Teaser Tuesday Exclusive Excerpt: To Charm a Naughty Countess by Theresa Romain

My dears, I’m here, I’m alive, and it’s Teaser Tuesday!!! Even better we’re back with ALBTALBS superstar Theresa Romain! :) Yay exclusive excerpts, and double yay Pygmalion! I’m such a classics geek and … just *bounce* <3

Limecello, thank you for letting me join you and the ALBALBS crowd for Teaser Tuesday. Today I’m sharing an exclusive excerpt from my next historical romance, To Charm a Naughty Countess (coming May 6!). This is a Pygmalion story featuring a rakish widowed countess and a brilliant, awkward duke. Here’s the back cover blurb:

To Charm a Naughty CountessCAN A RECLUSIVE DUKE…

Brilliant but rumored mad, Michael Layward, the impoverished Duke of Wyverne, has no success courting heiresses until widowed Lady Stratton takes up his cause–after first refusing his suit.

WIN LONDON’S MOST POWERFUL COUNTESS?

Caroline Graves, the popular Countess of Stratton, sits alone at the pinnacle of London society and has vowed never to remarry. When Michael–her counterpart in an old scandal–returns to town after a long absence, she finds herself as enthralled with him as ever. As she guides the anxiety-ridden duke through the trials of society, Caroline realizes that she’s lost her heart . But if she gives herself to the only man she’s ever loved, she’ll lose the hard-won independence she prizes above all.

This excerpt takes place after Michael’s first few attempts at finding a bride, which go badly. Verrrry badly. So badly that Caroline summons him to her home for a bit of, er, supplementary instruction in society’s ways.

It’s totally professional. Really. I promise.

…Mostly.

==========

“Let us try again, then, and we will seek a kernel of pleasure in the everyday. You have your introduction in a moderate discussion of the weather.”

Michael sighed. “Yes. And no experiments.”

“Quite right. What next should we vanquish, to increase your enjoyment of London life?”

The answer came to mind at once. “Dancing. I know it is an inextricable part of courtship, though it is really nothing but an excuse for touching a lot of attractive strangers.”

“And unattractive ones too. Sadly.” Caroline dusted biscuit crumbs from her fingertips. “I suspect you’re not the only man in London who has qualms about dancing. It is one of the most complex of our rituals, you know. Every step heavy with meaning, every gesture holding import.”

“That is not a helpful observation.” Michael’s right leg began to bounce, agitated. “I thought dancing was intended to be diverting, but where is the diversion if every dance holds more significance than the average speech before Parliament?”

“This.” Before he understood her meaning, she rose from her seat to flatten a palm on his chest. His heart thumped for her notice, but then her head bent close to his, and he felt the warmth of her breath on his ear. “This, Michael.”

His scalp prickled; he had no idea whether his heart continued to beat. He only felt, wanted, craved as she took his hands, pulled him to his feet, then slid his hands around the curve of her waist.

His fingers flexed. “The sphere is no longer my favorite shape.”

Stupid brain.

“You have a favorite shape?” She paused. “Never mind. Of course you do. Might I hope your favorite number is three? We’re going to waltz.”

“What? Here?”

“Here. Now. One, two, three,” she murmured. Then she tugged at his shoulders, humming tunelessly. His feet followed as they were bid, at first stumbling until he seized upon the pattern of the steps. Ticking off circle after circle, transporting him ever onward, to a place that was entirely distant from a morning room on a noisy street in London. They turned, silent and slow, deliberate as arithmetic, and there was nothing but the sum of their parts. Body and soul and the sweet feeling of Caroline in his arms.

They fit together, hands and bodies, in every way. Two gears from the same wondrous machine, made to work together.

The tuneless scratch of her hum died away, leaving them alone in a roaring silence.

He had forgotten his body for a few minutes—a blessed gift. Now that it pressed upon his notice again, it was not as usual. Every fiber of his form felt taut, but the feeling was pure and bright, like feeling the sun on his skin for the first time after a long winter.

At long last, he thought as he bent his head.

She slid her hands to his face, then turned her head to breathe his name in his ear. “Michael. This. Let me show you the pleasure in it.”

He had never known an ear was useful for anything but hearing. Yet as she breathed in it—as he could almost feel her lips upon its sensitive folds—pleasure arrowed through his body, sudden and startling.

Surely she could feel his arousal through their clothing. Would she pull away? But no, she caught his shoulders again and pulled him closer.

His hands framed her face, then tangled in her coiled hair. Delicately, he brushed her lips with his. So soft. So heated. She gave a little sigh and slid her arms down to encircle him.

Why—she was embracing him.

He had not been embraced since the last time he surrendered himself to her touch.

Of reflex, he waited for the gut punch of chilly tension, the intrusive pounding of his headache. But she tugged his head downward, and her hot tongue found the rim of his ear, and his every rivet simply popped. He was steam, mindless and formless and boiling, and dimly he heard himself moan as she gently nipped his earlobe.

He caught her mouth again, smothering it with his own, wanting to consume their every sound of need. This was a power both unprecedented and exhilarating: to please a woman with his body. He had never done such a thing before, never been so close or so passionate.

But his own flesh understood things darker and deeper and hotter than anything Michael had ever studied in a book. He knew just how to press back when Caroline rubbed against him. He knew how to match her mouth with his, how to invite the delicious torment of her tongue. The taste of her was indefinable, like heat itself, and he sipped at it to understand it more fully. There was no understanding it, though, none at all. It was wildness for its own sake, and it was marvelous.

His hands had their own will, stroking her back and pulling her more firmly against his body. He wanted her inside him; he wanted to be inside her. The touch of her was magical, more intoxicating than brandy could possibly be.

No wonder he had resisted such closeness. It was unmaking him. He was drunk on it, and the realization made him shudder with thrilling force. This, this was why people danced and loved, and why they offered one another night after night of pleasure.

But pleasure would not save Wyverne.

The thought was as heavy and painful as hitting his thumb with a hammer.

There was no reason to dance with Caroline, or to kiss her. The solution to his problems was the prosaic circle of a guinea, not the sinuous curve of the woman in his arms.

He let his arms sink to his sides. They felt as weighty as if all the burdens of the world had been placed on them.

Which was a ludicrous overstatement. It wasn’t the world. It was merely eighty thousand acres of it, scattered far away and sere, needing him more than he could ever need anything or anyone.

“I…” He began, but had nothing to say next.

That single syllable was enough, though. He could almost hear the fragile intimacy shatter as Caroline stepped away from him.

“I can do without pleasure,” he made himself say. “It is not a requirement. Only money is a requirement.”

“I am sorry to hear you say that.” She was still too close to him, close enough to touch, yet she did not touch him again. “For I think an appreciation of pleasure would help you greatly in your cause. Without feeling it, you can never give it.”

=====

For more info about To Charm a Naughty Countess and to read chapter 1, please visit my site here.

And of course we’re going to have a giveaway, too! To Charm a Naughty Countess is the second book in my Matchmaker trilogy. I’ll give away a print or ebook (Kindle or Nook) copy of the first Matchmaker romance, It Takes Two to Tangle, to one random commenter on this post. Winner’s choice of format; open internationally.

For your comments, feel free to ask me something about To Charm a Naughty Countess—or let me know your favorite shape, or whether you know how to waltz, or if you’re any better at humming than Caroline is, or if you’ve got biscuit crumbs on your fingers like her. Really, it’s all good. Thanks!

Did you all read the additional excerpt?! And you can pre-order a copy here. ;)

Taxes & Reading

Mine aren’t done – anyone wanna come do mine? :P

Reading wise … I’ve read some ok books, nothing great … and do >.> maybe? hope to actually update Goodreads although I’d have to go back to January and remember things so that seems unlikely… :X

I did get a paperwhite about a month or so ago – it was on sale (first time ever?!) and because of Swagbucks I got it for free :D … but I read a kindle book and noticed some parts had “X# highlighted” and I just thought that was creepy as hell. Is there anyone who likes that? O_o

Someone is now blasting White Flag by Dido and it’s floating around and it’s just a very strange weekend.

How about all of you? Any new recs for me? Tax advice? :P

[Oh and yes - this is me, being behind as usual. I mean for everything, but especially ALBTALBS :X]

Birthday Girl Isobel Carr! <3

Hello! Birthday! Fun! Fabulous Isobel Carr! Rest! Wonder!

World Building isn’t just for Fantasy novels …

Ripe for SeductionOne of my favorite aspects of writing historical fiction is also one of the most challenging: crafting a world that’s steeped in historical detail but still accessible to a modern reader. Creating a believable historical world is every bit as challenging in my opinion as creating a fantasy one, with the added concern that people can actually fact check your choices. So if I use the word “scrum” to describe an unruly crowd, I can be called out on the fact that I’m 100 years too early. But if you say your vampires can walk in the sun (or sparkle), people may not like your choice, but they can’t document that you’re W.R.O.N.G.

The first challenge in my opinion is becoming really well grounded in the “feel” of the period. For me, this includes reading a lot of history, both general and topic specific, reading novels from the era, reading period journals, newspapers, court transcripts, etc. Really getting to know the era backwards, forwards, and sideways.

Because if you want to craft a believable historical world, it’s not just the BIG details you have to get right (date of the battle of Waterloo, which Lady Jersey the Prince Regent had an affair with, the current countess or the dowager) it’s the minutia of their everyday lives (ale for breakfast, the subtle restraint imposed by a corset, how distance is very different when you’re traveling by carriage or by foot as opposed to train or car).

An additional concern is that some things that seem natural and normal to a modern (and often American) writer wouldn’t have been done when and where the book is set. Iced tea for example, while technically possible to create in the Georgian era, given that they had ice houses and tea, wasn’t drunk then, and really isn’t drunk in England today. It’s an error with no bearing on the plot, but it’s also a flashing neon sign declaring that the author doesn’t know their period as well as they should and possibly isn’t all that familiar with England in general.

Guess the KissOn top of all the factual stuff you have to nail down, comes the trick of understanding the social mores of the time period, which can be quite hard to really grasp, and which, just like today, were not monolithic. The “rules” for how people had to behave varied by class, gender, and within those groups by the “set” you and your family belonged to. This is the area of world building which is the most fun, but also the most fraught with danger. What would the real world consequences have been for your plucky heroine offering up her virginity to a lusty rake? Or deciding she didn’t want to marry, but wanted to open a shop of some kind instead? Can you find any real world examples? Can you extrapolate from a documented mésalliance? From people’s opinions about a family whose bad luck led to them having to go into trade?

Many readers (and authors) seem to base their understanding of the Georgian/Regency world on things like the works of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. While both these authors are well worth reading and even studying, it’s worth noting that they have their problems as “guides”. Austen wrote about the gentry for the most part. Not a duke to be seen in her books. The closest we get is poor Sir Walter the baronet and Mr. Darcy, the earl’s grandson (who is VERY grand by Austen standards). And Heyer, whose books I adore, still has a sensibility that leans more toward the Victorian or Edwardian than the Georgian (read Making Victorian Values if you want to see what I mean). We all know pendulum tends to swing from staid to licentious and back again. Late Georgian was a licentious period, late Victorian very stuffy (but with the predictable underbelly of kink) and then the Roaring 20s came along and went right back to licentious … so whereas we often think of the Regency as a period in which one public kiss could ruin a girl, the fact was they had a party game called “Guess the Lover” that was nothing but kissing. Hard to imagine that under the steely eye of an elderly Queen Victoria, but very easy to see it at a party full of flappers.

So on my birthday, I’d like to raise a toast to all the fabulous authors out there who go the extra mile to give us historical fiction that we can lose ourselves in. Cheers!

Tell Me Something Good

So my day was spent … well, as a day, but then with lots of driving (on my part, which made it worse), being bilked at a spa (nobody wants a Lime Kahlo), and then … extremely awkward social interaction for hours (hours)… and this headache that has been with me for days. Which is so bad I kinda feel like I’m going to vomit. >.> I know you all wanted to know.

So what I want to know is – what is the best/stupidest criminal story that you know or have heard? Or strangest/most ridiculous law?

We can even expand this to the Darwin Awards.

Teach me something, friends. :D

What’re You Reading?

Not that I’m procrastinating or anything, or wishing one of you would come and stab me in the head … Of course not. >.>

I am curious though. What’ve you been reading? Anything good?

I finished Unwound by Lorelie James, and Sinners at the Altar by Olivia Cunning. I liked the first more than the second… but I won’t talk about the book because *fingers crossed* I’ll be doing a review for it for the TBR challenge. :P

Any recommendations for me? >.> Any books I should avoid? I’ve had pretty good reading luck lately, but some DNF disappointments – and nothing that I just loved – although I definitely recommend Hard Time by Cara McKenna. You wanna get your little paws on this book. (Heh – maybe I should do a review on this book.)

Guest Author & A Giveaway: Ruthie Knox

My dears, it is April. I am not ok with this. I need a pause and rewind button. But! No pausing or rewinding today – we’re barreling forward with Ruthie Knox! She’s here, and she chose to do an author interview, and we’re excited about that! Whoo! Yes! ;)

Really she’ll be much more entertaining – so here you go.

Roman Holiday: The Complete Adventure1. Your next life you come back as a dog. What breed do you come back as and why?
I come back as a mutt. Scrappy, medium size, with a slightly too large head. I never learn to walk on a leash, chew through collars, escape to roll in dead squirrels, steal pizza off your plate, and find and lick your panties when you are away from home. But I’m good-tempered, and the kids love me.

I’m not sure there is a why. Because that is the most awesome kind of dog to be?

2. What badass female character from TV (or books/movies) do you most want to be?
I will admit to a fondness for Sidney Bristow from Alias. Jennifer Garner’s just so cute, with her dimples and her Serious Spy Face and her badass disguises. Cannot resist her.

3. What would your superhero name be? What if you were an anti hero? What would your “anti super hero power” be?
My superhero name would need to include the suffix “licious.” Probably “Bootylicious,” because I have the booty. If I were an antihero, I would be Madame X, and my power would be to shrink people and make them live in tiny elaborate dollhouses of my own devising.

Truly4. Chocolate covered strawberries, salted caramel chocolates, or chocolate covered chips? Which do you go to?
Salted caramel chocolates. But I only have six, and then I switch to the chocolate-covered chips because mmm, sugarsaltfat.

5. You have a one way ticket to any place in the world you want to go – outside the United States. Where do you choose to go and why?
I would need more than one ticket, because if you gave me one and I couldn’t come back or take the people I love, I wouldn’t go. But if I can take all my people with me, and they are all perfectly compliant to my wishes, I think maybe I take them to Spain. I spent a couple weeks there as a teenager and liked it enough that I can imagine being happy there. Toledo, perhaps. Or somewhere in the hot, dry middle of the country.

6. What is your favorite food? Why? And what is your “signature dish”?
I’m terrible at favorites, but if I had to pick one food to eat over and over again forever, it would probably be refried bean and cheese burritos. So I guess that is my favorite food? Or, failing that, milk chocolate.

7. You have a pet rock. What do you name it and how do you decorate it?
I name it Thomasina, and I decorate it with rhinestones, frosty pink lipstick, and a short blond shag.

Room at the Inn8. What celebrity is your “spirit animal?” Why?
Jodie Foster is my spirit animal. She’s wicked smart, sharp, generous, courageous, and curious. She is extremely beautiful in a way that is genuine and unthreatening. And she has a refreshingly low tolerance for bullshit.

9. Sports – do you prefer participating, or spectating? And which?
I’d rather participate than spectate, but team sports are not my thing. I like all the ones you can do solitary or with a partner — running, hiking, yoga, biking, etc.

10. Do you speak any other languages? What [other] language would you most like to learn and why?
I don’t speak any languages other than English. I took a lot of Latin, which, yeah. I’d like to learn Spanish. It would make me feel like less of a privileged asshole.

11. You have to listen to the same song to 72 hours, or your family gets it. What song do you choose to listen to on repeat?
“Gotta Have You” by The Weepies.

Big Boy12. Tell us two truths and a lie. (The catch is you’ll have to tell us which is what in the comments.)

I’ve never taken an antibiotic.
I went to college when I was sixteen.
I gave birth at home.

13. You have to be part of a reality show. Which one do you pick? Which one do you absolutely refuse to be part of? Why?
I’ll assume I can be part of any reality show ever — I’d pick The Real World. I’d also choose to be twenty years old for this exercise. It would be fun to learn exactly what brand of crazy I turned out to be in that environment. I would refuse to be on Survivor, because I am intensely noncompetitive, and I would suck at every conceivable aspect of that contest.

14. You’re only allowed to read one book for the next year. Which book do you choose and why?
I’d choose Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles in Love, which is cheating because it’s more than one book. I’d like to read and reread those books, because they’re great, but also perfect genre fiction, absolutely perfect and brilliant. I’d learn so much.

The Camelot Series15.  What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you at school? How about at a conference?
Once in high school, I went to the bathroom during lunch and came back to my regular (mixed-sex) lunch table to find everyone giggling and casting me furtive looks. I knew they’d been talking about me, but I couldn’t get them to tell me what for the longest time — and then finally one of them confessed that they’d been talking about what I would be like if I ever received oral sex, and one of the guys had done this firetruck siren noise and lifted both arms in the air like he was on a roller coaster.

Then I died.

At my first RWA conference, I met Miranda Neville and knew I’d read one of her books but couldn’t remember the name. Had her confused with Meredith Duran. Then went to the room, looked her up, still confused. Met her again later, told her which book, she pointed out that it was Meredith Duran’s book. Then I stared at her cleavage speechlessly, then left. She was very nice about it.

Isn’t Ruthie adorable? Ruthie is also very generously offering someone a copy of Roman Holiday: The Complete Adventure. (And yes – swear I will fucking pick winners! And you know … it’ll HAPPEN.)

So what questions do you have for Ms. Knox?

Teaser Tuesday Thoughts

Hello my precious ones! You know I love getting feedback from you – so here’s what I’m thinking. *Do you ever have requests on books that you want to see an exclusive excerpt of? I’d love to hear what you think – if there’s anything you’re looking forward to, something that I can help provide?

And in the meantime >.> while you’re waiting for me to get everything else posted… you can distract yourself with this. *angelface*

http://gabrielecirulli.github.io/2048/

2048

 

*ETA: And/or perhaps specific publishers that you’d like to see featured here? I’m just open to exploring any and all options here :)