Tuesday, September 27, 2011

CHARACTERS ARE SUCH--CHARACTERS!

Recently, I’ve been going through all my notes and files on my White Series Books with the intent of gathering information in order to write a reunion book and perhaps spin off some more White Series stories. As I am doing this, I find myself amazed over all the wonderful characters in these books, including all the secondary characters!

I’ve forgotten about so many of these great characters who complimented my hero and heroine’s! Readingabout them after so many years is like meeting up with old friends! A few might even be ready to volunteer for their own book.

Then there are all the children. Anyone who knows me also knows (with much eye rolling) that I LOVE babies. So it’s not surprising that my characters have children. Lots of children. I am a grandmother-in-waiting. I think that says it all. I want grandchildren. Alas, I may have to settle for giving my characters lots of children for the time being. But back to my topic here. When I left off with the different books in the series, many of my hero/heroines had at least one child. Most were babies in epilogues and now as I plan out the timelines, I get to magically watch them grow up and even give them siblings (sorry children) and also, see who has the potential for the next generation of books.

It’s the creation process all over again. Adding 10-15 or more years to this series, not just adds to the series total, but it changes everything and makes it all new again as I map out character charts and contemplate new plots and stories.

For instances, there are two girls who were adopted into the tribe in White Dove, by the hero and heroine (Jeremy and White Dove). One embraces the new life. The other is torn. What can I plot for these two girls? Then there is the believed nasty grandfather who wants them found and returned. Is he a man who loves his granddaughters or is a future villain. I could wink and say wait and find out but as of yet, I am not totally sure myself! So you see, there are many hidden stories in this series just waiting to be dug out and brought to light or to paper!

In my own books, one favorite couple were an old man and woman, both feisty. Rook was a grumpy old man who found love in White Wolf with an equally strong-willed and no-nonsense woman. In books written by other authors, I love Lulu, Ranger and Morelli in Janet Evonovitch’s Stephanie plum books. Then there is Hermione and Ron in the Harry Potter books, and among my favorites, Peabody, Feeney and McNab in J.D. Robb’s In Death series.

So, for readers who’ve read my series, who would you like to see more of? Who were your favorite secondary characters and who should I write about next? What family of children intrigue you?

If you are a writer, what are your thoughts on secondary characters and their role in your books or other books. Who are some of your favorite secondary characters.

I love secondary characters and the depth they bring to stories. How about you?

(http://susanedwards.com  White Dawn, White Dusk, White Shadows, White Wind due to be re-released November 21st in digital format by http://carinapress)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sexual Desire was Taboo

First of all, I got my cover for my upcoming Carina Press novella release, Lady Seductress's Ball! (Coming 12/19/11)  Isn't it fabulous?

In Lady \Seductress's Ball, the heroine, Olivia finds herself in a loveless, pleasureless marriage to a man three times her age. Her situation was not abnormal during a time when marriages were made for convenience, money, power, prestige, property. Because marriages were made based on contracts and not attraction and desire for your spouse, the bedroom could often be a cold and lonely place.

On top of that, women were taught that desire, pleasure were taboo. To want your partner was a sin, and only women with loose morals, and harlots had sex for pleasure. If men wanted to enjoy sex and have their partner return their sentiments, they sought out a courtesan or mistress. Wives were only available for breeding heirs. An awkward, coupling in the dark that was most often painful to a woman who was not properly prepared for the joining, and embarrassing in its quick, sudden and messiness. This would also be why often after a woman had an heir and the requisite spare, she would banish her husband from the bedroom.

Despite all this, Olivia does catch snippets here and there of women enjoying their lovers. She also feels and intense yearning for a man that is not her husband.  He promises her pleasure... Pleasure she should not want, as it makes her wicked, wanton. What will she do? Will she succumb to her own desires and the scintillating whispers of an earl--Tristan, the man she dreams of making love to?

If she were to do so, it could dash her entire reputation into the fire--and a lady's reputation meant everything to her.

Guess we'll find out in December...

Cheers,
Eliza

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crossing Genres

Do you take kindly to your favourite authors switching genres? Do you begrudge them the days they spend writing thrillers instead of working on their next historical? Or when it's a favourite author of yours, will you read anything they write in any genre?

This topic is top on my mind right now because I have a romantic comedy releasing from Carina Press next week. Bang in the middle of my two medieval scottish romances - Betrayed released last year and The Devil of Jedburgh releases next February.


May I interrupt with this announcement...
I'm throwing a pre-launch party on my blog this week, giving away party bags of the book and Amazon gift vouchers, so please stop by to join in the fun :):)

Right, back on topic... While I was scrutenizing my reading experiences, I realised that many of the historical authors I read tend to genre-hop to suspense/thriller rather than straight contemporary. Maybe that's just me and I need broaden my reading circle, lol. Maybe it's a natural co-habiting genre because many historical romances do contain suspense elements - there's nearly always a dastardly villian ready to kidnap or torment the heroine.

So, my random thoughts on this...

One of my all time favourite historical romance authors is Judith McNaught, but until a year ago I'd never read any of her contemporaries.  Then my mother sent an old contemporary of hers my way, Remember When, and, oh gosh, I really couldn't get into it. I do want to try her widely acclaimed novel, Paradise, and hope for better luck.

I can read Julie Garwood across the board, no matter the genre, I love this woman.

So, I guess, I fall into the category of not automatically following authors across genres, but I do like to give them a try.

One real win for me was Karen Marie Moning. I absolutely love her Highlander series and, because of this, I dipped my toes into the paranormal genre (which I'd been avidly avoiding). But I love her so much, I was willing to give her Fever series a shot, and oh boy - she got me well and truly hooked not only on her Fever series, but on the entire paranormal genre.

I'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts of following authors across genres and if it worked out for you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Regency Medical Men

This is my first post on Romancing the Past, and I'm so pleased to be joining the authors here! Since my first two regencies won't be coming out until 2012, I thought I might tackle a general topic today. Have you ever wondered why some medical men in historical romances (and during the regency, they were uniformly men) are referred to as "Doctor," and some are called just plain "Mister"? I'd like to discuss the differences between the three major medical practitioners working in nineteenth century England: physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries.

But first, a word about the state of medicine during the regency. Doctors had no sonograms, no X-rays, no MRIs; they didn't even have a germ theory of disease. Hippocrates had theorized centuries before that poor health stemmed from an imbalance of bodily humors, so doctors routinely bled or cupped their patients. Illness was also attributed to unhealthy vapors, leading medical practitioners to prescribe "a change of air." Because antibiotics were still unknown, compound fractures and other serious wounds usually meant either amputation or death, and frequently both. Childbirth, too, was often fatal, especially in maternity wards, where hospital-acquired infection drove the mortality rate as high as forty percent. Operations were performed only as a last resort, not only because of the high risk of sepsis, but also because the poor understanding of blood group compatibility made transfusions so risky they were not even attempted successfully until 1818. The use of modern anesthetics was still decades away. Want to read something harrowing? Try novelist Fanny Burney's letter to her older sister, in which she gives a first-hand account of her 1811 mastectomy. The operation required seven men and a nurse, most of whom were needed just to hold the patient down.

But if medicine was more art than science, the artists at the top of the professional ladder were physicians. Distinguished and expensive, they were socially respected figures who hailed from genteel backgrounds and obtained their educations at universities like Edinburgh, Oxford, and Cambridge.

Doctor examining an obstetric patient, 1831 (at least, that's his story and he's sticking to it).

As a percentage of medical practitioners, physicians were a minority, and until 1858 they weren't permitted to perform surgery or dispense medicines—not that they would have wished to stoop so low. They took a more cerebral approach, diagnosing internal ailments and perhaps deigning to write a prescription or two. Physicians' fees were charged in gentlemanly guineas, not pounds, and payment was a matter of some delicacy. Licensed by the Royal College of Physicians (such colleges existed in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dublin), they could trace the university degree they received back to the medieval church, and were the only medical professionals properly addressed as "Doctor."

Surgeons were not nearly so well regarded. Though respected today, in the early 1800s they had yet to live down their origins as medieval barbers. More numerous than doctors—in 1815, there were only 14 physicians attached to the Royal Navy, compared to 850 surgeons and 500 assistant surgeons—they were looked on not as true professionals but as technicians, sawbones who treated the distasteful aftermath of accident and infection.

Amputation without anesthesia, 1775. Compare the struggle here to the following picture.

Because blood loss was a major obstacle and modern anesthesia was unknown (Humphrey Davy discovered in 1799 that nitrous oxide could dull pain, but his discovery was never put to practical use), the primary skill to recommend a good surgeon was speed rather than finesse. Richard Hollingham notes in his book Blood and Guts: A History of Surgery how the famous surgeon Robert Liston could remove a limb in under thirty seconds—but once accidentally sawed off his assistant's fingers in the process. "The patient died of infection, as did the assistant, and an observer died of shock. It was the only operation in surgical history with a 300 percent mortality rate." In the face of such bold measures, cleanliness was considered an affectation; Liston reportedly operated in Wellington boots, and to free his hands when switching between the scalpel and the bone saw, he clamped the bloody knife between his teeth.

"The First Operation Under Ether" (detail), Massachusetts General Hospital, 1846.

(To Liston's credit, he also went on to pioneer the use of anesthesia in Europe, in 1846 amputating the leg of Frederick Churchill, a butler, while Churchill was under the influence of ether; Churchill subsequently survived.) To become a surgeon in 1800, a man had only to complete an apprenticeship and pass an examination, whereupon he obtained a diploma—though not a degree. Surgeons were (and in the U.K. still are, despite today's postgraduate requirements) properly addressed as "Mister."

So physicians were for the rich, and surgeons were for the desperate, but for most everyday medical complaints, patients consulted an apothecary. Apothecaries could trace their origins back to medieval grocers, who in turn grew out of the Guild of Pepperers. They were the nineteenth century equivalent of pharmacists (or chemists, if you're British), only they dispensed medical advice along with their pills. Up until 1704, apothecaries were supposed to know their place—namely, behind the counter of a shop, keeping their opinions to themselves and concocting remedies prescribed by a real physician. Then a disgruntled patient named John Seale sued his apothecary, William Rose, for "practicing physic"—that is, for charging the staggering sum of fifty pounds to sell Seale medicines that left him "never the better but much worse."

Apothecary's shop, 1752.

When Seale turned to the College of Physicians, they acted to shut Rose down, but Rose appealed and the House of Lords overturned the original judgment. The decision opened the door for apothecaries to practice medicine. Legally, an apothecary could not charge a fee, theoretically making his money only from the remedies he sold, though by the nineteenth century most apothecaries left a blank space on their bill for patients to write in the amount, if any, they wished to bestow as a courtesy in return for services rendered. Unlike physicians, surgeons could hold dual licensure as apothecaries; of the more than 6000 apothecaries' licenses issued between 1815 and 1834, more than half went to surgeons. Realizing the best way to expand the business was to bring new customers into the world, apothecaries quickly added midwifery to their repertoire. An 1815 act of Parliament required apothecaries to serve a five-year apprenticeship and pass an examination, and to have reached a minimum age of twenty-one. Perhaps the most famous of all English apothecaries was the Romantic poet John Keats, who was licensed but did not practice, choosing instead to compose odes and die tragically of tuberculosis.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the accelerating pace of scientific advances changed medicine profoundly. The social and legal distinctions between the professions evolved, until by 1900 they had assumed much the forms they have today. Sterile operating conditions and the advent of anesthesia reduced mortality rates considerably, raising the surgeon's prestige, while the apothecary's role narrowed to the more limited duties of the modern-day pharmacist. Physicians, meanwhile, remained as pleased with themselves as ever.

Alyssa Everett is married to a handsome doctor with an excellent sense of humor. Her debut regency, A Tryst With Trouble, is available now for pre-order from Amazon. She hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter, where she promises not to spam you relentlessly.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What A Woman Of Forty-Five Ought To Know

This charming little book was published in London in 1902. I have owned it for probably twenty years. I don't really know how long. I found it in a box of books in a barn at a country homestead. The owner was having a sale and I think I may have paid a dollar for it if that much. I bought it to add to my collection of reference books. It is a look into a different time and society written by Emma Drake, MD, who also wrote "What A Young Wife Ought To Know". Dr. Drake appears to be the Dr. Phil of her time. It is books like this that give you a glimpse into another time and how historical characters would have thought and felt about everyday life.


There are pages of commendations for the book written by many prominent people in 1902 including Elizabeth Cady Stanton.



Women who were forty-five and older were considered "old" in 1902. Drake advises them on life during and after menopause when they are no longer able to produce and raise children, which has been the major role of their life. Some of it is very amusing compared to how we think and act now. Such as: "The Creator fitted you for child-bearing and when this period has run its allotted course, He reconstructs your physical nature for another line of work. In doing this you pass simply and easily, from the reproductive or child-bearing period into one of sexual inactivity."

Yet, the author encourages women to assume new activities and seek happiness during this period in their lives rather than giving up. And, there are truths that remain so today. Drake states: "Mothers are as a rule too unselfish...they too often unconsciously instill...the thought that mother can do everything best and is always read and willing and so comes the too frequent result, 'Let Mamma do it'."

Some funny instructions that could find it way into dialogue between characters:

On no account dye the hair for it cannot be concealed and you will deceive no one.
Rub table salt twice a week on the scalp for dandruff.
Drinking tea in immoderate amounts overstimulates the nervous system and produces constipation.
In Ireland, reports state that tea as prepared and drunk by the peasants is a strong contributing factor to insanity.

Finally, some wonderful rules about living from "a well-preserved old lady" that Dr. Drake included,which are applicable today:

Don't worry and don't hurry
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Don't overeat. Don't starve. Let your moderation be known to all men.
Court the fresh air night and day
Sleep and rest abundantly. Sleep is nature's benediction
Be cheerful. A light heart lives long
Think only healthful thoughts.
Seek peace and pursue it
Don't carry the whole world on your shoulders.

And, my favorite from 1902:
Never despair. Lost hope is a fatal disease.

Patricia Preston

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And suddenly, we didn’t have electricity.

I love history. I love reading about history and writing about it but I especially love not living in it. Yes, there is something intriguing and enchanting about manners and manor houses, balls, beaus and brave knights. There is also something equally glorious about indoor plumbing and modern medicine.  However, once in a while I wonder what it would be like to live as my ancestors did in a time before electric lights or penicillin. Would I survive as a pioneer woman or a medieval peasant, or would an infected hangnail get the better of me?
For one brief afternoon last week, I experienced what it would be like to live in a world without electricity. It wasn’t just my house or my neighborhood, but all of San Diego, parts of Orange County, Arizona and Mexico were without power.  The first things to go were the air conditioning and fans. Like my ancestors, the only way to keep cool was to open the windows and pray for a breeze. While I was sweating, I thought of all the time I had to write, especially without the distraction of the internet. That time lasted for about one hour and forty-five minutes before the laptop battery died and I had to switch to pen and paper.  One advantage my ancestors had over me was penmanship. I’m still trying to decipher a few lines of dialogue I scribbled.
Dinner proved to be the next challenge, and in this realm, as in penmanship, I’m sure my ancestors could beat me, assuming it wasn’t a famine year.  Since I have electric appliances, I couldn’t cook and there was nowhere to go to get food, nor anyone to call who could bring food to us.  Sure, we could have barbequed but I hadn’t exactly planned for a massive power outage so nothing was defrosted. We ate sandwiches for dinner.  Score one for my pioneering spirit.
Like my ancestors, I found sundown a challenge. While the sun was up, life was easy, but once it started to get dark, I ran around trying to accomplish all the things darkness would make difficult, like finding enough batteries and flashlights for everyone. Then the sun went down and we marveled at how dark the city was below us and wondered why there were still so many people on the freeway.  We did some star gazing and then called it an early night. I suppose my ancestors would have done the same thing, assuming they weren’t in front of a reed lamp sewing shirts for pennies.
I learned a few things from the experience. Nothing profound but fun nonetheless. One, my ancestors would probably have eaten something better than PB&J for dinner. Two, I need a new battery for my laptop. And three, I still love reading and writing about history but I’m very, very glad I don’t live in it.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Some of my favorite research resources

I started writing back in the ancient times before blogs or websites or even e-mail.  Back then, I had research books.  I still have them close at hand in my writing room.  Though the present is constantly changing, the past doesn't.  (It's true that new discoveries change what we know about the past, but for the most part, European history since the Middle Ages remains pretty much the same, and I feel comfortable using reference books I bought in the early 1990s.)  This month, I thought I'd pass along some of my favorites in hopes they might be helpful to you, as well.

The History of Underclothes


I think you can see why this volume would be invaluable when writing historical romance.  It's an ambitious book, ranging from the medieval period through 1939.  It also covers men's underclothes, so descriptions of ladies' umnentionables are on the brief side.  I don't find that much of a negative, to tell you the truth.  I don't think modern women think much about the design of a bra.  It's just a bra.  Men think even less about the construction of clothing but are mainly concerned with getting it off their women.  Frankly, I'd worry about people who dwell on details of fabrics and such when they're in mating mode, anyway.

For more detail about the Victorian period in the United States, there's the 1886 Bloomingdale's catalogue.

http://www.amazon.com/Bloomingdales-Illustrated-Catalog-Bloomingdale-Brothers/dp/0486257800/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1315520067&sr=1-1

This one comes with a caveat.  Bloomingdale's wasn't an upper class store back then.  Both it and Macy's were notorious competitors for the dollars of working people.  Although the dresses look luxurious, they were sturdy, conservative, and inexpensive.

Still, this gives you a good idea of the sorts of clothing people from the period would wear.  It also includes information on underclothing.  (So much of it!)  There's a whole section on corsets.  Plus pages on children's clothing and all sorts of other merchandise.


For stories set in the medieval period, there are several works by Joseph and Frances Gies.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=gies&x=18&y=15



I have these two books, but there are several more.  They give great detail about what medieval life was like.  It turns out castles were a lot more comfortable to live in than one might think.  Americans need to bear in mind that the climate in Europe is usually not as extreme as our own.

I might have to go back and buy some more books, come to think of it.

By the way, when I want to buy used books online, I generally go to http://www.abebooks.com/.  It's a listing place for huge numbers of independent used book sellers.  You might get your book from Vermont or Oklahoma.  I've always had great service from these merchants.

Finally, here's something rather idiosyncratic to me.  http://www.sciencetimeline.net/

My training is in social science, specifically psychology.  I enjoy writing characters who have an interest in science.  I love to look at the science timeline from around the year I'm writing and see what work was being done and what theories would have been in the air.

Did you know that in 1751, Benjamin Franklin published the results of his experiment with the kite in a paper titled Experiments and Observations on Electricity?  Or that in 1733 someone named Hales measured blood pressure?  I've had all kinds of fun with Gall's theory of phrenology, which posited that mental functions each had their own location in the brain and those functions could be measured through bumps in the skull.  I could get lost in the timeline for hours.

What are your favorite research materials?



Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My next Carina release

I'm happy to announce I've made my third sale to Carina. Title and release date remain TBD, but the latter will most likely be sometime in Fall 2012. I wish I wasn't dealing with a gap of a year plus between releases, but I've been rehabbing a pinched nerve that slowed my writing to a crawl for the first half of this year. Fortunately, it's finally starting to mend, and I'm learning to work around it, too. I take lots of stretch breaks, and I've experimented with voice recognition software (Dragon Dictate for the Mac), though it can drive me crazy. Once I said "raised his eyebrows" and Dragon typed "racist eyebrows," for example, and apparently the way I pronounce "Jane" sounds like "chain" to the Dragon at least half the time.

But I'd rather talk about my book than my neck, so...it's a historical romance with a (fictional) British general for a hero. The hero and heroine, Jack and Elizabeth, marry in 1804 to fulfill a deathbed promise and are soon separated by the demands of his military career. By the time they're reunited in early 1815, they've accumulated a long list of grievances against each other and wish they'd never married. Just as they're beginning to make their own peace, Jack is called back to war when Napoleon returns to power--only this time Elizabeth has no intention of remaining quietly behind in England.



In other words, I'm writing a Waterloo story. I think every Regency writer, at least those of us with even the tiniest degree of interest in the military side of the era, has one in her, and this is mine. Or possibly just my first.

Here's a brief excerpt for an early teaser--though keep in mind that the manuscript hasn't been edited yet, so this scene may or may not appear in the book itself. It's from the 1804 section of the story, where Jack is trying to explain his upcoming hasty marriage of convenience to his mother, who has early-onset senile dementia:

Jack paused in the doorway of his mother’s sitting room. It was a small chamber, warm and comfortably furnished but painfully neat. Years ago, her private rooms had been marked by the mild chaos of a busy woman, with baskets of mending, account-books and half-finished letters scattered here and there.

Mama sat at the window, paging through a book of engravings in the weak light of a gray morning. Before her mind had begun to go, she had been a creature of energy and alertness. If she sat during the day, she’d had a quill or needle in her hand. The only books she’d read were gothic novels—she’d claimed their horrors and thrills calmed the mind by contrast—and she had reserved them for the evening hours after her day’s work as mistress of Westerby Grange was done.

Seeing her so frail and faded broke Jack’s heart. How could Providence have been so cruel as to break such a fine mind, so vivid a soul? It would almost have been better if she had died, though Jack immediately sent up a guilty prayer assuring God he hadn’t meant it.

“Good morning, Mama,” he said gently.

She turned her head and peered at him out of gray eyes that had once been sharp and twinkling but had now grown soft, almost empty. She frowned. “Ned?”

“It’s Jack. Your younger son.” Her only child now—his older brother Ned had been killed in a riding accident shortly after Jack had gone into the army as an ensign of sixteen.

“Jack,” she said carefully. “You’ve grown so. I—I don’t remember.”

“It’s all right, Mama.” He sat in the chair opposite hers. “Do you remember Giles Hamilton?”

“Of course I do,” she snapped with a hint of her old spirit. “But you don’t. He died before you were born.”

Jack blinked in confusion of his own until he remembered that Giles had been named for his grandfather. “Never mind. I came to tell you I’m going to be married.”

“Married! You’re only a boy.”

What year was it in his mother’s mind? “I’m six-and-twenty, Mama. Full old enough to wed.”

She stared out the window. “Jack was such a sweet boy. Not so clever as Ned, and never could keep still, but he always had a smile on his face when he was a baby. Just like his father.”

Jack rubbed his eyes. He couldn’t conjure up a smile now. “The woman I’m marrying is named Elizabeth. Elizabeth Hamilton.”

“Giles had no daughter.”

“Not his daughter. His grandson’s widow. She will be here in a few days’ time, and she will look after you every day while I am in India.”

“India!”

“Yes, Mama. I must go, for my regiment is there.”

“Your regiment…”

“I’m in the army. A major now. You were so pleased when I got my first commission and came to show you my uniform.”

She shook her head. “Dick Armstrong’s doing. Didn’t raise sons to be food for powder, but your uncle was always filling your head with his tales of glory. What glory? Dick never won any...he helped lose the colonies.”

Jack bit his lip and looked away. Here was truth—Mama was past lying now—but she had made a convincing show of admiration ten years ago when he had appeared before her as a freshly-made ensign glorying in the splendor of a new red coat. “I love you, Mama,” he said at last. There seemed nothing else left to say.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

A Scandalous Proposition

Happy September everyone. This is the month when my latest baby, A Scandalous Proposition, sees the light of publication. This is another raunchy Regency that I had a lot of fun writing. Whipped cream and strawberries are involved but that’s all I’m saying on that subject!



Like I told you before in a previous blog – wake up at the back there; of course you remember! – my hero is a hunky major in the 95th Rifles, (Sharpie’s regiment), at home on furlough but all is not well in paradise. Out of the goodness of his heart, Adam rescues a beautiful woman from an awkward situation at an inn, only to discover that she’s a Spanish √©migr√© who acts as paid companion to his mother, the Dowager Duchess of Southsea, but also has connections to the local brothel, the hussy. Adam’s price for his silence? Well, he’s been celibate for a while and she is a beautiful woman, so he demands one wicked night in her company.
Florentina, of course, isn’t a courtesan and has no idea how to act the part, but she has to go along with Adam’s suggestion for fear that her true, far more noble, purpose might be exposed. Here’s how Adam figure’s out that she’s not a tart.

“Is something amiss?” she asked in a husky voice.
“No, nothing.”
“Then I don’t understand.”
“Perhaps I’m different to your usual customers. I have no wish to rush and, er…the way things stand, so to speak,” he said, waving a hand in the direction of his groin, “it will all be over in an instant unless I put distance between us. You’re a terrible tease, you know.”
“That’s why I get so well remunerated.”
“I dare say.”
He reseated himself and pulled her down beside him, draping an arm round her shoulders.
“Do you have much to do in the card rooms at Chamberleigh?” he asked.
Florentina knew that a number of gentlemen really did go there just to play cards. Since she herself had never set foot in those particular rooms, she was at a loss to know how to answer him.
“Only occasionally.”
Lord Fitzroy was looking at her with a slight frown. “Tell me, does old Witherington still favour backgammon?”
“Oh yes, he often challenges me to a game but is too good a player for me.”
To her mortification, he threw back his head and roared with laughter.
“What’s so funny?”
“You are, sweetheart.”
“And what’s so diverting about me?” she asked huffily.
“Nothing whatsoever.” He refilled their glasses, clinked his against hers and drank deeply, looking smugly satisfied.
“In spite of what you say, I believe you are disappointed in the duchess, my lord, and can’t bring yourself to look favourably upon me as a consequence.”
“Firstly, my name is Adam.” He placed three long fingers beneath her chin and lifted it until she was compelled to look directly into his eyes. “And secondly, you couldn’t be more wrong.” He was smiling again, his eyes containing a warmth she’d not seen in them before. And something else. If she hadn’t known better she’d have thought it was admiration. But she did know better. A great deal better. Not only was he rejecting her but he was also laughing at her. It was too humiliating for words. “I’m delighted to be rid of Philippa. I swear it on my mother’s life.”
“Oh, well then, in that case…Adam.” If he swore it on his mother’s life then it must be true. Emboldened by her use of his name, she touched his face, much as he’d touched hers a short time ago. She was determined, for some obscure reason, to rekindle his interest in her. Her fingers snagged on the bristles on his chin.
“I’m sorry. I ought to have shaved again this evening.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I dare say you’re used to such impediments in your profession.” The idea appeared to amuse him.
“Indeed, it’s an occupational hazard.”
He stretched his legs out before him, perfectly at his ease, which was a great deal more than could be said for her. “And what others problems do you encounter during the course of your work?”
“Well…you know. Er, that’s to say—”
“Yes?” His smile broadened as she desperately searched about for something amusing to say.
A hand came to rest on her silk-clad thigh, causing her to start and spill champagne over her hand. He gently smoothed the fabric with long sensuous sweeps of his fingers. The intense intimacy of his actions caused her skin to burn, even though several layers of fabric separated it from his direct touch.
“I dare say some of your gentlemen require a little encouragement in order to achieve satisfaction.” He spoke in a soft, seductive purr. “If they are of advanced years, that is.”
She nodded vigorously. “Yes, yes, you’re absolutely right. That’s exactly how it is.”
He took her hand and slowly, teasingly, his eyes not once leaving her face, licked the spilt champagne away. The gesture was so sensual that her entire body trembled with a deep-rooted yearning. He noticed, of course. His eyes gave him away. They darkened until they appeared almost black in the dim candlelight. He released her hand again, almost abruptly. “But what else, Mrs. Smith? What more do your gentlemen callers require of you?”
“Well, I really don’t think that I ought to betray their confidences.” She shook her head emphatically. “That would be most indiscreet.”
He offered her a disarming smile. “That it would, my sweet, that it would.”
His hand was again caressing her thigh and she heartily wished he would remove it. It was hard enough to play her part with him looming so close, tempting her, filling her mind with forbidden desires. When he touched her, the ability to think about anything other than the exquisite feel of his questing hands deserted her completely. She chanced a sideways glance at his profile as he continued to laugh at her expense and wondered what had brought about such a change in him. He was a different person from the one who’d been so insulting that morning. He was now lighthearted and chivalrous. The epitome of the well-mannered gentleman the dowager spoke of in such glowing terms.
He removed his hand from her thigh and slipped an arm ’round her shoulders again, pulling her close. Her senses were assailed by the combined aromas of sandalwood soap, horses and pure, stark masculinity. An aroma she already associated uniquely with him. His fingers were twined in a lock of hair that had fallen in front of her shoulder. He twisted it up into a tight knot, his knuckles brushing against her breast as he did so. Quicksilver rushed through her veins at this brief, accidental contact and she gasped aloud.
Adam laughed and dropped a featherlight kiss on her lips, clearly in no hurry to do anything more. She had thought she’d be grateful for any delay but now appeared to be the one who was in a tearing rush. She slipped a hand behind his neck and drew his head toward hers. He immediately pulled away.
So he really did mean to reject her. Florentina’s face burned scarlet with mortification.
A Scandalous Proposition available from Carina Press and Amazon.com from September 13.
Go to my website at http://www.wendysoliman.com where you can read the first chapter. If you enter the contest I’m running there you stand a chance of winning a copy of the book.
Good luck!
Wendy