I'll try to do a year round-up next month, but this has been a very busy year, when I look back at it.
So what has December in store in terms of reads from yours truly? Two re-releases, or rather, rewritten and heavily revised books, both of which mean a great deal to me. I’ll put the official blurbs and details here, and I’ve also added pages on the website, with excerpts. And an excerpt below, or rather two! Exclusive to this group, the first segments of each story. I’ve been told that my contemporary style and my historical style vary. I’ve never seen it myself, I just try to tell a story the best way I know how.
First up, is "Yorkshire." The first book I ever had published and the first in the Richard and Rose series. I've taken the "spot the deliberate mistake" on page one, where Richard says "hello" to Rose, although I was tempted to leave it in! For those of you who don't know (and I didn't until the book hit the shelves, lol!), "Hello" as a term of greeting was purposely invented for the telephone, a mix of "halloo" from the hunting field and "hullo" as an exclamation of discovery. But I think what Richard says instead is even better!
For those of you with the original version, you'll be able to see just how much is changed. I’ve revised the whole thing, and the language is more accurate (Angie James discovered a couple of anachronisms that had sped past 4 editors so far – nothing gets past Angie!), and I’ve eliminated a few of the characters that really didn’t need to be there. Like Lord Southwood and his wife and daughter. I think it’s tighter now, and I love the new cover art!
Also out this month at Loose-Id is the first contemporary I ever wrote, “The Chemistry of Evil.” Originally written for a continuity series, I’ve rewritten it to be more in line with Department 57, since this is the book where the Department made its first appearance. Now it’s a fully-fledged Department 57 book, with a hero who has a very unusual Talent, and his archaeologist-turned-forensic-archaeologist girlfriend. I’ve added more steam, more sexual tension and more of the act itself. It was a delight to revisit Evan and Sophie, and I was really surprised to see how much my style has changed in the three years since the book made its first appearance.
I hope those of you who bought Moonfire last month thought it was worthwhile! I did enjoy writing Jake’s story. Next is Chris, and after that, exciting news about what’s coming next from Ellora’s Cave!
There's a competition going on at Samhain, which I'm involved in. Angela James organised it, and as well as winning two Kindles, there are a host of other prizes. We thought we'd really push the boat out this year!
If you want to play, go here:
So everyone be sure to have a happy Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza and all the other celebrations that happen at this time of year. We need to count our blessings and give thanks in whatever way makes sense to us, because I fear there might be a tough time ahead. Nil desperandum. I’ll keep writing if you keep reading!
Excerpts and blurb:
Rose Golightly is a country girl who thinks her life will continue on its comfortable course, but a series of events changes that for good. On a visit to the ancestral estate of Hareton Abbey, Richard Kerre, Lord Strang, enters her life. A leader of society, a man known for extravagance in dress and life, Richard is her fate. And she is his.
Richard is to marry a rich, frigid woman in a few weeks, and has deliberately closed his heart to love. Then a coach accident throws his wounded body into Rose’s arms.
With one kiss, Richard and Rose discover in each other the passion they thought they’d never find.
But the accident that brought them together was an act of sabotage. Somewhere, in the rotting hulk of a once beautiful stately home, a murderer is hiding.
Richard and Rose set out to solve the mystery, and find the layers of scandal go deeper than simply determining who is guilty. And that doing the right thing could separate them—forever.
The first meeting, from chapter one of Yorkshire
At last, we came to a juddering halt at the top of the drive, nearly throwing us out of our seats. We waited as the steps were let down, which gave me the chance to take a few deep breaths in preparation for the ordeal ahead. James got down and helped Martha, Lizzie and me to alight.
Silence fell, suddenly oppressive. Steven stood by his horse. We stood by the coach. No one spoke, appalled and awed in equal measure by the sight before us.
We stood in the courtyard, before the main part of Hareton Abbey. Two great grey wings stretched out on either side. Elsewhere, they would serve as a protective barrier against the bitter Yorkshire winds, but here they seemed more like a trap waiting for the prey to spring it. No life stirred behind the windows, dulled with begrimed years of neglect.
The house was rendered in grey Yorkshire stone, formidable and forbidding. It had not been cleaned except by the weather, nor repaired where pieces of the stone had shattered in the frosts of winter. Pieces still lay on the ground. They must have lain there disregarded for some time. The main part of the building towered in front of us. Its air of abandonment was almost tangible: you could almost hear the house crumbling.
“Rose…” Lizzie whispered.
I glanced at her. “Dear God. What have we come to?”
Her face reflected my own apprehension. “I don’t know. This is Hareton Abbey, isn’t it? We haven’t come somewhere else by mistake?”
“It has to be,” Martha said. We spoke quietly; afraid of awakening echoes. “Don’t forget, James and I have been here once before, but it didn’t look like this the last time we came.”
“Lord, no.” James murmured. Martha clutched his arm as if she might never let go. “It’s supposed to be one of the show houses of the county; whatever can have happened?”
The rumble of wheels on the drive behind started us out of our shock. We stepped back to see what was coming, and to get out of its way.
Into the dilapidated courtyard bowled two travelling carriages, as different from our hired vehicle as possible. They were clearly private vehicles, bang up to date in style, bearing emblazoned crests on their doors. The shiny new black paintwork contrasted strongly with the dull, weathered finish on our carriage. The windows were glassed in, but despite their fashionable comfort, the bodies of the vehicles jolted and swung just as much as ours had. The horses pulling them were matched thoroughbreds. They must have cost a fortune.
They came to a brisk halt in front of the house. We watched liveried footmen leap down and run to let down the steps. “The Southwood party,” Lizzie whispered, awestruck. The cream of society, the top of the tree. Her ideal, her dream.
From the first coach alighted a figure that made my mouth drop open in disbelief. A vision of male gorgeousness, a sumptuous feast of a man. Lizzie gasped, but I didn’t turn to look at her. I kept my gaze fixed on the mirage before us.
He wore scarlet velvet, dressed for the Court. He would be sadly disappointed here. His white powdered wig was set just right, his waistcoat was a dream of embroidered magnificence. He swung around to help a lady descend from the vehicle, and when I again glanced at Lizzie, I saw she had temporarily lost all faculties of speech. No doubt remembering her manners, she closed her mouth.
This younger lady was attired—dressed would have been too clumsy a word—in a French sacque of blue watered silk, embroidered down the hem and the robings in fine floss. Frills and furbelows seemed to take on a life of their own, romping over her petticoats. Pearls gleamed at her neck. “Dear God,” whispered Lizzie.
Behind these visions of fashionable excess, another man climbed down. He wore his fair hair simply tied back; his clothes were just as well cut as the other gentleman’s though not as extravagant, and his attitude far more natural. “They’re twins,” Lizzie told me, back in control of her voice.
“I know,” I said. “You told us. More than once.”
To see the Kerre brothers was a different experience to merely reading about them.
The only identical twins in polite society, they made themselves more conspicuous still by creating scandal after scandal. Lizzie’s information continued, “The younger went abroad after eloping with a married woman. He’s only lately returned, after twelve years away. I wonder which one it is?”
“The peacock.” It had to be. The other looked far too sensible.
They glanced at us. The gorgeously dressed gentleman turned back to the coach, and said something only his brother could hear. His twin spun on his heel, the gravel grating under his foot and stared at us for one impolite moment before he looked away. I guessed the popinjay had said something like “country bumpkins”, and I resented the comment while at the same time agreeing with it. We were in a hired coach, and hadn’t thought to make a stop to change into better clothes as the other party obviously had. I smoothed my hand over my worn, brown wool gown.
With a leisurely gait, the peacock approached us and bowed. “You, sir, must be Sir James Golightly. Lord Hareton informed us you would be here.” His voice was faintly musical and touched with a low burr I found unusually attractive.
Richard and Rose are back!
Coming to Samhain Publishing on December 5th 2008
(No cover art as yet)
Sophie Adams is engaged, but the second she sees sexy Evan Howell, she wants him. When her fiancé dumps her, Evan is there to catch her. And show her a passion she’d never dreamed of before, drawn from his dark experiments into sexual magick, a magick that has driven more than one man insane. Enthralled by the new world Evan introduces her to, Sophie wants more.
Evil follows them across the Atlantic. From Arthurian Cornwall to New York, Mordred, cursed son of King Arthur, stretches his evil influence to encompass Sophie, Evan and everyone they love. Evan has already lost his sister to Mordred and his supporters—he refuses to lose Sophie, too.
Evan, ex-convict hacker turned CIA computer genius for Department 57, explores the dark side of life. It will take all his skill to save Sophie from the danger threatening to take her over, body and soul. All his skill—in the bedroom as well as out of it.
Together, the three will embark upon a dance of danger, at the end of which there will be only two. . .or one. . .or none.
The first meeting of Sophie and Evan, from the first chapter of The Chemistry of Evil
Sophie’s dreams of violent, terrifying deaths halfway across the world faded in the peace of the English countryside.
Even here in Tintagel, a place that had seen murder and terror in its time, the atmosphere felt tranquil. The bloody history was long gone; only a pile of moss-encrusted stones remained as a mute reminder. On the other side of the world lay her new, exciting life.
She stretched her back and headed for the tent where the team laid out the day’s finds. A kettle lived there too, heated over a camping stove. The lure of tea was almost more important than the view. Almost.
“Find the Grail?” she asked Gwyneth, flashing a grin.
“Not today.” It was an old joke, masking a secret desire. Here, on the top level of Tintagel, one almost believed in Arthur and all the other old tales. The modern world seemed to recede, only the occasional plane flying high overhead reminding them of their time and place. “You?”
“Nothing like it. Just a few old shards.”
“Not as glamorous as New York, then. You’ll be back there soon enough.”
With Archie. He’d taken a job at the Metropolitan Museum, a lucrative position with a research fellowship attached. He always had to go one better than her.
Sophie would miss England, her native land. The soft grass, masking hard, unforgiving rock, the levels and layers, the knowledge that wherever one was on this little island, someone had gone before, perhaps dropped something, a coin, a jewel, a Holy Grail.
“I don’t think Archie would appreciate finding the Grail here,” she commented. She strolled with Gwyneth toward the tent. “It wouldn’t fit in with his theory. He’d be more excited if we found a hermit’s cave.”
“Some people came up today asking about Arthur. When we told them we were excavating the medieval monastery, they didn’t believe us. So Archie told them the castle was twelfth century.”
Sophie laughed. “How did they take that?”
“They said we were mad, that everyone knew it was Arthur’s castle.”
Their laughter rang over the small area of the dig. Several heads poked up to look at them, their owners’ bodies lost in the trenches of the main dig. People roused, their concentration broken, murmuring greetings to each other as they began to climb out of their self-dug holes. Moles facing the light, or perhaps bodies rising from the grave. Appropriate, since part of the dig was a burial ground. But Sophie doubted monks would wear a motley array of shorts, T-shirts, and tattered jeans or be discussing the character of skeleton deterioration over time in such a pragmatic way.
Sophie smiled to herself when she recalled her New York wardrobe with its sharp designer suits and elegant, understated eveningwear. But she still kept her old clothes. You never knew when an interesting opportunity to grub about in the ground might occur. Or perhaps it was a disinclination to let go of her old life and embrace the new. She found her new job extremely lucrative and prestigious, but not as much fun. She still loved digging and the camaraderie a team involved in a dig could engender.
The tent was a large one, which was just as well. Six people crowded in, to add to the four already in residence. A laptop was carefully set up at the end, away from the dirt. It formed their communication with the study center at the hotel in the village and a link to all the research documents, geophysics, and the rest. Long trestle tables held trays containing the day’s finds. Geophysics equipment stood propped up in the corner, expensive equipment that had to be hauled to and from the village each day.
Sophie moved to the part of the tent that contained “her” section, the section farthest from the opening, near to George, who was currently sitting in front of the laptop swearing at it.
Sophie’s woefully small finds section contained only one tray, instead of the three or more on the other tables. Uninformative pottery that merely served to confirm what they had already discovered, plus her one find, now cleaned and gleaming balefully at her, reminding her of her failure. Archie was probably right. The whistle, aulos, whatever, couldn’t be an ancient artifact, although it looked like one. Probably a modern reproduction, maybe bought from one of the tourist shops clustered in the village below and then dropped up here and lost. Similar to a Roman aulos but shorter, a whistle or pipe with only one finger hole, engraved with symbols and lines that looked vaguely Celtic in nature. Definitely an imaginative tourist piece. Archie would be pleased she hadn’t made a major discovery.
Foolish to think like that. She had succeeded in disproving a rival’s theory that a settlement lay buried in that area. His theory put the site farther to the east. Had Sophie found anything interesting, it might have delayed Archie’s departure for New York and his new job at the Metropolitan Museum. And their marriage.
So why did she feel depressed? Why had she tried so hard to find something? She knew. Perhaps she would tell him tonight that she couldn’t marry him and then leave for her mother’s house before going back to the States. They'd nearly finished the dig now, so she couldn’t put it off much longer.
An arm curled round her shoulders. “Well, Sophie love,” a voice soft as a whisper breathed hotly in her ear. “New York, here we come.”
She forced a bright smile and turned around. “Yes, here we come. Back to the FBI for me.”
He frowned. “You could always join me at the museum. I’m sure I can find something for you.”
A curl of anger crawled through Sophie’s mind at his patronizing attitude. “I don’t want you to. I want to stay with the FBI, if they’ll have me, perhaps even apply for citizenship and join full-time.”
“I don’t like you working with those…bodies.”
Sophie laughed. “I’ve been working with bodies all my adult life, Archie love. Just that these are more recent, that’s all.”
“And have living relatives.” His other arm went around her waist, imprisoning her. “It’s only that I worry about you.”
Sophie suspected it might be more. Archie was the primary male, the supervisor of this group, built like a golden bear, all bulging muscle and gleaming teeth. Gorgeous and clever, he wasn’t used to a slip of a girl besting him, but she’d done it, getting better marks than he at university, and earning her doctorate a year earlier than he did. His overwhelming niceness saved him from the accusation of alpha-ism. Sophie’s doubts had crystallized into certainty in the last few days. Where once she had loved him, the gentle liking that remained, together with a response to Archie’s undoubted sex appeal, was no longer enough for her.
When she’d needed him, when her father died, he’d been there for her. She owed him for that, but she didn’t owe him the rest of her life.
She smiled and reached up to kiss him on the cheek in a gesture more friend than lover. “I’m starving.”
“Shall we go to the pub? I’ll miss their lasagna when we leave.”
“It’s only because they serve it in large roasting tins. Big enough portions for you.”
Sophie tried to pull away, but Archie was having none of it. He dragged her back and angled his mouth over hers, settling in for a nice, leisurely kiss. The whistles and catcalls from the interested bystanders only served to encourage him. When he finally pulled away, she felt numb from the pressure of his arms and mouth. He waited for her reaction and gave her a cocky grin when she smiled at him. “I can’t wait to leave because of what happens next.”
He released her. Sophie took a deep breath, trying not to show her anger at his enforcing his so-called male superiority. Tonight. She would tell him tonight, as soon as she had a private moment with him.
The whistle gleamed evilly in the find tray, reminding her of her failure. Archie saw where her gaze went and picked it up, tossing it high into the air and catching it without looking at it. “Someone’s tried his or her hand at engraving this. I had a look earlier. But it’s not old.”
“How do you know it’s not old?” She wished she could take the words back. She knew.
Archie gave her a pitying glance. “Really, Sophie! If it’s silver, it would have tarnished and rotted. If it’s steel, then by definition it’s modern. Good steel didn’t occur on a regular basis before the nineteenth century. Take it as a souvenir. I’ll sign it out as irrelevant to the dig.”
Sophie felt hurt by his light response, as though he denigrated her efforts that day. Archie could still make her feel as though her achievements amounted to nothing. He did it to most people, and she suspected he wasn’t even aware of it. Defiantly she picked up the whistle and rubbed it against her T-shirt to polish it up. “I’ll use it when I need help. It might come in handy in New York.”
“Down those mean streets?” Archie laughed, just as a new voice, dark as night and twice as sinful, sounded from the open flap of the tent.
“I believe that quotation was about Los Angeles.”
The occupants of the tent fell silent, their end-of-the-day chatter stilled. Before them stood the embodiment of masculinity. Handsome, as dark as Archie was fair, tall, and whipcord lean.
Sophie lifted her gaze and met his dark stare. Now she knew where her restless feeling came from. This was her fate.
The Chemistry of Evil – A Department 57 book
Coming Soon from Loose-Id Publishing