I’m so pleased to welcome one of my favorite historical romance authors to the blog today. Theresa Romain is smart, witty, and an all-around great gal. AND she writes fabulous books. She has a new one out this week called To Charm a Naughty Countess that is already garnering fantastic reviews.
Here’s the blurb:
CAN A RECLUSIVE DUKE…
Brilliant but rumored mad, Michael Layward, the impoverished Duke of Wyverne, has no success courting heiresses until widowed Lady Stratton takes up his cause–after first refusing his suit.
WIN LONDON’S MOST POWERFUL COUNTESS?
Caroline Graves, the popular Countess of Stratton, sits alone at the pinnacle of London society and has vowed never to remarry. When Michael–her counterpart in an old scandal–returns to town after a long absence, she finds herself as enthralled with him as ever. As she guides the anxiety-ridden duke through the trials of society, Caroline realizes that she’s lost her heart . But if she gives herself to the only man she’s ever loved, she’ll lose the hard-won independence she prizes above all.
And here’s an excerpt from the book!
Michael had never thought of conversation in terms of discrete tests and tasks. The idea was intriguing.
“Simple as that, you say. One should talk of the weather and then identify something in common.” He blew out a deep breath, then returned to his seat. “Let us test it out.”
“What would you say, then, if I should ask you about the weather?”
Michael narrowed his eyes at Caroline. There was nothing in her question that could be tested. “I would ask you if you had looked outside lately. That is where the weather is always to be found.”
She smothered a laugh. “It’s not a literal question, and that is not a polite reply. But I’ll ask it of you differently. What do you think of the weather?”
Better. There was room to supply information here. “I think it is unusually cold for this time of year, though less so than in Lancashire. Perhaps the fog helps hold heat in to the City.” An idea ribboned through his mind. “Caro. Has anyone has ever recorded the relationship between the temperature and fog density? It bears further study, I am sure.”
Caroline held up a hand. “Michael. Stop. I have no idea whether anyone has catalogued the… whatever you said. And neither will anyone else. If someone asks you what you think of the weather, they do not expect a detailed discussion of temperature. Simply say something like, ‘Deuced cold, isn’t it?’ That’s all.”
“But that’s a meaningless answer.”
“It’s not meant to provide information. It’s meant to reassure the other person that you are of his class, of sound mind, and reasonably pleasant to be around. From such reassurance comes social success. Now, try again.” She lowered her voice to resemble a masculine rumble. “Rotten weather, what?”
Michael parroted, “Deuced cold, isn’t it?” Even as Caroline smiled, he shook his head. “That might work as a semblance of a greeting, but I can’t simply repeat that all day. And what if the weather should warm?”
“Then you say, ‘Deuced warm, isn’t it?’ I should have thought that would be obvious.” She gnawed on her lip; the gesture made him shiver. Deuced warm. “But you are right, it’s only the first step. And it must feel natural, or you’ll sound as though you’re speaking a part on the stage—and badly. Can you give me a brief version of what you said before? About the cold or the fog?”
Michael stretched his mind back. “You ask me about the weather. Then I could say that it’s cold, but less so than Lancashire.”
“Perfect.” Her sunbeam smile struck him in the solar plexus. “That sort of reply will do wonderfully. It is no social trespass to speak of what you like best, only to talk on for too long. Remember, we always want to make other people feel at ease.”
“Ha.” Michael could not remember feeling less at ease in recent memory. This physical turmoil was as distracting as his usual headache, though in a different way. It was not a wish for pain to end, but a yearning for something wakeful and exotic to begin.
Caroline talked on. “Do you take snuff? That’s another topic you could introduce. Gentlemen can easily spend hours talking about their favorite sort and why it’s the only one that’s worthwhile.”
Michael stared at her lips. He wanted to rub his thumb over that mobile mouth, to see if it felt different from his own. He needed to touch her, to feel the skin of another human being against his. He needed to…
He needed to answer the question. Snuff, wasn’t it? “Ah—no. I never have taken snuff. What is the pleasure in forcing oneself to sneeze?” As if his body didn’t grow agitated enough on its own without prompting from inhaled particles.
It was growing agitated now. Not from a headache, nor from the tension that often corded his arms. Instead, his fingers tingled, as though wanting again to cast everything away and forget himself.
“What is the pleasure in anything?” Caroline looked quite serious.
“What do you mean?”
Caroline spread her hands. “There’s no pleasure in snuff. There’s no pleasure in talking to the ton and forming everyday connections. You do not play cards or music. I have never known you to dance. In what, then, do you find pleasure?”
It was not a question he was accustomed to hearing, much less asking himself.
Possibly because there were indeed few pleasures in his life. His mother had died in his infancy, and thereafter, his youth had been a bitter war of opposing temperaments, until his father abandoned the battle for the grave. Even the satisfaction Michael once got from resurrecting Wyverne had slid away from him as his plans burgeoned, as details and money slipped from him and never came back within his grasp.
It was already more than he could keep within control, so there was no room for any other kind of pleasure. Though he could almost forget that as Caroline watched him, her lips parted. She smelled faintly of jasmine, like spring brought to life in the middle of the City. He could spring to life too, if she would show him how. For what other reason would he be here today?
Book order links:
For my readers today, Theresa is kindly giving away a copy of To Charm a Naughty Countess (North America only). Let’s talk about what characteristics we find charming, especially in a man. Is it good manners, kindness, a sense of humor, a fabulous night out? What really knocks your socks off when it comes to guys?