Tag Archive | Victorian romance

Gina Danna: The Wicked North (Book 1 – Hearts Touched by Fire)

May I Introduce….

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By the time of the American Civil War, Victorian America followed many of Great Britain’s rules of society. Ladies looked forward to their next copy of Godey’s for the latest fashion for instance. What Queen Victoria did in London set the tide for manners and etiquette both in England and “across the pond” here in the United States. It is these actions that dictated society and guarded the sexes that give us a taste of life back then. Let us take a look at the foundation of society as set back in the mid-19th century.

Introductions: When people met back then, introductions were made based on the rules of etiquette. No man would consider simply walking up to a lady he didn’t know and say “hi”. That was considered rude and crass. If there was a lady he wished to meet, he needed to find someone who knew them both to make introductions. “Miss Smith, may I introduce Mr. Silvers of Charleston…” Now, if Mr. Silvers was of low account and totally unsuitable for the lady, this friend could deny introducing him or if it was made and she didn’t care for Silvers, she could snub him off. Really raise her nose as it were and ignore the man. This, of course, would be held against him as unworthy and the news passed quickly to avoid him.

While we are here, let us discuss names. Gentlemen and the workingman were always called Mr. Lastname while in public. Ladies were Miss if they were single or Mrs. if they were married (there was no such creature as “Ms.”). Mrs. John Smith was Mary Smith’s public name as ladies took their husband’s surname at marriage and protocol stated the first in public. If Mary was single and her father’s name was Charles Silvers, her name on invitations to her coming out ball were “Miss Charles Silvers invites…”

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At societal gatherings, like a ball, a couple was announced as Mr. Charles Silvers and lady – not even Mrs. Charles Silvers if she is his wife!

It was a gentleman’s role to protect the fairer sex. For instance, if he was with her on the boardwalk in the city, he’d place himself between the street and her to keep her away from harm if a wagon or horse got out of control and barreled into the curb or to give her another type of barrier from mud or horse dung from slinging off the road onto the curb. If she were on an outing with a servant, the maid or male servant would serve the same purpose.

If a man was courting a lady, first the man had to ask her father for permission (or her male guardian if her father was deceased). Courting had its own rules. Ladies of the lower classes could marry at age 14 – an age we writers shy from, considering today’s way of thinking. Middle to upper class ladies usually had a “coming out” at about 18 or 19 years of age. Many times this was a ball where they were introduced and they dressed in bright pastels like pink, yellow or light green, often with flowers in their hair – even if it was winter. They wore the light colors because in candle or oil light, darker color dresses blended with the walls but the light stood out.

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As they made the marriage circuit, it should be easy to find a husband in America at this time as the number of men out numbered the women prior to the War. Granted, some men headed west where land was cheap but that is another discussion. If a man wanted to court a lady, he needed to be 5 to 10 years older than her (if she was 18, he needed to be 23-28) and show he had the way and means to support her and their future children – in other words, he needed to have a job and a house, not living at home off of mom and dad.

Courting rules were simple – the couple was never allowed alone. A trusted servant or family member accompanied them – trusted by the parents, not the daughter. If she liked him enough, she might allow him to call her by her first name but it was her decision, not his. Otherwise, she was Miss Silvers.

Also, fashion had women wearing gloves whenever they were out or in formal situations. These gloves were generally white or ivory though they could match the color of her dress. Made of kid leather for the upper classes and cloth for the lower, these gloves protected her hands from the sun and other elements and from chafing. If she started to have feelings for her gentleman friend, not only would she allow him to call her by her first name, but also grant him the privilege of holding her bare hand (prior to this, only her father, brothers and lady friends could do so). And gentlemen of all classes wore gloves as well and one reason was, it was an honor and a privilege to help a lady in distress (i.e.: she fell or needed help in a carriage). If he ruined her gloves with callus on his hands, he was obligated to replace her gloves. For the workingman, kid gloves equaled more than he made in a month!

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Back to courting, there were two ways a couple could be “alone.” One was on the front porch – basically they were on display for the whole street. No hanky-panky there. The other was the front parlor. Usually the front parlor had a couple of doors to it and/or a parlor mirror. These mirrors were convex in shape and reflected EVERYTHING in the room that anyone could see as they passed the doorway. Quite a hampering device.

Rule of thumb was if they were alone anywhere else for more than fifteen minutes, she was ruined, a “soiled dove”, and no man would want her therefore the young man with her would be forced to marry her to save her reputation. The “shotgun” marriage so to speak though there no doubt was a time or two daddy stood with a loaded gun and cocked it if the man almost backed out from saying “I do.” If he was shot after the ceremony, she was a widow and in good standing. Not saying that happened but…

Divorce – unacceptable in the Victorian age. Only one ground allowed it to happen and that was infidelity, mostly by the wife. No, if you didn’t like your spouse, you might live on different floors of the house and never meet or in different houses but if invited to an event, you went together as husband and wife and put a front on for society.

If she made it to age 23 without getting a proposal (a forward lady, speaking her own thoughts or opinions and not being the demur delicate flower could steer men away), the lady was now a spinster, “put on the shelf” as it were. If she attended balls, she had to wear the darker colors of navy, dark green, etc. with no flowers in her hair and sit against the wall, resigned.

Society wasn’t designed to have ladies be “independent”. Women were under male guardianship their entire lives – first their father than husband. If a wallflower, they still were under dad and could be the mistress to their father’s home if mother was dead, the nanny to their sibling’s kids or work in a hat boutique – those were about the only options available. If they taught, they had to go out to the wild west (at this time, Kansas City represented the wild west) for lady teachers were not the norm in the 19th century and very few allowed to teach in a classroom. The west was desperate for teachers so they’d take anyone willing to travel to the sparsely settled wilderness. If in KC teaching, she meets the man of her dreams and they marry, it is expected of her to quit teaching.

Which brings us to another issue –

Work. Ladies didn’t work. The lower classes did but middle to upper were not suppose to. Even if her husband lost his job, it was unacceptable for her to work, as it’s his job to make the money to feed and support the family and hers to raise the kids and run the house (the “Spheres of Domesticity” firmly in place). Therefore, some took in mending or laundry, under the table, and kept it hidden. If discovered, it could be a problem. And as to domestic abuse, the rule was what happened behind marriage doors was no one’s business. Quite disturbing.

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This is a taste of society in Victorian America. There are plenty of etiquette books made at that time – these were for the middle and lower class and mostly for men so they’d know how to carry themselves. Upper classes were taught this as they grew up.

What time do you want to live in? Back then, it’s very polite and structured but for ladies of an independent nature, it was hell!

About The Wicked North

Bound by duty and honor to wear the Union blue, a Southern-born West Point officer fights his own desires and the need to protect the woman he abandoned, he disobeys his orders to find her, as the Army of the Potomac marches toward her family’s home near Richmond.
She has the guts and willpower to protect her home from the hated Yankee aggressors, but when that traitor to the South appears at her door, she’s torn between wanting to shoot him and to be held in his arms again. Can she forgive him for their past indiscretion or does she turn him in to be executed, a traitor to both sides? 
In the summer of 1862, her family’s plantation becomes the personal battle ground between them as deceit, betrayal and passion ignite the flames of love and hate that burn brighter than the roar of the guns and rivers of blood surrounding them.

 Excerpt

Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can, and strike him as hard as you can. And keep moving on!

General U.S. Grant, Virginia, June 1862

Emma Silvers was not afraid to shoot Yankees.

She leveled the .57 caliber Enfield rifle at the line of blue coats standing before her porch at Rose Hill that evening. She counted ten men, fully armed and wielding torches. They reeked of wet wool, sweat and gun powder–a noxious mixture combined with the scent of pink roses surrounding the house. Bile rose in her throat. She swallowed hard.

The officer took a step forward. In the dim light, she couldn’t discern his face, though she saw him flinch as she pointed the muzzle at him.

GinaDanna_TheWIckedNorth1400 copy“I want you off my land, now,” she demanded, her voice remarkably even despite her pounding heart. At twenty-two years and virtually alone, she knew one able-bodied man could easily overwhelm her. With no able men and few slaves remaining, she only had bravado left.

“Now, ma’am,” the Union officer began. He spoke like a gentleman, but, dressed in blue, he was an imposter as far as she was concerned.

Jeremiah, just behind her right shoulder, cocked the hammer on his rifle—a welcome sound to her ears. Good boy, Emma thought. If the Yankees didn’t believe she was a threat, she hoped the armed slave boy next to her got the message across. She wasn’t allowing any soldiers on her property again.

The rifle felt heavier by the minute, making her muscles ache, and she feared she’d drop it. The weapon was foreign to her hands, but as the war raged closer to her home, she learned to use it. She wasn’t very good at it, but, as close as the Yankees were, she was bound to hit one of them. She didn’t want to pull the trigger. The gun’s recoil would knock her off her feet, throwing her aim off. With so few bullets left, she’d hate to lose the shot.

The light streamed through the open front door across the officer as he stepped onto the porch. She saw his face and the nose of the gun slipped. Jack Fontaine, that good-for-nothing traitor! How dare he come here, especially after what had happened last summer? Rage took control and gave her the added strength to pull the muzzle up to his chest as she cocked the trigger.

“Emma, please,” he said softly. He looked at her the same way he had that night months ago, his green eyes glowing like emeralds in the light. She remembered those eyes, those mesmerizing emerald eyes. They were all hers the night she had lost her heart to him. The night he had betrayed her. Her anger flared. No. Not this time. Not again, she vowed. Gritting her teeth, Emma narrowed her gaze.

“Get away from me, Jack, or I swear to God, I’ll blow a hole through you and send you straight to hell!”

Inside the house, a babe wailed. Emma instinctively turned. Jack reached for her and she panicked, squeezing the trigger. The rifle exploded, throwing her backwards, pain shooting into her shoulder. But instead of falling, she found herself in Jack’s arms as they wrapped around her, shielding her back from the impact of the wooden floor.

The patrol stormed onto the porch and into the house. Lying in his embrace, his body shielding hers as his troops marched past them, Emma couldn’t breathe. Her eyes were wide open. She felt the heat of him around her. The scent of him invaded her senses. Warm, masculine, and spicy rolled into one. She fought the heat in her belly, but it was hard as his eyes locked onto hers, his lips only inches away.

She closed her eyes. Behind her, the wailing continued, and she heard the thud of soldiers’ boots inside. Her jaw tightened as she glared at him. “Get off me, Jack.”

About the Author

AuthorPic_Great and Unfortunate Desires copyA USA Today Bestselling author, Gina Danna was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent the better part of her life reading. History has always been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, always dreaming of writing one of her own. After years of writing historical academic papers to achieve her undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, and then for museum programs and exhibits, she found the time to write her own historical romantic fiction novels.

Now, living in Texas,under the supervision of her three dogs, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.

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Lillian Marek: Lady Emily’s Exotic Adventure (Giveaway)

Hello Susana. Thank you for inviting me into your parlour today.

I’d like to talk about my Victorian Adventure series, which features the children of the Marquess of Penworth. They travel to exciting places and encounter dangerous villains, but there’s an aspect of their stories that you may not have noticed.

You see, in a previous life, before I discovered the joys of writing historical romance, I used to work on a newspaper. The part of the job I liked best was writing a weekly cooking column. That meant that I spent a lot of time thinking about food—not exactly a hardship for me!

As a result, I like to make sure my characters are well fed. You just know they must work up an appetite when they’re escaping from the thieves and kidnappers and other miscreants who pop up in their stories.

There are elaborate dinners, of course. We are, after all, talking about aristocrats! But sometimes they just have a snack.

Lady Elinor's Wicked Adventures copy

In the first book of the series, Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures, the family travels to Italy to explore Etruscan ruins. Elinor has some more romantic plans as well. She and Harry have been riding through the hills where a number of Etruscan tombs are located. It’s a hot day, and they stop to rest in a bit of shade:

She heaved a sigh. It wasn’t Harry’s fault that she couldn’t win his interest. It was her own fault. She had mistaken his feelings. Although she was in love with him, his feelings were only brotherly. No passion. She had no right to complain. She wasn’t just being unreasonable. She was acting like a spoiled brat. Knowing it did not make her feel any better.

“Catch.”

She turned and put up her hands just in time to catch the object Harry had sent flying in her direction.

It almost splattered in her hands. “An orange. Lovely.” She smiled in delight and started peeling it immediately.

Harry had tossed aside his coat and neck cloth too, and unbuttoned his waistcoat. He plopped down on the ground beside her and grinned. “There’s another orange for you and some rolls. I remember how cranky you get when you haven’t been fed for a while.”

She slipped the first of the orange segments into her mouth, holding a hand under her chin to catch the drips. She held the morsel against the roof of her mouth with her tongue, letting the juices wash away the feeling of dust while the sweet-sharp scent of it cleaned the air she breathed. She swallowed and turned to him with a dreamy smile. “I forgive you.”

“Forgive me?” The grin disappeared and he looked startled. “What did I do?”

“Well, if you don’t know…” She turned away and shrugged.

There was a brief silence, and then they both began to laugh.

“Idiot!” she said affectionately.

“Ninny!” he replied.

By the time they had demolished the crusty rolls and licked up the last drop of juice from the oranges, Elinor’s mood had improved mightily. She stood up and stretched before looking around. Harry was lying back and seemed to have fallen asleep. She picked up his jacket and began checking the pockets to see if he had anything else to eat. Preferably something sweet.

Lady Emily's Exotic JourneyPart of the adventure when you’re far from home is the food, which can be very unlike your usual diet, especially when your travels take you to Mesopotamia and the ruins of ancient Nineveh. In Lady Emily’s Exotic Adventure, food seems especially important to Emily the morning after her family’s arrival in Mosul. She had slept through dinner, so she wakes up very early and very hungry, She gets herself dressed and then sets out to find something to eat:

Some time later, when Lady Penworth entered the courtyard, her daughter was sitting on the side of the fountain in the dappled shade of an overhanging tree.

“Good morning, Mama.” Emily waved at a tree. “The one in the corner over there is a lemon tree but this one and the others are all orange trees. And this is Shatha. She is the cook and makes the most delicious soft, flat bread.” She smiled at the small woman dressed in multicolored garments who was bent over a brazier on which something sizzled with an appetizing meaty smell.

Lady Penworth smiled at the cook and nodded her head in greeting. “As-salaam alaikum,” she said, pronouncing the Arabic greeting carefully.

Shatha beamed back and bowed. “Wa alaikum assalaam,” she said. What followed was a spate of Arabic that sounded like questions. When the only response was blank looks, Shatha popped up and directed Lady Penworth to sit on a bench in the shade of the loggia that surrounded three sides of the courtyard. She placed a folding table beside her, which was in no time filled with bowls of yogurt and dried fruit, boiled eggs, and a plate of steaming bread.

“Have some bread and honey,” Emily said. “The honey is incredibly delicious.” She was trying to be her usual cheerful self, but given the peculiar look her mother was giving her, perhaps she was not entirely successful.

Lady Penworth did not make any comment. She did, however, beam with pleasure when Shatha produced a steaming pot of tea and some cups. “Would you care for some?” she asked, as she filled a cup.

ScandalousAdventure_ copyMy next book, A Scandalous Adventure, will be available on August 2. It sends the third daughter, Lady Susannah, on an adventure in a small German principality in the Swabia region, where a princess has been kidnapped and villains are planning to seize the throne. In this scene, Susanna and Max von Staufen are riding through the forest with a few of his men, on their way to recuse the kidnapped princess. But they cannot manage without something to eat!

Eventually—to her relief—they stopped beside a small stream to rest the horses and themselves. She sat down on a log. It was no softer than the saddle, but at least it did not move. Breakfast appeared from Josef’s saddlebags—bread, a hard yellow cheese, and garlicky sausages that he cut into chunks with his hunting knife. To wash it down, there was icy water from the stream. Like the others, she ate with her fingers and drank from a shared tin cup.

It was a meal unlike any she had ever eaten, but somehow one of the finest. Max sat beside her, close enough for her to feel the warmth of him. It was enough to make her feel safe. He always made her feel safe.

“Do you see them smile?” He smiled too. “They are yours now.”

She blinked in confusion.

“My men,” he said, tipping his head toward Josef and the two other men—they had been introduced to her as Hans and Gustav—who had ridden out with them. “You sit here and eat with them, and do not scorn their food. You ride with them and do not complain. They would have protected you in any case because you are my wife. But now, now they will follow you because you have won their respect.”

“Because I ate a sausage?” She choked down a surprised laugh. “They are easily won over.”

He continued to smile at her, and there was pride in that smile. “Not easily. Josef will have told them that you rode with him to my rescue, that you never flinched on the journey, that you never complained. And now they see for themselves that you are prepared to ride with them, to face hardship, to do what must be done. My warrior countess.”

“Goodness. All that from a sausage?” She flushed, embarrassed by the thought. She was about to protest that she was really a very conventional person, a proper English lady, but then a smile began to spread. Was she a warrior? Was that who she really was? A warrior countess. She liked that image of herself. It was certainly better than Susannah, the dutiful daughter, who always knew the proper thing to do and never caused anyone a moment’s worry. That Susannah who had somehow become very boring.

What about you? Do you like to read about food in historical romances? Or are there other things about life in the past that you want to read about? Leave a comment telling me what you think and I’ll send a copy of Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey to a random commenter.

And just for fun, I’m adding on a recipe for Hussar Rounds, a cookie that Lady Susannah might have enjoyed with her coffee while she was in Swabia.

Hussar Rounds

1 cup butter

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon almond extract

3 egg yolks

3 – 3 ¼ cups flour

1 egg white

3 tablespoon chopped almonds

jam

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Beat in the yolks alternately with flour until firm and smooth. Shape into slightly flattened 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet. With a finger make an indentation in the middle of each cookie. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350° for 20 – 25 minutes. Before serving, place a dab of jam in the center of each cookie. (If you use several different colors of jam, it increases the jewel-like look of the platter.)

Note: If you are going to store them (they keep well), wait with the jam until just before serving.

Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventure

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Lady Emily’s Exotic Adventure

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A Scandalous Adventure (pre-order)

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About the Author

Lil Marek copyLillian Marek was born and raised in New York City. At one time or another she has had most of the interesting but underpaid jobs available to English majors, including too many years in journalism. She greatly prefers writing fiction, where the good guys always win and the villains are properly punished.

The first book in her Victorian Adventure series, Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures, won first prize in both the Launching A Star and the Windy City Four Seasons contests. She was also a first prize winner in the Beau Monde’s Royal Ascot contest.

Julie Johnstone, Katherine Bone, Collette Cameron, Jillian Chantal, Samantha Grace, Alanna Lucas, Lauren Smith, Victoria Vane: Once Upon a True Love’s Kiss

Once-Upon-A-True-Love39s-Kiss2D-Cover

USA Today Best-selling author, Julie Johnstone, joins best-selling, award-winning authors, Katherine Bone, Collette Cameron, Jillian Chantal, Samantha Grace, Alanna Lucas, Lauren Smith, and Victoria Vane in this delightful limited edition, containing eight tantalizing kiss-and-tell stories. Meet dashing, wildly charming rogues, spies, pirates, rakes and their extraordinary, intrepid heroines as they whisk you along on sweet to sizzling romantic romps in these wickedly entertaining historical romances.

After Forever by Julie Johnstone

Lady Julia is hired to turn a rogue into a gentleman and receives lessons in love and desire.

Widowed Lady Julianna Barrows never wants to fall in love again. But when the notorious former boxer Nash Overton hires her to transform him into a gentleman, Julianna quickly becomes the student, learning more about passion than she’s ever known, and more importantly, learning how to love again. 2 1/2 Kisses

The Pirate’s Duchess by Katherine Bone

A duke masquerading as a pirate to “rob from the rich and give to the poor” sheds his darkest-kept secrets to keep from losing the duchess his wife has become.

Duty forces him to take on the pirate code, but honor brings him back.

Prudence, Duchess of Blackmoor, has one desire—to be happy again. After struggling to overcome the horrifying death of her husband, she accepts an earl’s offer of marriage, confident she’s taking a step in the right direction. But demons, refuse to die, and Prudence finds herself caught in an intricate web of deceit that threatens the very foundations of all she holds dear.

Tobias, the Duke of Blackmoor, crosses the line when an assassination attempt on him fails. To restore the reputations of friends under attack by the same villain, and ensure his wife’s safety, he stages his own death, becoming The Black Regent, a notorious pirate bent on brandishing justice, never thinking he’d survive. But to his amazement, he has, and now the darkest-kept secrets are not worth losing the duchess his wife has become. 2 1/2 Kisses

Her Scandalous Wish by Collette Cameron

A marriage offer obligated by duty . . . an acceptance compelled by desperation.

Philomena Pomfrett is resigned to spinsterhood, but to ease her dying brother’s fretting, she reluctantly agrees to attend a London Season with one purpose—to acquire a husband. Stumbling upon her hiding in a secluded garden arbor during a ball, Bradford, Viscount Kingsley doesn’t recognize his first love, yet something about the mysterious woman enthralls him, and he steals a passionate, moonlit kiss.

Caught in the act by Philomena’s brother, Bradford is issued an ultimatum—a duel or marry Philomena. He offers marriage, but even impoverished and with no other decent prospects, she rejects his half-hearted proposal until her brother collapses. Now, Philomena’s faced with marrying a man who deserted her once already. 2 Kisses

Milady and Her Spy by Jillian Chantal

A lady, a spy, a traitor… a battle of wills.

Raised in the country after her mother’s death with only the company of three unruly brothers, Lady Augusta Covington is more proficient at fencing, riding and playing cards than being prim and proper. Myles Cuthbert, a spy in His Majesty’s service on a mission to find and expose a traitor, crosses paths with Lady Augusta when she rides to the aid of her brother, believing him to be injured. With the assignment at risk, Cuthbert agrees to accept the assistance of the troublesome lady eager for intrigue. As they move forward, his sense of obligation to her and the danger involved stir his soul. 1 Kiss

Kissed By a Scottish Rogue by Samantha Grace

Scottish land steward Fergus McTaggert calls a temporary truce with his employer’s companion only to discover their passionate battles have been masking their hidden desires.

His Mother Insists He Needs a Wife.

Fergus McTaggart, Aldmist Fell’s land steward, has no time for wife hunting. Any day his employer’s sisters will be arriving at the Scottish castle for a long overdue reunion. Fergus is determined to make their stay memorable, but all anyone is likely to recall are the loud rows between him and his employer’s cheeky paid companion.

She Insists He Needs a Good Knock to the Head.

Edith Gallagher has been charged with watching over her employer’s youngest sister while the family winters in Scotland, but the stubborn land steward interferes at every turn. Eventually, she and the Scot call a truce for the sisters’ sakes only to discover their passionate battles are masking hidden desires. 2 Kisses

Stolen Kisses From the Viscount by Alanna Lucas

A rake, an heiress, and stolen kisses…this seduction could be his last.

Desperate times call for drastic measures as Miss Aveline Redgrave enters her third season. Fearful of fortune hunters, she attempts to stay clear of Lord Leybourne, a rogue who is not to be trusted. But his seductive smile and enticing kisses awaken a passion that threatens her common sense. No stranger to scandal, Leybourne is determined to save his family from ruin whatever the cost, even marrying an heiress he doesn’t love. But an unexpected desire and need to protect threatens his plans. Will past heartaches and a devastating wager destroy their future or will true love’s kiss triumph? 3 Kisses

Tempted By a Rogue by Lauren Smith

Gemma never planned on falling in love with her childhood sweetheart’s best friend, Jasper, when he returns home, but she can’t resist the naval officer’s brooding charm.

Gemma plans to marry James, her childhood sweetheart. With every letter written between them while he’s been off at sea, their love has grown. Now they will be reunited with his return to England. But the man whose words she’d fallen in love with isn’t James…

Jasper, a gentleman rogue of the first order, is trapped. Talked into a scheme by his friend, he pretended to be James for eleven years while writing to Gemma. He’s promised James he’d break it off. But when he returns home, his secret will come out – and he’ll lose the one woman he can’t live without. 4 Kisses

The Redemption of Julian Price by Victoria Vane

She gave him a chance to bury his past… but the price would be his heart…

Burdened by the past…Orphaned at a young age and left to run wild, at eighteen Julian Price joins the fight against Napoleon in the hope of attaining honor. Devastated when his best friend, Thomas, is killed in battle, Julian returns home burdened with guilt, only to find his wastrel uncle has squandered his inheritance.

Desperate to live her own life… Facing a future of drudgery caring for her aging mother and raising her brother’s children, Henrietta Houghton believes her chance at a real life died with Thomas, the only man who ever wanted her. But Henrietta is still full of dreams. When her wealthy aunt, offers her a gift of ten thousand pounds, Henrietta finally has the chance to choose her own destiny.

Everything has a price…With a fortune at her command, Henrietta offers Julian a marriage of convenience, unaware that she really offers Julian a means of salvation—not just his fortune, but his very soul. 3 Kisses

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A lovely mélange of charming romantic tales by highly acclaimed authors: 4/5 stars

A former boxer determined to raise his and his daughter’s status in life falls in love with his widowed etiquette tutor. A widowed lady’s second marriage ceremony is interrupted by… her dead husband! A young lady promises her ailing brother she will find a husband encounters the beau who deserted her when she was scarred in a fire. Another young lady finds herself embroiled in a dangerous espionage plot with a handsome young spy. A lady’s companion with a tarnished background finds herself drawn to the annoyingly handsome Scottish land steward. A rakish young viscount in need of a wealthy wife to compensate for his late father’s profligacy pursues a young lady determined to avoid fortune hunters. A not-so-young lady who has been exchanging love letters with her childhood sweetheart at sea eagerly awaits his homecoming, but what happens when the man who returns is someone else entirely? With her first love a casualty of war and the prospect of a life of nothing but drudgery, a young lady is offered the opportunity to forge her own destiny… with a man in need of much more than her money.

If you are looking for well-written romantic tales for a pleasant evening’s diversion, you won’t be disappointed by this delightful anthology.

About the Authors

Julie Johnstone is an USA TODAY best-selling author of edgy Regency Romance. She feels she’s living the dream by working with her passion of creating worlds from her imagination. When not writing, she’s chasing her precocious children around, cooking, reading or exercising. Julie loves to hear from her readers.

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Katherine Bone is an Amazon #1 best-selling Historical Romance Author passionate about history since she had the opportunity to travel to various Army bases, castles, battlegrounds, and cathedrals as an Army brat-turned-Officer’s-Wife. Now she lives in the south where she writes about Rogues, Rebels and Rakes, aka Pirates, Lords, Captains, Duty, Honor, and Country and the happily-ever-afters every alpha male and damsel deserve.

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Jillian Chantal is a 2015 RONE Finalist and lives on the beautiful coast of Florida, and even though she loves her little slice of paradise, she’s an Anglophile at heart. Writing in a variety of romance genres makes her happy, but she has a particular fondness for the Georgian/Regency era as it was the age she adored as a teen and as her introduction to the world of happily-ever-afters. Living on the gulf coast also reminds Jillian, daily, that even though she loves the past, she needs the present. Air conditioning is vital for her survival.

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Collette Cameron is an Amazon #1 best-selling and award-winning Historical Romance Author of more than ten Scottish and Regency Romances featuring rogues, rapscallions, rakes, and the intrepid damsels who reform them. Mother to three and self-proclaimed Cadbury chocoholic, she makes her home in Oregon with her husband and five mini-dachshunds. You’ll always find animals, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels.

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Samantha Grace is an Amazon best-Selling, RITA-nominated Historical Romance Author who discovered the appeal of a great love story at the age of four, thanks to Disney’s “Robin Hood”. She didn’t care that Robin Hood and Maid Marian were cartoon animals. It was her first happily-ever-after experience, and she wanted the warm fuzzies to go on forever. Now that Samantha is grown, she enjoys creating happy-endings for characters that spring from her imagination. Publisher’s Weekly describes her stories as “fresh and romantic” with subtle humor and charm. Samantha describes romance writing as the best job ever.

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Alanna Lucas is an Amazon best-selling author and grew up in Southern California, but always dreamed of distant lands and bygone eras. From an early age she took interest in art, history, and travel, and enjoys incorporating those diversions into her writing. However, she believes that true love is the greatest source of inspiration and is always an adventure. Alanna makes her home in California where she spends her time writing historical romances, dreaming of her next travel destination, spending time with family, and staying up too late indulging in her favorite past time, reading.

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Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, is an Amazon best-selling, award winning author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat, and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being a New England Reader’s Choice Winner, Greater Detroit Bookseller’s Best Award Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

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Victoria Vane is an Amazon #1 bestselling author of smart and sexy romance. Her works range from comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance and have received over twenty awards and nominations to include: a 2015 Red Carpet Finalist for Best Contemporary romance (SLOW HAND), 2014 RONE Winner for Best Historical Post Medieval Romance (Treacherous Temptations), and Library Journal Best E-Book romance of 2012 (The Devil DeVere series). Victoria also writes romantic historical fiction as Emery Lee. She currently resides in Palm Coast, Florida with her husband, two sons, a little black dog, and an Arabian horse.

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For the purpose of this anthology, the following ratings apply:

One KissStories will either not have consummated love scenes, or subtly sexy undetailed scenes behind a closed bedroom door. You’re not invited inside. Sorry.

Two KissesStories are more sensual than sweet with some love scenes that are more sensual than graphic. You might blush, but you won’t need a fan.

Three KissesStories are sexier and bolder with more explicit love scenes and the language used to describe them may be more graphic. A fan and a cool beverage might be in order, but you won’t experience everything. *Wink*

Four KissesStories have frequent, graphic love scenes with explicit language. Be prepared to blush and stand in front of the air conditioner, a tall, iced drink in hand. Clothing is optional.

Five KissesStories have frequent graphic, descriptive love scenes and/or contain subject matter some readers may find objectionable. Blushing guaranteed, and you might learn a thing or two or three. But never fear, we won’t tattle if you don’t.

Gina Danna: Great & Unfortunate Desires

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Gina will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N 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 Great & Unfortunate Desires

Victorian England c. 1870

Operating as a British spy, Tristan St.James, the new Marquis of Wrenworth, barely escapes Afghanistan with his life in the spring of 1869. He plans to seek vengeance against the traitor who exposed him and for the agent he’s forced to kill. Returning to England, as a lord, he must marry. Haunted by guilt from the horrors of war, he avoids love at all costs, but finds himself drawn to the only woman who is disinterested in him.

Lady Evelyn Hurstine has waited over two years for the return of her love, a man who left for war in the East. But during that time, she suffered a brutal assault, resulting in a child and fear of any man touching her except for the man she once knew. The pursuit by the marquis scares her but her excuses against his proposal dwindle.

Their marriage strengthens into love until she discovers her husband isn’t the safety she believed but the one who killed the man she once loved. Caught in a world of intrigue and mayhem, Tristan must prove his love to her before the traitor destroys them both.

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Excerpt

“I shall talk to him shortly.”

Evelyn raised her brows, eyeing over his shoulder. “Shortly may be now, my lord.”

Cover_GreatAndUnfortunateDesires copyTristan turned. Barreling down the lawn, creating a wake in in his path, Evelyn’s father stormed toward them. Not far behind him was Huntington and his son. Tristan gauged their pace and the distance. He had a few seconds and could hear Evelyn’s foot tapping against the grass. Frankly, he was surprised she hadn’t crossed her arms in anger or left him. With every second, her behavior and decision to stay put only made him more interested in her. Damn! Her dowry and position made her exactly what he needed his English bride to be like, with a ramrod backbone and a defiance of societal rules. As Evelyn’s father got closer, there was only one thing Tristan could think of to ensure she become his. In one swift move, he turned, pulled her close, bent her backward, and pressed his cheek to hers. She gasped.

“Considering the situation, you need me as much as I need you. We are the perfect match,” he whispered, smiling and gesturing as if to kiss her.

They both knew in that moment she became his forever. The compromising position between two single people in a public setting was shocking to the ton.

Tristan heard the grass crunching under the footsteps of the Baron and his party. He didn’t look in their direction but eased back from Evelyn, watching her reaction. Suppressed fury blazed in her eyes, and her body was rigid.

“Naught, naught, naught,” he murmured. “To slap me would be appropriate but would serve you no purpose.”

Despite the fire in her gaze, she relaxed a little within his arms. “But it would give me satisfaction nevertheless,” she whispered defiantly, although she didn’t move.

About the Author

AuthorPic_Great and Unfortunate Desires copyBorn in St. Louis, Missouri, Gina Danna has spent the better part of her life reading. History has been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, dreaming of writing one of her own. Years later, after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, writing academic research papers and writing for museum programs and events, she finally found the time to write her own stories of historical romantic fiction.

Now, under the supervision of her three dogs and three cats, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.

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Maeve Alpin: The Brass Octopus

Message From Maeve

The ugly duckling is a favorite fairy tale of mine. I’ve seen the ugly duckling plot in a lot of books and films. I use it in The Brass Octopus.

The so called duckling was always beautiful, she was just with the wrong family. If she’d been with a family of swans no one would have ever used the word ugly. That’s what happened to my heroine Piety. Her verbally and emotionally abusive mother called her ugly. As she grew up, Piety protected herself by trying not to bring attention to herself – dressing drably and throwing herself in to her work. She’s the head librarian at London’s library. The story is set in the Victorian era. So a  prim and proper Victorian librarian transforms to an enticing beauty. What makes my version different?

I’m going to get to that. First, let me tell you about the hero. Blake Blackmore is a bad boy, a rich rogue who spends his nights gambling and womanizing. I’m sure you’ve already guessed, once he meets Piety he’s willing to give all that up for her.

Now, back to the earlier question. What makes The Brass Octopus different is – in The brass octopus, Piety lives in an alternate dimension in which inventions depicted in Jane Loudon’s book the Mummy have been created. So even though it’s Victorian London, there is some advanced technology for the era, woman wear pants, and tinkering or inventing gadgets is a favorite pastime for proper Victorian ladies along with decoupage, scrapbooking, and hand painting china. Piety’s sister, Polly, has  created a beauty machine called the brass octopus.

About The Brass Octopus

brass octopus copySpinster Librarian Piety Plunkett is happy alone with her books, until her sister Polly transforms her with a bras octopus beautifying machine. With her new look, the librarian catches the lusty attentions of London’s most notorious rogue. Blake Blackmore enjoys the favors of beautiful women from the brothels of London to high society’s most fashionable debutantes but only the spinster librarian consumes his mind night and day. Piety insists she will not wed but devote her life to her position as head librarian, but Blake will stop at nothing to win her. He takes matters into his own hands and tutors her in carnal pleasure in three passion filled lessons. Now that she is sharing her body, instead of just her books, Piety is shocked yet pleased at how naughty she can be under Blake’s personal tutelage. But if anyone finds out about what goes on in the library after closing time, her reputation would be ruined. Is that Blake’ ultimate plan?

Excerpt

“That is why we cannot waste a moment more.” Polly dropped her arm from Piety’s shoulders and grabbed her sister’s hand, pulling her into the dressing room. “Wait until you see my latest invention.” She pointed to a large brass octopus standing in the corner.

Held on a brass stand, its bottom was fashioned in the shape of an x, with a thin straight pole to the back of the head jointed to another rod so it could be adjusted. Two molded eyes on the side of its head stared at her. Eight long arms reached out from the tiny body beneath its gleaming head, and directly underneath stood a brass stool.

“This will make you even more beautiful than you are.” Polly walked over to the brass sea creature and reaching up, she patted its large head.

“Is it the pregnancy? Is that what has caused you to lose your mind?”

“This machine is fabulous.” Polly gestured to her to sit on the stool. “Try it.”

Piety scratched her head. “It’s good the Queen encourages all housewives to develop their creativity by crafting gadgets like the ones in Loudon’s book, to make life easier for them and their families, but I fear you’ve taken it too far.”

Each of the eight burnished arms held something in the suction cups attached on the end, where hands would be on a human. An open tin of rouge in one arm, the second, grasped a cosmetic brush and powder puff, in the third lay a tin of powder, an unwrapped silk paper container of red lipstick in the fourth, the fifth arm clutched a small bottle of hair oil, the sixth held a hairbrush, while the seventh grasped a fancy glass container of French perfume and the eighth arm lay empty.

Polly took Piety’s spectacles off.

“I need those.”

“For reading. You don’t need them right now or at the ball. You’ll be dancing, not reading books.”

She sat on the stool with the octopus behind her. “What is this?” Her upper back rested against its small, brass body.

“You will see. Just sit still so the machine can work its magic.” Polly pressed the ruby button on top of the octopus’s head.

The clanking, churning sound caused an on-edge sensation in Piety. As the hand holding the oil moved toward her, she grew shaky. She braced her toes on the floor, ready to lunge off the stool and make a run for it. The hand holding the oil reached her head, tilted slightly, then straightened after pouring some of its contents on her hair. Her scalp tingled from the warm liquid.

“It tickles, but feels quite nice. What does it do?”

The hand clutching the brush in its suction cup moved toward her. Piety grimaced, fearing it might hit her. She let out a pent up breath, relaxing her neck and shoulder muscles as the brass octopus brushed her hair, spread the oil to her roots and through the strands, and then swept her hair into a pile on top of her head.

“It helps it curl.” Polly grinned as she shoved a wayward blonde strand of her hair out of her face.

The octopus’s hollow head, which ran along the brass pole in back, rose, separating from its body, then swung forward, hovering over Piety. It lowered, inch by inch, until it dropped over her head, covering her hair and forehead.

“This is daft. It has swallowed me.” She cringed as tiny things, she didn’t know what, gripped sections of her hair and twirled it. “What is happening?”

“It curls hair better than any lady’s maid.”

“I do not want my hair curled by a brass octopus.“

“It’s guaranteed to bring out the beauty in everyone. Isn’t it marvelous?”

Before Piety could answer, the arm clutching the powder puff dipped it in the large round tin held in another arm. She had to shut her mouth as the octopus powdered her face.

From inside the octopus’s head, it squirted liquid on her scalp. “It sprayed me.”

“I have always liked your hair, but you say it’s drab. Now it will be a different color. That should make you happy.”

The octopus seemed to be baking her scalp. “Why is it hot?”

“It’s battery-powered rather than clockwork. I needed it to heat to curl hair fast and tight.”

“A battery. Like the galvanic one in The Mummy that resurrected Pharaoh Cheops?”

“Smaller and not as strong. It’s just a lead-acid battery. Remember when Father took us to the seashore for holiday and we flew in the balloon-coach? It’s the same type of battery that powered the lights on in the carriage at night.” Polly flashed a toothy grin at her sister. “It doesn’t bring anything alive except your hair.”

“How fabulous,” she said with full sarcasm. “My head itches.” She wished this would all be over soon. “What color will it be?”

“We won’t know until it’s finished, but whatever it is will be the best color for you.”

“Of course, everyone knows if you need beauty advice, just ask a brass octopus. Polly, my only sister or not, I shall kill you when I escape the clutches of this confounded contraption.”

The Brass Octopus is for ages 18 and up and is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N9N498E

About the Author

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 23 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. http://maeveAlpin.com

Cassandra Dean and “Silk & Scorn”

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Cassandra will be awarding at each stop a signed Silk & Scorn postcard and a Silk & Scorn magnet to a randomly drawn commenter, and a Grand Prize of a $15 Amazon Gift Card, a hard copy* and ebook copy of Silk & Scandal, the Silk Series Book 1, a Silk & Scorn mug, a signed Silk & Scorn postcard and a Silk & Scorn magnet will be awarded to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. (international giveaway). Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.
*hard copy will be printed and bound, not an official bound paperback

 

Hi peeps!

First off, thank you to Susana  for having me. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Cassandra Dean and I write historical romance ranging from sweet to steamy. I also play about in the eras, roaming from Ancient Rome to Victorian to the Old West and beyond. My books take readers on an emotional rollercoaster, from the lowest of lows to the joyous of highs. And, of course, my characters fall into the forever kind of love.

Today I’m chatting about an interesting historical tidbit I encountered while researching Silk and Scorn, my latest release and second in The Silk Series. I’d actually like to talk about the title a bit and why the series is called The Silk Series. I decided to centre the series around people who work in various employment within the Law during the Early Victorian period. As such, the first book features a barrister, the second (Silk and Scorn) a solicitor, the third will feature a scribe, the fourth a law professor and the fifth a police detective. The ‘silk’ portion of the title refers to this person employed by the law – Silk is a nickname given to those barristers (a type of lawyer) who obtain the position of Queen’s Counsel (or King’s Counsel when a man sits on the English throne).

I looked a bit into the history of Queens Counsels while researching the series and found the following interesting bits and pieces:

  • The first official Queens Counsel (or Kings Counsel as it was then) was Sir Francis Bacon, a bit of a notable figure himself. He was appointed 1597 and formally styled a Kings Counsel in 1603.
  • Up until the 1830s, Queens Counsels were thin on the ground but around that time it became the standard means of recognising barristers as a senior member of the profession and numbers multiplied accordingly.
  • The first woman appointed to the rank was in Canada in 1943. The first women appointed in England was in 1949.
  • Queens Counsels wear formal robes of silk while in court, as opposed to junior barristers who wear robes made of cotton or a similar fabric. This is where the nickname ‘Silk’ comes into play.

As you can see, there is a lot of interesting information regarding this. I had such fun discovering it all and I hope you have too!

Cassandra

About Silk and Scorn

No matter how much their mothers wanted Sarah and Arthur to wed, Sarah had loathed him. However, circumstance and her late husband’s father conspire against her, and she is forced to turn to Arthur for help. Perhaps she needs his legal expertise, but she refuses to acknowledge how handsome her oldest foe has become…or her reaction to him.

His childhood nemesis is the last person Arthur Davenport expected to require his services. When a spurious claim against her late husband’s estate brings Sarah Wetherall to his door, he can’t refuse the pretty widow.

Thrown together by fate, will they discover there is a fine line between scorn and passion?

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Excerpt

Cover_SilkAndScornArthur turned his regard to the woman. Currently she studied his qualifications, hung on the wall along with the framed pictures his mother had given him for his birthday every year since he’d become a solicitor. “Mrs. Wetherall, good afternoon. Please, seat yourself.”

Her shoulders straightened infinitesimally but she didn’t respond, instead continuing to regard the wall.

Irritation tugged, but he suppressed it. Emotion would get him nowhere. “Mrs. Wetherall?”

With a sweep of her skirts, the lady and her hat settled into the chair before his desk.

Frowning, he sank to his own seat. That enormous hat was absurd, still disguising her face. Why did women think such things were attractive? In addition to being ludicrous, it no doubt put undue pressure upon her neck.

Lacing her hands in her lap, the lady finally spoke. “I find I require the services of a solicitor in regards to my late husband’s will.”

The hair at the back of his neck stood up. No. Oh, Christ, no.

The hat tilted, exposing her face. Every muscle in Arthur’s body seized.

Mrs. Wetherall, formerly Miss Sarah Stanhope and the bane of his childhood, glared at him from beneath her ridiculous hat.

About the Author

Cassandra grew up daydreaming, inventing fantastical worlds and marvelous adventures. Once she learned to read (First phrase – To the Beach. True story), she was never without a book, reading of other people’s fantastical worlds and marvelous adventures.

Fairy tales, Famous Fives, fantasies and fancies; horror stories, gumshoe detectives, science fiction; Cassandra read it all. Then she discovered Romance and a true passion was born.

So, once upon a time, after making a slight detour into the world of finance, Cassandra tried her hand at writing. After a brief foray into horror, she couldn’t discount her true passion. She started to write Romance and fell head over heels.

The love affair exists to this very day.

Cassandra lives in Adelaide, South Australia.

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Rachel Brimble: The Temptation of Laura

Interview with Rachel Brimble

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

Rachel: The Temptation of Laura is the second book in my ongoing Victorian series with eKensington. The books are set in and around the famous city of Bath, England. I am lucky enough to live just a short thirty-minute drive from the city so it was inevitable I would write historical romances with Bath as the influence.

My romances are darker than most because I love to write about the poorer people living in the late 1800s rather than the gentry. Laura is a prostitute striving for a better life and Adam is an actor whose ambition and fear of failure leads him to make dire mistakes. I enjoy reading books where the hero and heroines have to struggle for their happily ever after…I hope your readers will agree the fight is worth it, come the end.

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

Rachel: I am working on book 3 in the series – tentatively called The Passion of Monica, this story is about Monica Danes who was a secondary character in book 2. As soon as she appeared on the page I knew she deserved her own story. This book takes Monica from her beloved Bath back to her hometown of Biddestone. The death of her father means her family needs her and Monica is forced to face the painful lesson of learning to forgive and forget…

Susana: What are you reading now?

Rachel: Right now I am reading The Victorian House by the fabulous historian, Judith Flanders for research, as well as Lady of the Rivers by one of my all time favorite authors, Philippa Gregory.

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

Rachel: For my contemporary work (Harlequin Superromance), my biggest influences are Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis and Robyn Carr. For my historical work, I love Jean Fullerton, Philippa Gregory and Lisa Kleypas

Susana: What is your work schedule like when writing?

Rachel: I am lucky enough to write full-time around my two teenage daughters so when they are at school, I work from 8.30-3.30 and then grab as much time at the laptop as possible around household chores and running them where they need to be. At the weekends, I write if we aren’t doing anything as a family but try my hardest to spend time with my husband and kids.

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

Rachel: My all-time favorite writers are Nora Roberts and Stephen King – both these authors never fail to deliver and every time I pick up one of their books, I know I am in for a treat both as a writer and reader. Their styles are entirely different but the stories are heavily character-driven which draws me in and makes me care.

When I grow up, I want to call myself Nora King 😉

About The Temptation of Laura

CoverLaura Robinson has always been dazzled by the glamour of the stage. But perhaps acting and selling one’s favors are not so different—for Laura must feign pleasure with the men she beds to survive. Now, with her only friend at death’s door and a ruthless pimp at her heels, escaping her occupation seems impossible. Hoping to attract a gentleman, she attends the theater. Yet the man Laura captivates is no customer, but a rising star and playwright…

Adam Lacey has been driven to distraction since the moment he saw Laura. She is his ideal leading lady come to irresistible life—and so much more. Certain they can make the perfect team on and off stage, he is determined to win her heart—and discover her story. But that is precisely what Laura fears. And she has no idea that Adam harbors shameful secrets of his own. Will the truth free them to love—or destroy all their dreams…?

Available

Amazon US • Amazon UK • Barnes & Noble • Kobo

About the Author

me - 2012Rachel lives with her husband and two young daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK.  After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. In 2012, she sold two books to Harlequin Superromance and a further three in 2013. She also writes Victorian romance for Kensington–her debut was released in April 2013 and she has since signed for three more.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family and beloved black Lab, Max. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

Contacts

Website • Blog • Twitter • Facebook

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