I’m proud to announce that my first book for Entangled Publishing’s Amara line is due out on December 11th 2017!
Firstly, here’s the gorgeous cover-
Secondly, here’s the deliciously tempting blurb-
Miss Charlotte Allston is unwittingly ensnared in a sinister web of traitors and spies when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome stranger on the beach. Fiercely determined to redeem his honor after a humiliating military defeat, the Earl of Beckport is living incognito, hunting a band of smugglers at the center of a French plot to invade England.
The enigmatic Miss Allston instantly becomes a person of interest to the earl…and not just in the smuggling case. Passion flares swift and hot between the two. But when her attempts to help with his secret mission only endanger it, he must question where her loyalty truly lies.
Stunned by the sudden revelation that the woman he is falling for is the daughter of a notorious smuggler, Beckport feels duty-bound to report her. But then Charlotte is captured by the very traitor he’s after, forcing the earl to decide between redemption…and love.
And lastly, if you fancy a sneak peek at this tremendous tale of treachery, intrigue and love, here’s the first chapter-
August 1804, Dorset
Miss Charlotte Allston was just about to wade into the sea to examine a mysterious object when a tremendous force sent her crashing to the ground. Flat on her back in the shallows, she gaped up at the summer sky, winded, struggling helplessly against the weight that smothered her. From the vise-like grip on her arms it had to be a man, an extremely strong one, pinning her down on the sodden sand. Squeezing her eyes shut, she prayed fervently for someone on the beach to rush to her rescue. But no one did. A cultured voice commanded, “You’re not to do it, d’ye hear? There’s no problem that can’t be solved—life’s too precious to throw it away.” Charlotte tried to focus on the face that now hung mere inches from her own, and failed. Fortunately, he shifted
his weight, making breathing easier, but she still couldn’t muster enough air to scream. Why did no one come to her aid? Was her attacker carrying some fearsome weapon she had yet to see? Suddenly, his words cut through her confusion. Life’s too precious… He thought she was about to drown herself. Great heaven, how could any sane person confuse wading on Chelney Beach with suicide? If she’d been going to do that, it would have happened months ago, after her failed elopement with Justin Jessop. Barely had these thoughts crossed her mind than the man set her back on her feet, lifting her as if she weighed no more than a doll. He swiftly removed his coat and tucked it about her shoulders. This wasn’t what one might expect from an assailant with evil intent. Shading her eyes against the sun, she stared at the man who’d so mistaken her actions. He was wellbuilt, with a deep chest that taxed the buttons on his plain kerseymere waistcoat. Long legs with powerful thighs and calves swept down to his boots, adding a masculine grace to his muscular physique. Was he an out-of-uniform officer, perhaps? He had the stiff, upright bearing of one. Or a bareknuckle boxer? This should account for the muscles. No, a pugilist wouldn’t have retained such dark good looks. There were no dents or lumps in the long, aristocratic nose, no scars to mar the line of the close-shaven square chin. The man was older than her beloved Justin and didn’t look particularly mad, or stupid. He must know she wasn’t about to put an end to herself. So, what, then, was his real motive for toppling her over? He gazed intently into her face. “You’re wet and cold.
Come with me back to the inn. I’ll have them do a hot brick for you and make up a caudle. Then I’ll return you to your family. Or take you to see the local parson. Whoever you feel might be able to help. I’ll carry you if you don’t feel up to the walk.” Somewhat lost in the face of such determined decision making, she summoned anger to her defense. “I can walk perfectly well by myself,” she stated, pushing away the proffered arm. “I don’t want your coat. I’d rather throw it in the sea and trample upon it! And I hate caudles. Tell me, do you make a habit of pushing young ladies over?” His eyes hardened. “Of course not. But I couldn’t let you do such a terrible thing.” “Is it so awful to walk into the sea?” “What you were about to do is against the laws of God and Nature. As I’m sure you’re aware.” He genuinely thought she’d been about to drown herself. “Well, really!” she said on a gasp. “Of all the ridiculous notions!” His broad shoulders sank. “You looked so melancholy. I thought—” “You were watching me?” She wasn’t sure she cared for that. The shoulders stiffened again, and he spread his hands in a gesture of self-defense. She noticed scratches on them, as though made by bramble thorns. Who was this man? And why was he spying on her? As she continued to gaze at him, nonplussed, the breeze flapped at her gown, driving the wet muslin against her legs. She resisted the urge to shiver, for fear of being threatened with a caudle again, and tilted her chin defiantly.
His deep voice had an edge to it as he said, “I see that I may have made a mistake. Only, you looked quite…bereft. Then you just turned and walked into the water. Anyone would have thought the same.” “If I have good reason to look melancholy, that’s my own business.” Wasn’t the fact that Justin was exiled to Scotland a good enough reason? Wasn’t the fact that she’d been confined to the house for the entire spring, more than enough to make her look miserable? “A lady doesn’t normally stroll along the beach unchaperoned,” the stranger informed her, “or ruin her shoes with sea water.” He coughed and looked self-conscious. “When things happen that are out of the ordinary, I feel the need to investigate.” She had been chaperoned. But Aunt Flora was so intent on listening to the quack doctor on the green that Charlotte had been able to escape. “I—” she began, then paused. Why try to justify herself? She should turn around and stalk off, not waste time standing here disputing with the fellow. “You behaved like a lunatic,” she said. “Shall I send for the constable and have you returned to your asylum?” He gave her a crushing look. Then, acknowledging the barb, he smiled. And for no reason she could fathom, she blushed. “If I were mad, I would hardly be likely to own it,” he said. Probably true. She really should stop arguing with him, brush down her sandy skirts, and return to Aunt Flora before she was missed. “You can apologize to me and be on your way,” she suggested.
There was a hiss of breath. “I should prefer you not to talk to me as if I were a child, when I quite clearly am not.” He certainly wasn’t. As he spoke, his powerfully male body became taller, more formidable—which made her feel a bit like a feisty sheep standing up to a wolf. “Look,” he said, grasping her elbow, “why don’t you just tell me why you walked into the sea, and then we can both go home.” She tried to shake him off. “You’re impertinent, sir, and no gentleman. If I tell you, will you stop pestering me?” He nodded, watching her with disturbing concentration. “Very well. I noticed something strange in the water and was wading in to see what it was. Satisfied? You can take your hand off me now.” The fingers tightened. “What did you see? Point it out.” Why was he so interested in such an unimportant thing? Definitely no gentleman, and most certainly addle pated. What a sad waste of a handsome face and striking physique. She relented. “I thought it might be a piece of cloth, trapped by a rock and waving in the billows, or it may just be seaweed. It’s out there.” Still holding her captive, he shaded his eyes and peered out to sea, then suddenly released her, strode into the shallows, and pulled out the object she’d seen. He splashed back toward her, his trousers soaked to the knee, and she stepped forward to see what he’d picked up. “Oh, it’s lace. How lovely! I can think of a hundred uses for it already.” Lace was scarce and expensive due to the war with Napoleon, and she happened to know that most of it was brought in by smugglers, keen to avoid the weighty customs duties.
Yes, she knew rather more about such goings-on than she would ever let on to a stranger. Or even a friend. It looked like Brussels lace—the very best money could buy—yet the stupid fellow was crumpling it in his great fist. “You’ll ruin it!” she exclaimed, reaching for the lace. He held a finger to his lips, then thrust the piece inside his waistcoat and peered around him, intent as a hound on a scent. “We must go from here,” he said. Catching her by the arm again, he jerked her into a running walk and headed back up the beach toward the path that led inland. “Let go of me at once! Where are you taking me?” “Back to the village. It’s not safe for you here on your own. Haven’t you heard the stories about the horseless highwayman?” She had, as had everyone who lived on this part of the Dorset coast. She countered, “But it’s broad daylight, and we’re on the beach, not the highway.” His square chin was determined, the full lips pressed into a stubborn line. This was a man used to being obeyed. Without slackening his pace, he said, “It’s for your own good. How do you know the footpad doesn’t mark his victims by day, then follow them and watch until nightfall, waiting for his moment to strike?” This gave her pause for thought. Then her foot slipped into one of the freshwater rills that laced the beach, and her anger returned. “How do I know you’re not the footpad?” she queried, hauling him to a stop so she could balance on his arm and shake the water out of her shoe. “You could be abducting me even now, planning to have your evil way with me.” Jerking her back into motion he said, “You’ve been
reading too many Gothic novels, by the sound of it. I think they’re ridiculous, responsible for spoiling many a young mind. You should try Swift, or the wonderful studies in human absurdity written by Miss Burney. So much more realistic.” He was striding along so fast, she had to struggle for the breath to respond. “Not only do you manhandle me in a most ungentlemanly manner,” she said, panting, “but now you’re recommending suitable reading material. What kind of man are you?” “The kind that has your best interests at heart, believe me.” “I don’t believe you. Let me go!” She yanked so hard on his arm it pulled him off-balance, and they both fell with a thump into the icy trickle of a rill. Well, at least she was on top now. But that didn’t make it any better. To get off would involve an undignified scramble, and parts of her anatomy would come into even closer contact with parts of his. Oh dear. His body arched beneath her, his stomach muscles flexing against her belly in a thoroughly disturbing fashion. She fought against a peculiar lightheadedness, intensified by the friction of his chest against her breasts. She didn’t realize what was happening until a smile blossomed on his face. “Oh, how dare you laugh! It’s not at all amusing, being tumbled around in the mud with you.” She scrambled off, subjecting him to a quelling look that did no good at all. He regained his feet in an instant, still chuckling. She snapped, “You look ridiculous. Your hair’s plastered
with silt.” “And you look like you’ve been trying to catch a piglet in a muddy sty.” She regarded him coolly and found herself distracted by the way his expression had transformed from a warning frown to a decidedly attractive grin. His brown eyes with their long lashes sparkled at her, giving her a tantalizing glimpse of a vibrant, virile man in the peak of health and humor. Dazzled, she smiled back. He said, “I can’t let you go home looking like that. I’ll fetch some grass to brush the sand off. I can’t do anything about the wetness except wring you out, and that would crumple your skirts, so best not.” She stood self-consciously by a dune while he broke off handfuls of long grass, the sharp edges raising beads of blood on his palms. As he brushed at her skirt, she watched, fascinated, enjoying the play of the muscles across his shoulders, and his quick, sure movements. He was so very different from Justin, yet she could see how some women might be drawn to such a man. “Turn round,” he commanded, straightening. She moved like an automaton, the stroking of his hands lulling her into compliance. If he attempted to brush her body any higher than her waist, she’d have to slap him. Or…would she just give it a moment, to see what it felt like? She swayed at the thought. “Sorry to keep bumping you. Don’t fall over. Are you dizzy?” “A little faint, perhaps.” “Let me steady you.” An arm came around her waist, and her mouth went dry.
Goodness! The man was emanating so much heat that she felt drawn to it, like a moth to a flame. “Now you’ve dropped your reticule. Here, allow me.” She reclaimed her bag in fingers that trembled. It was imperative she pull herself together. This man wasn’t Justin. She couldn’t possibly feel the same sort of stirrings she’d felt in her former sweetheart’s arms. She licked her lips. “I must go. My family will be wondering where I am. Thank you for the loan of your coat.” “I’ll walk you back.” “No need, I assure you. Good day!” She gathered her reticule in one hand, her skirts in the other, and hastened away in what she hoped was a dignified manner. On reaching the firmer footing of the path, she broke into a trot. She could have gone faster, but she didn’t want the stranger to think she was afraid of him. Her mother would be appalled at this new scrape. So her mother must never know. With any luck, Aunt Flora would be too distrait to notice her disheveled state. Her skirts would dry out quickly in the hot August weather, but she’d need to douse her face in cold water to get rid of the heat in her cheeks. Because every time she thought of her encounter with the man on the beach, her face flushed hot and her heart beat faster. But wait! They had unfinished business. He’d taken the contraband lace, which should, by right, be hers! Well, she wouldn’t make a fool of herself by turning around and marching back to confront him. But at some point—and soon—she would seek him out to reclaim what was hers.