Thursday, 24 January 2008

A Shameful Secret

The cover is for Love is Not enough/Anne Herries/Severn House - artwork copyright of publisher
A Shameful Secret/Anne Ireland/Amira Press

"You must admit, my dear Araminta, that your delightful, though sadly irresponsible, son Robert is in trouble. And I fear that if you want my help in this matter, then you must be prepared to give me something in return."
Charlotte, Countess of Danbury, fixed her cousin with a charming but determined look that would have wilted a much stronger character than Araminta Weston possessed. She was a woman of something over forty, dressed in the height of fashion, wealthy in her own right due to two fortuitous marriages, and still attractive. Her companion however, was a diminutive woman with an air of resignation, as though life had not treated her as well as it might.
They were sitting in the small but pretty parlor of Mrs Weston’s East Anglian home. For the middle of June, it was wetter and colder than usual, though that day the sun was filtering in through the long French windows, showing up the fading in the once rich carpet and the curtains that were beginning to show signs of wear.
"Naturally, I should be extremely grateful and happy to oblige in almost any way," Araminta fluttered helplessly. . "But my late husband forbade me to allow Hester such pleasures. He said I must never forget her shame."
"If I may say so, Araminta, Harold Weston was a fool and a bully. I thought so when you married him, and I have not revised my opinion since. Besides, he has been dead more than nine months, and I do not think his opinions should weigh with you now."
"Oh, Charlotte," her cousin said tearfully. "I do not know what to do. Henry never forgave her you know—and it was quite shocking."
Privately, Charlotte thought that the most shocking thing about the whole business was the way the Westons had treated their only daughter, but to say so at this moment would not get her what she wanted. Araminta was perhaps a foolish woman, but she could be coaxed if one had enough patience.
"It was also eight years ago, my dear cousin. Long enough to be put aside, I believe? I think Hester has been punished enough—do you not agree in your heart?"
"Well . . ." Araminta sighed. "Yes, perhaps."
"Well, those are my terms," Charlotte said. "Come, think about it, Minta! You will have your sister Jane here to keep up your spirits, and I shall have Hester to bear me company in Bath. It is not as if I intend to parade her on the marriage market, for she is five-and-twenty after all."
Araminta looked at her speculatively. "And if I agree that you may have Hester as your companion, you will pay all Robert’s gambling debts?"
"I shall settle the ten thousand pounds he so recklessly threw away last week, and he will promise to buckle down and put his estate in order. After that, we shall see. I might do something more for him if he shows that he has a mind to reform."
"Then, it seems I have no choice but to agree," Araminta said, "Robert will have to find himself an heiress—and if Hester is settled with you, I can live comfortably on my dower."
"Your sister has a small competence of her own I believe," Charlotte said. "You might retire to one of the less fashionable spars and live quietly instead of rattling about this barn of a place if you chose."
"Yes, we might do that," Araminta agreed, looking happier now that it was settled. "But, of course, even if I have given you my consent, you will still have to persuade Hester. I am not sure that she would wish to accompany you. She has become very much a recluse these past years."
"Then it is time she was taken out of herself," Charlotte said firmly. She would have no backsliding now! "Where is she? Will you send for her to come down?"
"She has gone on an errand to the Vicarage," Araminta said. "But she should be back very shortly."
* * * *
Out soon with Amira Press! In ebook and in print in March 2008 - in USA

Tuesday, 15 January 2008


I am thrilled to announce that I have been given the Reviewers' Choice Award from Cataromance. Forbidden Lady/Anne Herries/Harlequin Historicals.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Cover For Cassie's Sheikh

Excerpt From Cassie's Sheikh

Cassie's Sheikh/Linda Sole/Red Rose Publishing

Cassie is left in charge of her father's stables at Newmarket but what happens when an imprtant new customer arrives? Enjoy this small taster from my latest ebook!

"If she's the bitch I imagine she must be, there is no way I shall let my uncle place his horses at her father's stable," Kasim said. "It would be the worst thing he could do."
"But you don't know that," Ben Harrison, his friend, constant companion, and lawyer told him. "She may be a perfectly pleasant woman for all you know."
"A woman who writes for one of those filthy rags?" Kasim's eyes flashed with scorn. His face had the proud, regal lines of his ancestors, the bones angled beneath his olive-toned skin, but his eyes told another story. They were a deep brilliant blue, testimony to his mixed parentage, for he was the son of a desert Sheikh and the beautiful blonde and blue-eyed daughter of an American millionaire.
"Maybe she just does it for a living."
The angles of Kasim's face hardened. "Don't try to make excuses for her, Ben. I've had experience with her kind, remember?"
"Yes, of course I remember," Ben replied. "But you shouldn't jump to conclusions. You were all set for this deal until you found out that Josh's daughter worked for that magazine."
"My uncle thinks it is the best place available," Kasim said. "So I shall keep an open mind, but I want to see what they're like on a normal working day, not when everything is cleaned up for inspection."
"Shall I come with you?"
"Not today." Kasim's face relaxed into an affectionate smile, the angles softened as he looked at the man he trusted more than any other. "If I decide to go any further, we'll keep our appointment tomorrow—but today will be my little surprise."

Monday, 7 January 2008

Excerpt from An Improper Companion

The picture is from the third in the Hellfire series. artwork is the copyright of Harlequin Mills & Boon.

This is a blurb from An Improper Companion, the first of the Hellfire Trilogy.

'What should we have done without you, Miss Travers?'

'You make too much of my part...' Elizabeth said, but then her breath caught as he moved towards her, looking down at her with such intent that she knew what he meant to do even before he reached out for her. 'Cavendish...'

His lips stopped her words. For a moment she stood stiffly within his arms, but then something opened up inside her and she melted into him, her warmth flooding through in the kiss she returned without restraint. In that moment Elizabeth forgot prudence, forgot her ama's teaching and her notions of propriety. She would at that second in time have granted him anything he asked of her and considered the world well lost for love.

For Those Who Believe


Avril knew she should never have bought the sandals, not with her record for accidents. The heels were too high and thin, the straps cut into her toes and she was going to have a blister on her heel by the time she'd walked to work. And after the exorbitant price she'd paid for the sandals, she would have to walk to work both ways for the next two weeks!
'Bednobs and broomsticks!' Avril muttered her favourite curse. 'May the witches fly that salesgirl to the dark caverns of Zenobia.' She stopped to examine the strap cutting her the most and felt someone cannon into her.
'I'm sorry.' A hand shot out, grabbing her arm and saving her as she almost went flying herself. 'I wasn't looking and you stopped so suddenly.'
'Broomsticks!' Avril muttered, then glanced up and gasped. It was the gorgeous sales manager from the sop where she'd bought her sandals. 'Oh, don't apologize, it was all my fault.' She felt the colour flood her cheeks.
Avril had a delicate peaches and cream complexion, short, cropped blonde hair and eyes more green than blue. Blushing did her no favours at all.
'Having trouble with your shoes?' he asked. 'I'm Kevin – sales manager at Barnet's. I think you bought those from us yesterday. Julie served you, didn't she?'
Avril didn't need to be told his name. It was Kevin's dark, smouldering gaze that had made her go and try the sandals on in the first place. He had taken the job at Barnet's three weeks previously and every day since then Avril had paused on her way to the bus to gaze longingly into the window, not at the expensive merchandise but at him.
She had gone into the shop on an impulse, hoping Kevin would serve her, but no such luck. Julie had been eager to secure a sale, assuring her that the straps would soon wear into a comfortable fit, and because Avril had been dreaming over Kevin, she'd allowed herself to be persuaded.
'Those straps look too tight to me,' Kevin was saying. 'Do they cut you?'
'Yes, just a little. That's why I stopped.'
'You will get blisters,' he said and the genuine concern in his voice made Avril feel warm inside. Why don't you stop by this evening, bring them in and let me see what I can do?'
'Would you really?' Avril's breathtaking smile peeped out. 'May the blessings of Zenobia be upon you. I adore them but they are very uncomfortable.'
'What did you say?' Kevin's eyes were bright with laughter. 'The blessings of who?'
'Oh…' Avril felt herself blush again. 'That's habit, I'm afraid. I'm into fantasy…books, videos, you know. Witches, warlocks and worlds beyond worlds.'
'That's unbelievable!'
'Yes, I suppose it is,' Avril said, feeling a little sad. She sometimes thought she was the only one who believed in magi these days. 'Well, I must go. I'll see you later.'
She swooped on a taxi that had just drawn up at the side of the road. Her budget for the month would be shot to pieces, but she felt reckless – and disappointed.
It wasn't unusual for friends to mock her about her choice of fiction. Not many of them shared her love of fantasy books and films.
'Well, it's just not life, is it?' Mark had said when they argued just before they split up. 'Get real, Avril. Life is about paying the mortgage and work.'
'Yes, fine. I know that,' she had replied reasonably. 'I pay my rent and my bills – at least most of the time. Last month I had to buy Jamie that special spaceship he wanted…'
'And the month before that he broke next door's windows because you let him play football,' Mark snapped. 'That nephew of yours is a menace. If you keep paying out for him, you'll always be in debt.'
'Jamie can't help being accident prone, he's like me.' At the time, her left wrist had been in a sling after a fall at work. 'Besides, Lucy is always broke. I have to help her.'
Lucy was Avril's sister, five years older and a widow. She could only just manage on the wage she earned as a part time cleaner with Avril's help. Fortunately, that might be about to change. Because Lucy had finally found a man she liked enough to go out on a date, and Avril was baby-sitting for her that night.
That row had been the final one with Mark. Since then, Avril had been looking … for someone who was ready to see the funny side of life, who still believed in magic.
Kevin's smouldering good looks reminded her of Lord Zorb, the hero of her favourite videos, but sadly he was just like the others. He thought fantasy was unbelievable.
Throughout a busy day at work – thankfully, she had some flatties there to change into! – Avril's mind kept leaping ahead to that evening. She still fancied Kevin like mad, of course, so perhaps she ought to change, to try to be more sensible the way Mark had wanted.
She wore her flatties to walk home, carrying the beautiful but lethal sandals in a bag. When she went into the shop, Kevin came straight to her.
'Leave this to me, Julia,' he said to the assistant, and to Avril, 'I'll soon have the sandals sorted. Can't have you reduced to those.' He grinned at the flatties. 'A girl like you needs her talisman, and those sandals are magic for legs.'
Avril's spirits rose as he went out the back. He obviously wasn't all bad.
Kevin came back sandals in hand. 'Let me fit them for you, see how they feel.'
The sandals slid on her feet like Cinderella's slipper.
'Perfect,' she said. 'How much do I owe?'
'Nothing. We aim to please. We want our customers to come back.'
She would be coming back, even if she had to take out an overdraft!
'I was wondering,' Kevin said, disappearing behind the counter for a moment. 'Have you seen this one?'
Avril stared at the fantasy video he was showing her. It was one of her favourites.
'No – not recently. I like Lord Zorb though.'
'I'm going to watch it tonight. I wondered…' Kevin hesitated. 'But if you've seen it…'
'I'd love to see it again. If you wouldn't mind bringing it to my flat? Only I'm looking after Jamie. My sister has a date…' She explained about the need to baby-sit.
Kevin took the news that he would be sharing her with a six-year-old tearaway in his stride. 'Sounds great to me. I'll bring ice-cream and popcorn, shall I?'
'Wonderful.' Avril was slightly bemused. Was she dreaming? 'I thought you didn't believe in fantasy?'
'What was so unbelievable was that you shared my passion for the genre,' Kevin said with a grin that set her heart racing. 'Most girls who look like you think I'm mad.'
'Like me?'
'Fantastic – Princess Rosalind?'
Avril giggled. Princess Rosalind was the heroine in most of the Lord Zorb videos.
She wrote out her address, made a firm date for seven, and tottered out of the shop still wearing her sandals. Ten minutes later she changed into her flatties. The sandals still cut her toes, but what the heck, they were probably the best investment she would ever make.
'May the blessings of Zenobia be upon you, Lord Zorb,' she said fervently, startling a passer by.
From somewhere in the world beyond worlds came the reply, 'And on you, Child of the Earth. Now let the magic begin…'

The third Sarah Beaufort Mystery

This is the cover of my third Sarah Beaufort Mystery. Coming soon from Severn House.

My first story for you!

She stood looking out at the garden, watching a blackbird gathering moss for its nest. The sun was shining, calling her out, and lifting the shadows that had hung over her of late.
This had always been Emily's favourite time of year, the time when everything was renewed. Spring warmth, flowers, blossom and hope. At least, that was the way it had always been when her Tom was alive.
Her throat caught with emotion because he wouldn't see spring this year, wouldn't be able to work in his beloved garden. It hurt her to see the garden looking in need of some tender loving care, the care that Tom had lavished on every shrub, every rose, every blade of grass.
Oh, she had done her best. Of course she had. She had managed to cut the grass and tidy the rose beds up a little, but it wasn't the same.
'I miss you,' Emily murmured, turning to look at the photo she kept on the mantle. She smiled as she always did when she saw a picture of a young, handsome Tom. He had been so strong and full of life when that was taken, just after they were married. 'I shall always love you, my darling.'
Where had all the years gone? That was what Emily asked herself a dozen times a day as she cleaned and polished, keeping the inside of the cottage as spick and span as she always had. They had been such good years, the two of them always busy. Tom with his market garden business, or their own little piece of paradise out the back, and Emily with the children and then helping out at the local play school once the girls had grown up.
Emily sighed as she thought of her two daughters. Roberta away in America, an expert in computers no less – Where had she got her cleverness from? Neither Emily or Tom had that kind of a brain, though Tom was an intelligent man in his own quiet way – And Sheila in London with her doctor husband and their son Robbie.
Robbie was a clever lad, too, so Sheila told her. They were hoping he would follow in his father's footsteps and become a doctor. He was due to leave school and go to college any day now.
Her family was doing very well for themselves. Just as her husband had, though none of them had guessed it.
'Surprised me, didn't you, Tom?' Emily chuckled as she remembered the nest egg her husband had provided for her, which she had discovered only after his death. 'Never breathed a word, did you?'
It amused Emily when she thought back down the years, to the day she'd told her parents that Tom Harding was coming that evening to ask for permission to wed her.
'You could do better than him,' Emily's mother had commented. 'He'll never amount to much, never be more than he is now – a farm labourer.'
'Tom has plans for his own business,' Emily had replied. 'Anyway, I don't care if he works on the land all his life, mum. I love him, and I always shall.'
Emily's father had given a snort of disgust. He worked as a clerk in a solicitor's office and considered his daughter was letting him down by courting a lad from the labouring class, but he hadn't refused when Tom asked.
Emily could remember the day she married Tom, when he'd brought her back to this cottage, carrying her over the threshold. It had been rented then from the farmer who owned it, but Tom had bought it once his business started to flourish.
'I'm going to give you a good life, Emmie,' he'd promised her that day. 'I'll work for you and I'll love you all my life.'
And he had. Sometimes she'd thought he worked too hard.
Tom had started in a small way, using the cottage garden to grow plants and selling them on to larger horticultural centres, then he'd bought a small piece of old orchard land just down the road, tearing up the old trees and planting pretty shrubs and blossom trees in containers. He had been one of the first to use that idea.
'He'll never get anywhere with that,' Emily's mother had said at the time. 'If he had a few pounds to invest, he ought to have asked your father where to put his money.'
'Tom likes to grow things,' Emily replied. 'And I've never gone short, mum. There's always money on the table every Friday, same as if Tom was working for someone else.'
She wished her mother was alive so that she could tell her what Tom had done, but both Emily's parents had died years ago.
Gradually, Tom had built up the business, acquiring more and more little pieces of land that were scattered all round the village … and that was what was really troubling Emily now.
She looked out at the garden. She could get someone in, she supposed, a man to do the heavy work she couldn't manage. But what was she going to do about all the other land? Sheila thought she ought to sell. Especially the orchard, where Tom had started his business, because that was the bit of land the developers wanted.
They were offering a ridiculous figure, at least in Emily’s estimation. More than a million pounds… but what did she need that kind of money for? She’d never gone short of the things she wanted, but she had always enjoyed making clothes, knitting, cooking… there just wasn’t anything she needed. A new TV perhaps, but she could have that anyway.
Of course she could give the money to her children … perhaps it was selfish of her to want to hold on to the land…
Emily turned to look in the mirror, and then her heart caught. She could see Tom and he was smiling at her … but not the Tom who had so recently died. This was the young Tom who had courted her all those years ago.
'Tom'… she whispered. 'Oh, Tom…'
'Don't take on, lass…'
She heard the words as clearly as if he were standing beside her, and the tears slipped gently down her cheeks. The picture in the mirror was changing and she saw that she was with Tom now … they were standing in the orchard … kissing.
'Oh, Tom,' Emily said. 'Is it time? Have you come for me? Take me with you … take me with you…'
'Not yet, lass. You've work to do yet. I'll come back for you when it's time…'
The picture in the mirror had gone. Emily touched her face, seeing the lines and the sorrow. Had she imagined it – or had Tom come to her?
No matter, it had finally made up her mind. The children could wait until she was dead. They were all doing well … and Tom had been one of the main employers in the neighbourhood. If she sold the orchard it would put a lot of young men out of work.
She shook her head. This wouldn't get the jobs done. She sat down on a kitchen chair, about to slip her gardening shoes on when she heard the front door bell. Now who could that be? She wasn't expecting anyone.
When she opened the door her heart stood still. It was Tom! The young man smiling at her was the very image of the photo on her mantle. Yet she knew it wasn't her husband.
'Hello, Gran. I thought I would surprise you.'
'Robbie…' Emily shook her head at the change in him. It was nearly a year since she'd seen Robbie and he'd grown up. There had always been a resemblance between him and his grandfather, but now it was more marked. 'I thought you were still at college?'
'It's a holiday,' Robbie said and leaned forward to kiss her cheek. 'I thought I would visit – if you don't mind?'
'Mind?' she said, drawing him into the house. 'It's lovely, Robbie. You must know I'm always pleased to see you. Your Mum and Dad don't visit enough. And you didn't come the last time they were down.'
'Dad said I needed extra tuition,' Robbie said. 'He was afraid I would fail my exams and he was right.'
'You don't know that.' She sensed he had something on his mind. 'Go and sit down while I put the kettle on. I've made a chocolate cake – could you eat a bit?'
'Smashing,' Robbie said with a grin that made Emily's heart do odd things. He really was like his grandfather. 'Can we talk as you make the tea, Gran? I want to ask a favour…'
'Of course – if I can help.'
Robbie went to the kitchen window to look out as she made the tea.
'It doesn't look the same these days,' she said. 'I suppose I shall have to get someone in, but I hate the thought of a stranger working in Tom's garden.'
'Would you mind me working there?' Robbie looked at her hopefully. She was surprised by the expression in his eyes – almost pleading. 'I know it's a terrible cheek, Gran. Mum didn't want me to ask – and Dad isn't pleased, but it's what I want to do. I want it so bad it hurts.'
Emily saw it in a blinding flash. He wasn't just like Tom to look at, he was the same kind of man: quiet, intelligent, needing to work with his hands.
'Is it just my garden you want to tidy up?' she asked. 'Or were you thinking you would like to take over the business?'
'Would you let me manage it for you?' Robbie asked and his face lit up. Just the way Tom's had all those years ago when he'd asked her to marry him and she'd said yes. 'I don't need much of a wage. I could live here for a while – or perhaps you wouldn't want me?'
'Not want you?' Emily shook her head. 'Of course I'd want you, love.'
'Mum says you ought to sell the orchard land,' Robbie said. 'I know it's a lot of money, but…'
'What's money for it if it doesn't get you what you really want?' Emily asked. 'If you can make a go of the business that's all I ask. Keep it running the way Tom did, just nicely ticking over.'
'I'm sure I can,' Robbie said, eager now. 'I've been studying a lot of stuff on horticulture … that's why I gave up the idea of a medical career. I'm never going to be a doctor. It's not what I want.'
'No, you wouldn't,' Emily said, her mind already made up. 'Well, the orchard is yours, Robbie, and the business. I'll want my housekeeping on the table every Friday, same as your grandfather gave me, and you'll take your wage – and when I go the land will be yours.'
'You can't do that, Gran,' Robbie said, alarmed. 'I wasn't asking for that. What about Mum and Aunt Roberta?'
'Oh, there will be enough for them,' Emily said. She smiled as she went over to the dresser and took out a statement. 'I don't really understand this stuff – but it's shares. Tom invested in them over the years and they're worth quite a bit. More than the orchard anyway. I shall never need them. The solicitor says it's probably best if I put them over to the girls while I'm alive. Save a bit on tax that way … and I've got all I need. As long as I get my money on a Friday.'
Robbie was astonished as he glanced through the statement. 'Did you know Grandfather had all this?'
'He never said a word. I always had what I wanted, and there was a piece of jewellery for my birthday and Christmas – but Tom knew I didn't need more.'
'Then I can really come here? Take over the business?'
Emily felt herself caught up in a big bear hug. It almost squeezed the breath out of her. She hadn't been hugged like that for years, not since Tom's heart began to trouble him.
'It's what Tom would have wanted,' she said, and looked out of the window to hide the tears of joy.
The blackbird was after the moss again. Spring was always her favourite time of year, so of course Tom had chosen this time to send Robbie to her, and she knew that he was watching over her as always.
It was a time of renewal and hope. In Robbie she would see it all happening over again; the struggle to build up, the eagerness and the love…
Oh yes, the years had been good to her. And there were more to come.

Hi Everyone!

I have set up this new blog to bring you short stories and perhaps now and then a complete book. I write as Linda Sole and Anne Herries, also Anne Ireland, and Anne Sole. there have been other names but these are the current ones. Look out for stories here soon.