Thursday, 29 March 2012

Disgrace & Desire



DISGRACE and DESIRE by Sarah Mallory
pub. UK Dec 2010.
Harlequin Historical
 
"Beautifully tortured heroes and heroines that go against the grain, fast-moving drama that is both intriguing and riveting, and chemistry between our lovers that either has you screaming in exasperation or breathlessly sitting in awe – DISGRACE AND DESIRE has it all.  Yet another amazing story from the fantastically talented Sarah Mallory." (romance junkies). Read the full review at

They call her the Wanton Widow...Breathtakingly beautiful Lady Eloise Allyngham scandalises and seduces the ton in equal measure. With all of London falling at her feet, wagers abound over who will capture the fast, flirtatious, disgraceful Lady Eloise - and her fortune...Dashing Major Jack Clifton has vowed to watch over his late comrade's wife, but her beauty fires his blood, and her behaviour intrigues him even further. Only the lady is not what she seems, and Jack must discover the secret she fiercely hides if he is to protect her... (scroll down to read an extract) 


Extract:- 
Eloise moved around the room, bestowing her smiles freely but never stopping, nor would she promise to dance with any of the gentlemen who begged for that honour. Her eyes constantly ranged over the room, but it was not an acquaintance she was seeking. It was a dark-haired stranger she had seen but once.
Suddenly he was beside her.
'Will you dance, my lady?'
She hesitated.
'Sir, we have not been introduced.'
'Does that matter?'
A little bubble of laughter welled up. All at once she felt quite reckless. She held out her hand.
'No, it does not matter one jot.'
He led her to join the set that was forming.
'I thought you would never escape your guard dog.'
'Mr Mortimer is my very good friend.  He defends me from unwelcome attentions.'
'Oh?  Am I to understand, then, that my attentions are not unwelcome?'
Eloise hesitated. This encounter was moving a little too fast and for once she was not in control. She said cautiously, 'I think you would be presumptuous to infer so much.'
His smile grew and he leaned a little closer.
'Yet you refused to stand up with the last four gentlemen who solicited your hand.'
'Ah, but I have danced with them all before. I like the novelty of a new partner.' She smiled as the dance parted them, pleased to see the gleam of interest in his eyes.
'And does my dancing please you, my lady?' he asked as soon as they joined hands again.
'For the moment,' she responded airily.
'I agree,' he said, his eyes glinting. 'I can think of much more pleasant things to do for the remainder of the evening.'
She blushed hotly and was relieved that they parted again and she was not obliged to answer.
Eloise began to wonder if she had been wise to dance with this stranger: she was disturbed by his effect upon her.  Goodness, he had only to smile and she found herself behaving like a giddy schoolgirl! She must end this now, before the intoxication became too great. When the music drew to a close she gave a little curtsey and stepped away. Her partner followed.
'I know I have not been in town for a while,' he said, 'But it is still customary to stand up for two dances, I believe.'
She put up her chin.
'I will not pander to your vanity sir.  One dance is sufficient for you, until we have been introduced.'
She flicked open her fan and with a little smile she walked away from him.
Alex was waiting for her.
'Our host tells me Lord Berrow has sent his apologies for tonight. He is gone out of Town. However, Parham expects to see him at Renwick's soirée tomorrow.'
'How very tiresome,' said Eloise. 'If we had known we need not have come.' She tucked her hand in his arm.   'Let us go now.'
'Are you sure?  You will disappoint any number of gentlemen if you leave now: they all hope to stand up with you at least once.'
Eloise shrugged. If she could not dance with her dark stranger she did not want to dance with anyone.
'There will be other nights.'
She concentrated on disposing her diaphanous stole across her shoulders rather than meet Alex's intent gaze.
'What has occurred Elle?  I mislike that glitter in your eyes. Did your last partner say anything to upset you?'
She dismissed his concern with a wave of one gloved hand.
'No, no, nothing like that. He was a diversion, nothing more.'
'He was very taken with you.'
'Did you think so?' she asked him, a little too eagerly.
Alex frowned.
'Does it matter to you that he should?'
Eloise looked away,
'No, of course not. But it is very flattering.' She tried for a lighter note. 'He was very amusing.'
Alex looked back across the room to where the tall stranger was standing against the wall, watching them.
'I think,' he said slowly, 'that he could be very dangerous.' 

© Sarah Mallory

Friday, 23 March 2012

Snowbound with the Notorious Rake

SNOWBOUND WITH THE NOTORIOUS RAKE
by Sarah Mallory
pub. Nov 2011  "One Snowy Regency Christmas" (with Christine Merrill)  and Dec 2011 (North America)
M&B / Harlequin Historical

Extract..........





 

The drawing room of Knightscote Lodge was considered by many to be the ideal room for a cold winter's night, the beamed ceiling and polished oak panelling being declared perfect by the romantically minded. Certainly with a cheerful blaze in the huge fireplace and the golden glow of the candles, the room looked warm and welcoming.  However, its present occupant was sunk low in his armchair, his booted feet resting on the hearth as he stared moodily into the fire, a half-filled wineglass held casually between the long, lean fingers of one hand.
It had started to snow earlier in the day and now it was swirling against the tiny diamond panes of the windows, driven by the howling wind.  Sir Lawrence Daunton raised his head as a particularly fierce gust rattled the casements. It occurred to him that if the blizzard continued no-one would be able to get along the lane for days.
'Good.'
He muttered the word aloud as he drained his glass.
It was Christmas Eve and when he had ridden down to his hunting lodge on the edge of Exmoor a few days' earlier he had two objects in mind. The first was to avoid all company during the festive season; the other was to get very, very drunk. With the second of these worthy aims in mind, he reached for the bottle standing on the table at his elbow. It was empty and he was making his way to the servants' quarters in search of another when he heard a loud hammering at the door. Lawrence stopped.
'Who the hell can that be?'
With great deliberation he put down the empty bottle and picked up a lantern. His footsteps rang on the flagstones as he walked to the door. It took him a moment to wrestle with the locks and the catch but at last he flung the door open.
A blast of icy air took his breath away. 
As did the vision standing in the shelter of the porch.
Before him was a young woman enveloped in a powder-blue velvet travelling cloak. The hood was edged in white fur that framed a pale, delicate face with a straight nose, generous mouth and a pair of blue-grey eyes fringed with dark lashes.
All this Lawrence took in immediately, but even as he blinked to see if the vision would disappear, she stepped quickly into the hall, saying, 'Do not keep me standing in the snow! Pray tell your mistress that Mrs Westerhill would like to see her. Immediately.' This last word she added a little sharply, for Lawrence was still staring at her. She continued, 'And my groom is outside with the horses.  Perhaps before you shut the door you could direct him to the stables.'
Lawrence blinked. A gust of wind sent another flurry of snow into the hall where it fell gently onto the dark flags and dissolved.
'Yes. Excuse me.' Quickly he stepped outside, pulling the door closed behind him, and ran across to where the hapless groom was holding the reins of two horses.  A few words of instruction and Lawrence hurried back into the house.  The hall was empty, but a trail of wet footprints led off towards the drawing room, where he found the lady warming her hands by the fire. She had discarded her cloak to reveal a high-necked gown of deep blue wool, unrelieved by any ornament save a small edging of white lace at her throat and wrists. The severity of the gown was alleviated by her abundant honey-brown hair, which fell in soft ringlets to her shoulders.
'Well?  Have you told Mrs Anstey that I am here?'
'Er…no.'
She straightened, fixing him with a frowning look.
'This is Knightshill Hall?'
'Alas no,' he replied. 'This is Knightscote Lodge. Knightshill is on the Stoke Pero road.'
'Oh heavens. Then this is not Mrs Anstey's House.'
'No. You must have missed the turning.'
Lawrence watched as her small white teeth momentarily gripped a bottom lip that was as full and red as a ripe cherry. Her eyes travelled about the room and for the first time she seemed aware of its untidy state.
'Is there a mistress in this house?'
Lawrence's eyes danced. 'Not at the moment.'
'Then perhaps you would inform your master…' she trailed off as she looked up and read the merriment in his face. 'Oh heavens.' Her hands came up to her mouth and her eyes with those ridiculously long lashes stared at him in horror. 'Oh, pray do not tell me you are master here.'
'Very well,' he said promptly, 'I won't.'
Her eyes twinkled but she said severely, 'Pray do not be absurd.  If you are the master, then tell me your name.'
'You do not know?'
She shook her head.
'I must appear dreadfully ignorant, sir, but I do not venture abroad often: we keep very much to ourselves.'
'I am Daunton,' he announced, watching her closely. 'Lawrence Daunton.'
Immediately the humour left her face and she retreated a step.
'Rake Daunton?'
He grinned, saying with some satisfaction. 'So you do know me.'

© Sarah Mallory


Thursday, 22 March 2012

To Catch a Husband


TO CATCH A HUSBAND
by Sarah Mallory
pub. May 2011 (North America).
Harlequin Historical

Kitty Wythenshawe must marry well and an invitation to London brings her everything she had hoped, including an offer of marriage from a rich lord. But it is the dark and brooding northerner Daniel Blackwood who haunts her dreams and threatens to ruin her well-laid plans….



I decided to begin this story in my local area, the Yorkshire/Lancashire border. Spinnning and weaving had been carried on here for centuries but by the Regency period new manufacturing methods were being employed and a new breed of manufacturer was emerging - rich, powerful and determined!  You can scroll down to read an extract.

I had been toying with the idea of writing something about this for a long time but my inspiration for this story started with a car journey.  We were taking a detour to one of the local towns ad the road took us across a very beautiful ford hidden deep in a valley.  There is still an old mill house (now a private home) but the ford is now in a very rural area, and I decided it would make a wonderful setting for a confrontation between Kitty and Daniel. This picture shows you how vehicles cross the ford today and the cobbles hint at it being a major crossing at some stage.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth century it was the norm for carriages to cross small rivers and streams by a ford (the clue is in the placenames of many towns and villages - Exford, Bideford, etc etc). Most bridges were narrow affairs, built for packhorses and pedestrians.  Below are pictures of a packhorse bridge and ford at Allerford in Somerset



























To Catch a Husband - Extract:-

(just to set the scene, Kitty has begged a lift from a local farmer's son to get to Halifax, where she is meeting friends who will take her to London. And don't worry - Daniel only adopts the strong local accent to tease Kitty!)


As they descended to the crossroads she spotted a large black horse standing at the side of the lane. At first she thought the animal unattended, but as they approached a man stepped into view.  His serviceable buckskins and brown riding jacket were liberally spattered with mud and he was hatless, his black hair unconfined and hanging wild and disordered to his shoulders. He did not look around as they approached, but was concentrating upon securing the straps of his saddle.
'That fellow might know which is the correct road,' said Kitty. 'You should ask him.'
Joshua looked at the bedraggled stranger and pulled a face. 'Nay. No need for that.'
'To be sure he looks very rough, but he might know the way.'
'Tha can't be certain o'that.'
'Well it would do no harm to ask,' said Kitty, trying to hide her impatience.
Joshua ignored her. When she realised that he had no intention of asking for directions she decided she would have to act. As they drew abreast of the man she leaned over the side of the gig and called out to him.
 'I say, my man – yes you: which one of these roads leads to Halifax?'  
She was not used to accosting strangers, and a mixture of nerves and irritation at her companion's stubbornness made her tone much sharper than usual. The man turned slowly and looked up at her from beneath heavy dark brows. Kitty found herself facing the blackest, fiercest stare she had ever encountered.
It was as much as Kitty could do not to recoil from the stranger's angry glare. With some alarm she realised that Joshua no longer intended to drive past.  He brought the gig to a halt and the man walked over to stand before them, looking very much as if he would drag her from the gig at any moment. Swallowing hard, she sat up straight, determined not to show fear. She said haughtily, 'Did you understand me, fellow?'
Those piercing black eyes held hers for a moment, then they swept over her, from the crown of her bergère bonnet down to the nankeen half-boots peeping out from under the hem of her walking dress.  Kitty had the unsettling feeling that he could see right through her clothing to the flesh beneath.  She felt thoroughly exposed and her cheeks flamed. She snapped her head up and stared straight ahead.
'Drive on, Joshua.'
The stranger's long arm shot out and one big hand caught the pony's bridle.
'Nay,' he said in a slow, deep drawl. 'First tha needs to know t'road.'
Kitty shot a furious look at him.
'Then perhaps you would be good enough to tell us!'
'I'll tell thee nowt afore I hears a civil word from yer ladyship.'
Joshua shifted uncomfortably beside her. Kitty wondered that he did not stand up to the stranger, but a moment's consideration told her that her companion, a stocky youth of sixteen, was no match for the tall, broad-shouldered stranger some ten years his senior. The man stood at their pony's head, one hand gripping the leather cheek piece while the other stroked the animal's neck with slow, reassuring movements. The pony, traitor that he was, turned his head and rubbed against the stranger's arm.
Kitty realised that however angry the man might be with her, he was in control of himself and the situation. They could not move on until he allowed it.
She ran her tongue over her dry lips.
'I beg your pardon,' she said politely. 'Pray be good enough to direct us to the Halifax road.'
Silence.
It dragged on for a full minute. Kitty gave the stranger a challenging look but he did not move, merely stared back at her with his unfathomable black gaze.  He looked as hard and immobile as the rocky granite outcrops that littered the moors.
Joshua rubbed his nose. A bullock cart lumbered up to the junction and turned along one of the lanes but still the stranger held Kitty's eyes.  Then, just when she was wondering if Joshua would dare to use the shotgun that she knew lay beneath the seat, the man stepped back.
'That's thy road.' He pointed to the lane where the bullock cart was disappearing around a bend. 'Just follow yon wagon t'bottom of  t'hill.'
With a slight nod of acknowledgement Joshua flicked the reins and they began to move.
'Thank you.'
Kitty felt obliged to utter the words as they drove away, but she kept her eyes fixed on the road ahead.  From the tail of her eye she saw the man tug his forelock but there was nothing subservient about the gesture and she could not shake the horrible conviction that he was enjoying her discomfiture.
*
Daniel Blackwood watched the gig pull away, a deep crease in his brows. He was in the worst possible humour but he should not have taken it out on that young couple.  He had been travelling since yesterday afternoon, his horse was lame and he had been obliged to spend the night on the moors.  He was in a devil's own temper and it had not been improved by being addressed by an arrogant chit as if he was a lackey! 
He had seen the gig approaching, but knowing the young couple could do nothing to help him he had ignored it, only to be summoned like a servant to give directions.  True, the girl was young and pretty, but he was in no mood to appreciate the heart-shaped face, the large green eyes fringed with dark lashes or the dusky curls that escaped from beneath her wide-brimmed straw bonnet. He watched the gig rolling away down the hill, the little figure in her green robe and yellow bonnet sitting rigidly upright beside the boy who was driving. Probably some farmer's daughter trying to impress her swain by acting the great lady. Well she had chosen the wrong man to try out her airs and graces!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

SNOWBOUND WITH THE NOTORIOUS RAKE
by Sarah Mallory
pub. Nov 2011  "One Snowy Regency Christmas" (with Christine Merrill)  and Dec 2011 (North America)
M&B / Harlequin Historical
"....With a charming heroine, a devilishly roguish hero, dramatic twists and turns aplenty and an enchanting romantic story, Snowbound with the Notorious Rake is another outstanding Regency romance from a writer who continues to affirm her position as one of the genre’s most gifted authors!" (Cataromance) - read the whole review here
Trapped by a blizzard with notorious rogue Sir Lawrence Daunton, schoolteacher Rose Westerhill must remain indifferent to his practised charms. But as the temperature outside drops, Rose finds the wicked rake's sizzling seduction impossible to resist. For one stolen Christmas night she abandons her principles - and her body! - to his expert ministrations... 

Click on one of the book covers to read an extract.....
I was on holiday in beautiful Exmoor National Park when my editor rang me, out of the blue, and asked if I would like to write a Christmas story.  The timing could not have been better, my head was full of snowy stories!  It was in fact a glorious September, but I had been inspired by a painting I had seen by a local artist, Maurice Bishop.  We had been enjoying a meal at the historic Ship Inn in Porlock and seen a copy of this picture on their wall.  I fell in love with it instantly, and my mind immediately started making up stories - who is the man in the picture? Who is waiting for him at the inn?  Maurice has given me permission to display a copy of his painting, Journey's End, below, and I am very grateful to him. I am sure you will see just why I was so inspired.
 Journey's End by Maurice Bishop. 
You can see more of Maurice's work at www.mauricebishop.co.uk .

I do hope you enjoy "Snowbound", it is a lovely heart-warming tale set in one of the loveliest areas of England. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

More Than a Governess

More than a Governess
Harlequin Historical Romantic Adventure 
Published by Harlequin April 2008
Also published in the UK March 2009 as a special for Mothering Sunday...
Major Collingham needs a governess to look after his children until he can contract an advantageous marriage: impecunious Juliana Wrenn needs funds to open a school of her own. A four-month contract suits them both, but neither foresees the growing attraction that threatens the best laid plans………..(scroll on down past the photos to read an extract)


"More than a Governess is a richly woven tale of passion, intrigue and suspense that deserves a place on your keeper shelf!"
(Cataromance)


The story is set in 1816, on record as one of the wettest ever. No one knew it at the time, but volcanic activity on the other wide of the world in 1815 had released tonnes of ash into the atmosphere, and this affected the weather the following summer.  Not a very good setting for a romantic novel, you may think!  However, Major Collingham has to take his family from London to his home in Lancashire, through some pretty wild and desolate country and heavy rain often caused landslips and washed away the roads, just what I needed to make the journey interesting for my poor characters.  Of course Juliana is a very resourceful young woman, and rises to every challenge of the eventful journey and soon Major Collingham realises that she is much more than just a governess.
 
England at that time was far less densley populated, and if a traveller strayed from the main coaching routes then they could go for miles without seeing  village.  These pictures were taken in January on the bridle paths near my home in the Pennines - I think  this is how most roads would have been in the early 19th century - difficult on foot or on horseback and extremely uncomfortable in a carriage. 





MORE THAN A GOVERNESS
extract..............

She hurried back to Bouverie Street and made her way directly to the kitchens, where Mrs Churwell was waiting to hear her news. Juliana could not suppress her elation.
'He's hired me,' she cried. 'Major Collingham is sending the carriage here for me on Monday, and he says Thomas and Amy can come too. I was most surprised at that, I can tell you, but it is ideal for us all.'
'Oh well done, dearie! I'm that pleased for you, I really am.' The housekeeper turned to the footman, who was relaxing in a chair with his feet up on the fender. 'You hear that, Lawrence? Miss Wrenn is to be a governess to the major, and him a hero of Waterloo, no less!'
'Is he? I never knew that,' smiled Juliana, taking off her bonnet and placing it on
a side table.
'Aye,' Lawrence poured himself another mug of ale. 'My brother was in his regiment, the 30th Foot. They fought off the French at Quatre Bras. Praised by Lord Wellington hisself, they was. But that's not all,' he grinned. 'Devil Collingham, they call him. Heard it from the man's groom hisself, I did, last time I delivered some papers to the house and stopped off for a glass of daffy on the way back. Devil Collingham - devil on the battlefield, and devil in the bedroom. They say in Brussels it was nothing for him to pleasure three women in one night.'
With a shriek Mrs Churwell cuffed him round the ear.
'I'll have none of that talk in my kitchen, my lad! You had best get back upstairs, now, before the master starts shouting for you. Go on now! Don't you be taking any notice of what Lawrence says,' she added, when the footman had lounged away. 'I don't hold with servants tittle tattle.'
'No more do I,' agreed Juliana. She looked up at the housekeeper, a mischievous twinkle in her green eyes. 'However, it seems I have just made a pact with the devil!'



© Sarah Mallory

*    *    *  

A great deal of the action in "More Than a Governess", my first Sarah Mallory novel, takes place as Juliana travels with her young charges from London to Lancashire, with one of the more dramatic episodes set in Derbyshire.  It is sometimes difficult to visualise how an area looked two hundred years ago, but some areas are not that different and I like to think that my characters crossed a section of moorland very like the picture opposite. The land is rocky, bleak and desolate.  You can imagine the bad weather rolling in from the west and covering the land in a blanket of cloud.....
(This photo is courtesy of Andy Savage at www.derbyphotos.co.uk)