I'll get there, though. I'm at page 135 out of 375 so my early morning sessions which start at 5am when the house is silent, are paying off.
In other wonderful news, I just sold the Large Print rights of the final two of my three Regencies first published by Robert Hale, to Ulverscroft. Now Lady Sarah's Redemption (my very first book) and A Little Deception (which was shortlisted Favourite Historical for 2011 and which I extensively revised last year) will join Lady Farquhar's Butterfly, which was always a bit of a favourite.
Lady Farqhar's Butterfly is due for ebook release on September 30th or thereabouts, and I'm excited about that. I've always liked this story which is a psychological study of a woman branded an adulteress and stripped of her infant son by her vengeful late husband. There's a big underlying mystery at the heart of it, too, as she seeks to reclaim what is hers, first through deception and ultimately through very different means.
But now here's the blurb for the WORK IN PROGRESS - The Maid of Milan
After two years of marriage, Adelaide has fallen in love with the handsome, honourable husband who nurtured her through her darkest hours.
Now Adelaide’s former lover, the passionate poet from whose arms she was torn by her family during their illicit liaison in Milan six years previously has returned, a celebrity due to the success of his book The Maid of Milan.
High society is as desperate to discover the identity of his ‘muse’ as Adelaide is to protect her newfound love and her husband’s political career.
If only the men had not been childhood friends.
Published by Choc Lit
And now for Excerpts from ..
THE RELUCTANT BRIDE
‘It’s not a sin, unless you get caught.’
The gentle breeze seemed to whisper Jack’s teasing challenge, its soft, silken fingers tugging at Emily’s ingrained obedience. She put down her basket and stared with longing at the waters below, sweat prickling her scalp beneath her poke bonnet as desire warred with fear of the consequences.
‘Where’s your sense of adventure, Em?’
Still resisting, Emily closed her eyes, but the wind’s wicked suggestiveness was like the caress of Jack’s breath against her heated cheek; daring Emily to shrug aside a lifetime of dutiful subservience – again – and peel off her clothes, this time to plunge into the inviting stream beneath the willows.
She imagined Jack’s warm brown eyes glinting with wickedness. Taunting her like the burr that had worked its way into the heel of her woollen stockings during her walk.
Exhaling on a sigh, Emily opened her eyes and admitted defeat as she succumbed to the pull of the reed-fringed
Desire had won, justified by practicality. If she had to remove one stocking to dislodge the burr she might as well remove both.
Scrambling down the embankment, she lowered herself onto a rock by the water’s edge. Her father would never know. If he glanced from his study in the tower room, where he was doubtless gloating over his balance sheet, he’d assume she was a village lass making her way along the track. Emily had never seen him interest himself in the poor except …
Like most unpleasant memories, she tried to cast this one out with a toss of her head, still glad her father had never
discovered what she’d witnessed from her bedroom window one evening five years ago: the curious sight of Bartholomew
Micklen ushering the beggar girl who’d arrived on his doorstep into his carriage.
Then climbing in after her before it rumbled down the driveway and out of sight.
Now was just another of those moments when Emily was glad her father remained in ignorance. Her insurance, should she need it, was that she knew a few of her father’s secrets the excise men might just want to know.
By the time the first stocking had followed Emily’s boots onto the grassy bank she was bursting with anticipation for her swim.
What did one more sin matter when she’d be Mrs Jack Noble in less than a week?
END OF EXCERPT #1
In this excerpt Angus has visited the woman he's loved from afar to tell her that her fiance has just been killed. Unfortunately he tells her a lie to spare her pain; a lie that returns to haunt him after he's made her his 'reluctant bride'.
Major Angus McCartney was out of his depth.
He glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. Only five minutes in this gloomy, oppressive parlour after the women
had arrived and he was questioning his ability to complete his mission, a feeling he’d not experienced before Corunna
four years before.
He’d been unprepared for the assault on his senses unleashed by the beautiful Miss Micklen. He shifted position once more, fingering the letters that belonged to her. For two years he’d carried the memory of the young woman before him as a confident, radiant creature in a white muslin ball gown with a powder-blue sash. Now her tragic, disbelieving gaze unleashed a flood of memory, for in her distress she bore no resemblance to the paragon of beauty at the Regimental Ball, a bright memory in an otherwise tormented year after he’d been invalided out of Spain. Clearly Miss Micklen did not remember him.
She’d remember him forever now: as the harbinger of doom, for as surely as if he’d pulled the trigger he’d just consigned her hopes and dreams to cinders.
She turned suddenly, catching him by surprise, and the painful, searing memory of the last time he’d confronted such grief tore through him.
Corunna again. As if presented on a platter, the image of the soldier’s woman he’d assisted flashed before his eyes, forcing him to draw a sustaining breath as he battled with the familiar self-reproach which threatened to unman him.
He reminded himself he was here to do good.
‘A skirmish near the barracks?’ the young woman whispered, resting her hands upon her crippled mother’s shoulders. ‘Last Wednesday?’
‘That is correct, ma’am.’
Mrs Micklen muttered some incoherent words, presumably of sympathy. Angus pitied them both: Miss Micklen digesting her sudden bereavement, and the mother for her affliction. The older woman sat hunched in her chair by the fire, unable to turn her head, her claw-like hands trembling in her lap.
He cleared his throat, wishing he’d taken more account of his acknowledged clumsiness with the fairer sex. He was not up to the task. He’d dismissed the cautions of his fellow officers, arrogantly thinking he’d be shirking his duty were he not the one to deliver the news. It was condolences he should be offering, and he had not the first idea how to appeal to a frail feminine heart.
Nor was he accustomed to the lies tripping off his tongue as he added, ‘A tragic mishap, ma’am, but Captain Noble acquitted himself with honour to the end.’
Miss Micklen’s gaze lanced him with its intensity. Tears glistened, held in check by her dark lashes. ‘I can’t believe it,’ she whispered, moving to draw aside the heavy green velvet curtain and stare at the dipping sun. ‘Jack told me he was on the Continent.’
Choosing not to refute Jack’s lie, he said carefully, ‘An altercation occurred between a group of infantry in which I was unwittingly involved. When Captain Noble came to my assistance he was struck a mortal blow to the head. I’m sorry, Miss Micklen.’
He wished he knew how to offer comfort. The beautiful Miss Micklen of the Christmas Regimental Ball had seemed all-powerful in her cocoon of happy confidence. Unobtainable as the stars in heaven, he’d thought as he’d watched her skirt the dance floor in the arms of the unworthy Jack Noble. For so long he’d carried Miss Micklen’s image close to his heart and this was the first time he’d been reminded of Jessamine.
God, how weary he was of war.
END OF EXCERPT #2
Angus and Emily, newly married, have just been visited unexpectedly by Angus’s brother and his unsuitable consort. Emily, embarrassed by her highly pregnant state and knowing it will cause gossip amongst Angus’s family, reacts in this scene to her husband’s apologies for the situation Emily has just confronted.
With deliberate care Emily set down the plates once more and turned to look at her husband through narrowed eyes.
‘For contaminating me with a lady of dubious repute? But Angus, how much worse a contaminant would I have been had you not married me?’ She patted her swollen belly. ‘You’d be apologising to your brother. A fallen woman—’
‘Don’t speak like that.’ His wide-set eyes burned with undeserved defence of her. ‘Men’s impulses can be ungovernable, but ladies do not suffer such … urges … You
were … taken advantage of.’
Emily stared at him. She sucked in a long, quavering breath as her simmering anger came finally to the boil. Is that what he believed? That she was insensible to passion? And that was a good thing?
‘What would you say if I told you that my impulses were every bit as ungovernable as Jack’s?’ She could barely control her anger sufficiently to speak. For days she had forced her
feelings into the background, using the same emotional device against her unwanted husband as she had when her father insulted her, shutting out the hurt by erecting a barrier
as impenetrable as steel.
Now, feeling surged through her, blackening her vision and causing her to sway. She put her hand on the back of the sofa to steady herself.
Angus stood awkwardly by the door, as if unsure whether to move closer to support her, or beat a tactful retreat.
Emily glared at him. ‘What if I told you that I was so consumed by passion in Jack’s arms I would not have heeded the Blessed Virgin Mary cautioning me against the temptations of the flesh?’ She tried to regulate her breathing, but the rage was clawing its way further up her body, threatening to make her its puppet. She, who never lost her temper. ‘I loved Jack. I was his slave in passion, every bit as culpable as he. If you are so concerned for virtue, spare your condemnation of innocent Miss Galway. You need only cast your eyes upon your wife to be singed by my sin. There! I have confessed my true nature. Whatever you thought of me before, you cannot but think worse of me now.’ She registered the horror in his eyes and was glad for it. Much better that she banish any pretence between them.
She’d never expressed anger as poisonous as this. At first it frightened her, then it sent exhilaration pulsing through her. Her love for Jack had been cut off at the root. Now hatred filled her veins, making her feel alive again. ‘And so you know, I care nothing for your opinion,’ she added.
She managed to remain upright, though her vision came in waves. She could feel her strength leaving her, but she had to spit out the truth so he’d have no illusions as to the kind of woman he’d married. A woman no good man deserved.
‘You married me because you needed a wife. I married you so I could keep my child. We made a contract. My body is yours to do with as you please, but that is all you will ever have. My thoughts, my feelings, my love will be forever out of bounds to you.’
END OF EXCERPT
In this scene Angus has just proposed to Emily his plan of inviting Emily’s father to visit.
‘If you think he’ll forgive me you know nothing of my father!’ She jerked forward in the bed. ‘Reconciliation is not possible!’
Instead of declaring roundly, as Jack might have done, that he’d make sure it all came to pass, Angus took a while to gather his thoughts. ‘You are respectably married,’ he said slowly. ‘The child will be born legitimate. You’ve brought no shame upon your family. Restoring ties between you and your father is important.’
‘No, you don’t understand.’ She was close to tears as she gripped his hands which were suddenly clasping hers. ‘Papa is vengeful. I sinned. If he could find another way to compound my suffering, my shame, he’d do it.’
Angus hunkered down to take her in his arms and as she was squeezed gently but firmly she felt a strange sensation in the pit of her stomach. Not the movement of the baby and something that was quite definitely more than just gratitude for his concern.
‘You belong to me now, not your father,’ he soothed.
With her ear pressed against his bare chest once again, Emily could hear the strong staccato beat of his heart. The strength of his arms around her was strangely comforting, for indeed the domineering spectre of Bartholomew Micklen did seem diluted.
Gently he lay her back down on the pillow and for a long moment she stared at him as if he were not the husband forced upon her whom she despised.
Still, it was important Angus understand. She clasped her hands and pleaded, ‘Don’t petition my father for forgiveness. It will only give him another focus for his dissatisfaction with me.’ She turned her head away.
‘Then I want to be the means by which you are reconciled. I can do that, Emily.’
She sucked in a quavering breath. ‘I don’t know why you’re so concerned that I mend ties with my father. It’s not as if I came with a dowry dependent upon his goodwill.’
Almost viciously she added, ‘And it’s not as if you married for love.’
In the lengthening silence she regretted her words, but it was too late. Miserably she stared at the wall.
Angus stroked her hands which plucked at the bedcovers. Then, leaning over her, he kissed her brow, his murmured words filling her with immediate warmth only to be swept away by fear of her own failings. ‘My dear Emily, I married where I thought I might find it.’