The Jaunty Quills are excited to welcome Sarah Lyons Fleming, author of the Until the End of the World series, which I’ve heard called “zombie chick lit.” Margo Maguire, a former Jaunty and the author who recommended these books to me, calls them “Friends Meets the Zombie Apocalypse and Kristan Higgins in Zombieland” (hi, Kristan!).
I’ve totally been stalking Sarah since I started the series. I read all three books and the novella in rapid succession, and I CANNOT RECOMMEND THEM HIGHLY ENOUGH. I was completely engrossed in the story, the characters, and the world Lyons created. Even if this isn’t your typical read, give it a try. There’s romance, suspense, laughter, tears. Keep reading to find out how to win a DIGITAL copy of UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD series (3 books!).
Shana: Welcome, Sarah! Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m so thrilled to be able to ask you all my questions. First of all, tell our readers a bit about your books.
Sarah Lyons Fleming: Thanks, it’s my pleasure! I think you nailed the books in your great description above, but here goes: The series is about Cassie Forrest and her friends surviving in a world brought to its knees by a zombie virus. They must escape NYC for the safety of the cabin that belonged to Cassie’s parents, who were preppers (people who store food and supplies for emergencies). Add in a little lost love, sarcasm, clashing personalities and undead altercations, and there you have book one. The other books are a continuation of their journey to survive.
I know, I know. Some of you are thinking, “Eww, zombies? And romance? Why is she even on this site?!”
But I don’t really write about zombies. I write about the people facing the zombies—their fears, their strengths, their weaknesses. It allows me to explore how a devastated world and the fight for survival can change a person for the better or worse. No character is perfect. They argue and laugh—they laugh a lot—and they can be petty and generous and loyal and weak and brave at any given moment, just like us. They’re human.
The main theme of my books is love—romantic, platonic, familial, and everything in between. They’re about finding hope even when it seems impossible.
Shana: I agree 100%. The series is really so much more about hope than zombies. Can you tell us about your inspiration for the series? Did you know you were writing a “zombie chick lit” when you started the trilogy?
Sarah: My dad handed me Malevil—a novel about survivors of a nuclear holocaust—when I was ten, and I’ve been hooked on post-apocalyptic stories ever since. But, aside from YA novels, there weren’t a lot of books that featured females as the main protagonist. Most were men, and often they were military men.
I wanted so badly to read a book with an older character like me (or me ten years ago, when I was thirty *sigh*), that I decided to write it myself. And, because I’ve always loved chick lit, it was a no-brainer to include the friendships and humor often found in that genre. Also, I’m the kind of person who’ll crack a joke at any moment (or at least think of one and have to bite my tongue), so there had to be humor even at the darkest times. You can blame my Irish half for that.
Shana: I love Cassie’s humor in the series.
During the zombie apocalypse, your characters have to learn to survive without modern conveniences. How do you know so many survival skills? For example, in So Long, Lollipops, Peter is trapped in a house and dying of thirst, so he taps the hot water heater. How do you know that kind of stuff?
Sarah: Short answer—I’m a little crazy.
Long answer—I was the girl who grew up in Brooklyn, NY and read survival books on the subway ride home from high school. Even growing up in the city, I spent a lot of time in the woods during the summer, and it’s always been something I’ve felt a burning desire to know. Plus, I really like having a lot of food in my pantry, and water filters and Swiss army knives make me happy.
I guess the long answer is quite similar to the short one, eh?
Of course, I do need to research at times, but I admit I know a lot of random survival tips. I’m ready for the zombie apocalypse! Okay, maybe not ready…but I might not die until the second week.
Shana: I would so die on the first day! Wait…maybe after reading this series I could make it two days.
I loved how you used stargazing to draw Cassie close to Dan in And After, and then how you used it again in All the Stars in the Sky to bring Cassie and her “family” full circle. Are you an amateur astronomer or did you research constellations?
Sarah: That required research. I can pick out the Big Dipper, and then I’m lost. Even with all my research (of course I can now find Cassiopeia) I still get turned around up there. But I love the stars, as well as their stories, and I’ve made it my mission to find and memorize them all one of these days.
Shana: You definitely know how to figure out the worst thing that can happen to your characters and then make that happen. Avoiding spoilers, did you know from the beginning who was going to survive and who wasn’t?
Sarah: I started Until the End of the World as a standalone, so I didn’t have the whole trilogy mapped out by any means. Without giving anything away, there was a character who was slated to die when I first started Until the End of the World. And then s/he didn’t. S/he surprised me by becoming a more important character than I’d ever dreamed, so that 100 pages into writing book one, the course of the entire book changed and became a series (with a novella thrown in).
As for the other characters, they were goners from that moment on.
Shana: I read that you have kids (see, I said I was a stalker). I know the challenges of writing with a busy family. What’s your writing schedule like?
Sarah: I love stalkers! Wait…you know what I mean.
Yes, I have two kids, ages five and eight. It can be challenging, but now that they’re both in school I have more time. Because I work at home and am self-employed, I guard those six hours as much as I can. That means I ignore errands and cleaning and many times I don’t answer the phone—my boss is very strict about personal calls during work hours. And I hate cleaning, so it’s not as if that’s a hardship.
I work school days, a few hours on some weekend afternoons while my husband, Will, entertains them, and I set aside a couple/few nights a week to write when they’re in bed. The other nights I hang with the husband—can’t neglect him either!
Also, headphones are very, very wonderful inventions.
Shana: Finally, tell us what you have coming next.
Sarah: I’m at work on a zombie series that takes place in NYC, in the same world as the Until the End of the World books. Many people have written me to ask what became of some of the characters, and this will be their chance to find out!
Shana: I can’t wait! Seriously, I am tapping my fingers impatiently.
Readers, now it’s your turn. Do you have any skills to survive a zombie apocalypse? How long would you make it?
One reader who comments will be randomly chosen to win the entire series of ebooks (Three books, plus the novella). You must be able to read on Kindle, Nook, or iBooks. The winner will be announced Sunday.
Until the End of the World (Book 1)
Cassie Forrest isn’t surprised to learn that the day she’s decided to get her life together is also the day the world ends. After all, she’s been on a self-imposed losing streak since her survivalist parents died: she’s stopped painting, broken off her engagement to Adrian and dated a real jerk. Rectifying her mistakes has to wait, however, because Cassie and her friends have just enough time to escape Brooklyn for her parents’ cabin before Bornavirus LX turns them into zombies, too.
This is difficult enough, but Cassie’s tag along ex-boyfriend and her friend’s bratty sister have a knack for making everything, even the apocalypse, more unpleasant. When the two attract a threat as deadly as the undead to their safe haven, Cassie’s forced to see how far she’ll go to protect those she loves. And it’s a lot farther than she’d anticipated. This, coupled with Adrian’s distant voice on Safe Zone Radio and, of course, the living dead, threaten to put Cassie right back into the funk she just dragged herself out of.
Survival’s great and all, especially when you have leather armor, good friends and home-brewed beer, but there’s something Cassie must do besides survive: tell Adrian she still loves him. And to do that, Cassie has to find faith that she’s stronger than she thinks, she’s still a crack shot and true love never dies.
Sarah Lyons Fleming is a Laura Ingalls devotee, wannabe prepper and lover of anything pre-apocalyptic, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic—or anything in between. Add in some romance and humor, and she’s in heaven.
Besides an unhealthy obsession with home-canned food and Bug Out Bag equipment, she loves books, making artsy stuff and laughing her arse off. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, she now lives in Oregon with her family and, in her opinion, not nearly enough supplies for the zombie apocalypse. But she’s working on it.
You’ve Got A Friend (Or Two Or Ten Or Twenty)
Hello, again, Jaunties! I’m so excited to be back. I was here in October talking about my debut novel, Triple Threat, and it’s hard to believe I’m already back talking about the second book in the Art of Seduction series, Triple Time.
Last time I was here my friend and CTRWA chapter mate Kristan Higgins hosted me, and this time it’s my friend and chapter mate Jesse Hayworth. Which got me to thinking how many new folks have come into my life in the three short years since I started pursuing my writing seriously.
People always say writing is a lonely profession, and I guess that’s true for the time I’m sitting BICHOK (butt in chair, fingers on keyboard). I mean, no one can write my books but me, right? (Unless I’m James Patterson. Which I’m not.) But I’ve met so many wonderful people along my writer’s journey that my circle of friends has increased exponentially.
Like the (mostly) ladies at CTRWA, where I met Jess and Kristan. These folks have, in a short time, because a ginormous part of my life and an amazing support system. Just yesterday, I was signing books for the very first time EVER at BookCon, a HUGE convention at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York City. Talk about jumping in with both feet! Boy, was I nervous. Would anyone want my book (even though I was giving it away, LOL)? Would I be sitting there for an hour twiddling my thumbs watching the crowd go by?
Nope. Not with Kristan shilling for me (literally standing in the aisle holding up my book and corralling folks over), and chapter mates Katy Lee and Patty Blount stopping by.
Then there’s the friends I’ve met on line. When I first started writing, I joined the Harlequin forums for aspiring authors. Some of the (again mostly) ladies I met there and I then migrated to a private Facebook group (primarily because some of the snippets we were posting were too, um, racy for public consumption LOL). Believe it or not, I’ve still only met a couple of them in person. That’s going to change this summer in New York, as many of us are going to the RWA national convention. But the fact that we haven’t met face-to-face hasn’t stopped us from offering each other advice and encouragement long-distance, courtesy of the worldwide web.
I suppose it helps that I’m not exactly shy, and I’m always open to new faces and new friends in my life. The more the merrier is my motto. I like to be surrounded by a large, rowdy group of compatriots, and I always feel badly when, for one reason or another, a friend drifts out of my life, even though I know it’s totally normal and natural for friendships to evolve and even fade away as our lives and interests and activities change.
Not so for Devin, the heroine in Triple Time. She’s been burned one too many times by friends and family who’ve deserted her when the going got tough. If she had a motto, it would be more like “I’d rather have no friends than fake friends.”
Only a couple of people have managed to break through her barriers, one of the being her best friend Holly, the heroine in Triple Threat. I really enjoyed their dynamic in Triple Threat, and I was glad I got to explore it further in Triple Time. As you can see from the excerpt below, they’re pretty much polar opposites, with Holly all sunshine and sweetness, like a modern-day Pollyanna, and Devin more edgy and dark (the hero’s best friend refers to her as “Elvira, mistress of the night”). Sometimes I think it’s easier to be friends with someone who’s a bit different from you, and that’s how it is with Holly and Devin. Their differences create a balance, with each giving something to the other that they need in their lives.
How about you? Are you more like me, wanting a large group of friends and acquaintances? Or are you like Devin, content with a small, close-knit circle of trusted companions? One lucky commenter will win their choice of a signed paperback (U.S. only, please) or e-book of Triple Threat, the first book in the Art of Seduction series.
How to unravel your straight-laced lover . . .
Gabe Nelson would be a great district attorney, but his public image is too boring to get voters’ attention. Tattoo artist Devin Padilla can help him show off his fun, sexy side, but she needs something in return—Gabe’s legal expertise to track down her missing brother. She’s not his type, but they can’t keep their hands off each other, whether it’s good for his image or not.
At first, Devin thinks she got the easy end of the bargain. Gabe’s the sexiest stuffed shirt in Manhattan, and his kisses practically set her on fire. But every deal has its fine print. As their relationship goes from business to pleasure, Devin realizes this one won’t cost her soul…it’ll just steal her heart.
Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/n4tgswa
Regina Kyle knew she was destined to be an author when she won a writing contest at age ten with a touching tale about a squirrel and a nut pie. By day, she writes dry legal briefs, representing the state in criminal appeals. At night, she writes steamy romance with heart and humor.
A lover of all things theatrical, Regina lives on the Connecticut coast with her husband, teenaged daughter and two melodramatic cats. When she’s not writing, she’s most likely singing, reading, cooking or watching bad reality television. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America and her local RWA chapter. Triple Tine is her second novel. She is also the author of Triple Threat, the first book in her Art of Seduction series for Harlequin Blaze.
Devin ended the call, tossed her phone on the bed next to her and swung her feet onto the floor. The sound of running water told her Gabe was already in the shower, and she licked her lips at the thought of his magnificent, wet nakedness, slick and soapy, ready to play.
She was about to ditch the sheet in favor of some smexy shower action when someone pounded on the door.
No way was that Mateo so quickly. Either someone had the wrong apartment or one of her neighbors needed to borrow something.
“Hang on,” she called. “I’ll be right there.”
She threw on a tank top and shorts, not bothering with anything underneath, and answered the door.
Holly wrapped Devin in a bear hug, her just‑showing baby bump grazing Devin’s stomach.
“You’re home.” Devin cast a panicked glance around the apartment, her eyes falling on Gabe’s khakis in a heap by the television, his shirt hanging over the bookshelf, one of his shoes peeking out from under the bed. “Early.”
Holly released her and brushed past through the door. “Nick finished filming ahead of schedule.”
“Where is your handsome husband?” Devin followed, kicking the offending khakis behind the TV and stuffing the shirt between two books. “You’re usually inseparable. Nauseatingly so.”
“His agent’s in town. They’re meeting at Pastis for a business breakfast, and I’ve been meaning to return my spare key to the super.” Holly sank into the armchair in the corner. “Man, I’m beat. I don’t even want to think about what this little bugger’s going to do to me in the third trimester.”
Holly toed off her espadrilles and lifted one foot to massage the arch, and Devin groaned inwardly. She’d never get her friend out now. And it was only a matter of time before Holly noticed the water running in the bathroom. Or Gabe’s loafer, which Devin couldn’t shove under the bed now without rousing suspicion.
Her only option was to come clean, admit she had a guy stashed in the can and get Holly out the door before she figured out it was Gabe. Not that she was embarrassed, but this was so not how she wanted Holly to find out she was boffing her brother.
“Listen, Holls, I’m dying to catch up with you, but I’m kind of in the middle of something right now.” She eyed the bathroom door. As if on cue, the water stopped.
“Ohmigod, you’ve got a man in there.” Holly squealed. “I can’t believe it. The love‑’em‑and‑kick‑’em‑to‑the‑curb queen actually let a guy spend the night. Who is it?”
“Just…a guy. We’re keeping it on the down‑low.”
“Oh, please,” Holly huffed. “As I recall you practically shouted to an entire coffee shop that I was doing Nick.”
“I promise I’ll tell you. Let me deal with him and I’ll meet you at the deli up the block in ten.” Maybe she could intercept Mateo on the way over and grab her sandwich and coffee.
“Fine, be that way.” Holly slipped on her espadrilles and stood, rubbing her belly. “For now. But I’m warning you, I want to meet this paragon who got you to break your no‑sleepovers rule. Soon.”
As though they were living in a bad sitcom, the bathroom door creaked open and Gabe stepped out, his hair still wet from the shower and a towel fastened around his waist.
“I heard voices. Is breakfast here?”
“Gabe?” Holly’s mouth fell open and she pressed a hand to her chest.
“Holly.” He hiked up the towel, which had slipped to his hips. “You’re supposed to be in Istanbul.”
Devin shrugged a shoulder and gave her friend a wry smile.
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?