Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Releases This Week

On Tuesday Upon a Midnight Dream by Rachel Van Dyken will release. On Thursday All We See or Seem by Leah Sanders will release. Both will be available for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as on Astraea Press's site.

In honor of these occasions, Rachel Van Dyken is hosting a giveaway on her site which has multiple prizes to be awarded. Please check it out!

For my part, I'll be giving away three copies of Rachel's Upon a Midnight Dream, and two $15 Amazon or Barnes&Noble gift cards.

You can also Enter Rachel's Giveaway for other awesome prizes,
including a copy of All We See or Seem!


Gryff’s orders lay unopened on the table.

The silent tension caused Gem to bite her lip. She tucked a loose strand of auburn hair behind her ear and shifted uneasily in the chair. Wide-eyed, Gryff sat stiffly beside her, regarding the envelope. He was like a statue—hands on his knees—staring interminably at the table.

Finally, Gem cleared her throat. Gryff jolted as if in a daze and turned to look at her. A look of uncertainty hung in his eyes. She swallowed the dry, sticky taste in her mouth and reached for his hand. It felt cold…clammy. Gem could feel the faint tremor of his fear radiating through his fingers. She took Gryff's hand between her own and squeezed, trying to infuse heat and reassurance at the same time.

"Sometimes they come back," Gem's voice was barely a whisper. It was a feeble attempt, but she was grasping at straws here.

Everyone knows.

They don't come back. Never whole, anyway.


"I release you..." were the last words Rosalind remembered before her world went black.   Stefan, the future duke of Montmouth, no doubt thought his words were welcomed, but he couldn't have been more wrong.  Oh, he was handsome as a pagan Norse god, but that was unimportant when her life as well as those of her family hung in the balance.

With less than six weeks left, Rosalind has stopped believing in the fairy tale, the prince on the white horse, and the stolen kiss that would awaken her from her worst nightmares. Resigned to her fate, she waits for the inevitable curse to run its course.

"We must marry at once!" Stefan declared, fully expecting Rosalind to be delighted that he had come to save her, but he was sorely mistaken.  Rosalind was no simpering docile female; she was a fiery temptress with a stubborn streak matched only by his horse, Samson. Insulting, infuriating, intoxicating and alluring enough to drive a man mad.  Stefan found himself thankful for the curse that required him marry her, thankful for the betrothal contract he had so recently tried to release her from...With the fortitude of a sailor shipwrecked, abandoned, and a solider warring for his life, Stefan  decides to lay siege to the greatest prize,  Rosalind's heart.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sweet Saturday: All We See or Seem

Today's excerpt comes from my new release (due out May 31, 2012), All We See or Seem. Enjoy!

“What are you doing here, honey?”

Gryff hesitated. He wasn’t sure how to answer.

She seemed to sense his hesitation and a look of concern leaped to her face. “Is everything okay?” His mother wiped her hands with her apron and took a step through the door.

“Yes, ma’am. Long trip. I—” He started to give her the story he had rehearsed, but she interrupted him.

“It’s a wonderful surprise, honey. It’s just that we weren’t expecting you. Did you try to call?” She moved to embrace him, glancing around the front yard and toward the driveway, seeing only the back of the blue car from around the corner. “My goodness! You drove here?”

“Yes, ma’am. Like I said, long trip.” Gryff scrutinized his mother’s nonverbal cues to determine if she was buying his line. His behavior could easily be confused with fatigue and travel tension. Her mannerisms told him she believed the story.

“You must be exhausted! Come in, I’ll call your dad.” She stepped back into the entryway and held the door for him, gesturing for him to follow.

Gryff’s throat clenched. He wasn’t ready for that yet. “It’s okay, Mom. You don’t have to do that… it can be a surprise for when he gets home,” he said almost too quickly.

“Oh, he’s not working today. He’s in the study. You know he’ll be thrilled to see you!” Her laugh was genuine, innocent. Gryff had no doubt she knew nothing of his situation. The thought of facing his father though — that was still a frightening prospect. He felt vulnerable and unable to defend his position. And Gem all alone.

The thought plagued him. He couldn’t leave her out there.

He glanced over his shoulder again toward the parked car, then back to his mother. “Just a sec, Mom. I have someone with me… in the car.”

“What? You brought someone home? A girl? Dare I hope?” A wide grin broke across her lips, and she followed him down the walkway.

As they rounded the corner of the house to the driveway, Gryff saw him. His father stood holding the door to the passenger side open, offering his hand to help Gem out. Gryff stopped in his tracks and stared at the pair of them. Gem’s eyes were wide with fear, though she had taken the man’s hand and was stepping out of the vehicle.

“And who is this young lady, son?” His father’s gaze bore into him, and the foreboding smirk, coupled with the inflection of the final word, made Gryff’s heart plummet into his shoes. He glowered back at his father. And Gryff knew — they both knew.

The icy adrenaline vibrated through him. Would his father do something right here? In the open? Gryff stared down his father as he assessed the man’s intentions.

Robert glared back at him with a hint of amusement. And Gryff watched in horror as the man’s hand tightened around Gem’s arm ever so slightly, and he pulled her closer to his side.

“I see this son of mine has lost his manners. I’m Robert. And no matter what he’s told you about me, I’m as gentle as a lamb. Just ask my wife.” He swept a hand toward Gryff’s mother. “This is Cary.” He glanced back to Gryff, shooting daggers that no one else seemed to notice.

“Aaron, aren’t you going to introduce your little friend?” his mother asked.

Gryff shook his head as if to rid his mind of anxiety. “Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry.” He stepped toward Gem and reached for her hand, thinking to rescue her from his father. “Mom, Dad, this is Gem.”

Cary stepped between Gryff and Gem, blocking him from taking her arm. She lifted a hand to shake Gem’s. Gem looked at Cary’s outstretched hand in confusion and then glanced toward Gryff. He nodded and lifted his hand in demonstration, so she would know what to do.

The light of understanding glittered in her eyes, and she took the woman’s hand and pumped it twice hard. Surprise registered in his mother’s eyes with a hint of amusement. “It’s lovely to meet you, Gem. That’s a beautiful name. Gem — like a precious jewel,” she said with an accepting smile.

Gryff kept his gaze trained on his father.

“May I escort you inside, Gem?” Robert asked, casting a nonchalant look at Gryff.

Anger bubbled in his gut, and he turned sideways to allow the two to pass in front of him on the walkway. He knew his father wouldn’t do anything now. And not with Mom hovering over Gem like a doting mother hen.

“I’ll get our stuff,” he muttered and turned back to the car as they disappeared around the corner.

Cover Blurb:

Gryff’s orders lay unopened on the table.
The silent tension caused Gem to bite her lip. She tucked a loose strand of auburn hair behind her ear and shifted uneasily in the chair. Wide-eyed, Gryff sat stiffly beside her, regarding the envelope. He was like a statue — hands on his knees — staring interminably at the table.
Finally, Gem cleared her throat. Gryff jolted as if in a daze and turned to her. A look of uncertainty hung in his eyes. She swallowed the dry, sticky taste in her mouth and reached for his hand. It felt cold… clammy. Gem could feel the faint tremor of his fear radiating through his fingers. She took Gryff’s hand between her own and squeezed, trying to infuse heat and reassurance at the same time.
“Sometimes they come back,” Gem’s voice was barely a whisper. It was a feeble attempt, but she was grasping at straws here.
Everyone knows.
They don’t come back. Never whole, anyway.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sweet Saturday: Bridget and the Bookseller

“Are you sure we should doing this?” Gemma whispered as Bridget stepped through the bookseller’s door. The girl could be dreadfully taxing.
“Of course, sweet Gemma,” she coaxed as she tugged at her friend’s arm. “I have been here many times with my uncle. It is quite proper, I assure you.”
The doubt was apparent in Gemma’s sapphire eyes, but she allowed herself to be pulled into the dimly lit shop.
Bridget knew exactly what book she wanted, but it was in the gentleman’s section. A distraction was in order. She turned to her maid who had followed behind them.
“Tessa, won’t you wait outside the door to direct his lordship when he comes?” The maid stared at her blankly for a moment, no doubt thinking she had gone quite mad.
Of course, it was a lie. No man was coming behind them, but the ruse might work to keep the clerk from chasing her back to the ladies’ stacks. She began there, naturally, not wanting to draw attention too soon. Browsing through the mindless romance novels on the shelves was the perfect pretense.
Beside her Gemma relaxed visibly. Poor, sweet Gemma. She had likely never set foot inside a bookseller’s shop, let alone read through anything more stimulating than the works of Mrs. Burney.
Bridget glanced over her shoulder at the clerk. He was scrutinizing them sharply over his spectacles, as if expecting them at any moment to lunge for the gentlemen’s shelves. Small talk would be just the thing to desensitize the bookseller to the female presence.
“Gemma, it seems I haven’t seen you in an age. What have you been doing with yourself lately?” Bridget began, hoping to lull the man into a false sense of security.
“I have received a number of afternoon calls of late.” Gemma’s voice was noticeably quieter than Bridget’s had been.
“Oh? Any gentlemen I know?” The tone in her voice drew Bridget’s undivided attention, and she noticed Gemma fidgeting with the cuff of her glove. A mannerism she recognized as one of her dear friend’s tells.
“One in particular.” Gemma’s face colored with slight embarrassment.
Bridget was not one to enjoy such conversation usually, but her companion appeared to be concealing some news and perhaps desired Bridget to pry it out of her.
“Well, come then, Gemma. Don’t keep me in such suspense. Who is the gentleman?” she prodded.
“I’m not sure it’s proper to speak of such things in public,” Gemma whispered again, her voice hardly more than a breath.
Gemma had never behaved so tight-lipped before when it came to speaking of gentlemen. Her goal of marriage was no secret to Bridget. It made no sense now that Gemma would be suddenly shy to discuss such things. No one else was in the shop besides the two of them but the clerk.
“If you would rather discuss something else, we can return to this subject at a more proper time,” Bridget reassured her, returning her attention to the task at hand. From her vantage point at the edge of the ladies’ shelves, she could see her true objective. A fresh copy of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication was on the table directly behind the clerk.
“Do any of these strike your fancy, Gemma?”
Gemma’s eyes grew wide, and she shook her head. “Bridget, I don’t think we should be buying books in public,” she whimpered.
“Oh, Gemma! You are a precious thing!” Bridget laughed. “Where else should one buy books?”
“I don’t know. It just seems so…so…scandalous.” Her wide blue eyes darted around the room in obvious concern.
“Nonsense, Gemma! I told you, my uncle has brought me here many times.”
“But, Bridget,” she murmured. “Your uncle is a man.”
Could Gemma really be so fearful of impropriety?
“Ahem.” The clerk had sidled up beside them. “Are you ladies in need of assistance today?” The very tone in which he patronized them made Bridget’s skin crawl, and the seeds of indignation took root in her chest.
“I believe we’ve made our selections, sir.” Bridget grabbed two novels from the shelf and stepped around the man to the counter, slipping Wollstonecraft’s book beneath her other acquisitions with a stealthy hand.
He followed close behind, meeting her at the counter. “Will there be anything else, miss?”
“These will be all for today,” Bridget said with what she believed was her most confident smile. She hoped her tremulous hands wouldn’t betray her anxiety. He began to write a receipt for her purchases, as she worked to distract him from the titles by making small talk.
“It has been lovely weather of late, has it not?”
“Yes, lovely,” he answered, not lifting his gaze from his task. He made quick work of writing up the first two titles—mindless romance novels written for women. Bridget tried to break his concentration once more.
“I dare say—” she began, but he cut her off.
“My lady.” He lifted the coveted book and leveled his gaze at her. “I believe you have picked this up by mistake.” The clerk scrutinized her down his long pointed nose over the wire rim of his spectacles. Gemma squirmed beside her.
“I’m certain I picked it up on purpose, sir,” Bridget said. She had mastered a deadpan expression, which she used in situations just like this. If she appeared unflustered, it was usually the clerk who backed down first. So while her insides fluttered and twisted into knots, her outer countenance betrayed nothing of the inner turmoil. “I wish to purchase these three titles.”
But he did not back down. If anything, he grew more combative.
“This particular book is not suitable for young ladies of breeding.”
Lovely. He was one of those.
Bridget drew in a slow deliberate breath, shoring up her ire for the battle. He had no idea whom he was dealing with. But he would soon. And he would surely regret challenging her Irish temper with his repulsive male condescension.
“Listen to me, you wretched uncouth little man—” She lifted a finger to point in his face with not a care for proper etiquette. Gemma shrieked in sheer horror, taking a step backwards. But it was too late. Bridget could feel the fury engulfing her.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sweet Saturday: Anthony & Bridget

It would accomplish two tasks at once. And Bridget was nothing if not efficient. Yes, she agreed to help the viscount. But not for his sake.

Her benefits would far outweigh the drawbacks of spending time in the company of his acute arrogance. Her aunt and uncle would no longer find need to scrutinize her every move at a social event. More importantly, the viscount had vowed to keep his advances to himself. Bridget was assured she had nothing to fear from constant assaults on her resolve to keep her virtue intact. And God help her, it was disintegrating in leaps and bounds every time he touched her.

After the dance with Sir Wilde, Bridget made her way back to where her aunt sat in predatory anticipation of her next quarry. The woman’s gaze scoured the gentlemen, seeking out the weakest of the herd. It made Bridget’s stomach turn. And she was at a loss at how her aunt’s blatant disregard for propriety could go so unnoticed amongst the ton. And then there was poor Uncle Ernest, who was a kind but preoccupied man, completely oblivious to his wife’s indiscretions.

As she grew closer, Aunt Latissia regarded her with suspicion. “You’re very cozy with Viscount Maddox this evening.” Her rapacious glance back at Lord Maddox was hardly veiled. “Are you certain you wish to have your name linked with such as he?”

“Are you displeased, my lady? I was under the impression you believed him a worthy companion,” Bridget said with a hint of irony. Aunt Latissia’s sharp look told her the point was not lost on her, but in that moment Uncle Ernest approached, cutting off the vicious scolding sure to come.

“Bridget. My lady,” he addressed them, kissing his wife’s proffered hand. “How do you find the dancing this evening?”

“It’s lovely, Uncle,” Bridget answered.

“I do believe our young charge has finally found someone worthy of her attention, my lord,” Latissia said with concealed bitterness.

“That’s wonderful, my dear! Who is our lucky young gentleman?” Uncle Ernest was fairly bursting with pleasure at the news.

Bridget knew that neither of her guardians were so concerned with her happiness as they were regaining their freedom from the responsibility bestowed on them on her behalf.

“Lord Maddox,” her aunt answered. “But I don’t know if that is a match I can approve of—”

“Nonsense!” the earl interrupted. “It is an excellent match, and we shall do our part to encourage this courtship, my dear! You know his reputation and influence. We could do no better short of the royal family!”

“Of course, my lord. I thought only of our sweet niece’s delicate sensitivities when it comes to living under the scrutiny of the ton. And the viscount has a way of drawing attention as you know…”

Bridget knew her aunt’s objections had more to do with her futile hopes to seduce the viscount for herself, and far less to do with any sense of what Bridget’s desires may be.

Her uncle shook his head resolutely. “This is an excellent match. And we will encourage it.” With that, he kissed his wife’s hand once again, bowed briefly to Bridget, and made his way to the gentleman’s lounge.

As he left them, Lady Latissia concealed her wrath under a thin veil of pleasantries. Through clenched teeth, she said, “Very well. Lord Maddox it is. Be sure to smile, my dear. Your usual glower will do nothing to entice his lordship to seek your hand.

“Aunt, I don’t think—” Bridget began.

“You heard your uncle. We will encourage it. It is your job to secure a husband, my dear. Do not let your grandmother down.”

“Yes, Aunt.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Announcing the London Fairy Tales Series by Rachel Van Dyken

Rachel Van Dyken's first installment of the London Fairy Tale Series is due out on May 31st! This first book in the series Upon a Midnight Dream features a re-telling of the story of Sleeping Beauty. Two characters introduced in The Redemption of Lord Rawlings continue their love story in Rachel Van Dyken's latest endeavor.

An old family curse requires Rosalind Hartwell and Stefan Hudson, the Duke of Montmouth, marry before the year is out. When they decide to call off their betrothal, members of both of their families begin to drop like flies.

At his mother's behest, Stefan seeks out Rosalind to set things right again. But that is easier said than done. For after years of being shipwrecked on an island far removed from polite society, Stefan's manners are a bit rusty, and Rosalind has no intention of making it easy on the man who broke their engagement so abruptly.

Check out Rachel's blog for more excerpts and release information.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sweet Saturday: Morning Sickness

Gem woke up with her head spinning. She'd been increasingly dizzy in the mornings, but this is the first time her stomach had also churned. She had experienced nausea in the past, usually after Level Three benchmarks, but it only plagued her for a couple hours on the same day as the testing. And she hadn't been to benchmarks in three weeks.

Rolling out of bed slowly, she mentally prepared herself for what was inevitably coming. She sat on the edge of the mattress for a moment, waiting for the dizziness to subside, then she stood unsteadily and stumbled to the bathroom, keeping close to the wall for support.

She made it just in time.

When the worst was over, Gem reached up to the counter and dragged herself to the sink. A little cold water—that's what she needed. She splashed a little on her face, then cupped her hands and brought some to her lips. What is wrong with me? The water helped, but her hands trembled weakly as she slumped back to the floor groaning.