Tag Archive | Alina K. Field

Alina K. Field: The Marquess and the Midwife

Thank you, Susana, for hosting me today!

My Regency Christmas novella, The Marquess and the Midwife, tells the story of a Waterloo hero pursuing the woman he can’t forget, a woman who, by all the standards of polite society, has fallen out of his reach. After losing her position as a genteel companion in the home of a marquess, Ameline Dawes, the heroine of The Marquess and the Midwife, has taken up the practice of midwifery.

Prior to the late Georgian era, childbirth was generally the realm of women, though there were some men involved in the profession. The Chamberlen family of surgeons developed the use of obstetrical forceps and kept their family secret for 150 years. Another earlier male practitioner was a medical doctor, the Scottish physician, William Smellie. An 1876 annotated edition of Smellie’s Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery is available free on Google Books, and makes for fascinating reading if you’re researching this topic.

By the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century more and more male practitioners were invading this lucrative profession. Medical doctors or physicians did not provide hands-on care, so most of these man-midwifes or accoucheurs, were surgeons, like the man Ameline and her mentor call in to help with a difficult birth.

Ameline’s new profession has provided her with a purpose and a way of supporting her twin girls, and she doesn’t want to give it up, not even for the new marquess, the man who loved her, left her, and now is determined to win her back.

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About The Marquess and the Midwife

Finding the woman he lost turned out to be easy. Winning her is another matter.

Once upon a time, the younger brother of a marquess fell in love with his sister’s companion. He was sent off to war, and she was just sent off, and they both landed in very different worlds.

Now Virgil Radcliffe has returned from his self-imposed exile on the Continent to take up his late brother’s title and discover the whereabouts of the only woman he’s ever loved.

Abandoned by her lover and dismissed by her employer, Ameline Dawes has found a respectable identity as a Waterloo widow, a new life as a midwife, and a safe, secure home for her twin girls. Called to London at Christmas to attend her benefactress’s lying-in, she finds herself confronted by an unexpected house guest–a man determined to woo her anew and win her again.

But, is loving the new Marquess of Wallingford a mistake Ameline cannot afford to repeat?

The Marquess and the Midwife is specially priced at 99 cents through December 31, 2016.

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Excerpt

He released her and leaned back, and his shirt gaped around a starburst scar, corded and jagged right above his heart.

She gasped and reached to touch it, but he clasped her hand and pushed it away.

“Waterloo?” she whispered. “I’d heard you were wounded, but—”

“I survived,” he said in a tight voice.

Her lungs squeezed and her heart quickened. Had he? If so, it was just barely. He’d been stabbed or speared, or shot, and somehow, somehow, his great heart had carried on. This had been no minor wound. Virgil had suffered terribly.

“I want to see.” She pushed his hand away and grasped his collar. He grabbed for her hand, but she dodged him and ripped the fine cotton, rending the shirt down the front.

Ameline—”

“You have a trunk full of shirts. I want to see.” She knelt before him on the sofa, yanked the shirt down his arms, and studied his chest. Small cuts marked his side and his belly, but the mottled scar was the worst. It would have taken months to fully heal a wound like this from the inside out. He should have died.

Her vision blurred so she couldn’t see. But her hands, trained to examine a babe in the womb, they could see. She flattened her palms and set a course over the ridges knots, and hard ripples.

He surely had almost died. A world without Virgil, without his laughter, and his generally kind heart. He’d used her, true, as men did. It was in a man’s animal nature, wasn’t it? And she’d used him also, hadn’t she? Both of them grieving over his sister’s death, and comforting each other. And she was left with her girls, and things had turned out all right, hadn’t they?

Her hands cupped his shoulders and slipped over to his back. No scars there that she could feel. The ball, or saber, or… what else did men use to kill each other?… had not gone clean through. It had merely dredged a hole in his front and wreaked havoc inside him.

And nearly killed him.

She’d always pictured a wounded Virgil, binding up a minor slash and heading off to the Continent to charm actresses and diplomats’ wives, maybe taking a wife there himself, and bringing her back to breed pretty, cheerful children. Virgil, rich, content and happy.

How she’d wallowed in that vision.

The feel of the scarred skin melted away her resentment. Let him have that happy life with his marchioness and heirs. And perhaps, on a rare occasion, he could come down to Longview and visit his twins.

“Ameline.” Virgil’s breath touched her cheek.

Large hands cupped both of her hips.

Warmth spurted through her. Too late, she realized her error. She’d got too close again.

She pulled the sides of his shirt up, her gaze sliding over the rip and…

Right. He was fully erect. Of course he was.

Hot need shrieked inside her, and she battered it down and found her breath. “I apologize. My infernal curiosity.” She patted his shoulders and eased away.

His eyes had gone dark and feral, his lips parted like a hungry man ready to chomp down on a long-awaited meal. Inside, she melted more.

She took in a great breath. She must keep him talking. “How did the wound happen?” she asked.

His eyes shuttered and he yanked her hard against him, smashing his lips to hers.

About the Author

Alina K. Field copyAward winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but her true passion is the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., 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, her spunky, blonde, rescued terrier, and the blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

She is the author of the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner, Rosalyn’s Ring, a 2015 RONE Award finalist, Bella’s Band, and a 2016 National Reader’s Choice Award finalist, Liliana’s Letter, as well as her latest release, The Marquess and the Midwife. She is hard at work on her next series of Regency romances, but loves to hear from readers!

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Alina K. Field: Bella’s Band (Giveaway)

Thank you, Susana, for hosting me today! This month I’m celebrating the second anniversary of the release of my Regency novel, Bella’s Band. This tale is romance and adventure in almost equal measures, with a murder mystery thrown into the mix. I’m giving away a Kindle copy of the book to one lucky commenter.

One of the pivotal scenes in Bella’s Band takes place during a perilous journey by coach through the English countryside, and the need for more information about Regency travel led me to an amazing work of nonfiction, English Country Life 1780-1830, by E. W. Bovill. I opened the book and plunged head first into the research rabbit hole: hunting, turnpikes, enclosures, highwaymen, servants, house parties, poaching, rioting and the birth of rail—there is much detail in this book to please both authors and readers of Regency romance!

For example, those familiar with travel in this era know about postilions, or postboys, the men who “steer” traveling chaises from one posting inn to the next by riding them. Bovill tells us that at a large inn, there would be one postboy to every four horses, and the postboys paid the inn’s horsekeeper, as much as eighteen pence a week each. Bovill says, “The postboy, who was seldom young and often a rather decrepit old man, had usually started life in a gentleman’s stables and come down in the world.” That certainly clashes with my image of a boy, perhaps a teenager, riding post.

As it turned out, my heroine, Annabelle Harris, has no need for postboys. She flees from the hero in a wealthy friend’s private coach with a coachman, a maid, and two little boys, on a perilous Christmas Eve journey. When the coachman falls ill at a stop, a new man steps in and her troubles begin.

Or perhaps I should say, begin anew! An earlier carriage ride, this one in London, is also fraught with peril for Annabelle (see excerpt below).

A random commenter will win an e-copy of one of Alina’s books.

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About Bella’s Band

Bullets, 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 into a new and completely unwanted role, and worse, he has no idea how to salvage his family’s depleted estate. A rumor that his brother had a son by a woman who may be a) the murderer, and b) his brother’s secret wife, sets Steven on a mission to find her, the boy, and—Steven ardently hopes—the proof of a marriage that will set him free.

Confirmed spinster Annabelle Harris is a country heiress with a penchant for taking in orphans and helping the downtrodden. Her philanthropy hides her desperate search for her disgraced sister, the mistress to the Earl of Hackwell. When the Earl is murdered, her sister thrusts her child into Annabelle’s care and disappears. Now, with suspicion pointing at the sister, Annabelle has begun a new quest, to find the woman, and clear her name.

When their paths converge, the reluctant Earl and the independent spinster find themselves rethinking their goals, and battling the real murderer together.

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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

Alina K. Field copyAward 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.

She is the author of the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner in the novella category, Rosalyn’s Ring, a Regency novella, the novel-length sequel, a 2015 RONE Award finalist, Bella’s Band, both Soul Mate Publishing releases, and a prequel novella, Liliana’s Letter, a 2016 National Reader’s Choice Award finalist.

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Alina K. Field: Rosalyn’s Ring

woman writing copy

An Invitation to a Wedding

1 January, 1817

My dear Miss Harris,

I hope this note finds you well and that the severe storms of last week did not interfere with the children’s Christmas. I so sincerely planned to spend Christmas Day with the children, but a most urgent matter arose in the district of my birth regarding my maid’s cousin. Her husband, the vile man, was SELLING her, imagine! I trust you will understand my absence at your Yuletide table, and I will certainly relate the particulars to you later, though the matter has been resolved in a way that I am resigned to finding satisfactory.

But Miss Harris, this is not why I’m writing. You will find the following information most irregular, perhaps, but I beg your indulgence and count on the liberality of your friendship. The weather being quite bad, I arrived only yesterday in London and am staying at the home of Viscount Cathmore, the most kind and gentle man who now has the estate that was once my family’s.

Miss Harris, please do send a note back with my messenger and tell me that you will visit me here in Grafton Street tomorrow afternoon, for Lord Cathmore and I are to be married then by Special License.

I am sending along some of Cook’s exquisite biscuits for the children, and you must plan tomorrow to stay for dinner and hear Hamish’s most generous proposals for the children. He is quite rich, and I do hope you will come and hear him out.

Do let me know that you will come, for your friendship means so very much to me, and you must let me know if any of the girls are ready for service as I am in sore need of a new maid.

Your dear friend,

Rosalyn Montegu

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About Rosalyn’s Ring

When a young woman is put up for auction in a wife sale, Rosalyn Montagu seizes the chance to rescue her—and to recover a treasured family heirloom, her father’s signet ring. Her plans are thwarted by the newly anointed Viscount Cathmore who finds her provoking beauty, upper crust manner, and larcenous streak intriguing. Her secrets rouse his jaded heart, including the truth of her identity—she is the woman whose home he has usurped. But more mysteries swirl around Rosalyn’s past, and Cathmore is just the man to help her uncover the truth.

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Excerpt

“A woman cannot buy a wife,” someone said. “‘Tis unnatural.”

Rosalyn rallied herself. “What is unnatural is selling a human being,” she shouted. “What is a travesty is to celebrate our Lord’s birthday by selling a mother and child to God knows what fate.”

The crowd rumbled angrily. Mindy spoke, but Rosalyn could not hear her words, and a hard look from Ned Morgan silenced his property. Mindy cast her eyes down until he turned away, then went back to her bold appraisal of the crowd.

“I will bid in your behalf,” Cathmore said quietly to Rosalyn. “Do you agree?”

Her heart pounding, she nodded.

“What is your limit?”

Her limit? Surely the notes in her boot were more than enough to outbid this lot. She would hope to not go that high; it would mean an entire year of leanness, not just for her, but for the orphans.

And yet, a woman should not be sold, even if it meant no sweets for the children and Rosalyn’s own sacrifices.

“I will tell you when to stop,” she said.

“Very well.” He stood tall. “You may disregard the lady’s bid.”

“Then get on with it,” Ned Morgan shouted.

The wizened auctioneer rapped the bar again and called for bids.

“Tuppence, I said.” The bid came again from the bar.

“A half crown.”

That voice came from nearby, and Rosalyn recognized it. Mr. Logan’s strong tenor resonated with determination. He exchanged a look and a nod with Cathmore, and smiled at Mindy, who sent him a glowing smile in reply.

Ned Morgan’s big fist came down on the bar, rattling glasses. “It’s not enough, Logan,” he shouted. “Not for what ye done.”

Rosalyn tasted bile. They all knew each other. Cathmore, Logan, Morgan.

“Bid three shillings,” Rosalyn hissed at Cathmore.

He called out her bid and sent Logan the smallest of shrugs. Logan countered, Morgan pounded, and Rosalyn looked for Nelly.

What is she doing?

Nelly had moved closer to Ned Morgan, her eyes glittering with excitement. Not pain, not worry over her cousin, and not desire to hold her baby nephew.

Hot anger spiked in Rosalyn. The cause was just, but the drive to come here had been Nelly’s. That she had no interest in the babe did not surprise Rosalyn—Nelly didn’t like children—but her gaze was on Morgan, not Mindy.

A commotion at the center of the room drew everyone’s eyes. Two men had squared off, their jaws moving, their fists poised. Morgan shouted at the auctioneer, the men, and the crowd, and sent angry glares at Logan and Cathmore. His eyes landed on Rosalyn and he bellowed louder.

Rosalyn could not keep track of the bidding, but she could hear Cathmore’s rumble and the auctioneer’s, and the melodic, determined tones of Logan.

She felt dizzy, and hot, and more than a little worried. She heard Cathmore call out a bid, but she didn’t know if it was pence, or shillings, or something more. She touched his arm to get his attention. “What is the bid?”

Behind them, another melee flared. The auctioneer pounded, and men shouted. A body veered and pushed her at Cathmore, who caught her close and led her quickly away from the trouble and into the private dining room.

Rosalyn struggled to breathe. His arms held her loosely, but his nearness took her breath away. No man had ever held her like this, and she had trouble finding her composure.

“The bidding!” she said, choking. “What was the b—”

His lips pressed down on hers and silenced her.

About the Author

Alina K. Field copyAward 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.

She is the author of the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner in the novella category, Rosalyn’s Ring, a Regency novella; and the novel-length sequel, a 2015 RONE Award finalist, Bella’s Band, both Soul Mate Publishing releases.

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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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