Thanks to everyone who entered The Knave of Hearts Newsletter contest, and I apologize to everyone who had problems with the email. Still not sure what went wrong, but to those of you who sent your entries onto me directly, I made sure they were added to the rest of them.
And so, without further ado, the winner of the box of books, goodies and a new Kindle Fire is:
Amanda S. of Laramie, WY
Amanda, I’ll get your box in the mail today and do enjoy your new Kindle!
And a special thank you to everyone who is rushing out to get their copy of The Knave of Hearts! Your kind words on Goodreads and Facebook and Amazon mean so much to me! Have a wonderful weekend everyone!
Counting Down to 20
So when I got to this point in my writing, I decided I wanted to write about a collection of spinsters from a small village who had no hope of ever getting married. They weren’t great beauties, they weren’t fabulously rich, or well-connected. Just ordinary girls from a village.
I could see this trio of friends so clearly: Tabitha-smart, kind and hard-working, Daphne–all full of opinions and grand aspirations, and finally, Harriet–loyal to a fault, utterly sensible and a secret romantic. Okay, maybe not so secret–but don’t tell her brothers, they would tease her to the end of her days if they knew the truth.
But for the first time in my story writing career, I couldn’t find the story for them. Nothing seemed to work. I dabbled with different ideas, I plotted this way and that, and yet nothing seemed right. Then a friend asked (most likely Laura Lee Guhrke) “What are you going to call this series?”
I didn’t even have a plot and now she wanted titles? She seemed rather cruel in the moment, but I decided to try putting together titles first. But I had about as much success there as I had with the story ideas. All the rifts on familiar things had been done. Song titles? Check. Movies? Check. TV shows? Check and double check. Jane Austen? I was not going to give her another spin in her grave for all the well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning things that have been done to her books and titles. Let that poor woman rest for goodness sake.
Then I spotted something on the very back of my bookshelf. An old copy of The Real Mother Goose. (Please don’t be fooled by imitations. This is the wonderful old edition with the beautiful illustrations, but I digress.)
So, on a lark I opened it up and read:
Along came a spider . . .
I blinked as ideas started pouring into my brain. Not a spider. A duke! ALONG CAME A DUKE. Yes, that was it. It was one of those Eureka!!! moments. And did he frighten her away? No, quite the opposite, my smart and kind heroine would stand her ground against this imposing duke. As Tabitha’s story then unfolded before my eyes, the other titles seemed to jump off the page. AND THE MISS RAN AWAY WITH THE RAKE. Because I knew in my heart the very proper Daphne Dale would NEVER run away with a rake, so it was up to me to send her down that wayward path.
And my favorite, IF WISHES WERE EARLS. Harriet, I knew, had loved a certain earl nearly her entire life, so that was one wish this writer felt must be granted.
So there it is, the birth of my current series, Rhymes with Love. If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, you might want to catch up quickly, because these are my 16th, 17th, and 18th Avon Romances. I’ve only got one more to count until we get to #20!
Countdown to 20
Sometimes books just belong together, and these three, HOW I MET MY COUNTESS #13, MAD ABOUT THE DUKE #14, LORD LANGLEY IS BACK IN TOWN #15, isn’t so much three separate stories but one large bit of inspiration, connected by a web of links to so many of my other books that at times it made my head swim, and at their heart, these three books are about finding friendship in the most unlikely of places.
As I was writing Love Letters from a Duke, I had come up with a detailed family tree for how the duke inherited–because it is a rather roundabout route that he ends up the heir. And part way through, I realized there were three widow dowagers out there who would be under his protection. But I didn’t see them as old and gray, sitting in the parlor, knitting and gossiping. I saw them as three very different, very young women, each of whom had made very disastrous first marriages. Thus came to life the Widows Standon.
But what to do with them?
So asked myself, “Self, what would Felicity do?” Because when it comes to matters of the heart, and more to the point, matchmaking, no character in my books is better suited for the task than Felicity Langley. She’s meddled and matched her way through so many of my stories, I knew she would present the perfect solution: put these three widows who loathe each other in one house, offer them an out (get married) and then let nature take its course.
I think the best part of these three books is the connectedness of them. So many characters from my other books made appearances here, helped the stories along the way (or interfered!) and characters who never had the due attention they deserved (Malcolm, anyone?!) finally found their way onstage.
I loved how I was able to let Miranda and Jack from This Rake of Mine, roast James, the Duke of Parkerton. Well, he did deserve it! Or letting the Langley sisters’ infamous nannies finally make their onstage debut and do what they do best, cause trouble for Langley.
These stories wind together and tell a far larger tale, and I think that makes them all the more fun–because readers who have read the previous books are like, “Oh, yeah! There you are!”, while new readers look upon these surprise characters like Easter Eggs to go find in other books.
And some characters I just can’t let go of to save my soul. Felicity. Mad Jack. Arabella. Nanny Jamilla. The list goes on and on.
While I started the book with the idea that these three women, Lucy, Elinor, and Minerva were very different people and had no use for each other, in the writing of each story, I began to see how each of them had something to offer to the others, lessons in living, skills that came to their aid, and experiences that bound them together. The heart of the three stories became not just a romance, but about growing friendships, and how that strengthened each of them so they were ready to risk falling in love. From Lucy’s brittle heart, to Elinor’s fears, to Minerva’s cold facade, they became richer, stronger women for forging a strong bond between them.
Felicity stuck them in that house together–hoping to use their disdain for each other to drive them into new marriages and off the family dole–but what she really created was a new beginning for the trio and three very happy endings.
How I Met My Countess
Read the Excerpt or Order your copy. Or do both. It’s all cool.
Mad About the Duke
Take a peek at the scene where Elinor finds out that her lawyer is a bit of a charmer. And then you might want to see what happens next by ordering the book.
Lord Langley is Back in Town
Read a bit about how Minerva battles her false engagement to the all-too-charming Lord Langley, then discover how it all turns out by ordering Lord Langley is Back in Town.
Do you have a favorite of these three? Or just a favorite Bachelor Chronicles character that you love seeing step on to the page?
Countdown to 20
I cannot do my 11th Avon romance, Confessions of a Little Black Gown without pairing it with its back-to-back partner, my 12th Avon romance, Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress. I wrote these books in about nine months total without any interruption so they could be published back to back. It wasn’t easy, but the stories are so intertwined that is was the best way to write them.
Yet these stories couldn’t be more different. Confessions of a Little Black Gown takes place over the fortnight of a house party, while Memoirs is just that—the story of Pippin and Dash and the twenty plus years it takes them to find their way to each other. While I love the fast paced romance of Tally and Larken, the poignancy of Pippin and Dash is in the mistakes they make and the heartbreaking choices that leave them separated for so long.
To me, this makes their story more real than any other romance I’ve written. When Pippin makes the choices she does in Confessions, when we see the outcome in Memoirs, it is heart wrenching. While some readers felt the pair were cheated by not having their immediate happily ever after, I will stand my ground in the firm belief that in the end, the Pippin and Dash who gain their hearts’ desire will never waste a single moment of that gift.
Besides, Memoirs is a good reminder that true love can happen at any time in our lives.
Confessions of a Little Black Gown: Read the Excerpt. Order your own copy.
Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress: Read the Excerpt. Order your own copy.
Countdown to 20
So after dishing yesterday about the covers I, u-hum, don’t like, I get to rave and rave about this one. I nearly swooned when I saw the artwork for TEMPTED BY THE NIGHT. In fact, the next thing I did was contact the artist, Jon Paul, and beg him to let me buy it for my office.
It hangs there to this day. What I love about the full artwork that you don’t really see on the cover of the book are all the wonderful details of this night scene. The carriage, the shadowy street. And just the intimate detail in the clothes. I sort of daydream and crush on it when I look up from writing.
And as much as I love the artwork, that is nothing compared to how much I loved writing the Marlowe series (His Mistress by Morning & Tempted by the Night), from the first spark of an idea of a magic ring that grants the wearer one single wish (whether they realize it or not) just seemed filled with possibilities.
From Charlotte Wilmont’s wish to be the woman Viscount Trent loved, (and she wakes up the next morning exactly that, the woman he loves with all his heart, except she’s not his wife, but his mistress) to Hermione Marlowe’s wish to go about unseen so she can discover what it is the Earl of Rockhurst does at night. Spoiler: it doesn’t involve a mistress. But poor Hermoine spends a good part of the book invisible. Literally.
I actually have about 100 pages of the third book written, but the Marlowes’ stories became victims of shifting reading trends and were sent to the chopping block by a greater power than mine. AKA My Publisher. AKA the people who write the checks. But I hate leaving these stories hanging–so one of these days I am going to find a way to finish this series.
I promise. Maybe if we all make that wish on the Marlowe Family Tree Cordelia, Griffin and Viola’s stories will come to life …
Did you read the Marlowe series? Did you love or hate the paranormal elements?
Read the Excerpts from Tempted by the Night or His Mistress by Morning.
Countdown to 20
I’m combining #8 (HIS MISTRESS BY MORNING) and #9 (LOVE LETTERS FROM A DUKE) into one post because they actually fit into a category that I like to call: Two Covers that Make Me Cringe.
Sometimes the cover goddesses are overly generous (think The Knave of Hearts, Along Came a Duke, Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress, or Tempted by the Night)-I must admit, I’ve been mostly lucky in the covers that have found their way onto my books.
With the exception of these two:
Now, I know there are lots of you who will protest and say that you LOVE these covers, and that is perfectly ok. But the author has such a personal relationship with their book and when the cover doesn’t fit that vision, it is like wearing the wrong color. You know, the yellow or orange that makes you look like an alien.
These are my aliens.
Cover Faux Pas No. 1
Let’s start with Love Letters from a Duke. When I got the first pass at this cover, the carriage was all painted up like some fancy stage coach from a cheap western. While they toned that all down, (including adding more of her dress so we weren’t looking entirely up her skirt) all I see when I look at that this cover is the title I secretly have for it:
MISS MARY’S WHORISH RETURN TO THE WILD WEST SHOW.
I suppose that isn’t so secret now.
Cover Faux Pas No. 2
Someone on one of the blogs very publicly pointed out this white hot mess: My Regency era heroine has a tan line. So I have to assert categorically that there was a very secret and not well publicized tanning salon on Bond Street in 1812. That’s my story and I am sticking with it.
More to the point, my dismay with this cover is that while the title is “His Mistess by Morning“, why does my very shy, wallflower, respectable heroine have to be posed with her hand on her hip like she’s trolling for her next John? I would have preferred not.
Still . . ..
The funny thing is, I love these books. Writing His Mistress by Morning was like a gift from the story gods. The story just poured out. And Love Letters a Duke, well, I’ve never laughed so hard when writing. Felicity Langley is one of my most hilarious heroines–all because she takes herself so seriously. So you decide, wretched covers aside, which is your favorite?
HIS MISTRESS BY MORNING
LOVE LETTERS FROM A DUKE
Countdown to 20
From the light hearted fare of SOMETHING ABOUT EMMALINE came my 7th Avon Romance, THIS RAKE OF MINE and my next hero, Mad Jack Tremont. (Yet another exit sign hero–read about that here) But Jack’s story was no comedy and suddenly I found myself writing a very gothic adventure about the dark and mysterious house on the cliff that one shouldn’t go calling at.
But knocking on the door is exactly what my heroine does. Miss Jane Porter, (aka Miranda Mabberly) a teacher from the very prestigious Miss Emery’s school is escorting home three students, when inclement weather traps them at Jack’s house, and the arrival uncovers a grand mystery.
Behind the scenes facts
I used the name of my good friend and great author, Jane Porter as a place holder of sorts for Miranda Mabberly’s alias. I often do that when I need a quick name and can’t think of just the right one–I pull the name of a friend or family member out of thin air and stick it in the manuscript with the intention of changing it later. But in this case, Jane Porter stuck, and it wasn’t until it was too late (the book was about to go to print) that I realized what I had done–or rather forgotten to do, which was rename the alias. So the name stuck and it was, in my humble opinion, a happy accident.
THIS RAKE OF MINE introduces Mad Jack’s older brother, the Duke of Parkerton. He eventually returns for his own story, MAD ABOUT THE DUKE, but here we find him to the only straight laced and normal member of the infamously “Mad” Tremonts. The duke is a bit bowled over by Jack’s houseguest/bride-to-be and says,
“A more formidable, sharp-witted woman I have never met.”
The Duke of Parkerton has that right. At least until he meets his own match.
THIS RAKE OF MINE was lampooned in the Economist with a warning to gardeners that this was not a story of yard implements. It was also nominated for the Romance Writer’s of America RITA award. And it perennially tops out as one of reader’s favorite reads.
Decide for yourself by ordering THIS RAKE OF MINE here. Or just take a quick peek inside at the Excerpt.
Don’t miss some of the other stories behind my Countdown to My 20th Avon Romance!
Countdown to 20
Where do I start with SOMETHING ABOUT EMMALINE, my sixth Avon Romance? One of my favorite of favorites–if authors are allowed such things. I absolutely ADORE this story. But as much as I fell in love with Alex and Emmaline, it is the inspiration that is wild.
The spark for SOMETHING ABOUT EMMALINE came from, of all places, an exit sign on State Route 16 in Washington for the following: Sedgwick Rd, Tremont St, and Clifton Rd. Sedgwick, Clifton and Tremont. Those names just haunted me with heroic possibilities. I had to write their stories, and thus began my long-running series, The Bachelor Chronicles.
With my hero, Alexander Denford, Baron Sedgwick, in place, I then set out to light a fire under his carefully constructed lies as to having a wife–poor, sickly Emmaline who lived in the country and thus never came to London. Yes, yes, it has a bit of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, to the plot, but I did it a bit differently by bringing my hero to heel by plopping a living and breathing Emmaline into his well-ordered London life.
This is a story of a con gone very wrong and how two people who are entirely wrong for each other fall head over heels in love. I must admit, this book wrote itself–I just delighted in telling Emmaline’s story.
So in the odd way of inspiration, my spark from an exit sign turned out to be one of my heartfelt favorites. This is also one of the few books I cried over while writing. The scene where Malvina gives birth and Emmaline has to dig deep to help her friend, cut me to the heart. Also, take a good look at the cover–there is something very wrong with this scene.
Order links for SOMETHING ABOUT EMMALINE can be found here. Or just take a quick peek inside at the Excerpt.
Don’t miss my posts for my 4rd (Stealing the Bride) and 5th (It Takes a Hero) Avon romances.
Countdown to 20
Inspiration comes from every facet of my life. The story behind IT TAKES A HERO (my 5th Avon Romance) came during a family dinner, while listening to my husband’s siblings teasing his unmarried sister about their upcoming visit to Lisdoonvarna in Ireland–an infamous village known for matchmaking.
Being a romance writer, what is not to love about a village with a long standing tradition of making happy endings? I was enchanted and story ideas started to bubble around. I just needed a hero and had the perfect one waiting in the wings. The one remaining unmarried Danvers brother, Rafe, who hadn’t a title or money or even the desire to wed.
That is until Rafe is hired to discover and unmask the unknown author of the ruinous Miss Darby novels.
The fun part of writing IT TAKES A HERO was then coming up with the outrageous Miss Darby novels that my heroine, Rebecca Tate is guilty of writing.
But once I had this list of perilous romantic adventures featuring Miss Darby and the love of her life, Lt. Throckmorten, I couldn’t just let them go after I finished Rafe and Rebecca’s story. No, I kept those books alive and they have been the guilty pleasure of my fictional heroines for years: Thalia Langley, Harriet Hathaway, and my latest pair, the Tempest twins, Louisa and Lavinia, are all mad for Miss Darby.
I finally had to go back through all my books and compile a complete list/synopsis of every Miss Darby novel/mention–if only to make sure I didn’t mix them up. One day, I ought to sit down and write them…
But until then, you will have to be content with the very passionate story of the dark and dangerous hero, Rafe Danvers and the romance novelist, Rebecca Tate, who stole his heart.
As I mentioned in my post about my first Avon romance, ONCE TEMPTED, Rafe Danvers is the twin brother of the oft-mentioned, and very dead Orlando Danvers. See here how these two fit into the Danvers’ Family Tree. You can also take a sneak peak inside IT TAKES A HERO or Order your copy.
Don’t miss my posts for my 3rd (One Night of Passion) and 4th (Stealing the Bride) Avon romances.
Countdown to 20
I failed to mention in my last post, (about my 3rd Avon Romance, One Night of Passion) that one of my favorite heroes of all time came to life while writing Colin and Georgie’s story. And if you’ve read these books you know I am talking about Temple. Or as he is formally known, the Marquis of Templeton.
I’ll never forget that moment. I had written the scene with Colin Danvers being tossed out on his ear by his betrothed, Lady Diana (who has just called off their wedding) and Colin is joined by his cousin, Temple. This rakish, knavish, droll Corinthian stepped off the page and directly into my heart. I literally sat back, sucked in a deep breath and went, “OMG, he’s perfect.” Even authors fall in love. And with Temple, I fell hard.
And then as Colin glances over his shoulder for one last look at his former betrothed, he realizes she never loved him, rather she is passionately in love with Temple.
Diana loves Temple?
Oh, that was a tangle–the sort I love mulling over and coming up with some wild plot to make them both mad–at each other and for each other.
Thus was born, STEALING THE BRIDE. And I’ve never been able to let Temple go. He’s appeared in so many of my books, I’ve lost track.
Find out how the Marquis of Templeton fits into the Danvers’ Family Tree. Take a sneak peak and read the Excerpt or order your own Templeton, ur, I mean, your own copy of STEALING THE BRIDE.
Don’t miss my posts for my 2nd (Once Tempted) and 3rd (One Night of Passion) Avon romances.