When I was little girl, I wanted to be a boy scout.

Not a boy, mind. Just a boy scout. After all, they got to go camping and learn to tie knots and all that fun stuff. All we girl scouts got to do was sell those stupid cookies.

The heroine in my new Regency romance, Lady Caroline Lovell, feels a little bit the same. Her brothers all get to complete their educations by going on a Grand Tour. She gets to be “finished” and is trotted out for a Season or two where she’s expected to snag an eligible husband, marry and produce a gaggle of heirs for him.

Caroline, however, has other plans…

 

Is there a more alluring sight in all the world than the sun rising over an unknown sea?

~from the diary of Lady Caroline Lovell, daughter of the Earl of Chatham, who has never in her life set foot on a water craft larger than a row boat.

Chapter 1

London, The Ides of March, 1818

“And then, because Lord Ware arrived late,” Horatia Englewood said, pausing for effect, “Lady Jersey ordered him to remove from the premises forthwith.” When this bit of information was met with a shocked gasp from Frederica Tilbury, Horatia added, “Politely, of course.”

The breath of minor scandal was almost enough to pull Caroline away from the parlor window and back into her friends’ gossipy patter. But there were so many carriages moving past her family’s town house in St. James Square, she couldn’t look away. It was too delicious to imagine where they might be going.

Granted, most of the travelers were bound for parlors like hers, where dainties would be offered, both in the form of petit fours and in juicy tidbits about the ton. It was the time of day reserved for calls, after all, and Polite Society lived to see and be seen.

But surely some of the carriages rolling by were headed for the docks. And perhaps a fortunate few of the passengers would board ships.

Bound for far off Zanzibar or Madagascar or . . . some other exotic place ending in “–ar.” The colors would be brighter there, I’ll be bound, and even birdsong would sound deliciously foreign. Best of all, when I went to the beach, I’d feel warm sand beneath my feet instead of those horrid pebbles at Brighton.    

Caroline sighed, wiggling her toes inside her slippers, dreaming about what that mysterious sand must feel like. She squeezed her eyes shut and, for a heartbeat or two, she actually thought she felt a soft breeze drift past her.

When she opened her eyes, the gossamer curtains were swaying a bit. One of the parlor windows had not been locked down tight when the maids dusted last.  

Caroline sighed again. She wished it’d been a trade wind that caressed her cheek. Her imagination was almost always more interesting than what was actually happening around her.

However, her friend Frederica, who, it must be admitted, did not suffer from an abundance of imagination, was riveted by Horatia’s story about Lord Ware. The girl giggled loudly over the tale, mostly out of nervousness.

It was a bad habit from which Caroline was trying to wean her. Freddie was pretty enough and her dowry several notches above adequate, but more than a few young bucks might scamper away from that giggle.

“Surely, Lady Jersey never did such a thing,” Frederica said, her words tumbling over each other instead of flowing gently in a calm, ladylike stream. It was yet another thing Caroline was trying to improve about her friend. The rapid delivery betrayed a lack of confidence, Caroline insisted, and Frederica was making some progress. But when excited, dear Freddie reverted to her jack-rabbit manner of speaking. Now she rattled on, “Not even a lady patroness would dare turn Lord Ware away from Almack’s. Indeed, she wouldn’t.”

“Oh, yes, indeed, she did. As I live and breathe.” Horatia straightened her spine to ramrod uprightness. Then she looked down her nose in a surprisingly good imitation of Lady Jersey at her imperious best. “She said, ‘If we turned away Lord Wellington for neglecting to honor the rules of dress, do not think for one moment we will not refuse to admit you, Lord Ware, since you have the temerity to arrive late to supper.’”

“Not that supper at Almack’s inspires punctuality,” Caroline murmured. To call the meager refreshments served promptly at eleven ‘supper,’ was charitable in the extreme. The weak punch and thinly sliced bread were famous for their awfulness.

“Still,” Frederica said with a shiver, “imagine having the courage to snub Lord Ware?”

“Oh, Freddie, you little goose. Lady Jersey doesn’t need courage. She has the rules on her side.” Horatia raised her teacup and sipped delicately, pinky properly out.

She was right. Lady Jersey had the power of revoking Lord Ware’s voucher to Almack’s permanently. It was acceptable not to have that coveted ticket because one had not applied for a voucher. It was quite another to have been awarded one and then have it stripped away for behavior judged to be déclassé. No matter how wealthy, how influential, or how important the Earl of Ware might be in the House of Lords, Lady Jersey wielded an even heavier club in matters of Polite Society.

Frederica shivered again.

Like a wren fluffing out its feathers. There’s another thing I need to correct before the Season starts in earnest.

Since traffic had dwindled, Caroline left the window and rejoined her friends. She settled into the Sheridan chair opposite the settee and helped herself to a biscuit. “Horatia, tell me. Did you see this astonishing exchange between Lady Jersey and Lord Ware with your own eyes?”

Her friend’s lips pursed into a disgruntled moue. “Well, no, but—”

“Then, may I ask how you happened upon this extraordinary bit of intelligence?”

“You see, my cousin Violet’s bosom friend, Amelia, heard it from—”

“So neither your cousin nor her bosom friend witnessed Lord Ware’s humiliation?”

“You didn’t let me finish,” Horatia complained. “Amelia got it straight from her Aunt Harriet, whom she swears is the soul of discretion. And Amelia’s aunt heard about the incident from Penelope Braithwaite, who was there.

“Penelope Braithwaite,” Caroline cast about through the myriad of introductions she’d suffered through during the last two Seasons, trying to remember the lady.

“Didn’t we attend one of her recitals?” Freddie prompted.

Suffered through one was more like almost escaped Caroline’s lips, but she held it back. Her dear mother always warned that speaking ill of others was a prayer to the devil. Caroline wasn’t sure she believed it, but it didn’t do to take chances.

“Yes, now I remember,” Caroline said. “You and I have heard her perform.”

“As have I, but only once,” Horatia said with a snicker. “She abused the Mozart Alleluia with such gusto, one hearing was more than enough.” Horatia shook her head. “And she fancies herself a lyric soprano.”

“Yes, I believe she does,” Freddie said innocently.

Dear Freddie. If Horatia said Miss Braithwaite fancied herself a trained chimp in a Parisian frock you’d be tempted to agree.

Caroline recommitted herself to shepherding her suggestible friend through the coming Season. She had no doubts that fair-haired Frederica would turn heads. She was as pale and dimpled as the prevailing standards for beauty required. But fashionably pretty girls possessed of large dowries and small imaginations might easily fall prey to all manner of deception.

It was no trouble for her to guard Frederica’s interests. After all, this would be Caroline’s third Season. She was clearly on the shelf and not likely to be plucked down from it. Not since she’d turned down half a dozen proposals and avoided a few more by tactfully discouraging her admirers.

Which upset her parents no end, but suited her just fine. The sooner they realized she was unmarriageable, the sooner she’d be on her way to being her own mistress. Once she reached the magical age of twenty-one, she’d have access to the minor fortune bequeathed to her by her grandmother. Alas! She lacked another year before she attained this great age.

Caroline only needed to remain unmarried until then to retain control of the means to her freedom.

Then Zanzibar, here I come!

~~~

Hope you enjoyed this little snippet from Book 1 in The House of Lovell series. Sign up to receive my newsletter if you’d like to be notified when the book is available!

 

Have you ever had a dream that ran contrary to what was expected of you?

Happy Memorial Day! It’s a day to reflect and relax. I hope you’re comforted by memories of those you have lost and are able to be with the ones you still have. And if you are in the armed service or are a family member of one of our heroes, I’m thinking of you especially today.

FBNeedBooksThank you for spending some time with me and my guest, Gina Conkle. She writes wonderful Viking stories as well as hot Regencies. I know you’re going to love her! Pour yourself a cup of coffee and listen in to our cyber-chat.

Mia: As summer starts, ’tis the season for writers conferences. It’s a chance for us to hobnob with others who play with imaginary people all day. As an author have you ever been star struck by meeting one of your favorite authors? If so who was it?

Gina: I “almost” met Josie Litton, pseudonym for Maura Seger. I looked across a wide walk way and she was sitting in a window seat at a conference. She smiled at me but looked like she was concentrating on something and didn’t want to be disturbed. Now I kick myself for not approaching her. She’s published under 5 or 6 names and is a lyrical, talented writer.

Mia: I’m sure like me you’ve been a rabid reader forever. What were your favorite books growing up?

Gina: Yes! And here they are in the order I met these books:

1. “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes (the poem, I “met” when I was 5)
2. Corduroy by Don Freeman (now I could read and the book love began)
3. Cinderella – Disney’s golden book
4. My Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (a Christmas gift in 3rd grade)
5.101 Dalmatians (the chapter book)
6. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (I met him in 4th grade!)
7. Gone with the Wind (read it in 5th grade…BIG jump in reading material)
8. A box full of my grandma’s Barbara Cartland books and I was hooked on romance

Mia: Oh! I remember feeling so sad the first time I read The Highwayman, so hopelessly, dare I say morbidly, romantic. And I still tear up when I think of Ol’Dan and Little Anne from Where the Red Fern Grows. Why does the dog always have to die in fiction? When I add a pet to my stories (like I did in my upcoming Once Upon a Plaid) they make it to the last page still wagging. That’s one of the joys of being a writer–making sure the dog lives. How about you? What is the best thing about being an author?

Gina: My head is a veritable Netflix. Putting these mind movies down on paper and having others enjoy them (and some loving them!) is great. I still get the occasional email or private message on Facebook about my first hero, the Viking chieftain Hakan of Norse Jewel. When will the next book come? Will Hakan be in it? That’s really nice when readers fall in love like that. I hope this keeps happening!

And now for our lightning round of questions!
– Favorite Quote? “The writer must be in it; he can’t be to one side of it, ever. He has to be endangered by it. His own attitudes have to be tested in it. The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.” Arthur Miller
– Favorite Food? Mexican food (chicken and cheese enchiladas)
– Favorite Vacation Spot? A cozy mountain cabin with river or lake nearby
– Favorite TV Show? History Channel’s “Vikings”
– Favorite Paranormal? (witch, vampire, zombie etc) Hmmm…none, but I did like World War Z. Does that mean I like zombies?
– Coffee, Tea or Hot Chocolate? Coffee
– Favorite Ice Cream Flavor? Coconut

Meet the Earl at Midnight by Gina Conkle

The Phantom of London…the Enigma Earl. Lord Edward’s heard them all, but the reclusive Earl of Greenwich needs an heir — quickly. A deadline looms, and the hasty offering of Lydia Montgomery works.

Lydia has plans of her own: she’s an artist, striving to get her work into London’s art salons. Both forge a midnight bargain, but the best laid plans fade in the light of day from distracting chemistry and secrets revealed. Even worse, his saucy bride-to-be insinuates herself in his scientific work: the domain where no wife should mix.

Soon, Lydia’s illustrations speak volumes…of his work to the outside world and hers to London’s art world – a place reserved for men only. Will their greatest discovery be each other before time runs out?

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon Canada | B&N | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play

 

 

Find Gina at these Social Media Links!

Gina ConkleWebsite: http://ginaconkle.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ginaconkle
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GinaConkleWriter
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/gloveshistory/
Newsletter: http://ginaconkle.com/contact/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7105783.

Gina Conkle, a history nerd to the core, loves castles and museums. Her motto is “the older and moldier, the better.” When not enjoying relics of the past, she lives in the present, dabbling in organic gardening. Gina married her favorite alpha male, Brian. The two live with their boys in San Diego, CA.

Rafflecopter Giveaway: (US/Canada only) a Rafflecopter giveaway

FOR FOREIGN FOLLOWERS: If you have foreign followers, then I’ll offer a print copy of Meet the Earl at Midnight (I’ll send snail mail to anywhere :-D) and pick the random winner from the comments. The question prompt: Since Meet the Earl at Midnight is a loose spin on Beauty and the Beast, what’s your favorite fairy tale? Please share why.

Mia: Thanks for that generous offer, Gina. And just to sweeten the pot, I’ll add a digital copy of my first Viking romance since Gina loves and writes about Vikings too! One randomly chose commenter will receive Maidensong in their choice of Kindle or Nook format!

So spill it, gang! What’s your favorite fairytale?

P.S. Just FYI, your comment may not show up immediately unless you’ve made a previously approved comment on my blog. But don’t worry. I appreciate your input and check frequently to approve comments. It’ll be up soon. I promise!

Welcome to a great giveaway opportunity from Sourcebooks, one of my publishers!

Celebrated historical romance author Jane Ashford is re-releasing many of her backlist titles with Sourcebooks Casablanca over the next few years. The good folk at SB are  really looking forward to bringing back so many of Jane’s revered books in print!

Just this past Fall, Sourcebooks was proud to bring three of Jane Ashford’s beloved backlist titles back in print:

Man of Honour

JAMan_of_Honour_CoverThere’s only one man she’s afraid to fall in love with—her husband…

Eliot Crenshaw knew that it was his familial duty to marry a respectable lady. And when he’s stuck in an inn with Laura Lindley for three days— unchaperoned—he decides to do the honorable thing: save her reputation and marry her. He doesn’t believe in love anyway, and Laura’s a pretty, suitable choice for him. Laura, however, always pictured herself marrying for love, and is unsatisfied with her unconsummated marriage. When Eliot’s spurned mistress steps into the picture and tries to ruin Laura, will Eliot realize how much he loves her before it’s too late?

 The Three Graces

JAThe_Three_Graces_CoverWhen It Comes to the Game of Love…

Finding themselves suddenly impoverished and alone in the world, the three Hartington sisters must rely on their wits, charm, and unique talents to support themselves. Forced to go their separate ways, each of these enchanting sisters is brought to a dead end by the perplexing ways of men and the inequity of fate.

Three Heads are Better than One…

Then each receives a letter that changes everything…and if the sisters are going to overcome the obstacles to love, they’re going to require some astonishingly creative solutions…

 

The Marriage Wager

JAThe_Marriage_Wager_CoverIn this Regency favorite from Jane Ashford, a troubled war hero is dealt an unexpected hand…

When Emma Tarrant enters a gambling house to find her brother losing to a gamester, she follows the strange man home and attempts to settle the score. Colin Wareham is intrigued by Emma’s offer, and when he wins the first hand, he suggests another game. Should he prevail, Emma would be his prize. But as he’s collecting his winnings, Emma’s father storms in and demands a marriage. Though forced together, Emma and Colin’s passion begins to grow… until a sinister man from Emma’s past emerges to raise the stakes.

Sourcebooks is giving away a prize pack of all three of these backlist titles! To enter, leave a comment telling us if you’ve ever read a Jane Ashford book and which is your favorite. If Jane is new to you, tell us which of the three books mentioned above you’re the most interested in reading. A random winner will be chosen to receive a prize pack of ALL THREE titles (US and Canada only please).

 Jane Ashford also has a BRAND NEW book coming out in March 2014: THE BRIDE INSISTS:

 JAThe_Bride_Insists_CoverSparks fly in this sexy, fast-paced Regency romance by acclaimed, bestselling author Jane Ashford

 When governess Clare Greenough learns she’s inherited a fortune, the good news comes with a catch: it will be held by her cousin until Clare can find a husband. To stave off ruin, Jamie Boleigh, the seventh Baron of Trehearth, agrees to marry Clare under the condition that she controls the money, a provision he hopes to overturn. Their passionate relationship becomes a battle of wills. When the cousin tricks Jamie into betraying his wife, he’ll have to prove the truth or lose her forever.

To Preorder The Bride Insists: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Chapters/Indigo | IndieBound | iBooks

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JaneAshfordJane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight was part of what led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. She has written historical and contemporary romances, and her books have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Spain, as well as the U.S. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews. Born in Ohio, she now lives in LA. Find Jane Ashford on the web at www.janeashford.com and on Facebook.

_____________________

Plaid to the BoneI’m excited to bring you a chance to win 3 of Jane’s titles! And I’m also happy to share that ALL OF YOU can also receive a free read from me RIGHT NOW! My other publisher, Kensington, is offering Plaid to the Bone FREE!

Kindle: http://bit.ly/15sQGYS
B&N: http://bit.ly/1aZfUxx
iBooks: http://bit.ly/1aZg2Nv
Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/plaid-to-the-bone
Sony: http://bit.ly/1gEfUXT

But Cait Grant and Adam Cameron’s rocky romance in wind-swept Bonniebroch Castle is only going to be free for a limited time. The offer ends tomorrow, so be sure to claim your copy today! And be sure to leave a comment about Jane to be entered in the multi-book giveaway!