Monday, August 21, 2017

NEW RELEASE: Devil's Run by Beverley Oakley

Devil's Run
Scandalous Miss Brightwell series
By Beverley Oakley

Beverley is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please use the RaffleCopter below to enter. Remember you may increase your chances of winning by visiting the other tour stops. You may find those locations here.


A rigged horse race - and a marriage offer riding on the outcome. When Miss Eliza Montrose unexpectedly becomes legal owner of the horse tipped to win the East Anglia Cup, her future is finally in her hands – but at what cost?

George Bramley, nephew to the Earl of Quamby, will wager anything. Even his future bride.

Miss Eliza Montrose will accept any wager to be reunited with the child she was forced to relinquish after an indiscretion — even if it means marrying a man she does not love.

But when the handsome and charming Rufus Patmore buys a horse from her betrothed, George Bramley, whose household her son visits from the foundling home, her heart is captured and the outcome of the wager is suddenly fraught with peril.

**This is book 3 in the Scandalous Miss Brightwell series, though it can be read as a stand-alone.


Chapter One

“And there’s nothing else you’d like, my dear? No?” Straightening after receiving a polite rebuff, George Bramley found it an effort to keep the syrup in his tone. His bride-to-be had not even looked at him as she’d declined the piece of marchpane he’d been certain would win him at least a smile.

Hovering at her side, he weighed up the advantages of a gentle rebuke, then decided against it. Until yesterday, he’d thought her quiet demeanour suggested a charmingly pliant nature. Now he was not so sure. In fact, suddenly, he was not sure of anything.

“A glass of lemonade, perhaps, my angel? Or a gentle stroll?”

“I would prefer to be left alone.” Miss Montrose waved a languid hand in his general direction, while she continued to gaze at the still lake beside which their picnic party had situated itself.

The languid arm-wave had not even been accompanied by a demure thank you as subtle acknowledgement of her gratitude that not only had Mr Bramley, heir to a viscountcy, stepped in to rescue Miss Eliza Montrose from impoverishment, he was prepared to treat her publicly as if she were as fine a catch as he could have made.

A soft titter brought his head round sharply, but the ladies behind him, bent over the latest Ackerman’s Repository, appeared occupied with their own gossip as they lounged on cushions beneath the canopy that had been erected to protect them from the sun.

Awkwardly, he looked for occupation as he continued to eye his intended with a mixture of irritation and desire—both lustful desire, and the desire to put her in her place.

The idea of the latter made him harden. She was beautiful, this quiet, apparently retiring, young woman who said so little, but whose eyes spoke such volumes. The afternoon sun glinted on her honey-gold hair and imbued her porcelain skin with a warm glow. The skin that he could see, at any rate.

He pushed back his shoulders. On their wedding night in six weeks, when he’d at last take possession of her, he’d rip that modesty to shreds. The skin she was so at pains to hide would be his, not only to see, but to caress and taste. When she was his wife, the beautiful, distant Miss Eliza Montrose would no longer get away with paying George Bramley so little attention. No, he’d have her screaming and writhing at his command. He would make her like the things he did to her; or at least, show him she did if she enjoyed harmony as much as she appeared to. None of this languid reclining like a half-drugged princess in his presence. He’d keep her on her toes, ready to leap to his bidding at the sound of his footstep. She’d learn to be grateful.

Feeling ignored and superfluous, he turned to his uncle’s detestable wife, Lady Quamby, and said with a smile, “Perhaps you and Miss Montrose would like to accompany me to the turret. Since you appear to have enjoyed this new novel, Northanger Abbey, so much, you might be interested to know there is an excellent view of the ruined monastery not far from here.”

He was just priding himself on being so attuned to the feminine inclination for pleasure, when Lady Quamby half turned and sent him a desultory smile. “Oh, I think Miss Eliza looks perfectly comfortable, and Fanny and I are having such a lovely little coze.” As if imitating Miss Montrose, she waved a languid hand in his general direction. “Why don’t you take Mr Patmore off to see it? The two of you can tell us all about it when you return.”

The fact that Miss Montrose didn’t deign to even speak for herself, much less glance in his direction, sent the blood surging to Bramley’s brain. By God, when he was married to Eliza Montrose, the limpid look of love so lacking now would be pasted onto her face every time he crossed her line of vision. She’d soon learn what was good for her.

He inclined his head, hiding his fury, and was on the point of leaving when Lady Quamby’s sister, Fanny —for he’d be damned if he’d accord the little strumpet the title of Lady Fenton—leapt up from her chair. She’d been poring over the latest fashions, but now she smiled brightly up at him.

“I’ll come with you, Cousin George. We’ll have an excellent view of the  children learning to row from the battlements. I told Nanny Brown she could take them in the two boats if they’d been good.”

Bramley stared down her liveliness. In fact, he was about to give up the idea of going up to the battlements altogether when his other guest, Rufus Patmore, suddenly rose and joined Fanny’s side with a late and unexpected show of enthusiasm.

“Capital idea!” declared Rufus.

George flashed them both a dispassionate look. He'd chosen to invite his betrothed, Miss Montrose—whose chaperone was currently tucked up in the green bed chamber nursing a head cold—to be his guest at his uncle’s estate, Quamby House, after receiving intelligence that Ladies Quamby and Fenton would be safely in London with their husbands and children. Instead, the brazen Brightwell sisters—as they’d infamously been called when he’d first made their acquaintance—had altered their plans, and were now in dogged attendance, reminding him as they always had, of some awful tenacious climbing plant, determined to find a foothold wherever they could in order to rise in the world.

Rufus, a last-minute addition and acquaintance from his club, Boodles, was here because he’d just purchased a horse from Bramley the night before. Now, Rufus was gazing at Lady Fenton, with the same dewy-eyed fondness George was used to seeing reflected in the eye of his uncle, the Earl of Quamby, who called the Brightwell sisters his precious rose-buds. To George, they were common dandelions! And now they had overridden Quamby House, the rambling Queen Anne manor house and estate that would have passed to George the moment his uncle quit this mortal coil, were it not for the snotty-nosed infant Lady Quamby had borne far too early in her marriage to George's uncle.

George shook his head. He’d changed his mind. Only, there was Rufus striding across the lawn, skirting the lake with Fanny at his side, and George didn’t want to be seen as petulant for having offered the suggestion in the first place. Or have his snubbed and ignored status so much on parade, since the two remaining ladies—Miss Montrose and Lady Quamby—had their heads bent together in deep discussion, with no apparent interest in seeking his company.

By God, he thought, clenching his fists as he set off after them at a brisk trot, they'd all rue the day they showed George Bramley so little respect.

Other Books in the Series:


Author Info:

Beverley Oakley was seventeen when she bundled up her first her 500+ page romance and sent it to a publisher. Unfortunately drowning her heroine on the last page was apparently not in line with the expectations of romance readers so Beverley became a journalist.

Twenty-six years later Beverley was delighted to receive her first publishing contract from Robert Hale (UK) for a romance in which she ensured her heroine was saved from drowning in the icy North Sea.

Since 2009 Beverley has written more than thirteen historical romances, mostly set in England during the early nineteenth century. Mystery, intrigue and adventure spill from their pages and if she can pull off a thrilling race to save someone’s honour – or a worthy damsel from the noose – it’s time to celebrate with a good single malt Scotch.

Beverley lives with her husband, two daughters and a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy the size of a pony opposite a picturesque nineteenth century lunatic asylum. She also writes Africa-set adventure-filled romances tarring handsome bush pilot heroes, and historical romances with less steam and more sexual tension, as Beverley Eikli.

You can get in contact with Beverley at:

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Friday, August 18, 2017

First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “Bella and the Beast” by Izzy Szyn

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Izzy Szyn, and an excerpt from the Scandalous Fairy Tale Erotic Romance novel, “Bella and the Beast.”

You only thought you knew the story of Beauty and the Beast.

When Bella's father runs into the woman known as the Beast, she agrees to take his place as a prisoner for the next six months. Plenty of time to get out of her pending marriage to the son of the village's wealthiest family.

When Bella is sent a list of demands and rules, one rule stood out: DON'T FALL IN LOVE.

That seemed simple enough, for who could fall in love with a Beast?

First Kiss Excerpt (Edited for Heat Level)

Ms. Anna turned her face up and started to kiss her, her knees holding Bella’s arms in place. “No touching unless I say,” Ms. Anna told her, kissing Bella once more, grinding harder against her.

Bella started to feel something trickle down her lower lips, unsure whether it was from Ms. Anna or herself. Ms. Anna kept kissing her, her tongue pushing down Bella’s throat. Her body rubbing against Bella’s, the scars on Ms. Anna’s inner thighs strangely erotic. Bella started to sink into the mattress, letting Ms. Anna take what she wanted.

Kissing Ms. Anna in return, gliding her tongue across Ms. Anna’s. Was her tongue getting longer? Holy hell, Bella whimpered as the tongue slid down her throat. Bella struggled against the unfamiliar sensation.

“You agreed to let me do what I wanted,” Ms. Anna reminded her. “This is going to be your life from now until I release you. If I ever do.” Ms. Anna once more kissing Bella, sliding her tongue inside Bella’s throat once more.

“Bella and the Beast” is available at:

First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “Love in a New World” by Jessica E. Subject

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Jessica E. Subject, and an excerpt from her New Adult Romance anthology, “Love in a New World.”

An alien prince, a farm girl, two university students from a small town, and more are all ready to begin their lives as adults. They have everything planned out. But when drastic events crush their dreams, they must carve a new path. And they just might find unexpected love along the way.

Includes the New Adult Romances Beyond Reach, Accidental Romance, It Took a Zombie Apocalypse, Hey Santa, and bonus story Alien Kisses at Midnight.

First Kiss Excerpt

“Fifty dollars for a kiss.” RJ held the bill and waved it across the counter. “It goes in the jar if I get a kiss from you.”

“I’d do it for five.” She pointed to the paper sign on the jar. “But if you’re willing to donate more, go ahead.”

He walked into the booth and sat on the bench. “You misunderstand me, Missy. I don’t want a peck on the cheek. I want a real kiss, your lips on mine.”

Her cheeks reddened, making her all the more adorable, and she stepped back. “I, um.... It’s not.... I can’t.”

“It’s one kiss.” He waved the money around again, enjoying her discomfort. “The same money you’d make kissing ten old guys with beards, or ten creeps who gawk at your cleavage when you bend over to kiss them.”

The flush on her face disappeared. Maybe he shouldn’t have included that last observation.

“Hey.” He needed her attention back on him. “One kiss, and you never know, you just might like it.”

“Really?” She placed a hand on his knee then waltzed in front of him with a confidence he’d never seen from her before. “You’re that confident of the power of those full brown lips, are you?”

Before he had the chance to think of a response, she snatched the bill from his hand, leaned between his spread legs, and kissed him. He barely had a chance to close his mouth when it was all over.

“Thank you so much for your support.” Missy curtsied then stuck the money into the collection bottle.

RJ gripped the bottom of the bench, trying to process the fact the kiss had already happened. He’d hoped for so much more.

“Another.” He stood and yanked his wallet from his back pocket. “I’ll give you one hundred dollars if I can kiss you.” Yanking the bill from inside the leather fold, he held it out in front of him to prove he was good for it.

“Now, that’s against the rules.”

Her jaw shifted to the side, but when she tilted her head, he hoped she was actually considering his proposition.

RJ hopped off the bench and took a tentative step forward. He’d didn’t want her to automatically say no. “You know I’ve never played by the rules. Why would I start now?”

With a laugh, Missy playfully pushed on his chest. “You’re trouble, RJ. And you’re looking to get me into trouble with you.”

Returning to the stool, he stared into her crystal-blue eyes and smiled. She hadn’t said no. “Just a kiss.” He nodded to a patch of bushes with a bench set amongst them. “No one will see us over there.”

“Is that brown boy bothering you, Missy?”

The twang in the woman’s voice bothered RJ more than her reference to the color of his skin.

“No, Shelley.” Missy turned her back to him. “He was just leaving.”

“Good.” Shelley, another of their classmates, sized up the jar of money. “Cause we don’t need his cash. We’re doing fine here without it.”

The punch to the gut that used to come with such ignorant comments never came. Some people refused to change, especially in this town. But he’d always believed Missy to be different. Maybe he’d been wrong.

“Are you taking over for me, then?” she asked Shelley.

“Yeah, your dad followed me around for the last fifteen minutes to make sure I was here on time. He was really freaking out about your kissing guys on the cheek.”

RJ walked away. He’d been dismissed. And if Missy’s father was that upset, he was probably waiting with disinfectant or something.

No, there was nothing good about coming back to West Vitula for the summer. His dad still worked the same long hours, so except for the day spent together on the anniversary of his mother’s death, RJ was spending his summer alone.


He turned with the hope Missy was talking to him for some reason.

And she was, standing right in front of him. She grabbed the money he still held in his hand. “You forgot to put this in the jar.” Without giving him a chance to question her, she jogged back to the booth and shoved it through the glass bottleneck.

Did that mean he was going to get his kiss?


Missy raced back to RJ, grabbing his hand then pulling him toward the alcove in the bushes he’d pointed out earlier. She only had a couple of minutes before her father would be breathing down her neck again.

No, if she was to have anyone’s breath on her neck, she wanted it to be RJ’s. After he’d finished kissing her. Or maybe during. But, if her parents caught her lip to lip with him, she’d be dead. At least grounded until she left for Cremshaw again. They still believed her to be a good girl, pure until she married. No way would she confess she’d lost her virginity to a guy she didn’t even know. Still didn’t, only the smell of his cologne. And she’d said RJ’s name in the middle of sex with the stranger. That’s when the guy up and left, leaving her in the dorm bathroom to get dressed before someone else walked in.

She’d crushed hard on her neighbor for years but never had the courage to go against her parents’ expectations until she’d left home.

Sitting on the bench, she pulled him down beside her. “This is long overdue.” She fisted the front of his shirt and leaned into him, closing her eyes. His warm, minty breath met her lips before his soft skin. She nearly melted at the contact, unable to pull away.

What started as a gentle, sweet ballet of a kiss quickly turned into a frantic lambada. Missy clung to him, desperate for more. She straddled his lap, pushing against him. Why had she waited so long to act on her feelings for him? She’d had plenty of opportunities to be alone with him. Yet, what her parents thought had always seemed to matter. Not anymore.

When he slid his hands under her shirt, she moaned, anxious to feel them all over her body.

“Get your hands off my daughter!”

“Love in a New World” is available through:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Meet the Characters - An Interview with Faith from “Spirit Released” by Cyndi Faria

Today we’re talking to Faith Cabrillo, from “Spirit Released,” a Paranormal Romance novel in the Whisper Cove series by Cyndi Faria.

“Faria's Whisper Cove series blends compelling suspense with an engaging romance!” –New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Virna DePaul

In the seaside town of Whisper Cove, a centuries-old curse tests true love... On her wedding day, Faith Cabrillo prepares to confess a desperate secret to her fiancé, Jake Mitchell—she’s cursed with both the ability of speaking to the dead…and never fulfilling the promise of true love. Before the truth is revealed, Jake’s life is endangered and Faith sacrifices herself to save him.

Grief-stricken, Jake refuses to accept Faith’s comatose state. His innovative research keeps Faith alive, yet he’s faced with his biggest challenge when Faith’s spirit appears with a warning that his life is still in danger. Because Jake’s a man of medicine, he denies his Faith truly exists on two planes. Until he talks to her. And holds her. And begins to hope that he’s wrong.

Interviewer: Faith, thank you for talking with me today. Your story seems very intriguing.

Faith: It’s an honor to be here and the tale is intriguing. But let me warn you… Whisper Cove may seem like any other drive-by Pacific coastal town, but it’s riddled with secrets. You won’t want to be staying here long after we’re finished.

Interviewer: I appreciate the caution. So, Faith, tell me about your family, how you grew up, and what guided you to become a nurse.

Faith: My dad’s a fisherman and works long hours. He’s the sweetest man I’ve ever known. Mom volunteers as cook for the veteran’s center, the church, and whatever else the community needs. I watched how both of my parents dedicated their lives to others. That’s why I became a nurse and work at Full Sail Medical Hospital here in Whisper Cove.

Interviewer: Sounds challenging. It must be tough putting other’s needs first day after day.

Faith: Not at all. I want to make my parents proud by doing the best I can for the townsfolk. After all they sacrificed to put me through college, I owe them that. Besides, helping others feels good.

Interviewer: I can see you take pride in your work. So what do you like most about yourself?

Faith: That’s not an easy question to answer, but I’d have to say my ability to see the value and importance of other people. Sometimes, especially working at the hospital, I have to help people see that their life has value and is worth fighting for.

Interviewer: What about your life, Faith?

Faith: You’re asking me if I think my life has value?

Interviewer: Yes.

Faith: Well, I’m a good daughter, nurse, and friend. But as a Founding Family descendant, I carry the Lover’s Curse so some might argue I’d be better off dead than alive. There’s nothing good about being cursed.

Interviewer: Are you saying you’re not loveable because of this rumor?

Faith: No, I’ve been loved once…engaged even. That relationship ended in a cliché breakup because he left me at the altar. Then The Curse caused him to go blind immediately. So, I’m saying loving me comes with danger, mortal danger. I’m not safe to love, so it’s best if I busy myself with matters other than those of the heart.

Interviewer: But your parents have found love and have been married for years. I understand your fears, but there must be someone willing to risk loving you.

Faith: *Leans in and lowers her voice* See, there is this new doctor in town, Dr. Jake Mitchell. He’s gorgeous and intelligent, but he’s locked onto scientific rules and beliefs. He wouldn’t understand magic. He wouldn’t understand me.

Interviewer: But you like him?

Faith: I avoid him and he doesn’t know I exist.

Interviewer: How do you know? Let’s say he did believe in otherworldly events. What if you took a chance on reaching out to him and seeing where things lead, romantically?

Faith: I’d be putting him in danger. I won’t do that.

Interviewer: Yet you believe in self-sacrifice. Could you consider that’s there’s someone out there that believes you’re worth sacrificing for? That loving you is worth standing up against The Curse?

Faith: It’s my greatest fear to find love again and have harm come upon that person. I won’t risk that. *wipes eyes*

Interviewer: I can see you getting emotional, so my next question about when you cried last seems irrelevant. But what I’m sensing is that you have to believe your life matters in this world as much as your parents and patients or anyone’s. Once you believe you’re worth loving, maybe this curse will break and you’ll be free to love…maybe even find love with a man like Jake Mitchell.

Faith: It’s a beautiful concept. But I can’t risk losing my life or threatening anyone else’s by allow myself to love. It’s best I stay busy.

Interviewer: And alone? That doesn’t seem right.

Faith: *Heavy sigh* No it doesn’t.

Interviewer: Can you tell me what you’ve learned from life so far in one sentence?

Faith: Exposing ones heart is a sure way to have it broken.

Interviewer: Thank you for speaking with me today, Faith. Maybe you could learn that a peace-filled heart—making peace within yourself and freeing yourself of pride—finds true love?

“Spirit Released” is available through:

Barnes & Noble
Google Play

Friday, August 11, 2017

First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “Walk-In” by Val Tobin

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Val Tobin, and an excerpt from the Paranormal Romance novel, “Walk-In.”

Questions plague psychic reader Viktoria Kovacs when her twin sister, missing for five years, appears at her door. Why did her sister leave? What happened to her memory? And how did she end up living with the mysterious millionaire who claims to be her protector?

When journalist Aedan McCarthy visits the occult shop where Viktoria works, he's researching a novel, not looking for love. Unprepared for the jolt of electricity that sparks between them, Aedan wants to explore the possibilities.

But evil lurks, and not everyone is who they appear to be. Getting entangled with Viktoria might cost Aedan his soul.

First Kiss Friday Excerpt

… She shook her head. “He’s—” Viktoria couldn’t say the word out loud. He’d think she was crazy.

“Tell me.”

She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. How could she tell him the truth? She wasn’t sure herself what it was. “I can’t.”

“He’s what, Viki. Say it.”

It would be good to tell someone. Without Rowan, she was alone in this. His eyes showed only compassion and concern. “Oh, God, Aedan, he’s a sorcerer, and he’s trying to hurt me.”

“Why? I don’t understand.”

“That’s the million-dollar question. That’s why we were doing what we were doing.” She put her head in her hands and blew out an exasperated breath. When she looked up again, their gazes locked.

She lowered her gaze and it landed on his lips.

He had a beautiful mouth. She had an urge to trace it with her finger, and it took all her self-control to keep her hands to herself. Sudden awareness she huddled in his arms brought with it self-consciousness and, reluctantly, she started to pull away.

“Wait.” His hands slid up her back and kept her close. “No one will hurt you. I won’t allow it.”

Their gazes locked again, and this time, she saw longing.

“You fascinate me, Viktoria. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since we met.” His hands cupped her face. He dipped his head and brushed her lips lightly with his. The delicate touch sent butterflies flittering through her stomach.

Her brain fuzzed over, and when he plunged again, more fiercely, she met him with equal force. The desire she’d been supressing since the moment he’d walked into her reading room raced through her body. She circled her arms around his shoulders and clung and sampled.

His lips nipped hers and then he deepened the kiss, his arms banding around her.

“Aedan.” She breathed out his name and ran her hands through his hair. For an instant, she forgot everything except that she’d finally been able to taste him. If only this moment could last forever.

Where they were now, what they were doing, and what had happened crashed together. She slipped her hands onto his chest and pushed him lightly away.

“I had to.” He said it easily. “I’ve been wanting to do that—and more—since we met. I’m sorry. This is the worst time to indulge that urge, but I had to kiss you.”…

“Walk-In” is available through:


First Kiss Friday – An Excerpt from “The Cowboy’s Little Surprise” by Barbara White Daille

Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Barbara White Daille, and an excerpt from the Short Contemporary Romance novel, “The Cowboy’s Little Surprise.”

A bit of setup: Cole and Tina faced a rocky reunion, thanks to the secret she had kept from him. Yet the spark they’d once felt for each other is still there. Note, this is a romance on the sweet side. :) And it’s the first book in the Hitching Post Hotel series, all of which stand alone, as each hero and heroine reach their happy-ever-after by the end of their story. Here’s the clip:

First Kiss Excerpt

His eyes shining, he looked down at her and said, “I’d walk you to the door to say good-night, but as I’m staying at the hotel, that’s my door over there, too. And I don’t know where your room is.”

“The family wing.” Tina blurted the words in relief. He wouldn’t attempt to walk her to that door, not when he knew how that would raise their chances of having an audience. Here, they were alone.

She still didn’t know how she felt about that.

One side of his mouth curled, carving a deep dimple into his cheek, as if he’d read her mind and found her thoughts amusing. “‘Family wing?’”

She nodded. “Down the hall, past Jed’s den and the kitchen. Jed and Abuela and Robbie all have their rooms down there, too.”

He didn’t respond.

She toyed with the end of her braid.

He looked down. “In all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never seen you without your hair all tied up.”

The comment reminded her of Ally, who always urged her to let her hair loose, to wear bright colors. To lighten up and brighten up. To get a life. She reminded her best friend she preferred neutral colors and patterns that didn’t stand out. She told Cole now what she always ended up saying to Ally. “I’m a hotel bookkeeper-slash-waitress-slash-whatever-help-is-needed. The hairstyle is practical.”

As she lifted her braid, intending to slip it over her shoulder, Cole reached up to touch the woven strands.

Her breath caught in her throat.

Their gazes locked.

For a fleeting moment, they were teenagers in the back of his truck, stealing kisses and on the verge of making love…

He had reached for her braid and begun to tug on the elastic at the end of it. Laughing, she had pushed his hands away and managed to distract him…

Now, he gave her a full smile that took her breath away. “I think it’s time for us both to stop talking.”

He ran his finger down her bare arm, raising a trail of goose bumps. Warning lights flashed in her brain. Too many negatives, too many reasons she shouldn’t be with him like this, too many memories proving why she shouldn’t let him get any nearer.

Including his claim he would never settle down.

Yet, no matter what he said about not caring he’d been left at the altar, his attempt proved he hadn’t always been against the idea of marriage.

That one thought gave her the strength to hang onto her dreams.

He leaned in, hovering close enough to send warmth from the whole, long length of his body to cover her like an afghan. All her logic and reasoning and warnings failed her. Her thoughts disappeared under a rush of pure passion. And her schoolgirl crush gave way to very adult desires.

He ran his fingers up her arms. This time, goose bumps blended with ripples of pleasure until she couldn’t tell one from the next. All she knew for certain was, she had waited five years for this.

He cupped her face with his hands, brushed her cheekbones with his thumbs, and finally—finally—touched his mouth to hers. More sensations mingled and swept through her. The taste of peppermint candy…The warmth and weight of his mouth…The secret thrill of finding his here-and-now kiss even better than those from her memories.

Much, much better.

The Cowboy’s Little Surprise” is available through:

Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Meet the Characters - An Interview with Monsieur Arbois from “Mélisande” by Philippa Lodge

Today we’re talking to Monsieur Arbois, one of the secondary characters in “Mélisande (Châteaux and Shadows Book 5),” an Historical Romance novel by Philippa Lodge.

A man with unfashionably short black hair, black eyes, and a plain, white neck cloth peeping out at the top of his long, black coat, bows politely, then shows us to two chairs set in front of a small desk covered in neat piles of paper, our backs to a larger, ornate, empty desk.

The man sits very straight and stares, his eyes flicking between the two of us. My artist companion, Béatrice, pulls out her pad and begins to sketch him in pencil. His frown is a mere twitch before his face is as neutral as before.

“Good afternoon, Monsieur Arbois. I wish to ask a few questions for the Nouveau Mercure Galant. We’re all so intrigued by the new lady in our midst.”

He nods. No wasted words.

“Your employer’s ward, Mademoiselle Melisande d’Yquelon.”
Monsieur Arbois clears his throat softly. “Not ward. The comte’s natural daughter.” His eyes bore into me.

I feel I should be confessing, but the daughter’s illegitimacy is hardly my sin. “Rumors are that she was raised in the slums of Paris.”

He nods.

“And her mother is a fortune-teller.”

He nods again.

“And yet her father is known for piety, friendship with the queen, and donations to holy works.” And pompous diatribes and poisonous rumor-mongering. How did he end up making a baby with a witch?

A slight flicker of eyebrow. “He intends the reformation of his daughter to be his greatest holy work.”

“Oui, of course.” I try a smile.

Arbois’ expression doesn’t change.

“I suppose she spends her days in prayer.”


I wait for details, but none are forthcoming. “And perhaps social graces? Dancing?”

“He intends for her to marry well.”

I nod and look at my list of questions. I glance at the sketch, which my artist is filling with dark shadows. “How old are you?”

This gets me a raised eyebrow. An expression! I fumble my notes.

When I wait expectantly, he tightens his lips. “About thirty.”

“About?” He could be anywhere from twenty-five to forty.

He doesn’t clarify.

“And what is your relationship status?” Oh ciel, I’m not usually this obvious.

His eyebrows twitch. “I am considering marriage.”

“Ah? With the comte’s daughter?”

Both eyebrows rise in surprise. “If the comte’s godson doesn’t act soon.”

“The godson? Lucas de Granville?” I try to sound blasé, but my interest probably shows. De Granville is a handsome young gentleman, after all. I’m too old for him, but I can still look.

Monsieur Arbois can probably tell what I’m thinking.

That they’re both considering marrying the daughter is a hot piece of gossip, possibly too hot even for the Mercure Galant. I can’t imagine the comte allowing his daughter, no matter how illegitimate, to marry a secretary.  The entire de Granville family is broke. I can’t imagine the comte agreeing to something that wouldn’t raise his own fortunes.

“The comte promised Monsieur Lucas this job.” Arbois points at his desk. “He decided de Granville was too inexperienced, so hired me.”

A piece of information has been volunteered! The nephew of a duke wants to be a secretary. More boring than an officer in the Army, but less abstinent than a priest.

Arbois shifts his gaze to the closed door. Barely audibly, he says, “Monsieur Lucas would have learned how large the comte’s debts are. He already knows the lands are mismanaged. That is why the comte hired me.”

There’s gossip that would cause a panic among the comte’s lenders.

A knock sounds and a golden gentleman with a hard expression slips in. When I start to rise, he implores me to remain seated and introduces himself as Lucas de Granville. He pulls up a plain, hard chair, arranges his unrelieved black coattails, and sits at Monsieur Arbois’ right hand.

“Well, Monsieur de Granville, I am asking…”

“I know,” he interrupts.

“What was your first impression of Mlle d’Yquelon?”

He reddens. “I wasn’t sure my godfather could tame her.”

Tame her?” I exclaim. Like a wild dog?

“Ah.” His blush returns. “Teach her to be a proper young lady, a pious lady.”

“She is making strides?”

“Yes. She will soon fit the mold Monsieur the Comte wishes for her.”

“That’s very impressive, as the comte has high standards.” The comte has impossible standards and a loud mouth. I feign innocence. “She will be exactly as he wishes?”

Monsieur de Granville fidgets. “Not exactly. She is stubborn about not condemning her mother.”

“Her mother the witch?”

I had almost forgotten Monsieur Arbois, who leans forward slightly. “Mademoiselle Mélisande’s mother is not part of this interview.”

I stutter an apology, then I ask what I should not. “Do you see morality as black-and-white, or with shades of gray?”

Monsieur de Granville rears back in shock. “There is good and there is evil. There is no gray about morality.”

“Gray,” Monsieur Arbois says over the end of de Granville’s sentence.

Monsieur de Granville sputters something about Dieu, but Arbois silences him with a stare.

Arbois leans forward again. “Grayness is what confession is for. Emotion overwhelms us. People stray from the path. Who is to say there is only one path? We can do evil with the best of intentions or create goodness when aiming at other goals. Most of us learn about gray as we get older.”

I wonder if Arbois is referring to the comte, who has never struck me as anything other than strictly black and white.

Monsieur de Granville is scowling fiercely at Arbois, ready to defend himself and his godfather, I would guess. Maybe he’s overwhelmed by emotion.

De Granville launches into a sermon and I am soon nearly asleep. I glance at Béa’s sketchpad. My artist captured de Granville’s outrage and drew a halo over his head. I cough to cover my giggle.

I wait for him to take a breath. “And your relationship status, Monsieur de Granville?”

He stammers and blushes again, looking very young. “Monsieur the Comte has promised me a small farm in Normandy near his seat.”

Arbois shifts nearly imperceptibly and I wonder if this piece of land has been sold or promised elsewhere. It doesn’t sound like the comte keeps his promises to de Granville.

“When I am in possession of it, I will marry.”

I smile. “Marry Mlle d’Yquelon?”

He stutters. “If she’ll have me. If the comte approves.” The young man’s expression goes bleak.

Arbois…is he smirking? His mouth moved a little. His face fascinates me. He is close to my age and suddenly I feel warm, even in this chilly office with winter leaking in around the curtains. His eyes crinkle a tiny bit at the corners. I’d like to coax a smile out of him. In my bed.

I snap my eyes away from him and back to the golden beauty of de Granville mustering his courage. Youth are so tedious.

Arbois turns slightly toward at the younger man. “Speak up soon. He’s aiming higher than the seventh son of a seventh son.”

I inhale. Everyone knows the seventh son of a seventh son contains magic. The church and magic exist hand in hand in France, unlike among the English and Spanish barbarians.

“Who is he aiming for, then?” De Granville stands up to the older man, becoming more interesting. I glance over his fine figure again, thinking how younger gentlemen are ideal for the consolation of widows.

Arbois shakes his head.

The interview seems to be at an end as de Granville argues. I excuse myself and Arbois opens the office door for us, looking into my eyes. I have to force the dreamy look off my face. “Do contact me if you have anything to add, Monsieur Arbois.”

There! He almost smiled! “I might have questions to ask you, things you might have answers to that others do not.”

It’s a blatant appeal to my vanity as a lady reporter for the Mercure Galant, but I wonder if he wants to question me or to…

I’m melting.

A movement draws my attention.

A thin lady in dark blue stops in the doorway of a sitting room down the hall.

She curtsies, her long lashes coming down over browned cheeks. She would have to use face paints and powder to become fashionably pale. The dress is new and tidy, but not at all comme il faut.

“Mademoiselle d’Yquelon, may I present Madame Verlebois? She collects gossip for the Nouveau Mercure Galant.” Arbois doesn’t even have to emphasize the word gossip for everyone to hear the warning.

The young lady nods, her pale eyes only leaving my face to take in Béatrice, who is staring avidly, memorizing her for a later drawing. The icy eyes and prominent nose just like her father’s make her not beautiful, but interesting.

“Madame Verlebois was on her way out,” De Granville announces and steps between me and the lady. Mademoiselle d’Yquelon smiles at him in gratitude. The competition for her hand is over before it has begun.

“Whenever you would like to sit down with me and give me an interview, Mademoiselle, I would be thrilled to give you the time.” I lean past de Granville and press a calling card into her hand.

The lady takes it with a small frown, then looks up at me, her expression as neutral as Arbois’. She will have to teach de Granville a few things.

Mélisande (Châteaux and Shadows Book 5) is available through: