Thursday, June 07, 2018

Exciting news for June, 2018

So, where to begin?
At the beginning of April I was seriously considering a break in writing, or at least, in publishing my work. With the closure of three of the publishers I worked with, and the ending of a series, it seemed like a good time to take a breather. The publishing market hasn't got any easier over the years, and it's hard work, keeping up to date, keeping the website current, getting the newsletter out, and oh, yes, writing.
Dauntless comes out later this month, the third of the four books in The Shaws series, so I planned to give myself a little time to plan my next move.

But then two things happened that made my decision redundant.


First, I have a new agent! Jill Marsal of Marsall Lyon is handling my contracts for historical romance. I'm thrilled to have her on my side, even more since I met her in San Diego recently. I'm waiting now, on two submissions, both historical series.
It's hard to wait, but I need to be patient. Or so I'm telling myself!

Second, I have a new contract for contemporary romance! I haven't published any contemporary romance for a while, so it's really great to get back to it. I have signed a contract with Tule Publishing for a quartet about four brothers who find their loves. But it's not that easy for them, or where would be the fun in that? At the start of the series only two brothers know each other, but they find that their mother had some shocks in store in two more siblings they had no idea about!
I've handed the first manuscript in, and I'm working on the second. Stay tuned for more developments, and release dates!

I am so thrilled about these developments, and it just goes to show - never give up, keep trying, if your heart is in the work.

 

The RT Booklovers' Convention

As usual, I went over to the US to visit friends and to attend the RT Booklovers' Convention, which this year was in Reno. This, I discovered to my dismay, was to be the last RT Convention. I've been going since 2007, and I can't begin to tell you how much the convention means to me. But, alas, it is no more. Kathryn Falk and Kenneth Rubin have decided to retire the RT brand. From Romantic Times to the Convention and all the offshoots, they will cease to be at the end of this year. It's a blow for the romance community, but I can't help but be thankful for all the things Kathryn and Kenneth have done for me, and the community as a whole. I've written about it at more length in a blog post.
But the convention itself was its usual blend of madness, business and sheer fun, leaving me wrung out at the end.
But here are some memories I can take away from this year's convention:

With the lovely Cindy McGee

 

Our panel. A great success!


The gang's all here!

New Release

This Month sees the release of the third book in The Shaws series. It's Dru's story. The middle child, stuck between two sets of twins, Lady Drusilla Shaw has always felt a bit left out. But once she meets Oliver, Duke of Mountsorrel, her life changes. For the better?

The Shaws are one of Britain’s most influential, dynamic families, but one Shaw prefers to keep a low profile. Unfortunately, the limelight can shine behind-the-scenes . . .
 
Lady Drusilla Shaw may be a bit introverted, yet she has the observant mind of a writer, capturing all of society’s quirks and scandals. But when the novel she’s been working on disappears from her room, that is just the beginning of her problems. Confident, magnetic Oliver, Duke of Mountsorrel, has taken an interest in Dru, and when he proposes, she is both thrilled and anxious. Her book depicts a ruinous family story that is uncannily similar to Oliver’s real-life, not to mention libelous. The manuscript could surface at any moment—and eventually it does, in published form, for all to read . . .

Oliver is bewildered by his new wife and her blasted book. Worst of all, how can he love a woman he no longer trusts? But when it becomes obvious that someone is taking their cues from the book in a series of attacks, he has no choice but to stick close to her. Their explosive connection in bed should take care of the heir-making, but for that to happen, Drusilla has to stay alive—and so does Oliver.

Excerpt:
Every time Drusilla attended a ball, or the theater, or any other society event, she had that expectation. Would she meet him tonight? The man who would make her world shine, the one she’d written about all her life? The fact that she’d met most of the eligible men in society, that there were no more left to meet, didn’t stop that traitorous feeling of maybe this time, maybe tonight …
While a maid was helping her divest herself of her hat and cloak, an elbow dig from a nearby countess who did not even attempt an apology was enough to persuade her to take a step back.
Unfortunately, her heel caught in the ruffles of her petticoat, and she tumbled backward. Just what she needed—an undignified tumble. At least she wore enough layers to protect her. She’d probably take a few members of the peerage with her. Then the gossip writers would report on that and nothing else, and her aunt, the formidable Duchess of Kirkburton, would be severely displeased. And her mother would be disappointed.
She should have never come. She could have pleaded illness and stayed at home with her writing.
But none of her doom-laden prophesies happened. Instead, a pair of strong masculine arms caught her and drew her close to a wall of muscle. While the contact lasted barely a few seconds, its impact jolted her into total awareness. The dreamy cloud that surrounded her most times melted away. All she felt was a wall of muscle and being held in a secure grip. She would have given anything to subside into his arms, and for a moment she did just that. His arms closed around her, giving her a satisfying sense of security.
Dru forced herself to pull away. When she turned, she confronted a pair of startled gray eyes set in a face so ruthlessly masculine she wondered if a hard-bitten soldier had somehow forced his way into a society ball.
His unmistakable air of command easily dominated this hall full of the cream of society. Here, more titles and wealth abounded than anywhere else in the country. This man did not get his air of power from his wealth.
Recalling her manners, she dropped a curtsy. He responded, bowing slightly, but they hadn’t been introduced, so they could do nothing more.
For all that, she knew him. Their paths had not crossed. The Duke of Mountsorrel attended few society events, but he could not elude them completely. However, he avoided single eligible ladies as if they bore the plague. His severe dress spoke of the Puritan, but he was no City merchant. If observers looked closely, they would see that his dark blue twilled silk coat and the matching waistcoat were the finest fabric and the best work money could buy.
He turned away, only to confront Livia, who stared at him blatantly. Her curtsy was even more perfunctory than the one a shaken Dru had given him. She received the same stiff bow before he turned around and left.
* * * *
A cupboard. Oliver found he’d entered an anteroom that was little more than a closet. So leaving it with dignity was out of the question. And he could find only one door. That damned woman had stumbled on purpose, he was sure of it, and her accomplice had been waiting for a chance to block him. Such snares would trap a boy barely out of petticoats, but Oliver should have known better.
He hated balls and social occasions with a passion he usually reserved for murderers and cabbage. Especially now, when one touch of warm female flesh had driven his body into hard, needy arousal. It didn’t matter that the woman had been respectably clothed. He wanted her anyway.
Oliver took in the room with a comprehensive glance. That was all the place deserved. A hard chair and a table, and rough pegs on the wall. No doubt the unfortunate footman on duty spent hours here, but Oliver saw no trace of occupation. No book, no newspaper, not even a glass. He would have allowed the footman who occupied this room something to do. Even Charles’s attendants had a more comfortable life, and God knew they had plenty to do.
Well, he’d tried. Even thinking of his brother had not caused his raging erection to subside. One touch, that was all it had taken. One accidental tumble. As if he’d never felt a woman’s soft body in his arms before. Lady Drusilla Shaw did not even sport the abundant curves he preferred in his women. Her waist was impossibly slender. The notion of hoisting her up, his hands circling her waist, and driving into her took him by complete surprise. It sent a thrill of recognition all the way up his spine to the center of his mind. He would probably never rid himself of that vision now.
Yes, he knew who she was. One of the Emperors of London, hence her unusual name. They were all named after emperors and empresses of the past in a conceit invented by their parents. He’d seen the tribe working, watched the way they smoothly covered all parts of a ball. Many would be here tonight, since this was Emperor territory. They would watch him, he knew. Unmarried women abounded in the family, although their numbers had decreased of late.
He would not succumb to her ladyship’s less than voluptuous charms. She had the appeal of a dainty, pretty woman, one who would break under his big body. No, she was not for him.
He couldn’t even pace properly in this tiny space. So he put his self-control to work, leaned against the wall, and folded his arms.
Oliver waited until the murmur outside had changed to a dull roar and the influx of guests he’d arrived with had left.
Then he stepped out of the room, dusting off his waistcoat, and tried to slide into the maelstrom that surrounding him. To a great extent he succeeded. As he glanced up, he saw two women standing side by side, goggling over the banisters on the next floor. Lady Drusilla and her sister Lady Livia.
Those women should be hanged at dawn. Or banned from attending society events. Either would work for him. They had not the least idea of how to behave. Were it not for their fine clothing, he’d have assumed they were country girls up for the season.
With all the dignity he could muster, he ascended the stairs and greeted his hostess. The Duchess of Kirkburton, while diminutive in stature, towered over society as one of its best established and most influential hostesses.
Dressed in white satin with a plethora of ruffles, lace, and embroidery, her grace should have been swamped. However, her personality defeated any attempt to overwhelm her. Graciously she offered her hand. Gallantly, Oliver bowed over it, wishing he were anywhere but here.
He would put a bold face on his worries and concentrate on finding his life’s partner.
“Your grace, I’m pleased to see you here. Welcome to my house.”
Said the spider to the fly. Used to schooling his features, Oliver stretched his lips into a semblance of a smile. “It is entirely my honor, your grace.”
Her bosom tightly constricted in stays that must have made breathing difficult, the duchess inclined her head. “It is a great pity you were not in town last year, sir. My daughter Helena would have been perfect for you. However, I do have another daughter, and she is dazzling the world. I would be honored to introduce you.”
What an odd thing to say! Lady Helena had made an advantageous marriage recently. Why would her mother resent that? And she clearly did, from her frosty words as she skipped over one daughter and right to another.
The duchess’s unmarried daughter was ten years younger than he, perhaps more since she had barely been out a year. While others might not balk at the age difference and some would welcome it, Oliver needed a mature female, someone of sense and gravity. Perhaps he should set his sights lower. A vicar’s widow or a young woman of genteel family might prove a better duchess, if only because she was closer to the realities of life. She would have a lot of reality to manage. He had no intention of keeping secrets from his bride.
With a tug to set his waistcoat to rights, his invariable habit when making a decision, he bowed to his hostess and strode forward into the ballroom.

You can find Dauntless here, together with the other books in the series and the buy links - currently up for preorder, but it won't be long before the day of release!

https://lynneconnolly.com/the-shaws/


Friday, June 01, 2018

Farewell to the RT Booklovers' Convention


The RT Booklovers’ Convention has been a large part of my professional life for over ten years now. As soon as I could afford it, I visited the convention, and every year since. Now it is no more, I will mourn it and be grateful for what it meant to me and others like me.
I live in the UK, but I found my publishing home in the US. At first with tiny e-publishing houses, then with larger ones, I saw the convention grow, and my role with it. I met a lot of people who helped me with my career, and I had fun doing it.
RT was the first to acknowledge the importance of the e-publishing movement. While many readers today can’t imagine a world without it, at first the romance community rejected it as a valid form of publication, a red-headed stepchild to the behemoths of the great publishers, who, back then, ruled the roost.
My first RT was in 2007, in Houston, Texas. I went across the pond myself. Terrified and excited, I checked into the hotel, and from the first moment met a fantastic group of people. I had found my tribe.
From then on, as RT grew into a huge convention with more than 2000 attendees, I grew with it. With the esteemed Kathryn Falk, owner of the convention as my mentor, I got more book contracts, became better known and sold lots and lots of books.
Kathryn is my friend, and a woman I admire enormously. She has always championed the cause of romance, whether it’s indies, erotic, or any other unusual variety. She ‘got’ us, although I once asked her if she’d ever considered writing a romance. “No,” she said. “But I love reading them.”
So we kept writing books for her to read.
Her ranch in Texas is a model of a smallholding. She bred chickens, goats, sheep, pigs and deer. Some of them have gone by the wayside, but many have stayed, and while she’s the same optimistic, confident self whatever she does, she tailors her approach to her interests. No wonder her staff (and the animals she cares for) love her.
Kathryn’s confidence and ebullient personality was reflected in the convention she created. Quirky, huge fun and experimental, Kathryn was the first industry person to see what erotic romance meant to the community, and paved the way for the huge success it experienced in the early 2010s. She saw the indie community struggling, and worked out ways to help.
But she never abandoned the other side of the industry, the traditionally published authors who go through similar struggles to everyone else, but aren’t as noisy.
Everyone had a chance to connect. That, in the end, was what the convention was all about; making friends, the kind that last.
I’m going to miss the RT Booklovers’ Convention more than I can say.

However, the convention lives on in the new Booklovers’ Convention, run by one of Kathryn’s stalwarts, Jo Carol Jones. Next year it takes place in New Orleans, and plans are already well advanced. So onward!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Big Changes for May!

Last year, when Loose-Id announced it was closing, I had a real “why go on?” moment. I considered slowing down, or not writing at all for a while. Taking a break, if not from writing, at least from publishing. I had written for Samhain, Ellora’s Cave and Loose-Id, and they had now all gone.
While I admire people who can make a success of self-publishing, I really don’t want to take that course, at least not for everything I write. I love writing, not all the fuss and bother that goes with self-publishing. I do enjoy designing the occasional book cover, but apart from that, I’d rather avoid the production of my own books. And promotion is not my thing. Not of my own books, anyway. I have tried, but I guess I’m not outgoing enough.
I’d rather write, create the stories and bring the characters that invade my mind. Bring them to life and and tell their stories.
I still have a great relationship wih Kensington, so I could be happy telling my stories there. But The Shaws series is coming to an end this year, and I sent them something new, so I’m biting my fingernails rying to be patient while I wait for their response.
I had a historical romance that seemed to turn itself into a series. So I sent it to several agents, my dream agents. And waited for the rejecions to come rolling in. Instead, I got requests for more, and offers. I accepted an offer from Jill Marsal of Msrsal Lyons, and I’m now thrilled to announce that she is acting for me as my agent. I’ve always admired her, and she represents some of my favourite authors.
Here we go on a new adventure.
What will Kensington think of the new series, and will Jill find me a home for the new trilogy?
The waiting begins.
However…
I like to change things up a bit from time to time and write in a different genre. I had an idea for a contemporary romance series, and I sent it out to Tule, a publisher with some awesome authors on its books. And they accepted it! Everything seems to be happening at once. The new series will feature a pair of brothers, who discover that their supermodel mother hwd produced two other siblings they never heard of before. I created a designer of sport cars, and he came to life on my keyboard. I get so excited when that happens!
I’;m currently in the States, on my annual perambulation around the country. So far I’ve been to New York and Washington, DC, both of which are still as fantastic as ever, and now I’m in Los Angeles, staying with lovely Rosechel Sinio, who owns the amazing Lil Book Bug store in Lancaster. They are setting up tables for an author signing, (not mine!) so I get to meet another lovely writer.
Although the writing life is far from easy, it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I should have known better than to doubt it!



Sunday, April 15, 2018

A Bit of a Ramble for April

A bit of a ramble this month.


I am so excited to see Richard and Rose back on the shelves, virtual and physical! I know they've been around forever, and in several different incarnations, but I am so proud of these books, the first success I ever had as an author.
I started writing them when my children were little, as a respite from the nappy changing, wheels on the bus singing and Thomas the Tank Engine reading. I loved them, but I did need some time to myself. So I made space. When they were napping, at nursery school, in the very brief snatches of time I had, I wrote. I'd always written, always made up stories, but for myself. As far as I knew, Richard and Rose would be the same. Until I got the opportunity to see them published, and boy, did that start something!
I told you it waa a bit of a ramble, but sometimes rambling is the best thing ever. Setting out to wander, without knowing where you're going to end up, when the journey is more fun than getting there. I try never to forget that part.
This month I've been doing a lot of planning. Books and real life. I'm plotting a new series that I'm sending to Kensington. The Shaws finish at the end of the year. I'll have no unmarried Shaws left! I do have characters in the Emperors that have yet to find their stories, but I've been fired up with devising an entirely new series, set in the same era, but with a new set of characters. What do you think? Should I do it?
Of course that depends a lot on my publisher. I want to write, and I resent any time taken away from writing in order to promote and so on. But I have to do it, and the contact I make is at a comfortable level for me. I guess I don't have the entrepreneurial spirit. I should beg you all for reviews, mentions, spread the word, all that, but really, all I can bring myself to do is to say enjoy the books, and if you genuinely want to spread the word about them, I'd be very grateful.
I'm not offering bribes, making promises or buying reviews outright. Yes. times are tricky. but not impossible, and while I can write and publish the stories I love, I'll continue to do so.
So  just - thanks. For being here, for reading and for making the author community such fun.

Other plans? At the end of this month I'll be in the USA! It's a winding journey, one I should chronicle more thoroughly, but I'm too busy having fun to write it all down! I'm going to be in New York, then in Washington, DC, then Reno for RT Booklovers' Convention, and Los Angeles. It all takes a lot of planning and I'm woefully behind in doing it. I have the flights booked, and a few of the hotels, but not all of them.
If you're in those areas, let me know. Perhaps we can meet up!
I'm very excited to go to these places. I've been to all of them before, and I always find them vibrant and enthralling. So here's to seeing you in  May!
By the way, for those of you who review books, Dauntless is now up at Netgalley. It's out at the end of June, and one step closer to saying farewell to the family that has engrossed me for the last four years.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Richard and Rose

This month began the re-release of the Richard and Rose series.
They’ve had a bumpy ride, both in the real world and in theirs, but they’re back (again!).
They started when my children were little. To counteract the relentless progress of Thomas the Tank Engine, I started writing. I’ve always written, and it’s proved a good friend. I love my children, but you can only read the story of James stuck in the ditch so often!
When I first conceived the story, Richard was an unprepossessing man, a minor nobleman who slid in and out of stately homes almost unnoticed, solving crimes. But when I started to write him, a high-born dandy strode from the pages, one that could never be unnoticed!
The whole series took a right turn, and they never stopped. I wrote eighth altogether, and they went through a series of publishers, so they’ve been edited more than any other series I’ve ever written.
First with NBI, then with Mundania, then Samhain, they gained fans and rankings, and I was thrilled to bits. Then last year, Samhain announced it was closing, and I knew it was time for Richard and Rose to go it alone.
They’re written in the first person, the only series I have ever done in that style. Richard needed a filter, so Rose, the woman who loves him, tells the stories. They developed from less of a crime-solving duo to a couple coping with the consequences of Richard’s past. Because I wondered what happens to a rake when he changes his mind. Surely there could be consequences?
And there are, and it takes eight books to work it out.
There should have been nine, but I found one book, which had the slave trade as its theme, impossible to write. It was just too painful and the research regularly had me in tears. Maybe one day I’ll finish it!
All the houses in the book are based on real ones, and it’s been wonderful to feature photos of them on the cover. I started with Calke Abbey, a phantasmagorical place, restored by the National Trust to be exactly as they found it, half-neglected, occupied by a family more concerned with nature than the interior of the house. Once scene, where I describe the nursery, is taken directly from my notes that I made the first time I visited the Abbey.
Here it is:
“I have rarely, if ever, seen such a shocking sight. Toys lay strewn about randomly, as though the children had only just left the room, but they were mildewed and black with damp. A baby house lay open in the corner, its delicate contents poured out on the floor in front of it, as if the house had vomited them.
A doll I would have loved to own when I was a child sat on a table, its beautiful silk gown torn and rotted. I picked it up. It had a vacant look because it hadn’t been loved for such a very long time. It wore a fontanges, one of those high headresses fashionable fifty or so years before, and as I placed the doll back down again the head-dress slid off. It took the wig with it, leaving the doll obscenely bald.
I shuddered. “I don’t want to stay here too long, Mrs. Peters. This nursery isn’t pleasant.” Mrs. Peters didn’t seem to feel it, but she nodded. We wrote down what we needed to, and hastily left.
The night nursery was next to it, and on the other side the little room once occupied by the night nurse, or the nursemaid. To our surprise, we found this much neater than the other rooms. Someone had neatly folded the bedding away, the drawers and cupboard were bare—all much more normal in appearance.
“Perhaps this room was discontinued for use before the rest of the house was abandoned.”
“Very likely, ma’am.” Mrs. Peters didn’t venture any theory of her own.”

Later in the book, a very important scene happens in the nursery. I made up a story for the governess in “Yorkshire,” but it’s one of the tales I never got to tell.
Maybe it’s for the best. It wasn’t a happy ending, and I do like those.

You can get or preorder the books here. 


And you can read more about the books here: http://lynneconnolly.com/richard-and-rose/

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

New release, out this week!

Lord Darius Shaw has never been in love before. But when he renews his acquaintance with lawyer Andrew Graham in a raid on a molly house, where men meet men for forbidden pleasure, they discover mutual feelings as deep as they are dangerous. For while society will turn a blind eye to an aristocrat’s transgressions, Andrew has far more at stake. The son of city merchants, Andrew has a disastrous marriage in his past, and a young daughter to support. He could lose his livelihood, his reputation and even his life—and drag Darius down with him.

Darius and Andrew’s only choice is to deny the true nature of their relationship. But when an enemy Italian spy threatens their secret—and their futures—the two set out to catch him. And in the process they are forced to face their desires—and make a life-changing decision.

Buy Sinless Here:
Publisher; Kensington Books  :  Amazon USA  :  Amazon UK  :  iTunes  :  Kobo  :  Barnes and Noble Nook

So here he is - Lord Darius Shaw! Darius has everything - a powerful, wealthy family, a fortune in his own right, and he keeps telling himself he should be happy. But he is missing one thing, something he knows he can never have - love.
Until he meets Andrew.
Andrew is an up and coming man, a lawyer also trained as a barrister, a widower with a small daughter. But Andrew harbours a secret that could destroy his life. He prefers a man in his bed.
When Darius is sent to investigate a possible spy in a molly house (something I based on a real life case), he meets Andrew again. And this time they are pushed together. 

Because this is the only male/male novel in a series of male/female novels, I deliberately kept the sensuality light, more so than in the rest of the stories. There is one scene towards the end, but I couldn't leave Darius and Andrew unsatisfied, after I'd spent most of the story teasing and forcing them to confront what they'd been avoiding.
However, men of that time could never openly acknowledge their love. They could never marry, live together as a couple. Society would shun them. Darius's high birth wouldn't have saved him, if they couldn't somehow work out a way. There was always a price to pay and Andrew and Darius have to face the consequences of their love.
These days it seems unbelievable, but even in an age of great appetites and flamboyant behaviour, they would have had to face their critics.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Happy December!

News


Here's a picture of me from a Christmas many moons ago!

Well, here we are at the end of a very unusual year. What on earth lies in wait for us next year?
This year has been beyond turbulent on every scale. My role as an author has changed drastically, as has the world around us. The world will have to take care of itself. But I need to cope with my own problems, which I’m in the process of turning into opportunities.
I lost two valuable publishers. First Samhain, a publisher I loved working with. They had my historicals, until I moved to Kensington. Samhain was Richard and Rose’s home, together with several other series, including my venture into historical paranormals, Even Gods Fall In Love. The latter series has been republished by Entangled, and Richard and Rose will be reissued in the new year. All the others are there already, waiting for you to download and read them, except for a couple of novellas, which I’ll reissue when I can.
I lost Heroes and Heartbreakers, which I loved reading and writing for, too. It’s been a brutal year, I have to admit.
Now I hear that Loose-Id is closing in May. They published many of my contemporaries and contemporary paranormal romances. I loved writing Department 57, most of which are already republished, but I have ten other books with Loose-Id, including the Symbiotic series. I’ll put them all back out as they become available to me. Loose-Id was one of the good guys, always paying on time, great cover art and brilliant editing.
The promotion for the reissues kills me. I don’t do well with promo, and with an increasingly crowded market, I doubt that will improve. I rely on the kindness of strangers, and the reputation I’ve built up over the years. I can promise that you will not read any fake reviews for my books and what I write I do with integrity and my own efforts. Any help in spreading the word is greatly appreciated, of course, but I’m luckier than many in that I have a small core of regular readers. I can genuinely call myself a best-seller, which is really appreciated. I couldn’t get there without you! I believe I’ve built that group up by writing the best books I can, and making sure they get the best chance I can give them. I intend to continue that course. I love writing, and that part is never going to change.

New Release

But in January, I have a new release with Sinless! I’m enormously proud of this, a male/male romance in the middle of a female/male series! Because so many people asked for Darius’s book, I got to write it. I love Darius, the more laid-back Shaws twin, but the man who could be hanged for his preference.
Even more conflicted is his love, Andrew Grey, a lawyer and a widower. So does he break the law every time he follows his inclinations, or does he give in to the love that will enrich his life?
Bearing in mind the fact that this is a mainstream series, this is not an erotic read. It’s primarily a story of love, not of sex. There’s one fully-realised scene in the book but I kept it on the “soft” side. I do believe that a book should get the heat level it needs rather than the one dictated by external things. It’s a novella, a small, delicate story rather than a full-on heavy one.
And I loved writing it, because it is about love and defying the odds.
There will be a bonus surprise later this month, if I can get it done.

Here’s the beginning of Sinless for you.

Description

In Georgian England, love can mean ruin—even for a Shaw . . .


Lord Darius Shaw has never been in love before. But when he renews his acquaintance with lawyer Andrew Graham in a raid on a molly house, where men meet men for forbidden pleasure, they discover mutual feelings as deep as they are dangerous. For while society will turn a blind eye to an aristocrat’s transgressions, Andrew has far more at stake. The son of city merchants, Andrew has a disastrous marriage in his past, and a young daughter to support. He could lose his livelihood, his reputation and even his life—and drag Darius down with him.

Darius and Andrew’s only choice is to deny the true nature of their relationship. But when an enemy Italian spy threatens their secret—and their futures—the two set out to catch him. And in the process they are forced to face their desires—and make a life-changing decision.


 Excerpt

Darius paced to one end of his cell and then to the other. Four steps—two one way, two in the opposite direction. A narrow bench intended to serve as a bed stood against it. His jailer had told him he was lucky. He had no doubt he was because the entrance was secured, and he was alone. Unlike everyone else in this place.
The sound of prisoners doing whatever prisoners did filtered through the thick wooden door and thick stone walls. From the evidence of his ears, that would include sexual congress, betting, and more violent amusements. Presumably, if someone killed another person, that would save the hangman a job.
The jailers would haul him up before the magistrate tomorrow. No, that would be later today. They had hinted strongly that they would help him disappear before they reached Newgate, but he had ignored them.
Day had dawned an hour ago, but Darius had no intention of sleeping, especially on that thin mattress. The thing could have moved by itself, judging by the amount of wildlife that had set up home in it. A filthy lice-infested blanket held it down.
He gave a thin grin at the greasy walls scored by generations of prisoners inscribing their names and more amusing, lewder messages. If he’d sent a note to his family’s town house, they’d have had him out of here in an instant. So why hadn’t he done so?
Maybe because he deserved to be locked up. He was, after all, a sinner. He broke one specific law every time he had the chance. But not from any wish to, merely because what he wanted to do happened to be illegal.
People called what he did a sin against nature, a sin against mankind, and a sin against morality. That put his existence in a nutshell. He was a sinner.
He told himself he didn’t care. His coat skirts swung heavily around his legs as he turned, the expensive fabric hitting the filthy walls. He didn’t care about many things these days. He’d cared about his brother and his brother’s happiness, but Val was making his own life now. He didn’t need Darius any longer.
Every day he awoke, dressed, met people, Darius had to lie. He lied about his whereabouts, his desires, his needs. Even to the people who knew who and what he was he lied, to save them more than to save himself. Would they care that the kiss he’d planted on the prim and proper lawyer last night had meant more to him than any other kiss?
Not even Val would understand that. Darius never told him. He rarely kissed anyone, not on the lips, at any rate. He’d stopped touching people as much as he could, withdrawing, wondering if celibacy was the answer to his problem.
Not after last night, it wasn’t.
Andrew Graham had lit something that Darius, for all his experience, wasn’t ready for. Andrew Graham, proper lawyer, cold as ice, with steel-gray eyes that cut through to the truth, had roused Darius. He had meant that kiss as a lesson, as a declaration and defiance. Not as passion.
When his plans evaporated, when he lost control of the situation he had organized, he’d flown up to the boughs, furiously defiant. He’d struck out at the first person he’d seen, determined on some kind of revenge, even of the pettiest kind. He’d wanted to punish Andrew Graham for interfering in his plans, of trying to intercept the man he’d been pursuing before he did. He’d wanted to strike him. Failing that, he’d kissed him.
And nature had struck right back.
Even now, that kiss filled him with the kind of passion he’d turned his back on years ago. At least, he thought he had. The embrace had taken him over, and for a moment, he’d known total happiness. Even now the memory filled him with awe. How could that have happened?
Andrew Graham had done his family a great service last year, but apart from that, he barely knew the man.
He spun and walked. No, that was a lie. Darius refused to tell himself lies, even though he spent his life living one to the rest of the world. He had noticed him then and wanted him, turning away almost automatically. Darius sought his pleasures where he could and where he knew he was relatively safe. Not in public, not in the company of others. Never in the open.
He’d watched his brother’s wedding with joy, glad his restless twin had finally found what he needed, but also with deep envy. He would never find that place, never have anyone he could acknowledge in public as his love. Not unless a miracle occurred and he found a woman.
That would never happen. He liked women but could not imagine being intimate with one.
He took another turn around the cell. The stink pervaded the space so badly he didn’t know if he’d ever rid himself of it. He should have gone home and changed before going to that place last night. Then he wouldn’t have to throw away a nearly new evening coat and waistcoat. He’d wager his valet would never get them clean. In any case, he had no desire to wear them again.
The rattle of keys heralded the arrival of the jailer. He had already eyed the buttons on Darius’s coat and assured him that each gold disc would buy him food and lodging for a week. Darius had assured him they were pinchbeck and watched his disappointment. He couldn’t see much point in telling the man they were genuine. He intended to remain here until he had straightened out his thinking—and no longer.
A sense of doom filled him. His father must have heard of his son’s latest exploit. Darius was headed for an encounter in the study. Although he was full grown, his father still took it upon himself to lecture all his children when he considered the onerous task necessary. Either a fully equipped shouting session or the worse option, a sorrowful recounting of his failures as a father.
Darius would enjoy the shouting, but his canny father would probably choose the latter. Darius would end the session feeling like the worst beggar alive.
He braced himself for the coming ordeal, and he didn’t mean a brief appearance in court. Did he have the nerve to bolt for the country without stopping at the London house first?
No, he couldn’t do that. For one thing, his father would track him down, and then he would know how disappointed his mother was in him, too.
The door opened on well-oiled hinges. Darius blinked against the shaft of light arrowing into the cell. This being an inner-room, his only light had been from the narrow, barred window set into the door. Candles, as the jailer had informed him the night before, were extra. Darius had not bothered to purchase any.
The jailer stood silhouetted against the light, his face in shadow. He wore shirtsleeves and a ragged waistcoat over baggy breeches, no doubt with capacious pockets to hold the bribes the prisoners provided him with. Without the bribes, prisoners didn’t have blankets, and they didn’t eat. Unless they could catch one of the rats that raced through the area now and then.
“You got a visitor,” the jailer said, and beckoned to someone who stepped forward, striding into the cell as if he owned it.
Raising a mocking brow, Darius bowed. “Mr. Graham, I’m honored. You favor my humble abode.”
Irritably, Graham gestured at the jailer, flicking him away. “Don’t lock the door.”
“This one won’t ’urt yer.” The jailer wiped the back of his hand over his nose in a disdainful sniff.
“He won’t try to escape, either. The stench in here is powerful. Leave us some air, pray.”
The jailer grunted, but left.
“The air coming in from the door isn’t much better.”
Graham ignored Darius’s words. “Why did you not leave last night? A word, a few guineas, and the deed is done.”
Darius decided to tell the truth. Some of it, at any rate. “This is the most peace I’ve had since I arrived in London.” Partly true, but he would not admit he preferred the busyness of his life. He could stop himself thinking too deeply that way. “I decided the stink was a small price to pay for one night without the din of society.”
“Poor you.”
Darius blinked. He’d never heard this man so laconically and obviously disbelieving. He had been respectful but decisive before. Darius liked it. He allowed himself a smile. “Indeed. Born into wealth and forced to dress in gold and diamonds. Poor me.”
“That was not my meaning.”
Darius shrugged and folded his arms over his chest. “Were you sent for me?”
“No. I came on my own account. I am on a mission.”
“Explain.” Darius was in no mood for riddles or elegant dancing around the subject.
“Sir, what were you doing in that house last night?”
Darius curled his top lip in a sneer. “Did you not know that part about me? I considered my proclivities an open secret. Perhaps not so much, if you do not know. You are a perceptive man, Mr. Graham. What do you think I was doing at Mother Fleming’s?”
For that matter, what had Graham been doing there? The thought had not occurred to him before, but it did now, in full force. “You acted for my brother as a favor. You are an important man in your field, which is not criminal law. Why were you attending that raid last night?”
Graham nodded. “I do not think you were at Mother Fleming’s for the company. Except for the young man with you.”
Darius heaved a sigh from the bottom of his soul and thought of all the curse words he wouldn’t say until he reached the privacy of his bedroom. Damn the man for noticing the boy. “What young man?”
“The one virtually clinging to your coattails.”
Darius gave the offending garment a twitch. “That is something I do not allow. Favor me with a description of the youth. Maybe then I can help you.”
A muscle twitched in Graham’s jaw. Darius only saw it because the light from the door fell over him starkly. He had moved aside, but not far enough.
“You know him well enough. Had you not dressed yourself in that veneer of aristocratic disdain, I would have believed you.”
Intrigued, Darius studied the man further. Nobody had broken through that particular defense before. He would go on the attack. He was getting too close. Darius never allowed anyone that close to him. He used the distancing tactic again, tilting his head back and staring at his quarry from under half-closed eyelids. “I believe you are jealous, Mr. Graham. Can it be that you did want me, after all?”
Graham’s eyes flashed. The fierce but fleeting spark of raw anger roused Darius. The memory of their kiss returned, roared through him, arousing parts that would be better staying dormant.
He liked that passion. He wanted more of it.
Last night he’d presumed he’d taken Graham by surprise with his kiss. After all, once a person closed his eyes, a kiss was a kiss. Except that one hadn’t been. Graham had closed his eyes but Darius hadn’t. He rarely did, always on the alert for trouble.
Now he wasn’t so sure. Had Graham responded so gloriously because of shock? People’s preferences were not as set as most supposed them. He took a step closer. Another pace would bring him into the man’s body.
Graham stood his ground, but his lips tightened.
“You did,” Darius said softly. “You truly wanted me. I felt your response. That was not feigned. It was not a mere physical reaction.”
The response came immediately. “How could I want you, as you put it? As you reminded me a moment ago, your station is well above mine.”
But he hadn’t denied it. “A cat may look at a king. Presumably a cat may kiss a king, if he has a mind to.” Darius was taunting the lawyer now, daring him to take that final step or take one back, daring him to deny his attraction.
Graham widened his stance, rocking from one foot to the other. “If I said I wanted you, would you answer my other question?”
The cleverness of the response evoked a crack of laughter from Darius. “Try it and see.”
“Not if I have no indication of your intention.”
“My intention, is it?” Darius softened his voice and lowered his volume. The crowd outside, going about their morning business at a pitch that threatened the eardrums, didn’t matter anymore. The space between them and around them became their own. “Should I prove my intention to you…again?”
He let his eyes add to the conversation. He glanced up and down the lawyer’s body, taking inventory. The man was well-shaped, a trim body which showed evidence of supple strength beneath the neat though drab clothes. Darius would enjoy removing each garment slowly, folding the fine fabric and carefully laying it down, giving himself time to appreciate what he was uncovering.
Graham didn’t look away. The indomitable character who had faced down a court full of jeering spectators and the might of Magistrate John Fielding returned to this squalid cell. He was completely masked, his expression still and unresponsive.
At least, it should have been that way, but Darius, long accustomed to assessing people and uncovering hidden secrets, saw more. The eyes, frozen in gray ice, were slightly larger than normal, and the pupils darker. Andrew Graham had responded to him last night, and he was responding now.
Darius could push his advantage, try to persuade the man into further confessions, but if he did that, he might set the lawyer against him.
So he took a pace back and forced an easy smile to his lips. “I must be tired. I should not tease you so. Did you come here merely to see me and ask your questions, or did you come to get me out?”
“I dare say you wish to see the back of this place.”
“I dare say I do.” He would not beg.
“Unfortunately, a quick visit to court is required before you leave. You could grease the jailer’s palm,” Graham suggested. “He will ensure you appear before the magistrate first. Cases are building up, and while Mr. Fielding is fast, he won’t get through them all in a day.”
Sighing, Darius drew out his purse.
As if by magic, the jailer appeared in the doorway, blocking the shaft of light. “You shouldn’t go to those places, my lord.” He advanced, hand extended. “I’ll see you right.”
Darius placed a guinea in the man’s hand. If that wasn’t enough, he’d stay here. He made his point by putting his purse back in his pocket.
The jailer glared at him but closed his fingers over the coin. “I need this cell. I have customers willin’ to pay more.”
“Let them pay, then.”
“Nobody the public will be willing to see,” Graham pointed out. “That’s what you want the single cells for, after all.”
The jailer sighed as if the weight of the world lay on his shoulders and grimaced. “Come on, then.”
Darius was not chained like most of the other prisoners. He had paid for that privilege the night before. He strode from the noxious space, other prisoners falling into line behind him. He barely noticed them. Graham walked by his side in a strangely comfortable way, as if he’d always been there.
A narrow passage, stinking as much as the jail, led to the courtroom. A blinding light at the end of the dark space appeared like the gates of heaven, although Darius doubted such a place existed in this part of London. He had never found it here, at any rate.
Bracing himself, he stepped out and headed straight for the box where his brother had stood a few months ago. Now came his real test.
Here, at Bow Street Magistrate’s Court, justice was truly blind. At least the magistrate was. Today the man himself sat behind the substantial bench, his eyes dramatically bound with a black velvet ribbon.
Graham kept pace with Darius and took his place by his side. Darius assumed Graham didn’t want to lose sight of him, since nobody in their right mind brought a lawyer to a hearing like this.
“Your name, sir,” the clerk said. He stood by the magistrate’s side, occasionally muttering to his master.
Darius considered giving a false name but decided against it. Nobody had yet asked him for his name. The court was all but empty, it being too early for many journalists and muckrakers to concern themselves. The courts had stolen quite a march on them, holding the hearings so early. Did they want to keep the raid on Mother Fleming’s quiet, or had they received orders from a different authority? John Fielding was as incorruptible as a magistrate could be, but he would not be above influencing from a higher power.
Darius’s heart sank. Had his family come to hear of his latest exploit? The interview with his father came heart-sinkingly closer. The Marquess of Strenshall had the heartrending sigh down to a fine art.
“Darius Shaw,” he said, deciding not to embellish his name further.
“Is your father the Marquess of Strenshall?” the clerk inquired sweetly.
“He is.” Damnation.

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