Thank you for joining me in the duchesses’ drawing room today. I am beyond excited to announce that the first book in my new Playful Brides series, The Unexpected Duchess, will be released Tuesday 4/29/14! Why do I call it The Playful Brides? Well, each of the books in the series is based on a different famous romp play. Oh, I do adore a romp. The Unexpected Duchess is based on Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. I call it a “reverse Cyrano” story because the heroine is trying to break up a couple instead of get them together.
The other books in the series, The Accidental Countess (10/28/14), and The Unlikely Lady (Spring 2015), are based on Oscar Wilde’s, The Importance of Being Earnest and Shakespeare’s, Much Ado About Nothing, respectively. I’m thrilled that this series has gotten off to such a fine start with The Unexpected Duchess earning a 4.5 star TOP PICK rating from RT Book Reviews, and a STARRED review from both Booklist and Kirkus!
The premise of my series got me to thinking about the theatre in Regency England. Here are a few facts I learned while researching the subject:
- Did you know that the theatres were called “Theatre Royal” only after they received Letters Patent by the Crown?
- Although we love to suggest in our books that it was possible to “turn down” the house lights, that was actually quite impossible (they were candles in huge chandeliers hoisted to the ceiling) and it was quite bright in the theatre on purpose to see and be seen. The gaslights didn’t begin until Drury Lane Theatre introduced them in 1817.
- Hot wax (from those same chandeliers) dripped on the patrons in the pit. Hence, one of the reasons why it cost more to sit elsewhere.
- The theatre at Bury St Edmunds is the only Regency theatre still in existence and open for business. Who wants to go with me?!
- A night at the theatre did not merely consist of one play. It might also involve a comedy sketch, singing, animals, and anything else the owners of the theatre could dream up. Think 4 or 5 hours of entertainment.
So, any questions or comments about the theatres of Regency England? One lucky commenter will win a copy of The Unexpected Duchess (U.S.-only for print, anywhere for e-book, Void where prohibited).
Duchess Valerie Bowman is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels (aka Racy Regency Romps) with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging story lines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands!
Valerie grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got.
Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her rascally rescue dog, Roo. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS. Valerie loves to hear from readers. Find her on the web at Facebook, Twitter, and at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com.
I love history. Obviously, or I wouldn’t write in a historical time period. Typically I think about the fun facts of history. Beautiful silk and lace gowns, lots of petticoats that swish and shush and froth around a lady’s legs. Hair curled and piled high, anchored with combs and pins embellished with jewels.
And of course, my Duchess tiara.
Then I think about the heroes. Oh. The heroes. (Sorry, I must pause here and fan myself, as a Duchess never gets hot and bothered). Romance heroes come in all shapes and sizes and, well, hotness levels. Highwaymen, pirates, smugglers. Lords and princes, alpha men from the rookeries who rise up despite all odds, and those rough men from the Colonies who make an English lady weak in the knees (among other things). I love all those parts of history and romance writing.
But history still comes down to people. People lived in 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900—and all the centuries before that. They lived and breathed and laughed and loved. They bore children, they buried children. They worked hard to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. They suffered toothaches and stomach aches and colds. After all, the cold virus didn’t start a few years ago.
Can you imagine that? This winter you had a cold, blew your nose, and suffered through sinus pressure. Two hundred years ago, ladies did the same thing, without the joy of cold medicine and tissues with lotion to help them. I worry about my 5 year old when he jumps off the top step of the deck and I worry about my husband when he starts using a chain saw. I imagine ladies in 1100 AD worried about their boys jumping off stone walls and husbands heading off to sword practice.
Decade to decade, century to century, millennium to millennium, we all have the same hopes and fears. We all love and we all laugh. Family is family, for good or ill. And everyone mourns and grieves.
So when I read this entry in the London Gazette, April 19, 1814, my heart grieved:
“The Prince Regent has also been pleased to command, in the name of and on behalf of His Majesty, that those badges which would have been conferred upon the officers who fell in, or have died since the battle of Vittoria, shall, as a token of respect to their memories, be transmitted to their respective families…
1st Regiment of Foot
To be Captains of Companies
Lieutenant D. McQueen, vice McNicol, killed in action. Dated April 12, 1814
Lieutenant L. Grant, vice Parvis, died of his wounds. Dated April 13, 1814
Lieutenant P. McGregor, vice Westerall, killed in action. Dated April 14, 1814”
These gentlemen’s lives were honored by being posthumously awarded a promotion, though that doesn’t make the loss of life easier.
There is always a connection, past to present to future. And that connection is humanity. The basic human connection of mother to son, father to daughter, husband to wife—none of that has changed. Perhaps, in the days where a mother might bear ten children and lose six in infancy, there was an easier acceptance of death.
But I doubt it. The death of a husband or brother or father—or child—is no easier to bear in 1814 as it is in 2014.
I think history is about humanity and relationships. People are people, with all the emotions that complicate and strengthen love. So I grieve for the families of 1814 as much as the families of 2014. And I wonder, what joys and heartaches did my ancestors experience?
So tell me, what joys and trials have your ancestors borne that reminds you we’re all human, whether it’s 1000 AD or 2000 AD—or the winter of 2013/2014 that I swear has still not ended here in Michigan.
Alyssa Alexander writes about lords turned spies and ladies turned smugglers. Her next release features a Waterloo widow and the spy who loves her.
Petticoats: By Tranquil Garden (Own work) CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons
Dry Stone Wall: By Gpmg (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
What happens when a talented romance author with an expertise in deviant behavior decides to combine the two into a deliciously dark Victorian novel? Robyn DeHart joins the duchesses today with a little taste of her newest book, The Temptations of Anna Jacobs.
When I was in college I got my degree in Sociology with an emphasis on social deviance. Of course it wasn’t me that was being the deviant only that most of the classes I took focused on those topics. Juvenile Delinquency, Criminology, Violent Crimes, Social Deviance… I was fascinated. Yet when I had the meeting with my internship director and she asked me “if you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” I proudly declared, “an historical romance author.” Needless to say she was momentarily dismayed, but we worked it all out, in the form of my internship with Bestselling Author, Pamela Morsi. Of course that’s a whole ‘nother blog.
But all my friends and family who knew what I studied in college kept asking when I was going to incorporate all my “kill your mama” stuff (as my sister calls it) into my writing. I’ve dabbled in it through the years, the body count is pretty high in my Legend Hunters series, but frankly I was dying (okay bad pun!) to write a romantic suspense. I wanted to write a serial killer book. And hello, I already write in the Victorian era so you know there’s that one killer…Jack the Ripper.
There are so many different theories about the identity of Jack the Ripper. Even today the mystery begs to be solved. Patricia Cornwall thinks she solved the case. I watched a fascinating documentary about a former NYPD cold case detective who thinks he’s uncovered Jack’s identity. He made a very good argument. At the time of the murders the theories ranged from a barber to a doctor to a member of the royal family. I came up with my own story for Jack, but I don’t want to reveal any spoilers.
The first book in the series, The Secrets of Mia Danvers, received some great critical acclaim. And now readers can return to my dark Victorian series with the sequel, The Temptations of Anna Jacobs. I really can’t wait for readers to step into the world I’ve created and I sure hope everyone loves it.
Love and justice…
When Drew Foster is released from prison, he doesn’t much care about salvaging his soiled reputation. Though he’s working undercover, everyone in Victorian London believes him guilty of the Jack the Ripper murders and that his brother paid for his “innocence.”
Despite her genteel upbringing, Anna Jacobs is intent on finishing medical school and becoming a physician. Society’s ridicule has never bothered her, but when her brother, the Yard’s best detective, is scorned for letting Drew go, she confronts the one man who can set the record straight at a ball. She certainly doesn’t count on the rogue being dashing and handsome, nor on him stealing a passionate kiss.
Anna’s brazen contempt for his dangerous reputation captivates Drew, but he is harboring secrets that make him unfit to court any proper woman. As he finds himself an outsider among his colleagues at Scotland Yard, the feisty beauty offers up her medical knowledge to assist him on the case. But when the real killer returns to London to continue his reign of terror, can Anna find safety in Drew’s arms?
Duchess Robyn has very graciously agreed to give away a digital copy of The Secrets of Mia Danvers, the first book in her Dangerous Liaisons series, to one lucky commentator.
I am thrilled to reveal the cover of Alanna, book number two in my When Hearts Dare series, a historical romance. It is due to release November 4th through Kensington Publishing.
Here’s a little bit about the book:
Intent on shedding a fiancé handpicked by her social climbing parents, a high-spirited young woman embarks on a blazing love affair with an enigmatic lone wolf whose quest to find his mother’s murderer threatens their love—and their lives.
My first book, set to release in June of this year through Entangled Publishing is, The Seduction of Sarah Marks. My second book, the first in another series, A Duke’s Wicked Kiss is set to release August 26, is a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist. The first book in When Hearts Dare series about three different, but equally strong women who must forge their own path in life. Celine, will release October 7th. Alanna will release November 4th and the third book in the series, Josette, is currently set to release in September 2015. I feel really blessed to have had five books contracted all at once!
Oh, and I have another exciting announcement to make: The audio rights to both Celine and Alanna have already sold!
About Duchess Kathleen:
Once Kathleen Bittner Roth realized that making a living was not the same as making a life, she founded an international well-being center. Her goal was to help others become self-empowered, and become aware that happiness and joy are daily choices. Little did she know when her journey began where the path would lead. She had no idea she’d one day walk on fire, marry in a castle in the Scottish Highlands, learn to ride English style, and spend hundreds of hours giving seminars of her own creation on self-empowerment. Nor did she have any idea she would be given the opportunity to guest on hundreds of radio shows and every major television network, including the History Channel.
“Making a life” for Kathleen includes writing Victorian romance novels. She considers this her perfect venue to create characters faced with difficult choices, and who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit in order to overcome adversity and find unending love.
In addition to being part of the Dashing Duchesses, Kathleen is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America® and belongs to the Hearts Through History Romance Writers chapter. She has been a contributing editor of an online romance magazine, and has been a guest on numerous blogs. She has won or finaled in various writing contests, including the 2012 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart®.
Although she has never considered herself a vagabond, she has somehow managed to live in six U.S. states and several foreign countries. Currently, she resides in Budapest, Hungary, but has deep roots in Minnesota and Texas. You can find her on Facebook; Twitter, or by visiting her website at: www.kathleenbittnerroth.com.
I am thrilled to welcome author Jane Lark. Jane writes Historical Romance and New Adult Romance for Harper UK. After reading her debut, The Illicit Love of a Courtesan, I just *had* to ask her to join us here in the Duchesses’ sitting room.
Welcome Jane! Can you tell us a little bit about your latest release, The Scandalous Love of a Duke?
I’ve been busy sharing some of the excerpts from The Illicit Love of a Courtesan and The Passionate Love of a Rake on my blog, because the third book in the series is about John, the son of the heroine of The Illicit Love of a Courtesan, Ellen. In the first two books John is a child and then a youth. The Scandalous Love of a Duke is his story as an adult, fractured by his mother’s past, and his grandfather’s strength of will. You don’t have to read the earlier two books to enjoy his story, but you will get the depth of it far more if you have followed the series.
I can hear your passion for John’s story. I’m certain The Scandalous Love of a Duke will be a very engrossing read. Would you like to share your inspiration?
The Scandalous Love of a Duke is probably my best example of where human points of view and historical research and settings collide. I was writing the Scandalous Love of a Duke when Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton. Yes, it has been sitting on my hard drive awhile. But watching the two of them together in interviews, you could see how much he gains his strength from her, and it was very public in his youth, that by choice, he would have given up all official responsibility. But he had no choice in that. I’ve read memoirs of several periods where other princes have suffered the same tugs of war emotionally. So why not a Duke…
How romantic & compelling! You mentioned connections between your releases. What do you love most about the fictional world of these stories?
From a personal point of view, while you enjoy stepping into the Regency period in my books for a couple of days, writing it, I get to live there in my imagination for months! I guess that is another reason why I love memoirs and letters, because it makes you feel more like you are there… There are scenes in all the Marlow Intrigues books where I’ve taken settings from Harriette Wilson’s memoirs, and used her view to be able give my own. In the fourth full book, out later this year, I have started using scenes described by others who captured them in letters.
I loved reading the fascinating historical tidbits you’ve discovered in your research on your blog, including your adventures reading those infamous memoirs. What have you discovered in your research that surprised you most?
I guess the thing that I find most surprising, although it really shouldn’t be, is just how little people have changed. The world people lived in, in the 1800s, was different, and the social rules they lived by – but the human emotions, and the thought processes people had, when you read memoirs and letters of the time, people thought just as anyone does today. That’s why I prefer researching through letters and memoirs over text books, because you get the human insight on things that happened, and I love including that in my books.
Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp?
There really isn’t meant to be a message in my historical books, I know I tackle issues around abuse and messages may slip in subconsciously, but really the stories are developed as fairy tales. I just love writing good, strong, heroes who may be emotionally scarred and make errors, but ultimately at the core of them they are knights in shining armour. I love stories that take my characters on emotional journeys (and I do love including a lot of passion because physical relationships are integral to loving relationships, where physical relationships are possible).
But oddly in my contemporary books, which Harper Collins have begun publishing too, I do deliberately share messages. These stories are written about young people growing up. I had quite a hard time of growing up due to illness, if I can help others avoid some of the things I went through, I will. The theme of these will be about acceptance, accepting yourself, for who you are and accepting others for who they are too. The later historical books following the Marlow’s children will move more into this area too.
The first issue I explore in my contemporary novel, I Found You, is mental health, the message being that people who have conditions can lead a normal life. What is fab is that last week someone with the condition reviewed the story and gave it five stars. I am thrilled by that.
I return to my favorite books because they teach something about how not just to survive but to deepen and heal. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Anya Seton, Elizabeth Chadwick, Gaelen Foley, Mary Balogh, and in contemporary books my current favourite is Jay Crownover.
Before you go, let’s end things on a light note. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I guess maybe that I never stop… I am still working a day job, so my writing time is squeezed in all over the place, I will take my laptop in the car, if my husband is driving, even if we are only going to the supermarket, and I take editing to work and read it over lunch… Never stop… Lol
And your readers appreciate that dedication! Thank you so much for stopping by!
Leave a comment for Jane and you will be entered in a contest. One lucky commenter will win a $10.00 gift certificate to Amazon. And, as a special treat for our readers, here is an excerpt from The Scandalous Love of a Duke:
The mantle of a duke was lying heavy on his shoulders.
Richard had said several times it would feel normal after a while. John could not imagine it. Even though the house was straining at the seams with people today, he felt as isolated as he’d been in Egypt, and incapable of relaxing. That was not due to the responsibility though. It was just who he was – a buzzard among peacocks.
A glass of red wine balanced in one hand, the stem dangling between his fingers, he joined another group of guests, fulfilling his duty. He trusted no one here.
God, this was his life now, duty and falsehood. He missed Egypt, he missed adventure and peace and simplicity. He was already bored of people’s endless supplication. Everyone seemed to want something from him. They sought to attach themselves to either his wealth or his power.
His grandfather had warned of this…
… His gaze swept about the room then stopped.
There was a young woman standing amidst his family, like a blonde beacon of light amongst his dark-haired black-clad cousins. She was an angel in her pale mauve dress.
Her figure was a sublime balance of curves and narrow waist. Her spine had a beautiful arch as it curved into the point where her dress opened onto a full skirt.
Wheat-blonde hair escaped a dull dove-grey bonnet, caressing her neck and drawing his eyes to a place he’d like to kiss…
The winner of signed copies of both books in Rhonda Jones. Congrats Rhonda, we’ll be contacting you by email!
Maya and Jennifer
Writing Groundbreaking Stories and Banishing Deficit Thinking
By visiting author Jeannie Lin, fellow Ruby sister of Duchess Kate Parker and winner of the 2009 Golden Heart for Historical Romance. Jeannie’s a magnificent author whose stories of love and adventure are on my keeper shelves. She’s also a sweetheart of a young lady and I’m proud to call her friend. Without further ado, here’s Jeannie!
Ha! What a way to start off, right? In the romance industry where being humble and self-deprecating is so de rigueur, here I go calling the stories I write “groundbreaking”.
When I was invited to blog here, I was once again faced with a conundrum. I’ve gotten a few invitations to blog based on how very unusual my setting is in historical romance and I’m always reluctant to push my brand as one of being different.
So what’s up with the title of this post? What I am doing is negotiating around the other terms that people overwhelmingly use to describe my books and many books that are outside the usual settings and characters of the romance genre: unusual, different or—a little bit better, but not much –unique.
These are not necessarily BAD descriptions. But they’re not necessarily GOOD, are they? Now, now…I know a handful of readers are saying, but I like different. I like unique. And trust me, I LOVE you because you’re more likely to pick up my book.
But what about the rest of the reading population? I propose that “different” is a very hard thing to sell. For one thing, it doesn’t hit the buttons that people are usually looking for when they seek out a book: something emotional, transportive, fun, adventurous, sexy, angsty…you get my drift, right?
Different isn’t a sub-genre. It isn’t a type of book. Someone who likes radically different contemporaries won’t like unusual historicals. “Different” or even worse, “Unusual”, is a neutral to negative description. The population of readers who are drawn to these terms is very small.
I prefer “Groundbreaking”. People who read a groundbreaking book feel like they’re a part of something big. Like they’re being bold and cutting edge and exciting. J
We’re writers. We know that words, individual words and the nuances they bring can make or break the scene, the thought, the emotion. This is our bread and butter.
This is also the delicate waltz I’ve danced around how to position my books for the last five years. How do I brand myself, what’s my overwhelming voice and approach going to be every time I blog or FB or even tweet. Because certainly I don’t and can’t ever LOOK like I’m not different from the other historical romances on the shelf and on the page.
Believe it or not, this brings me to the main point of this post: what’s my overall approach to writing groundbreaking stories and what does it mean in terms of writing and promoting?
When I was teaching, we discussed the idea of deficit thinking quite a bit. I taught in South Central L.A. and was one of those shiny, save-the-world types in an education program focused on social justice. We were ready to go and teach in the worst schools in the nation, just because. I mean, someone has to do it. (Hmm…now that I think of it, does the same wiring that makes me want to seek out that job also make me want to write in such a niche market?)
In a nutshell, the opinion, or at least my opinion, is if you go into an underprivileged and underrepresented population with the prevailing thought that these students are missing essential skills, that they lack resources, that they’re disadvantaged because of X, Y and Z, then that colors your entire perception and approach. Then you feel like your position is to fill them up with what’s missing. To be a savior. Yeah, right?
And the students can tell. They can tell that you think they’re less. And their only choice becomes to 1) Believe you and then also believe you when you try to tell them about Chemistry or 2) Throw books at your head.
I would throw books at someone’s head if they thought I was lesser, lacking, subpar.
Yes, it cannot be denied that these students have less money, their average reading score is below grade level compared to the state and the nation, there are gangs recruiting new members on the way home from school. Yes, yes, yes.
But how do you empower students when your approach to them and to their culture and home-life is tainted by the very core belief that what they have is lacking?
Okay, I digressed quite a bit. I’m going to cut myself off, because I can go on about this for a while – but let’s turn this around to writing historical romances in Tang Dynasty China. There is plenty of bloggery on the challenges of writing outside the norms of romance. I myself occasionally blog reflecting on how to successfully execute ideas that may be unfamiliar to mainstream readers.
Because I cannot deny that, X, Y, Z, there are challenges to writing and selling in a niche.
BUT is my prevailing philosophy is that if I go in believing my stories are at a disadvantage, wouldn’t that color everything I do? Would that possibly taint my words on the page and hold me back? (And would my readers somehow be able to tell, perhaps subconsciously, that I felt like this story was at a disadvantage in the market and lacking in the things that readers want?)
I must admit, I’ve believed this at times. When I first started writing, I didn’t know who Jeannie Lin was, I didn’t know anything about what an author was expected to do writing romances in the Tang Dynasty. I questioned everything. Every name, every plot point. I still do.
When that happens, it is a gargantuan effort to re-center myself. It’s a crisis of faith – of writing faith. The things that bring me back are to focus on what are the STRENGTHS of writing in Tang Dynasty China. If there are disadvantages, then surely there are huge, badass advantages to writing what you do.
Early on, I identified a few strengths of my setting and my type of stories and I’ve tried to play to those to maximum affect. There’s the beauty of Chinese culture and style. The visual aesthetic that people are drawn to. There’s the allure of Chinese language and poetry; how symbolism and metaphor seem built into the language from its very construction.
There’s the melodrama. Oh my, what angst! Everything is life and death, honor and shame and making oaths and long, silent suffering and sacrifice. I know that historical romance loves this – it was one of the main reasons I fell into historical romance from the start.
Finally, there’s the uniqueness of writing in this setting. I’ve also brought this up as a disadvantage when trying to gain readers, but I can’t deny it’s also a strength. Whenever I set out to request reviews, I know I stand out. It’s easy to visually brand myself to stand out from the crowd. In a vast field where being discovered sometimes seems impossible, no one else looks like Jeannie Lin.
So my advice to anyone who could possibly be looking here for advice: Don’t fight from a position of deficit, of disadvantage. It’s impossible. It’s just disheartening. It will make you afraid and taint every word you put on the page.
Find your strengths. Embrace them. You’re going to face the slings and arrows of the market no matter what. This is your armor. These are your weapons. Use them. And see how far they can take you.
Jeannie Lin’s surprise bestseller, The Lotus Palace, and its sequel, The Jade Temptress are available now. This series which blends romance and mystery in the Tang Dynasty has received high praise and recommendations from major review sites. The Lotus Palace has been nominated for a Romantic Times Best Historical Adventure award and was named the “2013 Best Historical Romance Not Set in the UK” by All About Romance.
Truth or Dare with Maya Rodale (The Wicked Wallflower) and Jennifer McQuiston (Moonlight on My Mind)
And what good is a party without a bit of mischief?
Jennifer: I’ve invited my partner in publishing crime, the fabulous Maya Rodale, to join me today to celebrate the release of our newest books, which are both out tomorrow, March 25th. We thought we’d liven this party up by playing a little game of Truth or Dare—or, as it used to be known, Questions and Commands. The game starts with asking a fellow player a personal and potentially embarrassing question, which she is required to answer truthfully. If she declines, she must pay a forfeit in the form of a dare or punishment.
We think it is a perfect way to introduce you to our feisty new heroines, who are both prone to some…how shall I say this delicately… misbehavior.
Maya, why don’t you tell us a bit about your heroine in your new book Wallflower Gone Wild?
Being good has worked out very badly for Lady Olivia Archer. All she has to show for four seasons on the marriage mart is the nickname Prissy Missy, which does not entice gentlemen at all. Her prospects are so bleak that her parents have betrothed her to a stranger with a dire reputation. If Phinneas Cole—aka The Mad Baron—wants a biddable bride, perhaps Olivia can frighten him off by breaking every ladylike rule.
Phinn has admired Olivia’s poise and refinement from afar…qualities that appear to have vanished now that they are officially engaged. This Olivia is flirtatious, provocative, and wickedly irresistible. She’s not at all the woman he bargained for, yet she’s the only one he wants. He’s determined to woo her. She’s determined to resist. But Olivia is discovering there’s nothing so appealing as a fiancé who’s mad, bad, and dangerously seductive…
Which means she is definitely up for a dare tonight.
Jennifer: In contrast, Miss Julianne Baxter, the heroine in Moonlight on My Mind, is feeling a bit nervous about being pressed for the Truth.
You see, eleven months ago, Julianne’s statement to the authorities wrongly implicated Patrick, the new Earl of Haversham, in his older brother’s death. More and more she’s convinced of Patrick’s innocence, though when it comes to igniting her passions, the man is all too guilty.
Now she has impetuously tracked him to the wilds of Scotland, without a plan or a chaperone, insisting that he return home to face a murder charge and save his family from ruin. A clandestine wedding may be the only way to save her reputation—and his neck from the hangman’s noose.
And if they can only clear his name, a marriage made in haste could bring about the most extraordinary pleasure…
Jennifer: Ladies, I suppose we should turn this parlor game over to you.
Lady Olivia: Do bring it on!
Julianne: Excellent. I do love a good house party, as long as it’s not one of those dreadfully dull Yorkshire events that makes a young lady want to put a darning needle through her eye. Or, if the mood strikes, someone else’s eye.
Lady Olivia: Is that a Dare? *smiles innocently*
Julianne: Lady Olivia, I do like your spirit. But no, no, let’s not get to the Dares yet. I’d like to start the festivities with a request for the Truth: You are a self-professed wallflower with four Seasons under your belt…surely you haven’t survived so long without being kissed?
Lady Olivia: ALAS. ‘Tis a true fact that all the bucks and rakes of the ton are not remotely interested in kissing young ladies named Prissy Missy. Only once I started acting recklessly was I able to entice a gentleman for a kiss…under the most dramatic and potentially disastrous circumstances possible. Once I did have my first kiss, I discovered that it was very, very much worth waiting for. Julianne, your antics would give my mother the vapors! Which I means I am eager to become better acquainted. And, I confess, I am eager to hear more about the igniting of passions. Where is the most shocking, breathtaking, scandalous place you have kissed Patrick? (And yes, I am fiendishly leaving this open to interpretation!)
Julianne: *Blushes* The truth is, all my troubles started with a kiss. (A truly glorious kiss, mind you, from a man I’ve never been able to forget, even when I later accused him of murder.) I was really trying to attract the attention of Patrick Channing’s brother, Eric, and I coerced Channing into dancing with me only to raise his brother’s competitive instincts. But things went quickly awry, as you can see here:
“Are you chasing me, Mr. Channing?” Julianne tossed a quick look over her shoulder. “And more importantly, is your brother watching you?” She could see little beyond the smear of colorful gowns as the next set started. “I can’t see anything in this crush.”
He leaned in close. Too close. She could smell the earthy fragrance of horse and sweet hay on his clothing, underlain by the sharper bite of something that smelled medicinal. His breath, where it tickled the edge of her ear, sent her stomach into a swirling state of confusion. “Eric is just there, near the edge of the line. Can you see? He’s watching us now. Quite intently.”
Julianne’s skin thrummed with a curious anticipation. “Then why have we left the dance?” she whispered.
He stepped closer, until his trousers brushed her skirts and she could smell the heated linen of his shirt. “Because I imagine my brother’s interest will be captured more fully now that he suspects I am going to kiss you.”
Julianne’s throat tightened around the thought. The relative indecency of the waltz they had just shared fell away, forgotten in the face of this tempting new impropriety. She lifted her chin. “Are you going to kiss me, Mr. Channing?”
“Oh, of a certainty.”
But I would never admit this lapse in propriety to anyone but you, Lady Olivia. So if you press me for a public confession, I am afraid I will have to insist on a forfeit! And now I must press you for another Truth, as you seem like a young lady who knows her own mind: What is the most scandalous thing you have ever done to get exactly what you want?
Lady Olivia: If you promise not to share this with anyone I will tell you about the night my best friends and I snuck out to a demimonde ball. When it appeared my match with the Mad Baron was inevitable—after my valiant efforts to destroy my reputation and scare him off—all I wished for was one night of absolute freedom. Hence, the demimonde masquerade ball. First I flirted with a handsome solider, and allowed him to escort me into the darkest part of the garden where I was quite nearly ravished before a handsome stranger rescued me:
A cloud passed away from the moon, revealing a man who was tall—but not too tall. Muscled, but not overly so. He wore evening clothes and a black domino obscured his face. But she could see he was handsome. A firm sensual mouth, a jaw clenched. Was he angry with her? He didn’t even know her.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“I think so,” she said softly. She was such a fool, courting danger like that. She knew better. She was so very lucky this man had turned up when he did. Although she was now at his mercy and she sensed that while his anger was receding, he wasn’t entirely a virtuous angel of goodness and light. “Thank you.”
He didn’t say, “You’re welcome” or make a quip about saving a damsel in distress, or lecture her on her exceedingly foolish decisions this evening. She deserved every possible lecture or to be dragged unceremoniously back to the ballroom or worse.
He exhaled slowly, as if he were frustrated or angry and trying to control his temper. When he spoke, the words were clipped, gritted out.
“You just wanted to have fun,” he said.
Yes. Yes, that was it exactly. This man understood that she only wanted to have a spot of amusement before she’d never enjoy herself again. Who was he?
She gazed at him.
He gazed at her.
Young ladies do not fall in love with mysterious heroic strangers the night before their wedding…
In summary, the most scandalous thing I have ever done was venture into the gardens, unchaperoned, with a handsome stranger at a masquerade ball…only to find the love of my life when and where I least expected it.
Now Julianne, methinks it’s time for a dare! Thus I dare you to do something no propriety- minded miss would ever do and then you must tell us all about it!
Julianne: Hmmmm…. Given my penchant for twisting the truth, I presume I shall have to provide some visible evidence (readers, please ignore the fact that photography is only recently invented for era in which I live, and not in such vibrant color.)
I accept your challenge, and have met my hero in a moonlit folly for a late night rendezvous that would shock the corset off even the most daring of Duchesses.
We hope our little game of Truth or Dare has piqued your interest in these wild-child heroines from Wallflower Gone Wild and Moonlight on My Mind! One lucky commenter here today will win a signed print copy of both Wallflower Gone Wild and Moonlight on My Mind. Just tell us the most outrageous dare you’ve ever taken!
In addition, Maya and I will be playing Truth or Dare for the next month on our Facebook pages, with a fabulous package of prizes at the end, so like us on Facebook and keep commenting to win!