October 20, 2014

Deanna Raybourn's Night of a Thousand Stars - Excerpt and {Giveaway}


Excerpt

Chapter One

March 1920

“I say, if you’re running away from your wedding, you’re going about it quite wrong.”

I paused with my leg out the window, satin wedding gown hitched up above my knees. A layer of tulle floated over my face, obscuring my view. I shoved it aside to find a tall, bespectacled young man standing behind me. His expression was serious, but there was an unmistakable gleam in his eyes that was distinctly at odds with his clerical garb.

“Oh! Are you the curate? I know you can’t be the vicar. I met him last night at the rehearsal and he’s simply ancient. Looks like Methuselah’s godfather. You’re awfully young to be a priest, aren’t you?” I asked, narrowing my eyes at him.

“But I’m wearing a dog collar. I must be,” he protested. “And as I said, if you’re running away, you’ve gone about it quite stupidly.”

“I have not,” I returned hotly. “I managed to elude both my mother and my future mother-in-law, and if you think that was easy, I’d like to sell you a bridge in Brooklyn.”

“Brooklyn? Where on earth is that?”

I rolled my eyes heavenward. “New York. Where I live.”

“You can’t be American. You speak properly.”
“My parents are English and I was educated here—oh, criminy, I don’t have time for this!” I pushed my head out the window, but to my intense irritation, he pulled me back, his large hands gently crushing the puffed sleeves of my gown.

“You haven’t thought this through, have you? You can get out the window easily enough, but what then? You can’t exactly hop on the Underground dressed like that. And have you money for a cab?”

“I—” I snapped my mouth shut, thinking furiously. “No, I haven’t. I thought I’d just get away first and worry about the rest of it later.”
“As I said, not a very good plan. Where are you bound, anyway?”

I said nothing. My escape plan was not so much a plan as a desperate flight from the church as soon as I heard the organist warming up the Mendelssohn. I was beginning to see the flaw in that thinking thanks to the helpful curate. “Surely you don’t intend to go back to the hotel?” he went on. “All your friends and relations will go there straight away when they realise you’ve gone missing. And since your stepfather is Reginald Hammond—”

I brandished my bouquet at him, flowers snapping on their slender stems. “Don’t finish that sentence, I beg you. I know exactly what will happen if the newspapers get hold of the story. Fine. I need a place to lie low, and I have one, I think, but I will need a ride.” I stared him down. “Do you have a motorcar?”

He looked startled. “Well, yes, but—”

“Excellent. You can drive me.”

“See here, Miss Hammond, I don’t usually make a habit of helping runaway brides to abscond. After all, from what I hear Mr. Madderley is a perfectly nice fellow. You might be making a frightful mistake, and how would it look to the bishop if I aided and abetted—”

“Never mind!” I said irritably. I poked my head through the window again, and this time when he retrieved me he was almost smiling, although a slim line of worry still threaded between his brows.

“All right then, I surrender. Where are you going?”

I pointed in the direction I thought might be west. “To Devon.”

He raised his brows skyward. “You don’t ask for much, do you?”

“I’ll go on my own then,” I told him, setting my chin firmly. Exactly how, I had no idea, but I could always think of that later.

He seemed to be wrestling with something, but a sound at the door decided him. “Time to get on. My motorcar is parked just in the next street. I’ll drive you to Devon.”

I gave him what I hoped was a dazzling smile. “Oh, you are a lamb, the absolute bee’s knees!”

“No, I’m not. But we won’t quarrel about that now. I locked the door behind me but someone’s rattling the knob, and I give them about two minutes before they find the key. Out you go, Miss Hammond.”

Without a further word, he shoved me lightly through the window and I landed in the shrubbery. I smothered a few choice words as I bounced out of his way. He vaulted over the windowsill and landed on his feet—quite athletically for a clergyman.

“That was completely uncalled-for—” I began, furiously plucking leaves out of the veil.

He grabbed my hand and I stopped talking, as surprised by the gesture as the warmth of his hand.

“Come along, Miss Hammond. I think I hear your mother,” he said.

I gave a little shriek and began to run. At the last moment, I remembered the bouquet—a heavy, spidery affair of lilies and ivy that I detested. I flung it behind us, laughing as I ran.
“I shouldn’t have laughed,” I said mournfully. We were in the motorcar—a chic little affair painted a startling shade of bright blue—and the curate was weaving his way nimbly through the London traffic. He seemed to be listening with only half an ear.

“What was that?”
“I said I shouldn’t have laughed. I mean, I feel relieved, enormously so, if I’m honest, but then there’s Gerald. One does feel badly about Gerald.”

“Why? Will you break his heart?”

“What an absurd question,” I said, shoving aside the veil so I could look the curate fully in the face. “And what a rude one.” I lapsed into near-silence, muttering to myself as I unpicked the pins that held the veil in place. “I don’t know,” I said after a while. “I mean, Gerald is so guarded, so English, it’s impossible to tell. He might be gutted. But he might not. He’s just such a practical fellow—do you understand? Sometimes I had the feeling he had simply ticked me off a list.”

“A list?” The curate dodged the little motorcar around an idling lorry, causing a cart driver to abuse him loudly. He waved a vague apology and motored on. For a curate, he drove with considerable flair.

“Yes. You know—the list of things all proper English gentlemen are expected to do. Go to school, meet a suitable girl, get married, father an heir and a spare, shoot things, die quietly.”

“Sounds rather grim when you put it like that.”

“It is grim, literally so in Gerald’s case. He has a shooting lodge in Norfolk called Grimfield. It’s the most appalling house I’ve ever seen, like something out of a Brontë novel. I half expected to find a mad wife locked up in the attic or Heathcliff abusing someone in the stables.”

“Did you?”

“No, thank heaven. Nothing but furniture in the attic and horses in the stables. Rather disappointingly prosaic, as it happens. But the point is, men like Gerald have their lives already laid out for them in a tidy little pattern. And I’m, well, I’m simply not tidy.” I glanced at the interior of the motorcar. Books and discarded wellies fought for space with a spare overcoat and crumpled bits of greaseproof paper—the remains of many sandwich suppers, it seemed. “You’re untidy too, I’m glad to see. I always think a little disorder means a
creative mind. And I have dreams of my own, you know.” I paused then hurried on, hoping he wouldn’t think to ask what those dreams might be. I couldn’t explain them to him; I didn’t even understand them myself. “I realised with Gerald, my life would always take second place. I would be his wife, and eventually Viscountess Madderley, and then I would die. In the meantime I would open fêtes and have his children and perhaps hold a memorable dinner party or two, but what else? Nothing. I would have walked into that church today as Penelope Hammond and walked out as the Honourable Mrs. Gerald Madderley, and no one would have remembered me except as a footnote in the chronicles of the Madderley family.”

“Quite the existential crisis,” he said lightly. I nodded.

“Precisely. I’m very glad you understand these things.” I looked around again. “I don’t suppose you have a cigarette lying about anywhere? I'd very much like one.”

He gestured towards the glovebox and I helped myself. As soon as I opened it, an avalanche of business cards, tickets, receipts and even a prayer book fell out. I waved a slip of paper at him. “You haven’t paid your garage bill,” I told him. “Second notice.”

He smiled and pocketed the paper. “Slipped my mind. I’ll take care of it tomorrow.”

I shoveled the rest of the detritus back into the glovebox, and he produced a packet of matches. I lit a cigarette and settled back then gave a little shriek of dismay. “Heavens, where are my manners? I forgot to ask if you wanted one.”

He shook his head. “I don’t indulge.”

I cocked my head. “But you keep them around?”

“One never knows when they’ll be in demand,” he said. "How long have you had the habit?"

"Oh, I don't. It just seems the sort of thing a runaway bride ought to do. I'll be notorious now, you know."

I gave the unlit cigarette a sniff. "Heavens, that's foul. I think I shall have to find a different vice." I dropped the cigarette back into the packet.

He smiled but said nothing and we lapsed into a comfortable silence.

I studied him—from the unlined, rather noble brow to the shabby, oversized suit of clothes with the shiny knees and the unpolished shoes. There was something improbable about him, as if in looking at him one could add two and two and never make four. There was an occasional, just occasional, flash from his dark eyes that put me in mind of a buccaneer. He was broad-shouldered and athletic, but the spectacles and occupation hinted he was bookish.

There were other contradictions as well, I observed. Being a curate clearly didn’t pay well, but the car was mint. Perhaps he came from family money, I surmised. Or perhaps he had a secret gambling habit. I gave him a piercing look. “You don’t smoke. Do you have other vices? Secret sins? I adore secrets.”

Another fellow might have taken offence but he merely laughed. “None worth talking about. Besides, we were discussing you. Tell me,” he said, smoothly negotiating a roundabout and shooting the motorcar out onto the road towards Devon, “What prompted this examination of your feelings? It couldn’t be just the thought of marrying him. You’ve had months to accustom yourself to the notion of being the future Viscountess Madderley. Why bolt now?”

I hesitated, feeling my cheeks grow warm. “Well, I might as well tell you. You are a priest, after all. It would be nice to talk about it, and since you’re bound by the confessional, it would be perfectly safe to tell you because if you ever tell anyone you’ll be damned forever.”

His lips twitched as if he were suppressing a smile. “That isn’t exactly how it works, you know.”

I flapped a hand. “Close enough. I always had doubts about Gerald, if I’m honest. Ever since he asked me to dance at the Crichlows’ Christmas ball during the little season. He was just so staid, as if someone had washed him in starch rather than his clothes. But there were flashes of something more. Wit or kindness or gentleness, I suppose. Things I thought I could bring out in him.” I darted the curate a glance. “I see now how impossibly stupid that was. You can’t change a man. Not unless he wants changing, and what man wants changing? The closer the wedding got, the more nervous I became and I couldn’t imagine why I wasn’t entirely over the moon about marrying Gerald. And then my aunt sent me a book that made everything so clear.”

“What book?”

“Mrs. Stopes’ book, Married Love.”

“Oh, God.” He swerved and neatly corrected, but not before I gave him a searching look.

“I’ve shocked you.” Most people had heard of the book, but few had read it. It had been extensively banned for its forthright language and extremely modern—some would say indecent—ideas.

He hurried to reassure me. “No, no. Your aunt shocked me. I wouldn’t imagine most ladies would send an affianced bride such a book.”

“My aunt isn’t most ladies,” I said darkly. “She’s my father’s sister, and they’re all eccentric. They’re famous for it, and because they’re aristocrats, no one seems to mind. Of course, Mother nearly had an apoplexy when she found the book, but I’d already read it by that point, and I knew what I had to do.”

“And what was that?”

“I had to seduce Gerald.”

This time the curate clipped the edge of a kerb, bouncing us hard before he recovered himself and steered the motorcar back onto the road.

“I shocked you again,” I said sadly.

“Not in the slightest,” he assured me, his voice slightly strangled. He cleared his throat, adopting a distinctly paternal tone in spite of his youth. “Go on, child.”

“Well, it was rather more difficult to arrange than I’d expected. No one seems to want to leave you alone when you’re betrothed, which is rather silly because whatever you get up to can’t be all that bad because you’re with the person you’re going to be getting up to it with once you’re married, and it’s all right then. And isn’t it peculiar that just because a priest says a few words over your head, the thing that was sinful and wrong is suddenly perfectly all right? No offence to present company.”

“None taken. It does indeed give one pause for thought. You were saying?”

“Oh, the arrangements. Well, I couldn’t manage it until a fortnight ago. By that time I was fairly seething with impatience. I’m sorry—did you say something?”

“Not at all. It was the mental image of you seething with impatience. It was rather distracting.”

“Oh, I am sorry. Should we postpone this discussion for another time? When you’re not driving perhaps?”

“No, indeed. I promise you this is the most interesting discussion I’ve had in a very long while.”

“And you’re still not shocked?” I asked him. I was feeling a bit anxious on that point. I had a habit of engaging in what Mother called Inappropriate Conversation. The trouble was, I never realised I was doing it until after the fact. I was always far too busy enjoying myself.

“Not in the slightest. Continue—you were seething.”

“Yes, I was in an absolute fever, I was so anxious. We were invited to the Madderleys’ main estate in Kent—a sort of ‘getting to know you’ affair between the Madderleys and the Hammonds. It was very gracious of Gerald’s mother to suggest it, although now that I think about it, it wasn’t so much about the families getting to know one another as about the viscount and my stepfather discussing the drains and the roofs and how far my dowry would go to repairing it all.”

I stopped to finish unpinning the veil and pulled it free, tearing the lace a little in my haste. I shoved my hands through my hair, ruffling up my curls and giving a profound sigh. “Oh, that’s better! Pity about the veil. That’s Belgian lace, you know. Made by nuns, although why nuns should want to make bridal veils is beyond me. Anyway, the gentlemen were discussing the money my dowry would bring to the estate, and the ladies were going on about the children we were going to have and what would be expected of me as the future viscountess. Do you know Gerald’s mother even hired my lady’s maid? Masterman, frightful creature. I’m terrified of her—she’s so efficient and correct. Anyway, I suddenly realised that was going to be the rest of my life—doing what was perfectly proper at all times and bearing just the right number of children—and I was so bored with it all I nearly threw myself in front of a train like Anna Karenina just to be done with it. I couldn’t imagine actually living in that draughty great pile of stone, eating off the same china the Madderleys have been using since the time of Queen Anne. But I thought it would all be bearable if Gerald and I were
compatible in the Art of Love.”

“The Art of Love?”

“That’s what Mrs. Stopes called it in Married Love. She says that no matter what differences a couple might have in religion or politics or social customs, if they are compatible in the Art of Love, all may be adjusted.”

“I see.” He sounded strangled again.

“So, one night after everyone had retired, I crept to Gerald’s room and insisted we discover if we were mutually compatible.”

“And were you?

“No,” I said flatly. “I thought it was my fault at first. But I chose the date so carefully to make sure my sex-tide would be at its highest.”

“Your sex-tide?”

“Yes. Really, you ought to know these things if you mean to counsel your parishioners.

The achievement of perfect marital harmony only comes with an understanding of the sex-tides—the ebb and flow of a person’s desires and inclinations for physical pleasure.”

He cleared his throat lavishly. “Oh, the sex-tides. Of course.”

“In any event, Gerald and I were most definitely not compatible.” I paused then plunged on. “To begin with, he wouldn’t even take off his pyjamas when we were engaged in the Act of Love."

The curate’s lips twitched into a small smile. “Now that shocks me.”

“Doesn’t it? What sort of man wants a barrier of cloth between himself and the skin of his beloved? I have read the Song of Solomon, you know. It’s a very informative piece of literature and it was quite explicit with all the talk of breasts like twin fawns and eating of the secret honeycomb and honey. I presume you’ve read the Song of Solomon? It is in the Bible, after all.”

“It is,” he agreed. “Quite the most interesting book, if you ask me.” Again there was a flash of something wicked as he shot me a quick look. “So, was your betrothed a young god with legs like pillars of marble and a body like polished ivory?”
I pulled a face. “He was not. That was a very great disappointment, let me tell you. And then it was over with so quickly—I mean, I scarcely had time to get accustomed to the strangeness of it because, let’s be frank, there is something so frightfully silly about doing that, although you probably don’t know yourself, being a member of the clergy and all. But before I could quite get a handle on things, it was finished.”

“Finished?” he said, his hands tight on the steering wheel.

“Finished. At least, Gerald was,” I added sulkily. “He gave a great shudder and made an odd sort of squeaking sound.”

“Squeaking sound?”

“Yes.” I tipped my head, thinking. “Like a rabbit that’s just seen a fox. And then he rolled over and went to sleep just like that.”

“Philistine,” he pronounced.

“Then you do understand! How important the physical side of marriage is, I mean. Particularly with a husband like Gerald. One would need a satisfactory time in the bedroom to make up for—” I clapped a hand to my mouth. He smiled then, indulgently, and I dropped my hand, but I still felt abashed. “Oh, that was unkind. Gerald has many sterling attributes. Sterling,” I assured him.

Sterling is what one wants out of one’s silver. Not a husband,” he said mildly.

I sighed in contentment. “You are good at this. You understand. And you haven’t made me feel guilty over the sin of it, although you mustn’t tell anyone, but I don’t really believe in sin at all. I know that’s a wicked thing to say, but I think all God really expects is a little common sense and kindness out of us. Surely He’s too busy to keep a tally of all our misdeeds. That would make Him nothing more than a sort of junior clerk with a very important sense of Himself, wouldn’t it?”

“I suppose.”

“Oh, I know you can’t agree with me. You make your career on sin, just as much as anybody who sells liquor or naughty photographs. Sin is your bread and butter.”

“You have a unique way of looking at the world, Miss Hammond.”

“I think it’s because I’ve been so much on my own,” I told him after a moment. “I’ve had a lot of time to think things over.”
“Why have you been so much on your own?” he asked. His voice was gentler than it had been, and the air of perpetual amusement had been replaced by something kinder, and it seemed as if he were genuinely interested. It was a novel situation for me. Most people who wanted to talk to me did so because of my stepfather’s money.

“Oh, didn’t you know? Apparently it was a bit of a scandal at the time. It was in all the newspapers and of course they raked it all up again when I became engaged to Gerald. My parents divorced, and Mother took me to America when she left my father. I was an infant at the time, and apparently he let her take me because he knew it would utterly break her heart to leave me behind. He stayed in England and she went off to America We’re practically strangers, Father and I. He’s always been a bit of a sore spot to Mother, even though she did quite well out of it all. She married Mr. Hammond—Reginald. He’s a lovely man, but rather too interested in golf.”

“Lots of gentlemen play,” he remarked. His hands were relaxed again, and he opened the car up a little, guiding it expertly as we fairly flew down the road.

“Oh, Reginald doesn’t just play. He builds golf courses. Designing them amuses him, and after he made his millions in copper, he decided to travel around the world, building golf courses. Places like Florida, the Bahamas. He’s quite mad about the game—he even named his yacht the Gutta-Percha, even though no one uses gutta-percha balls anymore.”

He shook his head as if to clear it and I gave him a sympathetic look. “Do you need me to read maps or something? It must be fatiguing to drive all this way.”

“The conversation is keeping me entirely alert,” he promised.

“Oh, good. Where was I?”
“Reginald Hammond doesn’t have gutta-percha balls,” he replied solemnly. If he had been one of my half-brothers, I would have suspected him of making an indelicate joke, but his face was perfectly solemn.

“No one does,” I assured him. “Anyway, he’s a lovely man but he isn’t really my father. And when the twins came along, and then the boys, well, they had their own family, didn’t they? It was nothing to do with me.” I fell silent a moment then pressed on, adopting a firmly cheerful tone. “Still, it hasn’t been so bad. I thoroughly enjoyed coming back here to go to school, and I have found my father.”

“You’ve seen him?” he asked quickly.

“No. But I made some inquiries, and I know where he is. He’s a painter,” I told him. I was rather proud of the little bit of detection I had done to track him down. “We wrote letters for a while, but he travelled extensively—looking for subjects to paint, I suppose. He gave me a London address in Half Moon Street to send the letters, but he didn’t actually live there. You know, it’s quite sad, but I always felt so guilty when his letters came. Mother would take to her bed with a bottle of reviving tonic every time she saw his handwriting in the post. I didn’t dare ask to invite him to the wedding. She would have shrieked the house down, and
it did seem rather beastly to Reginald since he was paying for it. Still, it is peculiar to have an entire family I haven’t met. Some of them kept in touch—my Aunt Portia, for one. She sent me the copy of Married Love. When I came to England for the little season, I asked her where Father was. She promised not to tell him I’d asked, but she sent me his address. He has a house in Devon. He likes the light there, something about it being good for his work.”
“I see.”

“It’s very kind of you to drive me,” I said, suddenly feeling rather shy with this stranger to whom I had revealed entirely too much. “Oh!” I sat up very straight. “I don’t even know your name.”

“Sebastian. My name is Sebastian Cantrip.”

“Cantrip? That’s an odd name,” I told him.

“No odder than Penelope.”

I laughed. “It’s Greek, I think. My mother’s choice. She thought it sounded very elegant and educated. But my father called me Poppy.”

Sebastian slanted me a look. “It suits you better.”

“I think so, but when I was presented as a debutante, Mother insisted on calling me Penelope Hammond. Hammond isn’t my legal name, you know. It gave me quite a start to see the name on the invitations to the wedding. Mr. and Mrs. Reginald Hammond cordially invite you to the wedding of their daughter, Penelope Hammond. But I’m not Penelope Hammond, not really.” I lifted my chin towards the road rising before us. “I’m Poppy March.”

About the book
Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Harlequin MIRA
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction

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New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn returns with a Jazz Age tale of grand adventure…
On the verge of a stilted life as an aristocrat’s wife, Poppy Hammond does the only sensible thing—she flees the chapel in her wedding gown. Assisted by the handsome curate who calls himself Sebastian Cantrip, she spirits away to her estranged father’s quiet country village, pursued by the family she left in uproar. But when the dust of her broken engagement settles and Sebastian disappears under mysterious circumstances, Poppy discovers there is more to her hero than it seems.

With only her feisty lady’s maid for company, Poppy secures employment and travels incognita—east across the seas, chasing a hunch and the whisper of clues. Danger abounds beneath the canopies of the silken city, and Poppy finds herself in the perilous sights of those who will stop at nothing to recover a fabled ancient treasure. Torn between allegiance to her kindly employer and a dashing, shadowy figure, Poppy will risk it all as she attempts to unravel a much larger plan—one that stretches to the very heart of the British government, and one that could endanger everything, and everyone, that she holds dear.

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About the Author
A sixth-generation native Texan, Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio, where she met her college sweetheart. She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history. During summer vacation at the age of twenty-three, she wrote her first novel. After three years as a teacher, Deanna left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time.

Deanna Raybourn is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Lady Julia series, as well as, The Dead Travel Fast, A Spear of Summer Grass, and City of Jasmine.

For more information please visit Deanna Raybourn’s website and blog. You can also find her onFacebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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October 17, 2014

Andrea Zuvich's The Stuart Vampire - Guest Post


How strong was superstition and the belief in the supernatural in Restoration England?

It’s important to know the political situation of the country before we delve into matters of superstitious beliefs. The Restoration is named thus because it followed a period when England had abolished the monarchy and was a republic. This political experiment failed following Oliver Cromwell’s death and the monarchy was ‘restored’ in 1660 and the Stuarts were back on the throne. But in order to fully understand the superstitious beliefs of the Late Stuart era, it is very important to first become acquainted with the particulars surrounding the supernatural earlier in the century.

Witchcraft, particularly in the early 17th-century, was a very real concern for many people. This was a time in which people were much more attuned to nature and much more religious than many are in the 21st-century. There were several notable witch trials, including the Pendle Witches, the Samlesbury witches, both in 1612. Even King James wrote Daemonologie in 1597, in which James set out to prove that 'the assautes of Sathan are most certainly practized, & that the instrumentes thereof, merits most severly to be punished.’

The preface to Daemonologie begins as follows: “THE fearefull aboundinge at this time in this countrie, of these detestable slaues of the Deuill, the Witches or enchaunters, hath moved me (beloued reader) to dispatch in post”.

Yes, this was the same King James who commissioned the King James Bible, in which you’ll find:
Exodus 22:18 (KJV): 18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

It was this line that had a direct impact on many trials. But the concern over witches and daemons were by no means just a source of concern for the nobles. The self-proclaimed “Witchfinder-General” was one Matthew Hopkins, who was the author of The Discovery of Witches, which I used as a source when writing my witch trial scene. This fellow went around the country trying people for witchcraft using some really horrible methods. No one could really stop him because he was operating during the chaos of the English Civil Wars. Generally, if you were accused of witchcraft, you would die proving your innocence. I gave him a cameo in The Stuart Vampire because he was so genuinely frightening.

In the Restoration, the puritan influence, which had been so dominant in earlier decades, decreased and whilst the strong fears of witchcraft had reduced considerably, they had not altogether vanished. The most infamous late flare-up was the Salem Witch Trials, which occurred in the colonies in 1692. (On a side note, films often portray witches being burnt, but in the 17th-century, most ‘witches’ were hanged). If we consider a country from the top down, we’ll find that King Charles II was very different from his grandfather, James I. Charles was, in comparison, rather skeptical and not bogged down with thoughts of evil and daemons. I think this had a trickle-down effect at the time in England, and people started thinking more about enjoying
themselves. But even the rational Charles took part in touching for the King’s Evil - which was a very superstitious practice wherein it was believed the touch of a king could cure certain diseases, such as scrofula.

In writing historical fiction set in the 17th-century, it is my duty to portray the characters with ideas that would have been common at the time. What we can never do, looking back at these people, our ancestors, with our modern ideas, is judge them as being weird, backward, crazy, or ignorant.They believed they were right, as people always do.

The 17th-century as a whole was a period in history in which people seemed to have been rightened and confused. I say this because, on the one hand, they were thoroughly entrenched in superstition and deeply religious, but on the other hand, scientific endeavour was beginning to take off. In that century, we had Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, Cassini, Descartes and more. Newton was a very interesting person. He, as we all know, was a brilliant scientist and mathematician, but he believed in God as most people did then. To have great leaps in science and industry whilst simultaneously maintaining religious and superstitious beliefs must have been difficult for some people. One can only imagine what it must have been like.

About the book
Publication Date: October 31, 2013
Self-Published
eBook; 215p
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror/Paranormal

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Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, the youngest brother of King Charles II is a handsome man with sound principles. When the twenty-year-old prince contracts smallpox in 1660, however, his life takes a decidedly sinister turn. Obsessed with Henry from afar, Contessa Griselda di Cuorenero – one of the Devil’s concubines – turns him into a vampire and plunges him into the world of night. But Henry soon discovers that not all horrors are of the paranormal kind…

In the unnaturally close village of Coffin’s Bishop, Henry encounters a severely abused young woman – a woman who has suffered under humans who are more monstrous than vampires. Could love save them from the evil they have known? And at what cost?

Henry must choose between his humanity and his monstrous, insatiable desire for human blood.

From the author of “His Last Mistress,” The Stuart Vampire is a dark gothic tale in the vein of The Monk.
Praise for The Stuart Vampire
“An intriguing historical with a darkly gothic twist, I enjoyed The Stuart Vampire and would recommend it to anyone with a taste for period horror.” – Erin Davies.

“Once again Ms. Zuvich brings the setting to life, she paints a vivid picture of the Restoration period – intertwined with drama & romance.” – (Amazon Review)

“A great mix of historical fiction and vampires -what’s not to love?! I really enjoyed this book,I liked the unique blend of fact and fiction!
A fascinating time period anyway,with the added bonus of introducing vampires into the Stuart line it kept me hooked until the end! The author obviously knows her Stuart and 17th Century history and facts were woven in amongst the drama of a secret darker world of evil,all happening during the time of the plague in London.The book was full of great descriptions of this time,I could almost smell it!! Would definitely recommend this book.” – (Amazon Review)
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About the Author
Andrea (aka The Seventeenth Century Lady) is a 17th-century historian, historical consultant, and historical fiction authoress. His Last Mistress – a biographical fiction novella about the Duke of Monmouth and Lady Henrietta Wentworth was published by Endeavour Press, London in 2013. She received double BA degrees in History and Anthropology from the University of Central Florida, and continued her History studies with the University of Oxford and Princeton University. Zuvich has been filmed for NTR television in The Netherlands, talking about William III, and was recently on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour discussing Queen Anne. She was one of the original developers and leaders on The Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace, London. Zuvich lives in Windsor, England.

For more information please visit Andrea’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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Twitter Hashtag: #TheStuartVampireBlogTour #HistoricalFiction #Horror #Paranormal
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @@17thCenturyLady

October 15, 2014

Greg Michaels' The Secrets of Casanova - Guest Post


“Writing the Sexy”

(or “Channeling and Journaling”)


“THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA,” you say. “It must be one-hundred percent X-Rated. Casanova? Seductioneer! Fiendish heartbreaker. Why, even Merriam Webster uses ‘promiscuity’ and ‘unscrupulous lover’ to describe Casanova.”

“Well, I agree that seduction was often a preoccupation for Jacques Casanova but—“

“But what?”

“I’m not defending him but he did manage to do a few other things with his life. . .get a degree in law, study medicine, and early on—enter the priesthood. (Short-lived, as you might guess!) And yes, he was a charlatan, an author, a diplomat, duelist, spy, entrepreneur, a musician, gambler, librarian—and hold on, let me take a gander at my Casanova Action Figure—I actually own one (!)—he was also a soldier, alchemist, journalist, and cross-continent traveler (in a century when most people strayed less than ten miles from their home). In addition, the man achieved celebrity status throughout Europe when he escaped an inescapable prison in November, 1755.

“So you see, with my historical fiction I felt I had the luxury of being able to pick and choose from different parts of Casanova’s intriguing life. But back to the sexy, and to briefly digress, here’s a short example of how Casanova chose to write about his bedroom exploits: ‘Never have I undressed so quickly. Then it was her turn blindly to obey the promptings of instinct. She did not interrupt her transports and her ardors except to ask me if it was really true that I belonged to her. I spend two whole hours without ever separating from her. Her continual swoons made me immortal.’ If you ask me, a rather gentlemanly tone.

“Casanova writes about his romantic exploits in this way throughout his autobiography but, obviously, for my book, it had to be my voice. A voice that was authentic, one that would allow me to write vivid scenes, scenes that would keep the reader panting—and not laughing.

“It’s said that authors should write what they know. But what did I know about “...two whole hours...without ever separating”? About carnal gymnastics in a canopy bed? What first-hand experience did I have of
seducing a maid in a bathtub? How might I write a ménage a trois when I’d never done that, or even had that fantasy? (Yes, lots of guys do. I don’t.)

“Bottom line? To construct erotic scenarios for the most notorious womanizer in western civilization—Casanova—who was I to create exploits for this sensual connoisseur?

So, Dear Reader, here is the “Channeling and Journaling” Recipe that I ultimately adhered to when “writing the sexy.”

Step 1: Do thy homework. Tons of it. Read Casanova’s personal stories of romance and seduction. Flood your mind with his boudoir

Step 2: Go to bed. (Just to sleep, please.)

Step 3: While you sleep, let the “channeling” begin; trust that Big Forces in your brain are at work. (I love Stephen Stills line from the song “Southern Cross:” “Spirits are using me, larger voices callin’.”)

Step 4: Journal. Wake up and Journal! Even it’s the middle of the night, write down every single graphic detail, no matter how wacky, no matter how naïve, no matter how implausible the sexual position.

Step 5: Trust that you’re the best author to REWRITE and REFINE.

Step 6: Show your written work to a reader and ask: “Whatdaya think?"

Do the sex scenes elicit a snicker? Or is her face flushed, her eyes passionately plumped, and her hair on fire? There’s your answer. You passed the audition! You’ve written the sexy.

Some people might say that the sensual scenarios I dreamed up are strictly wishful thinking. I don’t think so. It’s just good, ol’ Mother Nature helping out a desperate author.

So the Channeling and Journaling Recipe is pretty simple, isn’t it? Just wish that method would allow me to write a whole novel. Maybe some night it will.

And maybe that’s already happened for you. Please, let this author know.


About the book
Publication Date: October 21, 2013
Booktrope Editions 
Formats: eBook Paperback; 334p
Genre: Historical Fiction


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2014 Nancy Pearl Award Winner for Fiction.

Loosely based on the life of Jacques Casanova, The Secrets of Casanova is a rich, lush novel of love, sex, family, ambition, intrigue, and adventure. Set in Paris of 1755, Casanova's luck is fading and his past is shoving up against his present with potentially disastrous consequences. What price must he pay to uncover a treasure of inestimable value? What hearts must he break along the way? Casanova's will and destiny collide again and again in this riveting historical fiction that brings to light a man of great passion and not a few secrets.

Praise for The Secrets of CasanovaA Shakespearean actor with a flair for the dramatic and a superb ear for dialogue, Michaels's debut novel puts a brilliantly original spin on an historical figure whose very name is a clich. This Casanova must wrestle not only with falling hopelessly and passionately in love, but embarking on a mysterious quest that is as much a spiritual awakening as a swashbuckling adventure. The Secrets of Casanova is so erotic and so sensitively written, I found it difficult to believe its author was a man. -Robin Maxwell, national best-selling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn

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About the Author03_Greg MichaelsAfter receiving his B.A. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, a chance experience thrust Greg into a career as a professional actor and fight director. To date he's acted in over fifty theater productions, more than forty television shows, and choreographed dozens of swordfights for stage and screen. In THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA, Greg again proves his skill at telling a theatrical story. He lives with his wife, two sons, and Andy the hamster.

For more information please visit Greg Michaels's website. Like The Secrets of Casanova Facebook Page. Follow Greg Michaels on Twitter.

The Secrets of Casanova Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 13
Review at Bookish

Tuesday, October 14
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at With Her Nose Stick in a Book
Spotlight & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, October 15
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Obsession

Thursday, October 16
Review & Interview at Carpe Librum
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry

Friday, October 17
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Monday, October 20
Review at A Book Geek
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 21
Review at A Bibliotaph's Reviews
Spotlight & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, October 22
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Review at Good Friends, Good Books and a Sleepy Conscience
Guest Post at Mina's Bookshelf

Thursday, October 23
Review at Beth's Book Reviews
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Friday, October 24
Review at Book Nerd
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Spotlight at Just One More Chapter

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October 14, 2014

Lauren Linwood's Music For My Soul - Spotlight and {Giveaway}


Publication Date: May 15, 2013
Soul Mate Publishing
Formats: eBook, Paperback
# of Pages: 282
Genre: Historical Romance

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As the third wife of an abusive French vineyard owner, Madeleine Bouchard hasn’t produced the expected heir after three years of marriage. Fearing he plans to kill her, she flees during a trip to England. Unable to make her way home, she joins a troupe of traveling mummers and reinvents herself as the only woman troubadour in the land, captivating audiences with both song and story.

Nobleman Garrett Montayne’s fascination with Madeleine causes him to pay the troupe to bypass their next stop in order to journey to his estate. Though he suspects Madeleine of being a thief with dark secrets, love blossoms between them under the magical moon of summer solstice.

But Madeleine’s past is about to catch up with her, as her husband is set to arrive to conduct business with Garrett. Madeleine determines to free herself from her loveless marriage and make a new life with Garrett, no matter what the cost.

Praise for Music For My Soul
“Told with humor, heartache, loveable characters and plenty of adventure, this is a story that grabs your attention from the first page and holds you captive until the very end. Much like real life, MUSIC FOR MY SOUL is a mixture of ups and downs along with a few surprises thrown in just to keep you on your toes.” -Romance Junkies, Reviewer Chrissy Dionne

“This story takes a wonderful turn into the seldom explored topic of the life of traveling mummers and musicians. Placing the heroine between the line of aristocracy and commonality is also a stroke of creative genius that makes for a delightful breath of fresh reading air! The characters are created and developed with a fine touch, making the story both believable and enjoyable.” -InD’tale Magazine, Reviewer Ruth Lynn Ritter

“This is a marvelous and intricate story of desperation, escape, finding love…also of forgiveness,mystery, danger, and righting old wrongs! The tale is incredibly well told with some humor as well as a building romance. The characters are loveable, some you can hate, and some are comic…a little bit of everything! Lauren Linwood is a wonderful writer with a fantastic imagination. I hope this is only the beginning of many wonderful tales. Believe me, it’s hard to put this one down. I found myself awake until the wee hours of the morning because I just had to know what was going to happen!” -The Reading Café, Reviewer Georgianna S


About the Author
Lauren Linwood became a teacher who wrote on the side to maintain her sanity in a sea of teenage hormones. Her romances use history as a backdrop to place her characters in extraordinary circumstances, where their intense desire and yearning for one another grow into the deep, tender, treasured gift of love.

Lauren, a native Texan, lives in a Dallas suburb with her family. An avid reader, moviegoer, and sports fan, she manages stress by alternating yoga with five mile walks. She is thinking about starting a support group for Pinterest and House Hunters addicts.

For more information please visit Lauren’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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Twitter Hashtag: #MusicForMySoulBlogTour #HistoricalRomance
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @LaurenLinwood

Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win an eBook copy of Music For My Soul (Open to U.S. entrants only)!
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October 09, 2014

Sandra Schwab's A Tangled Web - Spotlight


Publication Date: July 14, 2014
eBook; 104p
ASIN: B00LXU6EWE
Series: Allan’s Miscellany
Genre: Historical Romance

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Lawrence Pelham works as a comic artist for Allan’s Miscellany. A chance meeting with a young woman dressed in mourning changes Pel’s whole life, and without his even knowing, he is thrown into a world of mystery and intrigue, where nothing is as it seems to be—especially not the woman he has given his heart to.

Her whole life Sarah Browne has been told how plain she is, how nondescript, destined to become an old maid. For years she has been her family’s dutiful nursing maid and caretaker, but now a secret inheritance and an encounter with the charming Mr. Pelham seem to offer her a chance to break out of her life of duty and drudgery—if she dares to take it. Yet how could such an interesting, witty man like Mr. Pelham be possibly interested in her boring self?

And so, Sarah soon finds herself entangled in a web of lies and deceit, which might even cost her the love of her life.

Praise for A Tangled Web
“Once again [Schwab] weaves brilliantly researched historical details into a story that not only is irresistibly romantic, but also sparkles with wit. To top it off, she has come up with an enchanting couple that truly earns their happy ending.” ~ Tina Dick, LoveLetter

Praise for The Bride Prize
“The Bride Prize is, in a word, delightful. [...] I smiled for a long time when it was over. I cannot wait until the next installment in this series.” ~ Michelle Boule, www.wanderingeye.com
Allan’s Miscellany Series Titles
Book One: The Bride Prize
Book Two: Falling For a Scoundrel
Book Three: A Tangled Web
Book Four: Devil’s Return


About the Author
Award-winning author Sandra Schwab started writing her first novel when she was seven years old. Thirty-odd years later, telling stories is still her greatest passion, even though by now she has exchanged her pink fountain pen of old for a black computer keyboard. Since the release of her debut novel in 2005, she has enchanted readers worldwide with her unusual historical romances.

She holds a PhD in English literature and lives in Frankfurt am Main / Germany with a sketchbook, a sewing machine, and an ever-expanding library. Her new series about the fictional magazine Allan’s Miscellany combines her academic research on Victorian periodicals with her love for story-telling.

For more information please visit Sandra Schwab’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.


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Hashtags: #ATangledWebBlogTour #HistFic #HistoricalRomance
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @@ScribblingSandy