Duchess Releases
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  • Dec. 2014

Ten Signs You Might Be a Gothic Heroine: Guest Duchess Erica Ridley

I’m so excited to host my BFF, Erica Ridley, in the drawing room today. Erica writes dark and sexy gothic romance and hilariously funny romantic comedy. Every single one of her books plays like a movie in my head with the best dialogue ever. If you haven’t read an Erica Ridley book, RUN, do not walk to your favorite online retailer and get one. Any one. I’ll wait.
Why Erica is Full of Win:
1. She critiques my manuscripts by writing fanfiction.
2. She’s wicked smart about pretty much everything.
3. She bakes!
Back already? Great. Today, Erica is sharing Ten Signs You Might Be a Gothic Heroine. Dark Surrender is so atmospherically spooky and sexy, you will feel like you’re trapped in the abbey with them. And only you can decide if that’s a good or a bad thing. I’m going with good (see number 1!).
Win a copy of Erica’s new release, Dark Surrender! See bottom of post for details.
Erica Ridley

Meet Erica

Erica Ridley is the author of TOO WICKED TO KISS, TOO SINFUL TO DENY, DARK SURRENDER, BORN TO BITE, CHARMED, MIDWINTER MAGIC, and LET IT SNOW.

When not reading or writing romances, Erica can be found riding camels in Africa, zip-lining through rainforests in Costa Rica, or getting hopelessly lost in the middle of Budapest.

10 Signs You Might Be a Gothic Heroine

  1. On the run from certain death, the only available shelter is a crumbling abbey even sketchier than the madhouse you just fled.
  2. Like, seriously sketchy. Code Red “No one knows what happens to those who dare enter” sketchy.
  3. The owner is insanely rich, insanely sexy, and insanely . . . insane.
    (Two outta three ain’t bad?)
  4. Your love interest may or may not be a murderer. Or a demon.
  5. You yourself may or may not be a murderess. Nor are you remorseful.
  6. You’re stronger than anyone realizes, and your secrets are even darker than the lord of the manor.
  7. You discover your love interest keeps someone hidden behind lock and key.
  8. Your love interest also keeps you behind lock and key.
  9. This does not detract from his ability to seduce your knickers off.
  10. He’s a devil between the sheets . . . and, luckily, you like it hot.
Erica Ridley

TRAPPED IN DARKNESS . . .
Violet Whitechapel committed an unspeakable crime to save a child. To escape the hangman’s noose, she takes refuge in a crumbling abbey with secrets darker than her own. When its master offers her a temporary post, Violet cannot say no. Just as she begins to see him in a new light, her past catches up to her and endangers them all.

 

THEIR PASSION BURNS BRIGHT . . .
Alistair Waldegrave keeps his daughter imprisoned in the black heart of his Gothic abbey. As he searches for a cure to the disease the villagers call demonic, his new governess brings much needed light into their lives. But how can the passion between them survive the darkness encroaching from outside their sheltered walls?

WIN IT! One lucky reader will receive an e-book copy of Dark Surrender. To enter, leave a comment with a “You might be a romance heroine if…” suggestion of your own!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the Dashing Duchesses!

Ooh, we  do j’adore our green!

 

SINS OF A WICKED PRINCESS1UnexpectedDuchess

Sweet Deception Cover

The Dark Affair Cover

A Little Something to Celebrate

champagne-toastI’ve been sitting on some news since December. I don’t know about anybody else, but I find it especially difficult to have some good news and not be able to share.

But now I’m allowed to, and I hope my fellow duchesses will indulge me.

It’s finally official. I can announce my new series. Starting later this year (release dates to be confirmed, but I’ve been hearing August), you can read the first installment in a steamy three-book series revolving around three former friends who attended Eton together, but who circumstances have torn apart.

 

What came between them? Well, that’s a secret.

 

In WHAT A LADY CRAVES, the first in the series, irreverent bluestocking Henrietta Upperton has determined to move past her scandalous broken engagement by striking out on her own. Unfortunately, she’s taken a position as a paid companion to the cantankerous Lady Epperley, who just happens to be a relative of Henrietta’s former betrothed. But since her intended went away to India, the last thing Henrietta expects is for the man to turn up on his great-aunt’s doorstep having lost nearly everything in a shipwreck.

 

The one thing Alexander Sanford hasn’t lost is his sense of honor. When he washes ashore close to his aunt’s manor, he’s shocked to find Henrietta in residence, but welcomes the chance to set the past aright by renewing his pursuit of his former betrothed. But he’s brought back more from India than his feelings… something that could put all of his loved ones in danger.

 

Sound interesting? How about a little teaser:

 

“Stand aside.” Damn that lock of hair. How it must make her look youthful and wayward; it must rob her of any kind of authority.

 

“Not yet.”

 

She stuck out her lower lip and blew upward. The lock swayed tauntingly before settling back in the middle of her nose. “I shall scream.”

 

He ignored this in favor of reaching for the tress. He took it between his thumb and forefinger, rubbing, concentrating on what he was doing as if it were of the utmost importance that he learn the exact texture of her hair. Dumbfounded, she allowed him.

 

Somehow, he pushed closer until his breath blew across her face, warm and sweet. “Do you remember this?”

 

“Remember what?” She had to force the words through her lips. Drawing in air had suddenly become a difficult prospect.

 

“This. How it was between us.”

 

“No.” A blatant lie. That particular hint of gravel in his voice pulled her straight into the past.

 

“I don’t believe you. I recall that expression.”

 

“What expression?” She had to work to get that much out, and blast it, the words emerged on a breathy note.

 

“Your eyes dark, cheeks pink, lips parted. Like you’re ready for a kiss.” Somehow he edged even nearer. The wall was solid at her back, possibly the only reason she was still upright. “Like you expect one. Demand it, even.”

 

For more information on when this book is coming out, subscribe to my newsletter, for follow me on Facebook and Twitter. More news as soon as I have it!

 

Feel free to party in the comments!

Historical Romance for Dummies–the American Historical

Do you prefer your hero in a tricorn, a slouch hat, or a Stetson? Your heroine in panniers, a crinoline, or packing her papa’s shotgun? We’re going to take a look at something that’s become a rare animal on the romance scene lately these days—the American-set historical.

 

Back when I first started reading romances, these stories were easy to find, but nowadays they seem to have been supplanted by those stories set in England. I’m not 100% sure why that is, but I’d conjecture that a couple of factors come into play. Partly it’s hard to write about our own history without acknowledging the existence of certain ugly truths, such as slavery or our treatment of Native Americans. I also think another factor involves North American fascination with titles and the English class system.

 

Sweet Savage Eden cover

Sometimes I miss these old-school covers.

For me, a lot of historical romances have a certain fairy tale quality to them, and it’s harder to achieve that when you’re dealing with nitty gritty details of life in the American west, say, or carving out a spot in an untamed wilderness.

 

Still, these settings offer plenty of opportunity for conflict: struggle against the harsh environment on the frontier, struggle against one’s king, struggle against one’s one countryman. Many of these old romances had hero and heroine on opposite sides of a war, so you had loyalist vs patriot or staunch unionist vs southern rebel.

 

I’d like to give a nod to some of these older romances. Heather Graham wrote an entire series revolving around heroines in the same family that traced American history down the years. One of the first romances I ever read was Sweet, Savage Eden, set around the time of the founding of Jamestown, where the hero was a titled lord intent on establishing a colony in the new world. The next book in the series featured a descendant of the Cameron family and was set during the American revolution, and later installments took place during the Civil War, all involving this same family. The final book ended up with the youngest of the Cameron clan heading west with a cavalry officer.

 

The Charade Cover

Even more recent historical authors such as Laura Lee Guhrke have managed to sneak in an American-set story.

Beyond these obviously conflict-filled time periods, I recall reading other stories, set outside the scope of a war. One such was set among the Puritans in New England (although sadly, I don’t recall author or title). Another was set in North Carolina and featured a family of heroines named after neighboring states (so you had Mary, whose name was Maryland, Delly, whose name was Delaware, Virginia, naturally, and the heroine, Carolina). Once again, my memory fails me as to title or author. Many of these older romances were set in the south on plantations, giving an opportunity for balls and belles and gorgeous gowns which some might say mirrors our love of English historical.

 

Lisa Kleypas, when she was first starting out, gave us the Vallerands, a family based in New Orleans.  New Orleans, with its color and French culture and heritage is another favorite setting. Even when Kleypas later moved her historical settings across the pond, she couldn’t resist giving us a couple of American heroines (all the better to give those staid English aristocrats a little kick in the behind–a bit like Dame Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine’s characters on Downton Abbey) in Lily and Daisy Bowman. Anyone up for a game of baseball?

 

More recently, we’ve featured author Donna Thorland on this blog, with her wonderful historicals set during the Revolution, and one of our own duchesses, Kathleen Bittner Roth, is set to have an American set trilogy debuting later this year.

 

Rather than attempt to define such a broad category of possibility, I’d like to turn this blog over to our readership. Do you miss American-set historical or do you prefer jolly old England?  What do you think is some of the yet unexplored territory and time periods? What are some of your favorite old-school romances set in North America?

 

Ashlyn_Macnamara_Headshot_sm-150x150Ashlyn Macnamara writes Regencies with a dash of wit and a hint of wicked, but once upon a time she envisioned writing stories set during the Revolutionary War. She may yet do so…

A Most Devilish Deal

AMDRCoverWarning: Blatant promotional post here. For a limited time, you can purchase an e-copy of A MOST DEVILISH ROGUE for the low, low price of only $0.99.  That’s right, only $0.99. Act now!

 

Seriously, this deal redefines the whole concept of cheap-ass. ;-) Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review and called it “a gem to be savored.” How often do you get a gem for $0.99?

 

Still not convinced? Watch the trailer:

 

 

Years ago, when Isabelle Mears was still a young miss too infatuated to know better, she surrendered her innocence to a dishonorable man. Though ruined and cast out from society, she has worked hard to shelter her illegitimate son, Jack. Having sworn off men in her quiet but dignified life, Isabelle is unprepared for the deep longing that rips through her when a handsome stranger rescues her rambunctious six-year-old from the pounding ocean surf.

George Upperton is a man in trouble with debts, women, and a meddling family. He is, by all accounts, the last gentleman on earth Isabelle should be drawn to. But loneliness is a hard mistress, and caution gives way to desire . . . even though Isabelle is convinced that happiness can’t be found in the arms of such a devilish rogue. Only when Jack is kidnapped does Isabelle discover the true depth of George’s devotion—and how far a good man will go to fight for the woman whose love is all that matters.

 

Buy links: Amazon * Barnes and Noble * BAM

 

What do you think? Should I get a job writing ad copy or stick with historical romance? If you opt for the latter, you may just want to keep an eye on me Thursday. Is that cryptic enough for everyone?

The Rebel Pirate: Winner!

Thank you all who commented for a chance to win Donna Thorland’s new swashbuckling historical fiction novel, The Rebel Pirate.

The winner of the giveaway is Lori H.

9780451415400_large_The_Rebel_Pirate

 

Be sure to stop back by and chat with the Duchesses on Monday, when Ashlyn Macnamara gives us a new primer on our informative “Historical Romance for Dummies” spot with the AMERICAN historical romance.

*Gasp*

Alyssa Alexander – Land Steward

Wikipedia, Licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution: Motacilla

Wikipedia, Licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution: Motacilla

In any number of romance novels you’ll find a titled hero meeting with his steward to ‘go over the accounts’ or some other task related to land management. In some books you’ll find the steward may be the love interest—Simply Love by Mary Balogh and The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt come to mind.  And I do love an unexpected hero!

 

 

 

 

But what is a steward? What does he actually do? I only had a vague idea until I started researching for my current work in progress. And that is when I discovered The Modern Land Steward by John Lawrence. The version I read was the second edition and published in 1806. Mr. Lawrence was not the first gentleman to publish a book on stewardship, as he was quick to point out in his introduction. Apparently there were at least two others who had published books on the subject, and many more who put out essays on various aspects such as timber and cattle and agriculture.

 

 

What both fascinated and repelled me, however, was that Mr. Lawrence took quite some time in the introduction to share how to slaughter oxen and kill eels. For this city girl, I was vaguely uneasy about getting into the rest of the book. I mean, ew.

256px-Turnip_J2

Wikipedia, Licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution: Jamain

But then we got to the goods. “A category of the duties, general and particular, of the steward.” There we go. That’s what I was after. What does a steward actually do?

(Apparently, a steward cross-breeds turnips, according to page 470.)

It turns out there are actually three different types of stewards: first, a house-steward “(manciple, caterer, purveyor, etc.)”, and the second is an agent who accepts rents and works with the tenants. There may be multiple of these stewards/agents if the titled gentleman has multiple estates, with each steward working in a different geographic area. However, all of these lower stewards would report to the chief or principal agent, who may be steward to the family’s main seat. The chief agent looks over the accounts of the lower stewards and puts together a summary for his lordship.

It seems that depending on the size of the overall fortune, the number and duties of the stewards will vary. In my feverish, author-ly imagination, I’m already using that as a plot point. I can imagine a responsible hero wanting all of the stewards to report directly to him, while a tragically wounded hero hiding from his past and his title might rely on the chief steward to oversee all the stewards—it’s all about motivation, isn’t it?

Well, moving on and leaving out my imagination for the moment, here’s a list of topics stewards ought to know about: agriculture, livestock and husbandry, horses, “physic and the healing art, as applicable to beasts; and of the just and natural method of shoeing,” architecture, mechanics, bookkeeping, and law related to landlords/tenants, highways and forests.

Jack of all trades, no?

And then comes my favorite part:

land stewared

Our author Mr. Lawrence then proceeds to write 529 pages of duties for a steward. Everything from the turnips above, to brick-making, to planting trees—and then felling them—controlled burning, grafting plants, a study of the different types of soils, dry rot in timber and running mills for grinding corn and wheat.

Honestly. If the steward keeps track of all of these parts of country manor life for his lordship, what, exactly, does his lordship do? Ah. I know. Woos duchesses with his roguish ways. Well, there goes my imagination again! Thank you to the land steward for freeing up our rogues! *wink*

Alyssa-Alexander-214x300

 

Alyssa Alexander is the debut author of THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, which features a smuggler and a spy, but not a land steward. However, stewards do crop up in her future books. She knows nothing about dry rot or husbandry (is that the same thing has training a husband??) and leaves all agricultural aspects to Mr. Alexander, so as not to kill the plants with her black thumb. Watch for IN BED WITH A SPY, the second book in her A Spy In The Ton series  later this year!

Guest Author Donna Thorland: The Rebel Pirate

Donna-Thorland-PMA Duchess does not gush, but if this one did, it would surely be over Donna Thorland’s newest historical fiction novel, THE REBEL PIRATE. I previously interviewed Donna for her debut novel, The Turncoat, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting her next book for over a year. Once it made its way into my grasping, gloved hands, I found myself tearing through it.

Which means I will probably need to read it again, this time chewing between swallows.

Donna: Thank you! The gushing is mutual. Summer is for Lovers was my favorite romance of 2013. (To which Jennifer promptly blushes)

9780451415400_large_The_Rebel_Pirate1775, Boston Harbor. James Sparhawk, Master and Commander in the British Navy, knows trouble when he sees it. The ship he’s boarded is carrying ammunition and gold…into a country on the knife’s edge of war. Sparhawk’s duty is clear: confiscate the cargo, impound the vessel and seize the crew. But when one of the ship’s boys turns out to be a lovely girl, with a loaded pistol and dead-shot aim, Sparhawk finds himself held hostage aboard a Rebel privateer.

Sarah Ward never set out to break the law. Before Boston became a powder keg, she was poised to escape the stigma of being a notorious pirate’s daughter by wedding Micah Wild, one of Salem’s most successful merchants. Then a Patriot mob destroyed her fortune and Wild played her false by marrying her best friend and smuggling a chest of Rebel gold aboard her family’s ship.

Now branded a pirate herself, Sarah will do what she must to secure her family’s safety and her own future. Even if that means taking part in the cat and mouse game unfolding in Boston Harbor, the desperate naval fight between British and Rebel forces for the materiel of war—and pitting herself against James Sparhawk, the one man she cannot resist.

 

Q1: Donna, I am not exaggerating when I say I could not read this book fast enough. The flavor of The Rebel Pirate has strong echoes of your first book, primarily in your gritty attention to historical detail, and the fact that it features an indomitable heroine. But in reading it, I also felt it was remarkably different. In the Turncoat, the heroine, Kate Grey, starts off as a dowdy Quaker pacifist and ends up a lavishly dressed Rebel spy, volunteering out of loyalty to her country. In contrast, in The Rebel Pirate, Sarah Ward undergoes almost the opposite transformation: she starts off as a fashionable, jilted lover, betrayed and impoverished by her former fiancé, and transforms into a reluctant rebel only out of loyalty to her family. Did you set out to write these characters so similarly, but with such polarizing motivations?

Donna: Yes! I did set out to write two very different journeys for my heroines. I hope readers enjoy them both. One of the most relatable characteristics a heroine can have is common sense, so that was my gift to Kate and Sarah. My job as an author, though, is to make life hell for my characters, to throw every obstacle that I can in their way, so that bequest of common sense was about the last nice thing I did for them.

Of course, common sense in a rural Quaker and common sense in a pirate’s daughter mean two different things. Kate Grey knew how to manage a small farm and because she lived in a close-knit rural community, she understood people in a Miss-Marple-small-village kind of way. That was what made her—once she got a glamorous makeover—a good spy. Sarah, though, is from a thriving seaport and has an old sea dog for a father, so common sense for her means packing a pistol in her sewing bag.

With Sarah’s journey I had a bit of a head start, because I’d spent seven years managing the historic houses at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, America’s most successful pirate—cough, privateer—port. I knew the lives of the wives and daughters of these sea rogues intimately, and I wanted to plot a course that would take one of them from the comfort of her parlor with its Chinese porcelain and French wallpaper and damask sofas to the shifting deck of a twenty-four gun privateer.

 

Q2: Family is everything to Sarah Ward, especially the protective instincts she feels for her younger brother and her ailing father. Why did you choose to make family love and loyalty as much a central theme in this book as romantic love?

Donna: Familial love is part of the romance of the colonial American seaport. When you spend time in 18th century New England houses—I’ve managed a few and live in one now—you discover that they were often multi-generational households, with grandparents jostling elbows with newlyweds.

And your grandfather was as likely to have sailed with Calico Jack and Anne Bonny as to have traded for tea in India or pepper in Jakarta.

Most importantly to the romantic love front and center in The Rebel Pirate, though, family is what James Sparhawk never had. It’s one of the ways that Sarah Ward completes him.

 

Q3: Readers of romance should approach this book with eager caution: there is a strong love story to uncover, but the book itself is better classified as romantic fiction. Donna, both of your books have featured love triangles (and in the case of The Rebel Pirate, possibly more of a love rectangle). I do believe it is possible for a woman to feel attraction for one man, even as she falls in love with another. Why is this approach every bit as valid as classic romance?

Donna: I’m aspiring to write a love trapezoid next!

Just kidding. I think a well-executed love triangle can strengthen the happily-ever-after. It can give us the certainty we want to feel when we put the book down that this couple will be together in twenty years. When the heroine has other suitors, she has the opportunity to explore other futures for herself, so that when she picks the hero, she’s making a definitive choice. Or, as this 18th century posy ring says: ‘Many are the stars I see but in my eye no star like thee’

 

Q4: You have described yourself as writing “swash-bucklers”. What makes a good swash-buckler, both in movies and literature?

Donna: There are soooo many delicious swashbuckling ingredients to choose from that I’ll try to limit myself to a short list.

1) A hero who has been cheated of his birthright and must reclaim it. Think Robin of Locksley.

2) A hero imprisoned unjustly. Think The Count of Monte Cristo or Captain Blood.

3) Swordplay. Lots of it. Bonus points if anyone swings from a chandelier, or from the rigging to board an enemy ship.

4) Beautiful, clever, dangerous women. Think Milady DeWinter in The Three Musketeers.

5) Oh, and, yes, a Revolution is always a terrific backdrop. Think Scaramouche or The Scarlet Pimpernel.

 

Q5: Let’s talk movie trailers. (For those of you who don’t know, I initially discovered Donna as a result of her lush, sweeping, cinematic trailer for The Turncoat.) WHEN IN THE DEUCES WILL THE TRAILER BE OUT FOR THE REBEL PIRATE??? Please, please, please tell me you filmed it on a ship in Salem’s harbor, and that you have a friend in your pocket to play the part of James Sparhawk (and who is every bit as dreamy as the hero you feature in your first trailer.) And how come you didn’t ask me to be in it? Because you know, I have a horse and a corset. Surely the rest can be improvised.

Donna: Hang onto the horse and the corset for the next book, because we’re planning something special for MISTRESS FIREBRAND…In the meantime, however, for THE REBEL PIRATE we made a series of Vine videos for sharing on Twitter. Please RT these and spread the word.

This book is librarian-endorsed and pirate-approved.

(Or, see here at https://vine.co/v/hLHrH3xlwvQ)

(Or, see here at https://vine.co/v/hLXXFFIbBQ9)

Thank you so much for joining us today, Donna, and for writing such amazing historical fiction! Readers who want more can find her at www.donnathorland.com, follow her on Twitter @donnathorland, and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/donna.thorland.

 

One lucky commenter will be chosen at random to receive a spanking new copy of The Rebel Pirate (I say “new” because I refuse to give my copy up). Simply comment to win, and share with us your favorite thing about pirates.

 

When she’s not gushing, Jennifer McQuiston writes Different. Historical. Romance. and appreciates all the pirates (and yummy heroes) she can get.

Heather Snow Goes To The Dogs

I don’t know about you, but I have often fantasized myself into the books I am reading. For example, when I’m stripping sheets off of my bed or dusting (which I hate!), I imagine that I am not an author/housewife in the suburbs cleaning her own house but rather I’m an upstairs maid in a Regency novel. Then I remind myself to be grateful that at least I have a job in a fancy house that comes with meals and a warm bed because life could have been SO much worse…

What? You thought I’d imagine myself in a ball gown dancing the night away? Nah. The corsets would have killed me.

Seriously though, I have spent much time imagining what life would have been like for the characters in my books, putting myself in their world, wondering how it would have been to frequent balls and musicales, to attend house parties, to ride over rolling hills and stroll through manicured parkland, to be waited on by servants…I could go on and on.

One thing I never imagined was having dogs…

Don’t get me wrong. Dogs are nice enough. Many a great historical novel features memorable canine companions. Who could forget when Jane mistakes Mr. Rochester’s Newfoundland, Pilot, for a mysterious spirit dog who haunts lonely roads in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, only to find out the sweet dog gives her insights into his master’s soul? Or how Johanna swallowed her fear and stitched the wound of her husband’s giant hound, Dumfries, in Julie Garwood’s Saving Grace, earning both the dog’s and Gabriel’s loyalty.  And who didn’t shed a tear when the Duke of Jerveaux was greeted so enthusiastically by his loyal dogs, Cass and Devil, upon his escape from the asylum in Laura Kinsale’s fabulous Flowers From the Storm?

Well, shed a tear, I did, but that didn’t mean I wanted a dog of my own. Ever.

And yet, somehow in the last year, I’ve acquired two.

The first, I was tricked in to. And not fairly and squarely, either. The very rotten Mr. Snow caught me in a weak moment at the park as the Heir and Spare were delightedly playing with someone else’s dog. Before I knew what was happening, he gleefully told the boys Mommy said they could have a dog. Within a month, we’d picked up dog #1, Indigo, at the shelter and brought her home, much to the cat’s (and my!) annoyance.

Dog #2? Entirely my own fault. Well, not entirely. Mr. Snow did tell me about him. But I am the one who went after him.

Copper, as he came to be named, was abandoned on a lonely road in southern Missouri in the middle of winter. Mr. Snow and I were having lunch the day after he got back from a weekend at the lake. He mentioned meeting a friendly dog, sitting on the side of the road. He was there in the morning when Mr. Snow drove by. He was there in the afternoon, when Mr. Snow stopped to pet him. He was still there the next night, when Mr. Snow left to return home. “Poor guy. He was sweet, but confused. He hadn’t moved, either. It was like he was waiting for someone to come back and get him,” my husband said, shaking his head.

“It’s going to be 2 degrees tonight,” I replied with a frown, thinking of that poor dog, freezing, waiting on some schmuck who was never coming back.

“I know. Sometimes people suck,” my husband said.

It bothered me all through lunch. Finally, much to my husband’s and my own surprise, I said, “I can’t leave that dog there.” I don’t know why I said it. I’m not naïve. I grew up in the country—people dump dogs all of the time. I know I can’t save them all. I’ve never wanted to try. Remember, I don’t even particularly like dogs! And this dog? He was 3 hours away, if he was even still there. I had boys to feed that night and get to school the next day. And yet… “I’m going to get him,” I said.

Bless Mr. Snow, he didn’t fight it too hard, crazy though my plan was. He did ask me to call my uncle, who lives close to the lake, and ask him to drive to the spot to see if the dog was still there before I took off across state in the middle of a polar vortex. When we got the call later that evening that Copper had indeed been found, shivering in the freezing temps, still loyally waiting in the same spot by the side of the road, Mr. Snow sent me off with his blessing. Six hours later, I was home again with a new dog…

I don’t even know that I intended to keep him. I half justified to myself that picking him up and taking him to a shelter was at least better than leaving him to freeze and starve to death. But the moment he met the boys, it was all over.

He really is a lovely dog—about 6 years old, the vet says. He’s great with the kids, particularly the Spare—gentle and sweet. He and Indigo get on together famously—in fact, she’s a much happier dog now that she has him to play with. And even though he’s only been with us a few weeks, it’s like he’s been with us all along. I have no idea what his life was like before us, but as he lies in his bed snuggling with the Spare or sets his head in my lap when the house is quiet while I pet his soft muzzle, his eyes tell me there is no question we are his family now. It’s kind of humbling.

Copper and Spare

Copper and the Spare

And you know what? I get it. I bet if I re-read that scene of Jerveaux’s and his dogs’ reunion right now, I’d bawl like a baby.  I might even have to write a dog into my next series, because I’m learning that they teach us a lot about ourselves and about love.

What about you? Are you a dog person? Do you like to see them in your romance novels? Who are some of your favorites?

——

Heather Snow writes smart historical romance featuring heroines who put the “blue” in bluestocking, the men who love them, and the mysteries they have to solve. Her latest book, Sweet Madness, was nominated for a RT Book Reviews Magazine’s 2013 Reviewers Choice Award for Best Innovative Historical. Find out more at www.HeatherSnowBooks.com

Shana Galen Pays a Sparkling Call

Greetings, your graces. Today I’m pleased to host guest duchess Shana Galen.

Shana Galen HeadshotShana is the bestselling author of fast-paced adventurous Regency historicals, including the RT Reviewers’ Choice The Making of a Gentleman. Booklist says, “Galen expertly entwines espionage-flavored intrigue with sizzling passion,” and RT Bookreviews calls her “a grand mistress of the action/adventure subgenre.” She taught English at the middle and high school level off and on for eleven years. Most of those years were spent working in Houston’s inner city. Now she writes full time. She’s happily married and has a daughter who is most definitely a romance heroine in the making. Shana loves to hear from readers, so send her an email or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and Twitter.

And now, without further ado, I turn this post over to Shana.

Little Sisters

 Is anyone a younger sister? I am. In the interest of full disclosure, I will also say that I have a younger sister, so I’m actually a middle child. But I do have an older brother, and here’s the thing about older brothers (and probably sisters). Younger siblings look up to them, love hanging out with them, want to be just like them. Depending on the age difference, the older sibling thinks this is cute or seriously annoying. My brother thought I was cute. He’s 8 years older than me. I’m only 2 years older than my younger sister, and I didn’t think she was cute at all. I remember a lot of “Don’t copy me!” and “Leave me alone” and “Get out of my room!”

 

I also remember the freedom of getting away from her. I was the first to go to school, have a sleepover, go to a movie by myself, drive a car. I could get away, while she had to stay home and watch me go. I know how she felt because I watched my brother go and longed for that same freedom before I had it.

 

SapphiresareanearlsbestfriendIn Sapphires Are an Earl’s Best Friend, I write about an older brother. Andrew is the heir to a dukedom, the only son. He has an older sister, who is not really in the story, and he also has a younger sister, Emma. When Andrew returns home after the death of his mother, he’s shocked by his father’s behavior. The duke is not exactly mourning when he throws a house party and invites quite a few courtesans and opera singers to the affair. It’s no place for his younger sister. Andrew just wants Emma safely away, but before she goes, she teaches her older brother a thing or two.

 

The fun thing about writing Emma was that I got to put away my older sister persona for a little while and remember how it felt to be a younger sister. Emma looks up to her older brother. She idolizes him, but she’s also smart and observant. She can tell him things about his parents he never knew, simply because she was home and he was away. Later in the book, these observations prove crucial. Here’s a scene between Emma and Andrew.

 

Andrew turned back and found her standing at the window, looking out on the darkening sky. He should say… something. He was much better at teasing and making his sisters laugh than at anything of a serious nature. “Emma?”

She turned, looking surprised to see him still there. “Yes, my lord?”

Now it was his turn to laugh from surprise. “When did I become my lord? You used to call me Drew.”

Her nose scrunched up. “That was when I was a baby.”

She still seemed like a baby to him. “I think I’d prefer it if you called me Andrew. It occurred to me”—he stepped back in the room, committed now, and closed the door behind him—“I have not asked how you fare since Katherine returned home.”

A look of sadness crossed her features. She was young to look so forlorn. “I am well. I miss her.”

He missed her too—their beautiful mother. She had loved him, never made him feel inadequate, and always saw through his attempts to pretend his father’s indifference did not matter.

“She is in a better place now,” Emma said, her gaze on his face. He still grieved her. He had always thought she would be his advisor when he became duke. How would he carry on without her?

“Yes.” He should say something more comforting, but he did not know what.

“My lord—Andrew, I know you are vexed with our father because of his recent behavior.”

Andrew raised his brows. It had not been a secret, but he did not know how much of his father’s recent behavior she had read about. He did not want to enlighten her.

“But you know that mother and father never loved each other. They married for duty, as I suppose you will. So if he seeks someone to love now, in his declining years, we can hardly judge him.”

Andrew stared at her. He could judge very well, thank you. But he was not so bitter he did not see logic. When had Emma become so wise? And how did she know so much about their parents’ relationship. They had not loved each other? He had never even imagined their courtship or their wedding. Had they married for duty? He supposed that was what dukes did. Was that what he would do? He would have to marry—there was no question of that. He had always thought he would marry for love. He’d chided his friend Pelham for his pronouncements that dukes did not fall in love. But perhaps Pelham had the right of it after all. Perhaps duty was all there was.

“How do you know?” he heard himself asking. “How can you be certain they didn’t love each other?”

“Because I saw them together every day. They didn’t even like each other. He was civil to her, but not kind or solicitous. He trod lightly when she was near, as though he feared something.”

Feared her? Emma, your imagination has the better of you.”

“Perhaps, but she doted on you, Andrew. Katherine and I…” She shuddered.

Now that I’m all grown up, my sister is one of my best friends. I can always count on her. I don’t remember when I stopped being annoyed by her and started seeking her out for advice. Our friendship probably happened a little like it happens for Andrew and Emma.

 

I actually enjoyed writing about Emma so much, I’ve been working on a novella featuring her. Of course, Andrew makes an appearance too. And how fun to see the relationship between the two of them grow.

 

Do you have a brother or sister? Are you great friends or sworn enemies?

 

Blue Topaz NecklaceI have a great prize to give away! Win the first two books in the Jewels of the Ton series, When You Give a Duke a Diamond and If You Give a Rake a Ruby, plus a fabulous blue topaz necklace (US and Canada only).

 

And don’t forget to pre-order the book. Everyone who send proof of pre-order before February 28 will receive a free gift the exclusive, not-in-the-book epilogue. Send proof to Casablanca@sourcebooks.com

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