Saturday, 25 February 2017

Love Dragons? See my Medieval historical romance, The Virgin, the Knight, and the Dragon

The Virgin, the Knight, and the Dragon (MF)
Medieval Creatures 2
Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 24,824
Fantasy,  Historical,  Romantic Suspense

PRE-ORDER HERE!

AVAILABLE: Wednesday, March 8th

[Bookstrand Romance: Historical, Fantasy, Romantic Suspense, HEA]

This story is a sequel to my Medieval Creatures 1 book, The Virgin, the Knight and the Unicorn.

BUY BOTH BOOKS HERE

Blurb

Can Princess Adela, heiress to a deadly destiny, be saved by the love of a knight errant?

The youngest of nine sons, Jesse is used to neglect and hand-me-downs. Becoming a knight through his own efforts, he encounters a beautiful, virtually naked stranger in the countryside above the farmlands of his old home. Who is she and how can he help her?

Flaxen-haired Adela D’Varm is compelled by the magic of a faery geas to remain in the high grasslands until she is rescued by a knight—a worthy knight who must contend with a dragon. But this dragon is no ravening beast, as knights soon discover if they offer Adela any insult.

Amiable and truly chivalrous, Jesse is different. Through their encounters—amusing, tender, exciting—he and Adela fall in love. But, even as they marry, Jesse and Adela encounter a deadly conspiracy and a final test for Adela.

It seems that Jesse has deserted her—or has he?

 Excerpt:


Ahead he could hear a deep rumbling, like a cat purring—a cat the size of a hut. There was a smell of blood in the air and a savour of roasted meat.
Dragons, like wolves, prefer to feast on horses, not men.
From where had that thought sprung? Jesse felt for an instant as if he was bathed in heat—real, forge-hot heat. Older memories and stories trickled up and down his back in a messy puddle of sweat.
A dragon. Walter the shepherd whispered there was once a dragon up on these high grasslands. A creature of faery. Maybe it has returned.
The sweat turned clammy on his back. Trying not to stiffen up, Jesse choked down a cough. Above him, how high and how far off he did not want to know, he listened to the sounds of gnawing.
Turn back or go on? Either action held both appeal and risk. To retreat might mean survival or a blast of fire at his back. To go on—if he bested a dragon, he would be as famous as Beowulf.
No doubt Beowulf was an elder son . With my luck, I could win and gain nothing but a few coins for my trouble. Any treasure would be claimed by my older brothers.
Jesse stopped crawling. Roast horse swirled in his nostrils and, despite his wavering dread, his mouth watered. Wanting to travel light and make haste, he had not eaten well for days. Succulent, hot meat tempted him to raise his head.
A dragon rose on its haunches to tear and swallow a morsel of some animal that once may have been horse. Again Jesse’s hunger flared.
His older brothers would never have attempted what he planned, but that was a virtue. Why not? he decided, as the dragon took another bite. A dainty bite, he noted, for a beast as long as a cavalcade.
It did not kill the knight. The thought was almost a prayer. Inspired—or mad, or truly desperate—Jesse threw down his weapons and rose out of the grass, his hands filled with herbs. He averted his eyes, hardly daring to look.
“Good day.” He was glad he had planted his feet wide apart and pitched his greeting above the steady breeze of the dragon’s breathing. “May I join you?
“I have brought herbs.” He raised his cupped fingers, allowing some greenery to slip from his hands so the dragon would know he was unarmed. “Good eating herbs, wild parsley, wild mint, wild sorrel, also called vinegar leaves. I think you will find they enhance the taste of your meat.”
He stepped forward, placed the herbs on a boulder, and stepped back. “The marigold is simply for the colour,” he added, his throat growing dry again as he sensed the dragon leaning closer.
It must work, a wild, mad babbling voice wailed in his head. Dragons are said to be silver-tongued and to understand speech. And I like animals. Jesse had worked with hawks, horses, oxen, sheep, chickens, and goats and found each creature appealing, in its own way. Dragons were creatures of faery, and perhaps more. If there is a dragon, there must be a maiden close, a living maid. The old stories always have both.
Those jaws of hell gaped nearer, each tooth sharper than any sword. Through his half-closed eyes, it seemed to Jesse for an instant that the beast was smiling, which was surely impossible. Determined to look his probable death in the face, Jesse stretched on tiptoe,  raised his head and stared.
Now he could study it more closely. The dragon  was a shining gold blending to silver, lean and long as a vast snake or a whip, but with powerful legs and a deep chest. Jesse could not see any wings, but he did note, with a certain detached surprise, as of someone who could perish at any second, that the beast was ornamented with flashes of silver and gold scales about its neck, like a necklace. It had a narrow, almost elegant snout, prick ears topped by small, shiny spines, and deep large eyes the colour of an emerald. Strangely beautiful eyes that were considering him in a thoughtful, almost tender way .
“Thank you.” The voice sounding in his head was not his, though how had the dragon spoken?
Jesse decided not to trouble over that and made a bow. He sensed the dragon deftly plucking at the herbs, heard the faint scratch of very sharp claws on the boulder, then flinched as a round cut of steaming horse steak was placed on top of the boulder, laid neatly beside the rest of the herbs.
No one would believe I shared my dinner with a dragon. Jesse ate in a daze. The meat was cooked to a turn, and tender.
“Thank you for the flowers.” Again the voice that was not his sounded in his head.
Jesse harnessed his manners and his wits and swallowed the final piece of meat before he answered. “It is my pleasure.”
A wave of heat surged over his neck, followed by a percussive clap of huge, scaly wings. The force half stunned Jesse, and when he stirred again the dragon was gone.

“Good day.” A small slim young woman stood over him. She gave the same greeting that he had given the dragon, and her dainty bare feet rested in the hollow made by the dragon’s claws. “Are you hurt?”
Jesse shook his head. The woman seemed to be wearing nothing but a cloak. She had a flower in her electrum-pale hair, a marigold.
The same as the spray I gifted the dragon. She has the same colour scales—sorry, hair—as the beast, and the same deep green eyes. What is going on?







Wednesday, 8 February 2017

BRITISH BAD BOYS BOXED SET - COMING SOON!



Back Cover Information

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Girl Bands in World War II

Girl Bands are not a new phenomenon. Long before Girls Aloud, The Spice Girls, or even The Supremes there were girl bands of quite a different sort. During World War II Girl Bands took over and became increasingly popular once the boys joined up. But it was a time when prejudice against women performing was still strong. Female singers such as Vera Lynn was quite acceptable, but many people thought it wasn’t quite proper for women to blow into a trumpet or make a sax sing.

Ivy Benson was a highly skilled clarinetist and saxophonist who formed her All Girls Band in 1939 playing throughout the war. It is said that she was inspired by listening to the recordings of Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman. They became one of the top bands of the era, although not without some resentment from male band leaders, and the worry that some of her prized musicians would sometimes leave to marry.

There was a wonderful movie called The Last of the Blond Bombshells, featuring Judy Dench. It’s the story of a widow who was obliged to confine her sax playing to the attic while her husband was alive, but on his death decides to follow her passion and start her own band. I loved this film, and the idea inspired me to write my own story about a girl band, set in Manchester during the war.


 
They called it the Christmas Blitz, but there are no festivities for Jess, locked in the cellar by her feckless, tarty mother. And when Lizzie is imprisoned for shoplifting, Jess is sent to live with her uncle, a bullying black marketeer, who treats her like a slave. Jess’s natural musical talent offers an escape route - and the chance for love. But Uncle Bernie has never forgiven his niece for refusing to join his illegal schemes, and threatens to deprive Jess of her hard-won independence.

Despite an abusive uncle and a feckless mother, and with her beloved father away fighting in the war, Jess decides to make something of her life. But doesn’t find it easy to get the band underway. Band leaders and ballroom managers frequently accuse them of not being able to withstand the physical hardships of long hours of playing.

As well as proving they were skilled musicians, they were also expected to look feminine and finding the right clothes to wear wasn’t easy either, as fabric for dresses was in short supply. Faulty parachute silk was often used instead, and a glamorous look brought its own problems. Slinky gowns, together with sexy swing music, could bring about unwelcome invitations, as if fraternising with the men rather than a passion for music, was their main purpose in life.


Extract:

‘Women don’t have the stamina that men have,' said one.
‘Limited scope,’ said another.
‘Women are long on looks but short on talent.’
‘We aren’t in the business of employing young ladies who think it might be fun to show off on stage, however charming and genteel they might be.’
This attitude incensed Jess and she would tell them in no uncertain terms that her girls could play In the Mood every bit as well as they could play Greensleeves. One manager had the gall to say that women had no real sense of rhythm in a jam session, as they were hopeless at improvising.
Another, trying to be conciliatory, remarked, ‘I see why you ladies are offering to step in, with all the men having been conscripted for service and bands desperate for decent musicians. But we’re looking for professionals, not amateurs. We need the best.’
Outraged, Jess’s response was sharp. ‘We are the best, and how can we ever get to be professional if we’re never given the chance.’
A shake of the head. ‘Women aren’t made to sit on a stage and blow their brains out.’
‘We could blow the men right off it.’

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

For the Love of a Prince

Had he left me to starve I would never have uttered a word to his disadvantage!’

Loyal words from a courageous woman, but she paid a high price for loving a prince. Dora Jordan had no desire to be an actress, forced into it out of poverty and an ambitious ex-actress mother. Her career began at Crowe street Theatre in Dublin where she suffered such dreadful stage fright on her first night that she fled to the dressing room and had to be coaxed back on stage by the manager, Thomas Ryder.

Despite seeing herself as Irish, she was in fact born in London near Covent Garden in 1761, where her stage-struck parents were seeking work at the time, and where she was baptized Dorothy Bland. Not considered to be a classic beauty, her nose and chin being somewhat prominent, she nevertheless had the sweetest smile and the most alluring dark eyes, cupid’s bow mouth and rosy cheeks that gave off a healthy glow. Her expressive face was perfect for comic roles, as was her mop of brown curls.

After suffering a sexual assault from Richard Daly, the manager of Smock Alley Theatre, which left her pregnant, Dora fled to Yorkshire where she went on the circuit to learn her craft. Known as Dolly by her family she chose Dora as her stage name, becoming their sole source of income from the age of sixteen. The name Jordan was chosen because she’d crossed the Irish sea, likening it to the River Jordan. She endured considerable jealousy from her fellow actors, but was then accepted by Drury Lane where she soon became known as one of the most famous comedic actresses of her day.

She ultimately became mistress to the Duke of Clarence, later William IV, with whom she lived in happy domesticity for nearly twenty years. She presented him with ten children while striving to balance both career and ‘marriage’, very much the ‘modern’ woman.

An observer at the time remarked: ‘So unostentatious and truly domestic were her habits, after her new and exalted connection, that we have frequently witnessed her arrival, in a plain yellow chariot, at Miss Turing’s, a milliner in St. James’s Street, when she would alight with an infant in her arms, and during her stay frequently change the linen of the little one in the shop, while freely conversing with the person in attendance to wait upon customers.’

The Duke had been something of a rake as a young man, but clearly adored her, and enjoyed their domestic idyll at Bushy House, saying to a friend: ‘Mrs. Jordan is a very good creature, very domestic and careful of her children. To be sure she is absurd sometimes and has her humours. But there are such things more or less in all families.’

In every respect but name William looked upon her as his wife. Dora was not extravagant herself, considering actresses were expected to provide their own costumes, but her life was blighted by a weak father, a dependent mother, inadequate siblings, selfish children, and more than one man who betrayed her trust. Her flaw was that she was far too caring and eager to help those she loved, generous to a fault, which proved to be her downfall. Certainly William greatly depended upon the fortune she earned from her acting.

When it became apparent that the only heir to the throne after George IV was his daughter Charlotte, the Duke was ordered to find himself a wife, Dora not considered to be an appropriate candidate for that regal role. Sadly, he did not treat her as kindly as he should at the end, being perhaps something of a coward, but she bore her troubles with astonishing good will. She was a woman of great courage and independence, feisty, warm-hearted and a devoted mother, who never said a word against him. She died penniless in France, but following their separation the Duke collected as many portraits of her as he could find, so perhaps he did still love her after all.


Published by Severn House

Passion, jealousy, scandal and betrayal - a true-life Regency Romance of the rise and fall of an extraordinary woman born into extraordinary times. Growing up in a poverty-stricken, fatherless household, Dorothy Jordan overcame her humble beginnings to become the most famous comic actress of her day. It was while performing on Drury Lane that Dorothy caught the eye of the Duke of Clarence, later to become King William IV. Her twenty-year relationship with the Duke was one of great happiness and domesticity, producing ten children. But ultimately, Dorothy's generous nature was her undoing and she was to be cruelly betrayed by the man she loved.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Sunday, 11 December 2016

LORD LOVELY is here!


LORD LOVELY, Book 2 of The Feather Fables, is here!

Ladies adore him. Gentlemen despise him. But everyone is dying to learn the identity of the anonymous male romance author known as LORD LOVELY.

“How lovely” sigh the ladies of Regency London as they read Lord Lovely’s books, thus giving the gentleman his popular (and somewhat annoying) name. Who is this gentleman who writes such splendid stories of love? He has to be young, handsome, witty and able to fulfill any woman’s sexual fantasies.

No! Say the gentlemen. Any man who writes about love affairs must be too unattractive to have one of his own. He’s probably old, fat, bald and missing a few teeth. At least they hope he is.

Ladies in a tizzy, gentlemen ready to commit murder, London aquiver with controversy. Lord Lovely’s fame and book sales increase by the hour.

The gentleman known as Lord Lovely scratches his head. How could his books touch off such a conflagration? Granted, male romance authors are a rare breed, but not entirely unknown.

The problem is how to reveal himself. Or should he? He welcomes his books’ earnings, but the disclosure of his identity could destroy his non-book career.

The widowed Bel, forced to marry another, hasn’t seen the gentleman in question in ten years. The best of friends in their childhood, they might have become more, but her father forced her to wed another. Perhaps they’ll pick up where they left off.

But not if a scheming temptress who has her eye on Lord Lovely has her way. And not if a mysterious, unknown nobleman puts an end to both the author and the man.

Sweet Regency historical fiction with romantic comedy and mystery. 119,000 words.

EXCERPT:

Wheels scraped on the street, the telltale sound of a carriage slowing and then stopping.
Heart pounding, she dashed to the window once more, but the dark shrouded everything except the hackney lamps and the movement of people and horses. Then the doorknocker rapped, and the front door scraped open. Sara’s lilt and her husband’s lower tones drifted up the stairway, along with an unfamiliar baritone rumble.
Footsteps trod on the steps and finally reached the entrance. Rogers stepped inside. “Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Barnett, and Mr. William Borland.”
Sara, lovely in a jonquil gown that set off her fair hair, rushed in and hugged her. “Bel, we are so happy to see you.” She pulled forward the tall, dark-haired man beside her. “You know my husband, Edgar.”
“Your servant, your ladyship.” Mr. Barnett bowed and kissed her hand.
They matched well, her husband’s dark good looks the perfect foil for Sara’s blonde beauty. “Please, since you are Sara’s husband, call me Bel.”
“If you will call me Edgar.” He stepped away.
And there, framed in the doorway, he stood.
Bel’s breath stuttered.
Broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, this tall, long-legged man bore scant resemblance to the lanky youth, all elbows and knees, of her memory. The planes of his face had sharpened, a more chiseled, mature version of the good-looking boy’s visage. His blond hair, unstylishly long and tied back with a ribbon, still shone as bright as the sun, although his lashes and eyebrows had darkened to a sootier shade.
But his eyes were the same—a deep, liquid blue so intense, his gaze glued her in place.
His blue frock coat, frayed at the cuffs, had greyed with age, and his coat, breeches, and buckled shoes were as outmoded as her dress.
Not that it signified. He was splendid.
She held out a hand that trembled slightly. Would he still be angry after their last day together? Please not. “I am so glad to see you.”


Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Inktera and other retailers:


 

SALE ON GOOSED! OR A FOWL CHRISTMAS ON SMASHWORDS!

Lord Lovely may be read as a standalone, but if you're like me and dislike coming in on the middle of a series, I'm offering Goosed! or A Fowl Christmas, Book 1 of The Feather Fables at 25% off (that's $3.74) on Smashwords only with coupon code VB24U

Coupon expires December 14, 2016. All formats are available on Smashwords.

Goosed! or A Fowl Christmas on Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/494775



Thank you all and Merry Christmas,
Linda Banche






Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Gybford Affair by Jen Black

The Gybford Affair: the heiress and the fortune hunter

The quiet life of Frances, Lady Rathmere, is disrupted forever the day Jack, 4th Marquess of Streatham, arrives from London and almost rides her down. At the same time a stranger arrives in the locality, makes a play for her young cousin and scandalous letters accusing Frances of an illicit liaison appear in the national press. Is Jack their author? Frances is convinced he is, and has no idea the trouble those letters are going to bring in their wake.


EXCERPT:
Frances loved Cloverdale with its odd shaped windows and the ill-matched gargoyles perched at each corner of the roof almost as much as her beloved Gybford. Most of the furniture in the drawing room had been removed to show off the wide polished oak floorboards, the small square Turkey carpet in the centre of the room and allow guests space to circulate. The sight of a tall gentleman whose bright red uniform dominated the soft grey stone fireplace and clashed with the pale gold curtains made Frances wince.

“Is he not handsome?” Mary whispered.
The stranger did not lack for admirers. Mama stood to one side, Uncle William, his navy jacket stretched tight across his broad chest, to the other. Aunt Jane, in an elegant high-waisted gown, was there with her son Charles and his wife, Catherine.
“I cannot see his face,” Frances said, amused by Mary’s obvious partiality for the stranger. “He is certainly tall and men always look well in uniform.”

Mary’s attention was fixed on the soldier in a most obvious way. Catherine’s glance flickered to Mary and, with a slight shake of the head, on to Frances. Everyone, it seemed, was aware of Mary’s feelings.

The stranger turned and smiled. His boots gleamed black against the pale hue of his breeches, and the scarlet jacket, white waistcoat and gold buttons seemed over bright in her eyes. Military uniforms brought back uncomfortable memories of Rathmere for Frances.

Charles touched her arm. “Allow me to introduce my friend Mr Andrew Holbrook, late of Cambridge and as you see, currently an officer with the 30th Regiment of Foot. Andrew, this is my cousin Frances, Lady Rathmere.”

Holbrook exhibited not a trace of shyness, but bowed with style and revealed excellent teeth. At close quarters, his height and breadth made Frances feel small and dainty. Lines bracketed his mouth, though Frances imagined he could not be more than thirty years of age. Black hair waved back from his broad brow, sharp blue eyes examined her, and then he favoured her with a delightful smile. He was certainly attractive. Well aware of the fact, too, Frances decided.

“I am happy indeed to make your acquaintance, Lady Rathmere.”
Frances dipped a slight curtsy. “I am delighted to meet a friend of my cousin, sir.”
Holbrook turned toward her. “I understand you live at Gybford Hall, no more than three miles from here.”

By turning he had cut Mary out of the conversation, and seemed unaware of any misdemeanour. Mary’s fine skin flushed and, crestfallen, she retreated from the circle, turned and hurried to the window at the far side of the room.

Though everyone in the district knew Gybford Hall was her home, Frances found she resented him knowing it. He would soon be asking if she had plans to marry and what her annual income might be. She chided herself for being silly, for no one would be so abominably rude.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Going to be published in Nowray!

It is with great excitement that I can now reveal I am going to be published in Norway with my split era novel, Where Dragonflies Hover.

The translation rights have been bought for Where Dragonflies Hover by Norwegian publisher Cappelen Damm AS. https://www.cappelendamm.no/
This is an excellent opportunity for one of my books to reach an ever wider audience by being translated into another language.
I am so thrilled with this new development and am looking forward to seeing this new partnership grow.

More information about the trade deal can be found here. http://www.booktrade.info/index.php/showarticle/66293


Sometimes a glimpse into the past can help make sense of the future …Everyone thinks Lexi is crazy when she falls in love with Hollingsworth House – a crumbling old Georgian mansion in Yorkshire – and nobody more so than her husband, Dylan. But there’s something very special about the place, and Lexi can sense it.

Whilst exploring the grounds she stumbles across an old diary and, within its pages, she meets Allie – an Australian nurse working in France during the First World War.

Lexi finally realises her dream of buying Hollingsworth but her obsession with the house leaves her marriage in tatters. In the lonely nights that follow, Allie’s diary becomes Lexi’s companion, comforting her in moments of darkness and pain. And as Lexi reads, the nurse’s scandalous connection to the house is revealed …

Amazon UK

Amazon USA

Amazon Australia