A Cross-Book Vignette from Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem

As part of the blog tour for Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, the holiday box set by the Bluestocking Belles, characters from the novellas will be meeting up outside the covers of the book, appearing on Belles’ blogs throughout the month of October.

To see the scene from the opposing point of view, go to Caroline Warfield’s blog.

Comment to win a print copy of The Bluestocking Belles’ Guide to a Good Time (random drawing): After reading this vignette, what do you think would happen if Jeremy and Sylvia inhabited the same book?


Jeremy Smithson - 1stLordLyndhurstJeremy Smithson, of ‘Tis Her Season, is at loose—if a bit desperate—ends. He has been twice thwarted in his honorable pursuit of a lady. The first incident was an unrequited love match, and does not bear description, but in truth, there had never been a serious chance of the second: marrying his cousin, Charlotte Amberly, to lay hands on the money left to her by her father’s mother. If Jeremy’s father had been serious about that prospect, he should have cultivated Charlotte’s father as an ally years ago, not let Aunt Minerva stir up trouble for the Smithsons with her viscount husband.

Two decades ago, his aunt, the daughter of a new baronet, married far above herself to become Viscountess Effingale; now, the viscountess’ daughter will become a marchioness. Jeremy would give anything for a decent scheme to ensure Charlotte became a baronetess, instead, but as yet, there is as much chance of that as finding money in his pocket the next time he looks.

What he does have is a fresh horse and a stack of IOUs in the name of the dead Duke of Murnane (from Caroline Warfield’s A Dangerous Nativity), who has left a widow, a young son, and—hopefully—enough money to make good his vowels. The man’s solicitor refers Jeremy to an executor and steward at the country estate, which is, as it happens, on the road to a house party where he will find enough games of chance to tide him over until the Little Season. But he has barely the cost of coach fare, much less the more stylish transport required to spend a fortnight with a wealthy baron one knew from White’s. He will make a stop in Wheatton, pay a call at Eversham Hall. If things go in his favor, the executor will open a strongbox, count out five hundred guineas, and Jeremy will be on his way. If worse comes to worst, there are always baubles in houses that size that can be pocketed and sold.


11988372_10153567034265833_8915374228152316645_n“Your Grace,” Mr. Smithson says, looking over his shoulder to nod his thanks to the butler, who has been more than accommodating, in return for a small consideration. He bows elegantly over the hand of the woman he has come upon, who could only be the widow, in bombazine from head to toe.

“I am all but a broken man, hearing of your recent bereavement, and came with all due haste to pay my respects to you and, of course, Murnane’s heir. The late duke was a fine man who will be missed greatly.”

The duchess blinks rapidly and seems to shudder at the very sight of him, looking around as if expecting a ghost. Her hand scrabbles at her skirt as her eyes roam the room. “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch your name,” she says at last, a quiver in her voice.

“Smithson, Your Grace. Jeremy Smithson. And entirely your servant.”

She seems confused by his presence, but not enough so to question him, nor sound an alarm. She only grimaces in the time-honored style of a political wife. She is well trained. “I am honored, Mr. Smithson.”

Jeremy peers around the room. The appointments are not lavish, nor cheap. He would not even have to sell a few of the widow’s accouterments in this room to clear the debt he was owed. But she was still young, and not unattractive. And biddable, if the duke’s drunken ramblings were to be believed. There might be more opportunity on the table than the price of a silver hairbrush and the ear bobs lying out on the sideboard.

Laudanum_poison_100ml_flasche Following the direction of her eye, he spies a bottle on a nearby table. “May I be of service?” He picks up the bottle and brings it to her. “I hope I do not find you ill, Your Grace. Your late husband would think me no kind of gentleman, were I to allow you to languish in misery. Have you had a physician?”

Her shoulders shake at the word, as does her voice. She reminds him of a gin drunk with no money to fill his glass. “Y-yes. He, ah, told me I—” she eyes the bottle longingly. “I suffer a weakness of the nerves, Mr. Smithson. And grief, of course.”

He shakes the bottle minutely.

“Please. My tonic. If you could just put few drops in some lemon water. There—on the table.”

Not much left. He pours a glass of lemon water and adds a few drops of laudanum. “Of course, I shall not keep you from your medicine. Tell me, what is the dosage?” Her eyes are already a bit vacant, and she wants more. Biddable, indeed.

“Thank you, Mr. Smithson. Uh, why did you say you were here again?”

He adds one drop after another to the water, reading the required dosage in her eyes. When her shoulders relax, he hands over the glass with a flourish. “Why, Your Grace, it is as I said. I merely wished to assure myself of your safety and well-being. I would hate to see you fall into trouble… a woman alone.”

12067244_10153622395565833_717004058_nHe slides into the chair next to hers and picks up the book she had been reading—or more likely, pretending to read, for he would not be convinced her eyes can focus long enough to parse a sentence. He raises an eyebrow at the title, now certain she hadn’t been reading. Murnane wouldn’t have allowed this trash in his house, much less in the hands of his wife, if there were any chance she would comprehend it.

“Do you often read Wollstonecroft, Your Grace?”

“Wollstonecraft?” She struggles to keep her attention on the book in his hand. “I don’t think so. Chadbourn thought that one would amuse me.”

“Chadbourn, Your Grace?”

“My brother. He, he is managing Emery’s estate. He’s only here for a while.”

A brother. Damn.

“I see.”

Lady-LilithJeremy sets the book aside, well out of her reach. “I do hope he is seeing to your amusement, Your Grace. It would not do for you to be crushed under the weight of your grief. While I do understand there must be no hint of impropriety, I will be staying in the village for a time, and would welcome the opportunity to entertain. Perhaps… if it can be managed without fanfare, of course… perhaps we might make a picnic?”

He reaches out and traces the back of her hand with one fingertip. It is a risk, to be sure, but there is every chance she won’t even feel it, and if she does… well… after her marriage to Murnane, the dolt, she might be susceptible to a bit of tenderness. Jeremy can feign tenderness as well as the next man.

The duchess closes her eyes and leans into his touch.

Her eyes flew open. “I don’t like what happens next.”

No, Jeremy wouldn’t have liked bedding Murnane, either, but was starting to see the appeal of the man’s wife. “Next, Your Grace?”

“After, you know. And Emery always did.” Her voice trails off, confused. “Emery gave me my tonic. Chadbourn takes it away. I like to dance when I…”

Jeremy watches her mind meander with increasing delight. She is really not all there. A quick marriage will leave Jeremy in control of everything of the late duke’s that isn’t entailed, and anything in trust for his wife and son. Lock her up in Bedlam for her own good—just look at her—send Murnane’s brat off to Eton for the next ten years, and Jeremy could do whatever he pleased with a duchy.

He leans in closer. “You like to dance, you say?”

Her face turns so quickly, their lips nearly touch. “I love to dance, but Emery won’t let me. I like flowers, too. Do you like flowers?” Her eyes might as well be made of glass, and he would wager all Murnane’s vowels, she has no memory of him walking through the door.

12085178_10153622396055833_1275783763_o“I love flowers, my sweet. We can pick bouquets on our picnic, and while I know Murnane preferred not to dance, I do not share his distaste. I will partner you in any figure you like.” He leaves the whisper of a kiss behind her ear.

“I do enjoy a picnic,” she murmurs, leaning toward the kiss. “Isn’t it a lovely day?” The dim sitting room, drapes drawn and windows firmly shut, looks nothing like a picnic venue—except perhaps in her drug-addled imagination.

“Glorious,” he croons, letting his breath trail against her lobe and the back of her neck, his eyes following his fingertip, tracing the edge of black lace on her mourning gown from her shoulder to her collarbone. She tries to rise, and he tests his influence and her sobriety, keeping her seated by the lightest touch of his hand.

Jeremy does have a partiality for girls who will fight back—briefly—but there is something intriguing about one who cannot conceive of making an argument. He wonders, idly, what other things Emery might have trained her to do without squabbling. It might be worth keeping her for a while to find out, before handing her over to Bedlam.

Sylvia blinks up at him with a flash of lucidity. “Emery? You’re not Emery. What do you want from me?”

Jeremy slides into a chair right next to her and takes her hand in both of his, stroking her fingers, turning her hand to touch the wrist, massage the palm with his thumb, holding her blank eyes with his sharper, more knowing ones.

“I wish only to assure myself of your happiness, Your Grace. And I am Jeremy. I hope you will call me Jeremy.”

“Jeremy.” She nods. “Do you—I mean, did you know Emery?”

“I know Murnane well enough to concern myself with his widow, my dear. I am heir to a baronetcy; I am not unknown in court circles; and we have… done business in the past, your late husband and I.”

The man died owing Jeremy five hundred guineas the Smithson men had worked hard to steal, but the lady would do, in lieu of payment.

12067163_10153622032355833_51831040_nThe door is flung wide by a land steward of some sort, judging by his clothes and muddy boots. The man with whom, presumably, Jeremy will have to do business. Perhaps, though, the brother, considering the look of indignation at finding him alone with the duchess. Jeremy inserts himself in front of her, holding an arm out, as though to protect her from the intruder’s wrath.

“Who are you, and what are you doing with my sister?”

Chadbourn, then. Jeremy smoothly steps to one side, not impeding access to the duchess, but distracting the man from questioning her more closely.

“Jeremy Smithson, Sir. I came to settle a bit of business with the late duke, and found Her Grace… well… she seems unwell. I feel quite sure Murnane would be upset to think his wife ill-treated.”

Chadbourn’s eyes narrow, and Jeremy sees the moment he recalls some rumor or innuendo about the Smithsons. The accursed man steps closer to his sister.

“I find myself wholly motivated to ensure her safety and wellbeing,” Jeremy continues, “and if you are her brother, in Murnane’s absence, it beseems you are the man responsible for her condition.”

Chadbourn pushes his body between Jeremy and his prey. Every muscle on alert, he leans toward the intruder. “And you, Sir, have no right whatsoever to intrude on Her Grace’s privacy. I will thank you to leave.”

Straightening his cuffs, Jeremy sniffs, “Perhaps it is not such a bad thing someone has intruded.” He looks over at the duchess’s vacant expression and feigns great sadness, furrowing his brows, pursing his lips, tut-tutting. “She is clearly not adjusting well.”

He turns his shoulder on Chadbourn, takes up her hand and bends over it, kissing the fingertips. “Your Grace, I will remain in the village a few nights more. Should you have need of anything, you must only ask. I place myself entirely at your service.”

Chadbourn glares daggers. “Take your leave, Sir, before I feel obliged to help you do it.”

Jeremy can spend another few days in this country village to suss out what use Chadbourn has for the duchess—if any—and how the man intends to settle the debts of his brother-by-marriage. “My thanks, Your Grace, for your company.”


Meet Sylvia, Her Grace of Murnane, and the Earl of Chadbourn in A Dangerous Nativity, by Caroline Warfield, and Jeremy Smithson in ’Tis Her Season, by Mariana Gabrielle, both available in:

Box-Set-3D-Square-WebMistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem: A Bluestocking Belles Collection
In this collection of novellas, the Bluestocking Belles bring you seven runaway Regency brides resisting and romancing their holiday heroes under the mistletoe. Whether scampering away or dashing toward their destinies, avoiding a rogue or chasing after a scoundrel, these ladies and their gentlemen leave miles of mayhem behind them on the slippery road to a happy-ever-after.

***All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.***

Pre-order for November 1 delivery
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This blog post co-written by:

Mariana Gabrielle
http://www.MarianaGabrielle.com

MarianaGabrielleMariana Gabrielle is a pen name for Mari Christie, who is not romantic—at all. Therefore, her starry-eyed alter ego lives vicariously through characters who believe in their own happy-ever-afters. And believe they must, as Mariana loves her heroes and heroines, but truly dotes on her villains, and almost all of her characters’ hearts have been bruised, broken, and scarred long before they reach the pages of her books.

Caroline Warfield
http://www.CarolineWarfield.com

Caroline Warfield grew up in a perapatetic army family and had a varied career (largely centered on libraries and technology) before retiring to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania. She is ever a traveler and adventurer, enamored of owls, books, history, and beautiful gardens (but not the act of gardening). She is married to a prince among men.


Bluestocking Belles logo-02The Bluestocking Belles Online:
— Website and home of the Teatime Tattler: www.BluestockingBelles.com
Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest: BellesInBlue
— The Bluestocking Bookshop online storytelling game

Support the Bluestocking Belles’ fundraising campaign for the Malala Fund:
www.classy.org/BluestockingBelles

 

New Title Tuesday! Sasha Cottman – The Duke’s Daughter

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


The Duke’s Daughter, Sasha Cottman
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: August 19, 2015

The Duke's Daughter - hi res coverWhen handsome army officer Avery Fox unexpectedly inherits a fortune, he instantly becomes one of the season’s most eligible bachelors. More accustomed to the battlefield, he has no patience with the naive debutantes who fill the ballrooms of London.

Honest and impetuous Lady Lucy Radley is a breath of fresh air, guiding him through the season and helping him to avoid any traps. So when Avery is left with little option but to marry Lucy, he can’t help but feel he’s been manipulated. Nor can he shake the feeling that a duke’s daughter should be out of his reach.

From the wildly beautiful Scottish Highlands to the elegant soirees of Paris, Avery and Lucy go on a journey that is full of surprises for them both.  But will their feelings for each other be strong enough to overcome the circumstances of their marriage and survive the ghosts of Avery’s past?

THE DUKE OF STRATHMORE SERIES:
Letter from a Rake
An Unsuitable Match
The Duke’s Daughter

The Duke’s Daughter is released through Destiny Romance

To Buy:
Amazon.Com  |  Amazon Australia  |  Amazon UK  |  iTunes  |  Googleplay  |  Kobo


Who first encouraged you to write?
That’s actually a really hard question. Unlike a lot of other romance authors I didn’t grow up reading romance books. Other than Pride and Prejudice which we had to read for school, I had never read a romance book until I accidentally signed up for a writing course at the local adult education centre.

Of course once I had read the first of the Julia Quinn Bridgerton series I was hooked like a cat discovering catnip. I then decided to try my hand at writing.

What inspired you to write this book?
Another hard question. Ask any author where their ideas come from and they will often scratch their heads. I wanted to write a hero who hailed from Yorkshire, which was my father’s favourite place when he lived in England. Having spent time in Yorkshire last year I can understand why people love it so much. It has wild beauty and a rugged coastline which rivals London for its appeal.

Lucy, the heroine is the sister of the two heroes from my first two Duke of Strathmore series books. She was always going to get her own book.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
Always be writing the next book. I write on the train on the way to and from work. Any words written add to the daily word count. Oh and don’t compare your writing style to others, what works for you is all that matters.

About the Authorsasha cottman author pic
Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.

Her first published novel, Letter from a Rake was a finalist for the 2014 Romantic Book of the Year.

Sasha lives with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who demands a starring role in the next book. She has found new hiding spots for her secret chocolate stash. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while trying to deal with her bad knee and current Fitbit obsession.

Connect with Sasha: Website | BlogTwitter | Facebook Page  |  Goodreads  |  Pinterest board for The Duke’s Daughter

New Title Tuesday! Elizabeth Preston – I Will Not Run

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


I Will Not Run, Elizabeth Preston
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: August 19, 2015

EO_IWillNotRun_600x900Winter has made up her mind: she will kill her husband. Out of necessity, his death must be long and slow and blame-free. Problem is, as Bruno is dying from steroid poisoning, he will become even more irrational and dangerous. There is much that could go wrong with her plan, but no matter what happens, she will not run. She owes her sweet dead sister that, at least. 

Winter’s husband, Bruno, is one of Australia’s wealthiest steroid dealers. Believing that his wife is up to no good, he lays a trap to test her loyalty, and dark family secrets emerge. 

When Winter’s former lover, Dominic, a forensic psychiatrist, enters into this turbulent mix, the results are both passionate and catastrophic.

To Buy: Amazon US


Who first encouraged you to write?
My mother. When she was short of cash, she’d bang out a short story on her old typewriter and sell it to the local paper. Apparently, way back in those good old days, newspapers bought everything you offered, guaranteed.

What inspired you to write this book?
I remember reading about ‘roid rage in the paper and thinking that it would make an excellent condition for a baddie to have. I wrote the first 3 chapters of I Will Not Run at university as part of my writing degree. After that, scary was in my blood. And of course 3 chapters weren’t enough. I had to write on.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
Hunger – and I don’t just mean for chocolate. Every book has to be better than the last and you’ve got to want to keep on learning. To succeed as a writer, you have to want it badly.

About the Authorimg_1167-e1388978969753

Elizabeth lives in sunny Sydney with her patient husband and spoilt-rotten rescue dog. I Will Not Run is her second novel.

Connect with Elizabeth: WebsiteTwitter | Facebook Page

 

 

 

New Title Tuesday! Barbara Monajem – To Kiss a Rake

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


To Kiss a Rake, Barbara Monajem
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: July 29, 2015

To Kiss a Rake 600x900

WHEN A LADY IS ABDUCTED BY MISTAKE…

Melinda Starling doesn’t let ladylike behavior get in the way of true love. She’s secretly helping with an elopement, when she’s tossed into the waiting coach and driven away by a notorious rake.

REVENGE REALLY DOESN’T PAY.

Miles Warren, Lord Garrison, comes from a family of libertines, and he’s the worst of them all—or so society believes. When Miles helps a friend to run away with an heiress, it’s an entertaining way to revenge himself on one of the gossips who slandered him.

Except that he drives off with the wrong woman…and as if that wasn’t scandalous enough, he can’t resist stealing a kiss.

Buy Links
Amazon US | Amazon UK |  | Amazon Canada | Amazon Australia


Who first encouraged you to write?
My third grade teacher, who liked the beginning of my story about apple tree gnomes so much that I wrote a lousy ending to avoid getting any more attention. Eventually I got my courage up and wrote some more.

What inspired you to write this book?
No idea! The original inspiration is lost in the mists of time.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
Confidence — A mixture of belief in oneself strengthened with persistence and tempered by humility.

About the Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABarbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She wandered from children’s fantasy to paranormal mysteries and at the moment writes historical romance.

Connect with Barbara: Website | BlogTwitter | Facebook Page | Goodreads

(A special) New Title Tuesday! Lucinda Brant

Today, dear readers, is my birthday! 🙂 Because I consider this is the most important holiday of the year, I’ve arranged a special New Title Tuesday with my absolute favorite Historical Romance writer ever, Lucinda Brant.

So, I’ve left the regular NTT stuff up front, but keep reading. I’ve included my reviews of all of the books in her Roxton Family Saga.


Eternally Yours: Roxton Letters Volume One. A Companion to the Roxton Family Saga Books 1-3, Lucinda Brant
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: June 5, 2015

EY-ecover-0180Previously unpublished letters from the private correspondence of the Roxton family, spanning 1743–1777, with extracts from the diaries of Antonia, 5th Duchess of Roxton and 7th Duchess of Kinross. Includes Roxton’s last letter to Antonia. Volume One complements the first three books of the award-winning Roxton Family Saga: Noble Satyr, Midnight Marriage, and Autumn Duchess. With a foreword by a late-Victorian descendant, Alice-Victoria, 10th Duchess of Roxton.

Buy Eternally Yours


Who first encouraged you to write?
No one encouraged me. I wrote from a young age, and to escape my suburban existence. It worked! 18th Century aristocratic France and England are about as far removed, culturally, socially, and politically, from my hometown as the earth is from the moon! Later in life, it was my husband (the love of my life) who encouraged me to continue to write, and to publish.

What inspired you to write this book?
My wonderful readers! Over the years I’ve received lots of emails and FB questions about particular letters that were mentioned in the Roxton Family Saga books, but which were not elaborated on, such as Antonia’s letters to the Duke that were withheld from him by Antonia’s grandmother. And there are events mentioned by my characters that are never shown, such as Antonia and Roxton’s visit to Constantinople with little Lord Henri-Antoine to visit Julian and his godfather. I also wanted to include Roxton’s last letters—to his son, and of course, to Antonia. They were the most emotionally difficult (and draining) for me to write. But I really wanted to write them, to show the depth of Roxton’s feelings for his family, and most importantly for Antonia, and how their marriage led him to experience a great deal of personal growth.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
Persistence—Never Give Up! Never Surrender!


About the Author
Lucinda-Brant-Author-picLucinda Brant is a NY Times & USA Today Bestselling author of Georgian historical romances & mysteries. “Quizzing glass & quill, into my sedan chair & away! The 1700s rock!”

Connect with Lucinda: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest (Editorial note: Lucinda’s Pinterest pages for her time period are incredible!!!)


MARI’S REVIEWS of The Roxton Family Saga

Buy Lucinda’s Books Here

NS-ecover-0180Noble Satyr

I admit to a certain bias: I claim the Duke of Roxton as my forevermore book boyfriend. Of course, I mean the man who existed directly before the start of this series, who hadn’t yet fallen in love with his Mignonne, because after that, frankly, he is useless to me (or any other woman). And if there was ever a woman with whom I have no wish to compete, it is Antonia.

Roxton is hard to get to know, both by his author’s design and his own. He is not a simple hero with a pure love for an angelic heroine. He is hardened and arrogant and callous, a jaded courtier who wields his power with as much force and precision as his rapier. One cannot tell, in the earliest stages of the book if we are meeting hero or villain. (I contend the character himself isn’t quite certain.)

By contrast, for all the book is named for him, Antonia immediately takes center stage as the heroine around whom his world will eventually turn. She is a bright light that shines on every page, exactly the kind of heroine I love: smart, spirited, fearless, genuine, with no love for rules or social constraints. When she sets herself on a course, she will not stop until the race is run… rather like her hero, though sweeter and kinder when confronting an obstacle.

There is a significant age difference between the young and sprightly Antonia and the aging roué, though not so much as to frame him as lecherous, and by the way he is written, there is no doubt of his appeal to her, to a wide variety of beauties in the French Court, and to any woman with a pulse who has a penchant for rakish dukes. He is old enough to sleep alone when it suits him, and young, handsome, rich, and virile enough to never need to. She is young enough to romanticize him, but wise enough, after some time in the decadent and permissive French court, to know what she will find in his bedchamber when she goes looking.

Both hero and heroine are charming and intriguing, for exactly opposite reasons. He because he is enigmatic; she because she is forthright. He because he tries so hard to follow the rules (where she is concerned); she because she tries so hard to ignore the fact rules exist. He because he thinks himself unworthy; she because she never doubts his worth, and never loses sight of her own. She is the only person for whom he will change any detail of his life, and she never once asks him to.

Because I am a sucker for a good villain, it must be said that along with wonderful secondary characters, Brant brings us three villains, all working at mutual or cross purposes at different points in the book. Between them, Brant covers nearly all of the seven deadly sins (and more): le comte de Salvan is a villian by greed and lust; le viscomte d’Ambert by cowardice and sloth; and the Countess Strathsay by carelessness and envy. And none of these have such weak teeth that they can be overcome by a show of ducal force. They attack and fall back in turn, nipping at the heels of the hero and heroine even to the bitter end of the book.

Set in the lush locale of Louis XV’s Versailles and the England of George II and III, Brant brings us into the 18th century by grasping our senses—the smell of the streets of Paris, the sound of carriage wheels in the courtyard of a noble hôtel, the taste of brandy choked down to deaden pain, and of course, rich descriptions of the rooms, the clothes, the sumptuous life lived in (arguably) the historical cradle of Western hedonism. With an equally deft hand, we are placed in the center of tense political intrigues endemic to royal courts through history, with players particularly suited to survive that cutthroat world.

Throughout the Roxton series, Lucinda, again and again, shows the highest levels to which historical romance can be taken. These are not “pulp” books, but smart literature in the vein of earlier generations of female novelists, who no one would now call “romance writers,” because they are studied in the canon, but who offered the same fictional escape to her female readers in the Georgian era as Brant does now.

Lucinda Brant’s books exemplify the historical romance genre for me. As a writer, I hope to emulate her excellent prose, as a reader, I just want her to write more books, so I can move on from reading these again and again.

MM-ecover-0180Midnight Marriage

This was the first Roxton book I read, which I count a good thing. Had I been comparing Julian with his father, the Noble Satyr himself, I might not have liked him as a hero. Roxton he is not (yet).

He is another hero who begins as less than attractive. Julian at the age of fifteen is drunken, petulant, and mean, and a few years later, returns from years abroad as a careless, entitled, sometimes-whiny youth, who shows signs of his father’s arrogance and disregard for emotional consequence to others. He is handsome and charming, to be sure, and with a wide streak of kindness, more in the manner of his mother than father, but he does not demonstrate empathy in any great quantity, or at least, he does not value it highly.

Deb is a heroine after Antonia’s heart. Gutsy, snappish, and more concerned with the people she loves than propriety. She is an unlikely heroine for Julian. She seems too spirited for him, too grounded, too honest, for a man who is too young to be jaded. That she has her own mind seems, at times, to be some sort of divine karmic retribution. She is not a lady willing to accept her lot, but who will fight for her happy ending. And win.

Midnight Marriage features another cast of lovable secondary characters, including some young enough to appear in later books in the series, and the return of the duke and duchess, now parents, with different priorities, but the same palpable love that places them always in the center of each other’s world.

Julian could have grown to be a different, much less pleasant, man, without Deb’s influence, and I might have then liked the later books in the series far less. Thankfully, however, she tempers him, humbles him, and reminds him of the depth of his honor.

AD-ecover-0180Autumn Duchess ***SPOILER ALERT***

This book represented a radical change in the series, and as such, I could not review without spoilers. You can go see it on Goodreads at your discretion. 🙂

 

DD-ecover-0180Dair Devil

Once again, Dair Fitzstuart is a hero I’m not inclined to like. He starts the book as a buffoon, more than anything else, thoughtless, indiscreet. But oh, so very handsome while he does it. My primary problem with Dair is that he too quickly throws off that bad boy image, and shows himself all that is decent and honorable. He lacks the darkness that imbued both Dukes of Roxton, and to a lesser extent, the Duke of Kinross, and that change in tone is a noticeable departure for the series. Dair is an unquestionable good guy. (And I admit, I like my heroes with a dash of villain.)

Rory, while his match in goodness, continues Brant’s tradition of heroines I can adore. She lives with a disability, but the limitations it presents are, in the main, self-imposed, and certainly not a barrier to her happy ending (if the hero has anything to say about it, and he does). She is a gentler, quieter personality than Brant’s other heroines, and is more a bluestocking, but no less opinionated or forceful or engaging.

Both hero and heroine, though, come to the first meeting with baggage, One thing I love about the Roxtons is that Brant never stints on the trials and tribulations, in this case, spying and political intrigue. She is very good at tying her books together by overarching story arcs and by intertwining characters in each other’s stories, so it is highly recommended her series be read in order, but it is by no means required.

There are more love stories planned in the series, as well as a second volume of family letters, to augment the most recent Roxton book:

EY-ecover-0180Eternally Yours: Roxton Letters Volume One

I have an inherent bias toward epistolary fiction, as it is among my favorite forms to write, including a forthcoming novel that is about a third correspondence and written commentary. However, because it is an area of particular literary interest, I am very picky about it.

Writing in a character’s written voice is a special skill, especially placed in a different era, where not only the tone was inherently different, but also the rhythms, the conventions, the level of formality. When a letter has to stand in place of hearing a voice or seeing a face, and must span time and distance, how do characters manage the emotional events of lives spent separated from loved ones in a way we, of Skype and email and international airlines, cannot fathom? Done poorly, it can destroy a book. Done well, with a deep understanding of the characters, the situations, and the times, it can add a layer of detail and depth that cannot be found in narrative and dialogue. How a man writes a letter is as distinct as his speech.

Now, consider writing letters not only for one character, but several. Not just an emotional event, but THE emotional events alluded to in the first three Roxton books. Brant is able to bring characters back who have left the Roxton family for one reason or another, and explain the genesis, or end result, of stories left untold in the series.

Brant’s book have made me laugh and cry; I would not read the entire catalog of an author who doesn’t. This book, though, was in a class by itself, emotionally speaking. In this volume, we say goodbye to some series favorites, finally learning the details of their fates, and are given hope for the future. (And there is a future planned for this series!) I am not a weeper, in the main, and am rather cynical, even (some days, especially) about romance novels, but this was a box-of-tissues-by-the-bedside book.

Buy Lucinda’s Books Here

Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Contests and Giveaways

Cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-m

In recent posts in the series Mari Christie and I are writing on marketing in the bazillion book marketplace, we’ve been talking about marketing plans. Posts have focused on audience and purpose. What do we want to achieve? Who do we need to reach? We’ve begun to talk channels. Where will we go to find our readers? But we don’t yet have a plan.

A marketing plan is our map for the journey to the destination ‘book sales’. But deciding you’re flying to the Caribbean for a holiday is only the first step in a travel plan. You need to do a lot more planning and take a heap of actions before you can drink cocktails under a beach umbrella. And a marketing plan is no different.

So we’re going to talk tools and tactics: the mechanisms you’ll use to get to your destination (the savings account, the airplane), and the actions you’ll take (put aside 2% of your pay packet, buy a ticket).

So watch for posts on various tools and tactics. This week: giveaways.

Promote your book by running a giveaway

Hosting creative giveaways can help draw attention to your book. But making sure they give you the results you want takes a bit of planning.

Keep it simple — but be clear about what you want to achieve

Do you want more subscribers to your newsletter? More followers on Twitter? More party-goers at your Facebook launch party? Design your giveaway questions to get the results you’re after. Be creative. You could ask those who enter to:

  • share a particular post
  • comment on a particular post
  • post a phot
  • post a caption to a photo
  • come up with a name for something in your next book: a character, pet, house, ship, town… or even book title
  • answer questions about what they enjoy in books.

Choose a prize people want — and that works for you

The better the reward, the more entries you’ll get. At the same time, you want entries from people who are interested in the type of book you write. A $50 Amazon card may be attractive, but it might also attract people who are only interested in the prize, not your book. Here’s a post Mari wrote on prizes.

Consider combining with other authors to make a bigger prize.

Use multiple forms of social media to promote

Different people focus on different types of social media, so make sure you promote your giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and wherever else you have a presence. Use the word ‘giveaway’ in the title and tell people about the prize.

Pay attention

During the giveaway, visit the posts and comment. Talk to those entering. Show an interest.

Finish gracefully

Announce your winner or winners as soon as practical after the giveaway is over. Send out the prizes straightaway. Thank all those who have participated.

Watch the legal stuff

A sweepstake is a promotion where the winner is chosen by a random drawing. A contest is a promotion where the winner is chosen on merit (by vote or a judging panel). You can safely call them both giveaways, but be careful not to call a sweepstake a contest.

You need to state the prize, the deadline, and the conditions of entry up front, and you can’t change those after you’ve started. You can’t charge a fee to enter and you must accept all valid entries.


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organizations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

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New Title Tuesday! Jude Knight – A Baron for Becky

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


A Baron for Becky, Jude Knight
Genre: Regency romance
Release Date: August 5, 2015 (pre-order available)

BfB cover final smallBecky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

 

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

 

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

 

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

Heat: R for implied sexual content, 2 out of 5 flames

Buy Links
Amazon  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon Aus  |  Barnes & Noble  |  iBooks  |  Kobo

What was the first thing you thought when you saw your published book the first time? 
My first book was a novella: Candle’s Christmas Chair. I put it out as an ebook in mid-December 2014, and what a thrill it was to see it on Amazon. I always intended to also publish it as a print book, using the CreateSpace print on demand service, but what with Christmas, finishing the novel I was writing, and the time post takes between the United States and New Zealand, the first print copies didn’t arrive on my doorstep until early February. I was torn between absolute elation (look, a real book!) and horror. The colour wasn’t at all as I’d envisaged it. Despite a career in publishing, I’d forgotten to change the colour settings to CMYK, and the maroon of the chair was dull and lifeless. Oops.

When did you first decide to call yourself a writer? What prompted the decision?
People who don’t know what to say to children often ask ‘and what do you want to be when you grown up?’ The best answer I’ve ever heard came from my son, who at four was clearly delighted to hear he had options. ‘A horse,’ he told his startled interlocutor.

If family legend is to be believed, my answer was far less imaginative. By the time I was seven, I had already made up my mind to be ‘a writer and a mother’. I’ve written ever since, and I have six children and twelve grandchildren. The two roles haven’t always been compatible; I found fiction writing absorbed me to the point I neglected my family, and I abandoned it to write advertising copy, investment statements, government reports, computer manuals and the like.

I always knew I’d come back to fiction. And now that I’ve started, I’m keep doing it while there’s a breath in my body.

What is your best advice for someone just starting their first manuscript? Halfway through? Just finished?
Write every day. Write whenever you have a few minutes. Keep writing. Don’t give up, and don’t despair. You can’t edit what you haven’t written.

Don’t expect your first draft to be the end. It’s just the beginning, and that’s okay. The theatre adage is that plays aren’t written, they’re rewritten, and it applies just as much to books.

Good critique partners, good beta readers, a good developmental editor; all of these will help you examine your draft with fresh eyes and tighten and improve it.

Take advice, but believe in yourself. It’s your book.

About the Author
10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

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New Title Tuesday! Jennifer Senhaji – Choosing to Dream

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


Choosing to Dream, Jennifer Senhaji
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 17, 2015

Senhaji cover

Jenna Morris and Jacob Walker have finally given in to the flames of passion licking at their heels. But they’re only allowed one, blissful week together before the responsibilities of Jen’s café and Jake’s new film wrench the new lovers from each other’s arms.

 

Struggling to keep insecurities at bay whilst involved in a long distance relationship with one of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors is tough enough. Dealing with Bethany Phillips, ex-supermodel turned actress and Jake’s new costar is almost unbearable.

They say love can move mountains, but can it bridge the gap that fame, jealously, and thousands of miles between them has caused?

Buy at Amazon


Who first encouraged you to write, and how?
My mother was an avid reader and in her youth, published a few articles in the local Irish newspaper. My whole life she encouraged me to read, pushing the works of Bronte and Austen my direction. Her favorite books were Little Women and Wuthering Heights. I was never interested. I didn’t really start reading until I was in my twenties, but then Pride and Prejudice stole my heart, and I’ve been gobbling down books ever since. I always wanted my mother to write her memoirs; read in print the stories she told me about growing up in San Francisco during World War II. I found them fascinating. She was a great story teller. She never go the chance. I think, she would be proud of me, knowing I’ve become a writer.

What inspired you to write this book?
This book is the sequel to my first novel, Sweet Dreams. I had to continue the story. I love the characters. The inspiration for the first book came from a series of reoccurring dreams I’ve had for years. One day, I woke up, drew a picture of Sweet Dreams Café, and brought a notebook to my local café to jot down some notes. The words just started flowing. Before I knew it, I had a rough (read shorthand, barely legible) first draft. I couldn’t believe it. Love and happy endings always inspire me.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
A willingness to learn. I’ve learned so much since writing my first of Sweet Dreams: Leaps and bounds. A writer must have an open mind and realize there is a wealth of information to be learned from other writers. Do I believe I’m a successful writer? Yes. Not because I’ve made any substantial money on my books yet, because I haven’t. I’m successful because I enjoy it and have some amazing fans who love my books. Hearing from fans that they stayed up all night to read one of my books in one sitting because they just couldn’t put it down; that’s what success means to me.


About the Author
Senhaji authorJennifer Senhaji was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and is married with two children. If she’s not singing along at the top of her lungs to whatever is playing on the radio, you can find her making music playlists at home on her laptop. She works full time and splits her spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. Other than English, Jennifer speaks Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. She loves to travel, but doesn’t do enough of it and will weave places she has gone or wants to go into her stories. Reading has been a passion for most of her life and she loves to write. She calls herself Your Sweet and Spicy Romance Author because she loves the sweet nuances of new love, but also is a bit of a voyeur and wants to be in the bedroom when the characters finally come together.

Connect with Jennifer: Website | BlogFacebookTwitterGoodreadsAmazon

Marketing in the Bazillion-Book Marketplace: Road to a Better Mousetrap, Part 3

Cross-posted at www.JudeKnightAuthor.com as part of our new, mutual, ongoing marketing series.


billboard-951520-mby Jude Knight

A few weeks ago, I posted the first part of an article about writing marketing plans. This was about knowing your reader. You need to know who you want to sell to, what they want to buy, and how much they will spend.

The second post talked about knowing your product and finding your readers.

In this post, we talk about how to keep your readers and how to get them to sell your books.

How not to become rich and famous

Writing books is no sure way to wealth and fame, as every writer knows. Wealth and fame, or even a modest income and privacy to write more, means selling books. Selling books eats into your emotional and creative energy: energy you could be pouring into your books.

But not selling books, for those of us without a private fortune or a rich spouse, means doing some other job to put food on the table, and the job eats into your time and very likely your emotional and creative energy.

You already know that finding buyers (other than your closest friends and relatives) means writing a good book, having it well edited, and giving it a gorgeous cover. Do these things and you’ll find a few buyers. A few.

Sales figures for ‘the average book’ are no more than a guesstimate, but a few brave people have made an attempt, basing their figures on reported sales from a variety of sources. And those figures come out somewhere in the region of 200 to 500 books in the first year, depending on genre, with an upper average of 1000 in the lifetime of the book.

Of course, a very tiny fraction of one percent of all books do spectacularly well, selling 10s, even 100s of thousands, which means the average of all of the rest is probably lower, closer to the 200.

That’s the average. And you wouldn’t be reading this article if you didn’t want to beat the odds.

Don’t find buyers; attract (and keep) fans

It’s a vicious cycle, but there is an answer. Find other people to sell your books for you. Convert your readers into followers, and your followers into raving fans.

We’ve discussed in other posts the need to interact with readers. This post gives three steps for making those interactions count. When you write your marketing plan, document how you intend to do these things.

  1. Make it easy for them to find you.
  2. Make it worthwhile for them to follow you
  3. Provide interesting stuff

Make it easy for them to find you

Sell your books where the bulk of your readers are. Whatever you might think of Amazon’s business model, learn how to make the most of the platform they offer. Tailor your keywords, the bio on your author page, and all the other tools they provide to get your book noticed. Do the same with other eretailers, too.

Your print audience is going to be smaller. I cannot give much advice on print. My books are available in print, but I haven’t been pushing the print copies because I only have a certain amount of energy.

Give away a free book—short stories, excerpts, or a novella. Before you can convert that reader, you first have to put a book in front of them. My novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was downloaded 53,000 times in its first six months. That’s 53,000 readers I have a chance at converting.

In your free book, as well as your books for sale, give your readers a reason to go looking for you and a way to connect with you as soon as they finish the story. On your next pages, put links to your social media and subscription services, teasers and excerpts for your other books, buy links for the books already on sale.

Make it worthwhile for them to follow you

Okay, you’ve given them a reason to click. Now give them a reason to subscribe, to buy, to join, and to follow.

Here are few that work well if you do them well.

Have a newsletter. Make it easy for people to sign up and give them interesting content. Reward them with coupons or insider information, and special contests. Keep your newsletters brief and informative, and don’t send them too often.

Have a blog. Blog about things that interest your target readers, and blog regularly. Use your blog to inform and entertain. Watch your blog stats to find out what posts do well and what topics people consistently ignore. Do more of the one and fewer of the other.

Post often. Themed days can help if you have trouble thinking of what to say. Visitors can help, and people love to be hosted on other people’s blogs. It’s a win-win; they reach your audience and you’re introduced to theirs. One idea is to invite other novelists to post a themed extract in comments. (A brilliant example of this is Exquisite Quills).

Encourage people to subscribe to your blog, so they get notified when you put up a new post. And post often. Visitors can help. Themed days can help.

Have a twitter account. Tweet about things that interest your readers. Reply to people’s comments. Tweet about interesting blog posts. Link to free books and excerpts.

Have a Facebook fan page and post stuff about your books, research you’ve done, places you’ve been, and your cat. Facebook loves cats. Ask questions. Join in conversations. Post interesting memes and idea.

Provide interesting stuff

Don’t be a digital billboard, constantly trying to sell something. Engage, inform, entertain, intrigue, delight. Put the effort into writing quality content, whatever you’re posting: hot men, useful recipes, research into royal mistresses, castles, cute cats, questions about romance tropes.

I’ve been trying to do all of these, though not as consistently as I’d like. Torn between the day job, the fiction writing, family commitments, and marketing, I lurch from too much focus to too little. Still, in the first three months after the release of Farewell to Kindness, I’ve sold over 900 copies. Not enough to retire on, but considerably over the odds.

In the next road to a better mousetrap post, tools and tactics?


10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJudy holds a Masters in Communication, and is accredited in public relations through the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand. As a writer and editor for a broad range of government and private-sector organizations, she has applied her clear writing skills to topics as diverse as insurance, climate change, income tax, genetics, finance, local government, and health.

Website and Blog
Facebook
Twitter
Newsletter
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New Title Tuesday! Heather Boyd – An Improper Proposal

On New Title Tuesday, you will find books that have been out for less than three months or will be released within two weeks in all different genres, with all sorts of authors. If you would like to be featured on NTT, use the contact form to let me know.


An Improper Proposal, Heather Boyd
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: June 9, 2015

AIP_Cover533x800In life there are choices…

Spinster Iris Hedley was once the darling of the ton until her father lost his fortune through an illness of the mind. Reduced to living as a penniless guest while her father rots in debtors’ prison, she’s determined to escape unscrupulous robbers who’ve set her to spy on the ton by the only means possible—by becoming a wealthy man’s mistress. Unfortunately for Iris, her proper upbringing never covered intimacy or seduction so she asks the one man she trusts for help with private lessons in the duties of a mistress.

…in love there is but one.

Martin Andrews, the Earl of Louth, may have a soft spot for tiny Iris Hedley, especially after her father fled London with a horde of debtors nipping at his heels. Her request for lessons in seduction leaves him reeling and although tempted it’s an offer he must refuse for her own good. Convinced she’s headed for heartbreak, he sets out to prove that surrendering to wicked pleasure is not worth the sacrifice of her future only to discover that her problems are more complicated than his own.

Buy Links
Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Add to Goodreads


 

Who first encouraged you to write?
My husband John has been the biggest boon to my writing life. Unlike a lot of writers, I haven’t been writing since the moment of my birth. I have always been a reader but it wasn’t until a family holiday that I had time to put pen to paper. They were older and I didn’t have to watch them quite so carefully by then. I attempted something that I thought was brilliant but seriously, the story just didn’t go anywhere. When I joined a writers group, I got feedback and studied how to write my stories better. John has always pushed me to follow my dreams and understands that occasionally the compulsion to write now is something I can’t always turn aside.

What inspired you to write this book?
When I originally dreamed up the first Distinguished Rogues story I had a handful of secondary characters, friends of the hero, and Lord Louth was one of them. He is a big man with an even bigger heart; his was a story I always intended to write. I just didn’t at first imagine it would take me so long to get here. The series is now up to book six and still going.

What do you think is the most important quality to cultivate to be a successful writer?
Success means different things to different people and its not always easy or possible to say one quality is the most important. For me it is being dedicated to fulfilling my dreams, writing my own stories (rather than following the herd of what’s popular), and paying it forward by supporting other authors as they pursue their own publishing dreams. A thick skin helps too because there are times when an offhand remark can just drag you down and smother you in self-doubt.

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About the Author
HeatherBoyd_200Bestselling historical author Heather Boyd believes every character she creates deserves their own happily-ever-after, no matter how much trouble she puts them through. With that goal in mind, she writes sizzling regency romance stories that skirt the boundaries of propriety to keep readers enthralled until the wee hours of the morning. Heather has published over twenty novels and shorter works. Catch her latest news http://www.heather-boyd.com. She lives north of Sydney, Australia, and does her best to wrangle her testosterone-fuelled family (including cat Morpheus) into submission.

Connect with Heather: Website | Twitter | Facebook Page | Mailing list