Welcome and Huzzah! Today I am celebrating the release of AFTER THE SCANDAL my 5th Reckless Bride novel. This novel is particularly dear to my heart, because it was the first novel I worked on in concert with the Plotting Princesses.
This wonderful group of authors got together to do what our title suggests: plot. This is a HUGE help to me, as I tend not to plot at all, but let my stories evolve as I go along, following where the characters lead me. While this is often lovely, and leads to wonderful surprises for both the reader and me, it is unfortunately dreadfully SLOW.
Enter the Plotting Princesses. I brought them my opening (already written) and gave them my inciting incident, and within a few moments they had given me so many wonderful ideas, and the biggest plot point—my hero and heroine needed to find a body.
And off I went. While there are elements of a murder mystery to AFTER THE SCANDAL, I want to assure readers this is a love story first and foremost. A very fulfilling love story. :)
But you can judge for yourself. Here’s an exclusive excerpt of the opening:
Richmond upon Thames
Tanner Evans, ninth Duke of Fenmore, should have known he would never truly be satisfied with a bride he hadn’t stolen fair and square. Despite years and years of careful training in the arcane arts of being a Duke of Fenmore, the more honest and useful art of larceny still ran red and ruddy within his veins.
When the opportunity to make the inestimable Lady Claire Jellicoe his very own dropped into his hand like a pilfered purse full of shining, golden guineas, he palmed it deep into the hidden pocket next to his heart, and held fast.
He stole her from the garden of his grandmother’s magnificent, ancient manor house in Richmond, during a ball, on a moonlit summer night so sweet and warm and comfortable, it never should have needed anything approaching larcenous stealth or guile. But even on such a soft evening, and even after all the years and years of training in the polite proprieties, stealth and guile came to him quite naturally. Like old friends out of the silent night.
Old friends he could trust.
This fortuitous piece of larceny came to his attention directly after the fourth couple of dances. Tanner had been standing along the north wall of the cavernous old greatroom—it was one of the sacrifices he made to preserve the honor of the dukedom, this standing about against walls, just to be seen—when he saw her.
He saw everything, every ferocious little detail that others either didn’t notice, or didn’t want to see. All the things they did not want him to see—their nervous glances and telling looks, their nasty bad habits and impulsive, informing foibles. He saw them think, just as clearly and easily as if he were reading a broadsheet.
He saw the shift of their eyes and the clutch of their hands when they intended to cheat at cards. He saw their backhanded smiles and snide pleasure when they made plans to cuckold their friends. He saw them stuff silver salvers into their reticules, and stand idly by while innocent servants were given the sack. He saw them laugh and cry and flatter and flirt and lie and cheat and steal.
He saw it all.
But he had never seen Lady Claire Jellicoe do any of those things, not once, though he had watched her for years, in ballroom after ballroom, from London to Leicestershire. He was helpless not to—an informing foible he should have long overcome, but had not. He could not. She was as tiny and staggeringly beautiful as the fragile orchid blooms that filled his grandmother’s conservatory, and just as full of wondrous, vibrant life. She was always smiling, always laughing and chatting, and serenely happy, glowing with luminous vitality—a rare white orchid he fervently admired, but could never touch.
But others did touch. Others danced and twirled and took her hand—the young lordlings who were meant to be his peers, the men who were as different from Tanner as sharp chalk was from soft cheese. Because no matter how hard he tried, or how carefully he had trained himself to become the ninth Duke of Fenmore, Tanner Evans knew he could never wash himself clean of the sulfurous stink of his years on the streets.
And so he had given up trying, and settled for being different, for retreating into the fortress of his mind, and preserving his still savage pride behind a wall of eccentric silence.
His sister had laughed at the change in him. Never shut up when you were a boy, Meggs had teased.
But he had learned to hold his tongue now, and refrained from talking, though he watched them still. He watched her still—his lovely, luminous orchid of a girl. Because watching her gave him a pleasure so incomprehensible and inexplicable and vast, it was beyond his understanding. And beyond his power to stop.
So when Lady Claire Jellicoe turned her wide, sparkling blue eyes upon her dance partner, and smiled that smile that absolutely slayed Tanner—the smile that was warm and open and entirely without guile—the spurt of some small pain that would be very much like jealousy, if he allowed it to be, made him follow the line of her gaze to her partner. Lord Peter Rosing.
God’s balls. God’s bloody, bleeding balls.
Beneath his spotless gloves, Tanner’s palms went damp and itchy, and his back propelled itself off the wall.
Not Rosing. Anybody but Rosing.
Tanner controlled himself enough to stop his face from contorting into a sneer, and immediately scanned the crowd. He tried to place Lady Claire’s parents, the Earl and Countess Sanderson, where he had seen them last, chatting with his grandmother near one of the greatroom’s arching doorways. Or her oldest brother, James, Viscount Jeffrey. One of them had to be near enough to act. One of them had to see and know and understand just how vile Rosing truly was beneath his charming veneer. One of them had to stop him.
One of them had to save her.
Because Rosing was as slick and plausible and cunning as he was opportunistic. And he was nothing if not opportunistic, the amoral bastard. Rosing took Lady Claire Jellicoe’s elbow in his filthy grip, and escorted her out the tall, open doors at the foot of the room so smoothly and quickly, no one seemed to notice they were gone.
No one but Tanner.
Tanner knew that out in the shadowed dark, where the garden plummeted into the river, Lady Claire would soon stop smiling her open, honest, guileless smile. Because people were terrible, awful, cruel creatures of habit. And Rosing was the most terrible, habitually cruel creature of them all. Rosing indulged himself with lethal impunity.
The walls of the greatroom tilted inward—the room narrowed to the spot where she had been.
Tanner was already moving, preparing to employ lethal habits of his own—his old friends stealth and guile. Stealth and guile, and single-minded devotion. Because he was devoted to Lady Claire Jellicoe, this exquisite orchid of a young woman he had never met, never danced with, never so much as spoken one single word to in all his years of propping up ballroom walls.
He had never dared.
Tanner Evans, ninth Duke of Fenmore, was madly, deeply, irrationally, and altogether secretly in love.
What do you think? I’m giving away two print copies of AFTER THE SCANDAL (North America only please). Leave a comment to be entered! Cheers and happy reading! EE
If you have to have it now, you can buy AFTER THE SCANDAL at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/After-Scandal-Reckless-Brides-Elizabeth/dp/125004457X/ref=tmm_mmp_title_0 , or at Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/after-the-scandal-elizabeth-essex/1115783446?ean=9781466843035