First kiss – excerpt from Mary and the Marquis

If you like Regency romance, or just romance in general, here is a passage from Mary and the Marquis in the hope of whetting your appetite. Chapter 1 can be read by following My Books/Mary and the Marquis/Chapter 1 from the menu above.

 

One dark brow lifted. He’s testing me, she realised, a slow blush heating her skin, unable – or unwilling? her inner voice teased – to tear her eyes from his. As she froze, his gaze focussed and intensified. His eyes gleamed and his sensuous lips curved as Mary, still bent over him, remained transfixed, her pulse racing as his masculine scent assailed her senses and pervaded her very being. She felt as she imagined a mouse must when confronted by a crouching cat, fearful of twitching the tiniest muscle lest it prove the wrong move: the move that would trigger the pounce. Every nerve of her being quivered, every sense was on heightened alert. The stillness of the house weighed heavily, the only sounds the soft crackle of the fire and the ticking of the clock.

The slow movement of his hand broke the enchantment for a brief moment, before he enmeshed her further in his spell.His finger touchedlightly at her temple, traileda path down the side of her face and followed the line of her jaw to her chin. It then lifted to caress her mouth, tracing the width of her trembling lower lip. Mary’s lids fluttered closed as his hand cupped her chin and urged her closer, ever closer. His breath whispered across her sensitised lips as he feathered a kiss across her mouth. Desire snaked through her as his hand slid round to cradle her head. The moist heat of his lips as they moved against hers was an impossible temptation. Without volition, Mary’s hand lifted to his cheek and she leaned into the kiss, lost in the moment, her whole body awakening and responding, every nerve tingling, anticipation flowing from a tiny pinpoint deep inside until it flooded every vein in her body. She trembled, the craving for more near overwhelming her, until the distant sound of a door banging roused her from her trance and, with a gasp of horror, she wrenched her lips from his. She scrambled away, her face a-flame, her hands flying to her cheeks in a vain attempt to cover her shame.

‘My lord…’ she gasped.

The heat in those ebony eyes was undeniable. He smiled at her: a slow, seductive smile that set her quivering with desire. Her heart was pounding and she could feel the pulse jump in her neck. How had he captivated her so very quickly? How had one kiss resurrectedthose feelings she had thought dead and buried long since?

She stiffened, angry and ashamed that she had become so mesmerised by the touch of this stranger’s lips that she had responded in a way no decent woman should. And she was furious she was now unable to conceal her embarrassment. Why should she make such a fuss over a stolen kiss that was no doubt a mere passing fancy to a rake such as he? She dragged in a deep breath to steady her nerves. It would test her ingenuity to its limit, but she must disabuse him of any notion she might be available for any sort of dalliance. Taking a moment, she smoothed her hands down her skirts. She then looked him in the eye, raising her brows in a way she hoped would make her appear unconcerned.

‘Well,’ she said, willing her voice to remain light and unconcerned, ‘I cannot pretend you did not catch me off guard, or I would not have allowed that to happen. However, although your kiss was pleasant enough, my lord, I shall be obliged if you will restrain your…  more basic urges in the future. I have no wish to be constantly on my guard if I am to assist in nursing you over the next week or so. As a gentleman, I am sure you will accede to my wishes.’

‘Ah… but can you be certain I am a gentleman?’

Mary raised her chin. ‘I make no doubt you were raised as such,’ she said, ‘and, no matter what direction your life has taken since then, I would urge you to remember that. I am here to nurse you, Lord Rothley, and that is all.’

If you’d like to find out more about Mary and Lucas, there is a link to Amazon on My Books/Mary and the Marquis above.

The RNA Conference 2014 and dubious medical practices

This time last week, I was dogging Katie Fforde’s footsteps around a table. We were compiling bundles of bookmarks and postcards for inclusion in the goody bags for the delegates due to arrive at the 2014 Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. The conference was held at Harper Adams University, a former Agricultural College, near Telford in Shropshire. I’m told the smell was all-pervading. I wasn’t sure whether or not to be grateful that I’ve no sense of smell. Having lived for so many years on a farm I would no doubt have felt right at home.

The venue was great; the food superb (the meat, raised on the farm, was mouth-wateringly tender); and the company, as ever, stimulating and joyful. As we are only an hour’s drive from Harper Adams, my friend, Morton Gray, and I planned to arrive early and help with the bags, which is how I came to be following Katie Fforde (president of the RNA, no less) around the table. It’s what is so great about the RNA, everyone pitches in.

Of course, the main reason for attending the conference is the many brilliant sessions on offer. Not the wine, the food, the chat, the laughs, meeting old and new friends. Honest! There were 34 sessions to choose from, usually 3 for every one hour slot. It was so hard to choose which to attend and inevitably there were sessions I regretted missing.

Of all the sessions I went to, the one that really stood out for me was Melanie Hilton and Jan Jones: Into the heart of the past. All about romantic fiction research, it was particularly apt for me. It was fascinating to hear how these authors carry out their research. There were wonderful slides to illustrate the talk, including some of Melanie’s vast collection of original prints. A few original artefacts were passed around the audience, and it was a privilege to handle, amongst other things, a genuine Norwich shawl: to see the size of it (huge, since you ask – full length) and to examine the workmanship up close. I learnt many fascinating facts (all of which I religiously recorded!), including that it was possible to make love in a park drag, which is a gentleman’s sporting vehicle built to look like a stage coach.

We also learned of some of the pitfalls in using language in Regency times. For instance, the word fiancé did not come into use until the 1850s. Before then they used betrothed or affianced wife.  Also, in 1801, the word debutante referred to a female stage actress. It was not used for a girl coming out into society until 1817. That’s definitely one to remember!

A challenge was set for the audience at the start of the talk: to identify the purpose of what looked like a pair of wooden bellows, complete with the usual tapering nozzle and with an additional short tube-shaped inlet at right angles to the nozzle. This instrument raised a laugh at the end of the talk when it was revealed as a Tobacco Smoke Enema Device for Reviving Drowned Persons. Yes, it was inserted into some poor half-drowned soul’s rectum and smoke from a pipe was directed through the inlet and puffed up the victim’s bottom! We didn’t learn if anyone had actually been revived by this method, but it seems somewhat doubtful.

My only quarrel with Melanie and Jan’s session is that it clashed with two other talks I would have loved to attend. C’est la vie.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference in London. Special mention here to Jan Jones (organiser extraordinaire), Roger Sanderson and Jenny Barden for making the conference such a success.