Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Exclusive Excerpt: Kissed at Midnight

~ Excerpt ~

Pushing the shirt from his shoulders, she gritted her teeth at the sight of bunched muscles marred with several bruises. One on his upper arm and a scattering across his abdomen. Her fingers flexed as she imagined spreading her palms across his chest and through the scattering of dark hair. Maybe she would even nuzzle against it.
Heat flooded her face. She’d been caught admiring when she should be nursing. Avoiding his gaze, she scooped up some of the cool salve and smeared it over the bruise on his arm. In spite of the kitchen not being particularly warm, his skin was. The little lines of muscle intrigued her and she couldn’t help trace them as she smoothed in the lotion.
“Do you box often?” Her voice came out thin and weak like a cheap broth.
He nodded.
That would explain his build. She’d always puzzled over how a man who spent most of his life in the study was so strong and—she glanced down the rippled lines of his abdomen—firm.
“At least until Elsie arrived.”
His voice sounded gritty. Not weak like hers, but certainly strained. Everything about him from the bunching of his muscles to his continued grip on her skirts screamed of his need to break free of restraint.
And she could not help believe he was holding back for the same reason she was. He wanted to kiss her, maybe even touch her. She felt it in her bones, in her blood. As elemental as the air in her lungs. Ivy feared if he did not break and give her that kiss, her body might waste away, starved of his touch.
Licking her lips, she steeled herself for what was to come next. “Lift your arm.”
She used the cloth to clean away some more of the grime and sweat from his body. “You are filthy,” she murmured in a bid to distract herself from the way his stomach muscles tensed as she slid the cloth down them.
“Boxing rings are filthy places.”
Suddenly the distance between them seemed so very great. He built railways and knew more than she ever would. He frequented places she would never step foot in. She might have some noble blood running through her but he was far superior to her in every way.
What could she say for herself? She sang. If she could bring her voice out to the world then perhaps she might be able to say she brought joy to people but, for now, she could not even bring herself to sing in front of August. It frustrated her beyond all belief.
She peered down and realised she was absently stroking his firm stomach with the cloth. “Oh.” Abandoning the cloth, she reached for the salve and bent to rub it over the marks on his ribs. “I hope nothing is broken.”
“No, just bruised. I’d know if it was.”
She lifted her gaze to his and found that her mouth was mere inches away from his. Her breath near froze in her throat. “Have you broken a rib before?” she asked huskily.
“Yes, a long time ago when I first started boxing. I didn’t...” His words trailed off and she saw his gaze drop to her lips.
In response, she tucked her bottom lip under her top teeth. A sharp hiss echoed from him and her mouth tingled. She searched his gaze and saw it there—the same need flaring through her. So why did he not move? Why did his grip on her skirts tighten and why did his muscles bunch?
“Please,” she whispered before she’d even thought about it.
“What do you want, Ivy?” he asked in a low, rough voice.
Did she have the courage to say? Few things held her back in life and she could rarely claim to have control of her tongue, but she hesitated for a moment. Perhaps because the stakes were so high. Her heart throbbed painfully as if to remind her exactly what was at stake. It would be so very easy to fall for him. But a kiss? Maybe more? Would that be so bad?

“I want you,” she replied.

August Avery, a renowned civil engineer, has found himself the sole custodian of his cousin’s six month old daughter and he needs assistance—fast. He understands how to build railways, to construct bridges and to save the railway tycoons thousands of pounds. 
He doesn’t understand, however, how to care for a child When Ivy Davis turns up at his door looking for work, he believes his prayers are answered. If only the exotic, exuberant young woman did not prove to be such a distraction from his busy workload. 

Unsure if she is even up to the task of looking after a baby, Ivy finds herself swayed by the handsome and slightly desperate August into working for him. With her singing career failing before it even started and no other talents, she decides looking after a young child cannot be so hard... surely? 
But the child may turn out to be the least of her worries. Her handsome, brooding master seems to keep her awake more than the baby. Add to that her desire to achieve her dreams of singing on stage and the machinations of the indomitable Mrs Pepperwhite who sees her as competition for August’s hand, Ivy finds this simple job growing harder by the day—as does her desire for her master... 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Book Spotlight: La Contessa and The Marquis by Lindsay Downs

La Contessa and The Marquis

Thank you very much for having me visit you and your blog to introduce my newest regency cozy mystery series, Rogues and Rakehells Mystery. The first book in the series, La Contessa and The Marquis is currently available for preorder with its release set for Monday, Jan 19, 2015.
As I’m not sure where you, the readers of this post, live in the world I’ve included all the Amazon buy link for your convenience.

When Bianca Maria Ledford Goretti, La Contessa de Massa, flees back to her homeland and the safety of her godmother, The Duchess of Gorham, little does she realize who’s arms she lands in.
Lord Rainer Cross, Marquis of Hathaway, is a well-known and dangerous rakehell within the ton. Little does he suspect his godmother has set him up to halt his skirt chasing days.
Over time the reason for Bianca’s return comes to light which has Rainer deeply concerned. Not sure who he can trust Rainer turns to has several of his more interesting staff. He has them use their talents to ferret out the truth.
Everything get more complicated when they learn a friend might not be who he claims to be. Not sure who to trust, except Rainer and the duchess, Bianca learns several startling facts which could protect her from harm.
Once everything is revealed the duchess steps in with a surprise, something neither could have ever seen coming.

Rainer Cross, Marquis of Hathaway, settled his shoulder against a pillar where he’d ensconced himself so he could overlook the ballroom. A warning glare to several want to be rakes was all that was needed to send them scurrying back to their mommas.
With a renewed resolve, to search down one particular individual, his piercing blue eyes studied the throng of ladies. Some too old but searching for a lover, even if for a brief tryst. Others on the hunt for a husband of which he had no interest, at least with them, as he already had his sights set on one person in particular.
Granted, he’d not seen her, except from a distance, but if the reports were to be believed she was, without a doubt the most beautiful lady, the truest diamond, to ever grace the ton.
Then, as if Venus rising from the ocean, she appeared at the top of the grand ballroom vestibule. He could feel the air rush from his lungs, something he’d never experienced before, as he fixed his gaze on her.
Seeing her in the flesh, as it were, he knew all the whispers circulating about had been true. Without a doubt she was the most beautifully, enchanting and mysterious woman he ever set his eyes upon.
He was pleased to see she was conversing animatedly with an elderly, heavily bejewelled woman. From where he was standing and the angle of the matron, Rainer wasn’t able to see her face.
“As long as she’s not my godmother, then I most assuredly will gain an introduction to the Contessa,” he mumbled to himself.
Due to the loud voices, so everyone could be heard over the musicians, he didn’t hear their presentation. His only concern was the woman accompanying the contessa as he already knew her name- Bianca Maria Ledford Goretti, La Contessa de Massa. Levering himself off the pillar he started toward them, still unable to see who her chaperone was when a friend, another fellow rake, stopped him.
“Rain, I do hope you’re not going after that delicate morsel, as I’ve it on excellent authority she’s eaten up and spit out several lords,” Tony, or more precisely Anthony Fuller, Earl of Wyatt, his friend from their days at Eton then university, informed him.
“My dear friend if she does, then I’ll die a happy man for la Contessa is a gem whom I wish to possess.”
“Ah, and that’s the rub. After she dismisses you she’ll then tread over your heart leaving nothing but a shell of a man. Trust me on this for I’m sure you’ve heard the rumour her first husband died mysteriously.”
“Tony, the only lady I fear is my godmother. If you’ll excuse me I’m going to attempt an introduction,” Rainer told him. With a pat on Tony’s shoulder he stepped around his friend and started for the divan where both ladies had settled.
As he made his way forward he wasn’t surprised to see both women had already collected a small group of young ladies around them. What he found amusing were several swains on the outskirts, all trying to be noticed by either lady.
Upon seeing a frontal assault was out of the question Rainer selected to attack from the rear. Stepping into an adjourning, but linked, alcove he easily approached them and came to a halt within feet of his object.
“Damn. I thought she wasn’t in town,” he mumbled on spying his nemesis, best known as his godmother, The Duchess of Gorham.

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I’ve been an avid readers ever since I was old enough to hold a red leather bound first edition copy of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake in my lap.
So it only seemed natural at some point in my life I take up pen and paper to start writing. Over time my skills slightly improved which I attribute to my English teachers.
My breakthrough came about in the mid 1970’s when I read a historical romance written by Sergeanne Golon, Angelique. This French husband and wife team opened my eyes to the real world of fiction. Stories about romance, beautiful damsels, handsome heroes and plots which kept me hooked. Of course, being a man, I had to keep my reading hidden from others as that wasn’t appropriate reading for men.
With this new found appreciation of the written word I took up other books and devoured them as a starving person would a plate of food. I them attempted to write again. I still wasn’t satisfied so I put it aside for years as other events entered my life.
Finally, in the early years of the new millennium I tried again to write and once again met with limited success. At least now I was able to get past the first page or two. Then, in 2006 a life changing event brought me back to my love, I took a job as a security officer. This allowed me plenty of time to read different genres.
My favourite was regency. As I poured through everyone I could get my hands on I knew this could be something I wanted to attempt.
Since 2012 when my debut regency romantic suspense released I was hooked and have, except for a few contemporaries, focused on this genre.
Since 2012 I’ve lived in central Texas. I’m also a member of Romance Writers of America and their local chapter.

Where you can find me-
Twitter- @ldowns2966
Lindsay Downs-Romance Author-

Saturday, 10 January 2015

99c Sale and Giveaway

I've teamed up with my lovely fellow street team authors to offer all 'Fill Your Kindle' sale and giveaway. Six titles are on sale for 99c and you can enter the giveaway by clicking on the image to win a $15 Amazon gift card.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Words Not to Use in Your Historical Novel

Writing historical romance throws out many challenges with regards to accuracy. One of my big bugbears being a Brit is language. I know I'm not alone in finding myself pulled kicking and screaming out of a book when a modern word or Americanism (sorry lovely friends from over the pond, you know I love you) is used. I probably less fussy however, as I know how damned hard it is to get everything right.

Now it's not possible to ensure every single word is correct unless you want to research the etymology of your entire book and some words we simply can't trace, but this is a sort of guide to what should and should not be in Regency and Victorian books. I intended to write out a reference list mostly for myself but I had done some searching myself for reference lists to save the tiresome double-checking and hadn't found any so I thought it might be nice to share. It's a rather odd collection of words but I hope someone finds it useful and maybe interesting.

Now all of my medieval works are set before we moved to Old English so I don't worry so much about my language in those books but obviously I don't include modern concepts. Though I don't use it as it's strange for a Brit like me the word gotten--which fell out of use here in Regency times--is an Old English word. 

Some of these are ones my friends have pointed out that drive them mad:

Stoop - This is an Americanism and we would say doorstep.

Sidewalk - Brits say pavement.

Drive or driveway (as in road leading to a house) - This didn't come into use until very late in the Victorian era. The safest phrase is private road.

Climax - As in orgasm. The other use also didn't come into use until early 1800's so it's no good at all for Regency set books. It wasn't used until 1880 for describe a sexual orgasm.

Table-manners - This comes in at the start of the Victorian period.

Hypnotic (i.e. His hypnotic gaze)  - This came into use around 1843. Previously it meant 'inducing sleep.'

Unconscious - During the Regency era and into the Victorian era this meant 'not conscious' of something rather than being knocked out. I often say knocked senseless in Victorian and Medieval works. Like-wise self-conscious didn't change it's meaning until mid-Victorian era. Before that it meant simply being aware of what you are doing but only came into use at all after the Elizabethan era. 

Vantage meaning vantage point came into use after 1865.

Needlepoint - As in lacework. No sitting doing needlework for our heroines until after 1865.

Lanky - This didn't come in until around 1818 and even then it appears to have been a slang word and likely not used by upper classes. 
Phew, There are more.But this are ones I see quite often. It's hard to be entirely accurate and some say they don't mind the use of more modern words in narration as long as it's not coming out of character's mouths, but I do think an admirable attempt at accuracy is always nice. And I'll admit it, I'm a word geek. I love finding the history of words and seeing how my ancestors used them. I hope someone finds this interesting or useful :) 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Excerpt and Giveaway: Once Upon a Rake

I have been horrible at blogging recently so I thought I'd do my best to offer up a little compensation in the form of one of my Victorian heroes in a wet shirt. I hope you enjoy ;) Leave a comment as I'll be giving away a copy of my Christmas Victorian story, Christmas Seduction to one lucky commenter. 


“Damn him.”
“Something the matter?”
Heat rushed into her cheeks and she snapped her head up to see Lucian entering with a tray of tea. He laid it down on the console table and began pouring himself a cup. Eleanor gaped like a fish. Had he heard her coarse language? Why was he bringing her tea? And what was he thinking coming in here looking like that?
Each breath grew more difficult the longer she looked. He perched himself against the table and languidly sipped his tea. The small cup reminded her of how fragile she had felt in his arms. Much like the china, his hands dwarfed her own tiny ones but she never feared he might break her. She had felt protected in those strong arms.
Eleanor snapped her gaze away from where he had divested himself of his cravat. His hair was damp, as was the front of his shirt. Unwittingly her gaze dropped again. Even the flesh at his collar had a sheen to it. Her fingers twitched and she forced her hands down into her lap to clench them together lest she give into the voice in her head that was screaming at her to touch that damp flesh.
“” she squeaked and coughed. “Nothing wrong. Have you been riding?” She groaned inwardly. What an inane question.
“Yes.” His gaze fixed on hers and the air around her grew thick and intense, as though she were caught in a storm.
“It is hardly the sort of weather for riding. Did you have something important to do?”
“Have you made much progress?”
“Pardon?” Eleanor stared at him for several moments before remembering what she was meant to be doing. “Oh, the books. Yes, though I am nowhere near done I’m afraid.”
“Will you not join me for some tea? You could do with a break.”
“I did just take a walk around the house,” she confessed. Though she longed for a warm cup, she did not think her legs would cooperate and moving closer to Lucian when he was dressed like that would be a mighty mistake. “You look...damp. Perhaps you should change?”
He lifted a shoulder and placed down the cup of tea to slip off his jacket and hang it over the back of one of the red leather chairs. Next came his waistcoat. Eleanor watched him undo each button, both horrified and fascinated. Good Lord, she hoped he stopped there. And she hoped he did not. To get a look at that wide chest...
She found herself fanning herself with a sheet of paper and had to slap it down. His lips twitched and she narrowed her gaze at him as he came to settle directly in front of her once more. The damp front of his shirt stuck to his chest and his movements had sent several drips of water trailing down his face and neck. Eleanor’s gaze followed those trails as they vanished under his shirt.
“I hope you do not mind my state of undress. I am not one for formality in my home.”
That proved it. He was toying with her. She was not sure what his intention in making her uncomfortable was, but she would not fall foul to his games.
“Not at all.” Her responding smile felt fragile but, regardless, she stood and walked over to help herself to tea.
“Allow me.” His fingers grazed hers as he took the teapot from her and poured. “You had two sugars, if I recall correctly.”
“How do you remember that?”
“I remember many things about you.” Lucian dropped two sugars in her tea and poured the milk without spilling a drop, and without taking his gaze from hers.

In Victorian England, Little Ellie Browning swiftly discovered happily ever afters did not exist and rakes were simply rakes. When the man she had adored for years kissed her and left her heartbroken and she was forced to marry an elderly earl to save her reputation, she resolved to put any dreams of fairy tales aside. 

Seven years later, the now widowed Eleanor, Countess of Hawthorne, has returned to England after years of travelling and is now part-owner of a cotton mill left to her by her late husband. 

But the owner of the mill, and the very same handsome rake who hurt her years earlier, has no desire to let a woman interfere with his business, let alone little Ellie Browning—no matter how fascinating he finds her since her transformation from coltish scarecrow to almost graceful countess. 

Lucian is still recovering from the after-effects of one of his mills succumbing to fire, and now he’s fighting to save the other in a tough economic climate. He doesn’t need this new distraction, especially when, after a series of accidents, it becomes clear someone wishes the mill to close and he has to find the culprit—fast. 

With things heating up between Ellie and Lucian, it’s apparent that not only is the mill in peril—they are both at risk of getting burned...

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Sunday, 2 November 2014

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: Black is the Colour by Nicole Hurley Moore

Please welcome Nicole to my blog today as she shares an excerpt from her medeival fairytale romance and be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom. You could win a $25 gift card.
Ciana has loved Oran all her life and nothing, not even her father will prevent them from being together. But the Mayor of Stonemark has higher aspirations for his daughter than the village blacksmith. He engages the help of a witch and dark magic to bend Ciana to his will.
Oran knows that he doesn’t deserve Ciana. But their love is stronger than the metal he forges and welds. She has his heart and he will never turn from her no matter the cost.
Separated, Ciana will need all her strength to journey through the deep forest and save Oran from the witch’s curse. Alone and with only a trail of black feathers to follow, Ciana will fight against the odds and attempt to bring her lover home.

Round double, double you go,
Until black feathers upon you grow.
Beak and claw, talon and wing,
Now with raven’s voice you will sing.
To the heavens you shall fly,
It is my will –
So say I.

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Oran’s arms were around her, holding her tight. She snuggled against him to capture his warmth. Outside the wind had picked up. It caused the branches to scratch against the cottage walls. Ciana closed her eyes but there was something that wouldn’t let her sleep.
She tilted her head back and looked at Oran. His eyelids flickered for an instant before closing altogether. His dark hair had fallen forward and obscured part of his face. Reaching up, Ciana brushed it back.
“You should sleep. The dawn will be here soon enough and we have a long journey ahead of us,” he said as he tightened his grasp.
“I know, but I can’t settle... it’s as if...”
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s as if something isn’t right.”
“All is well, my love,” he answered sleepily. “It’s been an eventful day. You’re worried that your father will come after us but we will soon be far beyond his reach.”
“I suppose you’re right.”
“We’ll be long gone before he even returns. Fear not,” he said as he kissed her shoulder. “We’ll be at Havensport in three days and the very thought of Stonemark will be far behind us.”
“I’m sure that’s true,” Ciana said as she closed her eyes and willed herself to fall asleep. But the wind shrieked and circled the cottage and Ciana could not shake the feeling of foreboding.
“Of course I’m right. There is nothing to worry about...”
The door burst open with a bang. The wind tore around the room, circling the bed. With it came leaves, sticks and debris from the woods. Oran threw himself over Ciana in an attempt to shield her from the maelstrom. The wind howled like a banshee and the bed shook, until she was sure that both of them would fall.
“What’s happening?” Ciana shouted.
“I don’t know – but nothing natural I’ll wager,” Oran said as buried his head above hers. “Just hold on, love and wait for it to pass.”
But it didn’t. The wind became stronger and rattled the cottage until Ciana thought the whole thing would blow away. Ciana wrapped her arms around Oran’s waist but let out a cry as a branch dragged across her forearm, scratching and snagging her flesh until it bled.
“Put your arms beneath me and keep down – I’ll protect you.”
“But who will protect you?”
“I’ll be fine as long you’re safe. Everything will be...” Oran broke off as the wind tugged at his body. It began to lift him up.
Ciana grabbed his arms and tried to anchor him to her. “You can’t have him!” she screamed against the circling wind. “You can’t have him!”
Oran held on to the rough wooden bed head and she felt his muscles strain and bulge as he gripped on. “Ciana, I...”
The vortex spun quicker around the room. Noise thundered in Ciana’s ears as she was buffeted by more twigs, leaves and black feathers. She held onto Oran until her knuckles were white and her nails dug into his skin.
“I won’t let you go.”
His dark eyes locked onto hers for a moment. “I love you.”
“Nay, I won’t let you go...” But even as the words fell from her lips her grip slipped.
The force of the wind lifted Oran off the bed. The leaves swirled around him and swallowed his body so only his outstretched arms and head were visible. The strength of the whirlwind wretched Oran from Ciana’s grasp, the bed head snapped and with one final look Oran was dragged off the bed, back through the open door and into the night dark wood.

About the Author

Nicole has always been a lover of fairy tales, history and romance. She grew up in Melbourne and Central Victoria and has travelled extensively. Her first passion in life has always been her family, but after studying and achieving her BA in History and Honours in Medieval Literature, she devoted her time to writing historical, fantasy and contemporary romance. She is a full time writer who lives in the Central Highlands of Victoria with her family, where they live in the peaceful surrounds of a semi-rural town.

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