Keep Calm and Read This: Blind Tribute by Mari Anne Christie

Keep Calm and Read This: Blind Tribute by Mari Anne Christie

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Mariana Gabrielle. She has a new novel set in a different era from her previous releases (and if you haven’t read La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, or any of the Sailing Home series, get to it!). Writing as Mari Anne Christie, she’s delving into the world of journalism and the American Civil War. In the midst of new release mania, I managed to snag an interview with the big man himself, Harry Wentworth.

And there’s a giveaway!

NAME: Palmer Harrold Wentworth III (Palmer to his mother and wife; P.H. Wentworth III to readers; Harry to friends and family)
AGE: 57
OCCUPATION: Executive Editor of The Philadelphia Daily Standard, writing primarily on issues of business and finance
NET WORTH: ~$4 million
CURRENT DATE: April 1, 1861

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Though I have been employed since my early twenties, I have never needed to work for my living, so I imagine I would do what I have chosen to do every day of my adult life: write.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they’ve known you for a while?
I have long since ceased concerning myself with the impression I make, as my reputation nearly always precedes me, and there is little I can do to change the perception created by my newspaper columns. I hope, upon deeper acquaintance, those who meet me understand that my reputation is larger than life, and I am only a man like any other.

What’s your idea of a good marriage? Do you think that’ll happen in your life?
My marriage is tolerable, and I think it foolish to expect anything more when marrying for bloodline. All ancestry being equal among the available young ladies, I chose my wife precisely for her lack of romantic notions, and largely, that has contributed to a successful partnership.

What are you most proud of about your life?
My twin daughters, Fleur and Belle, followed closely by the global readership I have worked all my life to build, and the reputation associated with such renown.

What are you most ashamed of in your life?
I am deeply ashamed of the way I raised my son, Robert. I am not certain what else I could have done, but I cannot help but feel responsible for the sort of man he has become.

If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick?
I would give all I own to spend the day with my childhood nanny, who is yet living, but beyond my reach.

Do you think you’ve turned out the way your parents expected?
I have turned out exactly as they expected, which is to say, not at all as they hoped.

What do you believe about God? (If they believe in God, ask “What do you suppose God thinks of you?”)
God is a convenient and efficient means of ensuring people act with decency and contribute to society. As such, it is a concept worthy of cultivation.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done? What would happen if you did it?
I wish I had freed two slaves, but the possibility is long since gone.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? What did you learn from it?
I have been disowned by my father three times, which taught me that his influence is smaller than he would have the world believe, and that I could survive on my own.

Tell me about your best friend. (If you think it might be interesting, ask “How did you meet? What do you like about this person? What do they like about you?”)
What a ridiculous notion. I am on intimate terms with several gentlemen, most notably, the current Secretary of State for the Union, William Seward, but a “best friend” is a fancy best suited to young girls.

Every newspaper editor may owe tribute to the devil, but Harry Wentworth’s bill just came due.

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears, so he must finally resolve his own moral quandary. Comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground, as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Anne’s face contorted, red with rage. Her entire being seemed to swell three sizes. As many weeks as Harry had been considering this evening’s discussion, so had she. She would spring at him any moment with two weeks’ worth—two months’ worth—of argument she’d been amassing. He should have known; she’d been much too accommodating of his opinions thus far.

“Far be it from me to keep you from suicide, Palmer, for I shall be a very merry widow, but you cannot expect me to uproot my children over a minor conflict about which you have a bad feeling. You would have me leave everything I know to assuage your fears for our safety, when you refuse to stay and ensure it yourself?! I have family here, and a home, and two girls to present and marry. There is no chance the fighting will reach Pennsylvania before the insurrection is put down, and I’ll not disrupt everything for you, or for this ridiculous war!”

Instead of backing away, he stepped forward. “I married you because you read the newspaper, Anne, and because you do not usually speak drivel. Can you be so short-sighted? You would refuse to take our children to safety, simply because it is I who suggest it?” He raised his voice for the first time since their argument began. “No, Anne! I will not hear it! I have chosen the safest course for you and the children, and the only course for myself. Stop screeching about something you should have expected. I’ve had enough argument from you for one evening. The decision has been made.”

Her tone lowered from a shriek to a loud yell as she took a step backward. “I never believed you could do such an awful thing to your wife and children! Tearing us away from everything—our whole lives—so you can stand on some ill-defined principle! It’s inhuman!” She stomped her foot again, retaking the ground she had lost, shaking the pictures on the blue silk walls and the curios interspersed among the bookshelves. An Argentinean mask toppled off a shelf, but didn’t break on the Persian carpet.

He saw the tears well up, and hoped sincerely he would ultimately be allowed to soothe her when he won the disagreement, rather than watch her walk away from the fight, lock the door to her rooms, and prepare herself for continued battle until she’d won her point. Unfortunately, Anne’s tears in such a situation could portend anything—except surrender.

Click below to grab your copy today ~ available at most online vendors!

 

 

Mari was “raised up” in journalism (mostly raising her glass at the Denver Press Club bar) after the advent of the web press, but before the desktop computer. She has since plied her trade as a writer, editor, and designer across many different fields, and currently works as a technical writer and editor.

Under the name Mari Christie, she has released a book-length epic poem, Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness: Poetry of the Mayan Underworld, and under pen name Mariana Gabrielle, she has written several Regency romances, including the Sailing Home Series and La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess. Blind Tribute is her first mainstream historical novel. She expects to release the first book in a new family saga, The Lion’s Club, in 2018.

She holds a BA in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver, and is a member of the Speakeasy Scribes, the Historical Novel Society, and the Denver Press Club. She has a long family history in Charleston, South Carolina, and is the great-great niece of a man in the mold of Harry Wentworth.

And connect with Mari around the web:

Mari’s Website
Facebook
Twitter
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads
Wattpad
Bookbub
Authorgraph
Street Team

 

 

 

 

 

Mari will be giving away a quill pen (like Harry’s) and powdered ink, a swag pack including Harry’s Editorials Collection, and a e-copy of the book to one winner. To be entered for your chance to win, click this HERE.

 

Keep Calm and Read This: Only a Hero Will Do by Alanna Lucas

Keep Calm and Read This: Only a Hero Will Do by Alanna Lucas

This week’s guest is historical romance author Alanna Lucas, who deliciously brings the past to life one romantic adventure at a time. She’s sharing a tantalizing peek into her new release, Only a Hero Will Do. She also has a giveaway opportunity for her fans!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defender of the realm…and his wary heart…

Captain Grant Alexander is an enigma in London society. Dashing and handsome, he coldly eschews marriage. But the ton knows nothing of his role in the Legion: to bring Typhon, the traitor who seeks to destroy the British monarchy, to justice.

When Grant is thrown together with fellow Legion member Elizabeth Atwell, he’s instantly beguiled yet exasperated by this beautiful viscount’s daughter. She has little interest in combing the marriage mart for a well-bred, well-heeled husband, but is adept at code-breaking and handling a bow and arrow. She also refuses to do as she is told, insisting she accompany Grant on his mission.

As Typhon continues to evade capture and dark forces are at work, Grant realizes he must act, not only to protect the realm but Elizabeth too…not to mention his heart, which is in danger of thawing every time she comes close…

Chapter One

London 1811

Elizabeth strolled into the stuffy, overly perfumed, and crowded ballroom. Some of the finest families of the ton were in attendance this evening. She pretended she had not a care in the world, but all the while took note of those around her.

Within the mass of well-dressed lords and ladies, Lord Fynes caught her eye, offering a slight nod toward the less crowded terrace. This was the signal she’d been waiting for all night.

Promenading the perimeter of the dance floor and heading toward the terrace, Elizabeth feigned interest in the quadrille, but continued to glance sideways at the portly Lord Baxter, the man she was to keep an eye on this evening.

Elizabeth had been given the tasks of attending social functions where Lord Baxter was present and taking note of whom he interacted with, and any other odd behavior. If it weren’t for Lord Fynes’ cryptic note about a stolen missive needing to be deciphered posthaste, and Lord Baxter’s sudden decision to attend Lady Caper’s ball this evening, she’d still be at home pretending to be ill. But these new developments took precedence over avoiding social obligations.

Elizabeth’s mother, however, was thrilled with the last minute alteration to the evening’s plans, promising Elizabeth would have a splendid time and declaring that, by the end of this season, her daughter was sure to have an offer of marriage. There was only one problem with her mother’s theory; Elizabeth had no interest in marriage. Truth be told, she had never been a starry-eyed debutante setting her cap at handsome men. Not that she wasn’t interested in the opposite sex. She just did not want to give up the life she’d worked so hard to build. She wanted to serve her country and help bring down Typhon, the Legion’s mysterious and deadly enemy.

Despite the Legion’s efforts to apprehend Typhon over the past several years, he’d continually managed to evade capture. After the last informant had turned up dead, all traces of Typhon and his miscreants had vanished, until last month when the Legion had received word from the Earl of Hartland stating he had uncovered information regarding influential members of the ton who were sympathetic to Typhon’s anti-British cause. Lord Baxter’s name was at the top of the list.

Lord Fynes’ exuberant voice rose above the chatter, breaking into Elizabeth’s reflections. “Miss Atwell, what an unexpected surprise it is to find you here this evening. I do hope your family is well. Is Lord Atwell in attendance?”
She flicked her fan open. “My father is not in attendance, but is well, thank you, Lord Fynes.” Glancing over her shoulder, she noticed Lord Baxter heading their way. The continual mopping of his brow, combined with his anxious expression and jittery movements, added to Elizabeth’s suspicions. She didn’t know if Lord Baxter suspected anything, but there was no time to contemplate the possibility. Lowering her voice, she spoke between waves of her fan. “What news?”

“Standard assignment to be delivered by Cap…” Lord Fynes halted his sentence before pasting a wide smile on his face, and in a boisterous voice exclaimed, “Lord Baxter! I was hoping we’d meet again this evening and continue our engaging discussion about the benefits of sea air on one’s constitution.”

Lord Baxter’s face paled as little beads of sweat outlined the corners of his brow. “Oh yes, of course, sea air… one’s constitution… perhaps later.” He gulped the words down with force. Pulling out a white cloth from the edge of his coat, he wiped his brow with much force. “Quite warm this evening,” was all the man could mutter before waddling away. It was difficult to believe the always-discomposed Lord Baxter could be involved in anything nefarious. Elizabeth suspected the man’s immense wealth had attracted Typhon’s attention.

Masking her thoughts, Elizabeth resumed the role of guest at Lady Caper’s ball. “I had best be returning to my chaperone. It was a pleasure to see you this evening, Lord Fynes.”

“Give your father my regards.” Bowing slightly, Lord Fynes uttered under his breath, “Captain Alexander…tonight.” Without further adieu, he took his leave, disappearing imperceptibly into the festive crowd.

Although she’d been deciphering messages for Lord Fynes since she was an adolescent, Elizabeth had only recently joined the ranks of the Legion, a secret organization created to destroy anything or anyone that might compromise the security of the realm. Thankfully her father had not objected, and her mother had no knowledge of her surreptitious activities.

The daughter of a viscount simply did not risk life and limb. No, the daughter of a viscount was expected to marry well, provide heirs, and know the latest on dits. The daughter of a viscount was expected to behave herself, do what she was told, and not be in possession of a weapon of any sort. Elizabeth had absolutely no interest in being that daughter.

She forced her best smile and prepared to wait. Patience was not her strong suit. Scanning the room, she looked for the man she’d heard so much about but had yet to meet. She’d been following his impressive military career for several years and was anxious to make his acquaintance.

When Typhon had struck again a few weeks ago, Elizabeth was not surprised to learn Captain Alexander had been appointed to discover the identity of the man who had been slowly undermining British authority and weakening general confidence. Typhon’s ultimate goal was to destroy the crown. His ever-expanding organization knew no boundaries, and it was the Legion’s responsibility to bring him to justice. Elizabeth had no doubt Captain Alexander would be the man to accomplish such a feat, and she wanted nothing more than to be part of that team.

Anxious energy coursed through her limbs. If she stood still much longer, she might scream. Across the room, she spotted her chaperone, Lady Carteron—her recently married and dearest friend, Amelia— and decided to join her.
Elizabeth thought it quite ridiculous that, at the age of six and twenty, she still needed a chaperone. She did not quite understand how her younger friend provided any additional protection because of her recent change in marital status. Her mother and father, however, did not share her sentiment.

Girlish giggles followed by excited hushed whispers drifted over from a group of young ladies. The room quieted as all heads turned toward the entrance and the mysterious newcomer. It seemed as if every lady in attendance had noticed his arrival and were prepared to throw herself in his path.

He had the stature of a military man, proud and confident but not arrogant, and stood at least a head above most of the men in attendance. There was an air of danger and mystery about him that Elizabeth found intriguing. Could this be Captain Alexander?

Elizabeth strolled over to Amelia, but kept her eyes settled on the handsome gentleman in a dark blue coat. “Who is the impressively tall man?”

His gaze swept through the ballroom, resting on Elizabeth. Rapid flutters pattered against her chest as her eyes locked with the mysterious newcomer, catching her off guard. She quickly turned her gaze as if looking for someone.
Amelia leaned in and whispered, “That is Captain Alexander. He’s recently returned from Glanmire House.”
Oh dear. Elizabeth had heard he was handsome, but he was a veritable Adonis!

“And standing next to him is Sir Simon,” Amelia added.

Oh, so that is Sir Simon. Elizabeth had heard the numerous tales about his bravery, and his reputation with the ladies. She tried to suppress a giggle. Sir Simon’s renown was second only to the Earl of Hartland’s. She had no interest or time for rakes and scoundrels.

“They’ve been the best of friends since childhood.”

Amelia always seemed to know everything about everyone. Calling her a gossip would have been a gross understatement. Except for the one not-so-minor flaw, Amelia would have made an excellent agent. However, she was instead a loyal friend who, without a doubt, would never betray Elizabeth’s trust. Even still, Elizabeth had always acted with extreme caution regarding her other life. Few knew the truth of her association with the Legion, and she meant to keep it that way.

She happened another glance at Captain Alexander, who was now engaged in conversation with Lord Capers. His stoic features gave nothing away. She suspected that beneath the rigid and all too handsome façade was intelligence and compassion. There was just something about his aura that told her he was a good man. A good man and an excellent spy.

“What do you know of Captain Alexander?” Elizabeth questioned without thought, wanting to know more than just of his military career. Not that she had any interest in the Captain beyond the professional, but she’d often found a person’s past influenced their present course.

Take herself, for example. Elizabeth had always been told she would never be able to fire a pistol, or hit a target with an arrow, or have a place in a man’s world. But the moment her late grandfather had revealed his secret, she’d instantly known the path her life would take. She was going to prove every naysayer wrong.

Amelia took in a deep breath and began to rattle off the facts. “He was a sickly child, often bedridden. Both his parents died when he was still fairly young and has no other living relatives. He has served in the military, but no one knows much about his service apart from his strong sense of honor and duty. He has traveled extensively and speaks multiple languages. Rumor has it that his late grandfather had amassed quite a fortune in trade and acquired Brookhurst, a lovely property near the Peak District. He’s not married.” Elizabeth eyed her friend, about to ask if that was all the information Amelia had on Captain Alexander when she added, “Oh, and he’s thirty years old and has managed to keep all romantic entanglements out of the gossips’ ears. Other than that, his life is shrouded in mystery.”

“Yes, shrouded in mystery.” Somehow Elizabeth was able to hold in the laughter. Apart from extremely personal details, Amelia had covered all the basics.

How would she approach him without raising suspicion? Did Captain Alexander know who she was? Perhaps he already applied to the master of ceremonies for an introduction.

She was contemplating her next course of action when Mr. Cokinbred, one of many fortune hunters in attendance, sauntered to where her and Amelia were standing.

“Lady Carteron,” Mr. Cokinbred said in a polite, if not slightly condescending tone, before turning his attention to Elizabeth. “Miss Atwell, it is a pleasure to see you this evening.” His smile widened revealing a set of ill-maintained teeth. “May I have the pleasure of the next dance?”

Propriety dictated she accept, but conformity was not a common word in Elizabeth’s vocabulary. “I thank you for the offer, but I am rather tired at present.”

Mr. Cokinbred’s face turned to an unflattering shade of red. Under his breath he muttered, “Good evening,” before storming away, clearly displeased with Elizabeth’s refusal.

Amelia leaned in and, with a teasing whisper, said, “Your mother will be none too pleased when she hears of your refusal to dance.”

Ignoring Amelia’s comment, Elizabeth shifted her attention back to the dance floor. The orchestra was in place and guests were lining up for the next set. Sir Simon had already secured his dance partner. She noticed Captain Alexander standing alone off to one side, surveying his surroundings. Despite the lack of gentlemen in attendance, he had yet to ask a lady to dance. Perhaps he was not as much of a gentleman as she’d first thought him to be.

A group of colorful young debutantes paraded in front of Elizabeth, obstructing her view of Captain Alexander. How was she to catch his eye if she couldn’t even see him? By the time the young ladies flitted past, he was nowhere to be seen.

She flicked open her fan for the second time in a span of fifteen minutes and began fanning herself fervently. It was becoming quite the undesirable habit.

“Are you alright, Elizabeth dear?”

Elizabeth clutched her chest with her other hand and let out a long sigh. “It is rather warm this evening. I fear I may be taking ill.”

Amelia raised a single delicate brow, her eyes narrowing with a dubious look. They’d been friends a long time and Amelia instantly knew when Elizabeth was up to something. “I find it rather pleasant this evening,” she teased.
Keeping with her charade for those who might overhear, Elizabeth continued to fan herself. “I believe I just need a moment’s reprieve. Do you happen to know the way to the ladies’ retiring room?”

“Down the hall.” Amelia pointed before adding in a hushed tone, “The same direction in which Captain Alexander disappeared a short time ago.”

Elizabeth snapped her fan closed. “I don’t know why I even bother.”

“Because I am your dearest friend and want to help.” Although Amelia did not know the specifics of Elizabeth’s involvement, she had always suspected it had something to do with the government. On numerous occasions she had tried to weasel it out of Elizabeth, all in good fun of course, but Elizabeth had never conceded. Amelia had promised on pain of torture and death never to reveal what she suspected. And she had never given Elizabeth cause to doubt that promise.

Elizabeth smiled. “Thank you. I won’t be long.”

Edging along the perimeter of the crowd, Elizabeth trudged toward the ladies’ retiring room under the charade of illness. When she reached the hall, she resumed her normal pace.

Elegantly dressed ladies paraded up and down, ready to resume their husband- hunting antics, their giggles echoing off the gilded mirrors and fluted columns.

Even before she saw him, she felt his larger than life presence. Captain Alexander.

She strolled around a column, pretending to admire a rather grotesque orange, green, and gold floral vase. Captain Alexander was leaning against the wall, partially hidden from view by another column and a decorative pedestal. Her earlier assessment of him did not do him justice. He was like a Greek god, but more handsome and far less arrogant.
“Have you noticed that Mr. Devlin’s bays are mismatched?” His soft deep voice sent a tingle all the way down to her toes, catching her off guard for a moment.

What was wrong with her? Despite the many attempts by the ton’s most handsome rakes and scoundrels, she’d never been this distracted by anyone before.

Breathing in deeply to steady her nerves, she swallowed the hard lump in her throat. Neither attempt was of any use. Ignoring the intense fluttering in her heart, she replied in code, “Yes, I believe he acquired them in Dublin.”
Captain Alexander surveyed both directions before nodding toward a partially opened door. Elizabeth glanced behind to ensure no one was watching and then followed him into the dark drawing room.

It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to her surroundings. Slowly, a couple of sofas flanking a large table came into focus.

Captain Alexander came up besides her, turned and faced the door. The aroma of fresh soap and leather encircled Elizabeth, infiltrating her senses. They were common enough scents, but on him were intoxicating and far too intriguing.

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Miss Atwell.” His words were a mere whisper. “And quite an honor that you side-stepped Mr. Cokinbred and left your chaperone to meet with me.” The teasing tone in his voice made her insides tingle. For the first time in her life she understood why her sisters all swooned at the sight of a handsome man.
“I do not care for the rules of the ton, especially when they are far inferior to protecting and safeguarding our country. I believe you share this sentiment, Captain Alexander?”

A slight laugh escaped his lips. “Yes, I would assume Lady Carteron informed you of who I was and told you my entire life story?”

“Only the highlights.” Elizabeth confessed with a nervous giggle. Focus on the task at hand. “I understand you have something for me?”

Captain Alexander took her gloved hand and slipped a folded piece of paper into her palm, then closed her fingers over the small missive. The motion seemed intimate, inappropriate, and all too enticing. A strange inner excitement coursed through her veins.

“Guard this well. Lord Fynes will be calling on your father first thing in the morning.”

Captain Alexander did not wait for her response, but disappeared further into the darkness of the drawing room. A cool breeze and another hint of fresh soap and leather drifted through the space, followed by the soft click of a door closing.

Elizabeth took the folded letter and smoothed it across her chest, tucking it into her dress and nestling it on the outer curve of her breast. The intense beating of her heart was a steady staccato against her hand. She sighed deeply, letting her head fall back against the wall.

“Elizabeth,” a soft voice questioned from the hall.

At least she wouldn’t have to pretend to be flustered. Captain Alexander had aided her sufficiently with that unwanted response.

She edged off the wall, smoothed her hand across her chest, ensuring the missive was securely hidden, and then strolled toward the doorway. “In here, Amelia.”

Before Elizabeth reached the door Amelia pushed it open, allowing candlelight from the hall to filter into the drawing room, casting eerie distorted shadows across the walls. “What are you doing in here?” She glanced about as if expecting to find someone.

“I just needed a quiet moment.” After her brief encounter with Captain Alexander, that was the truth.

“You are missing all the dancing. I promised Lady Atwell I would not let you be a wallflower this evening. You already turned away Mr. Cokinbred. If you don’t make an effort, your mother will not ask me to chaperone again, and then where will you be?”

Elizabeth had never been a wallflower in her entire life. Her decision not to be social had nothing to do with shyness, but an intense unwillingness to abide by the ton’s rules. But Amelia was right. She had to make an effort, or else risk having her mother at her side at each and every future event of the season until she was married off. A fierce shudder replaced the delightful tingling she’d felt only a moment ago.

She sucked in her breath and forced her best I’m-enjoying-the-evening smile. She might look the part of a viscount’s daughter, but inside beat the heart of a spy.

Grant was relieved to be back in the quiet of his room. He found social functions more draining than marching in the rain through ankle-deep mud. Sighing deeply, he enjoyed the silence that afforded him time alone with his thoughts. The evening had not turned out as expected.

When he’d informed Lord Fynes about the missive he’d recovered and whom he believed had written it, he’d expected his superior to handle it himself. But when Grant received orders that he was to deliver the coded missive to Miss Atwell, he’d expected an old spinster who dabbled in amateur mysteries. However, instead of an elderly woman on the cusp of death, a lady who could bring any man in a room to his knees had greeted him. Not just greeted him, but enticed him in a way no other female had before.

Sinking into the warm comfort of the leather chair, Grant’s thoughts strayed to Miss Atwell. She had turned down a dance and left her chaperone’s side, all to accept a missive? Her large brown eyes held an intelligence far beyond her youthful years, and then there was her luxurious brown hair that glistened beneath the candlelight, not to mention her voice…her voice was pure heaven. She was the type of woman dreams were made of— entirely perfect, but far out of Grant’s reach. Miss Atwell was the daughter of a viscount, lest he forget that not so minor detail.

How was it even possible the daughter of a viscount was the Legion’s top decoder? And why hadn’t he known about her previously?

From Lord Fynes he had learned she was able to decipher codes faster than any man, and also had a knack for puzzles. It was a talent that made her highly valuable to the organization in this game where time was of the essence.

When he’d pressed Lord Fynes for further details about Miss Atwell’s background and qualifications, he’d been warned that the information was classified. Although Grant understood the need for discretion, he detested all the secrecy. It made it difficult for him to do his job and protect his team when he didn’t have all the facts.

He swirled the brandy in his glass, watching the liquid slowly ripple to a gentle stop. Lifting the glass to his lips, he inhaled the fragrant aroma before taking a long, slow sip. The fiery liquid burned as it traveled down his throat and settled into his gut. Why would a lady born to privilege want to do such work?

Grant suspected he could drink all night and still not be rid of the image of the beautiful and intelligent Miss Atwell. He was far too intrigued by her, and not just in the physical sense.

 

 

 

Alanna is giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card in celebration of her new release. Click the gift card below to enter!

 

 

 

Alanna Lucas grew up in Southern California, but always dreamed of distant lands and bygone eras. From an early age she took interest in art, history, and travel, and enjoys incorporating those diversions into her writing.

Alanna makes her home in California where she spends her time writing historical romances, dreaming of her next travel destination, and spending time with family.

Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

 

 

And always remember to #ReadaRegency!

Keep Calm and Read This: One Night With a Duke

Keep Calm and Read This: One Night With a Duke

It’s my pleasure to welcome Regency Romance author Sandra Masters this week. We’re going to take a look at the fifth book in The Duke series, and not only are we treated to an interview with himself, the Duke of Ravensmere, Sandra wants to give away a book to one lucky visitor!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Setting: Regency England 1817, the industrial revolution, and returning soldiers with no employment set the scene for political turmoil.

His Grace, Raven, Tenth Duke of Ravensmere, reclusive, politically powerful, denies love after the tragic deaths of his duchess and baby son. Bound by a deathbed promise made ten years prior, he has vowed never to allow love to enter his heart again.

He meets Lady Samantha Winston, a young widow, who permits him to seek refuge in her carriage in a time of need, and what started out as a kiss in the name of safety, became pleasurable and not safe at all. In spite of every caution, his interest escalates into unexpected but welcomed desire.

Author: What is your main fear, Your Grace?

His Grace: Being a mature and politically savvy peer, I feared to fall in love again passionately as I did with my late wife. The loss of her and our son paralyzed my every thought. To assuage the remorse, I delved more into all political events and devoted my efforts to my constituency and the tenants on my estate. England won the war against France but bankrupted the country. My goal was to propel my country back into the forefront of the financial world. My loveless life continued. And then by accident, I met Samantha Winston.

Author: Can you tell me about the incident?

His Grace: You were the one who concocted the scene, but I’ll relive the events for our readers. After a meeting with the Prince Regent at his Carleton Townhouse, I chose to walk to the Townsend Ball a few blocks away. However, I encountered anarchists intent on doing me bodily harm simply because I was an aristocrat. The night darkened, and I cat-walked against walls, turned into an alley, and somehow avoided direct contact. Seven to one are not great odds for success. I saw a waiting carriage on the street with lit lanterns and raced to the door, pulled it open, expecting it to be empty. Instead, a lady sat on a seat, alarmed at my intrusion. The mob was now around us. The coachman bellowed for them to leave, but one lout climbed to peer through the window. Before I could speak to her, I went to her side and took her to me. All the thug could see was two presumed lovers in an ardent embrace and kissing. It must have amused him because he jumped down and chuckled moved the group down the street.

Author: Lady Winston allowed you, a stranger, to kiss her?

His Grace: There was little time to speak, only to act. The lady kicked me in the shins, clouted me with her reticule until I uttered a sentence.

Author: Rather curious, Your Grace. What was the sentence?

His Grace: Damnation, Madam. I asked her assistance since I was in dire straits…that I would explain and then I kissed her. It was when I said, “Please,” that she consented.

Author: Odd, that a duke of the realm would resort to such a word.

His Grace: In dangerous times, a man would resort to any unusual actions. Now stop your falderal and let me continue.

Author: One kiss or two?

His Grace: One long and pleasurable kiss. I remember thinking that a kiss in the name of safety was not safe at all. In the lantern light, I memorized her young face, but it was her verdant eyes that begged further inspection, not to mention her copper colored hair.

Author: And then what happened?

His Grace: I apologized for my rash actions, made my explanation, and introduced myself. Other women would have fallen apart. Instead, she said, “It seems peculiar, Your Grace, to have introductions after our scandalous kisses. Perhaps it should have been the other way around?” Most of all, her sense of humor appealed to me. Her pleasant demeanor impressed and she chatted informally with me as if we were old friends. I offered to stay and wait for her relatives to explain my presence, but she asked for propriety’s sake that I leave.

Author: Did you?

His Grace: Yes, after all, it was her request. I thanked her for her assistance. And that’s when she leaned forward and said, “Au revoir.” She whispered, “Until we meet again,” and touched my arm.

Author: Did you meet soon after?

His Grace: You certainly know the entire story, but I avoided two dangers. One was the anarchists attempt to harm me. The second was the danger of a beautiful, high-spirited woman intent on flirtation or seduction. The latter intrigued me no end and represented a risk I would face with infinite pleasure. I determined that at another time, another place, I would find her again and demonstrate all the other things my lips and manly parts would do.

Author: Your Grace, I’m shocked that you would speak so.

His Grace: I beg to differ with you, Mistress Masters. I can’t believe I did and said many of the things you wrote. You took great liberties with my persona in our book. You brought me out of the darkness of my personal life and gave me the desire to live and love again. There were those who never would believe me capable of such passionate utterings. They used to speak of me, under their breaths, as cold as ice with an even colder heart. The truth of the matter was that my heart needed resuscitation and my lady did an adequate job. Admittedly, you took a circuitous route, caused me great angst, pain, and suffering, but then I might not have appreciated Lady Samantha’s firebrand wit and courage. So I forgive you.

Author: For our readers’ sake, I’d like to say that you did reunite in Chapter Two. However, Lady Samantha Winston appeared to push all your ‘hot’ buttons much to your chagrin.

His Grace: Yes, she did. I got the distinct impression you enjoyed every moment of my distress. We did meet at the ball later that evening, and I knew that my life would change forever because I saw the spitfire side of the lady and wanted to tame her indomitable spirit. I’ve always loved a challenge. Now, I suggest you go on to the next book because I want to savor the publication of our story. Feel free to join my lady and me in the library for a libation. I remember that you favor gin over brandy.

Author: Raven, you’re such a rogue. If I were to drink with you, I might have to write you in another book. You were one of the first dukes I created, but you gave me such a hard time because you were complicated in every way imaginable. Most of all, I liked your charming arrogance. I have created you out of the figment of my imagination. I hope I brought you justice. So, goodbye for now…oops, perhaps I should have said, “Au revoir. Until we meet again.”

“I do hope that none of the rakish kind will offer for my basket. Men do feel widows are fair game. I’m not sure how I would handle such rakes. I have insufficient experience, but I suppose I will have to learn.”

“My dear Samantha, do you expect me to believe that in these past three years, you haven’t encountered disreputable men?” He laughed, “I do believe you will have a sufficient amount of reputable young men who will bid on you and your picnic basket. After all, it’s for a good cause, isn’t it? But I do hope you will keep your conversation light, or you will suffer the young man to have indigestion or apoplexy.”

Impishly, she said, “I deserved that. I like your sense of humor. It’s also good to hear you laugh. We do battle well.” Perhaps he could be a man of consequence?

“Indeed, but I warn you, I have not started my retaliation. When one acquires an enemy, I don ‘t believe in keeping him or her closer; however, I might make an exception for you.”

“Oh, No, I’m not your enemy, Your Grace. Please don’t consider me as one.”

“Perhaps if you try hard, you can change my mind,” a small grin curled his lips.

“What would I have to do?” her large eyes implored.

“I leave that to your resourcefulness…and mine…under a starlit night with nothing but our naked imaginations.”

“Sweet heaven,” she muttered, cheeks crimson.

Grab  your copy of One Night with a Duke here:

 

 

Fall in love with Romance all over again
with author Sandra Masters

From a humble beginning in Newark, New Jersey, a short stay at a convent in Morristown, N.J. at the age of fourteen, Sandra Masters retired from a fantastic career for a play broadcasting company in Carlsbad, California, and settled in the rural foothills of the Sierras of Yosemite National Park with her husband, Ron, and two dogs, Silky and Sophie. She traded in the Board Rooms for the Ballrooms of the Regency Era and never looked back.

She wrote her first book at the age of thirteen and since then she’s always traveled with pen and notebook for her writing experiences. It’s been the journey of ten thousand miles with a few steps left to go. She deemed it a pleasure to leave the corporate world behind decades later.

Nothing she expected, but everything she desired. Her business card lists her occupation as

Living The Dream.

You can find and connect with Sandra all over cyberspace:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One digital copy of One Night With a Duke will be emailed to one winner picked randomly by raffle by the author. Enter your details in the comments for a chance to win!

And don’t forget to always #ReadaRegency!

 

Keep Calm and Read This: No Rest for the Wicked by Cora Lee

Keep Calm and Read This: No Rest for the Wicked by Cora Lee

This week I get to welcome author Cora Lee. She adores her new dog, the Marvel Universe, and all things Regency. I think she may be the sister I never knew I had! Today she shares some of her research for her new novella (which is free!), No Rest for the Wicked, the kickoff to the new series, The Heart of a Hero.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin’s Hell

When I started developing No Rest for the Wicked, I knew I wanted it to be set somewhere other than London. For the record, I adore London…but so many books are set there, and I wanted something different for this one. My hero had decided that he was the type of guy that protects vulnerable people, so I wanted a seedy, crime-ridden area where lots of vulnerable people needed to be protected. That meant a big city. Some random googling turned up a section of Dublin, Ireland called The Liberties that was known for its high population of poor folks and high rate of crime.

Then I hit the jackpot.

Within The Liberties was a neighborhood called Hell, and in the late 18th century it was everything you’d expect it to be: brothels and crime and taverns with cheap liquor. There was even a Hellfire Club at one point—a gathering place for rich gentlemen to do (sometimes illegal, often crazy) things they didn’t want other people to know about. The neighborhood was named for a little wooden statue of a devil that adorned a gate on a lane leading up to…wait for it…

…Christ Church Cathedral. That’s right, Dublin’s Hell included a Church of Ireland cathedral. And the neighborhood was next door to the old Four Courts building, which was where justice was dispensed. How’s that for irony?

The story gets even stranger, though. The crypt of the cathedral was actually used as a market, with vendors arriving on the appointed days to set up their stalls and sell their wares. At another point in time, that same crypt housed taverns and pubs. After a hard day of work, locals could go have a tankard of ale in the crypt of the cathedral (and yes, this was while it was still a functioning place of worship).

All this in the same church whose choir sang the world premiere of Handel’s Messiah.

That sealed the deal for me. It didn’t matter that the infamy—and the population—of Dublin’s Hell was waning by the turn of the 19th century, and that Wicked was going to be set a little later on. It was just what I was looking for, and I couldn’t resist a place that had been named for a devil living on the grounds of a cathedral. My hero then became the Demon of Dublin’s Hell (Demon rather than Devil because the devil was already there, on the gate), terrorizing those who preyed upon the defenseless and trying his best to clean up his little corner of the city.

In No Rest for the Wicked, my Demon—otherwise known as Michael Devlin—receives a visit from his estranged wife on behalf of Sir Arthur Wellesley (known later as the Duke of Wellington). Sir Arthur is recruiting domestic intelligence gatherers before he goes off to the Iberian Peninsula to fight Napoleon, and he wants the Demon to be a part of his team. That meant that a chunk of the story would take place somewhere other than Hell, so I didn’t get to use to use the setting as much as I’d at first hoped. But I had so much fun learning about Dublin and Hell that I’m considering writing a sequel so I can us them again 🙂

Oh, and that wooden devil on the gate? Rumor has it that someone took him home and carved him up into snuff boxes.

A solicitor by day, Michael Devlin spends his nights protecting the people of The Liberties…until his estranged wife turns up with a summons from Sir Arthur Wellesley. A spy for Sir Arthur, Joanna Pearson Devlin has been tasked with escorting Michael to Cork to join Wellesley’s intelligence gathering ring. Can Michael and Joanna learn to trust each other again and help Sir Arthur fight Napoleon?

No Rest for the Wicked kicks off The Heart of a Hero series, and is available for FREE at Amazon and on Instafreebie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A graduate of the University of Michigan with a major in history, Cora is the 2014 winner of the Royal Ascot contest for best unpublished Regency romance. She went on a twelve year expedition through the blackboard jungle as a high school math teacher before publishing Save the Last Dance for Me, the first book in the Maitland Maidens series. When she’s not walking Rotten Row at the fashionable hour or attending the entertainments of the Season, you might find her participating in Historical Novel Society events, wading through her towering TBR pile, or eagerly awaiting the next Marvel movie release.

Catch up with Cora on the web!

 

 

 

And check out her research boards on Pinterest:

 

And don’t forget to always #ReadaRegency!

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: 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.

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