For the most part, authors work alone. We spend hours upon hours inside our heads, crafting worlds of our own making. Even when we work with others–web designers, publicists, or assistants—our interactions with our co-workers are confined mainly to email.
That’s why it’s so much fun to occasionally step out of my self-imposed solitude to work with others. Last year I worked with Anna Campbell, Kate Noble, and Jaunty Quill Vanessa Kelly to write A Grosvenor Square Christmas (which is still free, by the way!).
This year I had to opportunity to work with Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, and Miranda Neville to write connected novellas for an anthology titled Christmas in the Duke’s Arms.
The Duke’s Arms is a cozy inn in the Nottinghamshire countryside. A duke lives nearby as do several other interesting characters, which Neville, Burrowes, and Jewel bring to life.
For my part, I wanted to bring a little action to the sleepy village of Hopewell-on-Lyft. I introduced the idea of a highwayman who’d stylized himself The New Sheriff of Nottingham. He’s been attacking the post coaches and the locals, and it’s up to fledgling spies Pierce Moneypence and Miss Qwillen to capture him.
If you read my recent release, Love and Let Spy, you’ll recognize Moneypence and Q and hopefully enjoy a more in-depth look at their relationship.
Tell me, readers, with 71 days before Christmas, are you thinking about the holidays at all or aren’t they on your radar yet? Two readers who comment will win copies of Christmas in the Duke’s Arms (print or ebook). Winners randomly chosen and announced Sunday. Print books mailed out after October 27.
An anthology of Regency novellas by Grace Burrowes, Shana Galen, Carolyn Jewel and Miranda Neville.
These yuletide tales are set in rural Nottinghamshire and feature couples who dream of holidays filled with true love, however unlikely that might be. A highwayman, a cozy country inn, a Christmas assembly and copious bundles of mistletoe contribute to merry, romantic holiday happily ever afters.
A Knight Before Christmas by Grace Burrowes
Sir Leviticus Sparrow is a man of business who means business when it comes to offering Penelope Carrington marriage under the mistletoe.
In The Duke’s Arms by Carolyn Jewel
What’s a Duke to do when he’s made an awful impression on the love of his life?
Licensed to Wed by Miranda Neville
If Lord Carbury could learn to take no for an answer, his marriage proposal might earn him a yes.
The Spy Beneath the Mistletoe by Shana Galen
Fledgling spies Q and Moneypence pursue love and a highwayman in The Duke’s Arms.
Buy It Now (only $3.99)!
First of all, I’m totally allowing spoilers in the comments and I’m making them in this post, so if you haven’t seen the series, and you don’t want it spoiled, click away now…
Now that they’re gone, we can talk.
I want to start with the casting.
Jamie–love Sam Heughan. He IS Jamie to me. I think he’s done a fabulous job.
Claire–don’t love Caitriona Balfe. I remember Claire seeming to practically look for trouble in the book, but I don’t remember being annoyed by it. Difference between print and film or the actress playing the part? Not sure.
Jack Randall/Frank Randall–Tobias Menzies is great. I don’t like him as Jack and I sympathize with him as Frank.
Next let’s talk setting. It’s gorgeous. I’d watch the show just for the scenery. Castle Leoch is visually stunning. Can you imagine living in a place like that?
The men’s clothing is awesome. I don’t love the bum rolls (is that what they’re called?). I appreciate the designer’s attention to costume accuracy, but why did anyone think that was a good look? Okay, I guess I have pictures from the 80s that call my taste into question as well, so who am I to talk?
The wedding…come on. You know you want to talk about the wedding episode.
Who’s watched it more than once? More than twice? If time constraints weren’t an issue, I’d have watched it more than once! It was very sexy, and by that I mean I am grateful for the casting of Sam Heughan. Some readers mentioned they didn’t like the flashbacks. Not sure there was a better way to film that episode. It would have been boring to watch all the lead up and have to wait for all the sexy times. And then it might have been sexy times overload. Perhaps the flashbacks increased the suspense? Of course, having to wait until episode 6 was maybe too much suspense…
So what are your thoughts on Outlander, the TV series? Love? Hate? Favorite parts? Least favorite parts. Spoilers allowed.
The Jaunty Quills are excited to present debut author Jessica Peterson, author of The Gentleman Jewel Thief. I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy, and it’s one of the best debut books I’ve read. The Gentleman Jewel Thief was sexy, witty, and fast-paced. Keep reading to find out how to win a copy of The Gentleman Jewel Thief, plus an ARC of The Millionaire Rogue, book 2 of The Hope Diamond Trilogy, which comes out on January 6 from Berkley Sensation!
Shana: Welcome, Jessica! Tell us about The Gentleman Jewel Thief. This is the first book in the Hope Diamond Trilogy, right?
Jessica Peterson: Hi Shana! Many thanks to you and the Jaunty Quills for hosting me today. It’s an honor to rub (virtual!) elbows with so many authors I admire.
And yes, The Gentleman Jewel Thief is the first book of The Hope Diamond Trilogy. I pitch it as The Thomas Crown Affair meets a (very sassy) Jane Austen. The idea first came to me while I was doing research on the Regency era. Turns out the Hope Diamond – known as the French Blue back then – shows up in 1812 London after disappearing, mysteriously, some twenty years before during the tumult of the French Revolution. I knew I had to write a series around the infamous gem; its appearance in Regency England was far too tantalizing a mystery to leave unexplored! My agent was the one who came up with the “gentleman jewel thief” idea, and I ran with it. In the process, I encountered an array of fascinating historical figures who may or may not have been involved in the French Blue’s travels – the Prince of Wales (Prinny, later King George IV) and his long suffering wife, Princess Caroline; the bourbon King Louis XVIII; the Hope family; and Napoleon Bonaparte – many of whom make cameos in The Hope Diamond Trilogy.
Book One – The Gentleman Jewel Thief – tells the tale of (you guessed it!) a bad boy gentleman jewel thief, and the alluring lady from whom he pilfers the French Blue. Book Two – The Millionaire Rogue, out in January! – follows Thomas Hope, the millionaire banker who purchased the gem under suspicious circumstances, and the debutante who may foil his plans to get it back. Book Three – The Undercover Scoundrel, available next summer – explores the inconvenient attraction that blooms between Henry Lake, the man tasked with recovering the diamond, and Lady Caroline, Dowager Duchess of Berry, our jewel thief’s widowed sister. All sorts of deliciousness ensues!
I had so much fun writing The Gentleman Jewel Thief, and am so glad you enjoyed it as well, Shana. I mean, what’s not to like about a forty five carat diamond? I wouldn’t mind wearing that thing around my neck.
Shana: I’d wear it too, but I’d feel like I needed a bodyguard. I loved your hero, Lord William Townshend. He’s so deliciously wicked. Tell us more about him.
Jessica Peterson: William is quite wicked, isn’t he? I drew enormous inspiration from both Steve McQueen and hairy-chested Pierce Brosnan in their roles as Thomas Crown in The Thomas Crown Affair. I loved the idea of a bored, wildly handsome, unimaginably wealthy playboy who steals a priceless object in front of all the world, just because he can.
It is a fine balance to strike when you’re writing a rakehell hero like William Townshend – wealthy but not entitled, bored but not aloof, intelligent but not callous. No one likes a careless, spoiled, rotten hero less than me, so it was a challenge to uncover William’s softer side; the vulnerable part of him, the part beneath the debonair, calculating exterior. I think Lady Violet, my heroine, uncovers that part of him quite nicely – along with other, rather less virtuous parts, of course.
Shana: Pierce Brosnan and Steve McQueen! Love the combo of those two. What drew you to writing about the Regency era?
Jessica Peterson: I am a huge history nerd, and I am proud of it. Growing up, I was a chunky, awkward, decidedly introverted kid, and I think I liked escaping into worlds that were very different from my own – worlds without bullies, gym class, or braces (I suffered all three). I started with Gone With the Wind, and was blown away (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) by the romance. It wasn’t long before I discovered Jane Austen, which led me to Regency Romance. I grew up on a steady diet of Princess Diana and her handsome sons; I loved England, I loved royalty, and I loved the idea of living in a palace. So I guess the Regency period is a natural fit for all the things I love – add a Benedict Cumberbatch-lookalike hero, and I am one happy camper!
Shana: Tell us a bit about your publishing journey. Is being a published author like you thought it would be?
Jessica Peterson: It’s funny – when you’re working on your first, or maybe your fifth, or fiftieth manuscript, and you’re not published yet, all you can think about is getting that publishing contract. You think, “Hey, once I sign the dotted line, I am going to live like Danielle Steel and I am going to date Benedict and all my problems will go away.”
I am here to tell you that your journey BEGINS when you get that contract. Obviously I am new to the publishing world, so this is by no means a blanket statement, but signing the dotted line brings with it a whole new host of challenges – and desires. Marketing and publicity are things I never thought twice about when I was unpublished; now they take up a decent chunk of my time, and I never seem to know what I’m doing! You want your book to sell well. You want it to get good reviews. You want to write like Shana Galen, or Sarah MacLean, or other masters of the genre.
I guess you realize just how much you have to learn – and that, sadly, unless you are an A-list actress or Pippa Middleton, you are never going to date Benedict.
Shana: Aww, thanks! And how do I not know Pippa Middleton is dating Benedict?
Finally, tell us what you have coming next.
Jessica Peterson: Sure! Book 2 of The Hope Diamond Trilogy, The Millionaire Rogue, hits shelves on January 6, 2015 – perfect for all you lucky readers who receive Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift certificates over the holidays!
I’d say this book is a lot more emotional than book one – lushly so. Thomas and Sophia, my main guy and gal, have such an instant, intense connection from the moment they meet on the page. Thomas is one of those quiet, but intense and passionate, heroes. Neither Thomas nor Sophia intends, or wants (or is allowed, really) to fall in love; it’s a “one-drink-turning-into-naked-kissing-on-the-couch” type situation. The thing they share – they can’t resist it. And that’s the kind of romance I love.
Readers, now it’s your turn. Are you a fan of sexy bad boys? Could you love a gentleman jewel thief? One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win a copy of The Gentleman Jewel Thief and an ARC of The Millionaire Rogue. U.S. and Canada only, please! The winner will be announced Sunday and contacted via email.
The Millionaire Rogue…
In a time when ladies were demure and men courtly, one priceless treasure set England’s lust ablaze and incited unimaginable scandal and passion—the Hope Diamond.
Heir to an impressive title and fortune, Lord William Townshend, Earl of Harclay, is among the most disreputable rakes in England. But, desperately bored by dull heiresses and tedious soirees, he seeks new excitement—with a dangerous scheme to steal the world’s most legendary gemstone from its owner, Alexander Hope. To his surprise, however, it’s not the robbery that sets his blood burning but the alluring lady from whom he pilfers the gem.
A string of bad luck has left the fate of Lady Violet Rutledge’s estate entirely in Hope’s scheming hands. So when his prized jewel disappears from around her neck, she has no choice but to track down the villain responsible for the theft. Only Harclay has his sights set on taking more from her than the necklace—and she’s tempted to surrender anything he desires…
Now, caught in a thrilling game of secrecy and seduction, Violet must find a way to protect her fortune—and her heart—before she loses both forever…
Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Rhett Butler and Mr. Darcy, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark, and handsome heroes of her own.
A graduate of Duke University, Jessica worked in an investment bank before leaving to pursue her writerly dreams. She lives with her husband, the tall, dark, and handsome Mr. Peterson, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
You can find her at
I’ve been thinking about what makes a great book cover lately. I know a lot of what appeals to readers depends on genre, so I’d love one of the Jaunties who writes contemporary to tackle this same topic in a future post.
I can speak to my observations with covers for historical romances and what I think makes a cover appeal to readers.
1. The cover is lush.
Not surprisingly, historical readers love covers with pretty dresses, gorgeous colors, and beautiful scenery. If I’m jealous of the cover model’s dress, chances are I’m going to pick that book up, if only for the cover alone.
2. The title catches the readers’ attention.
The title and the author’s name are often just as important as the cover image. Is the author’s name big or small? Is the title long or short? The best titles are those readers remember. Authors will often play with common phrases, movie titles, even song titles in order to catch a reader’s attention.
Sarah MacLean’s titles are one example.
So are Kieran Kramer’s.
3. Most importantly, a great book cover leaves the reader with a question they can only answer by reading the book.
Sarah MacLean accomplishes this with NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER. The question? Why is this lady from an era when women wore dresses, wearing trousers. The title is another example of a play on a common phrase.
Sophie Jordan’s novel HOW TO LOSE A BRIDE IN ONE NIGHT piqued readers’ attention by making them wonder if the heroine really is lost on her wedding night.
One of my best covers is LORD AND LADY SPY. Not only does it have colors that pop, it deliberately mirrors the movie posters for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. As an added touch, the designer has the female model standing on a box marked Explosives. That’s a fun nod to the lighter tone of the book and a play on the double meaning of explosive—the traditional blowing up meaning and the sexual connotation.
I’m thrilled my next full-length novel, EARLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN (February 2015), has so many of the qualities that make a great cover. Take a look. Does it leave you with a question? Is the title memorable?
I have long been a fan of the contemporary trope of the “wrong bed” – somehow the heroine ends up crawling into the bed of her crush/boyfriend/lover’s brother/friend/etc. and has the best sex of her life and then chaos ensues. It’s a fun trope and it works well in contemporary romance. But I really wanted to try my hand at it in an historical. To have the heroine intentionally seduce someone only to find out (at a much later date) that she crawled into the wrong bed. Oh what fun. And thus was born the final book in my Masquerading Mistresses series, MISADVENTURES IN SEDUCTION.
First, can we take a moment and gawk at that gorgeous cover? I mean, it’s soooo pretty. Okay, now that that’s done, let’s get to the good stuff. So my heroine, Prudence, is in a bit of a pickle. She’s responsible for her younger siblings and there are plenty of them. Her brother wants to go off and fight the war, but she’s bound and determined to prevent him from doing that so she’s not alone and providing for their younger siblings. So she strikes a deal with a less than gentlemanly gentleman, her virtue, for her brother’s safety, only she accidentally slips into the Duke of Sutcliffe’s bed. What’s a girl to do?
Harrison lay still in the darkness. A sound had awakened him, and it took him a moment to realize it had been the click of his door unlatching. Someone was in his bedchamber. He reached to the bedside table and retrieved his pistol. He hated these bloody country house parties—they exposed him to too many people. He had only attended so that members of the Seven, the elite group of spies he led, could exchange information without drawing undo attention to themselves. But apparently he hadn’t been discreet enough, because someone was entering his room. He gripped the pistol’s handle and tried to appear as if he were still sleeping.
There was movement by his bed, and he wished he hadn’t allowed the fire to die down to nothing but a handful of coals. It wasn’t chilly in the room, but it was unforgivably dark.
Then pressure on the mattress as someone crawled in beside him. Soft feminine curves pressed to his bare chest—soft, naked curves. No doubt a servant girl looking for a toss. He sighed in relief and his taut muscles relaxed. She nuzzled closer.
“I’ve been unable to stop thinking about our conversation this evening.”
He knew that voice, and it was most assuredly not a servant. “Prudence?” he asked in a hushed whisper.
She pressed her fingers to his lips. “Shh. This will be easier for me if you let me do the talking.”
Well, she’d better do the talking, because he didn’t understand what the hell she was about. He set the pistol back on the bedside table.
Yes, he found Prudence Hixsby undeniably appealing. How could he not with her intriguing curves, her sharp mind, and her straightforward practicality? She was precisely the sort of woman—maybe even the precise woman—he would court, if he was a man in the position to court a woman.
But there was no place for romance in his life, let alone marriage, and Prudence was not a woman one romanced without the intention of marrying her.
Which was precisely why he’d worked so hard to ignore the attraction he felt for her. Until this very moment, he’d been certain he did such a good job disguising his feelings that she hadn’t a clue that he was attracted to her. Apparently he was less adept at hiding his desire than he’d thought.
“Pru,” he began, his voice so rough he didn’t even sound like himself.
Again she stopped him. “I understand that this isn’t marriage you’re offering. I believe I can accept that. I am old enough and practical enough to know that doing this isn’t going to ruin my chances on the marriage mart.” She drew in a breath, as though she was mustering her courage. Then she pressed a kiss to his jaw. “Please. I want to do this.”
He should have protested. He intended to but, before he could, she crawled atop him, kissed his chin, and then his jaw. Hot, sweet kisses all the way until she reached his mouth.
He had not expected Prudence to seduce him. She seemed so very irritated with him much of the time. Perhaps that was merely her way of flirting.
Her chaste kisses were driving him insane. That and the very unchaste feel of her naked skin against his. He was hard. She wanted him. He sure as hell wanted her.
He rolled her over and kissed her intensely, taking her sweet seduction and setting it afire.
So what do you think, are there some plot devices more common in contemporaries that you’d like to see in an historical? Or how about the other way around?