Thursday, June 11, 2015

Marriage - Arranged and Otherwise

One of the romance novel’s best-loved themes is a marriage of convenience. Of course, in a romance novel, the marriage plays a part in bringing an unlikely couple together and the reader can be assured of the happily ever after. I have played with this theme twice now, in my western historical, TAME THE WILD WIND (currently out of print but soon-to-be-re-released!) and my Regency historical, HOW TO MARRY A ROGUE. In both stories, the heroine needs the marriage to save her from a sticky situation, and the obliging hero is always a confirmed bachelor who doesn’t think it’s a good idea.



MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT, the new FYI channel’s show, just finished its second season with three couples who met at the altar. I was fascinated with the premise of this show, and watched every episode of season one, delighting when Jamie fell in love with Doug and cheering when Jason and Courtney realized they were meant to be. In the second season, two out of the three couples barely seemed to make it past their six weeks’ “experiment.” The third couple was doomed from the start.
While MAFS deals with not marriages of convenience but arranged ones, I realize the reason I love this show is because we get to watch the couples get to know each other, for better or for worse, and watch a relationship grow from strangers to (hopefully) a couple who truly loves each other. I like this particular trope because, just like the TV couples, the fictional hero and heroine also have to find a common ground and decide to stay together or not. Of course, being a romance novel, the answer is always to seek that happy ending.

There’s something about a wedding that makes two individuals grow into one unit. I was surprised on my own wedding day how much I felt that my husband and I were now a “real” family, even though we lived together for two years, owned a house, made a big move across the country, and shared finances already. Before our wedding, it felt like there was nothing “holding” us together. The wedding seemed to do that.

So, here’s to more weddings, marriages of convenience or not. And marriage, especially, for any couple who wants it. Weddings make individuals into families, and that should be the happily ever after for everyone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spring Is In the Air!

Well, here in Florida it is! I can't wait for the winter doldrums to be over, although I do find it easier to write on gloomy, dark winter days than in the hot spring and summer when outdoor activities call to me!

I have been busy getting back into the writing thing I do - I just submitted a short romance novella, a western historical, to the national romance writers organization for a new anthology that will come out next year. At 20 pages, it took me a quick two weeks to write, edit, seek corrections/advice from two fellow author friends, and submit it. If it isn't accepted (I will find out in May), I plan to extend it by another 20 pages and put it out there to you, my readers.

Mixing genres seems all the rage lately, and I've been thinking of combining a foreign character into a Regency historical romance. A good friend of mine is Indian, and she laments the lack of strong Indian heroines in traditional romances. An idea has been forming in my adventurous brain and I see a wealthy girl hoping to escape an arranged marriage and seeking the help of a confirmed bachelor who is an English sea captain working for her fiance.Some of my first attempts at romance novels involved international locations and non-English characters, and I'd like to revisit that. Maybe readers are over the tortured duke and kilt-challenged Highlander!

I hope your winter is almost over for you, and you are looking forward to new books and travels in the spring. Please enjoy the following excerpt from my new novella, RETURN TO ME, set in the American west:



“I’d heard you were back.” The lump of tears swelling in the back of her throat threatened to spill over. She inhaled a sharp breath and tasted the dust of the street. “Good for you, Garrett Kincaid. You finally made something of yourself. Goodbye.” She led Johnny by the hand and walked past him.
“Laurel, wait.” His boots scuffed the ground behind her.
“I have nothing to say to you.”
A small crowd had gathered outside the dry goods store and saloon across the street to stare at the living proof of a man who’d struck it rich in gold country. She continued toward the boarding house without looking back. Her behavior would cause speculation, but she was beyond caring.
“I have plenty to say to you, Laurel.” He strode beside her and kept pace as she broke into a slightly panicked jog.
She stopped in her tracks to confront him, not caring if she made a scene. “Get away from me, Garrett! I never want to speak to you again. What you did….”
She shivered as if she stood in the shade and the blazing sun wasn’t searing the tops of her shoulders.
“I wasn’t the only one down by the river, as I recall.” He pulled off his hat and held it to his chest. Everything around her faded. All she could see were his sharp eyes gazing steadily into hers. “We may have made a mistake back then, Laurel, but you and I both know it came out of something.”
“Came from what? Love?” She closed her eyes against the image of his face, which had been etched into her brain. “Don’t talk to me about love, Garrett. I hope that’s not why you came back here, to try and….”
“I came to make my peace with Emmett,” he interrupted. He shoved his hat upon his head again. “I’ll accept whatever punishment he wants to give me. Hell, if he wants to shoot my knees out, he can. God knows, I deserve it.” His frown deepened. “I’m not that kid I used to be, Laurel. I want to prove it to him. And to you.”
“You can’t. Prove it to him, at any rate.”
“Why not?” He glanced around the busy street–at the saloon on the corner and all the way down the dusty road to the church at the end, as if he expected Emmett to walk out of either building; two places his brother had never been. “I went to the ranch first, when I got in this morning. Some fella I never met told me Emmett had let the place. Where is he, anyway?”
“In Texas. Or Kansas.” She allowed a bitter smile to reach her lips, wallowing in the burden of misery she was about to thrust upon his broad shoulders. He could take it. He’d always been strong. Strong enough to break her heart and destroy his brother.
“When’s he coming back?”
“He’s not. Not in this life, anyway.”
“What are you saying?” His bronzed cheeks paled. The narrow creases at the corners of his eyes–brought on from years of hunting for gold–deepened. He no longer looked like the rowdy cowboy who’d stolen her heart right from under his brother. Something in his eyes changed, and, for the first time in his life, he looked strikingly like Emmett.
“He died. I don’t know how.” The words blurted from her in a torrent. “I received a letter from a doctor. I can’t recall now where he was. He’s buried there, in whatever little town he ran off to.”
His Adam’s apple bobbed and he blinked rapidly before clearing his throat. “What happened?”
She shrugged. The memories flooded her in all their familiar violence, hurling her back to the cool spring morning when she’d awakened to find every trace of Emmett gone. His horse, clothes…even his Sunday suit were missing. He’d even taken their wagon but left her with the orneriest mule that ever kicked out the back wall out of a barn. A rancher and his cowboys showed up a few days later with a lease written in Emmett’s hand, hastily scribbled on a scrap of paper, granting them permission to work the land. The rancher gave Laurel enough money to put her and Johnny up at the boarding house in town. She had enough to get her back to Boston, but she had nothing there anymore. Numb, she’d found a job as the schoolmistress when old Mrs. Henley up and died that winter.
“He left us. I don’t know if it was to find his fortune elsewhere…” Her voice dwindled off. Emmett had abandoned her just as Garrett had done. Except Emmett caught a fever in some little town somewhere and was buried in a town whose name she couldn’t remember.
Garrett shook his head slowly. “I can hardly believe it, Laurel. That doesn’t sound like Emmett.” His gaze pierced hers. “Leaving his wife and child like that. I thought if I left, he would…you’d both….” His face flushed.
“You didn’t know him the past few years, Garrett. He changed.” She bit her lip. Changed was too mild a word. In Garrett’s absence, Emmett’s pleasant moods had vanished overnight. He took to a whiskey bottle and spent less time on the ranch and more time riding the range, arriving home late at night when he thought she was asleep.
“I should have been there.” His eyes glistened. “I should never have gone.”
“No one stopped you from leaving.”
He broke her stare by focusing his attention on the shiny toes of his new rattlesnake skin boots.
“We both know why I had to go. I wasn’t doing anybody any favors sticking around.”
She straightened her shoulders and tried to remember how brave she’d been the last few years, when all she wanted to do was crawl into a hole somewhere and forget the world. But she had Johnny to care for. Sometimes, she wondered what might have happened to her had it not been for her little boy’s trusting smile. Johnny fidgeted, anxious to get out of the sun.
She nodded toward the boarding house across the street. “I can’t stay out here talking to you like this. I’m taking Johnny to our rooms. I’m glad you survived the gold fields.”
Garrett remained immobile, but his jaw clenched and unclenched a few times. He glanced down at Johnny, as if noticing the child for the first time. He dropped to one knee and held out his hand.
“Hey, there, Johnny. I’m your…your Uncle Garrett.”
Johnny stuck out his hand before Laurel could stop him. “Pleased to meet you, sir.” His little baby voice quavered.
“I want to take you and your mama to have dinner with me.” Garrett spoke solemnly to Johnny. He ignored Laurel’s shake of her head and mouthed no.
“Can we have candy, too?” Johnny bounced on his heels.
“Sure, son, we can have all the candy you want.” His face went scarlet.
Son. Although any other man could have used the term innocently enough, Garrett’s use of it jarred her. She would have held onto her stomach if she’d had a free hand. She suddenly feared she would lose her breakfast all over the street.
Garrett straightened to his full height.
“That is, if you’re willing, Laurel. I’d like to go over the situation at the ranch with you. I want to buy that rancher out of his lease.” He stuck his hands into his pockets, ruining the line of his expensively tailored coat. “I’ll take over the place. Make it the kind of ranch Emmett always wanted.”
The women by the store huddled in a group, darting disapproving glances at their usually proper schoolmarm who was now chatting away in the middle of the street with her dead husband’s handsome brother.
“Fine. You can fetch us at six. Johnny goes to bed at eight.”
He tipped his hat and gave Johnny a brief salute. He smiled at last when the little boy saluted back.
“Six it is.” He held his hat in both of his hands as they walked away.
She steeled herself not to turn and take a final look at him. Her heart thudded like a hammer in her chest, but she busied herself with balancing her packages in one arm and holding tightly to her son’s hand in the other, all the while telling herself it was good that Garrett Kincaid was ready to take on responsibilities. He might become an upstanding citizen. Maybe run for mayor, should the town fathers ever agree on the sort of governing body they wanted.
She stepped onto the shaded porch of the boarding house and steered Johnny past the men smoking their pipes and crowding the entrance.
Garrett was welcome to start all over in Broken Junction. She would just have to find a way to avoid him for the rest of her natural life.
 



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The New Year, So Far!

I haven't been writing as much as I promised myself I would. Mostly it's because my characters are going off onto paths I didn't know were there! The typical bad boy hero is revealing more layers every day, and my heroine is not the bluestocking, unaware-of-life-around-her type I first saw. A real friendship is developing between Jared and Devlina, making it harder for me to part them! Here is a peek at what they're up to:



He was deliberately taunting her. She would be well justified for slapping him across his smug face, but Lord Clayton’s emerald green eyes appeared in her mind as if the man himself stood  in the perfumed garden. Mr. Vickers might be her last chance for happiness, so she would swallow her pride.
“I wish to take lessons from you.”
He cocked a thick black eyebrow, resembling a gypsy she had once seen at a fair when she was a child. He’d swallowed a sword before her very eyes. Mr. Vickers looked as if he, too, possessed strange and fascinating skills.
“Lessons in what subject? Fencing? Riding? Not Latin, surely. I spent my university days involved in everything but schoolwork.”
“Not any of those.” She frowned. “I do not know how to ask this delicately, but you are not a man for whom delicacy could be a factor.”
“You know so much about me.”
“Your reputation precedes you, sir.”
“What do you know about me?”
Couples strolled by, out of sight from the protection of the rose bower, but their controlled laughter and easy conversations reached Devlina. Imagine. This time next year, it could be Neville…Lord Clayton…walking beside me. She had to go through with her plan, regardless how reckless it seemed now.
“I have heard many stories of your exploits. I do not wish to be one of your conquests, but seek your..." She cleared her throat delicately. "Expertise. I gathered you would be the right man for what I need.” His eyebrows rose so high upon his forehead she feared she'd shocked him. Him. She twisted her hands in the folds of her silk gown. “That did not come out the way I meant.”
“I think it’s exactly what you meant to say, Miss Carrow. And, while I am greatly - no, flattered is not the word....”
“I spoke hastily.” She interrupted him before he could continue on his appalling train of thought. It would serve her right if Miranda found her now, debasing herself in front of a man who was known for ruining the reputations of countless females this season and the last.
“Lessons.”
“Yes. I…” She drew a breath louder than she’d intended. The man was positively irritating. Heaven only knew what so many women apparently saw in him to have ruined their prospects by even the smallest acquaintance. “I would like you to teach me how to seduce a man.”
Her whispered words seemed to clamor through the garden as if she’d tolled them with a gong.

I hope you enjoy this peek at my work in progress! It is book one of an exciting new Regency-set series I hope to complete this year. I hope all of you are reaching your own goals for the New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Resolutions? How About Solutions!

This is going to be my writing year. Not the "start another new diet" or "try to exercise more" year, but a "stick to a writing plan and go for it!" kind of year. I have been making a list of ways to self-promote that don't make readers roll their eyes or switch off their computers. I've been seeking new reviewers and new advertising routes that don't cost an arm or a leg. I've even entered the famed RITA contest, which is a prestigious contest for published romance authors, sponsored by Romance Writers of America. But mostly, I have ambitiously outlined a 3-book series set in the Regency era which I hope to complete this year. I'm off to a good start, and mean to put my pen to the grindstone in 2015.

No more excuses. What are your dreams you've been putting off? What is stopping you? Work? Family? Other obligations? We hear it all the time - life is too short - and it is sadly so true. But it's time to move past the roadblocks we or others put in our paths and carve out the space in our busy lives to reach our goals.

Make a list of what you'd like to accomplish this year. Redecorate the house. Finish your degree. Learn to knit. Read War and Peace! Whatever it is, write down your plan and let 2015 be the year you finally do something about it.


Monday, December 1, 2014

STORM OF THE HEART New Release and Giveaway!

I'm so pleased to share my new book with you! Set in the wilds of northern Maine in 1814, Storm of the Heart features a beautiful young widow who saves a half-drowned stranger. Is he a spy or a traitor?


Leave a comment below and be signed up for a free giveaway of an autographed manuscript (paper) and an e-book! Manuscript for US-based readers only, please, but the e-book is for anyone in any country!

Here's another scene you can enjoy in the meantime:



The moonlight only emphasized her loveliness. He brushed a tangled strand of hair from her wet cheek, and her eyelids fluttered. Her lips parted with a gasp, and he wondered if she kissed her ghostly husband in her sleep. Before he could stop himself, he gave in to his pent-up frustration and longing and brushed his lips across hers.
He expected her to sink back into the bedclothes, dead asleep, or, worse, wake up. Instead, her lips quivered against his. Her arms tightened around him, sliding up to grip his shoulders. The pads of her fingers dug into his back. He couldn’t help himself. He deepened the kiss, aware of his rising ardor, but unable to contain it. She twined her fingers in his hair, pulling her to him with an urgency he didn’t want to fight. Every fiber of his being vibrated with sparks ignited by her kiss. His muscles weakened with each passing moment, as did his resolve to leave in the morning. How could he sneak out of the cottage like a criminal, when she was so alone, so desperately alone?
He would have to go soon, regardless. His presence was too much of a risk for her. For himself, he cared little. But he could not put the burden of harboring an enemy upon her.
He broke the kiss gently so as not to awaken her. Cradling her in his arms, he lowered her to the pillow and pulled the quilt up to her chin. He kept watch by her side to ensure she didn’t have another nightmare, but she slept heavily. She resembled an angel in sleep, with her golden hair tumbled across the pillowcase. In sleep, she was more the young woman he sensed dwelled beneath her daily sorrow and mournful burden. It was a shame, truly a shame, that she could not cast the burden aside and give her heart again.
Despite the almost painful urge to hold her through the night, he pulled up a hard-backed chair and sat beside her. He did allow one indulgence, which was to take her hand from the coverlet and hold it lightly. Her fingers closed around his.
Just before dawn, he staggered from her room and unpacked the flour sack of Caleb Quinn’s belongings before falling into a dead sleep on his pallet.
 

Dear readers, do you prefer one historical setting over another? Looking for more dukes and fewer cowboys, or are you ready for some good, old-fashioned American heroes? Leave your comments and I will draw a name out of the hat in 2 weeks! Stay tuned for more excerpts and surprises!

Monday, November 3, 2014

National Novel Writing Month is up and running!

Did you ever wish you could just sit down and write that book you've been keeping locked away in your head and heart for years? Not sure how to start or who to ask? Don't think you have enough time in the day to compose your masterpiece?

Then NANOWRIMO is for you. This is a free site that anyone can join. It's easy - you simply write as much as you can, every day for the entire month of November, and keep track of your word count as you go. You can make writing buddies who are either on the same journey as you or further along. Knowledge is shared, writers meet at local writing hot spots, and much support is given.

Come join me and thousands of other authors, new and established, as we write our butts off for the month! Good luck, and please share your thoughts on my blog. We can support each other every step of the way.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ROM CON READER RATING 9.31!

HOW TO MARRY A ROGUE (release date 2014) received a 9.31 rating from the readers at ROM CON! I am so excited beyond belief. This means my book will be featured on their site as a highly rated book by readers just like you!

Wow - let me catch my breath!  I needed a little pick me up just like this to get me going on my new project - a new 3-book series about headstrong, intrepid heiresses looking for a little bit of wicked in their lives. Think they can find the right kind of hero to make their happy ever after come true? Wait and see!

I'm also gearing up for next year's Romance Writers of America conference in New York. It's got something for readers, too - about 500 well known (and some famous!) authors will be on hand to sign their books and it's free to the public for this signing part of the conference. So, if you're going to be in New York next July, let me know and we'll meet up for some great dishing and a cup of tea!