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

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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Deverells - A Dynasty of Scandal


My historical romance series The Deverells follows the exploits, fortunes and misfortunes of a family dynasty founded by a self-made man who names himself True Deverell. If you've read TRUE STORY, you'll know why he gives himself the name "True", so I won't spoil it here for those who have not yet read the first book in the series.

True's story begins with his birth and abandonment on a Cornish beach in 1798, and continues on through the adventures of his many sons and his daughter. Beyond that, the Deverells saga will reach into future centuries with other branches of the family tree, stretching in all directions.
In my mind I see True's children and grandchildren running rather wild - taking over the story and smashing furniture with as much aplomb as a rock band in a fancy hotel.
If you are a follower of the series you will also know that I promised the story would sometimes move sideways, as well as backward and forward. In fact, in the latest portion of the story it does a little of both!
 
You may wonder how and where PUMPYMUCKLES fits into the saga. Well, I gave this book the subtitle of "A Deverell's Story" rather than a number in the series (you may have noticed), because I wanted readers to know that it is separate, but also connected to the family. In other words, although it's not necessary to read this one to enjoy the full series, you will find your enjoyment of the entire saga enhanced by this unique story.

In later books you will find out where and how Gabe Hart's extraordinary tale fits in, so if you've read PUMPYMUCKLES you'll have an "ah ha" moment later on, I promise you!

I love to give my readers those little moments when they find how the parts fit. The Deverells saga is built like a jigsaw puzzle. Some of the pieces will fit smoothly. Some parts will leave you puzzled and intrigued, which, I hope, makes the read all the  more pleasurable once you figure it out. In other words, I plan to make the Deverells series an experience that's quite different to the usual historical romance series I've penned in the past. A story you can really sink your teeth into.

After all, I think we'd all prefer a gooey slice of layer cake to a dry, predictable scone!

I hope you're finding this series memorable and exciting. I want my readers to feel as if they live alongside the Deverells, as part of the family - laughing, crying and loving along with them. I'm certainly having a lot of fun writing it!

So stay tuned for more. Who knows where the story will go next? Which branch will it follow? Perhaps it will go back to those adventurous roots and explain a little more about the enigmatic man who created a fortune, a world and a name for himself.

Which leaf of the family tree will sprout next spring and which will fall? Which Deverell is the grandfather of Gabriel Hart and what, exactly, happened to him?

More of True's sons have yet to make their mark (coming up next year DAMON UNDONE, JUSTIFY'S BRIDE and MY BROTHER'S KEEPER) and True himself is not yet done telling his own story.

Indeed, you might find yourself popping up in one of their tales now that you're part of the family too. Keep reading!

 
Jayne x
 
 
 
 
Images - paintings by Eastman Johnson and in this order: Christmas Time (1864); The Old Stagecoach (no date); The Boyhood of Abraham Lincoln (1868) and Barn Swallows (1878)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Pumpymuckles

The following is an excerpt from PUMPYMUCKLES. Enjoy!


            Where was the harm in one little peep? Everybody was out and the staff must have gone below stairs again. And she'd been told to explore while he was out. Nobody said anything about staying out of the master's study.

            Taking a deep breath, she walked into the room and let the door stand ajar behind her. To close it would definitely make it seem as if she was up to no good in there, but it was all perfectly innocent, wasn't it? She was simply looking around, making herself familiar with the house.

            Hands behind her back, she strolled to the fire and felt the caress of warmth gently touch her face. If it was not tended, the fire could soon go out. Surely Mr. Hart would welcome a good fire when he came back to the house. But having reached for the poker, Ever paused, shook her head. Not hers to worry about. She put her hands behind her back again. If a maid came in and found her interfering with the fire they might not appreciate it. Not her place. Not her concern. Perhaps it had been left to go out deliberately.

            If she stirred it up, they would know she'd been in here.

            Besides, Mr. Hart hadn't even thought about a decent room for her and had entirely forgotten she was coming until the last minute. He didn't care if she was cold and uncomfortable.

            Ever sensed she wasn't going to like her employer very much. What sort of man would hire a woman without references and then forget to inform his housekeeper until the morning of her arrival?

            Scattered, inconsiderate, arrogant. Forgets promises and leaves havoc in his wake, but thinks it all very amusing to keep other folk "on their toes".

            Poor Mrs. Palgrave looked up to him because she was the old-fashioned, loyal servant, abiding by her master's wishes, whatever they might be. Forgiving his eccentricities. Making excuses for his behavior. Protecting him from "trollops". As if he couldn't manage that himself, if he wanted to. If being the operative word.

            Her roving gaze now alighted on a brown-top riding boot discarded by the fire. The twin had been abandoned likewise on the other side of the hearth, where it lay half under a chair, kicked off with evident impatience. Both boots bore the shiny, polished patina of "brand new", and the box sat upon the chair cushion, the lid proudly proclaiming the bespoke makers 'Peal & Co.' and boasting of their royal patronage. Expensive. Yet the boots had been rejected by their new owner.

            Restless. Aspires to be...well...doesn't really know what he wants. Hard to please.

            Something whispered through her, like a subtle draft through her body. Again she looked over her shoulder to confirm that she was quite alone.

            Her pulse had picked up its pace as if to warn her and yet there was nobody in the room.

            Turning to the fire again, she impulsively reached for the coal scuttle and tossed another shovel of coal onto the fire. There, she would take the high road and see to his comfort, even if he did not do the same for her.

            Smiling to herself, she replaced the fire screen and then continued her tour of his study, absorbing all that she could about her employer while she had this chance to explore unobserved. She ran a fingertip across the ornately painted globe inside its brass and wood frame, assessed the cut glass decanters in the Tantalus, and then admired the untidy, bulging library of books, stacked and queued behind leaded-glass doors. There seemed to be neither rhyme nor reason to the way the books were placed— travel guides beside poetry, and astrology beside wine-making. Subjects on anything a person could possibly think up.

            Yes, that further substantiated her idea of him not knowing yet what he wanted.

            Ever would have loved such a collection of books at her disposal when she was a child, for she always had so many questions running around her brain. Her father used to say he'd never seen such an insatiable thirst for learning.

            A row of trophies and tall cups decorated the mantle, gleaming in the soft, wavering light, like Aladdin's treasure trove. All of these won with the power of a man's fists and the shedding of blood. Appalling, really, when one thought about it. Of course, there was nothing new about blood-sport for the spectator. The Romans had their gladiators at which to cheer and gape. Human sacrifice for entertainment.

            Fearless. But was it bravery or bravado? Or the sense of having nothing to lose?

            The walls of his study were covered in tournament posters and framed sepia photographs, showing various circus performers and fairground acts with a backdrop of striped canvas tents. She studied them closer, but among the costumed figures could pick out none that matched the vision she nurtured of the mysterious Mr. Hart.

            The largest piece of furniture in the room, and the most ornate, was his desk. With thick legs intricately carved, it was medieval in style— something at which an Archbishop, or another ecclesiastical dignitary, would once have sat to cast fear and awe into the hearts of the humble peasantry. A wide leather chair crouched in readiness behind it, two plump, well-worn arms poised in wait. And there, on the blotter, beneath the oil lamp, she spied a pewter paperweight in the shape of a seahorse. Three small words were inscribed upon its body: Death, Love and Dreams. Tempted to pick it up, she satisfied herself instead by trailing her fingers over the curling shape, from the elegant head to the spiraled tail.

            She'd read somewhere that seahorses cling with their tail for stability in the same way that babies cling to offered fingers. It was also true, apparently, that when they found their mate, seahorses entwined tails and danced together at least once every day, to maintain their attachment. And they mated for life. Somewhere in the vaults of her mind there lived the image of painted wooden seahorses spinning around and around in the breeze through an open window. But the memories from her very early childhood were nothing more than dashes of light that came and went through a lace curtain. Of late those memories had become even more faded.

            Suddenly feeling an inexplicable hollow of sadness in her heart, she moved away from the desk and the seahorse.

            Now there was no further avoiding the black cloth, and whatever secrets it held custody. The thing that had lured her into the room was before her, filling the corner like a dark altar. Saved till last.

            Ever scratched the side of her neck with anxious fingers, feeling constricted by the tight lace collar that suddenly chafed her skin. Glancing over her shoulder, she checked the room again to be sure she was alone. The door was still ajar, the coals in the fireplace wheezing softly.

            It was only a peep and if a man was vain enough to have himself sculpted in the nude, he surely ought to be prepared for unladylike curiosity. So she gripped the soft velvet between thumb and forefinger. Another breath. Another beat skipped within her heart.

            And slowly she lifted the cloth.

            "It's not a patch on the genuine article, you know."

 
copyright Jayne Fresina 2016

 
 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Character Showcase - Heath Caulfield

Heath Caulfield had always been a serious soul, even as a child. If asked, he would have described himself as a cautious pessimist, because to march through one's life with too much optimism struck him as a certain way to hard disappointment. And to show outright enthusiasm for anything was likely to leave a man looking foolish.


Born the "superfluous" third son of the Duke of Ormandsey, Heath has spent most of his adult life attempting to escape the tyrannical shadow of his father. After a short career in the cavalry, he now works for the Bow Street Magistrate as one of their new "improved" officers, fighting against crime and the ruthless criminals who try to rule the streets of Regency London. His father does not approve, but Heath long since ceased to care for the Duke's good opinion.

Heath prefers to remain as anonymous as he can be. He wants no advantage given to him because of those family connections. Having turned his back on the aristocratic life in which he was unhappily raised, Heath has dropped his tell-tale noble surname "Beauspur", preferring to be known as plain Mr. Heath Caulfield, using his middle name for his last. As he tells the Chief Magistrate for whom he works, "I would prefer to achieve something worthwhile, sir, on my own merit. That is why I'm here. I want to make a positive difference in the world while I am in it."
 
It is Heath's opinion that, "Every man should work for his money. A man's worth should be measured, not by the title he was granted merely for being born, but by what he achieves in his lifetime."
He grew up sheltering his deaf and mute sister, Clara, from their father's temper and she remains his first priority now. Since their father has disowned them both, Heath provides for his sister, protecting and guiding her as best he can. He lives simply, in very modest lodgings above a tavern near the notorious "Seven Dials" district, so that he can afford to provide a governess/guardian for his beloved sister and comfortable lodgings for her, outside the city. 
 
He is a man of few words, but many good deeds - for which he wants no fanfare.
 
There is not much he considers beyond his capabilities. After all, as he's fond of saying, he once wrestled for Eton. However, when he decides to purchase a new bonnet as a gift for his dear sister, Heath Caulfield soon finds himself on ground rather more treacherous than he expected. This staid, solemn, hard-working young man, who never falters in the face of danger - never trembles in the company of the most bloodthirsty villain - soon discovers that he does have a weakness after all.
 
For a certain reckless, clumsy, unpredictable and independent young lady whose sole purpose in life appears to be falling on him, from a great height, at every opportunity.
 
Read more about Heath in THE DANGER OF DESPARATE BONNETS (Ladies Most Unlikely - Book Two) OUT NOW

Image above is a self-portrait by Carl Joseph Begas (c. 1820)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pumpymuckles is coming to get you....


Sometimes a nightmare is just a love story in the dark...
 
 
Ever Greene was just six years-old when she vanished into thin air from the end of Cromer Pier.

Four months later, she reappeared, safe and sound, on the doorstep of her parents' house, more than eighty miles away. The child had no recollection of where she had been or with whom she had spent the time, but in her hand she clasped a silver and enamel brooch intricately fashioned in the image of a seahorse...

 * * * *

Ever Greene's childhood was haunted by nightmares and plagued by mysterious events. Now, as a grown woman, she hopes to put all that behind her and lead a purposeful life. She answers an advertisement for the post of governess— a perfectly respectable position for the dignified Edwardian lady.

This attempt to lead an ordinary life seems destined for chaos, however, when she finds herself working for an extraordinary bachelor. Gabriel Hart wants her, not to teach those sweet-faced children she'd envisioned as her pupils, but to transform him into a proper gentleman. A task of no little undertaking and far from what she'd anticipated.

And then  Ever’s troubled life takes an infinitely more disturbing turn when the monster she called Pumpymuckles, who once chased her through those childhood nightmares, now stalks her waking hours instead.

But Ever Greene isn't that little girl afraid of the dark anymore.

Indeed, the darkness should be afraid of her.
 
 
 
Want to read more? COMING December 21st, 2016.
Keep in touch with me via FACEBOOK

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Exclusive Excerpt from THE DANGER OF DESPERATE BONNETS

Dear Readers!

A little treat for you today - an excerpt from my newest release. Enjoy!


"Miss Good—"
            She slipped and tumbled forward, dropping her basket and all the contents. The gentleman, fortunately, had speedy instincts and saved himself from being bowled over the gate by grabbing her around the arms.
            "Oops," she exclaimed, her heart's rhythm scattered like pins, and any attempt to restore it further disrupted by the sudden heat and heaviness of his hands upon her.
            "Miss Goodheart!" He was very slightly flushed, his brows drawn together in a cross scowl as he set her back on her feet. "Do have a care, madam."
            She realized at once that her sleeve felt loose. The seam had torn again. And thus she remembered where she'd seen him before. It came to her with a jolt and the snap of her stitches.

            I am an officer of Bow Street, madam, entrusted by the magistrate to keep the peace and apprehend criminals. I must explain to you, the peril that can befall a member of the fairer sex, especially when she is left untended and happens to be of a venturesome, foolhardy spirit.

            "This lane is steep and in a treacherous condition," he lectured her today, "you should take this path with more caution, madam, or you could suffer injury."
            "Sir, I know this lane as well as I know the back of my hand. I could run the distance with my eyes closed."
            "I wouldn't recommend it, but if you must, kindly wait until I am not in your path. Or anywhere within five miles. I'd prefer to remain upright and—"
            "And I know who you are," she exclaimed, breathless.
            Mr. Caulfield belatedly removed his hands from her person and now held the left one, fingers spread wide, against the front of his waistcoat. "I...have an interest in history and architecture. Kingsthorpe Park is Plantagenet era, is it not?" he said, as if she had not spoken.
            "You lied to me in the stagecoach, sir!"
            "I beg your pardon?"
            "You're an agent of the Bow Street Magistrate. At first I did not recall where I'd seen you before, but now I remember."
            "You must be confused, Miss Goodheart."
            "Indeed I am not. We have met before, and you knew it yesterday on that coach. Why did you not say when I asked? Instead you lied and said it was highly improbable that I knew you."
            He looked away from her, a bead of sweat trickling down his temple. "I wonder, Miss Goodheart, if I might prevail upon you to keep the information you have about me to yourself. At least while I am here. It will not be for long."
            "Why?" He was suddenly slightly more interesting. "Are you here on official business?" she demanded eagerly. Since he still looked away over the fields, she stepped closer and tugged on his shirt sleeve. "If there is anything amiss going on, we ought to be informed. My father is the Justice of the Peace in this county, so any such matter should be brought to his attention. Are you on the trail of a despicable criminal who has left a dozen victims in his wake? If so, I could be of help to you."
            He looked down at her fingers. "No."
            "Oh." She released his sleeve, and her shoulders sank slightly. "Why are you here then?"
            He ground his jaw, dabbed that bead of sweat from his forehead with the folded handkerchief again, and replied, "I came into the country for my health. The physician thought it would be beneficial."
            Melinda studied him thoughtfully for a moment. "I know illness and the incapacitated male, sir, for we've had a few in our family. And you are not one." He felt solid when she ran into him. Certainly, his grip was firm enough to tear her clothes. Again. And she'd seen him scale the side of a stagecoach as if it were nothing. "You are much too... robust. Which suggests you're lying to me again."
            He said nothing, his expression utterly blank.
            Blood from a stone, she thought grimly.
            "I will not be the only curious soul, sir. Strangers are a rarity in Kingsthorpe, and there is bound to be speculation about your purpose here. You'll need a better excuse than fruit."
            Still no reply, just a soft, measured sigh and an almost imperceptible narrowing of his eyes.
            "You want me to keep your profession a secret and yet you give me no reason why I should." With an arch of her eyebrow, she added, "Your smug face annoys me immensely, and you've already lied to me at least once."
            Finally his lips parted. "I see I expect too much of you, when I ask for prudence and discretion. I cannot expect such consideration from an irrational creature. It is probably not in your nature, being a young, silly thing who likes to talk. So you must do as you wish with the information you possess about me. As for my face, Miss Goodheart, I have never been fond of it myself, but it is adequate for my purposes, and anything finer would probably have been a hindrance. It would, most certainly, have been wasted on me."
            Well, when he did speak he certainly had plenty to say.
            "If one wants a favor," she said pertly, "one ought to be pleasant to the person who can grant it, don't you think? And not imply that she is an absurd chatterbox."
            "Since you had no qualm in telling me, with blunt candor, what you thought of my face, it would seem neither of us give compliments for the sake of it."
            Melinda watched him tucking that folded handkerchief away into a small pocket in his waistcoat, his movements very precise and tidy. Clearly he would tell her nothing more about his reason for being in Kingsthorpe. Perhaps he chased her, she mused. What had she done now?
            "So you will not tell me your purpose here."
            "I'll let you speculate, madam. I suspect that would be more entertaining for you than the plain, unexciting truth." He knew that about her already, she mused. It was rather infuriating to be read so easily, while he kept his own pages tightly shut.
            "How funny it is that we keep running into each other, sir."
            "Funny is not the adjective I would choose."
            She laughed. "Vexing then."
            "With that I can agree." Suddenly he hunkered down and began to put all the fallen items back in her basket. He still wore leather gloves, which looked odd beside bared forearms and rolled up shirt sleeves.
            Melinda let her gaze travel over his strong arms and wide shoulders. "If you were on the trail of a dangerous highwayman, I might have been of use to you in apprehending the villain. I am quite without fear. You have, after all, seen me in action."
            "Indeed," he huffed. "Thrice."
            "Thrice? How so?"
            He looked up at her, his eyes half shut against the sun. "That was me in your hat shop three days ago. The man you crushed to the floor, and who was then beaten severely by an angry lady wielding a parasol."
            Now she was even further amused. That was him too? The lovelorn fellow? No wonder she had sensed a familiarity with his...aura, she supposed one could call it...when he entered her shop. A recognition from some sense deeper than the customary five.
            "Hattie was right then, after all. You are crossed in love."
            "I beg your pardon?"
            "Lady Clara Beauspur. The young lady for whom you came into my shop. You left her portrait and her address behind when you departed in haste, so I delivered a bonnet to her on your behalf. Did she not tell you?"
            "Ah." His hands paused in the process of refilling the basket. His shoulders went rigid.
            "I hope you are not offended."
            He squinted up at her. "Too late now if I am, is it not? Like meddling in other folk's business, do you?"
            "I object to the term meddling, sir. You wanted a bonnet for your young lady, and I delivered it."
            "My young lady? What exactly did she tell you?"
            "You needn't be so wary. She told me how hard you work, how you never rest, and how much she adores you."
            "She did?" His expression was dismayed.
            "Lady Clara worries about you and waits patiently for your visits. She agreed with me that love should conquer all and nothing should stand in its path." Melinda wanted to pat his shoulder to comfort, but perhaps that would be too forward. Then he moved again, in any case, and continued repacking her basket.
            "Lady Clara," he muttered, "enjoys her mischief."
            "Well, I wanted only to help your state of affairs."
            "My state of affairs? Do tell me what that is? I am quite at a loss."
            "It's obvious. She is a titled lady— an aristocrat's daughter— and I suppose her family does not approve of a match with an officer of the police. Worry not, these problems can be resolved, if one is determined."
            Melinda heard a low groan and, for a long moment, feared she might have gone too far in her eagerness to do a good deed. But when he looked up at her he seemed to be mulling something over. At last, in a calmer voice, he said, "I wondered where I'd misplaced the miniature."
Relieved, she exclaimed, "Lady Clara is delightful. I liked her very much."
            "Did you?"
            "I saw no mischief in her. Indeed, she was very well behaved and proper." She smiled. "Nothing like me at all."
            "I would hope not." He finished reloading the basket and stood.
            "If you confide in me, I might be able to advise you."
            He looked doubtful. "Your expertise reaches beyond bonnets, does it?"
            "I do know a man in love when I see one."
            His narrowed gaze moved slowly over her upturned face. "Do you?"
            "You must love her dearly to go to all that trouble. A ladies' bonnet shop is clearly not your province."
            But his expression gave nothing away. It remained a closed box, inscrutable.
            "Evidently," she said firmly, "you need my help."
            "Miss Goodheart, all I require from you is the assurance that you will keep my profession to yourself while I am here."
            Melinda gave a heavy sigh and reached for her basket, but he held it away from her. 
            "Well, madam?"
            She put her hands behind her back. "It would quite enliven things, if you were here on business. It would even make you interesting. Slightly."
            "Miss Goodheart, I hate to disappoint you, but I am a very ordinary, uninteresting, humdrum fellow." Tucking her basket under one arm, he added, "I can, however, promise you that whatever else I may or may not be, I am a gentleman. While I am here, I will allow no harm to befall you."
            "Oh, lord." She rolled her eyes. "Just as I feared."
            "You would rather be in harm's way, madam?" He looked puzzled.
            She shook her head. "A hint of danger would not go amiss. No woman wants to be assured that nothing exciting will ever happen to her."


Want to read more? OUT NOW! THE DANGER OF DESPERATE BONNETS

(image: Painting by Edmund George Warren)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Character Showcase - Miss Melinda Goodheart

In THE DANGER OF DESPERATE BONNETS (Book two of my Regency-era romantic comedy series, The Ladies Most Unlikely), it is Miss Melinda Goodheart's turn to take her bow. And she does so with a very dramatic flourish, as only she can.


The first thing Melinda Goodheart would want you to know about her is that she never, in the whole course of her life, planned to cause any trouble.
 
(Well, I suspect you can guess how that turns out.)
 
The second thing you should know is that this declaration was usually the opening line penned in any letter she wrote. Because any letter she sat down to write was either an explanation, an apology, or a confession. And decorated with a great many blots of ink between the misspelled words, where she was too eager to get her thoughts down and too impatient to mend her pen.

 
The third thing you must know is that despite an unfortunate arrangement of facial features, which, so it had been said, sometimes appeared "devious" and "conniving",  she was not the sort of girl who did anything in a deceitful way. If she disliked you, she made no effort to hide it, and if she liked you then she was the most loyal of friends.

 But this, alas, brings us full circle back to the first item in the list above. For due to that unwavering devotion to friends and causes, and an  indomitable sense of justice equaled only by her courage— which had politely been described as "undomesticated"— Melinda invariably found herself in the thick of that chaos she never planned. She was a girl who went along with the conspiracies of others, especially if she was convinced of a wrong to be righted, and that made her daring, dauntless spirit an invaluable tool to those friends who did plot and scheme.

 Too often ruled by her temper and driven by a desire for thrills and escapades, she might be mistaken for a stupid girl. Occasionally she even mistook herself for one.
 
But is there anyone amongst us who has never been a fool?
 
 
The Danger of Desperate Bonnets (Ladies Most Unlikely 2) coming this month.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sizzling Historical Romance Sale!

Aug 14-20th, 2016 - ROMANCE on sale!
I’m taking part in a giant Sale and Giveaway along with 35 other historical romance authors this week! From August 14-20, you can get our ebooks for $0.99! Check out the site at http://www.sizzlinghistoricalromance.com/ to see all the books and enter to win a Kindle Fire and 6 Classic Sizzling Historical Romances that captured our hearts and inspired us to write!

 
Click here to enter the contest
 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ransom Redeemed - OUT NOW!

Book four in The Deverells saga, follows True Deverell's eldest legitimate son as he wanders down a path he's never before known. What will he find at the end of it? And will he survive the journey?
 
Notorious...

            Ransom Deverell once got away with murder. So rumor has it.

            People say he has no heart and no conscience. Just like his infamous father, he's a cocksure, irreverent fellow of indeterminate pedigree or class. On the surface he appears indifferent, cold and merciless, while on the inside there are, according to gossip, unplumbed depths of sin and depravity.

            He even shot at his own father once, so who knows what he could be capable of next?

            Ransom Deverell is irredeemable. He's heard it so often it must be true.

            Oddly enough, his reputation does not keep women at bay. The lure of danger brings them into his life by the dozen, but he keeps his boots on, always ready to run swiftly away from promises and commitment.

            And he isn't always looking where he's going.

           
Not impressed...

            In her twenty six years, Miss Mary Ashford has been through enough ups and downs— mostly the latter. It doesn't matter that her sister calls her an old maid and every opportunity in life seems to have passed her by. These days she would rather experience adventures by safely reading about them within the pages of a book. Far less risk to one's heart and petticoats.

            So when this scapegrace collides with a lamp post and crashes into her quiet bookshop, Mary must keep her eminently sensible wits about her. Although Deverell stirs up the dust and tickles her sense of humor, she knows how to handle habitual flirts and artful charmers.

            And she knows this menace to womanhood is accustomed to getting his own way. Well, he won't get it with her.

 
Not in love...

            He says he's entirely unlovable. She says she's far too practical to believe in love. Everybody knows love only happens to  weak-chinned imbeciles and silly girls in novels.

            But when these two opposites meet, they soon realize that not everything is quite as it seems. Including them.  

            And it could be that they met just in the nick of time.

            Falling in love is every bit as painful as it sounds, but when disaster strikes, it just might save them both.

 

Buy RANSOM REDEEMED now!

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Wicked Sale!

The Wicked Wedding of Miss Ellie Vyne is on sale for a few days across all online retailers, so grab your copy if you haven't yet!


Catch me if you can! - E.V.

WHEN A SCANDALOUS LADY...
By night Ellie Vyne fleeces unsuspecting aristocrats as the dashing Count de Bonneville. By day she avoids her sisters' matchmaking schemes and dreams up torments for her childhood nemesis—the arrogant, far-too-handsome-for-his-own-good James Hartley. Her latest prank: "winning" the Hardey diamonds in a card game from James's mistress.
STEALS FROM A NOTORIOUS RAKE...
James finally has a lead on the thieving Count de Bonneville, tracking him to a disreputable inn. He bursts in on none other than the brazen, irritating, nearly naked Ellie Vyne. Convinced she is the count's mistress, James decides it's best to keep his enemies close. Very close. He must get those diamonds back, and seducing Ellie will be the perfect bait.
IT CAN ONLY END IN A WICKED WEDDING

AMAZON US
AMAZON UK
AMAZON Brazil
B&N


For more about this story and "Grieves", James Hartley's cunning valet read my post here !

As always, I love hearing from my readers, so don't hesitate to contact me via this blog or my Facebook Author Page

Jayne

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Character Showcase - Miss Mary Ashford, A Moderately Sensible Woman.


            Readers of The Deverells series first met Mary as the heroine's loyal and beloved friend in CHASING RAVEN, and they will get to know her much better in RANSOM REDEEMED.

             The Ashfords were once a family of wealth and circumstance, but all that changed after a series of misfortunes— some brought about by fate and others by the stubborn, narrow-minded pride of her male relatives. Men, of course, rule the roost in Victorian England. Even with a woman on the throne, it remains very much a man's world. Most decisions are left up to the men, whether those decisions are good or bad and the women have no voice. As a consequence Mary has lost all her relatives to war, prejudice, scandal and a rigid inability to move with the times. Now she has only her sister left, and Mary is determined not to let standards fall. They may be poor now, reduced to living and working in a book shop, but that is no excuse to give in and give up. Her main interest is in seeing her younger sister well married and content, to put the sadness behind them and never think of it again.

            
"There was never anything to be achieved by dwelling on the past, or on what one didn't have. It was not a practical use of a person's energies, as she would remind her sister. One must look ahead, plow onward."

             But while Mary always looks where she's going, Ransom Deverell is less attentive. One morning, when hasty escape from an angry lover causes collision with a lamp post, it changes his course and puts him on a path he's never before encountered. Seeking shelter from his irate pursuer, he hides in Mary's dusty, cluttered book shop.

            And is eventually forced to buy books. Oh, the horror of it.

             "I thought, perhaps, you might like to buy a book. Or two.  While you're here."

          "How can I buy a book this morning? I'm quite without funds. As you observe, I do not even have a shirt on my back, Miss...what is it again?"

          "Ashford," she repeated steadily. "And we can send you the bill, if you find yourself currently insolvent." Mary did not believe for a minute that he was one of the poverty-stricken.  Even half dressed he exuded an unmistakable air of privilege, and his clothes— the pieces in existence— were well made of very fine material, perfectly fitted. A fact she had tried her hardest not to notice. "It is the least you could do, sir, considering I saved your life this morning."

          "Saved my life?"

          "Save me. Those were your words, sir. Since I'm not in a position to save your soul, I assume you referred to your life. Or, at the very least, some necessary parts of your anatomy."

          He exhaled a blustery sigh and folded his arms. Like a tall, slowly falling tree, he tipped to one side, resting a shoulder against the door. "But I don't need any books."

          To Mary, that was like saying one did not need air. "Everybody needs books," she exclaimed.

          "Had my fill of 'em in the schoolroom and at university." He shuddered and brushed dust from his sleeves. "Ugh. Quite put me off opening another dull tome as long as I live."

          "Then you're missing out and I pity you. But I suppose not every man wishes to enlarge his mind to fit the size of his head."

          The stranger's eyes sparked, spidery cracks in the ice of their practiced indifference suddenly letting the light through. "Just because you've got a ton of the blasted things you're trying to be rid of—"

          "And most men, in my experience, do not keep their promises, so I shouldn't be surprised that you now intend to renege on yours."

          "Well, I don't make promises, so if you heard one from me it was a mistake."

          "Mine or yours?"

          Still leaning against the door, he glowered at her for a long moment.

          "Fate can lead a fool to a bookshop," she added with a sigh, hands clasped before her, "but it cannot make him read."

          Eventually a low groan rumbled out of his bare chest. "Very well. I'll take some of these dratted books off your hands." But despite this weary tone, a cunning, wicked amusement had come into his eyes and stayed there, slowly thawing the ice. "I'll say this for you, you're determined. Don't give up easily, do you?"

          "It's a vexing quality that comes to women in advanced age."

           Although a long-time friend and confidant of Raven Deverell, Mary has never been introduced to any men in that notorious family. Having now met Raven's elder brother she begins to understand why her friend kept them apart.

 
            There was a time when arrogant, good-looking scoundrels like this one were two or three a penny in Mary's life. They were men who rose late and went to bed even later; they had a never ending supply of vitality and saw no cause to slow down. Back then she was an eligible debutante, someone with whom these men teased and tried to flirt. But that was before her brothers went away to war and never returned, and when the Ashford family still had an estate of their own. Before their fortunes were severely reduced and her bereaved father had to sell it all to settle his debts. Before her uncle died in prison, having confessed to murder by oyster fork. Before the Ashford name was, in the minds of a great many, utterly ruined.

          That naive, sheltered youth seemed so long ago now. Another era, a sunshine-glazed past that belonged to somebody else.

And as for Ransom Deverell, he is less assured in his ability to read character, and does not know what to make of her at first.
          
  Something had drawn him to her, and it wasn't great beauty or charm or any seductive quality. She did not gaze up at him with shy admiration or coy invitation. Her expression, in fact, was akin to that of a woman who had just turned in the street to see a large, muddy, wolf-hound galloping playfully toward her with its eager, slobbering tongue hanging out. She did not know whether to flee or brace herself.

          Of all the ways women had ever looked at him, that one was hitherto unknown.

            But, after years of being kept carefully apart by his sister, these two opposites suddenly find themselves colliding more often. And neither can figure out whether it's by chance, or due to their own fascination with something different. Is Mary Ashford really only interested in getting Ransom Deverell to read a novel? Is Ransom really what he claims to be— a man without a conscience or a heart, an irredeemable sinner?

            Are they merely a challenge to each other?

            At twenty six Mary feels as if she has seen and done everything— well, almost everything. She's not even perturbed when her sister calls her an old maid. There is something safe and comforting about being an unimportant player on the edge of somebody else's stage. Mary is content to be the quiet observer, rather than the character who has to make all the grand speeches. There are advantages to not being noticed.

            But there is something about Ransom Deverell and the way he notices her, that even a "moderately sensible woman" can't resist.

 * * * *

RANSOM REDEEMED (The Deverells Book Four) - Coming August 3rd, 2016

 
Catch up with The Deverells family saga here.

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Deverells - Book one on sale!

For a limited time you can pick up your e-book copy of TRUE STORY for only 99 cents! If you haven't had a chance yet to start The Deverells series, this is the perfect time to dive in and meet the patriarch of this scandalous Victorian family.

Here's an excerpt -


Chapter One

The Offices of Chalke, Westcott & Chalke.
Three O'clock in the afternoon, Tuesday, March 12, 1832

 
            "Get out of my blasted way," the menacing, deeply disgruntled voice rumbled above her. "What are you doing, woman?"

            On her knees before him, head down, Olivia Westcott scrambled for the spilled papers that cascaded around his boots when the man bumped into her.

            "Some ruse to pick my pockets, eh?" he growled. "Where's your slick-fingered accomplice, or did you think to fleece me by yourself?"

            "Sir, I—"

            "Good God, must you wretched creatures lie in wait everywhere I turn?"

            It was fortunate for this stranger that while assisting in her father's office, Olivia had promised to be on her best behavior. She didn't want to be sent home to embroider yet another ugly fire screen or paint watery, depressing landscapes. So, rather than answer as she would in a Utopia of justice and equality, she bit her tongue, held her temper and said, "Sir, pardon me, but you're standing on the papers."

            Great Aunt Jane, always her most indomitable critic, would have been impressed.

            Still the towering monolith did not move. His contempt bore down upon her. "Bloody women! Always underfoot."

            With one knuckle she nudged her spectacles back up her nose and raised her improved gaze only as far as his knees, where the tip of a riding crop tapped smartly against his mud-splattered breeches. "I wouldn't be underfoot sir, if you hadn't bowled into me."

            "You shot out of nowhere. If I didn't have my wits about me, I could have trampled you into the floorboards."

            The last sheet was stuck under his heel. "Please move your foot, sir. No! The other one."    "I suppose you were wandering with your head in the clouds, daydreaming. Relying upon other folk to pay attention."

            "I can assure you I was not. Sir! Your foot!" Anyone would think he deliberately delayed getting off her paper.

            "Butter-fingers, is that not the expression?"

            "Better that than Butter-brained." It slipped out on a sly breath before she could restrain herself.

            "Tsk, tsk, you know what they say about women with sharp tongues."

            "No. Do tell. I am all agog to hear it." Oh dear, now more words came out that shouldn't, linked like scarves pulled from a conjurer's mouth. "And clearly you want to enlighten me."

            He replied coolly, "One day they find themselves surrounded by castrated men."

            "A tragedy, to be sure. For the men."

            At last she pulled the trampled paper free, although it was now decorated with a large, dirty shoe print. Before she could get up off her knees, the man lost his patience and, as if she was nothing more than a puddle in the street, he stepped over her.

            "Look where you're going in future, young woman."

            She recovered from the indignity just in time to witness his head contact briskly— and most satisfyingly— with the low lintel of the doorway.

            "Did the doorframe come out of nowhere too?" she inquired politely.

            He stopped with his back to her. "You think that was amusing."

            "Well, it does have a certain piquancy, sir." Mimicking his previous tone of condescension, she added, "You know what they say about men who live in glasshouses."

            "Yes. They pay a very high window tax." He half turned his head, but not far enough to reveal more than a little cheek and some dark side-whiskers above the tall collar of his greatcoat. No longer quite so terse and angry, his voice warmed with a hint of self-deprecating humor. "And, as I have found, they ought to keep their clothes on unless they have a fancy to exhibit for their neighbors."       

            He didn't turn to see her blush. In the next moment he was gone and the walls around her seemed to exhale a collective sigh of wanton languor.

            "Are you alright, my dear?" Her father had come to find his papers.

            "Was that a client of yours?" she asked with as much nonchalance as she could muster.

            "That was... a gentleman currently embroiled in a divorce being handled by Mr. Chalke," he replied gravely, taking the documents from her. "Best stay out of his path, Olivia."

            "Why?" Her heart was beating too fast, too hard.

            "Must you always question, my dear? Now where is the tea?"

            She had forgotten it. Vowing to remedy the oversight at once, Olivia waited with her hands meekly behind her back, until her father had retreated inside his office. Then she hurried to the window.

            There he was— Mr. Incivility—already down the stairs and emerging into the street. He put on his hat, nodded briskly to the boy who held his horse and tossed the lad some coins. Olivia willed him to look up, so she might see his face, but he didn't.

            Glancing at the clock on the mantle, she noted it was just after three. It was a habit of hers to mark the exact time at certain important moments in her life. She stored them all in her brain like ledgers on a dusty shelf. Her stepbrother thought that very odd and mocked her for it, as he did about most things.

            But what made this moment so important that it deserved commemoration?

            As soon as her father mentioned the man's purpose there she realized who he was. Divorce was rare, almost unheard of, and those few who attempted it became infamous. Anyone who read a newspaper knew his name. Consequently, Olivia also knew why her father advised her to stay out of his path. A properly raised young woman of good family should avoid the company of that gentleman. In fact, many people refused to call him a gentleman at all. No one seemed to know where he came from, although there was a general consensus as to where he'd end up.

            "Self-made, indeed," she'd once heard Great Aunt Jane exclaim in a huff. "Gentlemen are not made. They are born."

            Olivia considered that a rather snobbish view, especially coming from a lady who was only a few steps away from debtor's prison for most of her adult life and relied upon the charity of relatives to keep a roof over her head.

            She thought back to a conversation several years ago when that same lady, having remarked upon Olivia's misfortune in losing her mother at such a young age— as if it was a tragedy somehow due to the little girl's own carelessness—went on to criticize her complexion, her lack of social graces and her posture.         

            "Straighten your spine, girl! You will develop a most unbecoming slouch if my nephew doesn't put you in a backboard immediately. Who will you ever find to marry, child, if you don't improve your posture, take up some feminine pursuits and learn to hold a sensible conversation?
What gentleman of any worth would look at such a sulky, sullen, willful creature with a fascination for wicked pranks? You won't be fit for polite society."

            This lecture came about because Olivia had sculpted a piece of parsnip to look like a finger, coated the end of it in raspberry jam, and then placed it on the pianoforte keys, to be discovered when the instrument was opened.

            "You are a horrid, unseemly child with a dark and devious imagination, Olivia Westcott. I cannot think what will become of you."

            To which she replied, "I shall marry Mr. True Deverell, shan't I? People say he's not fit for polite society either. But he's rich as Croesus and I hear he knows his way under a woman's petticoats."

            This bold declaration had shocked everyone present into silence. These things — and men—weren't meant for drawing room conversation in mixed company, and the adults were probably wondering where she'd even heard his name. But Olivia was not the sort of girl who listened quietly and contentedly to sweet fairy tales. "Once upon a time" made her want to spit nails. Once upon what time? When? What on earth did that even mean, for pity's sake? How could anyone take such a feeble, flimsy narrative seriously?

            No indeed, Olivia preferred darkly gothic yarns and bloodthirsty horror stories not meant for the ears of little girls. Should that mean eavesdropping at keyholes to get her entertainment, so be it. Even if she didn't fully understand what she heard.

            In any case, on that long-ago occasion, the mention of his name had got her sent up to bed immediately, saving her from a very dull evening. As she ascended the stairs, she overheard the adults discussing her.

            "One must make allowances for the poor child, growing up motherless."

            "Allowances? Where would we be if we made allowances for bad behavior? Another sliding of standards! No, no, that girl was impertinent long before she lost her mother, who was herself a stubborn creature with a distressingly romantic view of life and her head in the clouds. What my nephew saw in her I'll never know. A difficult woman."

            Was she? Olivia had known her living mother for eight years and, at the time of this conversation, been without her for two, yet already shards of memory were breaking away and leaving her, like pieces of a shattered mirror that glittered brightly as they spun into darkness. She tried holding on to the broken glass even when it hurt her small hands and made her cry, but tears were something she had to hide from her father, who never wept himself and had no patience for those who did. He was, of course, cut from the same cloth as Great Aunt Jane, who placed extreme importance on the immovability of one's upper lip, which should remain as constant as one's temper and the heat of one's blood. A passionate display of any kind was anathema in their family. Surrounded by these strong, rather formidable characters, Olivia struggled to follow their example and keep her real thoughts and feelings to herself. Especially those she secretly nurtured about dangerous men.

            By the age of eighteen she thought she had those feelings fairly well under control. Fairly.

            Peering down through the window again, she watched Mr. Incivility ride away down the busy thoroughfare. The brim of that tall hat still hid his face, but her gaze followed him until her breath clouded the view.

            So there he went. The notorious True Deverell. He who must not be mentioned.

            She really couldn't see what all the fuss was about.

            A storm in a teacup.
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