Published by Avon Impulse on September 11, 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Madeleine Atherton is no typical American heiress, sent to England to marry an English lord. A brilliant college graduate who secretly dreams of becoming a published author, she wants to marry for love. After receiving a proposal from a future duke, Madeleine flees the London Season for Cornwall to seek her sister's advice, never expecting her decision to be complicated by a charming, handsome earl she's certain she dislikes—even though his every touch sets her blood on fire.
Charles Grayson, the Earl of Saunders, has secrets and ambitions of his own. Although under pressure from his mother and gravely ill father to marry his cousin, Charles cannot find the words to propose. But this fascinating American visitor does not figure into his plans, either.
Thrown together unexpectedly at Trevelyan Manor, Madeleine and Charles struggle to rise above their intense attraction. But as things heat up between them over a summer that becomes increasingly scandalous, Madeleine and Charles will both be forced to make a difficult choice. Can two dreamers dare to defy convention and find their own happily ever after?
Charles’s heart began drumming to a different cadence as he made his way across the golden expanse of sand. The ocean setting in all its fresh, morning glory was a fitting backdrop for the woman who, in a peach-colored dress that clung to her perfect figure like a second skin, resembled a goddess newly risen from the sea.
Charles wasn’t certain if his voice had carried over the crash of the waves and the raucous calls of the gulls. He tried again.
This time, she turned in surprise. Good lord, she was beautiful. The wind brought out the roses in her cheeks and whipped through her skirts and the loose tendrils of her upswept hair.
He ventured closer and tipped his hat. “Good morning.”
“Good morning.” Her eyes and voice held a note of reluctance, as if undecided as to whether or not she was pleased to see him.
“I am.” She held up a small cloth bag. “And stones. For Julia and Lillie. They are fond of them.”
“What a nice gesture.” Standing this close, looking down at her lovely face, he realized he had been wrong about the color of her eyes. Under the bright morning sun, they were more cobalt than indigo.
Stop waxing poetic about her eyes.
He drew a line in the sand with the toe of his boot. “I understand you are leaving us today?” Despite himself, he couldn’t disguise the remorse he felt at the prospect.
She hesitated, as if surprised by his tone and what it implied; yet her guard was still visibly in place. “A carriage is coming for me in a little over an hour.”
“I am glad, then, that I caught you before you left. I wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to say farewell.”
“That was thoughtful of you.”
He gestured for them to walk on together. As they strode across the hard-packed sand, he groped for words. “I hope you did not suffer a chill from our little adventure in the rain the other day?”
He darted a glance at her. Their eyes briefly met and held. He saw her cheeks grow rosy. Was she thinking about the horseback ride? The near-kiss? Or both? She looked away without further comment.
“I know you felt uneasy about riding astride,” he commented. “I hope you have not berated yourself for that.”
“I haven’t. It was the sensible thing to do at the time.”
“I hope, as well, that you will forgive me for joining you on Tesla’s back. It was not, perhaps, the most gentlemanly thing I have ever done . . .” He broke off.
“It’s all right. It was pouring cats and dogs. We had to get back to the house as quickly as possible.”
“And so we did.”
“And so we did,” she repeated.
Her eyes met his again, now visibly and unexpectedly on the edge of mirth. They both let out a laugh, relieving the tension between them. A seagull squawked overhead, then swooped down to collect some unseen tidbit from the wet sand nearby.
“If it helps, I promise to never breathe a word of it to anyone,” he told her.
“Well. Just so you know: I saw a curtain fluttering when you rode off. I’m pretty sure Woodson saw us.”
“How do you know? Did he say something?”
“Just that he understood why we had both missed tea. And he gave me . . . a look.”
“Ah. A look from Woodson can speak volumes.”
“He didn’t seem to be passing judgment, though.”
“As well he shouldn’t. We were the bedraggled survivors of a downpour, returning to home and hearth.”
“Indeed we were.” Miss Atherton laughed again. “He also mentioned that he is married. To Martin! I had no idea.”
“They are the heart and soul of our household, and have been these many years. I cannot imagine what we should do without them.” The morning sun was growing hotter. Charles lifted his hat, running his fingers through his hair to cool his head, wishing this moment could last forever.
“They are certainly devoted to your family,” Miss Atherton agreed. “I have been meaning to ask. Is there any news about your father? He has been indisposed almost the entire time I have been here. I worry about him.”
“I worry, too. Dr. Hancock has apparently been here every day. All we can do, I am told, is to pray for my father.”
“I have been, and will continue to do so. I wish with all my heart that he will soon be well.”
“You and me both, Miss Atherton. We should probably make a wish on that at the wishing pool.”
“The wishing pool? What is that?”
“It’s a pool of freshwater which, according to legend, is magical. If you drink the water and make a wish, it will come true.” He pointed to the nearby cliffs with a smile. “We have our own local wishing pool just around that bend.”
“Is that so? I would love to see it.”
“Would you?” He paused. “It is in a cave.”
“I love caves almost as much as I love legends.”
“Well, then. Come with me.” Charles led the way down the beach to the mouth of the cave, which was so hidden by the enclave of craggy black rocks surrounding it as to be imperceptible to anyone casually strolling by.
“What a charming spot,” Miss Atherton commented. “I would never have found it on my own.”
“All part of its magic.” Charles hesitated, uncertain of her intention. “If you prefer to go in on your own, I would understand. I can try to tell you how to reach the magic pool. But it is a bit tricky.”
“I see. I suppose it would be most improper for us to venture in at the same time, without a chaperone.” As she said it, her lips curved up mischievously.
He found himself staring at those lips. Imagining what it would be like to taste them.
It was no wonder she was talking about chaperones. Charles gave himself a mental shake.
“I was just teasing.” She laughed lightly, and in a more determined tone went on, “Please, lead the way.”
He wasn’t sure if it was the best idea in the world to go into such a secluded place with her alone. But any further protest would only make clear his own secret longings. So he did as bidden, determined to be a gentleman. Inside the cool interior, the cave opened up into a space the size of a small bedroom, its dark granite walls carved by water and time.
“Follow me,” Charles told her. The profusion of small stones which infused the sandy floor crunched beneath their feet as they advanced, the light growing dimmer with each step. “Can you see?”
“Not very well,” she admitted.
“If you will allow me to take your hand,” he offered, “I can better guide you from here.”
She paused only the briefest of seconds, then complied. Neither of them were wearing gloves. He felt a spark ignite as his hand clasped hers and sensed, from her small intake of breath, that she felt it as well. His heart began to patter in his chest.
“It gets darker as we go,” he said, “but our eyes will adjust. At the pool itself, there is a fissure that lets in a bit of natural light.”
She nodded and they moved forward, hand in hand. It was such a casual contact, this hand-holding, yet his pulse was pounding as strongly as if he were brushing his fingers over her naked form.
There you go again. Envisioning her naked.
Stop it stop it stop it.
The sound of dripping echoed in the distance, increasing in volume as they moved deeper into the cave. He guided her through a series of channels in the rock, past columns, stalagmites, and stalactites. After one final turn through a narrow passage, they entered an open chamber at the end of the cave and stopped.
“Oh!” Miss Atherton said in wonder.
They stood in a roundish chamber, enclosed by rock walls that stretched to a high ceiling. The air felt cool and damp. A narrow fracture above connected somehow to the outer cliff, because it let in a shaft of sunlight that illuminated the interior and sparkled on the surface of the small blue-green pool before them.
“Is it really freshwater?” Miss Atherton asked, her voice echoing slightly inside the chamber. As if suddenly aware that she no longer needed guidance, she let go of his hand.
He regretted the loss of her touch. “Yes, it filters down from the bluffs above.” In confirmation, a drop of water could be seen and heard as it plinked into the pool. “There are many caves with freshwater pools all along the Cornwall coast. I am told they all come with legends, some hundreds of years old.”
She gazed about in fascination. “It is a rather magical place.”
Charles turned to gaze at her. She made such a lovely picture standing there, just a foot or two away. The damp air had caused a few of her curls to frizz becomingly into ringlets around her face. Her peach gown fit so snugly that it showed off her every curve. Her rhythmic breathing was doing its own kind of magic, drawing his attention to her bosom, which was rising and falling and making it impossible to look away.
“How does the magic work, again?” she asked.
He blinked twice, yanking his gaze back up where it belonged, on her face. “You drink the water and at the same time, make a wish.”
“I see. Shall we?”
He nodded. “You first.”
“All right.” She set her bag of shells on the damp rocky outcropping fronting the pool and bent down. After pausing in thought, she scooped up a handful of water. “I wish that Lord Trevelyan will get well soon.” She sipped from her palm.
The simple act looked so wanton to his errant brain, he struggled to regain his wits.
“Can I make another wish?” she asked, looking up at him.
“There is no limit on the number of wishes, as far as I know.”
“All right.” She dipped her hand again, this time closing her eyes and, apparently, making a silent wish before drinking. With a smile, she stood. “The water tastes delicious.”
Staring at her, Charles could think of a few other things that would also taste delicious. He cleared his throat. “What was your second wish?”
“I cannot tell you,” she answered in a tone of mock-mystery, “or it might not come true.”
“Is that an American superstition?”
“I believe it’s a commonly held superstition, where wishes are concerned.”
“It is the first I have heard of it in Cornwall.”
“Well, even an earl can learn new things.” She gestured toward the pool with a smile. “Your turn.”
Charles removed his hat and rested it on a ledge. He bent down, dipped a cupped hand into the pool, and drank, dashing off the following: “May my father live to a ripe old age.”
He stood. Silence stretched between them, slow and catlike. There was no sound other than the intermittent drip of the water and the pounding of Charles’s heart, which was so loud in his ears now, he worried that she could hear it.
“I wonder,” she said softly, “how many people have come here over the centuries, and what they wished for.”
“I suppose some were fishermen and their wives from the village,” he suggested. “Wishing for a good catch.”
“Some might have been women wishing for their husbands’ safe return from sea.”
“Or farmers wishing for a good harvest.”
“Or men and women wishing for a loved one to return to health.”
“Or lovers making a wish for their future.” His breath caught. He had not planned to say that. The words seemed to hang in the air like a live thing between them. Lovers.
Their eyes met, and for a long moment neither of them moved. Tension coiled within his body and vibrated in the air between them. He was so aware of her nearness, he couldn’t speak. From the expression on her face, she was equally aware of him.
In the small, intimate chamber, Charles could hear her every intake of breath, which was coming as fast and unsteady as his own. He felt as if he were suspended in time. They were alone in this quiet spot. In an hour or so, she would be gone. This opportunity would never come again.
Desire came over him, hot and heavy. Charles knew it was wrong. Reckless. Irresponsible. But if he did not kiss her, he would spend the rest of his life replaying this moment in his mind, wishing that he had.
His arms were out before he could stop himself. Sweeping around her waist. Drawing her to him. One hand cradling the back of her neck, angling her head so that her lips were just inches from his.
Through the layers of their clothing, he could feel the thud of her heart against his chest, a rapid pounding that matched his own. He drank in the vivid blueness of her gaze that seemed to say, Yes. Yes. Yes.
And then he kissed her.
How I Research Historical Romance Novels
By Syrie James
I love writing novels, and one of my favorite parts of the process is the research phase. Historical novels are particularly challenging. Every book needs a great hook, an inventive and compelling plot, sympathetic and believable characters with motivations and conflicts, and a vibrant setting. But with historical fiction, intense research is also required. Before I begin working on my plot, I dive into research. My goal is to immerse the reader in the setting, to make him or her feel as if they’ve traveled back in time and are experiencing the era and the place first hand.
I start by doing a lot of reading, both primary sources (memoirs, diaries, and novels written by people who lived at that time) and secondary sources (anything written about that time period after that time period—including reference books, biographies, and novels by contemporary authors.)
When I was researching my novels about Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, I found a wealth of details about daily life in their era by reading their published letters. To research the Victorian setting of my new Dare to Defy series for Avon, one of my primary resources was The Shuttle, a 1906 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett (famous for writing The Secret Garden), who lived and wrote in the era I was writing about.
I also read tons of biographies, history books, historical romance, and historical fiction. Whenever I’m not sure about a fact, I double check it with a trusted reference. I scour the internet as well. For Summer of Scandal, I needed to know what people wore to a costume ball in the Victorian era. For Runaway Heiress, I wondered how long it would take to travel by train from London to Cornwall in 1888—and later on, how many layers of undergarments the hero had to get through to undress her. ☺ All the answers I needed were online, with handy images on websites devoted to the subject.
I love researching the clothing and hairstyles of the time. Sometimes I create a collage of images for my writing desk to inspire me. I also watch movies, mini-series, and plays set in the era I’m writing about. When I was writing Runaway Heiress and Summer of Scandal, I started every day on the treadmill watching a segment of a Sherlock Holmes TV series starring Jeremy Brett, not only because it was fabulous—but because it was set in the same era as my novels. So at the same time that I was keeping fit and being entertained, I was soaking up visual cues about life in that time and place.
When I can’t find a piece of necessary information, I interview researchers and historians who are experts in my subject or time period. For my novel The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, I needed to know how much it would cost to manufacture a church bell in England in 1805, and I located an expert at Oxford University who figured it out for me.
Whenever possible, I visit the country or location where my novel takes place. I recently traveled to Cornwall in southern England where I found the perfect manor home and gardens for Runaway Heiress, and the beaches and fishing villages that inspired the setting of Summer of Scandal.
When I start writing the novel, I strive to avoid anachronisms, weave historical detail into the story, and make my book as accurate as possible. But sometimes I have to cheat a little. Let’s face it, hygiene was very different in the past. And how many readers will want to be reminded about the necessity of using a chamber pot before sex?
Finally, I remind myself that I’m creating a work of fiction, not writing a dissertation. Historical accuracy is very important; but the most important thing is to have fun during the writing journey … and to write a novel that readers will hopefully enjoy as they lose themselves within its pages!
How do you research your novels?
Research is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. Every time I research a new book, I learn so much. I don’t have a set amount of time for research, I just keep studying, reading, gathering notes and images, and interviewing people until I feel I know enough about my chosen topic to begin writing the novel. Along the way, I always have to pause and do more research because new questions come up.
Whether a story is historical or contemporary, I like to choose an occupation for the characters that fascinates me, and then I research the heck out of it. I’ve met with people in many dozens of fields, spent days with them at work, and tried to walk in their shoes so that I really understand what their daily life is like.
Historical fiction novels take the most research time, because I not only have to learn about the people and place I’m writing about but also every aspect of the era: the clothing, food, houses, social mores, manners, opinions, customs, expectations between the sexes—there are a million details and I am determined to portray it all as accurately as possible. In Runaway Heiress, for example, the heroine rides a train from London to Cornwall. I had to find out what train routes existed in England in 1888, where the stops were, what the passenger cars looked like inside and out, and how long the journey would have taken based on the speed of trains of the era—information which was tricky to find. In Summer of Scandal, my hero, Charles Grayson, is a passionately devoted inventor. I did a great deal of research to determine the kinds of machines and devices he invents, and to bring his work to life accurately in the novel.
When it comes to research, I also make a point of visiting the places I’m writing about whenever possible. I like to immerse myself in that world. Even if my location is fictitious, I often base it on a real place to make it feel more authentic. The one exception to this was in my wintry love story Nocturne. I’ve had many readers ask if they can visit the estate that inspired Michael Tyler’s house on that remote Colorado mountain top—but it was entirely the product of my imagination. ☺
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
To me, writing from the POV of a man is like acting, and I really enjoy putting myself into a man’s head! I’ve been married for over 40 years and raised two sons to adulthood, so I feel like I’ve spent enough time around men to “get” them. I loved writing from the heroes’ points of view in Summer of Scandal and Runaway Heiress. I have such respect for Charles Grayson, the Earl of Saunders, and Thomas Carlyle, the Earl of Longford. They are good, decent men who are incredibly talented and passionately devoted to their work and, ultimately, to the heroine. It was fun to “become” them for a while; they became so real to me that I often felt I was jotting down the thoughts and feelings of actual people.
When my son Ryan and I sold the novel we co-wrote, Forbidden, to HarperTeen, our editor asked us to revise it and tell 50% of the story from the hero’s POV. Ryan was unavailable to work on the book at that point, so I wrote all of the new “Alec POV scenes” myself. In many of the reviews we received, people presumed that all the Alec scenes were written by Ryan and that I must have written all the Claire scenes, which was untrue. I loved getting into the head of my hero!
How many hours a day do you write?
When I’m working on a book I try to write about 6-8 hours a day. If it weren’t for my husband reminding me, I wouldn’t even stop for lunch. When I’m into a story, I never want to stop. I’m beginning to realize, though, that I need to take more breaks! Not just for food and fresh air, but to give my body a break. I got a height-adjustable desk a few years ago and that has made a big difference.
What did you edit out of this book?
Actually … nothing. I outlined the novel carefully and managed to write just what was needed to tell the story, without anything extraneous … which is pretty rare for me!
How do you select the names of your characters?
Choosing names is an important part of my writing process. I go online and study popular first names and surnames for the era and region in which my novel takes place, narrowing it down to a list of favorites. I assign names from that list to all the characters, giving particular attention to the names of my hero and heroine—I have to really love their names and feel that it represents who they are. Sometimes, a character’s name just pops into my head, and I have to research it to make sure the name is appropriate to that era and nationality. There have also been times when I’ve changed the name of a character hallway through a book—thank goodness for Microsoft Word’s “replace” feature!
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I’d probably be an elementary school teacher. I love young children. I volunteered as a teacher’s aid for years during high school and college, and spent several summers as a camp counselor. I married young right out of college, though, and didn’t get a teaching credential. So I poured my love for kids into raising our two sons (who are the delight of my life), and put my English degree to good use writing novels and screenplays.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Ha! What a fun question. I think every book of mine has a little hidden “Easter egg” in it, even if it was unconsciously done. Here are a few that come to mind: In my novel Nocturne, the heroine is from San Jose, where I grew up. I also included a reference to the title character from my novel Dracula, My Love. In Jane Austen’s First Love, Jane’s mother calls her interest in novel-writing a “hobby” and insists she devote more time to her sewing skills (which is word for word, what my own mother often said to me.) In Summer of Scandal, Madeleine Atherton is also an aspiring author, a pursuit she knows her mother would frown upon as being unworthy of an heiress. It was such fun to give my own love of novel-writing to these characters, whose passions I understood so completely. And it was therapeutic to include a mother who (although her views may have been well-intentioned) didn’t really understand her.
Here’s a “secret” about Runaway Heiress: I filled the book with homages to one of my favorite novels, Jane Eyre. Alexandra Atherton is an American heiress who, to avoid marriage to a horrific man, disguises herself and (like Jane Eyre) ends up working as a governess at an ancestral manor home in the English countryside, where she falls in love with her employer. Many nods to favorite moments in Jane Eyre are sprinkled throughout. I was frustrated by the lack of physical intimacy (and sex) in Jane Eyre, and excited to have the opportunity to put lots of it in my novel, where I hope I made the hero as swoon-worthy as Mr. Rochester!
What was your hardest scene to write?
The first ten pages of every novel are always the most difficult to write. There’s so much you have to accomplish in such a short amount of time. You have to establish the main character, explain her goal succinctly and with only the merest dash of back story, throw a problem at her right off the bat, introduce the hero as quickly as possible in a situation that is intriguing, humorous, or fraught with conflict, and delve immediately into the action, all (hopefully) in a compelling manner that hooks the reader and keeps them turning pages to find out what will happen next. Whew! It usually takes many drafts to get those first pages—the entire first chapter, really—right.
What is your favourite childhood book?
The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, and The Children of Noisy Village, by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. I read those books over and over as a child, and I still enjoy re-reading them.
Does your family support your career as a writer?
I’m so lucky. I have the most supportive family in the world. My husband Bill has championed my desire to be a writer since the day we met in college. He’s always there to listen and offer advice when I have a story problem or research question. He’s the first person to read the first draft of every novel, and he understands when I’m sometimes staring into space or not answering his question that I’m actually somewhere else, writing in my head. I shared my love of writing with our sons Ryan and Jeff while they were growing up, reading aloud to them every day and explaining the elements of story structure and character development so they would better understand the books we were enjoying. As a result, they are both brilliant storytellers who offer me great feedback on my books and scripts, and both put their skills to work today in the video game business. I’ve also had the pleasure of writing a couple of screenplays as well as two novels (Forbidden and its sequel, Embolden, due out October 30) with my son Ryan.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Every book is different—the length of time it takes to write depends on how much research is involved and what else is going on in my personal life. If everything goes well, I usually take 6 – 9 months to write a novel. The fastest I’ve ever written a book was 3 months, but I don’t recommend it— I never left the house and don’t think I changed out of my pajamas! On the other hand, it took me two years to write The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte because I spent so much time researching.
To celebrate the release of SUMMER OF SCANDAL by Syrie James,
we’re giving away one paperback copy of Runaway Heiress!
Click HERE to enter.