A Duke-a-licious Sample

On April 16 (next Tuesday, woo hoo!) DUKES BY THE DOZEN will be live! And to whet your appetite, I’ve got a little sneak peek from of one of the novellas in the anthology. I’ve been sharing on them on my Facebook Page, and playing along in our Dukes By The Dozen Facebook group as well. If you haven’t, be sure to join us for information on giveaways coming up in the next few days!

In the meantime, read below for an excerpt from DEAR DUKE, by Anna Harrington!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GdQPHB

Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2RUkaPQ

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2Gp6SVs

iBooks: https://apple.co/2TSGiLi

Dear Duke

Anna Harrington


John, Duke of Monmouth, has no idea that the anonymous pen pal who has stolen his heart is the same woman standing between him and his new canal…


Good God, he was nervous! Surrounded by a sea of masked guests inside Bishopswood’s ballroom, John tugged once more at the sleeves of his black kerseymere jacket.

He nearly laughed at himself. When had he ever been nervous about a woman before in his life? In his younger days, he’d bedded more women than he could remember, sharing in all kinds of pleasures with down-to-earth women from the markets, inns, and villages. In more recent years, he’d been too busy with his business to spend much time in pursuit of the women of the gentility that his new money brought him into contact with. Since he’d inherited, though, it was society ladies who vied to capture his attention, those women who were more than eager to raise their skirts for a wealthy duke. He rejected those ladies outright, knowing he’d find no pleasure in them, because they wanted to be with the title and not with the man.

But the woman who pinned those notes to the tree knew nothing about his title or his status as one of England’s most powerful men. He suspected that she wouldn’t care even if she did. At least he hoped she wouldn’t, preferring the true man he was. God knew how much he liked her.

If she were half as beautiful in person as she was in her letters, he feared that she might also capture his heart.

He snatched a glass of champagne from the tray of a passing footman, more so he could continue to take glances toward the top of the stairs over the rim than for the drink itself. His eyes hadn’t strayed far from the landing all night, although how he would know her when she arrived, costumed and hidden behind her mask, he had no idea. He only prayed that he would. And that she would come at all. When he’d returned to the tree to seek her response, the invitation was gone, but she’d left no reply. Nor did she write even once during the past week.

Since then, he’d kicked himself repeatedly that he’d pressed her to meet, fearing he’d gone too far. Would he ever hear from her again?

Quashing his worry, he watched as the parade of new arrivals appeared on the landing and handed their invitations to the Master of Ceremonies, who announced them based upon their costume. Tonight was a true masquerade, with all identities hidden until the midnight unmasking. He’d insisted on it. For a few precious hours he wanted to be nothing more than one of the crowd, so that he could enjoy the party himself before they set upon him like locusts in their rush to curry his favor. Most of all, he wanted time to enjoy the company of the woman who had written all those letters.

He had no idea what his secret authoress would look like or what costume she’d wear. If she’d appear at all. But he knew he’d feel her presence when she arrived, the way old sailors felt oncoming storms.

White flashed at the top of the stairs. His gaze darted to the landing—


A low tingle rose inside him as he watched her give her invitation to the Master of Ceremonies. His breath hitched with nervous anticipation despite a soft chuckle to himself as her name was announced. Lady Swan. A graceful, gliding vision in white silk and feathers, one in perfect opposition to the black clothes of his panther, of her softness and elegance to his hardness.

Meeting her gaze across the room, he held out his hand toward her in invitation, as if she were only a few feet from him rather than across the grand ballroom. The party faded away around them until it was only the two of them. No one else in the room mattered.

She drew in a nervous breath, her slender shoulders stiff. Then a smile spread beneath her white satin half-mask, and she moved on, gliding down the remaining stairs and into the crowd which parted around her as she came to him.

Wordlessly, she slipped her trembling hand into his. He raised it to his lips, unable to resist this small kiss, then led her forward to the dance floor, to take her into his arms and twirl her into the waltz.

Adventures: An Afternoon At The Museum

Adventures of an Author in Europe: If you haven’t read the beginning of my adventures, you can start here.

After my little foray into Hyde Park, and going around and around the same roundabout a few times, I finally got to the Victoria & Albert Museum. Of course, as per usual, I was very loud when I walked in. Why? Because as security was checking my bag for explosives (Europe was on high alert after Brussels) I was looking around for the ticket counter.

Me: Where do I buy a ticket?
Security: There are no tickets.
Me: [very loudly] You mean, it’s free? I can just come in and wander around for as long as I want?
Security: Yeah. Don’t get lost.
Me: [even louder] Oh, this is going to be GREAT.

And just imagine my squeal of delight when the very first room I see is the historical fashion display.

Oh, oh, oh, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen—except maybe for the Three Centuries of French Fashion exhibit I saw a few days later in Paris. We’ll get to that. But first, the fashion.

I took pictures of Every. Single. Item. Far away shots. Close up shots. I looked at stitching on hems and gloves so closely I fogged the glass. I can’t possibly put every picture here or describe every item, but I have so much fodder for future historical clothing blog posts my heart goes pitter-pat just thinking about it.






And when I found the extant stays, I literally shouted “Stays!” and made the people around me laugh.








What makes me so excited? Certainly I can look at historical fashion books where the details are enlarged and I don’t have to fog the glass. The V&A also has a lot of images online, which I’ve used for research purposes in the past. I’ve seen some of these items already.

But it’s not the same. It’s just not. You can’t understand sizing, texture, color from a photograph. The people of the past really were smaller than us. I kept thinking the men were the same size I was, and some of the women’s gowns seemed impossibly small. And some impossibly large!


How the heck do you sit in that?














The shoes were much narrower than I expected. No way would my big ol’ wide feet get in them.

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The fans were exquisite in their detail, and I could just imagine a workman standing over them with a teeny-tiny paintbrush. My eyes hurt just thinking of it.

The other reason I love fashion exhibits like this—and why I like antiques in general—is because someone wore those clothing. They woke up one morning, put on their undergarments just like we do, then their outergarments, then their accessories. They lived their life, just like we do now. Just because their clothes and society were different doesn’t mean they didn’t laugh and love and cry. More, they came before. Who we are now is because of who they were then. Every day of my life is built on the days and lives of others no longer here, but who left a legacy.


DSC_0111 DSC_0109And when I see those gowns and morning jackets and horrifically narrow shoes, I think of where they wore them, and what they did in them, and how their actions shaped my life. Maybe some statesman drafted a world-altering law while wearing that jacket. Maybe the woman carrying this parasol fought for women’s equality.


Or maybe they lived, married, bore children, touched the lives of others, and left a legacy in that way.

OK, so now that I have waxed poetic about historical figures, on to the marble statuary and jewelry sections!

IMG_20160414_122412I took lots of pictures of the marble statues because I find it interesting to know what people looked like in the past (see me waxing poetic above). Put a face to the name, so to speak. And because marble is so white and pure, there is something both sad and beautiful about them, even when the faces are smiling.


Now, onward and upward! On the second floor of the V&A was a really cool room full of jewelry. The room was dark, with lights only on the jewelry so they sparkled in the cases. It was almost like walking into a night club—dim, dark floors, dark walls, with the flash and blink of lights here and there. Naturally, I start to take pictures, and what do I hear?

“Ma’am, no photography. Ma’am. MA’AM!”

I was busy photographing and didn’t hear him at first.

“MA’AM, there’s no photography!”

Oops. Turns out there was a really big sign next to me that said NO PHOTOGRAPHY.

So I apologized profusely, stumbled on my words, stumbled on my feet. And the security guard/porter—we shall call him Fred to protect his identity—came over to tell me about the display I was stupidly photographing. It was the Townsend Jewel Collection, which had once contained the Hope Diamond. [Fred the Porter thought it was interesting that the Americans got the Hope Diamond and Britain got the rest]. The jewels were arranged in a swirling circle, with the hardest jewels in the middle (diamonds) fading to the softest on the outside (opals, etc.). They were also stunningly beautiful! So wish I could have posted a picture, but I think the one I took might be slightly illegal.

Fred the Porter then showed me their computer system and how I can view all of the items in the jewelry collection online. (GO HERE AND DROOL) Then he filled my head with fact upon fact upon fact about stones. He was a font of information, and I was a willing listener. A few of those facts are in my journal entry below.

The conversation then briefly drifted to history, the discovery of the Americas, and a few other subjects I’ve forgotten now. It was fascinating to get the world view of a man so enamored of stones and gems. He was my first of many interesting conversationalists on the trip! And if you ever are so lucky as to go to the V&A and find Fred (which of course you can’t, because I changed his name), ask him to tell you about the stones. The V&A couldn’t have picked a more perfect person to guard them!

Obviously, I have no pictures of the jewelry except a couple of illegal ones I took before Fred the Porter stopped me and we had our lovely conversation. But I can tell you that aside from famous jewels, there were displays going as far back as Ancient Greece. There were lover’s eye brooches, French chatelaines, 1970’s bangles, gorgeous medieval girdles, tiaras worn by princesses, death rings—oh, how I wish I could have taken pictures!

But at least I know—thanks to Fred the Porter—that I can see these all online!




April 14, 2016 3:30 pm
Courtyard of the V&A

I have now been here 4 hours! I think I’ve seen everything now but the paying exhibits.



IMG_20160414_155911 IMG_20160414_130324I’m sitting in the central courtyard at the little wading pool. There are perhaps ten children running and splashing and shrieking. I find myself wanting to join them, though I fancy the American would be taken up as crazy. [I took the pictures after the kids left to protect them.]


Since I left the fashion area, I’ve seen many marble statues and took pictures. Busts, statues in the classical style and a few funeral pieces that were at once a celebration of life and so very sad. The girl on the couch had the most lovely poem on the side of her statue.

IMG_20160414_123359 IMG_20160414_123418 IMG_20160414_123345











And the Finch family effigies, with father and mother, and the names of all twelve children was very interesting. It was commission when he died, but his died a decade later. What must it be like to look on your husband’s cold stone face every day?

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Then I found the jewelry. Oh. My. God. From Ancient Greece to 2000. I also got yelled at for taking pictures. Stupid American! But Fred and I spent a pleasant half hour discussing jewelry and history and the Americas and all sorts of things.

Notes from the jewelry collection:

The Townsend jewels; part of the Hope Collection.
The Londenderry jewels brought back from India
The green stones (chrysoprase?) that were for Charlotte’s wedding day
A rough cut green diamond – green from radiation a billion years ago
Death and love rings from the Middle ages
Tiaras from the 1800s
Steel that was intricate and black


Apparently much of the collection is online. Just need to find the jewelry page.

Also, Fred the Porter said that we are part of the earth, and all of the things inside stones—iron, magnesium, oxygen, radiation—they are all part of the earth as well. I would add they are all also part of the Universe, as are we.

Oh, and when tourmaline gets hot, it creates and electrical shock. They used to use them in Geiger counters!

After jewelry I looked at silver and gold stuff, mostly religious, but then I found the portrait gallery. I only spent about 15 minutes there, taking pictures of anything from my time period so that I can study hair and clothing. [That shall be a historical blog post for another day!]

Then I found the tapestries! My God, they were huge. 20 feet tall? 40 feet wide? More? They were from the 1500’s, mostly religious in nature. So intricately woven they were amazing. [Another post for another day—but these things were COOL].

Oh, and I bought a book about underwear. 🙂 All historical. 1500s to 2000 it seems. £10

Now I shall look at the architecture in the courtyard, watch the children, drink my water and figure out where to go next. The temperature is dropping and I’m starving. And tired as well. My poor feet! [Remember, I had walked Hyde Park that morning too!]

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There you go then. My Afternoon at the Museum.

But it wasn’t the end of my day. I made another stop that brought me to tears. You’ll have to wait for that one, though. (How’s that for a cliffhanger?)

Adventures: Day 1, Hour 1, Minute 1

There I was. In London.


World-wide Electrical Plugs Mr. A bought me.


Maps. I poured over these maps. I got lost anyway!

I’d packed my overseas electrical plugs, my ticket information, my travel hair dryer, maps of the cities and subways, every cord I could possibly need and a passport belt. Just in case.

I’d managed to get to Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris for my layover, maneuver through security, take a bus (driven by a man who spoke not a lick of English, and my French is bad!) to the flight gate and was chastised for the size of my carry on. Sure, I had a few panicked moments when my first flight left Detroit an hour late, but I was determined to do this all by myself.

I flew from CDG to Heathrow, found the Express Train that traveled a straight shot from Heathrow to Paddington Station. I even bought my return ticket, so I would have that for my return trip. One better, I found a store to buy my shampoo and conditioner right there in the Station! I figured I’d have to buy it later or use the hotel’s toiletries. Low and behold, there was a convenience store conveniently located just feet from my train platform (which was not 9¾, sadly).


Paddington Bear at Paddington Station!

I was thinking I was all kinds of awesome. I’d managed to fly over an ocean, navigate a foreign airport, and arrive at my destination. All alone. Me. The woman who married at the ripe old age of 20. Who had never lived alone. Never purchased a car by herself. Never rented her own apartment. Sure, I run my household (I’m a mom!), but I’ve never fully run my own life, going straight from my parent’s house to falling in love with Mr. A my freshman year of college.

I’ve been part of a unit ever since–a fact I wouldn’t change for the world.

I’m still in love with Mr. A, by the way. Even more so because he encouraged me to go to Europe alone.

Best. Husband. Ever.

Anyway, I’d made it all the way to London by myself, after having booked my own flights and hotels and everything. I was so all about my independence. Look at me! Headline: Worldly American Author Travels to London!

IMG_20160417_181654 (1) StraightSo I exit Paddington Station, turn the corner and walk a block to my hotel. Luggage wheels are grinding on the sidewalk behind me. It’s a little bit cloudy, a little bit damp. I’m filthy from airports and airplanes and having traveled for twenty-two hours.

But I’m grinning from ear to ear. I’m in London. Pubs abound. I can hear the British accent in the passersby. Signs say “Mind The Gap”.  And there is a big double-decker red bus on the street. Seriously. Can life get any better than this?

It was a short lived exuberance.

I found my hotel, stepped inside, exhausted and hungry and thrilled—but not so thrilled to find a creepy bald man at the front desk. I check in, and I do *not* like his leer. I’m convinced women have a sixth sense about creepy men. Call it self-preservation. Survival instinct. Whatever. We know creepers. This creeper noted I had paid for a twin room, but he decided to upgrade me to a “better” room with a “bigger” bed.

Meanwhile, as he’s upgrading my reservation, I’m watching the cameras he’s got behind the desk. They cover every hallway. That’s good, I guess. But the lobby is—not clean. Not dirty, but not clean. And it’s not even remotely well-appointed. It’s Spartan. And tiny. And dominated by a leering bald man and his cameras.

But I’m an independent woman of the world, right? I’ve just traveled farther than I’ve ever been. I’ve got skillz.

So I take my key and cram myself, my bulging carryon bag, my suitcase, and the shampoo I just bought into a teeny tiny elevator. This is what London is like, isn’t it? Space is at a premium. Hallways are narrow. Elevators are small.

I find my room, walk in, close the door and look around. It’s Spartan as well. Pretty much just furniture and white walls. OK, I think. I can stay here. It’s not what I was hoping for, but I’m not some spoiled, silly American.

I put my suitcase on the nearest non-cloth service (I’m worried about bed bugs), and I look for a room safe. None. OK. No biggie.

I check my phone. No service. I can’t make a call.

There’s no wifi, so I can’t email Mr. A to let him know I’m safe.

The room is at the back of the hotel, away from the street. No one can hear me scream. (Note my overactive imagination taking flight here.)

But I’m good, right? I’m an independent, worldly woman. So I set out the toiletries I need to take a shower, step in, revel in the hot water—and start sobbing.

Hangry tears? Yep.

Homesick? A little.

Missing Mr. A and my 7 y/o Biscuit? Quite a bit.

Terrified and alone and four thousand miles from home? Yes. Big yes.

The good thing about crying in showers, though, is that the water washes away both tears and snot.

But when I got out, I was so uncomfortable I locked the bathroom door and got dressed mostly under the towel. Creeper, you know. Cameras.

I dressed and went to the bed, still not sure what to do. Above the bed were windows covered by ugly beige curtains. I pushed them apart—and realized the windows were open beneath the curtains. Wide. Holy sh!t. And the bottoms of the windows are parallel with the floor of the fire escape. Which means anyone could have pushed aside those curtains and come into the room while I was in the shower. Vulnerable.

Panic, panic, panic.

So I close the windows, but the locks are, at best, paltry. I close the curtains, too.

“I can do this,” I say aloud. “I can do this. I’m a big girl.”

I pull back the cover of the bed…And there’s hair in it. More than one piece. Dark, short hair, about an inch long. Clearly not from my bald creeper, but hair. And a chunk o’ dried dirt, as if it came from the bottom of someone’s shoe a few hours after wandering in a swamp.

“I’m not doing this.” I think I might’ve cursed too. The F-word. But I know I said aloud to an empty room, “I’m not doing this.”

So I went through my bags, looking for all the money I had brought with me. My passport. My travel documents and flight confirmations. Credit cards. I put them in the passport belt and strapped it to my waist. Then I put my phone, it’s cord, my Kindle, a few Great British Pounds and one credit card into my over-the-shoulder carryon bag. All my valuables are now on my person. I leave my suitcase in the room (clothes are just stuff, shoes I can replace), and exit the hotel looking for the nearest pub.
And I end up here. At the Pride of Paddington.



DSC_0365I’m waited on by a pretty Australian named Jackie (left), then a firecracker of a half-Italian, half-Arabic girl named Zuleika (right). Both are nice and cheerful, and Jackie ended up being a very good friend by the end of the trip. So while she orders me up a BLT and a pint o’ beer, I do my best not to cry while I connect to their wifi.

I want Mr. A. Desperately.

All my skillz, my independence, dissipated in a hangry, travel-worn minute.

It’s silly, as I look back. It was just a hotel room that didn’t meet my (apparently high) expectations. But I felt as though I’d failed. I’d come all that way, determined to be on my own, to be dependent on no one but myself for the first time in my life, and all I wanted was Mr. A.


I shall take this moment to note, I am clearly sheltered. I’ve obviously never had a truly difficult life. Some women live this life every day, with no one to depend on but themselves. Some women live through the worst life can offer—abuse, poverty, war, grief, illness. And all I’m complaining about is hair in my hotel bed. Hair in a bed in a foreign country I am fortunate enough to be able to travel to.

So what, exactly, does that make me? Spoiled.

That is a humbling realization. One I wish I did not have to type.

No, I’m not a millionaire. I don’t a have private makeup artist or a live-in housekeeper. The fact is, I’m fortunate to have a stable life, a loving husband, an adorable son. I live a lucky life, and I know it.

But I wanted a clean room in London. Windows with proper locks. Call me spoiled and selfish, but I wanted to feel safe.

So I sent an instant message to Mr. A via wifi and he sent one back. Between us (my international minutes and data were limited for the trip) we found a new hotel nearby. I called, made my reservations, told them I’d be there in 20 minutes if they had a room for me—which made the receptionist chuckle.

I left the Pride of Paddington, my eventual home away from home (more on that in a later blog post) and went back to the icky hotel. I marched in, got my bag, checked for personal items I may have left behind, and marched back out again. I told the creeper I was leaving. To charge me for one night per the cancellation policy, but no more. And I left.

There was power in that, even if that power was partly fueled by fear, partly by being a spoiled American, and partly by the financial ability to reserve a more expensive hotel.

I went back to Paddington Station, walked past it one block, and found THE BEST HOTEL. It was like staying in a Hampton Inn for those in the US. Clean, simple, not overly fussy décor but modern. And, did I mention clean? The room was tiny and I bumped my head on the slanted ceiling more than once. But everything I needed was there. An in-room safe, a clean bathroom, a comfy bed, lovely receptionists, and a pot for making coffee or tea.

Um. Did I mention clean?

So. I’m spoiled. I know it. I obviously have hotel expectations. As I said, it’s humbling to know I have such expectations. I thought I could have stayed anywhere. But at the same time, I try to tell myself there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel safe if I have the ability to make it so.

In my new hotel I sat on the bed, opened the window, and pillowed my face and arms on the windowsill so I could watch the city go by.


Looking left…


Looking straight down…


Looking right.









I saw locals and tourists. I saw the sun set and rise. I noted how the windows of every building were smaller the higher up they went. I thought the chimneys were cute. I loved how the people below bustled and the buses were full of people. I was comfortable, and more, I was in awe of the city around me.

Headline: Spoiled American Author in London!

Even as I watched the city around me, I realized what I was. A woman who did not know how to live with real hardship. And yet, I could be grateful in the fact that I did not have to stay in a hotel where I felt uncomfortable. Watched. Unsafe.

It is simply my truth. I want to apologize for it, yet I don’t know how to. Who would I apologize to? Women in situations where safety is but a dream? I don’t know. But when I said this trip was part vacation, part self-discovery, I meant it.

I went halfway across the world and discovered just how very lucky I am.

The “Favorite Firsts” of the RITA Best First Book Finalists

To start, a little bit about the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award: the RITA® is the annual contest for published romance authors. There are finalists in a number of sub-genres, such as contemporary romance and historical romance. One finalist from each category will win a RITA® Award (a pretty, golden statue named after the founder and first RWA® President, Rita Clay Estrada.)

Now, aside from the romance sub-genres, there is one very special category called Best First Book. An author can only final in this category once in a lifetime–after all, you only have one “first book.” I’m excited, thrilled, and terrifyingly nervous to say that my first book, THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, has been nominated for Best First Book!

Even better, seven of the Best First Book Finalists are teaming up to bring you seven weeks of giveaways, culminating in one big basket o’ books giveaway! Each Friday between now and the RWA® Conference in July when the RITA® winner is announced, we will be sharing a “First” with you, spotlighting one of the finalists, and giving away a book. Last week, Sonali Dev unveiled our First Romance Crushes. This week, we’re featuring excerpts of our “Favorite Firsts” in our Best First Books.

This week, I’ll be giving away a copy of THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK to one random commenter! The winner will be chosen next Thursday, winner’s choice of ebook or print, must be 18 years or older to enter. Comment below to enter, and check out our Favorite Firsts.

And be sure to scroll down and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a huge basket o’ books!


71W2KzPBpnL._SL1206_RUN TO YOU Book One

Clara Kensie: This is the first time the heroine, Tessa, goes running with the hero, Tristan. And it’s the first time she admits to herself that she likes being with him. (Note: Tessa and her family are in hiding and living under an alias, so Tristan believes her name is Sarah).

“Ready to run, Sarah?” Tristan asked.

I was always ready to run. I darted off, for a moment considering running home rather than down the path. But… a small part of me wanted to run with him. Just this once. So I turned on to the path and ran alongside him. I could do this. Tristan and I were jogging together, that’s all. Not even that—we were jogging next to each other. Despite what my siblings were trying to do, Tristan would never be my friend.

But I couldn’t stop myself from sneaking glances up at him. Every so often I caught him peeking down at me too, and instead of running on concrete, I might as well have been soaring through the clouds.



Patience Griffin: This is the first glimpse of the kind of grandmother poor Cait must live with.

What kind of granddaughter waits until the last second to let her gran know she’s coming? A stupid one? But dang it, Deydie wasn’t your typical gran. Cait loved her but the old gal had issues. Crabby, in-your-face issues. During their last phone call, her gran made it perfectly clear what she thought of Cait: a chip off the old block—specifically, her father’s worthless, good-for-nothing block. Cait knew there’d be hell to pay. She’d never given Deydie a good reason for staying away so long. But what could she have said? I can’t leave town because my husband screws around at every opportunity? Or, I lost myself along the way and did everything the cheating bastard told me to do? How ridiculous Cait felt. Especially now.




finalrevised-copyMIND SWEEPER

A.E. Jones: The joke in the first line is the reason why the entire book was born.

An angel, a demon, and a vampire walked into a bar. No seriously, they did. And all hell broke loose. Then I got called in, or rather the team got called in, to handle supernatural damage control. My job was to manipulate people’s memories. Don’t ask me how. I was born with it, and, like someone born with double joints or the ability to flip their eyelids inside out, I just do it and hopefully not freak out too many people in the process.

On this particular night, I was destined to spend the evening in a bar with no chance of getting lucky. Dead bodies tended to put a damper on romance.






Elia Winters: This is the first time my main character, Bridget, realizes that her next door neighbor Max isn’t all that he seems. Specifically, her friend Helen has set her up with a source to interview for an upcoming article about BDSM. This is where Bridget realizes that her source is Max, the next door neighbor she’s been lusting after for months.

How did one recognize the top of a head? But she’d know those dark waves anywhere. He looked up from his book. She spotted the bright blue eyes and the corduroy jacket simultaneously, and her mouth dropped open in stupid shock at the same moment Max gave her his familiar crooked smile.

It wasn’t until a woman pushed past her that Bridget finally noticed she was still standing in the doorway. She moved forward, more so she wouldn’t look like an idiot than out of any desire to approach, and finally stood opposite her next-door neighbor.

“I suppose this isn’t just a coincidence.” Bridget gestured to his corduroy jacket.

“Afraid not.” Max’s eyes twinkled.

“I need some coffee.” Damn, if only Starbucks sold vodka shots.

“It sure seems like you do. I’ll be here.”

Bridget ordered a grande Frappuccino, ignoring the millions of calories, and willed herself not to look back at the far corner where Max was sitting. She knew he was watching her, could feel his gaze against her skin as easily as she could have felt his hands, and swallowed through a suddenly dry mouth.

The Starbucks baristas took a long time making her drink, but not nearly long enough for her to recover her composure.

“Nice choice.” Max admired her whipped-cream covered concoction when she returned to the table at last. He had set his book aside and folded his hands neatly in front of him. “I must say, you seem a little surprised to see me here.”

“Surprised? Of course I’m surprised!” Her bag dropped to the floor with a thud as she sat down opposite him, trying to put all the pieces together. She pressed a hand to her forehead, her mind spinning. “Helen never told me she knew you…” Bridget said, thinking but not saying the last half of that sentence: …all those times I talked about how hot you were. Now Helen’s smirking made sense.



Sonali Dev: This is the first time Samir and Mili dance with each other.

“Is this comfortable?” he asked against her ear.

She nodded and looked down at their feet. Her size-four-and-a-half feet on his boat feet.

“Now what do we do?” She leaned back and looked up at him.

“We don’t lean back like that”—he tucked her head against his chest—“or we fall over.” His chin rested on her head.

“And then?”

“Then we listen to the music.” He moved in time to the music, little bobs and sways. “We let the music pour into us.” His feet lifted a little higher, moved back and forth, taking her with him. “We let the rhythm move us.” He spun with her in his arms, little twists. Two this way, one that way. Two steps forward, two steps back.

It was the most amazing feeling. His shoulders, his hips, his arms, all of him carried all of her, his movements so subtle it was as if they weren’t moving at all, at least not on the outside. On the inside they were each move, each beat, each vibration.


Natalie Meg Evans: Parisian couturier Javier, a demanding perfectionist, has asked his seamstress, Alix Gower, to model his exhibition dress, a golden gown called ‘Oro.’ Alix has helped to sew it. Now, for the first time, she feels its silken weight against her skin . . . 

Twenty minutes later, Alix looked at herself in a long mirror and her eyes widened. Another woman had taken her place. She felt two inches taller. Oro showed the curve of her shoulder, and her dresser, by pinning up her hair, had made her neck seem almost swanlike. Nelly, one of the other mannequins, painted her face, giving her theatrical eyebrows and a crimson mouth. ‘Let’s do eyes like Bette Davis,’ Nelly said, holding a saucer over a candle flame. Smoky carbon appeared, which she mixed with baby oil and shadowed into the creases of Alix’s eyes. ‘There. Smouldering.’

‘Oro pleases you?’ Javier asked when Alix appeared in the salon. He had decorated the dress’s silk dupion flounces with gold vermicelli, which gave it a light-reflecting magnificence.

‘I feel like the Empress Eugénie.’

‘Move then, twirl. Let’s see that skirt dance.’ Javier snapped his fingers for black evening gloves. Alix had to wear gloves because her fingernails were too short.

‘Let them grow and don’t bite them, petite.’

She posed in profile on the stage in the main salon, where other women’s perfume hung in the air. Javier made her sit on the top step, her elbows bent, her hands raised in an attitude. An assistant arranged the golden skirts. The lights were lowered, and the photographer asked her to stay absolutely still.

Two hours later, Javier was satisfied and she was allowed to go away and change.



Alyssa Alexander: This is the first time Julian sees Grace actually fire her pistol, though she has carried it with her through their entire courtship and marriage.

A smuggler ran straight at him, only feet away, dagger poised to strike. Julian gathered himself to pivot.

It would be too late. He knew it with every ounce of his instinct, every moment of training. Fate had finally caught him. Only one thought came to mind.


A primitive torrent of need and fear flooded him, even as he braced for death.

A shot rang out.

The smuggler fell with an agonized scream. As if in a dream, Julian saw the dagger flash in the moonlight as it dropped to the ground.

Julian jerked his head up and scanned the beach—and his blood froze.

Grace kneeled on the shingle, her pistol braced on her forearm. Smoke curled from the weapon. It still pointed at the smuggler now dead at Julian’s feet.

The world seemed to stop spinning. It went silent and black, the smugglers disappearing from his consciousness so that all he could see was her, with her eyes as silver as the moon that shone down and gilded her hair.



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Inaugural Post: Part Deux

Hello Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that my website has been a bit sparse in the past few months. That would be because I broke it back in February. Yes, I broke it, through my own idiocy and lack of tech skills. All of my blog posts and content disappeared, and Mr. Alexander had to perform a few rescue maneuvers. But it’s all (mostly) back up and running now.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t reload my blog posts. They have been lost in the ether, I’m afraid. So I shall be starting this blog from scratch today, with some fun facts and news:


1. I like bacon. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter already, you probably know this.

2. I love to cook, truly love it. However, my success rate is about 60/40, though as my skills have improved (I made spring rolls! and sushi!), the rate is probably closer to 80/20. Still, Mr. Alexander is grateful there is a pizza joint across the street from our house.

3. THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, the very first book baby I ever had, is nominated for Best First Book in the 2015 RITA contest! I cannot tell you how shocked, awed, grateful and generally hyperventilating I was when I received that call! Just call me Kermit and pretend you didn’t see me flail!

4. I love yoga, though I don’t get to practice nearly as often as I like. I also like running. I’m not sure why, because I spend much of my run thinking I’m about to die. But I do it anyway!

5. I have three furbabies. They are by turns a joy and a pain in the you-know-what. The oldest, Grumpy Puck, is currently having anxiety issues and is licking off her hair. Poor thing is half bald. Scatter-Cat, a silver kitty just over a year old, eats tin foil and uproots every plant in my house. She also likes to play in the shower. Strange, that one. Last is Ajax, who is just under a year old. He’s skittish, which makes him hilarious to watch. His own tail makes him jump!


So, there you go. A little bit about me that you can’t find in the official bio. I hope you’ll all come visit me on Facebook and Twitter!