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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Improper Wager: Scandalous Encounters #Excerpt

Sometimes the turn of a card changes your life.

Two years ago, Isabella Harrington defied her parents and society, and ran off with her lover to Milan. They thought they'd conquer the world at the gaming tables. But her dream of happily-ever-after led to nothing but debts and a shattered heart.

Abandoned and left on her own in a foreign city with little but her wits and skill, Isabella managed to survive. Survive and thrive, commanding the cards until she won enough to send for a very particular matchmaker.

Isabella needed a way back into the society she shunned and what better way than through a proper, aristocratic marriage? And this matchmaker of note would be her key back home to England.

Traveling the Continent, Jonathon, Duke of Strathmore, agreed to meet the mysterious Miss Harrington. Wary of the rumors surrounding her, a woman who vanished from London with only scandalous tales left in her wake, he hadn't counted on the intriguing Isabella to thoroughly capture his attention.

Will a game of cards change both their fates? Will she become a mistress or a duchess?

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Chapter One
Milan, Italy
May 1817

“Merciless animals stalk and devour their prey,” Isabella Harrington muttered. She watched a large, ragged dog slip down an alleyway across from her townhouse. He was surely hunting and some poor creature would soon meet its end.

Isabella now understood just how merciless Manning Bradford, like the wild dog, had truly been. He’d left her injured and beaten. If not in body then in spirit and heart.

His vicious words still taunted her, and when he left her, alone in a foreign city, only then had she seen that she’d never been his love. She was simply, always, his prey.

The lesson had been hard learned and hard lived.

But that lesson also taught her, prepared her, to relinquish the young girl Isabella had been for the woman who refused to allow the mistake of loving Manning Bradford to define her life.

The bracelet pinched her left wrist. She’d fastened it too tightly. Again. Isabella pushed and pulled the offending gold and peridot adornment but refused to loosen it. No, she wore it to serve as her reminder, a reminder of the man who gave the piece she once considered beautiful, but now saw as a testimonial to her own weakness.

Thirteen months since he’d left. Thirteen months living alone. The man she’d trusted with her future, her life, gone.

Loneliness and hurt clung to her like the stench of cheap tallow candles clung to her parlor walls. Isabella wanted nothing more than to be able to go back to her youthful self and choose differently.

She’d spent months wrenching herself free of the muck and mire. Months wallowing in self-pity, but needing to survive.

Survive was all she’d done.

The pungent scent of lemon oil permeated the front parlor, almost but not quite strong enough to hide the tallow used in their candles. The mixture of lemon and tallow made her stomach churn.

Turning from the window, she let the curtains fall and quickly crossed her small parlor to the nook beside the fireplace and retrieved the bottle of lemon oil. Isabella splashed some onto the rag and, with an energy born of nerves, wiped down the mantle.

She pressed hard into the wood, moving the rag over it again and again, trying to wipe her mind clear from her past as she did so. She rubbed the oil into the wood until only the scent of fresh polish filled the room. Until her stomach calmed and the sickening scent of tallow faded.

Just as she’d done the day she realized she hadn’t enough money to live out the month, as she realized she’d nowhere to go, as she’d forced herself out of bed to wash away the tears she’d shed over Manning, now Isabella forced herself to take the next step forward.

She ignored the nerves dancing through her, squashing them until all that remained was her pride, her determination, and her will to not merely survive, but to thrive. This was her fresh start, and she’d not allow anyone to hold her back, not any longer.

The front door creaked open and she heard, her one manservant, Nicolo usher her guest into the foyer.

This was it, the first step in reclaiming her life and in putting the mistakes of her youth behind her. Isabella nearly laughed at that — she’d experienced more in the previous two years than most young women of her stature experienced in their entire lives.

And she would create a life where she held her head high with pride and dignity against all the gossips and vicious stories. End this cold and lonely existence.

Isabella smoothed a hand down her gown. With her chin high, as regal as her respectable upbringing taught her, she watched Mrs. Camilla Primsby enter the sparsely furnished parlor. Mrs. Primsby was the tool Isabella planned to use as her reintroduction to proper society. She was well known for her successful — and more importantly discreet — matches.

So much so that at no small expense, won from many nights spent at the Milanese gaming tables, Isabella sent for Mrs. Primsby. If she were to polish her tarnished reputation, to salvage what was left of it, she needed someone of Mrs. Primsby’s esteem.

Still, she found it difficult to trust her future to such an unknown quality. Isabella had heard much about the renowned matchmaker before she’d left London. However, Isabella had spent the last thirteen months and ten days trusting no one save herself.

“Signora Primsby,” Nicolo announced with a bow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Regency: French Revolution-Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

Approved by the National Assembly of France, August 26, 1789 and written by The Marquis de Lafayette, with help from his friend and neighbor, American envoy to France, Thomas Jefferson.

About 6 weeks after the Storming of the Bastille, The National Assembly of France passed their own Declaration.

The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wednesday Curves: Curvy Girl's Trilogy

The first 3 titles in my Curvy Girls series are now in print! Curvy Girl's Trilogy has Countess Curvy, Boss Likes Curves, and Curvy's Cad in one print edition. (These 3 are also in audio from Amazon/Audible, if you're interested!)

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Countess Curvy: A Curvy Girl's Earl
Audrey Mills is in London to organize a charity fashion event, where she meets Duncan Collins, the Earl of Thronhill. Confident in her curves, Audrey doesn't expect Duncan to want more than a holiday fling. But when things begin to heat up, will she panic and run? Excerpt
Buy Links: Audio on Amazon
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Boss Likes Curves: A Curvy Girl's Billionaire
VP of Development, Sabrina McKenna, has worked hard to get where she is with Gideon Hotels. When Gideon Marquez asks her to attend several important business functions, Sabrina agrees. It's only after 2 months of these functions that she realizes they've been dating. And she's fallen hard for her boss. Can Gideon convince her what he feels for her is forever? Or will Sabrina's insecurities make her flee? Excerpt
Buy Links: Audio on Amazon


Curvy's Cad: A Curvy Girl's Mistake?
Eliza Lyons isn't interested in Craig Grant's attentions beyond the platonic. He's a playboy and boy does she know better. They lunch, they gossip, he tells her things about her current dates she doesn't want to hear and she thinks he'll never outgrow his playboy ways. Then Craig lays down the gauntlet and informs her he intends to show her what a real seduction is. Excerpt
Buy Links: Audio on Amazon
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday Regency: Napoleon Invades Russia

And is defeated. Badly. Because he didn't plan. Maybe he wasn't as great a tactician as everyone thought. (Plus those poor horses!)

I debated writing about this ages ago, as Napoleon marched through eastern Europe. It was going to be set in Austria, on the homefront, but there is little, okay, nothing written about the Austrian homefront during the Napoleonic Wars.

Or there wasn't when I wanted to write this. I wonder if I could find anything now?

So yes, I stalled and went on to write many other Regency romances all set in England where there is copious amounts of information during that time.

How do you feel about a Regency set outside England? Just curious.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Writing Update: Regency series

I didn't meant to drop off and not update anything, but it's been a busy (read: Stressful and Crazy) few weeks!

On the positive writing side, I've finished editing books 1 and 2 of my 4 book Regency series and am heavy into book 3. I hope to release these books once a month starting late summer/early fall. I'd hoped for earlier, but It's so unpredictable!

Once I have final covers, I'll post them and of course when I have a release date I'll post that, too!

How's everyone else been? Because summer is here! Stay safe, my friends and enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

200th anniversary of #Waterloo

What is Waterloo?

An ABBA song,of course.
An island in the South Shetland Islands named after the battle...or well King George Island
As well as dozens of towns and other places in the world
A British cheese...seriously.

But it all started (mostly) with the Battle of Waterloo where Napoleon was finally and irrevocably defeated.
June 18, 1815, Napoleon led his army of some 72,000 troops against the 68,000-man British army, which had taken up a position south of Brussels near the village of Waterloo. The British army, which included Belgian, Dutch and German troops, was commanded by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington...

In a critical blunder, Napoleon waited until midday to give the command to attack in order to let the waterlogged ground dry after the previous night’s rainstorm. The delay gave Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher’s remaining troops, who, by some accounts, numbered more than 30,000, time to march to Waterloo and join the battle later that day.

Odd that such a brilliant commander such as Napoleon made such a blunder, but I guess we can't be geniuses all the time.

So now, 200 years later, it's the battle that changed the world. And it did, if you follow the very complicated history that came after it. One flow chart will not be enough for that!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

#Interview Dragon Kisses by @MZurloAuthor

I’m Michele Zurlo, author of over 20 romance novels. During the day, I teach English, and in the evenings, romantic tales flow from my fingertips.

I’m not half as interesting as my characters. My childhood dreams tended to stretch no further than the next book in my to-be-read pile, and I aspired to be a librarian so I could read all day. I’m pretty impulsive when it comes to big decisions, especially when it’s something I’ve never done before. Writing is just one in a long line of impulsive decisions that turned out to showcase my great instincts. Find out more at or @MZurloAuthor.

1.What is your story's heat level? How do you approach the sex scenes?
Michele: My story’s heat level is scorching hot. Dragon Kisses is an unconventional ménage story, in as much as a ménage story can be conventional. I’ve always believed the purpose of sex scenes is to move the story forward. The scenes in Dragon Kisses help us get to know the characters. Dragons regard humans as nothing more than sex pets, and that’s something the humans who find themselves stranded on Zmaj aim to change.

2.How do you maintain activity as a writer when sitting at a desk all day?
Michele: Writing is my 3rd job. I’m a teacher and a parent first, so I spend very little time sitting at a desk. I’m on my feet all day long, so when I get a chance to sit down and write, it’s sometimes the only chance I get to sit down in a day. When I do write, I’m usually poolside. One of my twins is a swimmer, and the other is a diver. These are year-round sports, so I spend 3-5 evenings in the pool seating area every week--writing.

3.What is it that you loved about the main characters in your story?
Michele: I love their resilience and strength. Cassie, Niall, Arabella, and Lauren won’t accept being treated as anything less than human. They want loving, lasting relationships, and they’ll do what they need to fight for their quality of life. Jonathan, a character who finds out he’s part-human and part-dragon, is one of my favorites. He has to come to terms with the way his life changes as well as fight for Laurel’s love.

4.What do you feel is your strongest type of writing? Humor? Angst? Confrontation scenes? Action? Sex? Sensuality? Sweet Romance? And why?
Michele: I think I do angst and confrontation scenes very well, probably because I can picture those most vividly. Ironically, in real life, I hate confrontation. In Dragon Kisses, Niall confronts Wynn, which forces the first change in Zmaj society and sets huge events in motion.

5.Are you social media savvy? If so what do you suggest for others? If not, why not?
Michele: I’m trying to be social media savvy. I have a Facebook presence, and I’m working on Twitter. My goal for the past several years has been to post on my blog regularly. Like any New Year’s resolution, I do great for a little while, and then I fall off the wagon. Life intrudes, and other responsibilities (like my first two jobs) take precedence. Recently I haven’t been on social media much, and I’ve found that I have more time for writing. Perhaps social media isn’t the panacea writers seem to think it is. I think that’s open for debate.

6.What are some things from your life or things you have observed that you've infused into your stories?
Michele: Life can’t help but show up in any story that rings true. In order to strike a chord with a reader, for them to be able to relate to it, there has to be a measure of authenticity that’s only found in a true experience. Little things like a barn from my childhood or a bird from my backyard populate the landscape of Dragon Kisses. Larger things like whole conversations have also found their way into my books. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere.

7. If you had an unlimited budget, where would you like to visit for story-related research?
Michele: Australia, the UK, Amsterdam, Yellowstone—places like that. I also want to see landscapes. I’m the geek who stops to see landforms so I can try to analyze its tectonic history. I’m sure it’ll inspire lots of stories.

8.Any fun facts about the research for your book?
Michele: I modeled Zmaj after a medieval town. Both the inner and outer city are laid out in keeping with your average medieval society.

9.Finally, tell us a little about your newest release!
Dragon Kisses #1 (Cassie and Niall)
Waking up in a strange barn was just the tip of the iceberg. Cassie and Niall find themselves transported to another world, one full of dragon shifters who want to possess them. Cassie is claimed by Illion, an electric blue dragon who shifts into five hulking men, and Niall is claimed by Wynn, a lime green dragon who shifts into two men and two women.
The Zmaj feed from the sexual energy of humans, and finding a cache of five in an abandoned barn is a momentous occasion. Convincing them to stay and protecting them from the Inamanida, their sworn enemy, is another task altogether. And falling in love? Zmaj don’t do that.
When Cassie runs away, Illion is forced to confront his prejudices and his brethren in order to save her from a fate worse than death.
Warnings: MMMFF, MMFMMM, light bondage, dominant dragon shifters
Dragon Kisses #2 (Arabella and Jonathan)
Waking with no memory, Arabella finds herself courted by three men claiming to be her mates. Dragon shifters Tobin, Gerrit, and Blakely woo her with sweet words and deeds, convincing her that she’s always lived this fairy tale existence. Life is perfect until the Inamanida King decides the experiment has gone on long enough—and Tobin is ordered to turn Arabella over to be tortured and used by the entire clan.
Meanwhile Jonathan is working to help settle the humans in Zmaj’s outer city. As the son of a prominent human leader, finds himself thrust into a leadership role and having to liaise with creatures he was raised to fear. Soon he falls for Laurel, a beautiful woman recently arrived from Earth, but as secrets emerge, he faces a stark truth that could cost him everything.
Tobin and Jonathan must risk everything and deal with consequences that could cost them the fragile relationships they’ve built with the women they love.
Warnings: MFMM, MF
Dragon Kisses #3 (Laurel, Niall, Jonathan)
In the months following Jonathan’s transformation, Laurel struggles to come to terms with her feelings for him and the horrific memories of time spent as a dragon’s slave. Jonathan struggles to be patient, but Laurel’s fear is breaking his heart. Niall and Cassie open a popular bakery and revel in the bliss of love and their new lives. Arabella pines for Tobin’s aspects to be reunited, and Nora discovers the secret of creating Zmaj offspring.
Meanwhile all Zmaj braces for the Inamanida attack that Tobin warned them about. When it finally comes, the Zmaj find themselves vastly outnumbered by enemy forces. In the violence that follows, everything changes.

Dragon Kisses #1 (Cassie and Niall)
“Cassie.” The deep voice calling my name belonged to the dragon man standing next to the one who had watched over us. “Come.”
Was it wrong that his commanding tone had me close to coming? Nora’s assurance came from, I knew, deep inside my psyche. After all, in a dream all the characters were aspects of myself. Niall was my caution, and Nora was my sense of adventure. I pried myself from Niall’s hold. “We’ll be fine.”
Even facing the weirdest situation and the worst odds, I was an optimist. Before Niall could process what I was doing, I left the safety of the group. Taking those first steps toward a new life was easy when I knew I’d soon wake up in the safety and comfort of my bed, and I figured nothing was to be gained by huddling against a barn. Plus, this would make one hell of a diary entry when I woke up, and it would help keep my mind off Chad, the jerkweasel who’d dumped me yesterday.
Laurel and Oliver followed me. Both of them seemed to be dazed and confused. The blue-haired men morphed into a dragon, and we climbed onto its back. The three of us fit easily. I sat forward of the wings. Oliver situated himself behind me, and Laurel wrapped her arms around his waist.
“Hold onto the scales,” Nora shouted.
I slid my hands around the edges of two blue scales. Each was a large as a dinner plate, but they had ridges on the top which were perfect for holding. One leap, and it took off.
Flying on the back of a dragon was unlike anything I’d experienced. My tummy fluttered from the quick ascent—or from that niggling bit of sense that told me I wasn’t playing it safe, and wind whipped through my hair. I had the feeling the dragon was flying slower than normal, and I appreciated his restraint. Any faster, and I might have freaked out.
Or not. Who could be afraid of heights or strangers in such a wonderful fantasy?
Enter to win a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card during the tour!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

DIY Thursday: Toothpaste

I use Tom's of Maine toothpaste. I like it, but it's never on sale and it's a little expensive. Other than it's now owned by Colgate, it's still all natural and still so much better than the alternatives.

The DIY Natural website, of course, had a way to make my own and their cost analysis used Tom's of Maine toothpaste as their example. Basically, my savings was over $4.00 per tube. Even factoring in the time (longer than they claimed, but it was my first attempt) I still consider that a win.

I used an old jelly jar for the paste and stored it like I normally would in my bathroom. No, I don't know how I'm going to travel with it. It's not exactly a small travel tube of toothpaste, it's on the large-ish side and well, glass. I may just bring along the jar and be done with it, we'll see when the time comes!

Cost Breakdown & Savings

Here is the breakdown in cost analysis for 5.33 oz of homemade toothpaste (same amount as one tube of our old toothpaste):
  • baking soda @ 16 oz = $1.00 | 2/3 cup is 5.33 oz which = $0.33
  • fine sea salt @ 22 oz = $2.00 | 1 tsp is .17 oz which = $0.02
  • peppermint extract @ 1 oz = $3.00 | 2 tsp is .33 oz which = $1.04 | Better yet, use peppermint essential oil @ 1 oz = $13.00 | 15 drops = $0.28!
I used the essential oil because I had some from the homemade hand sanitizer I made for Christmas.
Prior to making our own, we were using Tom’s of Maine Spearmint Gel® costing an average of $5.00 for a 5.2 oz tube.  Based on the calculations above the same amount of this homemade toothpaste will cost between $0.63 and $1.39 for 5.33 oz, depending on how much flavoring is used.
The cost savings will be between $4.37 – $3.61 per tube!

Simple Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt (optional – direct application of the minerals in sea salt is great for teeth, but can be left out if the taste is too salty)
  • 1 – 2 tsp peppermint extract or 10-15 drops peppermint essential oil (or add your favorite flavor – spearmint, orange, etc.)
  • filtered water (add to desired consistency)

Mix together baking soda, optional salt, and peppermint. Add a little water at a time, stirring after each addition, until paste reaches desired consistency.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

#Interview: Rite of Summer by @TessBowery

Tess has been a fan of historical fiction since learning the Greek and Roman myths at her mother's knee. Now let loose on a computer, she's spinning her own tales of romance and passion in a slightly more modern setting. Her work in the performing arts has led to a passion for the theatre and dance in all its forms, and been the inspiration for her current books. Tess lives on the east coast, with her partner of fifteen years and two cats who should have been named 'Writer's Block' and 'Get Off the Keyboard, Dammit.'

Tess can be found reblogging over on, twittering, and talking about writing in general and her books specifically over at

Rite of Summer on GoodReads

1.What is your story's heat level? How do you approach the sex scenes?

Rite of Summer is red hot. The book opens partway through an explicit M/M sex scene, and I managed to work ‘prick’ into the first sentence. I’m probably a little bit prouder of that than I should be.

Sex scenes, for me, are a vital part of a relationship story. The way characters approach each other, the experiences and baggage and desires coming in with each person in the scene make a huge difference to the way the acts unfold. Done right, a sex scene can be incredibly revealing of character, because it is this gorgeous moment where a person teeters on the edge of naked vulnerability.

So when it comes to writing approach, I come at them like I do for pretty much anything else. I have notes on what needs to be accomplished in order to move the characters through the scene, both physically and emotionally. Who is open, who is scared? Is someone lying, pretending to be something they’re not, or are the masks about to come off? How is that going to affect their reactions, their desires, and what they need out of each particular encounter?

The worst part is trying to keep track of where everyone’s hands are and what they’re doing, especially in ménage scenes. Pronouns are a mess when you have three men in a bed together and you’re trying to keep all the limbs accounted for.

2.How do you maintain activity as a writer when sitting at a desk all day?

I’m a huge fan of yoga, especially now that there are so many videos up for free on youtube. I try and do a class a day (emphasis on the ‘try’, I promise you), and it’s so easy to roll off my chair, call up a 15-minute video and go. It gets the blood flowing, even if you just take a five-minute break every so often to breathe deeply and roll out your shoulders, and you can wobble and fall over as much as you need to because you’re in the privacy of your own home.

(This all sounds good, but it would be much less impressive if you knew that I actually do a lot of the slow stretching classes rather than the whole-body-hot-yoga-headstand-whatsits. I’m not that bendy.)

It’s the social contact that’s my biggest problem with working from home; the isolation from other human beings gets old after a few days of hibernation. That’s when the coffee shop and the day job become so helpful.

3. What is it that you loved about the main characters in your story?

That they’re able to be emotional, and in some cases, show some vulnerability. We’ve developed this toxic view of masculinity over the past 150 years or so that really requires men to be these stoic walls of strength; that can be so damaging! It’s just as bad as the notion that all women are balls of nerves who cry at the drop of a hat. Real people are so much more complex and varied than that, and not that long ago, men were still encouraged to show it.

If you read some of the personal letters that have been preserved from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, you can really feel the depth of passion and incredible emotion that these men lived with and accepted as natural. I loved being able to bring some of that historical understanding of masculinity into my boys’ inner lives.

Even within that, of course, they’re all varied in their responses. Joshua’s an introvert and he keeps a lot of things bubbling low beneath the surface, while Stephen is more likely to let it all bleed out. His problem is that he’s too emotional, without enough of a handle on how to control them, rather than letting them control him.

And Evander… he’s a hedonist, but even he has his wounds and scars that surface from time to time. He’s entertaining to write, even if I wouldn’t necessarily want to hang out with him in real life.

4.What do you feel is your strongest type of writing? Humor? Angst? Confrontation scenes? Action? Sex? Sensuality? Sweet Romance? And why?

A beta reader and close friend of mine described my usual best trope as ‘everyone’s smart but no-one has their shit together,’ which sounds about right. I don’t enjoy writing confrontation and angst, for the most part—I keep wanting to bang the characters’ heads together to make them get over themselves and get back to the fluff! –but when I do, those elements seem to be pretty effective.

I find action scenes the easiest to write. They pop into my head almost cinematically, and the words jump from my fingers to the keyboard. Whether that makes them my biggest strength, I’m not sure! Reviews I’ve had on previous works have mentioned my pacing as a plus, along with the way I break angst-tension with humor, so I think I’ll let my readers speak for me there. I certainly trust their judgment on that one better than my own!

5. Are you social media savvy? If so what do you suggest for others? If not, why not?

I don’t think of myself as particularly social media savvy. I use Twitter, I have a sadly neglected blog, and I spend way too much of my online time on Tumblr, but I’m not very good at tapping into zeitgeists or memes, or accumulating follower numbers. I tend to find people who are interesting to chat with, and get derailed off of the supposed goal of self-promotion. So on the one hand, I have made some amazing friends who I hope will be friends of mine for years to come. On the other hand, I have no idea how many of them are going to be interested in buying my books!

I’m not generally the best person to follow for advice on this sort of thing. I keep reading these lists of how to improve your SEO, and how to promote yourself on Goodreads without looking like you’re self-promoting and so forth… and as far as I can tell, that does work well for some authors. But then I end up getting sidetracked by a discussion of Chris Evans’ shoulder-to-waist ratio, or whether aliens would have a concept of capitalism, and all my career-oriented intentions go out the window.

All that to say, social media can work incredibly well, for those who have the tenacity and the skill to use it. I don’t think I can promote any one network over another, since the landscape and target markets are always shifting. I do know that a huge number of romance writers and editors hang out on Twitter, so that’s probably a good place to start. Readers should follow me there or on Tumblr, and we can chat about Victorian era nipple piercings, or whether Captain America could beat Batman in the Hunger Games.

(Honestly, it’s a miracle I ever finish a manuscript.) or @tessbowery on Twitter!

6. What are some things from your life or things you have observed that you've infused into your stories?

One of my secondary characters, Lady Horlock, was originally based on a member of my thesis committee. (She changed somewhat as I revised my drafts. She’s more of a senior Jamie Lee Curtis in my head now.) Is that the sort of thing you mean?

On a less specific note, I suppose my own age and orientation. Being LBGT and growing up in the 80s and 90s was a very different universe; things certainly weren’t as accepting as they are now. And that’s saying quite a lot, considering how many problems we still have to fight. I came of age in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, when friends were dying, no-one in the queer community had any kind of legal protections, and sex education was essentially ‘if you have sex, you will die.’

There’s a kind of fear that comes with that, along with the pressures to stay in the closet, that also generates a kind of desperation and a need to cling to happiness whenever you can find it.
I think that has some resonance with the time period and relationships I choose to write about. The stakes are incredibly high, and emotions run high in response. It’s that sex/risk/passion/seize the moment sort of thing that I find so compelling.

7. If you had an unlimited budget, where would you like to visit for story-related research?

Northern Italy, hands down. The Lombard League (13th century) is the setting for a manuscript that I’ve been poking at on and off, and I would love to get a real feel for the region; what the air smells like, what the land looks like, and all those things that make a scene really come to life. Not to mention being able to get my hands on some of the archival materials from the right era and region!

It took me something like five months of emails back and forth with the Vatican library and various city archives in Italy until I finally managed to get my hands on a single charter that I needed for that book; imagine how much more I could find if I could get there in person! There’s so much in little regional museums and archives that haven’t yet been scanned or documented, and knowing that the information is out there and I don’t have it yet is killing me slowly.

8. Any fun facts about the research for your book?

Joshua, one of my heroes, has the piercing that we call a Prince Albert today – sometimes called a ‘dressing ring’. (A male genital piercing that goes in through the urethra and out just behind the glans.) I’d come across a handful of oblique references to erotic piercings in the Victorian era, and some speculation about the Georgian, so I threw it in there as a fun character item for a man who presents at first as very straight-laced and maybe even a little prim. My editor asked me whether it was an anachronism or not, and that sent me right down the rabbit hole!

It turns out that Prince Albert himself probably didn’t have any kind of genital piercings; that apocryphal story was most likely created out of whole cloth by Doug Malloy, one of the founders of modern body piercing. He went through a lot of what have now become the standard modern body piercings and gave them names and backstories that would make them seem more legitimately rooted in older traditions. He was involved with Jim Ward in the creation of Gauntlet, the world’s first body piercing studio, back in the 1970s.

When I found that, of course, I started digging and came across references to Victorian women with nipple piercings. Now the Victorians had an amazing interest in kink, as we can see from some of the surviving erotica from the era (the magazine The Pearl has been fully digitized and is available online, for the curious, but there is a lot of heavy bondage and rape fantasy in there. So be warned!). Whether the nipple rings were fantasy or something that was actually performed is less certain, but they certainly enjoyed the thought.

I ended up tracing all kinds of Victorian and Georgian kink from there, including letters between lovers discussing the various merits of anal sex with or without lube (or as Dr. Rictor Norton puts it, “spit and persistence”), through to antique pop-up wooden dildos. I ended up tracing nipple piercings and penis piercings through the Royal Navy and then to the East India Company, and contact with India, Borneo and the Phillippines. My google and google-scholar search histories were kind of amazing for a while.

And Joshua got to keep his ring.

9. Finally, tell us a little about your newest release!

I have to be self-indulgent here and give you the formal rundown. It helps if you think of it in the movie announcer voice.

The year is 1810. Rising stars Stephen Ashbrook (violinist, incurable romantic) and Evander Cade (composer, lothario, social climber) have been invited to a house party in the English countryside. What the other guests don’t know is that Ashbrook and Cade are lovers, and that their passions extend to including others in their erotic games. Joshua Beaufort (painter, introvert) lusts after Ashbrook; when invited to bed, he cannot resist. Once he has a taste, he can only crave more.

Secrets like theirs can’t be kept for long in such close quarters, however, and the threat of exposure and rising tensions in London may threaten everything they once held dear.

I loved working with characters who aren’t your usual Dukes and Marquesses. The artistic community in 19th century England was an incredibly vibrant and diverse group of creatives, many of them based in and around Chelsea. They had this fantastic access to the homes of the wealthy and powerful, without actually being among that upper level of society, and that lends itself to amazing opportunities for intrigue and tension.

Rite of Summer is both my newest release and my first with Samhain, so it’s been an incredibly exciting journey all around!

Come by on June 2nd,  7 pm Eastern Time, to join me in the chatroom for the release party! I’ll have giveaways and prizes as well as interviews and a social hour. I look forward to seeing everyone!

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Joshua lowered himself into the armchair in his room, and loosened his cravat with a peevish snap.

“That bad, was it?” Sophie asked from the chair opposite, her legs curled under her. She closed the book in her hands, tucking it into her lap. It said something that he wasn’t the least bit surprised by her presence, though by all rights he should have been appropriately scandalized. He could always tell her to leave, as though that would do any good. The girl was like a cat; she went where she pleased and did what she liked, and woe betide anyone but her employer who tried to force her otherwise. 

“I had no idea,” Joshua said, checking first to be sure the door was most securely closed, “that her ladyship had such strong opinions about the idea of gas lighting.”

“Ooh, yes, did she get on about that again?” Sophie replied with a pleased grin. “’Those gas lines will be a blight on the city,’” she imitated bitingly. “’They’re an invitation to treachery and a first stage toward a new Gunpowder Plot,’ to hear her go on. And did you know,” she asked rhetorically, the light of mischief in her eyes, “that they’re sinful as well? Apparently Our Lord and Savior would prefer candlelight.”

“Lord save us from the march of progress,” Joshua sighed, and rubbed his forehead. Exhaustion nipped around the edges of his eyes, his shoulders aching. “You were quite right, by the way.” He glanced up at Sophie, not too tired to add to her amusement. “Lady Chalcroft’s got her eye set on Coventry for her eldest. The two of them would set on her rivals like a pair of wild dogs if they thought it would get her a hand-span closer to a coronet.”

Tess will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour!

a Rafflecopter giveaway