Tea with Rede

Another excerpt post. Rede has been kicking his heels at Haverford Castle while waiting for his aunt to arrive home.  The book is Farewell to Kindness, and blurb and buy links  are at the link from the book title. The first two chapters are on my excerpts page.

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 that 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 has 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 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 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 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 Mary

Mary was a daughter of the navy, raised aboard ship by her admiral father and a succession of nurses. She had learned her company manners from the gentlemen’s sons who vied to sit at her father’s table, and had them polished almost to breaking point during her one London Season.

Since then, she’d become wife to her own captain, and in her own world of naval wives, she knew precisely how to behave. She had even — her husband being grandson to an earl — become comfortable with those aristocrats she counted as family, counting among her close friends the wife of the current earl.

But having afternoon tea tête–à–tête with a duchess was outside of her experience. She had met the Duchess of Haverford at various entertainments in London. Her Grace’s sister had been mother to the current earl, so they had even attended some of the same family events. But she would never dare to presume on such a distant acquaintance were the circumstances not — what they were.

Summoned in response to a note asking Her Grace for an audience, she had expected to be seen as a petitioner, with perhaps a secretary on hand to make notes. Instead, she had been shown to a private sitting room, where two chairs waited in a sunny window overlooking a garden, the great lady herself occupying one.

“Mrs Alexander Redepenning, ma’am,” the butler announced, and the duchess rose to greet her.

Mary took the hand offered, and curtseyed. “Thank you for agreeing to see me, Your Grace.”

“But of course. You are family, my dear, and I always have time for family.”

“It is in that hope I have come, Your Grace.”

Shrewd hazel eyes examined her, then the duchess seated herself again, saying decidedly, “Then be seated, Mary — I may call you ‘Mary’, may I not? Tell me how you have your tea, and then tell me what I may do to help you with whatever distresses you.”

Mary obeyed, and was very soon sipping tea with lemon from a cup of delicate china.

“Well, Mary?” the duchess prompted.

“It is a long story, ma’am. It concerns Susan, my sister-in-law, her daughter Amelia, and my son James. I am not sure where to begin.”

“At the beginning, my dear,” Her Grace suggested.

Mary Redepenning is the heroine of Gingerbread Bride, a Christmas novella written for the Bluestocking Belles holiday box set in 2015. Gingerbread Bride is free this month as part of a promotion with 149 other novellas and novellas.

This scene, though, takes place some twelve years later, when Mary’s 11 year old son and her 16 year old niece go missing, and her sister-in-law Susan disappears in pursuit. These events won’t happen until The Realm of Silence, which will be book three of The Golden Redepenning series.

The Duchess of Haverford appears in many of my books, first helping her nephew with his love affair in Farewell to Kindness. She also aided and abetted the not-quite-hero, her son, in A Baron for Becky. Most recently, she has been the hostess of the Christmas house party in the Bluestocking Belles box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts, which is also on special for December, at only 99c.

You can read the first two chapters of Gingerbride Bride here.

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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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Romance fiction is escapist

child-12I had the best compliment last night. One of the people at the Facebook launch party for Farewell to Kindness sent me a direct message that said:

Your talent is amazing and all the days that the kiddos have been sick , had a fussy baby, and getting ready for family to come I have also gotten to escape to a country fete. You really know how to draw your reader in and make them excited about the next day’s events and all the characters.

I’ve been an undiagnosed coeliac for most of my life – plagued by gruelling headaches, rashes, abdominal cramps, nausea, and bone-deep exhaustion. And I raised six children, one through cancer and then disabilities caused by the chemotherapy. And I worked full time after my youngest started school.

Books were my escape. When I was reading a good book, I went to another world where the problems and challenges belonged to someone else, and where good won over evil. Badly written books didn’t do it for me; but a book that captured my imagination took me on holiday.

Books kept me sane, refreshed me, and sent me back into my life ready for the next challenge.

To know I’ve performed the same service for another person is beyond amazing. I’m touched, humbled, and exhilarated, all at the same time. Thank you, Crystal.

Romance fiction is escapist? Hell yeah!

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Meeting the neighbours – a Farewell to Kindness excerpt

Miss Pinkertons AcademyAnother Farewell to Kindness excerpt. Rede sees Anne for the first time:

The service wound to its final blessing, and the congregation followed the Rector from the church as the bells pealed.

He moved towards the door, through a rippling sea of bows, curtseys, touched foreheads, murmured ‘My Lord’s’. Out in the churchyard, the villagers and gentry stood in groups, exchanging greetings and enjoying the warm spring sunshine. Children ran in and out of the shrubbery in the adjacent Rectory garden, in a game of chase. Some had the look of the Rector, who introduced Rede to his wife. Mrs Ashbrook had a no-nonsense manner, direct light-blue eyes, and the well-padded shape of a matron with a growing family and a healthy appetite.

A trio of prettily dressed young ladies—the dark-haired girl from the Ashbrook pew, the Saxon-blonde Redwood and a remarkably attractive girl whose face was framed in brown curls—strolled arm and arm up and down the path to the church gate, as bright as butterflies in their light dresses and their charming bonnets, chattering away like starlings.

Rede stayed for a while, shaking hands with those who came for an introduction, catching up with those he’d met during the week, and generally making himself pleasant.

Several times, he met eyes as blue as his own, fringed like his with dark lashes. His predecessors had certainly left a mark on the population. Many of the poorer members of the community bore the certain sign that a female ancestor had caught a Redepenning’s fickle attention.

Mrs Forsythe, the tenant who lived unaccountably rent free, wasn’t introduced. He had been hearing her name all week. His tenants spoke of her warmly, and with respect, listing her good deeds, and praising her kindness. From what they said, she was a lynch pin of village life. Listening to their stories, he’d formed a picture of a mature widow; a gentlewoman of private—if straightened—means; a bustling matron with a finger in all the charitable activity of the parish.

The trio of young ladies on the path broke up, two coming over to be introduced as the daughters of the Rector and the Squire. The third young lady collected a child and another young woman from the Rectory garden.

The child was a little older than his Rita would have been; perhaps the age Joseph would have been, had he lived. She studied him curiously as she passed; meeting his blue gaze with her own. Indeed, he could have been looking at one of his own childhood portraits, cast in a more feminine mould.

She didn’t take her colouring from the two young ladies with her. And a quick glance after her showed that bonnets masked the faces of the two ladies they joined.

“Once my cousins arrive, we’ll invite the local gentry to dinner,” he told Mrs Ashbrook. “I’ve met some of them. Could you perhaps introduce me to others?”

As he’d hoped, she launched into a list of all the gentlemen and ladies in the neighbourhood, starting with those present. He listened impatiently as the objects of his interest moved further and further towards the gate.

At last, just as they passed under the arch, Mrs Ashbrook said, “and Mrs Forsythe and her sisters, the Miss Haverstocks. They were standing right there by the church… oh dear, you’ve missed them. They’ve just left.”

The slender figure hurrying away down the road with her sisters and daughter did not fit the picture he’d formed of the busy Mrs Forsythe. Not at all.

He continued listening to Mrs Ashbrook, commenting when appropriate, murmuring pleasantries to the people she took him to around the churchyard. And with another part of his mind he planned a change in the order of his tenant visits.

Meeting Mrs Forsythe, owner of the trimmest pair of ankles he had ever noticed and mother of a Redepenning by-blow, was suddenly a priority.

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A new year, a new novel

imageI wrote my first blog post here on 16 September 2014. I’d been working up to it for some time. In 2013, I began researching for Farewell to Kindness and several other novels, and in April 2014 I finally committed the first scene to the keyboard. By the time I set up the website and wrote the first post, I’d written 60,000 words. I was pretty sure I could finish the novel, but I was full of doubts about the path I’d set myself:

I feel like the new girl in school.

After all these years growing confident in my profession, I now have a new one. Will I be any good? Will people like what I do?

Since that post, I’ve finished and edited Farewell to Kindness, sent it out to beta readers, and started collating the feedback. I’ve heard back from 12 of the 19 readers, and they have some great ideas for making the draft stronger. I can’t resist sharing some of the compliments.

“…now I can’t wait for the next 2 books! The way you write is refreshing! A lot of books I read are just too obvious. I can figure out the good and bad guys right away and that gets rather tedious. This book, however, kept me guessing, kept me wondering and wanting to find out how it all turns out. ”

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to reading more.  I am not a huge fan of the romance genre and have struggled (and eventually given up) on other historical romances so I was a bit apprehensive about reading this but there was enough action, intrigue and mystery to keep me interested and the intimate scenes were well placed, made sense to the story and weren’t too abundant (I’m sure some authors are trying to meet a sex quota!).”

“I loved this book.  I thought it was well-written and -plotted.  In fact I would give it the ultimate accolade – I would pay real money for it.”

I’ve also written, edited, and published a novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair (free through most resellers). On New Year’s Day 2015, at 9am of a New Zealand summer’s morning, more than 6,000 copies of Candle have been downloaded, a number of people have subscribed to my enewsletter, and one has even put all three of the 2015 novels on their ‘to-read’ list at Goodreads.

(By the way, if you want to keep up with my release information, please subscribe to the newsletter. I won’t send it often; just when I have news about a forthcoming publication.)

So here’s the plan for 2015.

April: Farewell to Kindness – I’ll start the final edit tomorrow.

September: Encouraging Prudence – I’ve finished the plotting and character sketches, and this morning I’ve written the first 650 words.

December: A Raging Madness – still developing the plot and writing the character sketches. And researching Cheshire and the canal system that brought goods all the way from Liverpool to London.

With beta readers by mid-November for release in 2016: Lord Danwood’s Dilemma – just making the occasional note as I come across relevant facts or visual inspiration.

I’ll continue doing a daily blog post.

And I’ve joined a small group of other indie authors; we’re planning a combined release for next Christmas. More news about this as our plans solidify.

Other ideas are still fluid, but one thing is for certain. 2015 is the year I finally earn the right to call myself a novelist. Yay!

And beyond 2015? Here’s a chart of my planned novels, colour coded by series. I’m working through them more or less in date order.

Happy New Year, all. What are your plans for 2015?

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In a bit of a jam – cooking in a cottage kitchen in 1807

IMG2242MODSThe plan was that the maid-of-all-work who cooked and cleaned for my Farewell to Kindness heroine and her sisters would be a magnificent baker, and win prizes every year at the village fair. I envisaged lovely light cakes and bread to die for. And jam. Wild strawberry jam, made from berries collected by the hero and heroine together.

Daggett House main room 2  fireplace cookingBut as soon as I began to research early 19th Century recipes, I hit a problem. Anne and her sisters lived in a workers’ cottage, on of a row of cottages built for his tenants by a former Earl of Chirbury some 200 years earlier. Yes, they had the largest dwelling in the row. Formerly two cottages, it had been knocked into one for a foreman perhaps, or some other slightly more prosperous tenant. But it was still fundamentally a 17th Century cottage, and the kitchen was very much a 17th Century kitchen.

What that meant was no oven. Not even a bread oven built into the brick of the chimney, which more modern and more substantial houses would have had at that time. Many of the villagers would have taken anything they wanted to bake to the cook shop, where it would be put into a large brick oven heated with firewood. The baker would burn exactly the right amount of wood to ash, then rake aside the ash and set the pots and pans in among them to cook in the heat radiated by the bricks.

Great houses, such as my Longford Court, would have their own brick ovens for bread built into a wall, and some might also have one of the brick stoves invented in the 18th century. Open at the front, they had a fire inside and an iron plate on top for the pots to sit on. The Rumford Stove, invented in 1795, was a huge improvement, since the heat could be regulated to give different pots heat at different times. It was not widely available just over a decade later and was, in any case too big for all but the biggest kitchen.

The efficient cast iron ovens that revolutionised cooking in the Victorian era were still at least 30 years away.

So in Anne’s little cottage – two rooms downstairs, and three up – cooking would have been done in an open fireplace.

Fireplaces were large, and set up a step from the floor. In an inn or great house, the fireplace might be so large that the cook would walk right inside, and move around the various fires that kept what was cooking at different temperatures. This was risky, especially in a long skirt, so many people would only employ male cooks for such establishments.

3209174951_9c0f2e116a_bIn Anne’s cottage, Hannah (the maid) would still have several fires, though they would be smaller and tended from the front. She would also have iron kettles and pots, spits to hold roast meat at the correct distance from the flame, and hooks that could be raised or lowered to regulate heat and swung away from the fire.

Food might also be cooked in a pot or kettle that sat on a trivet next to the fire, toasted on a fork, or baked on a skillet or griddle – a flat plate of iron that had been preheated either over the flame or by having embers piled on it.

Several times in the novel, Hannah serves drop scones that had been baked on a griddle.

But Hannah’s favourite tool was the dutch oven. An Englishman conducted a little bit of industrial espionage early in the 18th century, and brought the innovative Dutch process for making these cooking vessels back from the Netherlands. A kitchen such as Hannah’s would have had several, and would have used them all.

First, she would take embers from the fire, and sit the cast iron dutch oven directly on the embers. Then she would put into the oven whatever she wanted to cook – a stew, a cake in a tin, a loaf of bread shaped into the dumpy circle we still call a cottage loaf. After putting the lid on the oven, she would shovel more embers on top.

20090208---Dutch-OvenIf she was making a complex dinner, she might stack one oven on top of another, with different dishes in each oven.

As to that strawberry jam, into a kettle with that, and over the fire, with a careful scoop of sugar – not too much. The price was coming down in the early 19th century, but it was still a great luxury for a household living on the edge of poverty. Once the jam had boiled to setting stage, she would have carefully ladled it into earthenware pots, and sealed the tops with melted wax and waxed brown paper.

And here is what happened when Anne, her sisters, and her daughters went berry picking, and met the Earl, his sister, and his nieces:

The group sorted themselves into teams: Anna and Daisy, chattering away as they picked strawberries, feeding half to the baskets and half into their mouths; Amy, standoffish at first, thawing out as she talked books with Miss Kitty; Susan and Miss Haverstock bonding over a discussion of art and music.

That left Reede to work with Mrs Forsythe and Meg. Meg ate as most of the strawberries she picked. Reede began passing her some of his, and Mrs Forsythe scolded him, half laughing.

“But they taste so good!” To prove it, he popped one in her mouth, his fingers lingering for a moment on her lips, brushing past her cheek. Their eyes caught, his suddenly hot; hers with an expression he couldn’t quite read. Apprehension, perhaps. Some yearning, though that might have been a figment of his own desire.

Meg broke the moment, pressing a strawberry into Reede’s own mouth. “Taste so good!”

He savoured the sweet taste and the rich smell. “Yes, Miss Meg. It tastes very good.” But his eyes drifted back to Mrs Forsythe’s lips. She, he was convinced, would taste even sweeter.

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Some like it hot

5696450I’ve been mulling over heat-level descriptions in romance novels. According to a discussion I’ve been in on Goodreads, readers hate finding themselves in a novel that gives them more or less sex than they expected. (Both seem to rub people up the wrong way.)

My hero and heroine in Farewell to Kindness have (I hope, or I’ve done it wrong) quite a bit of heat between them. They kiss several times, they have one memorable night, they think about one another a lot, and Rede’s thoughts are definitely carnal (what can I say; he’s a 34-year-old male who has been celibate since his wife died 3 years ago).

And my villainess is either having sex or thinking about it in most, if not all, of her scenes.

So the heat-rating ‘sweet sensuality’ doesn’t fit. And I’ve gone beyond ‘mild’ in a couple of places, too.

On the other hand, the heat-rating ‘hot sensuality’ seems over the top. The passionate encounters take up a tiny fragment of the whole, and I tend to use non-specific language and focus on emotions rather than physical descriptions (with a few notable exceptions).

As I’ve noted elsewhere, even this level of heat was enough to make me change my heroine’s name.

The villainess Lydia’s scenes are left largely to the imagination of the reader. Here’s the start of the scene where I introduce her:

The boy was enthusiastic, but unskilled and undisciplined. He grunted and heaved over Lydia, striving for his own completion without regard to hers. He would improve with a little tutoring, however. Yes, she would certainly teach him how to give pleasure. While that was by no means her reason for taking him as her lover, she saw no reason to deny herself the benefits of his teenage vigour.

A movement caught her eye. The boy was too far gone to notice Baron Carrington, lounging at his ease in the doorway.

She raised one eyebrow. She hated, feared, and loved her husband in equal measure, and knew better than to show any of those emotions.

He smiled coldly, then gestured with his head. She had no difficulty interpreting the command. “Come and see me when you have finished.” He didn’t wait to see her acknowledgement, fading from the doorway as silently as he had appeared.

The boy stiffened all over, letting out a shout as he reached his climax. She let out her own cry. Letting him think he’d pleased her would help to bind him to her. Bindings. There was a thought worth exploring. If she bound him to the bed, she could force him to slow down.

Later. For now, the Baron waited. And the Baron did not like to wait.

Not hot. Right? But certainly not sweet. Okay, she’s the villainess, so here’s a bit starring Rede and Anne. They’ve spent the night in a cottage, sharing the one bed, but she was asleep before he got into it:

Anne woke in the pre-dawn light, aware of a warm large presence enfolding her in the bed. Rede was wrapped around her, his front spooned against her back, one large arm flung over her body, and one leg over her hips.

She lay still, cataloguing each of the touch points. Rede’s hand brushed her breast. His leg hooked back to rest against the front of her thighs. Against her buttocks, something hard pressed. Was that what she thought? If so, it seemed bigger than she expected.

She resisted the urge to squirm against it. Instead, she lifted Rede’s arm, and carefully pushed it behind her. As it fell back against his side, he rolled onto his back, freeing her from the cage of his body.

She lay still for a few moments more, waiting to see if he woke, but his breathing didn’t change.

After a while, she wriggled a bit further away, so that she could sit up without disturbing him. He lay beside her, flat on his back, still sleeping. He had rolled from under the covers, which were all bunched up on her side of the bed.

She was a little disappointed to see that he’d come to bed in shirt and pantaloons. But his shirt was unbuttoned, and she could see a vee of his chest, with a dusting of golden hair. And she could see his feet. She had never before thought of feet as beautiful, but his were. Narrow and straight, with long elegant toes to go with the long elegant fingers that had cared for her so tenderly last night.

“My darling,” he had said. How she wished she really was.

She continued her examination. The strong curves of his chest, the flat planes of his abdomen. And, yes, there. Where the pantaloons were tented over… she had no idea what to call it. The male part of him.

Without thinking, she reached out a hand, stopping a few inches in the air above the stretched fabric.

“You can touch it if you wish,” Rede said.

She snatched her hand back and looked at him, feeling the heat as she blushed.

He hadn’t moved, except to open those blue, blue eyes.

So I’m calling the novel warm, following Tori Macallister, who did a lovely post on the various rating systems people use.

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