Monday, September 30, 2013

Meet the New and Improved Leith MacQuill . . .

Okay. My friend Kate Robbins, whose award-winning debut novel is releasing Oct. 10 (see post below), suggested this lad for Leith MacQuill . . . and I can't say I disagree. Not that Hans isn't adorable, but this guy (Anson Mount--and wouldn't I like to . . .) is smoking hot!

Only Ten More Days to Release!


Mark your calendar, set a reminder, make a note, or do whatever you do to remember an important date--and do it now for October 10th--the release date for Kate Robbins' debut novel, BOUND TO THE HIGHLANDER. A searing tale of duty, passion, and political intrigue set in Medieval Scotland, the book won this year's TARA Award for historical romance. So it's gotta be good, right? 
BOUND TO THE HIGHLANDER, the first in a series, tells the story of two enemies who fall in love after a forced marriage during the era of King James I. 

No pre-orders, sorry. But the e-book will be available Oct. 1 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and on Tirgearr Publishing's website. 


Now for a quick review (in case you weren't paying attention):

Q: What book are we talking about?

 











Q: What was that release date again?




Good job.

Now, one more thing: I'll be posting an interview with Kate during the BOUND TO THE HIGHLANDER Blog Tour on October 15! Be there or be square!

Indie Spotlight: Undone, a factured faerytale by Lila DiPasqua

This week, the indie spotlight shines on Lila DiPasqua's UNDONE, a steamy historical romance--she cleverly calls her stories "fiery tales," get it?--inspired by the tale of Rapunzel. Tangled with hot sex? Wouldn't that be Entangled? Just checking.

Here's the blurb: 

Maintaining her ruse as a commoner (and trusting no one but herself) has kept Angelica safe. But a chance encounter with a handsome stranger lands her right in the lap of danger--a lap belonging to a sinfully handsome hunk with arresting blue eyes. Simon Boulenger looks and acts the part, but he's neither nobleman nor naval officer--though he'd like to be. This privateer has ambitions, but also some pretty heavy baggage. Worse, he's involved in a deadly scheme--not the time for distractions. Especially a beautiful one who arouses his carnal appetites. Hearts and lives are at stake in this saucy tale of danger and off-limits love. Will Angelica take a bite of forbidden fruit? 

Sounds yummy, doesn't it? And who doesn't love a steamy spin on a favorite faery tale? Let down your hair, Angelica, you saucy temptress. Simon wants to climb your tower (or is it the other way around? Wink, wink). Wicked and witty historical romance. What's not to love?

UNDONE is available in both e and paperback versions at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in electronic formats at iBooks, Smashwords, Kobo, and All Romance Ebooks. 

For more on UNDONE and her other books, visit Lila's website.

Meet Leith MacQuill . . .

Awoke this morning with new ideas for the set-up for THE KNIGHT OF CUPS, so have been working today to align the stuff I've already written. The hero's Leith MacQuill, a blood-drinking dark faery and brilliant author with a serious case of writer's block. She's Anna Morland, an aspiring screenwriter who wants the rights to his brilliant first novel--only she doesn't know he's a he because he writes under a female pen name and is a recluse nobody's ever seen. In life, he was a Knight of the Thistle and Jacobite Baron who fought at Culloden. He was shot while retreating and saved by a scout for the Queen of Avalon, who made him her drone and later cursed him for straying. Now, any woman he gives his heart to will die.

I just reached the point where I needed to cast the role of Leith. I chose Scottish actor Hans Matheson--who'd be absolutely perfect if he were just a wee bit taller! But still, he'll do for the purposes of inspiration. And Anna's a tiny little thing, so maybe I could make Leith a wee bit shorter than my usual heroes, who are all over six feet . . . because I prefer tall men, being tall myself. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why are these guys dancing?

With any luck, I'll be dancing a jig of my own very soon . . .

Magic Touch or Good Taste?

Hey, do I have the magic touch or what? I featured Faith Marlow's indie-published book, BEING MRS. DRACULA last week and now she's got a book contract. I reviewed Jennifer McQuiston's debut novel, WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, and now it's made The New York Times Bestsellers List. Or maybe I just have good taste! Lol. Well, whatever it is--magic touch, sixth sense, or pure luck--I wish them both the very best and continued success!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Good News?

I may have good news to announce in the next few days regarding my status as an unpublished author. Stay tuned for more . . .

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

A Rogue by Any Other Name (The Rules of Scoundrels, #1)A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Sniff. I have just this moment finished reading Sarah MacLean’s A ROGUE BY ANY OTHER NAME and there are still tears in my eyes. It has been a long time since I’ve read something I couldn’t put down. Something so engaging I read into the wee hours, forcing my eyelids to stay open until they absolutely refused. But this book had that effect. It was exquisite. The writing. The characters. The sexual tension. The sensuality. Yes, I’m gushing, but I sincerely enjoyed and marveled at every delicious, riveting word.

Michael and Penelope grew up on neighboring estates, were the titled offspring of landed gentry, and bosom childhood friends. Until Michael lost everything in a card game and disappeared. Penelope, resigned to his loss, became bound to a duke, but broke the engagement when she learned he loved another. For eight years, she has lived in the shadow of the ensuing scandal. She is damaged goods while the duke is happily married to his true love. She's had other proposals, but has refused them all. They only prized her for her dowry. And she wants more. Now, she’s twenty-eight and on the shelf. Past her prime. Her bloom gone. And her two younger sisters will be tarnished by Poor Penelope’s fate . . . unless she yet marries. So, to sweeten the pot for prospective suitors, her father attaches the land Michael lost in that long-ago card game to his eldest daughter's dowry.

Michael, now one of the owners of London’s leading gambling hell, comes to reclaim his property, forcing Penelope to accept his suit. They are married, but he ignores her, desiring only his revenge against the man who robbed him of his honor and inheritance. He doesn’t feel he deserves Penelope, so he fights his growing love for her every step of the way. She, in turn, feeling rebuffed and dishonored, fights her own desires.

I won't reveal any more for fear of spoiling the story for other readers. I will say this: I take my hat off to Sarah MacLean. This book captured my heart as completely as Michael captured Penelope’s. Sigh. I will definitely seek out the rest of Sarah’s scoundrels series.



View all my reviews

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sugar-coated Holiday Romance

Take three authors, three heroines, three sexy heroes, and one holiday cookie exchange. Mix them all together and what do you get? THE SUGAR COOKIE SWEETHEART SWAP by Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell, and Kimberly Kincaid.

The three heroines are friends Clara, Abby, and Lily, who belong to the Pine Mountain holiday cookie exchange. Only one thing could make the season more delicious for all three: finding the right man to kiss on the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.

The book starts with a prologue, then splits into three novellas: Where There's Smoke . . . by Donna Kauffman, The Gingerbread Man by Kate Angell, and Sugar and Spice by Kimberly Kincaid.

Where There's Smoke . . . tells what happens when Clara Parker calls the fire department after a recipe goes disastrously wrong. Hunky firefighter Will Mason to the rescue--and sparks fly!

The Gingerbread Man features Abby Denton, baker of erotic gingerbread men. Yummy. But her sexy cookies have nothing on the stranger she saves from a snowy country road. Will he turn out to be the best holiday treat ever?

In Sugar and Spice, caterer Lily Callahan goes up against hotshot pastry chef Pete Mancuso in the bake-off of the season. Will the gorgeous gourmand win Lily's heart--along with the top prize?

Critics are already raving about the book, which will be released tomorrow by Kensington in e and paperback formats. Preorder your copy today!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Releasing this week: SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS by Jennifer McQuiston


Jennifer McQuiston's new book, SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS, will release on Tuesday! 

The novel, Jennifer's second with Avon, tells of the romance between David Cameron (no, not the Prime Minister of Great Britain) and Caroline Tolbertson. Just a girl when she first met David, Caroline has carried a torch for the handsome Scotsman ever since. Now fate has brought them together again for an unforgettable summer. Soon, Caroline will have to choose a husband, but for now she is free to indulge her curiosity in things of a passionate nature.

That is, if David will agree to teach her.

Past mistakes have convinced David he’ll make a terrible husband, though he’ll gladly help the unconventional Caroline find a suitor. Unfortunately, she has something more scandalous in mind. As the contenders for her hand begin to line up, her future seems assured . . . provided David can do the honorable thing and let them have her.

When a spirited young woman is determined to break Society’s rules, all a gentleman can do is lend a hand . . . or more.


Visit Jennifer's gorgeous author's site.
Pre-order now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


Are novelists closet sadists?

I've heard it said that novelists need to be sadists--to do the cruelest things they can think of to their characters. Well, I've been too bloody nice up until now. So, here goes. In The Knight of Cups, my heroine, Grace Fisher, a high-school English teacher, has finally decided to start living her life by joining a bus tour of the sites featured in her favorite author's novels. A few hours into the tour, a terrible storm kicks up and the bus goes over a cliff. Here's a wee taste of what happens to poor Grace:

Grace opened her eyes, blinking to clear her blurred vision and fuzzy mind. She could see that it was night and could smell the rain-soaked earth beneath her, which felt cold, damp, and squishy. She also could smell something burning—something acrid and foul with undertones of roasting flesh. Trees towered over her. Tall, skinny pines looking unsteady as they swayed on the biting wind. This couldn’t be hell. Or Los Angeles (not that the two were mutually exclusive). Try as she might, the knowledge of where she was and what had happened refused to come forth. It was as if her memory had torn along with her clothes—and whole strips had blown away.
            All she knew was that she was still alive. But for how much longer? Not much, judging by how messed up she felt. Grimacing against the pain, she cast a glance down her body. Her clothes were muddy and tattered, blood seeped from her chest, and her left arm looked distressing similar to the pipe under the bathroom sink in her apartment back home. Lowering her gaze, she saw something that made her gasp: her hips lay at an impossible angle—like a Twist-n-Turn Barbie tossed aside. She searched her memory for any clue to what had happened to her, but her mind kept tuning in and out like a weak-signaled radio station.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What are you reading right now?

I'm reading more of my RWA swag: A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean. Not very far in, but so far, it's pretty gripping! Poor Penelope is a spinster at twenty-eight and being pressured to marry by her family. Her father's sweetened the pot for suitors by throwing in some coveted property--property gambled away by her childhood friend and neighbor. He wants it back at any cost--even marrying where he does not love. Or does he? Only time will tell . . .

What are you reading?

Indie Author Spotlight: Being Mrs. Dracula by Faith Marlowe

When Valeria’s hand was given in marriage to the handsome and powerful Count Vlad Dracula, she dreamed of happiness but instead her life was filled with longing for her absent husband, their country ravaged by war. When Vlad at last returned from the battlefield, he was a changed man, an alluring and dangerous creature with a thirst for her blood . . . and for more wives.

For over one hundred years, tales of Count Dracula have haunted and seduced the imagination of readers worldwide. Now experience the story of Dracula from a new perspective, as told by the three women who knew him best. Discover their stories, their secrets, and find out what it would be to love and be loved by history’s most powerful vampire in Being Mrs. Dracula.

In a marriage that spans centuries, one man shared between three women, love may be eternal but happiness is not guaranteed . . .


Available in e-format from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Average review: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Review excerpt: "Bram Stoker . . . knew that each of Dracula's wives had a story, and an interesting one at that. But that was not the story he was telling. Faith Marlow came along to remind us, and to bring us that forgotten story. It is well worth your time and money to buy this story and read it. It will stick with you for a long time after." 

A villain by any other name . . .

One of my beta readers finds the name of my villain in QUEEN OF SWORDS . . . well, laughable. The villain is a dark wizard who in life struck a deal with the Unseelie Lord--unearthly powers for his immortal soul, basically. Little did he know, the debt would be repaid in the form of enslavement to the dark faery king after death. Anyway, I based him on the real legends of Gerald or Gerard Fitzgerald in Ireland. So, I kept the name of the legendary dark wizard, though I agree that Gerald Fitzgerald isn't exactly menacing as names go. So, I'm thinking of changing it to Warwick Blake, which has a nice dark Irish ring to it, IMHO. Any thoughts?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Swag!

That was it--the word I was looking for in yesterday's post about giveaways. The books I got at RWA as swag. Never heard it before RWA but just saw it again at a site called I Love Vampire Novels. I'm definitely going to have to check it out further--and add it to my blogroll. My knights, you see, are a form of vampire--not the kind pictured here--but rather, unseelie dark faery vampires. In Scottish folklore, lots of faeries drank human blood. Mine are lamian drones--the "breeders" for an amazonian race ruled by a predatory queen.

I'm out surfing for someone to inspire my hero, Leith MacQuill. Long black hair, chiseled face, green cat-like eyes. His alter ego is a cat sith. More on that later.

Any suggestions?

Too Hot to Handle

UNWRAPPING ROMANCE reviews the latest by Jennifer Bernard, who writes the hottest firemen romances on the planet!

Exciting News and an Excerpt . . .


It gives me great pleasure to announce that BOUND TO THE HIGHLANDER, the forthcoming novel by Kate Robbins, has won the 2013 TARA Award for Historical Romance! The book tells the story of two people forced to marry by circumstances in the era of King James I. The award is given by the Tampa Area Romance Authors, a chapter of the Romance Writers of America. The contest judged the first 4,500 words and was open to unpublished and published writers, but for an uncontracted manuscript. At the time, Kate hadn't received her offer from Tirgearr Publishing. The book will release on October 10.
"This recognition only adds to the excitement building inside me about releasing my first novel," Kate commented about the news. "To the world. So anyone can read."
Here's an excerpt:

Near Inverness, Scotland, April 1430
A horse’s scream pierced the air sending a chill down her spine. Brèagha. Aileana Chattan quit pacing and dashed to the window. Thank God, they were home at last.
          She strained toward the eerie quiet below just as the procession crested the hill beyond the gatehouse. She was right, it was her uncle’s horse Brèagha, but the poor beast hobbled as three men grasped his leather reins and struggled to keep the distressed animal in check. Bile rose in her throat when she spied the body face down across its back.
          She tore through the hallway, down the winding stairs and raced out into the courtyard. Cold mud soaked her feet and her heart pummeled as the somber hunters approached. She looked to Andrews, her steward, to confirm her fear.
          “I’m sorry, lass.” He shifted his weight, but did not look up.
          Her gaze returned to the body. Fiery red hair hung in tangles and pale, limp hands were red streaked. Shivers coursed through her as she beheld his unmoving form.
          Her uncle, their chief, was dead.
          A soundless ‘No’ faltered on her lips. Men and horses spun around her, threatening her balance. She reached out to cling to something. Anything. Air slipped through her fingers as she stumbled forward. Andrews caught her the moment her knees buckled.
          “I’ve got you, Lady Aileana. Come, we must get him inside.”
          He placed one strong arm around her shoulder and kept her moving forward, her feet skimming the ground.
          No one spoke as they entered the large stone and wooden stable. The huntsmen pulled her uncle’s body from the horse’s back and laid him at her feet. She dropped to the ground beside him. The foul stench of manure filled her nostrils and she fought the urge to retch.
          “Why did you bring him in here?” The stable was no place for their chief.
          “He ordered us. We had no other way to get the laird’s body home and he wanted us to save Brèagha for you,” Andrews said.
           Her gaze shifted between her uncle’s body and the horse’s wild eyes. She swallowed the thick knot which had lodged in her throat.
          “What happened?”
          “We were tracking deer when something spooked him.” Andrews’s voice was low and grim. “Your uncle’s sword was drawn. They were both injured when they fell.”
          The horse snorted and bobbed his head up and down. Aileana stood to view his injuries better. A deep gash oozed jagged crimson lines down his flank, pooling at his hoof. She moved to Brèagha’s side and buried her fingers in his mane. His coat was covered with a sheen of sweat.
          “Dear God, you won’t see week’s end.” She must save him. “Andrews?”
          “Get Argyle’s surgeon,” Andrews said. The stable hand took off to do his bidding.
          There wasn’t much she could do for the faithful beast, but she had to try. Uncle Iain had wanted it. Aileana returned to kneel by her uncle’s side and brushed a lock of red, matted hair from his brow. She gathered his limp hand into hers and searched for any remaining hint of life, but there was none. Aileana closed her eyes, spilling tears onto her cheeks.
          She pictured the two of them walking through the glen with the heather splashed mountains all around. She had loved his tales of legends and victories and could feel warm air caressing her skin and fluttering her skirts. He smiled, giving her all the comfort she needed.
          Brèagha’s grunt brought her back to the present and her eyes flew open. In this story, there was no victory. Her velvet gown was no protection from the cold, uncaring earth beneath her, and the image of Uncle Iain and the colorful mountains faded to gray.
          The men, her men, encircled her. They waited for her signal to move the body to his room for cleansing. Blood pounded in her ears as she struggled to do what she must, though she hated to release his hands. She cried out when she tried to fold them across his breast, but they slipped to the ground.
          “Let me help, m’lady.” Andrews’ strong, weathered fingers covered hers and together they laid her uncle’s hands across his chest. Andrews pulled her up and held her close. His strong arms tightened around her, reassuring her as she tried to contain her grief.
          “Move him,” Andrews said. “Now.”
Thank God for Andrews. He didn’t want his chief laying in filth any more than she did. The men nodded and encircled him.
           “What’s this?” The familiar voice boomed from the doorway. “What’s happened?”
Gawain Chattan scanned the stable until his gaze landed on the body. His tall, thin frame was a silhouette against the gray sky and his expression was masked, even as he lifted his eyes to meet hers.
          “The laird is dead,” Andrews said.
           His words pierced her. This was really happening.

(Yes, Kate. This is really happening! So, enjoy.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Facebook Support Groups for Writers

Authors--published, unpublished, and self-published--are banding together in the social media world to build their brands and their followings. Below are links to a few of the places on Facebook where authors can go to seek camaraderie, advice, and exposure:  

A League of Independent Writers
All About Books
Author's Book Review Exchange
Authors, Agents & Aspiring Writers
Author Meeting Place
Authors Promoting Authors
Books, Books & More Books
Book Place
Book Promotion
Go Indie
Indie Author Accountability 
Indie Author Book Promotion Page
Indie Authors Unite!
Julie's Book Review
Published Authors
Publishing Talk
Marketing for Authors
Women Writers, Editors, Agents & Publishers
Writers & Readers Unite
Writers Who Believe in Supporting Writers

The Curse of Love

The Devil's Heart (The Chattan Curse, #3)The Devil's Heart by Cathy Maxwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I confess: I read this trilogy out of order. I picked this one up at Target while scanning the shelves for a Scottish historical. Had never heard of Cathy Maxwell, so I bought it completely on spec. I was pleasantly surprised. I liked the characters and story very much, especially the paranormal elements--witches, curses, disappearing cats. Of course, I write paranormal romances with witches, curses, and shapeshifting faeries, so . . .

Anyway, I finished reading this about a week before attending the national RWA conference here in Atlanta. To my delight, Cathy Maxwell was the keynote speaker! And the first book in the series, LYON'S BRIDE, was on the chairs at the luncheon. I bought book two, THE SCOTTISH WITCH (and had it signed), from Cathy herself at the booksigning event.

I've now read all three and loved them all. So, really glad I picked up this book! I think Cathy does an excellent job of giving her characters motivation and depth. Thanks, Cathy, for an entertaining read.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cover Reveal: Bound to the Highlander by Kate Robbins

My dear friend Kate Robbins just unveiled the cover for her forthcoming Scottish historical, BOUND TO THE HIGHLANDER, book one in the Highland Chiefs Series.

The book will be released in three more weeks by Tirgearr Publishing. As we count down toward launch, I plan to publish an interview with Kate, news of launch events (including a giveaway of that gorgeous fly-paid brooch on the cover), as well as excerpts from the book.

So, stay tuned for updates! In the meantime, here's the blurb:

After a devastating loss, Aileana Chattan discovers she is to wed neighboring chief and baron, James MacIntosh--a man she despises. A man whose loyalty deprived her of her beloved father. Despite him and his traitorous clan, Aileana will do her duty, but she doesn't have to like it.

Or him.

Until he awakens something deep inside her--something so absolute and consuming, she is forced to question . . . everything.

James MacIntosh is a nobleman torn between tradition and progress. He must make a sacrifice if he is to help Scotland move forward as a unified country. That sacrifice cannot include a betrothal to a young, uncourtly woman. Forced to sign a marriage contract binding Lady Aileana to him years earlier, James must find a way to break it, or risk losing all--including his heart.

From the wild and rugged Highlands near Inverness to the dungeons of Edinburgh Castle, James and Aileana’s preconceptions of honor, duty, and love are challenged at every adventurous turn.



Scottish Kings, Sex Slaves, & Senseless Battles

I invented a new acronym yesterday--or, at least, I think I did. SFPing. Shopping for publisher. Here's another excerpt from the book Kensington, Avon, and Loveswept don't want. The hero is Callum Lyon, a political astrologer who lives in a castle in Caithness, Scotland. He was made a drone of the Lamians, a culture of amazonian dark faeries, after falling in the battle of Flodden Field. In life, he was the court astrologer to King James IV of Scotland. In the book, he tells Vanessa, the heroine, that he and King James were taken by faery scouts from the battlefield and turned into sexual slaves (well, he was--James got a slightly better deal). Historically, James was believed killed in the battle, but his body was never identified, leaving the door open for speculation . . . In this scene, Callum, a shapeshifter, has turned himself into a horse to give Vanessa (the heronine) a moonlight ride down the beach.

Callum still vividly recalled riding into Northumberland with the army, his thoughts grim. The casualties would be heavy. Would he be among them? Would he never see his son again? But he had to fight. Had to. Despite what he knew. To do otherwise would have been an act of defiance punishable by death.
          He recalled lining up with the other horsemen along the top of a ridge overlooking a green but boggy valley. The enemy lined up on the other side, but further down, so the King ordered the army to move. Their new position was lower, but still higher than the English line. The charge sounded and the east wing tore down the hill, meeting the enemy in a deafening melee. He tossed his head, flinging the scene away. He doubted that was the sort of thing she wanted to hear. Who cared where the battle lines were drawn or who made the first volley? What mattered was that, when the smoke cleared, ten thousand of his comrades—almost half of their army—lay dead on the field. And not just foot soldiers, but hundreds of earls, lords, and knights—a whole generation of the Scottish nobility. Cut down like hay in a battle that should never have taken place.

Clans, Castles, and Clashing Swords

The Warrior (Return of the Highlanders, #3)The Warrior by Margaret Mallory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, here's the story on this one. While at my first RWA national conference (my first writer's conference ever, actually), I stumbled into the literacy book signing event after killing a little time in the bar across the way . . . and basically just walked around feeling totally overwhelmed. There were so many authors, so many books! Where to begin? So, I just started walking around, talking to people who weren't otherwise engaged--and one of those people was Margaret Mallory. I'm all about Scotland and like historicals, tho', admittedly, I've read only a handful in the genre. Most of my logged reading has been with Diana Gabaldon. No half-naked men with glistening chests on the cover. I read what wins the Pulitzer or the National Book Award. Anyway, I bought Mallory's book (which she very kindly signed for me) and took it home with a mountain of others both purchased and acquired by what was called ... booty? Scat? No, something else. Dang. Can't remember now. Free stuff, basically. Giveaways. RWA was fabulous. Gave me a whole new respect for the romance genre and turned me on to lots of wonderful people who happen to write books (or authors who happen to be great people--whatever floats your boat).

So, getting to the point. I just finished THE WARRIOR and really, really liked it. The characters were quite lovely, the sexual tension good and tense, the sex pretty hot, and the plot a nail-biting adventure. Can you ask for more than that in an escapist read? I never groaned, rolled my eyes, or threw the book across the room once. Praise indeed--despite the bare chested lad on the cover. And, to the publisher's credit, this photo actually resembled the romantic hero!

Bottom line: I enjoyed the book, would recommend it to others who enjoy Scottish historicals, and would definitely read something else by Margaret Mallory.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What Happens in Scotland . . . Stays in Scotland

What Happens in ScotlandWhat Happens in Scotland by Jennifer McQuiston

Okay. Here's why I bought this book: at the recent Romance Writers Assn. national conference in Atlanta (my first writer's conference) one of the gals from Georgia Romance Writers gave a talk very early on Saturday morning in which she mentioned a particular plot device in this book. Intrigued, I tooled on over to the little on-site bookshop between sessions and scored a copy. Diana Gabaldon aside, I'm relatively new to Scottish historicals--though I write Scottish paranormals and am a total Scotophile (so it's like sliding into a silk neglige, really). Anyway, I bought the book, brought it home with a veritable brick-load of others, and finally got around to reading it about two weeks ago.

I loved the premise: English lady gets hammered in Scotland one night and awakens beside Hot Scot, apparently married, and can't remember a gosh darn thing about the night before. Been there, done that. Without the Hot Scot or married parts, I'm sorry to say . . . but I digress.

Interestingly, the novel I'm SFP-ing right now--The Knight of Swords (yes, a Scottish paranormal)--starts off in a similar vein. The heroine awakens in a Scottish inn after a night of inebriation with the hero, unsure what went down. From there, however, the plots are very different.

In WHAT HAPPENS IN SCOTLAND, the heroine cracks the hero over the head with a chamber pot and departs the scene in haste. The rest of the plot follows the couple's attempts to (separately) discern what happened the night before, who the other is, and how to find each other again (as suspicions and dangers mount).

This was a good read. Compelling, sexy, and fun. Plus, Jenifer is just really nice. I was hooked and entertained from start to finish! Will definitely seek out and read her next book (which--oh boy--she's signing at Moonlight & Magnolia's in October).

View all my reviews

Kristin Higgins Rocks the Small-Town Romance

Too Good to Be TrueToo Good to Be True by Kristan Higgins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Never heard of Kristan Higgins nor would have picked up a book like this before attending RWA (I'm not trying to be a snob, just honest). Kristin delivered a very funny, very tear-provoking speech at the conference and I thought if her books were anything like her, they'd be great. Well, I wasn't wrong. I loved this book. The characters were so real and likeable, I missed them when I'd finished the book. Kristan paints wonderful, realistic, and engaging characters, and tells a great story that keeps you rooting for the protagonists until the HEA. I've now read two of her books--and will definitely read more!

View all my reviews

Singing the Rejection Blues . . .

Crap. Just got another rejection on TKOW. From Avon Impulse, via a form letter. I can guess why. Same reason Loveswept turned me down. Paranormals are soft and they're looking for what's hard in the market (is that the right terminology?)--or is it what the market's hard for? Hmmm. Anyway, TKOW has now been TKO'd by Kensington, Carina, Loveswept, Sourcebooks, and Avon Impuse. The mainstream romance houses, basically. Probably shouldn't be surprised after everybody at RWA was all "paranormals, not so much."

Some of them said they liked my writing a whole bunch. Grin.

Oh well.

As far as I know, I'm still alive at TWRP, Samhain, Soulmate, Entangled, Bell Bridge, Black Lyon, Grand Central, and Etopia, so . . . there's still hope! And I haven't yet submitted to Ellora's Cave, Tanter, or Tirgearr.

Still, it would be nice to get a yes for a change.

The Start of The Knight of Wands

Here's just a wee taste from the start of THE KNIGHT OF WANDS, book one in the KNIGHTS OF AVALON series.

Vanessa Bentley opened her eyes to a pounding headache and the dim sensation that she was not alone. Scenes from the night before rose inside her mind like mist after a warm rain. Callum Lyon’s lecture on political astrology. Waiting around while he signed books. Fleeing back to the inn, disappointed and alone. Going down to the bar for a nightcap. Chatting with the bartender until the object of her desire sauntered in from the blue. They had talked—but what about?—and drank whisky. Things got fuzzier after that.
            Swallowing, she rolled on her side, expecting to find him sleeping beside her. She was alone in the bed, meaning what? She checked for the telltale signs of coupling, but found she was still mostly clothed. He had very decently removed her shoes, her jacket, and her jewelry, but left on her trousers and top. So, he had been too much of a gentleman to take advantage. She liked that scenario, but it did not explain the feeling that someone else was in the room. Checking farther afield, she found a figure sleeping on the couch at the foot of her bed. The long ochre hair confirmed the sleeper’s identity. But why had he opted for the couch?

A Brief History of the Tarot


Here’s the thing: nobody really knows where or how Tarot cards came into being, but there’s been plenty of fascinating speculation about it over the past couple of centuries.

Topping the list of possible birthplaces are France, Italy, Spain, India, and Egypt, though there is no historic evidence to support any of these claims.

What the historic record does confirm is that the first written mention of the Tarot appeared in 1377—in an essay by a Swiss monk, who described seeing a card game seeming to mirror the make-up of the world and society: cups for the clergy, swords for the elite, pentacles for merchants, wands (staffs) for peasants. He thought it might be useful in teaching moral lessons and preserving the class structure.

The Church disagreed. In its campaign to crush all things pagan, Christendom denounced the cards as “the devil’s book,” despite the Tarot having nothing whatsoever to do with the devil or the dark arts. The fifty-six-card Minor Arcana advise on the challenges attending daily life while the twenty-two trumps of the Major Arcana address spiritual matters—guidance along the path to enlightenment, in other words.

The opposite of evil.

In the 1770s, Court de Gébelin (ne Antoine Gebelin) wrote a popular essay asserting that the Tarot was a distillation of the ancient Egyptian method of divining by throwing rods in a temple whose walls displayed similar images. To consult the gods, one threw the rods in the hall of images (or, rather, asked one of the priests to do it on your behalf). Those images the rods pointed toward were the gods' answer. These images, de Gebelin speculated, were reduced and put on cards to make them easier to tote around. Thus, he claimed, the Tarot mirrored the Book of Thoth and contained the secrets of the ancient Egyptian priests.

Shortly thereafter, a French occultist known as Etteilla popularized the practice of using the cards for divination and published a guide and special deck designed for this purpose (fyi: divination using cards is called cartomancy).

A couple of decades later, a French Rosicrucian and cabalist calling himself Eliphas Levi correlated the Major Arcana with the Hebrew alphabet and Tree of Life of mystical Judaism. The Tree of Life diagrams the path to God (usually referred to as “The Name” in cabalistic texts) and the manner in which He created the world. Levi also connected the Tarot’s four suits with JHVH, the four letters forming “The Name”: J for wands, H for Cups, V for swords, H for pentacles.

In the early twentieth century, Jessie Weston, an independent scholar and folklorist specializing in Arthurian legend, connected the Tarot suits to the Grail Hallows, the sacred objects found in the Grail castle (Cairban Castle). The wands, she asserted, represented the lance of Longinus, the centurion who’d pierced Christ’s side on the cross; the cups, the Grail itself—the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper; the swords, King David’s sword of the spirit referenced in the Old Testament; and the pentacles, the plate on which the Last Supper was served.

The Grail Hallows echo the even more ancient Four Treasures of Ireland—the magical emblems belonging to the Tuatha de Danann (Children of the Goddess Danu), who, Celtic legend tells, descended from the sky on a cloud that blacked out the sun for three days. They brought with them four treasures: the spear of Lugh, (wands), the cauldron of the Dagda, which was always full (cups), the sword of Nuada—the ever sure and fatal “Sword of Light” (swords), and the Stone of Fal, the “stone of destiny” upon which Irish kings were crowned (pentacles).

(Aside note: The Tuatha de Danann were the race of gods who became known as "the Fae" after being driven "underground"--into otherworld "mounds"--by Spanish invaders).
             
The Tarot’s archetypal imagery also correlates with classical mythology: The Sun, for example, represents Apollo; The Emperor, Zeus; The Empress, Demeter; The Moon, Artemis; The Magician, Hermes; The Hermit, Cronus; Death, Hades; and so on. The four elements—fire, water, air, and earth--also feature prominently.

Obviously, there's a lot more to the Tarot than I've mentioned here. This is the kind of stuff I find absolutely fascinating when researching my books--and want so badly to pack into them!--but fear it will prove too "esoteric" to readers and stop the story cold. 

What do you think? Fascinating or too esoteric and cerebral? Various methods of divination are mentioned in my books, though I try to keep it from getting too complicated for the average reader to comprehend.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Back to the Knight of Cups . . .

Social media is both mesmerizing and daunting. Taking a breath between books, I spent the weekend befriending fellow writers on FB, trying to figure out Triberr, and other audience and brand-building experiments. Today, I started back in on book two of THE KNIGHTS OF AVALON series, THE KNIGHT OF CUPS. The rewrite on QUEEN OF SWORDS derailed me a bit, but now that's done until I hear back from my beta readers (and thanks again to my kind volunteers!). Here's a wee taste from the rough first draft. Still got a lot to work out. Sigh.


Leith MacQuill stilled his fingers on the keyboard and squeezed shut his eyes, which burned with the strain of too many fruitless hours spent staring at the screen. Sighing, he reviewed the few lines—a pathetically paltry output. Smoldering with self-disgust, he plucked his cigarette from the ashtray, rose from the desk, and strode to the library’s diamond-leaded window.
            Taking a long pull on his cigarette, he surveyed the expansive grounds of the castle he called home. The formal gardens looked scruffy, the conservatory cried for paint, and the corner turrets were in dire need of repointing. But upkeep took money, which he had in short supply. And, try as he might, he could think of no new way to acquire more. He’d already sold off most of his horses and opened some of the rooms for tour groups and special events. The former was a painful sacrifice, the latter an insufferable intrusion. But what else could he do? Let the castle he’d spent a fortune restoring fall into ruin?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Making a Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear

Do you know that expression? Everybody does, don't they? Anyway, I had a harebrained idea this morning. I read somewhere once upon a time that some self-published authors were using lines from their rejection letters as "praise" for their books. You know, as cover lines. (To clarify, I am not an indie author--just an unpublished one still optimistically shopping for a publisher). Anyway, just for giggles, I went through the nice rejection notes I've received from editors at major publishers for my still-homeless manuscript, THE KNIGHT OF WANDS.

Here's what they're saying about my book:

"I enjoy your writing . . . you draw the reader in from page one . . ."

"The writing is gorgeous . . . "

"The writing was good, and I found the characters to be memorable . . . "

"Nice elements of the Scotland and New Orleans settings as well as very steamy sex scenes."

So, why is it still unpublished? Because it's a paranormal and paranormals aren't selling all that well right now for mainstream publishers. Sigh. Still waiting to hear from ten more!

Farting Around on Facebook

Spent most of yesterday farting around on FB, setting up an author's page, making friends, posting stuff, uploading photos of sexy Scots, signing up for a Blog Tour. One could easily spend his or her life farting around on FB and other social media.

In more writerly news, I finished the rewrite on QUEEN OF SWORDS and am now allowing the ms to languish whilst I await the beta-reader feedback. Received my first comments this morning and incorporated 99.9% in the master file. A few suggestions prompted brief rewrites of sentences, which only improved things overall--so thanks P.

I also submitted KNIGHT OF WANDS to another publisher yesterday--one I hadn't known about until I spent the day farting around on FB. See how farting can prove beneficial? I have it in mind to post a whole directory of publishers to which unagented authors can submit unsolicited manuscripts. There are a few sites out there with lists, but none which seem up-to-date or thorough. Things are changing so fast now that everybody's jumping on the e-book wagon train.

I posted an offer on FB that goes to any authors visiting my site: if you've got an author page and want to be linked in my blogroll, just leave a comment on one of my posts (related to the post, preferably and not just self-promotion--this is, after all, where I beat my chest) and I'll have a look at your page. And perhaps you could return the favor?

Next week, I'll be back to working on THE KNIGHT OF CUPS, book two in the KNIGHTS OF AVALON series. Some of the elements in the outline were borrowed from QUEEN OF SWORDS, which I believed dead in the water. But, with the possibility of publishing QOS, I'll need to reconfigure the plot and writing thus far on KOC (oooh, is that like cock?).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Free Tarot Card Readings!

My novels feature different forms of divination. For those who don't know what that means, here's the wikipedia definition: Divination (from Latin divinare, "to forsee, to be inspired by a god," related to divinus, divine) is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standardized process or ritual. Used in various forms throughout history, diviners ascertain their interpretations of how a querent (the person the reading is for) should proceed by reading signs, events, or omens, or through alleged contact with a supernatural agency.

Okay. Sighs. Takes breath.

 I like that particular definition because it describes divination as a spiritual exercise, rather than fortune-telling (not) or something of the devil (definitely not). Tarot, astrology, numerology, scrying, runecasting. These ancient divinitory arts and their histories are fascinating, but also a wee bit esoteric for the average romance audience, so I debate constantly about how much information to include. In QUEEN OF SWORDS, the cards play a major role in the plot, but I cut out all the cool history because it seemed to distract from the story. Guess my beta readers will tell me if they want more or feel there's still too much. I'm kind of hoping to use this blog to fill in the blanks, especially pertaining to the tarot. Did you know the suits of the tarot correspond with the four treasures of the Tuatha de Danan and the Grail Hallows, among other things? I'm telling you, it's fascinating stuff.

Anyway, I promised free tarot readings in the heading on this post because I wanted to share a site where anyone can get a free online reading: www.tarotgoddess.com. The site offers visitors the choice between multiple decks and spreads--and I've found it to be remarkably accurate. It helps, of course, if you know a little about the tarot (brief explanations of card meanings are provided), but it's still pretty cool.

Do I read the tarot, you ask? Well, a-hem, I do, as it happens. I own several decks, but use one called The Enchanted Tarot for readings for myself and others.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Why is Friday the Thirteenth Thought to be Unlucky?

There's a lot of speculation about that age-old superstition, but very few plausible answers. Because Jesus was crucified on a Friday seems to top the list, but I don't buy it. For one thing, the day Jesus died on the cross is called Good Friday, not Bad Luck Friday--and, as far as I can see, has nothing whatsoever to do with the number thirteen. Which begs the question: why is the number thirteen considered unlucky? Again, some sources tell us it's because there were thirteen present at the Last Supper (does that include the Holy Spirit?--or did he show up later?). There's also speculation about hosts of other tragic historical events in which thirteen people were present, but those seem just a little contrived in my opinion. I've long held that the reason thirteen is considered unlucky derives from the tarot. In the Major Arcana, the thirteenth card is the one pictured herein. Modern tarot readers will tell you (and I don't disagree) that the card signifies major change or spiritual transformation. But did it always mean that? And why do we worry about black cats crossing our path on Friday the Thirteenth? Black cats were believed to be the alter egos and familiars of witches. So, does reason follow that the superstition is about Jesus . . . or does it perhaps have more ancient roots? Inquiring minds want to know . . .

Moonlight & Magnolias

While I was at RWA, people asked if I had a bizcard for myself as an author. It never occurred to me to have cards printed while I'm still unpublished, but why the heck not? Fake it till you make it, right?

I'll be attending Moonlight & Magnolias, the annual conference of the Georgia Romance Writers, in early October, so today I ordered a set of cards from Vistaprint. You gotta love Vistaprint. Cheap, quick, lots of choices, cool designs. Anyway, here's my new business card as an author--the closest I'm ready to get to self-publishing! Hardy har-har. Aren't you impressed? How do you like the tagline? Smexy paranormals with a Celtic twist!

Meet Graham Logan . . .

One of the authors I follow on FB posted something today asking other writers who inspired the heroes in their novels. Well, here's my inspiration for Graham Logan, the blood-drinking dark faery hero in QUEEN OF SWORDS. Picture him with longer ginger hair and green-gold eyes. And more buff, but not too much more. Anyhoo, I got all the way to the end of the rewrite today. Now it's going out to my beta readers (and thanks to my two volunteers). The book opens with a short preface--an entry in Cat's dream journal about a recurring nightmare she's had since childhood. Chapter One introduces Graham. Here's a taste from the start of the book, which could change, of course, depending on feedback and further editing.


Graham Logan, teeth set against his lower lip, peered at the three facedown tarot cards on the desktop before him. He’d laid them out with a particular question in mind, but now couldn’t bring himself to turn them over. Did he really want to know if she would come again? And, if she should, how to keep history from repeating?
            Since the last time--a hundred years ago--he’d walked a tightrope of deprivation and despair. It was how he avoided entanglements; how he coped with his losses and his lot. Yes, he was lonely and miserable. Yes, he was sick to death of his colorless life, of denial and longing, of settling for scraps. But how could he allow himself more when the price was so dear?
            Lighting a Gauloise, Graham rose from the desk and walked to the window, leaving the cards where they lay. Sweeping aside the heavy drapery, he gazed out across the manicured hedges and intricate boxwood parterres of the manor’s formal gardens. The sun was just beginning to rise, bathing the scene in golden light. In the distance, through a veil of mist, rose the private chapel’s bell tower and, beyond that, the treetops of the woodland deer park.
Wicken Manor, Wickenham Village, County Essex. The latest in a long list of posh addresses in the English countryside. And, like the rest, it was remote without being too far from the conveniences of London. Unlike the rest, however, Wickenham boasted a progressive university specializing in the occult--a promising prospect. The library, from what he’d heard, housed a collection of vampire literature rivaled only his own.
Changing residences every five or six years was a necessary evil, but at least he’d been spared the scourge of repeating school ad infinitum, like so many poor sods in the novels of the day. He’d been transformed at the age of seven and twenty, on the eve of his wedding to her—the first time they’d met. (As far as he knew, anyway.)
Was God still laughing about that one?
He sucked the harsh smoke from his cigarette and blew it at the glass. Could he resist her this time around? He honestly didn’t know. She seemed to call to something deep within him—something he might think his soul, if he still had one. But that was unlikely. He’d surely lost it when he joined the legions of the Fae.
Undead, they called what he was nowadays.
A scoff rose in his throat. What did that oxymoronic word mean? How could anyone be un-dead? A body was either alive or it wasn’t. And his was unquestionably alive. It had a beating heart and reasoning brain, among other functioning organs. It just didn’t age, get sick, or die of so-called natural causes. Neither did it digest solid food for nourishment; rather, it absorbed the life force of mortal beings through phlebotomy, among other methods.
He took another drag and exhaled with vehemence. Calling a creature undead was like calling an object very unique. A thing was either unique or it was not. There were no degrees of uniqueness. He shook his head, reining his thoughts back to where they’d started: her magnetic pull.
It was as if she’d been made from a part of him the way Eve had been made from Adam’s rib, and his body longed to have that missing piece restored. Bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Realizing the cherished gold lighter she’d given him was still in his hand, he ran his thumb across the fading inscription. Je t’aimerai toujours. I will always love you.
Me too, m’aingael. To our doom.
Heaving a mournful sigh, he threw a glance toward the unturned cards before shifting his gaze to the windowpane, where his reflection looked back at him with an expression of forlorn. “Dracula was lucky,” he ground out before blowing a stream of smoke at the visage. As he continued to stare, it began to morph. His ginger hair darkened to a chocolate brown; his topaz eyes became sapphires; his angular face softened into a delicate oval; his wide mouth shortened and filled out.
Her face.
Even more tormenting than his own.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Writing Weddings . . .

Finally working on the wrap-up scene in THE QUEEN OF SWORDS: the wedding. Decided to go pagan and outdoors, midsummer afternoon, in the courtyard of his Highland castle under an arbor festooned with roses, heather, ivy, and thistles--the same posies in her bridal bouquet. She's walking down the aisle with his Westies, Wallace and Bruce, behind a piper playing "Love Divine." He's wearing full Highland regalia, looking like a vision, of course. She's in--what? Time to go dress shopping online!

The heroine is Cathleen "Cat" Fingal--the second incarnation of his true love and eternal soul mate. She's a white witch, bookish and solitary, has a penchant for vampire novels and all things Scottish, and digs vintage fashions (because she's from the past, right?). So, what to put her in for her thrown-together wedding?

I have to admit, it should be more fun to go wedding-dress shopping, but I'm old fashioned. I don't really like strapless gowns--and that's just about all that's out there. I wanted something vintage, pretty, traditional. She's wearing it with a sash in his tartan across the bodice and a bee-hive hairstyle. The dress I chose is at right. It's by Phil Collins (not the singer, I don't think, but what do I know?). What do you think, dear followers?


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Onward!

Here's another short excerpt from QUEEN OF SWORDS. Got through the midpoint bramble and now have only to rewrite the final chapter and do another read-through spit and polish. Still need beta readers, so if you're game, please get in touch.

Cat’s blood pressure spiked as she remembered the raven’s threat from last night. She drew a deep breath and blew it out, trying to clear her mind and relax her spasming gut. The pulsing persisted. She bit her lip. What to do? If Graham was in trouble, she needed to help him somehow.
            But how?
            As her mind chased the possibilities, she packed up her things, returned the borrowed books to the reserve desk, and left the library. She hurried down the High Street toward the cottage, cursing the fact that she’d elected to walk today of all days. With each step, the feeling grew stronger. More images flashed. Branwen standing over him. She felt a hot flush of possessiveness. And protectiveness. Graham belonged to her, dammit. And she would not stand for that faery bitch—or anybody else—abusing him.
            She was in a sweat by the time she reached home. Hurrying up the brick path to the rose-covered door, she fumbled in her satchel for her keys. With shaking hands, she attempted to separate the house key from the others on the ring. Her fingers felt stiff and clumsy. Another image flashed. Oh dear goddess, Branwen was poking some sort of wire into Angus Og! Fury exploded in Cat’s chest. She tried to stick the key in the lock but her hands were shaking too hard. After several bumbling attempts, she finally got the bloody door open.
            She dropped her satchel just inside, ran down the hall to her room, and pulled her grimoire from the shelf above the altar. There wasn’t time to cast a circle, draw sigils, mix up herbs, and recite multiple incantations. She flipped through the pages, searching for a quick and dirty summoning spell, feeling like she’d swallowed an acid-soaked bag of rocks. Come on. Come on. Her hands shook as she turned the pages. She was almost sure she’d written down something a few weeks ago that would do the trick.
            Finding the charm she sought at last, she selected a red candle and quickly anointed herself and the candle with the same oils she’d used on Friday night. As she flamed the wick with her disposable lighter, she recited the incantation.

“Summoning with oils and candlelight,
Let him come now into my sight!”

She repeated the words twice more before climbing on the bed and hugging her knees to her chest. Within seconds, the air began to shimmer. Her heart pounded excitedly as she watched him take shape. The eyes appeared first—two luminous pools of whisky. The sight awoke something carnal deep in her belly. A face began to form around the eyes. Angular, chiseled, beautiful. The lips were full and sensual, the jaw strong, the cheekbones high and prominent, the hair long and silky. The body came next. Broad shoulders, powerful arms, graceful hands. The waist was trim, the hips narrow, the legs long.
As glorious as always, he took her breath away. There was just one problem. It wasn’t Graham who stood before her. It was the dark angel from her recurring nightmare.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Beta Readers Wanted

I'm nearing the end of a rewrite on QUEEN OF SWORDS for a new e-publisher and could use some fresh eyes on the manuscript. Anyone out there interested? Ideally, you know something about novel writing, like paranormal and highlander genres, and aren't squeamish about bad language and sex scenes. If you're interested, please leave a reply or shoot me an email.

Monday, September 9, 2013

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow . . .

Okay, wow. I was just looking up that line from Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven" to use as a title for this post and was fairly astonished to learn it was alleged by Christian zealots back in the day to be an example of "backward masking." Remember the whole "Paul is dead" thing? Well, like that only allegedly Satanic. It was a load of rubbish, of course, but I had a bit of a sizzling synchronistic moment--as the underlying theme of THE QUEEN OF SWORDS has to do with the church denouncing anything having to do with "the old ways" as demonic.

Like lusty woodland faeries and tarot cards.

Anyway, the original purpose of this post was to say that--huzzah!--I at last broke through the midpoint snarl and bridged the two halves of the rewrite. Now, I'm rolling toward the nail-biting climax. I wish I could post a really gripping scene where she picks up a strapping lad in a nightclub so Graham can feed on him, but I'm afraid it's not suitable for all audiences. So, here's the short scene that follows. As it happens, this is the scene directly preceding the one at Stirling Castle.


Leaving Rory in the vaults to come to his senses, they drove back to the hotel in uncomfortable silence. Cat’s mind was agitating like a washing machine. She’d vowed when she left her childhood home that she’d never, ever, under any circumstances, allow anyone to strike her again. And now, someone had. Someone she loved dearly. Her soulmate and the father of her unborn child.
            Should she hold the line? Board the next train back to England?
            She’d been dead wrong to suggest what she had. She should have understood the depth of his wound. Branwen’s demeaning abuse. Fitzgerald’s stealthy nocturnal assaults. What was she thinking? She wasn’t, obviously. But he’d also been wrong to spank her like that—and to suggest doing it again should she ever say something equally emasculating.
            But what to do about it?
            Try to work it out? Or run for the nearest exit?
            She’d understood intellectually that he was from another era, but hadn’t taken the time to ponder the implications. He’d been born in 1784—back when women were considered property and had no legal or personal rights. And if a husband raised a hand to his wife, nobody gave it a second thought. In fact, society expected a man to keep his woman in line by whatever means necessary.
            Sir! Here's a good stick, to beat the lovely lady.
            And that was from a movie shot in the early 1950s! Her mind retrieved something else--a news report on attitudes about rape among young men in Scotland. According to a university survey, a disturbing percentage of respondents felt rape was justifiable if the woman was the girlfriend or wife. A lump of outrage swelled in her chest. Holy shit. If Scotsmen thought like that today, how Neanderthalic were their attitudes back when Graham grew up?
            She struggled to find her voice in the stony silence. “Can I . . . ask you something?”
            “Aye. If you must.”
            There was a sharp edge to his voice she didn’t like and he wouldn’t look at her, but she pressed on nevertheless.
            “Do you think of me as your equal?”
            He looked at her then, frowning deeply. “Because I spanked you?”
            She swallowed, summoning her courage. “Well, yes. I suppose. To some extent. But also because you’re . . . well, because you’re from such a different time—an era when women were considered property. Like cattle or furniture.”
            “First of all,” he said, the edge in his voice sharpening, “I have never in all my life looked upon a woman as a piece of property. Back in my day, equality had to do with class. Females of my class were more or less equals . . . while females of a lower class were not. But the same standard was applied to men.” He shot a swift, softer glance in her direction. “When I was alive, mind, women were treated as second-class citizens. They rarely got a proper education, inherited property, or earned a living wage. As a consequence, I might have at one time believed a woman’s intellect to be . . . well, less sharp, I suppose. But I can assure you Caitriona sorted me out on that score.”
            She took a breath and blew it out, relieved that they were at least talking again. “Did you ever hit her? Or Catharine?”
            He didn’t answer right away. He seemed clenched and thorny. She began to fear the answer. “I’m sorry I lost my temper. Truly. But you cut me deeply. Did I not make myself clear on the subject of feeding in that manner?”
            “Yes, but--”
            “But what?”
            “But nothing. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”
            “Thank you. Apology accepted. And I hope you will forgive me, too.” He sucked in a breath and blew it out. “Look, lass. I ken why you’re worried. But if I’m harboring any repressed chauvinism, I’m unaware of the fact—though, come to think of it, I would be, eh?—given that its repressed.” His mouth quirked into a slight grin. “But seriously, if I ever act like a sexist pig, call me out on it. I might be old . . . and a wee bit old-fashioned . . . but I’m hardly a bloody caveman.” He looked at her then, meeting her eyes. “And to answer your question, no. I never laid aught but a loving hand on either one of them.” In a voice softened by contrition, he added, “And I swear on the holy iron of my dirk that, say or do what you will, I shall never raise my hand to you again.”