Guest Author: Sally MacKenzie & Giveaway!


Hooray!  Sally is in the house!  Sally MacKenzie, that is, one of my favorite historical romance authors.  Sally writes USA Today Bestselling Regencies and they are funny, sexy, and just so great to read.  She’s with us today to tell us about her upcoming book, Loving Lord Ash.  Take it away, lady!

Thank you for inviting me to visit, Vanessa. And it’s so cool to be here with the Duchess of Love—er, I mean the books, not you, Vanessa ;)—on Valentine’s Day. Did you know that the Duke of Greycliffe’s family name is Valentine, and that all the boys were born on February 14? So it’s quite the special day, lol!

What fun, Sally!  So, readers are loving your Duchess of Love series.  What’s the premise for it, and how did you come up with such awesome book titles?

I hope everyone’s enjoying Venus and her boys! Venus is the Duchess of Greycliffe, but English society calls her the Duchess of Love because she’s the ton’s premier matchmaker—and, much to her husband’s and sons’ embarrassment, she writes Venus’s Love Notes, pamphlets of marital advice for women. The prequel novella, “The Duchess of Love,” tells how Venus met her duke; the three books—Bedding Lord Ned, Surprising Lord Jack, and Loving Lord Ash—are about her three sons.

Lord Jack

I’m glad you like the book titles. I wanted them to sound like they were part of a series, of course, so I first came up with a pattern they could all follow: a verb and then the son’s name that the book was about. Bed rhymes with Ned, but it also so happens that a bed plays an important role in the story—and not in that way! Or not exactly in that way. Reggie, the duchess’s cat, likes to hide things under Ned’s bed. So that’s how Bedding Lord Ned came about—and the pattern was set.

Darling Mr. M, who is a bit of a jokester, told me I should title Ash’s book Kissing My Ash. Ahem. Mr. M is quite amusing in his own way, but I do not let him near my titles, for obvious reasons.

LOL!  I love Mr. M!  What can you tell us about Loving Lord Ash?

Here’s the back cover blurb:

A Little Misunderstanding…

Kit, the Marquis of Ashton, is in a sticky wicket. He married young and for love—how naïve. He discovered his mistake the very day of his wedding, but he is saddled now with a wife he’s reluctant to trust. And however much evidence he gathers against faithless Jess, he can’t seem to prove her guilt to the final judge—his foolish heart.

Jess knows she’s bobbled her marriage, however innocently. A fairytale wedding makes no difference if she hasn’t got the marquis charmed to show for it. Well, she’s had enough of accidental encounters with naked gentlemen and near misses explaining things to her husband. It’s time to buck up and go win her man back—even if she has to fight very dirty indeed.


Loving Lord Ash is the concluding book in the Duchess of Love series which includes the RITA nominated novella, “The Duchess of Love.” The first two books, Bedding Lord Ned and Surprising Lord Jack, both received starred reviews from Booklist, and Bedding Lord Ned was one of Booklists’ Top Ten Romances of 2012. AND the earlier books should be on sale NOW. Until February 25, the novella should be FREE and Ned’s and Jack’s book only $2.99 each at all major eBook retailers!

Wow!  That’s a great deal, Sally!  So, tell us what’s your favorite thing about the Regency era, especially in terms of writing?

When I was young, I read science fiction and fantasy books—and Georgette Heyer’s Regency-set stories. I guess I was never one for living in the real world 😉 So for me, the Regency is my fantasy world, where the men are mostly titled, wealthy, and in need of a wife. And I’ve always been a bit of a word geek—I love my Oxford English Dictionary. Writing Regencies lets me use words like namby-pamby, brangle, and ninnyhammer. Fun!

Have you ever considered writing in another genre or historical period?

When my kids were very young, I wrote picture book texts. I got some “good” rejections on those and even went through some revisions with one publisher, but nothing came of it. And when my first book, The Naked Duke, sold, I was working on a science fiction romance. Actually, one of my very first manuscripts, pre-kids, was a science fiction romance, now that I think about it. But at least for the foreseeable future, I expect to stay in the Regency.

What’s up next for Sally?

I’m very excited to say I’ve just agreed to do a new series based on our visit to England last September! The stories are set in a small village, Loves Bridge, and revolve around a Spinster House. But I’m just starting book one, so everything is subject to change.

I can’t wait to read your new series!  Thanks so much for joining us today, Sally.  Readers, Sally is giving away one copy of Bedding Lord Ned, and because it’s Valentine’s Day I’m giving away a book, too!  One person who comments today will win both Sally’s book and my latest book, Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard.  Just tell us what you most like (or hate) about Valentine’s Day for a chance to win!

Breaking News!!! Valentine’s Day special on my facebook page.  I’m giving away TWO copies of Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard. So be sure to leave a comment for Sally, and then visit me on my facebook page!


Free Kindle Book!!

My pal Mia Marlowe writes truly luscious historical romance.  And for you Kindle readers this week, her latest book, Stroke of Genius, is now on free from May 1st to May 5th.  This book has been getting great reviews, including this one from Booksmonthly:

Georgette Heyer with ripped Bodices!

“Crispin Hawke is awkward, dashing, self-assured, rude, everything you’d expect from Georgette Heyer, or even Jane Austen. Grace Makepeace is American. She’s tall, beautiful, and knows what she wants. But she falls for Hawke in a big way and decides that she wants him above everything else. Mia Marlowe is the mistress of saucy historical romances, and Stroke of Genius is pure delight!”

Here’s the blurb for this delightful book:

Can artistic genius…

Crispin Hawke, a brilliant sculptor, is revered by the ton. His works are celebrated in every fashionable parlor, and tales of his fiery bed skills whispered behind every fashionable fan.

transform an awkward heiress…

Grace Makepeace is determined to wed a titled lord, but her Bostonian bluntness leaves much to be desired among the well-heeled London crowd. So to gain their acceptance, she commissions the incomparable Crispin Hawke to sculpt her hands—and asks for love lessons on the side.

into the most sought-after original…

Crispin agrees to school Grace in flirting and the delights of the flesh. But when she catches the eye of a marquess, he realizes he’s done his job a little too well. And suddenly he knows Grace is the one masterpiece he cannot bear to be parted from.

without falling for her himself?

Check out Mia’s website for an excerpt and for the download links on Amazon!

Guest Author: Sally MacKenzie & Giveaway!

Woot!  Sally is in the house!  That would be USA Today bestselling author Sally MacKenzie.  She writes funny, hot, Regency-set books for Kensington Zebra. Her Naked Nobility series concluded (at least for the time being) with The Naked King, which was named one of ALA Booklist’s top ten romances for 2011.  Sally also happens to be one of my favorite historical romance authors.

Let’s ask Sally some questions about her new series, shall we?

Your latest book is the second in your new Duchess of Love series. What’s the idea for the series, and what inspired you to come up with it?

The idea is pretty simple: The Duchess of Greycliffe was a matchmaker even back in the boring village of Little Huffington before she married her duke. Now she’s the premier matchmaker for the ton, but the only matches she can’t make or mend are those of her three sons.

As to how I came up with the idea…that’s a little more convoluted. Unlike some authors, I’m not bristling with story ideas. And I’m what romance writers like to call a “pantser”–I write by the seat of my pants, making stuff up as I go along rather than following a detailed outline. (I prefer to think of it as letting my characters lead me, but whatever.)

So, my publisher wanted a synopsis for the new series–a narrative outline of what’s going to happen over the three books. O-kay. Synopses make me break out in a cold sweat, but they’re a necessary evil, I guess–and I think (I hope) my editor realizes mine rarely bear a lot of resemblance to the finished project. So I brainstormed with my agent and pieces of a plan fell into place. I had an elaborate back story, part of which had Venus, the duchess, a widow. She was going to develop her own love interest over the course of the series.

And then we had the idea to write the novella telling the story of how the duchess met her duke. But…I couldn’t kill off the duke after getting to know him! (No Downton Abbey downers for me!) So the plan changed, but long after the synopsis was done.

I realized a few weeks ago that I needed to update things when I got a payment for delivering the first few chapters of Ash’s story, and the check stub said it was for Loving the Duke. Oops. Ash was indeed the duke when I wrote the synopsis, but he can’t be now because I didn’t kill off his dad! Historicals are like that. So we changed the title to Loving Lord Ash. Glad I caught that before anyone worked on the cover!

One aspect of the series has a little basis in reality: Each chapter starts with a quote from “Venus’s Love Notes,” a leaflet of marital advice that the duchess shares with the female members of the ton. This publication mortifies her sons–they’d rather poke their eyes out than read one word of it…much as my romance novels cause my sons to flinch and run for cover.

Surprising Lord Jack–I love the title! What’s your new book about?

It’s about Jack, the duchess’s youngest son, and it begins in the ballroom around the time Ned’s book is ending.

In writing Ned, I discovered Jack knew how to fight dirty, which told me he knew his way around the seedier sections of London. (Jack, unlike his brothers, lives in Town.) His family also considers him a bit irresponsible, a devil-may-care sort of fellow, which of course meant he was nothing of the kind. So…I decided he had a secret life. He had charities connected with the stews which he didn’t want the ton to know about; thus he pretended to be a rake as a cover for his true interests. And when someone starts slashing the lightskirts’ throats à la Jack the Ripper, Jack feels it’s his job to get to the bottom of it, since most of the ton don’t care about what they consider the dregs of society.

Miss Frances Hadley is a completely new character–she doesn’t appear in Ned. She’s extremely independent and strong willed, and she’s been running her family’s estate since she was fourteen. Her mother died when Frances was young, her father took off even before she was born, and her twin brother left as soon as he could. Now her aunt is trying to trick her into marriage. Frances is not about to stand for that, so she cuts her hair, puts on some of her brother’s castoffs, and sets off in disguise for London to demand the money she feels is hers from her family’s man of business.

Unfortunately bad roads–a result of the blizzard that occurs in Ned–force her to take refuge in an inn. The innkeeper’s wife pities the “boy” and gives Frances the only open room, the one usually saved for Jack and his brothers. But then Jack shows up. Not wanting to roust the sleeping boy and send him down to the common room, Jack decides to share the bed. It’s large enough, and the lad seems to be a quiet sleeper.

When Jack finally discovers Frances’s true gender, he is not happy, but he’s resigned to do the right thing and offer marriage. Frances, however, is having no part of that–she came to London to avoid that exact fate. It takes a while–and some help from the Duchess of Love–for these two strong, independent and somewhat stubborn people to fall in love, but they do! (Are you surprised?)

Oh, and there’s a dog. Did I mention Shakespeare? He’s full of tricks and a hero in his own right.

Everyone has different reasons for loving the Regency period. What are some of yours?

I came to the Regency via Georgette Heyer. I think I was around middle school age when I first read her books. They were so funny and witty and romantic, though I confess I was young enough to think her thirty-year-old heroes really old.

And if I can be rather shallow, I’ll admit I like the ballrooms and the lavish estates and even the whole nobility thing, which seems very un-American. Of course my nobles aren’t stuffy and condescending.

What’s next in Sally’s writing life?

I’ve finished the first draft of the last book in the trilogy–Loving Lord Ash–and now I’m deep into revising and polishing. It’s scheduled to come out in Spring 2014. Once I send it off to my editor, it’s time to go back to the idea patch and pick a few good ones for a new series.

Thanks so much for being with us today, girlfriend!  Readers, Sally is graciously giving away a copy of The Naked King.  Let’s talk some more about historical romance–what are some of your favorite historicals, old school or new?  One person who comments will win a copy of Sally’s book.


Guest Feature: Miranda Neville & Giveaway!

The tag line on Miranda Neville’s website is: Sexy Sophisticated Historical Romance.  And are they ever!  Miranda’s books are both sexy and sophisticated, and so beautifully written they are pure joy to read.

Miranda grew up in England, and like many historical romance writers she fell in love at an early age with the novels of Georgette Heyer and Jean Plaidy.  This misspent youth (as she refers to it) set her on a path to Oxford to study history.  She then went on to spend several years working for Sotheby’s, the famous auction house, writing catalogues of rare books, original letters, and manuscripts.  How cool is that?  Not to mention being a perfect background for a future historical romance writer.

And that background did pay off.  Miranda’s first published book was released by Avon Books in 2009 to great reviews.

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Never Resist Temptation:  “Neville throws disguises, secrets and vows of vengeance in the way of true love…the byplay between the hero and heroine is genuine, lusty and fun.”

Who doesn’t like genuine, lusty fun, I ask you?

One of the things I really love about Miranda’s writing is how skilfully she uses the conventions of the genre while creating unique characters and unusual storylines.  The Wild Marquis is the first book in The Burgundy Club series, and the heroine is not a society miss but a shopkeeper who owns a bookstore.  In Never Resist Temptation, the heroine is forced to disguise herself as a pastry chef in a royal kitchen—I love that!

Here’s what RT Book Reviews  had to say about The Wild Marquis and its wonderfully unusual setting:

“Neville brings on the sizzle along with an intriguing and unique Regency backdrop — a nobleman’s “addiction” to rare book collecting — in the well-crafted start to the Burgundy series.”

What a great idea for a story, don’t you think?  You can read all of Miranda’s blurbs and reviews, and check out her excerpts on her Books page.

Luckily for us, Miranda has a new book out:  The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton.  First of all, great title!  Second of all, check out this fabulous cover:

Rowr!  Already the book has been getting great reviews, including this one from the New York Journal of Books:

“The best description for this new novel from Miranda Neville is wonderfully adorable. The spirit, the joie-de-vivre, and the wit make the dialogue sparkle and the characters pop… Readers looking to be delighted won’t have to look any further than this novel.”

And here’s the blurb:

Being kidnapped teaches Miss Celia Seaton a few things about life


Never disrobe in front of a gentleman … unless his request comes at gunpoint.


If, when lost on the moors, you encounter Tarquin Compton, the leader of London society who ruined your marriage prospects, deny any previous acquaintance.


If offered an opportunity to get back at Mr. Compton, the bigger the lie, the better. A faux engagement should do nicely.


Not all knowledge is found between the covers of a book. But an improper book may further your education in ways you never guessed.

And while an erotic novel may be entertaining, the real thing is even better

Oh, I am so there!

You can find The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton on Amazon and at all the usual booksellers.  Just check out Miranda’s website for all the handy buy links.  While you’re looking around her website, check out Miranda’s group blog, The Ballroom.  New to the blogosphere, The Ballroom is home to six noted Avon authors, including Katharine Ashe and Sarah MacLean, plus Lady B and Albert the parrot.  Stop on by to check out the gossip and dancing!

Miranda has very graciously donated a copy of The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton for my readers today.  Since Miranda’s first book involves pastry, let’s do something with that.  What is your favorite kind of pastry?  Petit fours, a chocolate croissant, or are there some days when nothing else but a Krispy Kreme donut will fit the bill?  One person who comments will win a copy of Miranda’s book.

The Fabulous Mary Stewart & Giveaway!

Do you remember Mary Stewart?  An even more important question would be, of course, did you ever read a Mary Stewart novel?

Those of us who are of a certain age – I would say over thirty – probably did read her, since her books were among the most popular of the romance genre in the late 50’s and then the 60’s and 70’s.  In fact, many critics would say she’s one of the creators of the modern romantic suspense novel, that unique form of storytelling that blends a thrilling mystery with a solid love story.  I discovered Mary Stewart’s books in my teens, when my big sister handed me a whole pile of them to read.  It was love at first sight and I tore through them.  Along with Victoria Holt and Georgette Heyer, Mrs. Stewart’s  books inspired in me a love for the romance genre that ultimately prompted me to pick up pen and begin writing romance novels myself.

Mrs. Stewart’s  impact on the romantic suspense genre has been profound.  Here’s what Pamela Regis, Professor of English and noted author of critical works on the romance genre had to say about MS in her book, A Natural History of the Romance Novel: 

“Stewart’s influence extends to every writer of romantic suspense, for Stewart understood and perfected this hybrid of romance and mystery and used it as a structure for books so beautifully written that they have endured to become part of the canon of the twentieth-century romance novel.” 

And her books are beautifully written.  One of Mrs. Stewart’s many strengths was her ability to incorporate setting into her books as a key element of story.  Her settings are exotic and a reflection of her many travels around the world with her husband, Frederick Stewart.  For instance, The Gabriel Hounds is set in Lebanon, This Rough Magic is set in Corfu, Greece, and the book I just finished, Madam Will You Talk?  is set in the south of France.  Her descriptions are so evocative and compelling that they blend seamlessly into the story, and enhance plot and character in a way that is unique to Mary Stewart novels.

But why am I talking about Mary Stewart today?  Several weeks ago, I received an email from a woman who works in the marketing department of Hodder and Stoughton, the venerable English publisher who has published everyone from Winston Churchill to Stephen King.  Recently, they decided to reissue the books of Mary Stewart, who began her career with H & S and remains with them to this day.  Since I had written a few posts about Mary Stewart, the marketing person with H & S asked if I would be interested in reading the reissues and posting some reviews.  As you can imagine I was eager to say yes, and thanks to the generosity of H & S I now have several of the beautiful reissues of classic Mary Stewart novels to give away.  And the books are gorgeous, too, lovely trade paperbacks with really cool retro covers.

That’s the cover for Madam Will You Talk?, Mrs. Stewart’s first book, published in 1955.  It was one of the few MS books I hadn’t yet read and I finished it last night.  It blew me away with the quality of the writing, the intensity of the suspense, and the deeply realized character of the heroine, a young war widow who, while on vacation in Provence, stumbles upon a kidnapping and a murder plot.  Madam also features two incredible car chases through the French countryside – the heroine learned to drive race cars from her husband – that were incredibly exciting and suspenseful.  And how many car chases do you actually find in novels these days?  MS totally pulls it off.

Anyway, I’m thrilled to have the opporunity to introduce a new generation of readers to Mary Stewart’s classic romantic supsense novels.  Today, I’m giving away a copy of one of my very favorite MS books, This Rough Magic.  It takes place on the island of Corfu and the heroine, a British actress fleeing her failed career on the London stage, stumbles into the middle of smuggling ring and lots of danger and adventure.  Oh, and along the way she rescues a stranded dolphin and finds the man of her dreams.  It’s an absolutely awesome book.

H & S also sent me several sets of beautiful postcards of these reissues, so I’ll also give away two copies of those to readers who comment.  Just tell me who was the first romance author you ever read and you’ll have a chance to win the book or one of these great postcard sets.  And if you have read Mary Stewart, tell me which book is your favorite!