Tuesday, April 10, 2018

#GUESTPOST and #EXCERPT: ANNA BRADLEY AUTHOR OF MORE OR LESS A MARCHIONESS #HISTORICALROMANCE @annabradley472
















GUEST POST


Be careful what you wish for…


Sure, it’s a cliché, but even so, I’ve always thought it was pretty good advice, which may be why I’ve put these same words in the mouths of more than one of my characters. In fact, I’ve been playing with some version of this idea with every historical romance I’ve written to date.
So I guess it’s only natural my latest release, MORE OR LESS A MARCHIONESS, grew out of the same seed I’ve been watering in my head for several years now. By the time I’d put my heroine, Iris Somerset through her paces it had changed a bit (after all, every heroine puts a unique twist on her own story), but I think we can all agree the question Iris must answer for herself has its roots in that original seed.
What if you get everything you ever wished for, only to discover you don’t want it anymore?
Or, even worse…

What if you’ve spent so much time trying to please everyone else, you have no idea who you are, and (as tends to happen in these cases), no idea what you want? Do you give in, give up, and simply do as you’re told,—that is, marry the marquess, spend his fortune, and count yourself the luckiest lady in London? It would certainly be easier that way, wouldn’t it? The heroine marries, and the story’s over.

There’s only one catch. Iris Somerset is a heroine, and heroines never do what’s easy. If they did, they wouldn’t be heroines at all, and without a heroine, there’d be no story.

Well, Iris has a story, all right, because when you take a headstrong heroine, drop her in the middle of a house party with a villain, a wicked widow or two, and an irresistibly arrogant, hazel-eyed hero, you end up with a sexy, scandalous romp through Regency England.
And if you’re lucky, the one thing you never thought to wish may turn out to be the most delicious thing of all…
.



“More tea, Lord Huntington?”
Finn shifted to the end of the stiff silk cushion, his spine rigid with the effort it took not to lean back. He’d called on Miss Somerset dozens of times since he began courting her at the start of the season, and by now he knew better than to attempt more than a precarious perch on the edge of any of Lady Chase’s overstuffed settees. No doubt the old woman chose uncomfortable furnishings on purpose, to fluster her granddaughters’ suitors. 
Today, however, it wasn’t Lady Chase’s damnable settee causing the dull ache between his shoulder blades. 
No, today it was Lady Chase’s granddaughter. 
Miss Somerset had generally maintained a ladylike silence during his previous calls, preferring to leave the social niceties to her grandmother. Her reserve had never troubled Finn much, because she looked at him a good deal, her cheeks coloring prettily when he caught her gaze. He found it rather charming, and in any case, what sort of fool objected to a quiet wife?
Today, however, something was different. Today, Miss Somerset wasn’t pleased.
She’d abandoned the shy, sweet glances in favor of a piercing stare, and her silent admiration had been replaced with something far less flattering, and far more speculative. One slim eyebrow was quirked over stormy blue eyes, and an odd, tight smile played over her lips, as if the tea had left a sour taste in her mouth. 
Had her eyes always been such a dark blue? He couldn’t recall having noticed it before, but then he’d never seen them narrowed on him with such intense scrutiny either, as if he were a bird caught in the sights of her hunting rifle.
Finn tried to remember if he’d ever known her to be displeased with him before the unfortunate incident in Lady Fairchild’s garden yesterday, but he couldn’t recall a single instance of it. If she’d been displeased in the past, she’d taken care to keep it to herself.
“If you don’t care for more tea, may I fill a plate for you?” Miss Somerset leaned forward to fetch a dish from the silver tray in front of her. “You’re quite certain I can’t tempt you with the sweets, my lord?”
Oh, she was solicitous, yes—excruciatingly so—but not pleased. “No, I thank you. About that matter yesterday—”
“I understand you’re a gentleman with a ravenous appetite.” She gave him a gracious smile, but there was a hard glint in her eyes. “I wouldn’t like to send you away unsatisfied.”
Finn’s eyebrows shot into his hairline. Unsatisfied?
Good Lord, it was unsettling to hear that word spoken in such suggestive tones from such sweet, innocent pink lips.
“But perhaps you don’t expect satisfaction from your betrothed. I daresay you wouldn’t be the only gentleman to feel that way. Courtship can’t be terribly exciting for a man of your vast experience, but then perhaps that’s why so many aristocratic gentlemen go elsewhere to satisfy their cravings.”
Finn choked on the sip of tea he’d taken, and had to resort to pounding his chest with his fist. When he recovered at last, he blinked at Miss Somerset through streaming eyes. “Cravings?”
She set the plate aside, her lips curved in a sweet smile. “Yes. But are you quite well, my lord? Perhaps you’d like some more tea, after all? As I said, I don’t like to send you away without attending to your appetites.”
Good God, was he really sitting on this dainty settee in the middle of Lady Chase’s drawing-room, speaking to his innocent betrothed about a gentleman’s cravings and appetites? The ache between his shoulder blades had begun to fade in comparison to the ache in his breeches. 
“No, no more tea, thank you, but there is something I wish to discuss with you, about that business in the garden yesterday, with Lord Wrexley.”
She’d lifted the teapot to pour herself another cup of tea, but now she paused, her hand in mid-air. “Yes?”
Her tone was polite, but Finn sensed the way she stiffened, and he paused and reminded himself to tread lightly.
“You must allow me to caution you against such lapses in propriety, Miss Somerset, and remind you to be more vigilant in the future. I wouldn’t like to think you’d make it a habit to wander off like that once we’re wed.”
There. Finn took a calm sip of his tea. That should do.
She froze for a long moment, but then went on to pour her tea without meeting his eyes. “You consider getting lost in the garden a lapse in propriety, Lord Huntington?”
“No, of course not. I refer to your lingering in the garden with Lord Wrexley. You did so for far longer than was proper, and it was your second lapse that day.”
Miss Somerset went on preparing her tea, but once she was finished she seemed to forget about it, and left it untouched on the tray. “My second lapse?”
Something unpleasant crawled up Finn’s spine at her tone—something he would identify later as foreboding—but he pressed on. “Yes. You lingered there with me earlier, if you recall.”
“Surely there’s nothing so wicked in that? You are my betrothed, Lord Huntington.”
A small smile drifted across her lips, but Finn found it far from reassuring. “Nothing so wicked, no, but there was that other matter.”
“Other matter?” she asked, in a tone that could have frozen the tea in her teacup.
Finn squirmed on the settee, but resisted the urge to slide a finger under his cravat. This conversation wasn’t going at all as he’d planned. “It’s not a lady’s place to initiate a kiss, Miss Somerset. You need to take better care, especially with a man of dubious honor, like Lord Wrexley, who—” 
“Are you implying, Lord Huntington, I engaged in some improper activity with Lord Wrexley in the garden yesterday?”
Finn stared at her, baffled. Had it sounded as if he were accusing her? “No! Of course not. It’s not your behavior I question, but his. I only mean to warn you of the risk of encouraging such a man—”
Miss Somerset’s teacup hit her saucer with a sharp crack. “Encouraging him! You seem to be saying because I invited my betrothed to kiss me, I must have engaged in similar behavior with Lord Wrexley when I came upon him in the garden later that day. Do you think I go about kissing every gentleman who happens to cross my path, Lord Huntington?”
“No. I didn’t mean to suggest any such thing.” Damn it, why had he brought up that kiss at all? The less said about that disaster, the better. “It’s your safety that concerns me, Miss Somerset. That’s all.”
But her face had gone dark with anger, and she was no longer listening to him. “Yes, well, I have some concerns of my own. There’s something private I wish to discuss with you, my lord.”
He blinked at the abrupt change in topic, but God knew he was making a muck of this. Perhaps it was wiser to remain quiet, and let her speak. “Yes, of course.”
There was a brief, charged silence, then she drew in a breath. When she spoke she sounded rehearsed, as if she’d practiced her speech in front of the glass a dozen times. Her words emerged with smooth precision, but they nevertheless landed with the force of a fist to his jaw, sending him reeling.
“It pains me to say this, but I must. While I’m sensible of the honor you’ve done me with the offer of your hand, I’m afraid I must end our betrothal.”
Finn stared at her, speechless. End their betrothal? She was jilting him?
Christ, he must have misunderstood her. Either that, or she’d gone mad. He was fully prepared to beg her pardon for offending her just now, but a few misspoken words hardly seemed to warrant a jilting. 
In his case, very few things did. He was the bloody Marquess of Huntington.
And no one jilted a marquess. 


The Somerset sisters, three beautiful, headstrong debutantes in Regency London, are discovering that a bit of scandal is a delightful thing . . .

For the sake of propriety, and her younger sisters' reputations, Iris Somerset has kept her rebellious streak locked away. But though she receives a proposal from Phineas Knight, Lord of Huntington, Iris can't marry a man she knows isn't truly enamored with her. In fact, Iris no longer wants to be chosen—she wants to choose. Under the clandestine tutelage of "wicked widow" Lady Annabel Tallant, she'll learn how to steer her own marriage prospects, and discover her secret appetites.

What kind of debutante refuses a marquess? Finn is surprised, a little chastened-and thoroughly intrigued. This new, independent version of Iris is far more alluring than the polished socialite she used to be. Finn believed he needed a safe, quiet wife to curb his wilder impulses. But the more Iris surprises him, the more impossible it becomes to resist their deepest desires . .

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