Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Dark Deceit - sneak preview

The Christmas season has almost passed. As winter sales replace Christmas cheer, I can't but feel a little sad that it always goes by so quickly. The long build up (starting in September in some places ~tut tut~) is all forgotten as folk rush into shops to grab a bargain or five.

I hope you all enjoyed happy holidays. :-)

Today, I'm introducing my latest historical novel, Dark Deceit, out in late February 2012 from Crooked Cat Publishing, a small ebook publishing company I recently set up with my husband (both published, with extensive experience in reviewing, critiquing, editing, and web design). Dark Deceit is the first in The Anarchy Trilogy, set in 1140s England and Normandy, weaving a tale of murder, changing loyalties, betrayal, and hope.


On his return from battle at Lincoln, Geoffrey de Mortagne, undersheriff of Gloucester and spy for the Empress Matilda, assists a dying knight caught in an ambush. Promising to look after the welfare of the knight’s only daughter, Geoffrey stays at her manor while he investigates the murder. Keen to join the Empress on her progress through England, he is torn between his oath and his duty. 

Left to defend her manor following her father’s death, Alleyne de Bellac at first accepts Geoffrey’s support. As she doesn’t trust the taciturn stranger, she asks Will d’Arques, an old friend, for help. But loyalties change. Her life in danger and her inheritance at stake, Alleyne must decide which man to trust. 

Discover England and Normandy divided by a brutal civil war, where vows are broken as allegiances waver.


The under-sheriff took a deep draught before he glanced her way. His eyes, transformed into the shade of a stormy winter sea in the flickering torchlight, bore into hers. A deep flush crept into her cheeks as Alleyne realised she was staring. Quickly, she averted her gaze. Her fingers fidgeted, playing with the polished gems on her goblet. Sweet Mary, what was the matter with her? Not even Will d’Arques had such an effect on her senses - and Will was the one man she had expected to offer for her. Guilt flooded her. It must be her mind, tired with concern for her father, that made her head spin. Nothing at all to do with de Mortagne.

She breathed a deep sigh of relief when Roger finally gave the signal for the food to be brought. Servants entered, carrying trays loaded with roast duck and pigeon, baked eels, bowls of stewed vegetables, and the day-old bread that served as trenchers.

‘How are you faring, my lady?’ De Mortagne bent over the arm of his chair. His voice, deep and comforting, was barely audible above the noise of people piling up their trenchers with food and drink-induced merriment. 

‘I am well, thank you.’ She smiled, taking a cut of pigeon breast from the bowl in front of them and nibbling at the savoury meat. She normally devoured such delicacies in an instant, but tonight she lacked the taste for it.

A commotion at the door pulled her out of her thoughts. A man rushed past the tables toward hers. She leaped from her chair at the same time as de Mortagne who raised his dagger in a firm grip. Her hands grabbed the edge of the table and her stomach contracted. 

Friend or enemy?

The man’s cloak was splattered with mud and dripping, his boots caked with wet soil and his beard flecked with dirt. A messenger. His expression grim, he fell to one knee in front of the dais, and bowed his head.

‘I’m afraid I bring bad tidings, my lady.’ He did not meet her eyes. Instead, he glanced at de Mortagne who regarded him with an inscrutable expression. Did he recognise the man?

Alleyne jerked her attention back to the messenger. ‘Speak!’ 

‘I’ve come straight from the Benedictines at Worcester.’ His voice cut through the silence that had descended.  ‘I’m sorry for being the bearer of such grave news, my lady. The Brother Infirmarian tried everything but it was God’s will. Lord Raymond died this day.’

Dark Deceit will be available from Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes & Noble in late February 2012.

About me:

I write historical fiction and romantic mystery - a mix that doesn't always fit into a specific box. This makes plotting utter fun. ;-)

A hobby historian, I love researching Scottish history, particularly medieval and Jacobite, and English medieval and Tudor periods. My home library is ever expanding.

My first novel, Highland Arms, a romantic historical adventure set in Scotland in 1720, was published with The Wild Rose Press in July 2011. It has received glowing reviews.


Cathie's website
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Highland Arms is available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon US and UK, Barnes & Noble, and other ebook outlets.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Like Historical Fiction? Looking For Some Christmas Reading?

The covers featured here are from the authors on the Historical Fiction Excerpts Blog.
Happy Christmas! Happy Reading!
From the authors of the Historical Fiction Excerpts Blog.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction and you are looking for some Christmas reading, take a look in the comments section of this blog post.

Historical authors - please feel free to post in the comments section of this blog post. Please add the following - title, author and brief blurb of any historical fiction, plus a single buy link, such as your web page. If any of your titles are under offers, please say so.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

A War Of Her Own

A story of wartime passions on the World War II homefront as Bea Meade seeks to discover who she really is.
Chapter 2

It seemed like some towns came with their own gravity. Towns like Orange, located in the deepest southeast corner of the state of Texas. Cross the Sabine River, east, and a person stepped into Louisiana, Cajun country. Go just a few miles south, and they reached Texas’ northernmost Gulf of Mexico. The Sabine River ran right down through the middle of town, making Orange a prime spot for intercostal commerce. Grand Victorian-style homes lined the streets of town, and virgin pine, ancient oaks draped with Spanish moss, and bayous full of cypress and water tupelo trees made the town a living, breathing Shangri-La. The richest men who lived there, some of them carpetbaggers from Pennsylvania, bought up all the timberland for a pittance, and then made millions off of prime long-leaf yellow pine.

Working for them became the most coveted jobs in town, but most people were as poor as a mouse kicked out of church. The times demanded a stern code of conduct, and at least in public, were strict and exacting. All a man had to do was say the word “damn,” and folks fell out in horror.

Set back by The Great Depression, the aristocratic, proud people nearly starved to death. About the only thing the small town did during those years was make babies and scrounge for food. Those lucky enough to own land survived by growing their own crops, and the really lucky kept a milk cow for the wee ones. A couple of northern shipbuilders moved to town and established shipyards along the rivers, supplying a small number of destroyers to England, but not enough to keep the town alive.

Then, in December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and all hell broke loose. Shipbuilders were awarded major contracts to build vast shipyards in Orange. Overnight,the yards hired anyone who walked through their gates—black and white, men and women, skilled and unskilled. News of the plentiful jobs spread fast. Barefoot, hungry, desperate people from the backwoods of Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas flooded a town soon stretched beyond its limits.

Almost overnight, the population exploded from 7,500, to well over 65,000. The question them became, where did all the people live? In thousands of hastily erected and cheaply built temporary housing erected atop river sand pumped in on mosquito-infested marshland. Work shifts buzzed and bustled around the clock, and at the launching of each new ship, the yard and the town went wild in celebration. Life was good again—but not for everyone.

Not for Bea Meade. She’d grown up in the Pentecostal church where she learned when a person fell from grace it likely came as the result of one stupid error in judgment. She didn’t know it could happen so slowly she might not even know she was falling until after she hit the ground. Her life changed directions so slowly the summer of ’43, that only later did she mark it as the start of her fall. She suspected it might not be, but since she didn’t have a clue when the fall started, she marked that time as the time—the day she licked her finger, ran it down a mental blackboard and said that’s the day the slide began. The day she learned to hate.

The day her husband, Hal, staggered in after midnight smelling of stale beer and piss, puked all over the bathroom then yelled at her to get up and clean the puke instead of laying there crying like she always did. She dragged herself to the bathroom and cleaned up the mess then dumped the foulsmelling rags into a kitchen sink full of hot soapy water and started scrubbing. Hal came in behind her, stuck his head in the icebox and pulled out another beer. “I don’t care what you say, I don’t cry every night,” Bea argued back. “Nah, but most nights you do.” He popped off the bottle top and swigged. “And don’t you think you’ve had enough of that stuff?”

“Listen to Miss Know It All,” he mocked, prancing around the kitchen like a show dog expecting to win first prize. “Lemme ask you this. How come you just lay there like a bump on a log when I touch you at night? There’s this woman at work, and she knows what a—” “She knows what? What a man wants?” “Forget it.” He finished off the beer, tossed it in the garbage, then found something else to argue about. “How come you’re not thankful for where we live? Thousands of people in this town still live in cardboard shacks, but you think you’re Miss Bitsy Rich, and live in one of them fancy houses down on Green Avenue. Well, I got news for you, honey, we ain’t never…” His slurred words trailed off and he turned and stumbled out of the room.

She slammed a rag against the rub board and scrubbed. Not stupid, she knew they’d chopped down thousands of cypress trees from the marsh and filled it with wet sand pumped in from the river bottom. Before the sand could even dry out they’d poured unreinforced concrete and expected it to serve double duty as streets and drainage. These ugly-as-Army barracks houses went up overnight. She tossed the rag into the other sink she’d filled with rinse water and proceeded to scrub another.

“Don’t tell me I’m not thankful,” she’d yelled back at him, sprawled on the couch in the other room. “I’m thankful I have a dry place to lay my head at night. That’s why we need to pay the rent on time. If you don’t bring your paycheck home, I can’t.”

She finished the laundry, dumped it in the clothes basket, and went to bed. Hal came in a few minutes later, still reeking of beer. When she turned her back, he slapped her ass and said, “Roll over.” She did, and hated every jab he shoved into her. Afterwards, he fell over and within minutes, snored. She turned out the light and cried. Most nights she cried, and always had. No one ever understood why.

The next morning she awakened with two consuming thoughts: the pail of dirty diapers in the bathroom and relief that another night had passed. She slipped the heart-shaped mother-of-pearl brooch—the only thing that ever brought her a semblance of comfort—from underneath her pillow, tucked it in the cigar box on her bureau and stumbled to the bathroom, fearful she might awaken Hal.

A couple of minutes later she watched the water swirl out of the toilet, marveling again at the miracle of indoor plumbing. The luxury made her feel rich for the first time in her life, and helped take her mind off the enemy, who everyone else believed to be Germany. For her, a deeper, more seditious adversary chewed at her insides.

She shoved the mass of thick, blonde hair off her face and stared at her reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror. “Just because you can’t sleep at night has nothing to do with the blessings you do have—like sweet Percy, sleeping in the next room.” After she washed and dried her face, she took her housecoat from the nail behind the door, slipped it on, and then tied the sash as she walked across the hall into the baby’s room.

Percy lay sprawled on his back, arms out to his sides. A tiny bubble rested on pink lips that curved into a smile. She eased the door shut and headed through the small living room sparsely furnished with discards from neighbors and friends.

A rocking chair sat at a right angle to the pale blue coffee-stained couch she’d shoved against double windows. Irritating spring-roll shades on the windows forever thwarted her attempt to keep them raised. Mismatched end tables on each side of the couch held not-to-be-outdone mismatched lamps. The spotlessly clean bare floors refused to shine, regardless of how much she scrubbed the unfinished wood. She gave the room a quick once-over and spied a rubber ducky on the floor. Her movement quick, but precise, she picked it up and tucked it into the pocket of her housecoat.

After checking the mousetraps and emptying out two of the little destructive devils she went to the kitchen sink and scrubbed her hands until they ached. Eager now to get Hal’s breakfast ready before Percy woke up and screamed for his, her first task, the one she dreaded even more than emptying mouse traps, was lighting the infernal oven on the small four-burner stove. She struck a match, turned on the gas and waited for the small explosion.

Even though she expected it, the blast made her jump back just like it did every time she lit the dang thing. She glanced behind her, hoping Hal hadn’t come in and laughed at her foolishness. She hated the way he made her feel like such a child. She lit the burner under a teakettle full of fresh water and while that heated, spooned coffee into the drip pot. The strong smell of the local brand gagged her, but Hal wouldn’t drink any other kind, and complained if she made it too weak. “Baby, it don’t take near as much water to make a pot of coffee,” he’d say, teasing. But she knew he meant business. 

By the time Hal ducked his auburn-colored head and walked into the kitchen, eggs were scrambled and hot buttermilk biscuits had been flipped over on a plate so they wouldn’t sweat. Mama hated thick, soggy-bottom biscuits. In her mind’s eye Bea saw Mama pinch off a small piece of the dough, pat it flat, place it in a pan of hot grease, and turn it over to coat top and bottom. The results were thin biscuits with crispy tops and bottoms and soft tender insides. Bea swore that’s why Hal asked her to marry him—for her mama’s biscuits—hoping one day Bea’s would be as good. Of course, Mama had cooked many a year by the time Bea came along, for she’d been Mama’s change-of-life baby. Good Lord, she hoped she didn’t have a baby at that age.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

HOSTAGE TO FORTUNE ~ PG Excerpt of new release

I was inspired to write Hostage to Fortune after reading The Scarlet Pimpernel. 

Viscount Beaumont has buried himself in the country since his wife died. As the French Revolution rages, French actress Verity Garnier is ordered to England to seduce him back to France. She despises men, but she must not fail.

Length: Full Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: Sensual/Spicy 


In the carriage, Henrietta impressed on Molly not to say a word to anyone, about where she was going. Molly, who must now return with the coach, shook her head.
“I hope you stay safe, Miss Henrietta.”
“Of course I will. Mr. Foxwell will take good care of me.”
Her maid looked doubtful as the coachman, under instructions to deposit Henrietta at the theatre, pulled up outside. Patrons gathered on the pavement. The groom opened the door and assisted her down. After assuring he and the coachman her party waited nearby, she turned and walked towards the entrance to the theatre.
Henrietta turned and watched the carriage rattle its way down the street. She searched for a free hackney, finding one pulling up to disgorge theatre goers.
Nervous that Irene and her mother might see her, Henrietta gave swift instructions and climbed in. Her heart thudded with excitement and apprehension as the horse pulled out into the line of traffic.
A sedan chair passed by, with a link boy lighting the way with his torch, leaving the smell of pitch in his wake. It seemed unnecessary for there was barely a cloud tonight; a full moon, like a huge golden ball, hung suspended, turning the night light as day, revealing soot-stained brick walls and refuse strewn cobbles, where
two cats yowled and ran away down an alley. She chafed at the slowness of the trip and wished she had arranged to be met at a later hour. By the time they arrived at Vauxhall Gardens, it must have been past nine. What if Mr. Foxwell had given up on her? She alighted in Bridge Street and paid the driver. “Could you please return to fetch me at midnight?”
The driver touched his cap with his whip. “I’m off by then, miss.”
Henrietta tried not to worry about getting home. There was bound to be a vehicle for hire in such a busy place. Her stomach clenched with anxiety as the jarvie drove away. What if Mr. Foxwell couldn’t be found?
A rumble of merriment came from the gardens. The moonlit river was awash with barges and small craft. Henrietta paid her guinea and entered through the turnstile.
The gothic-styled Grand Quadrangle was just as Mr. Foxwell had described it.
Thousands of variegated lamps were festooned among the trees. A man’s voice rang out in a very fine rendition of ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ accompanied by an orchestra.
Henrietta searched for Mr. Foxwell, but couldn’t see him among the swirling, brightly colored dominos. Feeling conspicuous, she hovered beside a pillar as people milled on the paths, laughter erupting as each tried to guess who lay behind the masks. Was this behavior usual? Behind their dominos, they acted in a loose
and free manner Henrietta had never seen before. A juggler passed her, followed by a crowd of admiring revelers.
The tall figure of Mr. Foxwell approached in a crimson domino with his loo-mask pushed back on his forehead. Trembling with relief, she darted out and ran up to him.
Mr. Foxwell rose from his bow. He appeared glad to see her, but when he looked around for her aunt and failed to find her, his eyebrows flew up to meet his mask.
“Your aunt permitted you to come unescorted?” He handed her a lavender and silver loo-mask and matching domino he carried over his arm.
“No, of course she didn’t,” Henrietta said, eager to don the disguise. “I wanted to come, and she wouldn’t allow it.”
“I say!” Mr. Foxwell’s Adam’s apple bobbed alarmingly. “Your father will run me through. And rightfully so.”
“Oh, but they don’t know I’m here,” Henrietta said cheerfully. She gazed around. “I believe rakes and opera dances will be here? Where is your party?”
He hesitated as if unsure what to do with her. Then he gave a shrug. “We go this way. You’d best stay close to me.”
A bell rang out. “What is that?” Henrietta asked.
“That’s to draw people to view the Cascade,” he said. “A water feature. The most popular display here.”
“Oh, could we see it?”
Mr. Foxwell had obviously not recovered from finding her alone. He shook his head impatiently. “No time for that. It only lasts fifteen minutes,” he muttered.
He led her towards the Grove where the orchestra played. Beneath the colonnades of the quadrangle were the boxes that held the supper parties. Henrietta learned this from Mr. Foxwell, whose cool attitude thawed slightly as they approached his friends. Henrietta admired the massive Rotunda which held a theatre for two
thousand people. She began to wish her aunt had come; she might have enjoyed it more. She followed Mr. Foxwell down a path, bumping into giggling women and rather unsteady men. Couples romped and groped at each other in among the trees in a most disgraceful display. She swiveled her head to stare and almost lost sight of Mr. Foxwell’s crimson domino. She had to run to catch up with him. They reached the Grove, a square enclosed by walks and the western wall of the gardens, and entered to find pavilions and temples and the colonnade that sheltered the supper boxes from bad weather.
Mr. Foxwell showed her into his supper box where six people she’d never met sat eating ham and tiny chickens, and drinking arrack punch and wine. The orchestra played a lively tune. On the dance floor, dancers performed the steps with more abandon than Henrietta thought possible, as partners were switched and switched
again. Men’s hands clutched where a gentleman’s hands should never go, on bottoms and ladies’ bosoms. There was a great deal of laughing.
Henrietta didn’t know where to look. She was glad of her mask, her cheeks were so hot. “They’re a rowdy lot tonight,” Mr. Foxwell said. His tone and expression inferred she was the one at fault. He handed her a glass of punch, which proved very spicy and strong, and introduced her to the people in the box who then proceeded to ignore her. After Mr. Foxwell drank a glass of wine with her, he was
coerced onto the dance floor by a woman in a purple domino. He disappeared among the dancers. As soon as the dance ended, another began. Henrietta sat, feeling abandoned and growing more nervous by the minute. And for this, she had behaved in a deceitful manner toward her aunt. Her father would be sorely
disappointed in her. She lamented her appalling behavior as a tear rolled down her cheek, and swiped at it with an impatient hand.
Suddenly, Mr. Foxwell appeared in front of the supper box in his crimson domino.
He held out his hand to her. Henrietta accepted it gratefully, and with a small sniff, allowed him to lead her onto the floor. As they negotiated the steps of the dance, Henrietta noticed his unpowdered hair appeared to be far darker than Mr. Foxwell’s, although it might have been because of the light. But below the mask his chin was
certainly more chiseled. Serious eyes stared at her through the slits in the mask.
Her heart beating fast, she studied his neck above his cravat which was stronger and lacked a bobbing Adam’s apple. This man was also broader in the shoulder.
“Who are you, sir?” Henrietta demanded, pushing up her loo-mask, which threatened to suffocate her.
“What are you doing in this place, Miss Buckleigh?” He reached across and pulled it down again. “It is not wise for you to be seen here.” He untied the strings of his own mask. It fell away, and Mr. Hartley looked down at her, frowning. “Surely your aunt would not countenance such a thing.”
“No … I …” She replaced her mask to hide her shame. He seemed so serious and grown up and not the charming flirt he’d been on their last meeting.
He grabbed her hand and led her from the floor. Relieved, she saw they did not return to the box. Instead, he walked into the gardens to a quiet corner. The yellow moon had turned a ghostly silver, and the air grew colder. Henrietta shivered.
“You came here alone?”
“Yes, I thought it would be alright.” Embarrassment made her voice wobble.
“I have my carriage here. Allow me to take you home.”
Henrietta felt a prickle of irritation; he treated her like a child. She could well imagine what sort of lady awaited his pleasure. A shaft of unreasonable jealousy coursed through her. Despite his advising she keep it on, she ripped the annoying mask off her head. “What of your party? Surely you are not here alone?”
He frowned and rubbed his brow as if she was a problem to be quickly dealt with.
“My party will wait for me to return.”
A group of revelers ambled up the path. Two men held up an inebriated woman on stumbling feet. They called for Henrietta and Mr. Hartley to join them, and one man stepped forward to take her by the elbow.
Mr. Hartley stepped forward and pushed the man away. “On your way, sir. This young lady is with me.”
The man, in his cups, looked as if he would like to argue the point. But the stance of Mr. Hartley, who was clearly of some athletic ability and quite prepared to fight, made him change his mind. He dismissed them with a wave of his hand and staggered off to join his companions who had disappeared into the pavilion.
Henrietta, admiring the set of Mr. Hartley’s shoulders, thought the man had made a wise decision. Her admiration was tested when he glowered at her. “Allow me to help you put on your mask.”
“Oh, very well.” She rather enjoyed his hands moving over her head, lightly touching her skin as he straightened the mask. She gazed up at him, but could see little of his face beyond the firm set of his mouth. Did his hands remain for a moment too long on her hair?
Mr. Hartley held out his arm to her. “Shall we?”
This was not the time to declare independence. “Thank you. I believe I will go home, if you would be so good.” She could be in bed before her aunt became suspicious, and she need never learn of this escapade.
Mr. Hartley tucked her hand in his arm and led her from the pleasure grounds. She hurried along beside him wondering what he must think of her.
Once in the carriage, they removed their masks. Snug in Mr. Hartley’s curricle with a carriage rug over her knees, she stole a glance at him as they travelled through the streets. His profile looked very stern. She had an almost overwhelming desire
to rest her head against his broad shoulder; instead, she leaned back against the squabs and gazed out the window. No doubt he was angry with her; she must have spoiled his evening. They approached Westminster Bridge. The Thames stretched before them, a dark expanse shimmering like ruffled silk in the moonlight and the
lamps along the embankment. Any sense of romance was destroyed by the breeze which carried the stench of a river choked with sewage and offal, overpowering at low tide. This was not like the country, where the rivers were fresh and filled with fish.
“Thank you for coming to my aid,” she said in a breathy, chastened voice. “You must think I am not yet grown up.”
He leaned forward, and the moonlight struck his features, softening his face.
“Grown up is a relative term. I’ve had my share of scrapes. We all learn by experience.”
The sky suddenly lit up with the glow of fireworks. Henrietta clapped her hands.
“Oh, how pretty.”
“Vauxhall Gardens, I expect,” he said dispassionately.
She swiveled around to peer back the way they’d come. “Oh, you’ve missed it.”
He folded his arms and examined the boot resting on his knee. “I’ve seen fireworks before.”
He sounded tired, as if he’d seen far too much.
Aware she was chattering to break the silence, Henrietta told him of her uncle’s flight from France. He listened without interruption.
“I trust he will soon arrive safely,” Mr. Hartley said when she fell silent, having nothing left to add.
The carriage pulled up in Grosvenor Square, and he assisted her down the steps.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” Henrietta said. She wished he would take her in his arms and kiss her, but such an event didn’t seem likely.
He stood looking rakish, with his hat in his hand, his crimson domino swept back over his shoulder. “Do take care. London is a dangerous place for a young lady from the country,” he said. Instead of a kiss she got a lecture. Henrietta felt a stab of bitter disappointment at how the night had turned out.
Mr. Hartley must have read the disappointment in her eyes. He smiled. A lovely smile which made her pulse pick up. He took her chin in his hand, his thumb briefly rubbing her bottom lip. As if forgetting himself, he drew away. “Enjoy your first Season. I’m sorry the night wasn’t a success. If you should need a friend, send a
note to my house. I live at 45 Brook Street.”

Twitter: @maggiandersen

Monday, 12 December 2011


I've always loved Laura Ingalls Wilder books. She had a unique way of describing Christmas through the eyes of a young girl.  The holiday in the 1800s was nothing like the one we celebrate today, but the excitement children felt back then was equally as exhilarating.

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, but I find it strange that I haven't penned any holiday scenes into my historical novels.  When I stopped and pondered why, I concluded that as I've grown older, the magic has slipped away.  People have died, rifts have divided the family, and thinking about those happier times, dims the current season.  Or maybe, because I'm a pantser, my characters led me into a totally different season.  Yeah, that must be it. (smile)  If I'd written a Christmas scene, this might be what you'd read:
Wiping the mist from the window, Sally O’Dell strained to see through the blizzard’s white wall. The barn, only a short distance from the front door, had disappeared in the barrage of snow. The footprints Pa had left only minutes before no longer showed.  Though the house smelled of pine needles and cinnamon, she worried that Christmas’ most important guest, Santa, wouldn’t be able to find her in the storm.  A chill seeped around the recently installed glass and peppered her arms with goosebumps.
Sally closed the splintery shutters,  rubbed her forearms and turned to her mother, who straightened from the cast-iron stove, holding a browned apple pie.  “Momma, are you sure Santa can fly in this weather?”
“Don’t fret, Sally, you’ll cause wrinkles in that pretty little ten-year-old face of yorn.” Eliza O’Dell placed her pie with the others she’d baked in the stove she’d received as a gift last year and smiled.  “Santa can do anything.”  She swiped her hands down her apron, walked to the fireplace, and straightened the stockings hanging there.  "Be a darlin' and climb up to the loft and check to see if your sister's awake." ©gingersimpson

But, since I'm lacking the holiday spirit in my writing, I hope I make up for it with some tension and emotions that cause you to feel like you're walking in my character's shoes.  Odessa, my latest historical release, tells of a young woman on her way to a new and better life her father has planned for her in Phoenix.  Set in the 1880s, their current town has become overrun with outlaws, scoundrels, and her pa feels she needs the influence of her Aunt Susan now that ma has died.  Unfortunately, along the way, the wagon overturns, Pa is pinned beneath it and dies.  This scene is of Odessa, spending her first night alone in the middle of the Arizona desert:

The thought of being alone at night raised the hairs on the back of her neck. Predators filled this barren land and she had no desire to become a meal for one. Something rustled through the nearby scrub brush. She jumped, but sighed when she heard nothing further. At least if she remained with the wagon, she’d have some sort of shelter and could start fresh in the morning. She’d spent the night with Granny’s lifeless body in the house, so being with Papa was the lesser of her concerns. He loved her in life, and death wouldn’t change that. Perhaps he’d watch over her and keep her safe.
Odessa propped the rifle against the wagon, hung the canteens and pouch from a wheel hub and spread the blanket by the tailgate. Her stomach rumbled. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Papa had planned to stop for an early dinner in a good place to camp for the night, but the trip hadn’t lasted that far.
  She dropped to the ground, tucked her skirt around her legs, and pulled a sandwich wrapped in a blue-checkered cloth from the basket. The thought that Papa lay only a few feet away stole the taste from the ham and brought tears to her eyes again. While she chewed, she watched the bright orange sun sink lower in the western sky. Her heart hammered with dread of the coming night.
The temperature dipped along with the sunlight. The air grew cold and raised goose bumps on Odessa’s arms. She kept vigil at the end of the wagon and snuggled beneath her blanket. A golden slice of moonlight hovered above. The outline of the nearby saguaros took on a human appearance. Arms and legs and faces masked by darkness. She shivered as a coyote howled in the distance.
Before long, another desert dog launched into a hair-raising cry, only to be answered by yet another. This one sounded too close. Letting go of the blanket, Odessa reached for the carbine and pulled the weapon across her lap. She’d never shot at anything other than a bottle on a tree stump, but having the rifle slowed her racing heart.
Her gaze scanned the shadows for movement. An occasional rustling indicated something small skittering about, but that didn’t frighten her as much as the continued yowling that grew nearer. Her rigid shoulders ached and her eyes blurred from staring. Despite only muted moonlight, being so exposed made her uncomfortable.
What if the remaining food attracted the coyotes?  Odessa pushed the basket back beneath the wagon then realized a dead body was more likely to attract scavengers than her meager fare. Feeling foolish, she stood and gathered her canteens, then lay on the dusty ground and inched her way back beneath the tailgate, pulling the rifle in with her. There was not room enough to spread the blanket, and despite the stickers and pebbles poking at her, she’d much prefer the discomfort to the sharp teeth of a hungry animal.
On her stomach and clutching her weapon, Odessa peered into the darkness. She focused on happier times when Granny was still alive and had told stories of her own childhood. Most of them were tall tales, but what she wouldn’t give to be back next to the hearth and a roaring fire, listening to those yarns. Her favorite had always been about the ghost who lived in the pasture, but the fright Granny inspired by telling her spirit story was nothing compared to the lump of terror building in Odessa’s belly. She never realized the night held so many strange noises.
For what seemed like hours, she struggled to stay awake. The day had taken its toll and her eyelids drooped. Her head sagged to the ground. Inhaling dust, she sneezed, and tugged the blanket up between her cheek and the dirt.  She settled once more and hoped sleep would come at last.
Somewhere between dozing and consciousness, an angry growl yanked her awake. A pair of glowing yellow eyes stared at her from outside her shelter. Her heart pounded like hooves against the dirt, her breath caught in her throat. Death was but inches away and she couldn’t move.

If nothing else, perhaps I've made you feel safe and warm where you are now.  I wish for each of you the happiest of holidays and a blessed New Year.  Thanks, Lindsday and crew for letting me hog some space today. 

Odessa is offered through Eternal Press and featured on my Amazon page.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE, Regency Christmas comedy

A man who sees mistletoe everywhere is mad--or in love.

Charles sees mistletoe. Not surprising, since he's spending Christmas at Mistletoe Manor. But why does no one else see it? And why does it always appear above Penelope, the despised lady who jilted him after their last meeting?

Penelope wants nothing to do with the faithless Charles, the man who cried off after she accepted his marriage proposal. But he still stirs her heart--and he stares at her all the time. Or rather, he stares at the empty ceiling over her head…What does he see?

According to folklore, mistletoe is the plant of peace. Can Penelope and Charles, so full of hurt and anger, heed the mistletoe's message and make peace?

After Charles had heaped his plate with more food than he wanted, he took one of the empty chairs at the table bottom, as far from Penelope as possible.

His tensed muscles eased as he joked with his friends. Smythe made a comment and Charles turned to answer. He caught sight of Penelope…and a monstrous bunch of mistletoe above her.

"Gordon? What is it?" Smythe swiveled in the direction Charles was staring. He looked up and down, and from one side to the other. "I say, with your mouth hanging open like that, you must see something spectacular, but damned if I know what it is."

With an audible click, Charles clamped his jaw shut. "I thought I saw…" He forced his gaze back to his companion. "Nothing. I imagined I saw mistletoe."

Smythe's eyebrows rose. "Mistletoe?"

"Yes. The house is named 'Mistletoe Manor', so the place is filled with mistletoe decorations. Pictures, wall hangings, ceiling trim, whatnot."

"Indeed." Smythe's eyebrows rose higher. "That 'mistletoe' you saw is over that Miss Lawrence. Lovely little filly." His lips curved into a knowing grin. "My jaw dropped the first time I saw her, too."

Charles stiffened. "I was not looking at Miss Lawrence. I believed I saw mistletoe over her."

"'Mistletoe'." Symthe's grin widened. "Of course."

And I hope you got what you wanted for Christmas, too!

All REVIEWS are here:
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Author Bio:
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

I'm Linda Banche, and I write witty, sweet/sensual Regency romances with nary a rake or royal in sight. Most contain humor, some fantasy, and occasionally a little paranormal. But comedy is my love, and I've created my own wacky blend of humor and Regency with stories that can elicit reactions from a gentle smile to a belly laugh.

Like many other romance authors, I read romances for years before I wrote my own. Once I tried, I quickly discovered how difficult writing is. Did I stop? No, I'm persistent--that's French for "too stupid to quit".

I'm a two-time EPICON finalist, I live in New England and like aerobics and ducks.

So, laugh along with me on a voyage back to the Regency era. Me and my ducks. Quack.

I have four Regency novellas, all from The Wild Rose Press. LADY OF THE STARS (time travel, finalist in Science Fiction Romance in the 2010 EPIC eBook Contest), PUMPKINNAPPER (finalist in the 2011 EPIC Contest in the Historical Romance category. I'm two for two now. I've entered the EPIC contest twice, and I've finaled twice.), MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE, and my latest, GIFTS GONE ASTRAY.

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

FOLVILLE'S LAW: medieval thriller

When Sir John Swale, knight of Cumberland, is sent on a secret mission to the Midlands by his ruthless and corrupt master, little does he suspect that his life, and the future of his country, is about to change forever.

England in 1326 is a land ruled by the corrupt and inept Edward II and his hated favourites, the Despensers. Threatened by invasion from Edward's estranged Queen, Isabella, and her lover Roger Mortimer, they turn to desperate measures to preserve their precarious hold on England. Caught up in the vicious game of war and politics is Sir John Swale, a landless Northern knight with a dark past, who in the course of serving his masters makes a lethal enemy in the shape of the ruthless outlaw, Eustace Folville.

Swale caught the thrust and turned it aside. His opponent was too close to attempt a cut, so he struck out with the cross-guard, feeling the impact as it thumped into the man’s cheek. Howling, the robber stabbed again, missed, and threw his weight against Swale. Strong fingers groped at Swale’s face, trying to gouge his eyes. He caught the robber’s hand, bit his fingers and hacked at his shoulder. The habergeon absorbed the blow, and the robber’s hasty attempt to gut Swale in return failed as his falchion scraped harmlessly against the knight’s breastplate.

Their horses surged apart, whinnying in panic. Swale had the distance now to bring his longer reach into play, and pressed his attack, chopping and slashing with sheer brute strength. His opponent parried, but was tiring, his face wet with sweat and his sword arm shuddering under the impact of each blow. Fierce joy flowed into Swale’s breast as he realised that he was going to win.

Then the shirtless old man appeared from nowhere, lunging and grasping at the robber’s leg with his scrawny dead-white arms. “Strike!” he croaked.

Amazed, Swale’s opponent gaped at the greybeard clinging on to his leg. His guard faltered, and Swale unleashed a vicious backhand cut that bit deep into the robber’s neck, chopping into his throat and half-decapitating him.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Fair Border Bride by Jen Black

An excerpt from Fair Border Bride by Jen Black, available now on
amazon Kindle.

Set in 1543 on the English-Scottish Border, Alina falls for Harry and keeps him safe when he is injured on their land. Unfortunately, her small brothers give away the secret...

“Come, daughter, let us go into the hall.’ Mama tucked her arm through Alina’s as they left the solar. “I am so happy now they’re both safe home, though I’m very much afraid we may never stop Lionel talking about the Trod.” She cast a critical glance at Alina’s gown. “Why did you not wear the amber pendant I gave you? It would match so well to that gown.”
Alina’s hand went to her bosom. At dinner it was customary to wear a lighter chemise under a gown, which usually left an expanse of exposed skin on view. “I forgot it, Mama. Should I go back?” Alina summoned a smile. At least one of them was happy.

Her mother shook her head. “No time now. You know how your father hates to be kept waiting.”
Long boards on trestles ran alongside both north and south walls of Aydon hall, and servants not engaged in serving were already seated. Logs blazed in the large fire basket on the raised stone hearth in the centre, and the scent of pine and smoke mixed with the honey scent of thick beeswax candles. Candle stands as high as a man, each bearing a dozen candles, stood by each end of the cross table, for Cuthbert Carnaby liked to see what he was eating. Two round pottery bowls on the table held short, fat candles to give additional light. The red and blue wall hangings behind his tall carved chair, enhanced by so much light, brightened the otherwise bare stone of the walls.

Carnaby stalked in, sat down and glared around the hall. His wife took her place at his side without a word, and Alina slid onto the stool next to her mother’s chair. Lionel sat on his father’s right while the younger boys sat at the head of one of the two side tables, wedged on the bench between the boys’ sword-master and their grey-haired tutor. Servants brought in food and everyone smiled, chattered quietly and kept a wary eye on their master.

Carnaby ate a few mouthfuls of mutton, and glared around the room. “It was a run-about raid,” he said to the room at large. He swallowed half a cup of rich red Bordeaux wine in one gulp. “Tynedale men, and the ragtag and bobtail of the Borders hanging on for whatever they could get.”
Men sipped ale, and smiled cautiously.

“You got most of the cattle back, dear, and everyone is safe.” His wife’s warm tone showed her relief. Cuthbert’s dark head swung round to her. Candlelight caught the tight, frizzled curls and dark eyes that betrayed his Norman origins. “Robert Cooper might take issue with you on that. He got a nasty slash across his arm.” His harsh tone softened. “His woman will take care of it.”
“Was it a sword?” Cuddy’s piping voice caught everyone’s attention.
“Indeed it was, son.”
“How big was the cut?”
“From there to there.” Carnaby touched his elbow and midway along his lower arm.
Cuddy shuddered.
“Is this boy going to be a warrior or a weakling?” Carnaby grinned at his wife, and turned back to Cuddy. “Am I going to have to hand you over to Father John for the Church, boy?”
“No, thir.” Cuddy’s eyes became huge with worry.
“He is but a few days beyond his sixth year, husband. Time enough for him to become a warrior.”
“Cuddy doesn’t like the sight of blood, sir.” Lance stuck up for his brother. “But he’s good with a sword for his age. Even Harry says so.”

Alina stopped chewing and stared across the open space between the two tables. Lance didn’t realise what he’d said. There was a sudden lull in the conversation as everyone tried to remember who Harry might be, and she saw comprehension dawn in her brother’s eyes. In sudden frightened realisation of what he’d said, he swung round and met her wide frozen gaze.
Carnaby frowned. “Oh, well if Harry says so, then Cuddy must be good indeed.”

Enjoying his own sarcasm, he looked around the hall. “Who is this Harry?”

The lump of half-chewed, tasteless meat stuck in Alina’s throat. She spat it quietly into her palm, and fed it to one of the dogs nosing beneath the tables. The boys must have visited Harry without her. How else could he know of their prowess with a sword?

Lance squirmed on his bench. “Just a lad who lives in the village, Father. He’s older than us.”
“Then we’ll take no notice of what he says, eh? You have a sword master and I pay him a good deal of money for his services.” The sword master opened his mouth, but Carnaby cut him off. “I’ll listen to what he tells me of young Cuddy’s progress in the morning.”

“I’m sure you’ll hear a good report, sir.” Margery Carnaby smiled at her sons. “The boys work hard at their lessons. I hear them at practice every morning.”
Alina knew that was a lie, for the simple reason that the stonemason’s work drowned out the sound of the boys’ sword play these days. She shot a glance at her mother, and sent up a prayer of thanks that her parents enjoyed a warm relationship. Would Mama’s defence sway Father? Carnaby grunted, speared a slice of mutton and ate it with relish.
Lance stopped squirming and let out a soundless whistle of relief. The incident seemed to be over. Alina stared down at her platter and wondered where her appetite had gone.

“Harry doesn’t live in the village, Lance. He sleepth in the stable with Dragon.” Cuddy’s piercing treble filled the small silence.
Alina’s heart leapt against her breastbone. Oh, Cuddy. Her skin turned cold and her mind went blank. Disaster was upon them. Everyone looked at the boys and then, because Lance stared at her, at Alina. Always one to voice her thoughts, tonight she could not think of a single thing to say that might avert what was about to happen.

“We have a stranger living in that wreck of a stable, Alina?” Father’s voice was quiet, but she was not fooled. His anger was merely contained. He looked from Cuddy and Lance to Alina.
She smiled, but could not stop her mouth trembling. Blood prickled as it flowed into her face, and out of sight, beneath the table, she gripped the heavy cloth of her skirts and scrunched it into a ball. She looked at Lance and nodded towards the door, hoping desperately that he would have enough sense to slip out unnoticed and warn Harry he’d better leave at once if he hadn’t gone already.

“Alina!” She jumped and met her father’s hot brown glare.
“Yes, sir?” From the corner of her eye she saw Lance push up from his bench. Good, he was going to warn Harry.
“Don’t play silly games with me, girl. Who lives in the stable with that old horse of yours?” He saw Lance stepping over the bench. “Sit down, and finish your dinner, boy.”
Lance looked uncertainly at Alina.
“Sit, boy!” Carnaby roared.
Lance’s eyes flickered as if he considered mutiny. Red faced and sulky, he slouched back onto his bench and stared at the table.
“I don’t know what Cuddy means, Father.” Her voice sounded shaky, and she cleared her throat. “Perhaps this is another of his imaginary friends. You know—”
Cuddy shook his head. “Harry’s my friend, and he’s real. You like him, too.” He looked at her as if she betrayed him.

Cuthbert Carnaby flung down his knife and bellowed to his Steward, stationed at the hall door. “Send down to the old stable. Bring anyone you find here immediately.” He glared around. “We’ll soon see if any one threatens the hall tonight. I refuse to be surprised by raiders twice in the same week.”
Alina touched her fingertips to her brow and found her hairline damp with sweat. Pray God that Harry had gone. Everyone waited and cast anxious glances around the hall. People went on eating, for food was too hard bought to waste, but Alina surreptitiously fed the remains of her meal to the hounds. Her mother noticed, and shook her head in rebuke. “Why, Alina, I thought you liked roast mutton?” “It’s only a lump of gristle, Mama.”

She clutched her hands so hard the small bones rubbed together. She had exchanged farewells with Harry that morning, but he spoke of waiting till dark before leaving. A hurried glance at the window told her the sun was still in the western sky. She could hardly blame Father for taking no risks with their security. If only Aydon had not suffered a raid this week, if Harry’s surname had been anything but Scott, and if these wretched Border lands would settle down into some kind of civilised life.

Oh, dear Lord, she could hear footsteps pounding along the passageway, and every head in the hall turned in anticipation. Alina sat motionless, expecting the worst. The Steward appeared. Behind him two guards jostled a tall man into the hall. Harry’s face was scarlet. The white cloth of his shirt showed through the tears in his doublet, and his black hair hung untidily over his brow. They pushed him forward, and she saw that his wrists were tied together behind his back. Oh, Harry. Alina felt sick, but filled with pride in him, for he did not cower. Lance sat white-faced and still. Cuddy ran to his mother, who held him in her arms and made soothing noises. The sentries marched Harry towards the high table. He stared grimly ahead. No doubt he thought she had betrayed him.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

GIFTS GONE ASTRAY, Regency romantic comedy

A gift is a wonderful surprise. Or maybe not.

At the Earl of Langley's family gathering, everyone receives a gift, including the servants. Tutor Stephen Fairfax expects a small token, but the present from family member Mrs. Anne Copley, the widow who has caught his eye, is a dream come true.

Until he opens it. What a gift! How did that demure lady acquire such a book? And she wants to "study" the positions in it with him? If he accepts her offer, tempting as it is, he could lose his job.

Anne has no idea why Mr. Fairfax is in such a flutter. Her present is a simple book of illustrations. The subject interests them both, and she would like nothing better than to examine the book—and Mr. Fairfax—more closely.

She glanced at the mantel clock. "Oh, look at the time! I must return to the drawing room. So much to do before the family party tonight. But, before I leave..." She swallowed. "We had some trouble with the gifts today. Yours went missing. I apologize—"

"But I received a gift. Someone left it outside my door."

"Thank the stars." She pressed her hand to her bosom.

Stephen's gaze followed her hand, and his throat dried.

"I worried your present was lost."

She worried about me. Capital! He tore his attention from her breasts and lifted his head. "I have not yet unwrapped it. A book, I take it?"

"Yes. The volume belonged to my husband. He was a scholar, and that book was one of his favorites. Mine, too. We spent many happy hours enjoying it." Another dazzling smile curved her lips. "I selected it with you in mind."

His pulse thumped. I have a chance. "You flatter me with your consideration."

"My pleasure." She flashed another of her heart-stopping smiles. "As much as I long to, I will not ruin the surprise by telling you what the book is." She smoothed her face into a blank stare, but her glorious chocolate eyes twinkled.

So, she wanted to play games. He gave an inward smirk. He would love to play games of a different sort. But he would settle for a guessing game. For now.

5 Hearts out of 5 from TJ at The Romance Studio
"A truly wondrous tale of gift-giving, misunderstandings, and unexpected love. There were blushing beauties, scholarly studs, nefarious schemers, mischievous children, and kindly uncles all wrapped in Ms. Banche's prim and proper Regency prose, that once opened revealed a sweetly racy story that was perfect. The writing was vivid and captured the time exactly."
Full review here.

5 Stars from Lindsay Townsend (To Touch the Knight):
"Gifts Gone Astray by Linda Banche is a delightful romantic comedy of misunderstandings, ghastly relations (old and young) a sinister suitor and two very different books sent as gifts to the 'wrong' people. "
Full Review here.

Available from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, All Romance Ebooks, and other places ebooks are sold.

Author Bio:

Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

I'm Linda Banche, and I write witty, sweet/sensual Regency romances with nary a rake or royal in sight. Most contain humor, some fantasy, and occasionally a little paranormal. But comedy is my love, and I've created my own wacky blend of humor and Regency with stories that can elicit reactions from a gentle smile to a belly laugh.

I live in New England and like aerobics and ducks.

So, laugh along with me on a voyage back to the Regency era. Me and my ducks. Quack.

I have four Regency novellas now available from The Wild Rose Press. LADY OF THE STARS (time travel, finalist in Science Fiction Romance in the 2010 EPIC eBook Contest), PUMPKINNAPPER (finalist in the 2011 EPIC Contest in the Historical Romance category. I'm two for two now. I've entered the EPIC contest twice, and I've finaled twice.), MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE (Christmas), GIFTS GONE ASTRAY, and AN INHERITANCE FOR THE BIRDS(coming February 1, 2012).

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

HIGHLAND STORMS by Christina Courtenay

Highland Storms (Historical romance)

Blurb: -

Who can you trust?

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate.

But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate is in ruin and money is disappearing. He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?

Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her. But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone.

And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy. Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever …


Marsaili Buchanan was pulled back from the brink of sleep by the soft growling of her deerhound, Liath. It started as a low rumble inside the big dog’s chest and throat, and grew in volume while the animal raised his head and stared fixedly at the door. Since Liath was snuggled around Marsaili’s feet, the vibrations could be felt all the way up her legs. Her heart skipped a beat as she held her breath, waiting to see who was coming up the stairs to her tower room this time.

‘They never give up, do they, boy,’ she whispered and sat up, putting her palm on Liath’s flat skull. She felt the rumbling more strongly there and stroked the dog’s wiry neck, keeping her hand near his collar in case she needed to hold him back. It was a distinct possibility.

She’d been plagued with night-time suitors like this for a while now, even though she never encouraged any of the men in the household or on the estate. Her face and figure seemed to inspire lust in any male between the ages of fifteen and fifty, no matter how much she covered it up. She silently cursed fate for giving her this dubious blessing. It brought her nothing but trouble.

The latch moved softly. Since it was well-oiled and silent, Marsaili wouldn’t have heard it if she hadn’t been forewarned. The door didn’t open though, the bar she’d had installed recently saw to that. The latch dropped with a clink and she heard a snort of frustration. This was followed by a muted thud, presumably a shoulder pushing against the door. When this didn’t produce the desired result either, a man’s voice muttered an oath. A harder shove which made the wooden planks quiver seemed to conclude the assault. Marsaili bit her lip hard to keep from making a sound.

‘Marsaili? It’s me, Colin.’ The whisper was clearly audible and seemed to hang in the air for a moment.

Marsaili almost gasped out loud. That was one voice she’d never thought to hear outside her door. She’d believed Colin Seton, the estate manager, too proud to go sneaking around at night.

‘Mr Seton? What’s the matter?’ she asked, trying to sound as if she’d just been woken up. ‘Is something amiss?’

‘Come now, girl, you know why I’m here. You’ve been holding out for long enough, it’s time you were rewarded.’

His voice was slightly louder, but still low. Marsaili didn’t know why he bothered trying to keep it down. Her room was at the top of one of the towers of Rosyth House and there was no one immediately below her at the moment. He must be aware of this.

‘I beg your pardon?’ She sat up straighter, glaring in the direction of the door. Holding out for what? Him? How on earth did he reach that conclusion? She just wanted to be left alone, not be importuned by a widower old enough to be her father.

‘The finest looking woman in all the Highlands deserves only the best. Can’t blame you for setting your sights high. Let me in now, you can trust me to look after you right.’

Rage bubbled up inside Marsaili’s throat and threatened to choke her. The words she longed to hurl at Seton were so stacked up, she couldn’t spit them out. All that escaped her was a noise of frustration, but Liath felt her wrath and gave voice to it on her behalf. His growling grew into a crescendo of menace that reverberated around the small room


She managed to control her vocal chords at last. ‘Please leave, Mr Seton and I’ll forget we ever had this conversation. I’m sorry, but you’ve misunderstood.’

‘Eh? You’re just being stubborn now and you know it. No need to be coy, you’ve made your point.’ His voice was beginning to sound strained, as if he was keeping his temper in check, but only just.

Marsaili didn’t know what to reply. She didn’t want to antagonise the man, but on the other hand she had to make him understand she wasn’t available to anyone. As if to emphasise her thoughts, Liath gave a short bark, and although she couldn’t see him, Marsaili knew he was probably baring his fangs as well. She felt her heart beating harder, the sound of her pulse almost drowning out the dog’s noise inside her ears. She took a deep breath. ‘I meant what I said. Anyone who wants to court me can do so in daylight.’ Not that it would do them any good since I don’t want any of them.

‘Who said anything about courting? Your mother –’

She cut him off abruptly. ‘What my mother chose to do was up to her. It has nothing to do with me and I’ll live my life as I see fit. I’m a respectable woman.’

‘Rubbish! You’re no better than you should be. Hoity-toity by-blow of a –’

‘Mr Seton! You’ve said enough.’ Marsaili was shaking with fury, but was determined not to enter into a lengthy argument with him.

Seton cursed long and fluently. Finally, he hissed, ‘That dog isn’t allowed in the house, you know. I’ll see it’s put where it belongs from now on, in the stables.’

‘You can’t! I have the mistress’s express permission to keep him in here. The dog stays,’ she said firmly, trying not to let her voice tremble the way the rest of her body was doing. It was true after all, but would he leave it at that? She waited again, holding Liath’s collar in a tight grip, while Seton made up his mind.

The door was stout, but she knew Seton was both strong and determined. Fortunately, so was Liath. Marsaili was reluctant to let the dog loose on anyone because she’d seen what those powerful jaws could do, but if she was cornered, she’d have no other choice.

‘We’ll just see about that,’ Seton snarled before giving the door a vicious kick. Soon after, she heard footsteps disappearing down the stairwell. She breathed a sigh of relief and threw her arms around the dog’s neck, burying her face in the shaggy fur.

‘Thank you, Liath, good boy. You’re the best.’ He licked her hand in acknowledgement of this tribute and leaned against her until her limbs stopped shaking.

They’d won this time, but Marsaili knew that from now on she’d have to be on her guard at all times, both for herself and for Liath. There was no saying what Seton would do and now he’d put all his cards on the table, there was no going back. He wasn’t the type to give up easily and she’d probably wounded his pride. He would use every means at his disposal to have his way.

Well, she’d be ready for him. Just let him try!

Buy links: Highland Storms is published by Choc Lit on 1st November 2011, (ISBN: 978-1-906931-71-1). It is available from For further details on where to purchase this book please see

Link to longer excerpt -

(For a short author bio, please see previous blog regarding The Scarlet Kimono or check out my website at )

Thank you!