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About the author:
Historical Romance Author
What inspired you to write your book?
I have never actually been able to use my history degree. I have read widely in classical literature, and now I am able to meld my passion for history and for the classics into writing historical romance.
Here is a short sample from the book:
She hadn’t been sure about him at first.
When Eve’s father had remarried, she was aware that her new stepmother had a son, but he wasn’t there for the wedding or for the many months to follow. He had begun a career in Her Majesties Navy as a mere boy. His adult life was now consumed with working his way up the chain of command. His mother had received a letter proclaiming his proud promotion to midshipman – the humblest of ranks in the junior officers class, but an officer nonetheless.
Eve had stayed home the day her father and stepmother trekked to the waterfront to welcome him. The days were hot, and the industrial tenor of the docks were confused and crowded. He was a stranger to her. He would barely be home for a month. Twenty-eight days, to be exact. She would not have the time to get to know her new stepbrother. Nor did she particularly want to. The last thing she needed was another salty old man granted authority over her life. She was held tightly enough already.
She was not expecting what came through the door. The naval officers she had seen about town were the strict and stoic type, yes, but they were also short and lean with the upturned nose typical of second and third sons of aristocrats whose commission had been purchased by father. Theo was nothing of the sort. He entered the front parlor. His blue officers coat stretched at the shoulders. The double row of brass buttons bulged over his burly chest. His white uniform trousers stretched over muscular thighs. Closely trimmed mutton chops grew on a firm, square jaw. He looked as though he could hoist a mainsail with his bare hands. And, he was neither salty nor old. Twenty-five had sounded, well, half-way to fifty in her nineteen-year-old ears. The man in front of her was sun-tanned and vibrant. He was strong and confident. His voice was firm and his manner openly frank. He was a breath of fresh air in a stifling household atmosphere.
He had taken her breath away and then disappeared. Theo spent most of his time out of their parents’ home. He ate breakfast with the family in the morning and exited with his narrow officers cap nestled under his arm. Always in uniform. Impeccable. Handsome. He spent his days down on the docks, seeing to the repair and fitting of the HMS Prince Henry for departure. He spent his evenings at officer’s clubs and with yet more handsome, young men in uniform. He never brought any of them home. Damn him. The Navy blues and whites did wonders for a man. The charming manners and comportment of an officer added to the allure. Exactly the kind of company Eve liked to keep.
Theo had twenty-eight mornings to spend with his new family before he set sail again. It was the twenty-first morning that he sat grinning over his toast and jam. That grin had come to infuriated Eve. She could just tell there was a smugness that lay beneath. As though he could add to the conversation, but he wouldn’t. And, it was on this particular subject which she could afford the interjection of a young man who understood.
Her father wasn’t helping her mood. “But father, many girls go to the theatre unsupervised with young men. We won’t be alone. We’ll walk there, we’ll walk back. There’s a whole crowd of people milling about. I’ve never been to see a play, not since you took me as a child. Please.”
Her father sat ramrod straight. “For the last time, no. If Leroy wants to see more of my daughter, he can come into my parlor like a respectable gentleman.”
“But, father, times have changed since you were a boy. It’s perfectly acceptable for a young woman to go out for the evening with a gentleman.”
Theo cleared his throat. Dry toast. It was very dry toast this morning. He washed it down with large gulps of hot tea. Her father’s eyes shifted to her new stepbrother and bobbed a self-satisfied nod. Men could speak volumes to one another through a simple swallow of too dry toast. “Perhaps amongst some of the young ladies you visit, it is acceptable, but not here, and not in genteel society. My daughter will not be seen – unescorted – in the lone company of a man who has not even declared his intentions. It is not proper. Let him come and tell me he seeks your hand. Then we shall see.”
Eve huffed and looked to her stepbrother for help. He was young still. Surely, his nights were not spent with all those officers alone. An attractive man like him – on leave for such a short time. She felt the heat of a blush spread up her neck. She chased away the thoughts of Theo alone with a woman. His confidence and swagger – she could only imagine what he…what he… She shook her head. When she looked to him again, he was still fixated on his toast, that grin causing his eyes to beam with mischief. She couldn’t decide whether he was absolutely handsome or exasperatingly distasteful.
“Theo,” she put on her best social-graces smile and batted her lashes. “You’re not much older than I. You’re out every night. Please, tell Papa the times are changing.”
Theo balanced his knife on the edge of his plate and laid his palms in his lap before turning to her. His grin became rakishly lopsided. “Eve, your father is correct. It is unseemly for a young lady to accompany a man like Leroy unchaperoned. The girls you choose to spend your time with should be selected more carefully if that is what they are filling your head with.”
“So true,” Eve’s stepmother broke her way into the conversation. “I don’t trust a man who seems to be as fond of you as that Leroy is and yet hasn’t taken a moment to have a private word with your father. Does not bode well, young lady.” The older woman jabbed her fork in Eve’s direction. “Does not bode well.”
Eve’s stepmother hadn’t birthed a single daughter. Five boys. No girls. And yet, she would have herself thought of as the leading authority in all of Portsmouth. She was absolutely maddening. The moment that woman had stepped into her father’s house, she had overtaken the rearing of her bridegroom’s fully grown daughter.
Eve lowered her voice, trying to imbed words with as much respect as she could muster. It didn’t come out quite as she had wished. “Ma’am, Leroy is just shy.”
Her stepmother teetered a giggle. “Oh, yes. So shy he wants to take young girls out to the theatre late at night – without anyone looking over them.” She shook her head, sobering. She carried the air of a woman who decided her mind long ago. “No. I’ve known men like Leroy. Seeking the attentions of young girls without the bounds of commitment. Loose morals, those men. Not like my Theo.”
Theo’s movement caught Eve’s eye. He raised his napkin to his lips and patted. From Eve’s seat beside him, she could see the smile he hid. He softly cleared his throat and sipped more tea. Dry toast, indeed. She settled her mind that he was not absolutely handsome, but that he was entirely exasperatingly distasteful.
Her stepmother continued with her invective. “It is to be expected of the more distinctly animal nature of men. It is an inherent quality of theirs. Even your father. They can’t hold their basic desires.”
Her father choked on his morning beverage. Theo’s napkin patted at his lips again. His shoulders shook ever so slightly. Eve grew rather uncomfortable with the thickening air in the room.
Still, her stepmother continued with her sing-song lecture. “It is the responsibility of a young lady’s relations – and the young lady herself – to protect her chastity and womanly virtue against the base nature of the male of the species.”
Theo rested his elbow on the table, still holding his napkin to his mouth. Her father stared blankly at his cold ham, his lips pursed in a line.
Her stepmother readied herself to unload more – to launch into yet another of her long and trying feminine purity diatribes. Eve, though, her hair – down to the very root – smoldered with rage. How dare she? How dare she come into her father’s home and take over her affairs so? She could have convinced her father. She could have persuaded him. It was not improper. Not in the least. She went off like a teapot. “That’s… You… Leroy is… That’s not fair!”
Having said her piece, Eve threw her napkin with a clatter over her plate. It landed half in her teacup and sent little droplets cascading over the table cloth. Her chair scuttled across the floor, and she stormed from the dining room. She stomped down the hall with skirts in hand and rounded the corner to the steps ascending to her chamber. She could have sworn she heard Theo’s rich voice laughing in the dining room.
Stepbrothers were good for something.
She was light as a feather. Her toes barely touched the bricks as she and Theo walked to their destination. It was a beautiful night. The air was crisp, the temperature perfect. The gaslights were being lit. Theo, himself, was perfect. She had insisted he wear his Navy uniform. It was a majestic thing to be seen on the arm a tall, strong, handsome officer. He wasn’t so old, after all. She tried to restrain her broadening smile as heads turned to observe the happy, gorgeous couple. She was in her best dress. Scarlet red. A neckline that plunged off her shoulders and rested on the swell of her breasts. A studded necklace which couldn’t help but draw the gaze down the bust. Her maid had helped to cinch her corset tight, and she struck the most dashing of figures in her looking glass. She knew most of those appreciative looks were sent her way. She was anything but modestly appareled tonight. If her shy Leroy needed drawing out to persuade him to speak with her father – then Eve was a lady of action.
Yes, stepbrothers were good for more than one thing. Making her the jealous attention of every young lady they encountered was a pleasant bonus on her evening, but the feature was yet to come. Her father would never deign to escort her to the theatre, but Theo? Theo rather lighted up with the prospect of a night out with his new, young relation. Eve knew the two of them would cut a fine figure in their evening dress. Her father had turned precisely three shades of red when Theo proposed the outing. It was perfect. If her father had accompanied her to the theatre, he would have done his best to discourage Leroy’s attention. But Theo? Theo was strikingly handsome in his uniform, and he would only make Leroy more amorous by stoking his jealousy. A jealous Leroy was a thing Eve very much wanted at the moment.
She practically floated. She squeezed Theo’s arm in her excitement. She squeezed again. She had taken the arm of many a man, but never one like this. Oh, dear. His bicep was contracted into a firm ball of muscle. Her palm and fingers curled around his upper arm, digging ever so slightly into the tight muscle that lay beneath. Theo was by far the most muscular, well-endowed man she had ever personally had the acquaintance of. The expanse of hard flesh under her hand stoked her curiosity. Her fingers wrapped around his big, knotted bicep – there was allure there. She squeezed again. Theo’s chin dipped, and he considered her with a sideways glance – that infuriating, crooked grin coming back over his lips.
“Never taken the arm of a working man?”
She’d been caught. “Oh, no. I just love this fabric. What is it?”
He scrunched his eyebrows at her. His voice deepened from amusement to incredulity. “Wool.”
“Ah, really? It’s so soft.”
“It’s new. This is the first time I’ve worn this one. I was promoted to midshipman while we are at sea. I had them tailored when I got home. This one is my best.”
He had saved this uniform – what? – for a special occasion? The term ‘home’ brought a smile to her lips. It was the first time in three weeks he had used it. “Home? So, Raleigh is no longer home? You’ve decided to stay with us?”
His spine shifted, and he squared his shoulders. “Well, this is where the Prince Henry will call home, and my mother lives here with your father now. So, yes. Calling Portsmouth my home will, in one stroke, make me a good naval officer and a good son.”
Something inside of her gave a little. She wasn’t sure what or why. Almost like a fog descended on her glorious evening. “Those are the two most important things in your life, are they? The Queen’s Navy and your mother?”
His voice was cheery again. “Of course. What else should take precedence in a bachelor’s life?”
“You don’t want to find yourself a nice wife?”
A deep, slow laughter emanated from his chest. “I’m a Navy man. I’ll be spending long months at sea. There are many old bachelors’ in Her Majesties service. A truly career minded naval officer – his life is not suited to wooing nice, young ladies and rearing nice, young children. The supply of women who care for a husband they barely have time to become acquainted with – and who cannot afford them the lifestyle of a marquis to make up for it – is woefully short.”
His words sounded light, and yet, Eve was sure she could hear a tinge of sadness behind them – just on the tail end as he trailed off. “Have you tried?”
“To find one of these rare specimens?”
Theo’s eyes settled into the distance. His demeanor sobered. “Here and there, Eve. I am rarely in port for long enough of a time to make a woman’s fondness settle into a permanent place in her heart. There are only so many times a man can come home to disappointment.” He took a deep breath, and the smile came back to his face. “Anyhow, my mother has four other sons. They are doing famously in supplying her with grandchildren. The family tree shall not lack bright, young sprouts.”
Eve didn’t have the time to prod him further. They turned the corner and it came into view. The only theatre of its sort in town. It’s construction had been a reliable subject of conversation for the past year, and now it was finished. It’s multistory, brick façade towered over them. It’s brightly lit, red and yellow entry was wide and glowing in the dusk. She practically skipped as they approached.
She hadn’t even thought of the price of the show. She had half expected Leroy to be waiting, hat in hand, to relieve Theo of his responsibilities – that awestruck look on his face. But she hadn’t even written her sweetheart a note. She wanted her arrival to be a surprise. She could perfectly picture the slack-jawed gape he would have as she and Theo strode through the door. Leroy would glow brighter than the theatre lights when her stepbrother handed her over. Her beau had the most charming of smiles.
They approached a small crowd of mingling men and women in evening dress who gathered around an ornately carved booth situated at the center of the entry. The gayly attired theatre-goers practically parted for the massive military man and his date.
“Two, please.” Theo addressed a mustached man in full tuxedo suit at the center of the booth. Her stepbrother slid a set of coins across the counter.
The cheerful man behind the booth was big-toothed with service-oriented smiles for all. “Of course, Sir. Enjoy the show.”
Theo guided Eve toward the heavy, oaken doors and held the gold-tinseled cards to her. “Would you like to hold the tickets?”
She could feel herself come alight. Even the tickets were beautiful. She reached out to them and ran her fingers over the embossed lettering. Her first ever theatre tickets. She would have to find a valuable place to stow the keepsakes. Perhaps next to the carnation – pressed under the cover in her copy of Dickens.
Eve rested on Theo’s arm. He pulled the heavy, wooden door open with the other. A new world opened before her. The murmur of voices rolled in a continual loop. Men and women milled in stunning evening dress. Her eyes were immediately attracted to the chandeliers cascading overhead. They were enormous. They sparkled as the crystal rotated. The vaulted ceilings were lined with brass plates, reflecting light as bright as noonday. Heels clacked over an immense expanse of richly tiled flooring, and columns stretched high. The glint of gold caught the bright chandeliers light at every turn. A beautiful, red and gold rug stretched an impossible length from the entry to a majestic staircase which split into two, cascading wings and rose ever higher. These must lead to the balcony seats. Oh, to have a balcony box. Just like she read in the novels. Waving to friends below. Speaking freely as the play progressed. Visitors calling between acts. The romance of it all.
And the smells! She wasn’t expecting the smells. “Do I smell roast chestnuts!” she beamed.
Theo’s crooked grin widened into a genuine smile. “And almonds. Come. You should have a treat for the show.”
She placed both hands on his arm, feeling an enthusiasm well up in proportions she hadn’t experienced since she had been an excitable little girl. “Please! It’s been ages since I’ve had roast almonds.”
He turned her toward a brightly lit counter lined with glass casing. “Have you ever had them basted in cinnamon?”
She gasped. She literally gasped. “That sounds glorious. Oh. Oh. I can smell the cinnamon!”
Theo slid another coin across the counter. The finely dressed attendant — all smiles — buried his scoop into a bin of crusted almonds and handed over a white paper bag. Eve popped one into her mouth with the snap of a finger. The delicious sweetness was overwhelming. She shut her eyes and took a long breath through her nose. She puckered her cheeks and sucked the cinnamon off the almond before grinding it between her teeth. Theo grinned ear to ear. Delicious. Absolutely delicious. Ever gallant, he offered the crook of his arm to her hand. She accepted, and he guided her toward the entry of the theater. Another finely dressed attendant swung the door open before them, and Eve presented the man with their tinseled tickets. One quick glance at the cards, and the attendant bowed and swept an arm to the interior of the theatre.
Yet another expansive milling of bodies opened before them. Hundreds upon hundreds of seats with men and women in glorious gowns and colorful suites shuffling between rows. Private balconies rose three stories high. Eve tilted her head up and up, taking in the glittering gold, the railings of the balconies the young men and women hanging over them and waving to friends below. It was an atmosphere of festivity and frivolity. She was intoxicated.
And then she saw him. Leroy. He was strikingly handsome in his evening dress. Thin, lean, the picture of a gentleman. His bowler was set at a rakish angle, and his thin mustache was impeccably trimmed. He was dressed to a T, down to his white kid gloves. Eve’s heart fluttered. The kid gloves that he extended it to her. The heat of anger began to wash over her. She recognized her. It was one of Josie’s acquaintances. One of the gold digging, rank seeking, good for nothings who frequented the parlors of the open minded – the well to do. Good for nothing strumpet. She took Leroy’s fingers and then his arm. Leroy waved to a balcony and pointed at his female companion. Eve’s eyes followed his gaze to a group of young people. One of the group recognized Leroy and motioned for them to ascend. She was beside herself. She was going to a balcony seat. Leroy raised her hand to his lips and kissed. He slid a hand around her waist and caressed her hips as he guided her from the rows of seats. He leaned into her ear and whispered. A smile glistened on both their features. Her eyelids sunk, and a sultry flirtation played on her lips.
The heat of her anger boiled over. They were all correct. Her father. Her stepmother. Theo. Damn that woman. Damn him. She had defended him. She had told her family they were wrong. And now here she was, Theo a witness to her shame. They were barely inside the interior of the theatre, but her temper broke there and then. Her jaw ached; her teeth clenched shut.
She didn’t start with a whisper or a subtle accusation. No, she broke out in a yell. “You scoundrel. You good for nothing scoundrel.”
The murmur of voices quieted. Heads turned. The ensemble of fine ladies and gentlemen sought the source of the disruption. She didn’t care. Blast them all. She was focused on Leroy. Her beau also turned to seek the female voice. His eyebrows were raised, and there was a rigidity to his body as though he recognized her voice already. They made eye contact. Leroy blanched. The color drained from his face, and his hand slipped from the hip of that strumpet.
“How could you? You good for nothing louse.”
Eve moved quickly. Theo grasped at her, but she was already darting through the crowd and toward Leroy. The din of voices began to pick up again — some horrified at the outburst, some delighted at the addition to their night’s entertainment.
“You promised me. You said it was only me. You promised.”
She looked for something to hurl at him. Empty seats. An expanse of carpet. Nothing came into view, but there were the cinnamon almonds in her hand. She ratcheted back her arm to pitch the bag at his head. Her swing was arrested in midflight – her wrist caught in a firm grasp. Theo wrenched the bag from her hand and spun her to face him. Eve let loose on him. She struck his firm chest. The hardness under the wool naval uniform stung her palm. She didn’t care. The pain fueled her fury. Her temper was high and raging.
She struck again and again. “Let me go. Let me go.”
Theo’s jaw set. His eyes burned with a barely restrained anger. His words came out in a hissing whisper. “You will compose yourself. Do not make a scene in front of all these people. You are a lady; act like it.”
His words enraged her further. Men. All of them. They ruled the world and told her how to behave. They controlled her, and they let their fellow brotherhood gallivant about the night with any strumpet that would have them. How dare they? How dare he? Eve balled her fingers into a fist and stuck over and over again on Theo’s broad chest. “I said let me go. Let me go. How dare you?”
With alarming speed, Theo dropped to a squat. He wrapped his arms around her thighs, yanked her body to his, and lifted. Eve screeched and lost her balance. The crowd roared. Her cheeks flared with the heat of anger and embarrassment. Theo slung her over his back. Her waist creased over his shoulder, her body draped over his front and back. He held her fast by the back of her legs. She howled in rage. She beat at his broad back. Theo turned and strode out of the theater. She continued to strike him. A hard, painful slap descended on her rear end. She whelped in surprise. Laughter rang in her ears. Another strike. She squirmed and cried out.
His voice was still a mask of anger. “You keep hitting me and making a scene, and I won’t put you down until we reach our front door. You are a spoiled child. Behave yourself.”
Another hard to swat to her backside. Eve cried out and steeled herself, becoming suddenly aware of all the staring eyes, all the upturned lips, all the laughter directed toward her display. She jostled back and forth on his shoulder. “Let me down.”
Theo thundered through the lobby, heads turning with murmurs of amusement as they passed. “You will behave yourself if I put you down. That is not a request. It’s an order. Understand?”
She stilled again. He was powerful. He could have his way with her, and she couldn’t stop him. He was proving himself a brute. An officer is a gentleman, indeed. Her only choice at this moment was obedience. For now. She set her teeth and growled. “Fine.”
He didn’t put her down. “I want to hear you say it.”
Her rage flared anew. She planted a palm on his shoulder blade and pushed herself from his body. “Say what, you brute?”
“I want to hear you say you understand.”
She smashed into his firm back with her balled fist one final time, pouring as much anger and aggression into the attack as she could. “I understand.”
They had returned to the entry of the lobby, ready to leave the theatre. Theo set her on her feet. No. She wasn’t finished. One last assault. She reared back and struck his chest as hard as she could, her lips pursed with ill restrained anger. Her fingers ached. She snarled with the pain.
Theo, the smug little cockscomb. That cocky, crooked grin slipped back onto his lips. “I thought you said you would behave yourself. Do I need to pick you up again?”
Her rage boiled up. She knew he was good for his word. He would carry her all the way home. “No.”
Theo cocked an eyebrow at her. “Does that mean for the entire walk home, you will be a lady?”
She gritted her teeth, looking straight into his eyes. It was the sneer that could cow her father. It was the air that could silence a parlor full of her friends. Theo smirked. He was impervious. The beginnings of a pout came over her. “Yes.”
She teetered between the pout and her anger. She determined whether to wage another assault. The satisfaction may be worth it. Theo was not to be cowed. He had won this battle, but just this one. “Yes, I will be a lady.”
“Thank you.” Theo – a picture of the gentleman he most certainly was not – offered his arm. “Shall we?”