Monday, June 26, 2017

Artemis: My New LGBT Gothic Regency Romance is Out Today!

Hey guys!

Today is the official release day of my first Regency novella, Artemis. Artemis originally appeared in The Bluestocking Belles' anthology, Holly and Hopeful Hearts, so you may have already read it. If not, check it out! It's a little different from the rest of my series -- the hero is trans, it's set it in 1812, and the love scenes are strictly closed-door -- BUT it's super romantic and it's still so gothic it starts to burn in direct sunlight. The hero, Apollo, is a descendant of Nick and Sally and Meg and Jake. (How? You'd better read it, huh?) I am particularly happy with the way it turned out, and I hope you enjoy it, too. Thanks for reading!


Artemis
by Jessica Cale
Gothic Regency Romance
20,000 words/PG-13
Content warnings: Contains transgender and bisexual characters falling in love, getting married, and enjoying themselves.

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.

***

Artemis, available now for .99 from your preferred e-book retailer: 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Gun For Hire: Thrilling New Romance From J.J. Montgomery

J.J. will be awarding 5 ebooks of Gun For Hire to randomly drawn winners via RaffleCopter during the tour. Please use the RaffleCopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here



Gun For Hire
The Maui Heat Series
by J.J. Montgomery

The job should have been easy—patrol a swank beach that serves as a backyard for Maui’s rich, kick out the riffraff, and get a tan in the process. But rent-a-cop Samantha Winters didn’t anticipate a deliciously grumpy cop, Sergeant Grady Roark, who comes down to the beach to bust her chops and instead leaves her breathless…and wondering why the one man who could help her seems determined to thwart her at every turn.

Grady is keeping secrets from Sam that have him walking the line between attraction and duty. But when Sam becomes the target of a shadowy organization, Grady will have to choose between the law and the temptation of a woman who has him breaking every rule he’s ever known.

The job should have been easy, but when the bullets start flying, Sam learns nothing is as easy as it seems when you’re a Gun for Hire.

Buy Links

Excerpt

“Why John Deacon, Sam?” Grady’s hands tightened on the steering wheel.

I threw my hands up. “It could be Jesus Christ himself signing my paycheck and I’d still be doing it for the same reasons! The job works for my family. What is your problem with John Deacon? And don’t tell me nothing—you owe me more than that.”

“Maybe I’m just jealous.” Grady stared ahead. “Like you said.”

My stomach did a loop. “Don’t use your charm on me, I’m immune—”

“You think I’m charming?”

“Hell no, I don’t! And particularly not when you’re avoiding my question.”

“But you said I had charm.” He tilted his head and gave me a long, sly look from the corner of his eyes. His teeth flashed white from that tanned face and I nearly had to fan myself when I realized I loved the feeling of Grady teasing me.

I threw my hands up in the air. “I give up!”

He wanted to talk about confusing? All I knew about Grady prior to this day was that he was six-foot-two of gorgeous and about as warm as a polar bear on the North Pole in January. And now—

***

J.J. MONTGOMERY writes romantic suspense novels with a sense of humor. Her heroines are as smart as they are smart mouthed and the men in their lives are just trying to keep up. Gun for Hire is the first book in J.J.’s Maui Heat Series.

If you'd like to know more, including info on her newest book, where she gets her ideas, and how it’s possible she can’t use Facebook, please visit her:


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Raging Madness: New Excerpt from Jude Knight's Regency Noir

I am delighted to welcome Jude Knight back to the blog today with another wonderful excerpt from her new dark Regency romance, A Raging Madness. I absolutely loved this book, and would recommend it to any historical fans out there. It has everything you'd hope for in a Regency romance, plus a few other aspects--madness, opium addiction, surgery, riverboats--you never knew you needed. If you haven't read it yet, be sure to get yours now. Links below. ;) -J 


A Raging Madness
By Jude Knight
Genre: Regency romance, historical romance, historical suspense, Regency noir, gothic   
Heat rating: PG-13   
ISBN: 9780473393670
Page count: 382 pages on Kindle 
Publication date: 9 May 2017

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

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

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

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


Excerpt

Half an hour later, there was a knock on the door.

Ella, expecting a maid or Susan, called out, “Enter.”

Alex opened the door just enough to slide inside and closed it again behind him.

“Before you say, I know I shouldn’t be here, but I had to tell you first, before anyone else.”

Ella frowned. He looked… stunned. As if someone had hit him on the side of the head with a large plank and he had registered the blow but not yet the pain. Swiftly, she crossed the room and took his hands.

“What is it? What has happened? What can I do?”

“I don’t think there is anything to be done. The King… They said a barony, but I never expected this.” He shook his head. “I am not making sense. I have had a shock.”

“Sit down.” She tugged his hand and he followed her unresisting to the seat by the fire.

“There. Can I get you some water? Where does it hurt?”

“The King has made me a viscount, Ella. Aldridge said a baron, which was ridiculous enough. But apparently, he had a spare viscountcy, so there you are. Viscount Renshaw.” He bowed slightly in the chair, more of a nod of the head. “At your service.”

“But…” She frowned, trying to understand. “That is not a bad thing, Alex, surely? My lord, I mean.”

“See? That is exactly what I was afraid of.” He looked disgusted, but at least less pole axed than when he arrived. “I have spent weeks trying to get you to regard me as an ordinary man, and what does the King do? If you call me ‘my lord’, Ella, I swear I will not be accountable for my actions.”

“You are though. Lord Renshaw.”

“Me and the heirs male of my body,” he agreed, gloomily, then brightened a little. “The estate is not a bad size and is in the Lincolnshire Wolds, which is good horse country. It will be in terrible condition, I imagine, for the King to give it away, but it might be a good base for our horse breeding, do you not think? We could go and see it after Christmastide.”

Ella’s mind was still on the heirs male. He would have to marry. That is what peers did. She should not mind. After all, except for one kiss that burned in her memory, there was nothing between them. Only friendship. But when she had agreed to partner him in the venture, she had owned a colt, and she had not thought of him having a wife. Surely he understood it could no longer be ‘our’ venture?

He misunderstood her silence. “No. I suppose you will not come. I will go and inspect it, and report, Ella.” He pulled himself to his feet. “I had better go before someone catches me in your room. Please do not hate me for being a peer. I could not help it, and I cannot bear to lose you… Your friendship, I mean.”

Her smile was a thing of the lips, not the heart, but she did the best she could. “We will always be friends, Alex.”


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

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Out today! Broken Things: New Historical Romance from Jessica Cale

It's here! After a year and a half of living at The Rose and Crown, I am so excited to finally be able to share Broken Things with you. This book is a little different from the first three of The Southwark Saga in the respect that there is more focus on the love story (and waaaaay more sex), but I very much hope you'll like it. This one is my favorite so far, and I'm excited to hear what you think! So without further ado, Broken Things



Broken Things
The Southwark Saga, Book 4
Historical Romance
Corbeau Media
Release date: May 1st, 2017
Content warnings: Contains a great deal of profanity, violence, graphic sex, and references to rape and domestic violence.

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?

Broken Things, out now for $2.99

Excerpt

“I should leave,” he said. “I’ve caused you enough trouble.”

Meg blinked, aghast. “You? Gilbert’s been a twat for years. That has nothing to do with you. Damn his eyes!”

In spite of her fighting words, Meg sank slowly to the floor and screamed her frustration into her knees.

Jake sat on the floor beside her. He pulled her into his arms out of instinct, knowing too well the unique helplessness that haunted that kind of anger. She went without protesting, limp as a ragdoll against his chest.

He took a deep breath, inhaling that smoke in her hair. After years without a lover, he was amazed by how quickly he was growing accustomed to touching her. It was easy, natural. Addictive. He held her with no expectation or hope other than to give her comfort.

“What are you doing?” she asked, her voice small.

“Looking after you.”

She pulled away from him, her defenses once again in place. She stood, shaking out her skirt as though nothing had happened. “I don’t need looking after.”

“Yes, you do,” he said before he thought better of it. He climbed to his feet, his bad leg shaking. “You need looking after in the worst possible way.”

Her eyes seemed to light up the gloom of the bar and a cheeky smile curved across her lips. “Do I? I suppose you’re going to give it to me?”

Temptress. He’d only meant he wanted to help her, but if she wanted to tease him, two could play at that game. He let his gaze drift over her lush curves. When it returned to her eyes, she looked as warm as he felt. Perhaps she wouldn’t want to keep him, but the hunger in her eyes suggested she at least wanted him.

He smiled to himself. Good.

He licked his lips. “I’m going to give it to you, all right. I’m going to see to you properly and you’ll make sounds you’ve never made before. I’ll have to teach you whole new words to express the way I make you feel.”

Her lips dropped open and she blinked, stunned by his promise.

It wasn’t an empty one.

Before she could say a word, he lifted her onto the bar. He left her there while he grabbed a stool and brought it back, setting it between her legs. She leaned back on her hands, breathless. “What on earth are you doing?”

He sat on the stool and pulled off her shoes, dropping them onto the floor. “I’m giving you what you need, Margaret. Don’t argue.”

For once, she didn’t.

His hands trailed up her curvy calves and over her knees beneath her long skirt. He lingered on the warm, bare flesh at the top of her woolen stockings. Some women wore underclothes to protect their most intimate parts from the elements and wandering fingers. He still wondered if Meg was among them.

He glanced up at her, his hands on her knees. Her startled gaze gave nothing away.

Determined to make good on his promise, he rolled her stockings all the way down her long, long legs and took them off her feet, dropping them in his lap. He left one leg dangling off the side of the bar as he took the other bare foot in both his hands. Even her feet were beautiful. He’d bet money no one had ever done this before.

He pressed one thumb into her arch and she gasped.

He followed this caress with another, sliding his thumbs into all the sore places of her feet one firm stroke at a time. Her toes contracted and her throaty moan was more seductive than any other sound he’d ever elicited from a woman. He wanted to hear it again.

Increasing the pressure, he worked over her heel and the ball of her foot, gently tugging on her toes. Her eyes closed and her face contorted with pleasure. “God preserve me.”

Jake pushed both his thumbs up the arch at once and she cried out.

He smiled.

By the time he reached her other foot, she was insensible. He took his time working over the tense muscles and tendons, doing what he could to ease the twenty years of toil she held in her feet. His ached after a week at The Rose, he couldn’t imagine how hers felt. He caressed them out of compassion, gratitude, and no little lust. He touched her for the pure joy of touching her, his pride swelling with every delicious little sound she made.

Pride, as well as another part of his anatomy.

“More,” she gasped.

He smiled as he dug his thumbs into her arch. “Verder,” he translated.

She groaned. “God, yes!”

He was inclined to agree. He carefully rotated her slender ankle and pressed into her heel. “God, ja.”

Her eyes shot open and her face was flushed. She held his gaze steadily. “I’m going to come if you keep that up.”

He swallowed, the translation lost in the frankness of this statement. Would she really? He increased his pressure, willing to find out.

She bit her lip and whimpered.

Jake looked up at the squeal of a hinge, just in time to see Davey before he hid behind the door. The bastard was trying to catch them out again.

Meg sat up straighter. She had heard him, too. From the door, all he’d be able to see was Meg on the bar with a man’s face between her legs.  With a saucy look, she threw her head back and moaned as if she was on stage. “Oh, God...oh, God...yes...God, Jake!”

He knew she was screaming his name to aggravate her cousin, but that didn’t keep him from enjoying it. He wanted to hear her say it in pleasure, wanted to push her over the edge. Had she been toying with him when she had said she was close? On the off-chance she spoke the truth, he redoubled his efforts.

Just let the little twat try to charge him for touching her.

“Mother of God,” she rasped, and this time it sounded real.

Feeling more than a little cocky, he returned to her other foot and resumed rubbing.

Her eyebrows drew together, her lips fell open, and she said his name with a shudder and a sigh in what had to be the best imitation of a climax he’d ever had the pleasure of seeing. He was perilously close to one himself.

Again, Davey’s door slammed as he returned to his room upstairs, presumably dismayed to find Meg in a compromising position with the hired help. If that’s what it took to get the man to leave, he’d make Meg scream every night.

Selflessly, of course.


Reviews

“If you like romance in which the history is as rich and deep as it is accurate, and if you like well rounded deeply imagined, realistic characters with genuine issues that come to a believable and satisfying conclusion, you will love her entire Southwark Saga. This book is no exception. I can't praise it highly enough. Nobody but nobody writes about redemption as well as Jessica Cale.” - Caroline Warfield

“Jessica Cale always, always delivers some of the most incredibly intimate historical romances that I've ever read! Broken Things is written so vividly and beautifully detailed that I feel like I was transported to the year 1678. Meg and Jake may be broken things, having seen more than their fair share of the hard side of life, but they still keep up the good fight, together, clinging to the small hope for a happily ever after. A Brilliant Must Read Historical Romance!” - Romazing Reader

“I just left my heart in Southwark and can not wait for more! The historical romance setting and the separation of classes always makes this series appeal to me. Jessica Cale is an honest writer and so skilled at bringing the era to life! This book really delighted me in every way and gets my five stars! Go start this series if you haven't!” - Luv My Books

“Equal parts historical fiction and historical romance, Broken Things follows the love story of a tough as nails Englishwoman and a solitary Jewish prizefighter as they survive discrimination, poverty, thievery, and greed in 1678 London. Jessica Cale paints a vivid picture of life in 17th century Southwark. Her dialogue is colorful, witty, and well-crafted with careful consideration for the way people spoke in that time period while still giving the reader an easy, comforting read. You will cheer when our lovers find their HEA amidst all the broken things that make up their colorful lives.” - Amy Quinton


Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Raging Madness: New Regency Romance from Jude Knight (+Giveaway!)



A Raging Madness
By Jude Knight
Genre: Regency romance, historical romance, historical suspense, Regency noir, gothic  
Heat rating: PG-13  
ISBN: 9780473393670
Page count: 382 pages on Kindle
Publication date: 9 May 2017

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

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

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

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


Except

It was a cool day in late autumn but fine and still. Alex was carried from the boat across the bridle path to the field where they had set up trestles on a borrowed door they had pressed into service to act as stretcher and operating table.

Barlow and Whitlock had returned to watch, and Mrs Manning had bullied them into washing so they could help hold Alex during the operation. Mrs Manning’s husband had also been an advocate of Alexander Gordon’s theories that contagion was minimised by cleanliness, something Ella’s father had taught her. She had seen the benefit many times when his patients and hers survived in greater numbers than those of other doctors.

With that in mind, she had boiled the lancets and probes Mrs Manning provided. The cloths they would use, too, had been freshly laundered in boiling water, and the door had been scoured with strong soap and then draped with a clean sheet.

They strapped Alex to the door to stop him moving, gave him a wooden block to bite on, washed his naked thigh, and draped cloths around it to catch the fluids that would spill.

“I will be as quick as I can, Alex,” Ella said, and Alex smiled and told her, “I trust you, Ella.”

She could not think of that: could not reflect that she was about to cut into her nemesis, her saviour, her dear friend; could not consider the consequences if she failed. She said a quick prayer, and then, as her father had taught her, she took a deep breath and let it go, releasing with it all consciousness of the small crowd of watchers, of the still smaller crowd of helpers, of Alex as a person.

Before her was a leg. A thing of meat and bone and blood, and within it the enemy, the death-bringer. Finding the abscess, releasing the poison, that was her entire focus. The muscle of the thigh was simply something to be damaged as little as possible as she sliced into it to reach the poison beneath.

She had chosen the sharpest and most slender of the lancets, and with it, she cut quickly and deeply. 

On another plane, someone gave a smothered, strangled scream, and the thigh twitched but not enough to deflect her blade from its path. There. Pus, a thick yellowy cream springing up the channel she had made, mixed with the blood that tried to drown her view.

Of a sudden, her detachment deserted her, and she braced herself against the table, tightening her suddenly weak knees so she didn’t fall. Rotting flesh had an odour all its own; once smelled, never forgotten. This was infection, but not rot. She was in time.

And time was of the essence. No indulging in vapours.

She held out a hand for the probe, a clever thing with a magnet at one end designed for capturing and withdrawing bullets. If it was iron or steel, this would collect it.

Her way was obscured. As fast as the careful competent hands of her helper wiped away the mess of fluids, they welled up again.

No matter. She felt her way down the path made by her scalpel and grinned in fierce triumph when the probe jerked as it attracted the lump of metal deep in the wound. It was larger than the path. Could she extract it without more cutting…? Yes! There it was, dropped into the teacup that Mrs Manning held ready. She probed again, but the wound seemed to be empty.

No. Something foreign. Not a bullet. “Tweezers, please.”

They came to her ready hand, and again she sent all of her awareness into her hand and the tweezers became an extension of her fingers. There. It came easily. A piece of fabric, perhaps from Alex’s uniform trousers or perhaps wrapped around the pieces of metal in the canister that formed the cannon shell.

The wound was running more or less clean. It was time to finish. With clean tweezers, she inserted a strip of silk deep into the wound to keep the outer surface from closing over before the abscess was healed. No stitches, then. A dressing smothered in honey and beeswax and bandages to hold it in place.

“I will bandage, Mrs Sedgewick,” her helper said. “You have done a magnificent job.”

Alex had let the wooden block drop from his mouth and was somehow managing to smile, though all the colour had leached from his skin, which was slick with sweat. She went to place a comforting hand on his shoulder then stilled her gory hands and instead bent to lay her lips against his forehead.

“It is done, Alex. We have the stuff out that shouldn’t have been there. You can heal now.” That was as much a hope as a promise. The wound appeared clean for the moment, but it could sicken again. She had assisted with, had even herself removed bullets from, men as strong as Alex who had turned their faces to the wall and died.

“Saved. The. Leg?” Alex dredged each word from deep inside.

“Yes,” Ella told him. For the moment. By the grace of God.

“Rest.”

“Yes, you should rest,” Ella agreed. Rest was healing.

“You,” Alex insisted. “Rest. You, Ella.”

Touched, she kissed him again.

Stop by Dirty, Sexy History today to read Jude's post on surgery during the 18th and 19th centuries! 

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

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.


Giveaways! 

Comment here for your chance to win an ebook copy of Farewell to Kindness, and enter the Rafflecopter below to win your own made-to-order story!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

New Release Giveaway: Resurrection of Artemis by Izzy Szyn

Welcome to the Resurrection of Artemis Blog Tour! Izzy Szyn will be awarding a $10 Amazon to one randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here.



Once known as the infamous hacker Artemis, Amy Wilson now works in a coffee shop. With only months until the end of her probation from working in the technological industry that she loves, Amy is determined to keep Artemis dead and buried.

When incidents similar to the ones Amy did start occurring all fingers start pointing in Artemis’ direction, and three people that want Artemis to come out of retirement.

Quail City’s super heroes Dark Master and Calypso aka as multi-billionaire Noah Adams and his assistant Vanessa London know Amy’s secret, and also know that she is being set up. Having spent months in a flirtmance with Amy, they are tired of waiting and want both her and Artemis in their bed.

Hinderer wants to hold technology hostage, but in order to do that he needs Artemis’ assistance, and he will use any methods necessary to gain her cooperation.

Available on Kindle Unlimited

Excerpt

“People have been mentioning Artemis,” Calypso said. “You wouldn’t have heard anything?”

They knew, Amy thought. Somehow they knew. “No, Artemis isn’t here anymore. At least from what I heard.”

“Damn shame, too,” complained one of the customers in the shop. “Not the Artemis that is playing with the lights and stuff. But the Artemis who liked to help people with their problems.”

“Yeah, I think if someone is behind it, it’s someone pretending to be Artemis, or trying to shift the blame on her,” said another customer. “She may have done some things, but she’d never deliberately set out to get people hurt.”

Amy smiled at the person that made the comment. “I’ve been here all day. But it’s more than the traffic lights. Didn’t I hear that the other day the Financial District was shut down because the money showed at zero?”

“That is something that Artemis had fun with,” Dark Master commented. “Or had in the past.”

“I’m sure that whatever has been happening in Quail City has nothing to do with Artemis,” Amy replied.

“Hope for Artemis’ sake it’s true,” Calypso said. “Williams is ranting and raving in Commissioner James’ office asking for her to be arrested.”

Just bet he is, thought Amy. “Is there anything else I can get you?” Amy asked them. She saw that it was almost six and the last bus going towards her apartment would be there any minute.

“You in our bed,” Calypso said in her ear. “Your blue hair will look glorious on our pillows.” Then out loud stated, “That’s all for now.” 
***

New York Times Bestselling Author Izzy Szyn was born in May of 2014 when a friend dared her to write. Born and raised in Detroit, Mi. Izzy now lives in Oklahoma City with her furchild Misty, the friendliest Chihuahua/Terrier you will ever meet. Currently works in a call center, where she writes in between phone calls. Izzy loves to keep in touch with her readers. Email her at izzyszyn@gmail.com.



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.