Happy sigh! I look forward to sharing Hanako and Skyler with you all!
With so much to look forward to and with the holiday season upon us, I'm giving away an autographed copy of NEVER TOO LATE on GoodReads to celebrate! Happy holidays!
When the letter informing Viscount Anthony Devin’s family of his untimely death arrived, his wife crumpled against their eldest son. Alexander Nathaniel Montgomery Archer Devin, stoic and stalwart, kept his mother from slumping to the floor and braced himself against her tears, her wails, her curses, and eventually her fists. Recognizing the tremendous responsibility that now fell on his shoulders, he quietly tried to hold her and his siblings together. If at any time during the customary year-long mourning period, his eyes burned or his spirit weakened to grief, he did not show it publicly. Instead, he was the anchor holding his family steady in a tumultuous sea of grief.
Even at 18, Alex bore his family responsibilities with aplomb and almost eerie maturity. It was Alex who made sure his secretary responded to every condolence the family received, when his mother could not get out of bed, could not speak to anyone other than her children, could not face daylight. It was Alex who made sure young Andrew promptly went back to Eton, using the convincing argument that it was what father would have wanted. It was Alex who made sure Amelia’s lessons continued to prepare her for coming out on schedule two years after their father’s passing.
It was Alex who, a week after the tragic letter arrived, accepted and identified his father’s body, along with his last worldly possessions. That very evening, he’d left the monogrammed handkerchief and leather-bound notebook on his mother’s bedside table, unsure whether they would raise her heart or sink her deeper into grief but certain that she would want them for herself. He put his father’s watch aside for Andrew and some postcards his father wrote but never mailed aside for Amelia. But the maps, some clearly drawn by his father’s hand, and the compass and the canteen, he’d wanted to throw into the fire. He wanted to see them destroyed, as much as they’d destroyed his family. It was a near thing…the flames licking up toward the parchment as he prepared to feed the maps into the library fireplace. But at the last moment, he found he couldn’t.
Having already taken on many estate duties during his father’s frequent travels, so-called “exploratory missions,” Alex now took on his father’s title and, to his chagrin, his father’s legacy. Well-meaning associates and acquaintances praised his father’s fearless sense of adventure and keen observation skills. “One of England's finest,” they said. “A model of British intrepidity,” they said. Despite himself, he could recall the many times in his youth that he’d stay up well past his bedtime night after night because a letter promised his father’s return. The many times he’d loiter along the lane anticipating a glimpse of his father’s horse. The many times he’d run at the man, larger than life, to grab at him fiercely, be hoisted up on his shoulders, and ride home triumphantly. He could also recall, just as many times, the crushing disappointment when later that week or even later that homecoming day he found out that his father was already planning another jaunt and that, yet again, he was too young to be part of it.
He could recall the joy in his mother’s eyes every time she welcomed Lord Devin home and the beseeching sadness she strove to hide whenever he took leave again.
His siblings inherited their father’s wanderlust. They’d sat rapt as his father told stories of exotic lands and peoples. They’d played pirates and taken to wandering the wooded grounds when they were old enough. As in love as they were with their father, both Amelia and Andrew loved the world he brought to them and showed every sign that they would seek it for themselves as soon as they were able.
But he, now Viscount Devin, knew the dangers of such selfish and reckless desires. Everyone else celebrated his father’s wanderlust, as if it were something to emulate. Diving off Japanese cliffs. Tracing South American rivers. Spelunking in Indian caves. As if falling to your death, a misstep while copying supposedly ancient cave drawings, was somehow noble and advantageous. Leaving a distraught wife and three impressionable children behind. Well, two impressionable children…he himself was hardly a child. Nor was he impressed by his father’s bravado. And he’d known, for several years and with absolute certainty, that such a letter would eventually come, that his father would perish in some awful way far from home and leave them shattered.
From the moment he’d held the actual letter in his hands and read the words he’d predicted, he also knew one more thing without a doubt. He would never be his father. He would never indulge his own petty and self-centered desires at the expense of his family. He would never abandon them luxuriate in worldly excursions. He would never sacrifice them for some silly fantastical quest. He wouldn’t risk his life trivially. He would remain the bedrock upon which his mother and siblings could rebuild their lives.
He would be steadfast, tenable…present. His loved ones would never have to question his loyalty or his reliability…or his whereabouts. He would never allow his attention to be diverted from his family, and he would do anything…anything…to protect them.
|Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
ZM—Finally, what question do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?Astute visitors noticed that I didn't actually answer those questions. Oops!
Amara—Ooh, what a great question. Keep in mind that I’m very new to this and haven’t had many interviews! Plus, I’m virtually incapable of providing quick and easy responses. So here are a few interview questions I’d enjoy responding to: How would you respond to people who categorize romance as “mommy porn”? What’s been most surprising to you in the publishing process? What tips would you have for other aspiring writers?
I've heard romance referred to as "mommy porn" and "housewife porn," and my primary reaction these days is amusement. I've only ever heard the terms used by people who don't read romances and who have a general set of (usually unflattering) assumptions about the entire genre.
More than one close friend of mine was floored when I revealed I'm writing historical romance, and their common admission has been that they thought romances were just sex scenes with minimal plot linking them together. But they've been pleasantly surprised that NTL isn't like that (or at least that's what they've said <g>). And really there's a wide continuum of "heat" in romance...from inspirational and "clean" romances to erotic romance (I think 50 Shades is on the erotic end of the continuum). I haven't seen the "grey babies" news yer (just saw a quick mention on Twitter), but I guess enjoyment of a book can take many forms.
I suppose one serious note I would have about the "porn" terms is that the intention of porn seems to be titillation and sexual pleasure, but I don't think romance writers are generall aiming for that. Their intent is to write a good love story with a happy ending ( and it frequently but not always includes some sexy scenes).
Overall, though...amusement. <bg>
She backed away from him yet again, looking like a frightened doe. When she looked toward the large windows, he suspected she was trying to gauge whether she could safely drop to the ground if she went through one of them. When he reached his hand out to touch her face, he caught the faintest twitch of a grimace and stopped. She looked sad and worn. And he had done this to her.
“Every word, every touch, every—” Her voice broke. “It's all corrupted. Every memory is tainted with betrayal—mine as much as yours. It's all ruined, and I can't bear it. I believe it would be best for me to leave now,” she said quietly, barely above a whisper.
“I'm afraid I must insist, Lord Devin.” Then he heard it. The barely controlled quavering in her voice. She was broken, and she didn't want him to see how severely.
“Listen to me—” he tried again.
She brought her eyes to meet his.
“Please,” she said. “I beg of you. Just leave me be.” He couldn't ignore how much it cost her. The Nora he had come to know never begged, not even in jest. And he had done this to her.
She made her way toward the back of the house, checking every window for a possible weak point of entry. To no avail. She slipped into the shadows and paused to reassess her plans. Finally, she accepted that she hadn’t been thinking clearly. Surely no one so despicable would make it easy for someone to slip into their lair. They would be stealthy and protective; she needed to think more like them. After some quick thought, she decided to pass herself off as a poor, desperate widow willing to do anything for quick funds. She would simply go up to the front door and beg for employment. She rearranged her clothing to look a bit more disheveled and took a deep steadying breath.Next week, I'll provide more detailed information about my upcoming online appearances in celebration of Never Too Late's release, including some of the topics I'll be talking about and giveaways I'll be doing.
Just as she was about to emerge from the shadows, however, a large hand covered her mouth from behind and she was pulled back into a hedge behind the house.
“Is it the shop? I know the burglary is quite a shock. It's understandable, but those objects can be replaced. The shop can be renovated. You are safe, and that is the most important thing.”
You are safe, and that is the most important thing.
His words shot so directly to the target of her sorrow that fresh tears sprang to her eyes. His hand stroked tears away from the corners of her eyes.
“It's just,” she finally said, “been quite a day, as you said. Apparently, I am overwrought, and my mind runs away with me.”
"What is it?”
She answered his question with one of her own.
“What do you see when you look at me? Truly?”
"I see a woman. An enchanting, forthright, beautiful woman.”
“Such pretty words.” She would have scoffed if she had the energy.
“You don't believe me?”
“It's too easy. That's the kind of thing you could say to any girl to make her moon-eyed. What do you see when you look at me?”
“Well, as astounding as this whole extravaganza seems to be,” Lady Devin interjected, “I would greatly appreciate a bit of fresh air.”
“Are you well, Lady Devin?” She took the other woman’s hand, noting her taut posture.
“It is nothing to speak of, Mrs. Duchamp.” Lady Devin lowered her voice. “This building. It gives me the sense of a birdcage. It may be a giant cage, but it is still a kind of prison.”
“This way, Mother.” Devin led the way with authority, dividing the crowd with his stature and purposeful stride. It was as if the world truly did bow to his whim.
When their little group returned to the dazzlingly massive Central Transept, however, a circus show was in full swing, drawing a wall of onlookers impenetrable even to the great Lord Devin. Colorful jugglers spun and crossed the floor in intricate patterns, attending only to the balls they tossed in the air. Dancers wove through their paths. And then, the main attraction drew all eyes toward the sky: a trio of tightrope walkers suspended high above the crowd made their way across an impossibly fine thread. Two of the walkers supported a bar between them, hooked in some way over their shoulders, while the third walker balanced above them on that bar. They stepped slowly but surely along the rope, which trembled from their movements.
“Can you persevere, Mother?”
“Of course, my dear.”
Still, Lady Devin’s pale skin had developed a fine misty sheen. Honoria gripped her hand, as if to transmit her own strength. She was distracted though by sharp gasps from the audience. She followed the eyes around her up to the tightrope, where one of the performers wobbled dangerously.
“What a foolhardy risk,” she said.
“That is the career they have chosen,” Lord Devin responded, his eyes likewise riveted above. “Presumably, they train regularly to maintain peak performance. They accept the risk.”
“I could never do something so dangerous.”
“Could you not? I wonder if you do not do so every day.”
She tore her eyes from the spectacle above to stare at him.
“Whatever could you mean by that? I don't put myself at risk.”
He looked at her fully.
“You are a single woman, running your shop and living on your own. Your fortunes could change at any moment. Sales run dry. A careless fire could leave you with nothing.” Damn it, woman, you spread truths people want to kill you for. Of course you put yourself at risk.
She replied as if she'd heard what he did not say. “One cannot live as a prisoner of fear. We do what we must because it is the right thing to do, because we could not conceive of living a life without it.”
The library was what one would expect of such a house, and Alex knew its secrets would be irresistible to a bibliophile like Mrs. Duchamp. Bookshelves lined three walls, ceiling to floor, and were completely full. Decorative paneled columns on each wall broke up the visual monotony. A writing desk and chair stood between the windows on the far wall, and a heavily upholstered settee sat askew in one corner. Two long tablelike display cases ran perpendicular to the windows. The room was lit only by sconces behind the desk.
“This is inappropriate, you know,” she said. Yet she appeared drawn to the nearest display case, captivated by the sight of leather and parchment. “You should not be here with me, unaccompanied, in a dark room, no matter what your mother said.”
When she described it like that, he could imagine all sorts of inappropriate reasons exactly why he should be here with her in this dark room, lit only by a few candles. It was also conveniently out of earshot from the evening's festivities. He could see her comment was an idle one, though; she made no move to open the door. She knew all too well this was a business matter between a lord and a merchant, best handled behind closed doors, just as everyone would perceive it. So he shifted his thoughts to business, particularly in light of her dark observations at dinner about the Featherbury deaths. He’d given the sample printed sheet from her shop to Withersby to demonstrate his meager progress. It was time for him to do more extensive archaeology of her professional work, but he had to do so delicately, or she’d startle and bolt like a cat.
“I did not think you would come this evening,” he admitted wryly, as he poured a brandy at one of the corner shelves. He offered the glass to her.
She gave a tight smile, shook her head, and said, “I was given to understand that I didn't have much choice.” She tilted her head as she added, “Very adroitly implied, I should say.”
“True, but you do not seem the type to cave to the demands of others.”
“I think we can agree there are those, whether lovers or friends, who we simply cannot live without,” Tennyson continued. “There are those who make our world. Oh, the world exists before them and possibly long after them, but their love gives us life and meaning and wholeness.”
Honoria felt painfully choked by this barrage of sentiments. Who talked like this at dinner? What struck her keenly was the quiet awareness that she had no such person, whether lover or friend. She knew her work held meaning, but could she truly say she lived? When her hand stole up instinctively to worry the button and lace that normally covered her neck, she was surprised to feel only bare skin. That notch, that warm, soft hollow at the base of her throat, reminded her sharply of the gown's low neckline.
Again, she felt a warm flush spread along her face and shoulders, along with a prickling sensation of being observed. Feigning casualness, she looked in the direction of Lord Devin, intending to focus just past him, at the doorway. Instead, she found herself caught in his dark, open gaze. He made no pretense of accidental or fleeting eye contact. Instead, the intensity of his expression deepened into an almost elemental entitlement. His eyes seemed focused on her hand, on the spot where her fingers touched her throat. She froze under that riveting stare, momentarily unable to breathe, unable to see anything in the room but him, unaware of anything or anyone else. When she recollected herself, she quickly moved her hand back down to the table. His eyes briefly tracked the motion and then lingered again at her neck before meeting her eyes. Something about him reminded her of Jupiter—the way the tabby would crouch, belly nearly brushing the floor, body contracted, just before springing on his prey, whether it was a hapless intruding mouse or a ball of dust. She was shaken and tried hard to mask her tumultuous emotions, but, from across a crowded table, he'd somehow established a commanding intimacy without even touching her. She knew she ought to feel offended by his presumptuousness, but that didn't help to quiet the hot licks of some undefined emotion skittering across her skin, particularly in areas caught by his eyes.
“Make the woman's acquaintance,” Mr. Withersby had said.
Well, I have certainly done that, Lord Devin thought. Upon entering, he hadn't expected to do more than scan the shop and get a general impression of its owner. Unobtrusive, subtle, distant. Instead, he'd become abruptly and intimately acquainted with her ample bosom before he even formally knew her name. Bloody hell, he'd thought as her body careened at him. He could still recall the faint scent of lilies that wafted from her. He could still feel the delicate weight of her in his arms. And on his skin.
“Investigate and neutralize,” Mr. Withersby had said.
Lord Devin still needed more time and information to comprehend why there would be a need to neutralize such a harmless, albeit lovely, matron. She might be able to convince customers to drop an extra penny or two they hadn’t planned to spend, but she was no threat to the future of British society.
Two days prior to the bookshop encounter, Lord Devin had found himself in the dark, smoky, heavily appointed office of Mr. Withersby, attorney-at-law. He abhorred this dank building, this increasingly seedy district, and this man, this sniveling excuse for a man whom he’d enabled to claw into the Devin family’s stronghold.
“You have a job for me?” he said as he barged into the office. He didn't care if Withersby was otherwise occupied, whether with client for business or, just as frequently, with some skirt for pleasure.
“No time for pleasantries today, Lord Devin? Have a seat.”
“I do not take kindly to being called like a dog, Withersby. You called; I came. I do not want to be here any longer than necessary.” He remained standing, glaring down his nose at the short, stout, spectacled solicitor, who resembled a woodchuck, with his beady eyes and pointy face.
“Quite right, milord.” Withersby stood and went to the mahogany sideboard to pour himself a brandy. He swirled the dark liquid in the tumbler. “I have a client who complains of a nuisance, and I want you to take care of it.”
“What kind of nuisance are we talking about, a thorn in the paw or a spear in the side?”
“Oh, to be sure, it's a mosquito, my good man.” He waved a hand around his head by way of illustration. “Tiny. Distracting. Mildly irritating. But it's proving annoyingly difficult to swat.”
If she hadn’t been dusting the reading nook so beloved by customers, young and old, Mrs. Honoria Duchamp, owner and proprietress of Evans Books, would not have heard the cruel comments about her from some society mum shepherding her daughter to matrimonial slaughter. Now it echoed in her mind: “Did you see that woman, Margaret? Did you? Take a close look at her and at this cramped, suffocating little shop. This is the best you can hope for if you don't marry well. Do you think that shriveled-up mouse of a woman wanted this menial life?” The mother’s sharp voice had grown shrill toward the end of this little speech. It just goes to show, she thought, nothing good can come of dusting.
If she hadn’t been feeling particularly content right then, the comments likely would have wafted through her mind with no more impact than a falling nettle in a forest, just one more lifeless wisp. This time, though, the cruel depiction of her as a cautionary tale sliced through her equilibrium. What she’d seen as enough was seen by others as cramped and suffocating. She felt small, her ambitions lacking. It felt almost true.
“You see, Margaret”— the mother’s voice cut through the bookshelf between them, interrupting her self-reflection—“do you see why I harp on you about finding a good match?”
“Yes, Mother.” Resigned flat tone. Honoria quirked her brow. Ah, yes, all too common a conversation in the advice section. She could almost picture the young lady; they always wore pale clothes, always wore their bonnets primly, always sported pristine white gloves that meant they couldn’t actually handle any of the books themselves, for fear of muss.
An older couple approached the register to purchase a stack of periodicals so she went to take care of them. The husband, all business, made pleasantries about the weather, but the wife, her plump figure swathed in gray worsted, looked with kind eyes at Honoria and reached out to pat her left hand while she wrote out the bill of sale with her right.
“Don't you take those careless words to heart, dearie.” The wife's touch was gentle, warm. “My niece lost her man in a railway accident two years ago, and with two little mouths to feed yet. She's remarried now to a kind older gentleman who wanted companionship. ’Course she's only one-and-twenty yet.”
4. What movie do you always watch when you find it on TV?
*ahem* *looks around* *sweeps away the dust bunnies and cobwebs* So...hi! It's apparently been quite a while since I last sa...