Crimson Romance/Simon and Schuster link: http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Courtly-Pleasures/Erin-Kane-Spock/Courtly-Love/9781507207475
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Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Erin_Kane_Spock_Courtly_Pleasures?id=_sg8DwAAQBAJ
Back cover blurb:
This delightful Elizabethan romp is all about second chances.
Erin Kane Spock began writing in earnest (with the goal of finishing an actual book rather than a lot of small projects) ten years ago. That book, a historical romance, led to two more historical romances and then she veered in a different direction altogether and wrote a suspenseful ghost story with romantic elements. Then another supernatural, and started toying with a contemporary series. Courtly Pleasures is the current incarnation of that first book (very much changed).
Erin lives in Southern California with her husband, two daughters, and an aggressively loving puppy. She is a teacher and an active Irish dance mom. And yes, Spock is her real last name -- it's Polish, not Vulcan.
Find Erin at her blog at CourtlyRomance.blogspot.com, on Facebook at Facebook.com/Spockromance, and on Twitter at @kanespock.
“I trust this morning has found you well.” Frances feigned a casual tone that she did not feel.
His mouth quirked in a half smile and, still holding her gloved hand, he leaned against the arched gatepost in the guardhouse kitchen garden. “I do very well and thank you for asking.”
She heard the humor behind the banal pleasantry and wondered if he’d ever shown that trait before. “You are welcome,” she murmured the expected reply.
Silence stretched, heavy with the weight of everything unsaid. Uncomfortable with the pleasant mask in place once more, Frances held her head high and did not wring her hands. Nor did she honestly smile or, well, anything. Proper, always proper.
“My lord husband,” Frances stiffened her spine and gathered her courage. Just like last night’s wine, it was better out than in. “How did I come to be in my room last night?”
“Were you truly that far in your cups? I didn’t know you had it in you.”
“Answer my question, please.” She held her ground, fists planted on the pleats springing from her hips. “And, yes,” she admitted, “I have never been drunk before, and it does not sit well with my constitution. I remember very little.”
A spark of an idea flared to life. Could she pretend she didn’t remember the kiss? Frances looked up to see him watching her.
“So, Frances,” why did her name sound so personal when he said it, “what do you think of court thus far?”
She watched his lips. “You shaved your beard.”
“You changed your hair.”
She raised a hand to her head and tucked a stray tendril behind her ear. She had known this man for ten years, laid with him, born his children—this should not be so painfully awkward. She turned away and walked to the bench at the far side of the garden, shooing a chicken out of her way so she could sit.
“Did you know it was me last night?” Henry’s words broke the silence once more.
“At the masque? No, I did not recognize you.” She resisted the urge to look back at him, to analyze the newly shaven curve of his chin for similarities to the husband she pictured.
“You flirted with me,” he continued, sitting beside her on the bench, crushing her skirts.
“I flirted with everyone. I’ve learned that is the way of the court. It would be strange if I didn’t.” She tugged on the fabric to no avail. “It means nothing.”
“You kissed me.”
She raised her chin and met his warm gaze. “No, you kissed me. I cooperated.”
His lips curved in a smile that hinted at a familiarity of years but seemed so new. “You liked it.”
She looked down at her lap and cleared her throat. “As you pointed out, I was in my cups. I did not know myself. It could have been anyone kissing me.” And that was the hard truth. She never saw, not really, the man she’d kissed. Given that, would anyone’s kiss have roused her the way it had?
“That does you little credit, wife.”
She snapped her eyes to his, his harsh tone snuffing out the building warmth in her belly. “Would it matter if I were to kiss another man? It was, after all, only a kiss. Those are traded about the court like sweetmeats.”
“It could have become more than a kiss very easily.”
“Really? You have me at a disadvantage in that, my lord husband. The first time I shared a kiss with you was on our wedding day. That kiss led only to breakfast. The other times were equally perfunctory, like we had a set of rules to follow. Kiss, couple, and good night. We never moved past the awkwardness of the wedding night. We were children then and never grew up. Not together.” And all of it, every experience wrapped up together, was nothing, nothing, like what she remembered from last night. The past kisses, past coupling, had been obligatory and unpleasant. Last night’s kiss was actually intimate.
Anger warred with wistful longing over what they could have had, at everything that their marriage was not. She wondered how the memories played out from his perspective. Had he been as nervous, as frightened, on their wedding night as she?
The only answer was the clucking of a hen as it worked its way around the garden at their feet.
“What?” her voice came out embarrassingly breathless.
“Whom you kiss.”
Again that blighted warmth blossomed in her center at the idea that he cared. She swallowed against it. “Why? Does it matter whom you kiss?”
“Me?” He laughed, actually laughed. “I do not go about court kissing ladies.”
It was her turn to laugh, a bitter sound. “I agree on that point. Baroness Sheffield is no lady.”
He raised a brow, that hint of mirth sparkling in his eye. “While I do not disagree, I wonder what makes you think I shared a kiss with Baroness Sheffield.”
“Now that I think on it, it was not a kiss that she said you shared. My mistake.”
“Upon my honor, I have had no relations, kissing or anything more, with Baroness Sheffield.” His affront faded into a smile. “Frances, are you jealous?”
“Jealous? Me? That would be unseemly.” She fanned herself. “I think that it is you who are jealous of whom I might kiss.”
“But you kissed me.”
“I had little say in the matter.”
“You will not accuse me of forcing your hand. You kissed me back.”
She nodded, unable to pretend she had not been a willing participant. Whatever happened next, she would hold dear that memory of strong arms, soft lips, and heat. In that moment, she’d known she was wanted, and no matter how drunk she’d been or what an arse her husband may be, God’s teeth, even the thought made her chest tight and her mouth dry.
She looked up to find him staring at her. His lashes, too long to belong on a man, framed a gaze so dark she couldn’t help but stare. “What?” She ran a hand over her coiled hair and straightened the pleated collar of her partlet. “Is aught amiss, my lord husband?”
Again, tingles ran across her skin at the sound of his voice. She couldn’t tell if it was fear or, what? Anticipation? He leaned closer, and she bit her lip.
“Please, Frances, I would have you call me Henry.”
“Henry,” she whispered, her gaze shifting from his eyes to his lips. Was he going to kiss her? He was! Oh goodness, should she let him? Her jaw tightened as she leaned away, back stiff and eyes wide. Wait, no—why not? With a worried grimace, she squeezed her eyes shut, puckered her lips, and waited.
Frances opened one eye to find him with his head cocked, regarding her with raised brows.
“What?” she asked, running a self-conscious hand over her bodice, her cheeks.
He smiled and asked, “Did you wish for me to kiss you?”
She straightened. Of course Henry wouldn’t kiss her. That would be the behavior of a lover, not a husband. Damn his pride—hers stung more than ever. “I pray pardon, my lord husband. I forgot myself.”
“No, my lord. We have never been familiar with each other, and I see no reason to change the nature of our relationship.” She stood and shook out her skirts. To think she’d wondered what he thought of her new gowns, her new role as a lady of the court. She would not care because he could not.
Copyright © 2017 by Erin Kane Spock.
As featured by Heroes and Heartbreakers, 11/19/2017
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Back cover blurb:
Amid the revelry of Queen Elizabeth’s court at Christmas, scandal after scandal finds a spirited young woman who learns to defy society, own her actions, and fall in love.
Pleasure takes priority during the twelve days of Christmas in Queen Elizabeth’s court, and newcomer Mary Montgomery jumps in with abandon. Unfortunately, such joie de vivre also leads to accusations that she has stabbed an earl, impersonated the Queen, and punched a countess in the face.
Despite the gossip swirling about her, Sir Charles, a knight and member of the Queen’s Guard, is drawn to her vibrancy. After all, scandals are nothing new at Queen Elizabeth’s court. Unfortunately, Mary does not have the wealth or rank to survive them unscathed and soon finds herself on the outside of society’s good graces. And though his loyalty taints his own reputation, Charles continues to stand by Mary’s side.
He knows his intentions and where his priorities lie—he just isn’t sure how she’ll react when she finds out that the man who ruined her reputation is his half-brother. Indeed, before she can accept his affections, Mary must not only forgive herself for her past but realize she is worthy of love.
Contact by email: firstname.lastname@example.orgExcerpt from Courtly Scandals
Mary danced with joyous abandon. The crowd, the music, and the way this man watched her, all urged her to hold nothing back. His eyes smiled into hers as if he knew she craved excitement and he was ready to offer it. When they linked hands for the final set of steps, he used his strength and momentum to spin her so fast her feet felt like they might leave the floor. She completely forgot about Mistress Parry until the dance ended and she gave Mary and the gentleman leave to rise on the final riverenza. When he claimed her hand and led her from the floor, she felt as if they were escaping together, leaving the crush of courtiers in their oppressive velvets and satins behind them. All she could see were his eyes, his smile. Before rational thought could intervene, she let out a laugh of delight and tugged on his hand, pulling him after her as she hurried, almost skipped, through one archway and then another. Before she knew it, they were both running together into the endless maze of corridors that made up Whitehall Palace.
His laughter echoed through the halls, deep and satisfying as they ran, almost flew, through the smoke-filled corridors. The dark paneled walls and dimly lit sconces had created an ominous atmosphere before, but now the palace seemed full of mystery and adventure. What lurked around the next corner? Part of her mind knew it was the Queen’s music room, but the playful adventurer she’d just discovered within herself wanted to see the golden muralled walls with these new eyes. Together they skirted the clusters of inebriated partygoers, the tables laden with winter delicacies, the stoic guardsmen perpetually on duty, laughing at nothing in particular all the while.
Down one flight of steps, up another, and around the corner. The music was fainter, but her heart beat faster and faster. Euphoria engulfed her, and Mary embraced it, her steps feather light against the dark wood floor, the granite stair, and the cobbles of the courtyard. She was flying. They were flying. His hand was warm against hers, his laughter deep and resounding in the sudden quiet of the icy terrace and down the garden stairs. The stars and the moon gave a clean white light in contrast to the smoky orange glow of the torches. The ice-coated scenery around them glowed with reflected beams as Mary and her partner continued to fly through the night, heedless of anything but the joy of the moment.
As if the joy were too much, the sky opened, softly coating the dark in a flutter of snow. Their flight slowed as the delicate kiss of ice floated around them in the winter night. Whether it was Mary herself who stopped first or her companion, they both stood still, eyes up to the heavens, faces raised to embrace the fresh, cold air.
Panting puffs of icy breath, Mary stifled her laugh, afraid the harsh sound of her voice would ruin the beauty of the moment. A warm hand reached to cradle her cheek, her jaw. The warmth against her skin was a sharp contrast to the increasingly cold night. Snowflakes settled on her lashes as she turned to face him. He was a beautiful man—his fair hair limned with silver light off the snow, he belonged in this moment. Icy flakes lay against the blond waves pulled back from his face, the shine in his blue eyes echoing the glimmer of moonlight against the ice. She didn’t know who he was, but he had run with her, flown and laughed with her. They shared a moment of abandon outside of any boundary.
Slowly he drew her toward him as his lips lowered to hers.
So soft. Warm. Snow fluttered around them, but where his hands held her, she felt nothing but heat. His lips moved and she welcomed the deeper touch. She wanted to smile at the joy of it. Her hands moved to caress the planes of his chest, her fingers seeking upward to his collar, his neck. He was so strong, his mouth a steady pressure against hers. His tongue teased, gliding against the smooth fullness of her lower lip, coaxing her to open herself more fully for him.
He invaded her mouth, claiming it, twining his tongue with hers. Her body heated under his touch, she wanted to feel his hands everywhere. Her lips moved against his, her hands seeking to learn the strength and warmth of his body. Around them, flurries of snow spiraled to stick to the frozen earth, encasing them in icy silence. They were alone in a magical world, wrapped in the heat of each other.