A Book and Its Movie: Gone With the Wind

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I’m trying something new to bridge the gap between my Historical Romance books and upcoming Civil War Historical Fiction. I am teaming up with Laura Michaela Drone Banse and her Banse’s Book Club for a long-term read of Gone With the Wind, and an eventual movie night. Please come join the Facebook Group for discussion every Sunday.

*****

A Book and Its Movie: Gone With the Wind
August 21 – January 22

We will read and discuss Gone With the Wind, a chapter or two a week, with new discussions opening every Sunday, culminating in a Sunday afternoon viewing and discussion of the movie on January 22.

To order the book:
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New Baroness Sails Away From Family Scandal

As only one of several avid news gatherers at the wedding of Viscount Effingale’s niece, Miss Isabella Smithson, to the Prince of Wales’ pet cit and latest baron, Holsworthy, of Seventh Sea Shipping, this reporter can nevertheless assure you this information is perfectly truthful, accurate, and directly from the source. You see, Readers, I myself am the source.

I sat in the same taproom—heavily veiled, of course—where the three gentlemen in question held their consultation. An invited guest to the wedding, along with the Prince of Wales and Princess Amelia and a sizable handful of lords and ladies who had traveled to Saltash on Seventh Sea’s new flagship to celebrate the wedding and the launch of the Prince’s latest enterprise, in which we are all now heavily invested.

Of course, the royals were not staying at the inn, but rather in the richly appointed quarters on the new ship, but the small village hostelry was packed to the rafters, more than half the bride’s family: the Viscount and Viscountess Effingale and their two sons, Hugh and Guy Amberly; the Marquess and Marchioness of Firthley, Charlotte and Alexander Marloughe; and the bride’s father, Sir Jasper Smithson, 2nd Baronet, and his two sons, John and Jeremy.

The baron stayed his last night as a bachelor at his parents’ cottage, a good walk away, which might have been a mistake, given what I overheard, late at night, on the eve of our latest diplomat’s departure. And not such a strange thing does it seem, now, that the bride’s father and brothers turned up the night before her nuptials, but did not appear for her wedding, for it was these three whom I overheard, discussing deeds of such infamy that I wrote to Bow Street before I wrote this column.

All I can say, Readers, is it is a very good thing Miss Smithson married money and a title and left the country when she did.


Sir Jasper Smithson, 2nd Baronet

Mr. John Smithson slipped to the back of the taproom, kicking his brother’s boot as he passed, to get Jeremy to pull his head off the table, hissing under his breath to pull the attention of his father, Sir Jasper Smithson, from the pot of ale before him.

“We must leave, and now.”

“Leave?” John’s father scoffed. “I haven’t yet spoken to the Prince of Wales about my tin mine.”

“If you speak to him of your tin mine, Father, we will all hang. We must all leave. Effingale and Firthley have been gathering evidence, and you can be sure Bella turned coat. Have you got Holsworthy’s money yet?”

“You know as well as I, we receive the money tomorrow afternoon at his solicitor’s office, after the wedding.” Jasper Smithson’s eyes narrowed. “What has she done?”

AchilleLemot-Autoportrait

Mr. John Smithson

“It will be a trap, Father. They are only waiting until Bella is gone before they take us, and I don’t doubt for a second that is the only reason for the invitation. I, for one, am leaving, with or without the two of you. I do not care to know what Bella might or might not have told them.”

Jeremy got to his feet, swaying a bit. John had fortified himself with gin for the last encounter with Bella, and now wished he hadn’t. In fact, he wished he hadn’t even come to Saltash. Jeremy had taken the same drinks, but in celebration of their good fortune, which wasn’t so very good anymore, and he didn’t have the good sense to realize he would be better off facing what was about to happen sober.

“We cannot stay in Evercreech on Effingale’s land, or the house in Bath, or anywhere else we might be expected to go.” John looked his father and brother both in the eyes to make certain they understood. “We have no money if Holsworthy withholds payment, and there is no reason for him to pay if he knows we will be in Newgate on the morrow. We can go to a big city and lose ourselves in the stews until we can make a plan. What we cannot do is stay here and attend Bella’s wedding and her departure.”

Jasper was suspiciously quiet for a normally bellicose man, accustomed to getting his own way.

Jeremy-Smithson-1stLordLyndhurst

Mr. Jeremy Smithson

“The bitch has given us up, to be sure, and I will find a way that she will pay, I promise you that, perhaps as soon as the morning. But you are right, John. We will hire horses, and you and your brother will ride to London tonight and seek out Smite. He owes me a favor and he can put you to work at his tables. We can travel together as far as Evercreech, and I will meet you in London once I have collected what I need from Brittlestep Manor. It won’t do to leave evidence lying about when there are men on the lookout for it, and it will behoove us to keep track of our insurance.”

Jeremy argued, “It is not a far piece off the same road to the baron’s estate, Father. Angel Bairstowe and her father’s land is better insurance than anything you have hidden.”

John shoved his brother in the shoulder. “You would drag her down with you? Have you not a hint of honor? Leave Miss Bairstowe alone and face the problem at hand. Father is right. Smite can give us work in the gaming hells until we gather enough money to flee to the Continent.” John opened, then closed, then opened his mouth, finally shrugging and saying, “Father, I know I cannot stop whatever you think to do to ruin my sister’s life, but you should leave Bella alone. She has done nothing you would not have done, if it came to your own preservation. She is your daughter. Wish her happy, and bear the consequences of your own actions.”

“Bah. You have no loyalty. And I shall take care of you still, ungrateful wretch, and keep your neck from a rope. I will take care of your sister, too, and hear no more about it. Gather your things, the both of you, and we shall make a stop at the Bairstowe holding on the way. I should like to at least talk to the girl’s father before I allow my heir to be taken in by her.”


Readers, it was at this point, the Smithson gentlemen took their leave—and I use the term “gentlemen” rather more loosely than I might have only days ago—and I took up my pen to contact Bow Street and make careful notes for a story I might write once the law was able to see to the matter. Less than a fortnight later, once the Holsworthy’s ship was well away from England, the news came that Jasper Smithson, 2nd Bt. died at his own hand and his sons had disappeared. Miss Bairstowe remains unmarried and, it is said, has retired to her family’s villa outside Bologne.

Separator

The events of this vignette happen between Chapters Ten and Eleven of Shipmate, now FREE at book retailers, and mentions characters and situations from all of the books in the Sailing Home series, by Mariana Gabrielle.

Shipmate Front Cover-04The heavy hands and sharp tongues of Bella Smithson’s family have left her almost too timid to converse with a gentleman, much less conduct a husband hunt. Unfortunately, her overbearing aunt and managing cousin are determined to help her escape her black-hearted father and brothers.

Thanks to the Prince of Wales, retiring shipping magnate Myron Clewes has an ever-growing fortune, a fresh-minted peerage, a brand-new flagship, and an impossible set of requirements for a bride. Not least, she must be willing to leave England and everything she knows, possibly for good, in less than two months’ time.

Bella’s Happy-Ever-After in Royal Regard had its origins in a Happier-Than-She-Expected with her first husband, Baron Holsworthy, who gave her the confidence to steady her sea legs, take her life by the helm, and command her own voice, empowering a shy, young girl and unlikely adventurer to grow into one of King George IV’s trusted advisors.

 

The Sailing Home Series

Royal-Regard-cover-500x750Book One: Royal Regard

When Bella Holsworthy returns to England after fifteen years roaming the globe with her husband, an elderly diplomat, she quickly finds herself in a place more perilous than any in her travels—the Court of King George IV. As the newly elevated Earl and Countess settle into an unfamiliar life in London, this shy, not-so-young lady faces wicked agendas, society’s censure, and the realities of a woman soon to be alone in England.

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Tis Her Season cover tempBook Two: ‘Tis Her Season: A Royal Regard Prequel Novella
(available only until March 31, 2016 in Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem; re-release May 8).

Charlotte Amberly returns a Christmas gift from her intended—the ring—then hares off to London to take husband-hunting into her own hands. Will she let herself be caught?

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Shipmate Front Cover-04Book Three: Shipmate: A Royal Regard Prequel Novella

(FREE at all major retailers)

For shy Bella Smithson, landing a husband seems laughable, so when shipping magnate Myron Clewes offers to buy her from her unfeeling family and take her to sea, she is obligated to accept his suit—and a long list of demands she might never be able to meet.

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Rose Renamed cover temp-03Book Four: A Rose Renamed
(coming Fall 2016)

Major John Smythe returns from Waterloo a broken man, determined to stay one step ahead of his former life, but when he meets Rose Allen, the sins of his past must be confronted, for without her, he has no hope for a future.

The Final Fouret

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His hands shook as he heated the letter opener over the candle flame and slid it beneath the wax seal. Since the killing had begun in earnest, the Duke of Malbourne’s hands had been shaking more often than was seemly for a man of the nobility, but there was more reason today than most: this letter represented the last hope his one remaining family member was still alive.

Three sisters and their families had already been executed by Madame La Guillotine, twenty-five souls in all, including his newest nephews, twins, born to his third sister not even a half-year ago. He could not imagine an animal as bloodthirsty as the ill-bred, ungrateful, insolent serfs of France.

He had lost one blood relation after another until only his youngest sister was left, and then she was taken by the rabble. Not for a quick, clean, killing, but ransomed by mercenaries more interested in a share of noble wealth than fair-minded principles of equality. Even assuming her abductors hadn’t killed her within hours, any demand was more than the duke could pay, as he had been moving gold, silver, jewels, and valuables overland for several months, preparing to relocate his family and close retainers from France to England. When the letter came, he had only enough gold available for the journey. They would all be safely across the channel by now, living in relative luxury, if Marie had not defied his express command, and taken a walk in the garden.

 

Monseigneur,

I am inconsolable at the loss of your sister. I was not able to secure Mademoiselle Marie’s release. She is gone.

Further word on household activities by usual communiqué.

I am, as ever, your humble servant.

—M—

 

His hand fell to the desk like the letter weighed as much as a brick. He closed his eyes to stave off the rare tears forming. Marie. Le bébé, Marie. His youngest sister, not yet married, the sweetest and kindest of all. The last woman who had been under Adolphe Fouret’s protection, now that his wife was dead and buried these five nights past.

HalifaxGibbetAllenHe could not wait two more days for Michelle’s weekly missive from her husband’s house, the center of the revolutionary elements in Alsace. The other note he had opened this hour, from one Pierre Bouchard, another spy in different circumstances, had warned: Go now. Do not delay. Michelle’s intimate knowledge of the insurrection would do him no good if her bourgeois husband and his ilk dragged their rightful liege lord from the chateau in chains.

Goddamn Michelle! She was to have found a way to remove her former mistress from whatever peasant hovel the kidnappers had hidden her in. He had placed his inamorata, his family’s most faithful servant, in the nest of revolutionary vipers, and paid her well, to meet exactly such a need.

The plan had been to take a coach and collect Michelle on his way out of Alsace with Marie. She had been Marie’s lady’s maid since the age of fourteen, and the duke’s confidante since they were children, and would have retained both positions in exile. But if he looked on her face now, he might kill her outright. Better to leave his lover alive, to imagine he might one day mete out sufficient punishment for such a grand failure as this.

He would travel faster alone. And he had no more time to lose.

The last surviving member of la famille Fouret gave instructions to his few remaining loyal men-at-arms, ordered his horse and weaponry and provisions prepared, and walked, one final time, through the halls of the chateau built by the first noble Fouret in the seventh century.


To discover the fate of Monsieur le duc de Malbourne and his lover, read Royal Regard.

Royal-Regard-cover-500x750After fifteen years roaming the globe, the Countess of Huntleigh returns to England with her dying husband. She soon finds herself plagued by terrible troubles: a new title, estate, and sizable fortune; marked attentions from the marriage mart; the long-awaited reunion with her loving family; and a growing friendship with King George IV.

Settling into her new life, this shy-but-not-timid, not-so-young lady faces society’s censure, the Earl’s decline, false friends with wicked agendas, and the singular sufferings of a world-wise wallflower. Guided by her well-meaning husband, subject to interference by a meddlesome monarch, she must now choose the dastardly rogue who says he loves her, the charming French devil with a silver tongue, or the quiet country life she has traveled the world to find.

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Interrogation of a Paramour

Ferdinand_Tellgmann_Porträt_eines_Kupferstechers_Öl_auf_Leinwand

Source: Ferdinand Tellgman, Portrat eines Kupferstechers (retouched)

“It’s Newgate for sodomites, you know, but I got some questions first.”

“Of course.”

“Might be easier on you if you hadn’t been caught with a viscount in your bed.”

Solomon Peate rubs a hand across his face. Once before he had been caught, prancing about a molly house, but he had been cheap entertainment then, not the paid companion to a lord. The owner of the flash house who had rented him out had just paid off the Watch to look the other way. He certainly hadn’t been taken up by Bow Street, and the newspapers hadn’t followed him. Drew was going to hate him after this. Not to mention stop paying the bills.

“It wasn’t what you think.”

“No? What was it, then?”

WilliamCobbettPrison

Source: Crimes and Punishment Magazine, 1810

The man stares expectantly, not looking for an answer, but rather, the lack of one. Would that Solomon and Drew had established some sort of lie to cover this eventuality. Surely, this man hadn’t heard the rumors screaming through the ton, of the two men sharing the favors of The Black Goddess. He was only a functionary, after all.

“It was just… he needed a place to sleep. There is only one bed. I could hardly let a viscount sleep on the floor.”

“Mm hmm.” The man made a note in a file, the shifting of his beady eyes leaving Solomon feeling, if only for a moment, less pinned to the wall.

“Newry pay your rent, then?”

This was safe territory. Plenty of men were compensated with room and board. Sadly, in this case, it hadn’t been provided in Drew’s servant’s quarters, where a viscount’s title might have provided some measure of safety. Not that living in Drew’s town house in proximity to his staff would have been at all safe.

“He is my employer. I am his secretary. Part of my remuneration is the upkeep of my rooms.”

“In a building filled with nothing but mistresses to wealthy men.”

“I cannot be held responsible for the life choices of my neighbors.” Whether or not the on-dits had reached Bow Street, his options were running out. “In fact, my location is how he met his true mistress, who lives just across the hall from me. Kali Matai, La Déesse Noire? You might have heard of her.”

“Heard you and Newry are sharing her,” the man states baldly, rolling his eyes, “but I also hear that might be a front. Secretary, you say?”

“Yes.”

Another note. “Keep his accounts then?”

“Among other things.”

“It’s the other things that interest me.”

Solomon only just manages not to laugh at the implication; he must be slightly hysterical. None of this was a laughing matter, and suggesting the man would act as voyeur to two catamites was not at all the best idea.

“There are no other things of the type you insinuate. I manage his everyday business affairs. Estate matters and the like.”

“Mm hmm. How many estates does Newry own?”

The interrogator clearly knows, and Solomon hopes he has no specifics in his file, for what Solomon knows of Drew’s business affairs is limited to discussions he has overheard his protector having with other gentlemen, and the monies he spent to keep his companion in cravats.

“Three estates. Four houses, though, if one counts the one here in London. Or rather, three and a half. One burned last year, and is only now being rebuilt.”

Oh, he could tell this little roach of a man that Drew prefers weak tea and almost burnt toast, that he always wears silk shirts and owns one hundred twenty-two watch fobs and thirty-seven snuff boxes. Solomon could easily recall the placement of his birthmark and the exact size of his… thumbs. But the specific nature of the viscountcy’s investments? The cost of the servants’ wages? Problems on his tenant farms? Any of the details a good secretary would know? He hadn’t the least idea.

“Where are his properties?”

“Portslade, Whitney, and Swindon. And the town house on Curzon Street.”

The quill just kept scratching across the foolscap. Such a slight sound to be giving Solomon such a large megrim.

“Primary source of income?”

“Sheep. And mining.” At least those were the investments of which Drew spoke most frequently. “He has started a stud, but it isn’t turning a profit yet.”

666px-Newgate-prison-exercise-yard

Newgate Exercise Yard by Gustave Dore

For the first time, a lecherous grin crosses the man’s face. “Way I see it, started a stud in his own bedchamber. That’s enough, Peate. I can call you back after I’ve spoken to your… paramour. See how your stories hang together.” His laughter barks like a badly loaded musket. “Hang together. That’s funny.”

“He is not my paramour, and I sincerely doubt anyone will hang a viscount,” Solomon said, unsmiling. A viscount’s paramour, though, was another thing altogether.

“Mm hmm. Best warn you. Don’t much like gentlemen of the back door in Newgate.”

Solomon felt the blood draining from his face. He had thought nothing could be more injurious to body or soul than his former life—servicing any man with a guinea to keep his bed in a flash house—but even an hour or two imprisoned for this particular charge would be far worse. In Newgate, he wasn’t even worth a guinea.




Find out what happens to Solomon Peate in La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess.

LDN CoverSired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.


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Interrogation of a Lord

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“I. Am. A. Viscount!”

Andrew Marsham, Lord Newry, had been shouting for at least a quarter-hour, since this… lackey from Bow Street appeared at the door. When told the viscount was Not At Home, the lout forced his way past the butler, calling out through the halls and opening doors like he had a right to be in the house. Eventually, he had found Drew in his study, making himself quietly drunk.

Red face perspiring, veins in his neck and forehead distended and twitching, the viscount insists, at a continued loud volume, “You cannot keep me here! You cannot lock me in my own house and treat me like a criminal!”

“You may as well sit, Newry.”

Lord Newry to you, Sirrah!”

“Call you anything I like, and if you’re lucky I won’t call you a molly.”

“This. Is. Preposterous!”

The man points with his quill to a chair and says, his voice a bit tired, having been awake since the small hours when he dragged Drew and Solomon from a shared bed, “Sit, Newry. This can get a lot worse for you. And it might be preposterous if I hadn’t seen you in bed with a man with my own eyes. Can you explain how you came to be there?”

The volume dropped as he stumbled a bit over his words. “We… we were both… bosky, and there was only one bed. I was hardly going to sleep on the floor, nor ask the room’s resident to vacate his own chamber.” Donning a viscount’s display of indignation, he added, “I cannot imagine why that would necessitate imprisonment.”

“If you had been clothed, I might be more inclined to believe you. The only reason you are here and not in Newgate is the gentleman speaking for you. Marquess of something-or-other. Outranks the earl who—”

“Marquess of what?” he demanded. “Who is speaking on my behalf? And to which earl are you reporting? I am a peer of the realm, Sir, and require you provide me the information without delay!”

“I cannot provide you information I do not have. God’s bollocks! Will you sit, man?”

WilliamCobbettPrison

Source: Crime and Punishment Magazine, 1810

Lord Newry splashes brandy into a glass and downs it quickly, as he has done twice already since the interrogation began. Pouring another, he finally lowers himself into a chair, worry beginning to take its toll. There was no chance he could ask about Solly’s whereabouts, but the thought of him sitting in Newgate, rotting away for who knows how long, is enough to make Drew cast up his accounts. Were he not a disciplined man, he might have done already.

Then, a thought occurs that turns his weak stomach into a strong knot. Solly will surely want nothing to do with him after this, no matter how much Drew pays as a quarterly stipend. He is already distrustful of the nobility, given his prior experiences with gentlemen seeking brief, anonymous paid entertainment with a desperate man, but never, in those encounters, had he been followed by the newspapers and tossed into Newgate. And, it must be said, Sol hadn’t been entirely dependent on them. He hadn’t been forced to trust them, which made this situation much worse.

Sol had no reason to stay; his pocket watch alone—the one Drew had had engraved—would keep him for a year.

Unfortunately, asking about Solly’s whereabouts or his condition was no way to convince this functionary of the innocence of their association. He hopes Sol is suffering only in pride, not person.

“So, you say he’s your secretary.”

“Because he is my secretary.”

“What kind of work does he do, then?”

Lord Newry’s nostrils flare. “The same sort of work as every other secretary in England. Estate matters, correspondence, appointments…”

“Can anyone verify that he’s responded to a letter or scheduled a meeting? Does his writing appear in your dairy?”

“His writing—?” Lord Newry stands again, pacing to the hearth, where he tosses a log into the fire. His observation was slightly less bellicose now: “This is preposterous!”

“Just answer the question, please.”

Drew was well aware Solly’s hand appeared nowhere in his diary, nor in his ledgers or correspondence or estate reports. Solly’s hand appeared nowhere but on Drew’s… well. It was critical this horrid little man not get his hooks into anything in the study or estate office. Especially not the more personal missives Drew would have burned, had they not so heated his blood.

“How am I to know to where he has written every note?”

The man looks up, eyeing Lord Newry with more interest now. “You don’t keep track of your own secretary? What if he should cheat you?”

“He has been in my employ almost three years. If he were going to cheat me, he would have done it and disappeared long before now. And I am hardly the only man in London who doesn’t stand over the shoulder of his man-of-business.”

Making a note in his book, eyes on the paper and ink, the man asks, “You pay his rent?”

If the man knew who paid the rent, it meant he might already have access to the account books. Drew was now unsure in what instances he could lie.

“As part of his remuneration, I pay the lease and maintenance of his rooms. He was in a sorry state when I found him, and it seemed the honorable thing to do. I could hardly have a man representing me in tattered clothes, living in a cheap room in Saffron Hill.”

“Most peers would have hired a man more suited to the position.”

“Most peers have no compassion for the downtrodden.”

“That is certainly true.” Shuffling through papers, the man asks, “The rooms you pay for… the building is owned by the same woman who owns the Masala Rajah whorehouse. Most of those apartments are rented out to the demimonde.” He laughs as he corrects himself, “The dark-skinned demimonde. Any reason you have your secretary housed in the same building as other men keep their mistresses?”

“I cannot be held responsible for what goes on in every building whose threshold I cross. The rooms were clean and inexpensive.”

My man just raises a brow. Perhaps inexpensive had been a bit too much of a falsehood. “Any truth to the rumor you are keeping the woman across the hall from him?” He checked a note. “Kali Matai? A dancer of some sort?”

Of course! Kali! How could he have forgotten Kali? “Miss Matai and I have… an arrangement.”

“What sort of arrangement?”

“Do you honestly believe me to have so little honor I would give you details of my relations with my mistress?”

The man shrugs and shuts the portfolio of papers before him and stands. Drew looks up, having expected the interrogation to last longer. He had been spinning lies in his head that might have lasted all week.

“You cannot leave the house, New—Lord Newry. There are guards posted. I will return if I have any further questions. Your friends hold more influence than I, and likely, at this moment, more than you. Perhaps they can keep it quiet and out of The Lords. Were I in your shoes, I would trust in them.”




Find out what happens to Lord Newry in La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess.

LDN CoverSired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.


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Old Scandal Comes Home to Roost—and Inherit

December 15, 1803

The last time the Earl of Herrendon’s voice was heard in the confines of England, the Watch was called to the London residence of the Marquess of Firthley, where it was feared the marquess would kill his firstborn son, rather than allow him to marry the woman of his choosing. That circumstance, however, is of ancient vintage, and who can remember back more than a quarter-century?

F_Sue_Bildnis_einer_jungen_Frau_19Jh

Lucky for you, dear Readers, this reporter can.

During the 1775 Season, the featured soprano at the Royal Opera, Miss Lourdes Andreadis, was a dark-eyed, Grecian beauty who had traveled the Continent, performed for the Crowned Heads of Europe, and reportedly taken more than one royal son, in more than one principality, as lover. Inevitably, every British nobleman with the purse to finance a mistress wanted a contract, but she was not a woman for hire. No, she was heiress to a shipping fortune and had made her own money and fame. She chose her paramours for the enjoyment and had no need of a husband, even one with a title.

When the Earl of Herrendon, heir to the Marquess of Firthley, fell in love with her, no one thought there was any question of marriage. Not only was he only one of dozens of men offering her their sincere devotion (by way of worldly goods), but Preston Marloughe was a dutiful son, not given to fancies like love at first sight and midnight elopements. Older, wiser men than he had been ensorcelled by Miss Andreadis, however, and Herrendon was caught up like all the others. Before the end of the Season, they were publicly acknowledged lovers, and she announced she would retire.

JohnVanderlynPortraitOfTheArtist1800

Speculation was rife she was increasing with his by-blow, but still, no hint of a marriage until one morning, in the small hours, the Watch was called to Belgrave Square by the screaming of the marquess’ housekeeper, who ran from the house, shouting about the master killing his only son. News of the earl’s marriage arrived back in London within a fortnight, and announcement of a birth no fewer than three years later, but the Earl of Herrendon was never seen in England again.

Until now.

Readers, I can confirm that the Earl of Herrendon has returned to English soil. The son of Firthley’s prodigal heir and his scandalous opera singer has taken up residence in Belgravia as heir presumptive to his grandfather, the Marquess of Firthley.

So, who is Alexander Marloughe, the new Earl of Herrendon? If the ladies of London are lucky, he is his father’s son, for anyone who remembers Preston Marloughe, does so fondly. He was a kind, funny, honorable young man, and this writer admits to shedding a tear on news of his death by fever some dozen years ago. The noblewomen of England were done a great disservice when Miss Andreadis took him out of the marriage mart, and no less a personage than Lady Sefton has said so.

But will the same be true for the son? For surely, the first order of business for this young bachelor must be securing a bride.

Gabrielle - TisHerSeason - AlexanderMarloughe - William_Thomas_Fry - William_Spence

He is handsome, it is reported, and a noted businessman in Greece, but after a lifetime in trade in Crete, raised to manage a shipping operation rather than take his seat in the Lords, one wonders if the new earl will have even a loose grasp of the social graces, to say nothing of understanding the social, political, and economic realities of our nation. It is sure he will have but a slim purse, as his mother’s fame and fortune have long since dimmed, his English property has been lying fallow since his father’s desertion, and his mother’s family’s fleet of ships has been requisitioned at gunpoint by Napoleon’s forces, presumably why he has chosen now to make his return and take possession of Herrendon (both the Hall and the courtesy title).

But does any of that matter at all?

Even were he a bricklayer, he will yet become Firthley and take a seat in the House of Lords upon his grandfather’s passing. The marquessate is wealthy and strategically significant, the current Lord Firthley is a hinge vote in his bloc in Parliament, and no one has the least notion of the character or temperament of England’s latest peer. The question uppermost must not be whether Alexander Marloughe will fit in with the beau monde—for his bloodline is irrefutable—but rather, how?

What kind of nobleman will he be, and perhaps more important (certainly more entertaining to contemplate), which of our noble daughters will redeem Preston Marloughe’s betrayal of his class and welcome Herrendon back home?

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Meet Alexander Marloughe, Earl of Herrendon, in ‘Tis Her Season, a Royal Regard prequel novella:

Charlotte Amberly returns a Christmas gift from her intended—the ring—then hares off to London to take husband-hunting into her own hands. Will she let herself be caught?


Tis Her Season_ A Royal Regard Prequel Novella - Mariana GabrielleAvailable FREE during the month of July at Smashwords, with Coupon Code SFREE.

Charlotte Amberly would rather eat a lump of coal for Christmas dinner than marry the Marquess of Firthley, so when her parents cancel her London Season in favor of a rush to the altar, the feisty debutante takes husband-hunting into her own hands.

Alexander Marloughe, reluctant heir to a marquessate, would rather not spend his holiday dashing through the snow after a flibbertigibbet just out of the schoolroom, but no woman before Charlotte has ever led him such a merry chase.

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Mariana Gabrielle

Mari Pic2Mariana 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.

www.MarianaGabrielle.com


An Open Letter to White, Straight, Able-bodied Romance Authors

My esteemed colleagues:

We have a very long way to go.

Most of us say “Diversity in literature is really important,” and/or “I am not racist/ ableist/homophobic,” and/or “Of course, I would buy a romance novel by or about a person of color/gay or lesbian/disabled person.” But when was the last time you did?

When was the last time you bought a romance by an author, or about a character, with a different cultural, historical, or physical experience than your own? About a person with a different skin color, nationality, religion? About a gay man or lesbian or transgender person? When was the last time you bought a romance with a physically or mentally disadvantaged hero or heroine? A novel about people who live in the margins?

When was the last time you wrote one?

Women are overlooked in myriad areas of publishing—book contracts, sales, awards, reviews—but we are also the much greater portion of romance writers. Are we, as female authors who are often marginalized and maligned ourselves, really so callous as to assume people of color don’t have Happy Ever Afters? That LGBT romance is only about sex? That people with disabilities never fall in love? Or do we just not think about it?

This letter is not meant to encourage you to shoehorn a diverse character into a book that doesn’t need one, or write a book about diverse characters because it is a hot topic or because it feels like the right thing to do. One of the most wonderful things I have heard on this subject recently was: “I write characters who happen to be people of color. I don’t make a big deal about it.”

What I am proposing is that we don’t overlook characters with diverse experiences as we are writing. That we don’t miss them lurking in the shadows of our books. That we don’t push them aside because we don’t understand them. That we don’t dismiss a great idea because it is scary to be outside of our comfort zone, or because we are afraid to get something wrong.

But MOST IMPORTANT, I am proposing that we don’t overlook authors who are already doing it.

I am not saying a black person can’t write a book or have it published. I am not saying same-sex romance novels don’t exist. I am not saying a romance novel with an Indian heroine can’t become a bestseller (knock on wood). But these novels are shunted aside into the “African-American” or “Multicultural” or “LGBT” categories, which do not get as much attention as “Historical Romance” or “Regency Romance” or “Contemporary Romance,” overwhelmingly written by and about white people. And the more marginalized a book is on Amazon (and elsewhere), the less likely it is to be shown in the “People Also Buy” and “Recommended for You” sections. Front page of Amazon? Forget it.

I am not blaming or attacking, though to be sure, this topic almost always makes comfortable people suddenly uncomfortable. Yet, I think it worth the discomfort to have the conversation. This is a terribly important topic with enormous ramifications for groups that are already sidelined in so many ways. Are we okay with knowing that Vanessa Riley, Piper Huguley, Kianna Alexander, and Lena Hart have a harder time selling books than we do?

Do we, as romance writers, want to create one more place where it is harder to get ahead for a person of color than a white person?

  • I am guilty of overlooking diverse books, not out of malice, but simple inattention. I haven’t gone looking for them, because they are often hard to find.
  • I am guilty of assuming only white people read (and write) romance novels.
  • I am guilty of mentally labeling every historical with African-American characters “mainstream,” as though “romance” can’t be just as much a part of their experience as the historic hardships they faced.
  • I am guilty of using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseRomance to promote my book before I knew the people who are doing the hard work to promote the subject matter.
  • I am guilty of asking my author friends who are people of color to educate me, rather than educating myself.
  • I will surely be guilty of causing unintentional offense, having now written a book with an Indian heroine.

So, to amend my own appalling oversights, I went looking for romance authors who are people of color or LGBT-identified or disabled and/or write romance novels about characters who are. In about an hour, I found more than sixty, and I am absolutely certain this is only a start.

I also found:
We Need Diverse Romance
https://www.facebook.com/DiverseBooks
@DiverseRomance
#WeNeedDiverseRomance
(Buy a “WeNeedDiverseRomance” tee-shirt in black or white.)

Women of Color in Romance
http://WOCinRomance.tumblr.com/
https://www.facebook.com/WOCInRomance
@WOCInRomance
#WOCinRomance

http://MulticulturalRomanceWriters.com (Sortable author/book listings)
http://RomanceNovelsInColor.com (Book information and reviews)
http://www.RomanceSlamJam.org (African-American romance convention; home of the Emma Awards)
http://www.RainbowRomanceWriters.com (RWA Chapter for LGBT authors)
Romances with heroes or heroines with physical, mental, or emotional maladies

If you click on any of the links above, you may find a new romance author you will love or a way to support the cause of diverse romance. I did.

So, in closing, I ask every white, straight, able-bodied author who is reading this to:

  • Buy a book written by someone with a different historical, cultural, or physical experience than you.
  • Review a book written by someone with a different historical, cultural, or physical experience than you.
  • Recommend a book written by someone with a different historical, cultural, or physical experience than you.
  • Write a character with a different historical, cultural, or physical experience than you.

Saying and/or doing nothing on this topic is a vote against diverse authors and characters, when most of us believe that diversity in romance novels is important and there isn’t enough of it.

Where do you truly fall on this issue? What message do you want to send to other writers—and readers—who are different from you? How important is diversity to you? And what will you do about it today?

Sincerely,
Mariana Gabrielle/Mari Christie
[White] Author of Regency romance
www.MarianaGabrielle.com
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Full permission is granted, without limitation, to repost, reblog, share, and otherwise distribute this material in its entirety.

Book Boyfriends Cafe: Hot for Friday

Book Boyfriends Cafe‘s Hot for Friday Feature’s challenge this week was to post a section of dialogue containing a “swoon-worthy” line by the hero (which, admittedly, is rather subjective, and I’m not a swooner). This dance, however, made even me reach for my fan.

So, from Royal Regard:


(Excerpt from our hero and heroine’s first dance.)

Royal Regard cover3-02Bella’s slipper caught on the waxed floor. Taking advantage of her instability, he held her waist more firmly, drawing her close to encourage her shivers and gooseflesh.

“You said you had no designs on me! You swore by the Knight’s Creed!”

He leaned in to murmur, “I am not a knight, my sweet.”

With less wallflower and more worldly woman, she laughed, “Sir Satyr, I’m sure, charter member of the Order of Rakehells, pledged to lead me down the path to depravity.”

“You’ve caught me.” He stared down at her ripe mouth. “Would that we were not in a crowded ballroom.”


When Bella Holsworthy returns to England after fifteen years roaming the globe with her husband, an elderly diplomat, she quickly finds herself in a place more perilous than any in her travels—the Court of King George IV. As the newly elevated Earl and Countess settle into an unfamiliar life in London, this shy, not-so-young lady faces wicked agendas, society’s censure, and the realities of a woman soon to be alone in England.

Unaccustomed to the ways of the beau monde, she is disarmed and deceived by a dissolute duke and a noble French émigré with a silver tongue. Hindered by the meddling of her dying husband, not to mention the King himself, Bella must decide whether to choose one of her fascinating new suitors or the quiet country life she has searched the world to find.

TO BUY
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1ySFAJi
iTunes: http://bit.ly/1tJ0Kd3
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1uwzC2L
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1yZogCz
Smashwords: http://bit.ly/1x4AxYK

Now, go get hot at the rest of this bog hop’s stops. 😉

Book Boyfriends Cafe: Hot for Friday (Rated R)

Book Boyfriends Cafe put out a challenge for Valentine’s Day: Share a scene in which characters find themselves entangled in a web of sexual tension.

For once, I’m not posting about Royal Regard. My next book, La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, will be released June 15, and since it is about an Indian courtesan in London, it is pretty much boiling over with sexual tension.

Perfect.


(Excerpt in which our heroine, Kali Matai, performs for her new lover.) [unedited]

LDN CoverShe clasped his hands behind the chair and asked him to keep them there, mischief and desire both undeniable in her eyes, and he agreed playfully to comply with her every command.

By the time he felt the silk of her sari across the back of his neck, he was more aroused than he had ever been. After a month of touching but not tasting, watching and waiting for this breathtaking woman, he immediately regretted his promise not to put his hands on her body more than any pledge he had ever made.

She had chosen a Persian-blue, gossamer-silk sari shot with gold threads for their first night together, which brought out blue-black candlelight in her upswept hair and the sparks of escalating need in her eyes. The shift and choli beneath the sari were also sheer, offering hints of her hidden treasures, but not detracting from his never-quite-fulfilled view of her succulent skin. The tiny bells tinkling along the edges of the yards of fabric wrapping her body, the music of the bangles she wore on her ankles and wrists, were as fairy dust clouding his senses. He couldn’t keep his eyes from tracking hers, even in the face of the rest of her glorious body.

As she sang slow, ancient ballads of tenderness and yearning, twisting her limbs in the steps of the mujara, she allowed the drape of the sari to drift over his legs, his shoulders, his face, his throat, never following with the weight of her flesh. She slid her skin, even her fingertips, only against the cool water of the loose, translucent silk, but kept herself between her lover and the few candles lighting the room, so he could always see the outline of her slender form, sinuously inviting his touch, moving away any time his hands twitched.

She lifted her knee and bared foot over his shoulder and shook the bangles circling her trim ankle, leaving him to only envision her inner thighs behind his head and still never touching him. He couldn’t help his mouth moving to taste the smooth skin of her calf, inhaling the scent of sandalwood, the trace of jungle rain. Her sharp intake of breath was like food to him, though she quickly moved to tantalize from a few feet away.

She hummed the haunting melody as she removed each pin from her hair, letting them drop onto the Turkish carpet, arms drawn up, full breasts and hardened nipples moving with each breath beneath the silk. Not one strand of her coiffure fell out of place until the entire thick length dropped to her waist like an ell of heavy satin. She moved toward him again, letting her long hair trace across his shoulders, fall around his face as though holding at bay the world around them, filling his senses with forests and spices and the music of mysterious ancients.

His jacket disappeared under her hands, fingertips dissolved his waistcoat buttons, vanished the complicated knots of his cravat. The feel of her nails on his chest, opening the ties of his shirt, made him choke on the force of his desire. She ran her fingers through his hair, into the hollow of his throat, over his shoulders, down his arms. She tugged the shirttails from under his waistband, over his throbbing cock and heavy bollocks, one slow inch at a time.

He found himself rubbing against the inside of his trousers, unable to keep his hips from following after her touch; when she traced her fingernail against his straining erection, the contact was so delicate and swift he would have missed it if not for the shuddering forced through the rest of his body.

He wanted to beg her to touch him—to let him touch her—but he couldn’t conceive of words, nor remember how to speak. He had entirely forgotten his insistence on keeping the upper hand. If she brought any part of her body into contact with his sex, he was certain he would release inside his clothes. When she turned away to shimmy her hips against the insides of his thighs, inches from his heated shaft, it would have taken no more than the vibration of the bells at her wrists, only half an inch closer.

“You so beautiful, Kali,” he forced out, his eyes fluttering closed against the ache in his gut. “Perfect… Oh, God… Exquisite.” Before he opened his eyelids again, she had moved out of his line of sight.

From behind his back, her hand ran down his chest, under his shirt, as she responded low and husky into his ear, “As are you, premi. I have never seen such a magnificent man. You arouse me by only your presence.” He scented her musk in the air, underneath the aroma of her skin that always teased him, and thought his head would rise like a hot-air balloon over the treetops, catch flame until only sparks and flakes of ash remained, drifting on the breeze.

When his head fell back, baring his throat to her, she parted the collar of his shirt and used both forearms to rip down the center, leaving it gaping over his chest. The sudden violence left him gasping, moaning when she used the unfettered access to touch every inch of skin she had bared, the locks of her hair, the edges of her nails, the pads of her fingers tickling his nipples, his stomach, the waistband of his pants, her breasts cradling the back of his head. The teasing left him groaning, growling, and finally begging. When his hands moved from their position behind the chair, trying to slide up the inside of her thigh, she stepped away.

He knew he had only to stand and follow her, assuming his knees would stay under him. He could drag her down to the floor or up against the wall, take her in any position he chose, but he had been keeping the promise for weeks not to molest her person; he could offer up no good reason to break it now. He slowly clasped his hands again, using the placket of his trousers to once more try to ease his desperate need.

When she knelt down before him, between his spread thighs, close enough to feel her heat, too far to touch no matter how he strained, he found himself keening, begging, “Please, Kali. Please touch me. Please.”

Her smile was inscrutable. “Do you not enjoy my attentions, premi? You need only say if I do not bring you pleasure. It is my fondest desire to please you in all things.”

She loosened one button of his trousers, placing a soft kiss on the bared skin, and all he could force from his throat was, “No, you… oh God.” When her tongue tip flicked across his hipbone, he barely, just barely, kept from climaxing without ever touching her. “Oh, dear God.”

By the time she reached the fourth button on the left side, he had found it within himself to pace his desire, worth every recitation of the kings and queens of England, as she rubbed her soft cheek against his skin, warm breath reaching under the fall to almost touch his straining member.

“Oh, God, buttons… more buttons… please,” he begged, his thoughts and words chaotic and jumbled. “Please… dying… touch…” He couldn’t even tell if he were forming words or speaking in tongues.

A bit faster, but only a bit, she loosened the right side of the placket with the same tender kisses as each inch of flesh appeared, sliding the satin lining against him as she finally freed his cock, surely larger, harder, more desperate than it had ever been, dripping with need, striving for any caress she would grant. Her hair drifting across the inflamed head found him thrusting against the air. Her tongue sliding up the underside set him throbbing and begging alternately for her to stop and to never stop.

Each time he moaned, “Don’t… oh, God… stop,” she pulled away. When he whined, “Please… touch me,” she traced the length lightly with her tongue tip again. He reverted to moans and whimpers, but still couldn’t help pleading. “Please, Kali, take… God… tongue… please…”


June 15, you can find out who he is and exactly how his tension is resolved… until then… well… if he can imagine it, you can. 😉

Now, go get hot and bothered again and again at the rest of this bog hop’s stops.

Drum roll, please…………

Royal Regard cover3-02Royal Regard is now (finally) available for pre-order at Amazon, with other outlets coming soon. (I know you can’t see me, but I haven’t stopped doing the happy dance for two days. Boy, are my legs tired! ;-))

After fifteen years roaming the globe, the Countess of Huntleigh returns to England with her dying husband. She soon finds herself plagued by terrible troubles: a new title, estate, and sizable fortune; marked attentions from the marriage mart; the long-awaited reunion with her loving family; and a growing friendship with King George IV.

Settling into her new life, this shy-but-not-timid, not-so-young lady faces society’s censure, the Earl’s decline, false friends with wicked agendas, and the singular sufferings of a world-wise wallflower. Guided by her well-meaning husband, subject to interference by a meddlesome monarch, she must now choose the dastardly rogue who says he loves her, the charming French devil with a silver tongue, or the quiet country life she has traveled the world to find.