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1222Newsletter, February, 2012
- Lynne ConnollyFeb 1, 2013
Sorry about the misleading header on the last iteration of this!
I think I should be telling you to go and buy my books and tell all your friends, shouldn’t I? Don’t worry, I won’t! Well, not so blatantly anyway. Though if you like them, do tell people.
The trouble is, the Internet is full of people and organisations and social networks, and if you’re not careful you can get completely taken up by it all. It’s a huge room full of people just chatting, and exchanging views.
I enjoy playing, but I also enjoy turning it off sometimes, so I can listen to the voices in my head, the ones I’m creating and working with (I’m not quite nuts enough to think the voices are real people, though at times it’s a close run thing!)
This year I’m starting on a new venture. Self-publishing. I’m not abandoning my publishers, far from it, but I have some books that are lingering in the ether, not being promoted and a bit dated. I’ve asked and received the rights for two of them back, and I’m struggling through the process of putting them up at Amazon and other outlets. It’s fun, but it’s not something I’d like to do for all my books!
However it does give me a chance to give some books a new lease of life, and perhaps publish others that don’t fit anywhere. For instance, I’ve had a new paranormal series sitting on the back burner for a while now. There’s even a completed book. But with Department 57 at Loose-Id and the two paranormal series Pure Wildfire and STORM at Ellora’s Cave and I don’t want to spoil their chances with a new venture there. There’s a new STORM book accepted and ready to be edited (it’ll blow your socks off!) and I’m going to Washington in April to research for a new STORM book, maybe a trilogy if the ideas I have work out.
If I do more self-publishing, I can schedule releases so they don’t conflict with the others. It’s something I’m only thinking about, and if you have any opinion, I’d love to hear it.
Then there’s a paranormal historical that has been out briefly once, before I pulled it back, and a brand new Georgian-set historical series. Not the one I’m currently shopping around the publishers, but the one I’ve had on in planning stages for a while.
It is an exciting and a scary thing, and I’m not rushing into anything.
But if you’d like to pop over to Amazon, the books are there. The Hosts to Ghosts series is already underway with two books, and there are some Regencies there, too, “Vanessa” and “Laura.” “Noblesse Oblige” will follow in time.
Join me in the adventure!
Meantime, “Born on the Bayou” came out and my lovely Jace is now out there. “Nice ‘n’ Easy” is on its way, featuring Donovan the British bass player, and later, you can meet Hunter and his deaf heroine.
This month, February, sees the release of a book several of you wrote to me asking for. If I ever wrote a book about a character people asked me about, including my editor, then this is it.
“Brutally Beautiful” features the gangster brother of the hero of “Stripped Bare,” Mick O’Donnell. Only Mick is now Nick Taylor, living in New York, trying to make a new life for himself. Since it comes out at the end of this month, I’ll give you an excerpt in next month’s newsletter, but you can find an extract and details on my website, if you can’t wait to see what I’ve done with Mick!
In the interim, Jim Goddard, who features briefly in “Brutally Beautiful” has grown up and I’m thinking of telling his story next.
So for now, here’s an extract from “Vanessa,” which happens to be the first book I ever got published. I’ve revised it very lightly, because I don’t want to change it, so those of you who already have it don’t need to buy this new version. I just want to see the book live again. The cover was designed for me by the late Ariana Overton, who was a great cover artist in the early days of ebooks and has an award named for her.
First love, or last?
In the fateful year of 1815 Vanessa, the new Lady Vesey, accompanies her diplomat husband Christopher to the Congress of Vienna. Newly married and trying to forget her previous life, Vanessa is confronted by her lost love, Emery Graham. Unsure of her feelings for her husband, or his for her, will Vanessa decide to throw in her lot with Emery or stay with Chris?
Thrown into a desperate mission to save the life of the man she loves, Vanessa has to face her deepest fears.
Vanessa Marriott looked up at the large clock in Bath’s main pump room and sighed. Bored didn’t begin to describe the way she felt.
Her mother, sitting next to her with a glass of restorative water in her hand, glanced at her irritably. “Sit up straight, Vanessa! For goodness’ sake, look more interested!”
Vanessa sighed again. Why should she? What good would it do? As the eldest daughter of a flock of six she’d seen ten seasons, and had no wish to see any more. Old news on the marriage market, she wearied of the way young mens’ regard slid over her and on to the next girl. At twenty-eight, she no longer considered herself marriageable, and prayed her mother would allow her to stay in the country next year, instead of trailing around after her pretty sisters in Bath and London. She was far too old for this kind of thing.
There was only one reason she continued to allow her mother to drag her on the social round, and that was Emery Graham, at present staring at her from across the room. She wished he wouldn’t stare at her so, it made their interest in each other so much more conspicuous, and her mother refused to consider the attachment. She took some solace from his presence, and smiled back at him for a brief moment.
A polite commotion at the far end of the Pump Room made Vanessa look up with curiosity. Her only brother George entered the elegant room, dressed in full regimentals. His entrance caused young hearts to flutter and set up a murmur of surprise. If he appeared handsome in civilian wear, the glittering regimental coat and tight breeches only served to increase the effect.
Vanessa gasped when she saw him and leapt to her feet. She ignored Mrs. Marriott’s, “Vanessa! Do sit down!”
Propriety prevented her running, but she moved as quickly as possible to greet her beloved younger brother. “George!” she cried in distress. “What have you done!”
“Like it?” George moved his arms away from his sides so his sister could see him in his full military glory. The red and gold of his new uniform became his young, strong figure admirably, but in her mind’s eye Vanessa only saw blood and dirt stain the bright tunic and George prone in some foreign battlefield. “George you mustn’t do this!”
“Why not? Already done it,” he said with a grin. He positively preened, and pushed one leg slightly forward to show off the fine musculature beneath the new cloth.
Vanessa knew he drew the admiring glances of all the young ladies present in the room, but he ignored them all in favour of his sister. For now, at least. Vanessa had no doubt he’d give his full attention to them later.
“You’ve seen the papers? Don’t you know what that means?” Vanessa cried, deeply distressed and angered by her brother’s sudden decision. He’d consulted no one.
“About Boney? Yes, he’s escaped Elba and he’s on his way to make more mischief,” George replied with equanimity. “Don’t you see old girl? Now’s the time to make my fortune! The prize money will come in very useful, and you know I always looked good in red!”
Vanessa knew he only added the last, flippant remark to try to cheer her up, but she still felt distraught. “Oh, George!”
George took Vanessa’s hand and placed it on his arm. “Walk with me,” he commanded.
They strolled up the large room, just fast enough to deter anyone who might try to join them. “Truth is old girl,” said George quietly, “All the equity’s gone and it’s this or the Fleet prison.”
“You’re in debt?”
“We’re in debt, Vessa.”
She didn’t try to hide from his searching gaze. She was tense with worry for his safety; angry at his high handed decision.
“When we brought you girls out the expense nearly did for us. Agriculture’s not what it used to be, so the estate won’t support you all, and I never fancied the maritime life. So it’s the army for me, old girl!”
“Are we bankrupt?” she said. She tried hard to keep face in this public area, but she felt herself frown. He should have told her before. She wasn’t stupid, or some dewy-eyed miss fresh from the schoolroom.
“Not that bad. Your dowries are still there, and the estate’s not mortgaged. But it’s getting that way and Newmarket last week —” he drew a sharp breath between his teeth, looking away for a moment then he gazed back at her and smiled reassuringly. “We’ll come about, never fear.”
“George, you’re only two and twenty!” Vanessa was only six years older than George, but felt like much more. Perhaps George’s more optimistic nature made it seem that way. Vanessa always tended to see the worst of things; she saw disaster, where he saw opportunities. She was rarely wrong.
“You’d better sort out your preferences as well,” George said. “You won’t want to dwindle into an old maid, and live with Mama for the rest of your days. Any offers on the cards? Apart from Graham, I mean? You won’t be able to afford him now.”
Vanessa thought about what this meant, and tried to control the thoughts circling uselessly in her head. She’d hoped to retire to an independence in a few years, a small establishment of her own, while she waited for Emery to make his fortune. That had always been her dream. It didn’t seem possible any more. She pushed her hopes firmly aside. Luxuries, not to be thought of any more. “One,” she answered reluctantly.
“I’d like to see you settled before I go to France,” George told her. “Who is it?”
Really, Vanessa thought, anyone would think he was responsible! “Lord Vesey.”
“Vesey? That pill?”
“Pilgarlic,” she corrected him. She discovered the word in a book in the circulating library the other day, and taken a fancy to it.
“Pill’s short for pilgarlic.”
“Is it? Never knew that! Well, it don’t signify. Which is it to be? Vesey or the country with Mama?”
Vanessa felt herself flush hotly. “How do you expect me to decide now?”
George turned his head and studied Vanessa seriously, his usual expression of cheerful carelessness replaced by grave concern. “You’ve spent ten years being chased by sundry men, and turned them all down, except that Graham chap, and you can’t have him. You’ve got to make up your mind now. Especially now,” he added in an undertone. They continued to walk.
“Four isn’t sundry,” she replied. “There was Emery, then one was sixty, one was idiotic, and the other is —” she broke off when she saw the man in question.
Lord Vesey strolled towards them, his unhurried pace not disguising his object. His imposing figure created quite a stir amongst the young females present. He’d asked Vanessa to consider his proposal three days ago, and Vanessa had been surprised, even shocked by it. Her mother knew of it, and was putting her under increasing pressure to accept, but Vanessa was determined to make up her own mind. She would face the inevitable consequences of her refusal later — if she refused him.
She’d never considered Lord Vesey a possibility before his surprising proposal, thought him not the marrying kind. He was thirty-two and never gave any woman hopes before. Vanessa couldn’t imagine why he’d offered for her. His proposal had been perfectly proper, with no hint of passion, or the regard Vanessa considered necessary to a successful union.
Vanessa released George’s arm while they made their bows, and then reclaimed it, not willing to let go of him for longer than she needed to.
“Had the courage of your convictions, Marriott?” asked his lordship. Not the hint of a smile marred his stern features.
“Something like that,” said George. “Leaving for France this month.”
Vanessa paled and would have clutched her brother in alarm, had she not been so well schooled in correct behaviour. “This month! Oh George!” She feared for her little brother, her deepest point of vulnerability.
“I too must take my leave sooner than I thought,” his lordship said smoothly. His glance passed over Vanessa, who tried to keep her face calm. She didn’t know why his presence disturbed her so, made her mildly agitated inside. Perhaps it was his undeniable good looks, or his excellent address. Or the proposal. “I have to leave for Vienna shortly. Castlereagh wants me back.”
“Espionage?” said George, a gleam in his eye that Vanessa mistrusted.
“Let’s say diplomatic,” his lordship replied with an enigmatic smile.
While her brother and her suitor talked, Vanessa finally made up her mind. She couldn’t let her little brother face Boney on his own; she must go with him. Moreover, she couldn’t bear to live immured in the country with her mother. If she didn’t take this alternative course there seemed no other path for her. She loved Emery deeply but there seemed as much chance of him making his fortune this year as there was last year: none.
She took a deep breath, steadying herself. “My lord,” she said quietly, “may I have a private word with you?”
His head whipped round to stare at her; a light dawned in his eyes, instantly controlled again. “Of course, Miss Marriott,” Lord Vesey replied at once. “Please, walk with me.”
Vanessa transferred her hand from her brother’s arm to his without hesitation. George frowned at his sister doubtfully. She smiled blandly back to show him her complete satisfaction with the bargain she was about to make. Now it came to the sticking point she was the calm one, George the doubter.
They bowed and left George Marriott to his many female admirers, who approached him in a playful way, all of them smiling flirtatiously. Even Vanessa had to admit he struck a very fine figure in his new regimentals.
“Seal fishing,” Vanessa commented dryly.
Lord Vesey stared at her in blank astonishment. She explained. “I went up to Scotland once, to my aunt’s house there, on a visit. I saw some men seal fishing. They trail the bait behind the boat, and the seals follow, with every expectation of treats to come. George’s uniform is the bait.”
His amusement showed in a flash of white teeth. “You should have been a novelist, Miss Marriott. A descriptive passage Monk Lewis himself couldn’t have bettered.”
“I did think of it,” she said brightly. “But I didn’t think I could make my living at it, so I put the idea aside. I like to render an account of my experiences, just for myself, you understand. I keep an extensive journal.”
“I should like to see some of those descriptions,” he said. “I thought of the young ladies as kittens. The seal analogy has so much more to it than that.”
Slowly, inexorably, he led her out the crowded Pump Room, away from the excitements of the rich at play. She nodded to one of her erstwhile admirers, a Mr. Taylor, on the way out, and remembered why she’d refused his flattering offer of marriage last season. He wasn’t an idiot, as she had described him to George a moment ago, but any temptation to accept him had been killed by her vivid imagination. The thought of his short, chubby figure dressed in a nightshirt, holding a candelabrum by her bedside, his pale blue pop-eyes gazing at her in lascivious delectation killed her acceptance stone dead.
Vanessa stole a glance at Lord Vesey and tried to imagine him in the same situation. She felt sure he wouldn’t gloat, as she was sure Mr. Taylor would have done, but he might stare at her in that deep, thoughtful way of his. His tall, well-muscled figure was certainly more attractive than Mr. Taylor’s. She found it hard to go any further with that thought when her breath caught in her throat. She hurriedly pushed it away from her. She felt the strong muscles of his arm under the fine cloth of his well-cut coat. She deliberately stopped herself thinking about what was underneath. She was determined to do this, for George more than for herself. If Vesey were going abroad and she were his wife, she’d go too, and then she’d be closer to her brother. The only son of Mrs. Marriott, George was the hope of the house, and besides that, she loved him dearly.
Once out in the open, Lord Vesey led her away from the crowds. They walked at a comfortable pace, and exchanged small talk until they approached a pleasant house not far from the Pump Room, set in a small side street; one of many in a long line of fashionable residences. His lordship produced a key and they went in.
A footman, surprised to see his master home at this time of day, stood up from his seat on one of the hard hall chairs. He took Lord Vesey’s coat, hat and gloves. Then he accepted Vanessa’s hat, gloves, and the thin shawl that was all she had in the way of protection against the sharp wind coming in from the hills that day. Vanessa repressed an urge to rub her hands against her chilled arms. She knew the goose pimples stood up on them.
“Is the fire lit in the drawing room?” his lordship asked, and Vanessa wondered if he’d noticed her discomfort. He hadn’t seemed to.
“Yes my lord, but Ecarte is in there.”
Vanessa lifted an eyebrow in silent query.
“My chef,” explained his lordship with a wry grin. “He cooks divinely but his tantrums are devilish.”
“The small front parlour is warm and empty, my lord,” the footman said helpfully.
Lord Vesey gave his servant a small, courteous nod. “Thank you.”
He led Vanessa into the room at the front of the house. It was quiet here. Vanessa heard the hooves of the occasional horse when it passed by the house, and the crackle of the welcome fire, but nothing else. The room was filled with the kind of furniture that at once proclaimed it as a hired house, one of the many procured for a few weeks in the season when Bath became fashionable, though Brighton had long since overtaken it as the place to go. Good quality, not the best, and with no particular style, no personal preference. Of course, his lordship might take no interest in his surroundings, might be one of those men who never noticed, much as her father had been, but for some reason she couldn’t define, she doubted it.
The silence fell heavier while she marshalled her words. “My lord,” she said suddenly, “Your offer — the other day —”
“I remember it,” he said evenly. He stood a few steps away from her and watched her steadily, no expression in his dark eyes. He wasn’t making this any easier.
Vanessa swallowed. “I have thought about it, and... and if you please, I would like to accept.” There, It was done! Not the most elegant acceptance, she knew she’d rushed the last few words, but she’d done it.
Unhurriedly he came forward, took her hand and kissed it softly. She shivered, and wondered why, since physically she felt a lot warmer, thanks to the fire.
“Thank you,” he said. “You make me the happiest of men.”
Vanessa stared at him wonderingly. Did he know why she’d changed her mind? Did he think she had more than an ordinary regard for him? She didn’t know. She knew she liked him; even his sternest mien was a welcome change to some of the vacuous young men who’d approached her in recent years. She knew she could stick to the bargain she made with him. It was one of her reasons for choosing him. She also knew that if he gave his word to her, he would keep it. His reputation was for straight dealing, and if he promised something, it inevitably came to pass. He didn’t make too many promises.
He was going abroad, and so was her beloved George. Would Vesey take her? She didn’t yet know what kind of wife Vesey was looking for; the complacent type who had babies and lived in the country, or a partner for his diplomatic activities. She hoped for the latter, but either would be better than what she had now.
Vanessa loved George so much, and the action she was about to take both removed the financial burden from her brother’s shoulders, and gave Vanessa a valid excuse to follow him. If his lordship wanted a diplomatic wife. Somewhere deep inside she felt it was wrong, to marry a man for the financial security he brought to her, but this was the way her society operated, and she only followed its dictates. If Society didn’t want her to do that, she thought savagely, they should have given women more security of their own. She hated herself at that moment, and then she studied Lord Vesey, and pushed her venal thoughts aside. Perhaps there was something else. At least she liked him, although she didn’t know him very well.
“Can it be soon?” she said.
“As soon as you wish,” he replied, and at last moved to her, and drew her to him.
At Smashwords (epub)
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Lynne Connolly, author of sophisticated and sensual romance