Keep Calm and Read This: The Demon Duke by Margaret Locke

Keep Calm and Read This: The Demon Duke by Margaret Locke

This week I extend a warm welcome to romance author Margaret Locke, who’s celebrating the release of The Demon Duke. This is the first in her new series – a series with the best title ever – Put Up Your Dukes. Read on to find out more, and for a chance to win an autographed copy of her new book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A man tormented by a painful secret meets the bookish miss who just might save him from himself…

Behind every good man is a great secret.

Banished to Yorkshire as a boy for faults his father failed to beat out of him, Damon Blackbourne has no use for English society and had vowed never to return to his family’s estate at Thorne Hill, much less London. However, when his father and brother die in a freak carriage accident, it falls on Damon to take up the mantle of the Malford dukedom, and to introduce his sisters to London Society-his worst nightmare come to life.

He never planned on Lady Grace Mattersley. The beautiful debutante stirs him body and soul with her deep chocolate eyes and hesitant smiles. Until she stumbles across his dark secret.

Bookish Grace much prefers solitude and reading to social just-about-anything. Her family may be pressuring her to take on the London Season to find herself a husband, but she has other ideas. Such as writing a novel of her own. But she has no idea how to deal with the Duke of Malford.

Will she betray him to the world? Or will she be his saving Grace?

Chapter 1

 

Blackwood Abbey, Yorkshire, England
Late October, 1813

Please come home. Your father and brother are dead. Carriage accident. You are Duke now. We need you. Come quickly, Damon.
– Mama

Damon Blackbourne, youngest son of Silas Blackbourne, Duke of Malford, stared at the note without seeing it. He didn’t need to; he’d read it a hundred times already. He balled up the paper and threw it to the floor.

“Home?” he snarled out loud, although the room, as usual, was empty. “Home, Mama?”

He had no home. None other than Blackwood Abbey, at least—the cavernous abode to which he’d been banished seventeen years ago. Seventeen years. More than half of his lifetime—nearly two-thirds, seeing as he was now twenty-seven.

He paced the room, a library brimming with books, a place he’d long claimed as his own. Not that he’d had competition, given his only company was a few servants.

And Hobbes. Thank God for Hobbes.

A fire crackled merrily in the fireplace, its warmth soothing him. It had turned unseasonably cold for October, a cold that now seeped into his bones, freezing his soul from the inside out.

He stopped in front of the flames, their flickering captivating him. What should he do? He hadn’t been to Thorne Hill, hadn’t seen his family since that awful day; the day he’d turned ten and his father turned him out.

“No son of mine shall exhibit such evil behaviors,” Silas had roared. “You are possessed by the devil. I cast you out. Do not show your face to me again. You are not my son.”

Not even the sound of his mother’s weeping had turned Damon around as he’d climbed alone into the carriage, numbness enveloping him. It was a welcomed state, the lack of feeling. It had dulled the pain of his back, which bore witness to the intense lashings his father had laid upon him, a desperate attempt to exorcise the demons Damon knew only too well.

His sisters had been mere babes in arms. They hadn’t even been present. But Damon would never forget the look on his beloved older brother’s face. It was the look of a boy torn—no, a man, perhaps, considering his brother at fourteen no longer had had the body of a child. Moisture had filled Adam’s eyes as their father had raged, but he’d raised no voice in Damon’s defense, made no attempt to stop the man. Adam had always been too dutiful for that.

Damon sighed. Should he go? Did he owe his mother—or anyone—that?

He’d never gone south, even though he’d come of age years ago. What would have been the point? And what would he have faced? More ridicule? Possibly Bedlam? His father never would have countenanced his return. Damon had been dead to Silas, dead to everyone, as far as he knew.

Except Adam and his mother, Felicity. She penned letters as often as she could, Adam less often, though both without his father’s knowledge. Silas certainly had never written. But Mama told the mundane details of life at Thorne Hill, of how his brother had fared with the estate’s management, how his sisters loathed practicing the pianoforte and hated their dance tutor.

He’d never had such things. A tutor came for a while—at whose bidding, he didn’t know—but Mr. Jensen had long since left, disturbed not only by Damon’s defiant manner but also by his rages.

For Damon had long struggled with his temper. It sometimes superseded even his odd body movements and frequently got him into trouble, which was one of the reasons he avoided company.

“Not like being exiled to Hell would assuage anyone’s anger,” he muttered as he reached for the glass of brandy he’d set on the side table.

Then it sank in. He was now the Duke of Malford. Unless his father had disinherited him. Was that possible? If so, his uncle, Fillmore Blackbourne, would be Duke.

And yet, his mother had written to him. Why?

Even if he were the legal heir, why would she want him back? Did she not fear he would be worse than before? Though he’d written her once, years ago, of how he’d mastered his demons, the physical ones, at least, in hopes of being called home. Had that been enough to convince her he could manage in polite society?

But he’d wanted the summons then. Not now.

He walked over to the window, staring out at the craggy moors glistening with snow. He knew in his heart what he had to do. For his mama, who’d done the best she could, he supposed, in circumstances beyond her control. For his sisters, whom he only remembered as tiny tykes who loved to pull his black hair. And for himself. To prove once and for all he was no devil. None beyond his own making, at least.

“Hobbes,” he bellowed.

A short man with thinning brown hair entered the room. Stiff-backed and with his nose in the air, he was the quintessential butler, who served also as Damon’s valet. Though his main role over the years had become that of friend. Despite the difference in age and status, they’d bonded, two lonely people bumbling about in this monstrous abbey, each with no family to call his own.

Still, the man loved to put on airs, to remind Damon both of his status as a ducal family’s servant—and Damon’s status as Lord. “Yes, my lord?”

“For Pete’s sake, Hobbes. It’s Damon. Damon.” Or rather now, Your Grace.

“I know.” The grin that cracked Hobbes’s cheeks softened his expression. “It merely amuses me to bait you.”
Damon smirked. “Ready the horses and coach.”

Hobbes’s eyebrows reached skyward. Damon nearly laughed out loud, which would have been quite the rarity, at the comical expression on the butler-come-valet’s face.

“We’re going to Thorne Hill.”

At that, Hobbes’s jaw literally dropped. He looked out at the snow-blanketed expanse of the abbey’s grounds. “In this weather?”

“Why not? If I’m going back home, it’s only fitting that Hell has frozen over.”

Grab your copy of The Demon Duke today!

 

 

 

Want to win an autographed paperback of The Demon Duke?

Just drop Margaret a line at AuthorMargaretLocke@gmail.com (please mention Renee Reynold’s blog so I know how you found me!) and you’re entered to win. Contest closes June 29th, 2017; winner announced on my Facebook page and contacted via email by July 1st, 2017.

 

As a teen, Margaret pledged to write romances when she was older. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grownup things, not penning stories. Thank goodness turning forty cured her of that silly notion.

Now happily ensconced again in the clutches of her first crush (romance novels!), Margaret is never happier than when sharing her passion for a grand Happy Ever After. Because love matters.

Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and three fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window); she’s come to terms with the fact she’s not an outdoors person.

Connect with Margaret at her website, Facebook, Goodreads, GooglePlus, Instagram, Twitter, and Amazon, and sign up for her Newsletter.

She’s also been known to pin a thing or three over on Pinterest!

And don’t forget to always #ReadaRegency!

Keep Calm and Read This: The novels of historical romance author Erin Satie

Keep Calm and Read This: The novels of historical romance author Erin Satie

My guest this week is historical romance author Erin Satie. She’s deep in the throes of research on her next book and stops by to share some fascinating tidbits.

I thought I’d tell you a little about the research I’m doing for my next book, the first in a new series called Sweetness and Light. My hero, Orson Loel, is a baron but he’s lost access to the family coffers so he’s making ends meet by growing orchids.

This sounds a little more unlikely than it was. A mania for orchids swept through Britain during the mid-nineteenth century, when my book is set—sometimes called orchid mania and others, more picturesquely, orchidelirium. There are a few reasons for the sudden popularity of extraordinary tropical flowers so totally unsuited to the English climate. The sprawling British Empire allowed collectors to travel far and wide, in search of wondrous new specimens. Inventions like the Wardian case—effectively a luggage-sized greenhouse—made it easier to transport the plants home to England, once they’d been gathered. While in England itself, taxes on windows were abolished while technology improved, allowing for the construction of modern greenhouses, structures of glass and wrought iron.

All of this meant that nurseries were practical, profitable concerns. Common species of orchids could sell for as little as 30 pence and tracts were published in magazines explaining that orchids could be grown on limited means. But all the while, the rich competed to own the rarest blooms. Orchids were regularly sold at auction, sometimes for dizzying prices. A single flowering orchid of the species at the center of my novel, the Odontoglossum crispum Cooksoniae, sold for 650 guineas during the late Victorian era—a sum equivalent, in today’s money, to more than $450,000.

I find orchids interesting because the history of the British Empire is compressed into them. There’s the story of Britain’s rise, of course, the one I’ve just told: exploration, invention and prosperity combined in a single finicky flower.

Charles Darwin wrote a monograph on orchids—in fact, an orchid was named after him.

But there’s a dark side, too. Because rare orchids were so prized, orchid collectors could be very secretive about where they found a certain specimen. They often made up stories to exaggerate the dangers they faced while out searching for orchids—stories about primitive natives, pagan idols, and jungles crawling with disease. These stories were not benign; Empire has a dark side, even when the subject is flowers.

The orchid collectors were enhancing their reputations—and their bottom lines—by painting foreigners as villains. English hothouses became, like English museums, a resume of world conquest.

Perhaps most shocking of all, in order to corner the market on a particular species of orchid, collectors often made an effort to seize every single flower from a given area—leaving nothing behind for anyone who came after. There’s a particularly shocking story of a collector named Albert Millican, who hunted the Odontoglossum crispum in the northern Andes. Each time he visited the area he collected every flower he could find and each time he was surprised to discover, upon his return, that there were fewer and fewer to be had.

The Odontoglossum crispum grows fairly high up on the trunks of trees and in order to obtain it, Millican simply ordered his employees to cut down the trees. He cheerfully describes felling thousands—yes, thousands—of trees in a mature rain forest in order to collect the orchids he sought.

And most of the orchids wouldn’t have survived the return trip to England.

I hope this little excursion into the wild world of orchid mania has been of interest to you! My book, Bed of Flowers, won’t be out for some time. In the meanwhile, you might want to check out the series I recently completed, No Better Angels. It’s set in the early Victorian period and readers call it ‘darkly elegant’; the first in the series, The Secret Heart, is free everywhere.

I also wrote a novella for a collection that just came out called Sight Unseen. It’s a really exciting project featuring myself, Emma Barry, Meredith Duran, J.A. Rock and Sherry Thomas. Our names are on the cover, but nowhere inside—readers have to guess who wrote which story. We’re writing outside our usual genres, but I think fans of historical romance will really enjoy this guessing game. All will be revealed come September.

Note: Much of the information above comes from Orchid: A Cultural History by Jim Endersby. It’s the best of the research books I’ve read on the subject and I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erin Satie is the author of the dark and elegant No Better Angels series, historical romances set in the early Victorian period. She’s currently hard at work on her upcoming series, Sweetness & Light, which should be just as elegant but not quite so dark.

Erin is a California native who’s lived on the coasts and in the heartland, in tiny city apartments and on a working farm. She studied art history in both college and graduate school—research is always her favorite part of starting a new book.

Her favorite part of finishing a book, whether reading or writing, is the happily ever after.

Find Erin at her Website, Facebook, or Twitter.

 

Keep Calm and Read This: A Raging Madness by Jude Knight

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Jude Knight this week. Her new release, A Raging Madness, features a broken hero and heroine, suspense and mystery, and hope for a future built upon a foundation of fraud. Delicious!

A Raging Madness. An interview with my lovers.

Ella and Alex sit nervously in the rector’s parlour. He has some questions, he says. They mustn’t worry. The questions are not intended to be intrusive, but rather to help them understand one another, so that they can work through the different approaches that they, like every other couple, bring to a relationship.

(Where an early nineteenth century rector found a set of twenty-first century marriage preparation questions, I could not say. In an envelope on his mantel-piece, perhaps?)

But here he is, armed with a pot of strong tea and some hearty slices of pound cake.

Rector: What are your priorities and expectations in a relationship?

Ella: My priorities have changed since I have been with Alex. At one time, my top priority was to protect myself from further harm, and to do that, I kept my emotions tightly buttoned up. Perhaps if any of my children had lived, it might have been different. Yes. I would have needed to protect them, I imagine. Now, I want what Alex wants. I know I can trust him to put me first, and so I am safe to put him first. My priorities have changed because my expectations have changed.

Alex: I must agree with Ella. My earlier experiences meant I disbelieved in love, at least for me. I wanted to give and receive pleasure, and beyond that I wanted to do and receive no harm. Now I want a great deal more. I am seizing happiness, which I never expected. Joy, even. Ella and I are partners and friends, as well as lovers.

(Ella gives Alex a shove, and whispers, “Alex, you can’t say ‘lovers’ to the Rector!” The rector just smiles and continues.)

Rector: What’s your biggest fear in a relationship?

Alex (taking Ella’s hand and smiling): I have no fears for the relationship. It’s not that I think we’ll always agree. I’m sure we’ll have misunderstandings and arguments. But we will talk them through. I’ve never had that with a lover before.

Eleanor Melville

Ella: I am not afraid that we shall cease loving one another. (She leans into Alex’s shoulder, hiding her face as she admits,) I am afraid of losing him. Life is very uncertain, and he will do dangerous things like clambering around on the stable roof to check the shingles.

Rector: You have both had past relationships. Do you blame yourself when a relationship fails?

Ella: I blamed myself for years. If only I had been more conformable, better born, prettier, more responsive to… (She trails off, blushing).

Alex (kissing the hand he holds): None of that is true, Ella. Melville would have been a bully and an arsewipe no matter what you had done.

Ella: I realise that now. He was the problem; not me. And you must know the same is true of you, my love. The Bad Baroness was to blame for that horrible incident, not you.

Alex: I am, at the very least, to blame for my poor taste, Ella. Not just with the baroness, but with others. They coloured my view of women, and therefore the way I treated you. I am so sorry, my dear heart. I will spend my life making it up to you.

(They kiss, while the rector smiles benevolently.)

Rector: Lady Melville, why did your relationship end? Who ended it?

Ella: In a legal sense, it ended when Gervase died. How else can a marriage end? But in another sense it never began. He did not want me as wife from the first, and I certainly would not have married him given a choice.

Rector: If you could have, would you have fixed it and got back together? Would he?

Ella (hesitating): I feel I should say yes, and perhaps if my children had lived… But he would have been, at best, an indifferent father. It sounds dreadful to say I was better off without him even before I met Alex. At least until Gervase’s brother and his wife tried to destroy me. And now? Now I know what a real marriage can be. How can I wish myself back in the nightmare that was my first marriage?

Rector: Lord Renshaw, why did your relationship end? Who ended it?

Alex Redepenning

Alex (blushing): This is a little embarrassing. I was infatuated with a woman, Reverend. I would have done anything for her. But I suffered a complete revulsion of feeling when I discovered that she had seduced me at the behest of her husband, who enjoyed watching her with her lovers! I found out at a most inconvenient and intimate moment, and I left the house immediately, pausing only to resume my clothing.

Rector: If you could have, would you have fixed it and got back together? Would she?

Alex: She would have. Indeed, she made the attempt. But I have never considered sexual intimacy to be a spectator sport, and objected to being made a performer against my knowledge or wishes. I found—I still find—the idea repulsive.

Rector: What’s the most important thing in your life?

Ella: Alex. And family. I have one now, thanks to him.

Alex: Yes, family. And Ella is the most important person in my family.

Rector: Where do you see yourself in five years? In twenty years?

Ella (exchanging a melting glance with her beloved): Beside my Alex. If God sees fit to bless us, in five years he will have his heir and perhaps another child or two. Our stables will be established, and our horses winning notice. In twenty years, I see us at the height of our fame as horse breeders, but beginning to think about handing the enterprise to the younger generation. They will be young for it then, of course, but we can begin to prepare them. And, of course, we might have a daughter of an age to be presented. We will need to rely on Alex’s sister for that. I have never made a come out and would not know how to go on! But I am sure Susan will be glad to help.

Alex (his eyebrows climbing into his hairline in his alarm): Good heavens. She is not even born, perhaps not conceived yet, and you would have me put her on the marriage mart? Have mercy, dear Ella. Rector, I share Ella’s vision, and her and I growing old together, with our family and our tenants around us. If we are given children, I will be grateful and will treasure them. If not, then I am already rich, for I have the woman of my dreams to share my life with.

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

 

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

Kerridge was alone when she brought Ella’s evening dose of laudanum. Presumably Constance believed that Ella was still under the influence of the measure forced down her throat this morning, and would swallow Kerridge’s without offering a struggle.

Constance was nearly right.

Even though Ella had managed to dribble at least part of what she secreted in her cheeks onto the pillow without Constance noticing, she was still amazed. Another dose would take her under, but Kerridge resented being forced to a task so beneath her dignity as a dresser, and would do no more than make sure the liquid arrived in Ella’s mouth. She would not insist on waiting until Ella swallowed, would not pinch her nose and hold her jaw shut.

Being too meek would be suspicious. Ella turned her head away from the spoon, her teeth clenched shut, but yelped at Kerridge’s sharp pinch and the dresser immediately forced the spoon into Ella’s mouth.

Glaring sullenly, she stopped struggling, and the dresser withdrew the spoon, stretching her thin lips into a smug smile.

“There, Lady Melville. This would go more easily for you if you would just do as you are told,” she said.

 

Jude Knight’s Book Page

 

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She 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.

Please visit Jude by clicking the links below.

 

 

 

Smashwords
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page

 

And always remember to #ReadaRegency!

Keep Calm and Read This: True As Fate by Laurie Alice Eakes

Keep Calm and Read This: True As Fate by Laurie Alice Eakes

I’m so pleased to welcome romance author Laurie Alice Eakes this week. She let me ask her all manner of impertinent questions, and I get to share her new release, True as Fate . . .

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have spent anywhere from days, to years researching a book. Yes, I said years. My American-set midwife series—three historicals and one contemporary—was just an insane amount of research from reading original documents published in the seventeenth century and imported through Interlibrary Loan from Great Britain, to talking to midwives practicing in the field today. I wanted to write the series, but just had to read one more diary or something until I was ready. Once I was ready, the books just flowed from my fingertips.

I did a great deal of research for My Enemy, My Heart and True as Fate also, for the entire Ashford series. Probably enough to add up to years. I needed to know about ships and went sailing on a tall ship, about prisoners of war in England, about noncombatant prisoners like women captured, and the everyday Regency stuff, which I will never know enough of.

How do you select the names of your characters?

I torture myself over names. Sometimes I write entire scenes of the book and end up changing the names. I try to make them appropriate to the time period, and yet appropriate to the character as well. Oddly, though, with True as Fate, I always knew the names of the main characters. The only ones that changed were those of two secondary characters.

What was your hardest scene to write?

I’ve pondered this question for quite a while and think the most difficult scene was about three-fourths of the way through when they both have reason to believe the other is acting in bad faith. They are literally locked in a room together, desperately hurt in an emotional way, desperately angry, and desperately in love. I wanted to get this all across without going over the top or letting the tension drop too soon. Just remembering writing that scene makes my breathing quicken with remembered tension of my own.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I went to grad school for writing popular fiction. That taught me how to discipline my writing, how to analyze it for ridiculousness and stupidity—as much as anyone can do for their own work—and be disciplined about my process. I could come up with ideas, but struggled to turn them into actual novels. We had to write a thesis novel. When I started, I had a vague idea and a setting and little else. No wonder my first line of True as Fate, the thesis novel was:

Seventeen miles of barren moorland lay between Ross Trenerry and freedom.

I thought I would never get through it, but True as Fate is published next week.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between them?

I am hoping to build a world around my current series, The Ashford Chronicles. Once upon a time, I wrote the prequel to the first book in the series, My Enemy, My Heart. That prequel is Georgian, though, and no one wanted Georgian, not set during the American Revolution, despite the story primarily taking place in England. So I started on the Regency era books. I have two published; True as Fate releases June 6, and the third comes out this autumn. I want to continue the series and would love to incorporate these characters as secondaries in other series. I’m quite attached to all of them.

Tell us something about your new release that is NOT in the blurb.

My hero, Ross Trenerry, is an angry and bitter man. He isn’t unkind because of it: he’s just hard and distrustful. His life has been pretty rough, from his family disowning him, to going to a British prison—not fun—then a worse prison, then his own country turning on him despite what he did for it during the war. He is out for blood, or at least revenge, not knowing that Chloe, our heroine, is one of the people who has done him the most harm.

Yes, I love to torture my characters.

Lady Chloe Ashford detests going to balls, loathes social pretense, and finds the very idea of hunting for a husband obscene. But she has an even more scandalous secret: she once helped an American—the enemy—escape from Dartmoor Prison. Now, nearly three years later, Ross Trenerry is back—and in trouble again. So is her traitorous heart. He doesn’t know she’s the one responsible for sending him to a second prison, and she has no intention of telling him.

A former privateer, Ross has finally run out of his legendary luck. Only one woman lies between him and freedom. He desperately needs Chloe’s help to prove he hasn’t committed treason, but he’s distracted by the passion that flares between them.

They set out on a cross-country adventure together to prove Ross’s innocence, but peril soon dogs their heels. As they race to reach their appointed rendezvous on time, they must fight their growing attraction and focus on discovering who is behind this deadly plot. Will they finally admit their love and put the pieces together before it’s too late?

 

 

 

About Laurie Alice Eakes

“Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic Times of  bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. As a child, Eakes began to tell herself stories. Since then, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author, with more than two dozen books in print. Accolades for Eakes’s books including winning the National Readers Choice Award and Rita finalist status.

She has recently relocated to a cold climate because she is weird enough to like snow and icy lake water. When she isn’t basking in the glory of being cold, she likes to read, visit museums, and take long walks, preferably with her husband, though the cats make her feel guilty every time she leaves the house.

You can read more about Eakes and her books, as well as contact her, by clicking the links below.

 

 

 

And don’t forget to always #ReadaRegency!

Keep Calm and Read This: Echo in the Wind by Regan Walker

Keep Calm and Read This: Echo in the Wind by Regan Walker

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Regan Walker to the blog this week. She has a brand-spanking-new release, Echo in the Wind, book two in her Donet Trilogy. Regan shares her formula for Rogues to Make Readers Sigh . . .

I like my heroes to be alpha males, manly men who know how to take care of themselves (and the heroine, of course). They might appear to be rogues but, in their hearts, they are vulnerable to the woman they would love. I don’t care if my heroes dress like dandies. I just don’t want them to be dandies.

So, here’s my checklist for rogues who make readers sigh.

1. Make him handsome, preferably a bit rugged. A scar wouldn’t go amiss. And make him sexy, the way he walks, his dominating presence as he enters a room, the way he looks around like he owns the place.

2. Give him an edge. Could be bitterness from his past, an attitude from being wronged by a woman, a temper, or a confidence from having proven himself in a test. A touch of the dangerous.

3. Make him manly, athletic or at least able to handle himself in a fight. A few weapons on his person, a knife in a boot, make him seem lethal. Even better if, added to that, he’s respected by other men.

4. Make him arrogant (at first). He knows what he wants and lacks no confidence that he can get it. No beta males need apply.

5. Give him a soft underbelly, love for an animal (his horse?), or perhaps a soft heart for a kid. An orphan is even better. And, of course, eventually he must have a weakness for the heroine (which, all things considered, will bother him the most).

6. Give him an obstacle to overcome, a title to regain, a mystery to solve or a dangerous mission. Make it important.

7. Make him slow to see that he needs a good woman in his life. He must come to the knowledge he can’t live without the heroine, but not too quickly, lest we think he’s a pushover. The bigger rogues they are, the harder they fall.

8. Make him reluctant to admit he is wrong (he’s a guy, after all).

9. Tell us how wonderful he is but only through the eyes of others.

10. Make him good at making love. If he’s new at it, make him a natural.

Jean Donet, on the deck of his ship. Yes, I believe he makes us sigh!

The heroes in my Agents of the Crown series are all alpha males who meet these criteria. Same with those bold knights in my Medieval Warriors series.

Perhaps my new Georgian romance, Echo in the Wind, book 2 in the Donet Trilogy, provides the most striking example. Here’s the way the heroine, Lady Joanna West, initially sees Jean Donet, comte de Saintonge, a ship’s captain, former pirate and privateer, now a smuggler:

Suddenly, a man appeared at the doorway staring into the parlor with cold detachment. His dark eyes seemed to be searching for someone. His tanned olive skin was a stark contrast to the pasty white complexions of most of the men in the room. He wore his black hair unpowdered and tied back at his nape. His features were bold: a high forehead, black eyebrows, a straight nose and prominent cheekbones.

He cut a striking figure in a dark blue coat edged in cream silk flowers. At his throat and cuffs was a great mound of lace. Beneath the frock coat, an ivory silk waistcoat, embellished in the nattiest of fashion, shimmered.

She knew instantly he could not be English. Such ornate embroidery and so much lace would never be seen in Westminster where the current fashion for men favored a certain austerity. An Englishman attired like this one would be considered a popinjay. But to Joanna, his brooding dark elegance spoke of an uncommon masculine style.

He strode into the parlor, drawing curious glances from the gentlemen and nervous twitters from the ladies. Passing through the crowd, his searching gaze met Joanna’s for only a moment yet, in that moment, excitement coursed through her veins. His obsidian eyes flashed with an intensity she had not encountered before. When his gaze moved on, she felt a keen disappointment.

His dark brows lifted as he headed for someone he appeared to recognize.

“Who is he?” she asked her brother.

Richard turned from his conversation with Addington to follow the subject of her attention. “Oh. If I am not mistaken, Sister, that is the new comte de Saintonge.”

A French comte. Yes, he quite looked the part.

Addington huffed. “You invited a Heathen Frog to your reception for the Prime Minister?”

“Careful, old boy,” chided Richard. “Pitt speaks well of his travels in France and ’tis rumored the comte was once a pirate. You wouldn’t want him to get wind of your views or he might slit your throat some starless night.”

“Walker sweeps you away to a time and place you’ll NEVER want to leave!”
~ NY Times Bestselling author Danelle Harmon

England and France 1784

Cast out by his noble father for marrying the woman he loved, Jean Donet took to the sea, becoming a smuggler, delivering French brandy and tea to the south coast of England. When his young wife died, he nearly lost his sanity. In time, he became a pirate and then a privateer, vowing to never again risk his heart.

As Donet’s wealth grew, so grew his fame as a daring ship’s captain, the terror of the English Channel in the American War. When his father and older brother die in a carriage accident in France, Jean becomes the comte de Saintonge, a title he never wanted.

Lady Joanna West cares little for London Society, which considers her its darling. Marriage in the ton is either dull or disastrous. She wants no part of it. To help the poor in Sussex, she joins in their smuggling. Now she is the master of the beach, risking her reputation and her life. One night off the coast of Bognor, Joanna encounters the menacing captain of a smuggling ship, never realizing he is the mysterious comte de Saintonge.

Can Donet resist the English vixen who entices him as no other woman? Will Lady Joanna risk all for an uncertain chance at love in the arms of the dashing Jean Donet?

The story begins on the West Sussex coast at twilight. Take a peak:

Bognor, West Sussex, England, April 1784

Except for the small waves rushing to shore, hissing as they raced over the shingles, Bognor’s coast was eerily bereft of sound. Lady Joanna West hated the disquiet she always experienced before a smuggling run. Tonight, the blood throbbed in her veins with the anxious pounding of her heart, for this time, she would be dealing with a total stranger.

Would he be fair, this new partner in free trade? Or might he be a feared revenue agent in disguise, ready to cinch a hangman’s noose around her slender neck?

The answer lay just offshore, silhouetted against a cobalt blue sky streaked with gold from the setting sun: a black-sided ship, her sails lifted like a lady gathering up her skirts, poised to flee, waited for a signal.

Crouched behind a rock with her younger brother, Joanna hesitated, studying the ship. Eight gun ports marched across the side of the brig, making her wonder at the battles the captain anticipated that he should carry sixteen guns.

She and her men were unarmed. They would be helpless should he decide to cheat them, his barrels full of water instead of brandy, his tea no more than dried weeds.

It had been tried before.

“You are certain Zack speaks for this captain?” she asked Freddie whose dark auburn curls beneath his slouched hat made his boyish face appear younger than his seventeen years. But to one who knew him well, the set of his jaw hinted at the man he would one day become.

“I’ll fetch him,” Freddie said in a hushed tone, “and you can ask him yourself.” He disappeared into the shadows where her men waited among the trees.

Zack appeared, squatting beside her, a giant of a man with a scar on the left side of his face from the war. Like the mastiffs that guarded the grounds of her family’s estate, he was big and ugly, fierce with enemies, but gentle with those he was charged to protect.

“Young Frederick here says ye want to know about this ship, m’lady.” At her nod, Zack gazed toward the brig. “He used to come here regular with nary a con nor a cheat. He’s been gone awhile now. I heard he might have worked up some other business—royal business.” He rolled his massive shoulders in a shrug. “In my experience, a tiger doesn’t change his stripes. He’s a Frog, aye, but I trust the Frenchie’s one of us, a free trader still.”

She took in a deep breath of the salted air blowing onshore and let it out. “Good.” Zack’s assurance had been some comfort but not enough to end her concerns. What royal business? For tonight, she need not know. “Give the signal,” she directed her brother, “but I intend to see for myself if the cargo is what we ordered.”

Without seeking the position, Joanna had become the smugglers’ master of the beach, responsible for getting the cargo ashore and away to inland routes and London markets with no revenue man the wiser. She took seriously her role to assure the villagers got what they paid for. Their survival depended upon it.

 

 

 

Regan Walker is an award-winning, #1 Amazon bestselling author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romances. She writes historically authentic novels in which readers experience history, adventure and love. You may find Regan at her website.

She also has a fascinating storyboard for Echo in the Wind on Pinterest.

And don’t forget to always #ReadaRegency!

Keep Calm and Read This: A Wedding Code by Jacki Delecki

Keep Calm and Read This: A Wedding Code by Jacki Delecki

This week I’m honored to have best-selling romantic suspense author Jacki Delecki visit. She has a new release coming out next week on April 25th ~ book five in The Code Breakers Series. Not only can you pre-order now, but there’s a giveaway…


Title: A Wedding Code
Heat Level:  Medium
Genre: Regency Romance Suspense

 
 
 
 

As a renowned arbiter of fashion and design, Miss Amelia Bonnington’s upcoming nuptials to Lord Derrick Brinsley have become the most anticipated event of English society. Her plans to create the perfect wedding must be cast aside, however, when her best friend’s brother, a member of England’s top code breaking family, disappears.

When his fiancée meddles in dangerous spy activity, Derrick, an undercover agent for His Majesty, must intervene. Now, it’s up to Amelia and Derrick to safely locate the missing brother, prevent another abduction, and thwart an assassination. Can they outwit the French spies and still have Amelia’s fairy tale wedding?

Miss Amelia Bonnington dropped the tangle of wedding ribbons and rushed into the morning room to assist Lady Henrietta Rathbourne. Amelia winced in sympathy at Hen’s valiant but unsuccessful attempts to adjust her very large and very pregnant abdomen into a comfortable position on the settee.

Grabbing a pillow from a chair, Amelia tucked the cushion under Hen’s swollen feet. “Darling, does this help?”

Not wanting to burden her best friend’s sensitive feelings, Amelia tried hard not to stare at the massive round hump straining against Hen’s morning gown. Amelia wasn’t sure she wanted her body to ever grow and distort in such an uncomfortable manner. “Would another pillow behind your back help?”

“Nothing helps. I’m the size of a whale. It’s not surprising that I’m having a big baby, since Cord is such a large man.” Hen could barely wrap her arms around her middle.

Amelia didn’t want to think about the imposing size of her fiancé, Lord Brinsley, and how large Derrick’s babies would be. Although Amelia was inches taller than Henrietta, Derrick was a giant, the tallest and broadest man of her acquaintance.

Hen fanned her flushed face. “The entire family and staff are tiptoeing around me as if I might explode at any moment, like a Guy Fawkes firecracker.”

It was true. The usually calm and composed Hen would tear up at the most unpredictable moments, leaving everyone around her baffled as to how to respond.

Amelia squeezed her friend’s hand. “Everyone is concerned. And it’s obvious that you’re uncomfortable now that your time is near.”

Henrietta stroked her abdomen in a protective, soothing circular motion. “Cord is constantly monitoring my growth. Every time he looks at me, I see him estimating the size of the baby. My enormous expansion has cracked his impenetrable confidence. He doesn’t say anything, but I can see he is worried that the baby is too big for my small frame. And when my husband, the bravest and most fearless leader of our country, appears fearful, I feel a need to shelter him from what comes next.”

Amelia shook her head. “But my dearest, you know Cord likes to be in control of everything and everyone. I’m sure he is struggling with this birthing business.”

“My husband is used to bending all of England, even the king, to his will. His inability to control nature is driving him mad.” Hen shifted on the settee, looking miserable.

Amelia jumped back up from her chair and repositioned the pillow under Hen’s feet. “Does that help?”

Hen winced when Amelia moved her feet. “And Michael,” she continued. “You know my brother can’t hide a blasted feeling. It’s all there on his face—fear and worry.”

“It’s normal for the men to worry. Besides, what other part can they play in the pregnancy?”

Hen rolled her bright green eyes toward the ceiling. “Well, we know what part Cord played in the onset of my condition”

The childhood friends laughed together. And Amelia was relieved to see Hen able to muster some semblance of her usual wit.

“I still have days before the birth, according to Dr. Oglethorpe, which means I’ll be able to attend your wedding.”

Amelia didn’t want to think about her best friend missing her wedding, which was but two days away. Hen refused to follow convention, and planned to attend despite her pregnant state, and Amelia supported her decision. She and Hen always planned to play a part in each other’s weddings. They had shared their fantasies of romance, their future husbands, and dream weddings since they were eight years old.

“I’m so very weary of discussing the size of my abdomen and ankles. How are all the wedding details coming?”

“You don’t have to pretend interest. I know you couldn’t care less about colors, fabrics, or flowers.”

“True. I was prodigiously grateful when you did everything for my wedding. How is Derrick faring with your need for perfection?”

Amelia had orchestrated Hen’s, then Gwyneth’s, and, most recently, Gabby’s weddings. The brides were all dramatically in love and could scarcely be bothered with the kind of details that could turn a simple wedding into a glorious affair.

Their weddings were the talk of all London because of Amelia’s eye for design. After Beau Brummel, Amelia was considered the highest arbiter of women’s fashion. Although she hated the image of herself as another boring society woman whose only interest was fashion. She was an artist who saw color and shapes in everything around her.

Amelia grumbled. “I really don’t need to have everything perfect.”

Hen shifted on the settee and raised both eyebrows, accenting her round emerald eyes. “You changed the ribbon on my wedding dress at least five times to get the exact color of green moss. And the color of the hydrangeas and the candles… Should I go on?”

Amelia resisted pointing out that Hen looked magnificent on her wedding day because of Amelia’s meticulous attention to every aspect of the event.

Hen fingered the sleeve of her gown. “And your protégé is worse. He couldn’t be more persnickety.”

“Pierpont is a wonderful help. He knows a great deal about fabrics, flowers, and proper etiquette.” Amelia wanted to bite her tongue. She sounded like the snobbish society ladies she detested.

“I can’t like him. There is something very cagey about him,” Hen added.

“You’ve been listening to Derrick, haven’t you?”

Hen shook her head. “Derrick hasn’t said a word to me.”

Amelia raised her eyebrows. “Are you sure?”

“Derrick barely speaks to me. I think he’s intimidated by my size and my waddle.”

Amelia snickered. “You might be right. It is rather startling to think that the two bravest men in England are afraid of one pregnant woman.”

 

 

 

Jacki Delecki is a Best-Selling, Romantic Suspense writer. Delecki’s Grayce Walters Series, which chronicles the adventures of a Seattle animal acupuncturist, was an editor’s selection by USA Today. Delecki’s Romantic Regency The Code Breaker Series hit number one on Amazon. Both acclaimed series are available for purchase at JackiDelecki.com.

To learn more about Jacki and her books, and to be the first to hear about contests and giveaways, join her newsletter found on her website. You can also follow Jackie on Facebook and Twitter.

 

And now for the giveaway…

Bouquets are a wedding tradition that have been around for a long time, including in Regency weddings. What is your favorite type of wedding flower?

Drop your answer in the comments below to be entered for a chance to win an ebook copy of A Wedding Code and a $10 Amazon gift card!

 

And don’t forget to always #ReadARegency!

 

Keep Calm and Read This! ~The Matchmaking Game by Donna Hatch~

Keep Calm and Read This! ~The Matchmaking Game by Donna Hatch~

I’m honored to have best-selling author Donna Hatch visit today. She has a new novella debuting April 18th, but we get a sneak peek here … and it’s available for preorder!


Title: The Matchmaking Game
Heat level: Sweet (clean)
Genre: Regency Romance
Length: Novella ~ 126 pages

 
 
Rowena’s childhood friend, Evan, has returned home from war a handsome, but mysterious stranger. In an effort to bring happiness to her father, not to mention uncover the Evan she remembers from their youth, Rowena seeks to unite their parents. Who better to match a lonely widow and widower together than their adoring children? Her matchmaking game could help their parents find happiness and draw out her childhood friend buried beneath Evan’s new reserve … or it could break more than one heart.

With a gesture at a basket tied to the saddle, she said, “I had Cook pack plenty of those seedcakes Nurse Murray likes so well, as well as lemon tarts for you.” She made a face. “I’ll be sure to grab one before you devour them all and leave me with nothing but crumbs.”

He laughed softly. “Would I do that?”

Her impish grin filled him with sunshine. “It was your habit.”

With a flippant shrug, he teased, “It was for your own good. I didn’t want you to get too fat.”

She made a gesture to her waistline. “Do I look like I need someone to monitor my eating habits?”

He made a perusal of her, letting his gaze travel from her face downward, slowly, but forgot he was supposed to be teasing her. Instead, he took a really good look. Fourteen-year-old Rowena had been as curvy as a blade of grass. Twenty-three-year old Rowena, with her figure accentuated by her fitted riding habit—so much more flattering than the normal, high-waisted gowns of the day’s fashions—had the graceful, generous curves of a Greek statue of Aphrodite. A new tightness formed inside his chest.

Rowena looked at him as if she’d never seen him before. Surprise, and something almost smug, deepened the gray of her eyes. She put a hand on a hip. “Like what you see, Captain?”

He tugged at a suddenly strangling cravat and cleared his throat. “Forgive me. You’ve changed.”

“How kind of you to notice,” she said dryly. “Give your major a leg up?”

With a smile at her reference to the honorary rank he’d given her, Evan dismounted. He laced his fingers together so she could mount her horse. A pert smile came his way before she placed her left foot in his cupped hands. She put one hand on his shoulder to steady herself as he boosted her up. Her soft body brushed his arm and chest. Her scent, something soft and feminine he could not name, tingled his senses. Mere inches away, her smooth cheek and moist lips taunted him. His chest squeezed, and his knees wobbled. Awareness of her, of the desirable woman she had become, rendered him immobile. She glanced at him, one brow raised, and a half smile curving those luscious lips. A burning energy formed in the middle of his stomach and shot outward like sunbursts.

She parted those lips and spoke. “Am I too heavy for a big, strong man like you?”

“Er, no. Of course not.” He cleared his throat again and boosted her up with a bit too much force.

Despite his aggressive boost, she placed her right leg over the leg rest of the sidesaddle and found her balance. She settled the long, heavy skirts of her riding habit around her, while he helped position her left foot in the stirrup.

With the reins in one hand and her riding crop in the other, she eyed him with an expectant lift to her brows. “Shall we?”

He shook his head, stopped staring, and mounted Otoño. It must be all Winnie’s talk about courting Rowena that had him so rattled. He couldn’t entertain such an idea. He’d made a vow to Joseph and all but promised himself to Cynthia. Besides, as an additional benefit, Cynthia’s dowry could restore the family fortune without having to sell off some of its most precious assets and break up generations of holdings. His path was already paved. Honor and duty dictated his next move.

Click Here to Pre-order on Amazon today!

Donna Hatch, author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force that drove her to write and publish seventeen historical romance titles, to date. She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six children. Also a music lover, she sings and plays the harp, and she loves to ballroom dance. Donna and her family recently transplanted from her native Arizona to the Pacific Northwest where she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

Click HERE to receive the first novel in her Rogue Hearts series for free.

Click HERE to subscribe to Donna’s newsletter.

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And don’t forget to always #ReadARegency!