Tea with Kitty

Her Grace paused for a moment in the doorway of the private sitting room where today’s guest was waiting. Kitty’s attention was currently caught by something outside the window, so Eleanor could examine her without embarrassing the young woman. Her popularity on the social rounds was not unexpected. She had wealth, youth, good looks, intelligence and excellent manners. Her beautiful voice charmed all who heard her sing. And the value of Eleanor’s sponsorship could not be discounted.

But something was wrong. She was too thin. Her eyes, when she thought herself unobserved, hinted at shadowed horrors. Eleanor’s servants reported that she kept a lamp burning in her room all night, and was besieged by nightmares even so. She flinched when touched unexpectedly, had to steel herself to accept the arm of gentlemen to whom she had just been introduced, and refused any but the most decorous of round and line dance.

Eleanor was determined to get to the bottom of it, for she could not help if she didn’t understand. So today she had sent Ruth, Kitty’s constant companion,  on an errand to allow her to see the girl alone.

Eleanor knew something of what had happened in June when her nephew, the Earl of Chirbury, had brought down a criminal gang run by people with the highest connections. The whole matter had been kept very quiet, though the death of two peers made complete secrecy impossible. Eleanor did not know why it affected Kitty, or how, but her knowledge of the younger of the two malefactors meant she could make an educated guess

Best, perhaps, just to ask.

“My dear Kitty,” she said, sweeping into the room. “Come and sit beside me. You shall make the tea, my dear, and tell me what you are most enjoying about London.”

A servant had already set out the tea makings, and a selection of savouries and sweet cakes. Eleanor kept the conversation light. Kitty’s pleasures, it seemed, were solitary or with a friend: visits to the bookshops, museums, and art displays; trips to the theatre; shopping for presents to send to her sisters and her niece.

“So tell me, Kitty,” Eleanor said, once they both had a cup of fragrant oolong, “what did the Earl of Selby do to you?”

Kitty is the younger sister of Anne, the heroine in Farewell to Kindness. The story discloses her relationship with the wicked Earl of Selby and the reason for her distress. Farewell to Kindness was published in 2015 and is the first book in the Golden Redepenning series. I’m publishing the second, A Raging Madness, in May this year, and am working on the third, The Realm of Silence. Kitty’s turn comes fifth in the series, in The Flavour of Our Deeds.

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Tea with Rede

An excerpt post this week. My hero Rede from Farewell to Kindness has travelled to Margate to consult with his aunt, the Duchess of Haverford.

The sun was setting on Saturday evening, and Rede was beside himself with frustration, before the Duchess of Haverford’s coach was finally seen tooling up the road to the castle.

He was waiting when she entered the front door, and she greeted him with pleasure. “Rede, darling. What a lovely surprise. Have you been waiting for me long?

“Such a circus in Deal. The electors were inclined to listen to the merchants, and the merchants did not favour Haverford’s man. Not at all.

“So I had to visit every shop in the town and buy something. The carriage, I can assure you, is laden. But Haverford believes it may have done the trick.

“Just as well, dear, for I have enough Christmas presents for every one of my godchildren for the next three years. And some of them are not of the best quality, I can assure you.”

She was talking as she ascended the stairs, giving her cloak to a maid as she passed, her bonnet to a footman, and her reticule to another maid.

“You want something, I expect. Well, you shall tell me all about it at dinner. I left most of the food I purchased at the orphanage in Margate, but I kept a pineapple for dessert. Such fun, my dear, have you tried one?”

“No, dear aunt,” he managed to say, sliding his comment in as she paused to give her gloves to yet another maid. Or it may have been the first maid again.

“Well, today you shall. Join me in the dining room in—shall we say one hour?” And she sailed away towards her apartments, leaving him, as always, feeling as if he had been assaulted by a friendly and affectionate hurricane.

Over dinner, he laid all honestly before her. Well, perhaps not all. The lovely widow, betrayed by George, the three sisters, the little daughter. No need to mention that he’d played fast and loose himself with the lady’s virtue. Just that he needed to rehabilitate her. Just that he wanted to marry her and she had refused.

“She refused you, Rede?” Her Grace was surprised. “But you are handsome, wealthy and charming. And rich. What does she object to?”

Rede hadn’t been able to work it out, either. “I know she cares for me, Aunt Eleanor. But she keeps saying no. The first time—to be honest, the first time I made a disaster of it. I told her… I gave her the impression that I only wanted her for a wife because she was too virtuous to be my mistress.”

Her Grace gave a peal of laughter. “Oh Rede, you didn’t.”

“I’m afraid I did. But the second time I assured her I wanted her for my Countess.”

“And you told her that you loved her,” the Duchess stated.

“No. Not exactly. I told her I wanted to keep her safe. I told her I wanted to protect her.”

“I see. And I suppose you think if you bring her into society, she will consent to marry you?”

“I don’t know, aunt. I only know that she deserves a better life than stuck in a worker’s cottage in the back of nowhere working as a teacher so she can one day give her sister a decent life. If she won’t have me… Well, she has been to see a lawyer about a small inheritance she has coming. I thought perhaps I could make it a bit bigger. Without her knowing.”

“You do love her,” said the Duchess, with great satisfaction.

“Yes, but… Yes.” There were no buts. He loved her. At least he hadn’t told her so. He had no taste for laying his heart on the floor for her to walk on.

“You need to tell her so.” The Duchess echoed and denied his thinking, all in one short sentence. “She is probably afraid that you are marrying her out of a misplaced sense of duty. You are far too responsible, Rede.”

“No, she couldn’t think that. Could she?”

“Who knows? Well, I will do it. I cannot have my niece-in-law having her babies in scandal. I take it there is the possibility of a baby? You would not be feeling so guilty otherwise.”

Rede was without a response for a long moment, finally huffing a laugh. “Aunt Eleanor, a hundred years ago you would have burnt as a witch,” he told her.

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Tea with Anne

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Lady Anne Stocke and her governess present themselves on the terrace at precisely three in the afternoon to find Her Grace already waiting for them.

“Anne, my dear. And Miss Henwood. Do take a seat. Are the little girls happily amused?”

Anne seats herself next to the duchess. “Indeed, Aunt Eleanor. Kitty has gone down into the village with Miss Stirling, and Meg is helping cook make gingerbread.”

farewell-to-kindness-ebook“Would you be kind enough to pour the tea, Anne?” the duchess asked, and sat back to watch the pretty picture that the girl made as she concentrated on the ritual. She was almost seventeen, and would make her debut not this Season but the next, sponsored by the duchess as her godmother. She would ‘take’, beyond a doubt. She was pretty and lively, with a good wit and a kind heart. And she was the daughter and sister of an earl, with a healthy inheritance in trust, to be paid on marriage or when Anne turned twenty-five.

Her brother the young Earl of Selby was a foolish young man,, barely more than a boy, and far too much in the company of the dissolute Earl of Chirbury for the Duchess of Haverford’s liking. And what Anne’s father had been thinking making Chirbury guardian to his children, she could not imagine! But he would not have the disposition of the Stocke girls. The duchess might not be able to do much about Chirbury’s influence over Anne’s brother, but she was determined that neither bachelor would have a voice in who was permitted to court dear Anne. Or Kitty either, when the time came.

“Thank you, dear,” she said, accepting the tea, made just the way she liked it. Yes. Anne would take very well.

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Little does Her Grace know, but Anne’s life is about to take a dramatic turn. Read Farewell to Kindness to meet her again seven years in the future.

Farewell to Kindness won the Romance Writers of New Zealand Great Beginnings Award in 2015. Click on the link to see the blurb and read the first three chapters.

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Sunday retrospective

timetravelIn the last half of November in 2014, I was sent Farewell to Kindness off to beta readers and began writing Candle’s Christmas Chair.

The Epilogue to Farewell to Kindness threw me a curve ball that took me more than nine months to find in the bushes. I lost the heroine of what was then still called Encouraging Prudence. (And figuring out what my characters were trying to tell me has turned that book into two: Prudence in Love, and Prudence in Peril.) In ‘When you break eggs make omelettes’, I posted about the conundrum of stories that escape their author, with a long quote from Juliet Marillier.

I posted about happy endings, agreeing with those who criticise them as unrealistic, and pointing out:

The critics are, of course, quite right. Happy endings do not happen in reality. And neither do sad endings. In fact, endings of any kind are a totally artificial construct. My personal story didn’t begin with my conception; my conception was simply an event in the story of my parents, and my story is an integral part of that. Nor will it end at my death. What I’ve made (children, garden, quilts, books) will carry on after me.

Whenever we write and whatever we write, we impose an artificial structure on reality. We choose a point and call that the beginning. And we choose another point and call that the end.

My post about psalm singers might be worth a look. They played an important role in the communities of the 18th and early 19th century, and in my novel Farewell to Kindness. I give a bit of history and a couple of YouTube clips of songs as they might have sung them (one psalm and one considerably more secular).

‘How to tell what novel you are in’ was a link and quotes from a series of Toast posts, including How to tell whether you’re in a Regency novel, and How to tell whether you are in novels by a number of other authors. A sample?

7. A gentleman of your acquaintance once addressed you by your Christian name as he brushed his fingers against the lace filigree of your fichu. You still blush at the recollection.

And in my last post for November, I talked about the cycle of the liturgical year, and how earlier times fitted this cycle to the rhythms of the season and the demands of agriculture. Before most people were driven from the land and commerce began to rule over piety, church holy days meant holidays. And even into the late Georgian, the week long feast of Whitsuntide remained.

In Farewell to Kindness, the action of a third of the novel happens before the backdrop ofWhitsunweek (also known as Whitsuntide).

Carl Spitzweg - Das PicknickApart from walks, fairs, picnics, horse races and other activities, the week was known for the brewing of the Whitsunale. This was a church fundraising activity–the church wardens would take subscriptions, create a brew, and sell or distribute it during the week of Whitsuntide. It has a certain appeal. It would certainly be a change from cake stalls and sausage sizzles!

Whitsunweek was the week following the Feast of Pentecost (WhitSunday), and seems to have been the only week-long medieval holiday to survive into early modern times. It usually fell after sheep shearing and before harvest, and it was a week of village festivities and celebrations.

 

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What’s in a name?

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Book titles matter. A rose by any other name, Juliet claimed, would smell as sweet, but would people be as willing to put their noses close if it were called Skunkstink, or Fartflower? And titles bother me.

Sometimes, a title will occur immediately, surfacing from the interior of my brain without any effort on my part. Gingerbread Bride was like that. As soon as we came up with the concept of runaway brides for the Bluestocking Belles 2015 holiday box set, the title and the basic story appeared in my mind.

Sometimes, I’ll come up with a concept for a series, then have to find titles that will fit. All the titles for novels in The Golden Redepennings series are excerpts from quotes. Farewell to Kindness comes from The Count of Monte Cristo.

“And now…farewell to kindness, humanity and gratitude. I have substituted myself for Providence in rewarding the good; may the God of vengeance now yield me His place to punish the wicked.”

The one I’m working on now is called A Raging Madness, which comes from a quote by French philosopher Francois de La Rochefoucauld.

“…envy is a raging madness that cannot bear the wealth or fortune of others.”

Do these fulfill the criteria that Tucker Max lists in How to Title a Book The Right Way?
  1. Attention Grabbing
  2. Memorable
  3. Informative (gives idea of what book is about)
  4. Easy to say
  5. Not embarrassing or problematic for someone to say aloud to their friends

You tell me.

I’ve been fretting over two other titles, both books I’ve just finished.

The novel I have just received back from beta readers has been Seeking Prudence, Encouraging Prudence, and most recently Embracing Prudence. And it is part of a series loosely known as The Virtue Sisters. The other books would include a sequel to the current one, and also a book for each of Prudence Virtue’s sisters, Hope, Faith, and Charity. And all my titles are pretty blah.

After talking to friends and thinking—a lot—I’m leaning to the series titleThe Wages of Virtue.

The individual books would be Firstname in Something.

So either Prudence in Love followed by Prudence in Peril or Prudence in Desire followed by Prudence in Danger.

If we go with the ‘d’ words, we’d have Hope in Despair, Faith in Decline, and Charity in Doubt.

Otherwise, I’m sticking with Hope in Despair, but I might go for Faith in Jeopardy and Charity in Tribulation.

The novella is an entirely different matter! Tentatively entitled The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, which at least means what you see is what you get, it is again the first of a series. What to do, what to do?

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You cannot always choose both

choicesMy usual answer when I’m asked to make a choice between two good things is ‘yes’. Would you like chocolate cake or banana muffins? Yes. Would you prefer to have a bath or watch tv? Yes. Do you want to dance or have a glass of wine? Yes.

And this last two years, since I’ve started writing fiction for publication, I’ve been piling on the ‘boths’. I figure I have four lives, any one of which could be full time: writing fiction, a full-time day job, family and friends (including some fairly demanding responsibilities as an arms-length care giver), and then a whole mix of community activities I’m involved in.

It is interesting, sometimes thrilling, and mostly a lot of fun. But there’s no room for anything else. With a couple of health and family crises simmering since November, somethings had to give. I’m two months behind the frequently revised date for my draft of Embracing Prudence. And my marketing activity is way, way down, as shown by my book sales figures.

Thinking about priorities

I had a wake-up call, recently. I read a published book by a writer I admire, and it sounded to me like a first draft. Lots of long sequences of backstory, telling rather than showing, some odd sequencing stuff. And I think I know why.

Publish a book every three months, received wisdom says, and then live in the marketplace telling people about it. The pressure is on to rush to get stuff to the publisher or (in the case of us independent publishers) to get it on the bookshelf. And the time isn’t there to make it as close to perfect as we can.

I am not playing that game. I want every book to be better than the last. Because I don’t like doing the same thing over and over, I may not always please the same readers, but I need to know that at least I’m improving my grasp of the craft of writing.

Here are my priorities, more or less in order.

  1. to deepen my relationship with God
  2. to look after my family
  3. to stay healthy
  4. to give my employer my best attention and commitment during working hours until the mortgage is paid and I can retire and write fiction as my full-time job
  5. to write books I am happy to put my name on
  6. to share those books with readers.

So writing comes ahead of marketing

When the squeeze is on, as it has been over the past four months, in future I’m choosing writing over marketing. Maybe this means that I’ll have another two years of adequate but not spectacular sales. (My author rank at Amazon generally sits somewhere in the 20,000–25,000 bracket. To put that in perspective, I’m not millionth, but each step from here is tightly fought, and I won’t be anywhere near making even a modest living till I’m up around 10,000th.)

In two years, when the mortgage is paid, I might be able to spend more time thinking about how to get my print books into libraries and book shops, and which review sites and other gate keepers might be persuaded to take a look. Meanwhile, I’m in the writing cave. I’ll pop out to play with my friends. Yes, and to do a bit of marketing, too, when I have time. But my priority is going to be the books.

What’s next from Jude Knight?

I’ve recently been project manager for the Belles on the Combined 2015 Editions of the Teatime Tattler, published last week. Click on the title to find out about it, and to get your copy while it is still free.

While you’re there, check out our previous box set, Mistletoe, Marriage and Mayhem. We’re removing it from publication on 31 March, so get it now for only 99c, all proceeds to the Malala Fund. After 1 April, we’ll each publish our own novella. I’m targeting 8 May with my Gingerbread Bride, which is about Rick Redepenning and his courtship of Mary, seven years before the events in my novel Farewell to Kindness.

Before the end of June, I plan to publish Embracing Prudence. That’s pretty tight, since I’m only halfway through the beta edit, so it may slip (once more), but no later than July.

I’ve made a good start on A Raging Madness. I’m 12,000 words in, and I have the rough plan for the rest mapped out. I expect to publish before the end of the year, possibly as early as September.

I have a 1 May deadline for the novella for the next Bluestocking Belles holiday box set, which has a house party theme. All our novellas have their lives affected in one way or another by the festivities at Hollystone Hall. The venue has its own Facebook page, where we’re posting character sketches and scenery on our way to publication on 1 November. My contribution is titled The Bluestocking and the Barbarian.

And Mariana Gabrielle and I are cowriting a novel that ambushed us when we were thinking about something else. We haven’t set a publication date for Never Kiss a Toad, but watch this space.

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Sunday retrospective

time-machineToday’s Sunday retrospective reaches back to the second half of October 2014, when I was writing the last third of Farewell to Kindness. I was reporting progress—and hiccups—as I went. I finished the month with a photo of the printed first draft of Farewell to Kindness and the heading #amediting. A couple of days before that, I posted a list called ‘Editing the book’ — everything I needed to do between finishing the first draft and sending the book for beta reading.

Criminal injustice was the post I wrote when I found out about the sea change in the British criminal justice system, and how this affected my plot. In 1807,  the old system was no longer working and the new system had not been invented.

Our modern view is that one law should apply to all. It doesn’t always work. Money buys better lawyers, for a start. But the basic principle is that we have laws that lay down the crime and the range of punishments, and judges who look at the circumstances and apply penalties without fear or favour.

The pre-19th century situation in England was far, far different.

I also posted on why I changed the name of my heroine in Farewell to Kindness in a blog post with the longest titleI have ever written: Ewww, just ewww: or the cautionary tale of the perils of naming characters in a whole lot of books at once and then starting one without reference to the real world.

I waxed philosophical about romance writing as a genre in a couple of posts that largely picked up what other people were saying:

  • Fear of vulnerability reports on research that suggests fear of vulnerability underpins the common dismissal of the romance genre by readers of other types of fiction
  • Romance novels are feminist novels has excerpts from a much longer article that directly confronts the view that all romance novels are trivial, and turns it on its head.

The first review I published on my website was for the wonderful Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal. Four months later, I was thrilled to find author Amy Rose Bennett as another potential Bluestocking Belle, and we’ve been colleagues and allies ever since.

And I also published a review of Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt. In less than a fortnight, I’m hosting a Belles’ Book Club discussing another of the Maiden Lane series, Scandalous Desires. Elizabeth has agreed to pop in for an hour, so don’t miss it. You can join the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/929180810491602/

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Secret Realm New Year’s blog hop

BookcoverCCC2The contest is over, but Hand-Turned Tales is still free. Read on to find out more.

Welcome to my blog.

Whether you are hopping through the blogs or are a regular visitor to these pages, today you can enter to win here, and click on through the blogs to enter for more great prizes. Or go to the event page, here.

Happy New Year. In 2016, I’m planning to publish at least three novels, plus at least two novellas and other shorter stories and vignettes. First up is a surprise with the Bluestocking Belles in March, to be announced in February (so watch for it. In May, I’m releasing Embracing Prudence, which tells the story of Prue and her colleague and lover David the thief taker—sorry: David prefers the term enquiry agent.

farewell to kindness RGB2I hope you’ll join me often in 2016 to talk about books, and writing, and historical research.

Would you like to win Candle’s Christmas Chair, Farewell to Kindness, or A Baron for Becky? I’m giving away twelve ebooks through a Rafflecopter. To enter, all you have to do is read the excerpt below and answer the question. You’ll get a bonus entry for subscribing to my newsletter, and another for following me on Amazon. When Rafflecopter chooses the 12 winners, I’ll send them a message asking which books they want.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here’s the excerpt, from A Baron for Becky.

A Baron for BeckyBecky and Sarah were waiting when Lord Overton arrived at two o’clock, just as he had promised. Becky paused on the doorstep. He had borrowed a curricle from Aldridge; she recognised the horses. It would be a tight fit for the three of them.

Sarah had no such qualms, and was already down in the street, renewing her acquaintance with Prince and Brown Beauty, chattering away to the groom Lord Overton had also borrowed, another old acquaintance.

“We’ll tuck Sarah between us where she will be warm, and out of the wind,” Lord Overton said, correctly interpreting her concern. “Neither of you are large. We will fit.”

It was a tight fit, and at first Sarah shrunk away from Lord Overton. Soon, though, she was telling him everything she knew about the horses, as they made their way through the streets to the park, the groom up behind.

With his focus divided between Sarah and the horses, Becky was free to watch him, and to wonder what life would be like as his wife. If he continued to be kind and respectful, if he were not putting on an act, if this plan of Aldridge’s worked…

By the end of the drive, Sarah and Lord Overton were friends, and he cemented the friendship by producing sugar cubes for her to feed the horses. She went to her governess and the schoolroom in full charity with him.

Lord Overton stood in the hall, smiling, watching her skip up the stairs.

“Do you intend to charm me by charming my daughter, Lord Overton?” Becky challenged.

He turned, laughing. “Is it working, Mrs Winstanley?” Then, serious again, “But no, I wanted to charm her, as you call it, for her own sake. Is she always so quiet and good?”

“She does not take easily to strangers,” Becky said. Sarah had reason to be wary, and Becky would do well to remember it. Still, Lord Overton’s attempt to win Sarah’s favour was more to his credit than not.

He returned for dinner that night, and it became the pattern for their days: an outing in the afternoon, dinner in the evening, and afterwards, cards, chess, or reading together. And they talked. Lord Overton had read many of the same books she enjoyed. He agreed with her views on enclosure. She did not share his confidence in the military genius of General Wellesley, but acknowledged that his own background as an army officer gave him the edge in judging such a thing.

She asked about his estate, and about his daughters, who would be her daughters, too. Perhaps. If she dared…

And at night in her bed, she wondered whether his shoulders were as broad, his hips as slender, as they looked.

Hand-Turned Tales2I also have a free book for you. Hand-Turned Tales contains three short stories and a novella. Just click on the link to find some of the eretailers where you can download it. And I’ll give away a print copy of Hand-Turned Tales to a random commenter.

But the hop isn’t over. There are more great prizes today, and even more in the days to come.

So thank you for visiting, and good luck at Lauren Royal’s website, on the next stop.

Or link back to the event page, here.

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Happy birthday to my blog

book-cake1Tomorrow will be one year to the day since my first blog post on this site. I had written half of the first draft of Farewell to Kindness, had just been to my first Romance Writers of New Zealand conference, and had tentatively told friends, family, and colleagues that I planned to be published soon.

Tomorrow is nine months since Candle’s Christmas Chair, my first published work, went live on Amazon and Smashwords. I wrote this novella while Farewell to Kindness was with the beta readers, to tell the story of two people who make a brief appearance in Farewell. In nine months, over 58,000 copies have been downloaded.

And tomorrow is six months since the launch of the Bluestocking Belles, eight very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. Whatever story you desire: sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to oriental slums, one or more of us is sure to have a tale to suit your tastes and mood.

The Bluestocking Belles have some great birthday fun planned, so look for us on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

It has been quite a year.

I’ve published two novels, a novella, and some short stories. I’ve written 258 blog posts for this blog, and probably another 100 for other people. I’ve written a novella that is currently on prerelease as part of the Bluestocking Belles first box set, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, I’m half of the way through another novel, and nearly finished the first draft of a set of short stories that will come out before Christmas.

I’m a regular contributor to the fictional spaces Bluestocking Bookshop and the Belle’s Teatime Tattler, and a happy member of 10 Minute Novelists, Marketing For Romance Writers, and Writing Wenches. And I’ve not long got back from my second Romance Writers of New Zealand conference, where I won the Great Beginnings Award for the first 6,000 words of Farewell to Kindness.

A discount to say thank you

And to thank you for coming with me on the ride, I’d like to give you access to some discounts. Until 22 September, you can pick up Farewell to Kindness and A Baron for Becky from Smashwords for only US$2.

Just follow the links, select ‘buy’ and use the code on the buy page. While you’re there, collect Candle’s Christmas Chair while it is still free, and buy Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem for the prerelease price of US99c.

That makes two novels and 8 novellas for only US$5! Close to 1150 pages of reading.

Farewell to Kindness $2 with the code CS44Q

A Baron for Becky $2 with the code DC74X

Candle’s Christmas Chair permafree until December

Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem 99c until release on 1 November.

 

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First kisses

Someone I know is publishing a collection of first kisses. I love the idea, so here are a few of mine!

Farewell to Kindness

the kiss 3“I think your brandy may be ready to drink.”

Anne started to lift it to her mouth.

“No. Wait,” Rede said. “Swirl, sniff, and then sip. Here, let me show you.” He leaned forward and cupped his hand around the glass over hers.

“Swirl.” He moved her hand gently in a small, tight circle.

“Sniff.” He held the glass several inches from her nose and again swirled it slightly, then shifted it closer.

“Now sip. Just a small amount, slowly. Let it slide over your tongue.”

The kissAnne followed his directions, not taking her eyes off Rede. This time, the brandy seemed a lot smoother. The flavour filled her mouth, the fiery liquid warmed her throat.

Rede had not removed his hands, and now he leaned forward still further, his eyes holding her motionless.

He came closer and closer, slowly. He would stop if she protested. She should protest. She would not.

The first brush of his lips on hers was brief, and light as a feather. He drew back enough to look into her eyes, then leaned in again. This time, his lips landed and stayed, moulding to the shape of her mouth. After a moment, he began to move, cruising along her upper lip with tiny pecks and then along the lower. He settled again, this time his mouth slightly open. Was that his tongue, sliding along her lips? How odd. How… pleasant.

She opened her own lips, and was rewarded with a hum of approval before he dipped his tongue into her mouth. Tentatively she touched his tongue with her own, which sent a tingle down through her breasts to her belly.

He hummed again, this time almost a moan.

So he liked that, did he? She began to copy, doing to him what he was doing to her. At some level, she was conscious that he had removed the brandy glass from her hands and set it to one side. With that out of the way, he came to his knees before her chair, and she found herself widening her legs so that he could press up against her.

She was aflame with sensation, barely aware of all the ways he was touching her; his hand on the curve of her waist, pulling her into his body; his lips, teeth and tongue teasing and tasting. His other hand had somehow found its way inside her robe, and was lightly stroking its way up her breast, ever closer and closer to the nipple, which had pebbled so hard it was almost painful.

Candle’s Christmas Chair

the kiss 2And then she pressed her sweet lips to his and he was lost. With a groan he enfolded her in his arms, slid his hands up behind her head, and deepened the kiss.

It could have been a minute; it could have been months. Time ceased to exist as he explored her mouth and she followed his lead. Her tentative movements, bold and shy at the same time, intoxicated him and he was conscious of nothing but the burning need to sink into her softness. Until a piece of gravel on the path turned as he shifted his knee, and dug into his skin.

He drew away from her with a groan.

Had he done that? Her lips were swollen and red, a sleeve was pulled down baring her shoulder, and one glorious breast was nearly tipped out of her dress. Another nudge, and he’d see…

He blinked, and shook the idea out of his head. “Min, my own dearest love.” He had to be calm. She looked as dazed as he felt. Probably more so, given her innocence. If his world was shaken, hers must be reeling.

“I would help you put yourself to rights, beloved. But I don’t dare touch you.”

She straightened her dress, repinned the lace cap she wore in her hair, rewrapped her shawl around her, all the while sneaking peeks at him and colouring each time their eyes met.

Before they left the succession house, he put a finger on her now clothed arm.

“Min, will you accept my apology, beloved? I meant no disrespect, I promise you. I should never have kissed you. I know how powerfully I react when we touch.”

To his surprise, she suddenly grinned. “Ah but Ran, you forget. I kissed you first.”

Encouraging Prudence (wip)

the kiss 4“Prue?” He lifted on hand to gently stroke the side of her face, his own eyes suddenly unguarded. She responded to the concern and, yes, the yearning, leaning towards him as he moved to meet her lips with her own.

She had come home. Except for that one night five months ago, Prue had been a stranger, an outsider, living hidden in the margins all her life, but here in David’s arms she was known; she belonged.

For a long moment, she let herself revel in the feeling, but she knew it wasn’t true. She had no home. She had to remember that if David knew all, he would reject her. But — as he shifted himself closer to her chair to deepen the kiss — at least she had been wrong about his indifference to her. This close to him, she couldn’t doubt that he wanted her physically.

He was the first to draw back.

“Prue.” Just her name, but with a wealth of longing in it.

Her defences down, she spoke what she thought, “Not just friends, David,” and was rewarded by the flare in his eyes.

“Friends… and lovers too?” His voice was tentative, as if he expected to be rebuffed.

She reached for him, answering his question with a kiss, stopping only when the turnkey knocked.

David crossed the room to the door before saying, “Enter!”

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