CELESTE BRADLEY

Friday, September 12, 2014

Grammar, Mutts and Coming Attractions

I have decided that this blog should be more than just random musings on the writing life. So, instead of--or perhaps along with!--nattering on about publishing and craft, I am going to structure some blog-shops on writing topics dear to my heart.
     Warning: I am not a Grammar Warrior. I am a storyteller, and I will happily murder the English language along with anyone else who gets in the way of my telling a story! Then I will have a few smart, educated people go over my book and point out my grew-up-in-rural-Louisiana mistakes. I may or may not listen to those fine people. The responsibility, along with the name on the cover, is mine.
    Language is not sacrosanct. The English language has the pedigree of a junkyard dog. You look at the ears and think one breed, look at the tail and think another.

     "English is the result of Norman men-at-arms trying to make dates with Saxon barmaids, and no more legitimate than any of the other results."
                    --H. Beam Piper, "The Other Human Race"

     So get thee gone, Red Pencils! I'm here to instruct--and natter on about--the only thing that matters to me.
     The Story.
     Coming next week: Chiaroscuro and the Art of Characterization Part 1. (Yes, it's a word. Wiki it.)


Thursday, September 4, 2014

On the art of the Roomba and writing through paralysis...

Like many creative people, I do not truly understand my own brain.
Case in point: My backyard had gone to the dogs over the summer--quite literally. My two bored dogs had trashed my container garden, pooped copiously and torn up various pilfered items.
The mess was so daunting that I stopped going outside. Deadlines loomed, negotiations distracted, family drama boiled over.
On National Dog Day, I decided to do something about the problem. I hired a poop service.
Then miracles happened. By the simple act of having a SINGLE chore removed from my life, I found myself able to attack the dead plants, the litter, and exercise my poor bored fuzzy ones.
I could have done those things at any time during the last two months. Bathing a dog takes 20 minutes, max. Replanting a pot takes 10. A game of ball will have a dog panting in 5.
But I suffered from Overwhelm. When matters degraded past a certain point, my brain and will and inborn compulsiveness melted down and I was paralyzed by the simple act of THINKING about the back yard.
I felt like a glitchy Roomba, repeatedly butting against the wall, forgetting how to turn and tackle things from another angle.
Now, the way in which this tale of poop and vacuuming robots pertains to writing a novel:
I have written 20 full novels and some other stuff, too. However, it never fails that in the beginning of a book, at some point I will stare in terror at that blinking cursor and think, "500 pages. 500 EMPTY pages. I can't fill that! That's a whole goddam ream of paper! NOBODY can fill that!"
"Who the hell do I think I am???"
Paralysis.
Fortunately, I am neurotic, but teachable. I have learned over the years to do a few basic things. I back up and come at things from a different angle. I plot. I make notes. I draw characters. I daydream (so glad to get my pretty patio back!). And then, slowly, tentatively, I begin to write. I try to do so without judgment or editing. After all, it's just "practice." I probably won't use any of it, I tell myself. If I don't like it I can toss it.
Sometimes, in the depths of the deepest paralysis (which has only happened a few times, thank heaven!) I write longhand--just to prove to myself that it doesn't matter. Crayon is very convincing in this instance. Or chalk on a chalkboard might do well. I will keep that in mind. The ephemeral nature of paper and pen convinces my panicked consciousness that it doesn't "matter." If it doesn't matter, it can't fail, right? Or worse, perhaps, succeed?
Then I warm up. The characters start to show up. The settings become real rooms, real landscapes in my mind. The movie starts to play.
Suddenly, I am impatient with the plotting and the notes and the pen and paper. Words are pouring out and the only way to get them down efficiently is to sit down at the computer and make that damned cursor my bitch. I often don't even realize that I'm doing it until I finish and look around and realize that I am in my office--remember that place of dread and fear and imminent, hideous public failure?--and my hands are tired and I have to pee. And there, filling page upon page that shrink the blinking cursor into pallid insignificance is Chapter One. Or maybe the climactic end scene. It doesn't matter. I never write in order.
I write because that is who I think I am!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On the nature of simplicity in good writing...

The Geek God and I are finally watching The Wire. Yes, I know, a decade behind the rest of you. At any rate, we recently watched that famous moment in "Old Cases" where McNulty and his partner, Bunk, are investigating an old crime scene. It takes place in an apartment that has since been cleaned and repaired. They crack the case with nothing to go on but a few crime scene photos and the F word. Seriously, the dialogue of the entire scene consists of them conversing in Vulgar Dude. The F word, and only the F word, for a solid 5 minutes. It is hilarious, gripping, and absolute genius.

Truly, this brief scene attained a level of Haiku-esque minimalism that made me writhe with simultaneous ecstasy and envy. I instantly wanted to watch it again. And again. It will remain with me for years, glowing in memory as a shining beacon of "Less is more."

Yes, I realize that this example is visual and therefore not the same as written fiction. As writers of books, we are forced to set our stage and dress our actors with nothing but our fingers on the keyboard.

My point is that great writing isn't about big words or heavily detailed description ("Excuse me, but your research is showing.") or even perfectionist grammar. Yes, knowing all this is important. Proving that you know it is not. Great writing is about connection. Without connection--that direct line feed, that intravenous transfusion from creator to audience, that freaking divine thread of communication made by tapping your soul like a Vermont maple--well then, you are just scratching lines and curves into the sand before the incoming tide. Your work won't be remembered by anyone but you.

So, the next time you feel stirred by a sesquipedalian adverb you stumbled upon in your Synonym Finder, remember that isn't the size of the word, it's how you use it that counts!

Here is a link to the aforementioned scene from The Wire. Warning: Adult Effing Content. It is an HBO show, after all!
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XdfwFDZGnUk

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

AND THEN COMES MARRIAGE, the second book of the Wicked Worthingtons series, releases today!


TWICE THE TEMPTATION...DOUBLE THE DESIRE!

Visit CelesteBradley.com for more books!
      After years of being a quiet, dutiful wife, the recently widowed Mrs. Miranda Talbot is finally free to se she pleases. As an attractive woman of independent means, Miranda is suddenly turning heads all around town. When she meets the dashing Mr. Castor Worthington, she is swept away by his passion. Is he too good to be true?

Little does Miranda know that there is more to Castor than meets the eye. In fact, he's a twin. Castor's brother, Poll, also a confirmed bachelor, takes his romantic pursuits--and rivals--very seriously. When Castor discovers Miranda is being courted by his own twin, his competitive nature takes over. Who will be the one to win Miranda's hand and heart?

The race to say I do is about to begin...


*      *      *
Read the reviews!

Presenting readers with a pair of heroes to die for and a quirky Shakespeare-quoting family, along with a fast pace and snappy dialogue, Bradley is at her best. 
--RTBookReviews (read full review!)

The book is a signature Celeste Bradley novel with her wit and engaging writing style. 
--Night Owl Reviews (read full review!)

Filled with humor, madcap antics, engaging characters, witty repartee, competition, subterfuge, romance and love, this story is one you do not want to miss. 
--Romance Junkies (read full review!)

*      *      *

Behind the scenes...

So, some people have noticed my fascination with twins...

First we had Bitty and Kitty from the Liar's Club series. Now we have Castor and Pollux Worthington from the Wicked Worthingtons series! 

I love a Bad Boy hero. I really love a Bad Boy hero times two! Of course, I was inspired by darling Fred and George Weasley from the Harry Potter series. I adore those twin partners-in-crime! They are two of my favorite literary characters of all time. (We do NOT talk about the last book in my house!) So when I created the whack-a-doodle Worthington family, how could I not include a pair of brilliantly inventive mischief mongers of my own?

As for Miranda, she is every Good Girl who ever thought that if she just gave enough, and kept quiet enough, and took up as little space as possible, that someday she would reap her reward for all her sacrifice. I just had to give her a little taste of Bad!

I hope you enjoy this second installment of the Wicked Worthington saga--I sure enjoyed writing it!

Hugs and thanks for reading!

Celeste

*      *      *

Read an excerpt!

Chapter One
England, 1818

If only I dared, I might be the most blissful of women—although tiresome good sense rushes to assure me I might well be the unhappiest, with a lifetime of regret ahead of me and only sweet memories behind.
     I think I might take either future rather than live one more day in this tedious shelter of “unloved” and “overlooked.”
     If only I dared  . . . .
---

Mrs. Gideon Talbot strolled sedately down the walk. Miranda was without her maid today, for poor Tildy had a bad cold and was nestled up in her attic bedroom with a hot pot of tea and a crock of broth.

            Miranda liked feeling unfettered by company. Why exactly did a lady need to be accompanied by a maid at all times? It wasn’t as though Tiny Tildy could protect her in a crisis. Nor was Tildy needed to carry parcels, for Miranda merely gave the vendors her address, and everything she purchased was delivered promptly and without fail.

            When one was a wealthy, respectable widow, the world tended to do as it was told. Such a position was quite refreshing, to tell the truth. So instead of making her usual round of shops and vendors, Miranda directed her hired hack to let her off in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

            It wasn’t as though she actually expected to see him here. She was simply curious. She knew he resided nearby and wished to know a little more about the man she could not stop thinking about.

            And then, ahead of her, as if summoned by her thoughts, a tall, brown- haired fellow stepped out of an alleyway and ran across the street, dodging carts and riders and piles of horse-apples.

            Miranda knew that man. She knew the breadth of his shoulders and the way his hair curled down over the back of his collar and most especially she knew that hard, muscled horseman’s bottom. It had sat upon her sofa for most of the last month of afternoons, while she plied its owner with tea and conversation.

            Mr. Pollux Worthington.

            Mr. Worthington was a handsome fellow indeed, but his primary attraction for Miranda was his easy smile and his wicked sense of humor. After her dry, lifeless, loveless marriage had turned to a quiet and dusty widowhood, the heat and light generated by Mr. Worthington’s calls had become the climax of her days.

            It was entirely proper for her to have a gentleman caller or two, she reminded the harsh voice echoing in her mind from her past. She’d completed her half-mourning, and she’d only allowed two entirely respectable fellows through her very respectable door. Their calls took place in the bright light of afternoon and rarely lasted more than a congenial half-hour.

            If her mind sometimes wandered to Mr. Worthington’s wide, capable hands, or if her eyes lingered on his lips, or if her imagination waxed eloquent on the probable feel of his muscular buttocks in her hands, well, no one had to know what went on behind her demurely downcast eyes, did they?

            Mr. Worthington had not called upon her in the last few days. Miranda told herself that she only wished only to determine that he was well   . . . although perhaps a broken bone or three would most gratifyingly explain his strange and abrupt absence after he’d been so attentive!

            So it was merely out of friendly concern that she now strolled in the vicinity of his home. She hadn’t followed him there, truly she hadn’t. However, since he was there and, by random chance, so was she, and they happened to be dawdling on the same street   . . . well, she could go on all day in her mind on how she wasn’t tracking the man like a hound on a scent, but the fact remained that she was doing exactly that.

           Now, even after so brief a separation, the sight of him made her smile. I believe I am giddy. Impossible! I am much too mature and respectable to become giddy.

            Thirty-one years of age and a widow, to boot! How could the mere sight of a certain fellow transform her into a mooning schoolgirl? This is unbearable. I refuse to participate in this—this preposterous state of affairs for one more moment.

            Didn’t he look fine, though, with the early summer sunlight pouring over him like golden honey, gleaming his light brown hair and creating that intriguing shadow just beneath his chiseled cheekbone? He was so handsome. Giddy! And dreamy! Intolerable!

           Panic set in. What should she do? Should she be casual and assured and greet him nonchalantly? Should she stand here like an empty-headed bit of plaster statuary and hope he spotted her? Miranda bit her lip as she considered her dilemma, or was she considering Mr. Worthington’s bottom? It was muscled and hard, clad in tight riding breeches and just the right shape and form for a man.

           After all, too little bottom, and a fellow’s back fell directly into his legs, like rain down a gutter. Too much bottom, and a fellow bore an unfortunate resemblance to a duck, including the tendency to waddle.

           No, the derrière in question was without a doubt a superior specimen. And it belonged to her. Or, it could belong to her if she dared. That very bottom had sat upon her parlor sofa for many afternoons in the past few weeks. . . day after day of visits and cups of tea and delightfully witty conversation. To Miranda, good conversation was more heady than wine. Her late husband had never been much of a talker. . . or a listener.

           Gideon had been a highly regarded gentleman, a catch, really, for a plain girl like her, with her gawky elbows and knees and that unfortunate tendency toward flatness in the bosom. It hadn’t been Gideon’s fault that he’d not realized that she wished to talk. She’d been virtually ordered to silence by her grandmother while he’d courted her.

           That harsh voice rang from the mists of the past once again. “You’ll sit silently and you’ll keep good posture and you’ll nod but not too much! Mind you, smile but not too widely!” The echoes of her grandmother’s ranting rang as fresh as ever. “You’ll not shame me like your wild mother, that hussy! That my pathetic son should have dishonored himself for her—”

           Well, the rest of that was better not thought on.

           Time and maturity had finally gifted Miranda with a bit of bosom and she’d learned to manage her elbows and knees with grace, mostly by keeping her movements slow and flowing. Yet she’d never truly been able to stop her mind from coming up with odd things to say. She’d only learned to keep her mouth from uttering them.

           The derrière—er, the man she’d been observing— left the building that he had briefly entered, only to dart back across the street and back down the alleyway opposite.
           
           Curiosity, while unbecoming in a sedate and mature widow of thirty-one years, mewed piteously and scratched to be let in. Frowning slightly, Miranda could not resist pausing in her perfectly innocent and not-at-all-unseemly stroll to peer down the alleyway when she came abreast of it. She could see very little but dingy cobbles and shadowy rubbish bins. The afternoon sun did nothing to illuminate the narrow lane between the tall brick buildings. Tilting her head, Miranda listened carefully, but only heard only a few strange banging noises, amplified oddly by the narrow passage.

            Ladies, especially not sedate widows of a certain age, did not trot down dark alleyways after men.

            Yet the unfettered sensation caused by dutiful Tildy’s absence gave a gloss of freedom to Miranda’s thoughts, a sheen they’d not had for so many, many years. I can do as I please. I am no one’s wife, or charge.

            Besides, Mr. Worthington was a nice, respectable fellow, prone to amusing conversation about books and current events. Perhaps he had a perfectly good reason to be in such an odd location on a weekday morning.

            She opened the figurative door, and curiosity strolled in, tail high and crooked in a question mark at the tip.

            Without really allowing herself to ponder the question further, Miranda began to pick her way down the dim, narrow alley, careful to avoid soiling her hem on any of the many wads of nameless really-rather-not-know on the damp, slimy cobbles. She lifted her skirts with one hand and used the other to trail along the brick wall to her right, as if by keeping a few fingertips on something solid, she could prevent being swept away by her own curiosity. She kept close the wall, only stepping away from it only briefly to avoid something especially noxious at her feet.

            The distant clanging noises increased in tempo and volume. Now it sounded as though a machine were grinding away. She could definitely distinguish the grinding gears, pistons pumping, steam whistling. .

            Curiosity swiveled its ears and quivered its whiskers.

            What in heaven’s name could lie ahead?
---

Pollux Worthington turned to his companion and smirked. “I told you it would work!” His green eyes gleamed.

            Castor Worthington, who looked a great deal like Poll—being his identical twin, after all—only frowned as he pondered the giant contraption that took up most of the space in this crook in the alleyway. It was so large, they’d had to do most of the secret final assembly here, in this canyon of brick and stone, with bad light and the constant chance of discovery.

            It was a steam engine, at heart. All the other many parts and functions had been added along the way to suit Poll’s evolving design. Now it was meant to be a steam engine, a water pump, a pressure boiler, a home-heating device, and of course, a work of art worthy of gracing the palace of the Prince Regent himself!

           Cas wrinkled his brow. Just like many of Poll’s very worst ideas, it had all sounded most interesting at the time. Now Cas wondered how long this test run would take. He had pressing matters to attend to.  “Well, it runs   . . . sort of. As for actually working  . . . .”
           
           Poll rolled his eyes and raised his voice over the noise of the engine. “You still doubt me? Didn’t I get all of it down this alley after you said the cart wouldn’t fit?”

            “Well   . . . yes, but—”

            “And didn’t I get it fired up after you said the coal was too damp?”

            Cas shook his head . “I didn’t say damp—”

            “And isn’t it, right this very moment, running like a top?”

            Once more, Cas gazed at the gusting, clanging—, and, let’s be frank, hideous— creation. “I still think coal is a poor choice. It burns too hot. The steam pressure will—”

            “Wood heat would never get the pressure high enough! Just wait, you’ll see!”

            Just then, the whistle they had affixed to the meter blew shrilly. Poll grinned triumphantly as when it shot a neat arc of steam into the air as it trilled.

            “Ha! Listen to that!”

            Cas listened as the whistle squeaked. Then it screamed. Then it popped a rivet, detaching itself to blow off the stack and sail across the alley, its trill weakening in a sudden, pathetic whimper.

            Poll’s grin faded. “Oh, damn.”

            The twins stepped back at once, Cas down one side of the alley, Poll down the other. After a brief alarmed glance at each other through the growing clouds of steam that really shouldn’t be there, they stepped back again. And again.

            A movement at the edge of Castor’s vision caught his attention. He turned his head to peer into the dimness of the alley that ran from the street. A woman? Who—?

            The stack itself shook from the pressure building up inside. The rivets holding it in its tubular form began commenced to pop off in sudden, bullet-like haste. The twins threw themselves away from the machine, scrambling over the cobbles, intent only on getting as far from imminent death as possible.

            Then Cas remembered the woman. He twisted half about to see that she had come closer, her appalled gaze on the wheezing, screaming, buckling machine.

            Opposite him, Poll threw an arm over his face. “We need to get out of here!”

            Cas pointed Poll toward the door to the safe interior of the building. “Run!”

            He turned back to where the woman stood, her face pale and her hands held before her. She was finally backing away, as it was now quite obvious that the machine was about to explode like a Chinese firework, but she wasn’t moving fast enough. Cas ran at her full-out, diving into her, wrapping his arms about her, and throwing them both back into the narrow, angled safety of the street entrance.

            Just as they hit the hard, slimy cobbles, the monster behind them groaned into a roar.
---

Miranda lay with a heavy weight upon her; a hard, cold lumpy surface beneath her; and a great ringing in her ears.

            Through it, she could barely detect Mr. Worthington’s rather gratifying tone of concern. “Oh hell. Oh damn. Are you all right? Are you hurt?”

            She remained still, a little surprised that she was, in fact, quite well. Her heart was racing and her bottom grew colder by the moment as the dampness of the ground seeped through her gown, but she felt nary a single bruise on her flesh. His arms were wound about her, so very little of her had impacted the cobbles at full force. His large hand was wrapped around the back of her head, protecting her from the stones even now. She remembered that as they had fallen, he had tucked her face into the hollow of his neck and shoulder and rolled with her quite enveloped in his hold. It had been a splendidly athletic move and really a most gallant rescue.
           
           Now, he remained wrapped about her, lying fully upon her, his knee pressing her own apart. If anything, her pulse increased. He shifted his weight from her and knelt by her side. “Damn it, I’ve killed her!”
           
            Opening her eyes, she couldn’t help smiling up at him gazing worriedly down at her. “A most graceful rescue, sir. Perhaps I should keep you at my side for all future explosions.”

            He let out a gusting sigh of relief and grinned ruefully back at her. “No future explosions, I promise. In fact, let us pretend that one never happened!” He stood easily and bowed to her, extending his hand. Taking hers, he lifted her to a standing position, steadying her as she staggered. His arms were strong, keeping her easily on her feet. He took her shoulders in his hands, stepping back while yet steadying her. “My deepest apologies! Are you quite sure you are all right?”

            Miranda nodded, blinking back the sudden wave of heat that had apparently come directly from contact with Mr. Worthington’s iron-hard body. Goodness, he might have a taste for awful, foppish weskits, but there was nothing of the soft, doughy dandy about him!

            Her feminine obsession with his bottom instantly expanded to a new fascination with that muscled chest. I am incorrigible!

            The notion rather pleased her, even as she smiled breathlessly up at Mr. Worthington. Imagine her—shy, awkward Miranda Talbot—incorrigible!

            Mr. Worthington took her hand to bow over it. “Lovely lady, might I plead my heroism as cause to sidestep the proprieties just this once? I am Worthington.”

            Miranda smiled, completely charmed. Let us pretend that one never happened. He meant to start over indeed, for those were the very words he’d used the day they had met!

           On that afternoon a month ago, she’d been crossing a busy street in Mayfair and had caught her heel between two cobbles. Tildy, toting packages, had fallen a little behind. Miranda knew she’d been silly to lose sight of the oncoming traffic in her worry over a shoe, but thankfully a handsome man—Mr. Worthington!—had simply stepped into the street, wrapped an arm about her waist, and plucked her from danger—and the offending shoe!
           
           Now, just as she had then, Miranda dipped a curtsy and said, “Gallantry is its own reward, sir, but your actions were most heroic. I might allow that the act of introducing yourself—while shocking and forward of you!—is a just and proper reward for such valor.” When she straightened, she found her own reward in the warmth of his smile. Goodness, she’d never seen his eyes gleam so at her! Previously warm and friendly, like spring sun on green grass, his gaze eyes now promised heat and light and shadow and all manner of wickedly playful possibilities!

            It must be that he’d been affected by their brief intimacy on the cobbles as well! Miranda’s pulse became more rapid. She loved the spring sun  but the flame of a midsummer bonfire might warm one twice as well, might it not? Fighting her own timidity, she gazed right back and continued the game. “I am Mrs. Gideon Talbot, Mr. Worthington. However, my hero may address me as Miranda.”

            Would he say it again? Would he say the words that had made a fiercely circumspect widow, the very model of propriety, begin to remember that she was a flesh-and-blood woman as well?

            His lips curled up at the corners. “Miranda, lovely daughter of Prospero. ‘O you, / So perfect and so peerless, are created / Of every creature’s best!’”

            Miranda’s jaw dropped slightly. Oh my.

            The first time, he had smiled teasingly and recited, “‘The very instant that I saw you, did / My heart fly to your service.’.” She’d been flattered, impressed by his Shakespeare-at-the-ready compliment, and charmed by his relaxed impertinence.

            Now, with his leaf-green eyes gleaming wicked promise and his lean, broad-shouldered form leaning close over hers, she found herself thrilled by the breathtaking notion of being seen as “perfect and peerless” by such a man! She struggled for a light laugh. “You’ve studied up on your Tempest! Very good! But are you my Ferdinand or simply a Caliban?” She pretended arch indifference. “That remains to be seen, does it not?”

            Cas gazed stared down at the pretty widow, perplexed. She ought to be weak-kneed and simpering by now, not teasing him so pitilessly. He’d been quite proud of yanking that handy Miranda quote out of his memory. Of course, his father, Archimedes Worthington, Shakespeare scholar, had strolled around the house quoting that bloody play for months. There was nothing so likely to drive a fellow off Shakespeare as an elderly man wandering the house at midnight in his baggy drawers stentoriously spouting Ferdinand’s lines from The Tempest!
           
           Mr. Castor Worthington, confirmed bachelor, appreciator of all things feminine, stepped back to take a better look at the delightfully soft object of his sudden collision. She seemed rather poised. Was this the same woman he’d just tackled and flung onto the cobbles—after very nearly exploding her?

            She looked a mess, actually. Her fine, straw bonnet, dyed to match her spencer, was a smeary ruin, as was the spencer. Beneath the short jacket, her gown was sullied with more alley slime, especially about the er . . . arse. The damp fabric clung to her flesh, and Cas took a moment to appreciate the delightful shape revealed beneath it. Then he firmly returned his gaze to her face to find her assessing him expectantly.

           Hmm. His smile warmed. Pretty. Perhaps even beautiful, properly gowned in something that would set off that nicely structured bosom and that alabaster skin. Not that she wasn’t well-dressed, just a bit understated. Widow? Who else wore that weary shade of lavender- gray? A pretty widow with a wayward sense of adventure, if he was not mistaken. His very favorite kind.

            He smiled in return, a slow, lazy grin that had stripped many a woman right down to her knickers on the spot. He might need to flee the scene of the crime in the next few moments, but that didn’t mean he would pass up a chance to flirt with a pert young widow!

            He was yet breathing, after all.
---

Miranda inhaled, her mouth going dry. Why, all of a sudden, was he smiling down into her eyes as if she were a present he’d very much like to unwrap? Oh, yes. Please unwrap me.

            She closed her eyes and stilled her body against the heat that shot through her at that outrageous, wayward thought and the vague, disturbing, and delicious images that followed.

            “Mrs. Talbot, I do believe I ought to take you—”

           Miranda’s eyes flew open and her lips parted. In addition, her hands went completely numb with shock and parted ways with her reticule, which plopped to the filthy ground.

           “—home. You’ll want to change out of these . . . er, damp things.”
           
           Removing her revolting gown would be . . . ”Wonderful,” she breathed. Then she caught herself up. Yes. Home. Changing into something that didn’t reek of best-not-ask! Good plan.

            She reached out to awkwardly shake his hand. “It was lovely to . . . well, not really, but . . .” Don’t blather, girl! She straightened and curtsieyed sedately. “Home. Yes. I really must be heading home. I should not like to leave it too late, for it is becoming quite chilly out, isn’t it?”

            He smiled down at her. Such a bold little thing! “Is it?” He bent his elbow and offered it to her, his busy schedule entirely dismissed from his thoughts. “Then I must continue my gallantry and accompany you home.” He tucked the pretty hand of the pretty widow into his arm and allowed the lady to turn their feet toward the street, a hired cab, and this fascinating destination. With those sea- green eyes and those enchanting lips, not to mention a smashing figure, she was lovely, sultry, and altogether enticing.

           What a grand way to pass the afternoon.
---

In the hired hack, Miranda found herself very nearly speechless in the company of the man she valued for his sparkling conversation! Yet something was different now. There was a new element, a tension between them that perhaps came from the way their bodies had mingled and warmed to each other.

            And when he looked at her with that teasing, appreciative glint in his eyes? I feel almost . . . alluring.

            Now, that was a word she’d never thought to apply to herself.

            Ever.

           She was a widow, attractive enough, but no raving beauty, either. Mr. Worthington was tall, broad-shouldered, fit as a horseman should be, and possessed of a handsome chiseled face, brilliant green eyes, a devilish smile, and charmingly wayward brown curls. And a truly outstanding bottom. Her fingers twitched with a nearly overwhelming desire to explore further.

           Miranda sighed. She had never once thought of running her hands over Gideon’s bottom. She’d never seen her stoop-shouldered, scholarly late husband without his frock coat or his nightshirt. Even marital copulation had been most decorous, in the dark with only the most necessary bits of muslin shifted to allow for the act. She’d done her duty to Gideon, as overseen and supervised by the ever-present Constance, Gideon’s strict elder sister, but she hadn’t loved him.

           Nor had he loved her. He’d provided. She’d done her duty, all but for bearing a child. Gideon had found that flaw in his plan a tad disconcerting, but had eventually allowed that children were a disturbing element in a house of cerebral pursuits, and had magnanimously forgiven her. Miranda had comforted herself in her barrenness with the thought that a houseful of little Gideons might have been a bit more than any sane woman might tolerate.

           She’d kept her husband’s house in good order and his cerebral work uninterrupted. In return, he’d doled out just enough funds to keep her looking respectable, in gowns subject to Constance’s vision of respectability—i.e. plain and demurely Quakerish. She’d not gone hungry, nor been beaten, nor actually deprived in body at all.

           She’d simply been ignored to tiny little bits. She’d actually felt those bits falling off her, like flaking paint on a neglected house, shreds of her mind and soul drifting invisibly down to the carpet, day after day, year after long year.

           Then Gideon had died, and shortly afterwards, miraculously, had come the retirement of the repressive Constance, leaving Miranda most satisfactorily alone.

           It was odd how being alone with oneself was so much less tedious than being alone with others.

           Her year of true mourning was long past, and her year of half- mourning had ended a month prior. She still wore her lavenders and grays, but that was only out of habit.

           The hack pulled onto her square. Miranda’s gaze, unable to meet Mr. Worthington’s, went with relief to the neat, respectable facade of her own address. Satisfaction slowed her pulse, calming her. It was her house, her very own, where she might do precisely as she pleased. When she died, she supposed the property would revert to Gideon’s family, if there were Talbots left by then. Constance was twenty years Miranda’s senior and she had no children, maintaining her rigid spinsterhood with pride, as though loneliness were a virtue.

           Miranda didn’t think loneliness was virtue. She thought it a great bloody waste of existence, when the bright world beckoned to anyone brave enough to take it. With a series of brief glances, she contemplated the man seated across from her. If I could be brave... She wasn’t, not really. Gideon had chosen her because she was timid. Yet she didn’t wish to be, not in her dreams, not in her mind—and not in the recent and delightful company of Mr. Worthington.

           Now, shutting the door firmly on her past marriage, Miranda contemplated her current freedom with serenity and even some eagerness. No one owned her. Her parents were naught but sketchy memory, her harsh, overbearing grandmother gone on to her long-desired reward.

           She ran the tip of her tongue over her lips. I am a widow of means. I can do anything I like.

           And I like Mr. Worthington.

*      *      *

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

VALENTINE COUPLE # 13!

AIDAN & MADELEINE!

I love this trilogy--and I love poor mixed up Madeleine especially! There's something about someone who lies in a good cause--and then gets stuck with those lies!





DEVIL IN MY BED

Runaway Brides Bk 1


Three Lords and a Baby...

When Aidan de Quincy finds a precocious tot on the steps of his gentleman's club, he is sure he isn't the child's father...well, nearly sure. In order to find out, he needs to find the only woman he ever loved--the one who broke his heart!

Madeleine Chandler has a secret, but not the one 
Aidan thinks she does. Her past is about to catch 
up to her again and only Aidan can save her. All 
she has to do is tell one more tiny little lie...

accent Quotes:

"From its unconventional prologue to its superb 
conclusion, every page of the first in Bradley's 
Runaway Brides series is perfection and joy. Tinged 
with humor that never overshadows the poignancy 
and peopled with remarkable characters 
(especially the precocious Melody) who will 
steal your heart, this one's a keeper." 
--Romantic Times BOOKreviews

accent Under the covers:

I wrote this book while pondering the meaning 
of fatherhood. What makes a father? Is it instinct? 
Having a good example to follow? Reading the 
parenting books that have been strategically left 
by the toilet with relevant passages highlighted 
in yellow? Aidan is a man who is locked down tight--
until a child manages to pick that lock with a smile.

accent Portraits of our lovers:


AIDAN

Aidan de Quincy, Earl of Blankenship, has only loved one woman in his life. Madeleine loved him beyond 
his wildest dreams, then coldly refused him and shredded his heart into tiny little pieces. If little 
foundling Melody is his daughter, then only Madeleine can be her mother. That’s a little trip in the way-back machine that Aidan really doesn’t want to take. 
Bringing Madeleine to live with him and Melody sounds like yet another journey into heartbreak…
but he can’t resist her, even knowing that she’ll 
only destroy him yet again. Oh, but what a way to go.


MADELEINE

Miss Madeleine Chandler has been living a lie for so long she is beginning to believe it…until the day the past comes back to bite her in her lovely arse. The only thing to do is flee and the only place to flee is back into the arms of Aidan, the man whose heart she was forced to break years before. Unfortunately, the only way to get herself back into those arms is to lie yet again. Is she the mother of the child so recently left on his doorstep? Um, sure, yeah, whatever. But just when Maddie’s heart begins to remember why she loved Aidan so desperately in the first place, the brittle, shaky pyramid of her lies begins to sway beneath her feet!
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

VALENTINE COUPLE # 12!

SOPHIE & GRAHAM!

Sophie and Graham are one of the most popular couples I have written--for good reason! This book wrote itself, as if it couldn't wait to find out what happened any more than I could!




DUKE MOST WANTED

Heiress Brides Bk 3


In the game of love

Sophie Blake's grandfather willed his fortune to the 
first of his granddaughters so marry a duke. Since her cousin, Deirdre, will seal the deal any day now, the quiet bookish Sophie can sit back and enjoy her time with the only man she truly adores: Graham. No matter that the part-charmer, part-scoundrel has absolutely no designs on her! Sophie is content to engage Graham in lively conversation, beat him at cards . . . and probe at the darkness hiding behind his rakish smile.

 

You've got to play by heart. . .

Then Graham unexpectedly gains a title, an estate in near ruins and a mountain of debt. If there is any chance of survival he must find a rich wife--quickly. As his hunt for a bride begins, Sophie realizes that 
she isn't even in the running. Suddenly no longer content to be a wallflower, Sophie gets a stunning makeover and becomes the belle of the ball. But this beauty has secrets of her own. Will she be 
Graham's salvation, or seal his fate?

accent Quotes:

"What can Bradley come up with after The Liars 
Club and the Royal Four? The answer is a humorous 
romp of marriage mayhem that’s a love and laughter 
treat, tinged with heated sensuality and tenderness. 
This winning combination ensures Bradley’s 
Heiress Brides series will climb the bestseller charts."
—Romantic Times Bookreviews

accent Portraits of our lovers:

SOPHIE

Plain, bookish Miss Sophie Blake only came to her first London Season to escape her dreadful home and see a bit of the world. She knows she hasn’t a chance of wedding a duke—until her best friend and object of her most secret affection, Graham, abruptly attains a title and a need for a rich wife! A rich wife she can be, if she can just convince Graham to wed her instead of one of the many Society beauties throwing themselves at his feet. Sophie must set aside her books and translations in order to undergo a complete transformation—from her ginger hair all way down to her size mumble-something feet. Only the wisdom of the famous Lementeur can pull it off. After all, Sophie must compete in world of delicious debutantes and willful widows, all intent on gaining a duke of their own!

GRAHAM

Lord Graham Cavendish is a bored youngest son of many, who hasn’t a hope of inheriting until his father and brothers are abruptly wiped out in a hunting accident. (Bull elephant = 4, Cavendish men = 0) Suddenly saddled with the dukedom of Edencourt, faced with responsibility to his estate and his dependents for the first time in his life, Graham realizes that the lone solution is to find a rich wife and find her fast. He puts aside his amusing companionship with the sharp-tongued Sophie to do a little hunting of his own. Women are lining up to be his duchess, after all. The only problem is, the woman he most wants is the one he cannot afford to marry!

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!