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WINNER! Secrets & Scandals Volume One

CONGRATULATIONS!

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The winner of Darcy Burke’s Secrets & Scandals Volume One is Eileen Dandashi! Thank you everyone for stopping in to help me celebrate the release of THE DE VALERY CODE. Don’t forget to get your copy!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | All Romance eBooks | Smashwords

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Duchess Release – The de Valery Code by Darcy Burke

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Hello Friends! I’m delighted to welcome you to the drawing room today to celebrate the release of the first book in my new Regency Treasure Hunters series, THE DE VALERY CODE. And as long as we’re celebrating, I’m thrilled to announce that I’m a brand new USA Today Bestselling Author as of yesterday, when the ten-author anthology I’m part of, TEMPTED BY HIS TOUCH, hit the USA Today Bestsellers List at #91. Huzzah!

But today isn’t about me, it’s about Rhys and Margery, the adventurous hero and heroine of THE DE VALERY CODE. Here’s the official blurb:

Miss Margery Derrington and her dear aunts are in dire straits. Their discovery of a rare medieval manuscript will hopefully stave off their creditors—if it’s worth what they hope. Margery reluctantly allies with a reclusive scholar to use the book to pursue a treasure that could exceed her expectations. Amidst danger, secrets, and an insatiable attraction, is Margery gambling just her financial future . . . or her heart?

Academic Rhys Bowen can’t believe he has his hands on the elusive de Valery text. Solving its hidden code and unearthing its legendary treasure would establish him as one of Britain’s leading antiquarians, finally casting him out of his brilliant late father’s shadow. But when a centuries-old organization convinces Rhys of the perils of disturbing the past, he must choose between his conscience…and the captivating woman he’s sworn to help.

I had a wonderful time writing THE DE VALERY CODE. After researching many different UK-based legends and artifacts, I ultimately decided to use Arthurian legend as the basis for the treasures in the series. Whether or not King Arthur was an actual person is a matter of considerable debate, but what’s more interesting to me is how he became an icon over centuries of storytelling–both in oral and written form. The power we wield as storytellers is massive! I created my own twist on the legends, focusing on the tales of a knight (who isn’t really based on anyone specific) and the artifacts or treasures, as it were, he accumulates. The Thirteen Treasures mentioned in the book appear in various stories (the Deathly Hallows are supposedly based on them) and I simply adapted them to fit the story I wanted to tell. Ah, artistic license! I did base things in the book on information we do know: that Arthur probably lived in the late 5th century, if he lived at all, and that there are many places in Wales (and beyond) where he could have lived and traveled. I used some of those locations in THE DE VALERY CODE and you’ll see more in the rest of the series. I hope you’ll stay tuned to see what they’re searching for next!

While the treasure hunt sets a great background, Margery and Rhys are center stage. They have a lot of delicious banter in this book, which was so fun to write! Here’s a snippet from a late-night meeting in the library . . .

Excerpt

She tipped her head to read the cover of the book he held, but there was no title on it. “What are you reading?”

He glanced down at the tome. “A book of poetry from the twelfth century.”

“What language?”

His dark gaze found hers and held. “Welsh.”

“You speak medieval Welsh?”

“I read medieval Welsh. There is a massive difference.”

She smiled at the humor in his tone. “I’m sure. What other languages can you read?”

He leaned against the bookshelf, which brought his chest almost in contact with her shoulder. “Latin, Greek, medieval English of course, Italian, French, some German.”

She also turned so that her side was against the bookshelf, so she could face him straight-on. “My goodness, that must’ve taken years to master.” How old was he anyway? She’d guessed him to be within five years of her.

He shrugged, and the familiar touch of hubris that she found attractive—in moderation—came out. “Once you learn one, the rest come easily.”

“I can’t imagine it’s that way for everyone. I’m sure you worked hard.”

“I did.” There was no sense of pride in his answer, just a confidence that she found ridiculously alluring. “Do you read any languages?” He reached out and tucked a loose curl behind her ear.

She struggled to remember his question. Languages? “Um, yes. French and a little Latin. I actually speak the French in addition to reading it, however.”

“Well done.” His whispered words caressed her, and the heat swirling in her belly heated to a slow burn.

Pick up your copy of THE DE VALERY CODE today at your favorite online retailer for just $3.99!

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Giveaway

I’m giving one lucky commenter an electronic copy of Secrets and Scandals Volume One, the first three books in my first historical series. Are you a fan of King Arthur? Do you think he actually lived? Do you have a favorite movie depiction of the Knights of the Round Table? First Knight with Richard Gere and Sean Connery, perhaps? Or maybe the Clive Owen/Keira Knightley epic, King Arthur? My personal favorite is probably Monty Python and the Holy Grail. ;)

 

 

What a Lady Craves and Mary Wollstonecraft

So what does a lady crave? According to Mary Wollstonecraft, it was independence, equality and a proper education. Born in the latter half of the eighteenth century, Mary Wollstonecraft lived during the Enlightenment, a time when the basic nature of man came under much discussion among the philosophers of the day. But what of women? Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the first feminists.

 

Mary Wollsonecraft by John Opie, from the Tate museum

Mary Wollsonecraft by John Opie, from the Tate museum

At the age of nineteen, she helped her sister Eliza escape and hide from an abusive husband until a legal separation was arranged. The two sisters established a school and Wollstonecraft later found employment as a governess. These experiences led her to consider the status of women during her era, along with their education.

 

Women’s education at the time was vastly different from men. A well-rounded man was expected to demonstrate knowledge of Latin and mathematics, whether or not he attended university. Young ladies, on the other hand, were expected to demonstrate skill at feminine accomplishments such as dancing, water color, and embroidery. She might also impress society with an ability at French or Italian, but such complexities as mathematics were considered beyond the feminine ability.

 

In her Vindication on the Rights of Woman and Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, Mary Wollstonecraft begged to differ. She advocated for the equality of the sexes while setting aside the prevailing view of women as weak and helpless. Women, through the way families raised them, were taught these qualities. They were even enslaved into sentimentality and foolishness. Through a proper education, they might realize their own capacities to the fullest and break free of society’s view of them as mere domestic adornment. Many of these ideas were taken up in future generations when the women’s movement of the twentieth century took off.

 

While Mary Wollstonecraft viewed marriage as a form of tyranny, she was not immune to falling in love. She lived as a What a Lady Craves_Quote_Covercommon law wife to Gilbert Imlay and bore him a daughter before he deserted her. In the wake of the break-up, she tried to drown herself. Later, she took up with William Godwin, marrying him when she became pregnant with a second daughter. This daughter eventually became known for her own contributions to literature as the author of Frankenstein.

 

Henrietta Upperton, the heroine of my new release What a Lady Craves has had her own difficulties with love. After a jilting, she turns to the works of Mary Wollstonecraft as comfort. But what happens to her ideas of feminine independence when her former betrothed comes back into her life, and she realizes her feelings for him haven’t gone away?

 

Here’s the blurb:

Henrietta Upperton is about to marry Alexander Sanford when he rushes off to India to salvage his family’s fortune. Then comes the devastating news that he has wed another. Eight agonizing years later, a storm washes Alexander ashore—injured, widowed, and hunted—and one glimpse of his ruggedly handsome face reawakens the desire Henrietta thought she had buried deep inside. Her body still yearns for his touch, but she’s determined not let him wound her again . . . not this time.

For Alexander, honor always comes first. Only too late does he realize that when given the choice between two virtuous deeds, he picked the wrong one. On the run with his life in tatters and a pair of daughters in tow, Alexander burns for Henrietta. He knows he does not deserve forgiveness. And yet he longs to wrap his arms around her warm body once again. What’s more, he is sure the lady craves the same.

A lucky commenter will win a copy of What a Lady Craves, along with a Barnes and Noble Gift card.

My publisher is also doing a giveaway in conjunction with this release. You can sign up for that through Rafflecopter.

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Buy links: Barnes and Noble Books a Million Indigo

The Counterfeit Lady and Bismarck’s spies

The_Counterfeit_LadyWhen I wrote The Counterfeit Lady, out August 5th, I decided to pit my late Victorian sleuth, Georgia Fenchurch, against the premier espionage network in Europe at that time. I knew that the German spy ring reached across the continent in the late nineteenth century, but I had no idea how interesting their work was.

Bismarck’s espionage network was set up by an enterprising lawyer named Wilhelm Stieber. Stieber wrote “The Chancellor’s Spy: Memoirs of the Founder of Modern Espionage.” While this work is considered a work of self-aggrandizement, there is a kernel of truth in it.

Bismarck’s goal was to unify all the little German states under the Prussian king, with himself as chancellor. To do this, he started three strategic small wars with Denmark, Austria, and France. Before each one, Stieber went into the region and gathered information and built a spy network. This helped Prussia win quickly and decisively, impressing the rulers of the little German states.

Stieber’s spy networks were made up of shopkeepers, servants, train personnel, and peddlers. It is said he even set up brothels aimed at foreign soldiers in an attempt to learn the secrets of foreign armies. Another story said during the Franco-Prussian war, his spies would set fires behind French military targets for the Prussian cannons to aim at, greatly increasing their accuracy.

Once Germany was unified under the Prussian king, Bismarck continued to use Stieber’s spy network. Now this network was spread to every country in Europe, including Britain. Because of Stieber’s groundbreaking work, Germany was far ahead of every other country except Russia. That was because Stieber set up their espionage apparatus, too!

At one time early in his career, Stieber had to leave Prussia due to his dishonesty and he traveled to Russia. There he helped set up Ohkrana, the foreign section of the Tsar’s secret police that hunted down dissidents who had escaped Russia. Ohkrana was the forerunner of the KGB. Once a new king ruled Prussia, Stieber was free to return and he then built the German espionage network that was of great use in both world wars. It’s not an overstatement to say Stieber, who died in 1882, greatly affected events for the next century.

In The Counterfeit Lady, a cousin of Georgia’s friend Lady Phyllida is murdered and the plans of a revolutionary new warship are stolen. Germany was busy building their navy at that time and a naval arms race had begun across the globe. Georgia, aided by the Duke of Blackford, finds herself in a race with a German master spy for those ship plans. Learn more at www.KateParkerbooks.com

 

 

Courtesans and THE COURTESAN DUCHESS

The Courtesan Duchess I’m very excited to show off my pretty new cover for my April, 2015 debut historical romance, THE COURTESAN DUCHESS.

Did I mention it’s my FIRST cover? So thrilling!

During the writing of this story, I had a lot of fun researching famous courtesans. The life was often uncertain with many difficulties, including financial as well as physical, yet some women were able to use the position to great advantage. Their hairstyles and fashions were copied by Society ladies. Their lifestyles were extravagant. They influenced politics, art, and literature…. The list goes on and on.

So without further ado, I give you my 3 Favorite Famous Courtesans:

1. Madame de Pompadour, long-time mistress of King Louis XV

Her nickname was “Reinette” (“little Queen”), which was fitting since she managed to charm the King of France while managing a cordial relationship with the Queen of France at the same time. Madame de Pompadour founded her own salon, advised on diplomatic matters, planned buildings, and was friends with Voltaire. Even after she and the king ceased to be lovers, they remained close friends.

2. Elizabeth Armistead, mistress to Charles James Fox

Though she started out in a high-class brothel, she eventually amassed a fortune in annuities from aristocrats. When she fell in love with Fox, they were both in their early 30s and enjoying their celebrity status. Fox, one of the premiere politicians of the age, was devoted to her and ended up marrying her. It’s a romance guaranteed to make even the most cynical heart swell.

3. Harriette Wilson, Regency courtesan and attempted blackmailer

Where to even start? Saucy, brazen, and witty, Harriette made her aristocratic suitors work hard for her favors. “I will be the mere instrument of pleasure to no man.  He must make a friend and companion of me, or he will lose me,” she once said. She seemed to be headstrong from an early age, saying she would, “live free as air from any restraint but that of my conscience.” Perhaps it was something in the family water, as she and three of her sisters ended up as courtesans. As Harriette wrote her memoirs, which were published in 1825, she famously blackmailed many of her former lovers in exchange for not mentioning them in her book. Wellington did not bow to her fiduciary demands, telling her to “publish, and be damned.”

Title: The general out-generalled, or, first come, first served. Wellington demands attention outside a house, while Duke of Argyll, inside with Harriette Wilson, pretends not to recognize him.

Title: The general out-generalled, or, first come, first served. Wellington demands attention outside a house, while Duke of Argyll, inside with Harriette Wilson, pretends not to recognize him.

If you’re interested in learning more about courtesans, I highly recommend Katie Hickman’s book Courtesans: Money, Sex and Fame in the Nineteenth Century.

Here’s the blurb for THE COURTESAN DUCHESS:

How to seduce an estranged husband—and banish debt!—in four wickedly improper, shockingly pleasurable steps…

  1. Learn the most intimate secrets of London’s leading courtesan.
  2. Pretend to be a courtesan yourself, using the name Juliet Leighton.
  3. Travel to Venice and locate said husband.
  4. Seduce husband, conceive an heir, and voilà, your future is secure!

For Julia, the Duchess of Colton, such a ruse promises to be foolproof. After all, her husband has not bothered to lay eyes on her in eight years, since their hasty wedding day when she was only sixteen. But what begins as a tempestuous flirtation escalates into full-blown passion—and the feeling is mutual. Could the man the Courtesan Duchess married actually turn out to be the love of her life?

It’s available for pre-order now. Also visit my website for a chance to win autographed paperback copies of all three Wicked Deceptions books.

So tell me, who is your favorite “other” woman?

Duchess Release: Tempted by His Touch

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Hello friends! I hope you’re having a lovely summer, my the days have been flying by! I am thrilled to be a part of the ten-author boxed set Tempted by His Touch: A Limited Edition Boxed Set of Dukes, Rogues, & Alpha Heroes Historical Romance Novels. It features nine wonderful historical romance authors–besides me–some of whom I know you’ll find familiar! The best part is that this amazing set is just 99 CENTS!! But grab your copy fast because after September 21 it disappears forever!

Here’s what you need to know about the books in this great set!

A boxed set with ten sizzling historical romances from ten bestselling historical romance authors. Fall in love with fabulous tales of  intrigue, suspense, wit, and passion featuring dukes, rogues, alpha heroes…and the women who can’t resist them. JUST 99 CENTS from July 27 – Sept. 21—then it disappears FOREVER!

Scoundrel Ever After by Darcy Burke - Once upon a time there was a very bad boy who met a very nice girl….

Lady of Pleasure by Delilah Marvelle – Educating a man in the art of love takes time. Lots of it.

Sonata for a Scoundrel by Anthea Lawson - Passion and secrets simmer against the glittering backdrop of 19th century musical celebrity.

To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield by Bronwen Evans – What’s a lady to do when a notorious rake wins her estate in a game of cards?

Undone by Lila DiPasqua – One steamy, emotionally charged retelling of Rapunzel…Rescuing this beauty from the ‘tower’ is only the beginning…

The Problem with Seduction by Emma Locke - Elizabeth Spencer needs a man. She doesn’t need to like him—because while she needs a man, she doesn’t particularly want one.

A Dangerous Invitation by Erica Monroe – Daniel O’Reilly returns to win back Kate Morgan’s heart and prove he’s innocent of murder.

Once Upon a Duke by Eva Devon – A widow looking to get seduced. A duke more than willing to oblige.

Great & Unfortunate Desires by Gina Danna - A marquis with a guilty past takes a bride in a world where love is fatal.

Dark Surrender By Erica Ridley – Trapped in darkness…. Their passion burns bright!

We’re doing a blog tour to celebrate our LIMITED EDITION boxed set and the Dashing Duchesses is just one stop on our fun-filled jaunt. I hope you’ll join us elsewhere and be sure to sign up for our rafflecopter giveaway (see below)–an iPad Mini! The contest runs until the set disappears on September 21.

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Be sure to join us at our Facebook Party this Wednesday, July 30 from 6-11 pm EST. There will be many guest authors and giveaways, you won’t want to miss this soiree!

https://www.facebook.com/events/250318105177956/?fref=ts

Without further ado, I’d like to highlight one of our authors, the spectacular Bronwen Evans. Her entry in the set, TO DARE THE DUKE OF DANGERFIELD is quite delicious! We’re doing a Q&A with Bronwen, plus she’s got an excerpt for us from TO DARE THE DUKE OF DANGERFIELD.

Q&A with Bronwen Evans

What’s your favorite historical romance? Whitney My Love by Judith McNaught

What is the first romance novel you ever read? A Mills and Boon by Penny Jordan, I can’t remember the title but it made me cry and then gave me the HEA and I was hooked.

Would you want to live in the time you write about? What would you love? Hate? Probably not no. Women had very few rights and I’m far too opinionated. I would be a wallflower for sure. I’d love the the balls and sleeping late. I’d hate everything else, especially the uncomfortable clothes.

If given the choice between a duke, a rogue, or an alpha hero, which would you choose? An alpha hero, duke who was a rogue.

What tempts you? (Chocolate, caviar, long walks on the beach…) Tall, dark and handsome! Especially if coupled with chocolate and a cup of tea!

Rapid fire round:

Designer purses or Target special? Designer purse

Heels or flip flops? flip flops

Rich or famous? Rich – famous is too intrusive

American hottie or sexy Brit? sexy Brit

Where’s your happy place? in my writing room with my puppy, Brandy at my feet.

Excerpt from TO DARE THE DUKE OF DANGERFIELD:

Scene set up: At the first challenge

Their gazes clashed, and annoyance coursed through her veins—mixed with something that edged the annoyance higher. Excitement. His dark-lashed, grey eyes twinkled. The man knew precisely the impact his arrival was having on her.

Caitlin’s lips parted. Her heart pounded against her corset, which was obviously tied far too tightly. She had to remind herself to breathe. In. Out. Ignore him.

“I must say how lovely you look, however, I still prefer you in trousers.”

His husky declaration broke the spell that held her captive. “Then I shall ensure never to wear trousers again,” she said, warmth flaring in her cheeks.

He straightened. “Quite right. My apologies.” His little bow mocked her. “I don’t prefer you in trousers. I’d prefer you in nothing at all.”

TEMPTED BY HIS TOUCH GIVEAWAY

Grand Prize :iPad Mini (16GB) with surprise bonus print books [Open to US/CA]

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Welcome Kate Noble, Guest Author

kate-photoI am so pleased to host the wonderful Kate Noble to the Duchesses today. I first discovered this talented writer waaaaaay back during 2010, during my first attempt to write a book, when I discovered a little gem she wrote called The Summer of You. I was immediately struck by Kate’s rich writing style, her lovely prose, and most of all her witty dialogue, which made you feel like you were conversing with friends. Reading it inspired me to reach deeper and find my voice (which was lurking about in the shadows and laughing at me at the time.)

She is also one of the writers for the popular online Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a contemporary video version of Pride and Prejudice.

And she has this amazing, spiral-curled blonde hair that I am determined to give my next heroine.

Which means I harbor a serious girl-crush here.

game_450When Kate asked me to host her for her new release, The Game and the Governess, I leaped at the chance. After all, what sane person would turn down an opportunity to read Kate’s latest release before it’s available in stores?

Welcome Kate! Tell us a bit about your new book, The Game and the Governess.

I’m so ridiculously excited that the first in my new Winner Takes All series is hitting the shelves! The Game and the Governess is the story of The Earl of Ashby, known to his friends as Lucky Ned. He’s always had luck – he lucked into his title, he was lucky on the battlefield, but he hates being called lucky in love. He’s always maintained that it’s his charms, not his title or money, that has brought him so much female attention. And to prove it, he makes a wager with his friend and secretary John Turner – on an upcoming trip to the countryside, they switch places. And if Ned can get any young lady to fall in love with him, he’ll prove once and for all that his personality is more potent than his pocketbook.

But then, Ned meets governess Phoebe Baker. And absolutely nothing after that goes according to plan.

 

As the story opens, our heroine, Phoebe Baker, is being turned out of her finishing school after the death of her father, nursing a hatred for the man she believes is responsible for her sad state of affairs. Tell us a bit about what Phoebe is thinking and feeling–given that this is a major source for the book’s external conflict, why are her feelings justified?

When the book begins, Phoebe is very young and very lost. Her father’s recent death and the realization that her path in life will be very different from what she expect has taken a hard toll on her, and she’s looking for someone to blame. She chooses the Earl of Ashby, because she discovers that even though they never met, he was in a position to warn her father about some bad investments, and didn’t as to protect himself.

Phoebe’s lashing out against the Earl is justified by her pain, but it doesn’t last long. Several years after the fact, Phoebe may hold a simmer of resentment against the Earl of Ashby, but she refuses to let it define her life. Long ago, she realized she was in charge of her own happiness, and consciously decides to act accordingly, regardless of any bad luck in her past.  It’s her secret strength.

 However, that doesn’t mean that being confronted by the Earl of Ashby for the first time doesn’t give her pause. But more surprising is that his secretary seems to pop up wherever she is…

 

The hero Ned (Lord Edward Granville, Earl of Ashby) and his secretary and friend, John Turner, play a dangerous game in this book, namely placing a life-changing wager that Ned can win a lady’s heart without the crutch of his title. This is a pretty unheroic thing to do, given that to win Ned must play fast and loose with a lady’s heart. Were you concerned this might alienate him to readers? Why is the action in keeping with the man he is at the start? How does he change during the course of the book?

I’m always far more interested in heroes who are not white knights, but instead are flawed and have to overcome those flaws to be worthy of the heroine’s love. Ned’s flaw is his obliviousness. He’s lived with privilege for a long, long time, not having to think about anyone besides himself. He doesn’t think about how his wager will affect any young woman he would be wooing, because he’s not thinking about the woman. He’s thinking about winning. By the time he realizes that Phoebe is a person, with thoughts and feelings that can be hurt and damaged, he realizes too that his heart is tangled up in the bargain, and doesn’t know how to fix it.

If Ned’s flaws alienate readers, that’s unfortunate, but I would say… keep reading. He grows. He learns. And that’s what makes him interesting to me.

 

I would definitely agree that he grows so much during the book! By the end of it, I was completely invested in his happy ending. One of the things I loved about this book is that despite the premise being built around a disreputable wager and a lie, you didn’t let minor misunderstandings (or falsehoods) dictate the course of Phoebe’s and Ned’s relationship. To my mind, Ned reveals elements of the wager shockingly early, which helps Phoebe understand his actions and paves the way for genuine affection to develop. Had you planned that, or did the character of Ned insist on some degree of honesty as you were writing him?

Honestly, that came out in the writing. Ned thinks of himself as a good person, but he’s lived in a bubble that makes him a bit oblivious. So when he realizes that he’s being as untruthful as he is, but is stuck carrying through with the lie, he tells what truths he can. And it’s that moment of desperate honesty that is the first thing Phoebe believes out of his mouth. It opens the door to letting them grow closer.

 

Speaking of growing closer, I’ve always felt one of the most lovely things about your books is that the relationships never feel rushed, more that they develop at a satisfying, slow burn. Does this match your general feelings on life and love?

Absolutely. I’ve never been a love (or even lust) at first sight kind of person. For me, the best part of falling in love (or writing people falling in love) isn’t the yearning, it’s the learning.

In fact, the reason I ever attempted to start writing a book way back when was I was reading a romance novel wherein the lead characters met in chapter one, and chapter two opened with the hero’s interior monologue declaring he was in love with the heroine. I was baffled that the author had skipped the best part!

 

I love that wanting a realistic approach to love actually lead you to write in the first place. But I am not entirely happy with you. Despite my appreciation for the story you crafted, I couldn’t help but be annoyed, Lady Noble. You provided the reader with a shell of a secondary story line (i.e. that of John Turner falling for Leticia, the Countess of Churzy), suggesting their own tumultuous love story was unfolding behind closed doors, but not spilling any of the details. I cry foul! Please tell us John and Leticia’s story is not far behind…

Their story is next, never fear! The Lie and the Lady is next in the “Winner Takes All” series, and you’ll learn a lot more about John and Leticia.

 

What other things can we look forward to in your delicious new series? Perhaps something about the dreamy Dr. Rhys Gray, secondary character extraordinaire? *bats eyes in a pleading fashion*

The dashing Dr. Gray will be making an appearance again in the next book, and then might be graduating to hero status on his own. Now, if only he could find a heroine… (are you volunteering?)

I volunteer! I volunteer!

And thank you so much for joining us Kate! Now the question the readers are no doubt clamoring for… would you like to do a giveaway?

Absolutely! Since this whole story starts with a wager, I’ll ask – what’s the strangest bet you’ve ever made? One random commenter will get a signed copy of The Game and the Governess! (US only, please).

Welcome Debut Author Jessica Peterson!

Dear Readers, I have been watching Jessica Peterson’s books for months. (A Duchess would never be so uncouth as to stalk *cough cough*). Long before release day I was checking Amazon and Barnes & Noble for the pre-order link. This series is exactly the type of book I want to read, and I was so excited I asked her visit with the Duchesses to celebrate her debut release THE GENTLEMAN JEWEL THIEF! After all, who knows better how to throw a soiree than a Duchess?

Cover-TGJTJessica once described the book as the Thomas Crown Affair meets Jane Austen, which made me want these books so badly! I love historical, I love adventure and I love Thomas Crown/Pierce Brosnan (but I write about spies so, you know, Bond and all that).

Alyssa: And so, tell our lovely Duchesses about your debut release! I happen to love The Thomas Crown Affair. What made you choose to incorporate that concept into the story?

Jessica: Firstly, thank you for having me here on Dashing Duchesses – and a special thanks to Alyssa for being so kind as to reach out and invite me! I adore your blog and visit it to keep up on all my Regency romance news.

When I began doing research for my Regency-set novel, I came across an interesting tid bit: the French Blue, later known as the Hope Diamond, mysteriously appeared in London in 1812. It had been missing for over two decades, stolen during the French Revolution from the Royal Warehouse in Paris. While there’s evidence the jewel traveled across Europe and back again during that time, no one really knows who possessed it, or how it ended up in London. As a writer, this tantalizing mystery was too juicy to pass up!

I met my agent for lunch in New York a few months later, and together we brainstormed some ideas for a Regency-set trilogy that featured the diamond. She was the one who came up with a “gentleman jewel thief” – a Mr. Darcy-meets-Thomas Crown character. I’ve loved The Thomas Crown Affair since the first time I saw it years ago (I mean, come on, it’s Pierce Brosnan in all his hairy-chested glory!), so I freaked out (in the best way) about having the chance to create such a stud-muffin bad boy. We thought each book could follow a different character: book one would follow the gentleman jewel thief (later the Earl of Harclay), book two the man he stole from (Thomas Hope), and book three the investigator/spy/private eye hired to catch the thief (Henry Lake).

Alyssa: I know! I have the DVD of The Thomas Crown Affair and watch it all the time. Both Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo are fabulous in that movie, not to mention Dennis Leary. Which brings me to my next question. If you could dreamcast your hero and heroine, who would they be?

Jessica: I love this question, because I usually have a (smokin’ hot) actor and (sassy) actress in mind as I write. I’m a very visual writer, and see scenes as I write them as I would watch scenes in a movie; it helps me figure out what the setting looks like, who the characters are, and what physical cues help create a sense of character and place.

I was watching a lot of costume dramas while I wrote THE GENTLEMAN JEWEL THIEF – namely, THE BORGIAS – so I’d say I’d cast that curly-haired dude who played Cesare Borgia (Francois Arnaud) as the Earl of Harclay. He’s a dark-eyed babe who I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing on the set of my movie.

As for my heroine, Lady Violet Rutledge, I would cast Katy Perry (weirdo combo of actors, I know) or maybe Olivia Wilde. Like Violet, both Katy and Olivia are feisty, inappropriate, super smart, gorgeous, and always down for a good time.

Alyssa: Great dreamcast! So, now, what do you find intriguing about history?

 Jessica:Another great question. One of my biggest regrets is not majoring in history in college; after English/literature, it’s definitely my favorite subject (see THE BORGIAS above!). There’s something familiar, and thrillingly foreign, about the past. I love L. P. Hartley’s quote – “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” – and it’s endlessly cool to explore that country. The people who lived there; the way those people lived, how they loved, what inspired them. There’s a certain romance in imagining what life would’ve been like without Facebook and phones; what it would’ve been like to wear a hand-sewn silk ball gown, or flirt with men who could actually dance.

I think women have always dreamed – and will continue to dream – about falling for a man who can dance.

Alyssa: I feel the same way about history. I love little stone cottages and falling down barns, historical villages—anything that reminds me of the people who came before. Have you ever gone on a research trip for your books? What did you love, hate or gasp over?

Jessica: Yes! A few trips, actually. I studied abroad in Madrid while I was a junior in college, and it was my first real foray into European culture. To say I adored the Old World was an understatement. I was endlessly charmed, thrilled, and inspired by the history and, of course, the castles and palaces. I loved how people spent hours talking, drinking, arguing over meals (and in the middle of the day!). I loved the romance of life there; the appreciation of culture, of history, and of one’s place in it.

My husband took me to England for the first time last summer. We thought we’d died and went to heaven – the food, the weather, the city – it was all perfection. I remember doing a cheesy tour of the Tower of London with the five million other tourists in the city that day; we walked into the Norman Chapel (or St. John’s Chapel) and I remember getting chills from thinking about all the history that had happened here, in this room, in the past one thousand years. Nuts.

I also remember walking down the aisle in St. Paul’s cathedral and thinking about Princess Diana. What had she thought – how had she felt – walking down that same aisle to marry Charles on her wedding day more than thirty years ago?

Alyssa: Alas, I have yet to travel to England, but I’m planning on it for 2016! Can’t wait! But now, on to the nitty-gritty of writing. Is there anything you find particularly challenging while crafting a story? Are you a plotter or pantser?

 Jessica:I’m a total pantser, so plotting is a “special” challenge for me. My jumping off point is usually a scene, a sentence, a character dashing through the darkened streets of Mayfair, and I just go from there. I always, always, always hit a roadblock about a third of the way through the first draft; once I get past that, I usually have a good idea of where the story is going.

Alyssa: Oh, yes. The 33% roadblock. I have the same problem! The key is pushing through it, isn’t it? What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Jessica: Ooooh, I like this question. I wouldn’t say this is a quirk, per se, but I tend to spend a lot of time in my “office”– Starbucks – and I find that, when I’m thinking and/or writing, I tend to stare off into space – only to find I’m staring, weirdly and for the eighth time, at the strange man at the table across from mine. Creepy, I know.

Alyssa: Ha! Since I’ve done that (not at Starbucks, but my local indie coffee shop), I wouldn’t find it creepy. Mostly. What is on your desk right now?

Jessica:I’m going to take the liberty of answering this question literally. I’m under deadline for book #3 of THE HOPE DIAMOND trilogy, so my desk is a hot mess – think lots of books for research, lots of romance novels for inspiration, and lots of empty candy wrappers.

Alyssa: What is it about snacks that helps us think? I’m a sucker for potato chips, so there’s always a partially full bag on my desk! Thanks for stopping by, Jessica, and sharing your debut release! And, Dear Readers, Jessica is giving away two copies of THE GENTLEMAN JEWEL THIEF over on her website today. Leave a comment on today’s blog post at www.jessicabeterson.com/blog for a chance to win!

Jessica: Thanks, ladies, for having me!

And now, after you’ve all become acquainted with the lovely Jessica (and entered her giveaway, I hope!), here is an excerpt from THE GENTLEMAN JEWEL THIEF!

Lady Violet suddenly grew very still; the color faded from her cheeks, and her smile drew itself into a frown. He watched her eyes go wide as the realization dawned on her, the pieces of the puzzle falling into place at last.

Somewhere in the trees above, birds twittered and flitted about them; the springtime afternoon marched onward as if today was but one of a string of simple, idle days, each the same as the last.

But for Harclay and Lady Violet, today was not quite so simple, nor so idle. It was suddenly complicated, mined with explosive truths and well-played deceptions and a most thrilling episode of physical encounter. It was impossible, it was improbable.

And great God above, it thrilled Harclay to no end. He hadn’t felt such excitement since he was a boy, and allowed to accompany his father on the hunt for the first time. He would never forget the way the rifle felt in his hands, the pounding of his heart as he took aim.

Granted, he’d ended up shooting the poor loader in the arse, a crime for which dear papa had whipped him senseless. But the thrill remained imprinted on Harclay’s imagination nonetheless; the same thrill he now experienced under the accusatory gaze of Lady Violet Rutledge.

She took a deep breath, all the while her blue-grey eyes never leaving his.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” she said, swallowing. “You’re the thief who stole the French Blue!”

 Amazon   |    Barnes & Noble   |   Books-A-Million

Peterson-Back-Cover

 

Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Rhett Butler and Mr. Darcy, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark, and handsome heroes of her own.

A graduate of Duke University, Jessica worked at an investment bank before leaving to pursue her writerly dreams. She lives with her husband, the tall, dark, and handsome Mr. Peterson, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Duo Duchess Release! “Engaging the Earl” & “The Seduction of Sarah Marks”

Congratulations to Duchesses Kathleen Bittner Roth and Diana Quincy on today’s release of The Seduction of Sarah Marks and Engaging the Earl! And take note dear readers: To celebrate, both books are on sale for just $.99 the first week of their release. Their Graces are here to tell us a little something about their wonderful stories.

ETE_SOSM

 

Duchess Kathleen: Thanks for inviting us into your drawing room, Duchess Ashlyn, I can’t wait to chat.

Duchess Diana: Thanks for hosting us today, Duchess Ashlyn.

 

What is the era and setting of each of your stories, and can you tell us a bit about them?

Duchess Diana: Engaging the Earl is set in Regency England. The hero returns from fighting Napoleon on the day the woman he left behind becomes engaged to another man. Here’s a little teaser:

Vivacious Lady Katherine Granville is the toast of the ton, but society’s most eligible miss secretly yearns for her childhood love, an untitled loner who vanished long ago after her father forbade their marriage.

After years abroad, the dark and brooding Edward Stanhope returns to England a changed man. No longer a second son with no prospects, his battlefield strategies have won him an earldom. His return should be a victorious one, but the new Earl of Randolph is battling secret demons that no one can discover. Least of all, Kat.

When the man she can’t forget reappears at her betrothal ball, Kat’s perfectly arranged future is thrown into tumult. Edward remains cold and distant, hoping she’ll marry a man worthy of her. But nothing is settled when Kat sets out to win back her first love. Can the new Earl of Randolph resist the woman he’s loved for so many years?

 

Duchess Kathleen: The Seduction of Sarah Marks is set largely in the Kent District of England in 1857. The story involves a prim and proper country miss who finds herself stranded in a strange inn with no memory other than her name. Viscount Eastleigh’s well-laid plans to find a proper wife—far removed from his eccentric, meddling family—run afoul when an accident forces him to return home with this straitlaced miss in desperate need of shelter. Here’s a little teaser:

After a blow to her head, Sarah Marks awakens in a strange bed with a strange man and no memory of how she got there. Her handsome bedmate, Lord Eastleigh, tells her she’s suffering from amnesia and the best course of action is to travel home with him until she recovers her memory.
Lord Eastleigh has his own reasons for helping Sarah and keeping her close. Reasons he cannot tell Sarah. As they struggle to restore her memory, their undeniable, inadvisable attraction grows—until Sarah finally remembers the one thing that could keep them apart forever.

 

 

Are each of your stories of a serious nature or can we look forward to a bit of humor as well?

 

Duchess Kathleen: Although the themes of amnesia and war wounds are very serious ones, I can’t seem to write any story without including a few laughs.

 

Lord Eastleigh hails from a large and unconventional family. Even though they are close-knit, he refers to them as a swarm of locusts. There’s a sexy-as-sin reclusive cousin with a mysterious past who is hell-bent on irritating everyone but Sarah; a sister named Will who prefers wearing men’s clothing, and three younger sisters who think nothing of riding their horses straight through the main corridor of the house. I mustn’t forget Eastleigh’s three roguish brothers who encouraged the girls to run rampant with their steeds.

 

Eastleigh’s eccentric grandmother lives with him (think Betty White the actress). She “tipples” all the gin, ciders and cordials she concocts, steals apples and cherries on the sly from the cook to concoct her illicit brews, and pretty much does as she darn well pleases. She is called Mum because she thinks she’s the Queen Mother and Eastleigh’s mother the Queen. Or is it all an act?

 

 

Duchess Diana: Edward, my hero suffers from nostalgia, which we know today as Post Traumatic Stress, so he can be somewhat dark. (By the way, the US military has dropped the term “Disorder” when referring to PTS, hoping to reduce the stigma associated with it). However, at times his humor shines through, as does that of the heroine, as we see in this scene when he finds her dog running loose in the park.

 

“This messy-looking creature can’t possibly belong to you. I’d expect an incomparable such as Lady Kat to own the best-groomed canine in town.” He smiled down at the dog. “Not a hopelessly mangy whelp like this fellow.”

“Now you’ve gone and insulted a lady.”

He looked up quickly. “I meant no insult to you.”

Not me,” she said, amusement in her voice. “That messy fellow is called Vera and is female.”

He grinned at her and light came into his eyes. For a moment they fell back six years—to when they had talked easily and enjoyed each other’s humor. “Ah, then I must offer my apologies.” He favored Vera with a doubtful look. “Although, while she may be female, she does not appear to be a lady. What breed is she?”

“No one really knows. We’re not certain how my father’s Pomeranian came to be enceinte at the country estate.” Her face warmed to be discussing breeding with him.

Turning his attention back to Vera, he didn’t appear to notice her discomfort. “She has the look of a pointer to her. Perhaps her mother had a clandestine meeting with a neighbor’s hunting dog.”

“A female of easy virtue.” She arched a brow after the canine, who wandered away, distracted by a fluttering butterfly. “Thereby proving your point that Vera is no lady.”

 

 

Duchess Kathleen, can you give us a hint of the more passionate side of your main characters?

 

Duchess Kathleen: Seduction can take many forms when a certain chemistry exists between two people, even if it’s not done with purpose. Here’s a scene where Eastleigh rescues Sarah from a downpour:

 

The horse took a step forward. Sarah gripped the saddle and let out a pitiful squeak. No, she definitely did not ride by habit.

“I’ve got hold of you,” Eastleigh said from behind her. “Grab a handful of the horse’s mane to maintain your balance.”

His words of encouragement were warm and husky in her ear, his hand splayed across her stomach comforting, yet sending shockwaves of…of sinful pleasure through her. A squeeze of his legs against the horse, and the beast eased into a walk, then a trot. Sarah bumped about in the saddle.

“Let your hips relax, and you won’t bounce so.” Eastleigh gripped the side of her waist, and with strong fingers, urged her hips into a back and forth motion that matched the horse’s movements—along with Eastleigh’s. Not only was the difference in the ride immediate, but oh, dear, the cadence of the horse set her and Eastleigh’s hips moving together in a manner that was wickedly provocative.

Could he be aware of what she was thinking? Or feeling? Or was this rhythmic movement so common while astride a horse that she would be considered a prig to make note of it?

 

Duchess Diana, dog lovers might especially enjoy your story. Vera, the heroine’s pet, plays a key role in the book.

 

Duchess Diana: I really enjoyed writing Vera. I decided to bring a dog into the story after being moved by an article about an Iraq war veteran whose trained service dog helped him manage his PTS. These service dogs assist their owners through panic attacks and nightmares as Vera does for Edward. They are trained to stand in front of their masters to maintain a safe distance from anyone who might approach. They also learn to sit behind their owners to provide enough space when they wait in line. I made some of these behaviors instinctive in Vera, since no one was training service dogs back in the early 1800s.

 

Your books are on sale at $.99 during the first week of the release, which is practically a giveaway, but do you have anything else you are offering to celebrate?

 

Duchess Kathleen: Yes, of course. Anyone leaving a comment will be automatically included in a drawing for a free digital copy of The Seduction of Sarah Marks and a $10 gift certificate from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Starbucks.

 

Duchess Diana: Since no duchess likes to be outdone, I’ll match Duchess Kathleen’s giveaway. A second commenter on the blog will receive a digital copy of Engaging the Earl and a $10 gift certificate from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

To celebrate the release of their books, Duchesses Kathleen and Diana are having a Facebook party, tonight at 7p.m. (EST). Numerous guest authors (including yours truly) are stopping by and giving away great prizes. Click here now to join the fun later!

 

The Other Serial Killer of Victorian England

Jack the Ripper is a name nearly everyone knows. The brutal murders of five (perhaps more) females are ascribed to the Ripper, and the identity of the killer is one of history’s biggest secrets.

Interestingly, another serial killer was at work during Victorian England, one more prolific and brutal than Ripper. Also a murderer of poor women, and also never caught. I stumbled across this case while researching murders in and around the Thames for the last book in my Regency trilogy, THE LADY HELLION.

The murders are referred to as “The Embankment Murders” or the “Thames Torso Murders.” While the Ripper terrorized London between 1888-1889, the Thames Torso murders spanned 1887-1889, and may have started as early as 1872 or 1873. What separates these cases from Ripper is that the bodies were all dismembered, with the various body parts then wrapped in paper and scattered about Whitehall, Whitechapel, and in the Thames. Ripper, however, concentrated his actions to only Whitechapel and the bodies, while mutilated, were not dismembered in the same fashion as the Torso murders.

The Illustrated Police News, October 1888

The Illustrated Police News, October 1888

I won’t distress the Duchesses by getting into too much detail about the crimes. But it is worth noting that a few of the body locations were telling: one victim’s torso was found by construction workers at the site of New Scotland Yard. Another time, one body part was thrown over the wall of Sir Percy Shelley’s estate in Chelsea. Shelley was the son of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

Were the two killers one and the same? Dr. Thomas Bond worked as the police surgeon to Metropolitan Police’s A Division and oversaw both the Ripper killings and the Torso murders. He is considered by many as the first profiler, though neither of these high-profile murderers were ever caught. Though there was a resemblance between the killings, he believed different men were responsible, with the embankment murderer being “the more scientific of the two.”

Olean Democrat, September 12, 1889

Olean Democrat, September 12, 1889

For some time it was doubtful whether all these horrors were the work of one or two persons, but this last murder convinces the medical men that there are two entirely distinct sets of murders and two different men responsible for them. It is believed that in the present instance the body was purposely brought to the Whitechapel district to throw the police off the scent by inducing the belief that the body was that of another victim of Jack the Ripper. In this the perpetrator, however, went to trouble that is entirely superfluous for the police are as much in the fog about the one class of murders as the other.

If you’re interested in the history of police procedure and forensics, these cases and the time period in which they fall are fascinating. It’s not reading for the faint of heart, however, so you may want to have your smelling salts at the ready.

Sources/Further Reading:



Joanna Shupe has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. She has three books coming out in 2015 with Kensington, starting with THE COURTESAN DUCHESS in April.