Heather Hiestand: The Kidnapped Bride

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Heather will be awarding a $20 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (winner’s choice) to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning. Blog comments count as entries to win Susana’s September Giveaway, a lovely necklace from London’s National Gallery (see photo at right).

About The Kidnapped Bride

Pursuing this elusive heiress will be the ultimate temptation…

Lady Elizabeth Shield is used to saving herself from trouble. And even if dashing private inquiry agent Dougal Alexander just rescued her from white slavers, she’s definitely not returning to her stifling aristocratic life and unsuitable suitors. Not when there are other women in danger—and a secret promise to keep in Edinburgh. But outwitting Dougal’s tactics to return her to London and her family will be easier than staying away from his intoxicating kisses…

He’s a baron’s second son accustomed to making his own way and uncovering the truth. Now Dougal must keep Lady Elizabeth close for her own protection, but her spirited wiles are proving scandalously irresistible. His most difficult case yet will be showing her that he’s everything she truly desires—and that love is the greatest of adventures…

“Before I realized it, the unusually strong and well-developed characters of The Kidnapped Bride had sneaked up on me and captured my full attention. This is one of the best shorter books I have ever read.” –Delle Jacobs, author of Lady Wicked

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Excerpt

“Ye are going to do as you are told,” Dougal said. “You have lived one misadventure after another since running away, and that is at an end. I’m taking you back tae your brothers so they can decide what to do with you.”

Cover_The Kidnapped Bride copy“My life is none of your business.”

He took her upper arm. “I’ve been paid very well to make it my business, Lady Elizabeth. And home is where you’re going.”

She attempted to wrench her arm away, but his grip was too strong. “Let go of me, you beast.”

He gripped her tighter in response. “My lady hoyden, you will obey. There is no other alternative.”

She swayed in closer to him, unable to resist his grip, then fixed her gaze on him. Something in his eyes softened. Just as he must have thought she’d given into him, she stomped on his foot, hard.

“Ow,” she cried, as the pain from stomping on hard leather reverberated up her unprotected foot.

He glanced down. “It’s no use attempting tae hurt a man wearing shoes when you haven’t any yourself.”

She was still too much of a lady to swear, but she opened her mouth to give him the tongue-lashing he deserved.

Instead of letting her speak, he grinned at her, then kissed her full on the mouth.

About the Author

Heather Hiestand photo copyHeather Hiestand was born in Illinois, but her family migrated west before she started school. Since then she has claimed Washington State as home, except for a few years in California. She wrote her first story at age seven and went on to major in creative writing at the University of Washington. Her first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then it has been all about the many flavors of romance. Heather’s first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period, and she continues to return, fascinated by the rapid changes of the nineteenth century. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she has achieved best-seller status at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. With her husband and son, she makes her home in a small town and supposedly works out of her tiny office, though she mostly writes in her easy chair in the living room.

For more information, visit Heather’s website. Heather loves to hear from readers! Her email is heather@heatherhiestand.com.

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Wareeze Woodson: An Enduring Love

Blog commenters qualify to enter to win Susana’s September Giveaway, a lovely necklace from London’s National Gallery (see photo at right). Don’t forget to include your email address!

Interview with Wareeze Woodson

Susana: Tell us about your writing journey and what it took to get published.

Wareeze: I’ve been an avid reader for years and have always rearranged the ending of the story to suit myself, especially if it didn’t end in the proper manner. Only happy ever-after endings are allowed, and even those do not always end as I would like.

Years ago, I forgot how many, I attended a seminar on writing. We were encouraged to submit a few pages for the agents to review. When my turn arrived to talk to an agent, he told me I was too fat and unattractive to continue writing. He suggested I give up. In his opinion, it was a waste of my time as I’d never make it.

That was certainly discouraging, but after attending writing classes and growing much older, I joined the group Romance Writers of America. One would say, I am a glutton for punishment and stubborn to boot. I joined a critique group in my local chapter of RWA and polished my craft. I met a publisher at The Lone Star convention who decided to take a chance on me. Now I’m a published author. A long and sometimes very hard journey, but I made it.

6376129 copySusana: What inspired you to write An Enduring Love?

Wareeze: A neighbor lost her husband during the war, but he returned. Instead of going their separate ways, they worked to build a life together again. I admire that effort.

Susana: What’s the most interesting fact/tidbit you learned while researching your book?

Wareeze: Most of us realize how few rights women had in the 1800s, but tons of readers still expect the heroine to act as women do today. Fat chance! A husband had total rights of ownership of the children, crudely put, but true. He could forbid his wife the privilege of even seeing her children if he decided to do so. When a woman married, even a wealthy woman, every dime became her husband’s. He could spend it on anything he so desired, even gamble it away and deny her a new gown at his whim. A family could arrange a trust fund for her children, but her wealth passed from her father’s or brother’s hands to her husband.

Susana: What do you like most about your hero?

Wareeze: I admire a man who does the honorable thing regardless of the cost to himself. Rhys thought his wife was dead, and he moved on. He struggled to find his love for her again, a man of strength and conviction.

Susana: What do you like most about your heroine?

Wareeze: I admire her ability to live through the pain of rejection with pride and dignity. She made the very best of a bad situation.

Susana: What are you working on next?

Wareeze: A Lady’s Vanishing Choices is my work in progress, my 4th period romance set in the Regency era.

This one is a romantic thriller, complete with a serial killer/spy all rolled into one. Taking the gig without her uncle’s permission, she views a man burying a body. In her haste to escape, she nearly runs over the hero. He’s trying to find a traitor, and her family is under suspicion. Is she innocence, a mere dupe, or is she involved? Can he save her or should he even try? Will she let him?

About An Enduring Love

Born and raised in Latvia, Rebecca Balodis marries Rhys Sudduth, an English diplomat. Shortly thereafter, he is summoned home to attend his father’s deathbed. Rebecca cannot accompany him at the time and becomes trapped in the turmoil plaguing her country. He is informed she died in the upheaval.

Final-An-Enduring-Love-(med) copyNearly four years later, she escapes and arrives in London with their son in tow. Arriving in the middle of his sister’s ball is very awkward, especially since Rhys plans to announce his betrothal to a young debutante later in the evening.

Trouble, tangled in suspense and danger, follow her from Latvia. Can this pair ever find or even recognize an enduring love? Is it worth keeping?

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Excerpt

The gangplank of the Dragon’s Stirr had been lowered ready for Latvian passengers to board. The creak of the ropes tying the vessel to the dock rasped Rebecca’s nerves, reminding her that soon Rhys would sail back to England without her. Devastated by the thought of such a loss and at such a time, she swallowed hard. How can I bear to let him leave me behind?

Standing on the dock in the mid-day sun, she tried to hold back her sobs and for a moment, she feared her knees might give way beneath her. She clinched her jaw, trying to hold steady and caught the lapels of Rhys’s finely tailored jacket with trembling fingers. A rising ocean breeze stirred his dark hair and swirled her skirts about her ankles as he placed his hand over hers.

When Rebecca gazed into Rhys’ deep blue eyes, Gorgi Weister’s words intruded. Sudduth is almost believable when he claims undying devotion. I admire his talent. Her chest burned with apprehension and she gulped a deep breath. What if Weister is correct? Does Rhys wish to abandon me as Weister implied?  

Weister’s sly innuendoes and the sound of his mocking laughter circled in her mind, but she pushed such negative views aside. Guilt for allowing a moment of doubt to fester filled her with shame, but that too, she brushed aside. Ne! I refuse to believe Rhys would desert me. Although we have only been married a few months his love is strong and will endure forever, as will mine. Nevertheless, doubt crawled into her head, impossible to completely deny. Still, why would a government official such as Gorgi Weister attempt to stir trouble with lies? It made no sense!

About the Author

I am a native of Texas and still live in this great state. I married my high school sweetheart, years and years ago. We raised four children and have eight grandchildren, and grandchildren are Grand. At the moment, all my children and my grandchildren live within seventy miles of our home, lots of visits. My husband and I still love each other after all these years the stuff romance is made of, Happy Ever After!

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Regency Dressmakers and Their Fabrics

By Wareeze Woodson

Dressmakers, historically known as mantua-makers or a modiste fashioned custom garments for her clientele. Sewing everything by hand took several hours of labor, and the more elaborate the gown, the higher the price. Many times these women sewed well into the night to finish a gown for a special client. A modiste or dressmaker sewed a fine seam. A straight stitch is hard to make, but the best dressmaker’s of the day sewed twelve straight stitches in an inch of fabric. What an artist!

Fabric, available and most often used during the Regency period, were varied. Silk, satin, wool, velvet and cotton each had its place in the construction of a garment. Satin weaves, twill weaves, and plain weaves are the three basic types of weaving by which the majority of woven products are formed.

Some of the names of these fabrics in the finished state are as follows:

Silk, the most favored for the soft feel and the easily draping properties of the fabric, was much in demand. Satin and velvet were woven from silk. The differences rest with the weave of the threads.

Satin was much in demand as well. There are several types of satin made in different ways. Satin is usually a warp-faced weaving technique in which warp yarns are “floated” over weft yarns, although there are also weft-faced satins.

Baronet or baronette has a cotton back and a silk front, similar to georgette.

Charmeuse is a lightweight, draping satin-weave fabric with a dull reverse.

Double faced satin is woven with a glossy surface on both sides. It is possible for both sides to have a different pattern, albeit using the same colors.

Duchess satin is a particularly luxurious, heavy, stiff satin.

Faconne is jacquard woven satin.

Farmer’s satin or Venetian cloth is made from mercerised cotton.

Gattar is satin made with a silk warp and a cotton weft.

Messaline is lightweight and loosely woven.

Georgette is a sheer, lightweight, dull-finished crape fabric named after the early 20th century French dressmaker Georgette de la Plante. Originally made from silk, georgette is made with highly twisted yarns. Its characteristic crinkly surface is created by alternating S- and Z-twist yarns in both warp and weft. Georgette is made in solid colors and prints and is used for blouses, dresses, evening gowns, and trimmings.

Crêpe or crape is a silk or wool fabric with a distinctively crisp, crimped appearance.

Cambric or batiste, one of the finest and most dense kinds of cloth is a lightweight plain-weave fabric woven in greige, then bleached, piece-dyed and often glazed or calendered. Initially, in the 19th century, it was made of linen, then cotton. Cambric is used for linens, shirtings, handkerchieves and as fabric for lace and needlework. Cambric was originally a kind of fine white plain-weave linen cloth made at or near Cambrai. White linen cambric was used to fashion fine shirts, underwear, shirt frills, cravats, collars and cuffs, handkerchiefs, and infant wear.

Nainsook is a fine, soft muslin fabric. (cotton)

Lawn cloth or lawn is a plain weave textile, originally of linen but now chiefly cotton. Lawn is designed using fine, high count yarns, which results in a silky, untextured feel. The fabric is made using either combed or carded yarns. When lawn is made using combed yarns, with a soft feel and slight luster, it is known as “nainsook”. The term lawn is also used in the textile industry to refer to a type of starched crisp finish given to a cloth product. The finish can be applied to a variety of fine fabrics, prints or plain

Lawn is a lightweight, sheer cloth, crisper than voile but not as crisp as organdy. Lawn is known for its semi-transparency, which can range from gauzy or sheer to an almost opaque effect, known as lining or utility lawn. The finish used on lawn ranges from soft to semi-crisp to crisp, but the fabric is never completely stiff. Lawn can be white, or may be dyed or printed.

Batiste is a fine cloth made from cotton or wool or a blend, and the softest of the lightweight opaque fabrics.

Kerseymere is a fine woolen cloth with a fancy twill weave.

Trims used for decoration: Ruffle, frill, or furbelow is a strip of fabric, lace or ribbon tightly gathered or pleated on one edge to add as trim to a garment or bedding and such.

The term flounce is a particular type of fabric manipulation that creates a similar look but with less bulk than a ruffle. A flounce is created by cutting a curved strip of fabric and applying the inner or shorter edge to the garment. The depth of the curve as well as the width of the fabric determines the depth of the flounce. A godet is a circle wedge that can be inserted into a flounce to further deepen the outer floating wave without adding additional bulk at the point of attachment to the body of the garment, such as at the hemline, collar or sleeve.

Fringe is an ornamental textile trim applied to an edge of an item, such as drapery, a flag, epaulettes, or decorative tassel.

French bead edgings, worked muslin jaconet, embroidery, knotted ribbons and pearl rosettes were also used to enhance a creation.

Terms for apparel: Gowns, day dresses, walking-dresses were all dresses and includes a ball-gowns, riding apparel along with travel garments.

A pelisse was a short cape, shawls and cloaks, many fur-lined were worn to protect the wearer from a chill in the air or on occasion to display a new purchase.

A caraco was a jacket like bodice worn with a petticoat and had sleeves to the elbow, a popular style.

Panniers were side hoops worn under the petticoat with a caraco.

A redingote was a gown with a tight bodice and long sleeves with a collar much like a man’s jacket. The petticoat formed the front of the gown with an overskirt to match the bodice.

Gloves, some short to above the wrist and some covered the elbow, were always worn in public or gathering outside the home.

Hats and bonnets of every description were also worn for any outing. Dressmakers often made hats as well.

Alina K. Field: Bella’s Band

Interview With Alina K. Field

Today’s guest at Susana’s Parlour is Alina K. Field, author of Bella’s Band, released September 3, 2014 by Soul Mate Publishing. Alina will give one lucky commenter a $5 Amazon gift certificate. And don’t forget that all commenters this month are eligible to win Susana’s September Giveaway, a lovely necklace from London’s National Gallery Gift Shop (see photo at right).

Susana: How long have you been writing?

Alina_K._Field copyAlina: I’ve been writing since I picked up that first crayon, though I have to say, the early days were mostly school reports, journals, and poetry. I wrote a lot of poetry in my growing-up years, but I was too intimidated to tackle fiction. The kind of stories I liked to both read and make up in my head were not the kind we studied in our literature classes! Even then I was a commercial fiction girl.

I didn’t start my first novel until 1985, and I didn’t type “the end” on that story until 2009. In between I had a chaotic and busy time of working, moving, caring for children, animals, and in-laws, and working some more—just the usual woman’s lot! In 2008 I was able to catch my breath, and when in a fit of closet-cleaning I stumbled across that partial manuscript, I started writing again.

Susana: So I take it, that lapse in writing was not writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, what do you do about it?

Alina: I do have times when I struggle with a story, though I don’t consciously think of it as being blocked. It’s more a case of—well this is going to sound weird maybe!—tangling my muse up in self-doubt and external stresses. My cure for this problem is

  1. go back and ground myself in the characters’ overall goals,
  2. give myself permission to write cr*p, and
  3. write every day, even if I’m only squeezing out a page.

Susana: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Alina: I like to have an idea of where I’m going in terms of turning points, but the thought of planning out scenes in great detail is terrifying. I’ve tried it, and for me it’s a muse-zapper.

Susana: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Alina: I had my spinster heroine visit a respectable brothel. In the first draft, she merely lingered in the back garden waiting for the “abbess” to come out and talk to her. In the next draft, she entered the house. It was so much fun to write that scene.

And, no spoilers here, but there is a surprise at the end of the book that has nothing to do with the resolution of the murder.

Susana: Are you working on something at present that you would like to tell us about?

Alina: I’m writing the next book in this Regency series. The hero is the not-so-lowly-as-we-thought steward in Bella’s Band. It turns out that he’s the eldest son of an earl, albeit illegitimate. Gosh, and I didn’t know that when I was writing Bella’s Band! I’ve put this story down several times to work on other priorities, and I’m anxious to get back to it.

Susana: Describe the “perfect hero”. What about the “perfect hero” for you?

Alina: My author friend Anne Cleeland says what women want from a hero is devotion to the heroine. I think she’s right. The external bits—his looks, his muscle, his ability to provide—those are the tools he uses to attract and protect his woman, but they’re not necessarily essential (think of some of Mary Balogh’s wounded heroes). Whether he’s madly in love from page one, or comes around to it through the course of the story, the perfect hero shows through his deeds how much he cares for the heroine. The perfect hero is either honorable from the start, or “uncovers” the honor at his core through this great love. What’s better than a bad boy hero reformed by love?

As for me, I had the good fortune to marry my hero many years ago! He’s perfect in all the important ways.

Gabby copySusana: What would we find under your bed?

Alina: Dust bunnies, of course, I’m an author! Oh, and you might find a squeaky toy that belongs to my dog. [sending along a picture for you to include here, if you wish] I used to do some under-the-bed storage until my sister feng shuid my house. Apparently, it’s very bad to sleep on concealed clutter. Now that space is dusty, but otherwise pristine.

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About Bella’s Band

Bella's-Band-Final-(med)-copy copyBullets, blades, and incendiary bombs—Major Steven Beauverde, the latest Earl of Hackwell, belongs in that world, and is determined to get back to it. His brother’s murder has forced Steven out of the army and into the title, but he has no interest in being the Earl, and worse, no idea how to salvage the depleted estate. A rumor that his brother had a son by a woman who may be a) the murderer, and b) his brother’s wife, sets Steven on a mission to find her, the boy, and—Steven ardently hopes—proof of a secret marriage that will set Steven free.

Annabelle Harris is a country heiress and a confirmed spinster resettled in London to find her sister, the mistress to the Earl of Hackwell. While she searches, she fills her home with orphans and street urchins. When the Earl is murdered, Annabelle’s sister thrusts the Earl’s illegitimate child into Annabelle’s care and disappears. Now, with suspicion pointing at her sister, Annabelle has begun a new quest—to find her sibling and clear her name.

When their paths converge, the reluctant Earl and the determined spinster find themselves rethinking their goals, and stepping up to fight back when the real murderer shows up.

Excerpt

Surprise pinned Annabelle to the cracked leather seat of the carriage and finally her heart restarted and picked up its pounding.

“Good evening, my lady.” Lord Hackwell flashed her a wide, easy smile that made his face glow like a boy who had pulled a very fast one.

The shock eased. She realized she felt not one whit of fear.

“Is this an abduction, Lord Hackwell? I have never been abducted before. Shall I scream with alarm? Do you mean to harm me?”

His smile disappeared and his face grew too serious. “I mean to protect you, Miss Harris. This is an escort. I mean to see that you return home unharmed.”

“I see. Unharmed, except for the besmirching of my reputation. Shall we appear in the scandal sheets tomorrow, do you suppose?”

“In this bourgeois neighborhood? I think not. Unless, the man who helped you into the hackney is someone of interest?”

Oh, he was prying, and she was so tempted to lead him on. But of course, she had Robby to think about. “Very much so. He is my solicitor. He asked me to dinner to counterbalance his wife’s inquisitive aunt who is visiting from the country, and curious about all things criminal, political, and financial. The poor man has difficulty balancing his client’s confidentiality with his need to be polite to his children’s future benefactress. She is wealthy, I believe.”

“So he set her on you. And how did you maintain your secrets, Miss Harris?”

“We spoke of my home.”

“Which is?”

A ribbon of sensation uncurled in her secret places. The space between her and Lord Hackwell had shrunk, and his dark eyes showed more than an interest in her pedigree. Her nerves tingled with the anticipated pleasure of a repeat of the earlier kiss.

I must not.

“Yorkshire,” she said, as blandly as possible. “I grew up on a good-sized estate there.”

“Do you plan to take Robby there?”

Sudden tears pricked her eyes and she turned quickly to the window. Robby and Thomas would have loved Ryeland. With acres and acres of freedom and kind neighbors, they could have played for hours and had adventures that didn’t involve cutpurses and the Watch.

“Miss Harris?”

“No, Lord Hackwell. My family home was entailed. The cousin who inherited, I’ve only met once, at my father’s funeral.” And his invitation to linger had been merely perfunctory. Besides, staying in the district of her childhood would beg questions about Veronica.

“So you had no brothers. Is your mother living?”

He hadn’t asked about sisters. That was curious. Perhaps he suspected her relationship with Miss Miller was more than a friendship, and was coming to the question, inch by torturing inch.

“You are dancing again, Lord Hackwell. It is ever so tiresome. Let us get you to the facts. I am the eldest surviving child of Edward Harris, who died two years ago. I had a brother, who died many years before. I have a younger sister who has found a position and made a life with a distant cousin in Scotland. My mother has been gone since I was eighteen. I am twenty-seven years old now. I never had a coming out, because my father took ill, and needed me to manage the estate.”

His eyes widened and he went very still, examining her. The air around them seemed charged with a kind of explosive tension.

Oh heavens. He was finding fault with the country spinster. The gown was from her mourning two years previous, outdated of course, and she felt her hair slipping again, and she’d never been one to effect powders and pigments. “Yes. Well—”

You managed an estate?”

“Astonishing, isn’t it?” She waved a gloved hand in the air, and he captured it.

He dropped a kiss on her knuckle. “And you managed the household also?”

“Yes, of course.”

“And you don’t care for dancing?”

“I enjoy dancing very much, though my experience is limited to our local assembly. I have not been to a ball in so many ages, and never a town ball.”

“No Almack’s.”

She could only laugh at that and shake her head. She receive a voucher for Almack’s? Ridiculous.

“No waltzing, Miss Harris?” His manner remained intense.

“Sadly, no, Lord Hackwell, I have never waltzed.”

He straightened in his seat and his eyes looked ahead. “But you have counted ploughs,” he said thoughtfully.

Tears pricked again, suddenly and unexpectedly. What a dismal woman she was. Too plain, too proper, too practical. Alone in a closed hackney with a devastatingly handsome man, and they were talking about farm equipment.

Never had she felt more desire to be younger, prettier, more daring. This must have been how Veronica had felt.

Her heart filled with compassion and grief. “Ye—yes. Ploughs. Very important they’re correctly deployed. Fate of the tenants’ crops and the estate’s income depends upon them.” She sniffed.

“What’s this?” His large ungloved hand covered her smaller ones, enveloping her in his warmth. “I’ve distressed you?”

She shook her head and tried to compose herself.

“Of course I have, my dear. I’ve reminded you of your lost home.”

“It is fine, sir. My current home is—is not the best, but it is mine, and I can afford to move to something better if the neighborhood deteriorates further. You needn’t worry about Robby. I will give him a good life. Not, perhaps, an aristocratic one, but—”

“Shall I tell you about myself, Miss Harris? Yes. I believe I must.” He cocked his leg on the seat so he sat sideways, and extended his hand to caress the back of her neck. The other remained squarely over her folded hands. “I am twenty-nine. The younger son of the Earl of Hackwell. The very, as it has turned out, needful spare. My mother was the second of two wives. She died not long after I was born. My father sent me off to be fostered, then off to Eton, and then to university for a very short while. I’m not much of a scholar. I landed in the army, where I found I could do something of worth.”

His mouth had grown taut and his hand had tightened over hers, so that she could feel his tension.

“Thomas, the late, great, Lord Hackwell, aside from one lengthy grand tour, was kept close under the paternal wing and learned the business of managing the earldom, standing in the House of Lords, and immersing himself in society. From the state of the accounts, it was the last activity that drew most of his interest.”

He let his fingers caress her neck, distractedly, as though the gesture comforted him, like petting a favorite hound.

Comforting to him; deliciously unsettling to her. Pleasure rippled through her at each touch. She held her breath, lest his fingers pause too long in his search for his next words.

“I can bow properly and make reasonably polite conversation, but I was never much good in a ballroom or drawing room, Miss Harris. Still, like every gentleman with a purse, I had my share of immersing myself in pleasure. Here, and on the continent.” He lapsed into a momentary dark silence. “Not so much since my return.”

“You fought at Waterloo?”

“Yes. And before, on the peninsula.”

And before that too, at every step of his motherless, fatherless life, she’d warrant. As in the children’s game she played with the boys, Annabelle drew out a hand from the pile and pressed his between hers.

And her heart skipped with a realization. Lord Hackwell had no family except Robby.

She felt his eyes fixed on her. He drew her head closer and she could smell his woodsy clean scent, so intensely male. The carriage passed by a street lamp and into a dark stretch, and she could no longer discern the outline of his face.

Her heart tingled and her breath came in short little huffs of anticipated pleasure.

“Annabelle,” he whispered. “What do they call you? Anna? Belle?”

She tensed remembering her chat with Lady Rosalyn.

“It is Belle. How very appropriate.” He kissed her hand.

“Bella,” she whispered. “And not appropriate at all. How did you learn my name?”

“Bella.” He breathed her name in a brandy-laced murmur. “The maid at the Harley Street house gave me your last name. And by the way, she worships you.”

Dear Trish. Annabelle pushed at the seat and squirmed, with no success. He still held her fast.

“I’ve found that servants know everything and talk prodigiously.” He dropped a kiss on her nose.

Annabelle bit back a disagreement and stilled. In a properly run household, gossip was squashed. The poor man had never lived in a properly run household.

His lips hovered over her and she waited. He’d kissed her nose. Perhaps he’d been aiming for her mouth and missed. She wanted one more kiss. She would be safe. In a carriage on a public street, he wouldn’t attempt to take more.

***

Steven held himself an inch away from her lips. Her nose had been cold, but heat radiated between them, holding them in a warm cocoon. She smelled of plain soap and faint lavender. There was nothing cloying about Miss Harris. He’d breached a line of defense with the use of the pet name. Bella. She wanted him to kiss her.

Not yet. Not yet. She was lovely, and innocent, and perfect. He was known for his quick thinking under duress, and he’d made up his mind. He would do this honorably. He was not his brother. It would not be a seduction.

“Bella, you are right that we should dispense with the dance. You are right that we should speak to the point, and so I will. I think you and I, we should wed.”

What?” She jumped a full inch from the seat before settling back.

About the Author

Award-winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but she found her true passion in reading and writing romance. Though her roots are in the Midwest, after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband and a blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

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Barbara Bettis: The Heart of the Phoenix

giveaway

One lucky commenter will win an e-copy of The Heart of the Phoenix . All comments also qualify as entries for Susana’s September Giveaway, a necklace from London’s National Gallery (see photo at right).

About The Heart of the Phoenix

Some call him a ruthless mercenary; she calls him the knight of her heart.

Memories

Lady Evelynn’s childhood hero is home—bitter, hard, tempting as sin. And haunted by secrets. A now-grown Evie offers friendship, but Sir Stephen’s cruel rejection crushes her, and she resolves to forget him. Yet when an unexpected war throws them together, she finds love isn’t so easy to dismiss. If only the king hadn’t betrothed her to another.

Can Be Cruel

Sir Stephen lives a double life while he seeks the treacherous outlaws who murdered his friends. Driven by revenge he thinks his heart is closed to love. His childhood shadow, Lady Evie, unexpectedly challenges that belief. He rebuffs her, but he can’t forget her, although he knows she’s to wed the king’s favorite.

And Deadly

When his drive for vengeance leads to Evie’s kidnapping, Stephen must choose between retribution and the loved he’s denied too long. Surely King John will see reason. Convict the murderers; convince the king. Simple. Until a startling revelation threatens everything.

AmazonThe Wild Rose Press

Excerpt

Evie could tell Stephen was angry now by the way he glowered and roared in that whispery sort of way no one else could hear, but left her with no doubt of his displeasure.

THOP COVER copy“Your betrothed.” He bent and scooped her off the floor.

“What? What about him?”

“That’s the identity of the illustrious lord who’s sharing passage with us.”

“You’re drunk. And put me down. I’m perfectly capable of getting up on my own.”

“Be quiet. You have blood on your leg.”

“Of course I do. I tripped and fell trying to answer your pounding when you could easily have opened—” His words finally penetrated her throbbing head. “I’m bleeding?”

Oh, blast. The contents of her—empty—stomach churned. She attended the villagers’ hurts, bound the cuts and scrapes of servants and their children. The sight of their blood bothered her not a whit. But her own? Black spots danced at the corners of her vision, becoming larger and larger until she heard Stephen’s voice.

“Evie, Evie. What the hell?”

His voice echoed so far away. If she didn’t know better, she’d vow he sounded alarmed. Perhaps she’d close her eyes for a moment. As the ringing in her ears crescendoed, she recalled his words. Betrothed.

Her betrothed was on board?

Dear Lord, just let me die.

About the Author

Barb-4Award winning author Barbara Bettis has always loved history and English. As a college freshman, she briefly considered becoming an archeologist until she realized there likely would be bugs and snakes involved. And math.

She now lives in Missouri, where by day she’s a mild-mannered English teacher, and by night she’s an intrepid plotter of tales featuring heroines to die for—and heroes to live for.

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Historical Tidbit: Dover

Most of us are used to reading of Dover as the port closest to the continent and the one used most frequently. However, in the Middle Ages, it wasn’t always the port of choice. When King John left Normandy for England where he was to be crowned on Ascension Thursday, 1199, he landed at Shoreham on the country’s southern coast. Evidently, Shoreham was a popular port during those years. According to one source, one of the first things John did when he landed in Shoreham two days before his coronation was visit the church of St. Nicholas.

Here’s a modern photo of St. Nicholas’ Church, although one can see some of the medieval touches at the top.

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D.W. Wilkin: Caution’s Heir

18-4-18

My Dear Lady Chevly

You know that as we are the closest of friends I never in all the long years that we have known each, resort to gossip.

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Oops, ink spill, I have to cut a new quill.

I know you are thinking of the time I shared that delicious piece about Devonshire, and then well the other time about Caro Lamb, but who wasn’t talking about Caro then. Poor creature.

Very well, I am sure you want to know as quickly as I can relate it, especially before someone mentions it and you are nabbed. I so hate being betwattled that way.

It is Bartle’s nephew, Daventry. Oh, I know you know all about how he took that fool Hroek for everything he had. And how your Chevly was there and said that Daventry was a gentleman through and through, trying to make light of the bet and return it all to Hroek. Shame that the man was not like his elder brother. Now that was a marquess!

And I well remember how we both made eyes at the man when he came to Town. The old marquess, not his nit of a brother. Well, did you know that the new one had a daughter? I surely didn’t. She’s never been to Town nor had a season at all. Well, of course not if she’s never been to Town. Louisa. That is her name. Lady Louisa Booth.

Well, she is in London now. Showed up at the Earl of Daventry’s house this very morning. She and her companion and claimed that as how Daventry won everything from her father, who has apparently fled for the Americas, including all in his house, Daventry had won her too!

I know you must be choking, as I was when my maid ran in to inform me of all that was taking place about Golden Square. I haven’t got more than a glimpse of the girl through the window, and she looks fetching from what I can see. Wouldn’t that just choke Bartle as if she swallowed a fish bone. Her nephew married to a penniless chit, when she hopes to snare a fortune for the man and repair the wealth that her brother the Duke has wasted.

I intend to drop my card over there later and hope that the girl will call upon me. I will write as soon as she does.

Yours,

Dartenmore

About Caution’s Heir

coverTeaching a boor a lesson is one thing.

Winning all that the man owns is more than Lord Arthur Herrington expects. Especially when he finds that his winnings include the boor’s daughter!

The Duke of Northampshire spent fortunes in his youth. The reality of which his son, Arthur the Earl of Daventry, learns all too well when sent off to school with nothing in his pocket. Learning to fill that pocket leads him on a road to frugality and his becoming a sober man of Town. A sober but very much respected member of the Ton.

Lady Louisa Booth did not have much hope for her father, known in the country for his profligate ways. Yet when the man inherited her gallant uncle’s title and wealth, she hoped he would reform. Alas, that was not to be the case.

When she learned everything was lost, including her beloved home, she made it her purpose to ensure that Lord Arthur was not indifferent to her plight. An unmarried young woman cast adrift in society without a protector. A role that Arthur never thought to be cast as. A role he had little idea if he could rise to such occasion. Yet would Louisa find Arthur to be that one true benefactor? Would Arthur make this obligation something more? Would a game of chance lead to love?

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Caution’s Heir Website

About the Author

UntitledAn award winning author, Mr. Wilkin is a graduate in history. He has been writing in various genres for thirty years. Extensive study of premodern civilizations, including years as a re-enactor of medieval, renaissance and regency times has given Mr. Wilkin an insight into such antiquated cultures.

Trained in fighting forms as well as his background in history lends his fantasy work to encompass mores beyond simple hero quests to add the depth of the world and political forms to his tales.

Throughout his involvement with various periods of long ago days, he has also learned the dances of those times. Not only becoming proficient at them but also teaching thousands how to do them as well.

Mr. Wilkin regularly posts about Regency history at his blog, and is a member of English Historical Fiction Authors. His very first article was published while in college, and though that magazine is defunct, he still waits patiently for the few dollars the publisher owes him for the piece.

Mr. Wilkin is also the author of several Regency romances, and including a sequel to the epic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. His recent work, Beggars Can’t Be Choosier has won the prestigious Outstanding Historical Romance award from Romance Reviews Magazine.

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Maggi Andersen: What a Rake Wants (The Spies of Mayfair Series)

Interview With Maggi Andersen

Susana: What inspired you to start writing?

Maggi: I needed little inspiration I remember writing at a very young age. When I had the time to devote to a career in writing, I took it up seriously.

Susana: How long have you been writing?

AuthorPicMaggi: I began 15 years ago. I wrote my first book for my master’s degree. It was a murder mystery titled Murder in Devon.

Susana: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Maggi: Patience is something writers need in spades, although these days it’s not nearly as bad as it was years ago, when we had to post everything and wait months for a reply. It takes time to find your voice and learn your craft though. Don’t be too hasty sending off your work. Make sure it’s as perfect as you can get it. Put it aside for as long as you can and then look at it with new eyes. You’ll be surprised at the mistakes you’ll find, and what you can see to improve it. Wait a few weeks if you can. Another example of why we need patience! J

Susana: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Maggi: No, never. I don’t believe in it. If I run out of ideas, I just start writing. The creative brain kicks into action and something will come. You can always edit the first draft. You can’t edit a blank page.

Susana: What comes first: the plot or the characters?

Maggi: When I first began writing it was plot driven, but now the characters drive the story. Sometimes, without me at the wheel.

Susana: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Maggi: I tend to be a bit of both. I know the ending. It’s not hard it’s a romance! I plot a scene ahead but that can change as the characters lead me off somewhere surprising. I like the panster element in my writing because it can go off on tangents I would never have thought of plotting the story. A spy story or mystery needs more plotting. I like to end up with a reasonable first draft.

Susana: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Maggi: Flynn, Lord Montsimon is playing the game of a rake due to the hurt he suffered as a child in Ireland. It takes a woman like Lady Althea Brookwood to show him his true feelings and melt his heart. My inspiration for Flynn came from Errol Flynn, the Australian actor. Despite his racy reputation, Flynn was known to be a cultured gentleman. I love his movies, who doesn’t like Captain Blood?

Susana: Are you working on something at present that you would like to tell us about?

Maggi: I’m writing another Regency series, The Baxendale Sisters. The first is Lady Honor’s story. The book is titled: Honor’s Debt.

Susana: What are you reading now?

Maggi: Not a historical. Slow Hand by Victoria Vane. It’s great!

Susana: What author or authors have most influenced your writing?

Maggi: Surprisingly, Harlan Coben. A suspense writer can learn a lot from the way he crafts his stories. My love of historials came from Georgette Heyer, Victoria Holt, Eloisa James and Jane Austen. I like Julia Quinn and Anna Campbell too.

Susana: What is your work schedule like when writing?

Maggi: I spend long hours at my desk every day. (My husband is retired from the law and does the cooking). I don’t write at night, I join him to watch something on the television or read.

Susana: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Maggi: I dreamed of living in an English country village while writing. (My artist mother was born of English parents, and this was her dream too) I now live in a quaint, Australian country village in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, where tourists come to see the spring gardens. And I spend my days writing, so I guess I’ve come close to living my dream.

Susana: What is your favorite food? Least favorite? Why?

Maggi: My love of all kinds of cheeses, which comes from my Danish father. Least favorite, any kind of offal. I remember my Dad loved brains and my mother would cook them for him on his birthday. Yuk!

Susana: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

Maggi: My first job was in a bank, and for a creative person like me, I found it difficult and boring. I can balance a check book though.

Susana: Is there a writer you idolize? If so, who?

Maggi: I’d have to say Mary Stewart who died recently in her 90s. She was a poet and wrote the first romantic suspense novels. I have her entire library.

Question for the Readers: What problem didn’t occur to Althea when she chose the gown she wore?

About What a Rake Wants

WARW2 copyKing George sends his private investigator, an Irishman, Kieran Flynn, Lord Montsimon, on a mission, the reason for which is unclear. Is it a plot against the Crown? Or something entirely unrelated? Flynn’s inquiries lead him to the widow, Lady Althea Brookwood. Known amongst the ton as a rake, Flynn is rarely turned down by a lady, and when Althea refuses not just him but many other men, he becomes intrigued.

After her neighbor, Sir Harold Crowthorne informs Lady Althea that he means to take her country property, Owltree Cottage, by fair means or foul, she must search for help. The first man she turns to is promptly murdered and the second lies to her. That leaves Flynn, Lord Montsimon, a man she has been studiously avoiding. But Montsimon is decidedly unhelpful, and more than a little mysterious. Her only option is to seduce him. Lady Althea has little confidence that she will succeed, especially as before her husband was killed in a duel, he often told her she was quite hopeless at intimacy.

When a spy is murdered, Flynn wonders just what Althea knows and what her involvement might be with the man the king wants Flynn to investigate.

Amazon Kindle • Amazon Print

Excerpt

(Lord Montsimon and Lady Althea Brookwood are forced to share a bed for the night.)

The attic room had a low, sloping ceiling. A green hook rug covered the floor and a jug, basin, and towels had been placed on the tall dresser. A straight-backed chair sat in the corner and the bed against the far wall. Mrs. Fletcher’s description of the bed had been accurate: the small wooden bedstead was covered in a bright quilt and not designed for two. Althea stared at it, her throat tight with dismay, as Montsimon shut the door. His nearness in the small space was overwhelming.

Seemingly unaffected, Montsimon peeled off his coat and sat on the feather-filled mattress, which sank visibly under his weight. He looked annoyingly at home. He tugged at his cravat then undid the buttons on his shirt to reveal a strong throat and a glimpse of dark chest hair. She took in the male strength, the cleanliness and beauty of him and turned away to fuss with her cloak before hanging it over the chair.

“Would you help me off with my boots?”

“I’m hardly a valet,” she said, sounding peevish.

“Not as strong, but we shall manage,” he said with a grin. His waistcoat joined his coat on the chair. How much was he going to remove? She wished her breath would slow.

Althea took hold of the mud-splashed, black leather Hessian boot and pulled. It didn’t budge.

“Perhaps a bit harder?”

Annoyed by his manner, she gave a violent yank. The boot slid down Montsimon’s well-defined calf so fast she fell onto her derriere on the hard plank floor.

“Are you all right?” His grin widened as he leapt up.

“Perfectly.” She waved his hand away and climbed to her feet, resisting a rub of the damaged area. “Your other foot if you please.”

“If you’re sure?” he asked with a burst of laughter.

With a dismissive scowl, she planted her feet and taking a firm hold of the boot, eased it down more gradually. It slid off his leg without further mishap. There was something disturbingly intimate about his broad chest encased in white linen, the form-fitting grey trousers and his big stockinged feet. Had she ever seen Brookwood this way? He always came to her chamber dressed in his banyan and slippers. And she had dreaded the sight of him.

Montsimon stood, ducking his head under a beam. “You’ll never manage that dress on your own.”

She crossed her arms. “I’m keeping it on.”

“Such a pretty gown was meant for a drawing room, not for sleeping in.”

“Nevertheless, I shall sleep in it.” She perched on the chair and took off her shoes.

He frowned. “Give me a look at those.”

“Why?” She handed them to him.

He turned a shoe over in his big hands. The sole of one had worn through. “These are about to fall apart. I had no idea you wore such flimsy shoes.”

“They are meant for drawing rooms, my lord. As is my dress.”

“That gown will look like a rag in the morning. As you have nothing else to change into, you will have to bear it until we return to London.”

Why did he so often make sense? She brushed down her skirts, which were already dreadfully crushed, and was forced to agree. She wasn’t a shy, green girl; she just didn’t want to inflame Flynn’s passions. It would take very little, she suspected. But her underwear covered her and was perfectly modest. “The bed is too small. A gentleman would sleep in the chair.”

His eyebrows flew up. “It’s made of wood.”

“Obviously.”

He flapped a hand in dismissal. “I intend to sleep in that bed, my lady. Where you choose to sleep is entirely up to you. I’m going downstairs to wash at the pump. While I’m away, you can undress and hide beneath the covers.” He paused, one hand on the doorknob. “Again, do you require help to undo those impossible little buttons at your back?”

“Odd that this problem didn’t occur to me when I chose to wear it.” Her lips puckered in annoyance. While they were arguing, what remained of the night was passing. She turned her back. “If you will.” If he treated her like a servant, she would do likewise.

Her hair had begun to escape the topknot, and she swept it up out of the way, scattering pins. She tingled under the gentle touch of his fingers as they moved down her back. Her gown fell away. “What are you doing?”

“Unlacing your stays. You can’t sleep in this uncomfortable garment!”

“I had intended to,” she said, pulling away as he tugged at the laces. Too late, she felt them give.

“You have lovely hair, Althea,” he said softly.

His use of her name was very seductive. Her pulse skittered alarmingly. She spun around, clutching the bodice of her dress to her chest as her stays slipped to the floor.

Montsimon looked her up and down, warm approval in his gaze.

She backed away from him, longing for the shelter of darkness. “Once I’m in bed, shall I blow out the candle?”

“If you wish.” Montsimon closed the door behind him.

About the Author

Maggi Andersen lives with her lawyer husband in a quaint old town in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. She began writing fiction after raising three children and studying for a BA and an MA in Creative Writing.

When not creating stories, Maggi reads, enjoys her garden, goes for long walks and feeds the local wildlife. Her six kookaburras (Australian Kingfishers) prefer to be hand fed.

An Amazon bestselling Regency author, Maggi writes in several genres, contemporary and historical romances and young adult novels. Having grown up reading Enid Blyton and Georgette Heyer, Maggi’s romances are filled with adventure, mystery or intrigue, but always with a happy ending.

Her latest releases:

The Spies of Mayfair Series

A Baron in Her Bed

Taming a Gentleman Spy

What a Rake Wants

Website

Historical Tidbit

Did you know that in the fifteenth century, only a few could afford glass windows? They became more common in the sixteenth but were still expensive. When people moved they took their windows with them! Tudor windows were small pieces of glass held together by strips of lead in a criss-cross or lattice pattern. To make a pane of glass, a blog of glass was blown into a cylinder-shaped bubble, which was placed on a cooling table. Then afer the bubble cooled, it was cut in half producing a small piece.

The poor, however, still had to make do with strips of linen soaked in linseed oil.

Hardwick Hall, owned by Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury, was famous for its Tudor windows. It inspired a rhyme: “Hardwick Hall more glass than wall.”

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Marlow Kelly: A Woman of Honour

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Marlow will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About A Woman of Honour

Duncan Campbell wakes to discover he is imprisoned with a woman in his enemy’s dungeon in the Highlands of Scotland. The disenchanted warrior hopes his last few moments on earth will be spent in the arms of the sweet-voiced Isabel. If only she will cooperate.

Isabel Douglas has no intention of obliging the crude captive. The penniless noblewoman considers herself too tall and thin to be desirable. She intends to become a nun. But first, disguised as a boy, she must deliver an important letter to Scotland’s hero in hiding, King Robert the Bruce.

Together, the pair make a daring escape that plunges them into the bleak countryside in the middle of winter. In the struggle to survive, they learn the true strength of their feelings for each other. But when Duncan’s animosity towards the king becomes evident, Isabel must decide between her heart and her country.

Excerpt

Cover_A Woman of Honour copyDuncan Campbell drifted into consciousness and opened his eyes to absolute blackness. He lay perfectly still on the cold, dirt floor listening. A small rustle of fabric echoed in the darkness. He cocked his head, getting a sense of the sound’s location, then rose to his feet.

“Tell me who you are before I tear you apart,” he roared, seizing his opponent. Whoever it was didn’t answer, just silence. A fist punched him on the nose. Pain ricocheted through him, and he grabbed his face. In the dark, he lost his balance and fell in the dirt, cradling his head in his hands.

“Oh my, are you all right?” asked a small voice.

“No, I’m not.”

“You threatened me, and I wanted to give you fair warning I will fight back if you touch me.”

The lyrical voice stunned him. A woman? She spoke Gaelic with a strong, lowland accent. He shook off the pain and asked, “Where am I?”

“Dunstaffnage Castle. Don’t you remember your capture? I’ve heard of people getting a bump on the head and not remembering their own name. Is that what happened to you? Did you bump your head?”

Lord, she was talkative.

“Is it?”

“I remember I was hit from behind scouting the bast….Are we in the dungeon?” He rose to his feet.

“Yes.”

He grunted. On the bright side he hadn’t gone blind. On the other hand they were in a dank, windowless cell with no hope of escape. There wasn’t even a sliver of light coming through the door.

About the Author

After being thrown out of England for refusing to drink tea, Marlow Kelly made her way to Canada where she found love, a home and a pug named Max. She also discovered her love of storytelling. Encouraged by her husband, children and let’s not forget Max, she started putting her ideas to paper. Her need to write about strong women in crisis drives her stories and her curiosity regarding the lives and loves of historical figures are the inspiration for her characters.

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