Here Comes the Royal Bride

With the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle just days away—and the speculation over who will wear what at the wedding of the year at its max—I thought it would be the perfect time to take a look back at four of Britain's royal brides of the Victorian era. 

Queen Victoria

 10th February 1840: Queen Victoria (1819 - 1901) and Prince Albert (1819 - 1861) on their return from the marriage service at St James's Palace, London. Original Artwork: Engraved by S Reynolds after F Lock. Courtesy of  WikiMedia Commons

10th February 1840: Queen Victoria (1819 - 1901) and Prince Albert (1819 - 1861) on their return from the marriage service at St James's Palace, London. Original Artwork: Engraved by S Reynolds after F Lock. Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg on February 10, 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James Palace. She famously proposed to him, befitting her status as the monarch. Queen Victoria's wedding is also notable for setting the trend of wearing a white wedding dress.

Victoria, Princess Royal

 The Marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal, 25 January 1858, Courtesy of  WikiMedia Commons

The Marriage of Victoria, Princess Royal, 25 January 1858, Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Queen Victoria's eldest daughter was married to Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia (the future German Emperor and King of Prussia Frederick III). The marriage was arranged by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Frederick proposed to Victoria in 1855 when she was 14 years old. Their betrothal was announced in 1857, and the wedding took place on January 25, 1858.

Alexandra of Denmark

 The wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), and Alexandra of Denmark, London, 1863,  Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

The wedding of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), and Alexandra of Denmark, London, 1863, Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Princess Alexandra of Denmark, or "Alix" as she was commonly known to her family, married the Prince of Wales on March 10, 1863 at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. That same chapel will play host to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding.

Princess Louise

  Princess Louise at her wedding, 21 March 1871, Courtesy of the  Royal Collection .

 Princess Louise at her wedding, 21 March 1871, Courtesy of the Royal Collection.

Princess Louise (my favorite of Queen Victoria's daughters for her work as a sculptor and her love of the arts) married John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne and the heir to the Duke of Argyll. This was extraordinary for a few reasons:

  • Louise chose her husband, expressing no desire to marry a prince as had been proposed by several members of her family
  • It was the first marriage between the daughter of a sovereign and a British subject that had been given official recognition since 1515

The pair were married at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle on March 21, 1871. Her veil was made of Honiton lace which she deisgned herself.

Publishing, Happily Ever Afters, and the #MeToo Movement

Publishing, Happily Ever Afters, and the #MeToo Movement

In my wide-ranging interview, I invited Kassia and Simon into the world of romance and genre fiction. We spoke about how I came to write my first books, the importance of marketing and social media for writers, and the pros and cons of self-publishing in this genre. I also talked about the impact of the #metoo movement on the world of romance.

Celebrating the Woman With Two Birthdays

A very happy birthday to the woman who has, well, two birthdays!

Queen Elizabeth II was born on this day in 1926. It's her actual birthday, but she also has an official birthday or June 9 when the weather is usually better for Trooping the Colour. This has been a common practice among the British monarchy for several rulers.

If you'd like to celebrate the queen's actual birthday, I strongly recommend you head to The Court Jeweller. The blog chronicles the royal jewels of royal families across the world and, as you can imagine, the queen features heavily.

Many happy returns of the day, Your Majesty.

Hollywood's Underestimated Woman

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved the glamor and drama of old Hollywood. It probably started with To Have and Have Not. I watched it when I was around 12. There was something about Lauren Bacall, all smolder and vulnerability, with her beautiful hair and deep voice. I wanted some of her grown-up sophistication for myself, and so I snapped up as many of her movies as I could find. The Big Sleep, Key Largo, Dark Passage, How to Marry a Millionaire.

From there I discovered Katherine Hepburn in The Philadelphia Story, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious, Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews in Laura. (One of my favorite movies.) The list goes on and on and on.

As I got older, I began to learn more about the other side of Hollywood that is often sordid and sometimes tragic. I've listened to most of You Must Remember This, an excellent podcast about the film industry, Los Angeles (where I grew up), and the people who created the movie myths we still believe today. However, I only knew bits and pieces of one of its most extraordinary women.

Hedy Lamarr was widely recognized as one of the most beautiful women in the world during her heyday in the 1930s and 1940s. An Austrian actress, she was scandalous and alluring. She was also an almost unrecognized genius, but the documentary Bombshell is trying to change that.

Lamarr was an inventor with an inquisitive mind. During World War II, she came up with a technique called frequency hopping that would allow the navy to deploy torpedos that couldn't be jammed by German submarines. Her invention, largely neglected at the time, has become the basis for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and military technology being used today.

Her fascinating, sometimes deeply sad story, is told through interviews with Hedy, her family, and others. You get a picture of a woman who was pigeon-holed into being just a beautiful face because, to paraphrase one interviewee, you don't get to be Hedy Lamarr and be smart. She was difficult and complex and funny and so many things, and now the movie-going audience who loved her films is getting a chance to see a more complete version of her.

Come Meet Me in Boston!

A quick note for those readers in the Boston area: I'm coming to you guys! I'm going to be teaching a couple workshops at the Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference from NECRWA. My workshops will be:

  • Sell Your Book in 3 Pages: How to Write Gripping Synopses
  • How to Maintain a Brand While Writing Across Subgenres… Or Not (with Megan Erikson and Kristen Strassel)

Unfortunately, those sessions are only option to conference registrants, however, I will be supporting my fellow authors at the conference signing which is open to all member of the public. If you come say hi, I'll have some The Look of Love bookmarks to give away!

What I Read: January to March 2018

It's always been easy to tell what sort of mood I've been in based on the types of books that are on my completed list. Lots of romances? High stress time.

Plenty of mystery? I've probably been writing to meet a deadline and have been looking for something completely different.

Loads of history? Guess who's doing research.

January, February, and March (or Q1 for those of your who are business minded) was a mix of all of those things. I read a few standouts across several genres, and they're definitely worth a shoutout. Keep reading for those recommendations, and be sure to follow me on Goodreads and BookBub for more!

If you like your history glamorous...

The Riviera Set, by Mary S. Lovell

If you like intrigue on the high seas...

Dangerous Crossing, by Rachel Rhys

If you like gritty Western romance...

Cowgirl, Unexpectedly, by Vicki Tharp

If you like dark thrillers...

The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware

If you like your female detectives witty...

A Curious Beginning, by Deanna Raybourn

If you want to be swept up in a YA saga...

Hero at the Fall, by Alwyn Hamilton

Your First Look at The Light Over London

I'm very happy today to be sharing with you a first look at my first historical women's fiction, The Light Over London, which will be coming out in paperback and ebook this fall. Split between present day and World War II, it's a story of love and loss, secrets and discovery. And there's a dreamy cover to match this beautiful story.

Available for preorder in print and ebook

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play

For Cara Hargraves, burying herself in the past is easier than confronting the present, which is why working with a gruff but brilliant antiques dealer is the perfect salvation. While clearing out an estate, she pries open an old tin that holds the relics of a lost relationship; among the treasures, a World War II-era diary and a photograph of a young woman in uniform—the same one Cara’s grandmother wore during the war. Eager to find the author of the hauntingly beautiful, unfinished diary, Cara embarks on a journey to untangle the affair, and just maybe uncover her grandmother’s deeply guarded secrets, too.

In 1941, nineteen-year-old Louise Keene’s life had been decided for her—she’ll wait at home in her Cornish village until the wealthy son of her mother’s best friend returns from war to ask for her hand. But when Louise unexpectedly meets Flight Lieutenant Paul Bolton, a dashing RAF pilot stationed at a local base, everything changes. But their whirlwind romance is cut short when Paul’s unit is deployed.

Desperate for a larger life, Louise defies her parents and joins the women’s branch of the British Army in the anti-aircraft gun unit. As bombs fall on London, she relishes in her growing friendships with the gunner girls and knowing she and Paul will be together when the war is over. But when a bundle of her letters to Paul are returned unanswered, she learns that wartime romance can have a much darker side.

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Lady in a Blue Dress — The Allure of Attraction's Got a Cover!

If you've ever wondered what it's like when an author gets a book cover from a publisher, it goes something like this: *email from editor dings to phone*

Me: Oh my god, please be good. Please be good. Please be good.

*opens email inbox on laptop for higher image resolution/because I'm terrified that I'm going to hate the cover and this delays the reveal for a moment*

Me: Just don't suck. That's all I want. I can handle mediocre. Totally. No problem. Oh, please, please, please don't suck.

*clicks on email and downloads image*

Me: OH THANK GOD.

That is an exact play-by-play of what happened when I opened the email from my editor for The Allure of Attraction's cover. And you know what, it didn't just not suck. I loved it.

AmAmazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play

Not only was I blown away by how striking that vibrant blue is, the cover model is smiling. Smiling! I've never had a smiling heroine on the cover of my historical books, and something about it makes me so incredibly happy.

In this book, you're going to meet Lavinia, our heroine. She'd be the first to tell you that a lot of bad things have happened in her life, but she's made the most of it. She's a successful dressmaker in Edinburgh, and between her shop, her friends, and her somewhat irresponsible but charming brother she has a full life. Everything is going well until the childhood sweetheart she was supposed to marry years ago walks back into her life.

Andrew's life sailing merchant ships has taken him across the globe—convenient given that he's also a spy for Her Majesty's government. He's all set to retire until his handlers give him one last job: go back home to Scotland and recruit Lavinia, the woman who broke his heart, to help him infiltrate a group at the center of a dastardly plot.

So yes, dear readers, in the summer you're going to get this beautiful book and all the second chance romance/enemies-to-lovers/espionage romance goodness inside. I hope you enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed writing it!

The Allure of Attraction releases this summer, but you can preorder it now from all major ebook retailers!

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play

Explore the Romance of Historic Edinburgh

It's no surprise that Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities. It has it all, from the elegance of the New Town to the historic mystery of the Old Town. It's also a great walking city—if you don't mind some hills—with plenty to discover. When I started to write my The Matchmaker of Edinburgh books, I wanted to make sure readers felt transported to 1870s Edinburgh. For Caroline and Moray, the heroine and hero of The Taste of Temptation, that meant sending them gallivanting all across the city on their journey to love. Whether it's bickering amid the dramatic beauty of Holyrood Park or dancing for the first time in the grand, Georgian Assembly Rooms, I hope readers will fall in love with this incredible place as much as they do my characters!

Click through this interactive map to read excerpts from the book, images and drawings, and little tidbits about the settings you'll see throughout the book. 

A previous version of this article appeared on XOXOafterdark.com.

PODCAST: "So Many Scandals" with Lindsay Emory from Women With Books

There's nothing cooler than having a friend working on a project you're really excited about. Well... maybe there is one thing: getting to join your friend on that project! At the end of January, Lindsay Emory interviewed me for her podcast Women With Books ahead of the release of my new book The Taste of Temptation, which came out on Monday. WWB is kind of like a book club in your pocket. Lindsay interviews authors and librarians about their work, favorite books, movies, and more. And the best thing is that the conversation often veers off into really fun directions.

For my episode, Lindsay and I talked about the royal wedding, Outlander, Persuasion, and so many scandals. You can listen to my episode with Lindsay on her site, Apple Podcasts, and Google Play.

You Can Start Reading The Taste of Temptation Today!

Those of you who’ve been reading my books for awhile will know that I used to be a journalist in New York City. In fact, I’ve set a book in the news business before—Nick from my Julia Blake title Changing the Play was a TV sports reporter—and I went back to that well again for The Taste of Temptation, my Scottish historical romance that came out this week. The second book in the Matchmaker of Edinburgh series, is set in and around the Edinburgh newspaper world. It was a time when steam presses clanged away to print the morning edition and horse and cart-delivered scandal sheets could set everyone atwitter. But the principles are actually not all that different from the news business I used to know. Journalists are still driven to get the story fast and first, and breaking news is a rush that's hard to replicate.

My hero in The Taste of Temptation, Jonathan Moray, is a journalist to the core. He owns a successful broadsheet and a less respectable scandal sheet that prints some of the best gossip in Edinburgh. That's why when Caroline Burkett, a woman the London press made famous for suing the fiancé who jilted her, travels up to Edinburgh, he's off in pursuit of the biggest gossip story of the year. Sparks definitely fly in this enemies-to-lovers book because Caroline hates Moray, thinking he's just another ruthless newspaperman. And he kind of is until he realizes that he wants her more than he wants the story.

I hope you enjoy the latest installment in the Matchmaker of Edinburgh series, merry band of journalists and all!

The Taste of Temptation is available at all major eBook retailers:

Amazon | iBooks |  Kobo | Nook | Google Play

If you’d like to try before you buy, you can read two exclusive excerpts of The Taste of Temptation:

In Which Our Heroine Decides She Loathes Our Hero (Probably)

I've always loved enemies-to-lovers books. They're the types of stories where the hero and heroine say, "I hate you, I hate you, dammit why can't I stop thinking about you?!" and I can't get enough. I love it all from the banter to the tension to the satisfaction of finally seeing the heroine and heroine grow as they change their minds about one another and admit they're falling in love. The Taste of Temptation is one of those books, and today I'm happy to share with you another early excerpt ahead of the book's February 5th release date!

Let's jump right in and find out what why our heroine hates our hero so much.

CAROLINE’S EVERY NERVE tingled with excitement as the curtain fell, the first act ending to thunderous applause. Despite her initial interest in the play, she’d hardly heard the actors’ words. Her whole focus had been on the man sitting a few rows behind her.

She could practically feel his gaze bearing down on her, and it took everything she had not to squirm in her seat at the thought of him memorizing every inch of her bare shoulders. Madeline had twisted her hair up off of her neck and pinned it high, as was the fashion in London that season, and she wore only a simple strand of pearls for adornment.

She toyed with the necklace, a gift from her father in happier times, and quietly followed Michael and Elsie out to the lobby. As she walked, her eyes darted around, searching for the gentleman who’d sat in her seat. When she finally spotted him standing with two glasses of wine, she couldn’t suppress her smile.

He inclined his head as he handed Elsie and her a glass each. “A bit of refreshment, as promised.”

“In the confusion before the performance, I was unable to effect an introduction,” said Elsie, taking up a glass. “I’m Elsie Burkett and this is my husband, Michael Burkett. His sister, Miss Caroline Burkett, has just joined us from London.”

“London’s loss is Edinburgh’s gain,” said the man.

“Thank you, sir,” she said, dipping a little curtsy.

“My name is Jonathan Moray.”

“Not Mr. Moray of the Lothian Herald-Times?” Michael cut in before Caroline could speak.

Champagne nearly slopped onto her gloves as she reeled back. He was a newspaperman? No.

“And the New Town Tattler,” said the man with a sip of champagne so casual one would have thought he hardly noticed that the air between them had soured.

Already her initial rush of attraction had been replaced by a far more powerful emotion: disgust. It was a black, flinty anger, hardened from the white-hot rage she’d harbored against all the people who’d turned her life into nothing but a circus. The cruel ones lobbed accusations at her, conveniently forgetting that Julian had been the one who acted dishonorably. The kinder ones had described her as pitiful, weak, and broken until she began to wonder for a time if it was true.

And then there were the dreadful names. One newspaper had called her the Jilted Juliet. Another had dubbed her the Forgotten Fiancée.

She was none of those things. Instead, she was a woman who was tired of cowering. She was going to fight for her peace, and if Moray did not leave her alone he would be the first man to feel the fierceness of her finely honed fury.

“Mr. Moray,” she said, drawing herself up to her full, if diminutive, height. “Is the New Town Tattler the kind of paper I suspect it is?”

“Caroline,” Michael warned. But her brother knew nothing of her life in London these past two years. He didn’t have the right to censure her.

“I’m happy to answer the lady’s questions,” said Moray. “What do you suspect my paper to be?”

“A gossip rag.”

His mouth twisted. “The New Town Tattler is a society paper that reports on social news pertinent to the people of this city, if that’s what you mean.”

“And what of London?” she asked archly.

“From time to time, when a story merits it. Enough of Scottish society spends some part of the season in London.”

“Then you’re aware of who I am.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yes,” he said.

“And you’ll understand why I have no interest in forming an acquaintance with you.” She picked up her skirts, ready to turn and flounce off triumphantly.

“Running away?” asked Mr. Moray, freezing her where she stood. “I’d hoped for more spirit from you.”

She dropped her skirts and held his gaze. If he thought she could be bullied with jabs and jests, he was about to be sorely disappointed. No one survived twenty-six years living under her mother’s roof without developing a skin as thick as an elephant’s hide.

“The only thing you need to know about me, Mr. Moray, is that I don’t run,” she said.

 

You can preorder The Taste of Temptation now to make sure you get it sent to your eReader as soon as it's available on February 5th! Just click on your favorite retailer link.

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Frying Pans, Upheaval, and Finding a Home

It was the frying pans that did it. I sat in my room at my parents’ home around the Christmas holiday, legal pad and pencil in hand, jotting down lists for my new apartment kitchen—or flat was I was trying to remind myself to call it. The flat was still entirely hypothetical, but it was more of a reality now than it had been at any point in the last six months.

I left my life in New York in May, packed up a few suitcases, shipped an obscene number of out-of-print research books, and said goodbye to the city where’d I’d spent m formative adult years. It was the place I’d gone to graduate school, worked my first job, written nine books, and fallen in love. However, as much as I loved New York and the people, I’d found myself pushing against the boundaries of my life. It was as though I was trapped in a moderately comfortable room and unable to settle because I knew that the longer I stayed, the more difficult it would be to find a way out. There’s an adage that it takes ten years to become a New Yorker. I had almost hit nine, and I could tell I was dangerously close to waking up thirty years later only to find I was still there. And so, regretting only the friends I’d left behind, I picked up and moved to London.

I spent six months living with my parents, renesting in the family home after being the first daughter to leave it years ago. Mum and Dad are patient, wonderful people who might tease me about being a boomeranging (old) millenial, but who were also endlessly supportive of having a writer muttering about books all of the time. I spent the six months I was with them focusing on writing, fulfilling publishing deadlines, putting systems into place to help me do the business of being an author better. During that time, I saw two books come out. I wrote and edited three and a half. I hunted for a day job. I reconnected with old friends from graduate school. I tried on my new chosen city and found it a comfortable fit, more suited to me in some ways than New York.

I also looked for a day job. Cultivating a sustainable income for many authors is a long process of building backlist, praying we earn out our advances, and waiting for royalties to come through, figuring out how indie publishing can help hold up another side of our careers. I needed to work and write if I was going to fly the nest again and leave my parents in peace.

During my six months I cold applied to hundreds of jobs, called in every favor I had, interviewed, turned jobs down, applied some more, rinse, repeat. Nothing quite fit. Then, a few days before Christmas, the perfect mix of company, job description, and salary came together. I accepted the offer and that night we opened champagne.

Which brings us to frying pans.

With a new job and the prospect of a steadier salary than writing could promise me in late 2017, I could finally start looking for a flat. It will surprise few of my friends that, even before I’d looked at one flat, I was already building my kitchen. I made my list, putting down those pans, and went to a restaurant supply store on Fulham Road within spitting distance of Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea plays its matches. I loaded up a cart with stripped down, professional grade spoons, cutting boards, and mixing bowls to replace the ones I’d left behind in New York. For someone who loves—even needs for mind-emptying purposes—to cook, there’s nothing like the acquisition of these tools to make one feel more complete. By arming myself with a stock pot and some utensils, I was claiming back the independent part of my life that I’d temporarily lost when I moved to London.

I found the flat, a Victorian conversation that still has its plaster ceiling rose, carved wood mantel around the fireplace, and big bay windows, just a few days later.

Notorious Woman + Stubborn Newspaperman = Irresistible Temptation [Excerpt]

I’m celebrating my birthday today—my first in my new home! I love birthdays because, to me, they’ve always been about three things:

  • Family, friends and loved ones
  • New beginnings
  • Doing something completely indulgent just for you

Perhaps it’s fitting then that to celebrate my birthday I’ve decided I want to give my readers—my literary loved ones—a present. It’s a celebration of a new beginning—a brand-new book—and is something completely indulgent, just for you.

I’m sharing one of my favorite excerpts from my upcoming book, The Taste of Temptation. It’s a Scotland-set historical enemies-to-lovers romance and it’s about...well, here’s what you need to know:

  • Caroline Burkett sued her ex-fiancé for jilting her to marry an American heiress. The newspapers covered every aspect of the lawsuit, making Caroline one of the most notorious women in England. Now's she's fled London for Edinburgh to find a husband. Robert Trevlan, the only son of a prominent banking family, seems her most likely option.
  • Jonathan Moray is the owner of a respectable broadsheet and a less-than-respectable gossip rag. He stirred up a world of trouble for Caroline by reporting on her arrival in Edinburgh.
  • Caroline hates Moray with the fire of a thousand suns. Or at least that's what she tells herself...

You can preorder The Taste of Temptation now to make sure you get it sent to your eReader as soon as it's available on February 5th! Just click on your favorite retailer link.

Amazon | iBooks |  Kobo | Nook | Google Play

And without further ado, enjoy!

MORAY MADE IT over the wall of 63 Cumberland Street’s backyard with little trouble, but as he stood in the damp grass gazing up at the black drainpipe that snaked up the wall of the Burkett house a greater challenge presented itself. It was insane to even think about climbing it, but as Caroline had so sternly pointed out earlier that evening, she was never alone. Except when she was sleeping. This was the only way to ensure that they would neither be caught nor interrupted.

It was also the one most likely to land him—and her—in a heap of trouble.

As he pondered the situation, he realized one of four things could happen.

One: He could successfully make it into Caroline’s bedroom without waking the household, give her his message, and leave, all without kissing her or being detected, thus preserving her virginity, which he was trying his best not to think about at the moment.

Two: He’d be detected by one of the other residents or a well-intentioned neighbor, at best landing him in jail, at worst spelling the beginning of his life as a married man, because surely her brother would force the marriage to cover up the scandal.

Three: He could fall and seriously injure himself.

Four: He could fall and kill himself.

He didn’t like options two, three, or four, but despite his misgivings he had to make the climb. What Eva had dug up about Trevlan was too important for Caroline not to hear, and he hadn’t been lying when he’d told her that it was a matter of some delicacy. It wouldn’t do for anyone else to overhear their conversation.

“You’re a numpty, eedjit bampot with less brains than a house fly,” he muttered as he gave the metal one last tug to make sure it would hold his weight, sent up a prayer to whatever god looked after idiotic newspapermen, and began to climb.

Even when he’d been young and nimble he hadn’t pulled stunts like this, spending all of his time learning his craft and squirreling away every penny he could as he clawed his way up the ladder from apprentice to printer and then owner and editor. And here he was, thirty-five and getting ready to scale a wall to steal a few uninterrupted, unchaperoned moments with a woman. And he wasn’t even going to let himself enjoy them.

The fourth finger of his right glove caught on a craggy corner of one of the stone blocks making up the wall as he began his climb and ripped. Damn. He’d incur Jesper’s wrath when the valet went through his clothes in the morning and found the thin, supple leather destroyed. Never mind that the wall was doing a fair job of ripping up his now-exposed skin.

Somewhere between the second and third floors, Moray realized he didn’t exactly have a plan for figuring out where Caroline’s bedroom might be in the house. He might’ve deployed his network of informants to coax the information from one of the Burketts’ members of staff but that would have taken too long. By the time they’d reported back it could have already been too late. According to the Tattler’s informants, it was only a matter of time before Trevlan proposed to her.

He looked up the dark building to the one window on the third floor that glowed with the soft light of a lamp. That was the room to avoid. While it might be Caroline’s, it could also be where the master or mistress of the house slept, and he knew for a fact he wouldn’t be welcome in either of their boudoirs.

With his attention fixed on the windows above him, he stepped without looking for his foothold and his shoe slipped.

Fuck!

He swallowed down a shout as his feet scrambled wildly against the side of the building. His hands clamped harder around the iron pipe that was the only thing holding him up.

He was not going the way of option four. Not today.

Adrenaline roared through his veins as the window a few feet above him shot open. His head snapped up just as Caroline stuck hers out into the dark night. Bloody hell, he hadn’t been ready for the sight of her, hair loose around her shoulders and catching the light of the waxing moon.

“Are you mad?” she whispered louder than he would’ve dared. “What are you doing?”

“I just thought I’d get a little exercise.”

She stared at him as though he’d grown another head.

“I’m climbing up to see you,” he said, becoming acutely aware that a couple of his fingers were stinging rather badly from his scaling. “May I come in?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course not.” She reached for the latch to pull the window closed again.

“Wait, wait, wait!”

She paused.

“I don’t think I can get down without breaking something,” he admitted.

“You should’ve thought of that before you went climbing up a house like Scotland’s answer to Casanova.”

Despite the circumstances, he couldn’t help his grin. “Your faith that my exploits are Casanovaian is encouraging, Miss Burkett.”

In the moonlight he could see her roll her eyes, but he could also tell from the tug at her lips that she was fighting hard not to smile.

“May I please come in? This drainpipe and I are becoming altogether too acquainted,” he said. “You’ll be saving me from almost certain death.”

“You’re not that high up.”

“I could still die.”

She sighed and pushed the window open wider. “I cannot believe I’m agreeing to this.”

Neither could he.

You can preorder The Taste of Temptation now to make sure you get it sent to your eReader as soon as it's available on February 5th! Just click on your favorite retailer link.

Amazon | iBooks |  Kobo | Nook | Google Play

12 Days of Christmas Reads: Covent Garden in the Snow, by Jules Wake

Welcome to a huge celebration of Christmas-themed books! Every November I impulse buy a ton of Christmas-themed books (mostly romances) and dump them onto my Kindle. I then spend the next two months wallowing in wonderful, heart-warming, sometimes sexy reads. This year I'm sharing twelve of my favorites, and on the last day we're celebrating a rom com set back stage at one of London's theaters!

♥ If you missed yesterday's Christmas reading recommendation, click here.

Covent Garden in the Snow, by Jules Wake

Tilly Hunter has fabulous friends, her dream job as a make-up artist with a prestigious opera company and Felix, her kind and caring husband to be. It looks set to be the most perfect Christmas yet!

But when a monumental blunder forces her to work closely with new IT director Marcus Walker, it's not only the roast chestnut stalls on the cobbles of her beloved Covent Garden that cause sparks to fly…

Super serious and brooding, Marcus hasn’t got a creative bone in his sharp-suited body. For technophobe Tilly, it's a match made in hell.

And yet, when Tilly discovers her fiancé isn’t at all what he seems, it's Marcus who's there for her with a hot chocolate and a surprisingly strong shoulder to cry on … He might just be the best Christmas present she’s ever had.

If you've been missing chick lit a la Bridget Jones's Diary, this book has it in spades. The behind-the-scenes detail about working as a makeup artist in the theater is wonderful, and the descriptions of the area around Covent Garden at Christmas time ring true, even if Tilly seems to like the crowds more than I do. The hero's also chick lit romance catnip. There's something very comforting about this book.

And that wraps up the 12 Days of Christmas Reads! I hope you found some new-to-you books and fell a little more in love with literature this holiday season! If you missed any of the days, don't forget that you can check out this handy landing page. And be sure to download my London-set Christmas novella, Kiss Me at Midnight.

12 Days of Christmas Reads: Solstice Miracle, by Alexis Daria

Welcome to a huge celebration of Christmas-themed books! Every November I impulse buy a ton of Christmas-themed books (mostly romances) and dump them onto my Kindle. I then spend the next two months wallowing in wonderful, heart-warming, sometimes sexy reads. This year I'm sharing twelve of my favorites, and day eleven is a short story that shows you what happens when two people who've sworn off love fall for each other on the longest night of the year!

If you missed yesterday's Christmas reading recommendation, click here.

Solstice Miracle, by Alexis Daria 

After inheriting her grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, Rina Minkin revives her witchy improv character to help pay for necessary home repairs. When Miguel Alvarez shows up at her front door with two kids in need of a Winter Solstice miracle, even cynical Rina can’t turn them away. And the longer she spends with them, the more she wants them to stick around.

It's only fitting that Solstice Miracle be today's selection because today marks the winter solstice! So, again, I believe in full disclosure and Alexis Daris has been one of my favorite people in the New York City romance writing scene since I met her a few years back. She's had a fantastic publishing year with the debut of her Dance Off series, and I'm thrilled to be able to recommend a wintery romance read from her today! In it you'll get a part-time librarian/part-time witch heroine, a good uncle hero, two cute kids, a kiss, and a little bit of magic.

Check back tomorrow for one last Christmas reading recommendation as the 12 Days of Christmas Reads comes to a close. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page. And be sure to download my London-set Christmas novella, Kiss Me at Midnight.

12 Days of Christmas Reads: Named of the Dragon, by Susanna Kearsley

Welcome to a huge celebration of Christmas-themed books! Every November I impulse buy a ton of Christmas-themed books (mostly romances) and dump them onto my Kindle. I then spend the next two months wallowing in wonderful, heart-warming, sometimes sexy reads. This year I'm sharing twelve of my favorites, and day ten takes us to Wales for a romantic women's fiction novel by one of my favorite writers.

If you missed yesterday's Christmas reading recommendation, click here.

Named of the Dragon, by Susanna Kearsley

The charm of spending the Christmas holidays in South Wales, with its crumbling castles and ancient myths, seems the perfect distraction from the nightmares that have plagued literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw since the loss of her baby five years ago.

Instead, she meets an emotionally fragile young widow who's convinced that Lyn's recurring dreams have drawn her to Castle Farm for an important purpose--and she's running out of time.

With the help of a reclusive, brooding playwright, Lyn begins to untangle the mystery and is pulled into a world of Celtic legends, dangerous prophecies, and a child destined for greatness.

I'm an unashamed fangirl for Susanna Kearsley's The Splendour Falls, so I was very happy when my friend Lindsay Emory mentioned that Named of the Dragon takes place over the holidays, meaning I could include it in the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. To me, Kearsley's books are the reading equivalent of a warm down comforter that I can wrap myself in and spend an entire indulgent day enjoying. As with the other books of her I've read, there's an element of supernatural (this time in the form of dreams) that connects the heroine with the past. Although not a romance, it's romantic with a grumpy but really a good man hero (my favorite) and a secondary romance threading throughout the story that's spiked with bits of Welsh and Arthurian legend.

Check back tomorrow for more Christmas reading recommendations as the 12 Days of Christmas Reads rolls on with a miracle at the solstice served up in one delightful romance. If you want to see all of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads recommendations in one place, you can check out this handy landing page. And be sure to download my London-set Christmas novella, Kiss Me at Midnight.