Revenge, Romance, Treachery, Ghosts of the Past, Passion - it must be Silk and Scandal!
Exactly two years ago my editor emailed me - would I be interested in being one of six writers for a Regency continuity? The answer, without having to think about it, was Yes! - the questions came later when we realised that we had the exciting challenge of not just writing the books, but also creating the whole backstory and the overarching theme that would take us from the first to the last book.
Hundreds of emails - 2,000 now - a Yahoo group and the eight books were completed by mid 2009 and number one - The Lord & the Wayward Lady - is out this month.
I was fortunate enough to write the first book, to start the story and give a glimpse of the tangle of threads that we had created and that the others - Julia Justiss, Christine Merrill, Gayle Wilson, Annie Burrows and Margaret McPhee - would pick up to weave into their individual books. Then in 7 I had to gather them together and hand over to Christine Merrill who completed the tapestry with the final book.
We were writing at the same time, so it has been a joy to have all eight in my hands now and see how our very individual voices work together. They are being published at the same time in the UK and in North America but with very different covers - the UK one is at the top left. The UK series also has additional material from our researches.
Here is the opening of The Lord and the Wayward Lady. Dan, Marcus Carlow's tiger, proves to have no instinct for approaching trouble at all!
January 5th 1814. London
‘Just look at that blue sky, guv’nor. Mornin’ like this, all’s right with the world and no mistake.’
‘You must be in love, Dan.’ Marcus Carlow, Viscount Stanegate, observed as he looped his reins and took the corner from Piccadilly into Albemarle Street at a brisk trot.
A waft of onions from behind him accompanied an indignant snort from his tiger. ‘You won’t find me shut up in parson’s pound, guv’nor. Nah, just look at it: all crisp and sunny and fresh. A perfect day - proper lifts the spirits. Nuffin’ could go wrong on a day like this.’
‘After a remark like that a superstitious man would take to his bed, order the doors to be bolted and expect disaster.’ Marcus grinned, steadying the pair as they took exception to a large party proceeding along the pavement in a flurry of bandboxes and fluttering scarves.
It was a damned good day, Dan was right. The sun shone, the air was crisp, the fog had lifted and the intriguing Mrs Perdita Jensen was showing unmistakeable signs of a willingness to accept his carte blanche.
Yes, if one disregarded a father whose poor health was wearing down his mother’s spirits, one sister whose aim in life appeared to bring him to an early grave with worry, another whose sweet innocence was equally conducive to anxiety, a brother who, when he was not putting life and limb at risk on the battlefield, was set on becoming the wildest rake in town, then one might, indeed, believe that nothing on earth could go wrong.
But the Carlows' world is about to be turned on its head with a vengeful ghost from the past on a mission to destroy not only their family but everyone descended from the three friends at the heart of an old scandal. The unlikely tool of this vengeance is Nel Latham, impoverished milliner, and as Marcus learns more about her he realises she is not all she seems: soon he has to chose between passion and honour.
‘Abused? In what way do you consider yourself abused, Miss Smith?’ Lord Stanegate sat there, hands folded, apparently relaxed, looking as unthreatening as six foot of well-muscled and angry man could look. ‘I can ring for a cup of tea for you, while you consider your position. Or I could send for my sisters’ companion, should you require a chaperon. If you are cold, the fire will be laid. Only I will have an answer, Miss Smith. Do not underestimate me.’
‘There is no danger of my doing that, my lord,’ she responded, keeping her voice calm with an effort. ‘I can see that you are used to getting your own way in all things and that bullying and threatening one defenceless female, however politely, is not something you will baulk at.’
‘Bullying?’ His eyebrows went up. ‘No, this is not bullying, Miss Smith, nor threatening. I am merely setting out the inevitable consequences of your actions - or rather, your inaction.’
‘Threats,’ she muttered, mutinous and increasingly afraid.
‘It would be threatening,’ he said, getting to his feet and walking towards her as she backed away, ‘if I were to force you back against the bookshelves, like this.’ Nell’s heels hit wood and she stopped, hands spread. There was nothing behind her but unyielding leather spines.
Lord Stanegate put one hand either side of her head and glanced at the shelves. ‘Ah, the Romantic poets, how very inappropriate. Yes, if I were to trap you like this and to move very close -’ He shifted until they were toe to toe and she felt the heat of his thighs as they brushed her skirts. ‘And then promise to put my hands around your rather pretty neck and shake the truth out of you - now that would be threatening.’
Nell closed her eyes, trying to block out the closeness of him. Behind her, leather and old paper and beeswax wood polish were comforting scents from her early childhood. In front of her, sharp citrus and clean linen and leather and man. She tried to melt back into the old, familiar, library smell but there was no escape that way.
‘Look at me.’
She dragged her eyes open. He had shaved very close that morning, but she could tell his beard would be as dark as his hair. There was a tiny scar nicking the left corner of his lips and they were parted just enough for her to see the edge of white, strong teeth. As she watched he caught the lower lip between them for a moment, as though in thought. Nell found herself staring at the fullness where his teeth had pressed, her breath hitching in her chest.