Hi, everyone! Amazingly talented author Rose Lerner is visiting today to tell us all about the new GAMBLED AWAY historical romance anthology. In five all-new novellas, authors take the theme of characters wagered in a game of chance and turn it into, well, amazingness.
Welcome, Rose, and thanks for being here!
There’s a line in Jeannie Lin’s story in our Gambled Away anthology that made me cry.
When I was a child, I’d received a lantern once for the Spring Festival. It was pink and painted with flowers. I’d loved that lantern for an hour. A breeze had caught it while it hung from a tree in our courtyard, tipping the candle inside over and igniting the paper.
I’d wept after the servants put the fire out as I stared at the ruined shell. I would never have that bit of happiness, the glow of that moment in the same way ever again.
I wanted the moment with Gao back with the same empty sorrow now.
That feeling is all too familiar to me.
The past can never return. It’s unalterably lost to me, the moment it happens. That’s just what “past” means. Surely tautologies shouldn’t be frightening.
Because it isn’t just grief; it’s fear. An ever-present fear that what comes next won’t be as good as what I used to have, or as what I have right now. And that fear? It doesn’t just come when things are good. It comes when things are okay, or even when things are bad. What if I move forward and it’s worse?
I just read Marie Kondo’s The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up and it really did change my life. I decluttered my house when I never thought I could do that. I got rid of an entire bookshelf of books, you guys! AN ENTIRE BOOKSHELF. I feel like you probably get how huge that is.
What that book, and that process, taught me is that I was clinging so hard to my past that my fingers were cramping. My heart was cramping. I didn’t even realize. I had clothes in my closet I hadn’t worn since college…but I loved them in college and maybe…if I got rid of them…the person I was in college would be gone forever.
I am tearing up just writing that sentence. Which is weird, right? I mean, the person I was in college is ALREADY gone forever, because I’m not in college anymore. But also, I’M STILL ME even without velvet minidress overalls. Aren’t I?
I think my mom dying when I was 23 (ten years ago last month) had something to do with it. It felt like I’d lost such a huge chunk of myself—of my past, of memories of my past—that I’d better do my very best to hold on to what was left.
That fear of moving forward, of taking a risk, of becoming someone new, of losing the past, is a huge theme in my novella for Gambled Away. My hero Simon is terrified that maybe he and his best friend since middle school are growing apart. And my heroine Maggie has created a life for herself that’s really pretty good—that’s great even—and can’t admit to herself that maybe…just maybe…she’s feeling a little bored with it. That she wants more.
I was startled when two other stories in the anthology—Jeannie’s, about a sheltered, scholarly girl whose longing for more freedom lands her smack in the middle of a murder investigation, and Molly’s, about two people dealing with addiction and abuse and the aftermath of war—shared strikingly similar themes:
If I change, I can never go back to the way things were.
If I move forward, what will I have to leave behind?
What is left of me when I’m separated from the people I love?
I wonder if writing stories about gambling, about risks, naturally pushes you to write characters who are afraid of those risks. Who need to move forward in one painful burst of energy, one moment of decision, one turn of the cards. Because they can’t bring themselves to do it any other way.
I think that’s part of why I love romances so much. They remind me that the future can be better. That the risk is worth taking.
(And I’m just realizing this is basically what I talked about last time I was here too!! Here’s what I said: “Because in a romance, the risks you take for happiness always pay off.” Embarrassing! But it is reassuring to know I’m consistent. 😉
Tell me about a change for the better you’ve made in your life!
To two random commenters, Rose will give Gambled Away ebooks. Open internationally. Winner will be announced on Sunday.
Rose Lerner discovered Georgette Heyer when she was thirteen, and wrote her first historical romance a few years later. Her writing has improved since then, but her fascination with all things Regency hasn’t changed. She lives in Seattle with her best friend.
Get revenge. Pay a debt. Save a soul. Lose your heart.
Spanning centuries and continents, five brand-new novellas from beloved historical romance authors tell the stories of men and women who find themselves wagered in a game of chance and are forced to play for the highest stakes of all: love.
“Gideon and the Den of Thieves” by Joanna Bourne
London, 1793 – Soldier of fortune Gideon Gage has come home from halfway around the world, fully prepared to face down a ruthless gang to save his sister. But there’s one member of the gang he could never have been prepared for: fascinating Aimée, driven from her own home by the French Revolution and desperately in need of his help.
“Raising The Stakes” by Isabel Cooper
California, 1938 — When the flute she won in last night’s poker game unexpectedly summons an elven warrior bound to her service, two-bit con artist Sam takes quick advantage. With Talathan’s fairy powers at her command, her shakedown of a crooked preacher is a sure thing…but would she rather take a gamble on love?
“All or Nothing” by Rose Lerner
England, 1819 – Architect Simon Radcliffe-Gould needs someone to pose as his mistress so he can actually get some work done at a scandalous house party. Irrepressible gambling den hostess Maggie da Silva would rather be his mistress, but she’ll take what she can get…
“The Liar’s Dice” by Jeannie Lin
Tang Dynasty China, 849 A.D. — Lady Bai’s first taste of freedom brings her face to face with murder. A dangerous and enigmatic stranger becomes her closest ally as she investigates the crime, but can she trust her heart or her instincts when everyone is playing a game of liar’s dice?
“Redeemed” by Molly O’Keefe
Denver, 1868 — After agonizing years in the Civil War’s surgical tents, Union doctor James Madison has nothing left to lose. But when beautiful, tortured Helen Winters is the prize in a high-stakes game of poker, he goes all in to save her—and maybe his own soul.
GAMBLED AWAY on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited: http://amzn.to/1OkRanq
I’m thrilled to welcome Harlequin editor Susan Litman as my special guest today. I’ve been fortunate to work with Susan on several Special Edition continuities and today we’re going to talk about The Fortunes of Texas series.
Nancy Robards Thompson: Welcome to the Jaunty Quills, Susan! Before we start dishing about The Fortunes, please tell us a little bit about you.
Susan Litman: Thanks for having me today, Nancy. I’ve been at Harlequin for 14 years now—hard to believe! I started as an Assistant Editor for Intimate Moments, and eventually became an Associate Editor, then Editor for Special Edition. While I mostly acquire for Special Edition, I still work with several Romantic Suspense authors, and in fact I just acquired a brand-new author for HRS a couple of weeks ago!
NRT: I will never forget the day I got The Call. It’s such an exciting time. Congratulations to your new author! In addition to other continuities, you’re in charge of the Fortunes of Texas. What’s it like to work with such a longstanding series? What’s your favorite thing about the Fortunes?
SL: It’s a pleasure to work on The Fortunes of Texas, primarily because I get a thrill knowing that we’re constantly adding new elements to a franchise that our readers have loved for twenty years now—and hopefully we can continue to bring in new fans with new characters as well as cameos from some favorite classic Fortunes stars. I also love that we can take some fun risks with the continuity—adding the British Fortunes, for instance, was so much fun, and I loved seeing our authors bring those voices to life in a Texas setting.
NRT: One question I’m sure many readers are wondering is how in the world do you keep all the characters and storylines straight?
SL: It’s not easy—but to be honest, I have a memory for the most minute details for anything related to pop culture. If it is in Entertainment Weekly, I’ll remember it forever. J So if it is in a continuity bible or book, I’m not likely to forget it—though I might need to refer back to a book once in a while to double check a detail. That’s probably the biggest concern I have when working on a new continuity—making sure that we’re not contradicting any plot elements, or characterization, that was previously established. And that’s very difficult to do from year-to-year, but I’m happy to say that I think we’ve managed to accomplish this.
NRT: What’s it like to work with so many authors on one project?
SL: It’s wonderful. We always put together a wonderful mix of a couple of new voices, plus those I like to call the “returning continuity champions,” who have often written for a previous iteration of the Fortunes. The authors always work well together—everyone tends to start brainstorming once they’ve read the bible, coming up with creative ways to augment the existing elements and bring “their” voice to their specific story. The authors are, without question, a huge part of what makes the continuity so special.
NRT: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Fortunes of Texas. How has the storyline changed over the years?
SL: I don’t think it has changed so much as grown! Naturally, we’ve expanded the family. There are new branches in Red Rock, and Atlanta; newly discovered relatives as close as Horseback Hollow, Texas and as far as London, England. And now, in 2016, THE FORTUNES OF TEXAS: ALL FORTUNE’S CHILDREN will explore the story of tech giant Gerald Robinson and his family of Austin, Texas. Could he truly be a long-lost member of the fabled Fortune family? To celebrate the 20th anniversary, we had the pleasure of bringing back the matriarch Kate Fortune, and even doing an online prequel to set the stage for this continuity (FORTUNE’S FEAST by Marie Ferrarella.)
Knowing how much the readers love this family and this continuity has enabled us to branch out, and really expand the world of the Fortunes—but always, always maintaining the focus on the elements that make this continuity so special: the concept of bringing family back together. Which, of course, is also what Special Edition is all about—characters who place importance on love and family.
NRT: What’s next for the Fortunes? For Special Edition?
SL: For 2017, we’ve got some fun stories coming your way as we get even deeper into the mystery of Gerald Robinson’s past—and the tangled love lives of his legitimate and illegitimate children! And Special Edition has a number of wonderful authors and titles coming in the next few months—the new Montana Mavericks continuity, THE BABY BONANZA, kicks off in July with MARRIAGE, MAVERICK STYLE! by Christine Rimmer, and we’ve got books coming from bestselling authors including Merline Lovelace, Rachel Lee, Stella Bagwell, Brenda Harlen, plus RITA-winner Caro Carson and new voices including Joanna Sims and Katie Meyers. And in December, we will have THE HOLIDAY GIFT, a brand-new Cowboys of Cold Creek title from RaeAnne Thayne.
NRT: Now, for the most important question– who is your all-time Fortunes crush?
SL: Unfair question (how can you possibly choose just one?!) But after lots of deep thought about my favorite hero—and heroine!—I have to choose Galen Fortune Jones and Aurora McElroy from FORTUNE’S JUNE BRIDE by Allison Leigh (THE FORTUNES OF TEXAS: COWBOY COUNTRY). I was a theater geek in high school and college, so I really “got” this story—and the idea of a curmudgeonly—yet sexy—cowboy getting suckered into playing an old-timey cowboy in an amusement park stage show was both endearing and adorable . . . and sexy! I also loved the very Hugh Grant-esque Charles Fortune Chesterfield of FORTUNE’S SPECIAL DELIVERY by Michelle Major. What can I say? I’m a sucker for good manners and a sexy accent. 🙂
NRT: What’s been the Favorite Fortunes installment/season/storyline?
SL: Augh. Another unfair question. Truthfully, to date, I love each one as I’m working on it, because I get completely immersed in details, plots, characters, and so on. And I think we really did outdo ourselves for ALL FORTUNE’S CHILDREN to create a 20th anniversary to remember! But we’ve got some great plans up our sleeves for 2017 . . . 🙂 Plenty of family secrets, cowboys both rich and poor, and the women who love them for all. Readers will not want to miss a word!
If you’re a Fortunes fan what’s your favorite story or who is your favorite character? If you haven’t yet read the Fortunes series, what’s your favorite storyline or hero archetype? Nancy will give a $5 Amazon gift card to one person who comments.
Okay, so maybe I should have opened with a big Texas “Howdy” since I’m blogging about the Fortunes today, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around horses, ranches and bluebonnets when this is my temporary office view.
Since I never leave home without my laptop, I had this same view for a week while I was writing Wed By Fortune. And now that the book is finally on the shelf, I’m back at Kaanapali Beach on Maui, my favorite vacation spot. It’s a perfect place to rest and play, as well as read.
So how ‘bout them Fortunes? I love this series—not just taking part in the creation process, but by reading each of the books as they become available. But then again, who doesn’t love reading about the trials and romantic escapades of the Fortune and Mendoza families? It’s also fun to catch up on the lives of the characters we met in the past.
As a romance author, I have the best job in the world. But I must admit, it can be lonely at times, especially when I’m holed up in my office… Well, not the one with a view of the Pacific, as well as Lanai and Molokai. I’m talking about the one at home, which isn’t a bad place to work—unless I’m trying to finish a manuscript by the deadline. But there’s something special about working with five other authors and our editors to create a series of books.
While working on the 2016 Fortunes of Texas, Karen Rose Smith and I emailed back and forth to get certain details, descriptions and characterizations right. Karen’s book, Fortune’s Secret Husband, introduced rancher, Chase Parker, who runs a horse rescue organization. In my book, Wed by Fortune, Graham Fortune Robinson took some of Chase’s horses to Peter’s Place, a home for troubled teens. There, the boys learned how to work with the horses, how to gentle them and care for them. In the process, they began to change their own lives.
Following her divorce, Sasha-Marie Smith returns to her uncle’s ranch and is surprised to reconnect with Graham, who’d been an older teen she’d once known—and crushed on!
Even though that spark of attraction still exists, Sasha knows there isn’t a chance of anything romantic happening between them, especially since
Graham is cowboy sexy, single and unattached. On the other hand, Sasha has come back to Texas with a four year old daughter—and a good size baby bump! But little does Sasha know, Graham is going to struggle with all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings—and plenty of romantic thoughts.
I hope you enjoy reading Wed by Fortune as much as I enjoyed writing it. And now, if you don’t mind, I’m going back to my temporary office. 🙂 The white sand and tropical breezes are calling me!
Nancy chiming in here: Thanks for joining us today, Judy! And for offering such a generous prize! Readers, please tell us where your dream office would be located. One person who comments will win a couple of Judy’s books and a $10 Amazon gift card.
Since 2002, USA Today bestselling author Judy Duarte has written more than fifty books for Harlequin Special Edition and Kensington Publishing, earned two Rita® finals, won two Maggies and received a National Reader’s Choice Award. When she’s not cooped up in her writing cave, she enjoys traveling with her husband and spending quality time with her grandchildren. You can learn more about Judy and her books at her website: https://www.JudyDuarte.com Or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JudyDuarteNovelist
Christi Caldwell is here again with a an excerpt from her latest release, The Lure of a Rake. Don’t you love this cover?
Another breeze filtered the air between them. It rustled Cedric’s too-long, thick golden tresses, sending one tumbling over his brow, softening him, making him real—approachable, and not the sculpted model of masculine perfection able to command with a single look. He motioned to the wrought iron bench. “May I?”
Genevieve curled her fingers tight, hating this desire to run her hands through his tresses to explore their texture. “If I said no, would you leave?”
“Yes,” he said automatically. “But I’d attempt to convince you otherwise.”
Perhaps her soul was as wicked and wanton as she’d been accused, for she wanted to know what that convincing would entail. He stared at her pointedly and with a hesitant nod, she slid over onto the corner of the bench.
The marquess settled his tall, heavily muscled frame beside her, shrinking the space between them so that their legs touched. His cloak gaped slightly open. She swallowed hard. Unbidden, she stole a sideways look at the muscles of his thighs straining the fawn fabric of his front-flap breeches. Cheeks afire, she swiftly lifted her gaze, praying he’d not noted her scrutiny, and promptly stilled.
Head tipped back, with his eyes closed, the morning’s rays bathed Cedric’s face in sunlight. “Who was he?” he asked, unmoving from his repose so much that she blinked several times believing she’d imagined his question.
“My lord?” she asked tentatively.
“The gentleman to account for your wariness.”
She drew her book closer. “It would hardly be appropriate to speak of such intimate matters.”
“Bah, mine is hardly an intimate question.” Opening his eyes, the marquess picked his head up and favored her with a slow, seductive grin. “Were I to ask you the scent of oil you place in your bathwater or the fragrance you dab behind your ears, now that, I would allow would be intimate…for some.”
Despite a suitable wariness where this man was concerned, a smile pulled at her lips. With his charm, he was a rogue who could coax the queen out of her chemise. “Tell me, my lord, do you work at shocking a lady?”
“Hardly.” He winked. “I assure you, it comes quite naturally.”
Do you have a favorite rake in fiction?
I’m so pleased to welcome my pal Kris Kennedy to the Jaunty Quills. Kris writes amazing books – I mean, amazing. In fact, she’s one of my favorite historical romance writers. Her stories are sweeping, adventurous, and grounded in extraordinary historical events. If you love smart and sexy historical romance, these are the books for you.
Take it away, Kris!
Going Bigger, Hotter, Historical-er
Many thanks to my buddy Vanessa Kelly for asking me over to help spread the news about my newest book, CLAIMING HER.
I haven’t had an historical release for a few years, not since DECEPTION, which won RT’s K.I.S.S. Award for Best Historical Romance Hero of the Year in 2013. (And will be re-releasing next year.) But I think my NY publishing house had a hard time selling medievals, and I had a hard time making zero dollars, so I took a detour into contemporaries.
But I kept getting drawn back to historicals. They’re my first love, my heartbreak, my siren song. So, I came back.
My latest release, CLAIMING HER is set in Ireland, during the Elizabethan era, with an Irish warlord hero, and it’s really hot. Like, really hot.
I’ve been on the hunt for big, meaty, super-hot historicals. And I want medievals, or medieval-ish. I love Victorians & Regencies, but I want me some knights and warriors, too. I don’t necessarily want an erotic historical romance (well, wait, sure, sometimes I do…) But what I really want are stories of historical adventure, sweeping stories, immersive stories, steeped in history and character, but with the kind of no-holds-barred sensual heat you find in many contemporaries coming out today.
Ergo, my new collection, RENEGADES & OUTLAWS.
These are super-hot historicals with big bad alpha heroes and smart, capable heroines. Not erotic romance, but the sensual relationship is absolutely central to the characters’ arc, and the stories may push a few boundaries here and there (although I may have done that before (:eyes The Irish Warrior:))
The first in this collection is my novella THE KING’S OUTLAW, currently part of the USA Today® bestselling Captured by a Celtic Warrior anthology.
Which brings us to CLAIMING HER. It’s set in Ireland, 1589, with a dangerously handsome and ambitious Irish warrior hero, come home to claim the barony the Queen of England would not give him.
The heroine, he will discover, is not of a mind to be conquered.
Want a little excerpt??
Aodh Mac Con (pronounced like you would the beginning of “Aidan’) has just taken over the lady’s castle, and they’re, um, discussing it.
…“I am Rardove, sir,” she said boldly, quietly, and foolishly. “And I hold for England.”
He tipped closer. “That has just become a matter for negotiation, my lady. From here on, let us say England shall have to earn Rardove’s loyalty.”
She stepped back, her lips parting. He’d shocked her. The realization caused a small, strange tinge of disappointment in him, that a woman who’d held an English castle beyond the Pale with only ten men would be shocked by such a thing. It seemed somehow…diminishing. But then, Aodh had a taste for rebellion today, and nothing but more of the same would serve.
A movement at the far end of the hall caught his attention. One of his captains, Cormac, poked his head through a door, caught his eye and nodded, then ducked back out. Good. They’d made it to the north side, which meant they’d secured the entire castle. Rardove was his.
And so where was the hot satisfaction of conquest? The rush of triumph? Where was…everything?
Lying at the bottom of the same cold pit that had marked his life for too many years to count, no doubt. Intrigues, battle, courtly maneuvers, it was all the same: naught.
Apparently even coups of castles did not rise to the level of interest anymore.
He turned his attention back to Katarina. “My lady, if you will—”
All he saw was a blur of green silk, then her small, bunched fist smashed into his face.
The impact, hard and square, landed directly on his jaw.
Caught utterly unaware—as he’d never been before, never, not even when his father had had his head cut off—Aodh reeled sideways. The retreat gave enough room for her to launch herself forward and slam her shoulder directly into his ribs so hard and fast, he grunted and stumbled backward and hit the ground, her on top, twisting like a hellcat.
She jammed a knee into his bollocks, and he doubled over protectively, at which point she grabbed one of his fingers and twisted it back almost to breaking, while her other hand—so sinuous and slender it was all but ungrippable—snaked between their writhing bodies and tugged his accursed dagger out of its sheath.
With a roar, he lunged up off the ground, lifting her with him, and backed her to the wall. Predictably—dimly, he noted he was already predicting things about her—she wrestled like a firebrand. Whirling hair, arms, legs. Kicking, biting, punching, swiping with the knife.
First things first.
He caught hold of the feminine fist snaked around the hilt of his blade and slammed it to the wall above her head, gripping her wrist so hard she cried out, but she did not, of note, stop fighting. He finally had to pin her to the wall with his entire body, her toes dangling half a foot in the air, their faces pressed together, cheek to cheek, until he stilled everything that was writhing and flailing and kicking on her curving, rampant, berserker body.
Fire burned in his veins, urging him to smash and destroy. He reached over with his other hand and wrenched the blade out of her grip, then tossed it onto the ground behind him.
He inhaled slowly, forcing himself to calm. They stood like this for a moment, her body pinned between Aodh and the wall. He supposed she could still kick his shins, but she’d impact against his greaves, and it would hurt her far more than him.
She seemed to agree. At least, she didn’t move.
He pulled back a few inches, let her feet drop to the ground, and peered down at her. Breathing fast, she flung her head, spraying hair across her face. It was pale and beautiful, with slim, dark brows arcing over what appeared to be intelligent brown eyes. A shocking discovery.
“If you were a man, I would kill you right now,” he said in a low voice.
He waited for her response—everything now was a test, every moment a potential tipping point. Would she recoil? Be wise and retreat, apologize, surrender, run scared?
Would she be like everyone else?
She shifted the only thing he didn’t have restrained, her left hand, and laid what turned out to be the cold edge of a blade against the side of his throat.
“If I were a man, sir,” she whispered back, “you would already be dead.”
So, come on, ladies, give me some recommendations: what was the last big, sexy historical you read and loved?? One commentor wins a copy of the Captured by a Celtic Warrior anthology, which includes my story, THE KING’S OUTLAW!
And if you like big, sexy historicals like I do, sign up for my newsletter to be alerted whenever there’s a new release!