Sunday, 31 March 2013

Guest blog: Carley Bauer and Lynette Willows - 'No Gentleman is He'

Balancing a tray of ale-filled pitchers, she swooped by with a friendly smile. “The usual?”
“Yes, please. For my friend as well.”
Cassandra glanced into the friend’s dark eyes before dashing back to the kitchen. She filled a larger single pitcher, grabbed two mugs and delivered them to the Lee table.
 Eyes soft with sympathy, Jackson said, “That was a fine service for Seth. The minister gave a touching eulogy.”
“Thank you. I appreciate you taking time to attend.”
 “Seth came to the ranch to help me with a horse or two. I trusted his judgment. The county will feel the loss.”
She nodded gratitude for his kind words before disappearing into the crowd. Tavern work was physical labor. It kept her occupied, doing its part in healing the loss of only a few weeks. She weaved briskly and efficiently through the crowds, remembering orders called out to her. The men were always thirsty. She did her best to stay on top of it, knowing Bertie’s knees were not too strong with gout setting in.
An hour later it calmed enough to take a brief break. “The tables are taken care of, everyone has drinks. The new bottle of whiskey is open and under the bar to the left,” she told Bertie. “I have to check the mare.”
 “Our girl getting close, is she?”
Cassandra untied and tossed her apron under the bar. “She was breathing heavy this afternoon. Hopefully she holds out until the crowd thins.”
“I will keep an eye out for Dom. You go on, see how she is.”
Fairly flying out the back door, Cassandra gathered her skirts to run across the yard toward the stables. Opening the doors, she hurried to the stall, hearing the sounds of the mare’s groans.
The mare was down in hard labor. Cassandra knelt in the hay, patting the horse’s neck. “Poor girl. You are having a rough time.”
She had assisted Seth back in England when a foal made its way into the world. If there were no complications, she could help deliver. The mare turned her head toward her midsection letting out an unearthly bellow. It did not sound good.
 In the next hour Cassandra bustled between the tavern’s demanding patrons, the stables to walk the mare to aid the labor, and the stream to clean up.
 “Where in hell have you been?” Dom’s paunch preceded him as he stalked toward Cassandra on her latest return. Throwing a bar towel over his shoulder, he bawled, “I have been out there waiting tables for God’s sake. You are costing me money, missy! It is not me the men be wanting to see.”
Making a beeline into the main room, she called over her shoulder, “It will cost you more if I do not bring this foal into the world safe and sound.”
Dashing about the room, she was greeted with annoyance from neglected patrons. As she neared his table, Jackson inquired kindly, “Everything all right, Cassandra?” He looked relieved to finally be served.
 She noticed the irritable look in his companion’s dark eyes when she placed the fresh ale before them. Leaning down, she whispered to Jackson, “My mare is in trouble. I fear the foal is turned the wrong way. I do not have time to attend her until the tavern closes. By then it may well be too late.”
On her next trip to the kitchen, Dom stood, impatient. “What is wrong with the bloody mare? Why in the name of God do you keep rushing out there?”
“The mare is laboring.” The words barely left her lips before he ordered her out the door.
“Part of the money from that foal is mine. Get on out there! Take care to get it out into this world alive. I swear I should have never got myself involved in this deal!”
He glared angrily as she left, banging the door behind her.
 At Jackson’s table, the two men drank quietly, watching the disagreement going on behind the scenes. “Dom’s got horses out back?” Colton Rolfe asked Jackson, aware the innkeeper avoided the costs of an active stable. Lodgers at the inn had to make arrangements for their animals at a public stable down the street.
“They are Cassandra’s,” Jackson answered, taking a deep draught from his mug.
“A tavern maid has horses? If the mare is in trouble, she better see to her instead of bouncing around here serving ale and spirits.”
 “Do not be so hard on her, Colt. She just lost her husband. It is the mare’s first foaling.” Jackson spread his arms wide. “You can see how busy it is in here. In the mood to help a damsel in distress and give her a hand delivering the foal?”
 “Best I do. If we leave a woman to muck about with it, she will not have a foal or mare.” Colton stood abruptly, striding out without a backward glance, leaving a surprised Jackson to settle the bill.
Colton entered the stables, his eyes quickly adjusting to the dark. He followed the lamp light and soft voice soothing the distressed mare. His gaze settled on the young woman kneeling in the small stall, her skirts littered with sopping straw, the mare’s waters having broken. His attention moved to the straining mare.
“Get out of the way, woman,” he ordered, grabbing her shoulders in his hands and pulling her away from the mare.
“Sir!” Cassandra objected, not only to his rough handling but the manner in which he took control. His push, while not cruel, landed her on her tender behind. She opened her mouth to object further and then promptly closed it. Despite his gruff manner, he took expert charge, kneeling by the prone mare. His head bowed, he concentrated on the mare’s contractions, oblivious to soiling his fine clothing. Under his experienced hand, the mare quieted.
From the corner of his eye, the woman glanced up, relief in her eyes to see Jackson enter the stall. Colton knew he could be intimidating but Jackson obviously calmed the woman.
“Jackson,” she breathed, welcoming the familiar man walking toward her. She fussed with her skirts while Jackson patted her shoulder reassuringly.
 “Your mare is in excellent hands, Cassandra.” Jackson grinned and winked. “No one in Virginia is any more capable.”
She nodded, apparently taking some comfort in his words.
Colton shifted his position to the back of the horse, took one look and said brusquely, “Get the box stall ready!”
 “Sir, Dom will not approve of us using…” she started.
 “Now!” he barked, cutting her off then turning to snatch the halter from a nail on the stall wall.
Jackson chuckled and extended his hand, assisting Cassandra to her feet. “What my friend Colton so eloquently means is he doubts Dom will object to us using of the box stall. I believe you mentioned once to me he has a financial interest in this foal?”
 “Yes, he does,” she said, ineffectually brushing off her skirts.
 “We need room to move around if you want live offspring,” Colton snapped, fitting the halter on the mare. “Dom’s objections be damned.”
While flabbergasted by his abrupt manner, Cassandra obeyed his order by rushing to the larger box stall to lay fresh straw and ready it for the mare.
“Jackson, make yourself useful by standing at her rear,” Colton instructed Jackson. “C’mon, old girl, get up.” His voice was still firm but held soothing encouragement. He gently patted the mare’s chest to rouse her.
When Colton looked up, Cassandra stood in the doorway, observing the mare struggle to her feet. Ignoring the way the woman looked at him, he continued patting the mare’s chest while he tugged the halter. He waited when the mare started to quiver with contractions.
“What do you see back there?” he asked Jackson.
Jackson peered under the mare’s tail. “Feet,” he said somberly, confirming his earlier suspicions.
“Damn,” Colton cursed. He turned the mare, pulling on the halter once the contraction subsided. “C’mon, ol’ girl, we are moving you to roomier quarters.” He led her from the stall, past a worried Cassandra with barely a glance in her direction.
 Once in the larger stall, the mare groaned and went down to her knees, collapsing sideways into the straw. “I need rope, clean grease, water and soap.”
“Right,” Jackson answered, hurrying to retrieve the needed supplies.
 Cassandra caught Jackson’s sleeve in passing. “I will get them. You stay here in case he needs an extra pair of hands.” Jackson nodded in agreement before she rushed off.
Jackson looked around and spotted a length of rope hanging on the wall at the opposite end of the stables. He went over and snatched it up. “Got a rope,” he said, holding it up.
“Good,” Colton murmured as he removed his coat and flung it, and his shirt, over the stall door. He took the rope from Jackson and laid it aside, knelt by the mare’s hindquarters and moved her tail aside.
Jackson followed suit, removing his coat but only loosening his shirt around his neck and rolling up his sleeves. “You will frighten the girl if you stay half naked, Colt.”
 “If she is that delicate, she should not have horses. Where is the wench, anyway?”
 “She has only been gone two minutes. Give her time.”
Just then, Cassandra rushed in, a bucket of water in one hand, its contents sloshing down her skirts, soaking them. She clutched a pail of grease in the other. “I could not find a rope,” she huffed, out of breath.
“We found one,” Jackson assured her.
 Cassandra looked in the stall as the men worked. To Colton’s amusement, the woman suddenly flushed when she noticed the state of his undress. Apparently disturbed by her own reaction, she busied herself getting the soap from her apron pocket, almost dropping it from her noticeably shaking hand.
Jackson took the pail of grease from Cassandra to set beside Colton. Cassandra watched intently as Colton dipped the length of rope and his arm in the grease, coating both. Sprawled on the straw behind the mare, he gradually inserted his bare arm into the mare’s vulva, leaving the rope on the rim of the pail. He grunted slightly when he felt around in the mare’s stretched womb. Sweat started breaking out on his brow and torso as he worked to assess the situation.
“The foal is not feet first, as I suspected. Its hindquarters are first.” He cursed under his breath.
 “We will have to turn it,” Jackson said.
“No room. The foal is too large. It will have to come out backwards.”
Jackson shook his head solemnly as he knelt down behind Colton, taking up the rope. He knew that Jackson knew how serious this was.
“I feel useless. Is there anything I can do?” she asked timidly.
Colton growled, “Yes, stay out of the way.”
The two men worked silently, as if they could read each other’s minds. Cassandra marveled at how different they were and yet worked as one, heads close together by the mare’s backside. One was fair and tall, well-formed and handsome. She heard rumors how Jackson Lee, since the loss of his wife and child, was now the target of predatory females in the county, eager for a prosperous match to the young plantation owner.
She could understand it. Jackson was indeed an attractive man. She supposed the short time since Seth’s passing was why she did not feel an attraction to him. Still, she appreciated his friendship.
Her gaze moved to his rude companion, again feeling that odd, unfamiliar sensation. An emotion she had not experienced before.
She saw a dangerous, graceful sensuality in Colton’s body. He possessed a full head of thick, black hair, loosed from its ribbon and flowing down his muscular neck, shoulders and back. His skin was bronzed as if perpetually exposed to the sun. There was a savage aura about this man. 

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Far Beyond Rubies by Rosemary Morris

I am delighted to announce that Far Beyond Rubies by Rosemary Morris will  be published on March 22.

Far Beyond Rubies

When Gervaise sees Juliana for the first time, he recognises her, but not from this lifetime…
Back Cover

Set in 1706 in England during Queen Anne Stuart’s reign, Far Beyond Rubies begins when William, Baron Kemp, Juliana’s half-brother, claims she and her young sister, Henrietta, are bastards. Spirited Juliana is determined to prove the allegation is false, and that she is the rightful heiress to Riverside, a great estate.

On his way to deliver a letter to William, Gervaise Seymour sees Juliana for the first time in the grounds of her family home. The sight of her draws him back to India. When “her form changed to one he knew intimately—but not in this lifetime,” Gervaise knows he would do everything in his power to protect her.

Although Juliana and Gervaise are attracted to each other, they have not been formally introduced and assume they will never meet again. However, when Juliana flees from home, and is on her way to London, she encounters quixotic Gervaise at an inn. Circumstances force Juliana to accept his kind help. After Juliana’s life becomes irrevocably tangled with his, she discovers all is not as it seems. Yet, she cannot believe ill of him for, despite his exotic background, he behaves with scrupulous propriety, while trying to help her find evidence to prove she and her sister are legitimate

Author’s Notes

When the popular Charles II died in 1685, he left a country torn by religious controversy, but no legitimate children. The throne passed to his Roman Catholic brother, James.
It was an anxious time for the people, whose fears increased when James II became so unpopular that he was forced into exile, and his daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, succeeded to the throne.
The Act of Settlement was passed in Parliament in 1701 to prevent a Roman Catholic inheriting the throne. This meant the Roman Catholic son of James II, by his second wife, Mary of Modena, could not become king.
In 1702, James’s childless younger daughter, Anne, inherited the throne from her sister Mary, and Mary’s husband, William of Orange.
Anne’s Protestant heiress was Sophia, the granddaughter of James I. If Sophia died before Anne, Sophia’s uncouth son, George, Elector of Hanover—who spoke no English—would be next in the line of succession.
Anglicanism, a mixture of ancient Catholic ritual and Church government with Protestant tenet, was the official national religion, re-established by law in 1660. Queen Mary and Queen Anne were staunch supporters of the Anglican Church.
Anglicans and non-conformists united in their loathing of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholics, or papists, as they were called, were suspected of endlessly plotting against the Government, and their civil liberties were restricted. For example they were forbidden to travel more than a mile or two from home.

Chapter One


“Bastards, Juliana! You and your sister are bastards.”
Aghast, Juliana stared at William, her older half-brother, although, not for a moment did she believe his shocking allegation.
It hurt her to confront William without their father at her side. At the beginning of April, she and Father were as comfortable as ever in his London house. Now, a month later, upon her return to her childhood home, Riverside House, set amongst the rolling landscape of Hertfordshire, his body already lay entombed in the family crypt next to her mother’s remains. Would there ever be a day when she did not mourn him? A day when she did not weep over his loss?
A cold light burned in the depths of William’s pebble-hard eyes.
Juliana straightened her neck. She would not bow her head, thus giving him the satisfaction of revealing her inner turmoil.
William cleared his throat. His eyes gleamed. “Did you not know you and your sister were born on the wrong side of the blanket?”
Anger welled up in her. “You lie. How dare you make such a claim?”
Hands clasped on his plump knees, William ignored her protestation. “You now know the truth about your whore of a mother,” he gloated.
Well, she knew what William claimed, but did not believe him. “You are wicked to speak thus. My mother always treated you kindly.”
“As ever, you are a haughty piece.” William’s broad nostrils flared. Anger sparked in his eyes. “My dear sister, remember the adage: Pride goeth before a fall, however, do not look so worried. I shall not cast you out without the means to support yourself.”
William rang the silver handbell. When a lackey clad in blue and gold livery answered its summons, he ordered the man to pour a glass of wine.
Juliana watched William raise the crystal glass to his lips. What did he mean? How could she maintain herself and her sister? She had not been brought up to earn a living.
She looked away from her half-brother to glance around the closet, the small, elegantly furnished room in which she kept her valuables and conducted her private correspondence before her father’s death.
Now it seemed, William, the seventh Baron Kemp, and his wife, Sophia, had sought to obliterate every trace of her by refurbishing the closet. Where were her books and her embroidery frame? Where was Mother’s portrait? Rage burned in the pit of her stomach while she looked around her former domain. Juliana wanted to claw William’s fat cheeks. It would please her to hurt him as he was hurting her. No, that wish was both childish and unchristian. She must use her intelligence to defeat him.
At least her family portrait—in which her late mother sat in front of Father, and she and William, dressed in their finest clothes, stood on either side of Mother—remained in place. One of her father’s hands rested on her pretty mother’s shoulder, the other on the back of the chair. A handsome man, she thought—while admiring his relaxed posture and frank expression, both of which depicted a man at his ease.
At the age of five, she already had resembled Mother when Godfrey Kneller painted her family in 1693. They both had large dark eyes and a riot of black curls, as well as fair complexions tinged with the colour of wild roses on their cheeks. She touched her narrow, finely sculpted nose. Judging by the portraits, she inherited her straight nose, oval face, and determined jaw from Father.
Her hands trembled. After Father died, she knew life would never be the same again. Yet nothing had prepared her for what would follow.
Today, when she first stepped into the spacious hall, it seemed as though she had also stepped over an invisible threshold. From being a beloved daughter of the house, she had become her half-brother’s pensioner. Knowing William and Sophia’s miserly natures, she doubted they would deal kindly with her. Yet she could not have anticipated William’s appalling accusation of illegitimacy, and his arrangement—whatever it might be—for her to earn her living.
The lackey served William with another glass of wine.
William jerked his head at the man. “Go.”
Her head still held high, Juliana looked at tall, fleshy William. She liked him no more than he liked her. Indeed, who would not dislike a man so parsimonious that he neither offered his half-sister the common courtesy of either a seat or a glass of wine? Infuriated by his gall, she clasped her hands tighter, trying to contain her anger and keep her face impassive.
She shivered. Today, when she alighted from the coach, rain soaked her clothes. On such a wet, grey day, why did no fire blaze in the hearth? Here, in the closet, it was scarcely warmer than outdoors. She clenched her hands to stop them trembling and imagined the heart of the house had died with Father.
“You shall put your fine education, which our father boasted of, to good use,” William gloated. “You shall be a teacher at a school in Bath.”
Fury flooded Juliana’s chilled body. “Shall I?”
“Yes. Our father saw fit for you to have an education far beyond your needs. You are more than qualified to teach young ladies.”
“Beyond my needs? Father admired Good Queen Bess and other learned ladies of her reign. He deplored Queen Anne’s lack of education. Our father decided no daughter of his would be as ignorant as Her Majesty and her late sister, Queen Mary.”
The purple-red colour of William’s cheeks deepened. “Enough! I despise over-educated women.”
She stared at him. Undoubtedly his mean-minded wife had influenced him. Sophia was jealous because her own schooling comprised of only simple figuring, reading, and writing learned at her mother’s knee, whereas Juliana benefited both from the tutors her tolerant father, the sixth baron, had engaged, and her father’s personal tuition.
William interrupted her thoughts. “You have no claim on me. Moreover, our father left you naught in his will. To make matters worse the estate is so neglected, I cannot afford—”
“Cannot afford,” she broke in, outraged. “What nonsense is this? I have lived here for most of my life. Father encouraged me to familiarise myself with Riverside estate. I know every detail of it. Father even encouraged me to examine the accounts. I assure you everything is in perfect order, and the estate is profitable.” Scornfully, she assessed the poor quality of William’s black broadcloth coat and breeches. “You are a wealthy man. Besides the income from the Kemp estates, you have the revenues from those you inherited from your mother, God rest her soul. You could bear the expense of half a dozen siblings.” She glared at him. “I shall ask nothing for myself, but what of my sister?”
Despite her pride, Juliana’s heart pounded with fear for Henrietta. Although she cared little for William, who had rarely spoken a kind word to her, she adored her eight-year-old sister. She would do all in her power to care for and protect the child.
While she waited for William’s answer, she thought how different their lives would have been if, when she was ten-years-old, Mother had not died after giving birth to Henrietta. Although she should not question the will of God, sometimes it was almost impossible not to.
William shifted in his seat. The brass buttons of his waistcoat strained in the buttonholes due to the pressure of his sizeable girth. Juliana wrinkled her nose. Unlike their fastidious father, her half-brother did not bathe regularly. In fact, he reeked of stale perspiration, partially masked by musky perfume which nauseated her.
“Henrietta shall go to school.” William averted his eyes from her. “After all, I am a generous man. I shall pay for her education. She may think herself fortunate. I am under no obligation to support her.”
Juliana did not doubt he would send Henrietta to a school which charged the smallest possible fees, one which skimped on good food—a school at which clever Henrietta would learn little.
William sipped his wine. Did he want her to cry? If so, he would be disappointed. She would no more do so now than when she was a child, when he pinched her or pulled her hair out of jealous spite because he believed Father favoured her. Yet William never had any reason to envy her because Father had told her he loved William as much as he loved her and Henrietta.
How heartless her half-brother and his wife were. When Father died, they ordered her to remain in London, and at the time of Henrietta’s greatest need, confined her to Riverside House. For the first time since their marriage two years earlier, William and Sophia had returned to Riverside. Now, William’s cruel plan to send Henrietta away from home astonished her.
“Pay attention, Juliana!”
“I am all attention. You told me you will send Henrietta to school,” Juliana said, jerked from her still raw grief by outrage, yet determined not to make a fool of herself by pleading with him. “Be good enough to excuse me, I must see Henrietta. Where is she?”
“I have no patience with the snivelling brat. On my orders, she is not allowed out of the nursery.”
Juliana’s dislike of William flamed like a live coal. She could not endure the unreasonable fool’s behaviour for another moment. The sight of Father’s favourite gold ring, set with a diamond, on the puffy finger of William’s right hand, brought a lump to her throat. The diamond, of the finest quality, caught the light, displaying the colours of the rainbow. She coughed to check rising emotion. “I am going to the nursery.”
William raised his hand. “Grant me a moment more of your time.” He smirked. “Those of your clothes my lady wife deems suitable for your new position are in her tirewoman’s chamber, where you will sleep tonight.”
So, Sophia had appropriated her silks and satins, velvets and furs, before relegating her to a servant’s bed!
An outraged tremor ran through Juliana. More than likely, instead of the large bedchamber reserved for the mistress, Sophia had moved into the smaller, more comfortable one she, Juliana, had always slept in; the one adjoining the large bedchamber traditionally used by the Master of Riverside.
The thought of William sleeping in her courtly father’s bed intensified her grief. Never again would Father summon her in the morning to partake of hot chocolate and read to him while he lay abed, or while, on cold days, she sat snuggled up on the large wingchair by the fire.
“You may go, Juliana.”
How dare William dismiss her as though she were a servant?
She regarded William with acute distaste, but mindful of her training in the ways of society, Juliana curtsied before she straightened her back, hands clenched at her side to control her impotent wrath.
After she withdrew, she hurried not to the nursery, but to the closet which had been her father’s.
Without hesitation, Juliana opened a drawer and then pressed a knob at the back which opened a secret drawer in a lacquered cabinet. Smiling, she removed a drawstring purse bulging with gold coins.
Juliana sank onto a chair. Furious with William, she considered her situation. Until now, she took Riverside House—with its pleasure gardens, fruitful orchards, outbuildings, stables, and home farm—for granted, as she did the fertile acres encompassing villages and tenant farms.
Why did Father will the estate—which her maternal grandfather settled on Mother and she left to Father—to William? Deep in thought, she frowned. Why, in spite of his promises not to do so, did Father appoint William to be not only her own, but also Henrietta’s guardian?
Despite her love for Father, resentment stirred deep within her. She stifled it. Throughout his life, her father’s word was always as good as his bond. Now, although broken promises were his only legacy, he would not have failed her without good reason. But what could the reason be?
She frowned. Notwithstanding William’s words, Juliana believed she and Henrietta were legitimate. No lady as virtuous as her mother would have lived in sin with any gentleman. She cupped her chin in her hand. Bitter laughter escaped her. If William lied about that, what else was he lying about? Yet could he have spoken the truth? Could she and her sister be bastards? Surely not, for in that case her mother would not have been accepted at court as her father’s wife. Would it not have been impossible for a mistress to masquerade as a wife?
Nothing made sense. If Mother had been Father’s mistress and their daughters were illegitimate, how could Father have acquired the right to leave the estate to William? She had been told her grandpere settled Riverside on her mother, but was it true? What of her mother’s will? The will in which Mother had left jewellery and other personal possessions to both her daughters? Did Mother leave the estate to Father, or had she married him? If she had, the property would have become Father’s. But she had been told that under the terms of grandpere’s will, Mother’s eldest child would inherit Riverside. Was it true?
Well, she would not accept William’s claims. She would go to London immediately and consult Father’s lawyer, but first she must see her sister.

False Pretences is an e- book available from:

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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Walking into the Wild (excerpt) by Nancy Means Wright

Walking into the Wild. 
(A "tween" novel, set in 18th-century Vermont. The narrator is 13-year-old Deborah. Her 17-year-old sister, Rachel, betrothed to an older man, has discovered that he's a Tory...and worse...)

     "What's worse?" I asked when I ran out of the cabin to greet Rachel, where she was tethering the horse. Before I could get a word out, she shouted, "Oh, I always suspected. I'm no fool. That servant of his, she was more than a housekeeper, oh yes."  She flung her arms high. "Lord, I can't tell you all of it now, I'm too exhausted from that ride. I came alone. A two-day ride!"
     She took a shuddering breath, then sank onto a stump and dropped her head in her hands.
     "What about Esther?" I dropped onto the grass beside her. "What about her, Rachel? Tell me." Though I'd already begun to suspect.
     "What happened between them--that's what it was. I faced her with it, and she didn't deny."
     "You mean the way she acted, coming here, camping outside our cabin?"
     I bit my tongue before I upset my sister the more.
     Anyway, Rachel wasn't listening. She went on like a brook overunning its banks. "Esther won't leave. She can't go back to the Iroquois, she says, her father's a Frenchman. And Nathan won't make her, no! It's because of the boy she had by him, oh, yes.  It was his child, she told me.  His! She considers him her man."
     "Oh," I said.
     "So I left him a letter. The wedding's got to be postponed, I said. Or cancelled. Cancelled, I think, yes! I couldn't stay in the house after that. All that silence between the three of us. I could freeze it into blocks of ice!" 
     Esther was proud, hostile, selfish, mean," she went on. a long string of contrary traits that were probably true only to Rachel. I rather admired Esther, truth to tell, and felt bad, the way Nathan was using her.
    The next I saw, Rachel was up and swinging an axe into an old maple Pa had wanted taken down--it was shading the garden. She looked almost calm now. She'd measure with her eye, then heft the axe back over her shoulder and come down on the wood with a thud. Thud, thud, thud. The muscles stood out on her slender arms. Sweat sprang up like fine lace on her brow.
     I swept the cabin floor, the broom flying in my hands, flinging the dust out the door. I heard the gasping noise where Rachel was hacking at the trunk. It was as if she were drowning, and couldn't catch her breath. The noise got louder; she was bent over the axe as though stuck to its handle. Like our mother, after the Indians came and Ma thought we'd all be killed.
     "Rachel," I called, "Rachel!" I felt stuck there myself in the doorway. Without looking at me, Rachel slowly straightened up, eyed the trunk, and swung the axe back over her shoulder. The trunk split with a great crack.
     "Watch out!" I cried, but she jumped neatly aside.
     She wiped her face with her sleeve and called, "That does for this tree all right. We'll make potash out of it."
     Hardly hearing my voice, I yelled, "Good work."      

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

What do you look for in historical fiction?

What do you look for in historical fiction? What to you makes reading or writing historical fiction different to reading or writing other fiction genres?
Do you like a detailed study of real-life historical figures? Or do you prefer a fictional character who somehow 'captures' a particular aspect of the time?
How important is the historical setting to you?
How do you feel about anachronisms, whether in customs, organisations, beliefs or behaviour?

If you have a favourite historical fiction writer, who is it, and why?
Do you have a favourite historical time period? Why that time?

Please come and share your likes, dislikes and observations in the comments section below. If you are a historical fiction writer, why not share details of your work, why you enjoy writing historical fiction, and details of your website and books?

If you are an avid historical fiction reader, please come  and share titles of those books you really enjoyed, names of authors whom you enjoy, plus those time periods which you like to read and why.

 Have fun!


Sunday, 17 March 2013

New Release in the US! A BARON IN HER BED ~ The Spies of Mayfair Series, Book One

London, 1816. A handsome baron. A faux betrothal. And Horatia's plan to join the London literary set takes a dangerous turn. Now that the war with France has ended, Baron Guy Fortescue arrives in England to claim his inheritance, abandoned over thirty years ago when his father fled to France after killing a man in a duel. When Guy is set upon by footpads in London, a stranger, Lord Strathairn, rescues and befriends him. But while traveling to his country estate, Guy is again attacked. He escapes only to knock himself out on a tree branch. Aspiring poet Horatia Cavendish has taken to riding her father's stallion, "The General", around the countryside of Digswell dressed as a groom. She has become bored of her country life and longs to escape to London to pursue her desire to become part of the London literary set. When she discovers Guy lying unconscious on the road, the two are forced to take shelter for the night in a hunting lodge. After Guy discovers her ruse, a friendship develops between them. Guy suspects his relative, Eustace Fennimore is behind the attacks on his life. He has been ensconced in Rosecroft Hall during the family's exile and will become the heir should Guy die. Horatia refuses to believe her godfather, Eustace, is responsible. But when Guy proposes a faux betrothal to give him more time to discover the truth, she agrees. Secure in the knowledge that his daughter will finally wed, Horatia's father allows her to visit her blue-stocking aunt in London. But Horatia's time spent in London proves to be anything but a literary feast, for a dangerous foe plots Guy's demise. She is determined to keep alive her handsome fiance, who has proven more than willing to play the part of her lover even as he resists her attempts to save him.


~Romantic Historical Lovers~ Where History Meets Passion

This story has all the elements of a perfect Regency romance, a handsome Frenchman in fear of his life from unknown quarters, a beautiful girl trying not to fall in love with him and a mysterious Lord who becomes his friend but seems to know a lot more about him than a stranger should.

As a fan of Maggi Andersen, she has done it again with ‘A Baron In Her Bed’, with a mystery encompassed within a love story that has to be solved, and races along to a satisfying conclusion.

PG Excerpt:
She patted The General’s nose and fed him an apple. By the time the last of it had disappeared, she heard the clip of a horse’s hooves on the gravel drive. She peeped out of the barn door and saw the baron, tall in the saddle, riding towards the house.
Horatia stepped out and beckoned him. He caught sight of her and rode towards the stables then dismounted and led the horse inside.
“Sorry, my lord,” Horatia said, adopting Simon’s gruff voice. “We have no footman here. No under-groom neither. I’ll stable your horse.”
“Simon, good fellow,” he said warmly. “I came to thank you again. I am indebted to you.”
“No need for that, my lord,” she said. “Everything’s right and tight here as it happens.” She turned her back to lead his horse into one of the stalls. Seizing a brush, she bent and swept it over the horse’s flanks.
He came to rest an arm on the stall door. “I am relieved. If you had lost your job, I was going to ask you to work for me.”
She straightened to brush the horse’s back, confident of the poor light. “Mighty good of you, my lord. But not at all necessary.”
Eh bien, merci encore.” He turned towards the door.
Relieved it had gone so well, Horatia stepped out from behind the horse. She looked up to see if he had gone and found him watching her with his arms folded.
The elation left her, and she took a deep, shaky breath.
“Did you really think you could go on fooling me?” A note of outrage lay beneath the humorous tone in his voice. “How many people around here have red hair like yours?”
“My hair’s not red,” she said, incensed. “It’s chestnut.”
“I wondered how far you would carry this ruse, Miss Cavendish.”
She backed into an empty stall as he strode towards her.
He followed her inside. Reaching over, he whipped off her hat, and her hair came loose and tumbled around her face.  “So, what do you have to say in your defense?”
“Nothing, my lord.” Horatia lifted her chin, her heart pounding loud in her ears. She chewed her lip. She would have to brazen this out.
Annoyed blue eyes stared into hers. “I do not like to be toyed with. I thought there was something wrong with me.”
“Watching you bend over in those breeches. Zut! From the first, I felt a strong attraction to you. And then, when I saw you dressed as a woman, I understood.”
“You knew it was me at the dance?” She scowled. “And you deliberately teased me?”
“Don’t you think you deserved it?” He seized her shoulders and gave them a shake. “You tricked me. Why?”
She swallowed. “No trickery, my lord. I was dressed this way when I found you, if you recall. I needed to keep up the pretense.”
He shrugged. “But why do you dress like that?”
She couldn’t explain her restlessness to him and tossed her head. “I prefer to ride astride.”
He raised a brow. “You like a strong beast moving beneath you?”
She bristled at the insult. “I like to ride alone.” He made it sound as if she gained some sort of indecent enjoyment from the exercise. Her face heated. To ride astride was unfeminine, she knew, but that fact had never bothered her before.
“But to do so places you in peril.”
Horatia drew herself up. “I can handle myself as well as a man.”
“You believe that, do you?” His gaze flicked over her. What was he thinking? She quivered under his scrutiny.

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Regency romance, historical romance, adventure, suspense, Maggi Andersen.