Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Off to Denver!

Not much to say from me and Regina this week. Like about 2000 other writers, we're off to Denver, Colorado for the Romance Writers of America's annual National Conference. We’ll be attending workshops on everything to do with the writing biz, from craft to business to maintaining health while parked in front of a computer for long periods of time (a definite occupational hazard.) We'll be seeing old friends and making new ones...but most important of all, we’ll be seeing each other! It’s not easy to see one of your dearest friends only once a year, but we manage to cram a lot of talking into the 4 ½ or so days we have together.
Stay tuned till next week, when we’ll have a full report. And now, I had better go finish packing because I’m outta here bright and early...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Don’t be Envious: Never Envy an Earl


Surprise! The third book in the Fortune’s Brides series, which was to be an August release, is out now. Because I could. There’s definitely something to be said for self-publishing. 😊

The saucy Yvette de Maupassant is used to danger. She’s spent the last 10 years spying for England in Napoleon’s court. Now that her work has been discovered, she must hide, and what better place than the remote wooded estate of the Earl of Carrolton? Her friend Miss Thorn and that delightful cat Fortune place her in a position where she can pretend to be companion to the earl’s sickly mother. Yet one look at the earl has Yvette rethinking why she wants to stay.

Gregory, Earl of Carrolton, is used to power. So why does one moment in the company of his mother and spinster sister leave him feeling powerless? And why does the look in a certain Frenchwoman’s eyes leave him weak at the knees? As danger draws closer, Gregory and Yvette must work together to protect her, his family, and the future of England, as they discover the greatest danger and delight is falling in love.

Here’s a little taste:

Gregory ventured into the chamber. He’d worked with his interior designer to make each of the one hundred rooms in Carrolton Park unique. This one had been inspired by spring, with sunny yellow walls, bed hangings patterned in jonquils and tulips, with matching fabric on the curved back chairs. The cornice of the bed and above each doorway was crowned with a gilded sun, its rays beaming out.

Against all that cheer, his mother, dressed in one of the black, lace-encrusted gowns she favored, looked a bit like a raven. Beside her tall, elegant frame, Yvette de Maupassant resembled a china doll.

And that hair! Cut as short as that of the infamous Caro Lamb, it curled about her piquant face in wild abandon. He could imagine running his fingers through the locks, silk springing beneath his touch.

He shook away the thought. Harry’s note, which had accompanied Lord Hastings’, indicated Gregory’s friend had rescued her from a prison house after her espionage had been discovered. For all Gregory knew, her captors had cut her hair to shame her. He should not find the look so appealing.

“Gregory!” His mother smiled at him, wrinkles crinkling around her pale eyes as she raised her ebony-headed cane. “You came to see me!”

She made it sound a rarity for all he tried to check on her at least once a day besides dinner when he was in residence.

“Mother,” he said, going to kiss her cheek. “You look busy.”

“Very,” she assured him, waving away the cream-colored linens a maid offered. “The blue, I said. I was very specific. Why do you all fail to listen?”

“They are doing splendidly,” Yvette corrected her. “See how nicely the blue complements the gold? And cream lace on the pillow cases—so inspired!”

The maid bobbed a curtsey, blushing at the praise.

He left his mother directing another servant in the making of the bed and drew Yvette aside.

“I must apologize,” he murmured, feeling like a hulking brute beside her. “I didn’t know Mother had subjected her previous companion to sleeping on a cot.”

She waved her hand. “It was easily remedied.”

The bustling about him did not look easy. And he could not like the way the room’s layout was being changed before his eyes. That black walnut trunk with the battered sides threw off the entire scheme. He looked to Marbury, who immediately came to him.

“My lord?” he asked.

“There’s a maple wardrobe in the north wing,” Gregory told him. “Have two of the footmen bring it here and remove that walnut monstrosity.”

He inclined his head. “At once, my lord.”

Yvette chuckled, the sound tickling him. “Monstrosity, he says. I am fortunate to even possess that.”

Gregory kept his chin up. “And while you are here I am determined that you will be surrounded by beauty, Miss…French.”

She laughed again. “You must practice, my lord. I am a poor companion, the lowly Miss French.” She fluttered her lashes in his direction.

“Perhaps you should practice,” he said with a smile. “You look and act nothing like a lowly companion.”

She made a moue. “But I am doing my best.”

“French!”

At his mother’s demand, Yvette hurried away from him. The sunny room seemed to dim. Once more he shook himself. What, had he been flirting? He was surprised he even knew how. She made every thought, every act, seem natural.

His mother may have taken the lead in redecorating, but he was fairly sure there was only one leader in the room, and that was clearly Yvette. Somehow, he thought Carrolton Park would never be the same.

The e-book is available at fine online retailers and the print book through Amazon:

Kobo 

Because only a matchmaking cat can hunt true love.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Between Silk and Sand...the Movie?


Well, a girl can dream, can't she? ☺

It may not be a movie, but I do have a book teaser video for my upcoming YA fantasy, Between Silk and Sand, that I'd love to share.



What do you think? This was enormous fun to make--looking for just the right image of my hero was the best part (and isn't he adorable?) Looking for other images to communicate the story and mood was a challenge at time, but also a lot of fun...and listening to dozens and dozens of music clips was as well. I hope it will inspire you to pick the book up when it comes out on July 31 (and it's available for pre-order now on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and GooglePlay, if you don't want to forget.)

Enjoy! And feel free to share!

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Real Foul Ness


When I was researching locations for Never Borrow a Baronet, I wanted a remote place on the Essex coast, which could have been used by smugglers. My hero, Sir Harry Atwood, fights a family reputation for dark deeds, so any history that aligned with villainy would have been most welcome as well. But what I stumbled upon exceeded even my hopes.


Foulness Island.

Foulness Island is a low-lying area on the east coast of Essex, cut off from the mainland by creeks and marshes that were once used by smugglers. (I raised Sir Harry’s home, Foulness Manor, and the mythical village of Foulness considerably higher in the book.) The name relates to a nesting area for waterfowl, today, most notably, a long-legged, black and white seabird called the avocet. Unless you had a boat, the only access to the island was via a track called the Broomway.


The Broomway runs out from the mainland across the treacherous Maplin Sands, mud flats that are completely submerged on high tide. From the picture, it appears wagons once braved the path, which was marked by brooms driven in on either side. Legend, and even current warning signs along the path, would have it that the tide comes in faster than a person can run. Heavy fog and sea mist compound the problem and make it even easier to lose your way. The Broomway is credited with at least 100 deaths over the years.

During the Regency period, Foulness Island boasted a post office, a store, and a church. The Church of England built a school in 1846, when the island had a population of 674, 120 of them children. One of the most popular spots on the island was the George and Dragon Pub, which hosted bare-knuckle brawls. The island itself was renowned as a home for outlaws and villainy, including wrecking, purposely leading ships in to land to wreck upon rocks so you could seize the cargo.

Foulness Island has yet to give up all its secrets. The land was purchased during World War I by the UK Ministry of Defence, which has conducted a number of tests, from the usual explosives to things atomic. The island is still only accessible through permit. Signs in the area warn travelers not to pick up anything, because it might go off!

May you get real bang out of your Fourth of July! Marissa and I will be off next week celebrating. See you the week of July 9th.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Regency Fabrics, Part 20

Regency Fabrics, Part 20

Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like.


Today’s four samples are from the August 1811 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is good: the page itself is most free of foxing and toning, though one of the samples is a little worse for the two hundred plus years since it was woven, and two have lost their color to a greater or lesser degree.

Here we go!

No. 1. A royal regency leno, for evening or full dress, calculated for the Turkish robes and Roman tunics now so fashionable in elegant circles. It should be worn over white satin, or sarsnet; and embellished with ornaments of pearl, diamonds, white cornelian, or the satin bead. This elegant article is furnished by Harris, Moody, and Co. Pall-Mall.


My comments: This is an attractively airy net style of fabric, elaborately woven of lovely silky thread in dark green, yellow, and dusty pink. While it’s mostly made of air, the style of weaving and heft to the threads gives it some weight. I do wish more Ackermann prints showed dresses made from the fabrics they advertised; it would be most instructive to see just what was done with a fabric like this, worn over white satin. I think I would have been terrified of catching it on jewelry or on something else and tearing the you-know-what out of it.

No. 2. A dove-coloured imperial gauze, adapted for the same order of costume, and to which the same jewellery ornaments are appropriate. Trimmings of fine lace, with decorations of wreaths and bouquets for the hair and bosom, are also becoming appendages to this neat and elegant article, which is furnished by Messrs. Coopers, Pall-Mall.


My comments: Another woven net, this time of all one color. This one feels a little less substantial than the first, despite its greater opacity. It would be charming as an overdress; I wonder if it was made up with the stripes oriented in the vertical or horizontal?

No. 3. A celestial blue penciled muslin, adapted for the intermediate order of dress. It is either made high, with a trimming of narrow lace round the throat, or formed in a low square bosom, finished with white embossed satin ribbon. With each the long sleeve is to be preferred, in this as in most other muslin articles.


My comments: Um...celestial blue? This sample has clearly suffered; the dye is gone, though the feathery little random pattern printed on has survived...and after a quick look around on the interwebz, mine is not the only one to have suffered. It’s not easy to say much about it as it seems to have been glued entirely down on the page, but it is a very loosely (if evenly) woven fabric.

No. 4. A pink muslin, with embossed green spot. This animated article is confined to the more youthful females, to whom it is most becomingly adapted. It should invariably be worn over white sarsnet, fine glazed cambric, or satin; and should be formed in the most plain and simple manner. No jewellery ornaments but white can be admitted to blend with this material, nor any but white flowers to be worn in the hair.

The last two articles are furnished by Messrs. T. and J. Smith, 43, Tavistock-street, Covent Garden.


My comments: Oh my goodness, more polka dots! Interesting that this fabric is only recommended for young women... The dots have faded to a not-very-attractive khaki brown, and look almost applied—as if someone plopped little blobs of paint onto the fabric at regular intervals. Like number three, this is a very open-weave muslin, but the threads are of fine, uniform gauge. I suspect the pink may have once been more intense, not the pale dusty pink of today.  This must have once been a very cheerful sort of “article.”

Any thoughts on this month’s fabrics?


Friday, June 22, 2018

Interview: Meredith Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency

I am pleased to have with us today Miss Meredith Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency. The raven-haired, lavender-eyed Miss Thorn recently featured in my Never Doubt a Duke and Never Borrow a Baronet and will shortly be involved in Never Envy an Earl. She and her beloved pet Fortune consented to sit for a brief interview. Welcome, Miss Thorn and Fortune.

Miss T: A pleasure.

Fortune consents to have the top of her head rubbed.

19T: A lady of your breeding generally doesn’t trouble herself with matters of trade. What led you to start the Fortune Employment Agency?

Miss T: I observed that many young women ended up going into service, of a sort—governesses, companions, teachers, and the like. In some cases, they were well treated, becoming cherished members of the family or the institution they served. In others, their lives became nothing short of drudgery, with little hope of change. I determined to change that.

19T: There are other employment agencies. Why is yours special?

Fortune pulls away to regard me as if I have suddenly forgotten something important.

Miss T: The Fortune Employment Agency is special because Fortune and I take great care in matching the situation to a lady’s particular needs. For example, Jane Kimball had lost her husband in battle, and with him any chance of having a family. I introduced her into a household where she had every opportunity to find a family of her own.

19T: Yes, I understand she’s shortly to be married. I received the invitation just the other day. A duke, no less.

Miss T, smiling: Yes, quite.

Fortune seems to be smiling as well.

19T: Why did you name your agency after your cat?

Miss T, turning her smile on the gray cat, who gazes back with copper-colored eyes: I’ve found Fortune to be very wise when it comes to determining the character of a lady and a gentleman.

19T: More skilled than you?

Miss T: Decidedly so. My discernment has failed once or twice, with disastrous results. Fortune’s never fails.

19T: Never?

Fortune turns her back on me.

Miss T: Not that I have found. She picked the Duke of Wey for Jane and Sir Harry Atwood for Patience. And she was quite fond of the Earl of Carrolton.

19T: Oh, who has Fortune matched to the earl?

Miss T: I am not at liberty to say.

19T: Fine. Then let’s talk further about you. You take your duty quite seriously, I see. Did you have a difficult time in service yourself?

Miss T, adjusting the lace at the cuffs of her lavender gown: Something like that.

19T: And has Fortune matched you with a gentleman?

Fortune: Meow!

Miss T: Now, now, none of that. I’m merely considering the matter. He has a long way to go to prove himself to me after how we parted.

19T: Do tell!

Miss T: I really should be going. Perhaps another time.

So, it seems Miss Thorn still has a few secrets she will not share. Never fear, dear reader, we will unearth them.

And so can you, in Never Borrow a Baronet. Here are the links one last time:

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Borrowing a Baronet


As many of you know, my publisher, Love Inspired, is closing its historical line as of this month. I’ve known for about a year. So, while my agent has been shopping for a new publisher for me (this can be a loooong, drawn-out process!), I started writing my Fortune’s Brides series with the intent of bringing out the first three quickly.

As in monthly.

This is a first for me, and so far readers seem to be happy about it. Therefore, I give you the publication last week of the second book in the series, Never Borrow a Baronet!

After caring for a crotchety countess, Patience Ramsey wants a more purposeful position. So, when Miss Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency offers her the post of assistant to amateur apothecary Augusta Orwell, Patience jumps at the chance. Then her new employer introduces her at an Easter house party as the bride-to-be of her nephew Sir Harold Orwell. Miss Thorn’s cat Fortune may approve of Sir Harry, but Patience has no interest in borrowing the handsome baronet. She’s had her heart trampled on by false promises before.

Sir Harry has enough on his hands trying to restore the family name while spying for the English against the French. But the pretty Patience could cover for him when he must ply his trade during the house party, so he convinces her to agree to the charade. As Harry’s work brings danger closer, he begins to realize Patience embodies everything he could want in a wife. Can he convince her to overlook the scandals surrounding him and exchange their false engagement for a true love?

If you have read Never Doubt a Duke, you may remember Patience as the friend of heroine Jane Kimball. I’m delighted to give the practical companion her own book, and with a particularly dashing hero. Here’s a little taste:

Patience gripped the coal shuttle. She couldn’t doubt the intruder’s words. Even in the dim light, she could make out the features of Sir Harold Orwell. His hair was even more mussed than in the portrait, and that square chin was more solid. He wore no cravat and seemed to be holding one arm slightly behind him. Still, to blunder in through the window? Surely even in this unusual household that should be considered odd.

Perhaps it was the lateness of the hour or the ruse she had agreed to perpetrate against her better judgment, but she had no trouble stating her opinion this time.

“Your aunt assigned me to this room,” she informed her visitor. “Had you consulted her first, you might have saved yourself the trouble of climbing in the window.”

“Ah, but I chose to climb through the window to prevent having that discussion with my aunt.” He had the audacity to wink at her. “A gentleman never kisses and tells, you know.”

So, that was it. He’d been out cavorting and didn’t want Gussie to learn the truth. Disappointment bit sharply.

“Be that as it may,” she told him, “I’m certain since you were raised in this house you could find another suitable bedchamber far sooner than I could. See yourself out, sir.”

“Happy to oblige, madam,” he said with a lopsided bow that likely spoke of the state of his sobriety. “Once I locate a change of clothes.”

He started for the wardrobe on the far wall, and Patience took a step closer, shuttle up against her shoulder.

“You’ll find no suitable clothes in here,” she informed him. “Mr. Cuddlestone moved your things elsewhere.”

He jerked to a stop, and she clutched the shuttle tighter. How was she to know whether he was the sort to accost the servants, or a lady he probably thought was one of his aunt’s guests? She had never met anyone who took liberties while inebriated, but her friend Jane had been discharged from her previous post because of a master who had lost his head.

But as he stopped and turned to face her, the arm he had tried so hard to hide came into view, wrapped in a cloth stained red.

With blood.

Patience gasped, and the shuttle slipped from her fingers to clang against the floor. “Your arm. You’ve been injured.”

He glanced down at the makeshift bandage as if surprised to find it affixed to him. “Yes, it appears so. Hence the need for a change of clothes.”

Patience shook her head. “That requires tending. It will turn septic if you don’t take a care.”

He eyed her a moment. “Who are you, exactly?”

She bobbed a curtsey, feeling her cheeks heat. “Patience Ramsey, your aunt’s new assistant.”

He reared back. “I will not allow Gussie’s preparations on my person.”

Patience raised her brows. “Are they so horrid?”

“You’ll have to ask the previous assistant. I believe she finally regained the use of her fingers, but I expect that rash will last for some time.”

Patience swallowed, then noticed the gleam in those blue eyes. “You’re making fun of me.”

“Never, madam,” he assured her. “But I can tend to my own wounds.”

“One-handed? Or have you a manservant you can enlist?”

That seemed to stop him. She could almost see the thoughts flying behind his eyes. If he didn’t want his aunt to know of his midnight prowl, perhaps he didn’t want the servants to know either. But, of course, someone would notice the ruined coat. Just like the master not to think of that.

“Very well,” he allowed, going to perch on the chair near the fire. “I would appreciate your assistance, Miss Ramsey. Thank you.”

So meek. She didn’t trust him for an instant.

You can find Never Borrow a Baronet as an ebook through fine retailers and in print from Amazon:

Kobo