Please welcome historical romance author Madeline Martin!
The best part of doing research for Deception of a Highlander was my trip to Scotland where I got to stay overnight in castles, see plenty of beautiful ruins and explore, explore, explore! I could fill up an entire blog on all my adventures from that two week trip.
Today, however, I’m just going to talk about my stay on the Isle of Skye where Deception of a Highlander is set.
The Isle of Skye is on the Eastern side of Scotland, set in the Highlands. It’s a beautiful, magical place where lochs mirror the endless sky and tender, lush grass splits to reveal craggy rock beneath. The winds there are so strong, they make the waterfalls on the cliffs flow backward and billow up into the air in a spray of steamy white. It’s absolutely incredible.
While there, I did two really cool things:
1. I went to my hero’s castle, Caisteal Camus (now called Knock Castle). It was quite an adventure getting there at all. After driving up and down the road several times. (I saw the sign…but I didn’t see the castle, then I saw the sign…but didn’t see the castle, then I saw the sign…yeah, you get it….) I finally just parked and hiked a ways and then I saw it!! On the other side of a five foot stream. It was RIGHT THERE. I could have chucked a rock and hit it. Don’t worry, I didn’t. Nor did I give in to the temptation to wade across it since the middle of October is pretty chilly in Scotland. But I was determined. I marched back up and found a new way to go through a path set by a nearby hotel. I reached the end of the path and there was the castle…just about 12 feet above me. Seeing no denoted path, I began to climb over rocks. They were black and wet and so, so slippery. It’s here I confess (shamelessly) I fell. Hard. Truthfully though, it really isn’t a vacation unless I come away with a war wound – CHECK!
It was when I finally got to the top that I noticed a gentle sloping walkway I could have leisurely strolled up. (But then I wouldn’t have this story, now would I?) The view was worth the effort (and mild contusion) because it was breath-taking the way it overlooked the water. There’s one part that holds the remains of a window facing out to the sea and I could just imagine some lady staring wistfully out as she waited for her love to return (yes, that’s hopelessly romantic, I know.) There wasn’t much left of the castle to explore, but I have enough of an imagination to make Caisteal Camus hit the top ten list of my Scotland trip highlights.
2. The most interesting man in the world is not the Dos Equis guy – he’s actually a blacksmith from the Isle of Skye who still uses an anvil (passed down through his family) and has stacks of books all around his house that he’s memorized and can pinpoint knowledge from by page number. He was in the middle of making a historic dagger/sword collection for a history demonstration somewhere in Scotland and showed me everything from fancy eating daggers to wicked blades. He even made targes by hand and demonstrated how they were used in combat. The biggest influence he had on my writing was in a black-purple opalescent blade on his desk. I asked what it was and he said it just hadn’t been finished yet. Apparently forged steel is that way when it first comes out, before its ground clean to the shiny silver we know. If the black-purple is left as is, it eventually gets silvered with nicks and scratches, but for the most part remains that awesome color. I just had to put that in a book! So, Alec, my hero of Enchantment of a Highlander (introduced in Deception of a Highlander), has a black sword.
There was so much more about my trip to Scotland than just the short, two day visit to the Isle of Skye, but those memories are for other posts…and other books.
For the opportunity to win a signed copy of Deception of a Highlander, please tell me your favorite vacation war wound (or memory if you have the good fortune to not be so clumsy).
Vanessa, here. You can find out more about Madeline and her books on her website!
Love At First Sight
My senior year in high school, I worked afternoons and Saturday mornings as a teller at a local bank. It was a portable building, the kind frequently used to add extra space to an overcrowded school, and it had a walk-in lobby and three drive-thru lanes. I was working the lobby one afternoon when a man I’d never seen before walked in. He went to the opposite counter and filled out a banking slip before approaching my window.
He was tall, with curly brown hair and the bluest eyes I have ever seen. He hands me his deposit slip and asks if I can verify the account number because he just had his eyes dilated and he isn’t sure he wrote it correctly. I recite the account number, then glance to the name, Tim Schliesman. There’s something familiar about the name, but I can’t quite place it. The deposit slip also had a place for the address, which he’d filled in. My heart is doing one of those beat-skip-beat-skip rhythms that made me wonder if I’m actually breathing or not.
Me: “You live at 31 Huck Finn Drive? We’re moving to 21 Huck Finn Drive. We’re going to be neighbors!”
His lack of enthusiasm doesn’t lessen mine. But seriously, he could have cared less about anything I was saying. I finish the transaction and send him on his way, watching his Levi clad butt walking toward the door. He even looks good from behind!
As soon as the building is empty, I wave the deposit slip at my co-workers. “Okay, who knows this guy?” Everyone is shaking their heads. It’s time for Plan B. I call the main bank and ask them to pull his information card. Mainly, I want to know his age. I find out he’s three years older than me, which means he should be in my freshman yearbook.
Cue the Mission Impossible music! I spend the night searching through multiple yearbooks, trying to find him. No luck. I did, however, locate two other guys with the same last name. They are younger than me so I’m guessing they’re his brothers. At this point, there’s really nothing else I can do. We’ll be moving in two weeks, so I wait it out.
Our new house is directly across the street from his. He spends a lot of time doing yardwork and I spend an equal amount of time watching him. Then I get this brilliant idea to work in the yard, too! I pull out some spandex bike shorts and a sports bra and go in search of the lawnmower. Luckily, we have a brand new one. I take off across the yard, mowing an uneven path while waiting for him to notice me. When he finally looks up, I wave and smile. Unfortunately, steering the mower with one hand causes me to hit the culvert under our driveway. The mower makes a horrible screeching sound and smoke rolls from the motor. I’ve just ruined a $300 lawnmower. Ooops!
No more yardwork for me.
By now, the senior prom is approaching and I want *someone* to be my date. Except, he’s never shown any interest in me and I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong. I’m completely and totally in love with this guy. Can’t eat, can’t sleep, in love. Instead of going to prom, a group of friends go to dinner and then head to the Holiday Inn for a party. We walk through the front door and guess who is standing behind the desk? Yep, it’s him. He works as a night auditor and I just know he’s going to tell my parents.
He doesn’t. But my brother is friends with his brothers and he spends hours over at their house. He usually comes home and says, “Tim doesn’t know you’re alive!”
By now, four months have passed and it doesn’t seem to matter how many hours I spend watching him from our living room windows. I have to accept the fact that he obviously doesn’t like me and certainly doesn’t want to date me. I have to give up on him.
I’ll never forget that day. I pulled into our driveway after running some errands and he was outside using the weed eater. I didn’t bother to wave, I just went inside. Then I found my favorite window and watched him one last time. I had to give up on love because, obviously, men were stupid.
Ten minutes later, my doorbell rang. When I answered, guess who was standing on the other side? Yep, it was him. All sweaty, covered in grass and looking nervous.
“Hi.” I answer.
“I’m wondering if maybe you’d like to go out for dinner or a movie sometime?” he asks.
It was honestly the last thing I expected him to say, and it took me several seconds to respond. “Sure, I’d love to.”
That was the beginning of a courtship that lasted two years before we married. I like to say, “It was love at first sight…for one of us.”
My hubby always responds, “I was blinded by your beauty.”
Don’t you just love a happy ending?
I’m giving away an autographed copy of Protecting His Brother’s Bride to a North American reader. Here’s your question: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love? Leave an answer in the comments section by noon on Saturday. Winners will be notified Sunday on the Jaunty Quills blog so be sure to check back.
For more information on Protecting His Brother’s Bride, please check out the following links:
Author FB page = http://bit.ly/JanOnFB
Friend you on FB = http://bit.ly/ChatWithJan
Harlequin Excerpt = http://bit.ly/Jan-Protect-Excerpt
On Sale at Harlequin = http://bit.ly/Jan-Protect-HQ
Kindle = http://bit.ly/Jan-ProtectKindle
Goodreads = http://bit.ly/JanOnGReads
I’m so pleased to welcome one of my favorite authors (and people!) to the blog today. Manda Collins writes smart, sexy historical romance with a dash of mystery and suspense. She’s here to tell us about her upcoming book.
Thanks so much for having me back at Jaunty Quills, Vanessa!
One of the ways I generate ideas for my books is to see something in contemporary popular culture and think about how it would work if it were shifted to another time period. In this case, I saw the proliferation of Motorcycle Club books after the television show Sons of Anarchy got big. One thing most folks don’t realize is that vehicles and speed have been favorite past-times from the time humans first invented the wheel. And in the Regency, the driving club is where aficionados honed their skills. So, The Lords of Anarchy was born.
I have a disclaimer though. You DO NOT have to have watched the show in order to “get” my series. Sons of Anarchy was just the spark for my books—not the blueprint—if that makes sense.
So, we love rakes, right? And I REALLY love the one on that awesome cover of yours. But your heroes are never just garden variety rakes—they have a lot of depth. What’s Frederick like, and what’s he up to in this story?
First, thanks about the cover. I love it, and I wish I could take credit, but that’s all my publisher and the cover designer’s doing. But, I have to admit, it’s pretty smokin’.
Freddie wasn’t born a rake. He became one after his heart was broken by the heroine of A GOOD RAKE IS HARD TO FIND, the celebrated poet Leonora Craven. They were betrothed, she broke it off, and he absconded to the continent to lick his wounds and cut a swathe through the accommodating ladies of the continent. But now he’s back, and Leonora needs his help to find out who killed her brother—who also happened to be one of his best friends. And over the course of the book, they must work together to solve that mystery.
You always have an element of mystery and suspense in your stories—what draws you to include that in your historical romances? Which writers in the mystery/suspense world are influences?
I was a mystery reader before I was a romance reader. And some of my favorite books in both genres have been those that included elements of the both. And from a writing perspective, both mysteries and romances feature people dealing with some of the most emotional moments in their lives. Which makes for exciting writing for me as I work through how this character will respond to both the mystery and falling in love.
I read all sorts of mystery authors, from Karin Slaughter to Charles Todd to Jacqueline Winspear. I can’t really say who has been the most influential, but certainly these, and perhaps others like Peter Robinson, Elizabeth George, Jane Casey and Sharon Bolton have had an impact on my writing.
Can we have a snippet of Leonora and Frederick?
Readers, don’t forget to check out Manda’s giveaway after the excerpt!
“My apologies, my lord,” the young man said with a grimace, “but there is a situation at the door that demands your attention.”
“The door?” Mainwaring echoed.
“The last time I saw a ‘situation at the door’,” Trent said with a raised brow, “was when Pinky Byng’s mistress showed up to throw his parting gift back in his face. I told him that garnets were too cheap for that one, but he didn’t listen.”
“I can assure you it’s nothing like that,” Freddy said with a laugh. “I always manage to make my mistresses think it’s their idea to break it off with me rather than the other way around. Cheaper that way, my being a younger son and all.”
Even so, he had a bad feeling about this. Some sixth sense told him that someone causing a scene at the door of Brooks was not going to bring glad tidings of great joy.
And when he reached the door, followed close behind by Trent and Mainwaring who were not willing to miss such a diversion, he knew he was right.
“I might have known I’d find the three of you together,” Miss Leonora Craven said, her generous red lips tight with annoyance. “Though you needn’t have brought your little friends with you to the door for protection, Lord Frederick. I’ve no intention of harming your person no matter how you might deserve it for getting my brother killed.”
Keenly aware of the curious glances they were getting from the club members who stood on the steps just behind her, Freddy turned to Ned. “I realize that ladies are not allowed in the club, Ned, but is there some small anteroom where we might be private for a few moments?”
It would do Leonora’s reputation little good to be seen going into a room alone with the three of them, but then again, if her reputation was her first concern, she’d not have come to St. James Street at all.
“Of course, my lord.” Ned ushered them to a door just off the hallway. “I’ll bring some tea for the lady.”
He didn’t think Leonora would be there long enough for tea, but Freddy agreed, then shepherded her into the small sitting room, surprised, as he always was by how tiny she seemed considering how large her personality could be.
The chamber was outfitted with a few club chairs, a settee and a low table. Leonora stalked into the room, her dark head held high, while Freddy followed and took a place before the fire. Trent and Mainwaring, perhaps sensing that this was a private matter, had slipped away with Ned.
“Well, Nora,” he said once the door closed behind them, “You’ve got me here and made a hash of your reputation in the process. I hope it will be worth it.”
Her green eyes flashed with anger, and Freddy couldn’t help but notice the shadows beneath them. Her dark hair was just as glossy as ever, and framed her heart shaped face in a halo of loose curls, one caressing her cheek like a kiss. But she looked thinner than the last time he’d seen her. The day she’d broken off their engagement and sent him on a reckless tear that ended with his leaving England for the freedoms of the continent.
He’d expected their first meeting to be difficult, but to his surprise, much the resentment he’d felt had dissipated in the years since they’d parted. It was true that she had not been particularly kind in breaking things off between them. Indeed, she’d never told him the true reason for it. Had tried to fob him off with some silly tale of being afraid of giving up her control of her own life. It was something that had not once come up between them, so when she declared it to be why she was ending what had up to that point been a perfectly agreeable connection, he had been dumbfounded. And hurt that she would dismiss him without any more explanation than that.
Even so, in the intervening years, he’d had a great deal of time to think. And he’d come to realize that whatever her true reason for breaking things off, it had been something serious. Something that was more important to her than her own happiness. For they had been happy before she ended things.
And though he was not yet sanguine about what had happened, he was no longer consumed with bitterness over it.
Which did not mean he wasn’t annoyed that she’d sought him out in Brook’s without a care for either of their reputations. It was the sort of reckless gesture he’d have been prone to in his wilder days, but he was trying to mend his reputation. Having a woman pursue him to St. James Street was not going to help things.
Leonora, however, obviously did not care.
“You know as well as I do that my reputation is able to withstand more than the usual society lady’s thanks to my writing,” she responded, waving off his concerns. “And besides that, in this instance, I wished to make a scene. I relish it, in fact.”
“To what purpose?” Freddy demanded, growing tired of her taunts. “My reputation is already not what it should be. So if you’re thinking to ruin me, you’re missing the mark.”
“Of course I know that,” Leonora said, her eyes bright with emotion. “But I’m not all that concerned with such things at present. I want only justice for my brother. And I wish to know what you plan to do to make your cousin, to whom you introduced my impressionable brother, pay for Jonny’s death.”
Ah. That’s where all this came from.
“I’m not sure what you mean, Miss Craven,” he said with stiff formality, despite the fact that he and his friends had been discussing this very matter only moments ago.
“Oh, give over, my lord,” she said sharply. “You know as well as I do that Jonathan’s death was no accident. He was murdered by that vicious club and I can prove it.”
Manda will be giving away a copy of A GOOD RAKE IS HARD TO FIND to one person who comments. Do you like suspense and mystery in your romance? Are there ones that you really liked?
For more info on Manda’s books, check out her website.
Even in London society—where everyone knows what you did last season—you never know who’s next in line to walk down the aisle…
A DANGEROUS GAME
Heartbroken by the loss of her brother, Miss Leonora Craven vows to uncover the truth about his “accident,” which seems to have been anything but. Jonathan Craven was involved with the Lords of Anarchy, a notorious driving club, and Leonora can’t help but suspect foul play. But the only way she can infiltrate their reckless inner circle is to enlist the help of Jonny’s closest ally, Lord Frederick Lisle. If only he didn’t also happen to be the man who broke Leonora’s heart…
AN UNDENIABLE DESIRE
Frederick isn’t surprised to find gorgeous, headstrong Leonora playing detective, but he knows that the Lords of Anarchy mean business—and he has no choice but to protect her. A sham engagement to Leonora will allow Frederick to bring her into the club and along for the ride. But it isn’t long before pretending to be lovers leads to very real passion. With everything to lose, is their tempestuous affair worth the risk?
Thanks for having me back to JQ, Nancy! It’s such fun to be here. <<NRT: Happy to have you, Michelle!>> Living in Colorado during the winter that might never end, you hear lots of ski terms bandied about–first tracks, back bowls, fresh powder, bluebird days. Friends use these phrases to caption Facebook photos where they are smiling from the top of some mountain resort. These people are about to launch themselves down an icy, snow-covered slope with oversized popsicle sticks strapped to their feet and…they are grinning. It sort of makes me want to push them.
I don’t have time to smile when I ski because I’m too busy praying to make it down the mountain in one piece. Yep, I ski. Despite the constant trembling in my knees, the stomachache that starts as soon as I put on my (never flattering) ski pants and an internal monologue that involves lots of cursing, every few weekends we pile the kids into the car and hit the slopes. Why? For the same reason moms do most things we don’t want to – for the kids.
This season my daughter broke through her fear (unlike me) and now we’re taking lifts to the more advanced blue runs. My son is busy detouring into the trees and looking for jumps as we hurtle toward the bottom. I can barely keep up and I love it! Because it means soon I’ll achieve my ultimate ski dream—to be the mom camped out in the corner of the toasty warm lodge surrounded by coats and gear, sipping hot cocoa and wearing boots I can walk in without feeling like I’m going to fall over. I have happy visions of a full Saturday spent alternating between my laptop and Kindle while I smile at the cold, wet, red-faced suckers who take a break from risking life limb on the mountain. I’m going to be the best lodge mom ever.
Among friends my views on skiing put me in the minority, and I sometimes wonder if I’m a total wimp. I probably am a total wimp, and I’m okay with that. But I’m also curious how people outside of ski-crazy Colorado feel about it.
Would you be carving the slopes or hanging in the lodge? Either way, I’ll have the hot cocoa waiting.
I’ll be drawing two winners from the comments for a copy of my March release, A Second Chance At Crimson Ranch. The heroine, Olivia Wilder, has come to Crimson, Colorado to find place she can feel at home. Lucky for her, there’s a new (and a few years younger) contractor in town that might be the perfect guy to help her. I’m excited to invite readers back to Crimson because it’s a town filled with wonderful people and lots of opportunities for falling in love (yes, there is a ski mountain but I haven’t forced any my characters onto it…yet).
I’m so pleased to welcome historical romance author Alyssa Alexander to The Jaunty Quills. The first two books in her Spy in the Ton series have garnered much critical acclaim and a bunch of Top Picks. Alyssa agreed to take some of my questions!
Hello to all the JQ followers, and to Vanessa for inviting me! It’s a pleasure being here. I get to hang with my fav authors! (Forgive me if I go fan girl.)
You write historical romance with a strong suspense element. Why romance and not straight historical mystery or suspense?
I’ve always read various genres/subgenres of romance and mystery, going back to Nancy Drew. In my teens I gobbled up gothic romances (Victoria Holt! Mary Stewart!), as well as books by the great Phyllis Whitney. They were clean enough for a sheltered teenager, but still gave me both chills and the “ahhhh…” of a good romance. I’ve never looked back. So I suppose one reason (among many), is that I like to be on the edge of my seat, guessing at the identity of the villain and wondering if the hero and heroine will conquer evil, yet at the same time watching them fall in love. Romance makes me feel warm and happy inside. I love that moment when I close the book and sigh. But the suspense appeals to my sense of justice. It’s a doubly satisfying ending to see the villain get his comeuppance while the hero and heroine have their happy ever after.
Your heroes are Regency spies (love them!). Does your legal background have anything to do with your interest in the topic, or influence your writing?
My legal background has not a thing to do my spies. Ha! I write spies because I love a good James Bond or Jason Bourne movie. But my fourteen years as a legal assistant/paralegal-ish secretary does influence my writing. I never dwell on the laws of the time period, but I do think about them. When the secondary character Jack Blackbourn in THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK was arrested, I spent hours researching the charges against him, the prison he would be held in and potential sentences. I didn’t use a quarter of what I learned in the book, but I researched it anyway. Also, my job makes me aware of the intricacies of the law. In the Regency there are property laws, voting laws, enclosures, taxes, dowries, contracts, guardians, entail, banns, etc. All of those can affect a story.
Of course, I don’t know even a smidgen of the laws of the time period, but I do try to get my facts right to the best of my ability. (P.S. If I got one wrong, let me know so I don’t goof it in the future!)
What kinds of research did you do for this series? Any really interesting or bizarre bits pop up?
Oh, let me tell you about Jack Rattenbury! I’m sure I’m not the first historical romance author to discover him. I started researching smuggling in England and Jack Rattenbury comes up pretty quickly. He was born in Beer, Devon, which is where THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK takes places, and wrote a memoir about his days as a smuggler on the coast of England. He was a rascal and rogue if there ever was one. I fell in love. So, naturally, I wrote him into the story as a rascally father figure for Grace, the heroine.
One thing you really love about the Regency period?
Oooo. Clothing. Totally clothing. I’m not an expert, though I do research clothing for descriptions. But wow, do I love looking at extant specimens or drawings from La Belle Assemblée and similar publications.
And, OK. I kind of like to pretend I’m wearing the clothes. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Dress up was a staple in my house as a girl. My mother went to Goodwill and rummage sales, bought old prom dresses and altered them for our 5- to 12-year-old selves. I spent hours and hours dressing up with my sisters and acting out the stories in my head. I guess I never lost that! I don’t have any historical costumes as an adult, but somewhere in the depths of my parents’ basement is a ruffled parasol and a much-loved box of 1980’s prom dresses, hats and purses.
One thing you really dislike?
Technology. Or, rather, determining when items were invented and when they were widely in use. Even simple items can trip you up. What was rouge and face powder made of? When was chloroform widely used? Was a high-perch phaeton popular in the year I’m writing in? Earlier? Later? What about gaslight? I spent entirely too much time researching carriage lamps to determine the design and placement and materials. I also (for a manuscript hiding under the bed) spent hours determining when the first pen was made. I love this research, but I wish I didn’t need to look up who the prominent porcelain maker was in 1813. It would be easier if I knew it off the top of my head.
What’s up next for you?
More books in the Spy In The Ton series! I’m not at all ready to leave those characters. I know them too well, now, and want everyone to have their own happy ever afters!
Also, remember those carriage lamps? That research was for IN BED WITH A SPY, the second book in the series. Since I teased you all with that bit of research, here is an excerpt. I will also give away one copy of IN BED WITH A SPY to a commenter! Open to US and Canada residents, 18 years or older, winner’s choice of print or ebook. Just tell me what author you read in your teens that influenced you!
It didn’t seem possible a person could be abducted from a London townhouse in the middle of a crowded ball. But it had happened.
Now here she was, sitting in Angelstone’s carriage, with the faint glow of the lamps highlighting his inflexible jaw and cutting cheekbones. All lean legs and broad shoulders, he filled the vehicle’s interior. In the partial light, with his unreadable gaze and his unruly queue of hair, he looked much more dangerous than a fallen angel.
“Mrs. Fairchild.” The words were clipped. No seductive purr, no sensual smile from those lips. Lips that had kissed her senseless and reminded her she was a woman with needs and desires. Even now, she could she taste him. Rich brandy and wild heat.
Embarrassment washed through her. She’d been forward and shameless, and look where she found herself. Hands bound and trapped in a man’s carriage, destined for parts unknown and heaven knew what treatment.
“I demand to be released.”
“Why am I here?” she fired back.
“I think you are quite aware.” He watched her steadily as he pulled off first one glove, then the other and stuffed them in his pocket. It was an unpardonably rude gesture for a gentleman. Obviously, he was not a gentleman.
He was close enough she could kick him. But she wouldn’t be able to open the carriage door quickly with her hands bound. And he had the medallion. The final gift from her husband, one he gave her with his last breath.
She refused to leave without it.
“The medallion is mine,” she said.
“Is it? Interesting.” The conversational tone of his words was oddly frightening. “Well, now the medallion is mine.” Propping his elbows on his knees, he leaned forward. He filled the space between them until his face was only a foot from hers.
The instinct to shrink into the seat was overwhelming.
So she leaned forward to meet him. And smiled. Slowly. “Give me”—she angled her head insolently—“the medallion.”
“Oh, but your smile is a formidable weapon, Mrs. Fairchild.” He reached out, tracing a bare thumb over her bottom lip. His skin was calloused and sensitizing. “Wicked, wanton and willful.”
Heat pooled low in her belly as desire warred with temper.
“Why, thank you.” She flicked the tip of her tongue over his thumb, tasted salt and man. Lilias hid a smug smile at Angelstone’s quick inhalation. “So is your voice. It’s by turns chilling and erotic.”
“Erotic?” he said. “A strong word for a woman.”
“I’m a strong woman.”
The carriage shuddered to a stop and they stared at each other through the darkness. The clip of the horses’ hooves rang on the cobblestones as the animals paced a step or two. Above them, the coachman called out to calm the horses.
Large hands tugged the hood of her cloak forward to shade her face. It concealed everything from her view but his face. Just there in front of her. Lean and male—and frightening given the circumstances.
But she wasn’t beaten yet.
You can find Alyssa on her website at alyssaalexander.com.