Please join me in welcoming USA Today Bestselling historical romantic suspense author Erica Monroe to the blog!
Vanessa Kelly: Hi, Erica! Welcome to Jaunty Quills. Tell us a little bit about your new book, Secrets in Scarlet.
Erica Monroe: Thanks for having me at the Jaunty Quills today, Vanessa! It’s an honor to be amongst all of you. And Jaunty, of course, I do love so porcupines—they’re one of the few animals that share my desire to have an outward prickly appearance. (Jaunty, here. I knew that Erica had good taste the moment I saw her!)
Secrets in Scarlet tells the story of Poppy O’Reilly and Thaddeus Knight. Poppy is what society would have termed a “fallen woman,” or a woman who had sex out of marriage. Shunned by her hometown, Poppy moves to London to join her brother Daniel (hero of A Dangerous Invitation) and she takes a job at a factory in the rookery of Spitalfields. She’s crafted this faux history because she’s determined that her daughter, Moira, won’t have to face society’s scrutiny because of Poppy’s mistake in falling for a blackguard who abandoned her after taking her virginity.
But when a girl is a murdered at the factory Poppy works at, Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police comes in to investigate. He senses that Poppy is hiding something, but he can’t figure out what. He recruits Poppy to help him look into the girl’s murder, and from there their relationship blossoms into something neither was prepared for. Poppy knows she should stay away from Thaddeus, but his sweet, earnest nature soothes her anxious soul. Meanwhile, the villains that Thaddeus is investigating are determined that Thaddeus won’t solve this case, so they’ve got to contend with that drama too.
VK: Sounds like they’ll be in quite a perilous situation! I read your first novel–and LOVED it–and I remember the villains being graverobbers. What will we see this time around?
EM: Because this is historical romantic suspense, there’s always going to be a “baddie” of some sort that the hero and heroine have to triumph over. For some reason, the suspense always comes to me first—I get this wild idea to blow something up, or have someone die by a strange gunshot wound, etc, and I have to build a story around it.
In ADI, I had a largely male criminal class. I love the idea of a villainess, and I wanted one who was absolutely bone chillingly cold. Thus came Effie Larker, who oversees the factory that Poppy works at. Effie needed a frightening husband as well, so I created Boz Larker, who is more of a brute-type than Effie. He’s the muscle, while Effie is the brains. I liked that dynamic a lot because in the end it’s Effie who holds more of the power in their relationship. Villains are always interesting to me, mostly because I like to pick apart their motivations. This is the reason I watch so many crime shows!
VK: Secrets in Scarlet is your second novel in the Rookery Rogues, correct?
EM: Secrets in Scarlet is indeed the second novel in the Rookery Rogues. Previously, I released A Dangerous Invitation and a short cliffhanger prequel to ADI called A Wayward Man (it is free at all retailers if your readers would like to check it out). Next I’ve got a novella called Beauty and the Rake which will be out during the winter, and book 3 Scandal Becomes You which will release in late spring. Secrets in Scarlet has been awhile coming, as it was originally intended to be a novella, but then Poppy and Thaddeus demanded that they had enough story to fill an entire book, thankyouverymuch.
VK: Tell us a little bit more about Thaddeus. He sounds like he’d be a beta hero, which we don’t see as much in historical romance.
EM: While I know it’s not fair to play favorites with characters, I have to say that I truly enjoyed writing Thaddeus. He’s interesting to me because he’s pretty socially awkward—he’s so cerebral, but the whole emotional side to the human relationship befuddles him immensely. He was a cross between Chuck Bartowski in Chuck to Elementary’s take on Sherlock Holmes with a bit of my own nerdy husband added in. To me, there’s something delightful about a man who is highly intellectual, yet a bit bumbling in his personal life. When he meets Poppy, he’s attracted not just to her beauty but her mind. He loves that he can talk about literature with him, and she finds his pretty silly attempts at flirtation to be charming. He’s a good guy who’s trying to do the right thing, but like most good guys he’s still got his flaws. But I loved his honesty, his zeal for solving mysteries, and the shy way he has.
VK: It sounds like it’ll be a great book! And you’ve got an excerpt to share with us too.
EM: I do. This is from when Thaddeus first meets Poppy, who he refers to as “Madame Surrey.”
He towered over her petite frame. Close contact didn’t appeal to him usually. So why was he compelled to take this woman into his arms? To draw her body against his?
Madame Surrey spun around, almost colliding with him. He caught her, steadying her with one arm wrapped around the small of her back. She was everything fragile and delicate, her subtle curves molding to his touch. What was this strange sensation that took hold of him? His hands had become warm where he touched her.
He stole a quick look at her arms to confirm that she was not aflame. No, her dress bore no singe marks. He smelled no smoke. Nothing but honey and vanilla.
“I—” His tongue was leaden in his mouth.
Her palms stretched out against his chest, yet she didn’t push against him to break free. That was surprising. Was she lost in this connection too?
No. He was becoming melodramatic. It was nothing more than a trick of physicality. He shook his head, reminding himself to focus.
Reluctantly, he released his grip on her. She didn’t move away from him. Her eyes bored into him, like emerald oceans at high tide. Her breath caught, held for a taut moment.
The world stopped before him.
She blinked, sliding from his arms. Though she had taken but a step back, the distance crashed upon him as though she’d run screaming down the street.
That didn’t make a damn bit of sense.
And we’ve got a giveaway! Erica will award an e-copy of Secrets in Scarlet to one reader. Tell us what your ideal hero would be like for a chance to win! I’ll also throw in a copy of Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard, which also has secrets and suspense!
Be sure to visit Erica’s website for more info!
I’m thrilled to welcome fellow Kensington historical romance author Theresa Romain to the blog. She writes lovely historical romance that is witty and smart, sexy and emotional. She has a new Christmas romance hitting the shelves this week!
Thanks, dear Jaunty and Quills, for letting me join you today–especially Vanessa, my gracious hostess! I’m very happy to be here to chat about my newest historical romance, SEASON FOR DESIRE, which just came out on Tuesday.
SEASON FOR DESIRE is the story of an earl’s daughter who accidentally finds herself in York, an American on a treasure hunt, several mysterious puzzle boxes, and a Christmas snowstorm. I’m sorry to say there are no porcupines in this book (or in Regency England), but this is the first one of my books in which pets play a significant role. (Jaunty, here. What sort of country doesn’t have porcupines? I will never go there!)
I have no pets in real life, because my husband is allergic to any creature with fur or feathers. So clearly I have a lot of pent-up pet ownership wishes. When my hero and heroine, Giles and Audrina, visit a stately home in Yorkshire, they meet an elderly viscountess with not one dog, but eight.
Why eight? Well, the dogs serve a lot of different functions in the story besides eating tea biscuits (which they do, and happily). Their owner, Lady Dudley, describes herself as one who takes in strays. Though her mind is beginning to wander, she and her husband both long to have company around them as Christmas draws near. Before the end of the story, Lady Dudley will take in the human sort of stray as well as the canine.
The Dudleys’ widowed daughter-in-law, Sophy, is allergic to dogs, and so she spends most of her time in the library, where the dogs are not allowed. But honestly, Sophy would spend most of her time in there anyway. For a variety of reasons (spoilers!), she’s gotten used to hiding herself away from everyone. Her inability to be around the dogs is no different from her inability to join in the family circle…at first. (You guys knew I wouldn’t let her stay lonely, right?)
You see, a lot of things change when Giles and Audrina and their treasure-hunting companions arrive. For Audrina, raised in strict formality, the Dudleys’ household shows her how to be comfortable. For Giles, traveling with his widowed father, this is a chance to set aside some of the strains in their relationship. And whenever things get too tense, a dog is nearby to pet and play with and give a little time for thought.
By the time the story bids goodbye to Castle Parr, not one romance but three have begun to bloom. What can I say? I was in a happily-ever-after kind of mood when I wrote SEASON FOR DESIRE. And yes, I even brought up the dogs again during the final proposal scene. Because as heroine Audrina says, “Since we left Castle Parr, do you not miss having dogs about?”
Now I’m wondering: what sort of pets do you all have? Or if you don’t have any, is there a pet you wish you had, or a favorite pet in a book? Tell me all about it! One random commenter will win a print copy of my backlist historical romance SEASON FOR SCANDAL, a marriage of convenience holiday tale. Open internationally.
For a taste of SEASON FOR DESIRE, please stop by my website! You can read all of Chapter 1 here: http://theresaromain.com/books/season-for-desire/.
First, thanks to Nancy for inviting me to join you today. I first met Nancy when her book, Reinventing Olivia first came out, when I was starting that ‘road to publication’ journey, and she has always been there for encouragement and advice.
[Nancy: I'm so glad you could join us today, Terry!]
I love series books. I’ve been known to read book 1 in a series and go to the bookstore and buy the next 14 books all at once. If I start a book and realize there were precursors, I’ll put it aside and read the earlier ones until I catch up. I want to meet the characters head-on in their first appearances.
In the mystery genre, series books feature a protagonist and a group of secondary characters that grow throughout the series. People may come and go, relationships may change, but the books build on each other. By my definition, the books in these series are sequels. The same protagonists come back as the “stars”, moving forward with their lives.
In romance, though, ‘series’ tend to be spin-offs, rather than sequels. There might be hints and references to what happened before, but the major players in book 2 were probably secondary characters in book 1.
(I did write a true sequel to a romance, primarily because I wasn’t “done” with the characters, and also because nobody told me it was against the “rules”—but that’s another story.)
The trick to series, sequels and connected books is a careful balance of back story. I read a sequel by a well-known, big-name author that revealed so much I never bothered to read book one. When I picked it up, I was unaware it was book two, or I probably wouldn’t have read it first.
My newest Blackthorne, Inc. book, Windswept Danger, is the 6th book in the series. It features Hotshot, who was—as a secondary character–injured in the 5th book. Since there wasn’t a lot on the page about any specifics of that incident, I saw no reason to stop the story to give details about what that mission had been about, or what had happened to him. Back story is about IV drips, not tube feeding.
So, this is the way I referenced what had happened to Hotshot – it should let readers who know what happened feel like insiders, but those who haven’t read the first book shouldn’t have to stop and wonder about all the back story details, or feel like they’re being left out of a private moment. In the opening chapter, this is the only mention:
Hotshot shifted, bracing his feet against the limb of the pine, stretching against the massive trunk, trying to keep the blood circulating. His torso protested, the aches reminding him of the recent op in Mexico, aches he suspected would be with him for a long time to come.
As with any back story, it’s important to know 1) Does the reader need to know this? And 2) Does the reader need to know this now? But with series and spin-offs, there are additional considerations: 3) Does this spoil the read for earlier books? And 4) Will this confuse the reader instead of moving the story forward.
The Stepford Wives meet Hotel California
Can a feisty security agent who hates taking orders and a covert ops specialist who has something to prove, put aside their own differences and their own agendas long enough to uncover the secrets of Windswept Heights?
(Hotshot and Olivia are working out their cover stories for their assignment to infiltrate Windswept Heights)
“So, you want to tell me what Nurse Livvy’s going to make me do?”
His smile, slow and lazy, made her think this assignment might not be so bad after all, even if he seemed to like pushing her buttons with that Nurse Livvy bit. She had to force herself to keep from smiling in return. This was a job. And she’d be damned if she was going to let him run things on the op. She’d spent most of her life trying to get away from males who thought having both an X and a Y chromosome made them superior and gave them the right to tell her what to do. Maybe Hotshot thought he was one great gift to women. Maybe that’s where his nickname came from.
She took her water and returned to her seat on the couch. “First, you will refer to me as either Miss Fairchild or Olivia.”
He did that smile thing again. “In public.”
“Better make it in private, too. For all we know, there will be people listening in. And, it’s too easy to slip.”
What about you? Do you read in order? Do you like sequels? Spin-offs? And what’s your take on spoilers?
Right now, Windswept Danger is available for pre-order at the introductory price of 99 cents. When it’s officially released on Oct. 27th, it will be $3.99, so you’re saving $3 if you pre-order. And also, because it’s a cause near and dear to me, I’m donating ALL (that’s 100%) of my pre-order royalties to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I hope you’ll take a chance on pre-ordering the book and know you’re helping a good cause. You can find more about the book, and buy links, here. And, because I know some people like to start at the beginning, I’ll offer a download of Book 1, When Danger Calls, to one commenter.
I’m so happy to welcome my dear friend and critique partner, Debbie Mason. She writes fun, fabulous contemporary romance with a Christmas twist!
Your bestselling series is set in Christmas, Colorado. How did you come up with the idea for creating this unique little town?
Hi, Vanessa! Thanks so much for having me! Well, it was pretty easy actually. I combined my love for the holidays, small towns, and the mountains, shook them up in a snow globe, and voila, Christmas was born. But aside from its natural beauty, the old-world charm of its cobblestone streets and quaint, pastel-painted shops, it’s the characters who populate Christmas that make the town so special. They embody the spirit of the holiday all year long; creating the kind of place I’d want to live. Which is probably a good thing since I spend so much time there.
What’s your favourite Christmas cookie, carol, and tradition?
Any Christmas cookie that I haven’t made.
Believe by Josh Groban.
Every Christmas Eve we give our kids a special ornament and decorate the real tree. The ornaments are heavy and we’ve been doing this since they were born, so it’s only a matter of time before the tree topples over.
If you could have only one present for Christmas this year, what would it be?
There’s only one present I want this year, and that’s to have our oldest home for the holidays. She’s never missed a Christmas with the family yet, but she’s studying in London, England and isn’t sure she can make it.
Love is the best Christmas gift of all.
Free-spirited activist Skylar Davis is out of money and out of options. After using up her trust fund trying to save the world, she hides out in Christmas, hoping the kindness of friends will help her forget the reckless actions of her past. All goes well . . . until she comes face-to-face with one of her mistakes: the town’s gorgeous young mayor.
Ethan O’Connor likes his life drama-free and predictable now that he’s about to make the move from small-town politics to the Colorado State Senate. Then Skye blows back into town, as impulsive and passionate as he remembers. If word ever got out about their night together-the night he’s never been able to forget-the scandal could cripple his career. Yet as he starts his campaign, Ethan finds that, like the town of Christmas itself, he can’t get Skye out of his head . . . or his heart.
Excerpt from IT HAPPENED AT CHRISTMAS
Lily ran into the living room. “Uncle Ethan, Auntie Skye got her hair caught in the beaters, and it’s smoking.”
Jesus. He ran into the kitchen. Skye’s hair was covered in icing sugar, a spiral of smoke emitting from the mixer. He pulled the plug, then ejected the beater.
“Ouch,” she said, putting a hand to her head as he worked to free her hair.
“You’re lucky all you lost were a few strands.” He nudged her toward the sink, turned on the tap, and wet a hunk of hair. “What were you doing?”
“Nothing. My hair’s long and got caught. I guess I should have—”
“She was dancing,” Annie said with a smirk.
“Oh yeah, what kind of dance was she doing?” He grinned as Lily wiggled around the kitchen with her hands in the air. “Good to know you weren’t doing the dance you did for me, cupcake.”
Her gaze jerked to his. She searched his face before saying, in a flustered tone of voice,
“Thanks. I’m good now. You can get back to work.”
Gently brushing sugar from the top of her head, he said, “No, I don’t think so. Probably safer for all of you if I stick around.” There was something about the way she looked at him that made him think she wasn’t immune to him after all. Testing his theory, he slid his hand under her hair, caressing her neck, and the soft skin there. “You have a clip or something?”
“A clip. So you can put up your hair.” He looked into her eyes. “You okay? You’re looking a little flushed.” He placed his palm on her forehead, then slid it to her cheek, brushing his thumb over her full bottom lip.
She swallowed, brought her hand to the neck of her red sweater, and tugged. “It’s hot in here, don’t you think?”
“Getting warmer by the minute,” he murmured, leaving his hands where they were. He moved closer, heard the slight catch of her breath, saw the way her eyes darkened from butterscotch to toasted caramel. He realized then that no matter what she’d done, no matter how much frustration and pain she’d caused him these last few weeks, he wanted another chance to make their relationship work. “We have to talk,” he said quietly.
She blinked, and her expression shuttered. “Later, we’ll talk later.” She pasted a bright smile on her face and raised her voice.”Let’s get these gingerbread houses decorated before the icing hardens, girls.” She moved away from him to retrieve the bowl from the counter. When he didn’t leave, she glanced over her shoulder. “It’s okay. You can get back to whatever you were doing out there.”
Now that he’d decided what he wanted, she wasn’t getting rid of him that easily. He’d let her go without a fight, let the election and his mother and Claudia distract him from what he should’ve done the day he’d found her letter. “No, like you said, I’m here to hang out with my nieces.”
“Oh, okay.” She tugged at her sweater again. “I’ll be right back.”
As soon as she left the kitchen, Annie looked at him like he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. “You should’ve kissed her.”
Lily nodded. “Yeah, that’s what Daddy does when Mommy’s mad at him. But it’s okay. We’ll help you, right, Annie?”
Thinking about how much time they spent with Nell, Lily’s offer made him nervous. “Thanks, I appreciate it, but I’ve got this.” They gave him a skeptical look. “Come on, have a little faith in me. This is your uncle Ethan, remember.”
Annie sighed. “That’s what we’re worried about.”
Debbie Mason is the bestselling author of the Christmas, Colorado series. Her books have been praised for their “likable characters, clever dialogue and juicy plots” (RT Book Reviews). She also writes historical paranormals as Debbie Mazzuca. Her MacLeod series has received several nominations for best paranormal as well as a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. When she isn’t writing or reading, Debbie enjoys spending time with her very own real-life hero, their four wonderful children, adorable grandbaby, and a yappy Yorkie named Bella.
For info on Debbie’s books, including buy links, visit her website.
Today we welcome back, author, Hattie Mae.
If you want someone to tell you the unabridged truth, ask a child. It has always amazed me at their ability to tell it like they see it.
Somewhere along the way to adulthood we lose that, of course we learn to be tactful. The definition is: If you are tactful, you have a knack for saying the right thing at the right time.
Now I will admit that I consider myself mostly tactful but that definition is hard to live up to. Sometimes a white lie is less hurtful.
But back to my topic children. Out of all the comments I get from readers about my stories, my favorites are the ones about the children I write into all of my books. They are as much a part of my story line as the hero and heroine. Their voice just comes so freely and the things they will say. Who will disagree with a child when she says that man is a monster? Or who’s heart won’t break when a child asks why someone doesn’t love her enough to stay. We all know children that would say some of the same things, perhaps your own children have said something similar or you did as a child.
In their little ways of play or questions we see a glimpse of the adult they might become. If we could just keep them as free to believe in the good and the unconditional love they give.
My youngest granddaughter, age 4, asked me this morning. “Where do grandmothers come from?” My answer, “we are born just like you and a long time ago I was once a baby, and then a little girl much like you.” She continued the conversation like she’d been thinking of this all night. “And now you’re old?” My answer, “yes, I guess so.” And then the question that got me most: “Why is your skin so wiggly? The skin on your arms?”
“Because of all the hugs grandmothers give,” was my answer, but the words hung in my throat.
In my latest book SWEET TEA AND MAYHAW PIE one of the characters is Faye, a single mother with two children. This is one of the moments that I thought showed how children can play a big part in a story line:
Faye slid her arm around Sunny and felt her small daughter tremble. Hatred like she’d never felt began to build inside. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she stared at Preston. Her eyes pleading for help. How could she have allowed this to happen? To her own child? Faye shivered as her eyes focused on the art frames that hung above the table. Sunny’s drawing of a monster.
“I know how grown up you are Sunny, because you took care of yourself tonight,” Preston said.
“And Will. I took care of Will, too,” Sunny said proudly as she sniffed.
Sunny, age 6 comes away a heroine. When she didn’t know how to tell her mother about the man, she drew a picture to show her mother his true self.
So do you like children as characters in books?
Nestled between the Atchafalaya Basin and Sugar Island, a little off the beaten path few strangers wander by, but every now and then something exciting happens to the people of Bon Amie.
Arthur St. Giles died a lonely old man, still carrying the love of his sweet Charlotta. Kept from marriage because of his love’s lack of dowry, he sets up the St. Giles Trust for the women of Bon Amie. Now a hundred years later the St. Giles Trust is as much a part of Bon Amie as mayhaw pie served on a sweltering summer night.
Babette St. Giles, a romantic at heart, has sworn off relationships. She’s never had a successful one, what with her mother’s words ringing in her ears reminding her she’d never know for sure if a man loved her for her or for her daddy’s money. Bound by family tradition, she is the keeper of the trust. However, Babette finds out that if no one in town marries by the year’s end, the dowry will revert to the state.
Babette decides to hurry things along and try her hand at matchmaking for three of her closest friends. Fay is a single mother and is always looking for the right man to take care of her, but has a history of choosing the wrong man. MaryJoe, a middle-aged new friend who traded a life of her own to be the only caregiver to her ailing parents, now finds herself facing a lonely future. And Reine, a childhood friend, has just returned to Bon Amie in search of answers about the death of her mother and the truth of her childhood.
But three months is not very long to set up a successful match. Especially when she doesn’t want her friends to know precisely what she’s up to.
In the end, one friend will elope, nullifying the dowry; one will find true love but needs to wait for marriage; one will decide that she is enough without the love of a man; and one will unexpectedly find love even though she hadn’t been looking for it. But what they all find is a friendship that now binds them forever and is worth more than any dowry.