Be Warned: These are the scribblings of a writer unruly, unsupervised, and largely unrepentant

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Character Showcase - Justina Penny

Well, it's finally Jussy's turn and she's been waiting impatiently to meet you all! As the first leading lady in my Book Club Belles Society series, Justina Penny is one of the youngest and most wayward of all my heroines.
For the year 1815 she is definitely ahead of her time in some ways. She knows (or thinks she knows) what she does and does not want in her life, and her hopes for the future do not include the usual expectations of a young lady in the Regency era. Fortunately for her, no one else in her family holds out much hope for Jussy in that regard either. As the sister with the fewest expectations placed upon her, she makes the most of her freedom.

But, of course, even though she thinks she has the world sewn up, she has some growing up to do. At nineteen she is an independent, plucky spirit and while that has its good points, it also has it's drawbacks.
Her bravery also makes her reckless and gets her into sticky situations.
Her quick mind can also be stubborn and cause her to be so sure she's right that everyone else must always be wrong.
That bright imagination can also blind her to reality.

I know that for me, part of Justina's charm is that she isn't perfect. Far from it, in fact. She's not a mature, wise, all-knowing, flawless young woman who never puts a foot wrong. She begins her story in the preview short BEFORE THE KISS, when, during a trip to Bath, she meets Mr. Darius Wainwright and immediately decides he's the most stuck-up gentleman she's ever known. From that beginning it's clear she has a journey of discovery yet to make.
By the end of ONCE UPON A KISS she has learned a lot more about Darius, and also about herself.

And Jussy is not just the naughty girl bent on rebellion. She also has many good points - including a kind heart, devotion to her family, loyalty to her friends and a desire to bring a smile to a certain grumpy fellow's lips.
Yes, she leaps first and asks questions later, but one day, perhaps, she'll be mature enough (or so her elder sister Cathy hopes) to consider the consequences for once, before her feet leave the ground. By the end of ONCE UPON A KISS there are signs that this might one day come to pass. After all, miracles can't happen overnight.

I'll leave you with an excerpt from Miss Justina Penny's diary -

August 29th, 1815 A.D.

Today I splashed Mrs. Dockley from head to toe, broke a china plate, and failed to heed Mama. Thrice. All these things, but for the last, were quite accidental. I was quarrelsome on four occasions and fibbed regarding the china plate, pieces of which will one day be found buried in the herb garden and not in the possession of a wild-eyed, knife-wielding gypsy with a wart and a wooden foot. Although I think my version of events is better.

Sometimes real life is very dull, or simply incon­venient, and things never turn out quite the way one expects or hopes. I have heard it said that challenges are sent to try us. I would like to know who is sending so many to me, for I believe they have been misad­dressed. I am quite tried enough, and I suspect that someone, somewhere, is completely light since I have all their calamities as well as my own. Speaking of which, today I thought of the Wrong Man again.

I know not why he continues to plague me, unless it is a developing, chronic case of Maiden’s Palsy. It has been over a year. All I can say is, the blasted town of Bath has a great deal to answer for and I would not go there again for ten thousand pounds and a life supply of hot chocolate.

I cursed inventively when I caught my skirt in the kitchen door and again when I found a splinter in my finger. At approximately ten o’clock, when I saw Lucy in her new scarlet cloak, I was wracked with envy. But it lasted only until a quarter past, at which time she shared a jam tart with me and lamented the fact that her hair will never hold a curl so well as mine. Ah, vanity—one is hounded by it relentlessly when one has so little to be vain about.

Yesterday we sat in the hayloft and watched Major Sherringham’s hired harvest hands at work. Briefly I lusted. That is when I thought of the Wrong Man again. But even I do not suffer the Maiden’s Palsy as often as Lucy, who will confess—when pressed—that she is seized by wicked desires at least twice daily, even with no militia encamped nearby. I suspect this may be due to the fact that she was once a sickly child. I shall advise her to eat nettle soup. And a quantity of it.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Character Showcase - Darius Wainwright

In my new series, The Book Club Belles, five young ladies have formed a book society in their small Buckinghamshire village. It is the year 1815 and they've just started reading  Pride and Prejudice. Imagine their surprise when a handsome, mysterious stranger arrives to take possession of the biggest house in the village. He's haughty, reserved, and just like "Mr. Darcy". The gossips are soon in a spin and the Book Club Belles can't help thinking he might have walked directly off the pages of the book they're reading. Whether that's a good, or a bad thing, only time will tell.

Darius Wainwright makes his first appearance in my free introductory story BEFORE THE KISS and you will get to know him more in ONCE UPON A KISS. He's a young man with many responsibilities in his life. He runs a successful shipping business - importing wonderful things like chocolate! - and he is also guardian of his fifteen-year old niece, Sarah. He takes both these things very seriously and it gives him a stiff and haughty appearance. The light relief in his life mostly comes from his best friend Miles Forester, who is always having some romantic misadventure from which he needs to be rescued. As for Sarah, (the niece Darius has raised since she was four and he only nineteen) he believes he's doing a pretty good job, and often thinks to himself...

At least she had the capacity to entertain herself and was not all noise and giggling like most females of her age.

            His stepmother, however, complained the girl was withdrawn and peevish. “You’re raising her to be as unsociable as yourself,” she snapped.

            “Sarah is fifteen. She is not ‘out’ and therefore not meant to be sociable.”

        “Whatever your future plans for the girl, she must learn how to hold a conversation and be gracious. She is too turned in on herself. Of course, she leads a solitary life in this house with no one her own age and no cous­ins, since you flatly refuse to marry and produce any.”

            But Darius saw nothing amiss in his raising of Sarah or in the way she turned out. He measured his success in the fact that he could sit quietly in her company for half an hour and feel neither the stressful need to fill an awk­ward silence nor the beginnings of a tense headache. She seldom made any sign of disagreeing with his opinions and, in fact, had said very recently, “I look at you, Uncle Darius, and know exactly what I want, and don’t want, in a husband.” He was pleased to think he had set her a fine example upon which to base future judgments.

But when he arrives in the village of Hawcombe Prior he soon finds a number of new and unexpected things requiring his attention. One is a very large, complacent, aristocratic pig called Sir Mortimer Grubbins, who by strange accident falls under his care. And another item, even more urgently requiring his attention in this wild, unruly countryside, is Miss Justina Penny - one of those troublesome young ladies of the local book society. He's been warned about those women already, but nothing could have prepared him for what he finds.

Of course, he hasn't read Pride and Prejudice so he has no idea who Mr. Darcy is. From the way Miss Justina Penny keeps mentioning that man with disdain, however, he can only guess Mr. Darcy is the most awful villain ever created. It's clear to Darius that he's off to a bad start since she keeps comparing him to this fictional gentleman. Maybe his housekeeper is right and young women should never be allowed to read romance novels. Surely nothing good can come of it!

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

GUEST SPOT - An Indecent Proposal from author Jean Maxwell.


A local radio deejay in my hometown occasionally starts a discussion on his morning show about this. Listeners call in and confess their 'forbidden lusts,' - a TV or other personality that they secretly lust after but would never admit to in real life! These usually turn out to be children's show hosts or geeky TV ad actors, but I want to talk about the most forbidden of forbidden lusts...the workplace love affair! While these are disastrous for a multitude of reasons, there are few among us who haven't witnessed one, or worse -- been part of one!
I have a day job. I work in an office. And certain real-life events got me thinking about how this happens, what goes through people's minds and how far would they take things in a setting that could expose them in the worst possible ways. I then began a story that I quickly realized could spin into an entire collection of different workplace scenarios. Thus, the 'Workplace Gone Wild' series was born.
My first installment, Indecent Proposal, released in January of 2014, with various other story ideas brewing in my mind to follow it up. Surprise, surprise, my publisher then announced an anthology call for office romance stories, to which I quickly stepped up to the plate. By this point I figured I had a reputation to maintain!
A big thank you to Jayne Fresina who reached out to some of her fellow authors and offered blog space for book promotions. If you're a reader who likes a little forbidden lust on your bookshelves, Indecent Proposal is for you! It centers around a busy career woman, divorced and with all the frailties an overworked, thirtysomething girl can have, and is a character a lot of readers can identify with. The train of her professional life gets derailed by a handsome newcomer who shows her some very 'forward' moves!
I hope you enjoy Indecent Proposal, and coming soon, look for 'The Terminatrix' in Evernight Publishing's Executive Assistant anthology due out in June, 2014. You can stay updated on the progress of this and more hot office romance stories by visiting my website/blog and
You can also find me at and @dearjeanmaxwell.
When a hard-working professional girl gets overloaded with projects she tends to go a little crazy. Add in a hot, hunky company newcomer that she must work late into the night with and the stage is set for a workplace gone wild!!
Workaholic PR Manager Carlin Cates is asked to drop everything to help out a new recruit in completing a bid proposal with tight deadlines. She’s not crazy about putting in the extra time until the newcomer, Thatcher Banks, turns out to be the hottest Project Manager in the business!
Sex on the job was only a fantasy for Carlin until Thatcher Banks came along, but just as events in the back room heat up, Banks disappears without explanation. Feeling used and manipulated, more than the proposal seems indecent as Carlin tries to heal her wounded pride and discover the truth about her mysterious co-worker.

Want to read more?

Thanks for stopping by, Jean!
Ms. Maxwell is a fabulous author with many steamy romances out there. If you haven't checked her out yet you're missing a great read! Hope this has whet your appetite.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Character Showcase - Miles Forester

Miles Forester is the hero's best friend in BEFORE THE KISS and ONCE UPON A KISS. As the younger son of an Earl he's led an easy life with few responsibilities - unlike his friend, Darius Wainwright - but these many advantages have not made him selfish or aloof. He's easy-going, seldom in a bad mood, and loyal to his friend. Wherever he goes, he makes an effort to be entertaining and is always a gentleman. He is a man devoid of malice or ulterior motive and that makes him an invaluable friend for Darius.

Miles is described by Darius as leaping into a room like a "young, amiable Labrador". And I saw the character exactly like that. I've known a few of those big-hearted dogs with their sunny, happy-go-lucky, lolloping strides, and that is how I envisioned Miles Forester. Maybe without the slobber, though!

His friend also describes him as "an optimist and a romantic", completely opposite to his own character. While Miles has a knack for fitting in wherever he goes, his friend is always very much the square peg in the round hole. But these two extremely different men are close friends and have been so since their days at university. Darius is a steadying influence for Miles. In return, Miles brings some light relief into the hard-working life of his stern, reserved friend. He's also very good at charming women and therefore keeping them out of his friend's way.

Miles has a nose for mischief too - like any good Golden Lab worth it's name - and he knows when his best friend has a secret fancy for a troublesome young lady. And with the best will in the world he means to do whatever he can to help his friend find love.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Character Showcase - Dr. and Mrs. Penny

The heroine of BEFORE THE KISS and ONCE UPON A KISS is Justina (Jussy) Penny. Her parents are Dr. and Mrs. Penny who are some of the principle residents in the small village of Hawcombe Prior. I've decided to showcase them together because I don't think they would want to be separated. Well, Dr. Penny might like a little peace and quiet for a while, but his wife would instantly want to know what he'd been saying and doing in her absence!

They are a couple who happily put down roots in the village when they were first married and there is not much that goes on there now without them knowing. But while Mrs. Penny likes to collect this information about her neighbors and share it lavishly, her husband is usually off in his own world. Only occasionally does he listen to what goes on at his table - and only if it appeals to his quirky sense of humor.

The Pennys have been married for twenty five years and they have two daughters. Cathy is the one upon whom all their hopes rest - at least in Mrs. Penny's mind - because she is pretty and well-behaved, and she knows her responsibility to find a husband. But their youngest, Jussy, has a spark of mischief that her father appreciates. He shares her sense of curiosity about the world and recognizes her intelligence when, in the eyes of most people, she is simply a troublemaker. Although all the women in his family often leave him out-numbered, bemused and befuddled, Dr. Penny has a soft spot for Jussy. He is patient and thoughtful, with just a touch of eccentricity. As he freely admits, he much prefers the dead insects and stuffed birds he collects to the living patients he must tend. He prefers studying creatures when they cannot study him in return! 

Mrs. Penny is always busy and always in charge. She manages her house, her husband, her surly trainee cook and her daughters with great energy. She's a bit of a meddler, a gossip and a "fusspot", but underneath her nagging she deeply cares for her children and wants the best for them. Woe betide anyone who causes trouble for her family!

And she makes the best jam in the county - she would want me to mention that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Introducing the Book Club Belles Society

Today my e-book novella introducing the new series Book Club Belles Society is released. IT'S SHORT AND IT'S FREE!
So you really can't lose, right?

BEFORE THE KISS is a short story to start the new series off. It introduces readers to Justina Penny and Darius Wainwright - the heroine and hero of ONCE UPON A KISS.
This novella is all about those very important first impressions that will set Jussy and Darius up for their  later encounters and explain exactly why they already have some not-very-flattering opinions of each other.
Jussy doesn't have much good to say about the haughty, mysterious gentleman when he shows up in her village. Even when her fellow "Belles" at the local Book Society start swooning over "Mr. Darcy" in their latest read Pride and Prejudice, Jussy is simply waiting for Elizabeth Bennet to crack the boring fellow over the head with a chamber pot.
And he certainly isn't prepared to fall head over heels for her.
Want to know why?

Pick it up. It's FREE.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Character Showcase- Catherine Penny

Today I'm continuing the showcase of short character introductions leading up to the release of my new series The Book Club Belles Society.

Miss Catherine Penny is the elder sister of Justina (my heroine in BEFORE THE KISS and ONCE UPON A KISS). She is the quiet, demure, well-behaved sister and she is also widely acknowledged as "the pretty one". Cathy is the sister upon which all hopes rest.

As Justina says, her sister "could wear a grain sack and still be the prettiest girl in Hawcombe Prior", but she also realizes it's not all smooth sailing for her sister. In fact, Justina feels sympathy for "poor" Cathy.

"It must be hard, thought Justina, to possess such beauty, for with it came not only great expectations, but the terrible responsibility of maintaining it.

How glad she was that such a burden would never be hers. "

Cathy takes her responsibility of being the one daughter expected to make a good marriage very seriously. She's a bit of a worrier and her nerves sometimes get the better of her. For instance, a family trip to Bath, which occurs in BEFORE THE KISS, is sent into chaos when poor Cathy becomes afflicted by an embarrassing nervous rash. She knows the trip is mostly about getting her a husband— her mother's high expectations are by no means subtle!— and the pressure is on. But Cathy is too shy to compete with some of the brazen young ladies of Bath. She's no flirt and her fashions belong to the small world of Hawcombe Prior, not to promenades along the Crescent.

It's not long before Cathy is longing for home again, and her familiar, peaceful life among friends.

Cathy's unfortunate rash, however, is not enough to make their mother give up on the plan of exhibiting her daughter in as many public places as possible. So, on their last evening in Bath, Cathy is covered in a hastily made up powder and forced out to a ball at the Upper Rooms, chaperoned by her aunt. There she meets a very pleasant gentleman named Mr. Forester and he does not seem to notice the rash or the equally unsightly powder used to mask it. They share a dance, but do not get to complete their set, for sudden havoc is caused by her younger sister Jussy, a mouse, a little too much wine, and a certain stained waistcoat belonging to Mr. Forester's haughty friend.

Although she met him only briefly, and their dance was ended so abruptly, Cathy's impression of Mr. Forester is favorable and lasting. Sadly she is due to leave Bath the very next morning and it seems unlikely she will ever meet  him again.

Unless fate— in the shape of his stern-faced, rather terrifying friend— steps in and brings gentle, sweet-natured Mr. Forester all the way to Hawcombe Prior.

* * * * 

You can find more about Cathy and her sister in BEFORE THE KISS - a FREE e-book novella out on May 6th to introduce the Book Club Belles Society.