Tag Archives: New Release

Exclusive Excerpt: A Deep and Dark December by Beth Yarnall

Hi friends! So I’m out and about and you know how this past ~year+ has been … so I’ve got open spots in the calendar! (Which considering I used to schedule two years in advance only makes sense…) But that’s fantastic, because it means that we have something from Beth Yarnall today! As you see she’s sharing an exclusive excerpt of her newest book that just came out Monday. Yup – A Deep and Dark December is now available! So everyone remember to congratulate Beth on her newest release!

A Deep and Dark DecemberSomeone is killing the residents of San Rey.
Graham is the sixth generation Doran to become sheriff of the sleepy central California coastal town. As long as a Doran has been sheriff there’s been no crime in San Rey, and Graham is counting on that peace and quiet when he returns home after years as an LAPD detective. But when he’s called to the scene of the murder/suicide of an old friend, he sets into motion a series of events that rocks the tiny town, and the only way to catch a killer will be to face his own dark past.
Buried secrets must be told.
Erin December has always felt like an outsider in close-knit San Rey. She comes from a family with unusual psychic abilities, which makes her an outcast in the small town. She’s spent her entire life keeping her own ability a secret—until the day she loses control of the visions, and is forced to watch a brutal murder through the killer’s eyes. Erin becomes the key witness to the first murder the town has seen in sixty years. But to help find the killer, she’s forced to reveal her biggest secret to the last person she thought she could trust—Graham.
To stop a murderer with secrets he’s killing to protect.
The December’s aren’t the only ones in San Rey with psychic abilities. As Graham and Erin’s attraction grows so does the killer’s need to protect his own secrets, turning his power on Erin and her family. Graham will do anything to protect Erin. But how do you catch a murderer who has the power to kill with his mind?

Taking a deep breath, Erin knocked. If her vision were true, no one would answer. Please let Greg answer. Brushing the shards of flaked gate paint from her fingers, she was tempted to just pull out her cell phone and place the call she’d started at the office. But that’s not how it worked. If her vision was real, the scene had to play out exactly as she’d seen it.

Clutching her bag tighter under her arm, she knocked again. “Hello? Mr. Lasiter? It’s Erin from Kavender Investments.”
She felt stupid calling him Mr. Lasiter instead of Greg. He was only a year older than she was. She’d had a stupid unrequited crush on him her freshman year of high school. And now she was standing on his dilapidated porch, supposedly waiting for him to open the door so she could take the keys to his home. The home he’d grown up in. She shouldn’t feel guilty about that and yet she did.

Mr. Lasiter?” She rapped on the door again. “Hello?”

Inside, the house was silent. Outside, the only sound was the whoosh of wind, lifting the curling ends of her brown hair, bringing with it the briny tinge of the ocean and a chill that bit right through her wool coat. Just like her vision. If Erin was smart she’d follow her instincts and run back the way she’d come. But she had her father’s practicality and a bank balance that didn’t allow for fear.

She had to see this through.

Still no answer. She’d hoped so hard that what she’d seen would be as wrong as the way it had come to her. She closed her eyes and silently chanted the words of protection she’d been taught as a child, mentally drawing a shield around herself. Focusing her energy, she took three deep breaths, letting each of them out slowly, preparing herself for the possible reality of what she’d only seen in her mind.

She opened her eyes and turned the knob. Locked. She hadn’t expected that. Her visions

never wavered. For a moment, she didn’t know what to do. The wrongness poked at her.

Careful what you wish for.

Maybe there was a key. She searched the usual places—under the doormat, above the door, the light fixture, a dead potted plant—there.

Dusting the dirt from the key, she revealed a floral pattern. It was one of those novelty keys Fine’s Hardware had started carrying some time back. Erin had one herself. She dug her key ring from her pocket and compared the near identical house keys. The irony wasn’t lost on her. If it wasn’t for her job with Kavender Investments, Austin or Ramie himself might have knocked on her door with a check to exchange for the key to her house.

She pocketed her keys once again and fit the dirt-smudged key from the planter into the lock. It fit, turning easily in the knob. The door creaked on rusty hinges, the curse of coastal living.

Hello? Mr. Lasiter?” Her voice echoed off the walls of the near empty room.

Daylight made a weak effort to invade the space, casting no shadows. It was colder here, but not cold enough to mist her breath. The air lay still and ripe with wariness, as though the house had not yet made up its mind to accept her. Or maybe she was the one who refused to accept what had been so clear in her vision. She didn’t want to go into the house, didn’t want to be the one to make the discovery.

The layout was different from what she’d seen in her mind. Almost a mirror image, except for a door where there should have been a hall, and a fireplace where there should’ve been none. The differences were disorienting. It took her a moment to get her bearings. Different. Everything was so different from what she’d seen.

Why? What does it mean?

She called out for Greg again. No answer. She should leave. Right now. But her feet propelled her farther into the room as if controlled by someone or something else.

She swallowed at the lump of dread in her throat. She’d been drawn to the door at the far end of the room just like her vision and now there, standing before it, she couldn’t seem to stop her shaking hand from reaching out to open it. A noise from the other side made her flinch.

She swung the door open slowly, revealing the room inches at a time. “Greg? It’s me, Erin, fr—” She let go of the knob, clamping both hands to her mouth. The door continued on its own, exposing the scene.

Greg knelt over the body of a woman sprawled out on the floor in a thin pool of blood.

Behind him, the kitchen wall was dotted and streaked with more blood. He slowly raised his gaze. “I didn’t do it.” He swayed back and forth. His eyes, dull with shock, stayed on Erin’s. “I didn’t do it.”

Erin lowered her hands, resting them over her pounding heart. This wasn’t right. None of this was right. Greg was the one who was supposed to be dead.

.
A Deep and Dark December is $.99 for one week only. Available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, ARe.

Thanks for sharing that excerpt with us, Beth, and happy release week! What’d you guys think? 😀

Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: The Duke of Dark Desires by Miranda Neville

You guys!!! Today we have the always fabulous Miranda Neville visiting with us today! She’s got a super exciting new book coming out on December 30th (yes, only a week away) – and The Duke of Dark Desires has gotten a lot of good buzz. And even the guy(s) at NPR are reading it! No shit!

See? Ok so it’s from an article about [a burger] from Shake Shack … but doesn’t that kinda make it more awesome?

Ok, so you know, the book information now – which is why you’re all here. 😉

The Duke of Dark DesiresWanted: Governess able to keep all hours . . .

Rebellious Julian Fortescue never expected to inherit a dukedom, nor to find himself guardian to three young half-sisters. Now in the market for a governess, he lays eyes on Jane Grey and knows immediately she is qualified—to become his mistress. Yet the alluring woman appears impervious to him. Somehow Julian must find a way to make her succumb to temptation . . . without losing his heart and revealing the haunting mistakes of his past.

Desired: Duke skilled in the seductive art of conversation . . .

Lady Jeanne de Falleron didn’t seek a position as a governess simply to fall into bed with the Duke of Denford. Under the alias of Jane Grey, she must learn which of the duke’s relatives is responsible for the death of her family—and take her revenge. She certainly can’t afford the distraction of her darkly irresistible employer, or the smoldering desire he ignites within her .

But as Jane discovers more clues about the villain she seeks, she’s faced with a possibility more disturbing than her growing feelings for Julian: What will she do if the man she loves is also the man she’s sworn to kill?

Jane found Oliver Bream thoroughly amusing. She couldn’t take his declaration of passion seriously, and wondered how good an artist he was. The duke didn’t strike her as a man who would accept inferior performance in anyone he hired. Then she thought of the way he’d engaged her as governess with the slimmest of qualifications. On second thought Bream might be a complete incompetent.

“Does the duke buy your pictures?” she asked.

“Oh no! Julian would never do that.”

“What happened to the pictures in here?” She pointed at six dark rectangles in the paint where art had been removed. “There are similar marks all over the house.”

“One of the dukes was a patron of Hogarth. If that’s what hung there it is a tragedy. Julian’s taste in painting is execrable.”

“Maligning me again, Oliver?”

The sight of him in the doorway, color heightened by exercise and his black hair so disheveled she itched to sweep it off his forehead, made the slight, fair-haired artist fade from her consciousness. Denford grinned at Bream with an unveiled affection that presented a new facet of the dark duke, and a most appealing one. Not that she needed a new reason to find him attractive.

“Julian!” Bream said. “I’ve been making the acquaintance of Miss Grey. She is a goddess, an Aphrodite or Artemis.” He showed no embarrassment at speaking in such extravagant terms, and the duke merely cast his eyes heavenward. Jane would have done the same but she didn’t want to hurt Bream’s feelings. He was quite harmless, she was sure, and she wasn’t a woman to object to being addressed like this. She knew men, Denford included, found her beddable; she also knew that she wasn’t a great beauty.

“What is your name, Miss Grey? I cannot think of you like that. It’s such a barren name. I’m sure your Christian name reflects your matchless beauty.”

“I am afraid it is Jane.”

“Never mind. You need no adornment. From this day forth, Jane is the finest of names and shall belong only to you.”

“There may be a few thousand ladies who will object.” She stole a look at Denford to share her appreciation of the nonsense.

Their glance of amusement turned hot and dark. She wrenched her eyes away and sipped her cooling tea.

“Are you in love again, Oliver?” the duke said.

“I have never been in love before, never! Jane has made me forget every other woman.”

“Doubtless true, until the next one comes along. I don’t wish to make light of your charms, Miss Grey, but I think I should mention that Oliver finds a new object of his adoration on average once a week. If his passion for you lasts a month you can claim to have inspired an exceptional degree of devotion. Héloïse and Abélard, Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice and Dante, Oliver and Jane. You will join the list of the world’s most celebrated lovers.”

Jane couldn’t help it. She started to laugh. Fortunately Bream seemed undisturbed, merely continuing to gaze at her as though moonstruck. “I am honored to have inspired you, Mr. Bream,” she said, shooting a duke a warning look. “I shouldn’t laugh but His Grace is quite droll in his way. Please believe that I do not mean to mock you.”

“Don’t worry, Jane. I’m quite used to Julian and never take the least notice of him.”

“True enough,” the duke said.

“Your Grace,” Jane said. “I have a request if you can spare me a few minutes.”

“I do hope it’s one I’ll enjoy fulfilling. If so, I’ll agree to anything.”

“I doubt this matter will affect your pleasure either way.”

“You disappoint me again. Oliver, just this once do what I ask and leave. Go up to the Blue Saloon to prepare for your pupils. I need to speak to Miss Grey.”

“My request is not a private one.”

“You’ve made that perfectly clear, alas. Go, Oliver.”

“You will be coming, Jane, won’t you?”

“Of course, Mr. Bream. I won’t be long. The young ladies will be down soon with their drawing materials.”

She watched him go with some trepidation, leaving her alone with Denford. He took a place at the table and, as though he had all the time in the world, poured himself some coffee. She ought to be safe from her unruly desires at nine o’clock in the morning with the humdrum accouterments of breakfast spread on the table; nevertheless she averted her eyes from his lips on the rim of the china cup.

“Oliver doesn’t always show such good taste,” he remarked. “The array of women he has loved in the five or six years I’ve known him is positively dizzying. They have only one trait in common: that of being unattainable. Women always seem able to resist him.”

“What makes you think I could? Mr. Bream is a very agreeable young man. For all you know he could be the kind of man I prefer.”

“No, he isn’t.”

“What kind of man do you think I prefer?”

She peeked at him from lowered eyelids and found him staring at her with a wolfish smile. “The matter is still under investigation but I am making progress. You are flirting with me.”

“I am not!” But she was, of course. Dalliance should be the last thing on her mind, especially with a member of the Fortescue family. She stiffened her spine and tried to think like a governess. “Last night,” she began, “I was up late.”

“Do go on. Your bedtime habits interest me greatly.”

“I found Laura crying in bed.”

“Oh.”

“She was well, thank you for your concern, merely missing her mother. But had she been ill no one would have known. Miss Bride was, as usual, in a drunken stupor.”

“Is this your request, that I dismiss Bridey? I won’t do it. For your information, Miss Grey, Bridey suffers badly from rheumatism. If she were a fine lady maybe she’d dose herself with laudanum. It happens she prefers a nip of whiskey to make the aches and pains of age easier to bear at night.”

“Not just at night, but that’s not the point. I wouldn’t presume to recommend you dismiss one of your servants. I was going to suggest, rather, that I sleep up in the nursery, where I can keep an eye on your sisters’ well-being.” She didn’t mention that this morning she’d been woken on Laura’s bed by the sound of Fenella trying to sneak out. She didn’t want to get the girl in trouble again. “They need more attention than Nurse Bride can give them.”

“You can give them attention when they aren’t asleep.”

His patent indifference raised her hackles. “They are your sisters,” she said, striving for calm. “They would appreciate more attention from you too.”

“I promised to take them to the theater, didn’t I? Under certain circumstances.”

“Your Grace,” she said, as politely as she could. “I am asking you for permission to move to the nursery floor. It’s more suitable than the room you gave me.”

“You don’t like your quarters?”

“Of course I like them. Who would not?”

“Then keep them. I’ll hire a maid for the nursery to watch the girls at night. Better still, you choose someone. You’ll have to work with her. Pick someone alert.”

“The rooms you gave me should belong to your duchess, not to a governess.”

“Since I have no duchess, it pleases me to have you use them.”

“I’ll be honest, Your Grace. I do not feel at ease in the rooms adjacent to yours. The door between the dressing rooms is locked, but I don’t have the key. I presume you do.”

“I thought I’d made myself clear last night,” Denford said with a look that made her think it better not to arouse his enmity, “but apparently it bears repeating in daylight. You have nothing to fear from me. I am not interested in unwilling women and you may sleep in peace, knowing that I have no intention of using that door.”

“Good,” Jane said. There wasn’t much more she could say or do, apart from speaking to herself very firmly about wishing the door to remain closed. “Now I must go. It’s time for the lesson, and I shouldn’t leave the young ladies alone with Mr. Bream.”

“Heaven forbid,” the duke said, pouring more coffee. “He’s a danger to all womankind.” She turned her back smartly, but he called to her when she was halfway to the door.

“One more thing, Jane. Should you decide to knock on my door, I will welcome you in.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Yeah? What’d you think?

Make sure you check out Miranda’s super sleek sexy awesome site while you’re at it. Especially since you can read another excerpt here, in case you weren’t convinced yet. We’ll wait. … Ok done? Now go buy a copy. 😀

Special Guest: Carly Phillips

Hello my lovelies! We’re slowing time yet rushing along here at the same time! And today we welcome the totally fabulous Carly Phillips! I’m so thrilled to welcome her back to ALBTALBS. Not only is she a superstar author, she’s also one of the nicest people I’ve met at any conference. <3 Her newest book Dare to Love is out now, and y’all know I’m not normally big on blog tours (or you know, at all) – but for Carly, I’m happy to make an exception. 🙂

I meant to crowd source here too, but we know how that has been going, so these are some questions twitter friends wanted to ask Carly. I hope you enjoy!

Dare to Love Official Blog Tour

1) Do you wear pajamas when you write or do you wear “real clothes”? (Georgina really hopes it’s the latter! XD)
Comfortable leggings during the day, and sweats or pajamas on the weekends! Either way it’s comfy clothes all the time. It’s such a luxury being home, I do enjoy not dressing up!

2) What inspires you to come up with your new stories?
It really depends.  Sometimes it’s something I’ve read in a magazine or seen on TV.  Other times it’s a news clip.  Sometimes it’s pure imagination. 🙂

3) Who is your favorite author? [Or authors/stories]
I have SO many auto-buy authors it isn’t funny and I’m such a voracious reader that I always have something new on my iPad mini ready to go.  Too many to pick just one!

4) As madly successful and a veteran writer – do you still get nervous with each book release?
OMG YES! I’m a basket case with each and every new book.  It never gets easier and it never gets old. I’m just so grateful to be able to do what I do … and I always want to please readers with each and every book.

5) Since your background seems very big city, what do you love about writing small towns?
I love the intimacy of the characters and how wacky I can make the neighbors, LOL.  It’s familiar and everyone loves the familiar. I’m not a big city girl, so small town comes naturally.  That said I understand the city and can write it too.  Dare to Love is set in Miami.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Remember to enter the giveaway! And also, what questions would you have asked? Who knows – maybe the fancy will hit and Carly will stop by. 🙂

Also, have you read Carly Phillips before? Do you enjoy contemporary romances? And of course, we can’t forget the most important part. The book!

Dare to LoveNew York Times Bestselling Author Carly Phillips turns up the heat in her newest sexy contemporary romance series, and introduces you to the Dare family… siblings shaped by a father’s secrets and betrayal.

Since finding out his father had another family on the side, Ian Dare swore to be the upstanding, responsible man his cheating parent had never been. When it comes to his relatives, he gives his all but in relationships he offers the bare minimum. But one glimpse of sensual Riley Taylor arouses his dominant and protective instincts and Ian is entranced. He will do anything to possess her … and does. But any future with Riley must include him extending an olive branch to the half-brother who is a constant reminder of the pain he’d rather forget.

Independent and always in control, Riley Taylor makes no apologies for choosing men carefully. Relationships have never been a priority and she believes herself hardened to domineering men – until she meets charismatic Ian Dare. He manages to turn a simple kiss into an all out assault on her senses and when he takes control in the bedroom, she’s stunned to discover she likes it. As their affair heats up, they soon realize they complete each other in ways neither imagined. But Riley’s past is closer than she cares to remember, and her struggles with Ian’s dominance might just cost her everything.

You should totally buy a copy today! (If you haven’t already…) 😉

Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: A Fine Romance by Christi Barth

Hee! This is almost release day! A Fine Romance came out yesterday! Super exciting! As you see then, Christi Barth is visiting with us sharing a lovely exclusive excerpt! So happy release day [belated] to her!

They say you form your first impression of someone within thirty seconds of meeting them. Or, in Mira Parrish’s case, within thirty minutes of not meeting them, when said person is supposed to pick you up from the airport and never shows. This is not a perfect start to her new life. Her friend Ivy is depending on her to run a new romance store, and Mira can’t afford to let her down.

Sam Lyons should probably apologize. But every time he sees Mira—which is often, since his family owns the bakery next to her shop—he can’t resist antagonizing her. There’s something about the sexy, straitlaced woman that drives him crazy. He can’t get involved, though. He has too much baggage to be any good in a serious relationship.

Despite his teasing attitude, Mira finds Sam too sweet to resist. (His hot body may be a factor.) But if there’s going to be anything permanent between them, they’ll need to let go of their pasts and look to the future…

Sam drew her off the path to the edge of a swath of something tall and purple and spiky. It smelled amazing. Two steps in and they were against a tree trunk. Sam twisted to put his back against the rough bark. Widening his stance, he pulled her in between his legs. Mira tucked her lower body against his, but placed her palms on his chest. She angled her head to the side and flashed him a knowing look, full of feminine wiles and guile.

“Is that an invitation?”

Did she want one of those thick, gold-edged invites Ivy liked to charge the sun and the moon for? God, she was toying with him. Could she see the base, animalistic need in his eyes? Or did she just feel it pressing against her thigh? She knew, all right. The hardworking, nose-to-the-grindstone, overachieving Mira had finally clocked out for the night. Now he was left with an armful of warm, willing, wanton Mira the seductress.

“You bet.”

“If I win the pillow fight, would you promise to stay up all night, talking to me?”

“Sweetness, I’ll stay up all night, no problem. But we won’t be talking.” A man could only withstand so much. Sam crushed her against his chest and took her mouth. He laid claim to her, using his tongue to learn every soft and sensitive crevice. Mira moaned, a low sound that vibrated through every hair on his body. Dark, spiky lashes fanned out over her pale cheeks. His hands moved over her slender back, hugging her close. Didn’t matter—he wouldn’t be close enough until he was inside of her.

Mira moved her palms up, over his shoulders to twine around his neck. Added bonus? She rubbed her firm, tempting breasts back and forth with every breath, every movement. He couldn’t wait to get his mouth on them. Literally.

Grabbing her ass with both hands, he stepped away from the tree and urged her legs around his waist. It didn’t seem to take much urging. Mira clamped on like a rodeo star. Sam looked around the garden, desperate to find something more solid than flowers. His gaze landed on a large boulder, artistically encircled with—well—something delicate and blooming. He’d follow the Garden’s rules and not pick any of the flowers. But there were a few that would be the worse for wear in a few minutes.

Dropping to his knees, Sam leaned Mira back onto the boulder. To make sure her legs stayed around him, he kept his fingers kneading her ass. “I had a whole plan. Sunset. Wine. A civilized picnic.”

Mira opened one eye to squint at the sky. “Sunset’s still at least five minutes away. A man with your considerable talent should be able to show me a very good time in five minutes.”

“Are you double dog daring me?”

“Well, since we’re work neighbors, and need to maintain some element of professionalism, let’s call it a request for services.”

Sam almost choked on his chuckle. Good to know she still managed to find ways to parade her MBA. “Looks like we’re two peas in a pod. I don’t back down from a challenge, either.”

He lowered his head to the side of her neck with all the fervor of a blood-starved Dracula. Pale skin as translucent as phyllo dough made it possible for him to watch her pulse beat faster and faster just beneath the surface. Using the flat of his tongue, Sam took a long, slow, meandering lick. Then he latched on, trying to suck that pulse even faster. Once the rhythm beating against his taste buds increased, he moved down.

With her wriggling nonstop, it was difficult to keep a hold on Mira. He angled nearer to the boulder, pinning her in place at her hips with his more-than-willing dick. It surged into the notch between her legs, almost bursting through his shorts. Sam tried with all his might not to process any of the sensations his nerves were processing. He ignored how fan-fucking-tastic she felt, how they fit together more snugly than puzzle pieces. Above all else, Sam refused to acknowledge how much he wanted this beautiful bundle, currently writhing in his hands. If he reveled in it for even a second, he’d give in to those base instincts, rip her clothes off with his teeth and plow into her.

Instead, he concentrated on pleasing Mira. She made it so easy, moaning and smiling and lifting to his touch like a flower to the sun. Licking across her collarbone, he nudged aside the open collar of her shirt. In this position her breasts strained the fabric to its limits. It was easy to pop the top button open with his teeth. Then one more, for good measure. Now her beautiful breasts were laid out for his enjoyment. They were as white and perfectly round as a cup of powdered sugar, framed by the pale blue satin of her bra. Sam absolutely loved it when women matched their underwear to their clothes. It was a little thing, but it drove him crazy in a very good way.

With absolute concentration, he licked across one creamy mound, then over to the other. Sam could’ve died a happy man doing that all day. Mira, though, apparently had other ideas. She grabbed his head with both hands and maneuvered it into position straight over her nipple.

“Want something?” he asked, his breath feathering over the satin.

“Yes. You,” she panted. “Now.”

“Glad we’re on the same page.” Sam lowered his head a quarter of an inch and just exhaled. Her nipple immediately reacted, poking through the fabric. Target acquired. He laved back and forth across the pronounced tip, the pale blue darkening from the trail of dampness he created. A few more passes, and then he sucked in, biting down with a gentle nip.

Mira practically jolted out of his grasp. “Sam,” she cried, “oh, wow.”

“Funny, that’s just what I was thinking.” It was harder to talk now, harder to think, hard to do anything but give in to the monstrous lust she roused in him. Sam switched to the other side, replicating the teasing with his tongue. But it wasn’t enough. In one swift motion, he picked her up and deposited her on the ground.

He straddled her, but kept his weight off. Mira threaded her fingers through his hair and tugged him up for a thorough, drugging kiss. If his eyes were open, they would’ve crossed. Still, she couldn’t distract him for long. He was a man with a purpose. No time to wrestle with the stupid back clasp. Why the hell didn’t women have front clasp bras anymore? Oh, well. Just as easy to scoop her breasts in toward the center and sweep the cups underneath.

Now, finally, he had skin-on-skin contact. Even better, he could see her pretty nipples, the same vibrant pink as his strawberry icing. Sam drew as much of her breast as he could into his mouth, lapping circles around the nipple hardening to a sharp point under his tongue. It was so good that he eased his knees to the ground. Legs caging hers, they touched from toe to chest. The pressure of her body against his offered both relief and an immediate spiral into frustrating, driving need. Giving in, he rocked his hips back and forth, and she met his pattern, thrusting upward. As soon as a guttural moan of pleasure escaped his lips, he rolled off her to the side.

Stopping wasn’t easy. Not by a long shot. But Sam forced himself to for two reasons. Mira deserved better than a literal roll in the grass. He’d screwed up enough with her already. When they had sex for the first time, it wouldn’t be in a place where they ran the risk of being caught. He could only imagine what hell she’d rain down on him—rightfully so—if they got arrested, naked, for public indecency or something.

And he’d put a lot of thought into planning this date. Sex was not on the agenda. A long, romantic picnic watching the sun set over the lake was. Smarter way to go all around. Sam wasn’t in this for a one-night hookup. That would be the stupidity all his friends warned him against. He wanted to keep peeling back the fascinating layers to Mira, not just her clothes. So they’d spend the rest of the night talking. Okay, maybe a few more kisses. And he’d start thinking about a plan for getting her into his bed sooner rather than later.

So what’d you think? (Incidentally, book one was Planning for Love so if you’re someone who likes series, be sure to start there. As a bonus, I have an exclusive excerpt of that too! Incidentally, and someone who comments wins a copy of A Fine Romance today! So get talking!)

Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: The Practice Proposal by Tracy March

Look out friends! A special excerpt from author Tracy March! And some really awesome prizes too. (Beyond books which we all love, a really stunning bracelet!) Also, that cover is super adorable. Don’t you think? 😀 And guess what? The Practice Proposal was just released yesterday! Whee! Release book fun!

Liza Sutherland isn’t looking for love. Not from a charity-auction date she didn’t even bid on and especially not with Nationals first baseman Cole Collins, the guy she obsessed over as an awkward teenager. She won’t get involved with a notorious player, no matter how attractive Cole is.

Cole Collins is up for contract renegotiation, but after too many late-night parties, he’ll need some positive publicity before he can make the roster. His agent, Frank, pitches Liza as the perfect prop…only Cole didn’t account for Liza no longer being just a teenager with a crush. She’s gorgeous and smart and he’s instantly hooked.

When Frank makes Liza a deal she can’t refuse—a bet she will fall in love with Cole or a cool half mil goes to charity—the game is on. But neither bet on the real feelings that surface. Could a fake fling turn into an official forever?

The truck took the last bend before the barn, then came to an abrupt stop. Mack got out and hurried around to the side of the trailer. “Looks like we’ve got company.”

Cole lowered his eyebrows and glanced at Liza, then got up and joined Mack, both of them looking toward the barn. She stood in the trailer and got a view over the cab of the truck. Artificial light radiated from the far side of the barn, illuminating the rear of a television news van and several other vehicles.

“Reporters,” Cole said flatly.

Liza’s stomach clenched. “All the way out here?” She was amazed they’d be interested in Cole’s date with her.

“Want to try another way out?” Cole asked Mack.

The crease between Mack’s eyes deepened and he shook his head. “Not a good idea to go headin’ down some makeshift road without a little daylight. It’d be like runnin’ down a rabbit hole.”

“We could wait them out,” Cole said. “But they’ve spotted our headlights by now. I’m sorry, Liza.” He shifted his gaze between her and Mack.

“It’s not your fault,” she said anxiously. She wasn’t big on being in front of a camera.

Cole leaped up onto the trailer, went to Liza, and gently put his hand on her shoulder. He was all tense muscle and tousled hair, and he still smelled smoky from the fire. “I didn’t want a bunch of reporters spoiling our date. I’d hoped to get some privacy for a change.”

“It won’t be spoiled,” she said. Nothing could ruin the evening they’d had.

Cole nudged her shoulder and gave her a sidelong glance, looking perfect in the moonlight. “So you’re up for a photo shoot?” He rubbed his hands together, seeming a little nervous himself.

She figured they might get some positive press for BADD, and that would be good. Maybe someone would see a news clip about the auction date and decide they wanted to donate. Heck, maybe she could make a pitch—she was nearly that desperate to find a way to meet her fund-raising goal. She shrugged and gave Cole a half smile. “Sure.”

“No way around it except to face ’em,” Mack said as he got back in the truck.

She and Cole sat on top of a hay bale and pulled the blanket over their knees. The trailer swayed and bounced over the last bit of dirt road, Cole steadying Liza with his arm around her. He turned toward her, pulled her close, tenderly kissed her on the cheek, and spoke softly in her ear. “Thanks for being such a good sport about this.” Feathery sensations fluttered through her, and she shivered.

“It’ll be fine,” she said, believing that it would.

Mack pulled the truck and trailer alongside the barn. Before Liza and Cole had time to move, several reporters, cameramen, and photographers crowded behind the trailer. Liza squinted against the flash and glare of the lights. A middle-aged female reporter—dressed in a business suit and looking too city for an assignment on a farm—took the lead with questions. “Cole,” she said, as if she knew him personally, “isn’t this the date you donated to raise money for the BADD Athletes Foundation?”

“Yes,” he said. “It’s a good cause. I hope more people will learn about the important work BADD is doing to keep athletes drug-free.” He glanced at Liza. The corners of his mouth turned up slightly, and his eyes sparkled with the reflection of lights from the cameras. “But I’m the one who benefited here. Look who I got to spend an evening with.”

Liza swallowed hard, thinking it was awesome that he seemed proud to be with her, and he’d pretty much made her donation pitch, too. She probably had a silly-looking grin on her face, but she couldn’t help it.

The reporter piped up again. “I have it from a reliable source that you might be settling down with Miss Sutherland.”

Liza’s grin flattened, and her heart raced double-time. What reliable source would’ve told the reporter that?

“Any truth to that rumor?” the reporter asked. “Inquiring women want to know.” Several of the photographers chuckled.

Liza couldn’t believe they even had to ask. Cole wasn’t settling down—he probably never would, and certainly not with her. She turned to him, hoping he had a clever answer. He glanced at her with a glint in his eyes, then turned back to the reporters. “Settling down is looking like a pretty good idea.”

Liza’s stomach clenched. What?

“Should we expect a proposal soon?” another reporter asked. “I’d love to be there for an exclusive on that.”

The flash of a camera highlighted the mischief in his eyes, and a wisp of a sexy smile played across his lips. “It’ll probably go something like this,” he said with a drawl. He faced Liza, skimmed his fingertips along her jawline, and guided her head until she met his gaze.

Her mind swirled with confusion. All she could think was, Please don’t kiss me here…now! She frantically wondered how to react to him in front of these people—in front of everyone, for that matter. Any stupid move she made would be captured on video and posted on YouTube forever.

He leaned closer, and Liza braced herself.

“Will you marry me, darlin’?” he asked.

Liza’s heart lurched. Stunned speechless, she blinked several times, her pulse thrumming in her ears. Cole tipped his head and whispered in her ear, “Just smile.” His warm breath sent another shiver through her, and she smiled with sheer bewilderment. He leaned back and tugged playfully on a lock of her hair, a crooked, coy grin on his face.

After a beat, he faced the reporters and winked as the cameras clicked and whirred. “That’s as close to an exclusive as I can give you.”

NB: Someone who comments today will win a (digital) copy of The Practice Proposal, as well as this lovely bracelet. Or, you know, don’t talk. Because I’ve decided if people don’t enter contests, those prizes automatically come to me. *angelface* 😉

Incidentally, Ms. March is new to ALBTALBS so you guys – show her some love, okay?!

Double Trouble: Guests Isobel Carr and Miranda Neville

You guys!!! Today we have awesome authors Isobel Carr and Miranda Neville visiting with us! Both of them write historical romances, and they’re awesome, and a lot of fun. Isobel has been here before, but Miranda is a first time guest!
If you’ve ever wanted to know a little bit more about the genre, or get some background, today might provide some insight. I hope you enjoy!

Miranda Neville: It’s always a pleasure to chat with Isobel. We’ve shared many a good discussion about the historical basis for our books. Today I’ve been thinking about how historical reality sometimes clashes with reader ideas of acceptable behavior.

For example, Caro, the heroine of The Importance of Being Wicked, is not good with money. She’s the period equivalent of the girl who gets herself in a hole with her credit cards. She’s trying to dig her way out, but it’s not easy. Some readers have found this troubling, especially since many of the people Caro owes money to are merchants. Not Citibank or Capital One, but ordinary people trying to make a living. Caro’s attitude to money is typical of the upper classes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They spent money like water, regardless of cash flow, and ran up staggering debts. The records are full of unpaid bills for clothing, household expenses, even those socking great houses. (Read about how hard it was for Vanbrugh to get paid for the work at Blenheim Palace.) Of course you had to have means – or expectations – to be allowed credit. I strongly suspect that London merchants catering to the haut ton jacked up their prices like crazy, figuring those who settled their bills would cover the losses on the non-payers (kind of like modern American hospitals!)

Isobel Carr: Modern expectations and mores can be tricky when you’re writing historical characters. Since I mostly choose to write about the wilder aspects of the ton (like the Devonshire House set and the New Female Coterie) the behavior of my characters–while perfectly period–doesn’t always hit the right note with people who cut their historical teeth on Georgette Heyer or sweeter Regencies where a kiss meant marriage (I happen to think those mores are more late Victorian/Edwardian anyway, but that’s me).
I also find the gaming aspect of the English culture fascinating. The betting book at White’s is filled with some amazing and odd bets. Everything from when a hurried marriage would produce an heir or which rain drop would reach the bottom of the pane first! Roland, the hero of Ripe for Seduction, is the jokester of his circle, and true to their time and culture, they all love a good bet (the bet that sets the ball rolling was inspired by a book called Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawk [no, not the skater] that I highly recommend). And once the bet has been made, withdrawing would be as bad as failing to pay a debt of honor.

Miranda Neville: The huge sums that changed hands boggle the mind and make five dollar slots look like chicken feed. The fact that a man would leave his family penniless out of some notion of honor is something this twenty-first-century reader finds hard to take. I don’t think it’s an accident that usually a pusillanimous relative (Caro’s first husband in The Importance of Being Wicked) loses the family fortune. Writing a hero like that would be tough. That said, the inciting incident of the third book in my Wild Quartet series is a youthful gaming loss.

Still, I believe the concept of honor, duty to a higher calling than self-interest, is one of the great appeals of historical romance. The reform of a bad boy hero requires an acceptance of an honorable life as well as the love of the heroine.

Isobel Carr: I can easily see the reform of a gambler working too though. He’d really have something to repent of, and he’d have the added battle of what could well be an addiction (and the additional struggle to resist the pull of the social order, where gambling was very, very common). A drunken, youthful folly or way of life that go out of control would be great back story.

That was sort of what I was playing with in Ripe for Seduction. A bet that gets out of hand. The original idea for the bet itself was a real life indecent proposal that a young and dissolute peer made to a starchy widow. She was the daughter of a duke, and had made a very bad marriage. There was abandonment, imprisonment, refusal of marital rights, and eventually litigation and legal separation. After her husband died young and unlamented (at least by her), a noted rake had the temerity to send her a missive suggesting she become his mistress. Furious, the young widow went directly to his parents and announced herself as their future daughter-in-law, daring the offending young man to contradict her and thus force her to show his parents the letter he’d sent her. She eventually relented and broke off the engagement, but I always loved that she routed him so thoroughly and so effectively, and it was such a delicious set-up for a novel.

I had a great deal of fun writing a happy ending for that sad widow (who didn’t get much of one in real life) and for the abused bigamous wife from my last novel (I couldn’t leave poor Lady Olivia without an HEA, believe me, I got letters!). I love taking real stories and spinning them out into happy endings. It’s like resetting the world for good.

Miranda Neville: I haven’t had a chance to read Ripe for Seduction (I’m writing this on release day) and now I cannot wait. I’m thrilled to know that it was based on a true life incident. One of the side benefits of aimless historical research is finding inspiration. Actual events often fall into “you can’t make this stuff up” territory. I felt that way when I read the 1796 dirty book that I quoted from, verbatim, in The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton (which, p.s. – the kindle edition is only 99¢!). I mean seriously, do you think I imagined a phrase like “deluge of spermy rapture?” Yet I think it came as a real surprise to some readers when they discovered in my author’s note that I’d been quoting from an eighteenth-century book.

Another area in which we have to adapt to modern sensibilities is social  attitudes towards ordinary people. These aristocrats we love treated servants and social “inferiors” in ways we would find totally unacceptable. By the standards of 1800, everyone’s a liberal these days. I wrote a hero who owned a coal mine and to show his progressive views I had him voluntarily stop employing children under the age of nine. It was the best I could do as a compromise between historical accuracy and twenty-first-century decency. The awful thing is, the parents of those kids probably missed the money.

Isobel Carr: Don’t get me started on the “maid as the heroine’s BFF” thing. It makes me stabby! Servants were often little more than furniture, or something to brag about if you had say the fastest footman (yes, they ran races like horses, sometimes naked, even in the parks in London; imagine your heroine encountering that!). And unlike our ideal of the old family retainer, most servants moved about quite freely and no woman who wanted to keep anything secret from her husband would trust her maid (firstly, the maid knew who paid her, and secondly, they were very often the main witness called in crim con trials).

The whole idea of privacy as we know it was absent as well. People didn’t live alone. They often didn’t sleep alone! It was not considered strange to bunk two male or female guests together during a house party and have them share a bed.

Miranda Neville: That could put a damper on some of those secret trysts – though handy if one writes menage.

Isobel Carr: Overall, the late Georgian/Regency period is both close enough to feel familiar and remote enough to be utterly alien depending on how you come at it. My motto is “the magic is in the improbable but possible” and I aim to make the people I write about both true to their period and accessible to a modern reader. In the end, people are people, then and now, with the same desires, drives, worries, and needs. Getting to play with history on top of all that is just an additional bit of fun.

Miranda Neville: Well said, Isobel. Now let’s ask our readers if there are any common historical tropes that bug them – either because they seem too modern, or too weird for the contemporary stomach. There are no wrong answers – only an enjoyable discussion. We’ll each pick a random commenters to win a copy of our latest books, The Importance of Being Wicked and Ripe for Seduction.

I’m really curious about what tropes have caught your attention as well. Or, if you have any questions about the genre, facts, general life, etc. I mean, hey, if we’ve got Isobel and Miranda, who are founts of knowledge, why not pump them for information? ;D And to add some incentive… these are the books up for grabs:

The rules of society don’t apply to Caro and her coterie of bold men and daring women. But when passions flare, even the strongest will surrender to the law of love . . .

Thomas, Duke of Castleton, has every intention of wedding a prim and proper heiress. That is, until he sets eyes on the heiress’s cousin, easily the least proper woman he’s ever met. His devotion to family duty is no defense against the red-headed vixen whose greatest asset seems to be a talent for trouble . . .

Caroline Townsend has no patience for the oh-so-suitable (and boring) men of the ton. So when the handsome but stuffy duke arrives at her doorstep, she decides to put him to the test. But her scandalous exploits awaken a desire in Thomas he never knew he had. Suddenly Caro finds herself falling for this most proper duke…while Thomas discovers there’s a great deal of fun in a little bit of wickedness.

The League of Second Sons
A secret society of younger sons, sworn to aid and abet each other, no matter the scandal or cost . . .

After the scandalous demise of her marriage, Lady Olivia Carlow knows the rakes of the ton will think her fair game. So when a letter arrives bearing an indecent offer from the incorrigible Roland Devere, she seizes the opportunity. Turning the tables on the notorious rogue, she blackmails him into playing her betrothed for the season. But no matter how broad his shoulders or chiseled his features, she will never fall prey to his suave charm.

When Roland boasted he’d be the first into Lady Olivia’s bed, he couldn’t have imagined that behind those brilliant blue eyes lurked a vixen with a scheme of her own. Still, Roland is not about to abandon his original wager. If anything, learning that the lovely Olivia is as bold as she is beautiful makes him more determined to seduce her into never saying “never” again.

So spill. What tropes bother you? Or what might you want to know more about in historical romances? Questions and answers welcome here!

Guest Katharine Ashe Discusses Spooky Tales

Hi everyone! We’ve got lovely author Katharine Ashe visiting with us! She’s super nice and patient (I had a flub and she was incredibly gracious about it). <3 I’m also fascinated by this newest release she has out – and this post tells us more about it. I hope you enjoy!
(And please, ignore the HORRIBLE image sizing :\ I changed the pixel size, but it’s just not agreeing to show up as such.)

Haunted

Some books take months to develop. Others percolate in my imagination for a bit longer. The ghost story in my new Regency novel, Captive Bride, got its start thirty-six years ago.

The journey to this book happened in four steps. Care to hear the short and spooky tale of it? Well, pull up a camp chair and cuddle together. And that howling you think you’re hearing in the trees beyond the fire’s glow? It’s just a chilly fall wind. Probably . . .

First stop: Mrs. Kierstead’s 4th-grade music class set me on the path to spooky. Music was my favorite class, and Mrs. K really did Halloween proud. That year she played for us Franz Schubert’s “Der Erlkönig,” translated as “The Alder King.” Composing in Austria during the same years as the Regency and early reign of George IV in England, Schubert based his hauntingly intense piece on a poem written in 1782 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose poem itself drew on a much earlier Scandinavian legend.

It is a simple yet horrifying tale. A father rides home with his beloved young son in his arms, only to become prey to an otherworldly demon “with crown and with tail.” The boy tells his father that the Alder King is following them, but the father cannot see the king and tries to comfort his son with happy thoughts, as parents are wont to do when little ones are frightened of their rampant imaginings. But the Alder King is real, and he snatches the lad’s soul while his father still clutches him close.

Chilling, tragic, and it gripped my nine-year-old heart completely. The cold, cruel otherworldly creature stole that boy’s soul right out of his father’s loving embrace. There was nothing more frightening to me.

Second stop: Andy Warhol’s 1974 film “Blood for Dracula” put the sexy in my spook. When I saw it I was still quite young and powerfully affected. In the film, Dracula must drink the blood of virgins, but he’s already drunk them all up in Transylvania, so off he goes to Italy where virgins abound. Too many virgins for the young, earnest hero of the film to protect, it turns out; Dracula feasts. But not on all the girls. One pretty young thing has her virginity— er— um— shall we say?— nullified by our valiant hero. Urgently. In a stairwell. Standing up.

I haven’t seen the film since. My memory may be wholly inaccurate. But it made a strong impression on me. Alder King or hungry vampire, young lad or maiden lady, it was the same story: unearthly creature of evil seeks to steal the soul of an innocent while loved ones watch and suffer.

Terrifying.

Third stop: Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey added romp and Regency to my ghostly imaginings. Austen’s critique of the Gothic novels that were popular during her time is wit extraordinaire. It is also a story of sincere friendship and true love making villains simply vanish. Poof!

Fourth stop: A misty emerald hillside in Wales, the ruins of a medieval castle, and a romance I’d been dying to write for years all came together. I had written a novel in which a minor character, a girl of fifteen, Bea Sinclaire, spoke to me quite clearly. Bea’s exact words: “Give me him. Please.” (She is unfailingly polite.) “Him” was a young gentleman whose acquaintance she had just made and who immediately stole her heart. I couldn’t blame her. At nineteen Peter Cheriot was a baron and deliciously handsome with dark hair and green eyes. He was also wonderfully kind and adorably attentive to her.

But she was far too young, and in any case I wasn’t quite clear yet on how exactly I was to give her him. I told her I had to ponder it.

Fast-forward six years to me and my sister in Wales for the express purpose of wandering through medieval castles. Otherworldly villains and the lost souls of innocents were still on my mind. Pure of heart and exceedingly virginal, Bea seemed the perfect candidate for such a tale. And dashing, noble Peter was the ideal hero to save her. I only needed the right setting . . .

Wales is a castle lover’s dream. We visited splendid and stately Caernafon, and solidly gorgeous Harlech. I adored them. But I still didn’t have a story for my young lovers.

Then I saw Criccieth Castle.

In the rain on that chill winter morning, Criccieth simply screamed HAUNTED CASTLE! And in a wild rush, like the fog that rolled off the towering gateway walls of the 13th-century ruin, Bea and Peter’s story came to me: An ancient castle. A tortured ghost. A curse that preys upon innocence — virginal innocence. And a love so powerful, so deep and so true that even the wickedest villain cannot destroy it.

So there you have it. Four steps and nearly four decades later, I finally wrote my own spooky tale.

What’s your favorite spooky story this time of year? One randomly chosen commenter to answer the question will win a copy of Captive Bride.

Katharine Ashe is a professor of medieval history and the award-winning author of six Regency romances and one novella from Avon Books.

In fact – you know what? You need to know more about the book. You can read more on the inception of it here, but the blurb is fantastic too!

Sensible, practical Beatrice Sinclaire has two secret passions: gothic novels and Lord Peter Cheriot, the man her beautiful sister left heartbroken years ago. When Bea’s scapegrace twin brother begs her help to rescue a maiden from a haunted castle, Bea seizes the chance for real adventure. If only Lord Cheriot didn’t insist on protecting her! How can she maintain a clear head in the face of terrible danger when all she wants is to be in his arms?

Lord Cheriot may be the catch of the London season, but he has only ever loved one woman, Bea Sinclaire. And he’s determined to have her. He doesn’t count on a meddling ghost whose demand for a virgin bride threatens Bea in the direst manner. But the specter has a deadline, All Hallows Eve, and it’s fast approaching. In the race to capture the heart of one daring lady, it’s every man—and ghost—for himself.

See?! And one of you has the chance to win a copy today! You lucky ducks!