Friday, 5 February 2016

The End of the Vikings?



To Dream of a Highlander takes place on the Isle of Bute, one of the western islands of Scotland in 1230—mid-siege.

The siege is not often written about. The tension between the powerful Norway—who held most of the western islands at the time—had only just started and culminated much later on in the infamous Battle of Largs. In history, this invasion could be considered a mere blip.

But for Walter Steward, the man who built the castle walls and took the island from the Norse originally as a steward of the king, this battle ended dreadfully for him. In defending the castle, he was struck by an arrow and killed.

What is now known as Rothesay castle replaced a wooden castle on the island. In around 1200, William the Lion seized the island from the Norse and Walter began erecting the castle. Alas his defences would prove inadequate when the time came.

King Hakon IV of Norway wanted to assert his rule in the isles and, accompanied by Uspak from the house of Somerled and Olaf of Man, set about hunting down those who were unfaithful for Hakon and the men of the king of Scots who sought power in the isles—such as Walter.

While this fleet spent time seeking out and killing these men, the climax of the expedition did not occur until a year later, in 1230, when they stormed the castle at Bute. It is said that the defenders poured boiling pitch (a substance obtained from tar) and molten led on the attackers but they used shields to protect themselves and cut down the walls. Walter was killed by an arrow and the castle was taken.

However, they could not hold the keep. Alan of Galloway responded by assembling a fleet and upon seeing them, the Norse extracted a ransom of three hundred silver marks and left. This was not the end for Bute. In 1263, Hakon travelled from island to island, demanding allegiance following the king of Scots, Alexander III’s raids of the Norse territory.

This culminated in the Battle of Largs. The Norse were pushed off the mainland but the battle was indecisive, with losses on either side and no clear victor. With the approach of Winter, Hakon vowed to seek revenge in the Spring. Fortunately for Alexander, Hakon never lived to see Spring. His son, Magnus, had little interest in continuing the fight and gave up the Herbrides and the Isle of Man to Scotland for four thousand marks in the Treaty of Perth. This was the beginning of the end of the Norse age.

If you'd like to read more about Vikings, check out my Viking novella ALREK and keep an eye out for Heart of a Viking which is coming late this month. Subscribe to my Amazon page for updates.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Sneak Peek! Sinful Possession

The 5th book of the Cynfell Brothers series releases on the 25th so I'm sharing the first chapter of Ash Cynfell's story. Ash is one of the twins and his dashing brother, Harris, also features in his story quite a bit. Ash is a bit unlike the other brothers--very brooding and a bit of a recluse. Can the vibrant Lila Radley change that? Pre-order your copy for only 99c to find out!



Chapter One

London, 1899
Ash Cynfell cracked open an eye. He closed it again at the sight that greeted him. The sense of being watched failed to dissipate so he forced that eye open once more and peered at his reflection.
No, not his reflection. His twin brother.
“What the devil are you doing here?” he grumbled, hearing the gritty tone to his voice. He closed both eyes and concentrated working through the fog that had crowded his mind several hours ago and left him lethargic and almost unable to move from his bed.
“Drinking again, brother?” Harris asked. “On today of all days.”
Ash did not deny it. He worked hard to open both eyes and stare down his brother as he leant over him. While they were identical, Harris didn’t suffer the affliction of red-rimmed eyes or creases on his forehead, as Ash knew he’d currently have if he braved a look in a mirror.
“What do you want?”
“Well, that’s charming.” Harris strode over to the chair in the corner of the bedroom, sat, and lifted yesterday’s newspaper that had been abandoned when his vision had grown too blurry to read it. His brother crossed one leg over the other and flicked the paper open.
Ash clenched his jaw and lifted his gaze to the ornate ceiling of his townhouse bedroom. He took a few breaths and counted to ten. As close as they were, he loathed how Harris had to make such a display about everything. Nothing was ever easy with his brother. Everything had to be dramatic and over-the-top.
“Goddamn it, Harris, piss off and leave me to sleep.”
“It’s seven o’clock.” Harris lowered the paper. “In the evening.”
“And I like my bed.” He resisted the urge to pull the covers and sulk under them much like when they were children.
“You would like it a lot more if you actually got out of it and went in search of company. Honestly, Ash, I’m beginning to have concerns about you. Are you sure you’re my brother? When was the last time you kissed a woman, let alone bedded her?”
He didn’t want to consider it, but he found himself doing so. A year? No, two. It wasn’t that he didn’t have healthy male desires. It was simply that finding a woman took effort. With these constant headaches attacking him, he hardly had the energy.
Not to mention, he did not want to let someone close enough to find out about them.
“I get enough women,” he ground out.
His brother put the paper onto the small table next to the chair and stood. He pushed a hand through dark hair and straightened his waistcoat. Being identical twins had brought them plenty of entertainment as boys and even as young men, but it also brought its annoyances. They had the uncanny ability to purchase the same clothing or pick out the same fabrics at the tailors. Looking exactly like one another grew old and the constant comments, frustrating. The attention from women had been interesting once but no longer—not since the headaches started getting worse.
Harris gave him a disbelieving look but said no more. “Today of all days to drink yourself to sleep...”
Ash forced himself upright, swung his legs over the bed and crossed his arms over his rumpled clothing. This morning he’d been dressed and ready to have a productive day until his vision had begun to blur, a great swathe of dots dancing in front of it. He’d taken immediately to his bed with the knowledge of what was to come.
An agonising pain and a lethargy that barely let him put one foot in front of the other.
He wouldn’t correct his brother. The assumption was always he’d been drinking or that he was too lazy to get out of bed. His family had been assuming that ever since the headaches started when he was a lad. Not the drinking part of course, but he was grateful when he could start legitimately indulging in a tipple to have an excuse for wasting hours and hours in bed.
Far better that than the alternative.
“Since when do my drinking habits concern you?”
“Since you challenged Fred Westerling to a duel and you need a steady hand.”
Ash swung a surprised glance at the clock as if that could somehow tell him the day. But it told him his brother had been right and it was now past seven o’clock. Past the time he was meant to be meeting that damn fool for pistols at...well...dusk.
“Damn it all.” He pushed up from the bed and tried to hide his wince.
His brother shot him a concerned look, and Ash shied away from it. He didn’t want sympathy. The very thought made his gut curdle. He was a man—a strong, fit and healthy one by all accounts. It was just his head that was wrong, somehow.
But it mattered not. Men did not take to their bed like delicate ladies because of a mere headache.  He still recalled his mother saying as much when he’d first begun suffering this affliction. Her sharp voice practically grated his memory, and he resisted the desire to wince once again.
“Do you think he will still be there?” They’d planned to meet on the small green behind Westerling’s house. Harris was to be his second.
“You’d better hope not. In the state you’re in, you’ll never be able to shoot straight.”
“I could be dead and still shoot Westerling.” The man was a terrible shot, no matter how much he bragged.
“Shoot him, yes, but in your condition you’ll miss your mark.” Harris handed over the necktie Ash had been scanning the room for. “I know you have no intention of killing the man.”
“A little nick to the arm will give him a fright enough.”
His brother peered at him. “I am afraid, brother, no man would look at you and think you could shoot straight at present. I do not really want to have to start telling people my twin brother is a murderer.”
“You won’t have to,” he snapped. As long as his vision did not cloud again—which it should not as the headaches never struck him twice in one day—he’d be able to give Westerling a scare and come away unscathed.
“Is a lady really worth prison time over?”
“Of course.”
Ash could not quite remember which lady it was he’d caught Westerling forcing himself upon. The man had a habit of being ungentlemanly and that had been the last straw for him. No woman should have to tolerate such behaviour, and the poor lady had blamed herself for allowing herself to be near him, such was the man’s reputation. No more, Ash had vowed, and thus he had challenged the blackguard.
“I imagine you have no plans on bedding her either.”
“None at all.” He finished tying his necktie in a messy knot. He kept no valet and minimal staff. It was easier to keep his affliction quiet that way. Did it matter if it meant he never looked quite as turned out as his brother? He didn’t think so.
“Now I’m convinced. You cannot be a Cynfell.”
“If I’m not a Cynfell, then neither are you,” Ash snapped back. He saw the teasing glint in his brother’s eyes and rolled his own. “Come, let us get this debacle over with. If the man is still even there. He must know he hadn’t a hope in hell of shooting me in the near dark.”
Ash finished tidying up his appearance and retrieved his pistol. They took Harris’ carriage to Green Park, and he ordered the driver to wait. He wasn’t sure his brother had any confidence in his ability to shoot at all and half-expected him to need a quick trip to the doctor.
He narrowed his gaze at the dark shadows of the trees. Lamps lit the streets and the night was a silvery colour but he saw no sign of Westerling.
“He’s given up!” Harris declared.
The park was empty—one of the reasons they’d chosen to duel in the evening rather than the traditional morning. It was unlikely anyone would create a fuss about them duelling, but he wasn’t a fan of having his illegal behaviour in the gossip rags. Let him leave the column inches to his other brothers.
He smirked. Who were steadily becoming less newsworthy than even himself, which was saying something. Four of his brothers were busy playing doting husbands, and three were now fathers. Only Pierce and his countess hadn’t opted for extending the Cynfell pack. With his wife already having a fully grown child, he could not quiet blame them.
 A pang of guilt struck him when he thought of his nieces and nephews. He hadn’t even met Viola and Julian’s most recent baby. Not that they expected him to visit, given his reputation, but he had to be about the worst uncle in the world.
“Wait.” Harris drew his attention to the park.
A movement. “Is that him?” They moved toward the shadowy figure. It was Westerling. The fellow seemed to stagger, stop...then he collapsed.
“What in the devil?” Ash hastened forward and came to the man’s side. Something damp met his fingertips and a rasping breath told him all was not well.
“Damn you, Cynfell,” Westerling rasped. “He killed me.”
“Who killed you?” Harris glanced around but saw no one.
Only a bubbling sound and the thump of Westerling’s hands falling to the side answered him.
“Ash, we need to get a doctor.”
“Too damned late for that by the looks of it,” his brother muttered but sprinted off toward the houses.
His eyes adjusted to the dim light of the park, and he saw the dark stain of blood on Westerling’s clothes. Whoever had hurt him had done so with the intention of killing him.
He stiffened at the sound of crunching leaves. Taking a glance around, he saw no movement but then...his heart bounded into his chest. A woman’s scream. Without thought, he was on his feet and racing toward the source of the noise. Another scream. It pierced his insides. This was a scream of terror.
He spilled out of the park and paused. Not far from Spencer House, he spied the woman. A man had her pinned against the brick wall of the building next to the mansion, and Ash caught the glint of a knife as the golden glow of lamps bounced off it. He barely recalled covering the distance between them or barrelling into the attacker. The sting of his knuckles told him he’d struck the man and the cry in his ear announced the safety of the victim. The man kicked out, knocking him in the gut and forcing the air from his lungs. Whoever he was, he easily matched him. Ash didn’t even manage to catch a glimpse of his features before he wriggled away and ran.
The crying woman prevented him from giving chase. He turned his attention back to her and stilled. She wore an emerald green evening gown, cut low across her shoulders and breasts. Several scratches marred the pale skin there. Diamonds glinted on her neck and wrists, and they shimmered with her trembling movements.
Really, he should have chased the criminal, but how could he abandon her?
“You’re safe now,” he announced.
She lifted an unsteady hand to her mouth, and he admired the slender fingers beneath white gloves. Her red-rimmed gaze met his. In spite of the tears and the clear horror in her gaze, Ash couldn’t fail to notice how beautiful they were. Vibrant green, slightly slanted, with dark lashes that few fair-haired women were blessed with. They screamed innocent and wholesome yet were utterly alluring.
And her hair. It had fallen from whatever intricate style it had been in and skimmed over her shoulders. One golden curl nearly reached her waist. He longed to finger it.
“I-I saw him.”
He offered an awkward hand, pressing it to her bare arm. Cold skin met his fingertips, and he quickly undid his jacket and slung it over her shoulders. She leaned into him slightly as he did so, making his heart expand.
Ash bit back a groan. There had always been something that appealed to him about a woman in need. He’d dreamed of being a hero in his younger years until the headaches had taken hold. Maybe he would have captained a ship or gone exploring. Something bold and courageous, and he’d return home and the ladies would adore him. Perhaps he would save a woman or two in his travels. He’d never been able to resist the little girls on his father’s estate wanting his help to catch a frog or climb a tree, and that hadn’t changed in his adulthood.
Ash kept his arm around the woman. “What is your name?”
“Miss L-Lila Radley.”
“Ash Cynfell.” He never bothered to use the courtesy title that came with being one of the many sons of a marquess. “No harm will come to you.”
She looked up at him, those wide eyes seeming to burrow deep down inside him. “I saw that man kill the other man.”
A sinking sensation struck his gut. Poor woman. Not only had she been nearly killed, she’d seen what looked to be a murder happen in front of her. He was tempted to ask her why she was out alone, but he didn’t wish to make her feel any worse.
Several people began to spill out of Spencer House. Whoever was renting it at present must have been hosting a party. He noted his brother with a man in tow, heading toward Westerling’s body.
“Were you attending the party here?”
Miss Radley nodded.
“Let us find someone to take care of you.”
She drew in a long sniffle and nodded again, holding his jacket tight around her. It would smell of her perfume later. His gut clenched.
“Thank you for your help—”
He didn’t get to speak to her again. A hustle of people washed down the steps from Spencer House, all decked in their finery. He gathered they were her family and friends as they surrounded her, forcing him back. His brother tapped his arm, but he kept his attention on the beautiful woman. Her gaze clung to his.
“I found a bobby,” Harris murmured. “Ash.”
His brother’s serious tone brought his attention back to him, and he tore his gaze from Lila. “Yes?”
“This was not some random attack. Well, perhaps it was. Not premeditated as they say. But the fiend who did it...a serial killer.”
The news punched him like a fist to the gut. “There’s been nothing in the papers.”
“The police did not want to cause a panic, but from what I overheard, this type of attack—at this time of day on a lone man, by knife—is becoming a weekly occurrence.”
“Lord Almighty,” he breathed. “It could just be a similar attack though, surely?”
Harris lifted a shoulder. “The doctor said it was the same.” He offered a tilted but grim smile. “Not a lot of fun watching him poke around Westerling’s body but who knows how much they will tell us?”
“You always were a sneaky bastard.”
Harris flashed a half-hearted smile. “Hey, if you are determined to get yourself involved in a murder, I have to look out for you. After all, if something happened to you, I would no longer be known as the handsome twin.”
“Handsome, my arse. We’re identical.”
“Very well, the charming one then.”
He had to give him that one. Harris was by far the more charming of them both. Ash let out a long, low curse. He should have been here. Damned headache. Westerling was an ass and a blackguard but to be murdered? Ash supposed the women he’d attacked would not feel any remorse. He glanced toward Lila.
She had not deserved to witness as much, however. This was his fault.
“You realise you could be in danger.”
Ash snorted. “How so?”
“You saw the killer.”
“I saw very little before receiving a punch to the gut.”
“Too busy admiring the beautiful debutante eh?”
He turned his full attention on his brother. “Pardon?”
Harris chuckled, but his expression grew serious. A strange look for his brother indeed. “She could be in danger too.”
This caught his attention fully. “Because she saw the murderer.”
“She’s a witness.”
“Yes.” Ash pushed a hand through his hair. Bloody Goddamn headaches. Why could he not have ignored it and simply arrived on time? None of this would have happened.
He should warn her. If the police were trying to keep the murder quiet, who knew if they’d even tell her? Ignoring his brother, he marched after the crowd of people as they ushered Lila back into the house. Because she was surrounded by what looked to be hundreds of worried relatives, he hung back to wait for his chance.
Lila mustered a brave smile. It didn’t matter that now was not the time nor the place. His gaze skimmed her décolletage as she leant in and spoke with someone. Those golden curls spilling over creamy skin only intrigued him further. No doubt she was receiving so much attention because of her looks, but it was the bold tilt of her chin and the brave set of her shoulder that drew him completely in. He’d have expected most women to have fallen into a swoon by now.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

New Release: Sinful Liaisons #99c


Only 99c/99p

BUY ON

Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. The Cynfell brothers are the very embodiment of a sinful existence. But could the right woman change that? 

Greed 

It’s not every day a duchess comes across a naked man on the roadside. It’s not every day a duchess takes said naked man home with her. But Evelyn Chesworth can hardly leave the poor man in nought but his skin on the dangerous road to London. Particularly when he’s so attractive... 

Lord Pierce Cynfell is in a world of trouble. With his brother threatening to cut him off and his gambling debts increasing, his beautiful rescuer couldn’t have come at a better time. He can’t help but be attracted to the worldly, mature woman. 

So he certainly isn’t going to say no when she offers to write off his debts in return for one thing—his body. 

However, it soon becomes clear more than his body is becoming involved. While everyone else might think he’s only there for the money, the beautiful widow slowly draws him deeper until he wants to unlock every secret buried beneath those tight corsets. 

Evelyn might let Pierce beneath her corsets but she’s determined it will be no more than that. She has loved and lost twice in her life and won’t let that happen again. Meanwhile, she has too many other things to worry about—like the preservation of her son’s land. 

When Pierce begins to show himself as more than a skilled lover, Evelyn has a choice—let herself be vulnerable again or send away the man who lights a fire in her body, heart and soul. 


Friday, 10 July 2015

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Sinful Liaisons

Sinful Liaisons Cover Reveal
Book 3 of the Cynfell Brothers Series


Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. The Cynfell brothers are the very embodiment of a sinful existence. But could the right woman change that?

Greed
It’s not every day a duchess comes across a naked man on the roadside. It’s not every day a duchess takes said naked man home with her. But Evelyn Chesworth can hardly leave the poor man in nought but his skin on the dangerous road to London. Particularly when he’s so attractive...

Lord Pierce Cynfell is in a world of trouble. With his brother threatening to cut him off and his gambling debts increasing, his beautiful rescuer couldn’t have come at a better time. He can’t help but be attracted to the worldly, mature woman.

So he certainly isn’t going to say no when she offers to write off his debts in return for one thing—his body.

However, it soon becomes clear more than his body is becoming involved. While everyone else might think he’s only there for the money, the beautiful widow slowly draws him deeper until he wants to unlock every secret buried beneath those tight corsets.

Evelyn might let Pierce beneath her corsets but she’s determined it will be no more than that. She has loved and lost twice in her life and won’t let that happen again. Meanwhile, she has too many other things to worry about—like the preservation of her son’s land.

When Pierce begins to show himself as more than a skilled lover, Evelyn has a choice—let herself be vulnerable again or send away the man who lights a fire in her body, heart and soul.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Monday, 6 July 2015

Excerpt: Knight's Captive



Torbay, England 1588

The acrid scent of gunpowder mingled with that of sweat and vomit. It was no worse than on his own ship, the Swallow, but the bitter tang of defeat hung about the air. After a long and tiresome battle, men on both sides were weary, hungry and demoralised. However, Henry’s men were revived by the capture of the Rosario. The Spanish, not so much.
 Their loss etched their faces into deep grooves. The English had taken the ship without firing a shot. Drake had levelled a canon at the floundering galleon and they’d surrendered. Henry couldn’t imagine conceding so easily. A fight to the death seemed preferable to him.
He motioned to Will. “Lieutenant, escort these men to the deck. We’ll begin unloading them. The Old Barn will be used to hold them whilst we make negotiations.”
“Aye, Captain.”
Henry eyed the remaining Spanish men as they huddled in the gloom of the hull. The officers and the captain remained tall and proud but the rest were a sorry lot. Likely pushed to fight for a cause they didn’t understand, he concluded. Most would be illiterate, God-fearing people. He’d heard tell that the Spanish had believed their invasion of England and disposal of the heretic queen would be easy enough. He imagined many of these men lacked the ability to imagine anything other than victory.
And now he was in charge of their defeat.
While the other ships chased off the rest of the Spanish, Henry would see to it that these prisoners of war were kept secure until their return had been agreed.
He clasped his hands behind his back. He didn’t expect trouble from many of them and, if he kept them fed and warm, he doubted they’d even consider rising up against him, but he would not give them the chance to. He’d already proved himself in battle and this was his opportunity to regain his family’s honour for good. If he could bring in a decent sum for these men and conduct himself well, all thoughts of his uncle’s treachery would be forgotten.
Shuffling footsteps and the creak of wood accompanied the barked orders as the men were escorted up onto the deck. The commander, de Valdés, drew Henry’s attention as he tugged one of his lieutenants aside. He narrowed his gaze at the man and the young boy while they made a harried exchange in Spanish.
No!” the boy exclaimed, wrenching himself away from the commander.
Henry strode over. “Is there a problem?” He tried to catch a glimpse of the boy but the shadows hid his features under a hat.
No, Captain. But, por favour, you must show la clemencia to my—”
Papa, no.”
Turning his full attention to the boy, Henry shook his head. He reached out and snatched the hat from his head in one swift movement. A startled, feminine cry rang in his ears. A woman. She shied away, refusing to meet his gaze. When he thrust her hat back at her, she jerked and her father put a protective arm around her.
“I will not harm you,” Henry assured. “I will not harm her,” he repeated to de Valdés.
Henry skimmed his gaze over the woman and tried to ignore the pang of something uncomfortable jabbing him in the back of his mind. Something that said she was remarkably beautiful for a woman who had been living on a ship for so long and was wearing men’s clothing. Her shirt and breeches flattered a slender figure, but now that he was close, he didn’t know how he’d missed those breasts pressing against the linen under an open doublet. There was no way any other man would have mistaken her either so he had to assume the commander had brought his daughter on board willingly.
What sort of a man brought his daughter to war with him?
Her dark gaze finally connected with his. Framed by long lashes, the same inky black as her hair that was currently tied back by a strip of fabric, they seemed to reach down inside him and make his knees ready to buckle. He, who had faced down the invasion of England by the Spanish. He, who could not claim to have felt anything other than the thrill of impending victory as he stood on the deck of the Swallow. A mere woman threatened to bring him to his knees.
He cleared his throat. What to do with her? He couldn’t very well put her in with the other prisoners. Even with the protection of her father, he could not be sure she would be safe. Not to mention the thought of this wary-eyed woman in the dank confines of the barn surviving on whatever limited supplies they could give them made his stomach churn. Damnation.
“What is your name?”
Her eyes widened further. In the gloom, the whiteness around her dark pupils seemed pronounced. They created a vision of innocence against her dusky skin and raven hair. She gathered her hands together and he saw her body stiffen, as if she was readying herself to run. He felt a little as if he was trying to sneak up on a boar, and the instinct to pounce struck. However, he kept his hands clasped behind his back and tried to make himself appear small. Not really a possibility with his stature, but he could at least try.
¿Qué es su nombre?” he tried again.
Her long throat worked. “Antonia,” she replied so quietly he had to lean in to hear her. “My name is Antonia.”
In spite of the volume, her husky voice washed over him. He made his decision there. He couldn’t let this woman rot in the old barn. He might regret this but... “Sir, I shall be taking your daughter into custody and putting her under house arrest,” he informed her father. “She shall be under my protection.”
The man nodded with satisfaction. Clearly he didn’t want her locked up with three hundred men either. However, Antonia gripped his arm. “Papa, no.”
“I trust you are a man of honour? You shall protect my daughter, no?”
Henry nodded solemnly. Honour? Honour was what made him rise every morning. He lived, breathed and ate it. Without honour, a man was nothing and he knew too well what it was like to lose it. His uncle’s heresy had ensured that he had spent too long without it.
“I swear it.”
De Valdés murmured some words to his daughter—words he couldn’t catch—and urged her forward with a push. Tears shimmered in her dark gaze before she lowered her lashes. Henry motioned for her to go ahead of him but she remained frozen. He went to place a hand to her back, and she flinched.
Damn, the woman was terrified. He shook his head. No wonder. She had no place in the middle of war.
“Antonia, you shall be safe,” he said softly.
She barely lifted her gaze to meet his before nodding and shuffling forward. He followed her up and tried not to watch her movements. How he hadn’t realised she was a woman sooner, he knew not. She moved with delicate grace, her hips swaying slightly as though used to wearing wide gowns. Though slender, there would be no mistaking her for a boy. He could only blame his preoccupation with ensuring the movement of their prisoners ran smoothly.
A breeze blew over him as they came up onto the deck. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and he paused to peer down the stairs. As he did so, a bang ricocheted through the air. His ears rang with the echo. He gripped the railing and a jolt seemed to ripple through the ship. Beneath him, the vessel rose up and then sagged. His prisoner stumbled and fell back into him. If he hadn’t been holding onto the ship, they both would have tumbled down the steps.

“Damnation.” He’d recognised the sound all too well. A gunpowder blast. And it sounded as though it had come from deep in the hull. Somehow, someone had lit some gunpowder. Perhaps they were trying to prevent the galleon from being captured.


Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Dear Amazon...

Dear Amazon,
I love you. I always have done. You provided me with a chance to have my dream career. You provide great customer service and an easy to use platform. But with the introduction of new rules around Kindle Unlimited, you are failing authors and readers alike. I believe you're an innovative company. I think you want to break new ground and have done a great job of it. But now you are trampling on those who have made you a great deal of money.

I've made you a lot of money over my career. I'm not a huge name but I've done very well for myself and even better for you. I've rolled with the occasional punch you've thrown (your inability to remove troll reviewers and come up with a decent refund system that means immoral readers don't steal from me with ridiculous ease) and I've learned to play your game. I was one satisfied customer and author.

Authors have often suffered. Pirated books and complaints of 0.99c is too much to pay (yes, seriously) are just some of the things we have to deal with. There are few other careers where you can spend years on something and then have complaints that a price higher than a cup of coffee is too much. But that's not your fault, Amazon, and we take these things on the chin. At the end of the day, publishers and authors have been able to charge what they want for a book--what they believe it's worth.

Until now. Now you want to pay those in Kindle Unlimited per page read. The figures you gave are incomprehensible to even the smartest of minds and totally unpredictable seeing as your 'fund' changes each month. So now if we put a book into this system, we take a gamble. For years worth of work, we might only earn pennies. Before, we generally had a very solid idea of how much a borrow could earn. How is it ok for an author to earn for only 3 pages read when you borrow a film at a flat rate? When you don't pay per second listened to on a song?


You listened to, I suspect, a few big names who were terrified when Kindle Unlimited came in. They don't like change and a lot of big names were extremely happy with their high earnings and didn't want that to change. I didn't want that to change either. I believe they worked hard to get there. But then so did all the mid-listers like myself. KU gave me the opportunity to reach new readers. With its help I reached spots I never thought I would reach and earned you a ton more money. Like thousands of others mid-listers, we adapted to your new borrowing scheme and together made it a success. Avid readers enjoyed the scheme and the ability to meet new authors, while those who weren't interested simply continued as usual.


Now you are expecting us to roll with the punches again and tolerate this treatment. I'm a single mum and this is my sole wage. I know I'm not alone in this and I'm aware I'm lucky to be able to support my family with writing but believe me it is not without blood, sweat and tears from all of my family that I am able to do so. These changes are unpredictable enough for me to lose my trust in Amazon. I no longer believe they want the best for their authors or that they understand we are at the centre of their success.


So what happens next, Amazon? When authors pull out (yes, it's happening already) of KU and readers can no longer find such a great variety? What happens when readers can no longer find novellas on KU because they won't earn enough by borrows? Speak to my readers and you will find these claims that 'everyone wants longer books' are not true. A 'real book' isn't based on length, genre, price or anything like that. Readers want variety. What appeals to one, won't appeal to others. My novellas, interestingly, always sell better, but am I going to be forced to take them away from people who have paid for a 6 month or year long subscription to KU? This, Amazon, is where you will be failing your customers.


I hope you will listen to this. I don't want readers to stop using Amazon. I actually feel more failed by other platforms who have failed to make a usable, author and reader-friendly service and who don't seem to have a full grasp of how to push forward. But, Amazon, for once, you are not pushing forward. This is a huge step backward. I have a vague hope you might pay attention to this smaller voice but perhaps not. I'll still have your back but you won't have my trust anymore.


Yours not-so-faithfully anymore,

Samantha

Monday, 27 April 2015

First Chapter Sneak Peek: Sinful Deeds

Coming May 5th


Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. The Cynfell Brothers are the very embodiment of a sinful existence. But could the right woman change that?
                   
      Envy

Being the mistress of one of the most notorious rakes in London was never going to be easy, but Josephine believed she was strong enough. After all, she loved Dante Cynfell to distraction. He provided her with a comfortable home and all the art supplies she could ever need. After a short marriage that left her near destitute, the widow couldn’t help but fall into his arms...and his bed.
But after four years of tolerating his drunken behaviour and late night calls, Josephine has had enough. Her paintings have caught the eye of a great patron of the arts. With promises of fame and fortune ringing in her ears, she realises being a mistress simply will not satisfy her anymore. She wants true love, marriage, and respectability.
When Josephine ends their arrangement, Dante is shocked. She had a comfortable home, his adoration...hell, even his faithfulness. What more could a beautiful woman want?
Marriage? Well, that’s one thing Dante Cynfell doesn’t plan to offer any woman—not even Josephine. He’s witnessed too many miserable marriages. Why put the person you care about through such misery?
Positive he can win her back, he sets out to remind her how good they are together. One thing is for sure, Dante will not give her up easily—especially to another man. Josephine is about to learn that an envious Cynfell man is not to be trifled with.
Chapter One
Dante Cynfell had received many slaps across the face. Too many to count really. But none had stung quite as this one had. He put a hand to his cheek and felt the heat where her palm had connected with his skin. How did this tiny woman create such a sting? He stared at her and noted she looked just as shocked.
Josephine had never struck out at him. Ever. She turned her delicate hand over and looked at the palm. He knew she was thinking the same. If there was ever a gentler woman than Josephine, he’d never met her.
He drew in a breath and tried to clear the haze of alcohol from his head. It was well past midnight and he’d been drinking since early afternoon. What exactly had he done wrong? He hadn’t said anything foolish...at least he didn’t think so. Josephine had been asleep, dressed in some sensual slip of a gown when he had come in—practically an invitation to wake her and strip it from her. So that couldn’t have been it.
Her breasts rose and fell beneath that cherry red gown, and splotches of similar colour began to reveal themselves on her cheeks. He glanced at the candle sputtering in protest of having been lit so long and took a moment to light a few lamps. Maybe that would give her a chance to gather herself.
“Don’t turn your back on me, Dante Cynfell,” she commanded.
“We cannot very well argue in the dark, now can we?” he drawled.
He circulated the room and turned up the lamps until a decent glow revealed the true extent of the redness in her cheeks. His mistress was furious with him.
But why?
Dante came back to stand in front of her and folded his arms across his chest. “Now what exactly did I do to deserve that?”
Josephine curled the hand she had used to slap him. “I didn’t mean to do that,” she said softly, “but you startled me.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve snuck into your bed.” By a long reach.
For four years, he’d been slipping into the beautiful Josephine’s bed. She had caught his eye shortly after the death of her husband, and he’d wasted no time in wooing her. Josephine had come easily too, as women always did.
“I warned you about coming in late.” She put her hands to her hips. “I keep warning you.”
“I suppose you want me to come in at nine o’ clock and tuck you in? How exciting,” he said dryly.
“Is that all you think about? Excitement? Dante,” she released a long and heavy sigh, “I have never asked for much from you, but I had asked you to be here before it was too late. I’ve been waiting for you all evening. I had wanted to...to...”
Tears shimmered in her eyes, and tension coiled in his belly. He’d always counted himself lucky to have Josephine as a mistress. She was beautiful, kind, caring and clever. His friends and society liked her too. She never spoke of their arrangement and no one cared much about it thanks to her status as a widow. She behaved with perfect decorum making it very easy to keep her as a mistress.
And, of course, he had a warm, willing partner visit whenever he wanted. As far as he knew, she’d been quite happy with their arrangement. He provided her with warmth, food and shelter, and she gave him her body and her lovely company in return.
Never before had she cried in front of him.
He reached out and snapped his hand back when she shied away from him. She slumped onto the bed, her skirts spreading out across the decadent pale green bedding. Did she want more presents? More jewellery perhaps? Had he not made her feel treasured enough?
Dante glanced around the bedroom of her townhouse that he rented for her and scowled. She had everything. A room for her little hobby, more jewels than the queen, the latest furnishings. The whole house had been decorated to her tastes. While he wouldn’t have minded turning her bedroom into a room specifically for making love with touches of red and gold, she had gone for a pale green theme with cream painted furnishings and wallpaper with little birds on.
Birds did not equal sensuality to his mind. But never mind that. It was her choice, was his point. Everything about their arrangement had been decided by her. He simply turned up as and when he wanted her company. What more did she want from him?
“Jo-Jo, will you tell me exactly why my cheek is stinging like the devil and you look like a child who has just dropped her ice cream?”
“A child?”
She lifted her gaze to his. God, how those hazel eyes never failed to sear him to the core. Even now he wanted her.
“Are you saying I’m petulant?”
That was a trick. He wasn’t that daft. Anything he said would be wrong right now. Perhaps actions would be better than words. Sinking down on the bed beside her, he took her hand and lifted her fingers to his lips. He kissed one delicate finger, then the next, and the next. Her breaths quickened audibly, and he couldn’t help smile against her skin. It had always been like this between them. Even after four years, his desire for her had not run dry. As soon as he had spied her at one of the London balls, he’d needed her.
“Jo-Jo, what is wrong?” He eased closer and swept her long golden hair behind one shoulder so he could reach her neck. She smelled of roses—his favourite fragrance. He inhaled and laid his lips gently to her neck. “Jo-Jo, sweet Jo-Jo...” He kissed a trail up and down her neck before teasing her lobe. Dante couldn’t resist. Hand to her waist, he curved it around her and pulled her tight to him while hot desire burned through him.
Josephine gave into him though she refused to touch him or even turn her head toward him. She let him kiss her neck, sank ever so slightly into him. Her body responded to him as it always did. He glanced down to see nipples tight against the silk fabric. He knew she wasn’t wearing a corset from the feel of her ribs contracting against his palm, but the sight of those hard nubs begging for his touch made him inhale a sharp breath. Tiny tremors ran through her form, and she released a faint moan. He nibbled her lobe and blew into it, feeling a strong shudder from her in response.
He moved his hand up and cupped a breast. “Jo-Jo, I need you,” he murmured. “So badly.”
“Oh, Dante...”
“I always need you. I’ll not be late again, I promise.”
She stiffened. Then her fingers curled around his wrist. He waited for her to direct his hand down but no...She thrust his hand away and tore herself from him.
Josephine stood, her luxurious cherry gown shimmering around her in falls of silk. He gritted his teeth and tried not to give into the impulse to tear the thing from her. She had never been one for games and he appreciated that about her. Was she trying to send him mad with want?
“No...” Her chin trembled. “No more lies. You always make that promise and still you are late. I spend hours in my finest clothes, waiting for you, only for you to come in and wake me up in the early hours. I cannot function like this anymore, Dante. I simply can’t do it.”
He shoved a hand through his hair. He knew she’d been cross with him the past few times he was late, but she knew well enough he was terrible at keeping track of time. And once one drink became another and another...Well, time became irrelevant.
“You never used to have a problem with it,” he said bitterly. Being scolded by his mistress didn’t much appeal right now, particularly now the warm haze of alcohol was being replaced by a pounding ache in his head and a dry tongue.
“You’re right.” She nodded and began to pace. Back and forth past him. Back and forth. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her so agitated. She paused and eyed him. “I love you, Dante. I really do. And...” A tiny sob spilled from her lips before she straightened her shoulders. “I cannot do this anymore. I don’t have the power to change you, nor the will. You are who you are, and I do love you.”
Love. Did she have to keep saying that? He knew Josephine loved him. She said it often enough. He even appreciated it but had never quite known how to respond. Usually it was with I adore you or You are the most divine creature on earth. None of those would work right now. In fact, he was thoroughly lost. Women seldom baffled him, particularly not the honest and sweet Josephine. He half-hoped he’d drunk something awful and this was all a nightmare.
“I don’t wish to be your mistress anymore.”
The words were so quiet, he had to stare at her for several moments to let them absorb. When they did, he swore she could have knocked him over with a feather. His Josephine...ending things with him? No, it wasn’t possible.
“No.”
“Yes,” she said just as softly. “I have had some wonderful times with you, but I don’t wish to be a mistress anymore. The late nights, the drunken behaviour...even the occasional spiteful remark from others.”
“What spiteful remarks? By God, if I find out...”
She waved a hand. “There will always be spiteful remarks. You are an eligible man, and I am in the way of many women hoping for a dalliance or more with you.”
He snorted. “They should be wise enough to realise that you’re not in the way. I’ll never marry.”
Josephine gave him a sad look. “I know you won’t.”
Thrusting both hands into his hair, he propped his elbows on his knees and stared at his lap. He needed a moment to absorb this. Josephine had always been there for him. He could drop by at a moment’s notice and be guaranteed a warm welcome. They talked, laughed, and made love. To him, things could not get any more perfect. In truth, he’d envisioned keeping her as his mistress forever.
And why not? Society couldn’t care two figs about what a widow got up to as long as she didn’t flash it about, and his allowance from his brother was enough to keep her in luxury. Once he had his father’s townhouse, he’d have everything a man could ever want. He certainly couldn’t imagine another woman taking her place.
So why was that not enough for her?
“Do you want more money? A bigger house?”
She pressed her lips together and shook her head.
“More presents?”
“No.”
“I’ll visit you more frequently then. I thought you liked the time to yourself to paint.”
“No, Dante.” Her tone held such a solemn note that his heart twisted.
“Then what? What do you want?”
“Everything you cannot give me.” She drew a handkerchief from the drawer of her dresser and dabbed under her eyes. “I want love, marriage...a man who won’t leave me waiting for hours on end in the vague hope he might want to see me. A man who wants more than my body.”
“More than your body? You know full well I don’t just want you for your body.”
She tilted her head. “Do I?”
“Of course you damn well do. Bloody hell, I’ve been faithful to you for four years. I’ve listened to your every word and helped you when you were sick. I thought we were friends, not just lovers.”
“Do not quote faithfulness as something to which I should owe you my thanks. I would not have agreed to this had I thought you’d be bedding other women. And yes, we are friends. I hope we can remain friends. But it’s not enough for me anymore. I-I’m unhappy.”
That word stabbed him like a knife to the gut. He’d always thought she was content with their arrangement. Josephine had always been like a light to him. Always happy, always smiling. No matter what his day had brought him, he could count on her to greet him with a smile.
“What will you do without me? You have no money.”
“I can manage.”
“I won’t see you begging on the streets.”
“I won’t have to.”
She took a step forwards and laid a hand across his arm. It was his turn to brush it away. How dare she throw everything they had away? Yes, it might not be marriage and declarations of undying love, but it was affection, devotion, and passion. How many other married couples could claim to have as much?
None, in his opinion.
He stood. This was merely some silly feminine outburst. Perhaps her courses were due and she was suffering from melancholy. He would leave her a week and return after. Then she’d be back to her usual sweet self.
“Clearly, I am not welcome tonight.” He snatched his hat from where he’d flung it aside and it had skidded across the little sewing table. After ramming it onto his head, he tore open her bedroom door and gave her one last look. “I shall return in a week and see you then.”
“No, you will not,” came her quiet response as he stormed down the stairs. A deep, angry hurt ripped at his guts like the claws of the devil. There was no way Josephine could live without him. No way.