Saturday, August 25, 2007
Sin and Scandal in England by Melody Thomas
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melody Thomas, aka Laura Renken from her Berkley days and Lori Morgan when she wrote westerns for Leisure started her career after graduating college with a degree in criminal justice. That was the moment when I realized, I had absolutely no desire to work on the streets. I either wanted to try and go to law school or write a book. But after discovering my first romance written by Kathleen Woodiwiss, I knew I wanted to write romance. That journey took years and much perseverance, which finally paid off in 2001, with her first RWA Golden Heart finalist sale. Berkley bought My Lord Pirate, which was nominated by RIO as one of the best books that came out that year. Since then Melody Thomas has won two HOLT Medallions, her most recent this year in 2007 with Angel in My Bed. That book also won the Colorado RWA award of Excellence. She has won, The Write Touch Reader's Award with A Match Made in Scandal and her books have been four times nominated by Romantic Times as best Hostorical suspense and gothic. Her books are published worldwide in different languages, and this October, her newest release, Sin and Scandal in England has been picked up by the Rhapsody bookclub for hardcover.
She lives in the Chicago USA area where she is also the former president for the Windy City RWA chapter. Visit her website at
Why did you become a writer? Was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
I cannot remember when I didn't want to write. My entire life, I've loved reading and writing stories. I discovered while very young that I could be magically transported to other places and times, and meet larger-than-life characters that shaped my world perspective. But I didn't actually *dream* of being published until after I read my first Kathleen Woodiwiss novel when I was in my early twenties. Her books were filled with such passion and poetry, I couldn't read them fast enough. So I decided to write them. Times may have changed from those days but the magical love story has not. Sin and Scandal in England (October 2007, AVON Books) is my latest and the perfect example of that endeavor. This will be my twelfth long historical novel.
What do you love about being an author? Is there anything you dislike?
I love meeting fans of romance, speaking about the craft of writing, setting my own hours, and the actual storytelling. The only thing I don't like is having to sit in a chair all day to actually write. I'm looking for the day someone will create a computer that can read my thoughts and I can write a book while walking. :-)
How do you balance your personal and writing time?
Balancing my life is always a be a problem, especially if something personal or a special event is going and I'm on deadline. I can't tell you how many times I've missed events because I needed to write. I can't take sick leave or vacation. When a book is due, it's due.
How do you write? Do your characters come to you first or the plot or the world of the story?
The process of creating a story is never the same for any two books. Sometimes a character in one book begins to take on a life of his/her own and from there another story is born. Even going into a series, I never know what the next story will be. When I started my Irish Family Donally series, I began with, In My Heart, but the family became so much larger than life that I was able to create another three books from those characters. My Mission Impossible, Charmed and Dangerous series sparked when I was writing Angel in My Bed, and I realized I had this character who had lived an entire other life I hadn't known about until I sat down and started writing his book. His back story came flowing out. From that hero's past service to the crown, a new series was born. The characters you meet in Sin and Scandal in England first appeared in Angel in My Bed.
Ian Rockwell is my most mysterious League Council servant of the crown. He was a new agent in Angel, filled with ideals and passion. Now he has a terrible secret and a mission of his own to finish. Bethany Munro whom you also met in Angel in My Bed had once been in love with the mysterious Sir Ian. But he walked out of her life without ever saying goodbye. Then when one day she sees Ian across a crowded ballroom and all of her old emotions come rushing back. Neither wishes to be recognized, they both have secrets that can get them killed, but old feelings surface. Without giving anything away, I can tell you, the ending in this book is a shocker. My stories are gritty and passionate and I like to grab the reader from beginning to end.
What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
I write historical. I love history and traveling. To me reading and writing is all about the fantasy. Contemporary time periods are an entire different feel, more the here and now. I love reading both, but historical is where I want to write. I'm in love with the romantic illusion of the past, though in reality, I really wouldn't want to live there. It's fun to experience it for four hundred pages, but I love my baths, my air-conditioning in summer, and air travel. :-)
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Though I use photographs of real people, none of the characters in my book are real. Of course many of their characteristics do come from people I know. I have pets and family members who have all appeared at one time or another in my books. I know they've read my books when I get a call from them. LOL I had one world champion croquet game in In My Heart that came right out of my family's playbook. That scene was so fun to write.
Out of all the characters that you've written, who is your favorite and why?
Hmmm, this is a difficult question because I have to love the my characters in the first place to create the emotion that pulls them through each story. I write through emotion and there must be that connection. I tend to love very sexy, dark-eyed alpha male types and build the story around a hero. But if I had to choose, I would probably say, Rory Jameson (Pride and Passion in London), a character from my upcoming book, He first appeared in Wild and Wicked in Scotland and will make a bigger appearance in Sin and Scandal in England. Rory embodies all the reasons I love writing romance. Also the heroine in Pride and Passion in London is the perfect dark match for Rory. David Donally and Victoria/Meg from Angel in My Bed follows a close second. I think it is a character's flaws that make him/her stand out in a book and which draws me to them. Both books contain very flawed characters who have not done very nice things in their lives. My hero in Sin and Scandal in England is particularly flawed and I had to work a long time to finally redeem him. Ian Rockwell in Sin and Scandal is also the only hero I've ever written that did not have dark hair. So he is probably my most diverse character with my most diverse storyline. This was a harder book to write because of that diversity. When you have a character who has done something bad in his past or who holds a secret that can hurt the heroine, as a writer I am very challenged to keep that character sympathetic. But Ian comes through in the end. I think my writers will really like him and maybe vote him as their favorite hero.
What would you want readers to take away from your books?
I want my characters to be so alive that when a reader finishes one of my books, he/she will want to read the book again. When a world I create can stay with the reader after she puts the book down then I've done my job. This is the reason I love to write.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers in regards to writing a book?
Yes. Don't just talk about wanting to be published. Do the work it takes to get there. That means learning the craft by joining writer's groups, attending conferences with workshops, and sitting down to actually write the book. My road to publication has taken years, but I stuck to it and did not allow the rejections to make me doubt myself. I have a saying on my computer. 'If you believe you can or you can't, you are probably right." Attitude is everything!!!
What are you reading right now?
Penelope Williamson. Her prose and stories are wonderful, endearing, and memorable.
If you could be anyone or anything that you wanted, who or what would you be?
I'd want to be Me. I've never wanted to be someone else or like someone else. I've wanted to be the one who creates the bar people want to reach, the one people want to emulate. At least it keeps me unique. :-)
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Succumbing to Sin...
Bethany Munro was once madly in love with dashing Ian Rockwell. Then Ian left on a mission for the crown, and Bethany was forced to put her heart aside...until one glittering night when she spies him across a crowded ballroom, and the feelings she once felt come rushing back. But she has her secrets...
...and so does he. Sir Ian Rockwell has led a dangerous life and is now a suspect in a crime he did not commit. He never imagined the naive girl he knew so long ago could be the beauty standing before him now or that she could help prove his innocence. But in a world of glamour and intrigue where nothing is as it seems, their perilous game of seduction soon turns into a night of sin, a night where they both discover the only thing more dangerous than passion is falling in love.
For Bethany Munro, gaiety and frivolity ended the moment Ian Rockwell walked through the arched doorway.
As if the winter snowstorm outside had swept into the glittering ballroom, a stir of cool, speculative whispers preceded him, reaching those finding respite at the sumptuous buffet table in the back of the crowded room. A scandal in black, his broad shoulders shaped by an elegantly cut evening jacket, he walked with physical grace, a quick dimpled smile and that at promise of sin prevalent in his eyes--a gaze reserved solely for the woman on his arm.
Champagne flute arrested against her lips, she found her breathing constricted by a tightly laced corset. Since venturing from secluded country life two years ago, she had learned quickly enough the world was rife with temptation. It surrounded her, taunted her. Yet she had never been tempted, for the carnal fantasy of only one man haunted her from the past and seemed to frame her future.
But now here he was with the beautiful widowed Countess Dermott draped on his arm, the one man who had ruined all other men for her, cordially greeting their host, casually stepping back into her life even as he did not know it yet. She watched as he moved with a smooth urbanity, stopping occasionally to speak with people as he worked his way across the room, a man comfortable amidst the aristocratic glamour of his wealthy surroundings.
Bethany had not seen Ian in three years, and she had never expected to see him again. Her blond hair perfectly coiffed; her blue azure silk and tulle gown nothing more than another jewel amid a sea of rainbow-colored attire. She wondered, if he would recognize her in the crowd, then her growing apprehension usurped the initial warmth she’d felt--because he was really here at Whitley Court, a very dangerous place for them both, and the last place in the world she wanted to encounter him.
Her awareness of him became so palpable that it seemed to stretch taut across the distance separating them. Her heartbeat raced. She suddenly wanted to slip from the ballroom. Did she dare? But as she considered the question, he suddenly looked across the ballroom directly at her.
She froze as rigid as the naked mermaid ice sculptures to her left and right. His eyes touched and held her, only the merest hesitation in his sensual features, his face dark and intent. Then the woman on his arm spoke to him and, just that quickly, the contact shattered.
He bent his leonine head to listen, his mouth widening into an easy smile, his handsome face taking on a boyish cast in the warm glow of lamplight reflected in the golden tissue-draped walls and ceiling of the ballroom--all as if the last ten seconds had not occurred, as if Bethany had only imagined the touch of green fire in his eyes when they’d fallen on her.
Ian Rockwell had barely noticed she was alive.
Bethany felt a stab in her chest, yet despite herself, she made herself stand straight and tall and wrapped herself in cool composure as if she had never laid her heart at his feet and he had walked away.
Charlene giggled close to her ear. The tip of her crimson lace fan strategically placed at her chin shut Bethany’s mouth. “Don’t bother lusting after him, oh friend of mine,” she whispered. Bethany and Charlene Dubois, her host’s daughter, had met at England’s Academic Conservatory for Young Ladies two years ago. “As you can see, my Aunt Serena has taken Sir Ian off the market.”
Bethany was astounded by an unfamiliar timidity and the growing tightness in her chest. Had he been a “Sir” when she had known him? “I have no idea of whom you are speaking,” she replied, snapping open her own fan.
As the orchestra opened another waltz, the final set for the evening, Ian escorted the exotic Countess Dermott onto the floor. He seemed to tower over the dark-haired beauty. She was not tall, so perhaps every man around her looked that much taller.
“Yes, you do.” Charlene laughed, the movement setting fire to the diamond necklace that lay atop the pale shelf of her ample bosom. “He is quite wealthy, rich as Croesus they say,” she added coyly. “My Aunt met him a few months ago at the home of a mutual acquaintance. It would be a coup for Papa if Sir Ian should decide to join our organization. The Rockwells are an established family.”
Charlene giggled, as if Bethany should already be privy to such local details when, in reality she’d only arrived at Charlene’s home from the conservatory two weeks ago. “His family has resided in these parts since the Vikings dominated this countryside. He is a bachelor again. His wife passed away some years ago.”
Wife? Bethany’s heartbeat stumbled. “He was married? When?”
“Three or four years ago.” Charlene waved her plump hand dismissively as she turned her focus to the banquet table. “Some whirlwind courtship and wedding that ended tragically. No one really knows what happened.” She examined the creamed salmon and cucumber hors d’oeuvres with the eye of a connoisseur. “Do you want one?”
Charlene plopped the cucumber wedge between her lips. “Sir Ian wasn’t married long enough for him to bring his wife home. In fact, the prodigal son only just returned this fall. He has been somewhat reclusive. Papa must have included him at the last moment. He isn’t on the guest list.” Charlene turned the topic to the group of Italian
gentlemen currently approaching from the other end of the buffet table
Outside the large windows, huge snow flakes had begun to crystallize against the glass as the storm sweeping off the North Sea began to blanket the provincial estate in white. But inside, the air was clement, nearly hot. Drink and food were liberally proffered to guests. Couples filled the dance floor. Bethany sighed. Ian had been married and widowed since she’d fallen in love with him those years ago.
As a handsome Italian count requested her hand in the waltz, she forced a smile, accepting his invitation to dance as if she were an actress stepping into the part of a grand play. She danced with an exuberance and a passion that extended to every corner of her life. Indeed, she never did anything halfway. The world was her oyster and she was its pearl, she’d always told herself, many times, as if saying it often enough would make her believe it was true. Perhaps that had been her greatest fault. She put too much of herself into the act of living. People were always telling her she worked too hard at making others see her, and now, when all she wanted was to disappear into the tiny cracks in the floor, she felt as if a huge ball of light were shining down on her, revealing her most embarrassing flaws.
“You are here for the two weeks?” her partner asked, sweeping her in a majestic circle to the flowing strains of music.
The fragrance of his flowery cologne surrounded her in an altogether unpleasant way, but she presented him with a distracted smile. “Yes. And you?” she asked, despite knowing he was. She’d seen the exclusive invitation list and knew exactly who was invited to this event, which was why Ian’s presence had caught her off her guard.
The count followed with a chat about the weather and other mundane topics that did not require her full attention and enabled her to catch glimpses of Ian and the countess. “Yellow,” the man said after another turn.
Yellow? She pulled herself out of her thoughts.
“I have seen you in London recently,” he said. “Some weeks ago, I believe. You were wearing yellow.”
Something in his tone cooled her. “I haven’t been to London in months.”
“No?” He leaned back and considered her. “I am sure I saw you there. But I cannot put my finger on where.”
She threw herself into the waltz, a fact noted by her partner for he pulled her nearer.
“And as I said, sir. You are mistaken. Miss Dubois and I were still at the conservatory where we both lived until the break two weeks ago.”
“You are good friends with the viscount’s daughter?”
“We attend university together. Her father sponsors the science curriculum at the conservatory.”
“Ah, an enlightened woman,” he said, his dark eyes intent on her face. “It is odd to me that I should find a woman with your, um, assets...unmarried.”
“My assets?” She feigned ignorance. “I am hardly wealthy. Certainly not as you are, sir.”
Pleased with her flattery, he tightened his hold. “You are very beautiful, Signorina Munro.”
Bethany traveled alone with her maid, and some men erroneously considered her easy pickings. She spent the rest of the dance fending off the loquacious count, as he seemed bent on seducing her. She suddenly wanted out of this room. She stepped on the man’s polished shoes nearly causing him to trip, her usual glib riposte hidden in her apologetic smile. Oaf, she thought, and couldn’t care less if this foreign lothario thought her ungainly and gauche.
The music concluded in a resounding crash of cymbals. The man, limping, escorted Bethany off the floor back to the buffet table, with a flourish typical of every Italian she had ever met, bowed over her gloved hand and quickly made his escape. Snapping open her fan, she watched him move into the crush exiting the floor. Her eyes suddenly froze on the couple standing just at the edge of the dance floor. Her pulse halted.
Bethany had stopped searching for Ian. Now without any effort at all, she stood less than thirty feet from him, his tall form easily recognizable in the crowd. Her gaze rose from the white-gloved hand intimately splayed on the woman’s small waist ...and collided with his eyes.
Her breath shuddered to a complete halt. Ian was watching her over Countess Dermott’s diamond- sprinkled hair, his expression now devoid of polite mask as he raised a glass of wine to his lips and sipped.
Bethany did not imagine the touch of green fire in his gaze,
assessing her, closing the distance between them, melting the years as if they were no longer part of the past. She felt that touch deep within her like a bruise on bone.
They each looked away from the other at the same time. And, despite the initial shock and illogic of her response, she felt something else, something familiar and very much alive. Something that made her a little afraid. He not only knew who she was, but he was not pleased to see her--anymore than she had been to see him.
She relaxed a little as another man stepped forward to claim her hand for the next waltz, until she saw who it was.
Lord Whitley’s secretary and bodyguard, Sir John Howard, stood in front of her. If there was any man present tonight that made her sick to her stomach, this was he.
Dressed much as Ian was in a formal jacket with tails, he might have been dashing if Bethany had a penchant for older, slippery men who took advantage of younger women. “Miss Munro,” he said. “I believe I am on your dance card.”
She had no dance card and didn’t pretend to be polite. He’d been watching her, she realized, and not in the way one watches a woman he wishes to seduce. “My feet ache, Sir John. I have finished waltzing for the night.”
She sidestepped him but he moved to block her exit, casually reaching across her for a chocolate strawberry on the table. “I see you have taken note of the countess’s latest lover.” He bit into the sweet fruit.
It was never a good sign to come under Sir John’s scrutiny, and, while his words bore a hint of indifference, his eyes continued to study her. His conversation bothered her. Not because the exchange was highly inappropriate, but because he had discovered her uncertainty with such ease and would make her the insect in his petri dish.
“You believe they are not?” he asked.
She fixed her gaze on Sir John’s face. “Why would I take note of anyone Countess Dermott considers her lover?”
Why would it matter to him what he thought?
“I see I have made you uncomfortable,” he conceded.
She smiled. “Not at all, Sir John.”
Uncomfortable was too mild a response for a man she suspected of being a cold-blooded murderer. Without excusing herself, she swept past him and let herself vanish into the crowd.
Sin and Scandal in England, picked up as a featured alternate for Rhapsody Doubleday bookclub.
Wild and Wicked in Scotland is the first book in this new Charmed and Dangerous series that featuring the ultimate in alpha heroes who work for a secretive branch of the government that services the crown and the women who love them.
Wild and Wicked in Scotland
4 1/2 stars
Romantic Times Book
club Top Pick
Award of Excellence winner. "...Thomas's strikingly passionate romance will give readers butterflies..."
-- Jeffries, Heartstring Reviews
WILD AND WICKED IN SCOTLAND has it all. From the very first pages you'll have trouble putting this book down. This is one exciting and delectable Victorian Romance I highly recommend.
-- Marilyn Rondeau, Reviewers International Organization (RIO)
Sin and Scandal in England by Melody Thomas
Mass Market Paperback, 384pp
U.S release date: September 26, 2007
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
$5.99 from Amazon.com
Purchase Sin and Scandal in England by Melody Thomas HERE!!!