Hidden attraction on WIP Wednesday

Most of my stories have a romance in them. Even those that don’t are likely to have some sexual tension. I make no apology for that. For one thing, the kind of love I celebrate in my books is as real as it gets. It’s not for nothing that the Bible uses the language of romantic and physical love to describe the way God loves creation. When two people fall in love and become intimate, they expose deeper layers of themselves more quickly than in any other situation that doesn’t involve near and present risk of death.

And then they have deal with what the most frightening or embarrassing things they’ve exposed, by accepting, by changing or by drawing back. I find it fascinating.

Of course, other relationships can be intense and intimate too. The love between a parent and child, between siblings or long associates, between friends who are kindred spirits: these are all worth exploring. But add the element of physical intimacy, and you both complicate things and provide a mechanism (all those hormones) for becoming close really quickly.

Today, on WIP Wednesday, I want to see excerpts from your work-in-progress where one of your protagonists does something, says something, or thinks something to show that they are physically attracted to the other but doesn’t feel they can act on it. Please keep it clean. This blog doesn’t have an adults-only filter.

My excerpt is from The Lost Treasure of Lorne, which will appear in Lost in the Tale. (Due for release 6 September)

His Grace the Duke of Kendal was digging in the moat again. The unusually dry summer had presented an opportunity he could not resist. With the moat almost empty, even the deepest pools came barely to the hem of his kilt, which, apart from the boots that were out of sight under the murky water, was all he wore.

At not quite forty years of age, the duke was still a fine figure of a man, broad of shoulder, slim of waist, and well-muscled. Even Caitlin Morgan, that stern moralist his housekeeper, paused at the windows of the long gallery to admire the view before she scolded the maids who were doing the same and sent them scurrying back to their tasks. Caitlin stopped for one more glance before resolutely turning away and closing herself in the housekeeper’s pantry with her accounts.

The columns of figures were unlikely to drive the sight of a half-naked duke from her mind, but one could try.

Normally, she would do her accounts at night, after the servants—the other servants—had departed for the village. No one but the duke and Caitlin herself would remain in Castle Lorne after dusk. And His Grace’s son, John Normington, when he was home from university. Even the duke’s valet and butler retreated at nightfall, though only as far as a cottage in the grounds.

The ghosts were a bother, with their moaning and their chatter, but Caitlin paid them no mind. She had, after all, spent more than a decade in charge of a rambunctious boy in a nursery, and knew that a little noise never hurt anyone. Besides, for some reason, the ghosts listened to her, and would be quiet if she insisted.

And if she were as much a coward as the rest of them, who would fetch John his supper or keep His Grace company when the male ghosts drove him out of his bedchamber with their carousing?

Not that the duke knew she kept him company. She sat on the secret staircase on one side of the panel that opened into the library while on the other he read a book next to the fire. She frowned down any ghost that thought to disturb him, and in time he would drift off to sleep.

After that one glorious night seven years ago, she did not dare be alone with him. She trusted Kendal, of course. It was herself she did not trust.

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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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Tea with Morag and Caitlinn

London, 1790

Eleanor Haverford welcomed her guests to her private sitting room. Thank goodness the duke was not in residence! He would never approve of such company for her.

In the three years since news of their marriages rocked the ton, the two women before her had made no attempt to join Society. Instead, they had remained on the the most northern of the Duke of Kendal’s holdings; a Scots estate, complete with castle, that had formerly belonged to the most ancient enemies of his family, the Lorimers of Lorne.

As had her guests. The remaining two women of the Lorimer family had married the last surviving men of their traditional foes.

Society had been beside itself when the news broke. Michael Normington, Duke of Kendal, had wed his housekeeper, disappointing dozens of marriage-minded mamas and their tedious offspring. Worse, the housekeeper was worthy of the position, even though she had been hiding her own lofty origins for twenty years. And if she had been concealed in the duke’s household, no one suggested for a moment she had been up to anything unseemly, unless it was with the duke himself. Marriage covered any such sins.

Worse, for those who wanted the ducal title for a grandchild, the duke had found evidence for his first marriage, elevating his base-born son to legitimacy and a courtesy earldom. Which would have been good news if Lord Farringhurst, the new earl, had not married his new step-mother’s cousin, the two couples plighting their troth in a dual ceremony weeks before the news made its way south to Town.

“Scots ways,” her husband had declared. “Barbarians the lot of them. Even Kendal, who is English born. No idea of the proper way to behave.”

But now the Kendals and Farringhursts were in London, and a chance meeting at an inn had led them to accept Eleanor’s hospitality when the roof on their own house proved to be leaky. How her rivals in Society would seethe to know she had stolen a march on them. And Eleanor would be happy to help smooth the way of these new friends if she could. She very much liked what she’d seen of them. Why, the duchess and countess fed their own babies at the breast, and spent every spare minute in the nursery!

Eleanor placed a hand on her abdomen as she swore silently that this child, if it lived, would have the same maternal care.

“We must thank you again, duchess,” said her grace of Kendall. “We will not long trouble you. Our husbands swear the repairs will be completed in a week.”

“Indeed, an inn would have been difficult for the children,” Lady Farringhurst agreed. “We cannot thank you enough.” Upstairs in the Haverford nursery, four Normington infants were being tended by a small army of servants, from both ducal households. Her own nursemaids were glad of something to do, her son, the Marquis of Aldridge having long since been released to the schoolroom.

“It is no trouble,” Eleanor assured them. “I am delighted to have the company.” She blushed. “I do not go much into Society at this time.” With a bare two months until her confinement, and four babies lost in the ten years since Aldridge was born, she would obey her doctor’s every directive.

“Then you must call me Caitlin, and my daughter-in-law is Morag, and we shall be comfortable together,” the duchess declared.

Eleanor smiled broadly. If these were Scots ways, then she much preferred them to the ways of the haut ton. “I am Eleanor,” she said.

Morag and Caitlin, and their husbands, are the lead characters in The Lost Treasure of Lorne, which will form part of my next collection of stories, Lost in the Tale. Lost in the Tale will also include The Lost Wife, My Lost Highland Lass, and possibly one or two others. If I get myself into gear, this will come out late next month or early in September.

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Secrets on WIP Wednesday

New Zealand television currently has an advert for a car that says ‘when they write the story of your life, will anyone want to read it?’ To which my response as an author is ‘I hope not’. Boring fictional stories are happy life stories.

To keep our fictional stories compelling, we authors look for plot twists and surprises. Where would we be without secrets? If all the characters and all the readers knew everything we know, the plot twists would disappear and the way to the ending would be obvious. No story.

This week, I’m inviting you to give me an excerpt about a secret. Finding it out. Becoming aware of it. Deciding to keep it. Hearing a hint at it. Whatever you wish.

Mine is from The Lost Treasure of Lorne, a made-to-order story I’m currently writing.

Caitlin spent a restless night ignoring the ghosts, which was becoming more and more difficult. She was in the kitchen and had already stoked the fire to toast a slice of bread when the cook arrived from the village, trailed by several kitchen maids.

“A bad night, was it?” Mrs McTavish asked.

Caitlin nodded, threading a slice of bread onto her toasting fork.

Mrs McTavish shook her head. “I can’t say I blame them. Just a week till the young master’s birthday and the end of the three hundred years. Sad, that. I can’t say but that the villagers will be pleased to see the castle free of its haunting, but it seems tough on the poor ghosties. If only there was someone to help young Master John fulfill the prophecy. Have a care, Mrs Moffatt. You’ll have the toast in the fire.”

Caitlin jerked her head back to the toasting fork, and returned it to the proper distance from the flame. “Just a week?” she repeated.

“Why, yes. 1485 it was that the Fourth Marquis of Lorne killed his daughter and her lover, and his father and mother for good measure. On the last day of August, so the old stories say, Lady Normington prayed to God for vengeance, and paid with her blood for the justice she sought.”

So Mrs McTavish was of the school that held the Normington woman was a prophesying saint, rather than a cursing witch. And no wonder the ghosts were growing so agitated. But wait. “Master John is a Normington, Mrs McTavish,” she pointed out.

“Half Lorimer and living in Castle Lorne. That’s been enough to doom someone to be a ghost afore now. He is Lorimer enough to find the treasure. But it is too late. Two, the lady said, and he the last Lorimer of Lorne.

This time, the toast caught alight before she noticed. It was not just what Mrs McTavish had said that distracted her, but the reaction of the ghosts. Crowding into the kitchen, row on row, even standing in the fireplace itself, they were cheering and clapping.

Two Lorimers. She had known that two were required, but — like the cook — she had believed it was too late. The King’s heralds had hunted down all branches of the Lorimer family tree and so had the Duke of Kendal, looking for one surviving twig, and coming up empty. They were wrong.

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