Yesterday I featured CAPTIVATED BY HIS KISS - a box set of historical romance (link). Lauren Smith contributed to this project ... and joins us today to chat about THE DUELIST'S SEDUCTION.
Have you ever heard a song that just fills your mind with images? That’s how music is for me. I can be standing in a crowded mall and hear the faint strains of a song and it just captures me. I see things, scenes, characters, stories not yet told, as they unfurl like brightly colored flags in my mind.
Music is true inspiration. For every song you can dream up a thousand stories. Music enchants us, spellbinds us, weaves emotions and tones into a beautiful symphony that leaves us bewitched. Because this connection for me and music is so incredibly powerful, I make sure to create a playlist for every story I write. Some characters have their own theme music, some scenes have a particular song, or the hero and heroine together have a song or songs that help me channel the emotions and the plot points of the story. In other words, music is magic for a writer like me.
When I set out to write my Regency romance novella The Duelist’s Seduction, I knew I’d need a special blend of songs because the hero is dark and brooding, and the heroine, young and innocent, but full of love and hope.
So dear readers, settle back in your favorite armchair, with a cup of hot chocolate, your e-reader and your mp3 player and settle in for a great playlist!
Bad Company by Bad Company
Don’t Deserve You by Plumb
Elements (Orchestral Version) by Lindsey Stirling
Dead in the Water by Ellie Goulding
You Can Go Your Own Way by Lissie
Feel Me by Mecca Kalani
New York by Snow Patrol
Young and Beautiful by Lana Del Rey
Hope you all enjoyed the songs and get a chance to check out The Duelist’s Seduction my novella from the Captivated By His Kiss Regency Box Set!
Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets—a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She's won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.
Lauren is giving away a digital copy of WICKED DESIGNS to one randomly selected commenter. To enter the giveaway,
1. Leave a comment about a song that puts you in the mood for romance.
2. Comments are open through Saturday, January 31, 10 pm in Baltimore.
3. I'll post the winner on Sunday, February 1.
Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City
Lauren offers an excerpt from THE DUELIST'S SEDUCTION ...
The predawn sky shone brightly with flickering stars as Helen Banks readied herself for the duel. Her hair was coiled and pinned tightly against her head, concealing its thick mass and giving her a boyish look—a disguise she prayed would last. Checking the black mask covering her face, she resumed walking. She took a deep, steadying breath as she adjusted her breeches and the black coat she’d pinched from her brother’s wardrobe.
The open field near the spa city of Bath was quiet. Two coaches waited in the distance along the roadside, and ahead of her, two men waited, watching her approach. Not even a breeze dared rustle the knee-high grass as Helen walked up to her enemy and his second. Both men also wore masks to conceal their identities should someone witness the illegal duel. The paling skies played with the retreating shadows of night, lending a melancholy air to the moment she stopped inches from the men.
“You are late, Mr. Banks,” the taller of the two men announced coldly.
With his broad shoulders and muscular body, Gareth Fairfax cut an imposing figure. He seemed perpetually tense, as though ready to strike out at anyone who might offend him. Dark hair framed his chiseled features, and the eyes that glowered from between the spaces of his mask were a fathomless blue. They were the sort of eyes a woman lost herself in, like gazing into a dark pool of water that seemed to sink endlessly, drawing her in until she can’t find her way back to the surface. She recognized the sensual, full lips, now thinned by anger, and the gleam of his eyes on her. She was never more thankful that the early morning’s pale light did not expose her as being a woman.
Helen hated knowing that even now, faced with possible death at his hands, she still desired him. Having seen him from afar over the past few months, she’d been enchanted. Gareth—for that was the way she’d dreamt about him, not as Mr. Fairfax—had a way about him, an animal magnetism that drew her in, with his smoky gaze and relaxed movements. Sin personified—she’d once heard a woman describe him thus at a dance and it was true. Even angels would be tempted to stray to hell for one glance, one lingering, seductive look. He smiled so rarely, she’d glimpsed it but twice in the months she’d seen him. Both times it had fairly knocked her off her feet with the sheer force of its power.
He’d never noticed her at the social engagements. She had stood close to the wall, quiet and lost in dreams as she watched him through her heavy lashes. Foolish, too, she knew, to look at him and feel such hunger for the things his brooding demeanor promised. He had passed her by on numerous occasions, but his head never turned and his eyes never alighted on her. Even now, as she stood before him, ready to die at his hands, she knew he thought her to be her twin brother, Martin.
If he ever discovered she was a woman, he would be appalled and furious. Especially given that she was only dueling him to save her brother’s life.
She briefly studied her opponent’s second. He was just as tall, his features nearly as striking as Gareth’s.
Helen choked down a shaky breath. “I was waylaid.” She prayed her voice sounded gruff and masculine.
Gareth’s eyes were dark orbs, burning with thinly controlled anger. He shifted restlessly on his feet, his imposing form momentarily revealed by the dark blue coat that contoured to his shape.
“Is this your second?” His growl sent shivers down her spine as his glaze flicked to the squat man in his mid-thirties standing behind her. She glanced over her shoulder, widening her eyes in silent encouragement for her second to come closer.
“I am,” Mr. Rodney Bennett replied and bowed.
“Mr. Banks, I am Mr. Ambrose Worthing,” Gareth’s second announced politely.
Well, finally someone was acting like a gentleman. “Mr. Worthing,” Helen said, making sure to keep her voice low. “Allow me to introduce my second, Mr. Rodney Bennett.”
Bennett passed by Helen, and he and Worthing shook hands. Bennett offered the pistols to Worthing for inspection. Since Gareth and Worthing had not brought the weapons, that duty fell to her as the challenged party. As the two men drew apart from her and Gareth, she tried not to stare at him. He was impossibly handsome, in that dark, mysterious sort of way that a woman simply couldn’t ignore. Like gazing upon a visage of an angry god, all fire and might, ready to burn her to ash with passion.
Her opponent glowered at her. “I suppose I should trust that you’ve not tampered with my pistol?”
His icy tone made her bristle with indignation. “You have my word it shoots fair,” Helen snapped. The nerve of the man to accuse her of cheating!
“Your word? We would not be here if I could trust your word. A man who does not honor his debts may not find it necessary to honor the rules of a duel,” Gareth retorted.
She wanted to scream. Her fists clenched at her sides. Her nails dug painfully into her palms as she struggled to calm down. She wanted to throttle her brother, whose rash and inconsiderate behavior had gotten her into this mess.
“Easy, Fairfax. Both pistols appear to be in working order,” Worthing announced as he and Bennett rejoined them.
Helen breathed a sigh of relief as Bennett resumed his position behind her. She’d paid him the last bit of money she’d had for him to appear as her second. She didn’t really know the man, having only met him briefly when she’d had to drag her brother away from the card tables a few nights ago. When she first approached Bennett with her plan, he had tried to talk her out of it, but when she offered money, he couldn’t refuse and had agreed to help her take her brother’s place in the duel. Even though he was a gentleman, the gambler inside him craved any bit of money he could get his hands on to return to the tables. She was lucky he hadn’t gambled away his pair of pistols, or else she would have been completely humiliated to turn up at a duel without weapons.
“Now,” Mr. Worthing said, “before we settle this, is it possible that you and Mr. Banks can reconcile the dispute?”
Helen started to nod, wanting desperately to find a way to settle the problem without bloodshed, but Gareth spoke up, stilling the bobbing of her head.
“Mr. Banks has run up a debt to me of over a thousand pounds. He has not been able to pay it back to me over the last three months. Furthermore, he created an additional liability of five hundred pounds last evening when he played with money he did not have.”
Helen swallowed hard, a painful lump in her throat choking her. Martin, you damned fool…
“Why did you accept his vouchers then?” Rodney spoke up. “I saw you agree to play with him. You didn’t have to.”
“Banks had money on him. I assumed he’d replenished his funds and would settle his debts to me.” Gareth shot a withering look in Helen’s direction. “Shooting him will be a bonus.”
Helen held his stare for a moment, feeling the regret deep in her belly that she hadn’t known better than to trust her twin brother—too childish for a gentleman of one-and-twenty—to be more responsible. Instead of helping to secure her a position as a governess—their finances dim after the death of their parents and no good marriages likely—he had been losing what meager fortune they had to men like Gareth Fairfax, who had plenty to spare.
A man who would now take her life as payment for a debt she didn’t owe. But what else could she do? She couldn’t let Martin die. A man had options to survive, a woman did not, at least not one that wouldn’t make her despise herself for the rest of her life.
Her memory of the previous night was tinged with fury and disappointment in Martin. Her heart had plummeted into the pit of her stomach when she’d retired for the evening and found his room empty. All of her hopes were dashed the moment she’d learned he’d gone back to the gambling tables.
She’d hidden in the shadows outside the gambling hell, trying not to be seen by anyone passing by. The smell of alcohol stung her nose, and the raucous laughter echoing from the entrance sent chills of trepidation down her spine. It would ruin her completely if she were witnessed outside such an establishment. Bennett had promised to bring Martin out to her, but when Martin emerged, he was being roughly hauled out by a dark-haired gentleman, a man she recognized, a man she’d admired for the last few months from afar.