We're delighted to welcome Jan Jones to the blog. Jan's here to tell us about her new Regency, Fair Deception. Over to you, Jan!
Thank you! Like so many others, I came to Regencies via Georgette Heyer. I love her Earls, her rakes, her quiet gentlemen and all the heroines who give as good (if not better) than they get. But I've always had a hankering to write romances about the more ordinary people in Regency life. And now, thanks to Hale, I am!
If a woman didn't have money in the Regency era she needed a protector. Susanna Fair has little of the first and a great desire not to have the second. An actress at the Sans Pareil theatre in London's Strand, Susanna has been holding the Dishonourable Rafe Warwick at bay for weeks. On the night the story opens it looks as though Warwick will at last make good his bet that he can make her his mistress. Until, that is, Kit Kydd - a latter-day knight errant - floors him and whisks Susanna away.
With money problems of his own, Kit needs to appear betrothed to stand a chance of being made his great-aunt's heir. Susanna needs to vanish for a while, so a visit by the pair of them to Great-Aunt Emma in Newmarket seems the obvious solution.
But Newmarket holds the secret of Susanna's scandalous ancestry. It is also shortly going to hold her previous theatre company. And as if that wasn't enough, Newmarket is where dishonourable gentlemen go to rusticate when they've made London too hot for them.
You can read the first chapter on my website, but here is an extract from Chapter Four. Susanna is spending a week at Kit's estate before they travel to Newmarket to try and sink into the skin of her part. Some facets of the deception are going to be easier than others!
There was an oil lamp burning low at the head of the stairs. Susanna descended cautiously, wondering why noise always sounded twenty times as loud at night. She had reached the lowest tread when a sudden thud from a room on one side of the hall halted her. She couldn’t remember which room it was, but the door was open a crack and behind it, a light was moving. The dinner-table talk of intruders and lawless men at once flooded into her head. She crept across to put her eye to the gap, so intent on moving quietly that she overlooked a small table in the shadows and consequently stubbed her toe quite agonizingly on it. The resultant screech of wood scraping over stone was stupendous. Her heart racing, Susanna whisked sideways to flatten herself against the wall.
She didn’t even hear the footsteps. One minute all was darkness, the next there was a dim rectangle of light where the door used to be and a strong male forearm was across her throat pinning her to the wall. She didn’t hesitate. She brought the jug round with a resounding crash on the back of her assailant’s head.
“What the devil - !”
“Kit!” Susanna’s hands flew to her mouth. “I thought it was... I thought... ”
The pressure across her throat was abruptly released. “Susanna? What the deuce... ?”
The room, she saw with a sinking heart through the open door, was the library and Kit was in his shirtsleeves with his neckcloth untied. He had plainly been looking for a book to read in bed. She had never felt so foolish in her life. “Oh dear, I was thirsty so I brought my jug down to fill it and then I heard a noise...” She faltered, biting her lip as Kit brushed shards of pottery from his hair.
He glanced at her with wry humour. “For future reference, breaking a jug over a person’s head isn’t the most effective deterrent against attack.”
“I’ll give you the price of it in the morning. Oh!”
Kit gripped her wrist, anger flaring in his face. “Don’t talk as if you’re a servant! I don’t charge anyone for breakages!”
“No... I’m sorry. I...”
He dropped her wrist and took a deep breath. “Forgive me. Come, you can have some of the water from my jug.”
“Thank you.” She surreptitiously scuffed the largest pieces of pottery against the wall with her slipper and trailed miserably after him.
“Fetch your glass,” he said outside her chamber, and went on further up the passage. Returning with his own jug, he held the candle high so that he could see to pour. The light glimmered through his shirt, outlining the firm edges of his body against the softly draping linen.
“Devil take it!” he said suddenly.
Susanna jumped and glanced where he was looking. A faint discolouration encircled the slender bones of her wrist. She quickly pulled at the sleeve of her nightgown to cover it. “I told you, I bruise easily,” she said. “Pray do not concern yourself. It will be gone as soon.”
His eyes were stony. “I should have had more control.” He put the jug on a side table and tilted her chin so that the light from his candle fell on her throat. She felt her night-time braid slither backwards over her shoulder. “Here too,” he said, his fingertips tracing delicate eddies over her skin. “Does it hurt?”
Hurt? It felt like lines of fire where he was touching her. Fire and danger and unbearable desire. “No,” she whispered, swallowing convulsively. Her mother’s warnings against the inconstancy of the gentry drummed in her head. “Pardon me, I should be retiring. Thank you for the water.”
For an aeon more his fingers lingered. Susanna felt the pulse in her throat leap to meet them, knowing her breathing was becoming ragged. What would she do if his hand drifted lower, over her shawl, over the cotton nightgown beneath? Her legs trembled. The water in her glass shook. Did she want - or fear - his touch?
Suddenly his fingers were gone, only the memory of their warmth left on her skin. “You’re cold,” he said. “I hope this adventure may not give you night terrors. Goodnight.”
Thanks, Jan, the book looks fabulous!
If you'd like to read Jan's book then you can find it in your local book shop (UK) or order it if they don't have it in stock, and of course it's available from Amazon and other online sellers. Or why not ask at your local library?