Welcome to the Hot Autumn Nights Blog Hop.
So, what's my idea of a hot autumn night? Well, as a Brit now living in warmer climes, I get very nostalgic come autumn. For me it conjures up images of roaring log fires, the curtains closed against the nasty weather, a decent glass of wine close at hand and, naturally, a good book.
If I’m not reading someone else’s, I’m either busy writing one or dreaming up a plot for the next one. Plot ideas come in the strangest guises and at the most unexpected times. Take Compromising the Marquess for instance. It’s the first in a four book series published by Carina Press charting the fortunes of the Forster dynasty. The idea for it came to me when I was watching Prince William’s wedding. That got me thinking about his mother and how the paparazzi had hounded her to her death. That, in turn, got me thinking about the history of newspapers in England.
The Times started out as the Daily Universal Register in 1785. An underwriter at Lloyds incurred huge losses due to a hurricane in Jamaica and sought to recoup them through a typesetting process, producing advertising sheets to promote the venture. This, in time, led to the infamous scandal sheets that abounded in the Regency period, so loved by the ordinary people, and that could make or break reputations.
My heroine Leah supports herself and her sister by writing snippets of society gossip for one such publication. When she and Beth remove to the south coast for the benefit of Beth’s health, Leah’s opportunities are severely curtailed, until she meets the powerful and compelling Hal Forster, Marquess of Denby. She erroneously reports that he’s about to marry a local lady, thereby putting him in a compromising position. Worse, she suspects him of working against British interests. Disguised as a lad, she attends a bare knuckle fight held behind the local tavern, which is where she first meets Hal. He sees through her disguise immediately and this is how he talks to her:-
Hal felt a devilish desire to teach her a lesson. “Come inside, lads, and have some ale. It’s cold as the grave out here.”
“No, it’s all right,” she said. Hal shot the woman—Miss Elliott, was it?—an inquisitive glance. She looked away, apparently realizing that she’d spoken in her own voice. “We need to be getting back.” This time her words were a gravelly slur, partly because she’d pulled a muffler over her mouth, covering half her features with it, but leaving the row of freckles that bedecked her retroussé nose delightfully exposed. Hal hadn’t known that he held freckles in such high regard.
“Nonsense.” Hal clapped her on the back. She flinched but gamely stood her ground. “I wouldn’t hear of it.”
“Oh, very well then.”
The dog inserted itself between Hal and the woman as the three of them walked towards the tavern. It alternately growled and wagged, proving itself to be a most inept guardian.
Hal bent to scratch its ears. “What do you call the mutt?”
“Pickle,” said the lad. “He’s a stray.”
“He’s good at catching rats,” the girl said with the hint of a mischievous smile.
Ah, so she knew who he was. “I’ll bear that in mind if I ever find my home infested.”
They entered the tavern. It was packed but Hal managed to secure a small table in the corner and ordered tankards of ale for the three of them. They were plonked on the table by a barmaid whose bosom literally spilled out of her bodice as she leaned over Hal’s shoulder. She roared with laughter, adjusted her clothing and directed a cheeky wink at him. Ale slopped over the table, trickling onto the girl’s lap. Hal had to resist the urge to wipe it away.
Miss Elliott’s eyes almost popped out of her head as she looked round the place. It must have been obvious that there were many gentlemen present, congenially rubbing shoulders with the lower classes, all rank forgotten as they bonded over a sporting event. His brother Robert was leaning against the bar, deep in conversation with a crew member from Hal’s boat.
The few wenches in the place were rushed, quite literally, off their feet as men paid for their favours. Miss Elliott’s gaze was fixed on Sally, a regular at the Boar’s Head, who was all but giving herself to a bosun at the next table. Hal nodded at the bosun—his own bosun, as it happened. He took the hint, stood up and led Sally outside.
“Want a piece of Sally, do you, lad?”
“Er, no, of course not.” The girl shook her head. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Come on now, we’re all men of the world here and I saw you looking.” Hal was hard-pressed to keep his amusement in check. “I can arrange it, if you like, once she’s free. Shouldn’t be long.”
“Er, no thanks.”
“What’s your name, boy?”
“Leon. What’s yours?”
Hmm, clever. Flick had mentioned her name was Leah. “Henry,” he said truthfully. “Haven’t seen you around these parts before. Where do you work?”
“We’re…er, looking for work. This is my brother, Jonny.”
“What sort of work are you after?”
“Anything that pays.”
“Well, I might be able to help you there. Are you willing to go to sea?”
“No,” said Jonny.
“Yes,” said the girl.
Hal leaned back and flashed an amiable smile. “Well, which is it?”
“We have a few possibilities on land,” Miss Elliott said, appearing to recall that she had the welfare of an ailing sister to consider. “Besides, now that I think about it, I get seasick.”
“That’s unfortunate.” Hal lifted his tankard and hid a smile behind it. He was enjoying himself enormously, pitting his wits against the girl. She was quick on the uptake but no match for him. “You haven’t touched your ale, Leon. Something wrong with it?”
She picked up the tankard, took too long a draught and choked on it. Hal reached across and slapped her across her narrow shoulders.
“Sorry, did I hurt you?” Hal smiled at the chit. “A strong lad like you. Didn’t think you’d hurt so easily.”
“It’s nothing.” She hid her face behind her tankard, much as Hal had done earlier, presumably in the vain hope of disguising a fiery blush.
“We’d better be getting along, mi…I mean, Leon,” Jonny said, draining his tankard and standing up.
“Oh?” Hal raised one brow. “Do you have to be somewhere?”
“Well, er…there might be some work for us tomorrow and so we have to be up early to stand a chance of being taken on.”
Hal stood also, focusing his attention on Miss Elliott, who remained seated. He could vaguely detect the swell of her breasts, even though he suspected that she’d bound them before covering them with several layers of clothing. “Well, if you change your mind about the work at sea, you can always find me here.”
“What sort of work would it be?” she asked, ignoring Jonny when he tugged at her sleeve. Presumably he’d noticed more than one person glancing at her with speculative interest as soon as she stood up and displayed her appealing posterior. Hal should have anticipated that but he’d been having too much fun teasing her and, for once, had relaxed his guard.
“Oh, just general deckhand duties. You wouldn’t mind that so much, would you, Leon? Bunking down with a lot of other lads can be quite jolly.”
Miss Elliott swallowed, her blush deepening. “Well, I—”
“Not shy, are you? We’re all made the same way.” The extent of Hal’s desire to discover exactly how Miss Elliott was put together surprised him. That tempting derriere, those deliciously slender thighs, caused no end of inappropriate thoughts to tumble through his head. He didn’t need the distraction of inquisitive virgins to deflect him from his purpose.
Compromising the Marquess – A sparkling Regency in which a marquess finds his destiny in an impecunious siren with a beautiful voice and a scorching pen.
I' m giving a copy of Compromising the Marquess away. Just leave a comment, and your contact details, telling me what you most enjoy about Regency romances. Good luck!
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