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Marrying Winterborne – EXCLUSIVE FIRST CHAPTER

isbn9780349407630We’re publishing the second in Lisa Kleypas’s Ravenels series, MARRYING WINTERBORNE, on May 31st and to tide you over until then we have an exclusive sneak peek at the first chapter:

“Mr. Winterborne, a woman is here to see you.” Rhys looked up from the stack of letters on his desk with a scowl.

His personal secretary, Mrs. Fernsby, stood at the threshold of his private office, her eyes sharp behind round spectacles. She was a tidy hen of a woman, middle-aged and just a bit plump.

“You know I don’t receive visitors at this hour.” It was his morning ritual to spend the first half hour of the day reading mail in uninterrupted silence.

“Yes, sir, but the visitor is a lady, and she—”

“I don’t care if she’s the bloody Queen,” he snapped. “Send her away.”

Mrs. Fernsby’s lips pinched into a disapproving hyphen. She left promptly, the heels of her shoes hitting the floor like the staccato of gunfire.

Rhys returned his attention to the letter in front of him. Losing his temper was a luxury he rarely permitted himself, but for the past week he’d been invaded by a sullen gloom that weighted every thought and heartbeat, and made him want to lash out at anyone within reach.

All because of a woman he had known better than to want.

Lady Helen Ravenel . . . a woman who was cultured, innocent, shy, aristocratic. Everything he was not.

Their engagement had lasted a mere two weeks before Rhys had managed to ruin it. The last time he had seen Helen, he’d been impatient and aggressive, finally kissing her the way he’d wanted to for so long. She had gone stiff in his arms, rejecting him. Her disdain couldn’t have been more obvious. The scene had ended in tears on her part, anger on his.

The next day, Kathleen, Lady Trenear, who had been married to Helen’s late brother, had come to inform him that Helen was so distressed, she was bedridden with a migraine.

“She never wants to see you again,” Kathleen had informed him bluntly.

Rhys couldn’t blame Helen for ending the betrothal. Obviously they were a mismatch. It was against the designs of God that he should take the daughter of a titled English family to wife. Despite his great fortune, Rhys didn’t have the deportment or education of a gentleman. Nor did he have the appearance of one, with his swarthy complexion and black hair, and workingman’s brawn.

By the age of thirty, he had built Winterborne’s, his father’s small shop on High Street, into the world’s largest department store. He owned factories, warehouses, farmland, stables, laundries, and residential buildings. He was on the boards of shipping and railway companies. But no matter what he achieved, he would never overcome the limitations of having been born a Welsh grocer’s son.

His thoughts were interrupted by another knock at the door. Incredulously he glanced up as Mrs. Fernsby walked back into his office.

“What do you want?” he demanded.

The secretary straightened her spectacles as she replied resolutely. “Unless you wish to have the lady removed by force, she insists on staying until you speak with her.”

Rhys’s annoyance faded into puzzlement. No woman of his acquaintance, respectable or otherwise, would dare to approach him so boldly. “Her name?”

“She won’t say.”

He shook his head in disbelief. How had the visitor made it past the outer offices? He paid a small army of people to prevent him from having to deal with this kind of interruption. An absurd idea occurred to him, and although he dismissed it immediately, his pulse quickened.

“What does she look like?” he brought himself to ask.

“She’s dressed in mourning, with a veil over her face. Slender of build, and softspoken.” After a brief hesitation, she added on a dry note, “The accent is pure

‘drawing room.”

As realization dawned, Rhys felt his chest close around a deep stab of yearning. “Yr Dduw,” he muttered. It didn’t seem possible that Helen would have come to him. But somehow he knew she had, he knew it down to his marrow. Without another word, he stood and moved past Mrs. Fernsby with ground-eating strides.

“Mr. Winterborne,” the secretary exclaimed, following him. “You’re in your shirtsleeves. Your coat.”

Rhys scarcely heard her as he left his corner suite office and entered a foyer with leather-upholstered chairs.

He halted abruptly at the sight of the visitor, his breath catching sharp and quick.

Even though the mourning veil concealed Helen’s face, he recognized her perfect posture, and the willowy slenderness of her form.

He forced himself to close the distance between them. Unable to say a word, he stood in front of her, nearly choking with resentment, and yet breathing in her sweet scent with helpless greed. He was instantly aroused by her presence, his flesh filling with heat, his heartbeat swift and violent.

From one of the rooms attached to the foyer, the tappity-tap of typewriting machines stuttered into silence.

It was madness for Helen to have come here unescorted. Her reputation would be destroyed. She had to be removed from the foyer and sent home before anyone realized whom she was.

But first Rhys had to find out what she wanted. Although she was sheltered and innocent, she wasn’t a fool. She wouldn’t have taken such an enormous risk without good reason.

He glanced at Mrs. Fernsby. “My guest will be leaving soon. In the meantime, make certain we’re not disturbed.”

“Yes, sir.”

His gaze returned to Helen.

“Come,” he said gruffly, and led the way to his office. She accompanied him wordlessly, her skirts rustling as they brushed the sides of the hallway. Her garments were outdated and slightly shabby, the look of gentility fallen on hard times. Was that why she was here? Was the Ravenel family’s need for money so desperate that she had changed her mind about lowering herself to become his wife?

By God, Rhys thought with grim anticipation, he would love for her to beg him to take her back. He wouldn’t, of course, but he’d give her a taste of the torment he had endured for the past week. Anyone who had ever dared to cross him would have assured her that there would be no forgiveness or mercy afterward.

They entered his office, a spacious and quiet place with wide double-glazed windows and thick, soft carpeting. In the center of the room, a walnut pedestal desk had been piled with stacks of correspondence and files.

After closing the door, Rhys went to his desk, picked up an hourglass and upended it in a deliberate gesture. The sand would drain to the lower chamber in precisely fifteen minutes. He felt the need to make the point that they were in his world now, where time mattered, and he was in control.

He turned to Helen with a mocking lift of his brows. “I was told last week that you—”

But his voice died away as Helen pushed back her veil and stared at him with the patient, tender gravity that had devastated him from the first. Her eyes were the silver-blue of clouds drifting through moonlight. The fine, straight locks of her hair, the palest shade of blonde, had been pulled back neatly into a chignon, but a glinting wisp had slid free of the jet combs and dangled in front of her left ear.

Damn her, damn her for being so beautiful.

“Forgive me,” Helen said, her gaze fastened to his. “This was the first opportunity I could find to come to you.”

“You shouldn’t be here.”

“There are things I need to discuss with you.” She cast a timid glance at a nearby chair. “Please, if you wouldn’t mind . . .”

“Aye, be seated.” But Rhys made no move to help her. Since Helen would never regard him as a gentle- man, he’d be damned if he would act like one. He half-sat, half-leaned against his desk, folding his arms across his chest. “You don’t have much time,” he said stonily, giving a short nod toward the hourglass. “You’d better make use of it.”

Helen sat in the chair, arranged her skirts, and removed her gloves with deft tugs at the fingertips.

Rhys’s mouth went dry at the sight of her delicate fingers emerging from the black gloves. She had played the piano for him at Eversby Priory, her family’s estate. He had been fascinated by the agility of her hands, darting and swooping over the keys like small white birds. For some reason she was still wearing the betrothal ring he’d given her, the flawless rose-cut diamond catching briefly on the glove.

After pushing back her veil so that it fell down her back in a dark mist of fabric, Helen dared to meet his gaze for a charged moment. Soft color infused her cheeks. “Mr. Winterborne, I didn’t ask my sister-in-law to visit you last week. I wasn’t feeling well at the time, but had I known what Kathleen intended—”

“She said you were ill.”

“My head ached, that was all—” “It seems I was the cause.”

“Kathleen made far too much of it—”

“According to her, you said you never wanted to see me again.”

Her blush deepened to brilliant rose. “I wish she hadn’t repeated that,” she exclaimed, looking vexed and ashamed. “I didn’t mean it. My head was splitting, and I was trying to make sense of what had happened the day before. When you visited, and—” She tore her gaze from his and looked down at her lap, the light from the window sliding over her hair. The clasp of her hands was tight and slightly rounded, as if she held something fragile between her palms. “I need to talk to you about that,” she said quietly. “I want very much to . . . reach an understanding with you.”

Something inside him died. Rhys had been approached for money by too many people, not to recognize what was coming. Helen was no different from anyone else, trying to gain some advantage for herself. Although he couldn’t blame her for that, he couldn’t bear hearing whatever rationale she had come up with for how much he owed her, and why. He would rather pay her off immediately and be done with it.

God knew why he’d nourished some faint, foolish hope that she might have wanted anything from him other than money. This was how the world had always worked, and always would. Men sought beautiful women, and women traded their beauty for wealth. He had debased Helen by putting his inferior paws on her, and now she would demand restitution.

He walked around to the other side of his desk, pulled out a drawer, and withdrew a checkbook for a private account. Taking up a pen, he wrote an order for ten thousand pounds. After making a note on the left margin of the book for his own reference, he walked back around to Helen and gave it to her.

“There’s no need for anyone to know where it came from,” he said in a businesslike tone. “If you don’t have a banking account, I’ll see to it that one is opened for you.” No bank would allow a woman to establish an account for herself. “I promise it will be handled discreetly.”

Helen stared at him with bewilderment, and then glanced at the check. “Why would you—” She drew in a swift breath as she saw the amount. Her horrified gaze flew back to his. “Why?” she asked, her breath coming in agitated bursts.

Puzzled by her reaction, Rhys frowned. “You said you wanted to reach an understanding. That’s what it means.”

“No, I meant . . . I meant that I wanted for us to understand each other.” She fumbled to tear the check into tiny pieces. “I don’t need money. And even if I did, I would never ask you for it.” Bits of paper flew through the air like snowflakes.

Stunned, he watched her make short work of the small fortune he’d just given her. A mixture of frustration and embarrassment filled him as he realized that he’d misread her. What the hell did she want from him? Why was she there?

Helen took a long breath, and another, slowly reinflating her composure. She stood and approached him. “There’s been something of a . . . windfall . . . at my family’s estate. We now have means to provide dowries for me and my sisters.”

Rhys stared at her, his face a hard mask, while his brain struggled to take in what she was saying. She had come too close. The light fragrance of her, vanilla and orchids, stole into his lungs with every breath. His body coursed with heat. He wanted her on her back, across his desk—

With an effort, he shoved the lurid image from his mind. Here in the businesslike surroundings of his office, dressed in civilized clothing and polished oxford shoes, he had never felt like more of a brute. Desperate to establish even a small measure of distance between them, he retreated and encountered the edge of the desk. He was forced to resume a half-sitting position while Helen continued to advance, until her skirts brushed gently against his knees.

She could have been a figure in a Welsh fairy tale, a nymph who had formed from the mist off a lake. There was something otherworldly about the delicacy of her porcelain skin, and the arresting contrast between her dark lashes and brows and her silver-blond hair. And those eyes, cool translucence contained in dark rims.

She’d said something about a windfall. What did that mean? An unexpected inheritance? A gift? Perhaps a lucrative investment—although that was unlikely, in light of the Ravenel family’s notorious fiscal irresponsibility. Whatever manner of windfall it was, Helen seemed to believe that her family’s financial troubles were over. If that were true, then any man in London would be hers for the choosing.

She had put her future at risk, coming to him. Her reputation was at stake. He could have ravished her right there in his office, and no one would have lifted a finger to help her. The only thing keeping her safe was the fact that Rhys had no wish to destroy something as lovely and fragile as this woman.

For her sake, he had to remove her from Winterborne’s as quickly and discreetly as possible. With an effort, he looked over her head and focused on a distant point on the wood-paneled wall.

“I’ll escort you from the building through a private exit,” he muttered. “You’ll return home with no one the wiser.”

“I will not release you from our engagement,” Helen said gently.

His gaze shot back to hers, while another of those deep stabs sank into his chest. Helen didn’t even blink, only waited patiently for his response.

“My lady, we both know that I’m the last man you want to marry. From the beginning, I’ve seen your dis gust of me.”

“Disgust?”

Insulted by her feigned surprise, he continued savagely. “You shrink away from my touch. You won’t speak to me at dinner. Most of the time you can’t even bring yourself to look at me. And when I kissed you last week, you pulled away and burst into tears.”

He would have expected Helen to be ashamed at being called out in a lie. Instead, she stared at him earnestly, her lips parted in dismay. “Please,” she eventually said, “you must forgive me. I’m far too shy. I must work harder to overcome it. When I behave that way, it has nothing at all to do with disgust. The truth is, I’m nervous with you. Because . . .” A deep flush worked up from the high neck of her dress to the edge of her hairline. “Because you’re very attractive,” she continued awkwardly, “and worldly, and I don’t wish for you to think me foolish. As for the other day, that . . . that was my first kiss. I didn’t know what to do, and I felt . . . quite overwhelmed.”

Somewhere in the chaos of his mind, Rhys thought it was a good thing he was leaning against the desk. Otherwise, his legs would have buckled. Could it be that what he had read as disdain was actually shyness? That what he’d thought was contempt had been innocence? He felt a splintering sensation, as if his heart were cracking open. How easily Helen had undone him. A few words, and he was ready to fall to his knees before her.

Her first kiss, and he had taken it without asking. There had never been a need for him to play the part of skilled seducer. Women had always been easily available to him, and they had seemed pleased with whatever he cared to do in bed. There had even been ladies now and then: the wife of a diplomat, and a countess whose husband had been away on a trip to the continent. They had praised him for his vigor, his stamina, and his big cock, and they hadn’t asked for anything more.

In body and nature, he was as tough as the slate dug from the flanks of Elidir Fawr, the mountain in Llanberis, where he’d been born. He knew nothing of fine manner or good breeding. There were permanent callouses on his hands from years of building crates and loading merchandise onto delivery wagons. He was easily twice Helen’s weight, and as muscular as a bull, and if he rutted on her the way he had with other women, he would rip her apart without even trying.

Holy hell. What had he been thinking in the first place? He should never have let himself even consider the idea of marrying her. But he had been too blinded by his own ambition—and by Helen’s sweetness and fine-spun beauty—to fully consider the consequences for her.

Bitter with the awareness of his own limitations, he said in a low voice, “It’s water under the bridge, it is. Soon you’ll have your first season, and you’ll meet the man you were meant for. The devil knows it’s not me.” He began to stand, but Helen moved even closer, standing between his spread feet. The hesitant pressure of her hand on his chest sent desire roaring through him. Rhys sank back to the desk weakly, all his strength focused on maintaining his crumbling self-control. He was a terrifying hairsbreadth away from taking her down to the floor with him. Devouring her.

“Will you . . . will you kiss me again?” she asked.

He shut his eyes, panting, furious with her. What a joke Fate had played on him, throwing this fragile creature into his path to punish him for climbing higher than he’d been meant to. To remind him of what he could never become.

“I can’t be a gentleman,” he said hoarsely. “Not even for you.”

“You don’t have to be a gentleman. Only gentle.”

No one had ever asked him for such a thing. To his despair, he realized it wasn’t in him. His hands gripped the edges of the desk until the wood threatened to crack.

“Cariad . . . there’s nothing gentle about how I want you.” He was startled by the endearment that had slipped out, one he had never used with anyone.

He felt Helen touch his jaw, her fingertips delicate spots of cool fire on his skin.

All his muscles locked, his body turning to steel. “Just try,” he heard her whisper. “For me.”

And her soft mouth pressed against his.

Elizabeth Hoyt Covers her Maiden Lane Series in 60 Seconds

We’re about to publish Duke of Sin, the 10th title in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series. So, we thought: What better time to get the lowdown on all things Maiden Lane, and who better to tell us than Elizabeth?

And, Elizabeth delivered! Read on to get up to speed on the most important things about Maiden Lane, Elizabeth’s favourite bits and a hint of what’s to come.

 peanuts snoopy delight

  1. What’s the single most important thing we need to know about the Maiden Lane series?

 

I have it on good authority (readers!) that Maiden Lane is addictive. 😉

 

  1. In five sentences tell us what the series is about. Go:

 

Finding redemption through love. The friction between opulence and destitution. The importance of family. Sexual tension through swashbuckling and wordplay. Moral choices.

 

  1. What’s your favourite book in the series?

 

Duke of Sin, which sounds a bit coy, but it’s true. This book is slightly different from my other books. The ‘hero’ is a villain – and he STAYS a villain. The heroine in contrast is a morally upright housekeeper who challenges him and doesn’t let him get away with anything. They are perfect for each other.

 

  1. Who’s your favourite character?

 

Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery, the hero of Duke of Sin. One, because he’s such a complex character: there’s a contrast between the flamboyant, sinister persona he presents to the world and his interior self, and THAT contrasts to what he’s concealing about himself from himself (if that makes any sense).

Also, on a purely practical level, he’s a ‘wordy’ character, which is great fun to write. 😉

 

  1. Give us a hint about what’s coming next

 

I’m working right now on Alf’s book: Duke of Pleasure, which will come out in late fall 2016.

 

  1. Complete the following sentence: If you like x, y and z, you’ll love the Maiden Lane series

 

If you like sensual love scenes, complex characters and enthralling stories, you’ll love the Maiden Lane series.

 

Duke of Sin is out May 31st, 2016

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/duke-of-sin/elizabeth-hoyt/9780349412344

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Duke-Maiden-Lane-Elizabeth-Hoyt/dp/0349412340/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1463755854&sr=8-1&keywords=duke+of+sin

Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Duke-Sin-Maiden-Lane-Book-ebook/dp/B016IOF5GK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1463755854&sr=8-1

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/duke-of-sin-2

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/duke-of-sin/id1048630890?mt=11

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Elizabeth_Hoyt_Duke_of_Sin?id=i6m2CgAAQBAJ&hl=en_GB

 

MaryJanice Davidson author note

isbn9780349412788I love Shaun of the Dead. It is, possibly, one of the finest movies in the history of cinema, second only to Starship Troopers. It’s got everything: a clueless hero, a puffy sidekick who can imitate an orangutan, Bill Nighy (my old man crush), a super nice mom, a nerdy bespectacled frenemy in love with the hero’s ex, Queen on the soundtrack (is there a more beautiful sight than a bunch of British twenty-somethings whacking a zombie with pool cues while Don’t Stop Me Now blares in the background?), debunked dog myths (“Dogs can look up!”), and innocents getting hit by darts.

Oh, and zombies. Lots of zombies. I love everything about Shaun of the Dead, but I love how they handled zombies the most. Their love for the genre shone through virtually every minute of the film as they poked fun at themselves and the genre, and I never once felt like they were mocking me or the movies I like: we were in it together. It was the first movie I ever thought of as a conscious gift to the audience: here’s something we liked, we think you’ll like it, too.

So: this book. My editor and I love the romance genre (not atypical for writers and editors who work in the romance genre, and thank goodness). We love historicals and paranormals and contemporaries and regencies. We love the silly stuff and the BAMF stuff and the sexy stuff. We love kick-ass heroines and damsels who need to be rescued every twenty minutes. We love alpha heroes and beta heroines, and we love it the other way around, too. (We’re dirty girls, and so flexible, too!) We love heroes who are SEALs and farmers and sheriffs and doctors. We love heroines who are biochemists and Vikings and captives and wardens. We love third person and first person and audio and electronic and paperbacks and classic hard covers.

And the romance tropes, oh God, the tropes. We love those most of all; for us, tropes make the romance.

For the uninitiated, Wikipedia defines tropes as “the use of figurative language—via word, phrase, or even an image—for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech.” Did that help? Because it didn’t help me even a little. I had to keep reading: “The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.” Oh. Okay. That’s a little better, Wikipedia. Stop trying to impress me and just define stuff, okay? Maybe with pictures next time? I like pictures.

A trope is, when you’re watching a new show about a cop who’s set to retire next week/month/year, you know that cop will never retire. It’s when the slutty pretty teenager in a horror movie says “I’ll be right back!” and you know she’s toast. It’s knowing the hero and heroine who at first loathe each other will fall in love. It’s a way for the writer to let the reader/viewer know what to expect without having to, you know, write. (Shut up! We’re doing the best we can.)

A trope is the thing that brings you back to the same genre again and again, because the stuff you loved in the first book will pop up in other books and you’re always chasing that feeling, the giddy excitement of reading about a hero and heroine, or hero and hero, or heroine and—you get the picture, whoever they are, you know they are destined for love, and you want to watch. (Not in a creepy way.) Even more: you want to fall in love, too.

And while we were listing our fave tropes (and everyone in the office was getting in on it, and when I mentioned it to my book club they couldn’t wait to list theirs, too) my editor said, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a book that paid homage to the romance tropes? Not in a mean way, like the Scary Movie movies.”

“In a fun way,” I replied, “like Shaun of the Dead.” And wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if the audience was in on it?

And that’s how Danger, Sweetheart came about. A romance novel that pays respect to romance novels, where the readers are in on the joke. Unless you skipped my Author’s Note, in which case I cannot help you.

For those of you in a hurry, I’ve listed all the romance tropes used in the writing of this book at the end, so you can peek and see if any of your favorites are there. Dunno about you, but I can never resist a hero with a high fever, all delirious and adorable, being tended to by a (reluctantly) adoring heroine. I also like the fish out of water trope, and the first sex is perfect sex trope. I even got to have some fun with tropes I find annoying (I’m looking at you, Hero Keeping A Big Secret).

If you’re new to the genre, this is a fun place to start because: tropes! I’m basically throwing you into the deep end but, unlike when I was tossed into the deep end at the helpless age of twenty-seven, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Other things you might want to know (or things I want you to know and your feelings on the matter are nothing to me, nothing!): no tropes were harmed in the creative process. Also, I’m am not as gross as readers might assume: it really did rain urine in the bathroom at the Plaza Hotel and Casino, courtesy of a leak one floor above. I did not make that up. God, I wish I had made that up. “Urine” and “rain” and “hotel” are three words that never belong in the same sentence.

The t-shirt Natalie wears (“One by one the penguins slowly steal my sanity.”) is a thing! You can get it at Amazon. As I did. As I did. And the pink skull leash sported by Margaret of Anjou also exists in real life.

Finally, as of this writing, you can’t hop an Amtrak from Las Vegas to Minot, North Dakota. This is a crime against humanity. Long train rides rock. Minot does, too (my bias: I was born on the Minot Air Force Base).

Love Wanted in Texas

Theisbn9780349413532 moment I set out to write the Love Wanted in Texas Series I knew it was going to be special not only for me, but for the readers as well. This series has been so incredibly fun to write. Diving into the original Wanted characters again and their kids has been an experience I will forever cherish. I think reading the stories of the kids growing up has also been a fun journey for the readers as well. We’ve gotten to see them born, watch them grow up, walk along with them as they learned life lessons (some hard, some not so hard!), and cheered them on as they started families of their own. Talk about full circles!

Now that we are nearing the end of the LWIT series, I find myself with mixed emotions. On one hand, I’m happy to see that each character has had their story told and given a happily ever after. It’s also somewhat refreshing to know that I’ll be moving on to newer projects and exploring new things that I’m excited to share with my readers.

On the other hand, I’m sad to let go of these characters. I’ve come to love each of them so very much. They may be fictional, but they feel like my own family. There are times I often think of them when I’m driving and I find myself coming up with a scene in my head! I have no doubt letting them go is going to be very difficult and very emotional to say the least, not only for me, but for those who have invested in these characters as well.

With the release of Loving You it has given me a chance to stop and reflect on all six books in this series as well as the WANTED series. To be able to write these families has been a pure joy. Thank you for sharing this journey with me!

Happy reading!

_____

LOVING YOU is published tomorrow – available in ebook here

The Black Dagger Brotherhood in 60 Seconds

excited awesome screaming happy dance jonah hill

Rhage is back! Or, he will be in just a few short days.

With J. R. Ward’s The Beast about to hit shelves we thought we’d better get in some prep work. So we’ve called in Black Dagger Brotherhood expert Gemma Harding of  Book Mood Reviews to give you the lowdown on J. R. Ward’s fabulous series in 60 seconds*. Here are her answers to our pressing questions . . .

  1. What’s the single most important thing we need to know about the Black Dagger Brotherhood series?

That this 13, nearly 14, book series is seriously addictive and with each book you are drawn further into the world.

 

  1. In five sentences tell us what the series is about. Go:

The Black Dagger Brotherhood series started off as a paranormal romance series about a band of warrior vampires who not only protect humanity, but also their own race from a group of demon like beings called Lessers. It has evolved from each book being a standalone paranormal romance, where a particular male character ended up getting his happy ever after with the love of a good woman (whether vampire, mortal or other), to that of a very complex and heavily plotted urban fantasy series, with romantic elements. The world has widened, with other supernatural species such as sympaths and shadows now a big part of the universe. The series is still about The Black Dagger Brotherhood fighting against their enemies, but it is not just the Lessers and also has politically motivated coups against The King, Wrath,  to keep the characters on their toes. This is all against a backdrop of a group of male vampires trying to protect the women they love and the family they have built.

 

  1. What’s your favourite book in the series?

My favourite book in the series is still Lover Mine, which is centred around John Matthews (or JM), a half vampire/ half human relation to Wrath’s wife Beth, and Xhex a half sympath/ half vampire warrior working for the sympath King Rhevenge. This is the book, for me at least, I saw a change in the direction of the series. It wasn’t as heavily centred on the two leads and Ward seemed to be starting to go down the Urban Fantasy route. Plus, it was the start of my love for a certain pairing.

 

  1. Who’s your favourite character?

My favourite character changes all the time, but the character who always returns to the top of the list has to be Vishous, or V as he is known in the books. He is the Son of the Scribe Virgin (sort of the goddess of the race) and a mean S.O.B called The Bloodletter. V has the right balance of being a sarcastic, mean kick-ass fighter and a really deep and sensitive guy. This is especially true when he meets his other half, Jane, and the continual bromance he has with Butch, an ex-cop turned vampire. (Told you that it was complex).

 

  1. Why do you love J. R. Ward’s books?

For me, I think it is because Ward is trying to continually evolve and change the series with each book. Ward can really write great alpha males and is able to make each of them different and stand out. Each character has their own fears and vulnerabilities, and although that they do prevail, it isn’t without sacrifice. Ward isn’t scared to take risks with her plots and although there have been a few books in the series that I haven’t loved, I still keep reading because she knows how to dangle a carrot under the readers’ nose to make them need to read the next book in the series.

 

  1. Complete the following sentence: If you like x, y and z, you’ll love J. R. Ward

If you like Hot Vampire Warriors, some steamy Romance and kick-ass action, you’ll love J. R. Ward.

 

Many thanks to Gemma for kicking off our celebrations for The Beast and sharing her love for The Black Dagger Brotherhood!

We can’t wait to see what everyone thinks of the book . . . so this week and next we’ll be reminiscing about Rhage, the brothers and our love of all things Ward over on Facebook. Come join us.

 *so, maybe more than 60 seconds, but you can never have too much J. R. Ward.

Why I wrote RAZE and REAP, and a look ahead to RAVAGE – by Tillie Cole

51rRH4WFf-LBelieve it or not, I actually wrote RAZE after a dream that I had. I was in the process of writing another dark romance, when I had a dream featuring a homeless man that had lost his memory. He was sitting in an alley, in Brooklyn, New York, begging for money so that he could enter a death match competition. He also had a Russian accent.

Now, I don’t normally dream of such dark things—I promise!—so this dream wouldn’t leave my mind. I thought about it constantly. As I took a walk one morning, I began replaying the dream in my head. An hour later I had a storyline for RAZE, and three weeks later, I had completed the first draft. I had never written a book so fast before. I literally sat down for about eighteen hours a day, everyday, until it was done. To this day I haven’t had a writing experience like that. It makes this series that much more special to me.

A few weeks later, I published RAZE via Amazon, and within a week, it had made the USA Today bestsellers list. My readers seemed to love the dark, almost dystopian, underworld that I had created, and wanted more. I knew that Talia, Luka’s sister, was a stand out character, and I had a loose idea of where her story would go if I was to ever write it. At that time I wasn’t sure if I would, but when I secured a publishing deal for four books—what became The Scarred Souls Series—I knew that story would be written, and I couldn’t wait to begin.

REAP was slightly different in tone to RAZE, and I loved that. I wanted it to be different. I have always adored the forbidden love, Romeo and Juliet-type theme, so I knew I wanted to do my very own Montague and Capulet type story—only with the Russian and Georgian mafiya. With tensions high and family honor and revenge in the story, I knew it would make for a thrilling read.

In the end, I loved the contrast of RAZE and REAP. RAZE is very rough and raw, romantic yet violent at the same time. REAP is more about unlocking the past through a forbidden love, learning to forgive, but most importantly, leaving the demons of the past behind and focusing on a new beginning. At least as much as one can after a plot twist rears its head.

I feel these two novels compliment each other greatly. As will the next two installments.

RAVAGE and RIOT, books three and four, are the final two books in the Scarred Souls series. All I can say is that with each of these next two books, the underground world that shapes the Scarred Souls series, gets bigger and bigger, stretches farther and wider, and we begin to uncover the deep layers that make up this secret, yet volatile, world.

Hold onto your seats, guys, that’s all I’m saying!

Three things you need to know about RAVAGE—a tease

  • RAVAGE is by far the most brutal and dark of the Scarred Souls series so far. It features a Jekyll and Hyde theme, and it’s a hell of a dark and twisted ride, that’s for sure! The journey of our two romantic leads is not for the faint-hearted. Limits will be tested, hearts will be pushed to their breaking point. The bridge between good and evil will be blurred.
  • The male protagonist in RAVAGE is most certainly the epitome of an anti-hero. He is a trained torturer for the Georgian mafiya and is set on destroying one of our main characters, whatever the cost. As the novel progresses, we see many elements of this multi-layered man. We find there’s more than meets the eye. We find that he too may be broken, and in desperate need of help and understanding. And total disclosure time, he’s my favorite of all the men in this series. I’m a sucker for the messed up tortured souls!
  • The female lead in RAVAGE is one of my favorites too (if you’ve read REAP, you might have an idea who she is!). Her strength and family honor is put to the test in RAVAGE, and she faces one of the most horrific situations possible. But what I love most about this character is how she endures pain and heartache with such dignity and poise. She has one goal in her life, one she’s been waiting to fulfil since she was a child, and she never gives up. She never lets go of her dream. Her capacity to forgive and love with an open heart will astound you. She is truly someone to look up to. And she may just have the kind of heart that can see past the monster that tries to hurt her, and find the true man underneath.

That’s all I’m saying for now. I can’t wait for you to read it!

____

Order Scarred Souls paperback here: https://www.littlebrown.co.uk/books/detail.page?isbn=9780349411491

Pre-order Ravage:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/vILohl

Apple: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/isbn9780349411088

Kobo: http://kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=9780349411088

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=9780349411088&c=books

Win the Bridgerton books! – NOW CLOSED

WIN all eight Julia Quinn Bridgerton books!

julia quinn

To celebrate the latest Julia Quinn book Because of Miss Bridgerton we’re giving away all eight books in the Bridgerton series for one lucky winner.

To enter, simply fill out the form below. Don’t forget to check out our terms and conditions here. This prize draw closes at 11:59pm on 29th March 2016.

 

Win copies of Blueprints!

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To celebrate the release of Blueprints in paperback, we’re giving you the chance to win 1 of 3 copies in paperback!

To enter, simply watch out for our tweets and Facebook posts with the following question ‘What is the name of Jamie’s mother in the book? All correct answers will get entered into a prize draw to win 1 of the three copies. Terms and conditions can be found here. The draw will close at 11:59pm on 4th March 2016.

Good luck!

Valentine’s Day – A Little Less Ordinary

DBCPValentine’s Day is really a Marmite holiday, you either love it or you hate it. But, really? It’s a holiday!!! We say celebrate it any way you please. And to help you out MaryJanice Davidson, Maria Lewis, Penelope Douglas and Darynda Jones have agreed to offer a little advice on Valentine’s Day – A Little Less Ordinary.

Darynda has made it very clear what’s important:

Valentine’s Day — a little less ordinary — for full-time private investigator and part-time grim reaper, Charley Davidson, would be with her love interest, supernatural bad boy Reyes Farrow, in a tux. They wouldn’t have to go anywhere or do anything special, but she’s seen him in everything from a prison outfit to a biker outfit to, well, no outfit at all. A tux would be the icing on the cake. A black one, or course, to match the dark depths of his aura, with a crisp bowtie to offset the unmanageable cut of his hair, and a soft white shirt to contrast the hard expanse of the chest beneath it.

While dinner may have been on the menu, they will of course go straight to the bedroom where she will slowly — very, very slowly — relieve him of the confines of polite society. Champagne will be waiting on the nightstand. Chilled champagne. And strawberries dipped in chocolate.

The Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones

Penelope has solved the problem of dinners that don’t work out:

A little Valentine’s note from Jax to Juliet . . .

Jax
+
Juliet

Every year I try to do this right. I have a plan, and there are things I want to say to you. Things you need to know. But if there’s one thing we both know about me, it’s that everything goes out the window when we’re alone. Everything I’m feeling and want to tell you leaves my head, and I end up failing at giving you that special romantic night out and all the other things you deserve.

You think I just get carried away and cut our dinners short. You think it’s amusing that I have no control over myself, drag you out of restaurants, and let the brand new dress you bought go to waste when I take you home to bed early.

The truth is I’m not that selfish. I love your body, baby, and I love how good we are together, but there’s a reason we haven’t been separated a single night since that summer all those years ago when we first got together. There’s a reason I can’t wait to get home every day.

You’re irreplaceable.

I could tell you that I love how you make our house a home, how you make sure that Hawke always has everything he needs, and that you’re the mother to him that I never had. How you take care of everyone and how you still shiver when I touch you.

But most of all, the thing I want to make sure you know (that I can never seem to tell you in person) is how I’m happy every day.

Every single day.

These are things I wanted to tell you, but by the time the moment comes, my nerves are shot and I just say “fuck it” and act out. That’s usually why we end up in the car before the second course has started.

So tonight, I’m going to do things differently. Romantic dinners out don’t work for me. We’re going to an inn overnight where I’m going to feed you and put you in a bath and wash every inch of you myself, so pack a bag.

But first, we’re going to laugh and have some fun. Meet me on Woodmere Hill at the golf course and dress warm. I’ll bring the sled.

Falling Away by Penelope Douglas

Maria has taken care of those of us dealing with that special werewolf in our life:

What not to get the werewolf who has everything this Valentine’s Day by Maria Lewis

  • Stuffed bunny rabbit holding an ‘I wub you’ heart: Yeah look, nothing is going to incite the beast like giving it a very chewable and dispensable version of a creature it likes to chase three days of the month. Points for trying though.
  • Silver love heart pendant: Sure, why not? Oh that’s right, SILVER BURNS THE FLESH OFF A WEREWOLF WHAT IS YOUR DAMAGE?! You’re trying impress the girl, not watch her collarbone go up in the flames.
  • Romantic walk under the moonlight: This could be a fine and sweet way to spend the Valentine’s evening, but best to check the moon phases before you head out as that stroll after dinner could literally see you become dinner.
  • Chocolates: You can’t go wrong with chocolates unless . . . it’s that time of the month. No, not that time of the month, that other time of the month when the special female werewolf in your life is more likely to eat townspeople than a Twix. If it’s within a few days of the full moon, better to pick up a treat from the butcher instead. We recommend beef forequarter, tenderloin or brisket navel (all raw, of course).
  • Flowers: It’s a bit basic, but it does express both thoughtfulness and romance. Unless you bought her sunflowers. The only thing sunflowers say is that you hate both her and you hate yourself. Sunflowers are Satan’s flower.

Who’s Afraid? by Maria Lewis

And, MaryJanice brings us full circle by emphasising what is important:

     My perfect Valentine’s Day? Oh, that’s easy. Dinner with my husband, Tony, at Forepaugh’s, in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I can enjoy the love of my life. I can explain the wondrous experience in three words. (Not those three words. Ugh, boring.) Deconstructed Banana Cream Pie! Wait, that’s four words.

     Forepaugh’s isn’t just a restaurant, it’s a Victorian mansion they turned into a restaurant. And it’s not just a Victorian mansion, it’s a haunted Victorian mansion. And it’s not just a haunted Victorian mansion, it’s a haunted Victorian mansion that serves wonderful food. Plus, again: . You can check them out here: http://www.forepaughs.com. They’re not paying me to endorse them, but you can bet I’ll bring this to their attention and try to wrangle a free meal, or at least a free dessert. The dessert. The thing without which life is meaningless. (Sorry, Tony: I do love you. I do. But this is something else entirely. You are not a part of this. But hey, Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetie!)

     They bring it to you on a long narrow platter while your husband is talking about his job or the children or the life you’ve made together or whatever. The dessert rests on a pile of something that looks like Cocoa Krispies, which they call chocolate-hazelnut praline, and resting on top of the Cocoa Krispies/praline is whipped vanilla crème brûlée, and on top of the brûlée is a caramelised banana with agave nectar, and on top of the banana is a lovely little mound of vanilla bean whipped cream.

     In a word: drooooooool.

And the thing is, I could be the greatest scribe in the history of the written word (and I’m not — I’m close, but I’m not quite there yet) and my description still wouldn’t do the thing justice. It is the most delicious, sweet/creamy/crunchy dessert ever, and no Valentine’s Day would be complete without it. And, I dunno, also having the love of your life at your side or something, I guess?

So the word of the day isn’t love or even lust. It’s much more basic than that. The word of the day is droooooool.

Sleeping with the Fishes by MaryJanice Davidson