Published by Ava Stone on July 18th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
A SPY NEVER REALLY RETIRES…Long ago, Marcus Gray, the Marquess of Haversham, left the Home Office with a blackened reputation and a determination to never look back. He skirted the edges of London society, caring for little other than himself, until he crossed paths with Caroline Staveley. When Marc discovers the recently widowed Caroline has returned to London and her late husband’s actions have placed her in danger, he is quickly lured into the once familiar game of cat and mouse he thought he’d escaped....NOT WHEN THE LADY HE LOVES IS IN DANGERCaroline, Viscountess Staveley, is struggling to raise her children and find her place in the world now that her steady and reliable husband is gone. The last thing she needs is another complication, and that is exactly what the notorious skirt-chasing Haversham is—a complicated, unapologetic rake that tempts her like no one ever has. As she starts to unravel his secrets, however, she begins to wonder who he really is and exactly how many secrets he's keeping.
How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
It depends on the book. I’ve written some in 2 months. Others have taken years. A Scandalous Vow took a little over two months, but I’ve been writing these two characters for almost a decade. I know them inside and out so that probably helped with the speed.
What kind of books do you read for pleasure?
It has been a millions years since I read for pleasure. I read for research, and I read my critique partner’s books (and while that is pleasurable, I’m tasked with poking holes and adjusting grammar). Back in the days when I was reading for pleasure, I always read Regencies as they take me to my favorite escape.
In your opinion which one of your characters is not necessarily your favorite but most interesting?
As it happens, Marcus Gray is both one of my favorite characters. I also think he’s the most interesting. Or maybe he’s the most complicated, which lends to him being interesting. But when you keep as many secrets as he does, and for as many years as he has…all of that makes him vastly interesting to me.
What inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing all my life. I started out writing plays in high school and then moved onto screenplays. Because I’ve always loved historical settings, a Hollywood producer suggested I focus on novels as historical movies are sooo difficult to get made.
Are you a regimented writer that writes on a strict schedule or do you write when you feel motivated?
My life is a crazy schedule. I’m a single mom and I work an 8-5 day job. I try to write everyday, and I do mostly. But sometimes life gets in the way, so I can’t say I’m regimented in my schedule.
Do you know in advance what you want to write or do you plot as you write?
I do not plot beforehand. I generally let the characters dictate what is happening in their own stories. Most of the time I know my characters well before I begin, since I’ve been writing in the same series for a while. Whenever I introduce someone new, however, I have to figure out what their background is and what makes them tick.
Do you base your characters on real people or events or are they strictly imaginery?
As far as historical figures? No, I never do that. I *do* write characters with some aspects of people I know in real life. The villainess in one book was based solely on my sister-in-law. Writing can be therapeutic.
Your work is centered on the Regency era. What appealed to you about the Regency Era?
I think being introduce to Jane Austen at an early age was probably the biggest influencer. I used to save up babysitting money as a teenager and loved traditional Regencies. So, when I decided to write novels, that’s my happy place, and it’s been familiar to me for more than half of my life at this point.
What is the first book you read that made you cry?
Charlotte’s Web. So sad…I *do* kill spiders, though.
Do you prefer books to stand on their own or do you like connections between books?
Both. I think books should be able to stand alone, but there is something fun in writing a series as you have a canvas of other characters who already exist in your world. And I hope that is fun for readers as well. You get to catch a glimpse of your favorite couple and make sure they’re still doing well. How many children do they have now? What sort of trouble are they involved in this time?
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t go to Sundance!! Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly lovely film festival; but I met my ex-husband there when I was shopping scripts, back in the day. That might not be the advice you were looking for, but it’s the advice my younger writer self could have totally benefitted from. 😉
What kind of research do you do before a book and how much time do you spend doing it?
It depends on the book. The regular day-to-day Regency life I have down pretty well, so there’s no reason to research that anymore. But when I look at something new, I do have to delve into unchartered territory. I have a novella that is coming out this fall in Kissed at Christmas. My hero has decided to go into copper mining. I knew nothing about copper mining at the beginning of that story, so I had to take a few days and figure out the whys and hows.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I love the www.babynamewizard.com site. They have an “expert” section you can sign up for, which is great. You can look at the historical popularity of names and it will tell you names that feel the same, not that start with the same letter, but have the same overall feel. So if I like “Charlotte” but I don’t want use Charlotte, or I’m looking for a sister for Charlotte, it’s a great place to look.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I have been known to kill people, in books. I probably should add the “in books” part. I have always known before a book begins if a major character is going to die, but there have been two instances when it came time to write the scene I really didn’t want to, because I loved them. Unfortunately for them, I had to write them anyway. There was one time when I was driving to work and sobbing as I was plotting the death of a particular character. When I pulled into the parking lot at work, the president of the company parked next to me. When he saw me bawling, he thought something awful had happened. It was a little embarrassing to try and explain that everything was “just fine, I was just plotting someone’s death.” Totally makes you sound like a crazy person.
What do you think of Historical Romance Erotica, does it work?
Being one of those creative sorts, I think anything can work. It just has to be done well.
Do you need silence to concentrate on your writing or do you prefer to listen to music, or have background noise at least?
No music. Ever. It totally distracts me, even when I’m not writing. I usually thinking about dialogue or a plot and music makes it hard to concentrate on that and drives me a little nuts. Otherwise, I alternate between complete silence and having the TV on in the background so there’s some noise. I usually keep the ID network on – for two reasons. (1) There’s not a ton of music on shows like Dateline and (2) It’s so completely different than what I’m writing that there are no strange influencers, if that makes sense.
Are you a full time writer, if not, would that be your dream?
I would love to be able to write full time, but I have to be a grown up first. Working a corporate job provides a health insurance for my son and me. It also provides a steady paycheck every two weeks, which reduces my stress level and allows me the freedom to write vs. the necessity of having to.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
Yes! And it sucks. Usually, I have to call Jane Charles and sob may way through where I’m at in a story, and then she talks me off the ledge. Those calls help me sort things out in my own mind or her perspective gives me a new way to look at the situation. So that’s helpful.
What do you do to relax when you are stressed?
Spending time with friends, devouring chocolate, and girly rum drinks. That order is subject to change. And sometimes all three can be done at the same time.
Heavens! For the first time in Caroline’s life she understood why her brother had arranged a marriage for her and at such a young age. Rachel would, most likely, be the death of her. Never before had her daughter been so difficult to deal with. That afternoon they’d bickered about the height of an appropriately modest bodice scoop, which half-boots were of the best quality, and the tedium of a string of pearls. And now, her once accommodating daughter was in a snit over not being granted permission to go riding in the park with Kitty Greywood the next morning. It was almost as though she didn’t even recognize Rachel anymore. One day she’d been a pleasant young lady and the next she was a stubborn, younger version of Caroline. If she’d driven her brother Robert this mad when she was Rachel’s age, it was no wonder he had accepted Staveley’s offer without even consulting Caroline about her wishes on the matter.
“But, Mama,” Rachel complained for the millionth time that day. “Lilly and Violet and Kitty will—”
“On my life, Rachel!” Caroline pinched the bridge of her nose in a vain attempt to stave off a headache. “You are driving me to Bedlam.” On the bench beside her, Emma slid her hand into Caroline’s and squeezed her fingers in silent support. Rachel must be driving Emma to the ends of her sanity too.
Rachel heaved an irritated sigh. Of course, over the last little while, every breath Rachel took sounded irritated in one way or another. “I just don’t understand why you have to be so mean about the entire thing. It’s one little ride in the park. And—”
“And I’ve already given you my answer,” Caroline replied as the coach came to a stop in front of Staveley House.
“Once upon a time, you were fun,” her oldest daughter accused.
And Rachel was absolutely correct on that score. Caroline shook her head in exasperation. “Once upon a time, I had the luxury of being so.”
Walters, the coachman, opened the door and Emma quickly scrambled from the carriage in her apparent haste to escape her frustrating older sister.
Caroline heaved a sigh of her own. “If you want to attend Astley’s with Olivia and Alex this week, you will let the matter drop, Rachel.”
“I don’t know why we even bothered to come to Town if we’re not allowed to do anything,” Rachel muttered under her breath as she alighted from the coach, but Caroline heard every syllable, as her daughter had most assuredly meant for her to do so.
“We can always return to the country, if—”
“Who are you?” Emma asked, halting Caroline’s threat and drawing her attention to their front door.
But Tindle wasn’t at his post. Instead, another fellow in butler’s attire stood in the threshold. A fellow who looked vaguely familiar, and…then she knew immediately who the man was. What in the world? But even as that thought circled Caroline’s mind, she knew the answer to that question as well. Damn Marc straight to the devil.
“I am Simmons,” the man said and smiled warmly at Caroline’s youngest daughter. “And you are Miss Emma.”
Emma nodded and her dark curls bobbed against her shoulders. “Yes, and—”
“Just what are you doing here?” Caroline snapped. Of all the overbearing, high-handed… “Where is Tindle?”
Simmons met her gaze, not unkindly, and said in a firm voice. “I’m afraid Tindle was called away, milady. So I’ll be filling in for the Season.”
“The devil you will,” Caroline seethed and ignored the twin gasps from her daughters over her language. Then she turned her full attention to Rachel a few feet away. “Go inside and stay with your sister.”
“Where are you going?” Rachel blinked at her in confusion.
“To deal with a pompous, over-reaching marquess.” Caroline flicked her gaze to Walters and added, “Upper Grosvenor, with great haste.” Then she whispered just loud enough for him to hear, “Haversham House,” because saying those words any louder would be more than scandalous.
“Of course, Lady Staveley.”
Oh! When she got her hands on Marcus Gray! The arrogant blackguard! How dare he? How dare he make decisions regarding her household? Fury welled up inside Caroline in the short distance to his home. She’d been very clear the day before about not wanting to have anything to do with him. But as always, he paid her no attention at all! Well, that was about to change. She was not going to have him inserting himself into her life in any way, shape, or form. And he was going to accept that fact today!
For your chance to win a digital copy of A Scandalous Deception…
Ava wants to know…
Caroline Staveley has known Lord Haversham for many years but starts to learn that he has more than a few secrets he’s been keeping. Have you ever learned that someone was not who you thought them to be? Or have you ever learned a secret that changed your perception of someone?
*Answers in the comment section below*
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
A Scandalous Vow is the seventh book in the Scandalous series by Ava Stone. You don’t need to have read the rest in the series to enjoy this one, but I believe having a better understanding of the recurring characters will prove helpful if you do read the others first.
In a previous book Marcus Grey our hero, has been in love with Caroline Stavely our heroine, for as long as he has known her. She always considered him a great friend who always made her smile. Unfortunately, circumstances involving Marcus lead to her husband being murdered, and as she blamed him, their friendship came to a halt.
In this book we see Marc coming back into Caroline’s life in order to keep her safe. Her husband, unknown to her, worked for the Home Office, and at the time of his death he was trying to decipher a secret code. Having worked for the Home Office himself, and at one time being close to Caroline, his ex-boss called him back to London. He wants Marc to befriend Caroline again and search her house for the cipher! Marc stopped working for them after he realised they, just like the enemy, couldn’t be trusted, and he told the man pretty much where to shove his request. Of course knowing that if he wasn’t going to be the inside man, that meant the home office would send somebody else. He couldn’t have Caroline or her children come to any harm, so he knows he has to get in contact with her again.
Caroline has been left a single mother to three children, a son who is away at school, a young daughter, and and older daughter who is due to have a season next year. Her husband has been dead for a year and she is struggling both to cope with her loss, but also bringing up three children herself, not least her eldest daughter who is becoming quite the rebel. The last thing she needs is for Marc to turn up on her doorstep. She is adamant that she doesn’t want him back in her life, despite the fact that deep down she has missed his friendship. When he realises that he may not be able to get close enough to her to keep her safe, he fires her butler who could be the man from the Home Office, and replaces him with his own trusted butler. He can be Marc’s eyes and ears. Of course Caroline is furious when she finds out, and a fabulous scene follows where in her anger and determination to see him and have it out with him she ends up in his house, and storms into his chamber while he is naked in his bath!! After getting hot and bothered she admits to herself that she really is attracted to him. Always has been, but was never unfaithful to her husband because she really did love him.
After that revelation to herself, Caroline softens a little towards him, and then circumstances have them firm friends again, and perhaps something more?? Marc is thrilled that he is getting close with Caroline again, but he knows the danger he is putting her in. Yes he can keep her safe from the Home Office, but what about people from his past that could put her and any of his loved ones in danger. One such person is back in England and as soon as Marc sees him he knows that he, and Caroline need to stay far away from the man. He has known that he is playing with fire letting himself spend time with Caroline and her family, will he pay the price now that his enemy has found him!
This book was an absolutely fabulous read. Full of intrigue and drama, with not only one person possibly putting Caroline at risk. The love that develops between Caroline and Marc is a delight to read, especially knowing how long Marc has loved her. But at the same time any happiness they might have is overshadowed by the worry that Marc or Caroline are going to end up dead. Or, that Marc is going to give up his chance to be with her purely for her own safety! The passionate scenes between them were perfectly written, capturing the absolute love between them, rather than coming across as just lust filled moments. They were very poignant especially for Caroline who is finally letting go of the grief of losing her husband. There wasn’t a dull moment at all in this story, and I found myself reading into the wee hours when I should have been sleeping, to finish it and find out how it ends. It was worth the sleepless night, the ending was perfect.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced readers’ copy of this book.