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




Friday, September 16, 2016

Holly and Hopeful Hearts: New Regency Romance Set to Benefit the Malala Fund and Equality NC

Wow! Today is an exciting day. As you might have noticed, although I publish a pretty constant stream of history articles over at Dirty, Sexy History, I don't like to blog about myself all that often. It's something I should probably get better at, but I've never gotten past the idea that readers probably aren't interested in my private life unless I am a) one of my characters in real life (spoiler alert: I'm all of them) or b) announcing that I have finally finished another book (wait for it...). If there is anything you'd like to know, though, feel free to ask. I love you, I just don't want to irritate you. 

Having said that, the down side to under-sharing is that when something exciting happens, it can feel like it's out of the blue. Take my latest project, for example:


That's right. The brilliant Belles in Blue have put together a massive box set of holiday novellas and it's available for pre-order today. As bluestockings, we are understandably in favor of education, so we will be donating 25% of the proceeds to the Malala Fund to support them in their mission to provide education for girls all over the world. 

So what does this mean for fans of The Southwark Saga? Well, you're getting a present for the holidays. 

While you are patiently waiting for me to get off Blogger and finish Book 4, you can have a little peek into the future of Nick and Sally's family. The whole box set takes place at a holiday party in 1812, so this is also my first story set during the Regency period. In 1812, Apollo Rothschild is the Earl of Somerton. He is a descendant of both Nick & Sally and Meg Henshawe (how? Stay tuned!). Heroine Charlotte Halfpenny is distantly related to Jack Sharpe, the hero from The Long Way Home. The novella is short for me, but is packed with tons of little hints about what happens to the families in The Southwark Saga between Tyburn in 1671 and Artemis in 1812. 

I'm happy with the way it turned out, and I really hope you'll like it, too. It's a bit different, but I think you'll agree it's still very much one of mine. It's very sweet, packed with classical allusions, and so gothic that bats are going to fly out of the paperback*. 

It also features a love story between an incredibly dreamy transgender man and his favorite actress. I decided to write it this way as part of my quest to put the underrepresented back into history. I also did it because I live in North Carolina, the state that just this year passed the HB2 law, one of the most discriminatory anti-LGBT laws in the country. Many authors shy away from talking about politics, and I don't want to alienate anyone (we can all be friends! I promise!), but I'm just going to lay it all out for you. I am and will forever be a passionate LGBT ally, because I write romance and I believe in true love, whatever that means for you. No matter how or whom you love, or whether or not you identify with the gender on your birth certificate, I have love for you, too. 

And you can totally use my bathroom.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. I have plenty of LGBT characters in my stories (Beaumont, Rochester, Bettie, Carys, Bess, Apollo, Charlotte...that you've met. More coming), but Artemis is my first LGBT love story.  

As Artemis is the first and HB2 hasn't been overturned yet, I am going to donate 25% of my personal proceeds from the box set to Equality NC to help them in the good work they do for the LGBT community here in North Carolina. 

Having said all of that, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that the latest Bluestocking Belles collection, Holly and Hopeful Hearts, is available for pre-order. Read all about the collection and the other outstanding stories in this set below. They are all fantastic, and I am honored that Artemis is included among them. 

Read on for an exclusive long excerpt from my new novella, Artemis.


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?

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?

Excerpt

“There are two ways to look at everything.” Charlotte paused for dramatic effect, curling blue fingers over the side of the bridge. “All beginnings are endings in disguise. Place of arrival or means of escape; will I find my end at the bottom, or fall clear through the other side?”

The wind swallowed her famous voice and carried it away, taking the last thing she had of any value. It was the ice in the air that had caused her voice to shake, she reasoned. She was far too cold to feel the fear lurking in her heart, insulated as it was by dread and resignation. It was too dark to see anything but a great growling blackness over the side, but the smell assured her she had reached the right place.

“It’s only a river,” she reassured herself, though the observation brought her little comfort. Ravenous beast or churning waves, it would swallow her just the same. “Would it be better to drown or be devoured?”

She turned to face her audience, but they paid her no mind. Not ten paces away, they shuffled their wings, dark feathers gleaming in the moonlight like polished knives as they pecked at a murky spot beyond. The play had been over perhaps an hour, and now she couldn’t even command the attention of crows.

Her laugh brought a welcome puff of warmth to her lips as she turned toward the river once again. The night was worse than cold, it was merciless, and it carried with it a dampness that seeped into her every pore, chilling her to her bones and invading her weary heart. Perhaps she would freeze before she could drown.

The bridge was as famous as she was, a dubious honor. The fastest way between London and the poorest boroughs to the south, the city’s whores frequently threw themselves off of it as they returned home from long days servicing the wealthier streets in rented gowns and sagging feathers. It got them all, in the end. Perhaps it was not the easiest way to go, but it was there. Living the way they did, all that silver had to look tempting from time to time.

What was an actress but a whore? Her father, a playwright, loved his quill to distraction but had nothing but disdain for the painted players who brought his words to life. The last time she had spoken to him, he’d asked her that very question and Charlotte, in her wisdom, had asked him why he had married one.

“Prescient as ever, Father,” she addressed his memory, straddling the railing of the bridge, the only barrier between her sort and their inevitable end. She didn’t want to die, but what choice did she have? Cast out by her lover and sacked by her theater, she had no family, no income, no future. All she had was an expanding belly and a week to vacate her ex-lover’s rooms.

“A week until Christmas,” she muttered. “Prick.”

She didn’t kid herself she’d be able to get back onstage after the baby came. After ten good years of drawing crowds, she was already being replaced by younger, fresher women, actresses from the country who couldn’t enunciate if she took their jaws into her own hands and moved their lips herself, but didn’t London love a new face? She’d passed for twenty-two for years now, but it was only a matter of time until someone remembered she’d been nineteen ten years ago. Christ. 

Before long, she’d be little more than a buttock broker’s bunter. If her child survived, it would be destined for the workhouse.

That was not something she could abide.

“Wesley Thomas Cheltenham Sneed,” she seethed, searching her overdeveloped imagination for a curse befitting the man who had abandoned her, noble by birth if not character.

She let out a long sigh. There was no point to it.

She had met his betrothed. He deserved precisely what he was getting.

The sound of wheels popping over the stones startled her and she gripped the edge, struggling to keep her balance. Oddly enough, she didn’t much care for the idea of falling in.

She clung to her perch as the coach passed, hoping the darkness would shield her from prying eyes. What would it matter if they saw her, really? She was just another Drury Lane Vestal succumbing to the inevitable, after all.

Her jaw clenched in protest at her morose line of thought. She didn’t really believe that, did she?

The wheels stopped.

“Miss Halfpenny?”

Charlotte turned as she heard her name.

The coach was old and cumbersome but meticulously maintained, set high above the street on wheels the size of card tables. Unadorned but for a coat of lacquer, it was dark as the team of blacks that idled before it. The door stood open and a man leaned out, his youthful appearance illuminated by the glass-encased lantern swinging from a hook on the side.

He regarded her with an expression caught somewhere between confusion and terror. “Might I be of assistance?”

Clean shaven and slight of form, she might have mistaken him for a boy, albeit a remarkably pretty one. His hair was short and neat, dark as his horses. His jaw was angular and his mouth more serious than generous, but his eyes were bright and pale. She never forgot a face. She tried to place his.

“Somerton.” She smiled as the name came to her. She was face to face with the reclusive Earl of Somerton.

He alighted from the coach and approached her as though she were a frightened animal. “Please, will you come down from there?”

His voice was mellow, sweet, and very expensive. It sounded like tea with the Queen. He held out his hand.

She took it with only a moment’s hesitation and he visibly relaxed as she climbed down. He was taller than she would have guessed and elegant as a dancer, not a thread out of place on his immaculate suit. Even his cravat looked as though he’d just tied it.

There was something odd about him, but she couldn’t quite place it. He was unlike any man she had ever been near, too composed, too perfect. “You’re freezing,” he observed, the vapor of his breath the only cloud in the night. “May I escort you home?”

She shivered, remembering her unfortunate circumstances. “I don’t have a home anymore.”

His eyebrows drew together in concern, or perhaps distaste. “Then I suppose you shall have to come to mine.”

Charlotte blinked, taken aback. “With all due respect, Lord Somerton, if you’re looking for a poke, you can piss off. You’re a handsome bloke, but I’ve had quite a day.”

The only hint that he had heard her was the slight widening of his eyes.

They were silver, just like the river.

He cleared his throat. “I meant no disrespect, Miss Halfpenny, only it is very cold and I hate to think of you out here on your own. Would you consent to joining me for supper? I give you my word as a gentleman that I will not touch you.”

She looked him over, seeking signs of good character in the shine of his boots and the fit of his coat. His character may be questionable, but his tailor was a damned genius. He was leaner than most and held himself with a grace that was both authoritative and arresting in its beauty. It was his eyes that drew her gaze once again. She saw no ill-intent there, but a sort of quiet desperation that mirrored her own.

He was lonely.

Her heart began to thaw even as her mind warned her against accompanying strange noblemen back their homes in the night. A man of Somerton’s standing could drown her himself in sight of the King and half of Parliament and never get done for it.

She shrugged off her foreboding. There’s no harm in it. You were about to drown yourself, remember?

“You wouldn’t mind? Your wife isn’t likely to welcome an actress to her table.”

“I’m not married, and you’re most welcome. Indeed, I would be honored to have you as my guest. I am a great admirer of your work.”

Charlotte blushed at the compliment. Somerton had seen her? “I do not have the most spotless of reputations. I would not wish to cause you dishonor.”

He raised a dark brow playfully. “My household is very good at keeping secrets.”

Something about the way he said this made her want learn them all.

“I would be delighted to join you, Lord Somerton.”

His smile was a mystery, a shadow on the face of the moon.

***


Holly and Hopeful Hearts also contains:

A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight
As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below.

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis
Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing
Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight
James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.

Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack
Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts.

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield
Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?

Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett
Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love...

Pre-order now for only $2.99:



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!


The Bluestocking Belles proudly support The Malala Fund charity.

You can read more about HB2 here, and Equality NC here.

*No bats are going to be harmed in the making of this paperback. But if you ask nicely, I will entirely post you some paper bats in the mail. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Till Life Do Us Part: Exciting Paranormal Romance by Carmen Stefanescu


Till Life Do Us Part
By Carmen Stefanescu
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Genre:  Paranormal Romance
Mystery, Suspense, Reincarnation

Barbara Heyer can hear voices of dead people. They whisper of their deaths, seek comfort for those left behind, and occasionally even warn her about future events. But when Barbara’s brother, Colin, is accused of murder, it will take more than her gift to prove his innocence.

Becoming smitten with the handsome investigator, Detective Patrick Fischer, is a serious complication given his assignment to her brother’s case. Barbara senses there is something far deeper—and perhaps much older—than the surface attraction between them. Could that be why she’s visited by a mysterious woman named Emma in her dreams? Could past life regression tie all the seemingly unconnected events together?

Barbara and Patrick must overcome heartache to find the truth to save Colin, and perhaps themselves.

Excerpt

Barbara drove home in a state of utter mental and physical exhaustion. So many things had piled up on her in only one day. Her head throbbed and her soul was heavy. What had the spirit, Kathleen, wanted to tell her? Why did she mention Colin’s name?

Coincidence nagged at the back of her mind. The time when the girl had regained consciousness, according to the doctor, seemed to fit the moment when the spirit stopped talking to her in the car.

The joy of having brought peace into the hearts and minds of Alfie’s family was shadowed by what the spirit implied. Colin has some explaining to do. I can’t believe he would kill someone, she thought. It’s impossible. He’s a good, quiet kid. It must have been a malicious spirit, pulling my leg. And, what about her own attacker? That despicable man. Could there be a connection? He mentioned the name Kathleen and made threats. She must keep her windows shut and locked from now on.
***


Carmen Stefanescu resides in Romania, the native country of the infamous vampire Count Dracula, but where, for about 50 years of communist dictatorship, just speaking about God, faith, reincarnation or paranormal phenomena could have led someone to great trouble - the psychiatric hospital if not to prison.

High school teacher of English and German in her native country, and mother of two daughters, Carmen Stefanescu survived the grim years of oppression, by escaping in a parallel world that of the books.

Several of her poems were successfully published in a collection of Contemporary English Poems, Muse Whispers vol.1 and Muse Whispers vol.2 by Midnight Edition Publication, in 2001 and 2002. Her first novel, Shadows of the Past, was released in 2012 by Wild Child Publishing, USA.

Carmen joined the volunteer staff at Marketing For Romance Writers Author blog and is the coordinator of #Thursday13 posts.


Other books by Carmen Stefanescu



Sunday, August 28, 2016

Five Guns Blazing: A Thrilling Pirate Novel from Emma Rose Millar and Kevin Allen


Five Guns Blazing
By Emma Rose Millar and Kevin Allen

“Never had she imagined she would be brought so low, and all for the love of a very bad man.”

1710: Convict’s daughter, Laetitia Beedham, is set on an epic journey from the back streets of London, through transportation to Barbados and gruelling plantation life, into the clutches of notorious pirates John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, Mary Read and the treacherous Anne Bonny.

In a world of villainy and deceit, where black men are kept in chains and a woman will sell her daughter for a few gold coins, Laetitia can find no one in whom to place her trust.

As the King’s men close in on the pirates and the noose begins to tighten around their necks, who will win her loyalty and her heart?

Excerpt

Ours was the King’s ship, Redemption, a rotten hulk with three worn masts, that were splintered, and sails which had been patched and mended. We stood out on deck, overlooking the river while the captain, the gaoler and witnesses signed the transportation bonds, my mother chained by the neck and ankles to five of the most miserable creatures I had ever seen. Also in her gang were: Ezra Corey – theft of a cupful of raisins – seven years; Martha Eales – theft of a pair of stockings – seven years; Ellen Nutt – theft of a handkerchief and gold ring – fourteen years; Johnathan Ward – theft of two flaxen sheets – seven years; and Sarah Wells – theft of a silver watch – fourteen years. We were taken down to one of the lower decks which was dark and airless. I stumbled and clung to the walls to find my way, sliding my feet along the planks. I heard my mother cry out as one of the other convicts bumped against her, with the galling of her chains. Then a single lamp was lit beside the door and through the gloom I saw a floating dungeon of only about fifteen feet long, with a ceiling so low that most of the men could not stand, but yet more people kept coming in, convicts chained together in gangs of six, until there must have been at least eighty of us crammed into the hold.

I had thought that the first night must surely be the worst, when the lamp was extinguished and the rats came scurrying amongst us in the pitch black where we lay, when the darkness was pierced by the shrieking of women against the vile assaults taking place below deck. Then there was the bestial grunting of men as they stifled their screams, the filling of the necessary pots whose stench became sickening and foul. But as we sailed through Dartford and Gravesend then finally through the mouth of the river, along the coastline to Portsmouth and into the wide, open sea, the waves grew high and tempestuous and the wind began to howl. There were rolls of thunder, forks of lightning way out on the horizon that lit up the hold through holes in the rotten timber.

Redemption was tossed around like a matchbox on the crashing Atlantic waves as the storm lashed against the ship, lifting its bow from the raging ocean while the captain fought to bring her under control. We slid from one end of the hold to the other. My mother’s skin where her collar chafed against her neck became bright and horrible in shades of purple and crimson and black as it peeled back and rubbed away, but while others screamed now at every movement of the ship, my mother stared icily into the gloom, as if she was no longer there at all. It was only then, as I imagined land fading into the distance, and the vast expanse of sea that it hit me: my old life was gone forever.


Emma Rose Millar was born in Birmingham - a child of the seventies. She is a single mum and lives with her young son who keeps her very busy and very happy. Emma left school at 16 and later studied for an Open University degree in Humanities with English Literature. She has had a variety of jobs including chocolatier, lab technician and editorial assistant for a magazine but now works part-time as an interpreter.

Emma writes and edits historical fiction and children's picture books. She won the Legend category of the Chaucer Awards with FIVE GUNS BLAZING in 2014. Her novella THE WOMEN FRIENDS: SELINA, based on the work of Gustav Klimt and co-written with author Miriam Drori will be published in December 2016 by Crooked Cat Books.

Emma is an avid fan of live music and live comedy and enjoys skating, swimming and yoga.

Emma is also on Dirty, Sexy History today with a terrific post about the transportation of Margaret Hayes. Come say hello!