FROM THEA: I was so delighted when Zoe Archer asked me if I might be interested in having her guest on my blog. Yes indeed, I was! Zoe is a very talented romance writer who is also versatile. She seems to be entirely at home with writing historical, steampunk or science fiction.
Zoe’s also having a giveaway this week, and details for the giveaway follow at the end of the excerpt.
First, let me thank Thea for hosting me on her website today!
And now….down to business!
Many romance novels end with the hero and heroine getting married. Sometimes the wedding takes place in the middle of the book, and the hero and heroine must spend the remainder of the story learning about what it takes to make a successful marriage.
In DEMON’S BRIDE, my historical paranormal romance, the story opens with the hero and heroine’s wedding day. It seems like a strange place to start a narrative, but I wanted to give the reader the same sense of trepidation and discovery that Anne Hartfield feels being married to a virtual stranger. Since DEMON’S BRIDE is set in the 18th century, it’s not uncommon for marriages to be based on money or power rather than love. In fact, many aristocrats didn’t have the option of choosing a spouse based on affection. Their nuptials were used to form alliances or increase wealth.
Anne’s situation is a little different. She’s the daughter of an impoverished baron, and hasn’t any money to bring to a marriage. All she has is the prestige of her family’s title. Her aristocratic lineage is what makes her an attractive marriage candidate to Leo Bailey. Leo is the son of a saddler, a commoner who used ruthless business strategy to fight his way up from poverty. Now he’s one of the richest non-titled men in England. But not having genteel blood makes him a perennial outsider to the ranks of the elite. So, by marrying Anne, Leo obtains prestige, and by Anne marrying Leo, she gains wealth. It’s an ideal situation—except for the fact that the two barely know each other. Anne is very sheltered. Leo is extremely worldly. Plus, he seems to have a few mysterious secrets…
In this excerpt, Anne and Leo are in the middle of their wedding celebration, and getting ready for the guests to escort them to bed. That’s right—first Anne is going to be taken to the bridal bedchamber by her female relatives, dressed in her nightgown, put into bed, and then await her husband, who will be led toward the bedroom by the male guests, who will then stand outside and shout encouragements to the groom through the door . Seems awfully exposed, doesn’t it? Now Anne and Leo must await the inevitable procession, and contemplate what happens once they’re finally alone in the bedchamber.
Leo turned to face Anne, and she resisted the impulse to look down at her clasped hands. He was too imposing, too handsome, too . . . everything. How could she find him so attractive and so intimidating at the same time? Yet, sainted heavens, she did.
“Are you well?”
Her eyes widened at his heated tone. For a moment, she thought he might be angry with her, but then she saw that his anger was at her defense. It warmed her, though she could not be entirely comfortable in his presence.
“Other than a surfeit of iced cakes, I am perfectly well.” She made herself smile. “I trust your . . . meeting was successful.”
He seemed disinclined to say any more on the subject, and she was reluctant to press further. After all, their names were still drying on the parish register. She could not make demands of her husband so soon. According to her mother, at any rate. Throughout the day, Anne had received much advice from married women, most of it contradictory.
Be at all times silent and agreeable, else your husband will think you a termagant and shun your company.
Never allow your husband to dictate your actions or he will consider you weak and trifling, and shall not esteem you. Nothing ruins a marriage faster than lack of esteem between a man and his wife.
Which was it? Anne’s head spun with words, so many words, sly winks, and knowing smirks. Up to this day, she had passed her life in relative anonymity. Now it seemed the whole of her existence became the fodder for dozens of opinions, scores of eyes. She felt rather like a newborn vole forced out into the light, naked, blind, wriggling. Ideal prey.
From across the overheated chamber, Anne’s mother and several of her female relatives began walking toward her and Leo. The knowing smiles on their faces left little doubt as to their intention.
“I believe it is time for them to put us to . . . bed.” Good Lord, she could barely get the word out, and she felt by turns hot and cold. The man standing beside her was about to join his body to hers in the most intimate way possible—and though she found him attractive, she barely knew him.
“This distresses you.”
She did not want him to think her unwilling to perform the her marital responsibilities. After all, she had been taught that therein lay a woman’s primary function: the easing of a man’s desires and the bearing of children.
“Not at all, sir . . . Leo. Only, there are certain aspects of a marriage that are . . . private. And this”—she waved her hand toward the advancing women—“makes it all so very . . . public.”
“Then I’ll tell them to go to the Devil,” he answered at once.
A shocked laugh escaped her. “You can do no such thing.”
He raised one brow. “This is my house. You are my wife. I’ll do anything I bloody well please. And if it makes you uncomfortable to have the whole damned household shoving us into bed together, then it won’t happen.”
She stared at him. Many things he said astonished her. Not merely his rough language in the presence of a woman, but his willingness to flout convention. Gazing up into his cool gray eyes, Anne could see how such a man not only blazed a path for himself through the old, ancient forest of entitlement, but also how he had earned the name Hellraiser. A man who cared little for others’ opinions, who did as he pleased—the world was his to use or discard as he wanted. Without a backward glance for the smoldering devastation he left behind.
What a heady power that must be. And he was willing to exercise it on her behalf.
“Truly, I do not mind.”
“As you like.” He shrugged, the pull of velvet across his shoulders a testament not only to the tailor’s skill but the physicality of the man beneath the fabric. Pure feminine appreciation tugged low in her belly. What must he look like without layers of clothing?
She realized in a mix of panic and anticipation that she would find out very soon.
So, my question to you is, if you’re married, do you have any strange or funny stories about your wedding day? If you aren’t married, leave a comment about what could be the oddest or most bizarre thing that could happen during a wedding celebration. One winner will receive a copy of DEMON’S BRIDE! (Print for US/Canada, electronic for international.)
**Giveaway ends at 12 noon MDT on Friday, May 25th**
The Hellraisers, Book 2
Hell to Pay
Leo Bailey may have been born to poverty, but ruthless business sense and sparkling intelligence have made money worries a thing of his past. It doesn’t hurt that the Devil himself has granted Leo the ability to read the future.
But even infallible predictions are a déclassé commoner’s trick to some members of the ton. They’ll never see Leo as their equal – one good reason to prove himself their better. And a noble marriage is an obvious start.
Bookish Anne Hartfield, daughter of a baron, is hardly the flashiest miss on the marriage market. But her thoughtful reserve complements Leo’s brash boldness in an attraction neither can deny. A whirlwind courtship sweeps Anne and Leo into a smoldering marriage before either can believe their luck. But happiness built on Leo’s dark powers can’t last. Soon, Anne will have to save her husband…or lose her heart.
Zoë Archer is an award-winning romance author who thinks there’s nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. As a child, she never dreamed about being the rescued princess, but wanted to kick butt right beside the hero. She now applies her master’s degrees in Literature and Fiction to creating butt-kicking heroines and heroes in tall boots. She is the author of the acclaimed BLADES OF THE ROSE series and the paranormal historical romance series, THE HELLRAISERS. She and her husband, fellow romance author Nico Rosso, created the steampunk world of THE ETHER CHRONICLES together. Her steampunk romance, SKIES OF FIRE, is now available from Avon Impulse, and Nico’s steampunk Western, NIGHT OF FIRE, will be available in July. Zoë and Nico live in Los Angeles.