Moira turned to Aniston. “This is the final errand I run for you,” she snapped. “Once this is done, I want Rowena back. If you don’t-”
“Pray don’t bother me with your empty threats. I decide when this is over, not you. Find the box, Moira, and I will consider letting that be your final task.” Aniston’s gaze flickered over her. “My carriage will fetch you in the morning to begin the journey.”
“How am I to get this box from Ross?”
Aniston looked amused. “You are the expert on procuring things, not I. You’ll find a way to get the box. I’m sure of it.”
“Then I need more information. Who this man is, where he lives, how to reach him-”
“The coachman will know the route to Balnagown Castle. It’s in the highlands. It will take a week and a half to reach there, perhaps longer. What else do you need to know?”
“Why did Ross purchase the box? Does he know its value?”
“I don’t think so. He bought it for his private collection. He has a very large one, from what I’ve heard, and fancies himself an expert.”
“He thinks so, but I don’t believe you’d consider him so. You know so much more about antiquities than other people.” There was grudging respect in Aniston’s voice.
“What more do you know of him?”
“He’s wealthy, unmarried, and childless. They say he has a very fine stable. And he’s been in two duels in the last year.” Aniston shrugged. “I know nothing else.”
Moira frowned. “Two duels? What were they over? Gaming debts?”
“Other men’s wives.”
Finally, something she could use. “I’ll leave in the morning. I’m staying at the George.”
“I know where you’re staying,” he returned coolly before he turned and walked toward the carriage. As one of the footmen opened the door, Aniston paused. “One more thing: if you fail to bring me the box this time, I won’t be as patient as I’ve been in the past.”
“I won’t fail–provided your information is better than what you gave me on Bancroft and Miss Beauchamp.”
Aniston’s mouth thinned. “Just find the damn box.” He climbed inside his coach, and the door closed smartly behind him.
Moira watched, her jaw clenched. She’s fetch Aniston’s damned box–but he wouldn’t get it until he’d released Rowena.
The coachman hied the horses and the coach lumbered forward, swallowed by the mist before the sound of the creaking wheels had faded.
A sob caught in Moira’s throat, but she swallowed it and lifted her chin. She would find a way to win Rowena back. And once the child was safe, Moira would follow her blood legacy and finish this game. Aniston might think he held all the cards, but she’d only begun to play.
When this ends, not even God will be able to help George Aniston.
How to Capture a Countess, the debut novel of the brand new series The Duchess Diaries by Karen Hawkins, hits the shelves Sept 18 and Karen would love your help spreading the word about Rose and Sin’s story to fellow romance readers!
From Sunday, September 16th through Wednesday, September 26th, help Karen spread the word about her new book and one lucky person will win a $200 gift card to the online bookstore of their choice, another lucky winner will receive a $100 bookstore gift card and three other lucky winners will receive special goodie bags with books and other fun things!
Use one of the fun cover images available below or at KarenHawkins.com on your Facebook page OR use the smaller image as your profile picture on Facebook or avatar on Twitter! To enter the contest, just upload the picture and send us a link or a screen shot.
Send us your proof of purchase for How to Capture a Countess by scanning in or taking a photo of your receipt. Send the picture or scan to the email listed above.
Write a review on GoodReads, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, your blog or anywhere else on the web. Send us a link to it to enter (each review counts as TWO entries!)
Pin the book cover on your Pinterest boards and send us a link.
If you see the book in a store, turn it facing out so that other browsing romance readers are able to fully see the cover. Take a picture and send it to us for another TWO entries!
Have your friends over for a release party or book club discussion, take a photo and send it in!
Any other way you can think of to get the word out about How to Capture a Countess… banners, cakes with the cover recreated in frosting (mmmmm… frosting) or handing a copy to Hugh Jackman. Just be sure you send us a picture so we can count your entry!
Do you remember the first time you met someone special in your life? Did you sense something special from that first moment or was it a memorable event that still makes you smile when you think about it? Here is an excerpt from the upcoming How To Capture a Countess (available September 18!!!) and the first real meeting between Lord Sinclair and Rose Balfour. . .
That was it; he was leaving. He’d leave the carriage for his grandmother and order a hackney to take him home.
Jaw tight, Sin turned and almost tripped over a slight bit of a girl who’d apparently been hovering at his elbow. For a nerve-wracking moment, he juggled his precious glass of whiskey.
As the glass settled back into his hands, he scowled at the chit who dared impede his departure. Slight of statue, unusually tanned, with a smattering of freckles across a snub nose in a small face framed by wildly curling black hair barely held in place by a profusion of ribbons. Worse, she wore a dowdy white gown that was far too large for her, the style and coloring doing little to enhance her sallow skin and too-slender figure.
“H-How do you do?” She offered a hurried curtsy with a desperate smile.
He tamped down the desire to curtly wish her to the devil. “Pardon me,” he said in an icy tone and started to walk around her.
“Oh, do wait!” Her hand gripped his arm.
A jolt of heat raced through him.
Sin stopped dead in his tracks and looked down at her gloved hand. He’d felt that zap of attraction through three layers of material as surely as if she’d brushed his bare skin with her fingertips.
He found himself looking directly into her eyes. Pale blue and surrounded by thick black lashes, they showed the same shock that he felt.
Her gaze moved from his face to her hand and back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t expect – “ She shook her head, color flooding her skin, tinting the brown an exquisitely dusky rose.
Are her nipples that same dusky color? It was a shocking thought, but plain and loud, as if he’d said it aloud.
She jerked back her hand as if it burned. “I didn’t mean—I’m sorry, but I—“ She gulped as if miserable.
His irritation returned. “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
She looked crestfallen. “I saw you at the Countess of Dunford’s luncheon only a week ago.”
“Did we speak?”
“I don’t remember.” He’d been far too in his cups to remember much of that day at all, anyway.
“We also met a week and a day ago at the Melton House Party.”
He’d spent most of that evening in the library with the men, planning a hunting party for the next day. “I’m sorry, but I don’t—“
“The Faquhars’ soiree?”
He shook his head.
“The MacEnnis Ball? The Earl of Strahtham’s dinner party?”
He shook his head at each.
She looked crestfallen, which set off an unusual flash of remorse followed by annoyance. Bloody hell, he couldn’t remember every chit who spoke to him, much less feel sorry for them all.
But then, none of them had ever caused such a reaction by merely touching my sleeve.
A footman came by and his companion captured a glass of champagne from the man’s tray. To Sin’s surprise, she took a deep breath and tossed it back, swallowing it in several fast gulps.
She caught his surprised gaze, and flushed. “I know. That’s unladylike, but—“ She scrunched her nose and regarded her glass with disgust. “It’s so horrid I didn’t wish to taste it.”
He had to laugh and all of his irritation disappeared. Who is this girl? He sipped his whiskey and regarded her over the edge of his glass. “So you like champagne then?” Good champagne, that is?”
“Yes, but there’s not a drop of good champagne to be had, so . . .” Without the slightest hint of embarrassment, she eyed an approaching footman and, with a slight move to her left, managed to replace her glass as he passed by and grab another, which she disposed of as neatly as the first. “At least it’s cold,” she said in a pragmatic tone.
Sin burst out laughing. She looked so incongruous, this innocent-looking chit, with her freckled nose and black curls and wide blue eyes, snapping back flutes of champagne with a calm disdain for society’s concept of propriety. Sin didn’t know when he’d been so charmed.
Do you have a great first meeting story? A memorable conversation or a “meet-cute” as they say in screenwriting? I want to hear it! One story will be chosen at random to win free books and some other goodies tossed in! (drawing ends September 14 and is open to US and Canadian residents)
Today, I bring you a little taste of the soon to be released How to Capture a Countess (out September 18!!)! This book launches a whole new series and introduces an entire new cast of characters – including some somewhat nontraditional additions to the fun. I hope you enjoy the excerpt and be sure to read to the end for some additional fun, including how to win free books!
* * *
“Dear me,” Lady Charlotte said as she lowered her bow and arrow and squinted down the lawn. “Where’s the target?”
Rose looked at the large wooden target sporting a painted red square over a purple background. “It’s in the center. Can’t you see it?”
“I think . . .” The older woman bent forward at the waist, her eyes squinted almost shut. “I think I . . . ah! There it is.” She pointed to the large fountain close to the house.
Miss Muriella tittered. ”That’s the fountain.” She took Lady Charlotte’s arm, and – squinting down the lawn, too – turned the older lady a quarter turn away from the fountain. “That’s the target.”
Sin clearly heard Rose mutter, “Oh dear.” Miss Muriella had turned Lady Charlotte toward the vicar’s buggy, which was tied up by the door, waiting for a groom to drive it around to the stable.
A footman gave a startled exclamation and hurried forward to show the target to Lady Charlotte. He gently too her arm and turned her yet more. He then looked over her shoulder to make certain she was aiming toward the target and nowhere else.
Sin stifled a laugh. Crisis averted. For now.
From where she sat under the huge tent off to one side, Aunt Margaret clapped her hands. “Ladies! It’s time to begin! Lady Charlotte, you may proceed.”
And thus it began. For the next thirty minutes, arrows rained upon the lawn. Some hit the ground. One or two went almost straight in the air. Another plunged into a closed shutter. One hit the fountain. One embedded itself in Aunt Margaret’s tent, which caused a commotion, but did nothing to stop the contest.
From his perch in the billiard room window, Sin didn’t know when he’d ever been so entertained and his laughter drew the other men from their game. Soon, chairs were drawn up, port and cigars handed out as they all watched the show.
By the end of the third round, only five arrows had made it to the target and three of them were Rose’s.
Lady Charlotte stepped forward to take her turn, but just then, there was a loud bang followed by a shout, and then a flurry of fur bounded across the lawn.
The Roxburghe pugs were on the loose.
A footman holding a tray of strawberries tripped over a small brown pug. His tray flew into the air and landed on a large bowl of jam, splattering those sitting under the tent, while the strawberries rained upon Mrs. Stewart who futilely batted at them with her fan. Another footman, distracted by the fall of the first footman, tripped over the end of Lady MacFarlane’s chaise, hit the corner of the serving table, and knocked over a small burner used to reheat the teapot. The resultant flames caused additional mayhem until her grace had the presence of mind to throw her shawl over the burning tablecloth and put out the flames.
Meanwhile, outside the fence, two pugs had found the ribbons that wafted from one of the tent poles and had begun a brutal, no-holds-barred tug of war. Yet another pug, growling as if ready to kill, chased a screeching housemaid around the fountain.
“What madness!” Lord Cameron leaned forward, his chair next to Sin’s. “One normally has to attend a theatre for amusement like this.”
The pugs tugging on the ribbons moved and were suddenly tugging in the same direction. Once. Twice. On the third jointed tug, the entire tent collapsed with a spectacular whoosh.
Startled mid-shot, Lady Charlotte had released her arrow straight into the air. It arced in the air and came down in a small thicket near the small lake.
Mr. Munro, holding his side, wiped his eyes with the back of one hand. “That was the best entertainment I’ve had in some time!” He chuckled for some more moments, though he finally regained control enough to say with only a faint quiver in his voice, “Of course, I hope no one was hurt.”
Mr. Stewart, whose wife was still struggling to free herself from the tent, puffed his cigar. “None of the poles are even close to where they were sitting.”
“Should we go down and help?” Lord Montrose asked between sips of port.
“No,” Mr. Stewart said flatly. “MacDougal is already helping the ladies and they seem fine.”
Indeed, the butler, MacDougal, and his legion of footmen were even now assisting her grace and her guests from the collapsed tent. The duchess was the first to appear and, except for her obviously frayed temper, seemed none the worse for wear. Somehow, she’d miraculously kept her wig upon her head, too, a feat that impressed Mr. Stewart so that he mentioned it several times over the next ten minutes as the rest of the rescued guests gathered on the lawn.
The men chuckled and laughed, but Sin’s smiles faded as he watched the duchess gesture toward the large archery stand and arrows, which were packed up and hauled by cart back to the barn. Damn it, how am I to win my wager with Rose if the target and all are removed?
His jaw firmed. He wasn’t certain how, but he’d find a way. There was too much at stake not to, even if he had to haul everything out and set it up by himself . . .
Now it’s your turn! I want to hear your fun dog stories! It can be dog mischief, personality quirks or anything else memorable the four legged friends in your world have done. One story will win a prize pack of signed books – and we may just share some of your fun stories on my Facebook page!
(Comments will be considered for the drawing through midnight Pacific time on Sunday, September 2. The winner will be chosen at random from all comments submitted before the deadline. If the winner resides outside the US, we reserve the right to substitute an online gift card in lieu of physical books.)
“Don’t you think a kiss would be a perfectly lovely way to awaken a man? Just one touch of your lips to his and—“
“Sophia!” Ophelia cast a sharp glance at Harriet. “That’s enough.”
Sophia gave Ophelia a smug smile. “You’re just upset because you didn’t get to kiss him.”
Ophelia stiffened, her glasses sliding a notch down on her nose. “I would have if you hadn’t thrown yourself over him and practically smothered him until he coughed and –“
“He coughed?” Harriet asked, looking at Sophia. “I thought you coughed.”
Sophia tossed her hair. “He coughed a little. But I did not smother him. I mean . . . I suppose I might have leaned my elbow into his ribs a little. But only a little!”
Harriet closed her eyes. “You are both going to drive me mad. Go to the barn and help Jem.”
Reluctantly, the two left the room, defending themselves as they went. Harriet waited for them to leave, then she closed the door.
Stifling a sigh, she approached the bed and looked down at the patient. He seemed sound asleep, no movement on his face, his breath even and deep. “Sophia’s being melodramatic.” Harriet took the cloth she’d dipped in the water and sat on the edge of the bed.
If he’d been handsome before, he was dangerously handsome now that he’d been cleaned up a bit. She frowned again. Was he really asleep? She tilted her head to one side, leaned over and peered closely at him, her nose only an inch from his.
Nothing happened. She breathed a little harder, letting her breath fan over his mouth. Again, nothing happened. His breathing never altered, his lashes didn’t tremble, nothing.
Oh, for heaven’s sake, what am I doing?” If he was awake, he would open his eyes, ask for something to eat, want to know where his horse was—something other than lie there dead to the world.
Relaxing a bit, Harriet straightened, though she found herself smoothing back the man’s hair. Thick and soft to the touch, the black waves slid through her fingers. He remained deeply asleep, his lashes on the crest of his cheeks, his lips slightly parted . . .
Harriet looked at his mouth. Heaven had never made such a perfect pair of lips. Never.
Sophia had kissed those lips. Harriet wondered for just the barest moment what it had been like. Heaven knew she hadn’t ever kissed such a beautiful man. She supposed she never would.
Harriet’s heart lowered. It was a pity there was no real Captain John Frakenham. If there had been, she’d want him to look just like this man, with his dark hair and blue eyes . . She sighed, admonishing herself for her silliness.
Still, somehow her fingers found their way through the man’s hair, and then traced the line of his brow to his cheek. His skin was warm beneath her fingertips, his skin shadowed by a day’s growth of facial hair.
If this really were the captain, she could kiss him with impunity. Kiss him because he was a man and because he was hers. The idea made her tingle, and, without another thought, she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his.
For an instant, a warm shiver shot through her, raising the fine hair on her arms and tightening her chest. It was as if she’d stepped through a blast of hot air, her body absorbing the warmth.
Then something happened. The heat intensified. Harriet opened her eyes and found she was right. She had indeed stepped into a blast of heat—one that emanated from his blue, blue eyes. The man was no longer asleep.
Just as in the story, Prince Charming had awakened with a kiss.
“That—That was not necessary.” She brushed her mouth with the back of her hand.
For some reason the childish gesture brought a smile to his lips and he realized that it had been a long, long while since he’d had such a reaction to a woman—to any woman, in fact. “I think it was very necessary. And pleasant, too. Damned pleasant.”
“I didn’t wish you to kiss me.”
“And I didn’t wish you to leave.” He crossed his arms over his chest, feeling strangely pleased with himself. B’God, he’d shown her. Better yet, the instant reaction had intrigued him. There was something damned taking about the little Miss Baker-Sneed. Something that begged for more investigation. “I’d say we were even.”
“And I’d say you are an ass.”
He lifted his brows. “What did you call me?”
“An ass. The braying, bullying kind.” Her gaze raked him up and down. “Is this how you get your women? By force?”
Marcus shrugged. “I have never had to force a woman to do anything.”
“Oh? You forced me to kiss you.”
“Forced? You didn’t make a single protest—not a one. Had you done so, I would have released you immediately. Furthermore, by the end, you were kissing me as much as I was kissing you.”
Her color bloomed brighter. “You surprised me. I didn’t have time to register a complaint.”
“Because you didn’t have one to register. You liked that kiss. Admit it.”
Her nose couldn’t climb any higher. “I will admit no such thing. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I didn’t like that kiss and I hope it is never repeated.”
His brows rose, a faint smile warming him. “Oh? Never?”
She shook her head. “Never.”
“That sounds like a challenge. A delightful challenge, at that.” He took a step toward her, and she scrambled away as if chased by flames. Marcus chuckled. “I didn’t steal a kiss from you. I only borrowed one.”
“I call it theft.”
“Well then . . . if that’s true, then I must make restitution.”
She eyed him uncertainly, and it dawned on him that it nonplused her that he was suddenly in such a good mood. That made him grin more. “If I stole a kiss from you, then I should give it back.” He leaned forward his gaze drawn to her lips. “Tell me, my dear, obstinate Miss Baker-Sneed, would you like to have your kiss returned to you now? Or shall we wait until a more auspiciously private time?”
Outrage heated her cheeks and sent a hot sparkle to her eyes. “You can’t give a kiss back!”
He moved closer. “Are you certain?”
She bustled to the opposite side of the chair, all prim outrage and adorable flush. “You, my lord, are incorrigible.”
“Only when someone denies me that which I want.”
“I do not give kisses to everyone.”
His lips twitched. “I was talking about my ring.”
Her gaze fell to her hand. “Oh.”
Was that a note of disappointment in her voice? Marcus decided not to find out. Not yet, anyway. The ring was why he was here and, tempting as it was, he didn’t need to become distracted by something as silly as a kiss, even a hot and passionate one. If he wanted that blasted ring back, he would have to move very, very carefully. “I have made a decision.”
“I will consider your request for the seven thousand pounds.”
Miss Baker-Sneed’s amazing eyes brightened. “Yes?”
“In the meantime, I want your word that you will not sell that ring to anyone else.”
Her gaze grew dark as she considered his proposal. “You will consider it? Seriously consider it?”
“Yes.” Though it would take very little time to realize it was an impossible idea. He’d be damned if he’d pay so much for so little. “But while I am considering the idea, you will not sell the ring and keep it safe.”
Her lips pursed absently. “I suppose . . . Very well. But I will not wait forever. One week should do it.”
He bowed, glad to have won that concession. “One week it is, then. Until then, good day, Miss Baker-Sneed. And thank you for the incredibly tasty . . .” His gaze lingered on her lips. “. . . pastie.” With a bow, he turned on his heel and left, already working through a variety of plans that might give him back his ring as well as prolonging his contact with the thoroughly amusing Miss Baker-Sneed.
No, I mean a REAL ship’s captain. A man’s man. One who swaggers when he walks because he’s master of all he surveys. A man like …
Now that's more like it!
Yes, THAT kind of captain!
I could write a hundred things that I think are cool about SCANDAL IN SCOTLAND, but then I’d have to tell you the entire plot and that seemed like overkill, so I’m just going to tell you five things that are awesome . . . today.
I might tell you five more tomorrow if the mood hits me. But we’ll hope I stop there. It would be sad not to want the book because the author (which would be me) squealed all of the book’s secrets on my own website.
So, without further ado – and showing considerable restraint – here are FIVE AWESOME THINGS ABOUT SCANDAL IN SCOTLAND :
5)The hero is William Hurst, a sea captain and the son of a vicar. He is neither duke, earl, viscount, nor prince. He’s a commoner, though a darn hunky, ripped, sexy commoner. SO sexy that Romantic Times Reviews gave William their K.I.S.S. Award and wrote, ““Who wouldn’t start a SCANDAL IN SCOTLAND just to have a man like Karen Hawkins’ wildly exciting sea captain William Hurst?”
So yeah. Take THAT you dukes and earls and princes! William Hurst is hot AND hunky!
4) My hero is really, really, reaaaally, REALLY good with his sword.
3)The heroine of SCANDAL IN SCOTLAND is Marcail Beauchamp, an accomplished actress. Actresses occupied a very interesting position in society in the Regency time. Nowadays, actors and actresses are not only accepted everywhere, but are treated like royalty themselves. But in the Regency era, actors and actresses were not yet fully accepted and were even shunned by segments of upper class society. My very talented heroine has to factor that sad fact into her life, which added many layers to who she is and why.
2) The next Hurst Amulet book, SEDUCED IN SCOTLAND, will be on shelves near you on October 18th, so you don’t have long to wait to find out what happens to Robert! You do, however, get to meet his heroine in SCANDAL IN SCOTLAND . . . and it’ll be very obvious he’s supposed to be with her!!!
1) Men with dark hair and blue eyes make me shiver. I hope William makes you shiver, too.
SCANDAL IN SCOTLANDis on a shelf near you!
Ok, I’m not going to tell you any more. Well, I *may* say a few things on my Facebook page. Come and visit me there if you get the chance and see what other things I may reveal. Who knows? If I say enough, you might not have to buy the book!
You know the kind of author I’m talking about . . . the ones who are always yakking about books and writing and stuff. Oh, and hot men like the delicious Hugh Jackman.
(I added a picture of my beloved Hugh Jackman here just so you know what I mean by ‘delicious.’)
And, like all yakkety authors, every once in a while I’ll even throw in a few words about my (somewhat) perfect kids and two (somewhat) goofy dogs.
I never mention my mean cat, btw. That would be too personal.
So, yeah, I’m one of those authors.
But today, instead of ‘talking’, I’m going to ‘show’ you something. About books. And hot men. But not about that other stuff, ESPECIALLY my mean cat.
This is the book trailer for MUCH ADO ABOUT MARRIAGE, which is on a shelf near you, so go right now and buy it.
No, really. Buy it. Or buy two of them. That would be fine, too. I mean, you have a mother or sister or cousin or something, right?
And if you’re an orphan, feel free to send a copy to me. I grew up in a house filled with foster kids and I have more foster brothers and sisters than you can shake a stick at. Well, I hope you won’t shake a stick at them because that would be rude and might scare the younger ones, who are all in their thirties now but some of them are still a little nervy, so . . . no stick shaking.
I looooove this book trailer. It was made by a professional production company here in Florida (Hello Lucas Digital Media!!!) and I had the pleasure of being at the shoot. (I sound so hoity-toity saying ‘the shoot.’ Heh! Very Hollywood of me, isn’t it?)
Ok, enough joking around. Just check out the video and keep an eye out for The Kilt.
Did you see ‘The Kilt?’ Tomorrow, I’m going to post the Rest of the Story about ‘The Kilt’ shoot. We were there, people were there, the kilt needed wind . . . I’ll explain it all tomorrow, but PREPARE TO GRIN!
1) TIME SETTING: Elizabethan Scotland and England.
2) PREMISE OF THE BOOK: The luckiest man in England is forced to wed the unluckiest woman in Scotland.
3) ANY PARANORMAL ELEMENTS? Oooooh, a few. You get to see the beginning of the MacLean Curse from my last series as Fia MacLean and her cousin Duncan are ancesters of Clan MacLean. You also get to see the beginning of the Hurst Amulet Series and what makes the amulet so special.
I had a great time with this book! Regency-set historical romances are hot and have been since I began writing in 1996. That’s a long, long haul for a particular setting.
Now, however, I’ve seen more and more books set in other time periods. Some in Victorian England, and others set in the Georgian time period.
MUCH ADO ABOUT MARRIAGE is set in Elizabethan Scotland and England. I love that time period! Men were rough and tough enough to wear a codpiece and hose, and STILL look hunky, and women were ruling the world a la Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary of Scotland.
It was a time of rollicking adventure and true passion and I had the best time with the setting, as well as the main characters, Thomas and Fia.
I would like to eventually write Duncan’s and Robert’s stories. But first, I have to convince my publisher that yes, readers love the Tudor era just as much as I do.
One thing and one thing only drives the New York publishing industry and that is sales, which is true for any business. I hope you’ll support my love for the Tudor era by giving MUCH ADO ABOUT MARRIAGE a try. And if you like it, tell your friends. Maybe together, we can start a new trend for the book industry!