Hi friends! I met Ainsley Wynter in person at RWA this summer (it was her birthday!!!) and I’m thrilled to have her as a guest today! I hope you all give her a warm welcome – and congratulate her on her first book, Kissed at Midnight!
Princess Sidony of L’Ortagia serves as the queen’s hostess, leaving affairs of state to her sister Zara. During a masquerade ball, Sidony kisses a handsome stranger only to discover he’s Prince Adrian of Embury, a man with a fearsome reputation and the emissary sent to arrange her sister’s marriage. Worried her actions will damage the budding alliance, she convinces Adrian to forget the incident…even if she cannot.
Adrian roots out traitors in his uncle’s kingdom of Embury using his magical abilities. When he’s sent to arrange a wedding for his cousin, a kiss in the moonlight gives him a taste of what he’s been missing. Sidony is everything his life is not: laughter, warmth, and passion. But the king maintains an unbreakable hold over him, hiding his family in exchange for Adrian’s loyalty to the crown.
After Zara disappears on the eve of the royal wedding, Adrian’s orders are to stay and maintain the alliance with L’Ortagia. But Sidony’s effect on his powers and his heart becomes too strong to deny. When he has a chance to rescue his family and throw off his royal ties, will he take it, knowing he’ll have to leave Sidony? Or will the dark prince abandon his past to be with the one woman who brought his cold heart to life?
Kissed at Midnight: The First Scene I Wrote
Sidony knocked on Adrian’s door before she lost her nerve. She twirled one of her rings. She jumped at a rumbling in the hallway, but it was only one of the castle’s cats pausing on the rug to wash its face. Striving for a similar nonchalance, Sidony softly recited lines from the current play she was reading before knocking again. Still nothing. Surely at this late hour he was in his suite.
This is in chapter seventeen, but it was the first paragraph I wrote of Kissed at Midnight.
I write out of order. Lots of writers—I wish I had hard data on this but I don’t, sorry—tend to write their books in order, starting with scene one, chapter one, and ending with the last scene of the book. Plenty draft like I do, but if you want to horrify a group of writers, tell them you skip around when you write.
But I can’t write first drafts that way. I write the scenes that speak to me the most, that I’m the most excited about first. Then, I go back and fill in the rest. Often, these are transition scenes. Usually by the time I get to them I have an idea of what can make them more interesting. Thankfully, I draft my stories using Scrivener, a program that lets me keep track of where I am in the story. This helps me create a cohesive plot and fill in the gaps.
When I sat down to write Kissed at Midnight, I was actually standing in my kitchen. I was so excited. I had Adrian, my hero, and Sidony, my heroine, who I knew would be trapped together after Sidony’s sister, the bride, disappeared before her own wedding. Adrian and Sidony would be wary of each other, yet fiercely attracted to each other too. This is romance: that’s how it goes. 😉 I hadn’t quite figured out how they’d meet, but I wanted Sidony and Adrian to have a lot of secrets.
I also knew the setting would be a castle, surrounded by woods and a lake. It would be summertime, with warm days and nights. The era would be Georgian—think Marie Antoinette, the Enlightenment, and many revolutions on the horizon. “Reason” prevailed, but magic lurked everywhere, at least in the series I was drafting. I liked the juxtaposition of the two.
Initially, I thought I was writing more of a historical paranormal. Nowadays, the Regency and Victorian eras are the most popular time periods in historical romance. (I read and adore historical romance and love these eras.) The choice to push my story back a few decades was to bring something different to the table. The fashion alone is inspiring.
Okay, back to the first scene. At this point, before I started writing, I knew that Adrian would be a nocturne, a human born with magical abilities or powers. (Think X-Men.) Adrian’s power is the ability to expand his senses a few feet outside his body. It makes him a great spy. He’s not the only nocturne in the story though. But he’s possibly the most conflicted. His uncle, King Gracchus, uses Adrian to root out traitors in the kingdom. (Adrian and Sidony live in neighboring kingdoms. Her sister’s wedding was meant to unite the two kingdoms.) Part of why Gracchus orders Adrian to stay after the wedding is he wants him to find out what is going on in L’Ortagia. But Adrian is tired of working for his uncle.
For the past few days, Adrian met her early each morning in the new library. He trained while she read her book of plays. Unlike the first morning, when she’d held his shirt and they’d flirted, he was back to being distant. Polite but close-lipped. The shirt stayed on, and he kept to the opposite side of the library. No touching. It was utterly maddening.
Briefly, she’d worried his attraction to her had waned, but then she’d catch him staring at her. Lucia teased her mercilessly, saying she’d had no idea he was such a fine specimen of a man.
But Adrian was in retreat. In meetings and at court, he was reserved. She wanted to find a way to break that shell around him. He wouldn’t talk to her, never sought her out, aside from their early morning ritual.
Sidony hated it.
So, the first scene I wrote is when Sidony breaks Adrian out of the castle in the middle of the night. Since the castle is Sidony’s home, she’d know how to get around it, all the secret doors, and the guards’ schedules.
As the younger sibling, Sidony had less pressure on her shoulders than her older sister, the heir to the throne. She’s more fun-loving, a true extrovert who loves the arts, especially theater.
“Adrian, it’s me. Open the door.”
Here she was, done with loneliness and daydreaming about how he looked at her when he thought she couldn’t see. She was ready to go after what she wanted. Only he must be sleeping like the dead.
Sidony raised her hand to knock again. The latch rattled and the door opened.
Adrian stood before her dressed in breeches. His shirt was loose and untucked, his feet bare. He crossed his arms.
“I hope Lucia is around the corner.”
Her lady-in-waiting was thankfully asleep, but Sidony wasn’t going to admit that. Adrian clearly wasn’t going to make this easy.
“Hmm,” she said in response.
The cat from the hallway walked over, and Adrian opened the door a crack, letting the feline in. A spark of envy streaked across her chest.
“Did you need something, Your Highness?” He reached down to rub between the cat’s ears.
The cat purred loudly and strolled past him, curling a fluffy tail around his shin before disappearing into the room. Lucky puss.
“I’m breaking you out.”
He straightened at her words. A heartbeat passed, and she was certain hers was loud enough for him to count each pounding beat.
“Out of your rut, out of your routine. It’s called fun, Adrian. I’m going to show you some.”
His jaw dropped. He took a step back, shaking his head slowly.
“I’ve had a full day. How about tomorrow for your grand plan?” A dark piece of hair brushed over his forehead, and she flicked her thumb across her fingers, checking the urge to smooth it back. Or maybe pull more forward and mess him up a bit.
“Oh, no. Right now.” She looked down. Goodness, the man even had sexy toes. “Throw on some boots. We’re getting out of here.”
Adrian reluctantly agrees to accompany Sidony and they go for a late night swim.
I loved the idea of them doing something unexpected, but also normal and fun. Swimming at night has an intimacy to it that daytime swimming just doesn’t have.
“We’re walking along the beach?”
“We’re getting in the water. Please tell me you know how to swim.”
Adrian gaped at her, then sputtered, “Of course I can swim. I grew up in a fishing village.”
“Great. We’re getting in. Decide what clothing you are leaving on. And turn around, please. I didn’t bring a bathing costume.”
Adrian spun on his heel before he could find a reason not to. His cheeks flushed, and he imagined her undressing. He took his coat off, distracting himself so he wouldn’t use his powers to watch her.
Once they’re in the water, it frees them up to talk more openly with each other, and really face the attraction they’ve been fighting.
“I can handle a challenge.” The words slipped out. He wasn’t sure if he meant the challenge was coming out here or if the challenge was her scrap of clothing. “Thank you for this.” He meant it. Sidony knew just what he needed.
Her hair floated on the water around her, like the beckoning hands of a mermaid. She couldn’t be lovelier. Seeing her like this did something to him, to a place near the center of his chest, where he kept such sensibilities locked tight. He ducked his head into the lake as if he could wash off his reaction to her.
Straightening, he brushed water out of his eyes. She hadn’t moved. It hadn’t done him any good.
Whether it was the mystical lake, the moonlight, or the magic of *slight spoiler*, he didn’t stop himself from moving closer to her.
I hope you enjoyed reading these snippets from the first scene I wrote. They were SO MUCH FUN to write.
Knowing where Sidony and Adrian would go and how it would affect them helped me anchor the story. I wanted to keep the image of these two people, who, if the world would let them, would easily fall in love, the center focus. Unfortunately for them, all of the chaos and secrets, loyalties and betrayals mean that Sidony and Adrian have to earn that HEA. And they do. But you get a nice glimpse of what it could be like in this scene.
Thanks so much for visiting with us and sharing about Kissed at Midnight, Ainsley!
So everyone – what’d you think? If this piqued your interest, you can buy a copy of the book here! 😀