Proper gentlemen, perfect ladies, and the fun of seeing them mussed

In a winter so cold the Thames freezes over, five couples venture onto the ice to find a love to warm their hearts.

It’s no surprise that my usual reading pleasure — historical romance set in Regency Society — is popular. After all, gorgeous healthy young man in a coat he has to be poured into, tight breeches, and stockings that show every curve of his calf muscles? What’s not to like?

Add to that the courtliness of the times. Passionate gentlemen who, nevertheless, act politely in the company of ladies. Clear rules about appropriate behaviour.

In any romance worth its salt the main characters care about one another, and behave with respect, but in cis Regency romance, the stakes are high. Our heroes have all the legal power; our heroines need love and respect in order simply to be safe, let alone happy.

Of course, the real Regency was also classist, sexist, and all kinds of other ists, so part of the fun of writing Regency stories is playing off the reality and the fantasy.

My newest release, Melting Matilda, which has just come out as a novella in the Bluestocking Belles collection Fire & Frost, has a heroine known as the Ice Princess, and a hero dubbed the Granite Earl.

He is all about convention and proper behaviour. She, even more so. I had great fun persuading them to relax and get mussed. Here’s the blurb for Melting Matilda.

Her scandalous birth prevents Matilda Grenford from being fully acceptable to Society, even though she has been a ward of the Duchess of Haverford since she was a few weeks old. Her half-brother, the Marquis of Aldridge, is convinced she will one day be wooed by a worthy gentleman, but Matilda has no such expectations. The only man who has ever interested her gave her an outrageous kiss a year ago and has avoided her ever since.

Charles, the Earl of Hamner is honour bound to ignore his attraction to Matilda Grenford. She is an innocent and a lady, and in every way worthy of his respect—but she is base-born. His ancestors would rise screaming from their graves if he made her his countess.

When his mother and her guardian begin collaborating on Her Grace’s annual charity fundraiser, neither Charles nor Matilda sees a way to avoid working together. And neither can forget the kiss they once shared.

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Excerpt:

If the two of them made it out of the near-invisible city streets alive, Matilda Grenford was going to kill her sister Jessica, and even their guardian and mentor, the Duchess of Haverford, wouldn’t blame her. Angry as Matilda was, and panicked, too, as she tried to find a known landmark in the enveloping fog, she couldn’t resist a wry smile at the thought. Aunt Eleanor was the kindest person in the world, and expected everyone else to be as forgiving and generous as she was herself. Matilda could just imagine the conversation.
“Now, my dear, I want you to think about what other choices you might have made.” The duchess had said precisely those words uncounted times in the more than twenty years Matilda had been her ward.
When she was younger, she would burst out in an impassioned defense of whatever action had brought her before Her Grace for a reprimand. “Jessica is not just destroying her own reputation, Aunt Eleanor. Meeting men in the garden at balls, going out riding without her groom, dancing too close. Her behavior reflects on us all.”
Was that the lamppost by the corner of the square? No; a few steps more showed yet another paved street with houses looming in the fog on both sides. Matilda stopped while she tried to decide if any of them were in any way familiar.
Meanwhile, she continued her imaginary rant to the duchess. “Even in company, she takes flirtation to the edge of what is proper. This latest start — sneaking out of the house without a chaperone or even her maid — if it becomes known, she’ll go down in ruin, and take me and Frances with her.”
Matilda had gone after her, of course, taking a footman, but she’d lost the poor man several mistaken turns back. Matilda had been hurrying ahead, ignoring the footman’s complaints, thinking only about bringing Jessica back before she got into worse trouble than ever before. Now Matilda was just as much at risk, and she’d settle for managing to bring her own self home to Haverford House, or even to the house of a friend, if she could find one.
Home, for preference. Turning up anywhere else, unaccompanied, would start the very scandal Matilda had followed her sister to avoid. If Jessica managed to make it home unscathed, Matilda would strangle her.
In her imagination, she could hear Aunt Eleanor, calm as ever. “Murder is so final, Matilda. Surely it would have been better to try something else, first. What could you have done?”

The Story Behind the Story

Everyone wants to know the story behind the stories that we write. To be honest, probably only half of my stories have any real inspiration. Most of the time I stare at a blank screen until something congeals.

Characters sometimes have a little more to them, but not exactly. That’s because I use this person’s looks and that person’s personality. So by the time I’m done, it’s a jumbled mess.

People who knew my husband swear I write him into every hero. I don’t see how that is possible. But maybe I like certain types of males. I like a man who is intelligent. One who will hold a real conversation on things from metaphysics to how buttercups got their name or why political systems get corrupted. I also like a man who knows the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer and when to use each one. A man who can watch something and then do it. But I also like a man who can be tough as nails and totally gentle, sweet, kind, and loving. If he knows how to cook, clean, and do laundry, that’s even better. So maybe I do write my heroes to be somewhat like the man I married.

Heroines are a little different. I like strong but not overbearing. I think most women possess an inner strength. Even the shyest and timid women often have a very strong interior, probably because women are wired to protect and nurture their young.

Women come in all sizes, shapes and colors, and with their own idea of fashion…then and now. There are so many things to pull together when writing about women. So creating characters is fun.

Anyone is apt to become a character in my stories. I’ll see somebody and their hairstyle or hair color will catch my attention. Young or old, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I see someone in person, on a screen, or on paper. And beauty…they don’t have to be beautiful. Very few people are beautiful, but most people are attractive. Most people have something about them that makes them attractive. Maybe it’s those little things that makes a person do a double take – that something that makes him or her stand out from everyone else.

I was watching and not watching a TV show at my daughter’s house. She always has the TV on. Anyway it was live cop show and the cop wasn’t what I would have called good looking. But he had the most beautiful blue eyes, mesmerizing blue eyes. But after watching this man for a few minutes, my brain has that big hunky guy firmly implanted in it and he’ll probably wind up as a hero in one of my stories. Lots of women love those big guys. Or at least, his eyes will make it into a story.

Think of some of the people you know or know of that don’t fit the norm for beauty. Barbra Streisand instantly comes to my mind. I’m certain James Brolin might differ on my opinion of her, but Barbra isn’t pretty. What is she? Extremely attractive! She’s taken her looks and learned how to make herself stand out. She’s got an incredible voice and a little chutzpah. Her very unusual looks and amazing talent made her famous. I think that’s a great thing.

There are very few ugly people in this world. Birth defects, disease, injuries, etc. often change the way people look. Yet, some of those who lack any sort of beauty seem to make up for it in personality. My mom’s best friend from the time they were little children was homely. Yet she was the most wonderful person that I knew. She was a very talented artist, and she was kindest, nicest person. When I was with her, I never once thought about the way she looked. When we accept people, appearance no longer matters.

The Internet has been a great equalizer. We’ve gotten to know people without ever meeting them or even seeing what they look like, except that is changing with selfies and posting pics. Today certain things are handled with surgery. One friend was born with six fingers on each hand. The extra fingers were immediately removed. Another friend was extremely cross-eyed. He recently underwent surgery to correct the problem. It’s made a huge difference in his appearance.

Thank goodness we can correct so many things today. But it wasn’t always that way. When I wrote A Husband for Matilda, I wrote a mail order bride, Mrs. Ketchem, into it. Most mail-order brides were women who had a difficult time finding a husband close to home.

They had a house full of children, mostly girls, and it was obvious that Mrs. Ketchem was producing more yarn than she could use. But what really impressed him was the house. He’d never seen a log cabin quite like this one.

“Did you build the house?” Zeke asked between mouthfuls.

“Ay, I did. I bought my own saw and cut the lumber.” Mr. Ketchem motioned to his wife. “We managed to do it together, but putting the roof on required help which I didn’t have. I built it on the ground and used ropes and a couple of oxen to get it up there.” He grabbed a child’s slate and drew a picture of the situation. “You planning on building one?”

“If I obtain the land I want, I might not have enough leftover for a house, but I’ll need one.”

“I’m from the Adirondack Mountains, and this area called to my heart. Bet you never heard of the Adirondack Mountains.”

“I know where they are. Tucked in the northern portion of the state of New York. Not far from Canada.” Zeke laughed. “I happened to like geography.”

“So did I. I was topographer with the railroad as they began to survey and make decisions as to where to put the tracks. I thought drawing maps would be exciting. I wanted to do something special with my life. Instead, I discovered I was bored.”

The man took another bite of food, chewed, and swallowed. “I came from a farm. We had apple and chestnut orchards to go along with our farm. We worked hard.”

“I know about that. I came from a farm outside of Philadelphia. My father would go into Philadelphia several times a week to sell produce.”

“I went all the way to California and as I came back, I knew this was where I wanted to be.”

“Were you already married?”

Mr. Ketchem shook his head and Mrs. Ketchem answered. “He wrote his mother and asked for a bride. I was twenty-two at the time and still not married.” She held up her hands. “Six fingers on each hand. No one wanted me. But my grandmother insisted that I write to Henry.

He said he didn’t care that I had extra fingers. He was more worried about my being able to move out here and if I could cook. He promised that he was a good man and would treat me well.”

Mr. Ketchem chuckled. “I don’t mind those extra fingers. She’s a hard working woman, and I couldn’t ask for a better or prettier wife.”

Zeke looked at the dark-haired woman with crystal blue eyes and porcelain white skin and smiled. He wouldn’t have called her pretty. He finished his meal and thanked both Ketchums several times before leaving for Homestead Canyon.

The price of patience

I’ve been waiting for the paeonies to bloom. I’ve wanted to grow my own for thirteen years. We were in Invercargill researching for our book How Local Government Works, and we visited a local Council initiative testing cold-climate crops, where the frustrated manager was fuming about the airline bumping from their cargo manifest a container of paeonies intended for New York.

Sucks for them, but lovely for me. I went home on the plane with a bunch of three dozen beautiful opening buds that coloured and scented my house for weeks afterwards.

So four years ago, we planted paeonies. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. Year by year, they produced lovely leafy growth and not a single bud. Until this year, we have four of the nine plants smothered in pink and cream buds, and for weeks, we’ve been waiting for them to open. I took the photo above a few minutes ago. Our patience has finally been rewarded. Aren’t they glorious?

Patience is a virtue

Or so my mother used to assure me. ‘Patience is a virtue. Possess it if you can. Found seldom in a woman and never in a man.’ Hey, don’t blame me. That’s what my mother said.

I’m not good at it. I always want to get to the next bit. I read fast. I write fast. I think about the next thing and miss out on the now thing. I’ve been trying to train myself out of it, but after a lifetime of trying I’ve only been partially successful.

At the moment, I’m neglecting tidying up my website in favour of finishing my collection of Christmas novellas. I want it to be 15 December so it will go live! But I’m old enough and wise enough not to jump to then. I want it to be 15 December, with all my Christmas shopping and baking done, and the rest of the first draft of The Realm of Silence, my current work in progress, written.

Be careful what you ask for

I have, of course, prayed for patience. I did so as a teenager, and I’d like to warn you all now that God works through life. What little patience I have has come from raising six children, one disabled, while establishing and running a full-time business and suffering from a chronic and invisible fatiguing disease. I tell people, only half in jest, that I prayed for patience and God sent me Peter. Love him dearly. Wouldn’t be without him. But boy, has he increased my stores of patience.

They also serve who only stand and wait

The stories in the new box set all involve people who have to be patient. They’re all historical romances, and they’re all previously published: four novellas and two lunch-length reads from my story collection. All together in one 97,500 word volume for your holiday pleasure, at a discounted price over the individual books.

Candle’s Christmas Chair (A novella in The Golden Redepennings series)

Candle, the hero of the story, patiently courts the heroine using the language of flowers.

They are separated by social standing and malicious lies. How can he convince her to give their love another chance?

Gingerbread Bride (A novella in The Golden Redepenning series)

Mary’s patience runs out when her cousin tries to trap her in marriage, so she goes looking for another home.

Mary runs from an unwanted marriage and finds adventure, danger and her girlhood hero, coming once more to her rescue.

Magnus and the Christmas Angel (from Lost in the Tale)

Thirteen years waiting for Magnus to come home, and six months waiting for him to notice her is long enough. Callie is out of patience.

Scarred by years in captivity, Magnus has fought English Society to be accepted as the true Earl of Fenchurch. Now he faces the hardest battle of all: to win the love of his wife.

Lord Calne’s Christmas Ruby

In just over a year, Lalamani will be free. She just has to be patient, and meanwhile find somewhere to avoid fortune hunters and bullies.

Lalamani prefers her aunt’s quiet village to fashionable London, its vicious harpies, and its importunate fortune hunters. Philip wishes she wasn’t so rich, or he wasn’t so poor.

(Due for publication as a stand-alone novella on 20 November)

A Suitable Husband

Cedrica needs every ounce of patience she can find to cope with her cousin’s guests at the Christmas houseparty.

A chef from the slums, however talented, is no fit mate for the cousin of a duke, however distant. But Cedrica can dream. (first published in Holly and Hopeful Hearts, a Bluestocking Belles collection.)

All that Glisters (from Hand-Turned Tales)

Patience is all Rose has, as the unpaid servant of her unpleasant relatives.

Rose is unhappy in the household of her fanatical uncle. Thomas, a young merchant from Canada, offers a glimpse of another possible life. If she is brave enough to reach for it.

Find out more on my book page: http://judeknightauthor.com/books/if-mistletoe-could-tell-tales/

Excerpt from Lord Calne’s Christmas Ruby

Lalamani took Lord Carne a midday meal the next day, too. And the day after.

When she slipped up and called him ‘my lord’ in front of the workmen, he brushed it off with a laugh, but after they had left, asked her to call him Philip. “For if I have adopted Mrs Thorpe as my aunt, you must be my cousin,” he suggested.

“Or your sister?”

He froze, every muscle alert, his eyes suddenly intent. “Definitely not my sister.”

She couldn’t look away. The conversation of the departing workmen faded and the corner they had chosen as their own picnic spot dimmed. Philip was suddenly more real than all of it; the only solid thing in a ghostly world. She swayed towards him and he gripped her shoulders, his eyes fixed on her lips, his face moving towards her… Until he straightened and turned away.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Finchurch.” He kept his back to her, as if the ruin of his Hall was far more appealing than one slightly over-aged spinster.

He must have heard her sigh, because he spun round to face her. “You must know that, if circumstances were different…”

Was she supposed to believe she had swept him off his feet and he was only resisting with difficulty? What he took from her expression she didn’t know, but he suddenly swore, and reached again for her shoulders, crushed her to him, then cursed again and lifted her bodily onto the log they had been using for a seat.

Now her head was a little higher than his, so she had to curve her neck to reach his lips when he lifted his face. She had been kissed before, a few times. Some of the ambitious young men who thought to win her uncle’s favour had been almost convincing in their courtship. Besides, she was as susceptible as anyone to curiosity and the temptation of a private spot in a warm lush garden after a night of music and dancing. On the whole, the experiences had been unremarkable.

She could, were she not so distracted by his firm but gentle lips, catalogue the many differences between those disappointing kisses of long ago and this one, from the setting to the sensations. But he was running his tongue gently along her lips, and she opened, wondering what he intended, then forgetting everything. The oak, the chill wind, the possibility a workman might return early. Philip was all that existed in the world. Philip, and her body coming alive where he touched her, still only with his lips, and a hand lightly kneading each hip.

Until he groaned and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her from the log to mould her against him, his mouth hardening over hers, his tongue stroking even deeper over hers as she clasped him back and lifted her legs to curve them around his hips, heedless of anything except the urge to be closer still.

For one long endless moment, she was lost in sensation, and then he drew his head back, to drop a flurry of kisses along her jaw bone, so she tipped her head back to give him access, and blinked as a large rain drop fell in her eye.

It was followed by others, first a spattering, then a deluge, and Philip stumbled a couple of steps to set her down against the trunk, out of the rain.

His laugh was rueful, and his voice shook as he said, “They said in the inn last night that the rain would set in this afternoon.”

He still held her, and she leant against him, uncertain her legs would hold her up. “That was…” She didn’t have the words. “Philip,” she said, instead. A statement, because she was afraid to make it a question.

“Lalamani,” he breathed back, and rested his chin on her head, which had somehow lost its bonnet in the past fifteen minutes. One hand rested on her waist while the other stroked her back. “Lalamani,” he said again, then, just as quietly, murmuring into her hair. “I owe you an apology, but I am not sorry. To have missed that kiss would have been a crime. But I had no right.”

His obtuse male attitude steadied her, and her own voice was calm as she reminded him, “If any apology is required, it is for me to offer it. I started our kiss. And I am not sorry, either.”

He chuckled. “I am glad. But I still… Were circumstances different, I could court you in proper form and hope one day for the privilege of taking our kiss to its proper conclusion, but I have nothing to offer a wife, Lalamani. It could be five years before the canal pays enough to provide more than bachelor accommodations. Even were you not used to the best of everything, I could not…” He trailed off.

“I do not need someone to provide for me,” Lalamani reminded him. “I have more than enough money for me and anyone I truly loved.” That was as close to a declaration as she dared, but it did not have the desired effect.

“Ah, Lalamani.” He sighed, then kissed her again, a light touch on the forehead, and pulled away. “I cannot live off my wife. Can I?” He shook his head as if to clear it, then held out his undamaged hand. “Come. I should see you home to your aunt’s house.”

Ridiculous man. In their conversations, and in that kiss, she had glimpsed a hope for which she had thought herself too old. If he didn’t see it too, or if he would let his male pride stand in its way, then she was too proud to pursue it.

Body Image and Seasonal Dysfunction

My jeans don’t fit! I’ve lost weight. Lots of it. I have more to lose. You’d think I’d be happy, but I’m not. I’ve barely lost where I need to lose it the most. I hate this in-between stage. I need a new body! I don’t like the one that has come with passing birthdays. This one needs a complete engine overhaul and a new paint job.

My daughter is at the beach for a week. I could easily join her, but I won’t. There is no way I’m going to put on a bathing suit. It’s body image and I know what my image is. My oink, oink body is starting to imitate a Chinese Shar-Pei . I can see what is staring at me in the mirror, and I’m thinking no-way! Embrace my curves? My curves are in the wrong places and headed south. The days of wearing a bathing suit in public are done for me – besides we aren’t supposed to be in the sun. I’ve had plenty of sun in my life, more than enough.

To make matter worse, I’m writing a Christmas story. As authors, it seems we are always off season with our stories. This year is no different. I actually have two stories in edits.  Let’s pretend we are freezing as we walk through the snowy street. We’re doing that while trying to keep the house cool enough that we don’t melt! Does it make me feel any cooler to envision a snowy walk? The sweat pouring off my forehead is not snow.  I wish it were that easy. I’d be writing tropical beach romances in January and snowboarding adventures in July. Just think of the savings in power bills.

I need to do a little post holiday shopping when the sales on summer clothes are probably at their best.  But anything I buy, I’m hoping won’t fit next year. I think I should make do with the few things I bought this spring.

I watched a friend last year lose tons of weight. I kept telling him to buy a few new clothes, because he got to the point that he couldn’t walk without holding onto his pants. When he finally bought some new clothes, the transformation was amazing.  I’m not quite to that point with my weight loss.  Maybe in another month and by then all the stores will have their winter clothes. That won’t help me when September and October can still be darn hot here in Virginia.

It does conjure up the memory of my youngest daughter having a massive growth spurt when she was about two. Right after Christmas, I noticed her little snowsuit was snug. A week later, I could barely get her in it, and the little sleeves were much too short. Do you know what it is like to buy something like that after Christmas? Every store told me they had sold out and they weren’t getting any more in stock. (Back in the old pre-internet days.) I think my friend bailed me out with one from one of her friends that no longer fit her daughter.

Anyway I look out my back door and I see green grass, Cannas blooming, too many Japanese beetles, a set of robins frantic to gather bugs to take to the nest filled with young ones, hummingbirds flitting, the sky is blue, and I’m writing about Christmas in the northern hemisphere. Seriously? Yes.

So I’m seasonally out of kilter. My pants are trying to fall off of me, and the body is having a race to see which part of me can reach my knees first. And the winner is… To be announced at a later date.

But if you’d like to read a book that will take you through a few seasons, and take your mind off your own body image, A Rancher’s Request released on July 27, 2017. (Somehow I can’t imagine living around here in 1890 wearing long dresses  with no air conditioning.) These two people might be more suited to one another than either one wants to admit. Zadie is determined to make Duncan change his mind about the arranged marriage that their fathers have agreed upon.

Here’s a snippet you might enjoy of Zadie chatting with her best friend.

A shiver ran up Zadie’s spine. “Marriage isn’t that far off for me.”

You have a suitor?”

“Thank you very much. You make it sound as though I would never have one.”

Catherine looked at her children who were now tossing seeds from a maple tree into the air and watching them spin to the ground. “I didn’t mean it that way. But you never seem to have an interested male. You went off and were educated. This is Franklin. No one around here does that.”

“Well, I did and I’m glad I did. And as for my suitor, he’s the son of an old family friend.” She decided that wasn’t lying. It also wasn’t telling the whole truth.

“Oh, that’s so exciting. Tell me more! Do I know him?”

She shook her head. “Not much to tell. He’s from Edenton, he’s moved to Wyoming, and we’ve been corresponding. So far everything is going well.” All right, that’s a lie. Maybe I should write to him. What if this doesn’t work?

“Oh, I’m so happy for you.”

“Well, don’t get your hopes up or spread a bunch of gossip, because I still don’t know what will happen. We’ll leave it with so far everything is working well.” Another lie. If you call getting chapped hands from all the laundry as working well, it’s a fry-in-Hell sort of lie. I’d like to skewer my father and roast him for dinner.

“Wyoming? Isn’t that a territory?”

Zadie shook her head. “It recently gained statehood.”

“Aren’t there Indians out there?”

Again Zadie nodded. “I’ve heard it is very wild in the west.”

“Aren’t you scared?”

Zadie smiled. I’m scared out of my skin and not so much about the Indians. I’m more worried about my own survival skills without a maid to help me. “I’m certain Duncan will protect me.”

It’s available in paperback and in ebook.

Click on the cover for a sneak preview!

 

 

 

The Power of Words

I recently attended a workshop on poetry. I had to be there. It was for our local writing group and I had to MC, etc. Someone else had invited the speaker. All I knew was that Tom was coming and that he taught at a college. Long story short, I sort of recognized his face. It was later that I did that OMG head smack. He’d attended our group a few times, but used a nickname. As a speaker, he was fabulous and a little quirky – just enough to make him unique.

Poetry is one of those little hidden elements. So many people will tell you they dislike poetry. But they like music. Umm, wait a moment. The words to those songs are basically poems. They are listening to poetry. There are those who write poetry. They love to write it. And people who read it.

I read poetry. Occasionally I do a little mind bending and force myself to write a poem. Because making our minds do other things is supposed to be healthy for the brain to keep it active. Guess that means I do mental cross-training. Am I any good? Absolutely not! I can’t imagine ever putting together the poems I’ve written and publishing them as The Poetry of Elizabeth Ayers. (Doesn’t that sound as though you are about to read some Victorian British poet? Ha!)

But one of the things the speaker did talk about was the power of words. Words come with feelings attached to them, especially ones that utilize our senses. Say automotive tire to one person and nothing happens. But the odor of new tires is considered pleasant by some and might gag another. One thing everyone can agree on is that the odor is distinctive. The feel of corduroy is distinctive, as is polished stone. Oatmeal, grits, brownies, mashed potatoes, matzo ball soup, and the list goes on and on because foods produce feelings in us. What’s your comfort food and why? Do you remember your mom or grandmom making it? Or after you finished your Christmas shopping with Dad, he’d take you that one place where you’d get a cup of hot cocoa and an oatmeal raisin cookie that was so big you had to break it in half and share it with him? Memories! So when we read something, the words trigger those memories in our mind’s warehouse.

When I got to thinking about it and how it applies to what we read or write, like or dislike about books, I had another ah-ha(!) moment. We choose genres and often authors because those stories tug on memories and trigger those happy juices in our brains. What works for one person doesn’t for another. It’s a little like strawberry ice cream swirled with chocolate.

For me, I love old houses and tiny historic towns with little restaurants that serve real food that someone in the kitchen actually made and didn’t pull from a freezer and stuff in the microwave. Such is the little town of Franklin, VA. To drive up that hill to all those beautiful old houses, look down to the Blackwater River, the old train station and what was once a sawmill makes history come alive. It’s a friendly little place that the bypass has allowed the busy world to forget.

So if your idea of a good read is a feisty but kind female, and a strong, protective male who respects the women in his life, you just might like A Rancher’s Request. It starts out in the small, but thriving town of Franklin, VA. Two men, who have been friends since they were children, hatch a plan to have their children marry when Duncan Lorde writes home and asks his father to find him a good woman. His dad knows exactly where to find one.

Zadie Larkford, the daughter of the town’s doctor, is a young college-educated, proper, Victorian woman, and she’s livid when she discovers that her father intends to ship her off to the newly formed state of Wyoming to marry man she doesn’t know. In a time when arranged marriages were common and young women obeyed their fathers, Zadie has no problem letting her intended know that she’s not going to be a meek little woman. But sometimes the best plans go awry.

A Rancher’s Request is on pre-order sale for 99c USD. The low price is a little reward to my faithful readers. It will release June 27, 2017.

Enjoy the letter Duncan wrote to Zadie after receiving one from her.  He knew she was being uppity in her letter with the hopes of discouraging him. With tongue in cheek, he replied.

 

It will also be available in paper and in large print.

BLURB

Zadie Larkford, recently graduated from an Eastern women’s college, lives a quiet life in her hometown of Franklin, Virginia. Content to spend her days painting by the river and watching her friends marry, she is shocked to learn that her father has promised her hand in marriage to a complete stranger. Ultimately unable to disobey, she leaves her childhood home to travel – unaccompanied – to Creed’s Crossing, Wyoming to meet her betrothed.

Raised in a seafaring community in North Carolina, Duncan Lorde made the decision to leave his father’s prosperous fishing venture to make a life for himself in the west. Determined to succeed in the treacherous and unpredictable pursuit of cattle ranching, he has land, a small cabin, and a herd. All he needs now is a wife–a good woman who will cook, clean, and provide him with strong sons to help on the ranch. When Zadie arrives in Creed’s Crossing, the young daughter of his father’s old friend is far more independent and strong-willed than he expected.

The young would-be-couple has barely begun to forge a bond when the forces of man and nature collide, impeding Duncan and Zadie as they struggle to fulfill…

A Rancher’s Request

Publisher’s Note:

A Rancher’s Request is a full-length historical novel with romantic and romance elements for the discerning reader who appreciates historical accuracy with a dose of authentic adventure. Available in both Kindle and trade-sized paperback, this story of a rancher and his bride speaks to the heart of the old west in a way that blends traditional western novels with the spark and excitement of love.

Indie Artist Press is thrilled to add another tale to the Creed’s Crossing Historical series with book 5, A Rancher’s Request.

A New Member on Main Street: Lizzi Tremayne

Hello!

I’m Lizzi Tremayne, an award-winning author of historical romantic thriller/suspense, veterinary non-fiction and soon, veterinary small town contemporary fiction! I have two novels out now, and two more in the works!

I’m ecstatic to have been asked to join Authors on Main Street, because I feel so at home with the people here, not only the author members, but also those of you who comment on the blogs.

I grew up in the little town of La Honda, in the redwoods of California, but my small town is now Waihi, New Zealand, where I live on my six acre riverside farmlet with my horse, cows, dogs, cats and chickens. This pic was taken on a little island in the middle of the river, only 40 metres from my house!aut-island-paradise-3mb

I’m excited to be writing my first contemporary fiction for our 2017 Christmas Boxed Set—hint..I’m an equine (horse) veterinarian, so it might have something to do with that!

The excerpt below is from THE HILLS OF GOLD UNCHANGING, book 2 of The Long Trails series, released only two weeks ago!  My books are available in digital, paperback (in both standard and large print), and book 1, A LONG TRAIL ROLLING, is also available in three forms of hardcover!

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About The Hills of Gold Unchanging:

No one will stand in their way—

                                                and live.

 

As the Civil War rages, secessionists menace California.

Trying to get back home, Aleksandra and Xavier journey through the mining camps of 1860’s Nevada and California, the Sacramento floods and Old San Francisco to Xavier’s Californio Rancho de las Pulgas.

Embroiled in the Confederate’s fight to drag the new state from the Union and make it their own, can Aleks and Xavier survive? The secessionists mean business.

This is Book Two of The Long Trails Series of historical romantic thriller sagas, following Lizzi’s characters from the wilderness of 1860’s Utah to Colonial New Zealand

Setup for the excerpt:

This is the beginning of the book…

The Excerpt:

June 1860, Echo Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, Utah Territory

His blade glinted in the sunlight as he lunged toward her, but she ducked and spun, her own sword flashing in figure eights while she retreated, and his strike met with only air. He recovered and set himself up for the onslaught he knew would come, coughing as the dust kicked up by their boots thickened.

Blade up, he parried the blows she rained down upon him. He managed to get in one of his own, and retreated for a moment, breathing hard. She stepped back as well, her breasts heaving beneath the thin linen. Blue eyes glittered below brows narrowed with concentration, before her sword returned to action with a vengeance. They circled, dodging and striking in turn. Her skill was far greater, but the girl’s injuries from her last fight, combined with his greater reach and fitness were beginning to tell. A movement tugged at the edge of his vision—he glanced up from her sword to see her hat tumble off. Her hair cascaded down in a tangle to her thighs, and his heart surged.

She’s mine now.

He offered the ghost of a smile as he moved in to disarm her with a passing lunge and struck at her sword arm.

The air left his lungs and he tasted dirt in his mouth as he hit the unforgiving ground face-first. He groaned and rolled over, expecting the worst.

Above him, her laughing visage met his eyes. Her glorious curls, molten gold, fell around his face like a veil as she bent to wipe his face and kiss his lips. She slid the hilt of his sword from his hand.

“All right, halte, hold, you two,” their instructor said, in his heavy Russian accent. “There’s still work to be done, Xavier, but you’ve done well.”

Xavier Argüello took the hand his opponent offered, hopped to his feet and dusted off his clothes.

“Well done, Querido,” said his intended, Aleksandra Lekarski, as she returned his sword.

“Xavier, come here, please,” Vladimir Chabardine said, from the doorway of the cabin, where he was propped up in his sickbed. “You have worked hard. I am impressed, and it is rare that I am compelled to say that. That shashka now belongs to you. Use it in good health.”

Xavier stared at him, then at the Don Cossack saber in his hand, its leather grip smooth with years of use. He was silent for long moments.

“But it’s yours, Vladimir,” he finally said.

“It was one of mine, yes. Now it is yours. Tatiana brought my other two shashkas with her from Russia. One is for Nikolai, when he is ready, and this one is for you. It’s the least I can do, after my part in,” he looked at Aleksandra and grimaced, “your papa’s death.”

She nodded, her face grim, in acknowledgement.

“Thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” Xavier said, shaking his head at the Russian, as he ran a finger from the tooled embellishment on the pommel through to the rawhide bouton and strip they used for their practice sessions. He slid the protectors off and his new shashka whispered into its scabbard. He turned to face Aleksandra, and bowed to her. “Thank you,” he said, then turned to Vladimir, “and again, to you.”

She returned the bow and smiled at them both.

“You’re not quite done,” Vladimir said. “Xavier, replace the guard.”

“What would you like?” Aleksandra asked.

“One more bout. En garde,” he said, and they prepared.

Prêt.” They nodded.

Allez,” Vladimir snapped, and they began.

Aleksandra feinted, then moved to strike, but Xavier saw a hole in her defense and lunged. She twirled way, with a laugh, then drew back, looking frightened, her body twisted strangely to the right.

Was she injured?

His gaze lifted to her face, but no pain resided there, though her brow was furrowed. What a chance! Her whole left side was unguarded, and he went for the opening.

Before he could alter his course, she unwound and her shashka flashed toward him. For the second time in his life, he froze as he found her blade across his throat.

¿Recuerdas? Remember this?” she said, her eyes merry.

“How could I forget, Querida,” he spoke for her ears alone, “our first meeting?”

Hands clapped behind them and they spun as one, hands on their sword hilts.

“No need fer that, no need fer that,” said a man, mounted on a chestnut horse. Beside the horse walked a black man, tied by the wrists to the rope in the rider’s hands.

“What do you wan—” Xavier began, then clamped his jaw, as his breath came short. Blood pounded in his ears and his face heated. “What can I help you with,” he finally managed, past gritted teeth, as he walked away from the house door, toward their callers.

“Well, hello theah,” the rider said, his Southern accent heavy. “Good fightin’, and fer a girl, too.” He looked sideways at Aleksandra.

“Aleks,” Xavier hissed, as he felt, rather than saw, her bristle beside him. He glanced at her knuckles showing white on the pommel of her saber. He reached out and covered her sword hand with his own and she took a deep breath and stilled.

“We’re yer new neighbors down th’road. Y’all wanna buy a slave? We’ve jus’ done come West ‘n now we’ve done finished buildin’ the house, he’s,” he nodded at the man at the end of his tether, “jus’ ‘noth’r mouth t’feed. Ca’int use ‘im to grow nuthin’ in this rock y’call dirt around heah.” He stopped and looked at the yard and cabin. “Nice place y’all got here.”

Xavier nodded, silent.

The man’s brows narrowed, then he continued. “Well, ah wondered if y’all had a breedin—ah, a woman slave I could trade fer him. The missus wants help in t’house, an’ I could use a little…too.” The glint in his beady eyes turned his grin into a leer.

Xavier closed his eyes and clenched his fists. “This territory may allow slavery, but nobody holds with it around here.”

The Southerner was silent for a moment, then answered with a voice dripping with sarcasm. “Now that’s mahty neighborly of ya. Are y’all some o’them ab’litionists we come West to git away from?”

“As you wish.” Xavier raised a brow at him, then shifted his gaze to the man on foot, staring at the dirt. “I apologize to you, sir, but you’ll have to go home with him again. May you find yourself a better life soon.”

The corners of the slave’s mouth lifted briefly. His eyes flickered up to Xavier’s, brightened, then dulled again as he dropped them to the ground.

“C’mon Jordan,” the rider growled, “we’re not welc’m here, by all accounts.” He jerked his horse around and they retreated the way they’d come.

Xavier stood silent, watching them go, then began to shake. He closed his eyes, willing himself to control the anger, and the deepening darkness. He inhaled sharply. When he opened his eyes, Aleksandra was staring at him.

“Are you all right?” she said, her brow furrowed.

“Yes.” Xavier nodded.

“More Southerners,” Aleksandra scowled as she wiped sweat from her brow with the back of her sleeve, “running from home before the government takes their slaves away?”

“That’ll never happen,” Xavier said, from between clenched jaws. “Too strong, too wealthy—cotton—slaves. Poor beggars down South.” He peered around. “Even here. I can’t believe it.”

“Believe it,” she said. “They’re coming.”

He shook his head. “I just wish we could stop it—the abuse, the owning.”

Aleksandra wrapped her arms around him, held him close until the tremors quieted. She leaned back in his arms and studied his face, then seemed satisfied with what she saw.

“Having you here makes it bearable, I think,” he said, and kissed her.

“I’m so used to you being the strong one…sometimes I forget the demons that still eat at you,” she said.

The Hills of Gold Unchanging

Awards for the series:

With A Long Trail Rolling:

Finalist 2013 RWNZ Great Beginnings

Winner 2014 RWNZ Pacific Hearts Award

Winner 2015 RWNZ Koru Award for Best First Novel

Third place 2015 RWNZ Koru Long Novel section

Finalist 2015 Best Indie Book Award

Hope you love the story! See you soon!

xx

Lizzi

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A Tale of Love Almost as Old as Ireland

Who likes knights in shining armor?

Please welcome Anna Markland.

 

 

My Main Street is in Victoria, British Columbia.

Thank you for the opportunity to share an excerpt from The Taking of Ireland. This novel represents a departure from the medieval romances I usually write. It is set in Ireland in a time of myth, even before the arrival of the Celts. I’ll preface the excerpt with the book’s foreword to give you some background.

I categorize my novels as “steamy”, but this excerpt is pure romance.

My tale was initially inspired by the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), a collection of poems and prose narratives that purports to be a history of Ireland and the Irish people from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages. 

The earliest version was compiled in the 11th century (probably by Christian monks) and tells of Ireland being settled (or taken) six times by six groups of people.

My story centers on the last two groups, the Tuatha Dè Danann, who in the Lebor represent Ireland’s pagan gods, and the Milesians who sailed from Galicia and represent the Irish people, the Gaels.

Most scholars regard the Lebor as myth rather than history, and it was perhaps an attempt to reconcile native Irish myth with the Christian view of history.

I often base my plots on actual historical events, but this tale didn’t provide such a framework, which left my imagination free to soar into the realm of the mythical and magical. It was a scary journey into the unknown at first, but one I thoroughly enjoyed once the ideas began to flow and I got to know my characters.

Bear in mind, however, that my Tuathans and Gaelicians are figments of my imagination and are not meant to be a literal interpretation of the pseudo-historical peoples in the Lebor.

“Myth is more potent than history. 

Dreams are more powerful than facts.”

~Robert Fulghum

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Excerpt:

After spending several hours speaking with the men and impatiently supervising trivial tasks, Sibrán returned to the secluded bank, dismayed to see Aislinn shivering. She still sat atop the rock and looked in need of comfort. He handed her the broad leaf on which he’d piled a few choice pieces of roasted boar. “This will warm you,” he assured her. “Careful. It’s still hot.”

“I feel the heat through the burdock leaf,” she agreed, accepting the food with a smile.

“Burdock? Can we eat it?”

“The roots and stems of the plant are delicious. You can try the leaves, but I warn you they are bitter.” She looked to the forest. “I hope Lop isn’t being a nuisance.”

He sat beside her and took a chunk of meat from his own leaf, elated when she didn’t move away. “Don’t worry on his account. He’s gone off somewhere to gnaw on a juicy bone the men gave him.”

Her smile of relief pleased him. “Eat,” he cajoled.

She obeyed and nibbled at a piece of meat.

He shifted his position and sank his teeth into a piece of crispy crackling. It was one of his favorite parts of a roasted pig.

He risked an occasional glance at her face, filled with an urge to taste the grease on her lips. She seemed to have a good appetite and finished the meat quickly. He studied the wilting leaf as she licked her fingers. “You were hungry,” he said.

She turned her doe-like eyes on him. “I was.” Then she reached up and smoothed her thumb over his cheek. “You have a morsel of…”

Her touch sent him over the edge. He cast his food to the ground, took her into his arms and put his mouth on hers. He’d expected to savor the salty taste of the boar, but Aislinn’s warm sweetness and the intriguing perfume of her skin overwhelmed his senses.

Emboldened when she didn’t push him away, he coaxed with his tongue, elated when she opened her mouth and allowed him entry. He breathed his need into her, welcomed her tongue into his mouth and suckled like a starving child.

He lifted his hand to her nape and pressed his fingers into her scalp, growling when she whimpered.

It was more than a kiss. It was a magical, transforming experience, but wetness on his cheek caused him to look at her face. Perplexed to see tears, he pulled her onto his lap and crushed her to his chest. “Don’t weep, Aislinn. For a man and a woman to share such an incredible kiss is a thing of wonder. I accept the gods have led me to this troubled land in order to bring peace and prosperity as the new king. It was our destiny we meet. You were meant to be my queen.”

Sobbing, she struggled off his lap. “No, Sibrán. You have been at sea for too long. There are many beautiful maidens in Inisfail who will be happy to couple with you.”

Angered he’d misinterpreted her feelings, he got to his feet. “I am not a man to make promises without forethought. I want you, Aislinn. I thought you wanted me, but apparently…”

She held up a trembling hand. “It’s of no matter what I want. I am Moqorr’s bondservant and forbidden to lie with a man.”

His throat tightened. Hurtful words escaped his mouth before he had a chance to think better of it. “You warm his bed?”

He caught hold of her wrist before her hand struck his face. He narrowed his eyes. “In Gaelicia death would be the punishment for striking a prince.”

“Kill me then,” she breathed. “I would prefer to die than have you believe I consort with Moqorr.”

The despair in her voice betrayed her hatred of the High King. His anger fled. He gathered her into his arms again. “Then why would he object if you pledged yourself to me?”

She made no reply, but it was of some consolation that she allowed him to hold her as she wept.

The Taking of Ireland

Amazon: http://a.co/6GErhWh

Anna’s touch of steam is never too hot. But her heroes are definitely worthy of a  little heat. Do you realize the strength they must have to handle a sword? But her heroes know how to be gentle, too. So grab her book, a blanket, your favorite beverage, and settle in for a delicious read.