Wednesday, July 31, 2013


This is another reason why I love my publisher, Choc Lit, who does so much to promote me and the rest of us Chocliteers:

Choc Lit are holding a competition to win a ticket to RWA's Welcome Reception, Perth, to celebrate the launch of The Reluctant Bride, my spying mystery romance set between the French Revolution and the Battle of Waterloo. Tomorrow it's being launched in ebook format (ahead of its Sept paperback release).

All you have to do is name the heroine. Competition details are here:

If you're not going to Perth for the Romance Writers of Australia conference you can always give your ticket to a friend. The deadline in Sunday the 4th August, so hurry.

Perth is a fabulous city. We lived there for three years from 2000 and it's where our first daughter was born. Fremantle is a vibrant section of the city - the original part, done up, and very nice. We looked to buy a house there ... well, we did and on the final day before our right to terminate came up, we discovered it was riddled with white ants which are the bane of Australians as they can chew through wood at a rate of knots. Anyway, we ended up in inner city Northbridge in a beautiful two-story terrace where we lived until we went to the Solomon Islands for two years.

So I have very happy memories of Perth ... and I'm sure everyone who jets across for conference in August this year will be impressed.

And here's the Amazon link:

It looks like it's not yet up on kindle. It'll be $2.99, though. And you can a pre-release price on the paperback of only $10.32.

For those who like The Book Depository where worldwide shipping is included, it's only $11.32 here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

My Author Copies Arrived at Last!!

Well, I'm not one for letting an opportunity to get all excited pass me by. And if receiving two beautiful big boxes of The Reluctant Bride isn't good reason to into a tail spin, I don't know what is:)

So with a great sounding of trumpets, here is a photo of my beautiful books with their exquisite, embossed covers.

The official release date is September 15 but if you want to enjoy heavy discounts and pre-order, Amazon has them at $10.32 (free shipping on orders over $25)
The Book Depository has them for $11.15 (that's Australian dollars) which includes worldwide delivery. 
The e-book, which comes out in a few weeks, is priced at $2.99.

So, just to remind you about what The Reluctant Bride is all about, and it's history, here's a quick potted run-down.

About 6 years ago the first three chapters won Romance Writers of Ausrtralia's Single Title competition. Then I got published with my first Regency Romance - Lady Sarah's Redemption. I wrote three books for Robert Hale (all hardcovers which are now available as ebooks) and then four more sensual historical romances which are available only as e-books and written under the pseudonym Beverley Oakley.

Last year, however, The Reluctant Bride won Choc Lit's Search for an Australian Star competition and it's been excitement all the way, what with the Romantic Times Booklovers conference, book talks and the promo trail.

Here's the blurb:

Emily Micklen has no option after the death of her loving fiance Jack but to marry the scarred, taciturn soldier who represents her only escape from destitution.
Major Angus McCartney is tormented by the reproachful, slate-grey eyes of two similar women: Jessamine, his dead mistress, and Emily, the unobtainable beauty who is now his reluctant bride.
Emily's loyalty to Jack's memory is matched only by Angus's desire to win his wife with honour and action.
As Napoleon cuts a swathe through Europe, Angus is sent to France on a mission of national security, forcing Emily to confront her traitorous half-French family.
Angus and Emily may find love, but will the secrets they uncover divide them forever?

You can read the first two chapters here

Now, on the same day I received my author copies I also received my cover art for my next Choc Lit release, The Maid of Milan, due for release March 2014.

'The Maid of Milan' is about a woman who has finally fallen in love with her gorgeous, patient husband of 5 years. Now her former passionate (poet) lover- from whose arms she was torn by her family - has returned from abroad, a celebrity due to the success of his book 'The Maid of Milan'. High society is as desperate to discover the identity of 'his muse' as my heroine is to protect her newfound love and her husband's political career. (It's just a little more difficult since her secret lover was her husband's best uni pal.)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

History Lovers Grand Tour & Scavenger Hunt - International

Welcome to the History Lovers Grand Tour & Scavenger Hunt!

As the name implies, we’re a group of readers and authors who love both history and romance, especially when they’re combined in a delightful story. If you feel the same, you’re welcome to join us on our Facebook page and converse with us about historical romance fiction.

Below you’ll find authors of historical romances set in a wide variety of time periods. Perhaps by participating in our Grand Tour you’ll discover some new authors for your future reading pleasure. Hop around to your heart’s content, feel free to comment on the posts, hunt for answers to the authors’ questions, and perhaps you’ll be one of our 25 lucky prize winners (see contest details below)…although you’re already a winner if you find a new story to read, do you not agree?

The theme for this tour is Courting Rituals, but for my post, I’ve chosen to take a bit of a meandering path and talk about the ways women might find power - particularly within marriage - or how they greatly they were deprived of it, when they had no legal rights until well into the nineteenth century.

Power within marriage for women of the Past

‘Woman’s empire is an empire of gentleness, skill and obligation; her orders are caresses, her threats are tears. She ought to reign in the home as a minister does in a state – by getting herself commanded to do what she wants to do.’

The above quote by 18th-century Genevan philosopher and writer, Rousseau, is a reminder that since a woman had no legal rights, she must exert her power within the home, the only domain in which might be lucky enough to have any authority.

It’s easy to forget that until little more than a hundred years ago, a woman - with the exception of the fortunate widow - was entirely dependant upon her closest male relative. Her husband could force her to have sex and, if he chose, have her children taken from her and brought up elsewhere. (This is the subject of my Regency Romance Lady Farquhar’s Butterfly.)

Until 1891, if a woman ran away from an intolerable marriage the police could capture and return her, and her husband could imprison her.

Susannah Palmer who escaped from her adulterous husband in 1869, is only one example of the inequalities suffered by women. After years of brutal beatings, Susannah finally fled and, after working and saving hard, made a new life for herself and her children.

But when her husband found her, she was stripped her of all her possessions (which was sanctioned by the law) and left destitute. In a fury she stabbed her husband and was immediately prosecuted. (Sounds a bit like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, who I’m sure was only the tip of the iceberg.)

Prior to marriage, only an unladylike lady would make her romantic interest in a gentleman apparent before he’d all but made a formal offer.

Such convention is part of why writing historical romance can be so difficult.

On the one hand the historian will know the real limitations placed on a woman, say, two hundred years ago, yet it is an author’s job to create a heroine worthy of a twenty-first century reader’s interest.

And that interest would not be whipped up if the heroine’s strength of character went no further than the simple obstinacy that was often the tool of first and last resort for many a real-live woman who had set her heart on a potential husband who was not quite ‘up to snuff’ in her family’s opinion.

For this reason I prefer to write about married heroines. Virginal heroines in real life were so restricted in terms of where and how they could meet. Therefore, writing about a widow or a married woman means I’m less constrained, knowing I can be accurate as well as injecting spice, passion and sometimes sex, into my historicals.

The prize I am offering is an e-copy of my debut Regency The Reluctant Bride, which won UK publisher Choc Lit's Search for an Australian Star competition and which is available for pre-order in paperback but will be released in e-book on September 15. (I receive my author copies in a few days and am trembling with excitement.) 

In the blog post published the day before this one you can read two extracts from The Reluctant Bride.

Here’s my question for the scavenger hunt: If a woman ran away from an intolerable marriage the police could capture and return her, and her husband could imprison her. What year did this change?

Click on the History Lovers Grand Tour page to fill in the answer, and you may continue on from there. Enjoy!

In my latest release, Her Gilded Prison my heroine has never known power, either before or during marriage, and has never known the love of a man. Her Gilded Prison is written under my Beverley Oakley pseudonym for Ellora's Cave's Legend Line for, although the content is not overtly sexual, the theme is - the forbidden love between a younger man for an older noblewoman trapped for 20 years in a loveless marriage.

Take a tour through the blogs and websites of our participating History Lovers Grand Tour Authors and answer the questions when you return to History Lovers Grand Tour page. Each author is offering their own prize in addition to the grand prize, overall.

1.     Each author will offer a prize for a contest, the specifics of which is set up entirely by her. The contest will be open to all participants, regardless of geographic location. For logistical purposes, authors may substitute a digital prize (gift card, etc.) of equal value for another prize that might prove difficult to mail to a distant location.
2.     The Grand Prize for the Scavenger Hunt will be awarded to the participant with the most correct answers to the authors’ scavenger hunt questions.  In case of a tie, the winner will be chosen randomly.
3.     The winners will be posted on the History Lovers Grand Tour page the following week.

Scavenger Hunt
·       Click on the above links to each author’s blog. The blog tour entry can be identified by the graphic in the upper right corner of the post. If it is not the top post, look for the graphic in a prominent location on the sidebar, and click on it to find the blog tour entry.
·       Read the blog post and the author’s short answer question at the end. Locate the answer to the question, then click on the link to the History Lovers Grand Tour page and type in the answer next to the author’s name. Be sure to fill in the your name and email address!
·       You may go back to same page and read more of the author’s post (excerpt, etc.) or you may click on another author’s name on the answer sheet and repeat the process.
·       When you are finished, check to make sure the spaces for your name and email address are filled in correctly, and submit your answer sheet to the tour coordinator. If you submit an incomplete answer sheet, you may come back later and make another submission with the remaining answers when you have more time. 
·       Any questions about the scavenger hunt should be directed to the tour coordinator .

Here’s an excerpt from my latest release, Her Gilded Prison, about the lovely Lady Sybil Partington, who has never known love, either before or within her marriage, until she meets the ‘laddish’ Steven Cranbourne, her husband’s distant cousin and heir to the estate who’s arrived to learn how to run the estate since Sybil has ‘failed’ to provide her husband with a son.

After years of following the army, Stephen finds that life within a family, enjoying the love of a good women, is too precious to squander.

But then an unwelcome contender arrives to usurp Stephen from his position and Stephen must fight for what he has come to value above all else: his love for Sybil.

Extract from Her Gilded Prison
 “Ooh, careful!” The gasps of both young ladies was balm to his youthful ego.
“Come, my pretty. Come, Lady Zena.” Carefully, he extended his hand toward the bird.
After some contemplation, the little bird decided to make him work for his reward. When she hopped onto the sill of the farthest casement windows, Stephen had no choice but to follow.
This involved a heroic full-body thrust followed by a hasty snatch at the stone ledge. With heart hammering and very conscious of his audience below, Stephen hauled himself across the wall, securing one foot on the buttress. Victory was in sight. Lady Zena hadn’t moved position for some minutes and soon he’d pop her onto his shoulder and descend to the rapturous cries of the young ladies. It would be a just recompense for what, he realized looking down, was a rather risky ascent after all.
Eyeballing the canary, he whistled softly. She hopped daintily toward him then hopped backward. Clearly she was enjoying the game.
Stephen growled, hoping this dance of seduction was not going to become prolonged.
It was only the merest flash of something in his peripheral vision that made him turn his head slightly to the right. There was certainly no intent to peep through the misted windows. Yet the shock of seeing a shapely pair of thighs connected to a round, ripe naked bottom as its owner bent down to pick up one stocking was completely unexpected. He didn’t pause to consider that due to the high risk of discovery he should hasten away. He was riveted to the spot, wondering what else the lovely creature had to offer in the way of fleshly delights.
Tingling with excitement, Stephen squinted. He could see a bathtub to the rear of the room and realized she’d just risen from it, for steam swirled in eddies that partially obscured her until she discarded the linen she’d been using to dry herself.
The young ladies below called to him but he was rooted to the spot, desperate to see what more this as-yet-unintroduced female had in the way of sensuous charms.
He couldn’t make out her face, but her light hair rippled to below her waist and her pale limbs, the color of whipped cream, were well turned. He tried to gauge her age for she walked with calm, fluid movements, like one who has grown used to her body without realizing how lovely it is.
Anticipation gripped him as she made her way languidly from her bathtub towards the bed. It was a large, intricately carved tester covered in a sumptuous white counterpane, edged with ermine, and as she lowered herself onto it her lustrous tresses swirled about her waist.
And then with the most enormous shock he realized that this was the quiet, modest woman who’d welcomed him here. He’d barely noticed her in the carriage with her hair covered by a blue silk bonnet and her manner almost deferring to her eldest daughter, who certainly wanted to put herself forward.
This was Lady Partington.
Torn between the desire to scramble away as fast as he could and to strain his eyes to see what other secrets she’d been hiding, prurient interest won out. She was exquisite.
And she certainly seemed not about to raise her eyes to the window.
She flicked aside the curtain of her hair as she reached for a stocking, raising her leg to put it on so that Stephen was treated to the most intimate view a newly arrived heir no doubt had ever received of his benefactor’s wife, the lady of the manor.
He ignored the cries and shouts from his admiring audience below as he enjoyed the visual extravaganza before him.
Lady Partington eased the stocking onto her ankle then, in a seemingly unrelated act Stephen could not at first explain, she hooked her ankle over her knee and placed her head on her thigh. Then she raised her head...
And looked him squarely in the eye.
At first he did not move. He registered the flare of shock in her expression, quickly followed by confusion. She stood up quickly, her hair frothing about her waist, one hand moving to cover the fluff at the juncture of her legs, the other to conceal her full, heavy breasts. From this distance he could see the sheen of moisture from her bath and the faint marks left by pregnancy on her soft and rounded body.
He’d been with women who’d given birth to children but never one who’d shied away from him with such outraged horror.
As was only to be expected. Lady Partington preserved such delicacies for her husband and Stephen was guilty of gross voyeurism. He ought to be ashamed of himself yet he was curiously aroused in a way he’d not expected. Against her vibrant eldest daughter she’d been a soft little pouter pigeon, clucking her welcome. Now she’d stepped into a different league altogether.
Lady Zena chose this moment to hop onto his shoulder and Stephen deemed it timely to beat a rapid retreat. With his heartbeat roaring in his ears, he descended in record time, leaping the last six feet and going over on his ankle, surrounded by the young ladies—Hetty who gripped his arm and Araminta whose regal self-possession was nevertheless disturbed by the violence of his fall.
“Did you hurt yourself, Cousin Stephen?” she cried.
He was about to dismiss their concerns when he checked himself, adding slyly, “I might have twisted my ankle. Perhaps if we retired indoors you’d be so good as to administer a soothing poultice.”
Araminta read his meaning at once, offering him her shoulder to lean on, which he made good use of, and the close proximity. She was worldly enough to know he’d hardly make a fuss over a minor injury and she would be flattered that he’d use the opportunity to gain access.
Yet while her perfume teased his senses and her ministering touch was gratifying he could not get out of his mind the lush, ripe nakedness of Lady Partington’s unexpectedly desirable body.


Buy Her Gilded Prison:

Excerpts from my debut Choc Lit Regency Mystery and Spying Romance


In a few days I'll be holding my author copies in my hand. I'm more excited about this book, which won Choc Lit's Search for an Australian Star competition, than I am about any other book I've written.

In the meantime, here are two excerpts.

Chapter One
Spring 1813

‘It’s not a sin, unless you get caught.’

The gentle breeze seemed to whisper Jack’s teasing challenge, its soft, silken fingers tugging at Emily’s ingrained obedience. She put down her basket and stared with longing at the waters below, sweat prickling her scalp beneath her poke bonnet as desire warred with fear of the consequences.

‘Where’s your sense of adventure, Em?’

Still resisting, Emily closed her eyes, but the wind’s wicked suggestiveness was like the caress of Jack’s breath against her heated cheek; daring Emily to shrug aside a lifetime of dutiful subservience – again – and peel off her clothes, this time to plunge into the inviting stream beneath the willows.

She imagined Jack’s warm brown eyes glinting with wickedness. Taunting her like the burr that had worked its way into the heel of her woollen stockings during her walk.

Exhaling on a sigh, Emily opened her eyes and admitted defeat as she succumbed to the pull of the reed-fringed

Desire had won, justified by practicality. If she had to remove one stocking to dislodge the burr she might as well remove both.

Scrambling down the embankment, she lowered herself onto a rock by the water’s edge. Her father would never know. If he glanced from his study in the tower room, where he was doubtless gloating over his balance sheet, he’d assume she was a village lass making her way along the track. Emily had never seen him interest himself in the poor except …

Like most unpleasant memories, she tried to cast this one out with a toss of her head, still glad her father had never
discovered what she’d witnessed from her bedroom window one evening five years ago: the curious sight of Bartholomew
Micklen ushering the beggar girl who’d arrived on his doorstep into his carriage.

Then climbing in after her before it rumbled down the driveway and out of sight.

Now was just another of those moments when Emily was glad her father remained in ignorance. Her insurance, should she need it, was that she knew a few of her father’s secrets the excise men might just want to know.

By the time the first stocking had followed Emily’s boots onto the grassy bank she was bursting with anticipation for her swim.

What did one more sin matter when she’d be Mrs Jack Noble in less than a week?



Major Angus McCartney was out of his depth.

He glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. Only five minutes in this gloomy, oppressive parlour after the women
had arrived and he was questioning his ability to complete his mission, a feeling he’d not experienced before Corunna
four years before.

He’d been unprepared for the assault on his senses unleashed by the beautiful Miss Micklen. He shifted position once more, fingering the letters that belonged to her. For two years he’d carried the memory of the young woman before him as a confident, radiant creature in a white muslin ball gown with a powder-blue sash. Now her tragic, disbelieving gaze unleashed a flood of memory, for in her distress she bore no resemblance to the paragon of beauty at the Regimental Ball, a bright memory in an otherwise tormented year after he’d been invalided out of Spain. Clearly Miss Micklen did not remember him.

She’d remember him forever now: as the harbinger of doom, for as surely as if he’d pulled the trigger he’d just consigned her hopes and dreams to cinders.

She turned suddenly, catching him by surprise, and the painful, searing memory of the last time he’d confronted such grief tore through him.

Corunna again. As if presented on a platter, the image of the soldier’s woman he’d assisted flashed before his eyes, forcing him to draw a sustaining breath as he battled with the familiar self-reproach which threatened to unman him.

He reminded himself he was here to do good.

‘A skirmish near the barracks?’ the young woman whispered, resting her hands upon her crippled mother’s shoulders. ‘Last Wednesday?’

‘That is correct, ma’am.’

Mrs Micklen muttered some incoherent words, presumably of sympathy. Angus pitied them both: Miss Micklen digesting her sudden bereavement, and the mother for her affliction. The older woman sat hunched in her chair by the fire, unable to turn her head, her claw-like hands trembling in her lap.

He cleared his throat, wishing he’d taken more account of his acknowledged clumsiness with the fairer sex. He was not up to the task. He’d dismissed the cautions of his fellow officers, arrogantly thinking he’d be shirking his duty were he not the one to deliver the news. It was condolences he should be offering, and he had not the first idea how to appeal to a frail feminine heart.

Nor was he accustomed to the lies tripping off his tongue as he added, ‘A tragic mishap, ma’am, but Captain Noble acquitted himself with honour to the end.’

Miss Micklen’s gaze lanced him with its intensity. Tears glistened, held in check by her dark lashes. ‘I can’t believe it,’ she whispered, moving to draw aside the heavy green velvet curtain and stare at the dipping sun. ‘Jack told me he was on the Continent.’

Choosing not to refute Jack’s lie, he said carefully, ‘An altercation occurred between a group of infantry in which I was unwittingly involved. When Captain Noble came to my assistance he was struck a mortal blow to the head. I’m sorry, Miss Micklen.’

He wished he knew how to offer comfort. The beautiful Miss Micklen of the Christmas Regimental Ball had seemed all-powerful in her cocoon of happy confidence. Unobtainable as the stars in heaven, he’d thought as he’d watched her skirt the dance floor in the arms of the unworthy Jack Noble. For so long he’d carried Miss Micklen’s image close to his heart and this was the first time he’d been reminded of Jessamine.

God, how weary he was of war.