Sneak Peek #1 of THE REBEL’S HERO

Dear Reader,

So far I’ve kept to my goal of writing at least 750 words a week! Huzzah! To celebrate, here is the (first draft) of the first 850 words of the new book, The Rebel’s Hero. I would love your feedback. Are you getting a good feeling of the era, the setting, the situation?

One night, when the dense Virginia farm air buzzed with gnats that spoke of a heavy summer rain, Howard announced he had found Tempest’s husband at long last.

Tempest cocked her head to the side and shook it as though she had gotten water in her ear. Everything was as it had been mere moments ago, yet she had the distinct feeling of the world tilting on end.

Though it was dusk, and the orange sun sank lower still into the farm’s horizon, the dining room was brightly lit by candles perched in silver stands, and in the chandelier that swayed overhead. The combined brightness of the candles burned Tempest’s brown eyes so tears gathered at the corners. She cleared her throat and glanced meaningfully at the old slave Elijah who stood in the corner of the dining in his typical hunched fashion, pretending he hadn’t heard a word.

Howard never spoke of such things before the slaves. Said it was none of their business, his private matters. Which meant Howard felt far too comfortable with where he led the conversation.

“I hadn’t realized my supposed husband was lost,” Tempest quipped, smoothing butter onto her bread before dipping it into her chilled mint soup. She popped the sopping piece of bread into her mouth, focusing on the clarifying mint scent to help her stay alert to Howard’s newest scheme.

Across the table from Tempest sat her mother, Sophronia, just to the left of Howard. Sophronia pulled her lace shawl over her stooped shoulders and smoothed the fabric of her hooped skirt across her lap. Her pale face looked especially wan in the candlelight, and her white-blond hair had all but lost its luster in the ten years since she had married Howard.

Howard glared at Sophronia rather than Tempest for her outburst.

This elicited an apathetic, “Tempest, don’t talk to your step-daddy like that,” from Sophronia in her velvet southern drawl.

“I’ll stop if he does,” Tempest muttered.

It wasn’t funny anymore, the way Howard talked about her lack of a husband when all the other girls her age had married and born a child already. She was eighteen. She had more than enough time. Didn’t she?

Sophronia straightened her shoulders in a half-hearted shrug and sipped soup from her spoon.

“You’ll want to know the unlucky man’s name,” Howard said with a self-satisfied smile. His voice was deep with the relief of a thousand nights spent racking his brain with plans to get Tempest married and off his hands. He laced his fingers together and leaned back in his chair so the wooden legs creaked beneath his paunchy weight.

Tempest flicked her head to the side so one of her blond ringlets flew from where it rested on her shoulder. She did not particularly want to know, but she had just stuffed her mouth full of bread and couldn’t bring herself to say anything to stop him from speaking.

As long as it was not the one man Tempest could not stand to be in the same room with, no, the same house, the same county, to be honest, all would be well. She would find a way out, as always, and continue on her merry, pampered way.

“Walter Leonards’s agreed it would be beneficial to all if you were to marry him.”

Tempest choked on the bread in her mouth, audibly. Throwing her napkin in front of her mouth, she coughed up the bread, wincing at the way Sophronia half-frowned at her. Sophronia did not need to say a word, Tempest knew what she was thinking.

Come now, Tempest, you know better than to do such things. Surely you have outgrown such tomboyish behavior. You are a lady. Act like one.

Or rather, the Sophronia of old might have thought such things. Funny, how Tempest missed the sound of Sophronia scolding her. So many years had passed since Sophronia had cared enough to scold.

“In fact, Walter’s right pleased. I think this will be the match of the decade!”

Tempest glared at Howard, enraged by the way he could speak that sentence as if he and Walter were doing her a favor. Howard had to go and pick the one man she could never marry. Of course he would. Just to see my reaction.

“You’re pulling my leg,” Tempest said, shoving her chair away from the table before Elijah could help her. “You’re making fun of me.”

Howard put his hands behind his head. Damn the man, he enjoyed watching her squirm. “Walter,” he confirmed.

Tempest closed her eyes. She licked her lips and gasped her air. Walter. He used to poke her with lit matches when they were little. He once put a centipede in her shoe when they had been playing by a crick. To this day, she swore Walter had lamed her pony just to have it put down. Did one grow out of such meanness?

“No,” Tempest said, her voice breaking over the word.

Howard half-stood, resting his palms on the table that pressed into his stomach as he leaned over it. “You will marry him, or be thrown from this house. I’m not like your daddy, I don’t tolerate such wildness from females.”

Tempest looked at Sophronia, who kept her gaze on her soup. Sophronia’s hand shook as the spoon it held hovered over the bowl.

“Say something,” Tempest whispered.

It was on this solitary day that a rose petal fell. It was not known whether it happened to be dropped by a hand, or whether it had fallen by the properties of gravity. Suffice it to say, it began this story.

So, what do you think? Don’t forget to check out the other ROW80 peeps.

Book: An Independent Woman

Title: An Independent Woman
Author: Candace Camp
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 397 pgs.

Summary: Nick was the orphaned, unwanted heir to the estate. Juliana was the charity case. Nick was the only one who protected Juliana from the cruelty of his family until he left to make a better life for himself. Years later, Nick reappears in Juliana’s life looking every bit the hero she remembered from her childhood. Misunderstandings cause her to lose her job as a lady’s companion, and Nick proposes a marriage of convenience. All seems well until murder happens on their wedding day…

Excerpt:

pg 71 – [Juliana] was the beloved companion of his childhood, the girl who had provided the only warmth he had known after his parents’ deaths. He had been eager to find her when he returned to England, but it had been the eagerness of an old, close friend… of a brother, say. He loved her, he thought, as much as he found himself able to love anyone, but it was a small, pure, uncomplicated love, a deep fondness for a childhood memory.

Yet here Juliana was, not at all a memory, looking very much like a desirable woman, and the feeling that had just speared through him was not years-old devotion but the swift lust of a man for a woman. The feeling shook him.

pg 139 – Juliana spent the next week in a veritable orgy of shopping.

Why should you read this book?

This is my first Candace Camp and I picked it up because I have been on the hunt for A Hidden Heart for my mother. The other Candace Camp books didn’t interest me, but the title intrigued me. This book was a fun, quick read, that had little history and the right amount of romance.

The selling point of this book is the description of Juliana and Nick. Admittedly, at the beginning I tired of Juliana’s constant wondering “Will he remember me? Won’t he remember me? What if I don’t meet his expectations?” Given that she is an independent woman, having made her way for years as a lady’s companion to nice (and not-so-nice) employers, that grated on my nerves a bit.

I adored the fact that Camp didn’t have them jump into bed right away. This book is a great example of a romance which allows the characters to get to know one another as people, to discover their personalities, their complements and clashes, before any hanky-panky begins. Their grudging respect for one another even while pissed off is what kept me smiling and reading; it’s what made them real for me.

Book: This Duchess of Mine

Title: This Duchess of Mine
Author: Eloisa James
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 370 pgs.

Summary: They are polar opposites, the Duke and Duchess of Beaumont. Elijah is almost puritanical, Jemma… isn’t. An unfortunate misunderstanding in the early days of their marriage involving Beaumont being caught with his mistress when Jemma had planned a surprise picnic outing led to years of separation. Jemma became ever more sophisticated and flirtatious in France, Elijah ever more serious and good. Then the day comes when they must address their past as Jemma must return to bear an heir for Elijah… before time runs out.

Excerpt:

pg 142 – Jemma knew instantly what he was referring to, and her heart hiccuped from fear. Then she pulled herself together. She had the blood of three arrogant duchesses running through her veins. She could certainly survive a visit to Spitalfields.

pg 195 – Elijah’s only reply was unprintable but heartfelt.
“The same to you,” Villiers said serenely, and then they kept silence until they reached the doctor’s offices.

Why should you read this book?

Those of you following me on Twitter might be surprised I finished this book. I’m certain my mother is, as she gave up on it. I had my misgivings because it felt as though the tension keeping Elijah and Jemma apart was, well, grasping at straws. It was far too obvious that they cared for one another, and the way Jemma in the early pages of the book seems to be manipulating anyone and everyone to begin the seduction for her estranged husband because he “needed some fun” really annoyed me.

It took me a while to realize why it annoyed me so; I’m like Elijah, I don’t like to play games and flirt needlessly, so for Jemma to convince women to throw themselves at Elijah because he hadn’t ever flirted made me think Jemma wasn’t good enough for him because she didn’t care to know him or what mattered/worked for him.

I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because by the end I felt I understood both characters better. They were flawed, which I liked. They compromised, which I liked. They had scenes which made me glad my family was off somewhere else because I would have been embarrassed to be reading them knowing my younger brothers could have peeked over my shoulder and seen an errant, highly suggestive word. I liked that too, heh.

So all in all, while it’s not the best romance I’ve read, I was highly entertained, and fascinated by the fact that Ms James, through the power of her writing, convinced me to keep reading. However, I will say that if Jemma had said “Oh, Elijah,” one more time, I was going to jump into that book and drag Jemma by her hair out of the bed for a good scolding.

Sorry. Pet peeve. “Oh, Name-of-Hero-Who-Stirs-My-Loins,” just looks cheesy on the page.

Worderella Joins a Blogfest

Dear Reader,

In case you didn’t know, today is my birthday, and two years ago I put my writing aside to get a masters degree.

Now that I’ve graduated, I feel a bit like Mr. van Winkle after his twenty-year slumber.

Two years ago, Smashwords was a fledgling idea I didn’t trust. ISBNs were only sold in groups of ten. Good luck getting distribution, because no one would distribute a self-published work… oh wait, we have Amazon CreateSpace now?

Two years ago, Twitter was for nerds. Well, it still kind of is for nerds, but now it’s for super cool super social nerds, like me. Blogs were starting to become passé for those who couldn’t maintain steam. But us writers, I’m happy to find, are chugging along with these cool things called blogfests.

What is a blogfest?

I asked this very question not three days ago. I’d never heard of one, and I couldn’t find any examples. Lo and behold, following my usual six-degrees-of-Twitter, I joined a bloghop for romance writers. From there, I learned about a blogfest that I could join.

The idea is to have a bunch of bloggers write toward a particular theme on a particular day. The blogger hosting the blogfest links to the other blogs and vice versa, and everyone hops around reading the submissions.

It’s like an online writer’s group, or something. It sounds awesome.

This blogfest I’ve joined will be on August 25. The theme is “rainy day.”

Since Haunting Miss Trentwood is set in England, I need a rain scene. I’ve already had one, but it’s been a couple days in the time line, so I think we’re due for another. I’m excited.

Are you in the middle of a project? Are you feeling stuck? Maybe you need to throw your characters in the middle of a rainstorm. You should join the blogfest!

All the best,

Belinda

Worderella Hunts for her Readers

Dear Reader,

I’ve gotta say, it’s been pretty tough tracking you down. I’ve done it to myself, I know, writing such a particular genre (paranormal historical romance). But the thing is, this is the genre that is spilling onto the page, so this is the genre it seems I must write.

So first, I’d like to list what I know about you. I know you are probably a young-to-middle-aged-or-older woman. I suspect you are probably interested in historical fiction, romance, and the paranormal. Some combination of all three, if preferable. I know you are interested in relationships, particularly father/adult-daughter relationships and romantic relationships. I know you probably like…

What I don’t know is where you’re hiding yourself. I assume you are busy reading, living life, enjoying food, drink, and the company of excellent companions. I applaud these activities and encourage you to indulge them more often.

Our lives are far too hectic these days; we don’t know when to take a break or how to know when we should take a break. Even when we recognize when to take a break from the everyday doldrums, we don’t know how to.

Those of us who are lucky know to lose ourselves in a good book. The sort of good book I’m in the middle of writing, just for you.

I’m trying everything I can think of to reach you. I want you to know that I care about you, I’m fighting to make a quality, personalized product just for you. And I think I’m making headway, thanks to social media.

You see, I’ve been a part of social media for years. I had a Facebook page under a different name, and learned the ropes of the system. I deleted that page because, well, it was getting spammed by every robot and its mother. But I started a Facebook page under the name Belinda Kroll because I wanted to get to know my potential readers. I want to know what you find interesting, funny, weird, touching, etc.

I want to get to know you. And I’d like you, in the process, to get to know me.

But in the meantime, I seem to be getting a lot of fellow writers friending me on Facebook. Which is totally fine, and I’m loving the idea of garnering a small community of writer friends. But the point of my attempt at social media was to get to know you, and not necessarily my friendly competition.

Today, however, I feel as though I’ve stumbled onto a landmine. You see, I’ve been part of Twitter for over a year, but just recently set up a Twitter account dedicated to my writing. This Twitter account is where I keep up with the big writing and publishing news. I follow my blog friends, I follow agents and publishers, and I follow you, if I’m able to find you.

Which leads me to my landmine: the Twitter Search functionality. It’s taken me a while to discover how to utilize social media successfully. But I realized today that I can search for the terms that pertain to my writing, and therefore pertain to your interests.

I use this cool Firefox browser plug-in called Yoono, which allows me to log into multiple social media accounts. At any given time, I get real-time updates from Twitter and Facebook. This allows me to continue writing and researching, while taking pulse of the writing and publishing community.

Yoono is also cool because it saves my searches for me. Each search for Twitter becomes a sort of specialized list which I can access at any time. I’ve used the following terms to get closer to you, to discover if these terms pertain to you and your interests the way I hope they do…

I think I’m on the right track. The tweets I receive when I click on these search topics are from you. The content is that you’re reading these books and you’re suggesting them to friends and fellow readers.

Don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t want to spam you by advertising my work. Instead, I want to hear what you have to say about these amazing writers. After all, I’m a fan of Amanda Quick, Deanna Raybourn, Susan Carroll, et al,  just like you. I hope to learn from their books and from your comments about their books.

But mainly, I just want to get to know you. So if you could, send me a line sometime.

All the best,

Belinda Kroll
(@worderella)

Book: Private Arrangements

Title: Private Arrangements
Author: Sherry Thomas
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 351 pgs.

Summary: Everyone in London envies Lord Camden and Lady Gigi Tremaine’s marriage. It is the epitome of the proper marriage, as they never make a scene, they respect one another’s freedom, and they aren’t too lovey-dovey. Oh, and they haven’t seen one another for ten years. Now that Gigi wants a divorce, Camden returns to London with an obnoxious request in exchange for her freedom to marry again.

Excerpt:

pg 1 – Only one kind of marriage ever bore Society’s stamp of approval.

Happy marriages were considered vulgar, as matrimonial felicity rarely kept longer than a well-boiled pudding. Unhappy marriages were, of course, even more vulgar, on a par with Mrs Jeffries’s special contraption that spanked forty bottoms at once: unspeakable, for half the upper crust had experienced it firsthand.

Why should you read this book?

This book is a romance, no doubt about it. The intimate scenes are hot, and most importantly, imperative to the relationship between Gigi and Camden. As a married couple that hasn’t seen one another for ten years, there are past disputes that have to be resolved, old wounds re-opened, and ten years of desire to be satiated. Which they do, but always with a purpose.

For those of you writing romance, read Thomas’s book for an example of well-written intimate scenes that not only further the plot, they shove the plot forward with gusto, making you feel everything the characters feel and more. This is the first romance in a long time where I felt like the author really knew what they were doing. I’m definitely adding Thomas’s backlist to my TBR.

Book: The Honorable Marksley

Title: The Honorable Marksley
Author: Sherry Lynn Ferguson
Genre: Regency Romance
Length: 230 pgs.

Summary: When the prodigal heir to the family, Reggie, compromises a young woman under his cousin Richard’s name, the family puts pressure on Richard to follow through with what ought to have been Reggie’s responsiblity in marrying the girl. And, being the only responsible one in the family, Richard agrees, not realizing there is more to this girl than meets the eye…

Excerpts:

pg 83 – “I believe the two are inseparable, Mr Cavendish. Certainly I believe that we love, or hate, as much with the mind as with the heart.”

You are in company with the finest intellects in saying so, Miss Ashton!”

Hallie was less aware of Archie’s ardor than or Richard Marksley’s quiet regard. She met his gaze, intending to do so only briefly, but found her attention fixed.

“Presumably,” he said, “you would never believe in love at first sight.”

Hallie’s chin lifted. “I do not.” She was conscious of all eyes upon her, and felt uncomfortably warm. “Though there may be a certain susceptibility–an inclination. One might wish to love for the mind’s reasons, and one’s heart then accproves the first acceptable candidate.”

Why should you read this book?
Remember that post my friend Graham wrote about sometimes reading books that show how have you have improved as a writer? This is one of those books. I have to be fair to Ferguson, though. This is an Avon Historical Romance, meaning the book probably isn’t more than 50-60k words, limiting a well-rounded story with fascinating characters and lush descriptions of setting and society. Backstory is almost always missing, and in this book, the backstory about the heroine’s brother seemed more interesting to me than the heroine, I’m sad to say. After all, when the conflict can be resolved in one honest conversation, you know there are problems. Though I will argue that, with more plot twists, this heroine could have been as great as most romance heroines I’ve read.

That being said, I used to read Avon books because I could tell myself, “I think I can write this.” Now, I read these books to remind me how I have improved. Due to the length requirements placed on Avon authors, almost everything must be scrimped. Setting and location is spare, character descriptions tend to be arechetypal, plots are a collection of historical fiction cliches and misunderstandings. In other words, these books introduce you to the bare bones minimum of historical romance. Always good for a light read, I’m afraid to say Avon romances just have something integral missing for me nowadays.