As many of you know this is my first year of writing full time and to prove I've not been twiddling my thumbs, on the 6th of April you will find two new books published! Historical romance is a genre I have loved for many years, most especially Regency Romance. Anyone who has read the Dark series will know that my Fae Lands are based on a world very much like Regency England. I am a massive fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, and whilst my romances would undoubtedly make those ladies blush scarlet, I do hope you will enjoy them and end up dreaming of a pirate or perhaps an Earl of your own. You will find the first chapter of The Rogue below for a taster and of course, the buy links! Please note The Rogue is FREE on Kindle Unlimited.
For all of those who are Dark Addicts or #teamcorvus please don’t worry, I have in no way abandoned my other series and there will be more coming from them soon, The Dark Deceit being the next up.
To go with my new full time author status I am redoing all of my covers and I have a shiny new website which I hope you will check out too. You will also receive a regular monthly newsletter with information and teasers for all my upcoming work.
As a bit of extra fun you will find the prologue to an ongoing story from a guest author based around a couple of characters that many of you in the USA will find familiar.
I hope you like all the changes and the new work. It would be wonderful if all you paranormal romance readers would perhaps take a step into the past with me and see if you love it as much as I do! As always your support means the world to me so please do tell your friends, recommend my work and leave reviews! Thanks so much, I hope you have a Happy Easter and a fabulous April!
“Wherein our heroine loses a handkerchief and gains more than she bargained for.”
Henrietta Morton followed the gaze of her maid as she stared out of the shop window, and was unsurprised to see her attention had been taken by a strutting, preening flock of red jackets. Tutting with impatience, she rolled her eyes. Annie's attention span was limited at the best of times, but get her within eyelash-batting distance of a handsome man and you'd lose her entirely. Though Henri had to admit there was an air of excitement about the men this morning. They seemed alert and full of enthusiasm for something, with the officers shouting orders and the men running to obey them with alacrity. She wondered if the gentlemen had been at work last night, as they called the smugglers involved in the free trade that was so rife in the area. Everyone knew to draw their curtains and look the other way when a run was in progress. She prayed that no one got caught. Life was desperately hard here in Cornwall, and it was no wonder people turned to smuggling.
She pursed her lips as Annie fussed with her own mousy brown hair, pinched her already pink cheeks and surreptitiously adjusted her pale, freckled bosoms to greater advantage, obviously hopeful that the men would still be there on their way back home. Ignoring her maid’s wistful sigh with a frown, Henri returned her own gaze to the shopkeeper's offerings. Mr Warren had been most attentive this morning, far more so than ever before, she thought, failing to keep the scowl from her face. He was usually rather short with her, and anxious to get back to his other customers - the ones who paid. The only reason she dared show her face here now was because her father had finally made good on his outstanding bill. The reason why that bill had been paid was also the reason for her visit, and her unhappiness.
Mr Warren came back again, this time with white silk gloves. The man had been scurrying back and forth with every item and scrap of material he thought might please her for the past hour. She had inspected the finest cloth, sprigged muslin, spotted muslin, striped, checked and embroidered muslin, cambric and kerseymere and enough silk to rig a Man o War. But in fact nothing could please her, and the acres of white lace laid out before her only filled her with dismay. She had tried with all her strength not to feel bitter about the situation she now found herself in, but all her hopes and dreams for the future had been shattered, and there was nothing she could do about it.
“Lawd,” said her maid with another sigh of longing. “Ain't they pretty?”
Henri tutted and returned her attention to the redcoats, under no illusion that the woman had been speaking of the lace. “Do you think you could keep your mind on the job for just a moment,” she said, looking around and hoping no one else was watching Annie, whose tongue was practically lolling.
“Not while them tight breeches is in full view, no, miss, don't reckon I can.”
Henri rolled her eyes and cursed her father. Cursing her father was becoming a daily ritual.
Lord John Morton was an amiable fellow, beloved by all, except those with outstanding bills and currently his daughter. Henri spent most of her time trying to fend off the bailiffs. It was he who had engaged Annie Tripp, a woman of questionable morals and background, to be Henri's lady's maid.
At the impressionable age of thirteen and after the death of her mother, she had been introduced to a far wider world than she had ever imagined by the lurid tales of the woman at her side. Annie had been found in London in the service of one of Lord Morton's friends. Her native London accent and vocabulary were coarse and colourful and spoke vividly of Cheapside where it appeared she had lived since a child, though any further background was vague at best. Rather than bestir himself to find a more suitable prospect for his only child, Lord Morton found Annie was available - her previous charge having been recently married - and so was instantly engaged as abigail to Henrietta. Her suitability or otherwise for such a position seemed not to have troubled him unduly, further than the fact she seemed kind and wouldn't scold Henri too harshly. Of course it wasn't that her father was uncaring or indeed an unloving parent, in fact he doted on his daughter. He was, however, oblivious to the dangers of the world at large, and specifically those pertaining to a young girl.
Henri had, in fact, navigated those last five years with no visible damage, and would even go so far as to believe Annie had done her much good, opening her eyes to the ways of the world and men in particular. In this at least her father had been forgiven. But she was now to be married to pay his debts, to a man who was considered by her own acquaintances to be the devil himself. This man was possibly even responsible for the death of his own brother; and that she was finding harder to forgive.
She bit her tongue against the barrage of angry words that seemed to be forever crowded in her mouth these past days and tried to find some enthusiasm for the intricate detail on the Honiton lace she held in her hands. It was incredibly fine, with a motif of honey bees dotted around the edges. Wasps would have been more appropriate. She grimaced at the thought and then chided herself for her bitterness. Except it wasn't fair, it was her father's fault that they were facing ruin. It was he who had gambled away what little fortune they'd had, and now she was to be sold off to the highest bidder.
She closed her eyelids against the prickle of tears that gathered behind her eyes and walked away to the back of the shop on the pretext of looking at the ribbons, leaving Annie to enjoy the view until Henri could regain her composure. She wiped her eyes on her handkerchief and sniffed, allowing herself to indulge in a rare moment of pity.
The shop’s back door beckoned. It led out onto the proprietor's garden, and she spent a moment looking out at a rather wonderful view of her own, this time over the fields and countryside and out to the sea. Far more exposed than the southern coast of Cornwall, here on the north coast, the little villages huddled against the cliff for protection. The place had a wild and untamed nature that suited Henri who would often escape for long walks, as close to the sheer cliffs as she dared. She would stand for hours with the wind whipping her hair about her face, staring off into the distance and wondering what life might hold on the other side of the world. Annie, always more practical and less romantic, had a different view about these walks, and most especially the shocking state of her petticoats by the time she got home.
But on days like today, she wanted to escape more than ever, perhaps even to run away and not come back. The sea was calm and glittering, the sky a bright cheerful blue that tempted you into believing that spring was just around the corner, though everyone knew well it was far off yet. As always, though, the sea calmed her heart a little and it was with a resigned sigh that she turned back, intending to return to Annie and the blasted lace for her veil. But the sudden crash of a door opening and shutting with some force had her spinning around in alarm. The sight that greeted her did nothing to calm her.
It was a man, though he seemed to share little resemblance to the fine peacocks parading at the front of the shop. The look of this man spoke of a fierce and wild life, of violence and adventure, and the taking of anything he wanted, when he wanted it. A single, terrifying word screamed in her head the moment she set eyes on him: pirate!
For a moment she was perfectly certain her heart stopped in her chest, only to restart with a crash as a pair of impossibly blue eyes met hers.
He was a large and imposing presence. Tall and broad-shouldered, her eyes fell to take in strong, powerful legs encased in high leather boots. His hair was long and black and fell unruly and untamed around a square jaw. Hooped gold earrings glittered against the thick, dark locks, but it was the black mask painted in a thin band across his eyes that made fear prickle over her skin.The mask was disturbing, pagan somehow, making his eyes glitter with an intensity that would have been unsettling enough in ordinary circumstances.
Another crash of a door sounded from the front of the shop, accompanied by gasps and remonstrations from the clientèle as the five armed militia men that Annie had been admiring entered the small shop. Henri turned with her heart in her throat to see the flash of another red coat heading up through the back garden towards the door. The pirate cursed, though quietly and she could only admire his calm in the circumstances. If he truly was a pirate he would surely hang.
He looked back to her and she knew this was the moment she should scream. She should shout out to the redcoats that their man was here and to come and get him. He was watching her, those fierce eyes remarkably placid, though it was plain he was waiting for her to react as she should.
For no good reason she could think of, Henri felt a pang of sorrow at the idea of those bright blue eyes being extinguished, and in a moment of inexplicable madness, she drew back the curtain that led to a discreet changing area where the more timid ladies could try on hats, without the judging glances of other shoppers. Her pirate looked at her in surprise for the briefest moment, and then wasted no more time in disappearing behind the heavy drapes as the door opened to allow another red-coated militia man into the small shop. This one, a Lieutenant, bowed to Henri and gave a tight smile.
“Begging your pardon, miss,” he said, sounding a little puffed. “I'm Lieutenant Bowcher of St Elizabeth's regiment, Royal Cornwall Militia. May I enquire, did you see anyone pass this way?”
With a calm and somewhat haughty demeanour that she didn’t entirely understand, she responded. “No, sir, none but my maid, and I cannot imagine it is she who is causing your men to burst in upon civilised people as though you chase Satan from the crypt.” Henri gave the lieutenant the benefit of a disgusted look, the one she generally reserved for scolding their fat Labrador when he had been stealing from the kitchens again.
To her consternation it appeared the lieutenant was not quite as easily cowed as the dog, and the man stared back at her with a considering frown before marching off through the shop to demand if anyone else had seen anything.
Henri stood and inspected a truly horrible green ribbon with great interest and trembling fingers, and wondered what on earth she was playing at. She was only too aware of the weight of a bright blue gaze upon her from the crack between the curtains and prayed the man would keep his head, stay still, and not prove her a liar.
The lieutenant returned to her, apparently intending to exit the way he'd come, but paused to speak once more. “We are pursuing a very dangerous individual, miss, a pirate in fact. We had word that he had business here and we know he came ashore close by. He's wanted by the crown, and by countries far beyond our own, and his deeds are many and bloody.” The man paused for the import of his words to sink in before adding, “Please do let us know if you see or hear of anything that would lead to his capture. And I would suggest you return home with a male escort. It isn't safe for you to walk with just a maid while Captain Savage is on the loose.”
“Captain Savage?” she repeated, her voice a little faint.
The lieutenant nodded. “There's a large reward for his capture,” he added.
Perversely this last comment made Henri crosser than ever.
“Sir, I hope you do not imply that I would only do my duty as a citizen if I stand to gain some financial reward?” she demanded, drawing herself up as tall as she might.
For a moment the lieutenant looked appalled, and she was gratified to see that his cheeks were a little pink. “Of course not, miss,” he said and shook his head. “I meant no offence. If you would please excuse me.” And with that he hurried out the door.
Henri glanced around the shop and, satisfied that she was not being observed, she drew back the curtain. She blinked, her breath catching as she was confronted by those blue eyes again and the lieutenant's words rang in her ears.
“The staircase,” she whispered, pointing across to the other side of the room. “You can get up to the store room. There is a window on the far side. I think it overlooks the alley. Can you climb down?”
“Aye,” he said, his voice soft. “And I won't forget this.” He was staring at her and she blinked under the intensity of that blue gaze.
“Y-you must hurry,” she stammered, quite unable to tear her gaze away from his, but he just stood there, immobile, as though he was as hypnotised as she was.
When he did move it was not in the direction she expected. His arm reached out, sliding about her waist and pulling her into the darkness behind the curtain. In some distant part of her brain, she was amazed that she didn't scream. Instead she made a tiny, startled noise of objection, and then uttered not another sound as a pair of warm, soft lips pressed firmly against hers.
For a moment she was frozen, her mind too stunned to react, though her hands were flat against his hard, muscular chest, trying to keep him at a little distance. When at last her shocked intellect did catch up, she was not at all sure she was pleased with it. For instead of pushing him away as she surely ought, her arms reached up, one hand sliding up his neck, fingers tangling in his long, dark hair, which was every bit as soft as she had imagined it might be. He let out a low sound, something akin to a growl which made her skin heat and her heart pound and just as suddenly he released her, but there was regret in his eyes.
“Thank you, darling,” he said, amusement tugging at the corners of his mouth. “You've been most … accommodating.” He glanced at where one handrested lightly upon his broad chest, still clutching the tear-damp handkerchief. He plucked the scrap of lace deftly from between her fingers and held it to his nose, inhaling her scent with a smile before checking the way was clear. The next moment he had crossed the room, heading for the stairs.
Henri looked down as something fell upon her toes. In his rush he had dropped something. A letter.
“Wait!” she called in a hushed voice. He turned for just a second but the sound of voices approaching hastened his tread on the stairs, and he disappeared.
Henri took a deep breath, stuffed the letter into her reticule, and turned in the direction of the voices to see Annie with Mr Warren, the shopkeeper, at her side.
“Oh, what a to do,” said Annie, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “They said it 'twas 'im, the Rogue 'imself!”
“Good Lord, we'll likely be murdered in our beds,” said the shopkeeper, a dapper little grey-haired man who stood wringing his hands in anxiety.
Henri drew in a sharp breath and hoped they would ascribe her flushed cheeks to the shock of their words, it was true enough. The man was gone, and her madness past, she could only wonder at her moment of insanity. And yet no matter how well she knew it had been sheer folly, she still felt the press of his soft lips against hers with a flush of warmth that heated her cheeks still further.
“Are you quite well, miss?” Annie asked, a curious expression lighting her face now.
Henri cursed her maid's sharp eyes and forced her mouth into some semblance of a smile. “Quite well, Annie, thank you,” she replied, sounding a little tart, and stalked away leaving both Annie and Mr Warren looking after her in surprise.
Not only will 'The Rogue' be available but also on April 6th
The Earl's Temptation
Book two of Rogues and Gentlemen, The Earl's Temptation also releases this week - Alexander Sinclair, the Fourth Earl of Falmouth, has a reputation for revelling in vice. But his taste for wine, women and dice is only a fraction of the dangerous truth, for the Earl is the force behind a powerful gang, smuggling contraband between France and Cornwall.
Hope you enjoy what's below from my guest author, just a bit of fun and an extra for you. Please remember to give me your feedback on facebook or do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from you guys!
The Violette Empire
1840 Sabine Lake, border of Louisiana territory and Texas
A short, bald, haggard old man slowly turned a wheel connected to a three feet tall box. He worked in the bow of an old Flat boat, once used to ferry settlers to their new, probably short lives in Texas.
As he turned the wheel he muttered to himself, unintelligible, maybe French, maybe English. Whatever it was he said was as nothing compared to his eyes. For to look into this man’s eyes was to see a world of misery, frustration, loss and yet, something else; something a haggard half starving old man dressed in rags should not have, determination. So determined, so lost in his own thoughts that he missed the copper headed river monster rising from the depths, churning the midge covered, muddy water. He missed the metal and leather clad creature pulling back its arm and preparing to launch the deadly missile held in its dripping hand. He missed his fate sailing towards him. On he turned his wheel, on he turned his mind until...
“Putain de merde! Jean, you piece of shit. I’ve told you stop doing that. Next time I will kill you!”
The old man scraped the river weed from his head while shouting at the monster. Leaning over the side of the boat he helped remove the copper bonnet, tossing it on the deck. This revealed a second, somewhat younger man, although probably on the verge of relieving his fifties of their burden and depositing it onto sixty. This man glared at the first, both equally furious.
“I’ve told you Vi, pay attention to the diver in the water! Anything could happen to me while you retreat into that oversized, broken mind of yours. While you fight the battles of the past I could be fighting for my life with a fourteen foot alligator.”
The bald man glared at the diver and then raised his eyes to stare into the distance.
“Hmph. I plan the battles of the future, Jean. A glorious, triumphant future, a future in which my new Empire will spread across the new world, a future in which no jumped up thieving store keeper will call me Vi.”
The diver hauled himself over the edge of the boat. Well, he tried.
“Easy, Vi, I did not give you the name. For that you must blame some of your poor deluded followers.”
The old man pulled on the diver’s arms to raise him over the side.
“That was over twenty years ago, Jean. What have they done for me since?”
“One of them died for you.”
The old man let go, exhausted the diver sank back into the river. The old man collapsed onto the deck.
“Yes. Yes you are right, Olivier will never be forgotten and the bastard British that killed him on that godforsaken island will pay”
“You don’t know they killed him, he was ill when he took your place.”
Jumping back to the side of the boat the old man looked menacingly at the diver and slowly spoke.
“They killed him. They killed him because they knew he was not me. Governor Lowe knew.”
“Yes, Vi, yes. Please not again, not today. I am so tired, I need to eat. Where is Dom?”
“He took the raft and went for supplies”
Once again both men resumed their wrestling match. Two men versus the side of a boat. The side of the boat was winning.
“We have no money and he would not get to town before midnight. Why has he gone, Vi?”
“I do not know. Must I know the whereabouts of all my subordinates? He is not here, so what?”
“Vi! He is not a subordinate he is my brother. What have you said this time?”
As the anger of both men peaked the adrenalin saw them defeat the boat and both fall in a wet weed covered heap on the wooden deck. Though nothing stopped their argument.
“You are both subordinates. You both refuse to address me by my correct title. You both refuse to bow before me. You both will learn to do so. If not, then when my Imperial guard returns to me you will both be taught a lesson in respect!”
“Vi, if it were not for me you would be having this argument with Governor Lowe or likely be dead! Where is my respect, my thanks for rescuing you?”
The two men lay in their puddle, side by side, both trying to catch their breath. Both with eyes closed as if reading the lines from an imaginary script held in their minds.
“Rescuing me, ha! Who rescued you from Galveston? Who saved you when that Spanish captain held your life in his hands? Who has guided your miserable life this last twenty years?”
“Vi, this last twenty years has mostly been spent scrabbling in mud searching for treasure to pay for new armies to satisfy your lust for blood and revenge. Me the ‘Gentleman Pirate’ reduced to this; the ‘Terror of the Gulf’ in charge of a broken down Flat boat with a broken down pump operator.”
“Jean, names awarded you by yourself command no respect, and for another thing, we have been scrabbling in mud for twenty years because the ‘Terror of the Gulf’ can’t remember where he dumped his fucking treasure.”
The diver sat up propped himself on one elbow and looked at the old man.
“Well, Vi, I would have a better chance of finding it if you paid attention to the job at hand rather than commanding imaginary regiments and insisting your only friend called you ‘Emperor’...”
Dom lay on the bank in the shade of an old acacia tree. He looked back across at the old Flat boat. He watched the two old men on the deck arguing, hurling old insults at each other. He watched as they replayed the same arguments the same insults. He drifted back in his mind to the night in the year eighteen sixteen when he, his brother and Olivier Dupont had crept into the rat infested Longwood house after eight weeks at sea. Three men crept out of that place and back to the row boat on the shore but not the same three men. A famous pirate, his loyal half brother and a short fat New Orleans shopkeeper went in. A famous pirate his loyal half brother and an Emperor of the French came out, a short fat one it has to be said.
Dom’s brother Jean loved the man they saved, had done as long as he could remember. Jean had promised the crew a new era. Great things would come from rescuing the greatest Frenchman to ever live, the greatest General the world had ever known. A new empire would grow out of Louisiana. Loyal Frenchmen would flock to the banner, the British interference would be halted with great victories. The puritanical Americans kicked back to their side of the Mississippi. Riches, honours, fame and of course women would roll in.
To Dom it seemed a long while ago. A lifetime ago. A lifetime of watching and studying Jean’s hero, the saviour of the French. Dom had always had his doubts about this new Utopia. He had heard the stories of all the men killed to satisfy this man’s ambition, the countries torn apart, families divided. Did this new land need this man? Did he and his brother? Dom knew the huge value of the treasure they searched for. He knew the men and guns it could pay for. The hornet’s nest it could stir up. The death it could bring. The adventure and fame. Dom knew one other thing as he lay under the acacia looking back at the two old men still arguing. He knew something that could turn history on its head. He knew something that could make them famous or infamous all over again. What he did not know was what to do with this new found knowledge. Should he call the two old fools and tell them that he lazed under the acacia tree with a sign scratched into the bark. A sign they had been hunting for many years. A sign that he now remembered scratching in eighteen fifteen. A sign that indicated this was the location of the massive hoard they buried after leaving Barataria. Should he open the gates of hell?
Dom closed his eyes and dozed. The two old men argued.