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I must beg your pardon, dear friends! I’m afraid the day(s) got away from me! Between Valentine’s Day parties and distributing Girl Scout cookies, this duchess is quite over her head. I’m thrilled to announce the three winners of Secrets and Scandals Volume 1:
Thank you everyone for helping me celebrate the release of Scoundrel Ever After! I hope you’ll join me at my Twitter party on Tuesday, February 18 from 7-8 pm EST. It’s going to be a rollicking good time with lots of ebook giveaways! Hope to see you then!
There is still a chance to win a copy of The Rogue Returns!
See Tuesday’s post for details. I’ll announce winners on Sunday.
Best, Leigh LaValle, aka My Queen Peach
Excerpt from The Rogue Returns
“Why do you call me buttercup?”
“Because you are so sweet.”
“I am not that sweet,” she muttered. “Ugh, these tangles. I can’t get them—”
He slipped the burlap sac from her hand and examined the knotted strings. Calloused, patient fingers coaxed the tangles loose. She did not glance up when he placed the food bag on the rock.
“Yes, you are sweet.” He hooked his finger under her chin and nudged her head up. Their eyes met, then he dropped his gaze down to her lips. “Sweet and spicy and tempting as sin.”
It was a simple glance, but it left her hot.
Hot and achy and full of want.
This was ridiculous. She was ridiculous. She arched away from his touch. “Tempting as sin? Really? How original.”
His lips tilted up. “I’ve wanted to kiss you all day.”
“And why would I let you kiss me?”
“Because I could make you feel wonderful. Exceptionally wonderful. ”
THE ROGUE RETURNS has been released into the wilds of readerville.
Oh, the challenges of writing romance! As I crafted the hero of THE ROGUE RETURNS, I suffered through endless hours of character research. What a chore it was to study the rogue in his natural habitat.
I wanted Roane, my intrepid hero, to be a silver-tongued charmer with a quip at the ready. He needed to have a great sense of humor and keen observation skills. On top of that, he required an adventurous spirit with just a touch of bad-boy-danger to give him an edge.
Lucky for me, there is a plethora of heroes to study in film. Here are just a few of the hotties who inspired me to write. Whether they had anything to do with Roane’s actual character, I can’t say…
GIVEAWAY- Who is your favorite rogue? Leave a comment below and enter to win a digital copy of THE ROGUE RETURNS
The plot of THE ROGUE RETURNS is a road romance/ treasure hunt. Romancing the Stone was a natural launching pad for inspiration. I hadn’t seen this movie in years, and I enjoyed it immensely. (By the way- did you know Joan Wilder writes for Avon?)
Jack T. Colton, you are a rogue for the ages.
Roane, like Sonny Steele in The Electric Horseman, possesses an extraordinary talent with horses. I’d like to think he’s just as handsome as Robert Redford as well, in that sun-kissed, golden boy way.
Sonny Steele, you are one hot cowboy.
Oh, Indy. You do make a girl’s heart beat. I’ll come look for your jewel any day.
Roane doesn’t have a whip, sadly. And he looses his hat in a river. But he does have that slow, sultry smile. And those eyes…
And, for your viewing pleasure…
THE ROGUE RETURNS
THE ONLY THING LESS TRUSTWORTHY THAN A ROGUE…
Lady Helen Gladstone has siblings to protect and creditors at her door. There’s only one way to stave off disaster–to find the fabled fortune that her deceased brother buried years ago. Her experience with her lying father and gambling brother has left her able to spot a scoundrel at ten paces. Unfortunately, the scoundrel she encounters is a lot closer than that…and he’s planning to make off with her treasure.
…IS A LADY WITH NOTHING TO LOSE
After years of exile, Roane Grantham is eager to begin a new life without the law on his heels. First, he needs gold–his gold, buried one drunken night long ago. But he doesn’t count on a petite, bold-as-brass blonde laying claim to his hoard.
Forming an uneasy alliance, Helen and Roane adventure through the high peaks of England, battling treasure hunters, violent storms, and dangerous terrain. But can they escape the growing passion that threatens to steal their hearts?
With all the wrapping, cooking, and corralling, I thought it might be nice to escape for a few minutes. Here is an all-new, never-before-seen Christmas short story (Exclusive for Dashing Duchesses readers!) that follows after the end of my latest release, Sins of a Wicked Princess.
A Princess’ Christmas Wish
By Anna Randol
If Ian needed proof he was in love, the bundled ham was it. He tried not to wince as he gave the last bit of their carefully packed food away.
“God Bless. God Bless,” the gnarled, elderly woman cried, cradling the meat in her bony arms like a newborn.
At least she treated his carefully chosen food with the respect it deserved.
Princess Juliana–his wife and soon to be queen, he thought with a grin—clasped the old woman’s stooped shoulders with her deceptively dainty hands. “Tell your husband we will definitely be in need of skilled masons in the Spring.”
The woman shifted in the ankle deep snow. “Bless you and welcome home, Your Highness.”
With a quick smile Juliana took the cloak from her own shoulders—her present from Ian that he a procured with great trouble from a Russian Czarina—and placed it on the woman. Juliana hopped in the coach and gave the order to proceed before the woman could protest.
Juliana continued looking out of the frosty windows of the coach until long after the other woman had disappeared from view. She chewed slightly on her lower lip—a bad habit she would never have allowed herself in front of anyone else.
Ian gloried in that. Like he did when she moved to his side of the coach and rested her head on his shoulder.
“Not only did you give away your present, but you ruined my Christmas surprise,” Ian murmured.
She lifted an amused brow. “All without trying. I’m more skilled than I knew.”
“I was going to arrange a fantastical fairy picnic for you in the castle.” Ian had hoped it would soften the blow of seeing her childhood home reduced to a burned out ruin. “But then you gave away the bread, the tarts, the cheese, and the apples, and the ham.”
Of course, she had. Juliana loved her people with a fierce devotion that he intended to see properly comprehended and respected. It appeared his life as a feared spy might hold some value after all.
She snorted softly. “You are the one who suggested we stop and see if those people needed help. And I might remind you that most of our supplies are coming in the other coach tomorrow.”
Along with his former butler—now the Count of Canterbury—and his new bride, Princess Eustace.
He pulled Juliana closer. “I thought you were going to smile and bless them with some of your queenly magnanimity. Or that wave I saw you practicing in front of the mirror last—”
Her elbow found a soft spot in his side. He caught her up onto his lap before she could do more damage, and answered her attack with a more passionate one of his own. Her lips were sweeter than any sugary confection.
Perhaps he didn’t miss the food as much as he thought.
She suddenly pulled away from him, an awed gasp coming from her lips.
“I know that I am a skilled kisser, but—” He stopped his witty banter at the look of wonderment on her face.
They had crested a hill and the city of Concordia lay glistening in the late afternoon sun. Its wide cobbled streets flowing between buildings of sand colored marble. Pearly snow clung to tile roofs.
A fairy tale city.
Until one saw the castle on the hill. The roof was blackened where there weren’t gaping holes. One of the turrets had tumbled into a pile of rubble and charred wood.
And Ian knew, when they drew closer, they’d see the broken windows and the empty shops in the city as well, the wear and strain from the decades long war with Napoleon. But he didn’t need to tell Juliana that, he could see the same knowledge in her eyes.
By the time they had reached the bottom of the hill, the snow was falling thick and fast. Soon the horses were sliding and they were forced to stop at an inn at the edge of the city rather than pressing on to the house they had rented.
The inn was nothing fancy, but it was clean and run by decent folk. And Ian made sure to let all the rooms, leaving no room for anyone that might harm Juliana.
Juliana always saw to her servants before she saw to herself, so by the time they retired it was quite late. She sighed softly as she nestled beside him under the simple homespun quilt. “I will not cry tomorrow.”
She was talking about the castle and the memories of the death of her parents. He pressed a kiss to her brow. “No, you’re strong and—”
She bit him on the shoulder. “I wasn’t looking for pity. I was making a promise. And I never break them.”
The next morning, Ian was up far before the sun. It was a habit he found he couldn’t break. When one grew up falling asleep beside a stolen fire, one had to be gone before the owner awoke.
Ian brushed frost from the window and gazed down at the city below.
Snow had piled high in the night, giving the whole city a—
Snow had piled high.
Ian slipped soundlessly from the room and down the stairs. The innkeeper’s wife gave him a surprised look, pausing in her stirring. “No luck, sir, if you plan to go outside. The snow is nigh up to my waist.”
No. No. No.
Ian hadn’t truly cared about losing his frigid picnic surprise because he knew that what Juliana truly wanted was to set foot in her castle once again.
Now she wouldn’t be able too.
She had promised yesterday that she wasn’t going to cry.
It was his job to see that she never had reason to. He turned to the innkeeper’s wife, “Do you happen to know where I can get embroidery hoops and fishing twine?”
Juliana awakened warm, rested. And alone.
She always knew when Ian wasn’t there. Even before she reached over to feel his empty space on the bed. Off doing his strategizing, no doubt.
Something about the winter air in Lenoria brought back memories she hadn’t thought of in a long time. Selecting a Yule log in the forest. The heavy incense in the church. Carefully wrapped gifts she taken from her mother’s hands.
Juliana heard Ian’s step on the stair and closed her eyes. Ian liked to think that all his plotting happened in secret. She couldn’t bring herself to tell him she knew how he always arranged everything to perfection.
That, and she loved the way the way he woke her up.
His lips feathered kisses across her forehead before wandering their way down to her lips. “Good morning, Jules.”
Now she was fully awake. She sat up so fast she almost crushed Ian’s nose. “The castle.” She jumped from the bed and ran to the window. A heavy weight settled on her chest. There would be no trip to the castle. There was little chance a horse could get through that, let alone a carriage.
But before she could draw a breath to feign disinterest, there was a tap on her shoulder. She glanced back at Ian.
He held two large circles that had been crossed and re-crossed with thin ropes.
A present of some sort. Homemade, obviously. She fumbled for the right thing to say. “How intriguing.”
He grinned his infuriatingly adorable wolfish grin. “I know, aren’t they?”
The beast. He was just going to stand there and force her to ask what exactly they were. But then he surprised her by setting one circle by her foot and then moving her foot on top.
Then she knew what he had done. She’d seen them before in the mountains—or rather something roughly similar. They were snowshoes.
But that meant—“The castle. I can go today.” Her heart pounded wildly, gloriously wild and free. Thanks to her own personal spymaster.
He grinned and swept her up into his arms. “Merry Christmas.”
She blinked back the tears she’d promised not to shed. “You’ve given me a castle. That will be a rather difficult present to top.”
Ian lowered his lips to hers. “Challenge accepted.”
Ian Maddox, aka the Wraith, is happy to leave his life as a spy— as soon as he discovers who’s been trying to kill his friends. All clues lead him to the bedroom of an exiled princess. Yet Princess Juliana isn’t the simpering royal he expects, and this irresistible beauty agrees to give him the information he seeks . . . for a price.
Princess Juliana has never cowered—not even as she fled her burning castle in the midst of a rebellion—so she won’t tremble before the darkly charismatic man who appears in her bedchamber and holds a knife to her throat. Instead, she bargains with the infamous spy to help her retrieve sensitive documents and restore her kingdom. But Juliana quickly finds that Ian is no humble servant, and she never imagines that lessons in thievery will lead to schooling in seduction.
Readers, now it your turn–What was your favorite Christmas surprise? One lucky commenter will receive all three books in the Sinner’s Trio series (Sins of a Virgin, Sins of a Ruthless Rogue, and Sins of a Wicked Princess)! Contest closes December 27, 2013. Void where prohibited.
The winner of the Starbucks, Historic Coffee Houses & ‘Compromising Willa’ giveaway is….
(The winner was chosen by random.org)
Thanks to everyone who stopped by~
You might think meeting up with a friend at Starbucks for a cup of coffee is a fairly modern idea, but it’s really a 300-year-old tradition.
In England, the first coffee house was established in Oxford back in 1651 and the atmosphere at these gathering places hasn’t changed all that much in the centuries that followed.
In his Dictionary of the English Language published in 1755, Samuel Johnson described a coffee house as “a house of entertainment where coffee is sold, and the guests are supplied with newspapers.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
These coffee houses soon became centers of artistic and intellectual life in London. However, the drink didn’t go down smoothly in the beginning.
When the hot beverage first appeared in England at around 1650, it was viewed with some mistrust, which led coffee sellers to tout the new drink’s supposed healthful qualities:
It does the orifices of the stomach good, it fortifies the heart within, helpeth digestion, quickens the spirits…is good against eyesores, coughs and colds, rhumes, consumption, head aches, dropsy, gout, scurvy, King’s evil and many others.
The steamy brew quickly came to be viewed as social beverage because the stimulant encouraged conversation.
The quality, company and cleanliness of coffee houses varied, according to César de Saussure’s Letters from London (1725-1729):
In London there are innumerable badly appointed coffee-houses, their furniture spoiled on account of the number of people who frequent them for most of the time, and above all because of the smokers, who quickly ruin the furniture, for you must understand that the English smoke a great deal. In these establishments, you can have chocolate, tea, coffee, all sorts of hot drinks, and, in some, even wine, punch and ale. But it is useless to ask for fresh drinks like orgeat, lemonade, capillaire and the like. They are hardly known in this country.
César de Saussure’s Letters also noted that not all coffee houses were for sipping java and catching up on the news, if you get my meaning…
There are coffee-houses which are the meeting places of scholars and wits; others which are frequented by beaux; others which are only frequented by Politicians and News-Mongers; and several which are Temples of Venus. It is easy to recognise these latter because they often have on their sign the arm or the hand of a woman holding a coffee pot. There are many of these houses in the region of Covent Garden, which pass for being chocolate houses, where the customers are served by beautiful, clean and well dressed nymphs, who seem very agreeable, but who are in fact very dangerous.
These establishments were the first to introduce and serve tea when it came to England from the Far East, which is why a coffee house plays a pivotal role in my latest book, Compromising Willa. The heroine, Willa, is an expert tea blender who secretly donates her special brews to a coffee house that provides employment for poor women and children.
Hartwell, the hero in Compromising Willa, contemplates buying the coffee house building to turn it into the headquarters for his own sugar import business. He is among the first to realize Willa is courting scandal by secretly engaging in commerce. I can imagine modern readers happily settled in a chair at their local coffee house enjoying a cup of joe while reading about the romantic adventures of Willa and her duke. Here’s a little primer:
Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope is ruined and everyone knows it..Back in Town for the first season since her downfall, Willa plans to remain firmly on the shelf, assuming only fortune hunters will want her now. Instead she focuses on her unique tea blends, secretly supporting a coffee house which employs poor women and children. If her clandestine involvement in trade is discovered, she’ll be ruined. Again..
No one is more shocked by Willa’s lack of quality suitors than the newly minted Duke of Hartwell. Having just returned from India, the dark duke is instantly attracted to the mysterious wallflower. His pursuit is hampered by the ruthless Earl of Bellingham, who once jilted Willa and is now determined to reclaim her.
Caught between the clash of two powerful men, a furious Willa refuses to concede her independence to save her reputation. But will she compromise her heart?
Hartwell frowned. “I scarcely see how Lady Wilhelmina can belong to Bellingham if there is no betrothal.”
“There is certain talk no gentleman would ever repeat.” Heenan reached for his mother-of-pearl snuffbox. “Some say it is why the lady has kept herself away from Town for so long.”
“And this is commonly discussed in society?”
“It is not the kind of thing one hears in Mayfair’s drawing rooms,” Selwyn answered in halting tones.
“But most gentlemen about Town eventually hear the talk,” Garrick added with a lascivious smirk.
Heenan leaned over and inhaled snuff into his nose. “Not that anyone dares to cut her in public.” Leaning back in his chair with a satisfied sigh, he used a handkerchief to wipe remnants of the powdery substance from his upper lip. “Impeccable family lines and all. The family carries on as though nothing has happened. She is under the protection of her cousin, the Marquess of Camryn, who is quite influential in the Lords. No one dares risk his wrath.”
“I don’t follow.”
Garrick leaned forward. “They say the chit is compromised. Utterly and completely, if you get my meaning.” He winked at Hart. “But she still acts the frigid princess, all high and mighty. Otherwise, who wouldn’t want to toss up those skirts and give her a good hard—”
Something in his head snapped loose, blinding him to anything but the desire to crush the drunken whoreson beneath his boot heel. He bolted to his feet and shoved the table back with a loud clatter. Towering over Garrick, he grabbed the man’s cravat with one hand and drew back his fist with the other. Garrick shrank back in his chair, wide-eyed, his face pinched with fear. Action at the other gaming tables screeched to a halt. Silence descended; all eyes were riveted on Hartwell.
Selwyn jumped up and placed a calming hand on his shoulder. “Now Hartwell,” he said, partially positioning himself between the two men. “This is just a friendly misunderstanding among gentlemen.”
His neck burned. It was a lie. It had to be. “It is hardly the act of a gentleman to insult a lady’s honor in the most grievous way possible.”
Leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Tempting Bella, Book 2 in my Accidental Peers series.
***A winner will be selected this Sunday, Dec. 15.***
Diana Quincy is a former television journalist who decided she’d rather make up her own stories because she can always guarantee a happy ending. As to tea or coffee, she swings both ways except when it comes to mornings, when she must jump start her day with a cup of java.
Thank you everyone for participating! And congratulations to:
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Happy Reading, everyone!
Today’s winner of a print copy of The Vanishing Thief is Ashlea. Congrats, Ashlea. I’ll be contacting you by email.