Sunday, 25 March 2012

First Review



Jen Black

"She’s lovely, with a peaches and honey glow and a wickedly devastating smile, an intellect a cut above her peers, and perhaps the wealthiest heiress in the country.  He’s darkly handsome, all chiseled angles and fine bones, a faint aura of citrus and sandalwood, a tendency towards few words, and plenty of money of his own.

These two really should meet, and they do when Lady Frances Rathmere literally fishes Jack Slade, Marquess of Streatham, out of the river on her estate.  Their relationship, begun under such untoward—and certainly unromantic—circumstances, progresses in a fashion that would horrify the denizens of society in early Regency London and Bath. But this is the North of England, where life is lived in tune with nature and definitely more colorfully, and where people, even the gentry and those with titles, are more full-blooded and multifaceted than their insipid and overly polite cousins to the south.

Frances is a widow in her late twenties whose husband, a childhood friend, left her with a decided aversion to “marital duties.”  She is determined not to marry again, despite her family’s equal determination that she should and would, at the earliest opportunity.  Jack is a widower who was so devastated by the death of his wife in childbirth that out of guilt he swore not only never to marry again but also to remain celibate for the rest of his life.  Thus we have two protagonists who are reluctant, so say the least, to alter their present states, regardless of whatever attraction might develop between them or whatever circumstances might arise to change their opinions about what they should—or should not—do.

This is a historical romance in the best sense of the genre.  Jen Black has captured the setting of the North Country with such precision and spare, elegant descriptions that the reader could be nowhere else but Northumberland.  She has done the same with her characters who, from the two protagonists to minor figures who pass briefly through the novel, are rendered with precision and such beautiful detail that they become real, rather than one-dimensional actors from a stock play.  One of the most difficult aspects of a book any book, is dialogue, and if the characters speak to each other as if they’re reciting lines from a very bad play, this ruins the story, no matter how inventive the plot.  The dialogue throughout the story is crisp, funny, moving, emotional, and above all, believable for each character who speaks.  Not an easy thing to accomplish, but Ms. Black is a master at it.

This is not a formulaic Regency tale with a trite reliance on stilted drawing room manners and silly encounters in all the usual places with all the usual people.  Instead, it’s a story with enough twists and unpredictable turns to make you dizzy, while Frances and Jack will alternately endear themselves to you and drive you crazy.  In any event, you won’t be able to forget these two or their story.

A useful hint:  don’t begin to read this book until you know you’ll suffer no ill effects from reading throughout the night.  I learned this the hard way."

Margaret Scott Chrisawn, Ph.D

Sunday, 18 March 2012


My latest Regency comedy novella, An Inheritance for the Birds, the next entry in The Wild Rose Press's Love Letters series, is now available. All the stories start with a letter that changes the hero's and heroine's lives. Mine is a letter about an inheritance, but there's a catch...

Available at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon,
Barnes and Noble, All Romance Ebooks and other places where ebooks are sold.


Make the ducks happy and win an estate!

Mr. Christopher "Kit" Winnington can't believe the letter from his late great-aunt's solicitor. In order to inherit her estate, he must win a contest against her companion, Miss Angela Stratton. Whoever makes his great-aunt's pet ducks happy wins.

A contest: What a cork-brained idea. This Miss Stratton is probably a sly spinster who camouflaged her grasping nature from his good-natured relative. There is no way he will let the estate go to a usurper.

Angela never expected her former employer to name her in her will. Most likely, this Mr. Winnington is a trumped-up jackanapes who expects her to give up without a fight. Well, she is made of sterner stuff.

The ducks quack in avian bliss while Kit and Angela dance a duet of desire as they do their utmost to make the ducks--and themselves--happy.

Yawning, he shut the door behind him. Enough ducks and prickly ladies for one day. After dropping his satchel by the bed, he dragged off his clothes and draped them over the chair back. He dug a nightshirt from the valise and donned the garment before he blew out both candles.

Bates had already drawn back the bedclothes. The counterpane was soft under Kit's palm, and covered a featherbed. He grinned. By any chance, had they used the down from the pet ducks to stuff the mattress and pillows?

After tying the bed curtains back, he settled into the soft cocoon and laced his fingers behind his head. Tomorrow, he would have it out with Miss Stratton about the steward's residence, but that was tomorrow. He fluffed up his pillow and turned onto his side…


A bundle of flapping, squawking feathers exploded from the depths of the covers and attacked him. Throwing his arms over his head for protection, Kit fell out of bed. He scrambled to his feet and bolted for the door, the thrashing, quacking explosion battering him. A serrated knife edge scraped over his upper arm. "Ow!" Batting at the avian attacker with one hand, he groped for the latch with the other.

The door swung open. Miss Stratton, her candle flame flickering, dashed into the chamber. "Esmeralda, you stop that right now!"

The feathered windstorm quacked once more and, in a graceful arc, fluttered to the floor.

Kit lowered his arms and gave a mental groan. A duck. He should have known.

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

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Reluctant Marquess is now in e-book!

Amazon Kindle:
Amazon PRINT:
Charity Barlow wished to marry for love. The rakish Lord Robert wishes only to tuck her away in the country once an heir is produced.

A country-bred girl, Charity Barlow suddenly finds herself married to a marquess, an aloof stranger determined to keep his thoughts and feelings to himself. She and Lord Robert have been forced by circumstances to marry, and she feels sure she is not the woman he would have selected given a choice.

The Marquess of St. Malin makes it plain to her that their marriage is merely for the procreation of an heir, and once that is achieved, he intends to continue living the life he enjoyed before he met her.

While he takes up his life in London once more, Charity is left to wander the echoing corridors of St. Malin House, when she isn’t thrown into the midst of the mocking Haute Ton.

Charity is not at all sure she likes her new social equals, as they live by their own rules, which seem rather shocking. She’s not at all sure she likes her new husband either, except for his striking appearance and the dark desire in his eyes when he looks at her, which sends her pulses racing.

Lord Robert is a rake and does not deserve her love, but neither does she wish to live alone.

Might he be suffering from a sad past? Seeking to uncover it, Charity attempts to heal the wound to his heart, only to make things worse between them.

Will he ever love her?

M rated Except

Charity stood by the tall arched window, the light turning her hair gold as she swung round to frown at him. “That was rude of you, Robert. You had no call to speak to me like that in front of Lord Southmore.”
“Southmore is not a man to be trusted.”
“He is your friend, is he not?”
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I approve of everything he does.” Robert walked to the table. “Would you like a sherry?”
“No, thank you.”
Robert dropped his hand and went to sit on the sofa.
He watched her walk around the room, her skirts swaying gracefully around her. “Come here.”
She remained where she was.
“If you wish.” She crossed the room to stand by his side.
He took her hand, turning it over in his large one, marveling at her delicate fingers. He thought of the carvings he’d seen on her mantel. “I’m sorry I snapped at you.”
“Are you?” She pulled her hand away, her voice doubtful.
He patted the sofa beside him. “We need to learn more about one another, don’t you agree?”
When she hesitated, he seized her by the waist and tumbled her onto his lap.
“The servants might come in.” Charity struggled to rise, but he held her fast within his arms.
“No, they won’t.”
“How can you be sure?”
“They wouldn’t dare. I told them we wished to be alone.”
Her green eyes widened. “Why do such a thing? There will be gossip in the servants’ quarters.”
“Servants love to talk. Why must we deny them something to talk about?” His hands roamed from her tiny waist to her bodice and her full breasts, enjoying the feel of her soft curves. She was unlike the willowy women he was used to. Her derrière felt plump and delightful against his hardening erection. Should he stop? He struggled with his conscience and his conscience lost.
He slid his hands up her smooth thigh, wishing to bare her body and study every bit of her he wanted to kiss and lick.
“Robert, should you…”
“Yes. I intend to make love to you.”
She squirmed and gasped. Her full lips open and inviting. “Now? Here?”
“Why not now and here?” he asked, forced to remove his hand as she jumped up. He drew her down again. “Don’t you want me to touch you?”
“But this is scandalous.” Charity’s eyes widened, her small pink tongue licked her bottom lip, sending a bolt of fire straight to his groin. She gave a shy smile. “A kiss perhaps.”
He found himself trembling as if it was the first time for him too, when he took her chin in his hands and softly pressed his lips to hers. Charity gave a soft moan. Her hands moved through his hair to the nape of his neck, pulling him closer. God, he’d started something now. How he wanted this luscious and delicate woman.
She drew away with a deep shuddering breath. “The bedchamber at night would surely be the ….”
Robert began to undo the hooks on her bodice. “I find myself unable to wait.”
“Unable? But you said …”
He undid the last hook and pulled her gown away. Leaning forward, he kissed the tender nape of her neck. “Can’t a man change his mind?”
“You agreed.” Charity continued to make a half-hearted attempt he disregarded as blood roared in his ears. “You said that we could wait before—”
“Hush.” He kissed her satin shoulder and let his fingers wander. Her shift was trimmed with lace and green ribbon, her corset embroidered with birds and violets. She looked delectable, good enough to eat. And he determined to do something very much like it.
Robert’s breathing grew heavy, and his cock hardened. He fumbled at his breeches to free it. Charity watched him, her eyes enormous. She opened her mouth to protest and he kissed her to silence her. The kiss lengthened, and after he finally broke away he gazed into those wonderful green eyes with amber highlights, and tasted her lips again. He couldn’t get enough of her sweet mouth. He drew away to find Charity breathing quickly, her pretty lips swollen and lush. So she enjoyed his kisses! Confident, his hands continued their work and while she didn’t assist him, neither did she stop him. Soon, her petticoats and corset joined her gown, a froth of ribbons, lace and silk on the chair.
His breath came in pants, as his mind fogged with lust. When he cupped her breasts to rub the taut nipples through the silk, she arched her back and gave a tiny cry.
He broke away to gaze at her. Her flushed skin was rosy and beautiful, her eyes hazy with desire, her breath as heavy as his.
He wanted her sweet body convulsing with pleasure under him.
“Don’t you think it’s time we made love?” he asked, his voice tight with need.
Prizes and books to be won on my blog tour from March 12-23: GODDESS FISH PROMOTIONS

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Anthem for Doomed Youth

by Carola Dunn, author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, the Cornish Mysteries, and over 30 Regencies. 

Anthem for Doomed Youth, the 20th Daisy Dalrymple Mystery, came out in 2011, but it's just been issued in paperback. This is the poem quoted at the beginning of the book, which lent me the title and inspired the story.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs--
The shrill demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers, the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk, a drawing-down of blinds.
                Wilfred Owen
(killed in action just a week before the Armistice)
The UK edition
 On the whole my Daisy mysteries, set in the 1920s, are light-hearted little murder stories, but obviously this one has a serious theme. However Daisy's cheerful nature peeks through. In fact, the book divides into two interwoven threads, following Daisy and Alec through separate investigations which may--or may not--be connected. I'll give you a taste of each.

Here are Daisy and her friend Sakari:

DI Gant was not lying in wait, but as they reached the pudding course, a message was brought to them: He had arrived and wanted to see Daisy.

Daisy was speechless. She had thought herself safe for the day, though she should have considered the irregular hours worked by detectives. Somehow she hadn't expected Gant to stay on the job late. After all, he had abandoned the triple burial site before Alec even arrived there.

Sakari spoke for her. "Tell the inspector that Mrs Fletcher will receive him when she has finished her dinner."

"I've lost my appetite," said Daisy, pushing away her enormous slice of sponge cake layered with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

"Nonsense, Daisy. It will do him good to wait. If you let him spoil your meal, you give him a victory."

"We can't have that." Daisy took another look at the cake and decided it was still irresistible—worth lingering over, in fact. She savoured every bite.

After a twenty-minute wait, Detective Inspector Gant was even more irritable than earlier in the day. When Daisy and Sakari joined him and his silent acolyte in the writing room, he said rudely, "I don't need Mrs Prasad."

"But I do," said Daisy. "I'd be extremely uncomfortable shut up alone in here with two men who are virtual strangers."

"But we're police officers, madam!"

"So is my husband. Perhaps I should send for him to come and—"

"That won't be necessary," Gant conceded with a martyred air. "Mrs Prasad may stay."

As Sakari had already sat down and looked singularly immoveable, he had little choice, short of arresting her for obstruction. It was a near thing, though, when a waiter brought in the ladies' coffee, and Sakari decided she wanted a liqueur with it. Daisy was sure she was just being awkward, and she guessed Gant realised it too. His face turned an interesting shade of mauve.

"Daisy, will you have something? A Drambuie? I know it's your favourite."

"Lovely, thank you." Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. She could do with a bracer.

So Gant had to wait for the waiter to go off and return before he could start the interview. He paced round and round the writing table till Sakari said, "Do take a seat, Inspector. You are making me quite dizzy. If you insist on disturbing us at this hour, you must take us as you find us."

"It's only nine o'clock! And may I point out, I'd no intention of disturbing you." He sat down. "You're at liberty to leave!"

"Do you imagine I could rest easy," Sakari said soulfully, "while you interrogate my dearest friend?"

Daisy frowned at her irrepressible friend. Sakari sighed and fell silent. The waiter came in with the liqueurs and poured out their coffee.

"Anything else, madam?"

Sakari opened her mouth. Daisy and Gant waited on tenterhooks, but all she said was, "No, thank you. That will be all. For now."

Gant pursed his lips but managed to contain himself in the face of the final provocation. "Mrs Fletcher, all I want is for you to go over again exactly what you saw and did when you found the body."

"If you're hoping I'll remember some clue I didn't mention before, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. But here goes."

US edition

And here is her husband DCI Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard:

The butler announced him. A tall, lean man who had been standing staring out of a window, came forward to greet him, walking with the aid of a stick. He moved stiffly, but his shoulders were unbowed by age, his steel-grey hair still thick. Observing his lined face and liver-spotted hands, knowing the age of his son, Alec reckoned he must be in his seventies.

"Chief Inspector, Cheriton did not inform me of the purport of your visit, but I can only assume you bring bad news."

"I'm afraid so, sir. Won't you sit down?"

Sir Daniel raised his chin with an impertinence-depressing stare, then thought better of it. With a sigh and a faint, ironic smile, he said, "We none of us want to admit the influence of anno Domini, do we? Perhaps I will."

He moved to the table and took the seat at the end, motioning to Alec to join him. Alec was pulling out a chair when the door was flung open and a plump, fair girl-child burst in.

"Grandfather, they said there's a policeman—" She stopped dead on seeing Alec. "Oh!"

"You were not invited, Delia." The baronet's voice was icy. "I will not have you rushing about in this hoydenish manner."

"It's my daddy who's missing!" she cried. "You don't care."

"Of course I care."

"Then why didn't you—"

"Don't argue. Go back to your mother at once. You will be told what you need to know in due course."

He was unduly harsh, Alec thought, but it was none of his business and, in any case, nothing would make him relate the grim story in her presence. In fact, he was glad the girl's mother and grandmother were also apparently to be excluded.

Delia glared at her grandfather, then her face crumpled and she ran from the room, sobbing noisily.

"My apologies, Chief Inspector. I don't know what they teach at that school she goes to, but it's clearly not self-restraint."

The simple fact of his speaking thus to a stranger, and a mere policeman at that, showed him not half so cool and calm as he would have liked to appear. His face had taken on a greyish tinge Alec didn't like. He looked every minute of his age.

However, he continued abruptly, "Please go ahead. I assume your presence indicates that my son is dead."

Alec sat down. "Pending positive identification by a member of the family, sir, so we believe. All the evidence points that way. Have you a photograph?"

Sir Daniel was prepared. He handed over a studio portrait in a silver frame of an Army officer, a major—in his late thirties, at a guess—in dress uniform. "It's not very recent. We don't go in for family photography. Well?"

Army officers in uniform tend to look very alike, yet there was no doubt in Alec's mind. "I'm sorry, this strongly resembles the deceased. We're still required to have someone make a personal identification, I'm afraid."

He inclined his head in acceptance. "Regulations must be observed. I take it Scotland Yard would not be interested had Vincent died a natural death."


"May I know...what happened?"

After a brief internal debate, Alec said, "The information could materially affect our investigation, sir, but if you will give me your word—"

"You need not fear that I shall talk to the press," the baronet said with a touch of anger.

"I'm sure of that, sir, but I must have your assurance that you won't tell any of the family, even. No one at all."

"You have my word."

"Mr Halliday was shot through the heart. Death must have been instantaneous."

There was silence while Sir Daniel absorbed this. Then he said, "May I at least tell the family that he didn't suffer?"

"If you wish." Alec didn't add that Spilsbury said Halliday had been bound hand and foot for several hours before death. He had undoubtedly suffered physical discomfort and considerable mental distress.