on April 11th 2017
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Sophia Ruthven is the epitome of proper behavior. On paper at least, as long as that paper isn’t from one of the lady detective stories she secretly pens. She certainly isn’t interested in associating with the dashing Jasper Grey, the wayward heir to the Earl of Stanhope, and one of the stage’s leading men. But when she learns Grey’s younger sister Liddy has gone missing, she can’t deny her desire to solve the mystery…or her attraction to the incorrigible scoundrel.
Responsibility isn’t something Grey is very familiar with. On the boards and in the bedroom, he lives exactly how he wants to, shunning all the trappings of respectability and society. Grey knows he should avoid the bewitching Sophia, but he’s never been able to say no to what he wants. And having Sophia in his arms and his bed is quickly becoming the thing he wants the most.
As Sophia and Grey’s search for Liddy continues across the English countryside, can this scoundrel convince a proper lady that he’s actually perfect for her or will their adventure leave them both heartbroken?
Laughter tickled his ears. Weight bore down on his chest, draped over his hips. A soft weight, pliant under his hands. Heated too. Pleasure in his groin twined with pain in his head as the soft, warm weight moved against him.
He blinked, then again. Colors shimmered and blurred. The light was too dim. The room too smoky. Perfume burned his nose, too spicy and pungent.
What was that sound? A moan. A cry.
A rumbling groan reverberated in his own chest.
“Don’t leave me now,” a woman whispered near his ear. “I need release.”
He flexed his fingers, digging into the warm flesh of smooth feminine legs. Slid his hand up, finding the thicket of curls between the woman’s spread thighs.
She moved against him, her breath quickening as little moans emerged. She clutched at his shoulder, her other hand on his, showing him how to touch her.
He didn’t require much direction. The role of lover was one he knew by heart. Some said he was skilled on stage, but he never doubted his expertise in the bedroom.
His own body had numbed. Whether from drink or the drugging effect of the smoke rising in whorls above his head, he wasn’t certain. But this, how to touch a woman, how to give pleasure. This he knew intuitively. This was where he excelled.
Heaven knew he’d failed at everything else.
But performing on stage was all a matter of illusion, of lying artfully. Sex and falsehood were his twin aptitudes.
If only he could see the woman clearly and scatter the fog in his mind. He twisted his head on the pillow and noticed a half-empty glass of blue-green liquid glowing in the low gaslight.
“What did I drink?”
A trill of laughter. Red lips. The curve of a grin in a pale face. A waterfall of red hair.
He swirled his fingers in the woman’s curls. She stilled and held her breath. He knew he’d found the key. Gently, masterfully, he touched her with all the art he’d learned from countless lovers.
“Oh, Grey.” She twitched against his fingers, dug her nails into his shoulder. “Don’t stop.”
He didn’t. Not until she gusted out a long moan, dipped her head, and sank against him as if her bones had melted.
“Absinthe,” she murmured against his chest. “A bit of laudanum.”
Grey pressed a fist to the throbbing crown of his head and tried to sit up. The lady on his chest stretched like a cat woken from a nap before rising off him and stepping away from the bed.
No, he realized when his vision cleared and he took in the books lining the walls, not a bed. Not his bedroom. He was on a settee in his London townhouse’s library, and he and his lady companion were not alone. Half-clothed bodies reclined around the musky, haze-clouded room. Some sleeping. Others smoking from an enormous bubbling hookah. At least one couple was busy, writhing and moaning in the far corner.
A man stumbled past the open library door, nude from the waist up, his shirt and coat rolled in a crumpled ball in his arms. Returning to the threshold, he let out a burp before offering, “Many happy returns, Grey. Smashing birthday party.”
How to Write a Scoundrel in Five Steps by Christy Carlyle
Make him a renegade. Every scoundrel is, in some sense, a renegade. He does not conform to society’s rules. Whether he’s a viscount or a valet, a scoundrel doesn’t give a fig what others think of his outrageous behavior. In fact, he relishes his rebellion and the effect he has on others. To shock a virginal debutante into a blush. To send a society matron searching for her smelling salts. To make a rival livid with disdain. Those are the moments a scoundrel lives for. Even if he’s meant for ultimate redemption (and, of course, he is), a true scoundrel always starts as a rule breaker.
Infuse him with magnetism. A scoundrel must draw you, tantalize you, no matter how much of a rogue he is. A scoundrel should wield a kind of magnetism that’s impossible to deny. A magnetism based on more than his charm, handsome features, and appealing physique, though it helps if he possesses those in spades. Yet even a scarred, flawed scoundrel intrigues the most proper heroine, exuding a charisma that makes her curious enough to look beyond his reputation and bad behavior. When I think of the magnetic scoundrel, Lisa Kleypas’s Derek Craven from Dreaming of You comes to mind. From his first appearance on the page, he exerted a magnetic pull on me, as a reader, and on Sara, the story’s heroine.
Turn up the confidence. Scoundrels rarely regret their sins. At least at first. To be a true scoundrel, a man must revel in his naughtiness for a while. One of the keys to being a successful scoundrel, after all, is acquiring a terrible reputation, and it takes effort to convince everyone around you that you’re an unprincipled man. Part of a scoundrel’s appeal lies in his confidence, whether in his looks, his charm, or some skill that he performs particularly well. And, no, I’m not only thinking of talents in the bedroom. Consider Han Solo, the Star Wars scoundrel we all love. Han may have suspected Leia’s feelings for him, but he knew with absolute certainty that he was one of the best pilots in the galaxy. Confidence is sexy, and scoundrels have plenty.
Dig into his history. He may be the life of the party. Embracing every sin. Indulging every impulse. But the best scoundrels have a history that’s far less about pleasure than their lifestyle would suggest. Often there’s a wound, a trauma, some deeply buried regret that they seek to block out with hedonism and sensual gratification. He can’t escape his past, of course, no matter how much he carouses. My hero, Jasper Grey, in A Study in Scoundrels has never quite gotten past the death of his brother. His guilt is what drives him to overindulge and embrace his role as a scoundrel.
Give him a formidable challenge. Every hero is presented with a challenge. Part of the appeal of a scoundrel is that he usually faces provocation with gusto. Whether he schemes to avoid marriage, or attempts to outwit a clever heroine, a scoundrel never backs down from a dare. Challenge intrigues him, excites him. Probably because his overconfidence convinces him he’ll always emerge the victor. Of course, a challenge often alters the scoundrel in ways he doesn’t expect, especially if confrontation comes in the form of a fierce, smart, determined heroine who strips away his seductive veneer and digs deep enough to unearth the man inside.
How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
The hero and heroine of A STUDY IN SCOUNDRELS were introduced in the first book of the Romancing the Rules series, RULES FOR A ROGUE. I immediately knew that Sophia Ruthven, who was straight-laced and exceedingly proper, should end up with Jasper Grey, who reveled in being a scoundrel. The challenge was figuring out what each possessed that would appeal to the other. Since I knew Sophia loved detective novels, having them set out to solve a mystery together seemed a perfect way to keep them in each other’s company for a while.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I enjoyed writing A STUDY IN SCONDRELS because of the opportunity to include a bit of mystery in the storyline. Like my heroine, Sophia, I am a big fan of detective novels. Sherlock Holmes was as popular in the Victorian era as he is today, and I was fascinated to learn that there were several “lady detective” novels published in Britain long before Conan Doyle’s sleuth appeared. Sophia loves mysteries and when faced with one, she can’t resist jumping in to investigate.
Name one thing you won’t leave home without.
A small purse-sized notepad and a pen. After getting stuck at doctor’s offices and restaurants with nothing to write on when a story ideas strikes, I’ve learned my lesson. In desperation, I’ve written on the backs of receipts, napkins, and envelopes, but nothing compares to having a little notebook in which I can organize my thoughts during all those “waiting” moments that pop up during a week.
Name three things on your desk right now.
Sticky notes, an unfinished cup of coffee, and way too many pens. I feel like no desk is complete without a big heaping pile of sticky notes. I love their cheery colors and find them a useful tool to capture ideas as they pop into my head. I try to limit myself to one big cup of coffee a day, but many days I get busy and don’t end up drinking most of it until it’s gone cold. And pens? I seem to attract them. I clear off my desk each morning before starting to write, but by evening the surface is covered with pens. I tend to reach for another one every time I need to write something down.
What types of scenes are your most favorite to write?
I love moments of tension, especially when they involve banter between the hero and heroine. Writing snappy banter is a challenge for me, but I enjoy the struggle because those are the moments that reveal so much about my characters. It’s a chance to build emotion between the hero and heroine, but banter also allows them to begin admiring each other for wit and cleverness, something beyond the initial physical attraction.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Secondary characters are always hard to let go of. Often harder than my heroes and heroines, since they haven’t had their stories fully explored. I have a dozen secondary characters that I’d love to revisit, but one, Rob Wellesley from my first Avon Impulse novel, ONE SCANDALOUS KISS, persists in my mind. I’ve received several reader letters about him and would love to give him his happy ending someday.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Persist and never stop learning. I’ve been writing for years, began publishing three years ago, and I still feel as if I’m a newcomer. There is always more to learn, more ways to stretch ourselves as writers. Rejections come with the territory if your goal is to publish, but each rejection is just an opportunity to improve your story and hone your writing skills.
There are two print copies of RULES FOR A ROGUE available to win
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
After two nights of debauchery celebrating his birthday, cold reality comes knocking at Jasper Grey’s door. A friend from the past informs him that his seventeen year-old sister Liddy is missing, she might be with a man, and the whole sordid episode must, understandably, remain hush-hush. How will Grey ever find his sister if he can’t even alert the authorities?
Sophia Ruthven is fond of detective stories, she has even started to write her own, but she is also the co-author of a rejuvenated etiquette guide. Sophia had been invited to speak at a book club tea, but instead she stumbles upon hearing of Liddy’s disappearance. Grey is an acquaintance of Sophia’s brother Kit, so what a grand idea to put her detective skills to good use in helping Grey! Sophia is twenty six, very pretty, and still a spinster because no man has ever asked for her hand in marriage, still she yearns for a husband and family, but not just anyone, and certainly not a scoundrel the likes of Grey! While she can’t deny her attraction to the whoring drunkard, he is an interesting subject for the male character in her book, but only that.
Is there such a thing as a cozy historical romance mystery? In any case, Christy Carlyle swept me right off to Victorian England in her bright and lively tale of a dishevelled scoundrel and a very proper miss. Ms. Carlyle writes such meaty characters, so well defined that they come to life before our very eyes, and I just loved how the romance developed and unfolded between that mismatched pair, and not at all as I expected. Sophia and Grey acted as I hoped they would, and not as most writers would have made them act; they were entirely believable every step of the way. I thought the search for Liddy was merely a pretext for getting Sophia and Grey together, and in a way it is, but it is much more than that as it is also a clear picture of the Victorian era as a time of change, especially for women, but also how one little misstep could ruin a life. I loved the little episode with Sophia’s younger sister Clary, and I hope to see her story in the future, as it illustrates what I just wrote about.
I loved the banter and the sexual tension between Sophia and Grey; their affection was obvious, and his respect for her touching. And that “serendipitous” moment at the train station took my breath away: such a simple moment, and as meaningful as a whole book; not much is said, nothing much happens, and my heart soared! It’s the precise moment when you realise that everything has changed between Sophia and Grey, and thinking about it again while writing fills me with wonder. A STUDY IN SCOUNDRELS is a splendid romance, perfectly paced, with just the right touch of suspense, of humour, and wonderfully complex characters with solid backstories. Those heated glances, those stolen kisses, those little moments which lead to superb sex scenes, which happen at the right time, for the right reasons, and leave both Sophia and Grey elated and full of doubts. Christy Carlyle once again has given me everything I hope for in a historical romance: a solid story, very appealing characters, not one dull little paragraph, and a romance I believed in that captured my heart.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.
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