Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Devil of Jedburgh has a cover!!

Raised on rumours of The Devil of Jedburgh, Breghan McAllen doesn't want an arranged marriage to the beast. The arrogant border laird is not the romantic, sophisticated husband Breghan dreams of—despite the heat he stirs within her.

In need of an heir, Arran has finally agreed to take a wife, but when he sees Breghan's fragile beauty, he's furious. He will not risk the life of another maiden by getting her with child. Lust prompts him to offer a compromise: necessary precautions, and handfasting for a year and a day, after which Breghan will be free.

For a chance to control her own future, Breghan makes a deal with the Devil. Passion quickly turns to love, but Arran still has no intention of keeping the lass, or making her a mother. He loves her too much to lose her.

But when a treasonous plot threatens queen and country, Breghan has to prove only she is woman enough to stand by his side.

Thank you, Millennium Promotions, for this stunning cover.

The Devil of Jedburgh releases 12 Feb 2012

Monday, 3 October 2011

Researching Fiction on Fiction

Our reading experience would be incredibly boring if writers only wrote what they knew. There may be the odd cop, neurosurgeon or serial killer who may be a dab hand at writing, but not enough to keep us reading on the edge of our seats on a permanent basis. Which means, most writers write what they don't know. Which means a whole lot of research.

And I've been thinking...

With my historical stories, I take research seriously. I tend to devour biographies of the period, read historical anals that have most fortunately been digitised in these times, and get my teeth into all sorts of other research material.

But with contemporaries, is it another matter? Now, it's all very well if you can go and live with the wolves for a year or have the time and clout to shadow a detective around for a year (Castle, I'm looking at you). I don't know of too many authors who have that kind of time, and I don't know of too many businesses that have a 'Bring your writer acquaintance in for the day' programs.

Which makes it kind of hard for the average writer to get real life experience. Of course, there's all kinds of serious research that can still be done, but it's just so much more fun to watch TV for research. So what if they get it wrong? Their millions of viewers don't seem to mind.

I somehow doubt any viable police force will allow a writer the kind of access to the offices, inside info and crime scenes that Richard Castle has on Castle.

I somehow doubt that many police forces rely on medical examiners to actually solve their case for them (Body of Proof) each and every time.

And I somehow doubt than many hospitals are as dysfunctional as Grey's Anatomy.

But that's just it... I somehow doubt, but I don't really, really know. And to be honest, I don't really care. Most of the shows would be boring as hell if they were realistic.

Which brings me back to the hot pickle question on my mind today. Do we want more realism in our books than we're prepared to laugh off in TV?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Release Day for Second-Guessing Fate

It's finally here. My romantic comedy, Second-Guessing Fate, releases today! I hope you'll stop by a while, check out the gorgeous cover, read the blurb and the first couple of chapters I've linked to in the excerpt.

Can she outwit fate?

Gemma is on a collision course with heartbreak. At least, according to the fortune-teller her best friend drags her to see. Gemma doesn't believe a word of it, but when other predictions start to come true, she begins to suspect that gorgeous, gray-eyed Nick is the man foretold to break her heart before she can find her soul mate. Too bad she's never met a man she's wanted more, because now she has to get him to dump her before she falls too hard.
Nick has plans of his own. He's ready to settle down with Ms. Right, and everything points to the beautiful Gemma. He's determined to prove to her that he's the perfect boyfriend—even if she does seem to be trying her best to scare him off…

Read an excerpt

Available from most places where ebooks are sold, including 

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Party is Over...

Thank you to everyone who came along to join in the fun and share your stories and preferences on heros and themes.

And so, without further ado, the party bags go to....

1) Shadow : You've won Second-Guessing Fate eBook + $20 (or £20 if in UK) Amazon gift voucher.

2) Rachael Johns : You've won Second-Guessing Fate eBook + $15 (or £15 if in UK) Amazon gift voucher.

3) Gina Rossi : You've won Second-Guessing Fate eBook

Please email me so I can send your prize and don't forget to specify your preference of ebook format and whether you're in the UK or USA for those who've won gift vouchers.
You can email me at... claire.robyns @ googlemail.com (without the spaces)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Pre-Launch Party! Fun! Giveaway!

Second-Guessing Fate releases on Monday and I've decided it's not too early to start celebrating with some giveaways. Let's party!!

I'm giving away 3 party bags:

1) Second-Guessing Fate eBook + $20 (or £20 if in UK) Amazon gift voucher so you can splash out on your favourite authors.

2) Second-Guessing Fate eBook + $15 (or £15 if in UK) Amazon gift voucher.

3) Second-Guessing Fate eBook

Can She Outwit Fate? 

Gemma is on a collision course with heartbreak. At least, according to the fortune-teller her best friend drags her to see. Gemma doesn't believe a word of it, but when other predictions start to come true, she begins to suspect that gorgeous, gray-eyed Nick is the man foretold to break her heart before she can find her soul mate. Too bad she's never met a man she's wanted more, because now she has to get him to dump her before she falls too hard.  Read more...

Party Games:
What's your favorite theme/trope in romance? eg Reunited lovers
Tall, Dark and Dangerous OR Blue-eyed Boy Nextdoor? Or something else entirely?
Truth and Dare: d. Think back to your first ever hand-holding boyfriend without giggling hysterically.
t. Who dumped who and can you remember why?

The giveway will be open until Saturday 24th morning (GMT) when winners will be announced. To participate, please just leave a comment (you don't have to play along with the party games) and don't forget to check back on Saturday to see if you've won - it's not always possible to track you down through your profile

Saturday, 17 September 2011

I'm versatile. Really, no lies...

I even got an award for it :) And, okay, I prolly don't deserve it (make that a definite) but I'm delighted to recieve the Versatile Blogger Award from  MC Rogerson Thank you!!

See? Isn't it nice and shiny and fun?

Now, to earn my reward, here's what I have to do:
1) Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post.
2) Share 7 things about yourself.
3) Pass this Award along to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it

Hmmm, 7 things about me...
1) I was born and grew up in South Africa, and managed to live in 3 of the 4 provinces there. I now live in the UK and have managed to live in 4 of the counties here - so far.

2) I have twin boys who take shifts to drive me crazy 24 hours a day, lol. I know I can't take all the credit for their existence, but they're my greatest achievement.

3) If there was ever an apocalypse, I'd stock up on chocolate. It's high on energy and contains the 5 basic food groups required for healthy survival. Seriously. You can trust me, I'm a writer.

4) I hate the cold. It seeps straight into my bones and kills my will to live. Snow is pretty, when viewed through the window of a log cabin with a roaring fire.

5) My husband proposed by secretly tossing the ring into the deep end of the pool and suggesting we go for a swim. It was the middle of winter. Did I? See point #4. He eventually had to explain why we had to go for a swim (right now!) and then I jumped right in :)

6) I'm petrified of spiders. There's no logic involved, I just am. If you wanted to keep me locked in a room, all you'd have to do is place one tiny spider between me and the door and you're set.

7) I'm a tech geek by day and a romance writer by night

And now for my reward, I get to pass the Versatile Blogger Award on to some awesome bloggers:

Judy Croome
Rebecca Emin
Maggie Fechner (Mommy's Always Write)
Wendy Soliman
Liz (Home is Where the Cat Is)
Lucy V Morgan

Thursday, 15 September 2011

This, That and Kindles

I had a good ol' laugh today at work. We have these interior swing doors that are surprisingly heavy to push. Anyhows, as I was about to swing through one, a colleague rushes up behind me to do the gentlemanly thing, he reaches past me to push the door open, and pushes, and pushes... I finally helped the poor guy out (and thanked him anyways) and wondered what he was hiding in those sleeves if it wasn't biceps!

Then I got home to find one of our kindles damaged, the screen streaked and blank and not turning on. Considering 2 of our kindles belong to 11 yr old boys, I guess it was only a matter of time. I've just phoned Amazon support and they wanted to know if it had gotten wet (no), if it had been dropped (no) or if pressure had been placed on the screen (um, 11 yr old boy, very likely, and I admitted to them that it was possible some tough love had been going on). No problem, without further ado, a brand new kindle is on it's way to me and I just have to return the damaged kindle within 40 days.

I know Amazon is our favourite big bad bear, but with customer support like that in a country where most other companies don't know the meaning of  'friendly support' , Amazon once again has my vote. In this instance, they really deserve this shout out. Thank you!!!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Do we judge characters too harshly?

I haven't people-watched for many years (this used to be favourite pasttime of mine). Last week we took the kids for a day out at Siam Park, a waterpark fashioned after Sun City's Valley of the Waves. So, the boys are now old enough to go about on their own, and I pulled up a deck chair at a bend along the river rapids... this is a long river/canal that snakes around the water park with various features at different intervals.

I enjoyed a couple of the water rides, but a large portion on my day was spent watching couples come by on their double-tubes and I was amazed at the different reactions. On the bend, spa-like jets bubbled from beneath. Reactions varied from giggles to squeals of 'Oh, God, this is divine' to shouts of 'Ugh, what's that!' and then those few with total bland expressions who didn't react whatsoever.

The flow of water on the bend pushed the tubes into the rocks. Usually, on the double-tubes, the women sit in front with their guys behind them. Some girls pulled their legs in, squealing, content to let the guy guide them to safety. Others took charge and kicked out a foot to push themselves away from the rocks. Some guys took the initiative, paddling furiously to steer clear of the rocks. Other guys were dozing, jerked awake at the last minute (by their other half's squeals) and helped out. Yet others did absolutely nothing. And some of the girls did nothing as well, and the tube went crashing into the rocks.

Fiction is fiction, yet it's supposed to reflect reallity to a certain extent, especially where characterisation is concerned. And all this people-gazing brought home to me that there are so many different personalities in the world, and yes, some of them really are too stupid to live.

And so, maybe, there is a place out there for all kinds of heros and heroines and not just the kick-ass, take charge, independant ones.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Read an excerpt from Second-Guessing Fate

Chapter One

     “It’s no longer about Wolford nylons and Agent Provocateur thongs, Gemma honey.” Helen arched a brow at her before turning her eyes back to the road. “It’s all about informed decision making.”
     “I can’t believe I let you drag me along.”
     “You agreed last night,” she said quickly, obviously afraid Gemma was about to dig her rubber soles in and back out.
     Wise woman.
     “Agree is a very strong term,” stalled Gemma.
     “What word would you use?” Helen shot her another look, the kind she probably used on her class during a pop quiz.
     “Decimate and coerce.”
     “That’s two.”
     “You fed me straight vodkas and then coerced me into this outrageous scheme. I was in no state to take responsibility for my mind.”
     “Was that before or after you grabbed my arm and hissed, ‘My biological clock is spinning, Helly, it’s spinning down like a bloody stopwatch on Viagra’?”
     “That’s my mother’s fault.”
     “I’m sensing a theme here.”
     “They raised me on good old-fashioned values—”
     “Your parents were workaholics.” Helen gave her such a long frown, they nearly sideswiped a heavy-duty truck off the bridge as they crossed over into Brooklyn.
     “Precisely.” Gemma was too accustomed to her friend’s driving to be overtly concerned with the near-miss. “So what’s up with them taking early retirement?”
     “Oh, honey, is this still about them buying that farmhouse in Tuscany instead of moving back out here?”
     “It’s a vineyard. That’s all Tuscany is, vineyards and potholed roads and a whole lot of nothing. And she tootled her fingers at me,” snapped Gemma in disgust. “When I pointed out that most people moved closer to their children when they retire and asked how she thought she’d have any kind of relationship with her grandchildren one day, she tootled her fingers at me. ‘We’ll pass that hurdle if it ever comes to it,’ she said. If…!”
     “She’s going through a post-midlife crisis. She retired to a country whose national pastime is four-hour siestas. The woman worked her life away and now she wants to make up for it double-time, instant grandchildren and all.”
     “Tootling. You forget the tootling and big fat IF.”
     “She was the editor-in-chief for Glossy Gals for twenty-odd years.” Helen cut a teetering left down a narrow street of broad-leaved trees and brownstones. “If there’s one thing your mother probably knows, it’s the inner workings of a modern city girl. Emotional blackmail became redundant in the nineties, but nothing makes a glossy gal charge for the finish line faster than suggesting she might not have what it takes to win.”
     “I wasn’t aware it was a race.”
     “Of course it’s a race, honey, a race to grab a man before the best ones are either taken or damaged. You had a late start, thanks to Simon.”
     “Simon was over five years ago,” groaned Gemma.
     “Simon may be history, but the bastard ate up most of your twenties. He promised you forever and did a one-eighty halfway up the aisle.”
     “Technically,” Gemma corrected with a smile, “he sent a text the night before.”
     “From Helsinki! You may have developed a stiff upper lip from all those years in London, but I don’t buy in to this crap about a stiff upper heart.” Her words were harsh, but Helen’s voice was butter-soft. “I haven’t even met the lowlife scum and I hate him more than you ever allowed yourself to.”
     “What was I supposed to do? Hold a grudge against the poor man because he changed his mind?” She’d done the next best thing. She’d put the Atlantic between herself and all that heartbreak. What happened in London, stays in London. A knee-jerk reaction, yes, but look how well it had turned out. “Simon and my wasted twenties are not the problem.”
     Sure, the pickings might have gotten slimmer now that she’d hit her thirties, but that didn’t mean she was desperate. That also didn’t mean some ancient woman with a fake turban, crooked nose and glass ball could do anything about it.
     “Thank God you realize there is a problem.”
     “It goes like this. You got me drunk and took advantage of my vulnerability.”
     Helen zipped into a parking space at full speed and slammed the brakes.
     “Jimmie Johnson called,” moaned Gemma as she unplucked her forehead from the dashboard and snapped loose the seat belt that had left a rubber burn at her shoulder. “He needs his mojo back for the Cup.”
     “Come on, grumpy, we’ve got a date with fate.”
     Gemma opened the passenger door and stepped out, gazing up at the imposing brown-brick block of loft apartments. “So, how much do fortune-tellers make these days? Oh right, that’d be a hundred dollars per half hour.”
     “You can’t put a price on love.”
     Gemma decided against asking if that price was tax deductible as she followed through a double set of glass-paneled doors, her sneakers and Helen’s Jimmy Choos reduced to anonymity on the plush wool carpet. If—and that was a big if—she was going to consider any of this mumbo jumbo seriously for a second, the question burning her back pocket was the future of Perfect Parties.
     Not that she had anything against finding love. Just like she had nothing against stilettos. But try wearing five-inch heels for twelve hours straight while rushing between a walk-in refrigerator and three rows of industrial ovens in a converted warehouse.
     Gemma hung back as Helen went up to the young man behind a state-of-the-art granite counter. The foyer was almost barren in that minimalist way that shouted dollar signs louder than a dozen antiques and Picasso-dotted walls. A black marble information board looming above the counter listed the residents.
With their occupations.
     Doctors, opticians, physiologists, psychologists... “Huh?”
     “What?” Helen handed over a pass card.
     Gemma clipped the card to her collar. “This is not a residential building, is it?”
     “Madame Hooch only takes clients at her office.”
     “Of course. With a name like that, who would’ve expected an ancient hook-nosed woman and a rusted caravan parked in a field of daisies?” Gemma muttered as they made their way to the elevator shaft. “Not me, that’s for sure.”
     Madame Hooch kept a suite of rooms on the third floor. Helen was ushered into Madame’s inner sanctuary first by a middle-aged assistant wearing gray slacks and a starched white top, who quickly returned to offer Gemma a cup of herbal tea.
     “A coffee would be great,” countered Gemma with a smile.
     “I’m afraid Madame Hooch doesn’t approve of artificial stimulants.”
     Madame Assistant went to perch behind her desk and Gemma flopped onto a nearby couch. She rested her head against the stuffed cushion, closed her eyes and thought of all the Starbucks coffees she could buy for a hundred dollars.
     Well, her father was always telling her to look toward the future and visualize her potential. He’d probably even approve of her paying someone else to do it for her. He was the ultimate champion of delegation.

     She’d never admit it to Helen, but by the time it was her turn to be ushered into Madame Hooch’s sanctuary, her inner skeptic had fled to a shadowed corner and her blood hummed ever so slightly. If Madame Hooch saw big things ahead for Perfect Parties, she could consider financing and expand. And if Madame wanted to throw a gorgeous man into the mix, Gemma wasn’t about to complain. How long had it been, anyway, since she’d last had a hot date?
     Twenty-five minutes later, Gemma had been dumped.
     She stared across the narrow desk at Madame Hooch, who was indeed ancient, with snow-white hair pulled into a tight bun—although her nose was arrow-straight. “Wait just a darn minute. I haven’t even met the guy yet and he dumps me?”
     “Eez a bad, bad time,” agreed Madame Hooch in her sorrowful tone. “Eet is—how you say—big achy heart.” She placed the Jack of Spades so it overlapped the King of Clubs and shook her head. “Eez a big love and the man, ah, he eez dark and so handsome, but—” she wagged a finger at Gemma, “—eez no good for you. He break your heart.”
     Gemma glanced from the deck of very normal-looking playing cards to the shelf behind Madame Hooch where an opaque glass egg nested on a bed of black velvet. “Maybe we should see what your crystal ball thinks?”
     With no indication that she’d heard, Madame Hooch turned over the next card. “Eez not all bad, no?”
     Apparently not. There was the inheritance she’d supposedly come into. Would be nice to know what that was and where it was hiding. Not to mention which family member had gone and died recently without her noticing. Then there was the big promotion. Funny, considering she was her own boss. All the standard rubbish and nothing, nothing at all about the prospects of Perfect Parties.
     “Aah,” exclaimed Madame Hooch suddenly, “now eez very good.”
     “You see something about Perfect Parties?” asked Gemma, eager again.
     Madame Hooch tapped a new card, the Nine of Hearts, and beamed a wrinkled smile at Gemma. “First the big breaky heart and then you find soul mate. How you say—tears before happy, no?” She turned another card, then deftly slid her hand over it and stood. “Time eez up. Goodbye.”
     “But what about that card?” asked Gemma suspiciously.
     “No card,” insisted Madame Hooch. “We finished.”
     “We’re not finished until you tell me what that Joker means.”
     “There eez no Joker.” Madame Hooch swept the cards into a stack and slipped them into her jacket pocket. “You come again soon. Goodbye now.”
     Gemma briefly considered tackling the woman to the ground and rooting through her pockets. If only Madame Hooch were fifty years younger.

Chapter Two

     “And then she kicked me out,” finished Gemma as the elevator pinged open on the ground floor. “I should demand my money back.”
     “Madame Hooch didn’t kick you out,” protested Helen. “I don’t know what you’re mad about. You’re about to come into an inheritance and meet a gorgeous guy—”
     “Who dumps me.” Gemma stormed out the glass door. “And that inheritance thing has already happened, wouldn’t you know, without me being a single dime richer that I know about.”
     As she hit the sidewalk, a shiver crawled down her spine, setting the skin on her forearms tingling with goose bumps despite the late summer sun. Hopefully it was the last of Madame Hooch and her ridiculous predictions vacating her body as she left the building. But it felt as if the ice had wrapped around her bones and seeped into her veins.
     “Phsst.” Helen came up beside her. “I’m talking about the man who comes after that loser, honey. You know—” she tapped Gemma’s arm with a manicured nail, “—some people might appreciate the advance warning.”
     “Some people,” agreed Gemma succinctly, then turned on Helen with a growl. “Maybe those people who hadn’t been tossed out on their butt before learning what that Joker meant.”
     “Joker?” Helen glanced up from digging in her bag for the keys. “There’s not supposed to be any Jokers in her pack.”
     “If Madame Hooch bothered with real tarot cards, there wouldn’t be. But she doesn’t and there was.”
     At the car, Gemma crossed her arms, rubbing hard for warmth while she watched Helen staring at her car keys. “You okay?”
     “Yeah…fine.” Helen held out the keys. “Um, Gemma? Why don’t you drive us home?”
     “I don’t have a license to drive a stick shift.”
     “For goodness’ sake, you don’t need a special license.”
     “Which is exactly what’s so wrong with the system.” Gemma frowned. Helen wasn’t one to hand her keys over to anyone, not even to Frank, who had the keys to everything else, including her heart. “Want to tell me what’s really going on here?”
     “Madame Hooch saw a black cloud hanging over my car.”
     Gemma laughed. “Probably while she was leaning out the window to watch you park.”
     “This isn’t funny.” Helen pushed the keys into her hand. “I’ve been seeing Madame Hooch for years now and she’s never wrong.”
     What wasn’t funny, thought Gemma, was how much that Joker still irritated her. If you were going to run a fancy scam shop, at least do it right. “So what, then? You’re never going to drive again?”
     “Madame Hooch said the cloud should be gone by the end of the day.”
     Before she could help herself, Gemma’s eyes turned up to the pale, blue sky above the Beetle. She snapped her gaze downward, beeped open the car and climbed in at the passenger side. There was a principle at stake here, a point to be proven.
     A full five minutes later, Helen slumped in behind the wheel. “If anything happens, it’s your fault.”
     “I can live with that.”
     Helen turned the key and launched them into the stream of traffic to the sound of a hundred blaring horns.
     Gemma slammed her palms to the dashboard and bit down hard on her lip. “One day, you’re going to get us killed.”
     “If you’re so scared, maybe you should drive.” Helen turned wide green eyes on her and made a pouting face.
     “Helen! Will you please watch the—” road. Rubber sideswiping metal screeched straight up her brain, then the Beetle swerved back into its own lane.
     “Oh God, oh God, oh God…” Helen slammed the brakes and almost got another car up their backside. The blast of an angry horn got her moving, jerking the Beetle to the side of the road with a twitchy foot on the gas pedal.
     “You okay?” asked Gemma.
     Helen nodded. Her pallor was a few shades lighter than its usual olive.
     Gemma put her head back against the headrest and did a mental checkup.
     Breathing. Check.
     Eyesight. Check.
     Memory. Madame Hooch and her damn predictions! Check.
     “We’re fine.” She brought her head up and glanced over her shoulder to check on the car they’d swerved up against. The silver Audi Roadster had pulled into a long loading bay across the road and reversed until he was almost directly opposite them. The dent they’d carved into the bodywork fractured the sunlight that gleamed smoothly across the rest of the polished car. But the door was opening, that had to be good. “We’re fine.”
     As was the man climbing out from behind the wheel. More than fine. He was tall, make that around six-foot-two tall, with broad shoulders beneath a tailored navy-blue suit. Thick waves of midnight-black hair framed his face in rough, uneven sweeps. Dark sunglasses hid his eyes but the rest of that face was pure rugged charm.
     He put a hand across his brow as if to squint at them, then turned to hunker beside his car.
     She must have sighed, because a moment later Helen asked, “You like?”
     “What’s not to like?”
     “This could work.” Helen waved a laminated card between them. “Because I’ve just discovered that my insurance expired two months ago.”
     “Your insurance has expired?” repeated Gemma dully. “How the hell did you let that happen? Did you see that car he’s driving? It’ll cost a month’s rent just to get the damage assessed and that—” she nudged her chin toward the rear window of the car, “—that does not look like a man who’d go to some backstreet garage.”
     “I know.” Helen was nibbling her lower lip. “I’ll have to pay in installments.”
     “Why would he agree to that without ratting on you! Do you know what they do to you for driving without insurance?”
     “This is where you come in.” She unsnapped her seat belt and shifted to face Gemma. “You’re going to charm the pants off him until he forgets his name, let alone this little scrape. By the time you’re done, he’ll think the installments were his idea.”
     “I’m going to—little scrape—pants off—” Gemma sucked in a deep breath and started over. “You crashed into him. You go charm his pants off.”
     “Frank will kill me.”
     “I won’t tell if you don’t.”
     Helen fluttered her lashes until a tear popped out. “I knew this would happen. Madame Hooch warned me and you refused to listen.”
     “Madame Hooch caused this! If you’d been a little more focused on the road and a little less focused on her stupid—”
     “You promised if anything happened, you’d accept the blame.” She fluttered a little harder to make her eyes shine with tears. “I’ve been with Frank eight years now, I’m totally rusty on flirt and charm technique.”
     “It’s like riding a bicycle!” But Gemma felt her resolve softening. “Besides, you’ve got the sexy factor.”
     “You’ve got the cute appeal. Come on, Gemma, men take one look at you and sign up for the Protect Gemma Corps.”
     Gemma made a gagging motion in response.
     “I’m not asking you to get hitched, honey. It’s just a date.”
     “Hang on one darn minute. So, when you say charm the pants off, you mean offer sex in exchange for favors?”
     “Of course not. But the man’s going to want something in return for being so nice about this little incident.” Helen flung open the car door and stepped out. Before closing it behind her, she dipped her head back inside to give a radiant smile. “A date, honey. Sex optional.”
     Gemma scooted from her seat to join Helen by the front bumper of the yellow Beetle. Her gaze settled on the man across the street, still hunched beside his car and examining the damage. “But, what if he isn’t single?”
     “Can we please deal with one problem at a time?”
     The man pushed to his feet and looked straight at them.
     “Go on.” Helen prodded her in the arm.
     There was a gap in the traffic, but Gemma’s feet were glued to the asphalt. What was she supposed to say to him? Excuse me, sir, my friend over there’s going to need six months to pay off the damage, but I’ll make it up to you by allowing you to buy me dinner.
     No date, she decided. A little pants charming, a lot of apologizing, a sprinkle of begging if need be, but that was it!
     She took the next gap and darted across the road.
     The man slid his sunglasses up his forehead to reveal silver-gray eyes. He was still a few feet away, but enough male magnetism radiated off him to curl her toes and melt the frost that had set in after leaving Madame Hooch’s building. She misjudged her speed and distance and almost ended up in his arms.
     He reached out, caught her by the shoulders and gazed down into her eyes. “You’re okay? Feeling dizzy?”
     “No, I mean yes—yes, I’m okay, and no, I’m not dizzy.”
     “You’re British?” His grin fed to the tiny wrinkles at his eyes and parts of Gemma’s body gave a collective sigh.
     When he released her shoulders, she stood back and breathed some steel into her spine. What was the matter with her? And how the hell was she going to charm the pants off this man without losing her panties in the process? That wasn’t going to happen. She did not trade sex for favors.
     What had they been talking about? Oh, yeah… She shrugged and nodded. The long answer wasn’t exactly roadside chatter material. “I live here now.”
     A quick glance over her shoulder showed Helen leaning against her car with folded arms. Huh. Somewhere down the line, her friend was going to owe her big.
     Gemma pasted on an expression that, hopefully, contained the right balance of apology and wide-eyed innocence and walked around the man to assess the damage. Of the car, that was. His elegantly clad legs hinted at athletic muscles, long and streamlined but with enough bulk to fit his suit pants.
     “We should probably swap insurance details,” came a husky drawl.
     She zapped her eyes from his legs to the cracked paint of the horizontal dent that stretched the full width of the car door.
     Gemma stood up straighter and pushed out what little she had. Her finger trailed the dent as she looked up into his eyes. “Thank God it’s just a little—” she gulped hard as jagged metal snagged her finger, “—scratch.”
     Her eyes watered with the pain.
     He brought his hand up to brush beneath her one eye with the pad of his thumb, then the other, his gaze never leaving hers. “Please, there’s no need to cry.”
     “I’m sorry—” Her brain buzzed with this sudden turn. “It’s all a bit much. I can’t really think now. Did you say insurance? I suppose we… I’ve never had an accident before, this has never—”
     His thumb slid down her cheek and away. “You’re in shock.”
     “Yes! Yes, I’m in shock. Maybe I could take your number and give you a call later. When I-I’m no longer, um, in shock? If you get the damage assessed first and it’s not too bad, I could pay it off in installments rather than getting the insurance involved? I can barely afford the premiums as it is.”
     He looked at her, the silence stretching until she was convinced he’d conned onto her. Then a grin tucked up the left side of his mouth. “Tell you what, why don’t you have dinner with me tonight and we’ll sort everything out then.”
     Gemma widened her eyes on him. No. No…she’d already decided against this.

     Nick Delaney blotted out the gorgeous, lilting voice so he could think straight for a second. Staring into those wide hazel eyes was a damn distraction, but he seemed to have difficulty looking away. That little beauty mark on the wing of her left eyebrow moved with the changing expressions on her face—he wondered where it’d sit when he—
     Had he really just asked her out? Hot damn, he hadn’t just suggested that a strong arm and a nice dinner would make all her troubles magically disappear, had he? He didn’t do that kind of thing anymore. She wasn’t even his type, too blonde and too cute. Dead broke too, apparently. For a moment, he’d thought      she’d been faking those tears.
     His gaze rested on that lower lip of hers, then traveled up to the erotic beauty mark that had him reassessing his priorities yet again. “Why don’t we do the dinner tonight and forget about this unfortunate incident altogether?”
     “I’d love to have dinner with you.” The worry in her eyes cleared. “But I insist on covering the repair costs.”
     He shrugged. “As you said, it’s just a scratch. No need to tangle ourselves up in red tape or monthly payments. I’m Nick, by the way.”
     “Gemma.” Her accent softened the vowels and rolled the name off the tip of her tongue. She held out a hand and he took it, shaking firmly but not letting go when he should have.
     He couldn’t. He was drowning in her eyes and fighting off a thousand primal urges that had come on quicker than he could say, “Hot damn.” Nick didn’t have a single romantic bone in his body, he knew nothing about drowning in eyes and wasting time teasing his tongue around tantalizing beauty spots. Candice had made that clear to him when she’d slammed the door on her way out of his life last month.
     “You don’t understand the first thing about women!”
     “You never listen. You’re incapable of a two-way conversation.”
     “FYI, if you want something to drape over your bed at night and shove into the cupboard come morning, get yourself a quilted cover!”
     Then there was the coup de grâce. He’d been hanging out the window, his brain stupefied as he watched her climb into the cab, when she’d climbed back out to scream up at him. “You, Nicolas Delaney, are the missing link!”
     Yet, here he was. Drowning in hazel eyes and fighting off the urge to wrap this woman in his arms and promise her anything to wipe the tears from her eyes. There were other urges as well, ones that started low and didn’t make it up past his belt, but Nick had taken a long hard look at himself after Candice had left and was determined to reform his ways.
     Gemma slid her hand from his and smiled. “Tonight then?”
     He nodded.
     She’d already turned to leave when he remembered. “Wait.”
     She froze, then glanced over her shoulder.
     “Café Ital in Greenwich Village? Eight thirty?”
     “Oh.” She looked stumped, then added, “Café Ital, sure, see you there.”
     She crossed the road, leaving Nick staring after. What the hell was that?
     She wasn’t coming, that’s what. He didn’t need a psychic to know that he’d just been stood up in advance.

Published: 26 Sept 2011 
Can She Outwit Fate?

Gemma is on a collision course with heartbreak. At least, according to the fortune-teller her best friend drags her to see. Gemma doesn't believe a word of it, but when other predictions start to come true, she begins to suspect that gorgeous, gray-eyed Nick is the man foretold to break her heart before she can find her soul mate. Too bad she's never met a man she's wanted more, because now she has to get him to dump her before she falls too hard.

Nick has plans of his own. He's ready to settle down with Ms. Right, and everything points to the beautiful Gemma. He's determined to prove to her that he's the perfect boyfriend—even if she does seem to be trying her best to scare him off…
Available from most places ebooks are sold, including
Carina Press
Barnes and Noble
Books On Board

Monday, 29 August 2011

Juggling Bananas

Which seems more apt than oranges, considering I'm on an island that basically consists of a volcano and banana plantations and, as I've recently discovered, some really weird laws (it's illegal to swim in your pool after 8pm and you can only drive once you've turned 23)

I've got a heck load of online commitments, blog posts, etc for my September release, have just received edits for my February release and, somewhere inbetween, would like to keep the wip moving along. I know some authors have got this balance down just right, writing in the morning and edits in the afternoon and promo in the evening. Usually I'm good at multi-tasking, but generally not when it comes to writing, so this is going to be fun!

Not that I'm complaining, it's been my lifelong dream to have a wip wedged between a new release and edits on an upcoming release. Feels like I've got a career plan and that it's on track, now I just need to figure out how to execute it. Wish me luck :)

Friday, 26 August 2011

Dusting off the blog

Yes, I'm still on vacation, but I've gone one week with extremely limited on-line time and while it was a great catchup with reality, I'm back and I'm participating in Rachael Harrie's Third Writer's Platform-Building Campaign.
This promises to be a great way to meet other bloggers with similar interests and build social media friendships and there's still time to join if you're interested.
This is the first time I've done anything like this, but I'm really looking forward to build my blog's awareness a little as well as interacting with others out there in the writing world.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Loading up my Kindle

It's that time of the year again. We're off to Teneriffe on Friday for our summer vacation. That's two weeks of beach and sun, and two weeks of dedicated reading. Yummy!

So I'm loading up my kindle...

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Sweet as Sin by Inez Kelley
Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
Intertwined by Gena Showalter
Dead Iron: The Age of Steam by Devon Monk
Sex, Murder and a Double Latte by Kyra Davis
Boomerang Bride by Fiona Lowe

That should get me through the first week :)

This is the first holiday where everyone in the family has a kindle. My kids read almost as much as I do, so now I'm off to have some fun with all the extra packing space in our suitcases

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Keep it Complex, Simple

I've been hung up on the plot for my contemporary wip. Thinking I was going off on a tangent and making it all too complex, I've spent the last few days mulling over ways to simplify motivations and the backstory between heroine and hero.
But today I had a breakthrough- by introducing 2 new levels of complexity, everything fell into place and sorted itself else. Just a reminder that living life is complex, tangents come at you out of the blue from all angles all the time... it's a lot harder trying to simplify our character's lives than making them real 3D people with all the fears, faults and chaos of life

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Some Cover Loving

for my @CarinaPress September release. Second Guessing Fate is a romantic comedy, so I love the flirty feeling...

Can She Outwit Fate?

Gemma is on a collision course with heartbreak. At least, according to the fortune-teller her best friend drags her to see. Gemma doesn't believe a word of it, but when other predictions start to come true, she begins to suspect that gorgeous, gray-eyed Nick is the man foretold to break her heart before she can find her soul mate.

Too bad she's never met a man she's wanted more, because now she has to get him to dump her before she falls too hard.

Nick has plans of his own. He's ready to settle down with Ms. Right, and everything points to the beautiful Gemma. He's determined to prove to her that he's the perfect boyfriend—even if she does seem to be trying her best to scare him off…

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Regency Re-Enactment

Yesterday we went to Battle Proms at Highclere Castle, residency of the Earl of Carnarvon. BTW this is also where Downton Abbey is filmed.

Battle Proms is a combination of the usual proms in the park (orchestral music and fireworks) combined with a re-enactment of the Regency era

and the Peninsula Wars (calvary and cannons)

I didn't have my notebook with me, but I drank in all the details and loved every second

Photographs courtesy of David Valentyne

Friday, 22 July 2011

Those Big Bad Border Boys

We all love to hate to love us a bad boy... I'm blogging over at Romancing The Past today, please come visit

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

To Dream a Little Dream...

Ever dreamt about seeing your book turned into a movie? Well, I haven't given it much thought, I reckon I've got a far way to go. Or at least, not consciously. But apparently my subconscious mind's been having a field day with it.
Last night I had such a vivid dream... I turned on the telly and there was the trailer to one of my upcoming books (hasn't even been released yet, lol). The trailer opened with my book cover (which I haven't got a clue about yet) but apparently some hidden part of me thinks it's going to be green. The entire cover. Different shades of pale green. Because my heroine is running out of a tunnel, the green lights from the tunnel behind her, carrying her shoes in her hands and looking ever so slightly bedraggled.

And this isn't your normal movie trailer with scene flashes, it was more like a partial, starting at the beginning and playing for the first couple of chapters. Helen Mirren was in it, laughing her head off about something, and my heroine was Jennifer Lopez for some wierd reason. And after a few minutes, the story veered off into something like a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding which has absolutely nothing to do with my book. And then my dream went to bits with everyone in the tv room suddenly talking at the top of their voices and me going into an endless loop of yelling at them to keep quite and rewinding so I could watch, repeat, repeat, repeat, wake up!

Hmm, bet a therapist would have a field day with this...

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dancing In The Shadows Of Love

I'm delighted to have Judy Croome here, author of Dancing In The Shadows Of Love. This is one of my favourite books of 2011 and if you're looking for a read that explores the depths of love and friendships, then I'd definitely recommend this one for you.

Judy, tell us a little about yourself
I originally started writing romances and completed six full length romances. The last two both went through several rounds of editing with a major international romance publisher. One was finally turned down and, by the last set of edits for the second manuscript, I’d changed so much as a writer, that I made the decision to not pursue a career as a romance author. I just read them for relaxation now!
I still write about the human search for love, though, because Romantic Love is not the only type of love that exists. When I write now, I just approach the search for love from a different angle.

So what is Dancing in the Shadows of Love all about?

In the haunting “Dancing in the Shadows of Love,” three emotionally adrift women fight to heal their fractured worlds. Not everyone can be a hero. Or can they?

The story explores the sacrifices people make in the pursuit of a love that transcends everyday existence. Lulu’s quest, and that of Jamila and Zahra too, is to find the divine love that will fulfil their hopes and save their souls...if they can recognise the masks of those who seek to lead them astray.

You can watch the book trailer  or read an interview with me about the book  or read an interview with the cover artist Wenkidu or read chapter one.  I’m also currently building a dedicated blog which will provide book club questions, discussions of themes and other interesting titbits about the story.

Any other books in the works?

I’m currently finishing up an anthology of short stories to be released in 2012. That’s called “The Weight of a Feather and other stories”. I’m also feeling a build-up of inner pressure to start my next full length novel, which I’ve been brooding on for some time (I don’t outline or plan – I brood!)

Do you have a nickname?

Do you remember Dumbo, the Flying Elephant? Walt Disney created this cute little elephant with these HUGE ears. I often drift off into a world of my own and then, when I come back, I realise I’ve missed out on some interesting conversation and say, “What did I miss? What did I miss?’ It can be irritating. One day a friend said that, when I sit up all round eyes and big ears flapping, I reminded him of Dumbo. I was called Dumbo for a long time after that!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?

A bride! I was nuts about brides. Still am. And 2011 has been a feast of TV viewing for me with all the beautiful royal brides, especially South Africa’s own Charlene Whittstock who recently married Prince Albert of Monaco to become Princess Charlaine.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Right where I’m living now: Johannesburg, South Africa. Okay, perhaps I’d move to Stellenbosch in the Cape, so I can be near mountains and get out of the big city. But, South Africa is so vibrant, so full of hope and potential, it’s the only country I could ever imagine myself living in.

What was your favorite children's book?
Thomasina, by Paul Gallico. Thomasina was a cat, so there’s no real surprise there!

Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her short stories ‘Born Beneath a Balsamic Moon’ and ‘Heroes Day’ have been published in ITCH magazine. Other short fiction and poetry appeared in “Notes from Underground Anthology.” 
“Dancing in the Shadows of Love” is available as both a print and eBook from Amazon.com, and as an eBook from Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Let's Talk Books

Coming up with a spew of historical favourites took less than a minute. Whittling that list down to my top ten took a whole lot longer...

I'm over at Romancing the Past chatting about favourite historical reads. Please come on over and chat.

Monday, 20 June 2011

It's FREE BOOK WEEK at Carina Press!!!

Starting on June 20th, every weekday, all week, Carina is offering a spectacular title for free download. And when they say free, they mean ACTUALLY free. Not "sorta free", or "free with a $50 purchase" free, but actually, totally, no strings attached FREE! So, get thee to Carina press to download a free book every day! Here are the books being offered, and the links and promo codes for your free download:
Note for Kindle Users: Although Carina Press no longer has kindle format on the site, it's really easy to download a free copy of Calibre and convert from ePub to kindle format - a few extra steps but, hey, the books are free!!!

Monday's FREE BOOK is:
The Debutantes Dilemma by Elyse Mady
Just type in the promo code DEBUTANTEFREE at checkout

Tuesday's FREE BOOK is:
Demon's Fall by Karalynn Lee
Just type in the promo code DEMONFREE at checkout

Wednesday's FREE BOOK is:
The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell
Just type in the promo code TWISTEDFREE at checkout

Thursday's FREE BOOK is:
Blue Galaxy by Diane Dooley
Just type in the promo code GALAXYFREE at checkout

Friday's FREE BOOK is:
Friendly Fire by Megan Hart
Just type in the promo code FRIENDLYFREE at checkout

But wait, there's more! You can retweet and win! Follow @ChristineBell and @ElyseMady on Twitter and retweet any of their tweets that mention the hashtag #CarinaFree and you'll be entered to win the following fabulous prize pack:
An autographed print copy of "The Debutante's Dilemma" by Elyse Mady and an e-copy of her latest novel "Learning Curves"
Christine Bell's souped up RWA swag bag including Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale mug, magnet, romance trading cards and Carina Press coupon, and a bag of hershey kisses and any book off her backlist
A $25 Amazon Gift Card

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Authors are responsible to their readers...

...and not the other way round.

This is a controversial topic with regards to some issues, but I'm firmly glued to my seat on this one. Authors truly appreciate (and some of us desperately rely) on the wonderful way readers spread the word, but it is not the reader's responsibility to help us build and establish our careers.

I would never imply that an author should sell their soul with their book, but yes, I do believe that when a reader buys a book (and in some cases, many books) in a series, they're also buying into the promise of a satisfactory ending at some point and a reasonable expectation of the author finishing the series. The same can be said for TV series, but that's another topic all together.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Read an excerpt from Betrayed

Krayne Johnstone

     Krayne Johnstone set one foot inside the vaulted hall of Stirling Castle and came to an abrupt halt. “The air reeks foul in this place.”

     “’Tis no wonder, with all the maggot-infested rats swarming aboot,” retorted his cousin Adam, referring to the Littils, Armstrongs and Maxwells amongst the barons summoned to Stirling.

     “I’d sooner skewer the lot than share a pot of ale.” Krayne knew he was not alone in sentiment. All clans present were tried and sworn enemies.

     Adam shoved an elbow in his side. “Keep yerself ta me and shut off that hot temper. I dinna like this anymore than ye, but I’ll nae ignore our King Jamie and have his wrath scatter the Johnstones ta the wind with nae name nor land nor goods ta call their own.”

     Jamie’s fancy tables and polished silver flagons were more likely to be scattered, thought Krayne as a ruckus broke out between Johnnie Armstrong of Kilnockie and Sir Alexander Irvine.

     Fists came out and clans bounded together. No one dared to draw their sword. Pristine stewards drew up tight against the wall, clutching ledger books to their chests and gaping in horror. Jamie’s court was overrun with English, relics from his days in captivity and tagalongs that had followed his queen, Joan of Beaumont. They were a dour lot and unappreciative of the jolly Scottish ways.

     Krayne folded his arms and put his back to the wall, settling in to watch the brawl.

     King James I chose that moment to grace them with his presence. His flowing robes of crimson and ermine put shame to the travel-worn plaids of his hastily summoned barons. Tawny eyes, glowing a tiger’s fierce gold, appraised the scene and came to rest on the blood trickling from the Littil chief’s mouth. The fighting men froze midaction.

     “Go clean yourself, man,” he ordered, “afore I lose all patience.”

     Stewards scuttled from their corners, bodies untangled, and heads bowed down in shame.

     Jamie’s look scorched one baron to the next.

     “Right now he’s wishing he were back in England,” said Krayne in a low undertone.

     “Jamie might hanker aft the well-ordered court of King Henry,” muttered Adam from barely moving lips, “but ne’er forget he was a prisoner, a king denied his country.”

     “Well, he’s made up fer eighteen lost years of royal arrogance in the few months he’s been back.”

     The young king swept his gaze from one end of the receiving hall to the other, and then came to a rest on Adam Johnstone, chief of the Annandale Johnstones and his appointed warden of the West Marches.

     Jamie was not surprised to find the level-headed baron standing apart from the chaos. He nodded his gratification, then moved on to Krayne, Adam’s cousin and chosen heir to the chieftainship. Krayne was a laird in his own right, and stared him right back in the eye. Jamie couldn’t pull back from that penetrating gaze, feeling magnetised and trapped like a puny hare in the fierce show of loyalty and ancient-bred honour that radiated from the silvery grey stare of Wamphray’s laird.

     By St Andrew’s Holy Rood, now…now when I am the prey, I understand why they call him the Grey Wolf.

     Would that I, he sorely thought, command the honour of such a man.

     Knowing he could scarce claim one baron in his entire kingdom who would not openly plot and defy him, the king waved one arm across the room and recited his new parliamentary laws in a booming voice that echoed within the stone walls.

     “…that firm and sure peace… if any man presume to make war against another, he shall suffer the full penalties of the law… if any man presume to rebel against the king, he shall suffer pain of forfeiture of life, lands and goods… I will make the key keep the castle and the bracken bush keep the cow through all of Scotland…”

     “Christ’s truth,” muttered Krayne beneath his breath. “I’ve Johnstone ships full of wool decorating the Solway while Jamie herds us here for naught but another lecture.”

     Adam shut him up with a kick to the shin.

     “Throughout Scotland, from the highest crag to the lowest glen, from the Cheviot Hills to the MacDonald’s islands, my word will rule,” finished the king. “I will reward obedience and eradicate those who ignore my laws.”

     “Jamie is nae all bad,” Adam said much later as they trotted through the town of Stirling to join the ancient Roman Road.

     “Tell that ta Murdoch and Lennox.” Krayne spurred his horse faster as they left the cobbled streets behind.

     “Treason flows through their veins instead of blood. Jamie’s dungeon be exactly what the pair of them deserve.”

     “They’re still kin to the king,” noted Krayne dryly.

     Adam gave him a searching look. “’Twill serve a sharp reminder ta the rest of us.”

     “Ye have my word,” Krayne reassured his cousin. “I gave the order before I left Wamphray. No more moonlight riding fer my lads.”

     They rode hard for Annandale with their dozen moss-troopers at their back, stopping only once to rest the horses and then again at Moffat just as dawn was breaking. The parish of Johnstone bordered Wamphray, and the riders stayed together until the juncture of Wamphray Water with the Annan, where Adam rode west for Lochwood Tower and Krayne followed Wamphray Water home.

     On his approach, Old Giles raised the portcullis with a wary wave and Krayne galloped straight into the bailey…to find that all hell had broken loose.

Amber Jardin
     Amber fought against consciousness. She didn't want to be pulled from the sweet lull of darkness. Here, she didn’t have to struggle against walls crushing her lungs, horrid little monsters nibbling her flesh, nightmare visions of Stivin begging for help while she looked on helplessly.

     But she couldn’t stay. She was being dragged to the surface. Her lids opened sluggishly, then rounded wide and alert at the black-haired beast looming over her. Firelight glinted off steel and she would have screamed, but it felt as if her heart had jumped into her throat.

     “Dinna fear.” The oak-smoked burr eased the pitch of terror, enough so for her to recognise the beast as Krayne. He sheathed the blade and showed her the raven curl he’d hacked off. “I need this fer yer uncle.”

     Amber nodded, heart still throbbing against her ribcage, vaguely wondering if it was worth her time and effort to protest the futility of his actions once more. Then she became aware of her surroundings. “The pit… Where am I?”

     A ghost of a smile touched his lips. “I thought ye might be more comfortable here.”

     Relief bought him a return smile, but it didn’t last. Although the shock was gradually ebbing, the piercing silver of his eyes kept her blood high. She pressed a hand to her chest in a protective gesture, and gasped. Her eyes dipped, then shot straight up to his and froze.

     Where was her gown?

     What had he done?

     “Nothing yet.” Krayne answered the accusation in her eyes with a gravel-hard voice, then promptly spun about and strode away.

     Nothing yet. A shadow crossed her heart and chilled her blood. He will be back, and he won’t find me lying half-naked in bed.

     Krayne Johnstone might have saved her from the hell pit, but she wasn’t that grateful.

     He stopped and turned beneath the open archway that led into the adjoining chamber.

     What now?

     He was just standing there, looking at her. His jaw was so tightly clenched, she imagined she could hear his teeth crunch. The wolf looked ready to pounce.

     Wiping a hand across her forehead, Amber made a brave show of crumpling before his eyes, managing to pull the fur over her as she slumped down on the bed.

     “Christ.” He hurried back.

     “I’m fine,” she whispered, rolling her head away so she didn’t have to meet his eyes. “Please leave me. I fear that black pit has sapped my strength.” She turned a little to peer at him from beneath half-lidded eyes.

     “Rest.” The word rumbled warmly with concern.

     She closed her eyes and concentrated to slow her breathing. Finally she heard him move, the padded footfalls of his leather soles fading to silence, then a squeak as a door opened. Amber gave it a few more moments, then rolled onto her front and up on her elbows, glancing this way and that, but ready to drop into feigned slumber at the slightest sound.

     The bold stamp on the room and superb, if sparse, furnishings told her she was in the laird’s bed. The thick pelt of an exotic brown bear covered the window. Various forest creatures had given their fur to warm the stone floor. The bed was made from birch rather than pine, stained a rich brown and stood high off the ground. A sturdy chair and writing table of the same stained birch completed the decor.

     She lifted herself onto her knees, assured that it was now safe. This was her chance to escape to Spedlin and rescue Stivin, because a lock of her hair wasn’t going to do the job. If the Johnstone brothers would just refrain from tossing her over their shoulders and into pits long enough to actually hear—

     “The laird said ta help wi’ yer bath.” A sullen voice broke into her thoughts.

     Amber started, her gaze flicking to the arched doorway to see a robust woman of about two score years standing there. A halo of red-orange frizz escaped the braid draped across her shoulder to frame a rounded, ruddy face. Too late, Amber realised that she’d never heard the outer door squeak closed.

     The idea of bathing was fairy dust to her weary body and battered spirit, and almost worth postponing her escape for, but Amber wasn’t smiling yet. At Spedlin, a bath was a wooden barrel sectioned off by a thin sheet strung across a kitchen corner. She’d tried it once, and that was once too many. The only baths she’d since enjoyed were courtesy of the frigid stream or a quick rub down in her chamber.

     Muttering, “I’ve nae the time ta sit abou’ repeatin’ myself aw day,” the woman shook her head and disappeared from sight.

     Amber threw off the covers and slid from the bed. She peeked behind the bear fur, but found only a series of arrow slits in the stone wall that were too narrow to squeeze through. The bed itself was pushed up against an oak door and, though she held little hope, Amber tested the knob. It turned, but the door was either locked or jammed. The only way out, it seemed, was through the archway.

     The adjacent chamber was a living area. Two padded stools were arranged around a chess table. A set of chairs with wide seats, carved backs and sturdy arms graced the hearth. There was another table for more general use, tapestries on the walls and woven rugs to walk upon.

     When Amber’s gaze reached the far wall, she found what she was looking for. An opening as large as a door led to a stone rampart that could only be part of the battlement wall. The large tapestry usually covering it had been looped up by two hooks on either side, allowing the dwindling daylight in.

     The round-faced serving woman was on her knees with her back to the room, sorting through items on a low shelf. Amber would have to wait, and was more than happy to take that bath while doing so.

     She walked deeper into the room, saw a large chest against one wall and a good-sized metal tub tucked away in an alcove. The air above the tub shimmered from the rising heat. A lightness stole over her mood at the prospect of a decent hot bath and imminent freedom.

     The woman came back with a length of Johnstone plaid and a small vial that released the aroma of sun-kissed roses when a few drops were added to the bath water.

     Amber smiled with delight, and the woman’s scowl deepened. Shrugging a shoulder, Amber removed her shift and stepped into the tub. Pleasure cascaded over her skin as she slipped low into the warm, fragrant water.

     Turning a friendly grin to where the woman stood with crossed arms, Amber asked, “What is your name?”

     Muddy brown eyes gave her a long, sour look. “Isla.”

     “Do I know you?” Amber said, wondering what she’d done to earn the obvious disfavour. “Do you know me?”

     “I ken ye fer a Jardin.”

     Amber raised an eyebrow, waiting for more, but apparently the explanation was complete. She’d assumed the feuds and hate to be a singularly male pastime, as was the case in Cornwall, where women were insulated from the realities of war and seldom, if ever, came face to face with the enemy. A silly assumption, she acknowledged, considering her current hostage status.

     Her fingers trailed drops of water over her thighs and abdomen as she mused on the ridiculous notion of an English lady being held captive by a close neighbour. But then again, neither could she entertain the picture of any gentleman she’d grown up with executing a raid—on the lord next door, no less. It wasn’t just uncivilised, it was…words failed her and the small smile of amusement vanished.

     She looked inward, and it became personal.

     For the first time, Amber saw her capture as more than a huge obstacle preventing her from saving Stivin. There was the pit, then the glint of steel so close to her throat. She’d assumed that no one had any reason to actually kill her…

     A frown worked her brow and she nibbled her lower lip. She was a pawn, dragged from her home to be disposed of as the Johnstones saw fit. It mattered not if she were innocent or guilty of the great betrayal. No one was listening, no one cared. She was a possession, valuable enough to protect—for now. These were Stivin’s kin, but they’d been Jardin enemies for a half-score years or more. What would happen once they realised she was worth less than a crippled horse? What would they do when William Jardin rejected their terms of exchange?

     “Leave me,” Amber ordered.

     “I have nae wish ta be here, but the laird—”

     “Asked you to help me,” she finished. Amber sat up straight and met the brown glare defiantly, wondering if the dour Isla honestly thought she wanted to be here. “Then help me to bathe in private.”

     Isla didn’t need telling twice. She made a show of huffing and grumbling beneath her breath on the way out.

     Amber hurriedly dried off and tugged her shift over her head. It had been sheer folly on her part to insist over and over again how worthless she was.

     What was I thinking?

     That they’d apologise for the inconvenience and send me back to Spedlin with a farewell pat on the shoulder?

     She found her gown crumpled on the floor beside the bed. The rip all the way down the front was a reminder of Johnstone hospitality and how little her honour and dignity meant to these people. She dressed as best she could, pinching the bodice over her breasts with trembling fingers while she guided her feet into scuffed slippers.

     The wind whipped the open flaps of her gown about as she stepped onto the rampart, the chill evening air cutting ruthlessly through her shift. Crouching low and close to the battlement wall, she ran, keeping a keen ear on the occasional shout and sound below lest it escalate to a raised alarm. The broody sky abetted the waning daylight and she was thankful for the cover.

     Soon the walk broke away from the tower house and she was in the narrow passage dug along the top of the crenulated wall that enclosed the bailey. Approximately midway along the length of the bailey, Amber stopped and leant far over the side of the wall. The curtain wall had to be at least five or six men tall. Beyond that, the thickly wooded bog looked sinister with long shadows and the spongy ground of sphagnum mosses.

     Amber experienced a moment of doubt about getting across the morass. Not that it mattered, she thought irritably, for in order to do that, she first needed to find a way down from this impossible height.

     As soon as she pulled back from the edge, a blur of raised voices carried on the breeze. She couldn’t make out what was being said, but the direction it came from and the loud confusion set her heart racing.

     She stilled.

     She couldn’t go down and she wasn’t going back.

     Her knees went hollow, cramped from excess energy at the thought of just standing where she was, a hare already snared and awaiting a predetermined fate.

Available from most places where ebooks are sold, including

  Betrayed is now available in audible at audible.com

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

In Reading This Week

I've been a busy bookworm this week :)

Unlocked by Courtney Milan

This is my first CM read (and apparently her debut in self-publishing). This is novella, I read it in about 2 hrs, and loved every second of it. Years ago, the hero bullied the heroine - wasn't sure I could forgive him, but he totally redeems himself.

Isn't the cover lovely too?

South of Salem by Janni Nell

The lighter side of paranormal. This is the second book in the Allegra Fairweather series and I'm thoroughly enjoying these books. Can't wait to see if things get interesting with Casper (yes, he's a ghost)

Jimmy Coates: Killer by Joe Craig

Middle Grade
Since my boys each got their own kindle, we get some family reading fun and I get to (ahem) read-along with the kids. A few chapters in, this one looks okay. My 11yr olds are loving it!!!

Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey

Only a few chapters in, but already enjoying it as much as I did the first two. Very funny. Must admit, if I were Sean, I'd be freaked out (to the point of no turning back) with all those photoshopped photographs, lol