historical romance

12 Days of Christmas Reads — How the Dukes Stole Christmas

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Welcome to a bookish celebration of the Christmas season! For 12 days in December, I’m highlighting a book a day that puts the holiday season front and center of the narrative. You’ll find romances, women’s fiction, and even a cookbook! For day one, I’m sharing an anthology of historical romances that are sure to make you smile.

Christmas magic is in the air... From the ballrooms of London, to abandoned Scottish castles, to the snowy streets of Gilded Age New York, four bestselling authors whip up some unforgettable romance...with a little help from some enchanted shortbread.

The trouble with anthologies is that I always rank the stories. It’s human nature to try to bring order to things with lists and ranking and, despite my best efforts to enjoy each story on its own terms, I always fall victim to the temptation and end up disappointed in at least one of them.

You can image my happy surprise then when I discovered The Dukes Who Stole Christmas. Each story in this anthology is enjoyable and each offers a little something different for romance fans. Between the charm of Tessa Dare’s “Meet me in Mayfair”, the lush lyrical prose of Sarah MacLean’s “The Duke of Christmas Present”, Sophie Jordan’s classic enemies-to-lovers “Heiress Alone” set in the Scottish Highlands, or the refreshing change of Joanna Shupe’s Gilded Age novella “Christmas in Central Park,” al of the stories feel unique and fresh.

The conceit that ties all of these stories together—other than the Christmas timeframe and the “dukes” of the title—is a shortbread recipe. In some stories, the characters acknowledge that this shortbread has magical properties. In some, it’s incidental—more gesture of love than love potion. Either way, it’s used to reveal elements of character and draw the hero and heroine closer together.

I couldn’t finish this recommendation without spending a little more time on the standout story in the anthology. MacLean’s “The Duke of Christmas Present” delivers the wonderful yearning and slow-burning heat that I’ve come to rely on her for over the years. What the characters do is far more powerful than what they say after more than a decade apart. The language is beautiful, weaving around the reader as it guides one through pain and longing and—eventually—reconciliation.

Check back tomorrow for the next edition of the 12 Days of Christmas Reads. 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 or sign up for my newsletter.

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*


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.

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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!

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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.

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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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.

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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.


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.

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The Look of Love Is Out Now!

The wait's over! My new Scottish historical romance series is here! The Look of Love is out at all major ebook retailers which means you can start reading this delightful and charming series in which Edinburgh's most prominent matchmaker uses her uncanny abilities to help some unlikely couples.

Here's a quick look at what you can expect when you pick up The Look of Love:

An accomplished sculptor with secret ambitions, Ina Duncan has managed to avoid marriage for years until an accidental encounter at a party leaves her near ruin and in need of a husband. Fast. Determined to find a willing husband for Ina, Edinburgh’s most powerful matchmaker, Moira Sullivan, quickly realizes that the solution to Ina’s problem might be right in front of her.

Ina’s best friend, Gavin Barrett, has a secret no one knows: he’s loved her for years. As the second son of a baronet, however, he knows he has little chance with his brilliant, beautiful friend. All that changes when Moira convinces Ina to propose a marriage of convenience to Gavin to save her from ruin. Ina only wants two things from him in return: a vow she can continue to sculpt and a promise they’ll remain in Edinburgh.

After a rocky start, happiness—and maybe passion—seems on the horizon for the newlyweds until a twist of fate bestows the title of Sir Barrett on Gavin and forces him to assume responsibilities he’s never wanted. Forced to mold herself into the perfect baronet’s wife, Ina must choose between her dreams and the man she’s learning to love.

If you're still not 100% convinced that The Look of Love is for you, here's a preview of the first two chapters.

Get a Sneak Peek of The Look of Love

I'm thrilled to be launching a new historical romance series, The Matchmaker of Edinburgh, this fall! The Look of Love comes out on October 9, but I'm giving my readers an early look at the first chapter of this friends-to-lovers, marriage of convenience romance! You can click here or on the book's cover to download the first two chapters of The Look of Love for free and start this book early readers are calling "one that fans of historical romances will devour."

Craving More Historical Romance? This List Is for You

A lot of new-to-me readers picked up my historical romance, The Governess Was Wanton, last week when it was on sale for $0.99. Thank you! It was great seeing it get into the hands of readers across the world! Since that book's short and sweet and might leave you craving a little more romance, here are some books from me as well as other authors to look at for your next historical romance read.

The Governess Was Wicked, by Julia Kelly

If you enjoyed The Governess Was Wanton, this is where the series starts. Elizabeth, our titular governess, is convinced that Dr. Edward Fellows would never be interested in a working woman. But little does she know that he's been pining for her for years...until the two of them share their first kiss.

The Governess Was Wild, by Julia Kelly

My road trip book! The Governess Was Wild starts when Jane (the last of our governesses to find love) wakes up in an inn and finds that her charge has disappeared and one very angry baron is missing his horse. That's a problem because her charge was sent away from London to keep her from following through on marrying a throughly unsuitable gold digger. Jane convinces the baron to accompany her on the road to find both horse and girl before the runaway couple can make it to Gretna Green, but it's Jane who finds true love on this trip.

The Look of Love, by Julia Kelly

When Ina, a near-spinster who loves nothing more than sculpting, finds herself in a compromising position that threatens to ruin her reputation, a matchmaker convinces her to marry her best friend, Gavin. But what she doesn't realize is that Gavin has loved her from a distance for years, and this marriage of convenience is going to be a lot harder than either of them expected. You can't read this one quite yet, but you can preorder it, making it a gift from Current You to Future You.

Think of England, by K.J. Charles

This is a wonderful Edwardian M/M romance...with spies! Think Downton Abbey with more political intrigue.

An Extraordinary Union, by Alyssa Cole

More spies! This time during the Civil War! (I really like spy historical romance.) Alyssa's book is the wonderful, richly layered romance that everyone's been talking about this year.

The Countess Conspiracy, by Courtney Milan

One of my favorite historical romances, this is a great book if you like your romances sciencey and your heroines nerdy. Be prepared for some deep angst in this friends-to-lovers book.

"Sweetest Regret" in What Happens Under the Mistletoe, by Meredith Duran

If you're craving some Christmas a little early, this is a wonderful novella to tide you through the end of the summer. It reunites a diplomat's daughter with the rogue who ruined her reputation, forcing them to face old wounds during the holiday season.

SALE: Get The Governess Was Wanton for $0.99!

The Governess Was Wanton is on sale for a very limited time! The second book in the Governess series is a retelling of my favorite fairytale, Cinderella, but this time The Fairy Godmother gets her happily ever after!

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Mary Woodward, a young veteran governess, has one job: guiding a young debutante through her first season in high society. And up until now, keeping her focus and avoiding temptation has been easy. But never before has the father of her young charge been as devilishly handsome as the single, wealthy Earl of Asten.... Convinced to risk it all, Mary let's herself enjoy one night of magic at a masked ball in Asten's arms, but will they both regret everything when the Earl learns her true identity?

COVER REVEAL: Book 1 in a Sexy New Scottish Romance Series

If you've been reading my newsletter or my website for awhile now, you know I've been hinting at the new Scotland-set historical series I've been writing. Well, the first book in the Matchmaker of Edinburgh series is now available for preorder, and it has a gorgeous cover!

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Isn't she beautiful!? The cover designer did an amazing job with this one, and I couldn't be happier!

I loved writing this heroine who is a fiercely independent sculptor who's near ruination lands her in a marriage of convenience with her best friend.

Here's a closer look:

An accomplished sculptor with secret ambitions, Ina Duncan has managed to avoid marriage for years until an accidental encounter at a party leaves her near ruin and in need of a husband. Fast. Determined to find a willing husband for Ina, Edinburgh’s most powerful matchmaker, Moira Sullivan, quickly realizes that the solution to Ina’s problem might be right in front of her.

Ina’s best friend, Gavin Barrett, has a secret no one knows: he’s loved her for years. As the second son of a baronet, however, he knows he has little chance with his brilliant, beautiful friend. All that changes when Moira convinces Ina to propose a marriage of convenience to Gavin to save her from ruin. Ina only wants two things from him in return: a vow she can continue to sculpt and a promise they’ll remain in Edinburgh.

After a rocky start, happiness—and maybe passion—seems on the horizon for the newlyweds until a twist of fate bestows the title of Sir Barrett on Gavin and forces him to assume responsibilities he’s never wanted. Forced to mold herself into the perfect baronet’s wife, Ina must choose between her dreams and the man she’s learning to love.

This book is slated to come out on October 9, and you can preorder it now so you don't miss it's big release day! Just click on one of the links below.

Amazon | Amazon UK | iBooks | Kobo | Nook | Google Play

Free Books for Historical Readers!

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I've got a treat for my historical readers! Fifteen historical romance authors and I are giving away copies of our books for a limited time. Want to wander the Highlands? How about a romp in the Regency? Or maybe retreating to the American Revolution is more your style? This giveaway's got you covered.

You can get these books for free until 2/27, but after that the deal's gone! Click on the covers below to be taken directly to the book download link.

Why I Started Writing Romance

Many authors' stories start the same way, with some variation of "I've been telling stories since I was a little girl." I'm not any different, although I don't remember telling love stories when I was a little girl. Instead, my first "book" (which was one page long) was a mystery. Both my parents are avid readers, and my Mum has what sometimes feels like an encyclopedic knowledge of mystery and crime fiction. Between that and hearing the woman wailing as she faints during the wonderfully macabre Edward Gory's Mystery! opening credits from my bedroom every Thursday night as a child, I was pretty much destined to start off there.

I've talked before about reading my first romance novel. It was a sweet, wonderfully zany Zebra Regency Romance that I took home with about a half dozen others from a deep discount book store on Lake Avenue in Pasadena. While I'd always read voraciously as a child, I truly gobbled these books up, soon moving on to more complex plots with more intense romances (ie the hero and heroine started doing more than just kissing on the last page). The only natural step after that was to write one.

I started tinkering with an idea for a book the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. My family had just gotten a new computer, so I commandeered a desk that my sister was just using to store junk and parked the huge desktop on it. Then, I got to work.

The book, which I never finished, was called Charlotte's Choice and it was a second chance at love romance. I wrote by the seat of my pants — something I would later learn through several long, painful lessons isn't suitable for me — and finished about 25,000 words by the end of the summer. That alone felt like an incredible achievement. I'd never written that many words before!

This is where, unfortunately, I stalled out. I worked on that book on and off for the next three years, hauling a paper manuscript around with me from home to college and back again. Then, I graduated, and my focus became grad school.

I attended Columbia's University's School of Journalism in the broadcast program. I mention that only to say that the program compresses what most schools take two years to teach into 10 months long. They were the hardest 10 months of my life. I had two exacting introductory reporting professors who held marathon days of class on Mondays and Tuesday. Then there were radio broadcast and editing classes, TV broadcast and editing classes, workshops, law, ethics. If I wasn't in the classroom or desperately trying to grab some sleep after late-night editing sessions in the Avid lab, I was probably out reporting in South Brooklyn (or with friends at a bar if it was Friday or Saturday night because I was still a grad student and let's be realistic). It was a seven-day-a-week job getting that MS.

Somewhere in the middle of that mess of a year, I was laying on my futon late-night and watching Dancing With the Stars in an desperate attempt to turn off the analytical, journalism side of my brain. That was when I realized I wasn't enjoying my life. Everything was so focused on getting this degree, I felt completely drained. I've since heard Sylvia Day talk about needing to top up the well, as though creatives — or anyone really — have a finite amount of creative energy and inspiration. We keep the levels high by consuming things that stimulate us. Books, movies, media. We need a mental break from whatever it is that we're making in order to then go and do our job in a healthy way. Even though I didn't know to call it that, I'd drained the well as a journalist and was running on dry.

That was the night that I decided I needed to exercise my long-neglected creative side. I turned the TV off, pulled my laptop out, and started writing. It was a historical romance about a poor relation who resorts to writing and the earl courting her cousin who falls for her hard. By the end of the night, I had the first chapter of To Woo a Writer.

Writing it, however, wouldn't be quite so easy as that first chapter. For about three years I picked up and put down the book. In the meantime, I wrote a novella and shopped it to a now-defunct Harlequin line. I still have the slip of paper my rejection was printed on. I doubled down on my efforts to finish the draft of To Woo a Writer only to be distracted by other things because writing is hard and it's easy to set aside things that are hard and get to them later.

Finally, in 2012, I decided that it was time to — for lack of a better phrase — put up or shut up. I'd been talking about wanting to get published for a long, long time and I still didn't have a completed, full-length novel to show for it. I made the decision to finish the book and started saying no to some social engagements that would take me away from writing and leaving others early so I could go home and write. In two months I typed The End.

The book was a mess (first drafts are always a mess), but it was done. Done! I called Mum, told her I was revising it and I'd need her to read it if she was up for it, and began hacking away at book. After a couple rounds of revisions, I pulled out my copy of Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents (bought and flagged with Post-In notes in an optimistic moment), and drew up a list of agents that accepted romance. I ranked the agencies, and began sending out queries for representation. By October, I'd signed with Emily Sylvan Kim at Prospect Agency who is still my agent.

The story of getting from representation to contract is another long one. To Woo a Writer is still bubbling away on the back burner of my hard drive. I love it, but with so much distance and growth since writing it, I can see its flaws. Before the Governess series was picked up by Pocket Books, I wrote two contemporary romances (one of which will be published this August and the other of which is so bad it will never see the light of day), and self-published two contemporary romance anthologies. Getting that first contract took a long time. Then again, so did writing that first book.

Writing to Music

1A version of this post previously appeared on Tina Klinesmith's website when she graciously hosted me for the release of The Governess Was Wicked.  Music is a big part of my writing process, but ironically it doesn’t come into play until I’m editing a book. For some reason I can’t write to music, but I love listening when I’m working through revisions. The music helps evoke a mood. It keeps me on track with the emotional direction of a book and makes it easier for me to jump back in after a long day of work and real life.

I wrote my Governess series at what felt like a breakneck pace. I would be writing one book in about three weeks, taking a week to edit it, and then using the remaining week to do a polish pass before sending it off to my editor. All the while, I was usually also tackling developmental edits for the previous book. Because all the books were going at once, I ended up lumping all of the playlists I’d started for each book together and created this one big list.

Here’s the playlist I listened to to hundreds of times while working on The Governess Was Wicked, The Governess Was Wanton, and The Governess Was Wild along with a short description of my top five favorites under the embed:

  1. “Superpower” — Beyonce

Hands down, this was my go to song, especially when I decided to completely rewrite the last half of The Governess Was Wanton. “Superpower” is slow, dreamy, and sexy. It never quite crescendos, and it’s perfect to put on loop while wearing noise cancelling headphones (not that I would know). Every time I hear it now I’m immediately transported back to the world of the Governess series.

  1. “Work Song” — Hozier

Here’s another moody, sexy song. It’s a quiet, reverential love letter and felt absolutely perfect for my story about a slow burn, years-long love in The Governess Was Wicked. Even more of a bonus, it’s by Hozier. I fell in love with his album back in 2014 and think he makes some pretty perfect writing music.

  1. “Hello” — Adele

Every book needs a dark moment, and this felt like a great accompaniment part of all three of my books. Adele manages to pull out such deep, fraught emotion in her songs that it’s hard not to get wrapped up them. I put this one in particular on my playlist because it’s about grieving the death of a relationship. While some of her other songs are also powerful — especially “Someone Like You” — this one fit the books better.

  1. “Love Me Like You Do” — Ellie Goulding

If I had to make a list of rules for romance novel playlists it would probably read something like this: every playlist must have a sexy song for the very sexy times, an angsty song for the dark moment, and a joyful song for the “realization of love and reconciliation” moment. This is my joyful song. There’s something about the buildup throughout the first verses that just sends it soaring about halfway through. It’s perfect for that big “he loves me” moment.

  1. “XO” — Beyonce

Another Beyonce song (one of three but who’s counting). This also falls solidly into the joyful zone. Like, “sing at the top of your lungs because this is your anthem of love” joyful. It also has a big, swooping crescendo, and the lyrics talk about her lover being as “bright as ever” and finding him “in the darkest night.” It’s the perfect way to end a book about love and romance.

The Governess Was Wild Is Out Now!

Readers, The Governess Was Wild, the third and final book in my Governess series is out at ebook retailers now! Here's a quick look at the book: The Governess was Wild

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When Lady Margaret Rawson is caught trying to elope with the thoroughly unsuitable James Lawrence, Lord and Lady Rawson decide it’s time to send their daughter away from the temptations of London. The job of delivering the headstrong girl to the family’s isolated Yorkshire estate naturally falls to her governess, Jane Ephram. It should be an easy task, but with the wild Lady Margaret, nothing ever goes according to plan. To make matters worse, Lord Rawson has made it clear that if anything happens to his daughter along the way, Jane will be dismissed without a letter of reference. When Jane finds Lady Margaret’s inn room empty and the charming Lord Nicholas Hollings’s horse missing one morning, she must embark on an adventure of her own with the devilishly handsome baron. Will Jane and Nicholas find Lady Margaret, the scheming Mr. Lawrence, and the missing horse, or will they discover something else entirely?

For more about how the Governess series came to be, go here. To see who I'd cast as characters in my book, head over to XOXO After Dark for a GIF-filled look.

And to listen to a podcast where I talk all about governesses and why I decided to write the books, check out the XOXO After Dark Cast.

20 Victorian Romances (Plus a Kindle Fire) Are Up for Grabs

victorian-romance-kellyIt's been a busy few weeks (and looks like there are a few more busy ones on the horizon) so I'm going to keep things short today. I've got a fun surprise for my readers. More than 20 historical romance authors and I have teamed up to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS one lucky reader is going to win a Kindle Fire!

I love events like this because readers get to discover new authors that could be the next on their instabuy list — and this one's even more fun for me because all the authors write Victorian romance.

You can win my novel The Governess Was Wicked, plus all those other books by entering this giveaway: http://bit.ly/victorian-rom

The contest runs until Monday, November 7, so be sure to enter!

Good luck!

The Governess Was Wanton Is Out Today!

If you read The Governess Was Wicked and thought, "I wish I could read Mary's story right now," you're in luck! The Governess Was Wanton just released today! Here's a look at what's in store for the second edition of the Governess series: The Governess was Wanton

Mary Woodward, a young veteran governess, has one job: guiding a young debutante through her first season in high society. And up until now, keeping her focus and avoiding temptation has been easy. But never before has the father of her young charge been as devilishly handsome as the single, wealthy Earl of Asten…. Convinced to risk it all, Mary let’s herself enjoy one night of magic at a masked ball in Asten’s arms, but will they both regret everything when the Earl learns her true identity?

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I'm already getting great feedback from readers on Goodreads. If you do read the book (or if you read The Governess Was Wicked) I'd really appreciate a review. Reviews help readers figure out what books will and won't work for them so they're really important!

The next books in the series, The Governess Was Wild, is still available for preorder and will be coming out in November. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you don't miss any future release dates!

How the Governesses Came To Be

The Governess was WickedAsk a writer, “Where do you get your ideas?” And you’re just as likely to get blank stares as you are answers. Many of us have no idea where the ideas come from. They just gel somewhere in the back of our subconscious in some mysterious process even we don’t fully understand because if we did you can bet writing would inspire a lot less hair pulling. If you really want to know where books come from, you’ve got to think of a book like a recipe and ideas like ingredients. You toss a whole bunch of ideas together that you’ve gathered from books, movies, the news, anywhere, and if you’re lucky you wind up with a cake…err…book.

I have no idea where my new Governess series came from, but I can tell you exactly where I was when it sparked. I used to take the 6 train up to the South Bronx every morning to get to my old job. It was an unusually cold day in late October, and I was worrying about what I’d do for NaNoWriMo. Like any good writer, I was armed with my trusty notebook and a pen, ready to write. I just needed an idea.

I got off of the train and headed above ground to wait for the bus that would take me last few miles to work. I probably hunched down into my coat because I’m always cold from October until April. Then, for whatever reason, an idea struck me. What if I wrote a book about a governess?

The Governess was WantonI love dukes and duchesses and all of the shenanigans they get up to in romance novels, but for a long time I’ve been wanting to change up that story. I've always been fascinated by women who lived on the fringes of respectability in Victorian England. Governesses, doctors, teachers, spinsters, small business owners. All of these women were different because all of them did something a woman wasn’t supposed to during this era: they earned their own money.

But despite my fascination with governesses I knew that I couldn't write just one book and call it a day. With my agent’s very sound business advice to think in series in mind, I began to sketch out basic plot lines for two other governess stories. I gave the heroines the names—Elizabeth, Mary, and Jane—that they would go to publication with. I gave them each a different kind of hero (their men’s names didn’t stay the same). By the time the bus pulled up, I had the kernel of an idea.

I kept working and working at my first governess book until I finished a draft and sent it off to beta readers. It came back bleeding with comments, but there was something in it that seemed worth pursuing so I kept at it. Little by little, a draft emerged. My agent was interested. I wrote my scribbled notes for Mary and Jane’s books into synopses. I rewrote those synopses many, many times, learning and re-learning what would make for a good, sellable book. If I wanted to be a writer who could eventually sell on proposal,

Finally the full first book and two subsequent synopses went out on submission, and a couple months later my governesses found a home and a wonderful editor.

The Governess was WildNow that the books are launching this fall, it’s strange to think about the fact that it all started because I was standing at a busy bus stop in the middle of the Bronx, trying to get to work and scrambling to come up with a NaNoWriMo book idea.

If you want to write, I may not be able to tell you where to find ideas of your own any more than I can tell you how I come up with mine, but I can give you these two pieces of advice: keep an open, curious mind and never travel without a notebook.

From now until 9/30 I'm giving away two huge prize packs to celebrate the release of The Governess series. Enter to win below!

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The Governess Was Wicked Is Out Now! (Plus a Giveaway)

The wait is over! Today is release day for The Governess Was Wicked, and I couldn't be happier that the book is now in the hands of readers like you! The Governess was Wicked Elizabeth Porter is quite happy with her position as the governess for two sneaky-yet-sweet girls when she notices that they have a penchant for falling ill and needing the doctor. As the visits from the dashing and handsome Doctor Edward Fellows become more frequent, Elizabeth quickly sees through the lovesick girls’ ruse. Yet even Elizabeth can’t help but notice Edward’s bewitching bedside manner even as she tries to convince herself that someone of her station would not make a suitable wife for a doctor. But one little kiss won’t hurt...

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The love story between Elizabeth and Edward was a lot of fun to write, and it also introduces one of my favorite characters I've ever written — Lady Crosby (those of you who read The Lady Always Wins will recognize the acerbic matriarch).

The next books in the series, The Governess Was Wanton and The Governess Was Wild, are still available for preorder and will be coming out in October and November. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you don't miss any future release dates!

If you want to learn a bit more about how the entire series came to be, First Draught dedicated an entire episode to my path to publishing story:

I'm also over on T.J. Kline's blog where she grilled me about the books and gave me a quick pop quiz.

Plus I'm on XOXO After Dark talking about dream casting all my heroes and heroines.

And last but not least, I'm giving away two huge prize packs thanks to a little help from my author friends. You could win ebooks, signed paperbacks, audiobooks, and an Amazon gift card!. All you have to do is enter here:

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