Thursday, 25 November 2010

A wintry London scene from A KNIGHT'S CAPTIVE

Here is a wintry London scene in 1066 from my historical romance, A Knight's Captive, where the heroine Sunniva and the hero Marc are having to travel through the tense, newly occupied Anglo-Saxon city to meet William of Normandy - the new ruler of England.

The sun was still rising when Sunniva and Marc set out for old King Edward's new abbey church at Westminster. Sunniva was uneasy and not only at having to pass through London.
          "What manner of man is this Odo of Bayeux?" she asked, whispering in case any townsfolk heard the French name. Marc had said London had now sworn allegiance to William. If they had, it was only because William's army were camped close by and he and his men had burned and devastated parts of the city and the surrounding countryside. Each time Marc had cause to slip out into the narrow, twisting streets she had been in an agony of anticipation and dread until his safe return, especially last night, when he was gone for hours. He could pass for English now but only two nights ago when - praise be to Freya! - the children had been sleeping, she had heard a dreadful hue and cry echo through the deserted streets: "A Norman! A bastard Norman!"
          She had been trembling at the shouts and curses and shivering at the frantic footfalls under their window. Marc had warned her not to look out but listening to the mob and seeing the glare of torches through the chink in the shutters had been bad enough. She did not dare to think what had happened to the hapless foreigner: kicked and hacked to death most likely. They had not run him down by the Goldsmith's Inn but she had heard his desperate sprinting and once the wall had shaken as the stranger crashed against it.
          Putting the stranger's ghastly fate from her by a deliberate effort of will, she said, "How do you know Odo?"
          "I sold him a war-horse in Brittany," came back the flat, laconic reply. "And gifted him several more."
          The way he spoke, Sunniva knew that the "gift" had been delivered by some kind of force. Marc confirmed this by saying next, "Odo and his men had set up a hunting camp close to my mother's. He saw my horses and liked what he saw."
          "Hence the gift," Sunniva remarked. "I suspect that he is the kind of man who does not take 'no' as an answer."
          "Not when he was within reach of my mother, certainly," Marc agreed, his handsome face stripped of all expression. "Odo also took a drink from her well, in my mother's best silver cup."
          "He kept the cup, too," Sunniva guessed, stepping round a pile of rotting cabbages whose unwholesome stink had briefly made her gag.
          "He did indeed. Odo likes treasure."
          "But he is a holy man!" Anxiously Sunniva glanced up, in case anyone was leaning out into the street and could hear this.
          Marc snorted at that. "Bishop he may be, but he is William's half-brother first and the same grasping blood flows in his fat, bald body." Marc glanced at the staff in his hand; he was using it to prod the ice puddles, in case any were hip-deep under the frosting. "Do you know he has a mace, studded with nails, or something like? It is said he uses it in battle to brain his enemies." Marc's eyes gleamed for an instant. "Of which there are many."
          "How did you find him in this huge city?" she asked, falling into step with Marc down some stone steps showing fire-scorch marks.
          Marc scowled at the fire-marks, his bright brown hair ruffled by a chill breeze as he raised his head, staring off into the distance where smoke still rose from field and woodland blazes lit by William's plundering army.
          "Such men as Odo are easy to trace. In William's army camp, his was the most opulent tent. I bribed a guard and sent a copy of my seal ring ahead, in wax, as token of my good faith, and he remembered me. He saw me yester evening and promised he would speak to the king on my behalf."
          Yesterday evening Marc had been out past curfew, Sunniva remembered again, and while he was away she had tried to teach the girls to hem neatly, her fingers cold and fumbling in her terror for his safety. Now he snapped his fingers, as if this whole lethal business was easy, and smiled to assuage Sunniva's constant dread. "Odo gave me a parchment to show the guards at the coronation," he said, "so we may pass through unhindered."
          If we reach Westminster safely, Sunniva thought, though she said nothing. Nearby, a group of ragged beggars lurked in the ruins of a charred house and these now shuffled forward, blinking, into the misty half-light of the morning. Seeing their wasted faces and desperate eyes, Sunniva looked about herself for coins but found none. Snug from the whipping wind in her new white furs, she felt ashamed.
          "We can do nothing for them," Marc breathed, flipping the lead beggar some small coins and hurrying her on. "Come, I can smell a fuller's and I would be past that as soon as we may."
          Her breath held in against the truly vile, stale smell of urine, Sunniva ducked under a low house beam jutting out into the alley and rounded the corner into another deserted street. She could see the river ahead, milky-white and glossy as a new ribbon, lined with wharves and jetties. Already the air seemed sweeter, the houses more fine. Some were still the sunken-floored huts she had hurried past in other parts of the city, but more were bigger, with many shutters and brightly painted doors.
          "Where is everyone?" she mused aloud, and Marc answered, "At Westminster, perhaps." His teeth showed very white in his lean face as he grinned at her. "Maybe even you English are learning to cheer the Normans."

Best wishes, Lindsay Townsend.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Jillian: Today is release day on my book entitled "Solo Honeymoon"- I'm beyond excited about it and hope that it's a success. I'm a little apprehensive about it since it's my first novel. I've had numerous short stories published under my real name as well as my pen name, but this is the first publication all on my own and not as part of an anthology or a magazine. Here's hoping the reviewers let me keep some of my skin. LOL!

My hero in this story is an Italian count who happens to be a shoe designer in Milan. The heroine is a British woman that's the daughter of a one named folk singer from the 1960s. A folk singer like Donovan. I've always loved his songs.

I've brought my hero with me today to talk about one of the things I do as a matter of routine when I write a book. I'm a pantser, but I usually have a vague notion of a story before I start writing. I usually get the hero in my head first, then I pull some songs that have something to do with where I think the story is going. Once I make a soundtrack, I listen to it (immerse myself) and then start to write. I'm usually amazed that some random song or two that came to me without a plan, ends up being integral to the plot. But, I'm nattering on too much, here's Dario De Luca, the hero of "Solo Honeymoon," to tell you about the soundtrack for this book.

DARIO: Ciao, Bella. Grazie. I'm happy to be here to talk about this music with you. Some of these songs are dear to me, some of them, not so much. I think some of them must apply to Emma, not me.

Soundtrack: Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive; Dean Martin: Mambo Italiano and That's Amore; Bonnie Tyler: Holding Out For a Hero; Weather Girls: It's Raining Men; Arsenium: Love Me, Love Me; INXS: Need You Tonight; Pink: Oh My God; Texas: In Demand; Aerosmith: I Don't Want to Miss a Thing; Secondhand Serenade: It's Not Over.

Dario: I will claim Mambo Italiano as mine- I'm a ballroom dancer and I love the Mambo. That's Amore, of course, as a Latin lover, that's my song, too. Need You Tonight; Love me, Love me; Don't Want to Miss a Thing and It's Not Over fits my part of the story as well. These other songs, Paisano, are girly songs and I claim no interest in them. I cannot make a comment on them. What's this raining men thing about? Must be some English phenomenon. I'm not familiar with the term. I just hope I'm inside when it happens.

Jillian: Thanks for helping me celebrate the release of this book today, Dario. I, too, hope you're inside when the downpour of men happens. Could be dangerous.
This book can be ordered here: - I can be reached here: and

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Lily Harlem: Locations and more

Good morning readers of British Romance.
Having read about love, romance and sex in a wide variety of settings around the world, I’ve been musing today about my own location choices when setting out on the journey of writing a story.
Of course they say write what you know and being British through and through and having lived and holidayed in numerous locations around the British Isles I know my homeland pretty well. So I guess the UK is the natural and predominant setting for my stories.
If I cast my mind back I can remember being enthralled by the wild rawness of the Yorkshire Moors when reading Wuthering Heights. And when I lost myself in Pride and Prejudice the calm gentry of Hertfordshire was like a gentle soundtrack to the story. I’m sure international readers will have pictured the setting perfectly even if they’d never travelled to England. Jane Austin just does it so well.
Because getting a setting down on paper is an essential element to writing, not just the bar or the bedroom the characters are in but the whole sense of where in the world they are.
One of the first erotic novels I read which really captured my attention was ‘Asking for Trouble’ by Kristina Lloyd set in Brighton. It’s an edgy, sexy tale that I will not give anything away about because I wouldn’t want to spoil it – but trust me – its steamy stuff. I adored the way Ms Lloyd described the setting, having been to Brighton several times she got it just right, but if I hadn’t ever visited I would still have felt the hip vibe and the café, beach culture, all mixed in with a seedy plot line that was un-put-downable.
I set my novel ‘Shared’ in another coastal city, Cardiff. I adore Cardiff, I don’t live there but I spend a lot of time wandering the shops, meandering around the beautiful bay and eating at the restaurants. When I needed a place for my threesome to live the majestic new apartment blocks with their sumptuous penthouses were the perfect location - money of course being no object in my imagination! I loved setting it somewhere I knew so well and as the characters moved about I sent them to real places, calling on my knowledge of smells and food and other people for them to interact with. I tried to add some colloquial language but most of that was taken out at editing. It was just plain confusing if you’re not familiar with the Welsh way of speaking.
Sometimes now it feels a little strange when I go to Cardiff Bay and I almost find myself looking for the gorgeous Liam and the broodingly sexy Quinn! I’ve had several reader comments about Torchwood, which is of course filmed there, had I known it was so popular in the US I maybe would have featured some of the architecture made famous by the show.
When I tackled ‘Mattress Music’, my latest Ellora’s Cave release, I headed to London. I have to admit I was inspired by ‘Kings of Leon’ who I am totally obsessed with, but I made up my own UK rock and roll fantasy for Nina and set it smack bang in the capital. There’s even a trip to London Zoo, one of my most favourite places in the city but not typically linked to erotica, though trust me, things get seriously hot in the bug house! I went on to write two more in the series, ‘Mirror Music’ and ‘Ménage à Music’, both due out next year. I’ve stuck to London for these too. You just can’t go wrong, there’s every type of location, atmosphere, iconic building you need there – except of course if you want your lovers to have a romantic walk on the beach – then you’ve had it!

We don’t read so much about less glamorous cities, I’ve never come across an erotic romance set in Reading, Hartlepool or Birmingham for example. Although I’m sure less well known towns and cities could lend themselves very well to the genre. The author could create the atmosphere suitable to her characters and their situation using the mood and streets of an unfamiliar setting.
Of course the season effects the location too. I’ve set my new Total-E-Bound novella ‘Escape to the Country’ in The Cotswolds smack bang in the middle of summer. The weather is blazing and the countryside lush. The characters cool off – and more! -in an outdoor pool something which would be unthinkable any other time of year because it gets pretty damn chilly. But I adore the Cotswolds, the rich rusty colour of the stonework and the picturesque villages with their old world pubs. It really worked well for the story about a city couple taking a weekend break with friends.
I’d love to hear reader’s comments and other author’s thoughts on British location’s for sexy books – any places you particularly love or hate, or perhaps locations you would like to see featured more.
Scroll down for hot excerpts taken from my two new releases set in the UK and if you have time check out my website  and say hi – there’s links to my other reads including ‘Shared’, inspirational pictures and information on other great authors.
Lily Harlem x
Winner of the 2009 Love Honey Award for Erotic Fiction

Mattress Music by Lily Harlem
Here’s the blurb
Is it possible to lose one’s ability to orgasm? Nina has. Lately, her fun weekend hook-ups have been more “ho-hum” than “hot damn”! It doesn’t help that she has three flatmates and is forced to play loud music to mask the sounds of her lovemaking. Talk about distracting! Of course, there’s another reason Nina’s less than satisfied these days…she’s just having a hard time admitting it.
It’s a good thing she’s met Ian, then. Not content to be a weekend hook-up, Ian is set on giving Nina what she’s been missing while making her admit what she needs. His talented fingers—and other body parts—are up to the task. But Ian’s not admitting a few things himself. Turns out his fingers can do more than make Nina’s body sing.
When she discovers his secret, it’s time for both of them to face the music.

And here is an excerpt - adults only it’s hot!

“You’re fucking awesome,” he whispered into my ear on a hot, panting breath.
“You too,” I said, running my hand down his perfectly smooth back. Not a pimple anywhere, just acres of glorious hot, male flesh and a deeply guttered spine lined with solid muscle. “Really good.”
He lifted his head and looked into my eyes. “Liar.”
“Liar, you didn’t come.”
“I did, it was great…you were great.” Lying to a man who was buried inside me was not something I was good at.
“I’m not stupid, Nina, I can tell when a woman orgasms. I can’t always tell the difference between real and fake, but bloody hell, you didn’t even try to pretend, not even a little wriggle and a gasp at the right moment.”
Frowning and shifting my hips I muttered, “Sorry,” as I pushed out from under him.
“Don’t be sorry.” He rolled to his side, bent his arm and propped his head on his hand. The flat silver cross around his neck hung toward the mattress. “Just tell me what I did wrong so I can fix it for next time,” he said, still catching his breath.
Next time? Not likely. One-night stands were my game. “You didn’t do anything wrong.” I pulled the duvet to my chin and turned to the wall. “It was me.”
He caught my jaw. “Tell me,” he ordered, tipping me to face him. “I want to know.”
Through the dim light, blushed orange by a streetlamp, I could see his dark eyes staring straight into mine, unblinking. One of my flatmates banged crockery in the kitchen next to my room then a deep rumble of laughter from one of the guys, Jerry I think, filtered through the thin wall.
“Why do you care?” I asked, toes and fingers curling.
“I’m lying naked in bed with you, we’ve just shared as intimate an experience as two people can, and you wonder why I’m bothered that you didn’t have as good a time as me? Would I be human if I didn’t give a shit?”
I shrugged. Candle in the Wind had finished, and in its place Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me was swirling around us.
Too late to save myself from falling—
That was me, I thought, too far gone on this road of shagging any cock I could find to be saved. In my old flat, living with Dee and Fiona, life had been great and mattress music was never needed. We all just went for it, having as much sex and as many noisy orgasms as possible. We would giggle about it over breakfast and swap stories about what racy shenanigans we’d been up to.
But now they’d moved on. They were both head over heels in love and settled in their own homes, leaving me out on a limb and living here with strangers.
Of course I wasn’t technically alone, but if I was honest I’d never felt so lonely. I didn’t want to be, loneliness was like a dull, gray hole swelling inside me. Starting in my stomach and stretching outward. And in the center of this hole was a new bitter emotion―envy. I envied what Dee and Fi had found, lasting love with respect and commitment. But admitting what I wanted and changing the fact that there was no one special in my life were two separate issues.
More pressingly, at the moment anyway, nor could I change the fact that I hadn’t orgasmed since I’d moved. My one-night stands just weren’t doing it for me anymore. The intimacy of getting naked and sweaty with someone wasn’t satisfying the hunger, the need that was eating away at me like an itch I couldn’t quite reach.
I’d been here three weeks, three fucks. But each week there had been something sneaking into my brain that had distracted me from the delicious build-up to climax. Deadly quiet the first week when I was with a bodybuilding scaffolder from Durham, every mattress squeak and grunt sliding under the door and echoing through the walls. With Dave, an earnest accountant from Chelsea, a knock on my door midway through a blowjob put me off my stride. And now this morose mattress music was stopping me from having a great time with the truly gorgeous Ian.
“Nina?” Ian pressed, dragging me from my depressed musing.
“It was the damn music,” I said with a frown. He wasn’t going to let it drop so I might as well fess up. “I couldn’t concentrate. You were doing it right, great, but I just kept thinking of Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana and Elton singing at his piano with his big, wobbling white wig and that mole thing he used to paint on his cheek.”
Ian tipped his head back and laughed. A big guffaw that shook the bed.
“Shh!” I pressed my fingers to his lips.
“Thank God for that,” he said, grinning. “Thought I’d lost my touch.”
“It’s not funny,” I whispered.
“No, no.” He tried to straighten out his grin. “Of course it’s not. I’ve just never thought of it before, the words in a song competing for the attention of the woman I’m trying to please.” He dropped a kiss to my lips. “So why did you put it on if you don’t like it?”
“So no one will hear. The walls here are so thin, and I’ve got male flatmates who I don’t want perving with glasses pressed to the walls.”
“You think they would?”
I sighed. “Probably not, they seem nice enough, but just the same…”
“You want your privacy.”
“Exactly.” I paused then sighed. “We should have taken a cab and gone to yours.”
“Yeah, but this was closer, much closer, just a quick walk around the corner.” He smoothed the hair from my face. It always went wild after sex. The hundreds of tiny, copper corkscrews seemed to take on lives of their own. “Maybe we could leave the music off and do it really, really quietly,” he whispered, spreading springs of my hair over the pillowcase.
“No,” I said. “That won’t work, I’ll be too conscious of even our breathing, or if the mattress squeaks.”
His eyes narrowed and a muscle in his cheek flexed, then he got up, walked to the iPod and finally silenced Elton. “This isn’t over you know.”

To find out what Ian has in store for Nina follow this buy link -

Escape to the Country by Lily Harlem

Here’s the blurb
London life is hard going for Annie and Tim, and despite being in love, they’re just not hitting the spot in the bedroom. So, in an attempt to put the steam back into their relationship, Tim whisks Annie to the Cotswolds to visit Matt and Jane his uber-cool, sexually liberal friends from University.
As the temperature heats to melting point in the chocolate box cottage so does the sex, and Annie, with the help of her hosts, discovers a variety of hidden carnal desires, not just in herself but also Tim. Who would have thought he’d be into that? Who would have thought ‘that’ would have her buzzing from head to toe?

Escape to the Country excerpt – adults only its 18+

Quickly, I stepped away. After he’d finished coming down Carl’s throat, Matt would open his eyes and see me watching from the doorway. I didn’t know which one of us would be the most mortified—me probably.
I turned and came face to face with Jane.
“Hi, Annie,” she said quietly. “I came to see if you needed to borrow a top.”
“I…I… No, I’m fine, thanks.” I struggled to drag in a breath.
Her gaze slipped to my chest. My breasts were heaving like mounds of jelly and the wobbling flesh threatened to spill over its containment. “I like that top better than the other one,” she said, her eyes not moving from where they’d settled.
“I…just… Shall we go and sort out dessert?” I was keen to get her away from the image of her husband getting a blow job from another man.
“No, I think we’ll stay up here.” She lifted a stray curl from my breast and held it between her thumb and index finger. “I like it up here, just you and me.”
My skin ignited where her fingertip had brushed my flesh, and as she coiled the strand of hair around her finger with delicate, precise movements, I had to lean my back against the coolness of the wall for support. She placed the lock on my shoulder, and very gently, her finger traced over the strap of my vest top as if smoothing it neat.
“Don’t worry about them.” She nodded at the bedroom where Matt and Carl could be heard shuffling about. “They always do that between main and dessert.”
“They do?” My eyes saucered and my mind whirled. “And you don’t mind?”
“Hell, no.” She stepped closer and I was forced to tip my head up to look at her face. “It means I can do exactly what I want, with who I want, and Matt can’t say a thing. Not one little, teeny, tiny complaint.” The shiny pink tip of her tongue caressed the corner of her mouth.
“Oh.” I thought she was going to kiss me. She was so close I could see every tiny freckle on her face. Her grey eyes were studying my mouth and her toes were touching mine. I licked my lips and buckled my knees.
“Do you have that kind of relationship with Tim?” she asked. “He and Matt used to share everything, you know?”
“They did?”
“Yes, nothing was out of bounds.”
“It wasn’t?”
“They even shared me sometimes.”
“Oh.” How did I feel about knowing Tim had slept with Jane? I played the scene in my head, like a movie, and decided there was only one overwhelming feeling, jealousy. But I wasn’t jealous of Jane getting it off with my boyfriend. I was jealous that Tim had been inside Jane. He knew what she felt like, what noises she made when she came, where she liked to be touched. I was insanely jealous that he’d done what I wanted to do right this minute.

If you fancy joining Tim and Annie on their naughty trip to the beautiful Cotswolds here’s the buy link -

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Witch Child

The picture is of a secret summerhouse. I used it for an illustration for this book, but next time I put something up it will have a proper cover.

First of all I would like to thank Lindsay for inviting me to blog here today. I have some news about a book titled The Witch Child/ Linda Sole, which was first published in hardback some years ago by Robert Hale of London. I've had the rights for years and have now put it up at kindle. Those who have a kindle love it, but did you know that you don't have to buy kindle to read their books? You can download an ereader for your computer and read them there.

The blurb for the Witch Child goes something like this.

She was beautiful, she was wicked, she was wanton and she drove men mad with desire. But to love her was to court despair. She was the Witch Child.

Here is an excerpt for you.

I was but eleven years old when they first named me for a witch. That terrible day is burned so deeply into my memory that even now, years later, there are times when I wake from some nightmarish dream, shaking with fear. Yet it was important, for it brought Justin to me and so sealed my destiny. But perhaps I should start at the beginning . . .
I must have looked a pathetic sight as I stood just inside the door of Granny Fisher’s cottage, soaked to the skin by the driving rain, which persisted as my companion and I walked the last half mile to the cottage in its lonely isolation at the top of the cliffs. A child of eight, slight and small for my age, my green eyes must have been stark with the misery I felt as I stared at the old woman. Meeting her bleak, unsmiling eyes, I shivered, for her lined face showed no trace of warmth or pity.
My heart sank and I clutched at Mr. Jackson’s hand, waiting for her to speak. He glanced down at me with sympathy, then pushed me forward. My heart beat wildly. I was terrified of this silent, old woman and longed for the comfort of my mother’s arms, though I knew I should never feel them about me again. Nor would my father toss me into the air, laughing as I screamed in childish delight. They were both dead and I was alone in the world, except for this woman whom I had never seen before today.
“You say Beth’s dead?” she spoke at last. “And her husband, too?”
“Yes, Mrs. Fisher,” replied my companion. “Your daughter died of the pox. It was her last wish that I should bring the girl to you.”
In the ensuing silence I swallowed nervously, trying to hold back my shameful tears. Granny looked at me suspiciously, her eyes hawklike in the wrinkled face. My instincts told me that she did not want me.
“If she died of the pox—why did the child not take it from her?”
Mr. Jackson shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t rightly know, ma’am—some say ‘tis a miracle.” He shuffled his feet awk-wardly, then handed her a purse. “This is what was left after the debts were paid. ‘Tis not much, there are few folk as will buy goods from a house where the pox has visited.”
She took the purse unwillingly. “Is there no one else to care for her? Times are hard and ‘tis work enough to keep the flesh on these bones of mine, without a growing child to feed.”
He shook his head. “ Nay. I’d have took her meself but my wife’s dead set against it. I’m damned if I know why. She’s a good little thing and she’ll be no bother to you.”
“Ha!—that’s all you know. Children are always a bother whether they mean to be or not. Beth was ever a thoughtless lass. It would not occur to her that I might not want the girl. Not a word from her since she ran off, now she sends me her girl. Well, come here, child, and let me look at you!”
I shook my head, wrapping my arms about Mr. Jackson’s knees. He looked down at me with pity and I think he might have taken me back with him had he not feared his wife’s temper. Mrs. Jackson was a shrew and she had vowed she would have none of me. He wrestled with his conscience briefly, but he lived in fear of her tongue and he dare not return with me in tow. He untangled my clinging limbs and pushed me firmly into the cottage.
Granny grasped me with her clawlike hands, peering into my face for a long time, a strange expression in her eyes. She sighed. “You’re Beth’s girl all right. What was that fool name she gave you ?”
I took a deep breath. “ My name is Jalinda and it is a pretty name. My mother liked it.”
“ Ha! So you can talk after all. Well, come in, lass. I didn’t ask you to come and I dare say as you’d rather be elsewhere—but it seems we’ve neither of us any choice.”
She took my bundle from me and laid it down, then she turned to Mr. Jackson. “Be off with you,” she said. “What arc you waiting for ?”
He was surprised by the suddenness of her attack. He stared at her, then he nodded his head. Abandoning me to my fate, he hurried back down the cliffs the way we had come. I tried not to think harshly of him; it had been a long journey and he had brought me himself. It was more than most would have done.
I stood in the middle of that floor—which was nothing but compounded earth, covered by a layer of filthy rushes— and glanced about me. In one corner was a pile of dried grass, which I was later to discover, served as Granny Fisher’s bed. Apart from a three-legged stool, a coffer, her table and a heavy cooking-pot suspended over the fire I could see only a few bowls and platters.
I recalled the table my father had made, which my mother polished until she could see her face in its gleaming surface. I remembered the stools, the panelled linen-chests, the dresser with its bulbous legs and the special chair, which had a high, carved back. It was in this chair that my father sat of an evening, intent on carving the intricate patterns which were his trademark; and taking the same care whether it was something for a valued customer or a little wooden horse for me. The memory of him brought tears to my eyes and they spilled over in noisy sobs.
Granny Fisher stared at me, a semblance of pity in her eyes. For a moment I thought she would take me in her arms to comfort me, but she had lost the art of loving. Her life had been too hard and she was too old to begin now.
“Now then, lass, dry your eyes. ‘Tis no use in grieving for them as is gone. It won’t bring them back and we must think of ourselves. No doubt you’re hungry; I never yet knew a child who wasn’t.”
At this I stopped crying and looked up expectantly. It seemed a long while since I had eaten and my stomach rumbled emptily.
She gave a crow of triumph, her thin lips parting in a toothless grin. “ That’s it, girl, ‘tis time to look to the future. Take off those wet things and come to the fire whilst I make you something to eat. We’ll manage, you’ll see. It will be hard at first but you’ll learn. Oh, yes, you’ll learn all right!”

* * * *

And learn I did !
I learned what it was to be cold and hungry in the long winter, which followed. I learned to go searching for driftwood on the beach when it was freezing cold and a biting wind blew in from the sea; to come home to the cottage soaked to the skin and to a stewpot containing only a few vegetables— unless we were lucky enough to catch a rabbit. That was seldom enough, for Granny rarely caught anything in her snares—it had been a hard winter for the rabbits, too.
I do not know how I survived that first year. I had been gently reared, and according to the laws of nature I should have sickened and died. Instead, I thrived. I grew thin but it was a tough, wiry leanness.
It was a hard life, so different from the one I had known. Often I would take out the little wooden horse, stroking its smooth surface lovingly. Then I would ache for the sound of my father’s voice, or the touch of my mother’s hands as she tucked me up in my cot at night. If only someone had shown me a little love, but there was no one but Granny, and she had forgotten how.
Sometimes we huddled together in front of the fire, listening to the howling wind. It tore at the cottage walls with a vindictive fury, and the waves lashed at the foot of the cliffs, sending spray high into the air. On certain nights, when the power of the storm was at its height, I sometimes thought I could hear the souls of drowning men, screaming in the darkness.
“The sea be terrible cruel,” Granny said once. “I lost a man and two sons out there on just such a night as this. Aye, she be a wicked mistress, the sea ...”
Looking at her then I began to understand what had made her the way she was. Loneliness and suffering will make granite of the softest heart in time, and I guessed that her life had been lonely. I drew closer to her, realising that she hated the howling wind as much as I. Somehow that knowledge robbed the storm of some of its power to frighten me and I no longer felt quite so alone.

* * * *

I had been at the cottage for six months when I first saw the house, or, rather, I saw the gates leading to the estate. Huge iron spikes, flanked by stone pillars topped with a pair of eagles. They perched with beaks menacingly open, their wings unfurled as though ready to attack the unwary intruder. So real were they that I almost believed them the guardians they appeared to be.
“Where does that lead?” I asked Granny, pointing to the path, which wound into the trees.
“‘Tis Sir Ralph Frome’s land. He lives in the house beyond the woods.”
“ Have you ever been there?” I asked, made curious by the tone of her voice.
“Aye, once.”
I waited in vain for more. “ What is it like?” I persisted.
Her face was troubled as she looked at me. For some reason she was reluctant to satisfy my curiosity. “‘Tis big,” she said, “grey stone like these pillars and there be strange carvings above the arches in the walls. ‘Tis an accursed place and you’d do well to keep away from it...”
Her voice had risen shrilly and she seemed angry. I asked her why she was so upset and why she had been to the house if she believed it an evil place, but her face took on a closed, secretive expression and she shook her head at me.
“Never you mind, girl. Just remember my words, no good can come to you from that place . . .” She broke off, her eyes dilating with fear. Suddenly she gripped my shoulders, her fingers biting into my flesh. She seemed to look through me at something only she could see, studying my face as though trying to discover the answer to some mystery. Then she shook her head again.
“I can’t see ... ‘Tis not clear ...”
“What is it, Granny, are you ill?”
My question appeared to break the spell. She started, a dazed look coming into her eyes. “What? Ill, you say? No, I’m not ill. ‘Tis nothing, nothing at all . . .” She frowned, glancing up at the dark clouds gathering overhead. “‘Tis time we were going home—we’ve picked herbs enough for today.”
She hurried me past the forbidding gates with their fierce guardians. I went reluctantly. My curiosity had been aroused and I longed to squeeze through the thick hedge, which bounded the estate. Granny had warned me against the house but she was always warning me about something, the list was endless. Usually I obeyed her without question but this time I could not help thinking that there would be no harm in just looking at the house—from a safe distance, of course. However, I was careful not to let Granny guess that I intended to return one day—alone.
She was in a hurry to get home before the storm broke and she forgot the incident almost at once. There was work to be done, she said. I knew that meant she would be up half the night, boiling the herbs and berries we had collected in the big black pot over the fire.
Granny understood the wild plants and berries. She made a potion, which was supposed to cure anything. It smelt vile and tasted worse, but she swore that it was the secret of her long life and she drank some every day. She made me drink it too, but whenever I could I poured it away.
Sometimes she took a pitcher of it to a house in the village, just as dusk was falling, and knocked at the back door. When the door opened a man would glance anxiously down the street to ensure that no one was watching, before snatching the pitcher from her and thrusting some coins into her hand.
Once I asked her who he was but she told me to mind my tongue. It was not until long afterwards that I discovered he was the apothecary. He sold Granny’s mixtures to the villagers, pretending that he had made them himself. But when I asked her why she didn’t sell her cures to the villagers herself Granny got very cross and said that it was better the way it was.

* * * *

I grew taller and brown like a gipsy as spring turned into summer and summer into autumn.
Sometimes, with a kind of envy, I watched the children from the village laughing and playing together. They would run on the beach and climb the cliffs, but they never came near the cottage. One day, driven by the desire for friendship, I called out to some of them. But as I approached they screamed and ran away.
“Don’t be frightened,” I cried. “I only want to talk to you.”
A dark-haired boy, older than the others, took a step towards me, a friendly grin on his face. But his friends pulled at his sleeve.
“Come away, Tom!” one of them said. “Her granny’s a witch. She’ll turn you into a toad if you play with her.”
“Please don’t go, it’s not true,” I said, but I could see he half believed them.
His face paled and he hesitated momentarily, then he turned and ran away down the hill. I stared after him, brushing a tear from my cheek. I wasn’t going to cry. Who wanted to play their stupid games anyway? Holding my head high I walked away, their cruel taunts ringing in my ears. I had something more important to do than wasting my time playing children’s games. It was at that moment that I decided I would find a way through the hedge, which divided Sir Ralph’s estate from the common land.
The thought of that house tantalised me. Granny had forgotten it; she had warned me against going there and believed the matter ended.
Perhaps it would have been if the children had allowed me to join in their play, but they had turned away from me.

* * * *

Monday, 8 November 2010

Where I set my Novels

I always set my historical novels in England or in one case, Wales. I just am not confident to write about continental Europe in the middle ages. Politically I would be on shaky ground here. Besides, if I were writing about the wars between the British and the French might I not be a little biased on one side? Probably!

Counting up the contemporary novels I notice I have more British settings than I had thought. Of course I do like to go to exotic places too. I like my characters staying at very expensive hotels too. Let’s face it I admit to living vicariously through my characters.

One of my favourite British settings is the West Country. I enjoy writing about Cornwall and Devon especially. There is something magical about those empty spaces, the wild
thrashing seas and the endless moorland. There is gentle beauty too, cream teas in gardens filled with roses and honeysuckle, where the gentle buzz of a bee is comforting. All is right with the world when you are sitting in such an idyllic setting.

One of my very first contemporary romances Fiona, published by Robert Hale, is partly set in Cornwall. Falmouth in particular. It’s where I once had the privilege of living and still love it down there. I enjoyed the name of my male character David Spargo, the latter being a Cornish name. My next novel Yolande was set in Devon. I think my love of Devon and Cornwall, shines through, at least I hope so.

My second West Country setting was years after. His Other Wife( published by whiskey creek press) set in Plymouth and the Devonshire countryside. Here my hero lives in a converted boathouse on the river Dart. My husband and I holidayed in the area and I saw such a place, it stayed in my memory so I had to put my hero Saul there, simply because I knew he would love it and so does the heroine.

Lancashire and Yorkshire and the wild moors or spectacular Dales, have been favourites too. My heroine in “Beloved Deceiver” falls in love with the Dales and the mellow country house where the hero’s mother lives. It makes her realize, too, just how much she is in love with this man who doesn’t, apparently, love her.

Of course I leave the UK. I have a novel set in New Zealand, one in Australia and my latest adventure with writing about Florida. Spain is another country I use, and I have never been to Spain, and Greece (never been there) and Cyprus, the happy island where I have been. Yet I suppose it is easier to write about my homeland. I know how the buses and trains work, how to get from a to z and how tiny some villages can be. However, it’s fun to travel further afield too. Where am I going next? No idea…you, like me, will have to wait and see!

Cheerio for now


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Historically fascinated

I’ve always been fascinated by the very strong women in history. So much of the history books tell the story of men – usually old white men – but when you dig a little deeper there are also a lot of stories about extremely powerful women. Henry VIII changed the established religious system of his land in his efforts to get himself a son and heir. Yet it was his daughter, Elizabeth I, who ruled wisely for many years and made England great.
Centuries later, Queen Victoria repeated this feat.
But it is the Regency period that I love the most. All those rules and regulations, every moment of every day rigidly filled with set activities, yet women found their way around the rules to lead fulfilling lives.
I began reading Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances as a young teenager, and fell in love with the era then, so it is natural that I would set some of my books in this time period.
“Lady Caroline’s Reward” which released from Torquere today, is my first published erotic lesbian Regency-set romance. It is about two women who manage to circumvent the rules of their day to find their own happy ever after.

“Lady Caroline’s Reward” blurb
Lady Caroline Eversley is the only child of the Earl of Blackshire. He is growing forgetful and she needs a chaperone so hires Miss Dinah Watkin, a distant relative whom she met once at a family gathering and enjoyed good friendship with.
While dealing with unwanted suitors, Dinah and Caroline fall in love, and Dinah teaches Caroline all about sex. But the problem of Caroline’s suitable chaperonage refuses to go away. And in Regency England unmarried women had almost no rights. Whatever will happen to them as the Earl’s health fails?

“Lady Caroline’s Reward” PG Excerpt

Later that evening, the women sat by the fire in the book room, their fingers moving diligently as they sewed. Hugh, Thomas and John were all upstairs with Caroline’s father. His suite of rooms was always heated warmly and he was never left unattended even for a moment.
Dinah gazed at Caroline. She really did look lovely in the firelight, her pale cheeks slightly flushed by the warmth of the fire, the long hair coiled neatly on her neck and gleaming with reddish highlights, her slender fingers busily employed mending one of her father's shirts.
Dinah's heart lurched. She could fall in love with this woman. Not only was Caroline beautiful, but she was also highly intelligent and courageous in the way she was facing the adversity of her father's, and therefore her own, situation.
"Have you ever been kissed?" Dinah asked suddenly.
"Well, just a few quick pecks by boys who shouldn't have when I was younger. At family gatherings and such. And one or two of the suitors have tried. That's why I made sure Hugh Howel was always with me. They totally ignored the fact my maid Betty was in the room!"
"Would you like to be kissed? Properly kissed?"
"But who-- What? You--"
"Yes, me. May I kiss you?" Dinah put her needlework down on the side table and slid along the sofa to the end where Caroline sat.
Caroline's hands dropped to the sofa. With no objection forthcoming, very gently, Dinah turned Caroline's head toward her and kissed those ripe pink lips. Softly, gently, sweetly, but with enough heat and passion to warm their lips. Very soon, Caroline responded, one hand reaching up to rest on Dinah's arm.
Caroline's lips softened under Dinah's caress, and Dinah licked along the seam, urging her to open her mouth. Caroline did, and Dinah’s tongue slipped inside, very gently running along Caroline's teeth and all around the warm wet cavern.
Dinah's hands firmed on Caroline's head, tilting it slightly as her tongue thrust into the younger woman's mouth.
Caroline groaned and responded more passionately, kissing back with enthusiasm.
Dinah increased the heat by sucking a little on Caroline's tongue pulsing in and out before retreating again.
Caroline melted into Dinah, leaning against the older woman and holding both her shoulders as she returned the kisses very passionately now.
Deliberately, Dinah took one hand off Caroline's head and placed her palm against Caroline's breast, smoothing it up and over the nipple. A nipple that was standing up, a hard, excited little peak.
Caroline's tongue delved into Dinah's mouth, exploring the roof, the sides, the teeth. Dinah responded by sucking on it as her hand slid down inside the bodice of Caroline's gown, hot on her flesh, to rub the globe of her breast and tweak the nipple between her fingers.
"I... Oh... More," gasped Caroline, then returned to kissing Dinah, her arms now grasping the older woman firmly.

Buy link:
“Lady Caroline’s Reward”, has its own webpage with covers, blurbs and excerpt:

I have another Regency-set lesbian erotic romance coming out late this year. “Sappho’s Sisters”, will be available at Logical Lust
Blurb: “Sappho’s Sisters”.
Lady Eustacia Lumley is the only child of the Earl of Wentworth. It is her duty to marry well and ensure the succession.
Margaret Durrell is the fourth daughter of a gently born, but near penniless Vicar. She has no option but to marry a man who can provide for her and possibly for some of her sisters as well.
Both young women are very interested in Sappho’s poetry and ideas. One evening, Margaret has a headache and Eustacia offers to massage her scalp. This leads into sex which both find very enjoyable, Eustacia kissing, touching and sucking Margaret to her first orgasm.
The two young women fall deeply in love, but is there any hope for them? Or will they both have to conform to the rigid rules of Regency society?

Berengaria Brown
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Saturday, 6 November 2010

An EPIC Award Finalist!

I was very surprised to be told that my modern romance, Hooked On You, was listed as a finalist for the 2011 EPIC Awards, as I thought the finalists had been announced last week and, as I hadn't heard anything, I assumed I didn't make it.
So you can imagine how I felt to be told I had actually been listed! This has made my day, night, week, month and year!!!!
Thank you to the first round judges, whoever you are!

The winners are announced next year at the EPICon.
EPICon, the annual conference hosted by EPIC, the Electronically Published Internet Connection, is the gathering place for authors, publishers and other industry professionals. We celebrate the best of the best with EPIC's eBook Awards, share the newest industry information and ideas, hone writing skills, and explore new markets. Don't miss this wonderful event! It will be held March 10-13, 2011 at the Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel and Suites at Historic Williamsburg, VA.

Two full days of workshops on the industry, tech, the business and the art of writing, promotion, and genres will be highlighted by EPIC's annual Business Meeting and the Keynote Luncheon on Friday and the New Voices luncheon and the gala EPIC's eBook Awards Banquet on Saturday. The pre-con kicks off with a bang with our Thursday evening mixer, and all conference attendees are invited to wind-down with the Sunday farewell breakfast. (Taken from the EPIC website)

So, as we say in Australia - 'Go you good thing!'

Hooked on You
Katie Edwards is 28, single, and living the life - or so she thinks. After leaving a groping boss, who enjoyed putting the personal in personal assistant, Katie lands a job as an assistant for Liam Kennedy, a sports freak.
She hates sports, and not only is Liam a sports fanatic, but he's good at everything. The last thing Katie expects is to fall in love. But he’s simply sex on wheels. And the longer they're working together, the more she wants him.
Working for a sexy man sounded fabulous, but she should have been careful what she wished for, because gorgeous employers are a hazard to the heart. Now, Katie’s in lust and he thinks she’s a dizzy chick who only knows how to party.
How can she be professional when all she wants is to hop into his bed?
Will he ever take her seriously enough to see how perfect they'd be for each other? Or is she doomed to be hooked on him forever?

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they are faced with something that will push them past their limits of endurance.
Mine was this bloody hike.
Liam had said the climb had a slow, but steady rise. If that was so, then why did my lungs burn as though I was breathing fire? We had two very different ideas about what a “steady rise” actually was. Every muscle I had ached.
Actually, some muscles ached in parts of my body that shouldn’t have and it alarmed me as to why that area should be affected. I understand sore leg muscles, even the odd stitch, but I hurt.
My arms ached, my chest ached, my neck and back. I was sure I needed hospitalisation and an oxygen tank on wheels beside me. For certain, if I was a smoker, I’d be dead.
But like the trooper I was, or being forced to be by my own vanity, I struggled on behind Liam. The only pleasant aspect about this whole effing hike was the view right in front of me—Liam’s backside.
He had a good body, there was no argument about that, but his bum, clad in old, comfortable jeans, hit the jackpot
for me. I focused on his bum to stop thinking about the pain racking my body and my laboured breathing.

Hooked On You is set in London, The Lake District and Cornwall.
Available from Amazon USA and UK and also The Book Depository which has free delivery worldwide.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Bonfire Night

Hallowe'en's now over. Well, here in the UK the trick-or-treaters have certainly been around for a while, but not as long as Bonfire Night (Guy Fawkes Night) on November 5th.

In theory Bonfire Night celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot in 1606, an attempt to blow up Parliament. The lightning of fires at this season of the year, when autumn changes to winter, is much older than that, though, and goes back to Celtic fire-festivals such as Samhain and the midwinter festival in Shetland, Up Helly Aa.

We have our own private, family bonfires on November 5th, or go to a larger, communal blaze. There are always fireworks, as there are for the Indian community who celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali, which happens at roughly the same time of year (October 28th this year). Nervous pets need to be kept indoors for about a week before Nov 5th and a week after.

Once the fire is lit, the little children love dancing about with sparklers. The older ones lounge about trying to look cool lighting rockets and pin-wheels and waiting for the arrival of the food: baked potatoes with butter, pie and 'mushy' (marrowfat) peas, parkin and bonfire toffee to follow. Here's a recipe for parkin. It's easy to make and a traditional Yorkshire favourite where I live.

(Photo by Ali Graney sourced from Flickr.)


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Medieval cooking in schools

The BBC website has an interesting piece about a project bringing a taste of medieval diet to some schools in Yorkshire, history and health lessons all in one. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, the plan is to highlight the differences between medieval food - high in grains and vegetables for the poor, more meat and spices for the rich, and no snacking! - with the food we eat now.