Saturday, 12 November 2022
Friday, 16 September 2022
Friday, 19 August 2022
The French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and spies—all rolled into a Regency era happy ever after. Here's a sneak peek at Sophia's story.
Promise us the sun forever as well as the night;
Yes. Forever the night. Promise me that.
Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, Let Us Cry
If Sophia had not known he was coming, she would have assumed the tapping was the wind shifting the far-too-loose latch on her window. But she'd been waiting for him for hours. Truly for years. Her heart pounded ferociously against her chest. He was here now. As he'd promised.
She leapt from the bed and pressed her ear to the hall door. There was no sound other than a repeated tap, tap, tap behind her. She flew to the window and threw back the drapes, the shadow of Gaston's willowy body all she could make out of him in the darkness. She unhooked the latch and pushed at the window. Gaston caught it before it blew too far to the side and banged the pillar. He threw one long leg over the sash and pulled the window closed as he stepped fully into the room.
She reached past him to re-hook the latch, catching a whiff of him as she did so. "You stink," she whispered, scrunching her nose.
"And you, ma chérie, smell like a garden of roses in summer." He tilted his head to kiss her and raindrops fell from his hat, chilling her bared shoulder.
She pushed him. "Well, you smell like a wet dog," she said, even though excitement raced through her veins.
"More like a wet horse," he said, but shook his entire body exactly as a dog would do, splattering Sophia even more. She laughed out loud. He stepped up to her quickly, covering her mouth with his hand. "Fais attention, Sophie. Someone will hear you."
Sophia bit his hand playfully, and she could see the flash of his teeth in the dim light. "There is a hook on the wall there. Hang your things." She strode to the window and closed the drapes again, then returned to her bedside, fumbling for the tinderbox she'd left there.
His breath was warm against her ear as he took the box from her, and she regretted its loss when he leaned away from her to blow on the tinder. She set the wick to it, and the candle slowly took. After she set it on the table, she turned to look at him. Mon dieu. Sophia still could not believe he had come.
"You are so beautiful, my eyes hurt." Gaston ran the back of his fingers down her cheek, along her neck, and across her shoulder. Her flesh tingled in their wake.
"Embrasse-moi." Sophia puckered her lips and closed her eyes, and Gaston obliged her request for a kiss. His lips were soft and gentle, but she wanted more. She tried to probe with her tongue, but he kept his mouth closed to her. She opened her eyes, and he grinned. Sophia slapped his arm, and his grin grew bigger.
"You have not changed." Gaston chuckled and looked around the room, then pulled her toward the chairs by the fireplace.
"Non, it is too cold to sit by an empty grate. Come." Sophia tugged him in the opposite direction, back toward the bed.
He said her name like a warning, and she ignored it. She did not fear Gaston. It was Gaston who should fear her. Sophia had waited three years for him, and she was not about to sit politely in chairs across from one another. She was going to be held and, for the first time in too long, she was going to be loved. She would settle for no less.
She let go of his hand and climbed onto the bed, feeling powerful, knowing he was watching her. She leaned forward, daringly showing the rise of her breasts, and patted the bed.
Gaston shook his head.
"But we must speak quietly," she said tapping the bed again. "And I am chilled," she added, tugging at the counterpane and pulling it over her lap as proof.
Gaston sighed heavily. He perched on the edge of the bed and removed his boots before crawling in beside her. She was disappointed he stayed on top of the coverlet, but it did not defeat her. She would woo Gaston before night's end, and they would be bound together forever.
"I should not stay long," he said, taking her hand in his and running his thumb over her palm. "It would not do for me to be caught here in your bedroom."
"It would not do for you to be seen anywhere by mia zia—ma tante." Sophia caught herself and switched from Italian back to French for it was the language they shared. "Tante Giorgia despises the French even more now that they occupy our cities."
"But you are French, non? She cannot possibly detest all French." Gaston squeezed Sophia's hand.
"She does not acknowledge that part of me. It is like Papa never existed, and she sees only the daughter of her sister." Sophia shrugged. "Still, she gave me a home when I had none. But I do not wish to speak of her any further. It is you and only you I want to hear about."
Gaston had suddenly appeared at the market that morning. She'd been examining a basket when she sensed someone beside her. She'd turned and blinked over and over. She could not accept what her eyes told her was true. He spoke quickly and quietly, and she'd given her address and specific directions to her bedroom before he disappeared into the crowd. It had felt like a dream, but it was not. For there was nothing imaginary about the warmth of his hand or his thigh pressed against hers, exuding a heat no blanket could block.
"Have you come with the army?" Sophia hoped not, for she had come to detest the bold soldiers who considered her there for their taking. She had learned quickly not to leave the house without a chaperone and a male servant for protection.
"The only army I fight with is Régiment de Bourbon. For my father. And for yours."
"Papa?" She sat straighter, all thoughts of seduction flown from her mind. She'd heard nothing from her father in months. " Have you word of him?"
"Non, ma douce, I have heard nothing directly. But the Directory was annulled and the fair election overturned. In September. Many were shipped to Guiana. I am trying to find out if your father was among them or if he is still in Paris. Perhaps, he is in hiding?"
There had been news of Napoleon's Coup d’état, but she didn't see how it could affect her father. "But Papa, he is not in the government. He is writing for the paper."
Gaston turned to face her, cupping her cheek. "The royalist newspapers were shut down. Many journalists were shipped with the deputies."
"Non." Sophia shook her head, fighting the tears stinging her eyes.
"I am sorry, mon amour. You must face the possibility. It is why I came."
"I don't understand…"
"The last time I saw your father, he made me promise to come to you should something ever happen to him."
"But why?" Sophia swallowed her agony. Surely, Gaston was assuming the worst. Her father was a clever man. He had managed all the atrocities that had come before. An overturn in government could not be harder to navigate than the slaughter they had escaped.
"Because he knows nobody can love you more than he does…except me." Gaston pressed his forehead against hers. "And he's right."
Gaston held Sophia for few minutes while she grappled with the concept of her father sent somewhere far away. She did not cry easily, and she would not cry now. Not for a maybe. A possibility. It was equally likely he was not amongst those banished. He might still be somewhere in France or gone somewhere else for safety. She knew for certain he would not come to Venezia. Her aunt might report him.
When her thoughts were composed and her emotions reined in, she pulled away from Gaston. He watched her, his brow furrowed in concern.
"I am not glass. I will not shatter." She flicked a strand of hair back over her shoulder. "And what does Papa think you might do for me?"
"Take you away with me."
"Where?" She asked it calmly, but her insides quivered with excitement. Her aunt had become intolerable. Other than trips to the market, Sophia's life had become one lonely dull day followed by another. And to be with Gaston? It was a dream come true.
"He would see you in England, if I can manage it."
"England! But it is so far. And I speak the language like a bébé."
Gaston ran his hand over her cheek and lifted her chin. "Then you must learn it, ma chérie. For you will live there until it is safe to return to France."
It was all so much to grasp. Her father gone. Her leaving Venezia. Gaston. "With you?" she asked.
"For a time. But I must do my part. I will return to the régiment."
Gaston was going to take her to England and leave her there. Alone. The past three years had taught her everything could change in a moment. She knew what she must do to ensure his commitment to her remained constant. She loved him too much to risk losing him.
"You will marry me." It was a statement, not a question, and it got a slow smile from Gaston.
"Oui, ma beauté, I will marry you at the first opportunity. Your father has given me his permission." He leaned in and kissed her, and this time the kiss was not chaste. She was panting when he pulled away.
"I don't remember you kissing like that," Gaston said.
"I was a child. I am a woman now." She smiled at his scowl, a sense of triumph easing the sorrow of his news about her father.
"You have practiced?"
Sophia laughed at his fierce expression and the growl in his voice. Oh, yes, she had power now she did not have before. Although, in truth, she'd not tried to use it until this moment. But she was not going to tell him.
She daintily shrugged her shoulders. "Perhaps, un peu." She pinched her thumb and forefinger together to show him the little bit, and he growled again. She fell onto her back, pulling him with her, and demonstrated again she was more than ready to take on the task of being his partner. When she clawed at his shirt, he pulled back.
"Oui." She boldly ran her finger down his shirt and teased the band of his trousers. "We are to be married. Besides, I have always been yours. And you, mine."
She tugged him to her again, confident he would surrender. And she was right. Later, lying in the afterglow of their first lovemaking, he shared his plan.
"Count Tessaro has arranged a rendezvous tomorrow night with a local fisherman. You must go about your day, act as you normally do, and pack only a few things. Dress plainly."
His chest warm beneath her cheek, he stroked her arm as he talked. She snuggled closer, drifting in contented happiness. The bed dipped and Sophia opened her eyes. Gaston was fully dressed and pulling on his boots. She sat up, pulling the cover to her chest. How could she have fallen asleep?
"My sleeping beauty awakes." He tugged on the second boot and shifted to face her. "Midnight. Be ready. There will be no time to spare."
Excitement and fear coursed through her. She did not want him to leave but knew he must. Tears stung, and he lifted her chin so she looked him in the eyes.
"I will return. I promise."
He kissed her one last time, and she watched as he opened the window and disappeared. The wind rattled the pane and she got out of bed, the marble floor cold against her feet. She opened it and peered outside, but she could see no one. "Je t'aime," she whispered into the darkness before latching the window and crawling back into bed. She held the pillow against her as though it were Gaston. His scent still lingered, and the pungent smell of the stable he had slept in was now a comfort.
A few more hours, and there would be no more goodbyes.
Sunday, 12 June 2022
I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.' —Maya Angelou
One of my fellow authors said she was experiencing the worst case of imposter syndrome. She wondered if anyone else felt inadequate. My answer? Always. And, I’ve thought about that a lot this morning.
As a teacher, I felt it. As a principal, I felt it. As a performer, I felt it. As a writer, I feel it. All_the_time. I’m not entirely sure about the psychology behind it. No doubt we can retrace the steps in my life and pinpoint some key moments that led to such embedded doubt. In many ways, the cause is irrelevant. The old cliché of what’s done is done leads to the one that it simply is what it is. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.
I think, perhaps, that if one feels overconfident, they become complacent. When one becomes complacent, one tends not to seek out anything that might destroy that equilibrium. Which limits growth. Regardless of your path in life, if you do not seek to grow, you stagnate, you wither. In any role in life, inertia is boring. It often leads to apathy and mediocrity. In the arts’ world in particular, it is the kiss of death. While the genre of romance comes with a set of tropes and comforting expectations, people (me included!) want to see writers switch things up, come at things differently, wow them with something new. They want a pop of color in their familiar palette.
So, I like to consider imposter syndrome the catalyst to new growth. That little voice nagging me about inadequacy? It’s pushing me to learn new things, challenge myself, take risks. Am I a Diana Gabaldon (insert your favorite writer here)? No. Will I ever be? No. But am I better than I was? Can I be better than I am? I believe so. And that feeling that I don’t belong, that I’m a fake, urges me on. And, one last cliché, you know what they say—fake it ‘til you make it.
Friday, 3 June 2022
Check out Love Abandoned!
Life is more than a little angsty for the Thornwoods, especially for Elizabeth. But don’t let her fool you. She might be small in stature, but she’s mighty with determination. Join her on her journey from the country to the city—all the way back into her husband’s heart.
Monday, 2 May 2022
If you enjoy historical romance set in Regency-era England, I hope you'll check out Love Abandoned. It's the second novel in the series Honorable Intentions for Dragonblade Publishing. Release is scheduled for June 1, 2022. In the meantime, please enjoy an excerpt.
Hear my soul speak:
The very instant that I saw you, did
My heart fly to your service; there resides,
To make me a slave to it;
~Shakespeare (The Tempest)
Three years, and Elizabeth was as bewitching as the day he’d married her. As beguiling as the first day they met. Richard would ravish her where she stood were it not for the room full of guests. And it would be hours before they could retire, so he might as well rein in his lustful aspirations and turn his attention elsewhere. What a rubbish idea this anniversary gathering turned out to be. Even worse, it was his rubbish idea.
Richard had been in town for far too long, chasing down business investments, when he’d rather be chasing down Elizabeth. But the estate could not sustain itself indefinitely, and it was time to expand his fortunes. One day an heir would be grateful for his forethought. Hopefully, the manor would be full of children to support. Children. He’d far prefer slipping away and trying to create one than this standing around talking about inconsequential trivia. Unfortunately, he’d thought an anniversary celebration would be cheering for Elizabeth. The lack of children had been wearing on them both.
“Still gawking at your wife after all these years?” Bentley slapped Richard on the back jovially. “You almost make me consider marriage.”
Richard cast his glance sideways at his old school chum and raised an eyebrow. “Is there something…or someone…I should know about?”
“I said, almost, my friend. You know me better than that. Too many skirts in the wilderness, waiting to be tamed, for me to put myself in a cage.”
“Once a rake, always a rake? Don’t be so certain. Someday you’ll find your Lady Bentley, and she’ll cast her spell over you as mine has done to me. And you’ll be glad of it.”
Bentley guffawed, drawing the attention of some of the guests, and of Elizabeth. Richard smiled at her and held her stare. Her pale cheeks flushed a soft pink, but she did not look away. “If you’ll excuse me, Bentley?” he said and walked toward her.
Lovely gathering. Such a wonderful evening. Good to see you, Lord Thornwood. The voices swirled around him, but he had eyes only for Elizabeth. “Lady Thornwood,” he said, interrupting old Mrs. Farnsworth who was wearing far more ribbons and bows than a fresh debutante. “May I see you in private for a moment?” Her cheeks deepened to scarlet, but she nodded and set her hand on his arm. “If you’ll excuse us, Mrs. Farnsworth,” he said, not waiting for her response. More platitudes followed them out of the room.
“Is there something I can do for you, my lord?” Hastings asked, two footmen in tow behind him, each carrying several decanters of wine.
“No, Hastings, we’re fine.” Richard tilted his head back toward the room. “Make sure glasses are full and no one is need of anything. And set the food out a little early.”
“Yes, my lord.”
No one would complain with an overflowing glass in hand and a full stomach. They would not be missed. He’d been delayed and had arrived along with guests, and he couldn’t wait another minute to hold her in his arms.
“Shh,” he said. “Let me whisk you away.”
Her smile lit the hallway, and she leaned into him as they walked silently along the corridor. Although it would afford them definitive privacy, as no one would dare enter it, he chose not to stop at his study. The saloon next door to it had been opened to the large drawing room, which put the revelers far too close for comfort.
He released an audible sigh of relief when they made it to the library without encountering any strays. Richard pulled Elizabeth inside, begrudgingly letting her go to firmly close the doors. He turned around and leaned back on them, drinking her in. She stood there, looking shy and confident at the same time. Her blonde hair was piled on top of her head, but she’d left wisps caressing her long slender neck. Only two gilt lamps had been lit, and they were behind her. Her lovely shape was well illuminated with the backlighting, but he could not see her eyes. It didn’t matter. He knew them by heart and was confident they mirrored the love she would see in his.
Richard opened his arms in invitation. She smiled and stepped into them, and he embraced her. Her heart beat against his own. This was home. “I missed you,” he whispered.
“I missed you too,” she said and tilted her face to look at him.
He could resist no longer. He took possession of her mouth, hoping his kiss would tell her more adequately than words the truth of his longing for her. They parted, both panting breathlessly.
“Richard,” she finally managed, touching her lips as she spoke his name. “The guests will see…”
He glanced out the windows at the night. It was a miserable one, windy and rainy. No one would be strolling the gardens. He told her so.
She smiled tentatively and touched her lips again. “No, that’s not what I meant. They will see the evidence. You know how easily I bruise.”
“Did I hurt you, my love?” He cursed himself for being an uncontrolled lecher, tugged her close, and kissed her forehead. “I would never willingly do so. You know that, don’t you?” He pulled back so he could see her face.
“Of course, I do.” This time her smile was mischievous. “Hurt me again.”
And wolfishly, he did. This time, when he finally let her go, he wondered how either of them were going to be able to return to the soiree. They would be fodder for endless gossip. He could hear them now disdaining a married couple who were actually in love.
“Come sit with me, and we’ll give ourselves some time to recompose.” He touched her swollen lips, and she kissed his fingers. “Elizabeth,” he growled in warning. His blood would never cool if she continued to look at him like that. He led her to the sofa and pulled her down beside him. “It is good to see the rose in your cheeks. You were exceptionally pale when I arrived, and I worried this gathering had put too much of a strain on you. I do apologize. It was a thick-witted idea.”
“Not at all, my dearest. A husband who remembers an anniversary is special. One who wishes to celebrate it is a rare find.”
He kissed her cheek, feeling as young and in love as when they’d first met five years ago. He’d been able to claim her as his own now for three years, and the glow that warmed him at the mere thought of her did not dull. She entwined her fingers in his.
“And we have much to celebrate,” she said quietly. She shifted their hands to her midriff and clasped them with her other hand, holding them tightly to her stomach. “Much to celebrate.”
Richard’s heart skipped a beat. Could it be? Dare he hope? “You are..? We are...?”
She nodded, her eyes shimmering in the dull light. “We are, Lord Thornwood. Finally.”
He pulled her close, biting back the emotion clogging his throat, making it impossible to speak. It was all he’d dreamed of in his young years. To hear the voices of other children ringing off these old walls. And now it was going to happen. His children. Her children. Their children. “Thank you,” he finally managed to whisper into her hair.
“Oh, Richard,” she whispered back. “This is only the beginning.”
|Available for pre-order!|
Monday, 14 March 2022
Someone asked me what the most difficult thing about having a dog was. I replied – the goodbye. – Unknown
I began to take my writing seriously about fifteen years ago. Around the same time we got two little Lhasa Apso sisters. They were inseparable, except when I wrote. Spice decided she was my muse. Wherever I wrote, Spice was beside me. I don't write at a desk. My laptop is literally on top of my lap. And my little fur muse was beside me. Always.
On February 25, I said goodbye to my writing buddy. As anyone who has ever loved a fur baby knows, it is an incredibly hard thing to do. She was an integral part of our lives for fifteen years. My logical side knows that fifteen years is a good long life for a little pup, but my heart wishes it could have been a little longer.
I have written since. It took me a few days to face the empty couch. But I have managed to put words down and finish the first draft of the third novel in my Honorable Intentions series. I've also completed developmental edits on book two as well as cover copy and tag lines. It's been hard, but I've pushed through.
It seems she was not my muse so much as my life coach. She taught me how to laugh daily, to see joy in simple things, to stop and pay attention to one another. To be present in the moment. She brought out a maternal instinct in me that I would have sworn did not exist. As her health began to fail these past two years, her care became a top priority. We rearranged our lives around her needs because that's what you do for someone you love. And love? Boy, did she teach me about love. Spice reminded me, daily, that love is affectionate, demonstrative, and unconditional.
Ginger and Spice tumbled into this world together. They'd never been apart in their 15+ years of life. Spice loved all three of us. Ginger loved Spice. She is struggling to make sense of this new world where she has only the humans left. Every once in a while, she'll curl up near me. She's currently snugged in beside me, as though she knows I'm writing something challenging. She'll never be the cuddle muffin her sister was; it's simply not who she is. But, I like to think that when she joins me, she finds some comfort in my proximity. I know I do in hers. It's a start. For both of us.
RIP sweet Spice. Thank you for sharing your life with us.
It's even easier to find me now. All of my links are one easy click away.
If you enjoy historical romance set in Regency-era England, I hope you'll check out Love Denied. It's the first novel in the series ...
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Someone asked me what the most difficult thing about having a dog was. I replied – the goodbye. – UnknownI began to take my writing seriously about fifteen years ago. Around the same time we got two little Lhasa Apso sisters. They were inseparab...