischief danced back into her eyes. “Perhaps I should keep up the juggling so I’ll continue to look the part. It will make a nice change from not bathing.”
Damn his eyes. Damn him. Because even if he closed his eyes to the sight of her, he could still vividly imagine the dark shape of her body silhouetted against the backlit canvas wall of his cabin, an erotic shadow, like a mural of an odalisque brought to life. A flesh-and-blood woman, instead of the grime-coated boy she was trying so hard to be.
His mouth ran so dry, all the brandy on board wouldn’t be enough to wet it. He opened his eyes and tried to speak normally. “Kent, I should warn you, the screen walls are thin, and light comes through. So when you….”—he had to swallow around the word—“wash yourself, you’ll want to take care with your lamps. Do you understand?”
“Oh.” Her brow pleated up in puzzlement. “Does that mean I oughtn’t? Pinky left a ewer of warm water, and I was hoping to finally-”
“No.” Damn him for a dog. Clearly her brain didn’t function like his. “You just need to be careful. Unless you want Mr. Horner to discover”—he glanced around the empty cabin, but still lowered his voice—“certain things, and to be eaten up with lust and longing, and as hard as a belaying pin, then you had best either make sure he is not in his cabin, or extinguish the lantern before you wash yourself.”
“Oh.” She drew back sharply, belated understanding steeling her spine. “I understand. But does that mean y-” She stopped, and said no more, but she couldn’t stop her eyes from shying down his frame, or keep her face from flaming with a heat that swept downward over her neck like a trail of fire.
But he knew exactly what she had not asked. The hectic heat in his own face was burning away all traces of his pride. Why should he not tell her? She needed to know. To understand. If not for her own sanity, then for his. “Yes, Kent,” he informed her quietly. “That is exactly what I mean.”
Her answer was the barest shred of a whisper. “Eaten up with lust and longing?”
Within her voice, he found a cobweb of hope. “Yes.” He kept his eyes on hers, steady and even as his voice. “Consumed.”
When she finally spoke, her voice was as small and tight as if she had forgotten to keep breathing. “I’m sorry.”
What do you think? For my part, Col and Sally were a whole lot of fun to write, and I hope you have as much fun watching them try not to fall in love as I did.
The second story in the Reckless Brides trilogy, A BREATH OF SCANDAL comes out at Christmas 2012, and is the story of another rash, unconventional heroine, Miss Antigone Preston, and the reckless things to which she resorts in order to end an unwanted engagement to the wrong man.
Question for the Banditas:
I’ve always been rather partial to girls-dressed-as-boys story lines. Who is your favorite ‘unconventional’ heroine in romance? I’ll start off by saying it all began for me with Alaina MacGaren in Kathleen Woodwiss’s ASHES IN THE WIND.
Posted in A Breath of Scandal, Almost a Scandal, Christina Brooke guests, Elizabeth Essex, historical romance