The dangerous pen

David Skinner’s ‘Terry Pratchett Tribute Graffiti’, installed at Code Street, near Brick Lane, London

I write, at least in part, as a way to explore ideas and feelings that are bothering me. Once, being bothered, unhappy, sick or grieved would send me into books written by other people. Today, in a world riven by strife and fear, at whom and abroad, I am just as likely to transmute those feelings into a world I create myself.

When I write, I see things more clearly. I can also rewrite reality to give me a better result, which can be easing to the soul. I do like happy endings.

Which is all by way of introducing a book I’ve been reading. I have been a fan of Sir Terry Pratchett’s since Strata, one of his first books. I have just been reading Raising Postal, his second to last Discworld novel.

On one level, it is the story of the coming of the railway to Discworld. On another, it continues Pratchett’s burning indictment of the stupidity of prejudice based on racism, sexism, or any other ism. And it eviscerates the mindset behind terrorism that results from such prejudice.

Here’s a typical footnote:

Scouting for trolls, dwarfs and humans was brought in shortly after the Koom Valley Accord had been signed, on the suggestion of Lord Vetinari, to allow the young of the three dominant species to meet and hopefully get along together. Naturally the young of all species, when thrown together, instead of turning against one another would join forces against the real enemy, that is to say their parents, teachers and miscellaneous authority which was so old-fashioned. And up to a point, and amazingly, it had worked and that was Ankh-Morpork, wasn’t it? Mostly, nobody cared what shape you were, although they might be very interested in how much money you had.

And here are the terrorists, recruiting:

‘Nobody has to be hurt,’ they said, and it may have been too that people would murmur, ‘After all, it’s in his own interests,’ and there were other little giveaways such as ‘It’s time for fresh blood,’ and such things as ‘We must preserve our most hallowed ordinances,’ and if you were susceptible to atmospheres, you could see that dwarfs, perfectly sensible dwarfs, dwarfs who would consider themselves dwarfs of repute and fair dealing, were nevertheless slowly betraying allegiances they had formerly undertaken with great solemnity, because the hive was buzzing and they didn’t want to be the ones that got stung. The watchwords were ‘restoring order’ and ‘going back to the basics of true dwarfishness’.

To kill innocents in the name of politics is very warped. To kill innocents in the name of God is, in my view, both warped and risky, as Pratchett points out in this brief passage:

… and in the gloom the locomotive spat live steam, instantly filling the air with a pink fog . . . The dwarf waited, unable to move, and a sombre voice said, PLEASE DO NOT PANIC. YOU ARE MERELY DEAD. The vandal stared at the skeletal figure, managed to get himself in order and said to Death, ‘Oh . . . I don’t regret it, you know. I was doing the work of Tak, who will now welcome me into paradise with open arms!’ For a person who didn’t have a larynx Death made a good try at clearing his throat. WELL, YOU CAN HOPE, BUT CONSIDERING WHAT YOU INTENDED, IF I WERE YOU I WOULD START HOPING HARDER RIGHT NOW AND, PERHAPS, VERY QUICKLY INDEED. Death continued, in tones as dry as granite, TAK MIGHT INDEED BE GENTLE. STRIVE AS YOU HAVE NEVER STRIVEN. YES, TAK MIGHT BE GENTLE, OR . . . The vandal listened to the sound of silence, the sound like a bell with, alas, no clapper, but finally the dreadful silence ended in . . . NOT. [Tak being the deity of the dwarves]

Pratchett’s great genius was in making us laugh while making us think. Rest in peace, Sir Terry.

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Spotlight on Sunday: Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas novella

This beautiful cover for Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas Novella comes with the announcement that the book is available for pre-order from various retailers.

Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a dedicated doctor.

About the Book

Lady Charlotte Tyree clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.

As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.

But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect.

Pre-order it on Amazon here. ♦ Pre-order it on Smashwords here.

About the Author

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning and Amazon best-selling author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is enamored of history, owls, and gardens (but not the actual act of gardening). She is also a regular contributor to History Imagined, a blog at the intersection of history and fiction, and (on a much lighter note) The Teatime Tattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century gossip rag.

Her current series, Children of Empire, set in the late Georgian/early Victorian period, focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire.

Click here to find out more here.

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Final Draft — Coming in November

I have stories in two box sets this holiday season, and both step outside of the Georgian/Regency world I’ve been creating.

One is for the Bluestocking Belles’ third holiday box set, and I’ve mentioned it before. It’s set in New Zealand, in 1886, during the volcanic eruption that tore apart New Zealand’s burgeoning tourist industry. Watch for more about Forged in Fire in the coming months.

Today, I want to tell you about the other set. The Speakeasy Scribes are publishing an anthology of short stories, and an interesting mix it is. Mostly historical, some with elements of paranormal or horror, some contemporary or close to, and one (mine) future dystopian.

The integrating concept is a tavern where people on the political and social fringes meet to talk, drink, read books, and foment reform. Or possibly rebellion. The Final Draft Tavern existed in London from the Norman Conquest until it moved to Boston, and it is in Boston that we see it at the end, but a Boston transformed by the onset of a new ice age.

More than the tavern’s longevity is odd.  There’s something strange about some of the women of the family that has owned it for a thousand years. And something stranger about the cat.

Follow The Final Draft Tavern on Facebook for excerpts, background information, character sketches and news about the book.

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Cover reveal Lost in the Tale

I’m nearly ready to release my 2017 collection of made-to-order stories. I have the stories and the cover, and I’m just waiting for the proofread files and a bit of time to set up the pre-release. No date yet, but it looks like it’ll be early September.

The short stories in the collection have only been available as print books, on Wattpad, or to party goers and newsletter subscribers as ebooks. The novella has so far been seen only by the giveaway winner who gave me the ingredients.

Like Hand-Turned Tales, Lost in the Tale will be free at all eretailers as soon as I can persuade Amazon to drop from 99c.

The Lost Wife: Teri’s refuge had been invaded: by the French, who were trying to conquer their land, and by wounded soldiers from the English forces sent to fight Napoleon’s armies. The latest injured man carried to her for nursing would be a bigger challenge than all the rest: he had once broken her heart. (short story)

The Heart of a Wolf: Ten years ago, Isadora lied to save her best friend, and lost her home and the man she loved when he would not listen to her. Ten years ago, Bastian caught his betrothed in the arms of another man, and her guilt was confirmed when she fled. Ten years on, both still burn with anger, but the lives of innocent children and the future of their werewolf kind demand that they work together. (short story)

My Lost Highland Love: Interfering relatives, misunderstandings, and mistranslations across a language barrier keep two lovers from finding one another again. The Earl of Chestlewick’s daughter comes to London from her beloved Highlands to please her father, planning to avoid the Englishman who married her and abandoned her. The Earl of Medford comes face-to-face with a ghost; a Society lady who bears the face of the Highland lass who saved his life and holds his heart. (short story)

Magnus and the Christmas Angel: Scarred by years in captivity, Magnus has fought English Society to be accepted as the true Earl of Fenchurch. Now he faces the hardest battle of all: to win the love of his wife. A night trapped in the snow with an orphaned kitten, gives Callie a Christmas gift: the chance to rediscover first love with the tattooed stranger she married. (short story)

The Lost Treasure of Lorne: For nearly 300 years, the Normingtons and the Lorimers have feuded, since a love affair ended in a curse that doomed dead Lorimers to haunt their home, the Castle of Lorne.

Now the last Marquis of Lorne, the last of the Lorimers, is one of those ghosts, and the Duke of Kendal, head of the House of Normington, holds the castle.

Kendal doesn’t care about the feud or the ghosts. He wants only to find the evidence that will legitimate the son his Lorimer bride bore him before her death, and to convince his stubborn housekeeper to marry him.

But the time allotted to the curse is running out, and his happiness depends on finding the Lost Treasure of Lorne before the 300 years draws to a close. (novella)

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Spotlight on The Bride Price

I first read The Bride Price on Wattpad, following each episode and waiting impatiently for the next. Quenby has updated and polished , and I’m looking forward to reading it again now that it is published. It is a tale of ruination and recovery, of a fall from grace that opens the way to joy, of long hidden love finally rewarded. I loved it.

The Bride Price

To save her family from scandal, Emily Collicott must marry.

Ruined in her first season in London, she is given no choice but to wed her father’s pick for a husband, or be cast out from her home. Emily agrees to marry William Hazlitt, a man she hardly knows. But William remembers her. Growing up as a tenant on her father’s estate, he admired her from afar, their lives kept separate first by class, and then by loss.

Emily seeks to begin a new life with this quiet man to whom she finds herself wedded. But the scandal she escaped in London soon finds her again, the very man who destroyed her reputation threatening to tear down the happiness she’s found with her new husband. To keep from losing everything, she must either make a deal with a devil… or learn how to defeat one.

Amazon ♦ Amazon (UK) ♦ Amazon (Canada)

Excerpt

It did not take long for Emily to learn of her lowered status among the members of London society, many of whom had welcomed her into their homes only days before. Josephine relayed the gossip, much of which had to be amended throughout the day as another round of afternoon teas were concluded or a new report passed through the lower quarters of the house.

“Scandal is like a living, breathing thing,” Josephine informed her near the end of her second day in seclusion. “It grows and it changes, acquiring new features and discarding old ones as quickly as one changes a hat. Today, you might be viewed by some as nothing more than a naive young girl who was set loose on London without proper tutelage or guidance. By tomorrow, you could be the Whore of Babylon, come to destroy us all.”

By the beginning of the third day, Emily was made aware of the prevailing opinion currently soaring through every drawing room and traded over every breakfast table.

“A fortune hunter,” Josephine had told her, getting directly to the point without a hint of delay. “Come to London with the sole intention of trapping a wealthy husband, by any means necessary.”

Emily nodded. If she had been in another person’s place, hearing such salacious gossip from every corner, this would most likely be the easiest theory to believe. “So everyone thinks—”

“—that you sought out Marbley, hoping to be caught in a situation, of sorts.”

“Which I was,” Emily pointed out.

“And thus forcing him to make an offer for you. Except—”

“—he didn’t make an offer,” Emily finished for her. “Instead, he left me to bear the brunt of their condemnation.”

“While he is applauded and celebrated for having made an apparent escape.” Josephine twisted her mouth into an expression of displeasure. “If I were a man, I would call him out. A bullet in his shoulder would serve him very well, I believe.”

“Only his shoulder?” Emily looked up with some surprise.

“Oh, I wouldn’t wish to make a martyr out of him,” she replied, and pulled at a thread that had escaped from the edge of her sleeve. “But a nice, lingering wound would do. Perhaps something disfiguring.”

“The tip of his nose,” Emily chimed in, buoyed along by the sparkle of humor in her friend’s voice.

“Or maybe a chunk of ear,” Josephine said, all mock seriousness. “Only superficial injuries, of course.”

But the levity of that moment had faded too quickly, and Emily once again receded into a depression. Not from any sorrow at her own predicament or because of the opinions of those members of society with whom she was hardly acquainted, but rather from the feeling of absolute helplessness that threatened to overwhelm her.

She was a gentlewoman, and so raised to expect a life devoid of struggle and exertion. She’d been given no training for anything beyond embroidery, music, a vague smattering of French, and composing lengthy letters that covered such fascinating topics as the weather and inquiries about one’s health. And now. . .

Now she was a pariah. Her chances of making a fortunate match had been reduced to nothing. And so she was trapped, a prisoner to her own gentility and the infuriating fact that she’d been born a female.

Meet Quenby Olson

Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she writes, homeschools, glares at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chases the cat off the kitchen counters. After training to be a ballet dancer, she turned towards her love of fiction, penning everything from romance to fantasy, historical to mystery. She spends her days with her husband and children, who do nothing to dampen her love of the outdoors, immersing herself in historical minutiae, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.

Facebook ♦ Twitter ♦ Website ♦ Goodreads ♦ Amazon Author Page

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Sunday Spotlight on Daring and Decorum

Daring and Decorum, the first volume in what the author hopes will become a series, is a highwayman’s tale with a delightful twist, due out August 1 from Supposed Crimes. It features rambles across lonely moors, daring rides on horseback, sword-fights, unexpected desire, a bit of botany, and endless cups of tea.

The second volume, covering the period of Elizabeth’s first book publication and art showing in London, is entitled Silence and Secrecy. It deals with the secrets Elizabeth must keep to lead a life she never could have imagined choosing, but which now seems the only possible one for her. The author hopes to see it published sometime next year.

Both books feature as a background (and sometimes as a foreground) the political milieu of mid-1790s England: poverty contrasted with lavish wealth, bread riots, calls for political reform, counter-charges of treason and sedition, the movement for abolition, and above all, the fear of the French revolution being imported to British shores.

A separate story involving the highwayman will appear in an upcoming holiday box set from The Final Draft Tavern (which will also feature stories from Jude and Mari Christie!).

Buy Links for Daring and Decorum:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Website | Smashwords

Excerpt from Daring and Decorum

Miss Elizabeth Collington and her widowed friend, Mrs. Rebecca Burgess, have just emerged from a concert in Bath’s Upper Assembly Rooms when they are accosted by an old friend of Elizabeth’s.

I enjoyed the concert, but in truth I found Bath’s constant round of entertainments rather a chore, and was already beginning to long for the quiet routines of home. I was about to voice this thought to Rebecca as we emerged from the Upper Rooms after the performance, when I spotted Anthony and two other gentlemen in the crowd, moving toward us. They made a distressing sight. Anthony appeared not to have changed clothes since the previous night, and had even slept in them, judging by their disheveled state. His cravat hung limply from his collar, its diamond stud missing. His tailcoat remained unbuttoned, and his waistcoat was only partly fastened. His companions were in a like state of undress. Worse, they leaned on one another and staggered together as if they were under the influence of strong drink.

Rebecca pulled on my arm, whispering in my ear, “This way, Lizzie. Pay them no mind.”

But it was too late. Anthony had seen us, and had already tipped his felt hat to us. I could not give my oldest friend the cut direct, no matter his condition. I felt a measure of sympathy for him, and concern over what evils these companions might even now be encouraging in him.

“Lord Burnside,” I greeted him, giving a brief curtsy. I did not smile, but let my eyes show my concern. Rebecca, standing to my left, regarded me for a moment before at last giving her own curtsy.

“Lizzie—” Anthony said with a slight bow. He seemed the soberest of the three. “Miss Collington, I mean.” He turned to Rebecca and did the same. “Mrs. Burgess.” As he straightened, he tried to stand more erect, and to restore some semblance of propriety to his countenance while fumbling at the buttons of his tailcoat. “I hoped we would find you here.” Remembering his manners, he turned to his companions. “Allow me to introduce my friends, Lord Hartwood and Lord Petersly.”

Anthony might have recovered something of his gentlemanly manners, but his companions had not. Before either of us could curtsy to them, the one standing next to Anthony, Lord Petersly, exclaimed, “So this is the one you’ve been pining over. Damn me, Burnside, I can see why!”

Anthony gave him a cutting glare. “Petersly, remember where we are.” Around us, the crowd leaving the Assembly Rooms was thinning as sedan chairs carried people away, but we were still in danger of creating a scene.

As Anthony seemed unable to control his friends, I turned to see how Rebecca would manage the situation. She glared coldly at the three, meeting Anthony’s apologetic gaze at eye level. She had to tilt her head back to look up at Lord Hartwood, who now moved up to her on her left, returning her glare with his own frank appraisal of her person. “I always did like a tall woman. Mr. Burgess is a lucky man.” With an arch grin, he stepped within an impertinent distance of her.

“Stand a pace farther off, my lord,” Rebecca said, fiddling with the sleeve at her right wrist. I had never heard her voice sound so grim and hard.

Just then my attention was directed away from her as Lord Petersly grasped my right hand and pressed it to his lips. Never had I been so glad of my kidskin gloves! Even still, I could feel the rasp of his unshaven chin through the cloth. “It is the greatest pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Elizabeth,” he said.

I pulled back at his use of my Christian name, which he should not have known, but he still grasped my hand in his own. Anthony looked on in mortification, but seemed incapable of the slightest attempt at restraining his friend.

“Burnside may have a family that thwarts his desires,” the lout went on, “but I assure you I do not. I would be glad to pay my attentions to a young lady of such blushing manner and attractive person.” His eyes roved up and down, taking in every inch of me.

Finally Anthony had heard enough. “Come now, Petersly.” He grasped his friend by the shoulder to pull him away, stepping in between us as he did so.

Just then there was a jostling on my left as Lord Hartwood gave a cry. I turned to see him sprawling into the street, Rebecca looking down at him as she rearranged the skirts of her gown. All around us the remaining concert goers gasped and paused to watch. “You’re in your cups, my lord,” Rebecca said, “and you’ve trod on my gown.” She put a protective arm around me as the fellow got clumsily to his feet.

“You—” he stammered. “She—”

“What?” Rebecca snapped. “Are you saying a woman threw you to the ground?”

“No, of course not! That would be absurd!” He stared around in confusion. “Apologies for my clumsiness, madam, and—for treading on your gown.”

Rebecca turned me away from them. “Come, Miss Collington, let us leave the young lords to their entertainment. We have an early start tomorrow.” We didn’t bother waiting for chairs, but made our way down the square in front of the assembly rooms toward Alfred Street.

We had not gone far when Anthony made to follow. “Please! Wait!” he called after us. “You must accept my profoundest apologies for my friends’ reprehensible conduct. Please, won’t you allow me to escort you?” He seemed almost sober now.

Rebecca froze and turned halfway to him. “Oh, certainly! We never know when we might be accosted by a trio of drunken wastrels.”

Meet Larry Hogue

Lawrence Hogue’s writing is all over the place and all over time. He started out in nonfiction/nature writing with a personal narrative/environmental history of the Anza-Borrego Desert called All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journeys in a Desert Landscape. After moving to Michigan, he switched to writing fiction, including contemporary stories set in the desert and fanfiction based on the videogame Skyrim. He’s a fan of folk music, and got the idea for Daring and Decorum while listening to Loreena McKennitt’s outstanding adaptation of Alfred Noyes’ poem, The Highwayman. When not speaking a word for nature or for forgotten LGBT people of history, he spends his white-knighting, gender-betraying energies on Twitter and Facebook, and sometimes on the streets of Lansing, MI, and Washington DC. He’s been called a Social Justice Warrior, but prefers Social Justice Wizard or perhaps Social Justice Lawful Neutral Rogue.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Amazon

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Sunday Spotlight on Blind Tribute

The Battle of Fort Sumter was the first engagement in the American Civil War.

Today’s Sunday Spotlight is on Blind Tribute, by Mari Anne Christie.

Good non-fiction gives us a new perspective on the facts. Great fiction puts us into someone else’s shoes, letting us live a life so different from our own that we withdraw dazed and changed. The view from Blind Tribute will remain with me always.

Blind Tribute begins on the same day as the Battle of Fort Sumter, the start of the American Civil War, and the conflicts and attitudes underpinning the war are the central themes of the book.

Harry, the protagonist, has been a newspaper man since his university days, first in his hometown of Charleston, then in war zones around the world, and—for the past twenty years—in Philadelphia, as editor of its most successful newspaper. The conflict between the States is played out in his family, his birth family demanding allegiance to the South, and his wife and son castigating him for lack of loyalty to the North.

But Harry is loyal to the neutrality of the press, and determined to make of himself his greatest news story. When he returns to Charleston but refuses to take sides, he expects to offend. He wonders if he will survive. He almost doesn’t.

Blind Tribute is a book about integrity, about the real meaning of family, about pride and its costs, about who pays for our acts of conscience. The exploration of the relationship between government and media is timely in today’s political climate, but also timeless, applying as much today as it did when Lincoln and Davis saw newspapers as propaganda machines. Harry’s view of neutrality is no more popular today than then, and more needed than ever.

Blind Tribute is meticulously researched and brilliantly written. Mari Anne Christie’s characters are real, her plot lines compelling, and her descriptions vivid. The scene that describes Harry’s ordeal is one of the most grueling things I’ve ever read.

I’ve been reading bits of this book for three years, as Mari reshaped, rewrote, and polished every line. I’ve seen it grow from good to great. If you read one historical fiction book in 2017, make it this one.

Blind Tribute

Every newspaper editor may owe tribute to the devil, but Harry Wentworth’s bill just came due.

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears, so he must finally resolve his own moral quandary. Comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground, as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Universal Link

Buy from Mari’s website

Facebook Launch Party, July 28th, 2pm – 8 pm MDT

Giveaway

Mari will be giving away a quill pen (like Harry’s) and powdered ink, a swag pack including Harry’s Editorials Collection, and a e-copy of the book to one winner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Meet Mari Anne Christie

Mari was “raised up” in journalism (mostly raising her glass at the Denver Press Club bar) after the advent of the web press, but before the desktop computer. She has since plied her trade as a writer, editor, and designer across many different fields, and currently works as a technical writer and editor.

Under the name Mari Christie, she has released a book-length epic poem, Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness: Poetry of the Mayan Underworld, and under pen name Mariana Gabrielle, she has written several Regency romances, including the Sailing Home Series and La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess. Blind Tribute is her first mainstream historical novel. She expects to release the first book in a new family saga, The Lion’s Club, in 2018.

She holds a BA in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver, and is a member of the Speakeasy Scribes, the Historical Novel Society, and the Denver Press Club. She has a long family history in Charleston, South Carolina, and is the great-great niece of a man in the mold of Harry Wentworth.

Author Website & blog: www.MariAnneChristie.com

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Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/marichristie

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Wattpad (romance only): https://www.wattpad.com/user/marianagabrielle

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/mari-anne-christie

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Spotlight on The Demon Duke

Today’s guest is Margaret Locke, and her new release The Demon Duke.

Behind every good man is a great secret.

Banished to Yorkshire as a boy for faults his father failed to beat out of him, Damon Blackbourne has no use for English society and had vowed never to return to his family’s estate at Thorne Hill, much less London. However, when his father and brother die in a freak carriage accident, it falls on Damon to take up the mantle of the Malford dukedom and to introduce his sisters to London Society–his worst nightmare come to life.

He never planned on Lady Grace Mattersley. The beautiful debutante stirs him body and soul with her deep chocolate eyes and hesitant smiles. Until she stumbles across his dark secret.

Bookish Grace much prefers solitude and reading to social just-about-anything. Her family may be pressuring her to take on the London Season to find herself a husband, but she has other ideas. Such as writing a novel of her own. But she has no idea how to deal with the Duke of Malford.

Will she betray him to the world? Or will she be his saving Grace?

Amazon ♦ B&N ♦ iBooks ♦ Kobo:

Meet Margaret Locke

As a teen, Margaret pledged to write romances when she was older. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grownup things, not penning stories. Thank goodness turning forty cured her of that silly notion.
Now happily ensconced again in the clutches of her first crush (romance novels!), Margaret is never happier than when sharing her passion for a grand Happy Ever After. Because love matters.
Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and three fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window); she’s come to terms with the fact she’s not an outdoors person.
You can find here here:

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Excerpt

Rexborough Ball, London Early April, 1814

Grace squeezed nearer to the wall, surveying the crowded room from her cramped corner. Bodies moved around each other as everyone jockeyed for position. It was the first grand ball of the Season, a mad crush at the Marquess of Rexborough’s expansive London estate. There was hardly space to dance, though the orchestra played gaily.

If only she could go home. Her sister Emmeline danced by with Lord Everton, a vivacious smile lighting her face. Even Rebecca’s eyes sparkled with happiness as she carefully executed her steps opposite the handsome Marquess of Emerlin.

Why could Grace not feel the same excitement?

Matilda, standing next to Grace, beamed at her other two daughters, delighting in their successes in snagging eligible men so early in the evening.

“They’re merely dancing, Mother. No need to plan the weddings.”

The dowager duchess sniffed. “At least they’re dancing. You have begged off three invitations so far.”

“Lord Oglesby has two left feet, quite possibly three, if my toes have any say. Lord Featherstone is old enough to be my grandfather. And Lord Emerlin only asked because you wished him to. You know he’s had his sights on Becca for waltzing.”

Her mother aired her face with the elaborate fan in her right hand. “I suppose it wouldn’t be a bad match. Though he is so much her elder.”

“A marquess and the eventual heir to a dukedom. Not such a bad match, indeed. And ten is not so many years. Many a young lady has married a far older gentleman.”

Matilda Mattersley opened her mouth as if to respond when a commotion started amongst the ball goers. They gave a collective gasp as a man entered the room. He was clad entirely in black—black pantaloons, black coat and waistcoat, even an ebony shirt and cravat. Thick black hair tousled wildly over his forehead. Two young ladies next to Grace tittered.

“He is of fine countenance,” one gushed.

“Who is he?” said the other.

A matron broke in, speaking sharply. “Did you not hear him announced? That’s the Duke of Malford.” She made the sign of the cross. “They say he is a devil. They call him the Demon Duke.”

“Really?” the first girl exclaimed.

The older woman slapped the girl’s knuckles with her fan. “Don’t even think about it, Alice. Come, let us seek some lemonade.”

The girl obediently followed the matron, no doubt her mother, through the mass of people.

“The Demon Duke,” Grace murmured.

The man moved farther into the room. His grin was wicked, but his shoulders tight, his eyes . . . sad. Did he notice how people edged away? How whispers raced across the room? How eyes peeped at him while pretending not to do so?

How could he not?

Sympathy flooded through Grace. “He doesn’t look devilish to me,” she said to her mother. “He looks uncomfortable. Like he wishes he were anywhere else but here.” How she could relate.

Matilda sucked a breath. “However he looks is not your concern. The Duke of Malford is not an option.”

“I do not think you have anything to fear, Mother. A man such as that would never be interested in a mouse such as me.”

A smile leaked through the dowager duchess’s pursed lips. “A mouse, indeed. It’s good to see this mouse knows to stay away from a cat. He looks rather feral.”

He is a panther, sleek and black. With the mien of a lion.

“If you’ll pardon me, Mama, I am in need of the retiring room.”

Grace slipped from the room. With everyone’s attention on the Duke, this was a good time to sneak away to the library, as she’d done at Rexborough balls a time or two before.

She pulled a book from the shelf. Ah yes. Aesop’s fables. She settled in near a window, her thoughts on the man in the ballroom.

Hadn’t Aesop said it was the mouse who saved the lion?

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Love between the classes

This month, most of the Bluestocking Belles are publishing the novellas that were part of our 2016 box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts.  My contributions to the set were A Suitable Husband. and The Bluestocking and the Barbarian. I’m not releasing Barbarian yet. I want to expand it into a novel. But I have A Suitable Husband up on prerelease and it will be published on 30 September.

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Perhaps among the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party, she will find a suitable husband?

Marcel Fournier has only one ambition: to save enough from his fees serving as chef in the houses of the ton to become the proprietor of his own fine restaurant. An affair with the duchess’s dependent would be dangerous. Anything else is impossible. Isn’t it?

So far, I just have it up on Amazon, but I’ll add other links over the next week or so. Read on for an excerpt.

✶´`´*★ ☆EXCERPT – A SUITABLE HUSBAND☆ ★.¸¸,.✶ 

“He does not look at me and see a woman. No one does.”

 Lady Sophia spoke decisively. “You are blue-devilled, my dear. Who knows whether any of us will meet a man who can see past our elderly exteriors to the treasures we all are? If we do not, you and I shall be old maids together.”

“Yes,” Lady de Courtenay agreed. “Perhaps we should set up house together. Certainly Sophia and I have no more wish to live forever on the sufferance of our brothers than you do on the Haverfords’. Who needs men, after all? Selfish, conceited creatures, always jumping to conclusions.”

This time, Mademoiselle Grenford’s laugh was more genuine.

Lady Sophia said, “Rest for an hour. Read a book. I will order a pot of tea and some cakes, and Grace and I shall deal with anything that arises.” Her voice was coming closer.

 Swiftly, before she could open the door and find him listening, Marcel retreated down the hall and around the corner, all the way back downstairs, thinking furiously.

 First, he must order a tray set with the most delicate of cups, the finest tea, and some of the little cakes from the test batch he had made that morning, in preparation for the real challenge of Christmas Day’s dinner. Each was a work of art with its own sugar flower, and it had not escaped his notice that his mademoiselle liked them.

Then, while his assistants made the tray, he must make peace. This war must end. If that meant giving Madame Pearce her way on the tower, then so be it. He could not be part of causing pain to his mademoiselle.

His! How foolish he was. He was a chef. She was an aristo, of a family with a duke, despite her humble words. Yet un chien regarde bien un évêque. A dog can take a good look at a bishop. The English proverb was similar. A cat may look at a king. What would Mademoiselle Grenford think if she knew Marcel saw her as a woman, as she put it?

Perhaps bread to go with the cakes? Bread sliced thinly and buttered by his own hand and topped by some of Madame’s conserve. A peace offering from them both.

Determined, he gave his orders to his kitchen and braved the kitchen of Madame Pearce. An odd quest, but would not a knight dare anything, brave any danger, undergo any humiliation, for the lady he must adore from afar?

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Sunday Spotlight: The Hills of Gold Unchanging

I’ve just been Facebook partying with Lizzi Tremayne, whose Long Trail series I’ve featured before on this blog. You may remember her Xavier and her Aleksandra visiting Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford.

Lizzi is about to publish A Sea of Green Unfolding, book 3 in the series. Which reminded me that I haven’t posted my review for book 2, The Hills of Gold Unchanging. So here it is.

The Hills of Gold Unchanging is superb storytelling. As Aleksandra and Xavier faced and survived human malevolence, natural disaster and accidents, and their own doubts and insecurities, I kept turning pages to find out what happened next. I love books in which adversity sculptures character and where challenges to relationships bend them to breaking point and rebuild them stronger. This is one of those books. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Buy A Long Trail Rolling, and The Hills of Gold Unchanging, and preorder A Sea of Green Unfolding

Amazon * Nook * Kobo  * Smashwords 

FIND LIZZI AT:

Lizzi’s Website * Lizzi’s Blog * Twitter * Facebook * Pinterest * Goodreads * Amazon Author Page * Instagram

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