Thursday, December 6, 2012

All I Want For Christmas is a Duke and Much Merry Making

Christmas is my favorite time of year. Yes, I'm a cliché. I adore the lights, the greens and reds, the sparkling ornaments, trees, the scent of pine and baking in the air, and if you're lucky snow! I received this love from my parents, both who had very hard Christmases as children. I think they wanted to ensure I was raised in the magic of the season rather than the disappointments. And so, every Christmas morning, the tree burst with presents. My mother would wrap ANYTHING. Seriously. If you stood still, she might have wrapped you.

I lost my father ten years ago and I can still remember that first Christmas without him. It was hard. Now, my mother has passed this year, and I will be facing a Christmas with other family members. Yet, my mother and father are with me in spirit. Not only that, as I wrote The Twelve Days of Seduction, my part of the anthology, my mom cheered me on! She absolutely loved that I was writing it and as I've gone through all the fun of bringing it to life, her spirit has always been there, encouraging me.

A Victorian Christmas was different than the Christmas we know now. Prince Albert brought the Christmas tree to us, thank goodness! But so much of the celebration surrounded food and merry making. They drank oodles of wine and Christmas punch. Father Christmas himself was not a present giver but the spirit of partying, really. It was sometime during the 1860s that he transferred into that gift giving gentleman. Before that, he was all about bringing on the wine, eating loads of food, and singing loudly.

The Victorians were still largely celebrating Christmas as a pagan sort of day. A day to beat back the darkness with bright lights, and vigorous cheer. For it would be a good few months before spring came, and this day was the best chance to have a good blow out of fun before the last days of dark.

My story focuses on a governess who scrambles up from the bottom of society and falls in love with the little girl she looks after. . . She also falls for the duke, her boss. Oh my! The Scandal! And because of this, my book was perfect for The Scandalous line at Entangled.

Delilah Marvelle and I both wanted to write stories about a duke and so this summer we decided we had to have our own cheery story to fight the dreary winter. I adore her story, Merry Christmas Mrs. Robinson! Its so fun and romantic. Both of us chose to write about women who deserved a good man, but had some serious social challenges getting them. But get them they do!

I adore the Victorian period with its social constraints, and smoldering emotions beneath and what better time to display them than at Christmas when everybody was letting their guards down a bit, playing games, drinking mulled wine, and eating their Christmas goose. I hope you fall in love right along with my characters and revel in the Christmas fun!

Now, if you could have anything besides a duke for Christmas, what would it be?

Post your answer and you will have your chance at wining one of two copies of All I Want for Christmas is a Duke or Forever a Lord, Delilah's deliciously sinful full length December release. WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED SUNDAY NIGHT!

Also, make sure you pop by Delilah's fan page today ! She's doing her own give away. Double the pressies. What could be better than that?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Dark Hero Fetish and Why I Loved Bane Not Batman

I’ve always loved Bruce Wayne. There was just something about the playboy hero who ran around in a bizarro outfit beating the crap out of some seriously strange villains. I’ve loved his many incarnations, but I must admit Christian Bale has been my favorite.

The first installment in Nolan’s series was amazing, introducing a complex hero with a complex love life. Movie two rocked my socks off, largely because of Heath Ledger’s incredible portrayal of The Joker. But here’s the thing. . . Batman, in this latest series, was never quite willing to commit to love.  Yeah. Yeah. He had abandonment issues. I get it. I have lost one parent and am losing another. Its very difficult to put our hearts out there when we know how much it hurts to lose a loved one. And I do love the repressed hero. But what I don’t love is that he can never quite completely fall for the love of his life. He never lets go. He’s always holding back. And he’s protecting her from himself. AND its only after her death that he falls. When he falls its into a pool of self indulgent woe is me. He forsakes his calling “for the good of Gotham”, abandoning his principles in favor of a lie. And he makes a shrine to the heroine, cutting himself off to life. Remembering Rachel as a saint more than a flesh and blood woman who was fed up with his behavior. . . 

Let’s be clear. Batman is dysfunctional. Anybody who is an agoraphobic who on again off again dons a bat suit and talks in a gravelly voice as he battles crime is not within the realms of mental health. He’s just not a villain. Cue the other crazy man in The Dark Knight Rises.
Cue Bane. {played by one of my favorite actors ever, the immensely talented Tom Hardy}

He’s absolutely insane, of course. . . If you disagree with his view point. He reminds me of Tyler Durdin from Fight Club, hungry to hit the reset button on society and see it restart. Anarchy, according to Bane, the new leader of The League of Shadows, is the only way to restore balance to society. He’s a character straight out of the French Revolution, unafraid to get blood on his hands to reach the ends of his dream for a new society. Yet, at the forefront of it all is the love of his life. {Spoiler alert} Bane, from the beginning, puts his life on the line for the girl he loves, granted she is a child the first time he sacrifices life and quite literally flesh for her. But he has no qualms about risking everything for her. . . Then follow her and her disdainful father, even after being so horribly disfigured. She is the leader. Not Bane. He is the instrument of her will, yet he is also independent. And the passionate love for her???? Its undeniable. Take one look in his eyes in that last scene. He would burn in hell for her and nothing would ever stop him from letting her know how much he loves her. 

This is why I love Bane. He’s not on a mission, determined to protect the love of his life from himself. Hell, no. He IS himself and wants the love of his life to be at his side fighting with him. He’ll even take the back seat to her leadership. That’s how much he loves her.

How do you feel about heros who protect the heroine from them?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Anne Boleyn: Remembering Her May Execution

The Tudors were shagtastic. The Court of Henry the VIII was one rollicking, partying, sex pot of a court. Morals weren’t nearly as rigid as those in later eras. In fact, a purely fabulous point in Tudor favor was that they believed a woman had to orgasm to achieve pregnancy. Go Tudors. But, I’m not writing to celebrate the remarkably sexual atmosphere of the the era of the rose, but rather to remember the woman most famous or perhaps infamous at the Tudor Court.

On May 19 1536, Anne Boleyn knelt down on a bed of straw and her head was struck from her body by a French swordsman at the Tower. I’ve stood at the spot where she died and it’s a powerful experience with the ravens cawing. It didn’t matter that I was surrounded by other tourists. There’s something palpable in the air where she and so many others lost their lives at the pleasure of their monarch.

Nearly five hundred years ago this week, Anne’s reign as the shining jewel of Henry’s extreme ardor came to a brutal end. Anne Boleyn/Tudor is renowned for her seductive abilities and what a dance she must have lead. It took seven long years from the time Henry first fancied her to the time they finally married in secret. Yes. SEVEN. Seven long years of keeping him on a string, of ensuring he didn’t find someone else, or of not being killed/brought down by the many who were infuriated by the political and religious consequences of the King’s obsession for her.

The “naughty prostitute”, as she has been known, actually had one heck of a back ground. Dukes and lords were abound in her family history, both in Ireland and England. Yes, there was a merchant too, but Anne had the highest pedigree out of all Henry’s English wives and she certainly had the training to maneuver court life. As a very young girl she went to the court of the Archduchess Margaret of Austria. She was a star there before she was twelve. Margaret loved the little Anne, making it clear she felt that the a petite Boulin  brought her much joy. 

Anne was then sent to France to serve two queens of France, one of them Henry’s sister Mary. After learning to maneuver the sexy France court, Anne somehow managed to avoid the reputation that her sister Mary acquired. Mary Tudor was a favorite of the King of France who did indeed call her his English Mare. I guess there was a lot of riding going on, eh? Poor Mary was later known as the great whore, having also been the mistress of Henry VIII. Mary may have slept around but she certainly slept with the most powerful men around her. Anne on the other hand didn’t sleep with anyone. Or least not Henry. Not at first. When she came back to England, there were some failed attempts on her part and her family’s part to get her married off. Her great love, Henry Percy, unfortunately had already been engaged, good as marriage in Tudor times. That hoped for union to Percy was ended by the most powerful man in England at the time, a man she would bring down, Cardinal Wolsey.

So many people have a tendency to think Anne was also sleeping around, honing her bedroom skills. She may have. There are certainly a lot of fun things a woman can do and keep her virginity, but as opposed to her sister, there actually isn’t any evidence to really suggest she did. Even the legendary love between herself and poet Thomas Wyatt can’t be confirmed and was first inferred by Wyatt’s grandson. So, what made Anne capture Henry’s eye? We’ll probably never know, but she did meet him in a pageant where Henry and other male courtiers did storm a castle and Anne did play Perseverance just as in The Tudor’s HBO show.

What I adore about Anne was her intelligence and political savvy. She was often at Henry’s side before she became Queen. Now, somehow, she did convince Henry to abandon the Catholic Church, annul his first wife, and completely reconstruct the power structure of England by putting forward Thomas Cromwell and Bishop Cranmer. What I don't love was Anne's vicious streak. The day after Catherine of Aragon died, Henry and Anne paraded about in bright yellow and hosted a feast. In Spain, yellow is a color of mourning, but I highly doubt the King and Queen were paying homage to the deceased older woman.

Still, she must have been something. Do I believe that Henry would have gotten rid of Catherine of Aragon if he hadn’t met Anne? Yes. His arrogance was colossal and his only goal was to have a son. And that arrogance and core goal to have a boy is also why Anne plummeted so swiftly from his good graces. She was only married to Henry for THREE years, half the time she led him on that wild, dangerous dance, when she went to her death. She gave birth to one daughter, the future Elizabeth and possibly the greatest Tudor monarch, then proceeded to miscarry three fetuses. Perhaps the last miscarriage, a boy who was apparently horribly malformed, was truly the end for Anne. She was not the wife Henry wished, still determined to be a part of politics which was something Henry could tolerate in a mistress but not in a wife, and she could not give the king the son he had been so certain she would.

Anne was no passive person during her short three years as queen, lobbying for herself, her family, and her daughter. In fact, her work may have also driven her down. Two of England’s most popular men, Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More, lost their heads as she climbed to power. The country might have forgiven her the tear from the only religion they’d ever known, and the destruction of the men who refused to abandon Holy Mother Church, but they, like Henry, couldn’t forgive her the inability to supply an heir. 

The last months of Anne’s reign must have been terrifying for her. She knew Henry no longer loved her, but could she have guessed that she would be accused of incest, adultery, and witchcraft? She maintained her innocence until the end. Perhaps, Anne was guilty of simply trying to play a man’s part in a man’s world. It is largely agreed, she disputed with the very man she had and her family had helped to rise in power, Thomas Cromwell, the Lord Chancellor at the time. Their argument is a surprising one considering Anne’s reputation. They fought over the distribution of wealth acquired from the dissolved monasteries. Our wicked seductress believed that the money should be given to charitable and education organization. Cromwell wanted the money to go straight into Henry’s purse and there is conjecture that Cromwell orchestrated Anne’s downfall to maintain his own power. Cromwell would see his own bloody end within a few years.

Something I find romantic and tragic in all this is that Lord Percy, the young man she’d so longed to marry, sat at the court that condemned Anne. When the verdict was given, Percy had to be carried out of the chamber. He died eight months later with no heir himself. Had he pined for Anne, heartbroken over the bloody end of the woman he too had loved? I choose to believe, yes. It would be wonderful to believe someone had loved Anne for herself, and not just what she could do for them.

Though condemned of ignominious things, including incest with her own brother, she died a dignified death, without malice on her lips. 

My absolute favorite film is Anne of The Thousand Days. What would you like to remember about Anne in this memorial of her execution this May? Do you have a favorite film or book depicting her life?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

To all the mothers who have toiled for their children, who have so often given up the things which have meant the world to them for the betterment or dreams of their children, for their unprotested hours of work to give their children what they could not have, and for their unceasing, unyielding, unconditional love, Happy Mother's Day. Today is only one of the days in which I admire you, precious vessels of our future.

For you lionesses who guard and protect your children.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Taste of The Dark Lady

Chapter 1
The road stretched on like a line of corrupting filth in the pristine snow. Lord Ian Blake clutched the folds of his thick wool great coat against his frigid frame as he stared at it. 
If he chose, he could simply keep on.
The coach had already left him at the edge of Carridan Hall a quarter of an hour past, but if he took to the mud and ice filled road, he would be in the village by dark and on the first mail back to London. Back to India.
Back to anywhere but here.
For perhaps the tenth time, he faced the untouched, wide  drive that led up to the great house. Snow lay fluffed and cold, crystal pure upon the ground. It dragged the limbs of the finger-like branches towards the blanketed earth.
He drew in a long, icy breath and trudged forward, his booted feet crunching as he went.
Eva hated him.
Hated him enough to not return his letters. Not even the letter begging her forgiveness at her husband’s death. But then again, he had failed her. He had promised her that he wouldn’t let Hamilton’s death occur in India. But he had and worse. He’d been a part of it.
Now, he would go before his friend’s widow, the woman he had held in his heart and been too foolish to realize it. To make amends for his failures he would do whatever she might command. His soul ached for the ease she might give him. For even though he walked up the drive following the curve to the spot where the trees suddenly stopped and the towering four storied Palladian mansion loomed, he didn’t walk alone.
The unrelenting memory of Hamilton’s brutal death was with him.
He paused before the intimidating limestone edifice that had been built by Hamilton’s grandfather. The windows, even under the gray, pregnant sky, heavy with unshed snow, glistened like diamonds, beckoning him to his boyhood home.
The very thought of standing before her filled him with dread, but he kept his pace swift and steady. Each step merely a continuation on the long journey he’d set upon months ago.
Even though the cold bit through his thick garments and whipped against his dark hair, sweat slipped down his back. 
Winter silence pounded in his ears, blending with his boot steps as he mounted the brushed steps before the house. 
As he raised his hand to knock, the door swung open and Charles, his black suit pressed to perfection, stood in the frame.
That now greatly wrinkled face slackened with shock. “Master Ian.” He paused. “Pardon. Of course, I mean my lord.”
Ian felt his gut twist. It had been years since he had seen the man who had castigated him, Hamilton, and Eva time and again for tracking mud from the lake upon the vast marble floors of the house. “Hello, Charles.”
The butler continued to linger in the doorway, his soft brown eyes wide, his usually unreadable face perfectly astonished. 
Ian smiled tightly. “Might I be allowed entrance?”
Charles jerked to attention and instantly backed away from the door. “I am so sorry, my lord. Do forgive me. It has been--”
Ian nodded and stepped into the massive foyer, shaking the wisps of snow from his person. He had left over five years ago for India and Hamilton had followed him there three years later. This time, Hamilton would not join him. “I should have informed you of my return.”
As the door closed behind them, it seemed to close in on his heart, filling his chest with a leaden weight. Not even the beauty of the soft blue and gold leafed walls of his childhood home could alleviate it.
Charles reached out for his coat and took the wet mass into his white gloved hands. “It is so good to see you, my lord.”
The words hung between them. The words that said it would have been preferable if he had not returned alone.
He pulled off his top hat and passed it to the butler. “I should like to speak to Lady Carin.”
Charles’s mouth opened slightly as he maneuvered the coat into one hand and stretched out the other to take the last item. “But. . .”
Ian glanced about as if she might suddenly appear out of one of the maze like hallways. “Is she not in residence?”
Charles’s gaze darted to the broad and ornately carved stairs and then back. “Perhaps you should speak to his lordship.”
Ian shook his head, a laugh upon his lips, but something stopped him. “His lordship? Adam is but three. Does he rule the house?”
A sheen cooled Charles’s eyes. “Master Adam has passed, my lord,” he said, his voice barely audible in the vast room of silk walls and marble floor.
“Passed?” Ian echoed, his own voice bouncing off the walls, chilling him. 
“Was not Lord Thomas’s letter delivered to you in India?”
The world spun with more force than his ship had done rounding the Cape of Good Hope. “No. No, it was never delivered.”
He had never met the boy. Nor had Hamilton. They had both only heard tales of him from Eva’s detailed and delightful letters. In his mind, Ian had always imagined the child to be an exact replica of Eva. Only. . . he was gone. He shifted on his booted feet, trying to fathom this new information. “What happened? I don’t understand.”
Charles drew in a long breath and stared at Ian for a drawn out moment then quickly jerked his gaze away. “I shall leave it to Lord Thomas to inform you.”
What the devil was going on? Charles had never avoided his eyes in all the years he’d known him and now. . . ‘Twas as if the old man was ashamed or fearful. “Then take me to him at once.”
Charles nodded, his head bobbing up and down with renewed humbleness. “Of course.”
They spoke no more as they turned to the winding staircase that twisted and split into two wings like a double-headed serpent.
They followed the wide set of stairs that led to the East wing. Their footsteps thudded against the red and blue woven runner. Ian blinked when they reached the hallway. Hideous red velvet wallpaper covered the walls and massive portraits and mirrors seemed to hang upon every surface.
It looked little like the house he had left. Gone were the cool colors, beautiful wallpapers of silk and gold or silver laced framed with stuccoed accents. Once, this house had been the height of beauty with airy hallways and bright colors. Now, dark, rich tones wrapped the house in moroseness. The elegant, honeyed oak had been ripped out and replaced by mahogany to match the red velvet wallpaper. This was the height of the day’s fashion. Or so it had seemed upon his return to England.
At last, they paused before the old lord’s office. 
Charles knocked. Quickly, he opened the door, edged into the room, then shut the door behind himself. The panel was thick enough that the voices were muffled. But Ian didn’t miss the sharp silence that followed the announcement of his name.
The door opened and Charles announced, “Lord Blake, my lord.”
  Ian strode into the space. As he entered, Charles made a swift retreat, shutting the door with a sharp thud. 
Tension crackled in the room. It was so thick Ian was sure he could reach out and grab it if he chose.
Thomas sat behind a solid desk of walnut. His brown blond hair thinned out over his pale scalp and a light brushing of hair curled at his upper lip. His sunken green eyes watered as he stood. ‘Twas hard to believe the man was not even five and twenty.
Slowly, Thomas reached out his hand in offering, the crest of the Carin family on the gold ring displayed prominently on his finger.
Thomas was lord at last.
How Thomas must have longed for it these years in the shadows of the house, separate from everyone and everything, watching for any chance to betray his brother’s, Ian’s and Eva’s adventures to his father. Desperate for any sort of attention from the old lord.
But that was hardly charitable of Ian. Perhaps in the years since he had left, Thomas had improved. Perhaps he was no longer the jealous and often cruel boy he had been.
Ian doubted it.
Though every instinct told him to push away Thomas’s peace offering, a man never made an enemy out of a source of information. And right now, Thomas held all the information Ian needed. Such power was no doubt heady to someone like Thomas who had always been far behind in the competition for the old lord’s affections between himself, Hamilton, and his brother.
He forced himself to take Thomas’s hand. It was cold and limp. Thomas had not cared for sports or outdoor activities. But nor had he cared for studies. Even now, Ian was uncertain what it was that Thomas had ever enjoyed. Unless it had been the sickening fawning he had finally laid upon Hamilton and Ian at school in his attempts to mask his general disappointments in life. 
“Ian, I am so glad you are returned.”
‘Twas a voice he hadn’t heard in years and the reedy, affected sound struck Ian as distinctly strange for such a man not yet of middle years. Had it always been so thoroughly unpleasant? Or had it slowly become thus?
“Thank you.” Ian pulled his hand back, resisting the urge to wipe his hand on his coat. “I regret that I was unable to bring your brother.”
Thomas lowered his head, half-nodding, unable to quite hide the satisfaction that he had at last superseded his brother in something from his visage. “A true tragedy.”
“Indeed.” If you could reduce a man’s passing, his guts ruptured by a blade, to a mere word. Tragedy really just didn’t seem to express the horror of it.
Thomas eased himself into his leather wing backed chair.
Ian remained standing, taking in the crowded room, willing himself to accept this strange reality unfolding before him but he could not.
This room had once been Hamilton’s father’s. It had been simple, its green silk walls slightly reflective of the skittish English sun, encouraging study. Once, the room had been uncluttered allowing Hamilton, Ian, and Eva to play out mock battles with toy soldiers on the simply woven rugs from the East as the old man had read over the estate reports. 
Now, every space was littered with round and square tables, lace and fringe covering them. Bric-a-brac filled their surfaces. It was a veritable explosion of trinkets. The chamber was choking him, and he suddenly knew what a tree surrounded by encroaching ivy must feel. He swung his gaze back to his cousin. “This family has known a great deal of tragedy, it would seem.”
Thomas’s fingers rested on the edge of his elaborately carved desk. “It has been a very bad few years for the Carins.”
A bad few years? 
Ian arched a brow and glanced to the glaring windows. Snow fell slowly in heavy flakes. And even though a fire blazed in the hearth not ten feet away, the cold wouldn’t leave his bones. He wished he hadn’t given up his coat. But even he knew the cold he felt had little to do with the ice feathering over the glass panes. “Where is Lady Carin? I wish to speak with her.”
Thomas cleared his throat and shifted in his chair, the creak of leather piercing the silence.
Ian returned his gaze to Thomas. The man’s face creased into a series of lines. Still, Thomas said nothing. Ian waited, unrelenting as he gazed upon his cousin.
Thomas swallowed, fidgeting slightly, then waved a hand at the empty cushioned chairs just behind Ian. “Forgive me. Do sit.” Thomas stood and slowly made his way to a table standing near the fire. “Very rude of me. The shock of seeing you, you know.” 
“I prefer to stand.”
“Certainly. A drink then?” Crystal decanters reflected the bare and dull light. Thomas’s shadow fell over the tray of libations and he quickly pulled the crystal stopper free of the brandy bottle and poured out two drinks. 
Thomas cradled the two snifters then crossed over to Ian. His dark blue suit seemed to drink in the darkness of the late afternoon, making it appear black. “Here.”
Ian took the glass, fighting the desire to reach out and tug it away. “Thank you.” He tossed the contents of the drink back in one quick swallow, the taste of expensive brandy barely registering on his tongue. “Now, tell me the whereabouts of Lady Carin. I wish to see her.”
Thomas turned his back to him, facing the fire. “Seeing Lady Carin isn’t a possibility.”
“Bullocks,” the coarse word gritted past his teeth before he could stop himself.
Thomas’s shoulders tensed, his pale hair twitching against his perfectly starched collar. “No. It’s not.”
The bastard didn’t even have the guts to face him.
Ian gripped the glass in his hand, the intricate design cut into the crystal pressing deep into his skin. “Where the hell is she Thomas?” 
Thomas whipped back to him, that damned ring winking in the winter’s gloom. “She’s not here. She’s--”
Ian tensed, hating the words he was about to utter. Hating that he had to even inquire. He had lost Eva once, to do so again would be beyond what he could bear. “Did she die?”
Thomas shook his head. “No, though it would have been better if she had.”
Ian slammed his glass down on Thomas’ desk. The crystal cracked, a nearly invisible line snaking the length of the snifter. “That is a damn despicable thing to say.”
Jumping, Thomas edged away. “You say that now, but if you had seen. . .”
Ian locked eyes with his cousin. “I haven’t traveled half way around the world to play this out with you.”
Thomas took a sip of his brandy then his mouth worked as if the words in his throat tasted of poison. “Eva is in a madhouse.” He took another quick sip of brandy, his shoulders hunching. “Or rather, an asylum.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Confessions of Bad Boy Lovin'

So, things have gotten a bit mad and bad over here, but I couldn't leave everybody hanging waiting for all that Dark Lovin'. So, here are some of my favorite dark heros.

A dark hero and his sword is always a glorious thing. So, Henry was a bit of a megalomaniac and a wife killer, but Jonathan Rhys Meyers made him oh-so-fabulous. An anti-hero for the ages. And don't you just love a dark hero and his sword?

Now, this fellow is of Warrior fame but Tom Hardy won my heart in his fabulously tortured, very real, very sympathetic portrayal of Heathcliffe. His gaze could hook your soul. Soooo amazing.

And then there is Damon, played by the incredibly talented Ian Somerhalder. His wickedness is just too good for words. Damon, you can bite me with your teeth or wit any time. Here's hoping that this master of the tortured dark hero will be picked up to do some dom/sub display for Fifty Shades of Grey. He's tortured enough, isn't in time he tortured someone for a little pleasure?

Do share. Who are your secret bad boys? The ones you know you shouldn't want, but do. Wait, did it just get a little warm in here? Yes. I think it did.

Come pay a call next week where we will be exploring these boys and others in depth, amazing as their surfaces are on their own.