Saturday, March 11, 2017

On Writing Diverse Characters (+Broken Things Cover Reveal)

Hey everybody!

It's been awhile since I have posted an update, but I wanted to wait until I had something exciting to share. I've been working 60+ hour weeks for the last four months (Where am I? What is time?) between my day job and doing freelance work, so progress on the series has been slow-going. But finally--finally!--I can announce that Broken Things, the next installment of The Southwark Saga, is complete and will be released on May 1st, 2017.

So why did this one take such a long time? Well, apart from everything else that has come up this year, I wanted to get it right. Broken Things is not like anything I have written before. Depending on what you like about my books, you might even like it better.

This book picks up with Meg's story a year after The Long Way Home ends. You don't have to read the whole series for it to make sense, but it would definitely be helpful for context given Meg's difficult relationship with Mark and Jane Virtue is a feature. This one is more of a traditional romance in the respect that the focus is firmly on the love story (and there's way more sex--you've been warned), and it's less traditional in a few other ways:

  • Meg is a thirty-five year old mother of three, and an ex-prostitute running an inn with her sisters (The Rose and Crown from the previous three books). She has a filthy mouth and enough emotional baggage for a trip around the world. She's constantly angry and with good reason. She's promiscuous, vain, and frequently unpleasant. She's tall and very curvaceous (some might say BBW), but her weight is not an issue and she doesn't have to lose it to be happy. She is the heaviest of my heroines and also the most beautiful and confident. I am in love with her. 
  • Jake Cohen is a thirty-eight year old retired boxer and he's Jewish. He's not wealthy, titled, or classically good-looking--he has a face with a lot of character, if that character had been beaten weekly for twelve years. He's educated, thoughtful, and tired of fighting to prove himself. He speaks five languages and I think he's the sexiest hero I have ever written. 
  • Meg and Jake are poor and they work constantly. That's not to say it's boring. This book has plenty of bar fights, smexy times, broken glass, and (literal) fire. It's violent, a little (or a lot) vulgar, and I really like the way it turned out. If you're offended by profanity, sex, violence, or don't like poor characters, you might not like this, FYI. 

There has been a lot of debate lately about diversity in romance. I think most people would agree that it should exist, but who gets to write it? In a genre still dominated by young, wealthy, heterosexual Christian characters, it still feels like authors have to explain themselves if they write characters who are anything else. I think the world is getting better that way, but let me go ahead and jump in front of that one and explain where I'm coming from. 

I write books about the working class in 17th century London. Sure, there are a few aristocrats here and there, but most of my characters are not well off. They are prostitutes, highwaymen, barmaids, carpenters, boxers, and soldiers. They are real people with real problems. I try to be as accurate as possible with regards to the history* and also representation: my characters are white, black, mixed race, Christian, Jewish, middle class, poor, straight, gay, bisexual, and trans. Historians have whitewashed these people out of the past, but I won't. Including the marginalized is my small way of putting them back. If you follow my history blog, Dirty, Sexy History, this won't surprise you at all. 

In my novella, Artemis, the hero Apollo is trans. It's not pushing an agenda to point out that there were trans people before the 20th century (just ask the Chevalier d'Eon and Dr. James Barry). In The Long Way Home, Achille Archambault is a black marquis, not unlike Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (and yes, he's getting his own book). In Broken Things, hero Jake Cohen is a Jewish boxer, a sort of 17th century Daniel Mendoza. Bettie is gay and trans, Bess is a lesbian, and Carys and Charlotte are bisexual. They are not stereotypes or there for brownie points--I have tried to write them as real people who happen to be black, Jewish, or LGBT, because they did exist and they were a crucial part of British history. 

This isn't being cynical or "political," I just don't think good love stories should be limited to the young and the wealthy. Don't get me wrong, I like stories about the aristocracy as much as the next person, but I have trouble relating to them. I have more in common with the marginalized than with royalty. I get impatient with limitations of class, race, and religion because I personally find them ridiculous. It's difficult for me to write class issues with a straight face because I don't take them seriously. Of course people absolutely did and that is accurate, but I don't believe people are inherently different and I think I would struggle writing characters who do. Who could fall in love with a hero without empathy? 

So why write historicals? I love history--passionately, obsessively--I just don't think my genre needs more dukes. Someone has to write the other stories, don't they? That's what I'm doing. Not everyone likes that (and that's your right), but there it is. 

That's not to say I'm alone. There are more and more fantastic authors out there carrying the banner for the marginalized and non-traditional characters. If you like The Southwark Saga, you might also enjoy Erica Monroe's Rookery Rogues series. I can also whole-heartedly recommend Jude Knight, Caroline Warfield, Julie Anne Long, and Beverly Jenkins. Who are your favorites? Leave your recommendations in the comments below. 

That was longer than I had anticipated! I don't post often, but when I do, you get your money's worth, amirite? 

If any of you are still awake, here it is--the official cover reveal of Broken Things



Broken Things
The Southwark Saga, Book 4
Release date: May 1st, 2017

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

Excerpt 

[Extra Credit: For the full experience of being inside my brain, listen to this song** while you're reading it.]

Four candles still flickered on the windowsill when Jake returned to his room. Curtains fluttered as though tickled by a ghostly hand, the smell of ice riding the rain through the crack in the glass. The room was cold as a larder and nearly as dark; when he caught his reflection in the mirror, he was little more than a shadow in the shape of a man. Perhaps that was the truth of it, after all. Twelve winters had come and gone since the Fire, each one freezing another piece of him until he no longer felt the snow.

His leg felt it, though. Hours on his feet had taken their toll on the frayed sinews and crooked break. He’d done a good job of hiding it, he knew. As much as it had pained him to do so, it would have pained him worse to see pity in their eyes.

Squaring his hips, he lowered himself to a seated position and rose again, the muscle stiffening in protest. He bit his lip and did it again. Sweat beading his forehead, he worked through his daily rigors slowly, deliberately strengthening his legs through the pain.
 
By the time he’d finished with his legs, a slow burn had spread beneath his skin and the draft was almost welcome. He tugged off his shirt and stretched out on his belly on the floor like a snake. Drawing his hands beneath his shoulders, he pushed himself away from the floor. After the struggle with his legs, this was such a relief that he moved through several dozen effortlessly and only stopped when a bead of sweat dripped off his nose and struck his hand. 

Hovering above them in half light, his hands looked like someone else’s. They had always been cumbersome, but hundreds of fights had rendered them monstrous. Gnarled with countless breaks and covered in a patchwork of ugly scar tissue, calluses, and fresh, bloody cuts, it looked as though they’d been torn apart and sewn back together again, over and over until there was not an inch of flesh he recognized as his own.

Ugly as they were, they were twice as useless. The precision he had honed through his trade was a thing of the past; these days he could barely sign his name. All they were good for was inflicting pain in a job he’d neither asked for nor wanted. Now that was gone, what use was he to anyone?
 
He lowered himself to the floor, his heart slowing. Beneath the bed, he could see the rolled up portrait of Meg Henshawe he’d taken from Larry’s office. It was too good to keep stashed away with his shoes, but he reasoned Meg might take exception to him putting it on his wall. 

The floor was cold beneath his cheek. A rustle from the next door drew his attention and he sat up. The crack in the wall glowed with an inviting warmth. Meg was in her room. He caught a glimpse of something white as she took off her dress. Not wanting to intrude on her privacy, he leaned against the bed and closed his eyes. 

It was quiet; she was alone. The floorboards creaked under her feet. As she sat down, the bed sighed as though it had been waiting for her return all day. A comb whispered through her hair, only interrupted by a muttered curse as she attacked a knot. He smiled to himself, imagining what her hair must look like when it was down. It was long, he knew. Would it touch the curve of her waist, the impossible flare of her hips? 

Distracting as the thoughts were, there was something comforting about hearing her so close. With his eyes closed, he could hear her so clearly she might have been in the same room. 

Had things gone as planned, he’d be long since married and listening to another woman comb her hair tonight. He chased her features in his memory, not as clear as they once were. Her chestnut-colored hair shone by the light of a long-extinguished fire, her cinnamon-colored eyes filled with regret after all these years. 

I’m sorry, Jakob.

He tried to remember the dress she had been wearing when she left him but this last remaining image of her in his mind fractured at the sound of a sneeze from next door. 

It was a funny little sound, Meg’s sneeze. She stifled it as if she was afraid of being heard, so it came out like a quack, caught in her throat. He smiled to himself. He might have said something, but he didn’t want her to know he’d been listening. He had been alone for so long he hadn’t realized he’d missed the company until he heard her through the wall. The idea of being alone again in the silence made him sadder than he could say. 

She had flirted with him shamelessly that night and he’d fallen for it like a fool. Just as he’d been about to pledge fealty to her, her words to that boy she’d chucked out rang in his head. 
Don’t mistake my boredom for favor.
He wouldn’t.
The sweat cooled on his skin and he shivered. 
***

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If you'd like to hear from me more often, stop by and see me at Dirty, Sexy History, where I post weekly. xx

Notes:

*My one exception to historical accuracy is language. While I try to avoid anything glaringly modern or American-sounding, I prioritize keeping the language clear. if I wrote in 100% accurate 17th century prose, it would take me five times as long and no one would be able to understand it. The language I use is a kind of compromise between authenticity and accessibility. When you take away major differences in language, it's easier to see how much we have in common with the people of the past. 
**This is Nick Cave's cover of Leonard Cohen's Avalanche. Nick Cave is my Elvis, and Leonard Cohen is my Leonard Cohen. However, hero Jake Cohen is not named after him. Cohen was the most common Jewish surname in Amsterdam in the 17th century. Jake is from Amsterdam, and that's why I chose it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Selkie's Lure: Exciting New Romance From Rosanna Leo!


Selkie's Lure
By Rosanna Leo

Amy Woods, one of TV’s famed Beast Seekers, has come to Orkney, Scotland, to hunt sirens. One of them killed her sister and she has sworn revenge. Most people think she’s crazy for believing in monsters. She knows the truth. But while patrolling one of Orkney’s cold beaches, she runs into a naked selkie man rather than a siren, and he proves to be an alluring distraction.

Edan Kirk is a selkie, one of an ancient race of seal shape shifters. When he hears of Amy’s intention to hunt sirens, tragic memories overwhelm him. He knows he must get rid of the pesky human. As much as he tries to convince her she’s on a fool’s errand, he can’t resist trying to protect her. After all, he has heard the enticing song of the sirens and he knows its deadly power.

As Amy and Edan engage in a battle of wits and wills, other emotions rush to the fore. Their connection is intense, the sort to come along only once in a lifetime. Edan recognizes her as his mate. However, another woman has set her sights on him as well, one whose powers of seduction are legendary. One whose voice has driven men to madness and devastation.

Can Amy accept Edan as her mate, making her home in the world of the supernatural? And can they save each other from a beast that cannot be destroyed?

Excerpt


After patrolling the shore for the better part of an hour, Edan began to feel the call of his bed. He might possess more stamina than a human man but it had been a long day. Resolved to catch a couple hours of sleep before morning, he swam toward the shore. Relinquishing his pelt, letting it slide from his body, he stood up straight.

A man appeared before him.

No. A woman.

Because she wore fatigues, he was momentarily confused, but there was no mistaking her buxom figure. She was certainly doing her best to look like an army man, right down to her combat boots.

The lass smiled and aimed a camera phone at him. “Hello, sailor. Did you fall off your boat?”

Fuck. What sort of woman walked on the beach at four in the morning? “Something like that.”

Despite the obvious threat posed by her camera, he couldn’t help noticing she was a beauty. Perhaps not in the Hollywood starlet sense, but her imperfections intrigued him. She’d pulled her chestnut hair back into a tight ponytail. There was an asymmetry to her face that gave an edge to delicate features. Her nose was slightly crooked near the tip and one eyebrow arched higher than the other. Her generous mouth was compressed but it looked capable of wide smiles.

And her scent. It hit him hard and made him see stars, like that time his younger brother Calan lobbed a dictionary at his head. She smelled like strawberries, juicy and ripe from the bush. Interesting, considering she was dressed like Rambo.

His gut turned, as if skewered on a rotisserie. As his innards roiled, he couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to wind her ponytail around his fingers, draw her close and...

“Well?” Her eyebrow quirked even higher.

How much had she seen?

He stepped toward her but when she snapped several photos in quick succession, he stopped moving. “It’s not polite to take photos of a man in his birthday suit.”

“Yes, but you’re not quite a man, are you?”

She’d seen everything, then. He’d simply have to persuade her not to trust her senses. He’d talked himself out of worse scrapes. Edan waved his hand in the direction of his crotch. “I’m all man, lass, as you can see.”

She indulged in a quick glance. Her eyes widened in clear wonder, as if she’d never seen anything quite like him before. “Something more, then.” She nodded toward his pelt. “I’ll take that, please.”

“I don’t think so.” He hedged his bets he could convince her to give up whatever mischief she’d planned.

How had he missed her on the beach? Too distracted by the thought of Breena, perhaps. “You’ve seen enough to understand I’m a selkie. If you know that, you know I need this pelt. If you’re looking for a lover, you need to be wily and steal the skin. I won’t just hand it over, unless of course you can prove to me you’d be worth a tussle.”

“I’m not looking for a lover and I don’t want to tussle with you.”

“I’d say that was a shame, you know, if you didn’t look as if you were out to blackmail me.”

Two men, also dressed in camouflage, emerged from behind a sand dune. One of them looked as if his sole hobby was frequenting the gym. Although the other man was smaller in stature, he presented more of a threat and it had everything to do with his professional-looking video camera.

“I’d give her the pelt if I were you,” the bigger man said.

“Who the hell are you people?” Edan demanded as he slowly handed the skin over to the woman.

She took it but didn’t lower her phone. “We’re the Beast Seekers. You’re our first selkie. Smile for the cameras.”


Rosanna Leo is a multi-published, erotic romance author. Several of her books about Greek gods, selkies and shape shifters have been named Top Picks at Night Owl Romance and The Romance Reviews.

From Toronto, Canada, Rosanna occupies a house in the suburbs with her long-suffering husband, their two hungry sons and a tabby cat named Sweetie. When not writing, she can be found haunting dusty library stacks or planning her next star-crossed love affair.

A library employee by day, she is honored to be a member of the league of naughty librarians who also happen to write romance. Rosanna blogs at www.rosannaleoauthor.wordpress.com




Sunday, January 1, 2017

And Then Mine Enemy: Swashbuckling 17th Century Romance by Alison Stuart *GIVEAWAY!*

The latest swashbuckling 17th century historical romance from the pen of Alison Stuart!
AND THEN MINE ENEMY is the first book in a two book series (FEATHERS IN THE WIND) spanning the years of the English Civil War from 1642- 1645.


And Then Mine Enemy
Feathers in the Wind, Book 1
Alison Stuart

A family ripped apart in a country divided by war . . .

England 1642: Hardened mercenary, Adam Coulter returns to England sickened by violence, seeking only peace, but he finds England on the brink of civil war. He has seen first-hand what that will mean for every man, woman and child and wants no part of it.

King or Parliament? Neutrality is not an option and Adam can only be true to his conscience, not the dictates of his family.

Having escaped a loveless marriage, Perdita Gray has found much needed sanctuary and the love of a good man, but her fragile world begins to crumble as Adam Coulter bursts into her life. This stranger brings not only the reality of war to her doorstep but reignites an old family feud, threatening everything and everyone she holds dear.

As the war and  family tensions collide around them, Adam and Perdita are torn between old loyalties and a growing attraction that must be resisted.


Excerpt

As the first streaks of light illuminated the cold, grey, colourless morning, the wounded came. The echo of horses’ hooves and the creak of wagon wheels, sent Perdita hurrying downstairs. As she stepped outside, her breath frosted in the cold air and she shivered, thinking of the battle that had been fought the previous day and the wounded men who lay on the hard, frosted ground.

In the forecourt a troop of horse, or what was left of a troop of horse, sat their weary mounts as their commander, a tall man on a bay horse leaned down talking to Ludovic. Even in the grey light she could see from his build that it was not Simon and she slowed her steps.

As she approached him, the man raised his head, his fingers going to the brim of his heavy, iron helmet. She stopped, her breath catching. Adam Coulter.

She wanted to run to him, satisfy herself that he wasn’t hurt but even in the circumstances, any undue haste could be construed as unseemly. Instead she raised her chin and walked purposefully across to him.

‘Adam Coulter? What brings you here?'

The answer was obvious and his red-rimmed eyes narrowed. ‘I’ve wounded with me and I can take them no further.’

Perdita moved her gaze to the tired, dispirited faces behind him. Dreading what she might see she turned to the wagons, recoiling momentarily from the stench of blood and worse, and the piteous cries.

Adam swung himself down from his horse, wincing as he straightened his back.

Perdita caught the grimace of pain. ‘Are you hurt?’

He shook his head. Beneath the shadow of the helm’s brim, he looked exhausted, his face unshaven and grimy. ‘Thank you for your concern, Mistress Gray, but no I’m not hurt. Just stiff. My men . . .’

‘Take the wounded into the barn.’ Perdita addressed an older man with a greying beard who seemed to carry some authority. She turned to Ludovic. ‘See that there is food and drink for the men. I’ll see to the wounded.’

She supervised the unloading of the wagons, indicating the grey stone solidity of the barn, hurrying ahead as the able-bodied men carried their injured companions into the grey stone solidity of the barn. ‘We heard the sounds of the battle. Where was it?’ Perdita threw the question to Adam, as he helped one of the more lightly injured soldiers off his horse.

‘Kineton village. A place they call Edgehill.’

Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Nook | Smashwords

About Alison Stuart

Award winning Australian author, Alison Stuart learned her passion for history from her father. She has been writing stories since her teenage years but it was not until 2007 that her first full length novel was published. Alison has now published seven full length historical romances and a collection of her short stories.  Her disposition for writing about soldier heroes may come from her varied career as a lawyer in the military and fire services. These days when she is not writing she is travelling and routinely drags her long suffering husband around battlefields and castles.

Connect with Alison at her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or subscribe to her newsletter for exclusive free reads, contests and more…

To celebrate the release of And Then Mine Enemy, Alison is giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card. Enter here:

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Monday, December 5, 2016

All Fired Up: Hot New Contemporary Romance From Susan Behon


All Fired Up
Susan Behon
Madison Falls, Book 6

Fire Chief Alex Ross is used to finding himself in dangerous situations. Rescuing a cat stuck up a tree isn’t one of them. He’s less than thrilled, especially when he finds out that the feline in question was used as a ruse by an amorous old lady on the make…again.

Alex needs a rescue and fate brings him Julie Hanlin, a former damsel in distress he saved the summer before. With a little persuading, Julie plays hero and untangles him from a sticky situation.

The town is abuzz when they catch Alex and Julie on an impromptu date. He thinks it’s the local grapevine doing its thing until he notices the ladies are checking him out a little too closely and whispering a touch more than usual.

Julie is caught in her own predicament. Alex thinks her attraction is merely a case of hero worship. Little does he know that he’s the center of a secret she thought would never come to light.

Kiss by kiss, Alex wants her more than ever. Julie finally has his attention, but the whole town is watching and once he realizes why, a desire that finally catches flame might go up in smoke.


Susan Behon, author of the Madison Falls series, enjoys creating a world that brings readers romance, laughter, and a healthy dose of sexiness. Susan graduated summa cum laude with a B. A. in English from Norfolk State University and is a proud member of Romance Writers of America. She currently lives in Ohio with her very own romance hero of a husband and their two wonderful daughters.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Eve Dangerfield on Taunt, Breaking Rules, and the End of the World


Hey everybody! Today I am absolutely thrilled to welcome author, journalist, and all-around legend Eve Dangerfield to the blog to talk about her new release, Taunt! Eve is one of my favorite new authors and Taunt totally blew my mind. If you're not familiar with Eve's work yet, you'll want to fix that asap (my review's at the bottom in case you need convincing).

***
Ten Questions for Eve Dangerfield

Your heroines are intelligent, confident, and totally unapologetic about going after what they want. What do you think makes a strong heroine?

A woman who pursues her own goals for her own reasons. In fiction female characters are so often pushed into the passive corner where they’re often just responding to the situations men have placed them in. That attitude isn’t like any of the women I actually know. My lady friends and family members are all driven, independent people who would chase their dreams to hell and back whether it’s to take kick-ass selfies or climb to the top of the pile in their chosen careers. It’s not unrealistic to portray women that way; it is reality.

Your books add an exciting new vitality to contemporary romance -- your heroines are ballsy, your heroes realistic, and your themes and politics feel very current. It feels like you’re approaching the genre from another perspective altogether. What’s your background and what made you want to write romance?

I’m a journalist by trade. I wrote for newspapers for a long time and I still freelance (though the game has been unequivocally changed by the internet). I’m not one of those authors who grew up writing stories. I wrote terrible journals about how sad I was that Aragorn son of Arathorn wasn’t

a) real
b) having age-inappropriate sex with me

But that was about it. Maybe that’s why my voice is a little different; I only started writing fiction when I was in my twenties. I was a huge fan of romance but none of the books I read encapsulated my experience of being a horny, deeply inappropriate feminist with great mates. I wanted to read a novel about a girl like me but the more I looked the less I found. And like Toni Morrison said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” I did and the result, Degrees of Control, didn’t suck so hard it caused the world to collapse in on itself, so I kept going.

Are there any romance conventions that drive you crazy?

How long do you have? Because as much as I love romance that bitch can be a cruel, cruel mistress.
Okay, one thing that makes me want to pull my hair out is slut shaming. With a few blessed exceptions contemporary romance is just slut shaming for days. I’ve lost count of the books I’ve read where the hero has porked his way through the equivalent of four pro-football teams while the heroine has nary a handful of lovers, all of them TERRIBLE so Drew McAlphaFace can blow her motherfucking mind when they finally do the deed.

This concept runs rampant in NA novels where the male leads are sports stars. The author goes out of her way to make sure the reader knows the hero has slept with epic amounts of chicks (what a LEGEND!) and often refers to these disposable females as puck bunnies, groupies and sluts. Meanwhile she also makes sure the reader knows that the heroine, who usually falls into bed with the dude pretty damn fast btw, ISN’T ONE OF THOSE DIRTY SKANKS NOSIREE.

The phenomenon of the whore verses the archetypal ‘good girl’ whose pristine pussy is patiently awaiting her prince sucks. Especially because romance authors are by and large women who you’d think wouldn’t want to perpetuate such shitty stereotypes about their own gender. The fact is most people have a lot of sexual partners these days (Tinder!) and they don’t deserve to be roasted on a slut bonfire for doing so.

What would like to see in the genre in the future?

Just more unique takes on love and sex. I also love it when romance branching out across other genres. Sci-fi romance and fantasy romance, when done well, kick so much arse. Plus feminist friendly erotica makes my heart swell with joy. I loved Beard Science by Penny Reid and the work Cara McKenna and Charlotte Stein are doing is consistently amazing. The more women bring their voices to the table the better. Also more comedy. The funny romance novel is a rare and beautiful gem.

What do you read for fun?

Romance although I’ve hit a bit of a dry spell lately and have mostly be re-reading books I’ve already read. Aside from that I pretty much just read non-fiction; feminist, science-y sociological stuff (sup dudes, I know that sentence turned you on). I love everything Caitlin Moran and Naomi Klein has ever written and Lindy West’s Shrill is fucking brilliant. Also Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari blew my mind. It’s about how the war on drugs is a loltastic farce of epic proportions and I wish everyone in the world would read it.

Tell me about Taunt! How did you write it and what do you want your readers to take from it?

Taunt kind of came to me out of nowhere. I had a few ideas whirling around my head; a romance novel about the apocalypse, a heroine who couldn’t biologically feel the emotion women have heaped on them from day dot; shame. Plus I was reading a lot of MFM novels which never really address my questions about how weird it would be to have multiple boyfriends in a contemporary setting. The plot for Taunt just showed up and wouldn’t go away. I wrote it in one big slab then I endured four or five months of rewrites and while it took a massive chunk out of my arse I’m prouder of Taunt than anything I’ve ever done before. Except that time I found $50 at the beach.

I wanted Taunt’s readers to laugh I think. Laugh and enjoy a heroine who’s just so utterly at ease with herself. Daniel is the role a lot of men have in books and movies. She’s the wild card. The joker. I think of her as a female Jake Peralta from Brooklyn Nine Nine. She’s an intelligent but deeply immature person who lives to fuck with people but is so loveable they almost always forgive her.

In Taunt, Daniel is an eco-terrorist staring down an impending apocalypse that feels unsettlingly possible. The end of the world isn’t what some would consider a romantic subject -- why did you choose this setting?

I think about the apocalypse a lot actually, whatever that says about me. I wonder if we would be told, if we’d even want to be told, how we’d live if we knew our time was limited. I think the idea of a far off disaster appealed to me because I’m sure most people, like Daniel, would accidentally forget about it all the time. Most humans have a weirdly uncanny ability to disremember that death and destruction are features, not bugs of life. The apocalyptic backdrop also raises the stakes a lot for Daniel and the boys, it forces them to bond and to confront their mortality which I like in a story.

How much of your personal politics make it into your books?

So much! Anyone who knows me knows I’m the biggest SJW, tree-hugging leftie going around. I make no bones about that. If Grassroots was a real organization I’d totally be a member. The sorry state of our bloated, too hot, capitalism-munted planet is a constant cause of pain to me. I find it difficult not to interrupt people arguing about the Bachelor or whatever and yell “Do you realize 64 people have as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population? FOR REALZ???” But I’ve always been rude that way.

Taunt also helped me address some of my prejudices around people who join the military. I, a pacifist from a family of pacifists could never understand why anyone enlisted unless you were power crazy or secretly wanted to shoot people. My boyfriend taught me that most individuals sign up for the armed forces because they legitimately want to do good things for their loved ones and country, or make money in a job deprived market. He opened my eyes and there’s a lot of him in John, Colt and Seb. Besides the real problem isn’t that people join the military, it’s that we live in a corrupt consumerist society in which misinformed and greedy rich people rule us with an iron fist. Wow look at me ranting on here like I’m Elizabeth Warren or something. I’ll go back to romance stuff now.

Degrees of Control and Taunt have both been set in America -- what is it about America that interests you? Can we expect to see more in Australia in the future (or anywhere else, for that matter)?

America is the apex of the western world for a lot of kids. We see so much of it through our media content from such a young age that it’s really easy to imagine yourself there and replicate the language and culture. On a personal level I have family in the US and I’ve stayed in California, I feel like it’s a place I know and liked, although as is the case with Daniel, being constantly mistaken for a Pom and hearing “huh? What did you say?” whenever you ask for ‘worter’ as opposed to ‘waaater’, gets a bit old. My next couple of books will be set in Australia for sure but the sequels to Taunt will be based in the US.

What’s next?

I’m working on the sequel to Locked Box right now, Open Hearts and my fourth novel, Something Borrowed will be coming out in Feb next year which is pretty cool.

Eve Dangerfield has loved romance novels ever since she first started swiping her grandmother’s paperbacks. Now she writes her own unapologetically sexy tales about complex young women and gorgeous-but-slightly-tortured men. Eve currently lives in Melbourne with her sister and a zen-like rabbit named Billy. When she's not writing she can usually be found drinking, dancing or making a mess. Often all at once. Calling her an author will get you kissed.* You can find her at evedangerfield.com.

*circumstances are subject to change.

***

Taunt
Eve Dangerfield

Daniel Schwartz never meant to uncover the apocalypse, unfortunately for her that’s exactly what happened. Yet while it’s clear to the Kiwi hacktivist what she should do; cover it back up and get completely smashed, the rest of the world doesn’t agree. A shady corporation places her in a beachside prison where they promise to hold her until she agrees to talk. Dani would be pretty annoyed if she weren't:

a) Biologically incapable of being annoyed
b) Very intrigued by the men hired to guard her
c) Extremely hungover

John, Colt, and Seb have poured a lot of time and money into their private security business the last thing they need is to waste six weeks babysitting a hyperactive hippie. Sadly they’ve signed a dubious but watertight contract. Each of the three men finds himself drawn to the weird, pop-obsessed Daniel and she to them. As they become entangled in each other’s lives Daniel is forced to answer some big questions such as; how can you escape when there’s nowhere safe to go? How can a commitmentphobe fall for not one, but three different men? And, most importantly, should New Zealanders kick people who call them Hobbits? (Yes.)

Taunt is a heart-stopping erotic thriller; chock full of science, nail-biting suspense, period jokes and good old fashioned lust.

Jess' Review of Taunt

Five stars and a standing ovation!

Taunt begins with the end of the world clearly in sight. Heroine Daniel (that’s how she spells it) is a genius eco-terrorist outrunning the impending apocalypse by partying her way through Europe, pursued by a shady organization she may or may not have pissed off. Daniel is uninhibited, unapologetic, and more fun than anyone you’ve met: she is what a lot of women might be without self-doubt or shame. By the time she’s googling how to deal with the symptoms of snorting MDMA, it hits you – Taunt is not like other books.

Abducted by said shady corporation and held under house arrest in a plush mansion in California, the book proceeds as you might expect, until it doesn’t. She’s kept under constant surveillance by three hunky ex-military private security guards: John – responsible, stoic, and probably the craziest of all of them; Colt – hunky, randy, and wickedly funny; and Seb – a sweet southern boy who bears more than a passing resemblance to Cary Elwes. Knowing nothing about this book before I started reading it, I assumed Daniel would end up with John…until she had amazing chemistry with Colt…and seemed to fancy Seb?!

That’s right, folks. She goes for all three of them…at the same time…with their knowledge and consent.

And it is awesome.

A relationship with four people might sound like a mess, and in any other author’s hands, I think it probably would be. Fortunately for us, Eve Dangerfield is a goddamn unicorn. The characters are distinct, well-developed, and guided by their own desires, hang-ups, and quirks. The chemistry is out of this world; this would be difficult to build so well between two characters, but four?! The love story works – totally, miraculously – and does lead to a satisfying ending in spite of the imminent apocalypse, a threat that looms over the more immediate but no less dangerous story unfolding with the corporation threatening Daniel.

Eve Dangerfield is the defibrillator contemporary romance needs right now. This is the most exciting, genre-challenging book I've read in years. Her first two books, Degrees of Control and Locked Box, were phenomenal, but Taunt is in another galaxy altogether. It is totally fearless. The surprises come thick and fast and the tension and breakneck pace is maintained throughout. As always, Eve’s writing is sharp as hell and serves as a huge middle finger to anybody thinking romance is formulaic or dull (the fools!).

PSA: If you’re looking for something safe with a single uncomplicated heterosexual love story, this will confuse the hell out of you. Even if it’s not what you usually read, you can at least appreciate how well it’s written. On a scale of sweet to spicy, this thing is a Carolina Reaper Pepper. Some people will love it, and others are going to end up in the hospital. You should definitely try it, but put the burn unit on speed dial first.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Writing a Believable Rakehell with Jude Knight

Although heroes in romantic fiction are often described as rakes, in reality, "rakehells" were notorious for very bad behavior as Jude Knight explains today on our sister blog, Dirty, Sexy History. Real rakehells were sexual predators and morally bankrupt, seducing innocents and partying their estates into debt and themselves into early graves. Not at all the befitting a romantic hero! In this special post, Jude walks us through the challenge of writing a rakehell who is both accurate and likable. Without further ado, I am honored to welcome Jude Knight to the blog to introduce us to the Marquis of Aldridge. -JC 

Writing a believable rakehell
My visual reference for
the Marquis of Aldridge

I planned for my Marquis of Aldridge to be a real rake: a person whose behaviour, despite his social status as the heir to a duke, causes mothers to warn their daughters about him. On the other hand, I didn't want him to be a totally unsympathetic character.

He made his first appearance in a two part post I wrote with Mariana Gabrielle in March last year. And he was a real rakehell.

“It wasn’t our fault. Those women…” Aldridge shudders. “I can’t have swived more than three or four, surely? We only had them to ourselves for one evening, after all.”

“I can’t possibly have swived all of them. Though perhaps half… There were… how many? Fifteen? Surely not.”

“I don’t remember much after the dancing. They danced beautifully, didn’t they? The rector’s daughters?”

Both men fell into rather a trance for a few minutes, remembering the plump thighs and comely smiles of the rector’s twelve lovely, lonely daughters.

As it turned out, his early appearance prompted another book featuring him, A Baron for Becky, in which he was, once again, not quite a hero.

Aldridge never did find out how he came to be naked, alone, and sleeping in the small summerhouse in the garden of a country cottage. His last memory of the night before, had him twenty miles away, and—although not dressed—in a comfortable bed, and in company.

The first time he woke, he had no idea how far he’d come, but the moonlight was bright enough to show him half-trellised window openings, and an archway leading down a short flight of steps into a garden. A house loomed a few hundred feet distant, a dark shape against the star-bright sky. But getting up was too much trouble, particularly with a headache that hung inches above him, threatening to split his head if he moved. The cushioned bench on which he lay invited him to shut his eyes and go back to sleep. Time enough to find out where he was in the morning.
A Baron for Becky, Jude Knight

As he enters one book after another, he is becoming a more and more likable character, though certainly not yet benign. You might trust him now with your virgin daughter, which you would have been wise not to do when he was in his late teens. But you wouldn’t trust him with your wife.
He’ll be back in Revealed in Mist, which is set several months earlier than A Baron for Becky.

Aldridge navigated the shoals of the marriage market with practiced ease, holding the mothers and their daughters off, but still not offending them, and carrying out a gentleman’s role in the ballroom with every evidence of enjoyment.

But his real success, by all accounts, was with bored widows and wives, where he performed in the bedroom with equal charm, and perhaps more pleasure. Society was littered with former lovers of the Merry Marquis, though he had the enviable ability to end an affair and retain the friendship.
Revealed in Mist, Jude Knight

The beginning of its sequel, Concealed in Shadow, puts him on track for the garden in which he meets Becky. Eventually, we’ll get to The Reformer and the Rake, but I have some more tortures to put him through first. And the torture continues much, much later, in, Never Kiss a Toad, the book I’m cowriting with Mariana Gabrielle and posting on Wattpad. This shows him as the father of a grown daughter; one who is found in bed with a rake he himself has tutored.

Aldridge is a secondary character in Holly and Hopeful Hearts

Here he is in several different books from the Holly and Hopeful Hearts boxed set.

Two gentlemen in formal dress leaned gracefully against an ornate mantelpiece at one end of the ballroom. Each wore a simple mask, one black and one white; neither wore a costume. Could one be Adam? Esther inched her way in that direction. She had not gone very far, however, when she realized her mistake. There could be no denying Aldridge’s confident posture and arrogant tilt of head. Is the one next to him Gren? The incorrigible flirt confirmed it with a wink and a cocky salute. At least he noticed her.

A young lady rather scantily clad as a Greek goddess, Lady Miranda, she suspected, swooped in front of the brothers and drew their complete attention. Even at a distance, she could see them both shift into the role of charming rake, no costume needed.

An Open Heart, Caroline Warfield

Gold glints danced in the hazel eyes as he added, “But I will not forget I am in my mother’s house, and you are her guests, never fear. A small flirtation, perhaps? Just to annoy your sister?”

“Your mother has been very gracious,” Grace replied kindly. “As to annoying my sister, I would like nothing better than to set her down a notch or two in her confidence to always get her way.” She took up her wine glass and watched the man next to her over the rim, even venturing to cast him a mischievous smile.

“Then let me raise a glass in salute to the beauty of your eyes and the charming color that rises under your smooth and silky skin,” he purred, suiting action to word, and somehow making the act of placing his lips on the rim of the wine glass seem… Goodness. Had he just swiped his tongue across the rim?

Grace watched the marquis in mild fascination, having never been on the receiving end of such a seduction, for lack of a better word.
A Kiss for Charity, Sherry Ewing

Could it be true? James thought back to ballrooms during the season, where he propped up a pillar watching Lady Sophia while Aldridge did likewise from across the room, watching… “Charlotte? I take it your intentions toward my cousin...”

Aldridge smiled, wistfully. “My damnable reputation. I seek a wife, not a mistress, if that is what you are delicately not asking. But the lady is not interested, I fear.”

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, Jude Knight

The rakehell reformed

I’ve written very little of The Reformer and the Rake; just the first few paragraphs. But they show Aldridge drowning his sorrows at his rejection by my reformist heroine. Or burying them, at least.

He could not sense the presence of Lady Charlotte Winderfield in his room. The idea was ridiculous.

For a start, the bluestocking social reformer they called the West Wind would rather die than enter the bed chamber of any man, let alone the notorious Marquis of Aldridge.

For another, he was not in a position to sense anything outside of the plump white thighs of Baroness Thirby, unless it was the expert ministrations of her close friend, Mrs Meesham. 

Lady Thirby's thighs blocked both his ears and his line of sight, and— in any caseno-one in the room could hear a thing over the yapping sounds she made as he drove her closer to her release. And he could not possibly smell the delicate mix of herbs and flowers that drove him crazy every time he was in Lady Charlotte's vicinity; not over the musk of Lady Thirby's arousal.

Damn it. The thought of the chit was putting Aldridge off his own release, despite Mrs Meesham's best efforts. It was no use pining after her. With his reputation, her family would not even consider him. And if they could be persuaded, she couldn't. She had made her opinion perfectly clear.

Above him, Lady Thirby stiffened and let out the keening wail with which she celebrated her arrival at that most delicious of destinations. At any moment, she would collapse bonelessly beside him, and he could maybe bury himself in her or her friend and forget all about the unattainable Saint Charlotte.

Instead, Lady Thirby stiffened still further. "What is she doing here?" She scooted backwards so that she could look him in the eye, still crouched, thank the stars. He didn't fancy the weight of her sitting on his chest. "It's one thing to do this with Milly. But you didn't say you were inviting someone else."

Standing in his doorway, her lips pressed into a tight line and her face white except for two spots of high colour on her cheekbones, was the woman of his fondest dreams. And she didn't look happy to be there.

The cold air on his damp member told him that Mrs Meesham had likewise abandoned what she'd been doing to stare at the doorway. "She's never here for a romp, Margaret. She's one of the Winderfield twins."

Aldridge sighed. He couldn't imagine what sort of a crisis had brought Saint Charlotte here, but clearly he was going to have to deal with it.

"My lady," he said, "if you would be kind enough to wait in the next room, I'll find a robe and join you."

She pulled her fascinated gaze from what had been revealed by Mrs Meecham's movement, and glared at him. "More than a robe. You have to come with me and we have no time to waste."

"He can't go out," Mrs Meecham objected. "Aldridge," (when Lady Charlotte said nothing but just retreated into the next room), "you can't go. You haven't done me, yet."

Aldridge had already left the bed, and was pulling on his pantaloons. "I am sorry to cut our entertainments short. Sadly, the messenger -- who, by the way, neither of you saw," (he gave them the ducal stare inherited from generations of noble ancestors), "brings me word of an appointment I cannot miss. My heartiest regrets. Please, feel free to carry on without me." He bowed with all the elegance at his command. He could shrug into his waistcoat and coat and pull on his boots while she told him what the problem was. It was a little late to worry about appearing in front of her improperly dressed.

Find out more about all these books at http://judeknightauthor.com/books/

Holly and Hopeful Hearts
A Holiday Collection by The Bluestocking Belles
Regency romance, historical romance, holiday romance
Heat rating: G--PG13
Release date: November 8th, 2016

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?


Pre-order now for only $2.99:



About Jude Knight

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. Jude has had a career in commercial writing and publishing and is committed to quality and to peer review. All of her books are professionally edited and proofread. 

Since publishing Candle’s Christmas Chair in December 2014, Jude’s name has seldom been off Amazon bestseller lists for one or more books. She is a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand, and of the Beau Monde chapter of Romance Writers of America.
  
Jude has an active blog and website with a monthly average of 1000 views (and growing) and a newsletter list of 512.  She is also a member of the writers’ co-operative, the Bluestocking Belles, and one of the two Belle leads on The Teatime Tattler, for which she writes regularly. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Artemis: A New Friend For a Lonely Countess (Giveaway) Plus Free Books for Everyone!



Holly and Hopeful Hearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

25% of all proceeds from Holly and Hopeful Hearts will be donated to the Malala Fund. 

An additional 25% of Jessica Cale's proceeds will be donated to Equality NC.



Charlotte meets Baby

Charlotte woke with the distinct feeling she was being watched.

She sat up in an overstuffed bed, enveloped in layers of soft, sweet-smelling bedclothes. The room was enormous, bright, and tastefully decorated; it was not even a little bit like Somerton House, which was more of a mausoleum crossed with a pirate ship.

It was her first morning waking at Hollystone Hall, and her surroundings were so different from her experience, she had to take a moment get her bearings. She had been so tired after the hours’ long journey the day before, she had collapsed into bed after supper and introductions. Now she was a guest at a spectacular estate in the countryside, surrounded by more titles than a bloody library. She had no hope of remembering them all. She knew she was at a disadvantage as a person of no birth with a reputation that was more than a little scandalous, but she hoped she would not unknowingly disgrace herself.

Again, the feeling she was being watched.

Charlotte frowned and glanced around the room, half expecting to find an especially silent servant waiting in the wings.

She gasped as she spotted the cat.

A tiny ball of black and white fluff, he was a precious little thing, staring at her from the desk with a pair of huge blue eyes. Who had let a kitten into her room?

“Hello, baby,” she called to it in a sweet voice. “Where did you come from?”

The kitten reached forward with an uncertain paw, too large for his body. He lurched forward, his hindquarters shaking, but stopped short of leaping. After another attempt, he finally jumped and hit the foot of the bed, scrambling up the covers with his claws.

“What a good kitty!” she praised him, reaching for him as he padded across the bunched up bed clothes. When he was close enough, she gingerly drew him into her lap, stroking his fine, soft fur. He swatted the ends of her hair and she giggled.

She played with the kitten until a maid arrived with a pot of chocolate. The maid greeted her with a pleasant smile. “Good morning, Miss Halfpenny. I see you’ve found your kitten.”

“My kitten?” she asked, hope rising in her chest. She had never had a pet before.

“Oh, yes. There are quite a few of them running around. Lord Somerton thought you might like one.

He left it for you this morning.”

Charlotte grinned, holding the kitten protectively. Of all the things that came with being a countess, the kitten was her favorite. “How kind of him. Where is he?”

“I believe he’s out riding with the gentlemen,” she said, pouring her a hot cup of drinking chocolate.

“Would you like to write him a note?”

Charlotte nodded and accepted the chocolate. “Thank you.”

The maid pulled open a drawer in the desk and withdrew a quill, ink, and paper. “I’ll leave these here for you.” She set them out on the table beside the bed. “Shall I send someone to help you dress?”

Charlotte blinked. She had been dressing herself her whole life without any assistance to speak of. Still, some of the new items she had purchased would require more help than she was accustomed to.

“Yes, please.”

Once the maid had gone, Charlotte frowned over the paper, trying to word her note of thanks to her intended.

Dear Apollo

The kitten swatted the end of the quill and Charlotte laughed in delight. She drew the end of the feather over the kitten’s ears and he whacked it, opening his mouth to bare his tiny teeth. He was so precious she felt as though her heart might burst just to look at him. Would she feel the same about the baby when it came?

She waved the quill in front of the kitten’s nose and giggled as he snapped at it, her glee going some way toward relieving her anxiety at spending a fortnight with influential people who had every reason to distrust her.

The kitten caught the quill between its paws and kicked at it with his back legs. She smiled down at him. “At least I’ll have one friend.”
***


Artemis
By Jessica Cale

Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?

Artemis is one of the eight great novellas in the Holly and Hopeful Hearts Box Set. 





Kitten Giveaway

Charlotte adores her new kitten, and you can have one, too! Enter our Rafflecopter giveaway here to win a stuffed black and white kitten of your own (pictured above).


About the Bluestocking Belles

The Bluestocking Belles, the “BellesInBlue”, are seven very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. From sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to the sultan’s seraglio, one or more of us will have a tale to suit your tastes and mood. Come visit us at http://bluestockingbelles.net and kick up your bluestockinged heels!

Look for us online



The Bluestocking Belles proudly support the Malala Fund charity. You can find out more on our website: http://bluestockingbelles.net/belles-joint-projects/the-bellesinblue-support-the-malala-fund/

Free Book!


The fine folks at Liquid Silver Publishing are running a special offer on Tyburn from October 1st - 20th -- it's FREE! That's right! If you're at all curious about my series, The Southwark Saga, you can download the first book for your Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader free of charge until the 20th. Whether you love it or hate it, I can promise you Tyburn is not like anything you've read before. Download yours while it's free, tell your friends, and do a girl a favor by sharing this far and wide. I appreciate your help!

I will update this page with the free links as they pop up over the next couple of days. If you don't see it free from your preferred retailer right away, please be patient -- we will get it to you one way or another. Thank you! x