An Unsuitable Duchess by Carolyn Jewel The duke of Stoke Teversault has well earned his reputation for bloodless calculation. Indeed, recently widowed Georgina Lark has no idea he’s loved her since before her late husband swept her off her feet. Stoke Teversault means to keep it that way. The cold and forbidding duke and the blithe and open Georgina could not be less suited in any capacity. And yet, when Georgina and her sister arrive at his home, his ice-bound heart may melt away. Georgina Lark has never thought of the duke of Stoke Teversault as a man capable of inducing passion in anyone. He’s long disapproved of her, but she will be forever grateful to him for his assistance after her husband died. It’s been a year since she’s realized he’s not the man she thought. Can she convince him to open his heart to her?
Hi friends! Today I convinced fabulous author Carolyn Jewel to visit with us on her birthday! I absolutely adore birthdays, so enjoy celebrating them whenever I can, and however I can! She even wrote a post for us!
Today is my birthday. Yay me! There was a long stretch during which I did not want anyone to know when my birthday was. I went to great lengths to avoid telling anyone when my birthday was. I hated the fuss. I did not want the attention. I think my head was not screwed on right. A few years ago I started thinking more deeply about my mother, an extraordinary woman, but also not very happy and why with five grown children, all of whom are college graduates and living happy successful lives, she was unable to accept her role in our life success. I’ll skip over the pop-pyschology and simply say that it occurred to me that I had internalized many of her most frustrating traits.
One of my responses to that was to try to change my outlook where I could, and one of them involves birthdays.
Birthdays are fun. Office-worker sorts love an interruption for cake and maybe even ice cream. If you have family who love you, they, too, like to celebrate with you. There’s cake!!! There’s even maybe presents, and even if there aren’t, there are good wishes, and that is fun. It makes people smile. I realized I enjoy wishing other people a happy birthday. So why, why??!?! would I actively avoid birthday wishes from others?
So, if the subject comes up and someone wants to know about birthdays, I don’t mumble or refuse to answer. I deal with it. I let my friends celebrate with and for me. And among friends and family, let me tell you, there is often cake involved. This is a decided bonus.
Today is my birthday, and I will be smiling from time to time because the alternative to birthdays is …. dim.
I like chocolate cake, but I admit to a decided fondness for a really good yellow cake. With chocolate frosting. What’s your favorite kind of cake?
I’ll send three commenters a copy of my current paranormal release, My Darkest Passion. (Digital, you can tell me what file version you prefer.) There’s no birthday in it, but now I’m thinking there should be one in the next book.
Have you ever read Carolyn Jewel before? Do you prefer historical romances or paranormal romances? Also? REMEMBER TO WISH CAROLYN THE HAPPIEST AND BEST BIRTHDAY EVER! (Yes, allcaps.)
Hey guys! My apologies – we’re going to pretend this is totally on time, okay? :X As you see we have the wonderful Carolyn Jewel as our special author for March! Whee! She also chose an Author Interview (what’s with everyone picking them?! We’re going to need to come up with new and even better questions!) So without further ado, the questions. As usual, littered with covers. Which adorn awesome stories. You should read them.
1. Kit Marlowe because I’d like to know if he was as hot as his pictures suggest. Also, does he know how he died? Was it espionage or something else?
2. Charlotte Bronte so I can tell her she was right and, hey, look, it’s WAY better now, even though it’s not perfect.
3. Erma Bombeck, because, damn, I miss her writing.
4. Oscar Wilde, because I would like for him to know it gets better. I’d also like for him to know how enduring his legacy has been.
5. Emily Dickenson. So many questions for her. So. Many.
That’s such a boring answer. Let me make one up.
Why, yes! I do. How strange that you should ask me that. Before I write a word, I light three candles, one blue, one yellow, and one red. I let them burn for precisely 30 seconds and then pour the wax onto a sheet of paper and plot my day’s writing from the patterns in the wax. If any of the blobs are shaped like the planet Saturn, I have to run three times around the house and kill off any character whose name starts with S.
(Isn’t Carolyn such a great sport? ;D)
3. If you could be a super hero, what would your nemesis be named? Along those lines, what is the super power you would most like to have? And least like to have?
My nemesis would be named Pete the Pitiless. It’s such a lame nemesis name that he would be easily defeated. My superpower would be the power of negation. Whatever dread weapon a Criminal Mastermind attempted to use against me would be negated. My least favorite superpower would be the ability to read minds. That would be…awful. I do NOT want to know what people are thinking.
It reminds me of this book my son loved where there were talking cookies, and this one certain kind of cookie was always making inane comments followed by “Isn’t that interesting?” Like this, “Peanutbutter is made of 20% yak hair, isn’t that interesting?” Well, no, it’s not. I think the ability to read minds would be a lot like that.
5. If you were to become a spammer, what product would you peddle? And what would your message be? Come up with the most attention getting, creative, crazy thing. Yes, that’s a challenge.
I would send kind spam. Spam that compliments. My spam would be like this:
Hello Fellow user of the Interwebs!
My name is E.S. Pam, and I think you have the prettiest eyes. Thinking about your eyes makes my day happier and I want to thank you for that. If you’d like another compliment, please wire me $5 (pay pal accepted!) and I will send you one compliment a day for the next ten days. Free of further charge.
Thank you, and hey, the color looks GREAT on you!
Love, E.S. Pam.
6. What’s the first type of alcohol you ever tried to drink? What is your current favorite alcoholic drink? (What about non-adult beverage?)
Wine. But I don’t drink so, sorry, no favorite drinks in that category. I do have a fondness for limeade, and I’m not just saying that. I love summer because that’s when Odwalla sells its limeade. Also, it’s when our local smoothie shop sells an amazing smoothie called Lime In The Coconut. Mmmm.
7. What do you think is the best commercial of all time?
Uh, oh. I also don’t watch TV.
8. What’s the most unique/strange silly skill your possess?
Oh, geez. I don’t have any unique skills. No strange ones I’m willing to confess to, either. However, I am somewhat ambidextrous and if I’m tired, I will sometimes start writing left handed and not realize it for a while. It’s kind of convenient, actually, to be able to write legibly with either hand. My right hand is dominant, but I do a lot left-handed. Sometimes I switch up just because.
9. What’s the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to you at school? What about at a conference?
Guys threw stuff at me in High School. It was awful. That was why, when I got to college, I thought the guys who were asking me out were playing a joke on me. I looked one guy in the face after he asked me out and said, with complete sincerity and rather hurt feelings, “Right.” I know how stupid that sounds now, but I truly believed that.
10. How do you feel about the dentist? And what about clowns?
I floss religiously. I love the dentist because I can nap and they say nice things about my dental hygiene. I have no issue with clowns. No really. None at all.
11. What’s the best admonishment your mom ever gave you, or that you’ve ever given a kid? e.g. if you make that face it’ll freeze like that. or… if you walk from the kitchen to the table w/ a fork in your mouth you’ll stab yourself through the throat and die.
Years ago, my mom said, “The only reason people complain about Madonna is that she’s a woman.” And she was right, I realized. Her comment made me think about the way women are portrayed and treated in the media, as well as examine a few of my own internalized beliefs at that time.
And that thing about the fork, Lime, are you kidding me? That only happens if you run with the fork in your mouth.
12. What was your first job? Your most interesting one?
My first job was as a janitor in a Catholic Church. I am not Catholic but the Church was an equal opportunity employer for non-religious jobs. There were always TONS of peanut shells in the balcony and the day after Palm Sunday was the worst because people with nervous hands shredded their palm fronds. Those things were hard to sweep up. To this day I puzzle over the carefully concealed picture I found in the room where the priests prepare for the sacrament. It was in a handmade, asymmetrical paper envelope smaller than one’s palm and it contained a much and oft folded picture of lady parts. It was also carefully hidden, but I was a very thorough duster. I suppose it may have been surrendered by a conflicted parishioner. Or something.
13. Describe your perfect day.
Sleep late, wake up refreshed, perfect shower temperature followed by the perfect cup of coffee. Then, after I win twenty million dollars, I get lots of writing done in time to go on a fun outing with my son. Also, I eat delicious chocolate that has no calories. Then I meet Arjun Rampal and I don’t make a fool of myself AND he agrees to be on the cover of my next book.
14. Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because Arjun Rampal is on the other side. Doh.
15. Tell us two truths and a lie. (The catch is you have to tell us which is what at some point.)
My day job is in tech, and I am usually the only woman doing in-the-trenches tech stuff. I once had a job where one of the programmers refused to do any work that came from a woman so whenever I needed him to do something, I would either send the email to one of my male colleagues to send as if the request were acutally from him, or I’d send the email and we’d take bets about how long it would take him to jump up and curse. (We had low cubes.) On the other hand, there’s fun to be had in tech. A third party vendor told us a certain functionality we needed in their application was not possible, but they would be happy to send us a quote for the customization. That really cheesed me off because it was an obvious thing to offer and the lack of that feature was causing serious, serious production errors. I downloaded a hex-editor and with a little help from one of the other programmers (I’m a DBA not a programmer) located the code we needed to change and then made the update. He showed me now to recompile and voila. All done. And it worked perfectly. When the quote came–for $50,000–we declined. Seriously. We updated their code in about 20 mintues. $50K FFS.
(I’m saving the truth for later – I want you guys to guess it :D)
One lucky commenter wins 3 of Carolyn’s books – so go on. Ask her any crazy question, or something about her books. She writes hot historicals, and also paranormals. As for the fan letter contest? That winner gets a good prize too. 🙂
I don’t say this often (if you read carefully you’ll know this) but… it’s true. Not Proper Enough is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Yes, I know it isn’t out yet. I was lucky enough to get an ARC. I plan on re-reading it. A lot. And I will closer to release week for the review. Also just because. Today, we get an exclusive excerpt of it from Carolyn Jewel. How lucky are you?!
The Marquess of Fenris has loved Lady Eugenia from the day he first set eyes on her. Five years ago, pride caused him to earn her enmity. Now she’s widowed, and he’s determined to make amends and win her heart. But with their near explosive attraction, can he resist his desire long enough to court her properly?
After the death of her beloved husband, Lady Eugenia Bryant has come to London to build a new life. Despite the gift of a medallion said to have the power to unite the wearer with her perfect match, Eugenia believes she won’t love again. And yet, amid the social whirl of chaperoning a young friend through her first Season, she finds a second chance at happiness.
Unfortunately, the Marquess of Fenris threatens her newfound peace. Eugenia dislikes the man, but the handsome and wealthy heir to a dukedom is more charming than he has a right to be. Constantly underfoot, the rogue disturbs her heart, alternately delighting and scandalizing her. And when their relationship takes a highly improper turn, Eugenia must decide if the wrong man isn’t the right one after all.
[Incidentally, if you must read everything in order… here’s a link to chapter 1 here first!]
Just when Eugenia thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
He was here. That awful man, the Marquess of Fenris. Awareness of his arrival jumped through the room like a pestilence picking off the weak and unwary. The orchestra played a few more notes then petered out, bringing a lively country reel to a halt. No one, Eugenia included, could believe the Marquess of Fenris was here at a ball given by Mrs. Wilson. Plain Mrs. Wilson, who was merely gentry, who had no connections one might research in the peerage. The man did not attend any parties but those given by the very upper reaches of the British aristocracy, yet here he was.
Whatever the reason for his appearance, his timing was impeccable. The room fell silent as guests realized he was here, and that meant everyone in the room heard the tail end of Mr. Dinwitty Lane’s comment, uttered in horrified tones as Lane stood not five feet from Eugenia.
“Another country chit? My God they’re coming out of the woodwork this season.”
The remark, though not intended as a direct insult to Eugenia, nevertheless hit a glancing blow on its way to its intended target, which was the young woman standing beside her. If Mr. Lane had been within arm’s reach, Eugenia would have slapped him, she was that angry. It was fitting, horribly, awfully fitting, that Lane’s barb was universally heard because of that man.
One of the members of Dinwitty’s band of supporters laughed, and that, too, carried through the nearly silent room. That man, Fenris, remained near the door, expression cool because there was nothing but ice in his veins. Eugenia was unnaturally aware of him even as she turned her attention to the odious Mr. Dinwitty Lane.
A great deal depended on her reaction to Lane, and she fought her temper. No good would come of anything she said in anger. She could not afford to give Lane or the Marquess of Fenris ammunition against her.
Fenris’s social standing went without saying. Only son of a duke, after all. The Lane family had a page in Debrett’s, and this particular Lane was not without influence. He fancied himself the Beau Brummell of the sporting world, and Eugenia had hoped to avoid meeting him until Hester had made a few friends. He had questionable taste in clothes but was held in awe by many for his ability to ride, race a phaeton, and shoot the dots from a playing card. As far as Eugenia was concerned, he’d wasted his time at public school and at Oxford. An intellectual giant, he was not. He was, however, one of the Essex Lanes. More, he was wealthy and generous with a loan. Friends and debtors of Dinwitty Lane were legion.
Miss Hester Rendell, whom Eugenia had agreed to guide through her first London season, gazed at Mr. Lane with placid calm. She was not a beauty by any stretch. In terms of her looks, she did not impress upon first glance and possibly not even upon the second. She was quiet and slow to warm to people she did not know, a reserve too easily mistaken for a lack of spirit. Anyone who troubled to know her soon learned she was kind, generous, sensitive, and shockingly intelligent.
Lane was a good-looking man, not as tall as Lord Fenris, but heavier through the shoulders, with legs like tree trunks. His waistcoat was mauve with embroidered pink dots, his trousers the absolute crack of fashion, his coat dark green. Half a dozen fobs dangled from his watch chain, which, in Eugenia’s opinion, was five fobs too many. His cravat was a confection of linen so thoroughly starched he could not move his chin without danger of slitting his throat.
Hester turned to Eugenia, completely poised as Eugenia had discovered was her nature. Very little upset or perturbed her. “I believe I should very much like some lemonade. Shall we?”
“Observe,” Mr. Lane said. He lifted a hand so as to alert his companions. “It speaks.”
One of his friends barked. Deliberately. The room was still silent, and this little scene, this deliberate and cruel destruction of Hester’s social hopes, was center stage.
Eugenia’s head snapped toward Lane. She wanted to eviscerate the man. She wished him a hundred, no, a thousand painful deaths. If Lord Fenris followed Lane to his doom, all the better.
“Observe,” Hester said with perfect serenity as she put her arm through Eugenia’s. “It’s forgotten its species.”
And that was the beauty of Hester Rendell. Eugenia did not expect Hester to make a splash in the Ton, but Eugenia had, until now, been confident that by the end of the season, short as it was, some discerning gentleman would have fallen in love with her. That Eugenia managed to keep her temper in the face of Dinwitty’s insult was nothing short of a miracle. “Yes. Something to drink would be delightful.”
Arm in arm, they walked away from Lane, who had only begun to suspect one of his friends had been insulted and that, perhaps, he himself had just been summarily dismissed as unimportant. Perhaps, just perhaps, this encounter might not mean the utter ruin of Hester’s social hopes.
“I believe,” Hester said when she and Eugenia stood with glasses of what might more properly be called lemon water, “I do not like that man.”
“He’s not kind.”
Eugenia nodded her agreement. “People ought to be kind.”
The orchestra had begun playing again, and those who’d been dancing when Lord Fenris arrived and brought everything to a halt took up their pattern again. No one had yet asked Hester to dance.
Eugenia returned her attention to her nemesis, though at the moment she disliked Mr. Lane a good deal more than the marquess. Mrs. Wilson hurried to greet him, but she did so by walking the perimeter of the room as she must do now that the dancing had begun again.
Lord Fenris noticed Mrs. Wilson’s approach and waited by the door, looking extremely forbidding and completely at ease at the same time. Eugenia was quite sure Fenris had not been invited to the Wilsons’ ball. He kept to a very small and exclusive circle of friends. Mrs. Wilson would have been aware of the hubris of sending the Marquess of Fenris an invitation to any event she might sponsor. Yet here he was. Of all the bad luck to have.
The commotion occasioned by the marquess’s arrival continued, albeit in less public fashion. Ladies who did not stare outright did so surreptitiously. Some of the younger ladies were not as circumspect as they might have been. They giggled or fanned themselves with too much energy. The whispers started.
There he is.
Oh, lud, isn’t he handsome?
Now, I don’t like a dark man, but I like it in him.
Honestly, he was only a man, and not a very pleasant one at that.
Lord Aigen, one of Fenris’s few friends, slung an arm around his shoulder and spoke into his ear. Whatever Aigen said in such private tones, Lord Fenris’s expression did not change. He remained by the door, surveying the room with a condescending eye. The ballroom, which was really two salons that had been opened into one room, wasn’t large. Good. He’d need the space of twenty seconds to see he had no business here. He’d done quite enough damage already.
Even from across the dance floor, she could see Fenris was exquisitely dressed. He always was. He was well made enough that anything he wore looked good on him. Nevertheless, unlike Lane, he dressed with a conservatism that prevented one from calling him a Corinthian or a dandy. His nose was a trifle large, but that was, alas, a part of his physical appeal. She wasn’t so petty as to deny him his due in terms of his appearance.
Mrs. Wilson arrived at his side and curtseyed to him. To his credit, he greeted her with cool respect.
Hester followed Eugenia’s gaze. “Ah. Lord Fenris.”
There was such a familiarity in Hester’s words that Eugenia said, “You know him?”
“He visited us once when I was a girl.” Hester continued in a low voice. “With your husband. They came to see Charles.” Charles was Hester’s brother, and a childhood friend of Robert’s. “Long before you and Robert met, of course.”
“Indeed?” Her heart dropped to her toes. Disaster. This could only mean disaster. Hester didn’t know what Fenris was like. Sweet, sensitive Hester didn’t know that one wellplaced word or contemptuous gaze from Fenris would prevent Hester from the sort of social acceptance she deserved.
She hated Fenris. She really did.
Hester put a hand to her heart, eyes open wide and fixed on Eugenia. “Have I given you a sad reminder of your loss? Oh, Lady Eugenia, I’m so very sorry if I have.”
“No, my dear.” She gave Hester’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “You have not.” Robert had been dead for nearly four years now. She would never recover from his loss, but, as she had discovered, time passed no matter what one did. She endured because there was nothing else she could do. “It’s just I had no idea you’d any acquaintance with Lord Fenris.”
“I was thirteen.” There was so much one noticed about Hester eventually. Her complexion, in just one example, was flawless. Another was her figure. Men eventually noticed her figure. Hester was not, however, particularly graceful. “Naturally, I fell desperately in love the moment I saw him.”
“In love with Robert?” She maintained an innocent expression and in return earned a rare smile from Hester. Her smiles never failed to improve Eugenia’s mood.
“We all loved Robert.” She took a drink of her watery lemonade, but Eugenia noted the way Hester’s eyes darted in the direction of Lord Fenris.
“Thank you for saying so.” Eugenia clutched her lemonade. Her sense of impending doom increased. Her skin crawled with the certainty that Fenris would find a way to cement the effect of Lane’s unpleasant remarks. Unfortunately, it seemed that would happen sooner rather than later, for Fenris had left Mrs. Wilson and, with Lord Aigen beside him, was now moving farther into the room.
“I had the most awful spots at the time of his visit.” Hester had no notion of what was about to happen and how badly an encounter with Fenris might turn out. Eugenia reached for calm. She must be calm if she was to have any hope of facing down that horrible man. “I was clumsy and already as tall as I am now.”
“Hester, dear. Let me fix this.” Eugenia put her lemonade on a nearby table and adjusted the bodice of Hester’s gown, not that any adjustment was necessary. Her bosom was more than up to the task of impressing a gentleman. Was not Lord Fenris a man? Perhaps he could be distracted by the perfection of Hester’s figure. Thank goodness he was a tall man, for Hester was taller than average.
Several times, Fenris was interrupted in his apparent intention of reaching the opposite side of the ballroom. Each time he was stopped, he was engaged in animated conversation. He did not appear to be in a hurry, and he had not, she realized, looked even once in their direction. His friend Lord Aigen wasn’t in any hurry, either. No, the two men weren’t going to reach this side of the room anytime soon. Thank goodness. Some of her tension bled away with what appeared to be the increasing likelihood that Fenris would ignore them entirely.
“He’s still very handsome.”
“I suppose.” If the worst happened, and he did acknowledge them, Hester’s reserve would serve her well. She hoped. She prayed. Fenris, as Eugenia well knew, wore his charm like a coat, to be removed when no longer needed. He’d been kind to a starry-eyed thirteen-year-old, and plainly, disastrously, Hester had not forgotten that kindness. The danger was that Hester would not, as she so often did, see through his pretense.
“I’d wondered if he might have gone to fat.”
Eugenia clenched her jaw. No. Lord Fenris had not gone to fat.
“My love for him was more serious than anything you can imagine. It always is at that age.” Hester, perfect skin and all, was one of those pale-complected brunettes who blushed easily. She blushed a little, now. “He was always polite to me. For which I was very grateful, I promise you.”
“Ah.” Her stomach hurt.
Hester looked in the man’s direction again. “He must have known how I felt, yet he was always unfailingly polite. Despite my clumsiness, my alarming height, and mooning glances.”
“You’re not thirteen any longer.”
“Thank heavens, no.” Hester laughed, and this was another of those things about her that took one aback. Eugenia wished Hester had laughed when Mr. Lane was there to see it. That might have changed his opinion of her. At the very least he might have been stupefied into silence.
The interrupted set ended and couples parted at the edges of the ballroom. The noise of conversation increased as new partners were found and previous ones discussed. No one approached Hester, and Eugenia momentarily forgot about Lord Fenris. Were there no well-mannered young gentlemen at this ball? Eugenia began to harbor some ill will toward Mrs. Wilson. She had a son who was, at this very moment, lounging against the far wall, hands in his coat pockets. Not seeking out a partner with whom to dance, when there was Hester, the only young lady who had not yet been invited to dance. And that was the case even though there were more gentlemen in attendance than ladies.
Men. They were dogs. Every one of them. Every blessed one. Especially Lord Fenris.
Hester tugged upward on the bodice of her ball gown. Eugenia frowned. She stepped in front of Hester and adjusted her bodice again. “You have a bosom, dear. You’ll simply have to accept that. Believe me when I tell you that trying to hide it only makes matters worse.”
“Yes, Lady Eugenia.” Hester looked away. “He’s coming our way.”
“Mr. Wilson?” She sincerely hoped someone would ask Hester to dance, even if it was the elder Mr. Wilson rather than their host’s son.
“No, Lady Eugenia. Lord Fenris.”
Hester was right. Fenris was mere yards distant. Eugenia stepped away from Hester, adjusted her shawl over her shoulders, and waited in silence. She had no desire to speak to the man. Ever. For any reason. Not even by an accidental meeting. Let him pretend he did not see them. Let him not recognize Hester. Let him, she prayed, simply leave them alone.
Lane, blast the man, was now looping around to intercept Fenris, henchmen following him like a pack of starving dogs. Her bad luck continued. Fenris was now so close there was no point pretending she didn’t see him. She could cling to a hope that Fenris would ignore them, but Lane, she knew, would do no such thing.
No one else intercepted Fenris or otherwise diverted him from a trajectory that would bring him within feet of her and Hester. There were murmured greetings as he continued walking. Several mothers poked and prodded their daughters into better posture. Somewhere during his promenade, he’d lost Lord Aigen. A pity. Lord Aigen was quite handsome. And unmarried. Doubtless, Fenris would have poisoned Aigen against her, too.
Eugenia took Hester’s lemonade and set it next to hers. “Come along.”
Too late. She was too late. The marquess stopped. Directly in front of her and Hester. He smiled, but he didn’t mean it. Not really. She prepared herself for a cold acknowledgment. An icy dismissal.
Hester curtseyed to him, though not with much grace. In fact, Eugenia had to catch her elbow to steady her when the heel of her slipper caught in the hem of her gown. Fenris’s attention flicked to Hester’s bosom. She couldn’t blame him. She wanted to, but she couldn’t.
Eugenia curtseyed, too. She would be polite if it killed her. For Hester’s sake. “My lord.”
“Mrs. Bryant.” He took her hand even though she hadn’t offered it to him. “A pleasure to see you, as always.”
Liar. She drew her hand free of his. She was a liar, too. “Likewise.”
“How is Mountjoy?” Mountjoy was Eugenia’s eldest brother. He did not care for Fenris, either.
“In good health, thank you.”
His gaze flashed over her. “I hope Lord Nigel and his bride are well.” Lord Nigel was her youngest brother, and, like Mountjoy, recently married. As Fenris well knew.
“They are.” She plastered on what she hoped was a friendly smile that was not, actually, quite friendly enough. “Thank you for asking.”
“And Lily?” He meant his cousin Lily, Eugenia’s dearest friend in all the world, and now Mountjoy’s wife. “Have you had letters from her recently?”
Lord, would he stop this inquisition? He knew Eugenia did not like him, and he knew exactly why, too. He ought to want to let her alone, no matter their family connection. “Blazingly happy, my lord.”
“I have no doubt of that, Mrs. Bryant.” He pointedly glanced at Hester. Hester gazed back. So calm. As if one encountered a wealthy, handsome future duke every day of one’s life. Honestly, you’d think she was forty-two not twenty-two. With a sideways look at Eugenia, Fenris cleared his throat.
“You are already acquainted.” If he insulted Hester by not remembering her, she’d make it her mission in life to see him suffer.
“I don’t believe so.” Fenris looked only mildly interested, but that, Eugenia reflected, was better than outright disdain.
“Miss Rendell, may I introduce Lord Fenris?”
“Rendell?” Fenris titled his head an infinitesimal degree. She hated that habit of his. Behind him, she saw Lane working his way toward them, and her sense that only ill would come of this encounter increased. What if Fenris was one of Dinwitty Lane’s nasty pack of dogs? What if he made some hateful dig at her? Eugenia tensed, prepared to defend Hester to the very ends of the earth.
“It’s Hester, my lord.” Hester spoke just as naturally and easily as you may. She held out a gloved hand. Her smile appeared, warm and soothing. How could anyone not wish to know a woman of such poise? “Captain Charles Rendell’s sister.”
“Charles’s sister?” Fenris’s eyes opened wide. “Miss Rendell? Good Lord, it is you.” He took her hand and bowed over it. Eugenia remained tense, for she did not trust him. Not at all. “Well. You’ve certainly grown up.”
“It was inevitable, sir.”
On the ballroom floor, couples had begun to line up for the next dance. Mr. Wilson, the son, pushed off the wall he’d been holding up and made his way to a young woman with vapid good looks. The orchestra played some preliminary notes.
Lord Fenris grinned, a genuine smile, and he was quite unfairly more handsome than any man had a right to be. “Miss Rendell. I am both delighted and astonished to meet you again. Are your parents here?” He placed his other hand on top of hers so that he held her hand with both of his. “I know Charles isn’t, as I’ve just had a letter from him, but where are you staying? Why haven’t I heard you’re in Town? Why wasn’t I told?”
If she hadn’t known he couldn’t possibly mean it, Eugenia would have thought he was serious. None of that charm was real, as she well knew. Not genuinely. All the same, she was glad, burningly glad, at his effusive and out-of-character greeting because it mattered. Fenris’s opinion mattered a great deal. Mr. Lane imagined he set fashion. Fenris actually did, and if he paid attention to Hester, well then, so would others.
“Mama and Papa are at home. I’m staying with Lady Eugenia while I’m in Town.”
“That’s splendid.” He continued to hold Hester’s hand but glanced at Eugenia. “May I say that you have a most amiable hostess?”
“You may, for it’s true.”
“Are you engaged for the next dance?” When Hester did not reply, he said, “Am I too late? Are you free for any?”
“I should hate to break my streak, my lord.”
He lifted his eyebrows in a query. “What would that be?”
“The number of consecutive dances I’ve sat out.” She spoke with such serenity that Eugenia held her breath, expecting Fenris would misunderstand. “I’m at five right now, and my record is seven.” She leaned in and, in a confidential tone, said, “I’ve high hopes of reaching eight.”
Fenris said nothing. Taken aback? Appalled by Hester’s dry wit? Eugenia swore she’d kick the man in the shins, but then he looked Hester in the eye and said, “Mr. Dinwitty Lane has wagered you won’t be asked to dance. I do not wish for him to win that wager.”
“You’ve asked. Ergo, Mr. Lane has lost.”
Fenris bowed, only slightly but enough for others to take note of his interest. “The proof would be in you actually dancing.”
“A fine point, if you ask me,” Hester said.
“Most wagers rest upon a finer point than that.” He looked over his shoulder at the couples lining up. “Will you?”
He was fully capable of playing a deeper and more sinister game than Lane, and that possibility could not be discounted. While Eugenia debated the wisdom of encouraging Hester to dance with Fenris, Hester put her worries to rest.
“I think not.”
His austere expression lightened. “Why? If I might inquire.”
“I had rather not be danced with for a wager.” She was completely earnest, as if the decision to dance or not were for her nothing more than an intellectual consideration. A mere calculus with no emotion involved.
Eugenia tried not to beam her approval, but Hester turning down Fenris—really, could anything be more deliciously awful for him?
“No, my lord,” Hester said. “I had rather wait for someone to have a more usual reason for asking me to dance.”
Eugenia saw no sign, yet, that Fenris was angry or insulted. Indeed, he looked bemused.
“Your beauty? Your lovely smile?”
Eugenia narrowed her eyes at Fenris. She hadn’t imagined Fenris’s glance at Hester’s bosom. But was there a dig there, an insult implied about her looks? To her astonishment and consternation, she had to conclude that no, he had come about as close as any man to making Hester a compliment.
“Mm.” Hester tipped her head to one side. “Those would be a more usual reason; you’re correct in that. But I was thinking of my modest fortune.”
“Were you?” Fenris grinned, and while he did that, his gaze swept over Hester. “I assure you I would dance with you for reasons that have nothing to do with wagers or modest fortunes.”
Good God. The man was flirting. Flirting with Hester!
“Until then,” Hester went on, “I am happy to be here, watching the ladies in their beautiful gowns and jewels. And the gentlemen, too. So elegant. I do enjoy watching the gentlemen.”
Dinwitty Lane was now nearly upon them, his dogs in tow. “Please.” Fenris held out his hand again. “Dance with me? So that I may do all that I can to make you smile at me.”
“I don’t care, you know,” Hester said evenly. “What men like Mr. Lane say or do. ‘Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury . . . ’”
“‘Signifying nothing.’” Fenris cocked his head. “You ought not care. I, however, do. It’s a fault of mine.”
Lane and the others stopped within arm’s reach of Fenris. He ignored them. Eugenia couldn’t decide where to look, at Lane and his hateful friends, for she quite hated them now, or at Fenris, who was giving the performance of his life. He could have made a living on the stage, he was that convincing in portraying himself as kind and thoughtful.
Lane put a hand over his heart and shook his head. “Is this possible?”
His query caused instant silence for a radius of some ten feet. Lane removed his gloves with an awful deliberation. He slapped them against his open palm to a collective intake of breath. The half of the room that could not see probably thought he’d slapped Fenris.
Fenris half turned. “What is that noise?”
Thwap, thwap, thwap, went the gloves against Lane’s palm. “Fox. Do mine eyes deceive? Gentlemen,” Lane addressed his companions, “did you not hear his lordship ask the girl to dance?”
To this there came a chorus of agreement. Eugenia tensed.
“To be sure,” Fenris said. “I’m begging for the honor.”
“The man who stole away the Incomparable is reduced to begging for dances?” Lane snorted. “I thought you were over your penchant for blowsy girls.”
Fenris went perfectly still. “I don’t know what you mean.”
But he did. Of course he did. Some years ago, Fenris had leveled just that insult at her. He’d called her blowsy, a remark that spread through the Ton like fire and refused to die out.
“If your sensibilities were nice in any respect,” Lane said, his hand still over his heart, “you would not be here pleading for yet another blowsy country girl to dance with you.” He winced, but whether his pain was metaphorical or physical, Eugenia could not say. “Where’s your pride? You’re to be a duke, one day, man.”
Fenris looked him up and down. “If you had the brains of a lobster, you would possess twice the intelligence you’ve displayed tonight.”
Lane frowned. “Brains?” He opened and closed his mouth several times and squinted as if thinking pained him. “Twice the intelligence?”
“I fear it’s not a compliment.” Hester shook her head sadly.
“Mr. Lane.” Eugenia felt sick to her stomach as she stepped off the cliff with no protection but the hope that she was right that Lord Fenris’s regard for Hester was sincere. “I believe Lord Fenris is suggesting that in a contest of mental acuity between you and a large crustacean, the crustacean would win.”
Dinwitty gaped. “Of a . . . lobster?”
“Yes,” Fenris said. “A lobster. As Mrs. Bryant so helpfully explicated, a large crustacean.”
Lane’s eyes widened. He tipped his chin downward until it collided with his cravat, which spoiled his attempt to look down his nose at Eugenia. She would gladly accept the man’s blistering scorn as long as he let Hester alone. His lip curled as he turned his attention from her to Fenris. “You go too far.”
“On the contrary, Mr. Lane.” Fenris sounded bored. Bored beyond anyone’s capacity to endure such tedium. “I did not go far enough. I cannot fathom why a gentleman would behave as you have this evening.”
One of Lane’s companions, Eugenia did not see who it was, barked again, to the general hilarity of the rest of Lane’s followers.
Lane gestured at the men behind them. “Give his lordship your condolences, men.” He spoke over several sotto voce mutterings behind him. “I believe his lordship has forgotten himself. My God.” Lane glanced toward the heavens. “Save us from watching him dash his reputation to shreds on such inferior shores as these. You should not, sir, seduce in so poor a country.”
“I beg your pardon,” Fenris said in sharp tones.
Lane slapped his gloves on his palm again. “None shall be given.”
“You would be wise to have a care what you imply about me,” Fenris said so coldly she could practically see snowflakes dancing in the air around him. If you don’t, it will be your mistake to rue. I shall not, however, permit you to imply anything untoward about me and any lady in this room.”
Hester, Eugenia was aware, watched Lord Fenris with a sharp gaze.
“I’m sure,” Lane said, “that I’ve heard more than enough insults for one night.”
The world was perverse. Eugenia had long dreamed about serving Lord Fenris the ice-cold revenge he so deserved. Since the day she’d learned of Fenris’s campaign against her she had imagined all manner of ways to make him pay. She had never, not once, imagined she would align herself with him or feel in any way compelled to defend him. “What insult do you imagine you’ve suffered, Mr. Lane, when, in fact, Lord Fenris has insulted not you but lobsters everywhere?”
So what’d you think?! Do you read historical romances? Ever read one by Carolyn Jewel? What do you think of unrequited love stories? Especially where it’s the hero who screwed up? Um, obviously I love that. 😀
YOU GUYS!!! Ms. Carolyn, beyond being super awesome, is ESPECIALLY super awesome, because she’s participating in my massive birthday bash blog blowout giveaway! But! I’ve convinced her to move a few of the copies to this post! So!!! THREE incredibly crazy lucky readers are going to get copies of Not Proper Enough!!! If I hadn’t read it already I’d hate you. 😀
No joke. You want this book. It’s got a great story, great characters, plot, it’s hot. … Really, even if you don’t read historicals, you want to try this one. So convince me. (Us?) Why should you get a coveted copy?!
In case you didn’t know, the lovely and talented Carolyn Jewel recently had a new release. Just look at that stunning cover!
I did a “Fresh Meat” post for this at H&H so you can read my thoughts on it there. Anyway, I always like knowing more about a book I enjoyed, so I came up with a bunch of potential topics for Ms. Jewel… and she decided to do mini answers on each!
When Lily Wellston heads to the Bitterward Estate to comfort her widowed friend Caroline, she certainly does not have romance in mind. In fact the playful but level-headed Lily is amused to no end when, en route, a gypsy gifts her with a beautiful medallion, claiming it will ensnare the romantic desires of a stranger.
But Fate has other plans in the form of Caroline’s ruggedly handsome brother, the Duke of Mountjoy. One day at Bitterward and Lily can’t deny the sizzling attraction between her and the roguish duke. Nothing can come of it, of course. She’s not looking for entanglements and he’s practically engaged. But whether it’s her outgoing nature and the duke’s outlandish ways sparking off one another; or the mysterious gypsy medallion working “magic”—hearts are stirring in the most unexpected and wicked ways…
How did you come up with with Not Wicked Enough/the series? (I know it’s at least two connected books… I’m good with it being two.)
My two previous historicals, Scandal and Indiscreet, were both on the angsty side of the scale. Despite Scandal being a RITA finalist and appearing on a list of the 100 Best Romances, and despite Indiscreet winning a Booksellers Best Award, sales were, well, dismal. In 2009 and 2010, with the economy in such terrible shape, the feeling was that, no matter how good the books, readers preferred a lighter story. That being the case, my publisher was not wild about the thought of more angsty historical romances from me. It was only after I proposed writing something lighter in tone that we could move forward with a contract.
My proposal was a series of books loosely linked by a “magical” amulet, with no real magic (or is there?). As my agent will attest, I cannot write a detailed synopsis unless the book is already written. I never know exactly what the story will be until I start writing it.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned while doing research for Not Wicked Enough?
I’m afraid this won’t be very exciting to people who aren’t history nerds, but I learned a lot about Regency era door hardware. I needed to know how a doorknob might fail so as to trap my hero and heroine in a room. I was having the absolute worst time getting specific information that would answer my question, and I was beginning to think I’d have to do something completely different to achieve the outcome I intended with the scene. But then I got in contact with the president of a group of antique doorknob collectors, and he was kind enough to point me in the direction of two newsletter articles that contained everything I needed to know, with pictures and dates.
Although doorknobs existed in the Regency era (1811 to 1820) they were not the turning doorknobs we know today. Door hardware in this period had a metal plate with a knob affixed to it. The knobs, which can be quite beautifully worked, were essentially there for leverage. You grabbed the doorknob to move the door.
What made you choose Lily (the heroine) to be such a person for clothes and how much research did you have to do to come up with her outfits?
Remember when I said, I can’t write a synopsis until after the book is done? Well, this sort of thing is why. I didn’t make a conscious choice that Lily was a Regency Fashionista and Mountjoy (the hero) was not. I had no idea until I started writing.
It went kind of like this, and although I am condensing several days work, this is how it happened:
Lily has arrived at her destination late at night. It’s raining and she’s concerned that her pretty slippers might be ruined and that her gown might now have water spots. Well. Isn’t that interesting? (It was to me at the time, OK?) She sees a very tall man in the foyer with her. Very handsome. Also quiet. He has a tremendous presence, but, gee, the servant is dressed better than he his.
From that scene, it can’t be much of a surprise that a writer would really work the fact that Lily and Mountjoy are opposites in their feelings about clothes. For me, it was a key to Lily’s personality. She wanted beauty in her life. Why? Because as a child, she was not permitted to indulge her tastes. Her family didn’t have money, but now she has it. Her money permits her, in a small but not insignificant way, to prove that her controlling father no longer controls her.
As to research for the clothing, over the years, I’ve collected a really wonderful set of books, website links and images of Regency era clothing, so I had a great deal of visual information and inspiration readily at hand.
What was your favorite part of writing Not Wicked Enough? Your most hated?
For me, the worst part is the beginning, when I don’t know the characters well enough to know what situations will most challenge them and drive the story forward. The best part is when I know exactly what sets off sparks between my hero and heroine, usually at the 50-60% done mark. Then it’s mostly a matter of rewriting and rearranging the parts.
Isn’t Ms. Jewel sneaky? She basically got an interview out of me! Not the usual type we see here though. 😉 Have you read this book yet? Have you read anything by Carolyn Jewel? Do you read historical romances? Got any questions for Ms. Jewel on the nitty gritty of Not Wicked Enough?
Ask away! One lucky commenter will win a gorgeous copy of Not Wicked Enough.