She's always ready for adventure.
He's almost ready for love.
It’s here! The first novel in my new Reckless Brides Trilogy, ALMOST A SCANDAL is out! And I must say I’m thrilled.
This is the story of Sally Kent, a girl who grows up in a navy family and who lives, breathes and thinks about ships all day long. A girl who is, well, a lot like me. Or the me who wanted to spend my teenage years crewing on windjammer schooners off the New England coast. The me who loved the feel of the wind on my face and the blue, blue ocean spread out in front of me. The me who was filled to the brim with the possibilities of adventures.
So there’s a little piece of me closer to the surface of this heroine than in any other of the books I’ve written. And I will say that her story was so very dear to my heart, that I didn’t try to write it for a very long time, until I felt I had the skills necessary to do Sally, and the man she loves, Lieutenant David Colyear, justice.
|PP girl Elizabeth Essex!|
And I think I have. But you be the judge.
Here’ a little excerpt from ALMOST A SCANDAL in which Lieutenant Colyear discovers Sally’s true identity, and that the midshipman under his command is not one Richard Kent, but his older sister:
He knew. The knowledge was there in the quiet resignation of his voice, in the pained way he closed his eyes so he might no longer have to look at her. She told herself it was inevitable that he should know her. But even that cold knowledge could not alleviate the searing knot of pain radiating from her chest.
She turned away so he might not see the hot wash of tears rising in her eyes. She would not cry. Devil take her, she was a Kent.
“It’s funny. All day I’ve been thinking of that summer. The summer I spent with your family at Cliff House, there in Falmouth. I recall it was a very fine house, with a great prospect down to the sea.”
“Oh, yes.” She could hear the bleak, frustrated attempt at humor in her voice, as she followed his improbable segue. “I don’t think my father could abide in any house for longer than a day, if it did not have a view of the sea.”
“It was your brother Matthew’s idea to use the time to study for our lieutenancy examinations. Ambitious, Matthew Kent was. Still is. Do you remember?”
“I do.” She remembered as if it were yesterday. She had been old enough to envy them their careers, had hung on their every word, Col and Matthew. But especially Col. “Everyone was home for the same fortnight. Matthew, Dominic, Owen, Daniel, and Father. It was the last time we were all there, together.”
“I recall it particularly. The way you were then, how you sat together in the evenings and sang songs. One of you played the mandolin.”
It had been she who played the mandolin. Richard played the violin. The damn instrument was still taking up space at the bottom of her sea chest.
“You used to play that same song as Punch did this morning. Dance to your Daddy.”
The damn song. She should have known. She should have anticipated that he heard everything with the same focus, the same acute attention that he saw. But still, she could not give up. “It’s a very old tune.”
“Yes,” he agreed calmly. “All the men seemed to know the words. It was a proper rousing send-off this morning.”
It was killing her, the waiting. The waiting for his condemnation. Knowing it was coming. Knowing she deserved it. The heat piling up in the back of her throat kept her from answering.
“I remembered the song.” He looked at her briefly then, and she could see the truth, the full understanding deep in his green eyes. “Do you remember that evening, when we caught fireflies in your orchard? The phosphorescent insects lighting up as the late twilight gave way to dark. Do you remember?”
“Yes.” The word tasted like misery, cold and ashen in her mouth.
He had instantly, with a few, precise words conjured up the soft magic of that evening. She could smell the pungent green of the long grass they crushed beneath their feet, tromping about the overgrown orchard to capture the glowing insects in an empty jam jar.
“And one landed in your hair, and I was obliged to brush it off, though it looked charming there, lighting up your ginger hair. The green against the orange glow.”
The heat behind her eyes felt blinding. It was worse, this slow, thoughtful meander into memory, than any torture he might have thought up.
“And we pelted your brother with windfalls for preaching at us so.”
“Yes.” The misery was pushing the hot tears into the corners of her eyes. She dashed them away with the edge of her sleeve. Devil take her. She would not cry. Not in front of Mr. Colyear. No matter the provocation.
It had been she—Sally. She had been in the back garden with him, sitting on the high orchard wall with him by her side, lobbing apples at Richard for his mealymouthed prating. They had laughed and laughed, and she had felt special to be allowed within the sacred circle of the young naval men. She had been proud of her arm, as if a young man like Col would notice such a thing in a girl.
And Richard had run away to the house, and left them alone in the orchard together, she and Col, that long-ago evening. And she had sworn he might have kissed her, but at the last moment she had shied away, and laughed and thrown more sticks to cover her awkwardness.
The knowledge was there in his eyes. In the dark, uncompromising certainty of his gaze. In the way his mouth flattened into a tense line, the smile banished along with the warmth of the memory.
“Just so. Just as I thought.” He nodded briefly, but the warmth faded out of his eyes. He began to shake his head back and forth in maddened disbelief.
“You might have told me, Kent. You might have spared me the-” Something in his voice was off, rusted like a sword left too long in a sheath. The sound of betrayal. “You might have told Captain McAlden. You ought to have. But damn your eyes, you ought not to have done it at all.”
But she had. She had done it quite purposefully. And she would do anything to keep it from being undone. “Sir, please.” She had to make him understand. “I had no choice. I had to come. I felt as if I should suffocate if I had to spend another day ashore. You have to understand. You of all people-”
“You of all people, who was raised by Captain Alexander Kent, ought to understand the seriousness, the utter hell and be-damned gall of what you have done.”
He was right. She had known the chance she had taken. But she was a Kent. She had recklessness bred into her bones. Calculating risk came as easily as trimming a sail or riding the crest of a wave into the shore. As easy as breathing. And it had been worth it. The feeling she had gotten this morning, when she had been aloft—she’d never felt so perfectly right, so happy and useful, in her life. She had only to convince him.
There they are, Sally and Col, stuck together on HMS Audacious for the length of their voyage. And in such proximity, sparks will fly, and tempers and passions alike will ignite.
She’s always ready for adventure, he’s almost ready for love.
And to celebrate, I’m giving away two copies of ALMOST A SCANDAL, along with other goodies, to two random commenters! Stop by and leave a comment with your email address for your chance to win!