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Archive for the ‘excerpts’ Category

Usually we focus on the heroine and hero, but I though it would be fun to let our secondary characters shine today. If you have buy links or social media links, please post them as well.

A Kiss for Lady MaryHere two of mine from A Kiss for Lady Mary. Lady Eunice Phipson, is my heroine’s aunt and Mr. Brian Doust is the local vicar.

Mr. Doust twined her arm with his, drawing her close. “Invite me, and I’ll try to discover his intent.”

She gazed up at him. “You would assist in this the conspiracy?”

His eyes warmed. “My lady, I would have thought that by now you’d have realized there is very little I would not do for you and those who matter to you.”

“Oh my.” Warmth rose in her face. How long had it been since she’d blushed? “You have me acting like a girl again, and I must tell you, my salad days are long past.”

He raised her fingers to his lips, kissing them one by one. “I think you are the perfect age. I would be honored if you will call me Brian, and may I call you Eunice?”

This was more than she had expected and everything she had wished for. Pulling his head down to her, she pressed her lips to his. He moved slowly, gently at first; then she touched her tongue to the seam of his lips and he opened his mouth to receive her. Frissons of pleasure shot through her as he tilted his head, deepening the kiss. She threw her arms around him, pressing her breasts to his chest. Who would have thought a rector could kiss like this?

Their tongues tangled and caressed. He tightened his arms around her. Oh, God. How could she have lived so long alone?

Buy Links: Amazon US ~ Amazon UK  ~  Amazon France ~  Amazon Germany   ~ Amazon Canada ~  Barns & Nobel  ~ Kensington ~ iTunes ~ Kobo

Now it’s your turn!

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Please welcome Anne Cleeland back to the blog! She is promoting her latest book, Murder in Hindsight. Naturally, she will give a copy of the book to one of you. All you have to do is leave a comment telling her you want it.

We’ll start with the intriguing cover!

 

Murder In Hindsight2

Now the blurb.

There’s an unusual killer combing London’s streets—a vigilante is at work, killing suspects from prior cases who were never convicted; those who’d gotten away with murder, in hindsight.

It’s a puzzler, though; this vigilante is staying to the shadows, and covering his tracks so that Detective Sergeant Kathleen Doyle is left to guess at his motivation.  Is the killer guilty about his own role in helping murderers get off, or is it someone who’s just had-it-up-to-here with the imperfect justice system?

Meanwhile, the crises keep piling up; Chief Inspector Acton, her husband, is up to something having to do with brassy female reporters and the heir to his estate, and when Acton is up to something, murder and mayhem are the certain result.  Not to mention she’s needed to quash a messy little blackmail plot, and do battle with the dowager Lady Acton.  All in all, it will make for a busy few weeks; now, if only the ghosts that haunt the manor house would leave her alone. . .

And an excerpt.

Detective Sergeant Kathleen Doyle was fretting; fretting and stalling until Detective Chief Inspector Acton could make an appearance whilst she tried to appear calm and composed in front of the Scene of the Crime Officers. As a newly-promoted DS, she should maintain a certain dignity and display her leadership abilities, even though she was longing to bite her nails and peer over the hedgerow toward the park entrance.   The various Scotland Yard forensics personnel were impatiently waiting because Acton was delayed, and Doyle had a good guess as to why he was delayed.  One of these fine days, someone else may make the same guess, and then the wretched cat would be among the wretched pigeons—although the mind boggled, trying to imagine Acton being called on the carpet by Professional Standards.  Pulling out her mobile, she pretended to make a call just to appear busy.

“I’ll lose the light soon, ma’am.”  The SOCO photographer approached, cold and unhappy, and small blame to her; Doyle was equally cold and unhappy, but with better reason.

“Ten more minutes,” Doyle assured her, holding a hand over her mobile so as to interrupt her pretend-conversation. “Then we’ll move forward—whether DCI Acton makes it or no.”  She wanted Acton to have a look before the corpse was processed and removed, but she could always show him the photos.

The woman immediately plucked up. “No hurry; we can wait, if the DCI is on his way.”

Has a crush on him, the brasser, thought Doyle.  Join the club, my friend; the woman probably had some private photographs she’d be all too happy to show Acton in her spare time.  The SOCO photographer used to treat Doyle with barely-concealed contempt, but her attitude had improved remarkably after the bridge-jumping incident. A few months ago, Doyle had jumped off Greyfriars Bridge into the Thames to save a colleague, and was now a celebrated hero.  All in all, it was a mixed blessing, because Doyle was not one who craved the spotlight and now she was perceived as sort of a female version of St. George—except that she’d rescued the dragon instead of the maiden, when you thought about it.

Irish by birth and fey by nature, Doyle had an uncanny ability to read people, and in particular she could recognize a lie when she heard it.  This perceptive ability had launched her career as a detective, but it also made her reclusive by nature—it was no easy thing, to be able to pick up on the currents and cross-currents of emotion swirling around her. The SOCO photographer, for example, was lusting after the vaunted Chief Inspector but bore Doyle no particular ill-will for being married to him, since she was the heroic bridge-jumper and thus above reproach.

With a nod of her head, the photographer gestured toward the victim, being as she didn’t want to take her hands out of her pockets until it was necessary.  “Is there something special about this one, then?”

There was, but Doyle did not want to say, especially before the loose-lipped SOCOs who were notoriously inclined to blather in their cups—it came from wading knee-deep in guts all the livelong day. So instead, she equivocated, “There are a few details that are worrisome, is all.  I wanted the DCI to have a quick look.”

Buy links: Amazon

About Anne.

Anne CleelandAnne Cleeland is a lifelong Southern California resident, and currently makes her home in Newport Beach. An attorney by trade, she’s been reading mystery stories since her Nancy Drew days, and especially loves Agatha Christie and the other Golden Age British mystery writers.  The Acton & Doyle series features two Scotland Yard detectives, and if you are a fan of Masterpiece Mystery, you may enjoy their adventures.

Anne also writes a historical series set in 1814 because she loves historicals, too. Being a romantic at heart, all her stories have a strong romantic element.

She has four grown children, three wonderful grandchildren, and one nutty dog.

www.annecleeland.com @annecleeland

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Please welcome back the fabulous Barbara Monajem!! Barbara is here to tell us about her latest book, Lady of the Flames!! And she will give away a copy to one of you! All you have to do is leave a comment saying you want the book.

Before we get to Barbara’s post, we’ll take a look at the lovely cover!

Lady of the Flames Cover LARGE EBOOK

Now to Barbara’s post.

And the moral of the story is….

I never meant to write a story with a moral! Not that I have any objection to fables and such, but that’s not how I think of a romance. A romance is centered around love and what that means to the hero and heroine, and what they have to overcome to get their happily ever after.

So it took me by surprise when reviewer Eileen Dandashi said Lady of the Flames has a moral. I’m paraphrasing her a little, but basically, it’s, “Don’t be in a hurry to believe gossip about someone you know and trust, even when the confidante is your closest friend.”

Um, yeah. A misunderstanding is bad enough, but when it’s due to gossip or downright lies, it’s harder to combat. Both Lord Fen, the hero, and Andromeda, the heroine, base their actions over a number of years on lies told by family and friends. Add a touch of magic, and more complications ensue!

(Anyone who knows my books also knows I love slipping in a little magic. Or in this case, a lot!)

Here’s the blurb:

Magic is fraught with peril—but so is love.

Lord Fenimore Trent’s uncanny affinity for knives and other sharp blades led to duels and murderous brawls until he found a safe, peaceful outlet by opening a furniture shop—an unacceptable occupation for a man of noble birth. Now Fen’s business partner has been accused of treason. In order to root out the real traitor, he may have to resort to the violent use of his blades once again.

Once upon a time, Andromeda Gibbons believed in magic. That belief faded after her mother’s death and vanished completely when Lord Fenimore, the man she loved, spurned her. Five years later, Andromeda has molded herself into a perfect—and perfectly unhappy—lady. When she overhears her haughty betrothed plotting treason, she flees into the London night—to Fen, the one man she knows she can trust. But taking refuge with him leads to far more than preventing treason. Can she learn to believe in love, magic, and the real Andromeda once again?

And an excerpt:

Years ago, she’d felt no need to talk when with Fen, but now it was uncomfortable, like conversing with a stranger. Then, they’d had more in common; now they lived in different worlds. She took a sip of coffee and ate a sausage roll. She sipped some more coffee. She gazed around the room and finally found something to say.

“Did you carve the figures on your looking-glass frame?” she said. As a boy, he had whittled constantly. “They seem so…familiar somehow.”

“They should,” he said with a sudden smile. “I carved it from my memories of the fairies and hobgoblins back home.”

“Fairies and hobgoblins?”

“At your father’s estate,” he said. “Surely you remember Cuff the bedchamber hob, and Heck the buttery spirit, and all the rest.”

“My mother told stories about them,” Andromeda said, nostalgia filling her again. “I must say, I like the way you’ve imagined them.”

Fen frowned at her, his smile fading, his eyes perplexed. “I didn’t imagine them,” he said. “I saw them.”

Andromeda rolled her eyes. “That sounds like something my mother would have said.”

“Because she saw them, too.”

Andromeda began to be annoyed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Fen. She made up stories based on tales she’d been told as a child.”

Fen shook his head. “You saw them when you were small. You saw Cuff and Heck and the others. We both did.”

“No,” Andromeda said. “We saw movement out of the corners of our eyes and said they were fairies, but we were just playing games.”

Fen’s expression was pained. “You really don’t remember, do you?”

“There’s nothing to remember,” she insisted, wolfing down another cream puff. “As a matter of fact, that happened to me this morning. I had the impression that one of the creatures on the looking-glass winked at me, but of course it didn’t really do so.”

“What a pity,” Fen said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That you’ve forgotten. That wink was Cuff’s way of saying good-day to you. He’s somewhere hereabouts. He’s the only one I didn’t have to carve from memory, because he came with me when I left home.” He glanced toward the tin cup and plate by the wall. “He ate the bread and milk I put out, and I gave him the rest of your brandy, too.”

She couldn’t stand any more of this. “Fen, stop this nonsense! We’re in danger from traitors and spies who murder people, and all you can talk about is hobgoblins.”

He went on as if she hadn’t spoken. “I wondered why he came with me when I left, but it’s because he enjoys human company.” He grimaced. “Your father and aunt aren’t his sort of humans. I thought you were, and so did your mother, but evidently you’re not.”

That struck her like a blow. “What do you mean, my mother thought I was. Was what?”

“She had a sizeable amount of fairy blood, so she thought you must have some, too—but perhaps she was wrong.” He paused. “I know I have some. It’s not uncommon for children to see fairies, but I didn’t lose that when I grew up. Not only that, it’s their magic that guides my knives and tools, and inspires me when it comes to furniture design.”

She couldn’t bear it. “Stop it! You’re as—as mad as my mother was.”

“She wasn’t mad, Andromeda.” He sighed. “And whether or not you see the fairies, they’re still here.”

She put her hands to her ears and shut her eyes. After all the chaos of yesterday, this was too much. When he said and did nothing, she opened her eyes again. “Why did she discuss me with you?”

“Who else was there to speak to? Your father and aunt, although worthy people, wouldn’t have understood. They already found her far too strange.”

This was true—but it was because Mama’s mind was unbalanced.

“She knew I cared for you,” Fen said.

His eyes were kind but dispassionate; his use of the past tense meant that he didn’t care anymore, except perhaps as an old friend. Why couldn’t she become accustomed? Every single reminder hurt.

“You believed in them at the time your mother died,” he said. “She gave you that heart-shaped locket, didn’t she?” It still hung at her breast, but she resisted the urge to clasp it in her hand.

“I was nine years old. I believed in many foolish things then,” she retorted. Such as magic, but a household run by her aunt was no longer vibrant with promise or belief in anything much at all. And then, when she was seventeen, Fen had destroyed what little belief remained. She didn’t try to keep the bitterness from her voice. “I learned soon enough what utter nonsense it all was.”

He watched her, head cocked to one side, as if she were some strange, incomprehensible creature. “As a matter of interest, when did you stop believing?”

How dare he ask such a personal question? “What business is that of yours?”

“None, I suppose.” He shrugged and stood. “Stay away from the windows. I’ll see if my valet has found you something to wear.” He took the last of the beignets, set it on a saucer, and left it on the floor by the wall.

As if prying into her business wasn’t enough, now he was mocking her. Did he seriously expect her to believe that a hobgoblin would eat the beignet? Anger stirred and grew within her. “If you must know, it was at the same time I gave up other foolishness, such as believing in love!”

Fen stared at her, his expression incredulous. He left the room, slamming the door behind him. By what right was he upset? Not content with playing stupid games with her, did he really not remember what he’d done to her five years ago?

Buy links:

About Barbara.

BarbaraMonajem300x400I grew up on the west coast of Canada among the mountains and cedar trees. I’m not much into putting down roots–I love moving around–but roots have minds of their own. Mine go deep into those mountains and are entwined with the cedars, and no matter where I live, there’s a part of me that always, always longs for home. It’s a magic place which never lets go, and that’s all there is to it. I’m pretty sure that magic is what started me writing paranormals, because I wrote my first at only eight years old.

I lived in Oxford, England for a year when I was twelve, and I have roots there, too, but they’re mostly cultural. My ancestors are English, with some Scots and Irish farther back. Oxford is heavy with the magic of centuries. I loved it there–everything from playing twosy-ball against the school wall, to helping out at an archaeological dig, to spending my pocket money in Blackwell’s bookshop. I think it’s that year in England, coupled with all the Brit lit I read as a child, that inspired me to write historicals.  My foray into teen melodrama, best forgotten, also sprang from that year in England.

I spent several years in Montreal, and now and then I miss the winters–they’re long, but nothing beats the cold, bright, silent magic of a winter’s night. And the French spoken all around me–I miss that, too. Sometime during the years in Quebec and on into the move to Georgia, I started writing paranormals again, in the form of fantasy for my kids. This resulted in my middle grade novel, The Secret of the Stolen Mandolin.

I live in Georgia and spend a lot of time in south Louisiana, so now I have roots in the southern U.S. as well. I love the dense, humid air (well, usually), the lightning bugs and kudzu (so spooky), the live oaks and resurrection fern. On my first trip to Louisiana, I succumbed to the magic of New Orleans. I love it all: Bourbon Street, beignets and the levee, the Mardi Gras parades, the spicy food and hot nights, the dark and lovely moods of the French Quarter, and the swamps to the north. New Orleans is my inspiration for the funky little town of Bayou Gavotte, with its fetish clubs… and vampires… and who knows what else.

 

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We’re moving the boat today, so let’s do something easy. Please post your blurbs and buy links. If you are pre-published and don’t have a blurb, post a short excerpt.

A Kiss for Lady MaryHere is mine from A Kiss for Lady Mary.

Ella Quinn’s bachelors do as they like and take what they want. But when the objects of their desire are bold, beautiful women, the rules of the game always seem to change…

Handsome, charming, and heir to a powerful Viscount, Christopher “Kit” Featherton is everything a woman could want—except interested in marriage. So when he hears that someone on his estate near the Scottish border is claiming to be his wife, Kit sets off to investigate.

                                                                                                                                                           Since After her parents’ death, Lady Mary Tolliver has been hounded by her cousin, a fortune-hunting fool after her inheritance. Refusing to settle for anything less than love, Mary escapes to the isolated estate of rakish bachelor, Kit Featherton. Knowing he prefers Court to the country, she believes she will be safe. But when Kit unexpectedly returns, her pretend marriage begins to feel seductively real…

Buy Links: Amazon US ~ Amazon UK ~ B&N ~ Apple

Now it’s your turn!

 

 

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Yes, I know it’s Sunday, but Cheryl caught in a transportation strike and could not get her information to me until yesterday. Also, I promised you that I’d put the post up as soon as I had her stuff. So here we go. As always, Cheryl will be giving away a copy of her book to one of you who leaves a comment saying you want it.

First the cover!

Duchess by Mistake

Now the blurb.

Another of Cheryl Bolen’s classic marriage-of-convenience stories

An innocent visit to the Duke of Aldridge’s to request a donation for her war widows puts Lady Elizabeth Upton in the midst of a most shocking scandal. . .

The Duke of Aldridge offers for his best friend’s sister, Lady Elizabeth Upton, after a mix-up sends her to his bedchamber—just as he’s emerging from his bath. She most certainly does not want to force the duke’s hand, but how can she bear the shame her scandalous behavior has cast upon her dear brother, the Marquess of Haverstock?

Once she agrees to marry her childhood heartthrob, Elizabeth realizes she wants nothing more than to win her husband’s love. But capturing his heart is no easy task when former loves threaten to destroy the fragile bonds of their marriage.

And last, but not least, an excerpt.

Some time after donning a dress which matched the periwinkle colour of her eyes and topping it with matching pelisse suitable for calling at Aldridge House, Lady Elizabeth Upton found herself knocking upon the door of the Duke of Aldridge’s fine house on Berkeley Square. She wondered how many times Charles had passed through this door during his two and thirty years. Since she had only come out three years previously, she had never had the opportunity to pay a call upon the duke, owing to his long absence from England.

The white-haired butler who answered her knock looked as if he’d been in the employ of the Aldridges for at least two generations. He quickly offered her a tight smile and spoke before she had the chance to offer her card. “Please come in. His grace awaits. If you will just follow me up the stairs.”

She supposed with this being the duke’s first day back, he was entertaining callers in the drawing room. She had not considered that she would not have him all to herself. It would be difficult to beg him for the significant donation in a room full of people. Her brother had once said the duke did not like to have his charities acknowledged, preferring anonymity.

Her gaze lifted to the massive chandelier that glistened above, then she began to follow the stooped-over butler as he mounted the stairs, his movements slowed by age. All the way up the impressive, iron banistered staircase portraits of long-dead Aldridges stood almost one on top of the other and seemed to be staring at her.

To her surprise, when they reached the first floor he did not stop but continued mounting stairs to the next level. Though her experience with ducal residences was limited, she was unaccustomed to finding a drawing room so far removed from the home’s entrance. In most of the houses with which she was familiar, the third level was reserved for bedchambers.

They reached the third level. It was slightly less formal than the second level, actually looking remarkably like the third–bedchamber–level at Haverstock House. The butler turned to the right and shuffled along another corridor until he reached the first paneled and gilded door. It was closed. He teetered to a stop and turned to face her with a somber countenance. “You will find his grace in here.” Then he began to retrace his steps.

She drew in a breath, reached for the door handle, and opened it.

She heard a splashing sound before the door was fully open. How peculiar. When she had clear view of the room, she gasped. There in its center, framed by the fireplace behind him, the Duke of Aldridge was emerging from his bath. His long, glistening, gloriously formed body was completely naked.

In her entire life Lady Elizabeth Upton had never seen a naked man in the flesh. Though her first instinct should have been to run screaming from the chamber, she was frozen to the spot, unable to remove her gaze from . . . the manly part. And so much more. From his wide shoulders along his burnished skin and muscled limbs, the dark-haired duke exuded a masculinity like nothing she had ever seen.

A flood of memories of her former adoration of this man many years ago walloped her. She felt the heat climbing into her cheeks and knew she should flee from the profligate duke. Yet, like a compulsion to watch a grim sight not suitable for female sensibilities, she was incapable of turning away.

“You’re not Belle!” he said, snatching his toweling and covering the lower portion of his statue-worthy body. His voice held a note of incredulity.

No doubt, Belle was a lady of the demimonde. What a wicked man he was! To think, his first day back in the kingdom he chose to spend with a woman of that sort.

At the sound of his voice, she realized how shameless she must appear. And how very improper it was for her to be there. She came to her senses, let out a full-fledged scream, turned on her heel, and fled down the stairs.

And came face to face with her brother.

“Haverstock!” she cried.

His brows lowered with concern. “What’s the matter, Lizzie?”

She tossed her head back in the direction of the duke’s private chamber. “That man! He’s thoroughly debauched.” Then she scurried down the stairs. Never again would she come to this . . . this temple of profligacy.

***

Aldridge was having the devil of a time trying to remember where he had seen that chit before. No doubt, she was a lady of Quality. He’d likely scared the poor thing senseless. There had obviously been a serious misunderstanding.

As soon as he called for Lawford, Haverstock came striding into Aldridge’s bedchamber. When he saw that Aldridge was without clothing, his facial expressions thundered. “What in the hell were you doing with my sister?”

Oh, damn! That’s why she looked familiar! The duke grimaced. “It’s not what you think.”

Haverstock’s gaze raked over him from the top of his wet head down the full length of his nakedness. “Oh, isn’t it? My god, Aldridge, she’s an innocent! How could you?”

By then Aldridge’s valet had come striding in with fresh clothing for his master, and Aldridge began to dress. “It seems I owe her an apology. I assure you I have no dishonorable designs on your sister.”

Haverstock regarded him thoughtfully for a long, silent moment. “Then are you saying your intentions toward Elizabeth are honorable?”

“But of course. What do you take me for?”

“It appears I shall now take you for my brother-in-law.”

Buy links.

Amazon ~ Barnes & NobleSmashwords ~ iTunes ~ Kobo

 

About Cheryl.

Cheryl BolenCheryl Bolen is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of over 20 romances, both historical and contemporary mystery. Many of her books have placed in contests, including the Daphne du Maurier (romantic suspense) and have been translated into ten languages. She was Notable New Author in 1999. In 2006 she won the Holt Medallion, Best Historical, and in 2012 she won Best Historical in the International Digital Awards and she’s had four other titles place in that competition. Her 2011 Christmas novella was named Best Novella in the Romance Through the Ages. She invites readers to www.CherylBolen.com, or her blog, www.cherylsregencyramblings.wordpress.co or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cheryl-Bolen-Books/146842652076424.

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Today, let’s post excerpts from our WIPs. It can be one you’re just starting, finishing, or editing.

Here is mine from the second book of my next series. The working name is Dotty.

They resumed ambling on the side of the path. Suddenly there was a commotion and a shout from behind. Dotty turned. A small dog had grabbed the tassel on a man’s boot and was backing up growling with its tail wagging trying to shake its prize. Foolishly, the man kept kicking out at the dog, making the animal think he was playing.

She put a hand over her mouth to keep from giggling, yet when he lifted his cane to strike the poor little thing, she rushed forward. “Here now, sir! What do you think you’re doing?” She bent to the dog who turned out to nothing more than a puppy. Turning to the man, she narrowed her eyes and scowled. “Shame on you.”

Dotty worked on releasing the tassel from the puppy’s grip, but each time the man shook his leg, trying to get the animal off, the puppy held on harder, growling and shaking his head. “Stop moving. Are you so stupid you cannot see the dog thinks you are trying to play?”

“Get him off me.” The man’s high voice made him appear frightened. “Someone will pay for this. Is he your beast?”

Determined ignore him, she counted to ten, took a breath, and finally managed to release the gold bobble from the puppy’s sharp teeth. “There now.” She picked up the dog and stroked its wiry fur. “Where is your master?”

Two school aged boys came running up. “Oh, miss. Thank you so much. We’ve been looking for Bennie all over. He got away from us.”

By this time Bennie was snapping at the ribbons of her bonnet. Dotty laughed as she tried to free them. “Here now. Those are not for you either.” She saved the ribbons and handed the dog to one of the boys.

“We’ll pay you for the damage, miss.”

“It’s no bother.” She smiled at both of them. “Use the money to buy a lead. That will keep Bennie from running away.”

“He’s only twelve weeks old,” the other boy said proudly. “We didn’t think he could run so fast.”

“Or so far,” added the other.

“Thank you,” they both said in unison.

Ah, well. Puppies would be puppies and boys would be boys. “Run along now, and keep Bennie out of trouble.”

“Wait just a minute,” the man with the tassels growled. “You owe me compensation. Your vicious beast ruined my boots.”

“Stuff and nonsense.” Dotty closed her eyes for a moment before addressing the man. Using her firmest tone, she said, “It was entirely your fault. If you had acted like a sensible person and just picked the poor puppy up, your boots would not have suffered any damage.”

Now it’s your turn.

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Please welcome the wonderful Lauren Smith back to the blog!! She is here today with her latest release, His Wicked Seduction, The League of Rogues, Book 2, and she’ll be giving away a copy of the book! All you have to do is tell her you want it.

First the cover.

his wicked seduction

 

Now the blurb.

Can the League’s most wicked rakehell be tamed? Or has this Rogue fallen too far?

Horatia Sheridan has been hopelessly in love with Lucien, her brother’s best friend, ever since he rescued her from the broken remains of her parents’ wrecked carriage. His reputation as London’s most notorious rakehell doesn’t frighten her, for under his veneer of cool authority she has glimpsed a man whose wicked desires inspire her own.

Lucien, Marquess of Rochester, has deliberately nurtured a reputation for debauchery that makes every matchmaking mother of the ton quake with fear. His one secret: he is torn between soul-ripping lust for Horatia, and the loyalty he owes her brother.

That loyalty is put to the test when an old enemy of the League threatens Horatia’s life. With Christmas drawing near, he sweeps her away to his country estate, where he can’t resist granting her one wish—to share his bed and his heart.

But sinister forces are lurking, awaiting the perfect moment to exact their revenge by destroying not only whatever happiness Lucien might find in Horatia’s arms, but the lives of those they love.

Warning:  This book contains an intelligent lady who is determined to seduce her brother’s friend, a brooding rake whose toy of choice in bed is a little bit of bondage with a piece of red silk, a loyal band of merry rogues and a Christmas love so scorching you’ll need fresh snow to extinguish it.

And an excerpt.

She is going to be the death of me.

“Lucien! You’re not even listening to me, are you? I’m in desperate need of a new valet and you’ve been woolgathering rather than offering suggestions. I daresay you have enough for a decent coat and a pair of mittens by now.”

Lucien Russell, the Marquess of Rochester, looked to his friend Charles. They were walking down Bond Street, Lucien keeping careful watch over one particular lady without her knowledge and Charles simply enjoying the chance for an outing. The street was surprisingly crowded for so early in the day and during such foul wintry weather.

“Admit it,” Charles prodded.

Lucien fought to focus on his friend. “Sorry?”

The Earl of Lonsdale fixed him with a stern glare which, given that his usual manner tended towards jovial, was a little alarming.

“Where is your head? You’ve been out of sorts all morning.”

Lucien grunted. He had no intention of explaining himself. His thoughts were sinful ones, ones that would lead him straight to a fiery spot in Hell, assuming one wasn’t already reserved for him. All because of one woman: Horatia Sheridan.

She was halfway up Bond Street on the opposite side of the road, a beacon of beauty standing out from the women around her. A footman dressed in the Sheridan livery trailed diligently behind her with a large box in his arms. A new dress, if Lucien had to hazard a guess. She should not be out traipsing about on snow-covered walkways, not with these carriages rumbling past, casting muddy slush all over. It frustrated him to think she was risking a chill for the sake of shopping. It frustrated him more that he was so concerned about it.

“I know you think I’m a half-wit on most days, but—”

“Only most?” Lucien couldn’t resist the verbal jab.

Charles grinned. “As I was saying, it’s a bit obvious our leisurely stroll is merely a ruse. I’ve noticed we’ve stopped several times, matching the pattern of a certain lady of our acquaintance across the street.”

So Charles had been watchful after all. Lucien shouldn’t have been surprised. He hadn’t done his best to conceal his interest in Horatia Sheridan. It was too hard to fight the natural pull of his gaze whenever she was near. She was twenty years old, yet she carried herself with the natural grace of a mature and educated queen. Not many women could achieve such a feat. For as long as he’d known her, she’d been that way.

He’d been a young man in his twenties when he met her, and she’d been all of fourteen. She’d been like a little sister to him. Even then, she’d struck him as more mentally and emotionally mature than most women in their later years. There was something about her eyes, the way her doe-brown pools held a man rooted to the spot with intelligence—and in these last few months, attraction…

“You’d best stop staring,” Charles intoned quietly. “People are starting to notice.”

“She shouldn’t be out in this weather. Her brother would have a fit.” Lucien tugged his leather gloves tighter, hoping to erase the lingering effects of the chill wind that slid between his coat sleeves and gloves.

Charles burst out into a laugh, one loud enough to draw the attention of nearby onlookers. “Cedric loves her and little Audrey, but you and I both know that does not stop either of them from doing just as they please.”

There was far too much truth in that. Lucien and Charles had known Cedric, Viscount Sheridan for many years, bonded during one dark night at university. The memory of when he, Charles, Cedric and two others, Godric and Ashton, had first met always unsettled him. Still, what had happened had forged an unbreakable bond between the five of them. Later, London, or at least the society pages, had dubbed them The League of Rogues.

The League. How amusing it all was…except for one thing. The night they’d formed their alliance each of the five men had been marked by the Devil himself. A man by the name of Hugo Waverly, a fellow student at Cambridge, had sworn vengeance on them.

And sometimes Lucien wondered if they didn’t deserve it.

Lucien shook off the heavy thoughts. He was drawn to the vision of Horatia pausing to admire a shop window displaying an array of poke bonnets nestled on stands. Her beleaguered footman stood by her elbow, juggling the box in his arms. He nodded smartly as Horatia pointed out a particular bonnet. Lucien was tempted to venture forth and speak with her, possibly lure her into an alley in order to have just a moment alone with her. Even if he only spoke with her, he feared the intimacy of that conversation would get him a bullet through his heart if her brother ever found out.

Charles had walked a few feet ahead, then stopped and turned to kick a pile of snow into the street. “If this is how you mean to spend the day then consider me gone. I could be at Jackson’s Salon right now, or better yet, savoring the favors of the fine ladies at the Midnight Garden.”

Lucien knew he’d put Charles out of sorts asking him to come today, but he’d had a peculiar feeling since he’d risen this morning, as though someone was walking over his grave. Ever since Hugo Waverly had returned to London, he had been keeping on eye on Cedric’s sisters, particularly Horatia. Waverly had a way of creating collateral damage and Lucien would do anything to keep these innocent ladies safe. But she mustn’t know he was watching over her. He’d spent the last six years being outwardly cold to her, praying she’d stop gazing at him in that sweet, loving way of hers.

It was cruel of him, yes, but if he did not create some distance, he’d have had her on her back beneath him. She was too good a woman for that, and he was far too wicked to be worthy of her. Rather like a demon falling for an angel. He longed for her in ways he’d never craved for other women, and he could never have her.

The reason was simple. His public reputation did not do justice to the true depth of his debauchery. A man like him could and should never be with a woman like Horatia. She was beauty, intelligence and strength, and he would corrupt her with just one night in his arms.

Within the ton, there was scandal and then there was scandal. For a certain class of woman, being seen with the wrong man in the wrong place could be enough to ruin her reputation and damage her prospects. These fair creatures deserved nothing but the utmost in courtesy and propriety.

For others, the widows still longing for love, those who had no interest in husbands but did from time to time seek companionship, and that rare lovely breed of woman who had both the wealth and position to afford to not give a toss about what society thought, there was Lucien. He seduced them all, taught them to open themselves up to their deepest desires and needs, and seek satisfaction. Not once had a woman complained or been dissatisfied after he had departed from her bed. But there was only one bed he sought now, and it was one he should never be invited into.

He glanced about and noticed a familiar coach among the other carriages on the street. Much of the street’s traffic had been moving steadily and quicker than the people on foot, but not that coach. There was nothing unusual about it; the rider was covered with a scarf like all the others, to keep out the chill, yet each time he and Charles had crossed a street, the coach had shadowed them.

“Charles, do think we’re being followed?”

Charles brushed off some snow from his gloved hands when it dropped onto him from a nearby shop’s eave. “What? What on earth for?”

“I don’t know. That carriage. It has been with us for quite a few streets.”

“Lucien, we’re in a popular part of London. No doubt someone is shopping and ordering their carriage to keep close.”

“Hmm,” was all he said before he turned his attention back to Horatia and her footman. One of her spare gloves fell out of her cloak and onto the ground, going unnoticed by both her and her servant. Lucien debated briefly whether or not he should interfere and alert her to the fact that he and Charles had been following her. When she continued to walk ahead, leaving her glove behind, he made his decision.

Lucien caught up with his friend still ahead of him on the street. “I’ll not keep you. Horatia’s dropped a glove and I wish to return it to her.”

“Plagued by a bit of chivalry, eh? Go on then, I want to stop here a moment.” He pointed to a bookshop.

“Very good. Catch me up when you’re ready.”

Lucien dodged through the traffic on the road and was halfway across the street when pandemonium struck.

Bond Street was turned on its head as screams tore through the air. The coach that had been shadowing him raced down the road in Lucien’s direction. Yet, rather than trying to halt the team, the driver whipped the horses, urging them directly at Lucien.

He was too far across the street to turn back; he had to get to safety and get others out of the way. Horatia! She could be trampled when it passed her. Lucien’s heart shot into his throat as he ran. The driver whipped the horses again, as if sensing Lucien’s determination to escape.

“Horatia!” Lucien bellowed at the top of his lungs. “Out of the way!”

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About Lauren.

Author PhotoAmazon Best Selling author, Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

 

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