Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Winners of our eBooks Giveaway

Thank you to everyone for participating and sharing your views on what makes a fab hero. It's been great fun to hear the who and what and why of loving those men.

And the winners are... We've tried to match as best as possible within the randomly selected winner comments :) NB please read thru to end for instructions to contact us in order to receive your copy

Winner #1 Vivien Jackson said...

I like them bad, tortured, angsty, sometimes even broken. Alpha is fine, but I don't mind beta either, so long as the character isn't inconsistent or irritating.

Vivien, you have won a copy of Almost an Outlaw
Winner #2 Robin D said...

I like a hero like The Marquess of Derrington in Miss Foster's Folly - an English lord, who wants an independent mate, passion, but for a lifetime.

Robin, you have won a copy of A Marriage of Inconvenience
Winner #3 Marie Dees said...

I like my heroes tall, dark and dangerous. I want them so self-assured that love actually throws them off. Who is this other person making their life complicated. (Long hair is a bonus.)

Marie, you have won a copy of Betrayed
Winner #4 Lindsay said...
My favorite hero is the heroine that puts the hero in his place and doesn't let him rule her ...
I've already and fell in love with Emma from Taryn Kincaid's 'Healing Heart' and gave it a fie star review but would love to win either 'A Sergeants Lady' or 'Of Dukes and Deception'

Lindsay, you have won a copy of Of Dukes and Deceptions

Winner #5 StacieDM said...

I love an uber Alpha hero with a dash of bad boy on the side. I like them grumpy, maybe slightly tortured and very possessive. I like to see how the heroine breaks down his barriers and gets to the sweetheart underneath the gruff exterior.

Stacie, you have won a copy of Miss Foster's Folly

Winner #6 Cindy said...

I love the alpha hero with a tortured past. Strong, protective and loves with everything in him, even if he doesn't know its there. I'm partial to knights and cowboys in historicals, cops and millitary in contemporaries.

Cindy, you have won a copy of Healing Hearts

Congratulations to all the winners. We appreciate that we may not have been able to make a perfect match, but we really hope you enjoy your read.

Please email at "claire.robyns @googlemail.com" (remove spaces added for anti-spamming purposes) so that I arrange to have your copy emailed to you

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Silliness eBook Giveaway

Everyone's talking about their favourite kind of hero this month, must be something in the spring air.

To celebrate every hero out there, in all shapes and forms, breathing and written, we're giving away 6 eBooks. All you have to do is comment on your favourite kind of hero and we'll pick 6 random winners.

To make it more fun, from the winners selected, we'll attempt to match the winner to a book we think they might enjoy the most, based on the favourite kind of hero from their comment.

What I love most about reading is the wide variety available at my fingertips, a hero for every mood and situation. I love 'em all. I often think a certain kind of hero is linked to the plot trope. For eg a Kidnapping the Bride is likely going to have an apha, a Friends to Lovers will usually have a beta. Because I read across all plot types, I'm happy enough to fall in love with all kinds of heroes.

Have you read books where the hero type defies the plot? The heroine having a male best friend who's uber alpha?

If I have to think of my favourite, though, it would have to be the alpha male. I love reading and writing Scottish medieval romances, and in the insane made-up-world that exists inside my mind, these are rough, tough kinda guys who live by the land, war, politics and surviving. They don't even know what true love is, let alone how to find it. They also deserve a heroine who is strong, who can outwit them and, before they know it, they're going soft on the inside and making all kinds of rash out-of-character decisions and don't even know why.

Why do I love the alpha male so much? I think it's the thought of him being brought to his knees, being tamed by love. Now, that's really a love you have to believe in, have to believe it will last through anything.

So, what's your favourite kind of hero? I can't wait to read everyone's thoughts :)

Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win one of our six eBooks up for grabs. The comments will stay open for 2 days and we'll announce the winners here on the 29th March.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Empty nest

So here's the stuff they don't tell you...or the stuff you're not ready to listen to...when you're going to all those workshops and conferences, polishing those three-line elevator pitches, focusing on taking a machete to every instance of the word "that" or the word "was" because that's what they told you to do in your critique group...and sending out all those query letters to agents and submission packages to editors...hoping to one-day be PUBLISHED.

Publishing is, as you may have heard, a business. It's thrilling. And it's also kind of exhausting.  So much to do. So much that isn't...writing. (Like, right now I'm fiddling about, obsessed with Jeannnie Lin's clever idea of Romance Trading Cards. Which, huzzah! Angela Waters, the fabulous artist who created my gorgeous HEALING HEARTS cover, has agreed to design for me.)

And then there's all that larking about, here and there on various social media sites, hawking your, er, wares.

And then...there are reviews.

When SLEEPY HOLLOW DREAMS, my erotic paranormal for The Wild Rose Press came out, it was a hurried thing with a small window of opportunity, because the publisher, editor and I were all trying to get the book out in time for Halloween -- when it had only been contracted about two months before. There were few reviews. None in advance of the release. Mostly from my friends.

But for HEALING HEARTS, the reviews started coming out even before the book was released. People were reading it. People I didn't know were actually discussing it! Debating it, even! I felt like Goldilocks. People were telling me it was too short, too long, too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft, just right. They wished they were the heroine, Emma; they were in love with the hero, Adam.

(Oh, no. Wait. You can't have him. He's mine. Um, I mean...he's Emma's.)

So your baby is not exclusively your baby anymore. It's what you wanted, didn't you?  But...you kind of go through empty nest syndrome anyway. You've launched your newly-hatched (no matter how long the labor pains) chick out into the wide, wide world. And now it must flap its wings on its own. Sink or swim. You've done what you can.

It's time to step aside.  And move on.

No matter how tempting it is to keep wandering into its room (or its slot at CarinaPress.com or Amazon or Goodreads) and moon over its picture! (Or gorgeous cover.) Which you've become obsessed with making romance trading cards out of.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How I do what I do

I have to admit from the outset that I don’t have a firm grip on how I write. To tell you the truth, I think that’s probably true of many, if not most, writers. I don’t know where I come up with some of the things that come out of my fingers…you know, the sort of instance where the author insists “the character said that,” or “I tried to make the heroine do X, but she just wouldn’t do it.” That’s all cute and cosmic and stuff, but the truth is there only is the writer and a blank piece of paper or, these days, screen.

Given the above, there are a couple of things that mark my coordinates in the universe of writers. One, I’m a pantser. Those of you who aren’t insane enough to try to do this may not be aware that as a group, we divide up pretty firmly into two camps: the plotters and the pantsers. Plotters plot. They lay out the whole story in advance and know what’s going to happen all along the way before they start on page one. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. They pretty much open a new document and start writing. Then, they keep writing until the story’s done.

I once managed to plot out an outline before I started writing the book, but the only way I could do it was to grit my teeth and promise myself that I wouldn’t have to stick to the damned outline if I didn’t want to. It was agony.

I generally used to think up two characters and an interesting opening situation and started writing. Since I started in (cough) 1990, I’ve learned that there are a couple of pitfalls I tend to fall into, and now I plan ahead how I’m going to avoid those before I start the story. I’m happy to report I never run out of pitfalls. So, I’m doing more and more planning as I mature as a writer. Which brings me to the next point.

Just about nobody is a pure plotter or pure pantser. I have one friend who writes an outline and then fills in the scenes and then the details for the scenes so that when she’s done, she pretty much just needs to flesh out her outline. She’s extreme. Most plotters work from a more general outline than that.

Even the most extreme pantser who writes romance knows some things about her story before she starts writing. She knows there will be at least two people who are destined to love each other but who have to overcome some conflict to be together. There will be a happy ending, usually following a dark period in which it appears their love can‘t succeed. Sexual tension will be a big part of the story, whether or not it’s expressed in actual sex. Most of us writers aren’t pure plotters or pantsers but are hybrids to some extent.

A second dimension on the plane of my writing lies along the continuum of what I call multiple-drafters and few-drafters. Some writers love to barf out whole books in what they sometimes call “sh***y first drafts” and go on to revise, revise, revise. Such writers thrive in forums like Book-in-a-Week or National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). They get it all out and go back and fix it. The few-drafters write more slowly, revise as they go along, and only need to polish (even if they do a lot of polishing) at the end.

I fall in the second camp. My idea of hell would be to take 50,000 words of stuff I threw at a page and turn it into a book. In fact, I hate revisions of any kind. (My editor can’t read this, right?) My friend, the extreme plotter I mentioned above, puts it perfectly. “Every day, I write six sh***y pages. The next day, I revise them and write another six sh***y pages.” That’s how I work. At the end, I have a book that needs a few pass-throughs before I send it in and wait for the inevitable revision letter. I don’t know of any evidence that the other method is better at avoiding revision letters than my method, so I’ll stick to mine.

I’ve met Chris Baty, the creator of NaNoWriMo, and truly, he and his creation are unmitigated Forces for Good. Someday, I will do NaNoWriMo, but when I’ve finished, I won’t have an entire book. I’ll have the first 50,000 words of a book. (Chris can’t read this here, right?)

So, I’m a slow-and-steady pantser. There’s one real danger at being that type of writer. If you write small amounts of material at a stretch, you’d better make sure that you have Discipline. Writing 1,000 words every once in a while will pretty much guarantee that you never get a book done. Discipline is where I shine.

I work at my day job four days a week. That gives me three-day weekends. I’ve found that 5,000 words per week produces enough pages to create finished stories on a pretty good schedule. Five-thousand words divided by three days is 1,666.666666666 words per day. That’s what I do. I have to take days off from time to time, but otherwise, I write those 1,667 words every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I will literally stop in the middle of a sentence once I get to that magic number.

That was working for me until a publisher asked me to do an extra story I couldn’t refuse. Rather than give up working on my main work-in-progress, I decided to add another 625 words per day on my lunch hours at work. That gave me another 2,500 words per week. Slower than 5,000 words per week but workable.

Then, I got involved in blogging regularly. To do that, I added another 500 words when I get home in the evening. (That’s what I’m doing right now.) I’m almost fanatical about doing this. If you’re a slow writer, you need to be religious about your schedule, too, even if it’s an hour per day and you get 500 words done during that hour.

Writers write. Period. You may take months plotting out your book so that when you sit down to write it, you’re only fleshing out what you’ve already planned, or you can sit down at the computer and let your freak flag fly. You can write in marathon sessions, producing twenty, thirty, forty pages a day, or you can schedule regular hours during your weekends and reliably produce small amounts of text that finally build to a completed manuscript. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Just do it.



Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A Top Ten List

Over the next few months, we at Romancing the Past plan to blog about our favorite historical romances. Here's my Top Ten, in no particular order:

Wild At Heart (Patricia Gaffney, 1997) - A man raised by wolves and the daughter of the scientist who’s studying him, in 1890’s Chicago. The hero is delicious, and I love Gaffney’s writing style.

In for a Penny (Rose Lerner, 2010) - In the interest of full disclosure, Rose Lerner is one of my critique partners, but even if the author were a complete stranger I would’ve fallen for her deft writing and utterly human characters in this fresh take on the Regency marriage of convenience tale.

The Grand Sophy (Georgette Heyer, 1950) - My favorite of Heyer’s prolific output for Sophy’s exuberance and the delightful wit that pervades the whole book.

One Perfect Rose (Mary Jo Putney, 1997) - Though I read trad Regencies and YA romances in high school, I took a break from the genre in college and the next few years thereafter. This was one of the first books I read upon returning, and its story of a duke who thinks he has only months to live and decides to take a break from duty while he comes to term with the news has stayed with me.

Mr Impossible (Loretta Chase, 2005) - Egypt, archeology, scholarly heroine, beta-but-badass hero, Loretta Chase. What’s not to love?

To Love and to Cherish (Patricia Gaffney, 1995) - The hero is a vicar; the heroine starts the book married to his childhood friend. A heartbreaking, moving, and ultimately hopeful story.

The Shattered Rose (Jo Beverley, 1996) - I’m always a fan of Jo Beverley’s rich, well-researched historicals, but this medieval is my favorite. The hero returns from the crusades to find his wife, believing him dead, has moved on with her life. Not an easy story, but sometimes easy is just what I don’t want.

Heaven and Earth (Kathleen Eagle, 1990) - Kathleen Eagle is one of the few authors who can make me read contemporary or Western settings. Very early in her career she wrote a few Harlequin Historicals, and I wish she’d done more because they’re so good. If you can track down a copy of this story of a missionary widowed on the Oregon Trail and the Metis trapper who rescues her, give it a read.

The Rules of Gentility (Janet Mullany, 2007) - A playful romp of a Regency told in first person, alternating between the hero and heroine’s point of view. I’ve used it as a conversion tool on readers who don’t otherwise read romance.

Shattered Rainbows (Mary Jo Putney, 1996) - Military history geek that I am, my favorite part of this book is the Waterloo sequence in the first half, but it’s a great read from start to finish with an especially appealing hero and heroine.

Looking back at my list, it occurs to me that the mid to late 90’s was something of a golden age for historical romance. But I’m enjoying plenty of what I’m reading now, too--I’m just hesitant to put a book on my Top Ten list until I’m sure it’s not just enjoyable at that moment, but memorable years later. (Even In For a Penny qualifies on that count, since I read it in our critique group over a year before it was published.)

What about you? Have you read any of my choices? What are your all-time favorite historical romances?

Susanna Fraser is the author of The Sergeant's Lady (available now) and A Marriage of Inconvenience (April 11, 2011). You can visit Susanna's website here.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Erastes--my path to publication

Here's the first in a series of themed posts that each author will be blogging on from time to time, and for those of you who are just starting out, or who think "Oh, I'll never get published," I hope these posts give you hope--and show you just how different everyone's story is.

I'd always wanted to write, ever since I was a kid I was scribbling stories or telling myself adventures while I lay in bed. Sadly, although I had an artistic and encouraging mother, I didn't have the best teachers and my stories were often derided for being over fanciful or inaccurate. I remember once writing a story about a man dying of breast cancer (because I had read there were 300 cases for men against about 30,000 for women) and my teacher simply put a big red cross through the entire thing saying it was nonsense. I also remember writing about a car journey and watching the rain slide upwards on the windows (something I watched often myself,probably due to the wind pressure outside or some such reason) and again I was branded as having written nonsense. So I...kind of stopped writing.

But I didn't stop reading, and that probably kept the creative juices going through my late teens, and 20's and 30's. Unbeknownst to me, it was all just damming up and waiting to be released. I'd tried to write a couple of times in the 90's--spurred on by my mother who was herself writing a book, but nothing gelled--each book I started seemed derivative and I didn't know WHAT I wanted to write about.

In July 2003--and I wish I knew the exact date, because it was THAT kind of epiphany--I was cruising the internet prior to the release of the latest Harry Potter book. I was looking for any information about Severus Snape, who was at the time my favourite character, and completely by accident (just as well I didn't have "safe search" turned on, or my life may have been very different) I stumbled across a fanfiction community called the Snape Fuh-Q-Fest. My jaw dropped onto the desk. There were stories here about Snape...having...romantic liaisons with just about everyone in the Harry Potter Universe.

I'd not had a sheltered upbringing, but I'd never heard of fanfiction, and I'd never considered gay fiction as anything to read--but that day, reading story after story, I knew that this was what I wanted to write. In a matter of weeks I had written a 60,000 word novella about what happeend to Lucius Malfoy whilst not on the page of The Goblet of Fire whilst keeping entirely in canon. It was fun! It was exhilerating! It was...entirely a waste of time!

I realised that I couldn't do anything with this book--and so immediately began started on an original novel. I had first thought about converting the fanfic, but it wouldn't work, so I plumped for my comfort zone--Regency--and Standish, a gay Regency was born.

The trouble was (and probably just as well, or I might not have started it) that I didn't check to see if anyone was publishing gay romances before I wrote it, and when I finished it, I soon found out that--no, no-one really was.

I received rejections. Many, many MANY rejections. Some of them very encouraging and many personal ones which were spirit lifting, but generally I got the feeling that no one really knew what to do with a gay regency. There had been two that I knew of, but one (Gaywyck) had been published more than 20 years previously and nothing since, and the only other one (The Price of Temptation) was by a small publisher who wasn't taking on anything new. I contacted Scott and Scott who were the only people that I could see who were (self) publishing gay romance (because no one else would take it on) and received the same story from them--they went it alone because there was no other choice. It was all a bit disheartening.

So I put the book to one side, got on with writing: more fanfic (I stayed writing fanfic for about four more years) and a second original novel. Another thing I did in that fallow time was to write original short stories for submission to online websites, magazines and short story anthologies. It was with one of these short stories that I got my first sale and the euphoria still remains with me. It was a great way to build up that mythical and increasingly important "platform." With short stories, at least people were reading my words, learning who I was and what I wrote--visiting my website and learning about me.

After about a year a friend emailed me and said that she'd spotted a couple of gay historicals on Amazon, and "wasn't it about time I started trying to sell Standish?" I did as she suggested and in no time at all I sold it to PD Publishing - a small but hugely professional press to whom I will be forever grateful. In November 2006 Standish was published and it spurred me on to finish that second novel and to send it out and send it out and send it out until that also sold to Perseus Books. Now I have three novels, a handful of novellas and over 20 short stories in print and I'm one of the newest acquisitions for Carina who will be publishing my newest novella "The Muffled Drum" in July 2011.

If there's any moral to this story, it's simply: DON'T GIVE UP.Don't ever give up. Listen to advice, read read read all the information you can, learn as much about the business as possible - but don't give up. Believe in yourself and beleive in your product, even if you are writing something that no one is selling right now - you never know what's around the corner. Who says it won't be the next big thing? Who on earth would have predicted that Gay Historical Romances would be on the shelves? Who could have possibly guessed that zombie/classic mashups would be big, eh?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Of Dukes and Deceptions

The last time I posted here I introduced you to Nicholas Buchanan, the Duke of Dorchester, hero in my upcoming release from Carina Press, Of Dukes and Deceptions. Perhaps you'd like to learn how Alicia Woodley felt about her initial meeting with him. Here's how she describes it to her maid, Janet.

You’ve already met him.” Janet stopped dead in her tracks and bestowed a suspicious scowl upon her. “Why didn’t you say so before?”
Alicia explained. “He wanted to wring the poor rabbit’s neck. Can you imagine such callousness?”
And I suppose you gave him a piece of your mind.”
Alicia grinned. “Actually, I told him he was an idiot.”
Janet groaned. “Good grief, I wouldn’t be in your shoes if your uncle learns of your discourtesy.”
How will he find out?”
Oh, there are ways.”
Well, I doubt whether His Grace will bother to enlighten him, and I certainly don’t intend to do so.”
You’re very likely wrong. The aristocracy don’t care to be spoken down to. I expect His Grace will wish to have an example made of you.”
Alicia pulled a face. “He deserved to be put in his place.”
But he helped you rescue the rabbit for all that. I trust you thanked him.”
Oh, heavens!” Alicia covered her mouth to prevent herself from laughing outright and having to endure another of Janet’s lectures. “I knew there was something I meant to do.”
Ye gods!” Janet shook her head but Alicia got the impression she was having difficulty keeping her disapproving expression in place.
They reached Alicia’s chamber and Janet became too preoccupied with her duties to spare further time for scoldings.
What’s he like?” she asked instead. “Is he high in the instep? Well,” she continued, not pausing long enough for Alicia answer, “I suppose that’s only to be expected.”
He’s quite the most arrogant individual it’s ever been my misfortune to encounter.”
Aye, I’ve no doubt he struck you that way if he didn’t share your concern for some scrap of a rabbit. But is he handsome, my love? Your cousin will be devastated if he’s merely mortal.”
Alicia considered her response, even though she didn’t need to. She thought she’d been too angry with him to pay much attention to his person. But it took no time at all to summon up an image of the imposing individual who’d strutted in front of her in a quite insufferable manner, doing his best to bully her into submission.
Well, he’s taller than average. A full head taller than me, in fact.”
Janet, engaged in pouring hot water into a ewer, chuckled so heartily that she slopped some over the edge of the basin.
What’s so diverting, Janet?” Alicia stepped out of her soiled gown and draped it across the back of a chair. “Why should His Grace’s height be a cause for such mirth? It’s a pleasant change to be obliged to look up to a gentleman, even one as haughty as the duke.”
Oh, I dare say it is, and it ain’t that what I find amusing. It’s more the thought of your cousin trying to win him round. She’ll need to stand on a box simply to converse with him. And even if she did manage to engage his attention, how would they…” Janet flushed and returned her attention to her duties. “Well, never mind about that. I dare say they’d manage.”
Maria is not so very slight.”
Of course she is, love. She’s barely five foot, even with the advantage of high shoes to aid her cause.” Tears of mirth were pouring down Janet’s lined face. “For all that she’s pretty and delicate, I should imagine a hulking great figure like you describe His Grace as being will scare her half out of her wits. You know what a flibbertigibbet she is.”
Alicia, out of a sense of duty to her cousin, attempted to look severely upon Janet but spoiled the effect by giggling. “Do you want to know more about the duke, or not?” she asked between splutters.
Bless you, of course I do, lamb.” Janet helped Alicia to wash the grime from her limbs whilst simultaneously brushing her hair vigorously into submission. “Tell me everything about him that you can remember.”
Well, he has broad shoulders and is very strong. He pulled the trap away from the poor rabbit’s leg as though it was nothing more than a piece of string. It was quite stuck and I wouldn’t have been able to manage it nearly so well without hurting the creature even more.”
He can’t be all bad then. If he’s as high-handed as you suggest, he would simply have wrung the rabbit’s neck, regardless of your protestations.”
Humph, I should like to have seen him try!”
Anyway, never mind that. He helped you, and it was very good of him.” Janet tugged at a particularly stubborn tangle in Alicia’s hair.
Sorry, pet. Now sit still and tell me some more about him.”
Well, he has light brown hair, brown eyes and a disgusting sense of self-importance. He was really quite cross with me, you know, just because I didn’t get all flummoxed when he deigned to notice me.”
Seeing as how that old cob of yours almost caused him to break his neck, I don’t see as how you can hold that against him.”
Matilda didn’t do it on purpose. Besides, he shouldn’t have been travelling so fast on such a narrow road. He can’t hold me to blame for his own irresponsibility.”
Well, let’s hope that’s something else your uncle don’t get to hear about.” Alicia pulled a face. “What else did he say to you?”
Nothing of consequence.” Alicia frowned. “But he did seem to think he was here solely to look at the horses.”
Word hadn’t reached him of your cousin’s beauty, then?”
Evidently not.”
Janet chuckled again as she twisted Alicia’s hair into a knot at the back of her head and jabbed at it with pins.
Keep still, pet, and let me do my work. Tell me more about His Grace. It’ll distract you and, God willing, it might even persuade you to sit still.”
There isn’t much more to tell. He is good looking, I suppose, if you look beyond all that aristocratic pomposity. No, no, I take that back. I can’t persuade myself that he’s actually pompous. It’s just that he’s used to being deferred to, I suppose, and doesn’t realise he’s being condescending. But he didn’t seem to mind clambering about on the riverbank and wasn’t afraid to get his boots dirty.” She lifted her shoulders, which earned her a sharp reprimand. “Sorry! Still, I suppose it doesn’t matter to him if he dirties his boots. He’s not the one who has to clean them. That task would fall to his man.”
Janet sniffed her disapproval. “Don’t talk to me about that devil. He’s been in the kitchen this last hour, drinking tea, eating scones and being charming to everyone. He was actually flirting with Cook, if you please.”
Alicia laughed. “And why should that overset you, Janet? Would you have him flirt with you instead?”
Certainly not!” Janet bristled with indignation. “I don’t hold no truck with that sort of behaviour.”
Then why have you taken him in such dislike?”
Because of all the impertinent questions he was asking. I found his manner quite objectionable.”
What sort of questions?” Alicia stood and admired Janet’s handiwork in the pier glass. She’d managed to tame her rebellious locks into a style that was quite flattering.
Oh, all about the family. Who was who and where everyone fit into the scheme of things.”
That’s natural enough, surely?” Alicia wondered why she felt the need to defend the odious duke’s man. “I don’t suppose His Grace had ever heard of us before my uncle invited him here. It’s only to be expected that he should want to know whom he’s dealing with, and what better way to find out than by asking the servants.” She grinned. “Servants always know absolutely everything that goes on.”
I suppose you’re right but even so I—”
Oh, no! Must I, Janet?”
Aye, that you must.” Janet forced Alicia to stand still as she laced her into a pretty corset edged with love-knots in emerald silk. “Your uncle won’t let you into the drawing room if you’re not properly dressed. He might overlook your rebellious ways when you don’t have company but he won’t put up with them when he has such an important guest. Besides, you wouldn’t wish to embarrass him and give the duke cause to look down on you more than you think he already does, would you now?”
I suppose not. But it so vexes me that I must wear the wretched garment when I don’t need it. Besides, you always lace it so tight I can scarce breathe.”
Don’t exaggerate, lamb.” Janet’s only concession was to loosen the laces a mere fraction before helping Alicia step into her petticoats. “There now, you look a picture.” She tied the last of the ribbons on her mistress’s gown. “Quite the equal to either of your cousins, just as I promised you’d be.”
Don’t be so silly.” Alicia turned to look at herself in the glass again, startled by the image that stared back. She seldom took this much trouble over her appearance and was surprised at the difference Janet’s ministrations had wrought in so short a time. Surprised, but not especially interested. She left that sort of thing to Maria and Elsbeth. “Still, I dare say that for once my uncle won’t be able to find fault with me. Thank you, Janet.” She kissed her maid’s wrinkled cheek and slipped her feet into her evening slippers. “Right, hand me my fan and I suppose I’d better enter the fray.”

Of Dukes and Deceptions - Available from Carina Press from March 14. Go to my website www.wendysoliman.com, read the first chapter and enter the contest there to win a copy of the book.

Good luck!