Tag Archives: New Release

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!