It's a dual personality day today. Right now I'm promoting my Ellora's Cave series, now that DANGEROUS GENTLEMEN is about to go to edits. It's the sequel to HER GILDED PRISON, a story of forbidden love between an older woman and a younger man - whose futures are determined by a bet over mating spiders.
(Here's a blurb for DANGEROUS GENTLEMEN, and you can read an extract, below.)
‘Two rich and powerful men pose different dangers to an innocent debutante in Regency England.’
An innocent debutante, embroiled in the Regency underworld, becomes a prostitute to save her own life but when her new “protector” is falsely branded an enemy of the Crown, there’s nothing she won’t do to see his name cleared.
BUT I'M ALSO ...
... also off to visit the local country libraries in the beautiful Macedon Ranges after delivering my 8-year-old to do Circus Arts during these school holidays.
There are 3 things I'm hoping to achieve.
The first is to advertise the course I'm teaching at the local Macedon Ranges Further Education Centre in Gisborne on HOW TO WRITE A ROMANCE - AND SELL IT.
It's a 6 week course held on a Tuesday at 9.30am and it's been well received, both locally and in Melbourne where I teach at at the CAE (Centre of Adult Education) in Flinders Lane on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm.
The last Saturday is the day after tomorrow but the CAE is running another course next semester.
I'm off to sell my History Through Costume Talks, below:
Crinolines, Corsets and Cosmetics
How restrictive (and dangerous) were the devices used by the Regency and Victorian woman to achieve the ideal silhouette and complexion?
Dressed in a 1780s polonaise, and assisted by mannequins in Regency and Victorian dress, Choc Lit author Beverley Eikli will describe the many layers needed to create the silhouette of the day, and explain how fashion was affected by social unrest and political upheavals.
This is partly to promote my September release, published by Choc Lit under my Beverley Eikli name, The Reluctant Bride.
The above proposal is also what I'm pitching to run at the New Orleans Romantic Times Convention next May.
This week, my publisher Total-e-Bound put up my Hot Shots Free Read - THE ENEMY WITHIN - about lust and revenge in the aftermath of the French Revolution.
Brushing beetles out of her cleavage as she shrouded herself in the fronds of a concealing potted palm was not how Hetty envisaged making her grand London debut.
Still, it was better to be hidden by the horticulture than being humiliated as one. A wallflower. She’d prepared herself for such a fate but being passed over for the last three dances at Lady Knox’s lavish ball had brought home to her how much worse was the reality.
A painful reality that was going to last another three months before she could return to her quiet, unexciting but familiar home.
As the orchestra tuned up for another country dance Hetty watched the slow progress of a ladybird over the bodice of her white sarsanet gown. How much more complimentary the little creature’s bold red and black coat would have been to her own lackluster coloring. A debutante was required to wear white and pale shades to reflect her innocence, status and wealth. The ballroom was bursting with such rare prizes, she reflected gloomily as she carefully transferred the ladybird onto a palm frond. Wallflowers like her faced fierce competition and she was not bolstered by her sister Araminta’s kind reassurance that her sizeable dowry would ultimately compensate for her lack of looks after all the pretty girls had contracted good marriages by the end of the season.
Guiltily she watched her chaperone Mrs. Monks pass nearby, an anxious frown turning down the corners of her thin, bloodless mouth. Hetty held her breath. The truth was, she wasn’t hiding only to avoid public humiliation.
Really, she was here to spy, though spying was the preserve of devious sorts like Araminta.
Araminta, the bold and beautiful sister who was currently clasping hands with the handsome baronet whose brief kindness towards Hetty at the beginning of the evening had ignited a torrent of never-before experienced sensations but whose later actions had quashed every hope for the season Hetty had foolishly entertained.
No, spying from behind a potted palm was as close as a shy, plump debutante like Hetty would ever get to her heart’s desire.
A little sob escaped her as she gazed upon the well-matched couple. Araminta, as always, was dazzling, yet for a few moments earlier this evening, dressed for her first ball in her new cream sarsanet with its powder blue sash, her light brown hair tumbling in curls from a high topknot at the apex of a center parting, Hetty, too, had felt almost beautiful.
Then Araminta had swept her aside to admire her own gleaming reflection before the looking glass.
Indeed, gleaming and self-satisfied were appropriate epithets, and ones Hetty was as inclined to use on the family Siamese cat as her sister. She knew she shouldn’t be uncharitable. Araminta’s first season had ended under a cloud and she should be pleased her sister had caught the eye of a man as seriously handsome and eligible as Sir Aubrey, a baronet who was set to inherit a viscountcy and vast estates in the north.
But it was hard to rejoice in Araminta’s good fortune when Hetty still felt the pain of her sister’s dismissive: “I suppose you’re up to the mark as much as can be expected”—lip service to Hetty’s doubtful inquiry regarding her appearance.
Not only had tonight brought home clearly the fact that Hetty was seriously wanting in the eyes of the male contingent, it had highlighted the fact she was completely beneath the notice of dashing Sir Aubrey, for all that it had started with such a flourish when he’d returned her dropped reticule to her with a bow of sweeping chivalry and a smile that had seemed for her alone. Silly girl. He smiled like that at all the girls, of course.
Still, Hetty never suffered from the blue devils for long and the lively music soon had her tapping her feet, enjoying her seclusion and fascinated by the way the light caught the extraordinary streak of white hair that cut a swathe through Sir Aubrey’s dark locks. Araminta, while pointing out the peculiarities of several gentlemen of interest, had told her while dressing earlier in the evening that it was a peculiar physical trait shared by all the men in his family.
The foot-tapping stopped abruptly when Hetty saw Sir Aubrey tighten his hold on her sister after Araminta stumbled.
Conniving minx, Hetty thought uncharitably, even though being charitable was, she knew, one of her few commendable traits and that if she couldn’t be beautiful she should at least try to be nice.
Living with Araminta for the past eighteen years, however, had opened her eyes to the fact that vibrant beauties could get away without being nice or charitable and Araminta was certainly neither. But in all those years Hetty had not known jealousy.
The corrosive poison had only started dripping into her veins tonight—not to see Araminta feted, admired and in continual demand, for she was used to that—but to witness Sir Aubrey’s interest, though she’d told herself a thousand times it should hardly come as a surprise that rakish, handsome Sir Aubrey didn’t notice debutantes like plain, plump and awkward Hetty.
The fact his piercing smile at the beginning of the evening was an aberration had been made very clear when not an hour since he’d accidentally spilled champagne upon her arm yet barely paused to flick a snowy linen handkerchief across her sleeve and offer a lackluster apology before hurrying on.
Standing on tiptoe to get a better view through the glossy leaves of her concealment, Hetty was relieved to see Sir Aubrey was no longer dancing with Araminta, though the fact he was now partnering another beautiful brunette was hardly consoling.
Especially when, in the midst of conversation, he brushed a tendril of the young woman’s hair back from her face.
The intimacy of the gesture, or rather, the look upon his face, sent tendrils of pain and pleasure deep into Hetty’s belly, though these hitherto-alien bodily experiences turned to fright when a familiar growl warmed her ear at the same time as the speaker delivered her a playful slap upon the rump.
“Who, may I ask, Hetty dearest, has caught your discerning eye this evening? Tell me so that I might facilitate the joyful union before season’s end. You know I’ve made it my mission to see to your happiness.”
Hetty whirled round, blinking up at her cousin Stephen, unsure whether pity, amusement or—God Forbid—scorn would be his response when she offered her almost guilty admission as to the object of her interest.
To her surprise it was horror. Horror delivered with surely unnecessary force given that all London knew Sir Aubrey Banks was a prime catch. She’d heard him discussed in such terms by more than one designing mama.
Although, registering Cousin Stephen’s antipathy Hetty reflected that there had been some caveat about Sir Aubrey’s eligibility whispered by her mama’s friend Mrs. Dobson in an undertone.
Stephen’s earlier good humor had evaporated and he looked pained.
“My dear Hetty, lose your heart to anyone but Sir Aubrey,” he exhorted her. “Under no circumstances can he be a candidate for your affections.” Suspicion laced his next question. “He hasn’t spoken to you, has he?” Stephen put his hands on her shoulders, a troubled crease between his brows. What she’d thought anger was, she now realized, the gravest concern.
“He’s never looked twice at me, Cousin Stephen, and why would he? I’m in no danger from his advances?” Hetty tossed her head as Araminta might have done while she sought for the word she’d heard whispered in the drawing room in the months preceding her ‘come-out’. A word she knew no innocent debutante ought to know. “Is he a philanderer?”
Stephen returned to his natural height with a look that was part wry amusement, part censure. “No, Sir Aubrey is not a renowned philanderer, but what he is must not concern you.” He became brisk. “Since it would appear you are not taken for the quadrille that is forming, perhaps you’d do me the honor?”