Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Goodbye, Richard and Rose

This month I said goodbye to Richard and Rose. But it’s not always as easy as that, is it? Richard and Rose have been with me as long as I’ve been a published author. I’ve recounted their adventures in eight books, from their meeting in a ruined house in Yorkshire to their final (for now) adventure in Lisbon.
The books weren’t meant to have places as titles, but it turned out well, as it happened. I’m not the best at titles, but this just happened, as so much of the books did.
Anyway, here’s an extract for you and a buy link. If you haven’t read them before, it’s probably best to start with “Yorkshire,” since the series is about the same couple.
For those of you who have shared the stories with me, thank you.

They can escape winter’s cold, but their nemesis has a long, icy reach.

Richard and Rose, Book 8

On a ship bound for Portugal with her children and the man she loves, Rose should be blissfully happy. Except Richard treats her like she’s made of porcelain. She’s recovered from the childbed fever that nearly killed her, yet he won’t share her bed and it’s driving her mad.

To win him back body and soul, she resolves to use every wicked, seductive trick he’s taught her. Until a possible attempted murder on board puts them both on alert for the trouble that seems to dog their every move.

Richard is almost relieved to have something to investigate. He loves Rose too much to risk losing her—which is exactly what could happen if he gets her pregnant again. When it becomes clear a series of accidents is no such thing, they realize an old enemy has caught up with them.

It’s imperative for Richard and Rose to work together to defeat this foe, but their new distance could prove their undoing. Especially when Mother Nature conspires to make them endure one last, desperate test of their love… 

Product Warnings
The earth is moving for Richard and Rose, but this time it’s not entirely their fault. 

October, 1755
A shiver shook me as I stood at the ship’s rail. I wasn’t aware that Richard had noticed until soft fabric slid over my shoulders and touched my forearms. I should have known better. These days, Richard rarely kept his attention far away from me. He was ever alert for signs of fatigue or discomfort, but that made me more aware, more jumpy, not less.
“Thank you.” I didn’t recognise the shawl, a delicate confection of light woollen material in pale blue, lined with silk, embroidered with tiny flowers. I turned my head so our lips were close. “This is lovely. When did you get it?”
“At our last port of call. I saw it in a shop window, and I wanted to see you in it. It said ‘Rose’ to me.” Once he would have kissed me. Now he drew back and smiled, the signs of tension difficult to see. But I knew him too well by now. The tiny lines at the corners of his mouth deepened, freezing the smile in place.
He took his hands away from my forearms, although several layers of fabric lay between my skin and his. Every time he withdrew from my touch, I felt him drawing away from me. Every time he did it, he could do it that much easier, that much more naturally. His eyes held wariness new to us, and something else I shied away from defining, but in my heart I knew to be fear.
Fear that I’d leave him, fear that I’d die. When I’d lain in the throes of childbed fever, he’d watched while I fought for my life, held my hand, pleaded with me to stay with him. If not for him, I might not have come back.
I hated the weakness, and even though months had passed since the physicians had declared my life out of danger, I still felt waves of fatigue, even though I improved every day. More than anything else, I hated the way my husband avoided touching me. He did it now, his fingers barely skimming over the shawl as he withdrew from me.
I turned back to the sea, letting the fresh wind whip away my stinging tears. Tears caused by self-pity, brought on by exhaustion, with a good dash of frustration. I couldn’t pin Richard down to explain or discuss our current dilemma. I’d have more success catching grains of salt. I wanted, more than anything else, for him to hold me while I slept. I wanted the caresses and the kisses that made my days complete. I wanted what we’d had until last July. I wanted my husband back.
I turned back to him and smiled brightly. “We should see the port soon.”
The coast fringed our sight, a low, blue-purple edge to the grey, white-tipped sea. By now I could hardly detect the swells that moved our ship and brought us closer to our destination, hardly hear the slap of the sea against the body of the ship. It didn’t hurt that we occupied one of the most well-equipped vessels in existence. The staterooms were so luxurious they wouldn’t have gone amiss at Versailles.
This situation between us was driving me insane. The politeness and care from everyone, especially Richard, the perfection of everything I touched or handled, the way even the boards beneath my feet on deck were thoroughly sanded and scrubbed every day before I awoke—I wanted some good, old-fashioned real life. I wanted to smell the horse dung in the streets, hear the raucous voices of traders, see a room where the floorboards dipped and shifted from years of honest use. I wanted to smash a glass, destroy a porcelain plate, mar this perfection, but I couldn’t. The yacht didn’t belong to me, and while the owner, my brother-in-law Gervase, wouldn’t object if I destroyed the whole of the grand dining room below, I couldn’t repay his generosity that way. Our frequent stops ashore, ostensibly to explore the places we reached but in reality to rest, had come as a relief to the glorious perfection of the yacht and the way everyone treated me like fragile glass.
“You’re tired. You need to rest.” Richard drew the wrap closer around me, covering my already well-covered bosom, but when I lifted my hand to touch his, to steal just a little of the contact I craved, he moved his hand away, as if he hadn’t seen my gesture. I knew better, but I said nothing. “We won’t arrive in Lisbon for a few hours yet. Plenty of time for you to recruit your strength.”
I couldn’t deny my growing fatigue. “I would perhaps like to go downstairs for an hour.”
“Are you hungry? Would you like to eat something?”
I shook my head. “No.” I’d long tired of the constant pressure to eat and build up my stamina, but I’d lost a lot of weight, so I did my best to regain it. I could no longer indulge in pleasing myself alone. I had children to care for now.
I took his arm when he held it out to me, enjoying the feel of his hard muscles under the green wool of his coat. It was the nearest I’d been to touching him for some time. I took anything I could get these days, a beggar for contact with him.
I descended the steep stairwell below as if born to it. At first I’d found negotiating the yacht difficult, but I’d accustomed myself to the stairs, just as I’d grown used to the gentle but constant movements under my feet. The white-painted corridor led to a series of staterooms, and the gentle sound of a child’s laughter drifted out to us as we approached. Our daughter, Helen, every day growing more enchanting. I would visit her later. And our other children, still babes in arms, who did not yet recognise me as their mother, but they would, in time.
Richard opened the door and ushered me into a spacious stateroom, which I occupied on my own. Before my illness Richard and I had never spent a night apart. Now we never spent a night together.
“Shall I send Nichols to you?”
Defiance shot through me. Why should I be the only one suffering? “No, thank you. You can help. You always said you knew your way around a lady’s garments better than any maid.” I smiled but received none in answer. Only a still watchfulness, his classical features set in an expression of repose. I tossed my new shawl on a chair. “If you could just help loosen my stays at the back, I’ll be perfectly comfortable.”
I unhooked my gown at the front, let it slide off my shoulders and fall to the floor. All I could feel behind me was a hot breath on my nearly bare shoulder. Just one breath. He stepped back.
I hoped the restraint was hurting him as much as it hurt me. After all, these days it wasn’t of my doing. I waited, and then felt his fingers on the strings of my stays. Hard, viciously ripping at the laces, as if he wanted to get the task over with as fast as possible. When he touched my skin, his fingers skimmed past the stays to linger on my shoulder blades, and I revelled in his touch, however slight. He sucked in a deep breath, his gasp harsh in the near silence of the stateroom.
I wouldn’t tell him I could have done it myself. These stays hooked down the front, the back laced to fit me. My maid Nichols would curse when she found the laces undone. She would just have to put up with it. I wanted to force him back into some kind of intimacy. Surely he couldn’t keep this distance up for much longer.
I turned back and smiled, keeping it friendly. A sultry invitation would have him running. “Thank you.”
He spun around and dragged down the covers on the bed. The scent of lavender from the sheets wreathed around us. I’d come to associate that aroma with closeness. It perfumed our sheets, my private linens, and warmed from body heat, escaped when we undressed. But that was before my illness. Now it meant loneliness and solitude.
I loosened the outer petticoat and the quilted one I’d chosen to wear that day in place of panniers, leaving me in my stays, shift and under-petticoat. Then I kicked off my shoes. That should be enough to tempt him. My breasts were more exposed than hidden, my arms bare, the shape of my body easily visible.
Not that I expected it now, but constant repetition of this scene would weaken his resolve. I would not lose the battle to recommence the intimacy that had made both of us so happy such a short time before.
He forced a smile and glanced at the bed. “In you get. I’ll have Nichols wake you in two hours.”
I climbed in, trying to tempt without being obviously provocative. He tossed the sheets over me and left without a backward glance, without bending to kiss me. He hardly looked at me. I dashed away incipient tears and set myself to my repose. Although I didn’t really need it anymore, I would take all the respite I required to ready myself for the fight ahead. The fight to get my husband back in my bed.
Buy the book from Samhain here and from Amazon here.

Lynne Connolly 


Christina Courtenay said...

It's hard to say goodbye to characters, isn't it! But you never know, you might return to them one day :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this magnificent journey, I loved every bit of it ... !!!