Friday, August 31, 2012

Sweet Saturday: Lost

89.AguaspotrasThe darkness fell around her like a blanket of coal black ink, muddied only by the flurries which steadily increased in intensity. She glanced about her but could see nothing. No landmarks of note.

In her despair Anastasia had wandered haphazardly, not sure which direction she had taken from the house. Not a single star lit the darkness, the clouds where black and thick, concealing the moon and all the stars.

Fear gripped her chest, stealing her breath. She twirled wildly, eyes widened in search for something…some indication of where she might be.

Her foot caught on an unmoving obstruction in the path, sending her flailing to the cold, hard ground. She landed with a crunch on her hands and knees. Her hand caught a sharp rock, and she felt the tear of flesh through her glove. A cry wrenched from her throat, piercing the silence of the dark.

On hands and knees, Anastasia felt the ground all around her until her gloved hand found the rough solid root of an oak tree. Her oak tree. Tracing the root to the trunk, she eased herself into the crook at its base.

She had been there a thousand times. More times than she could count. Huddling tightly against the trunk, she was able to block the cold wind somewhat. Her thin evening shawl offered little protection, and though she hadn’t felt it when she fled the manor house, the ice was beginning to settle in her veins now, cutting right through the fabric of her bodice and undergarments.

Perhaps not such a blind stumble after all. Something deep inside her guided her to the one place she had always felt free and safe.

The throbbing pain in her left hand drew her attention. Her glove was drenched with warm moisture out of place in the dead of winter. She lifted her hand to the space right in front of her eyes, but the darkness made it impossible to make out any more than a silhouette.

She peeled off her glove and wrapped it tightly around the cut, then clutched the wounded hand to her chest. Anastasia could find her way back to the house blindfolded, but she wasn’t ready. Not ready to face him yet.

Closing her eyes, she recalled the memory of that afternoon so many years ago. Perhaps she had been far too absorbed in her fantasy. Perhaps she had looked at the man through rose-colored glasses for too long. He might never be to her everything she imagined him to be.

But she simply wasn’t ready to give up on him.

Anastasia huddled closer to the ground and shivered. She should be heading back.

~ Two Turtledoves (work in progress)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Spotlight: Jennifer Rae Gravely

Welcome to the talented Jennifer Rae Gravely, author of Knight of the Dead!
Jennifer Gravely
Born in Ohio, but raised in Pickens, SC, Jennifer Gravely graduated from Converse College with a triple major in history, politics, and English before earning her Masters in Education in the mid-1990s. Returning to her high school alma mater to teach and coach volleyball, her teams won four state championships in five years. She lives with her husband, daughter, nine beagles, and two cats. Knight of the Dead is her first published novel.

When and why did you begin writing? 
I’ve always loved words. As a child, I earned the nicknames motor-mouth and jabber jaws for my love of talking and telling stories. Later, as an avid reader, I wrote mainly to analyze. A triple major in history, politics, and English at Converse College, I viewed life in terms of paper topics! Still, I played with writing short stories and poetry. Then life took over—I became a wife, mother, teacher, and coach—and even though I continued to read, I rarely wrote anything creatively.
About ten years ago, some teacher friends and I were talking about books and decided to try to write our own. One friend found her groove with the challenge, and has had numerous novels published. I spent years on two connected novels, both still unpublished. However, at the encouragement of my friend, I tried once again to write a novel. I choose the name Persephone for my heroine because I teach mythology, and used the tale as a springboard.    
Hades and Persephone is one of my favorite myths too. Since I'm an English teacher too, I use that in my class as well!
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? 
I’m burdened with the pressure of trying to be perfect. As a high school teacher and volleyball coach, I write many recommendations for students and players, worrying over each sentence and idea. I hyperventilate when I think too much about others reading my words!
I thought I was the only one who did that!
What was the hardest part about writing this book? 
I struggled with the editing process, with adding sensory details and emotion, as well as wading through grammar difficulties. However, I think that was simply because Knight of the Dead was my first published novel. Now that I know the rules and expectations, I’m hopeful that the next story will be easier to clean up.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 
I wrote Knight of the Dead mainly for entertainment; however, thinking about the characters’ troubles, I’d have to say that not jumping to conclusions about people and situations, being honest in relationships, and maintaining loyalty to those we love are themes prevalent in the story. Oh, and don’t forget, that love conquers all.
What are you working on now? 

I’m currently writing a romance involving volleyball coaches, but it’s early in the story. The heroine Randi Sly returns to her hometown to teach and coach. Blake Steel works at a rival high school. Both have aspirations of winning the state championship. Their relationship will prove to be quite competitive!  

That sounds awesome! And you have all your volleyball experience to draw from!

What is your favorite quote? 

I love quotes, and use them often with my players. I believe this particular sports’ quote is from Mia Hamm, “The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one is watching.” It’s the hard work put in to achieve the goal that makes us a champion in whatever area that defines our life. 

So glad to have you here today, Jennifer!

Knight of the DeadThanks for having me at your blog! Here’s a blurb about Knight of the Dead, followed by an excerpt:

Persephone Richards is in a pinch. With a wrecked car and bills stacking up, the income from her job at the daycare isn’t enough. Mark Lawrence needs a sitter for his little girl and Persephone is perfect for the job. What begins as an employment opportunity leads to romance. However, a secret Persephone hides threatens the happy ever after and puts the three of them in danger.

From Chapter Four: Desperate to avoid eviction, Persephone heads to a club for a job.

“What can I do for you?” A brown--‐‑haired man held out his hand for Persephone to shake. He wore black pants that were tight around his thighs, only because he had huge muscles. The white button--‐‑down shirt he sported stretched across his massive chest. His neck was thick. Persephone concluded that he must’ve played football. “I’m Lee, manager of the club.”

“Well…” She swallowed after giving her name. “Truth is I need money tonight. I’d like to dance.”

His eyes scanned her body. “Do you have any experience?”

She wrinkled her brows. “I didn’t think that experience would be necessary in this line of work.”

“Actually experience helps. We can’t afford a wardrobe malfunction. The laws in this state are clear.”

“Please, I really need the money.”

He hesitated. “Let me talk with the owner and see what he says. Why don’t you take a seat at the table in the corner?”

Persephone plodded across the room only to stumble when the heel of her black leather wedges hit the tiled surface in front of the bar. She reached out and grabbed a table, upsetting a pitcher of beer. The golden liquid flowed to the lap of the gentleman nearest her.

“I’m so sorry.” Embarrassed, she grabbed some napkins and started to dab at his knee in an attempt to dry his pants.

“Try a little higher, honey.” He laughed and gripped her wrist.

Persephone twisted from his grasp. His face reddened as his friends guffawed. He stood and snatched her around the waist. “Listen here, darling,” he rasped in her ear. His breath reeked of
stale cigarettes and alcohol. “You owe me for spilling the beer.”

“Take your hands off the girl,” interjected Lee. Two other men stood behind him.

“No problem.” The man caved, pushing Persephone back. “Relax, man.”

“Don’t touch any of our girls. Ever,” Lee warned. “Or you’ll get a free pass to the parking lot if you’re lucky and a trip to the slammer if you’re not. Understand?”

“What about our pitcher of beer?”

Lee signaled to the nearest waitress to bring the table a replacement. He motioned to Persephone to follow him. The security men returned to their place by the door.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meet & Greet: Agatha Kingsley

Agatha Kingsley
Dowager Duchess of Durbin

A stern and demanding woman, the dowager duchess raised her grandson (Baldwyn Sinclair, the Duke of Paisley) and her nephew (Benedict Devlyn, the Duke of Creighton).

Her first husband was a cruel, abusive, and philandering man who died without producing an heir. Her second husband, the former Duke of Durbin already had two grown sons of his own, but he allowed Agatha one daughter, who married a Scottish duke when she was seventeen and moved far away from her mother.

Agatha has a fiercely strong will. She survived two husbands, her younger brother, her son-in-law, and her daughter. Now her dearest wish before she will allow herself the repose of death is to see her only surviving kin, the two dukes, married happily in love matches.

Because no matter how cold and unfeeling she appears, she loves them both more than life itself.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sweet Saturday: Ice Skating

File:January-scene-skating-early-1820s.jpg“Your Grace, I—” she began, but in that moment Lord Banbury and Lady Katherine skated up beside them.

“Paisley, you skate like a woman,” he baited his cousin with a wicked grin. “I am certain I could make it twice around the pond before you made it halfway to the other side.”

A tiny smirk played on the corner of Baldwyn’s lips, and he turned to Anastasia. “My dear, I fear a challenge has been made. Shall I accept it?”

The special attention sent a tingle of joy through her heart.

“Most sincerely, Your Grace. You must defend your family honor.

“Very well. Banbury, I accept.” They swung a wide graceful arc and made their way back to the bank. Anastasia fairly floated on his arm as they went.

Katherine and Anastasia settled onto the bench to watch the race.

“May I wear your colors, my lady?” Baldwyn asked with a gallant bow and a wink at her.

“Paisley, you’re stalling,” Lord Banbury taunted.

Anastasia slipped her handkerchief out of her muff and tied it around his wrist and suppressed a giggle when he kissed her hand and spun around to the starting mark.

This was the Baldwyn she remembered from long ago. The playful knight. Rescuing her from her distress, fighting for her honor, chivalrous to a fault.

Beside her on the bench, Katherine sighed faintly in disappointment. Lord Banbury hadn’t asked for her favor.

Baldwyn regarded him a moment, but when he made no move toward Lady Katherine, Baldwyn took it upon himself.

“Lady Katherine, might I wear yours as well?”

The lady’s eyes lit up. Anastasia’s heart fell to her feet.

Chivalrous to a fault. Of course he wouldn’t let Lady Katherine be disappointed. Part of Anastasia told her it was thoughtful, but another part wanted to pounce on the lady and tear out her hair in great handfuls. Still another part was fully occupied with restraining the second part from taking over the whole of her.

Lady Katherine tied her own handkerchief around Baldwyn’s other wrist, and he kissed her hand and smiled broadly into her eyes.

Lord Banbury’s face reddened as he watched the scene unfold, a mirror’s reflection of Anastasia’s own concealed rage.

At least Lady Katherine had the decency to blush when Baldwyn kissed her hand.

“Lady Katherine,” the Duke of Banbury said, his voice was a low growl. “On your word.”

She clapped her hands and stood. “Ready. Go!” she shouted.

The ice sprayed back onto Anastasia’s skirts as the two launched forward, skating furiously for the other side of the pond. The few other guests clapped and cheered as the race went on. Some called out for Paisley. Others cheered for Banbury.

Anastasia herself said nothing, but sat holding her breath, awaiting the outcome with her hands clenched together inside her warm muff.

When the two reached the far side of the pond, they were dead even. The turn was bumpy, but Baldwyn appeared to have the better move and turned on a pin. Banbury stumbled on his turn and lost several strides as he struggled to keep his feet under him.

“Trouble, Ben?” she heard Baldwyn shout back at his cousin.

Lord Banbury answered with an unrepeatable curse, but Baldwyn just laughed and slid to a stop in front of the bench a full five count before his challenger’s arrival at the finish line.

A light danced in his blue eyes as he glanced her way. His smile took her breath away, and she imagined it was for her alone.

He bent into a deep mocking bow toward Banbury. “A pleasure, as always, Your Grace-less.”

~Two Turtledoves (work in progress)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spotlight: J. Andersen

J. Andersen
author of At What Cost

It is my pleasure to host J. Andersen today. I've been reading her recently released book, At What Cost, and started to think I'd like to know a little more about the author and her inspiration for the story. For those of you who haven't read it yet, I'm a little ways into it and am loving it. J. Andersen is a talented writer, and she graciously consented to answer a few of my questions.

What inspired you to write your first book?
Abortion has always been an issue on my heart, so when I started praying about a topic for a book I felt compelled to write, abortion came to mind. At first, I resisted. I didn’t think I was qualified enough to write something of that nature, but I was given a lot of resources along the way.

As for writing a book itself, I was reading a ton of what my students were reading. I fell in love with YA and kept thinking that I could write something like what I was reading…so I did. J

One of the fringe benefits of being a secondary English teacher! Love it!

How did you come up with the title?
I didn’t.  I’m great with chapter titles, but I couldn’t think of a title to save my life. It had a bunch of different names, none of which worked until one of my former students, Rachael, gave me “At What Cost.” The funny thing is, she doesn’t remember this. J

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That there’s always another option. I think people tend to jump into decisions based on which one would cause the less pain or which one would be the easiest in the long run, but that’s not always the best choice. Sometimes, going through the hard stuff makes us better people.

That is a very important lesson to learn. Your character had to make a grown up decision but only had the experience of her youth. But I totally agree with you, adversity builds character.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I always think so when I’m not looking at the manuscript, but every time I was given the chance to change stuff during the editing process, I’d look at it, expecting to change all sorts of stuff, but I’d end up not changing a thing. Maybe some wording here or there, but I think the story is really where I want it to be.

That's a great feeling as a writer. And what you ended up with is amazing!

What are your current projects?
I’m working on one called THE UNVIABLES. Actually, I’m working on the second in a series of THE UNVIABLES, but the second doesn’t have a title yet. It’s a YA dystopian. In the first story, Kate—who’s studying to be a creation specialist—discovers that The Institute where she lives and works is breeding humans with unapproved DNA, which means the biological parents have no idea they have children. If something doesn’t go quite right, the fetuses are disposed of. Add in a sexy lab partner and a bunch of rebels from the hidden community trying to take down The Institute and you have the ingredients for chaos.

These sound awesome. So much could happen in a plot like that.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Plotting the rough draft. I’m working on a book right now and I find myself procrastinating all the time. When I do write, I’ll write a sentence or a paragraph before I’m distracted. Once I have my rough draft, I’m golden. I excel at tweaking, editing and revising.
You sound a lot like me. Maybe it's another fringe benefit of being an English teacher. We do tend to spend a lot of time tweaking and editing and revising... occupational hazard. ;)

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I think Laurie Halse Anderson would be among my favorites. Her work is so real and she doesn’t shy away from tough topics. She presents them in a way that is approachable for the average teenager and gives those who’ve been through similar experiences something/someone to identify with.

Thanks for hanging out with me today, J. Andersen! I enjoyed getting to know more about the author behind the book. Want to find out more? You can check out J. Andersen's website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Now here's a little more about At What Cost:
At What Cost by J. Andersen
During her junior year, sixteen-year-old Maggie Reynolds expected to shop for prom dresses not maternity clothes. Now, instead of studying for the SATs, she’s reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Maggie’s ‘Mother Dearest’ lives in fear that Maggie will somehow taint the family name, so Maggie can’t turn to her for help. Meanwhile, her father is oblivious to anything but his 9-9 job. And her boyfriend, Justin?  She’s pretty sure he’ll stay by her side.

While Maggie wrestles with her options, Justin offers a solution: abortion. It would solve all her problems quickly, easily, and effectively. And her parents would never know, which means they won’t throw her out and cut her off like they’d always threatened if she got herself knocked up. But an easy decision becomes difficult when Maggie’s aunt discovers her secret and sets out on a mission to stop the abortion, putting a kink in Maggie’s plan. Now Maggie must decide which choice she can live with: abortion or teenage motherhood. Either way, it’ll be a tough road to travel.

Interested? You can pick up your copy from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, or Astraea Press for only $2.99. Check it out!

As another special treat, here is an extended excerpt from the book (Thanks, J. Andersen!):

“You’re pregnant?” It was a harsh half statement, half question punctuated with clenched teeth.

“Wha—?” Maggie was too shocked to realize what had happened, but when she looked back to where she stood, she spotted a sheepish looking Lauren mouthing the words, “I’m sorry.”


“Well, are you?” His grip on her tightened.

“Justin, you’re hurting my arm.”

He let go and motioned for her to sit with a quick thrust of his hand toward the table, but his eyes revealed his anger. He was furious, but then she saw a hint of fear hidden behind his golden irises. In those moments, she was five years old again, the day she’d broken her mother’s favorite vase. Her mother had loomed over her, drilling her for information. Pointed and yelled. This time, it was Justin.

“Are you, or aren’t you?” His eyes crinkled, his brow furrowed, and a deep crease appeared on his forehead. Trying to control his reactions proved to be impossible, and soon, his leg bounced under the table, and he wiped the nervous sweat on his palms off on his jeans.

This still wasn’t the place to talk. The cement walls of the school were beginning to feel like a jail cell; anywhere she went, Maggie felt trapped.

“Can we talk about this after school?” Maggie said, trying to be assertive.

His knuckles turned white as he clenched his fists. “No, we can’t. If you’re pregnant, I need to know.”

This wasn’t how she had pictured it. She was supposed to plan the conversation and the place. Definitely not in the corner of the cafeteria with people walking by who might hear her secret, a secret she hadn’t decided how to handle. Thank you so much, Lauren!

Justin grabbed her wrists from across the table. “Maggie, it’s a simple yes or no question. Are. You. Pregnant?”

She could feel the rage rolling off him in waves, and she knew stalling was not an option.


The silence grew louder, and Justin didn’t move. He stared at her, his eyes shifting across her eyes in a quick staccato. She didn’t know she could feel so uncomfortable, so she tried to ease that discomfort by looking away. When she met his gaze again, he glared at her, not saying a word. He never spoke. Not when he let go of her wrists, not when he got up from the seat across from her, not when he left the room.

Not a single word.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Meet & Greet: Baldwyn Sinclair

Baldwyn Sinclair
the Duke of Paisley

Baldwyn Sinclair is a Scottish duke, the only son of a Scottish father and an English mother. As a young boy, he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother in London, the Dowager Duchess of Durbin. Between his father's influence and his grandmother's strict regulations, he grew up to believe that duty outweighed all other  aspects of life.

Up until now, he has been content to remain in Scotland to fulfill his duty. Truth be told, if he were given his choice, he would be there still, making certain his land, holdings and tenants are cared for.

When the dowager informs him that it falls on him to marry Lady Anastasia and produce an heir, his memory of the little girl throwing mud at him causes him to balk at duty for the first time in his life. But when he meets her and sees the woman she has become, his sense of duty becomes even more of a hindrance.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sweet Saturday: Two Turtledoves

SophieAnderson TheTurtleDoveSmall
Tiptoeing forward, he made his way through the field to stand directly under the giant oak. He slung his musket over his shoulder, crossed his arms, and gazed up into the branches at the offending apparition.

“Young Miss Trent, I presume?”

Her only response was a pitiful whimper. She gazed down on him with wide brown eyes which glistened with fresh tears.

“Are you stuck?” he asked.

After a moment of hesitation, she answered with a loud sniffle. “Yes.”

“Then I shall rescue you, fair damsel,” he announced, sweeping low into a grand bow. He removed his musket sling and game satchel and leaned them against the base of a nearby elm. Without further ado, he reached for the lowest branch and hoisted himself up, crawling higher and higher until he reached her side.

“Alas, fair lady, your knight has arrived.” His most dazzling smile comforted the frightened girl. “However did you come to be imprisoned here in this tower, Princess?”

“My foot is stuck.”

“I see. This is a grave situation indeed. May I?” He gestured to her slipper. Her mousy brown pigtails bounced when she nodded her assent.

With a gentle twist, the boy freed her foot from its confinement. He lifted her into his arms and started back down the tree.

Once safe on the ground, he set the little girl on her feet and knelt on one knee to examine her face-to-face.

“Are you well, Princess?”

She bobbed her head again and threw her arms around his neck.

“There now, Princess,” he said, patting her gently on the back. “All is well.”

As if she remembered her part in the farce, she released him and stepped back with a coy smile and a sweet curtsy. “Thank you, Sir Knight, for rescuing me.”

“At your service, my lady,” he said, rising to his feet and bowing at the waist. “‘Tis my sworn duty to protect a lady of the realm.”

She giggled. Her eyes shone bright with joy in their little game.

“Are you hungry, Princess?” He picked up his hunting satchel and reached inside it, fishing out a shiny red apple and a hard biscuit.

The little girl smiled wide, showing a gap where her two front teeth used to be.

“Oh, dear. I suppose the apple is out of the question then,” the boy said with a wink. “Unless…” he paused thoughtfully, then reached a hand into his bag once more, retrieving a small hunting knife with triumphant flair. “Ta-da!”

She clapped and shrieked with laughter.

“Apple, Princess?”

Her enthusiastic nod sent him straight to work peeling and slicing the fruit into crisp slivers.

They sat under the tree together. He handed the juicy slices to her one at a time, and she munched on them happily. “Thank you, Sir Knight!”

“You, my dear princess, may call me Baldwyn.”

“Baldwyn,” she tried it out, chasing it with a short burst of bubbly little girl laughter.

“There now. Isn’t this much better than being stuck up in that old tree?”


“Whatever were you doing up there anyway?”

“I was looking for the nest.”

“The nest?”

“The turtle doves. Daddy says they make their nests out here in the spring and fly away in the fall.”

“That’s true. They do like it out here in the fields.”

“I heard them crying. I thought maybe they needed help.”

“Ah, yes. They do sound terribly sad, don’t they?”

“Yes. Like they’ve lost their true love.”

The boy chuckled. “I suppose that’s exactly how they sound.” He handed her another sliver of apple. “That sad cry is the sound they make when they call to their mates. Turtle dove pairs don’t like to be apart. So they call to each other, reminding each other where they truly belong.”

She sat silent for a moment, staring at the piece of apple in her hand. “Sometimes I awake at night and hear that sound.” Her voice lowered to a confidential whisper. “Once I followed it to my father’s chamber door.” Her big brown eyes lifted to meet his sparkling blue gaze. “Do you think he cries like that because Mama was his turtle dove?”

The boy’s eyes glistened as he blinked back at her. “That might be,” he whispered finally. They held their peace for a moment, listening to the mournful cry of the turtle doves dodging through the canopy of branches overhead.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friday Favorites: In the Classroom

In honor of a new school year beginning (hmm... that's an ironic statement), I am going to give a couple of recommendations from the pile of books I have taught during my illustrious career.

Part of the deal with teaching is you have to teach some books whether you like it or not. Core curriculum requirements and all that. Luckily, once in awhile you do like it. A couple of my all-time favorite books to teach and read again and again (and make no mistake, when you teach it, you do have to read it over and over and over) are Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury -- the movie does not do it justice -- and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.


Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of twentieth-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future.

Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.

Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life.


"Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice—but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.

One of the best-loved classics of all timeTo Kill a Mockingbird has earned many dis-tinctions since its original publication in 1960. It has won the Pulitzer Prize, been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. It was also named the best novel of the twentieth century by librarians across the country (Library Journal). HarperCollins is proud to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication with this special hardcover edition.

Both of these books are rife with meaning, drama, and a look at the human condition. Loads of stuff to dig through in both of these. That's probably why they make such amazing fodder for English class.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Meet & Greet: Anastasia Trent

Anastasia Trent
the daughter of the Earl of Marks

Lady Anastasia was raised by her father from the age of seven, when her mother fell ill and died. The young girl was her father's pride and joy, the last remaining thing he had of her mother, and so he indulged her, gave her everything her heart desired that he could provide.

A great dreamer, the girl built an elaborate fantasy in her mind of the knight in shining armor, who would one day come to her aid and sweep her off her feet. And who is the hero of this fairy tale but Baldwyn Sinclair, the Duke of Paisley? Returned from Scotland to do just what she'd always dreamed.

Too bad he sees her only as the troublesome little girl in pigtails who flings mud at him in order to gain his attention.

But she is no longer that little girl, and she fully intends to use all the tools at her disposal to turn his head now. Even mud...if it suits her.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sweet Saturday: Duty or Desire

“Good evening, Your Grace. It is a lovely party, don’t you agree?” The lady’s melodic voice floated through the haze of whiskey and brandy his brain seemed to be wading through. Did she know him? He vaguely recollected that one did not to speak to a gentleman of polite society unless they had first been introduced.

She could not be more than twenty, and therefore would not have been introduced into society before he had left for Scotland. It was impossible that she knew him, so perhaps he had been so long in Scotland, the rules had changed.

“I suppose it is, if you enjoy these sorts of things,” he managed to say without slurring.

“Do you mean to say you do not like to dance?”she asked, and her expression seemed more than a little crest-fallen.

“Oh, no. I enjoy dancing. It is just that this evening in particular…” How should he explain it? He allowed his gaze to sweep over her as he weighed his response. She was a sweet beauty. Her chestnut tresses were swept up in a becoming fashion, with only a few rebellious tendrils teasing at the back of her slender ivory neck. Her eyes were dreamy dark almonds, fixed in anticipation upon his lips, as though waiting for something—some pearls of wisdom to drip from them.

“Yes, Your Grace?” she prompted. Baldwyn noted her full soft pink lips.

He cleared his throat. And his eyes traced the length of her light gold dress which clung to her every curve…curves in all the right places. Why couldn’t his grandmother have chosen someone who looked like this? Instead, he would be forever chained to a straight-framed girl in pigtails who flung mud balls in order to get his attention.

The thought brought him sailing back to the present conversation. And he remembered his indignation at the prospect of the impending announcement of his engagement.

“This particular evening is the beginning of my destruction,” he finally answered. “My grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Durbin and Evil Incarnate, has—with neither my knowledge nor my consent, mind you—struck a betrothal contract on my behalf with a wretched little wench with a wiry frame and mousy brown hair. No more than a child she is!” It gushed out of him before he knew it was coming.

The lady stared at him with wide dark eyes as though she had been struck. Baldwyn supposed it did sound shocking, coming out with so little concern for proper conversation. He was perhaps more than a little foxed.

“Pardon me, my lady. It’s just that the horrid woman called me back from Scotland rather suddenly, and sprung this news on me just this afternoon. I mean, I hardly know the chit, but what I do know of her, I can tell you, is enough to cause a gentleman to do himself in.”

“I s-see. She…She sounds perfectly dreadful, I’m sure,” the lady said, her voice almost a whisper. She seemed to be recoiling for some reason. Had what he said truly been that shocking?

Baldwyn bit into something gooey spread over a piece of bread and eyed his companion with concern.

“She threw mud balls at me,” he added after a moment.

Her face grew pale in an instant, and she shook her head in horror. Here was a woman who understood exactly how appalling that act had been! He smiled at her to offer some comfort. “It was several years ago, of course. Both my horse and I have since recovered from the trauma,” he said with a hint at humor in his voice, hoping to lighten her burden on his behalf.

The lady did not seem comforted, so he made up his mind to ask her to dance. As he turned to offer his services to her, however, the music stopped and he heard the unmistakable voice of the dowager shatter the peace of the room.

“Lords and ladies…” she began.

Baldwyn’s stomach clenched into a tiny knot, and he regretted eating anything. He glanced at the lady, whose eyes seemed to be scrutinizing his every move.

“It is my pleasure to welcome my grandson, the Duke of Paisley, back to London, and…” She seemed to be drawing the announcement out as long as possible. Probably hoping to prolong his agony. “…to announce his engagement to the lovely Lady Anastasia, daughter of Lord Marks.”

He could feel the blood rushing from his face and pooling in his feet, making them feel like his boots were full of millstones. His ears felt as though they had burst into flame at his grandmother’s announcement.

“Your Grace,” the melodic voice floated to him once more. Baldwyn glanced towards her. “I believe that’s our cue.”

She slipped her slender gloved hand around his arm, and smiled weakly. The reality of what she said sunk in slowly, weaving its way past the whiskey and the brandy and the indignation. Even then his disbelief blinded him, but she forced him to move forward.

Forward to the dreaded fate of being forever fettered to the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Friday Favorites: A Lot Like a Lady

A Lot Like a Lady by Kay Springsteen and Kim Bowman

Probably one of my favorite Regency romance books is A Lot Like a Lady by Kim Bowman and Kay Springsteen. It's a relatively new release (March 2012). They do such a good job with their characters and developing the relationship between them. The research that went into the story is evident too. Funny situations and humorous secondary characters. Love this one! Not gonna lie, I've read it more than once. Can't wait for the sequel to release!


Ladies’ maid, Juliet Baines has gotten herself into a pickle by agreeing to go to London and taking the place of her mistress and best friend, Annabella Price, stepsister to the Duke of Wyndham. After all, what does a servant know about being a lady? But Juliet soon finds that pretending to be a lady isn’t nearly as hard as guarding her heart against the folly of wanting a man who’s completely out of reach.

Graeme "Grey" Roland Dominick Markwythe, Sixth Duke of Wyndham, approaches his duties as a nobleman with great dedication and meticulous care. And he’s a man who is not easily fooled...except when he tries to convince himself he's not utterly and madly in love with the beautiful imposter who has turned his life upside down. Will society and his responsibilities to his noble status keep him from opening his heart to the woman he loves?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sweet Saturday: Playing Nursemaid

Fresh Snow in the garden of Ambras Castle
Anastasia sank into his warm embrace, wishing the moment would never end. His kiss grew more intense, more demanding, drawing her deeper into the haze of longing for him. His hands felt their way to her arms, as if he would lift her again into his embrace. When his fingers tightened around them, a stabbing pain shot straight through her and she flinched against it.

Instantly Baldwyn released her and stumbled backwards, searching her face for signs of injury. Before her very eyes, the cloud of desire dissipated from his, retreating in the face of raw fear, and on the heels of that fear, sparked to life a blaze of hot fury. So sudden was the transformation, she had no time to react before he had drawn an index finger up in front of her face.

Cabin fireplace “What were you thinking! Have you not been told never to roam the gardens unchaperoned with any man? Were you not concerned for your reputation? For your virtue? Is this the type of daughter Lord Marks has raised?” Baldwyn dropped his hand to his side, clenching it into a fist with evident rage. He began pacing back and forth before her. Anastasia shrank back as he lashed out again. “You, who so brazenly go gallivanting about in the dark with a suave foreigner? What did you expect him to do, pray tell? Out there in the dark! In solitude!”

“Truly, Your Grace, I wasn’t—” she began, but he cut her off with his continued tirade.

“What if I had not happened by? What if I had been inside searching the ballroom for my betrothed and never once thought to look out of doors?”

A lump rose in Anastasia’s throat, and she didn’t dare risk her voice, lest it give away the tears threatening to break through the floodgates. Confusion and fear reigned.

Only a moment ago, he held her in his embrace. Comforting and shielding her from the waking nightmare she had endured. And now—now he derided her for her glaring stupidity. Her naïveté. Scolding her as if she was a mere child.

A mere child in mousy brown pigtails.

“Were you?”

“What?” He stopped in his tracks and swung around to face her.

“Were you?” she repeated.

“Was I what?” he demanded.

“Were you searching for me?” Her heart dared to hope for it.

His reply was an exasperated grunt. Then he pivoted on his heel and stormed from the room bellowing, “It’s not enough that you tear me from my true duty in the dead of winter, but now I must play nursemaid to the infants as well!”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Friday Favorites: River of Time

One of my new favorite series: River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren. I've had these books sitting on my TBR pile for several weeks and just got around to them a few days ago. Gotta say, I read one a day. Couldn't stop. Seriously. They're that good.


Waterfall (Book 1)
While most American teens would kill for an Italian vacation, the Betarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives there with their archaeologist parents. And they’re not happy to be back. Stuck on yet another hot, dusty dig, they are bored out of their minds…until they place their hands atop handprints in an ancient tomb and find themselves catapulted into the Fourteenth Century. Gabi emerges in the middle of a dream–or nightmare?–with hot Italian knights in a fierce battle. And so begins her quest to return home…while wondering if she wants to at all.

Cascade (Book 2)
Gabi knows she’s left her heart in the fourteenth century and she persuades Lia to help her to return, even though they know doing so will risk their very lives. When they arrive, weeks have passed and all of Siena longs to celebrate the heroines who turned the tide in the battle against Florence—while the Fiorentini will go to great lengths to see them dead. But Marcello patiently awaits, and Gabi must decide if she’s willing to leave her family behind for good in order to give her heart to him forever.

Torrent (Book 3)
Gabi and Lia Betarrini have learned to control their time travel, and they return from medieval Italy to save their father from his tragic death in modern times.   But love calls across the centuries, and the girls are determined to return forever—even though they know the Black Plague is advancing across Europe, claiming the lives of one-third of the population. In this suspenseful installment of the River of Time series, every decision is about life … and death.

There are two companion novellas that go along with the series (Bourne and Tributary). They are waiting on my Kindle as we speak, up next! Can't wait! :)