My Place - Awakening by Scarlett Valentine

This week, I welcome erotic romance author Scarlett Valentine to My Place. Let's hear it from her...


Scarlett Valentine was born and raised in Northern California in an area known as America's Salad Bowl. It was home to many authors, including John Steinbeck, and for a while Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson.
In 1997, Scarlett had the opportunity to travel to Ireland on an extended holiday. She met a man and stayed. Celebrating more than fourteen years in Ireland, she has traveled the country extensively and has lived in Dublin, Cork, Wicklow and Kildare, loving every minute of it.
Scarlett has always enjoyed writing. Her professional writing life began as a book reviewer in 1995, and she has published travel articles since 1998. She's an avid castle hunter and photographer so it's no wonder castles show up in most of her stories. She loves travel and research, both of which give Scarlett ideas for her stories. Scarlett’s favorite places to travel include Scotland and Wales, and of course back home to Northern California.
2 November 2011 marks the beginning of Scarlett's erotomance series, The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter. Awakening is the first book off the mark and is being published by Tirgearr Publishing. This story is hot, hot, hot! 

This ain't your grandma's erotica! ;-)


My Place:

AWAKENING is set in Northern Wales on the western side of the Snowdonia mountain range, above small village called Rhyd Ddu, meaning Black Ford in the Welsh language. The area is stunningly scenic with a small lake, Llyn y Dywarchen, on a plateau in the mountains above the village and a view across the land to Caernarfon and the Irish Sea. The landscape is a mix of forest and woodland, grassy pastures dotted with sheep and quaint villages. It’s all this and more than endears Wales to me.


While Rhyd Ddu Castle is a work of fiction, it was based on a real castle in another part of the Snowdonia National Park called Dolwyddelan Castle. Dolwyddelan was actually built in 1210 so not too far off my date of 1149. And it was built by princes of Gwynedd as the principle strategic keep guarding the southern part of Snowdonia. The site consisted of the main keep, outer buildings and a high stone wall. Set on an elevation gave those in the keep an excellent view of the valley, and any and all who approached. This was the type of keep I wanted for Bedwyr so I created Rhyd Ddu Castle and set it against the eastern slopes of Snowdonia.

Snowdonia is a mountain region at the heart of the ancient Kingdom of Gwynedd (Gwenneth), a region ruled by some of Wales’ most powerful kings, including Llywellyn the Great. In fact, Awakening is set during the time of Llywellyn’s grandfather, King Owain Gwynedd.

Mount Snowdon is the highest peak in Snowdonia, reaching an elevation of 3560 feet above sea level. It’s not quite a mile high, but from the peak, on a clear day and in the right weather conditions, views have been estimated at 150 miles. That might not seem a lot until you consider what can be seen—Scottish Highlands, the English Channel and Ireland!


In more recent times, Snowdonia, as much of Wales, has seen a lot of coal and slate mining. Slate mining dominated the Snowdonia region and today many of the old rail companies have restored the narrow gauge rails and offer journeys for tourist. One such line goes to Snowdon’s summit for the spectacular views. I’ve been on train tours around Snowdonia and to the summit at Snowdon, and while I’m generally terrified of heights, the views from Snowdon are so spectacular that all my fears are pushed aside.
Not to sound like a tourist ad, but anyone visiting North Wales today will find a region ripe with national heritage, pride and identity. It’s a region where the people speak Welsh as a first language and English for the tourists. Traditional meals are found on every menu across the region, and hand crafts are still one of the main industries. I’d move to Wales in a heartbeat, given half the chance!
I hope readers of Awakening will fall in love with the region as I have, and of course, Bedwyr and Ysbail!




Blurb:

AWAKENING, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series
Ysbail of Ellesmere is a pawn in her guardian's war. For decades there has been unrest between the marcher lords and Owain Gwynedd ap Gruffydd, King of Gwynedd. The most recent war had been the bloodiest she could remember in her eighteen years. Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys, and his allies lost untold numbers of men at the hands of Owain's soldiers. When a settlement of truce is presented to Madog, it's at Ysbail's expense. She is to marry Bedwyr ap Owain, one of King Owain’s bastard sons, and his most notorious henchman. If all the rumors and stories she's heard are true, she knows her marriage will be rife with horror and fear.
Since proving himself worthy with his sword, Bedwyr fights at his king's side. He's shed oceans of blood and sent untold numbers of men to their graves. He's become what his name foretold—the grave-knower. He's afraid of nothing, least of all death. All men fear him, including those who fight at his side, and sometimes even his own king. Terror of him lives within women's hearts; only the bravest of whores accept him into their beds. And children weave their own tales of the monster they hear him to be, embellishing the details to their own gruesome degrees.
When King Owain informs Bedwyr that he's to marry Ysbail of Ellesmere as part of a peace settlement with Madog, Bedwyr is furious. A man such as Bedwyr can only survive on the battlefield. For without love, hatred will send a man like him to the edge of insanity. Then push him over. But when Bedwyr sees Ysbail for the first time, blood-thirst turns to blood-lust, and he vows to show her that she should have no fear of him.



Excerpt:

Chapter One
Rhyd Ddu, mountains of Eryri, Cymru — 1149

  “Take it off, Ysbail.” 
  She stood her ground, shoulders back, gazing into her husband’s black eyes, daring him to make her.
  Their marriage was still fresh in her mind, as was the humiliating bedding that followed. He had granted her some respect in the task by ushering would-be witnesses from the chamber, but he had done no more than that before laying her on the bed, lifting her gown, and taking her most precious possession. While he had apologized for what must be done, she still had not liked it. His taking of her had been swift and every bit as horrible as she had heard it would be.
  Her father,  Alun ap Wnffre of Ellesmere, had been the governor and close friend of Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys. Her mother had died in childbirth, and Ysbail had barely been out of swaddling when her father was killed fifteen years previously during one of the frequent border wars. Madog had promised to raise her until she was of marriageable age. With the rapidity of the event, she felt Madog could not wait to be free from his responsibility. So afraid she might bolt, he had waited until her arrival in Oswestry from her home at Ellesmere to tell her of her betrothal.
  He was right to worry, for she was to marry Bedwyr ap Owain, one of King Owain Gwynedd’s bastard sons, and his most notorious henchman. Legends preceded Bedwyr. She grew up hearing tales of his bloodlust and the carnage left in his wake. He was what his name foretold, for Bedwyr meant grave-knower.
  “Take it off, Ysbail. I would see you now.”
  She inhaled sharply at his repeated command, his gaze piercing through the chamber’s heavy shadows. The only light came from the small fire in the hearth, which only served to enhance her husband’s fearsome visage.
  
  Bedwyr was not unpleasant to look upon. Had she not already known of his reputation, and despite the scar crossing his left brow, she might have called him handsome. Dark, unruly waves hung about his shoulders. More often than not, they also shielded his eyes and hid high cheekbones. Belying his shaggy and unkempt appearance, he preferred a shaven face, which accented his ever-present scowl and served to deepen his features. His smile, if it could be called such, looked more like a snarl—the white of his teeth being the only brightness about him. 
  Just the size of her husband should have frightened her, never mind his looks. But in the time it took to travel from Oswestry to Bedwyr’s keep high in the mountains, he had been nothing but considerate and thoughtful. He had not tried to bed her again during their journey, but she knew once they arrived he would waste no time forcing himself upon her. He was a man after all. At least he had given her a pair of weeks to adjust to her new home before making it clear he would come to her. Earlier in the day, he had ordered she and her meager belongings be moved into his chamber. The lustful look she saw on his face told her in no uncertain terms that he would take her again this night.
  She knit her brows together, hoping to emphasize her scowl and displeasure at what was to come. When she made no effort to yield to him, he reached up and pulled free the laces at the top of her gown. He slipped a single finger under the edge of the fabric, letting the back of it brush one of her nipples. She gasped at the sensation.
  “Remove it or I will do it for you.” His voice was deep in timbre yet low in volume, yet spoke of his determined insistence. Stranger or no, she knew she would do his bidding or suffer his wrath.
  She felt her nostrils flare as she breathed deeply, trying to control her racing heart.
  With trembling fingers, she loosened the ties and pulled the gown over her head, letting it fall to the floor beside her. The fabric of her shift rasped her breasts. She knew without looking down that her heaving bosom was well in evidence, for the look on her husband’s face told her.
“The shift as well.”
  She swallowed hard while continuing to gaze at him. She kept her spine stiff, refusing to cower before him. She would not let him see her apprehension.
  Removing the final barrier between them, she let it slip from her fingers onto the pooled gown.
  It was her wifely duty to give her husband what he wanted without their private chamber, and within. Her only solace was that if the task went as quickly as before, she could endure it. Just.
  “Ysbail,” he murmured, gawping at her and unmoving. Was there a hint of surprise in his voice?
  Perhaps he had changed his mind about bedding her once he saw her petite form and the smallness of her breasts. Now that he was seeing her fully for the first time it was very possible she repulsed him.
  Not so, she found. Her flesh prickled as he raked her with his burning gaze. When she tried to shield herself, he gently brushed her hands away.
  “No, cariad. Do not hide yourself from me. You are exquisite. I wish to look at you.”
  Reluctantly, she lowered her arms to her sides. Bedwyr touched every bit of her with his gaze. The defiant flush she felt on her cheeks a moment before now warmed her entire body. Or was it heat from the fire prickling her naked flesh?
  He stepped slowly around her and came to a stop at her back. She would not look to see what he was about. She squeezed her eyes shut and wished it over with, whatever was to come.
  Then his warm, battle-roughened hands were on her shoulders. He sought not to still her or keep her from running — ‘twas just a touch. Her bedding had been little more than pushing her skirts about her waist. He had not even touched her when he leaned over her and thrust himself into her. But now . . .
  His hands slid across her bare shoulders to the nape of her neck. Licks of fire trailed in the wake of his fingers. A moment later she felt him unweaving her hair from the long plait she wore. He finger-combed the strands and spread them over her shoulders, the long fair curls tickling her breasts. Her heart quickened at his gentleness.
  Then his head dipped to her nape and she heard him inhale, long and slow.
  "Mmmm—" His breath washed across her flesh.
  Bedwyr stroked the length of her arm. Taking her right hand in his, he placed delicate kisses on her fingertips, her palm, her inner wrist. Fire raced through her to pool in her belly. The sensation ignited something within her, and it was not entirely unpleasant.
  She looked up over her shoulder and their gazes met once more. The look in his black eyes had softened, yet at the same time had become more intense. A length of dark hair fell over his face, further shielding his expression in the shadows. Not that she could name it. She was ignorant in the ways of lust, but she felt sure that would change when this night was over.
  She looked away. Emotions whirled inside her. She did not want a repeat of her bedding, yet Bedwyr’s touch ignited something within her with just a light touch and the way he looked at her.
  He tilted her head sideways and whispered in her ear. His breath stole along her nape.
  “You shake. You have no need to fear me, cariad. I will not harm you. I will honor you each time we are together. Especially in this.”
  “There is no . . . honor . . . in this.” Her voice betrayed her with its breathless statement.
  “No honor? I am sure it was a shock to learn of your betrothal as you had, then forced to surrender yourself to a stranger in such a barbaric way. But, were I any other man, I would not have waited this long for you to heal from your bedding. I would have had you on your back many times by now, with my cock buried deep within in you.” He ground his erection against her bottom as if to prove his point.
  She emboldened herself. “If that is what you want, then take me and get it over with.”
  Bedwyr growled. “You know not what you tempt me with, gwraig.”
  “I tempt you with nothing. I only wish to get this over with. If you wish to honor me, I pray you do not toy with me. If this is what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life, I would rather have it done quickly than make blood sport of me.”
  “Oh, Ysbail, I will toy with you. But there will be nothing quick about it.”
  Ysbail did not want him to see her alarm of his promise. She was sure she was not afraid of him, but the reality of what was to come crept over her suddenly, stealing her strength.
  Bedwyr slid his tongue along the edge of her ear. The sensation in her belly quivered again.
  “Does this pain you?”
  “Nay,” she gasped.
  His lips moved to the curve of her nape and placed a kiss on the delicate flesh there. “And this?”
  “N-nay, my lord.”
  When he palmed her breast, he seemed to rob her of her senses. He rasped his thumb across her nipple, rolling it into a stiff peak. Pinching it lightly weakened her knees. Were it not for his strong arm around her waist, she would surely collapse onto the flagstones.
  “And what of that?”
  How could she reply without breath in her lungs?



Links:

Please note that my website has a glossary of terms for anyone interested in Welsh translations from Awakening, and some trivia about the story and Wales . . .
And please join me on my book tour as I celebrate the release of Awakening. Tour details can be found on my website. The tour begins tomorrow, 31 October at Black Velvet Seductions (http://blackvelvetseductions.com/readers_blog) where I’ll be giving out a spot prize for the best Halloween memory posted by a reader.
~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”




My Place - The Arrival of Lily Curtis by Rachel Brimble

When Cathie asked me to kick off her “My Place” of guest blog posts, I was thrilled! I love sharing information about the setting for my Victorian historical, ‘The Arrival of Lily Curtis’ and where it all began.

I write contemporary and historical but my historicals will always be set in the famous Georgian City of Bath because it is literally at my doorstep. I can go there as often as I want, when I want with little expense and a wealth of history at my fingertips.

Let me tell you about ‘Lily’…

My Place - Bath / Lucknam Park:
The idea for the story all started when I was treated to afternoon tea at the beautiful stately home of Lucknam Park in Colerne, one of the many surrounding villages outside Bath.

As soon as my mum and I walked into this amazing house, I knew I had found the home of my next hero, who eventually became Viscount Andrew Westrop. We had a gorgeous tea of dainty sandwiches, cream cakes and tartlets while sitting in an immaculate late 17th century drawing room overlooking the stunning estate gardens. I didn’t want to leave.

As soon as I arrived home, I made as many notes as I could, my mind whirling with images of dancing and dining, gossip and chit-chat. Lucknam Park became Cotswold Hall. Andrew’s home came alive and before I knew it I had found my next novel.
Most of the book takes place in this house but the characters do travel to Bath several times where I had the chance to research some of the most famous and envied places in the world.



Lily and Andrew travel over Pulteney Bridge, through Royal Crescent and spent time in the picturesque and wonderful Royal Victoria Park. If you ever come to the UK, please take some time from London to visit Bath. You won’t be disappointed. All these pictures are from my personal collection but nothing compares to seeing them first hand. Enjoy!


Blurb:
At the mention of an arranged marriage, Elizabeth Caughley feels her life is over at the age of three and twenty….so she hatches an escape plan.  She will reinvent herself as a housemaid.  Overnight, Elizabeth becomes Lily…
Viscount Westrop wants nothing more than his legacy to be passed to his own son one day.  Even though he feels insurmountable pity for the unborn child already, he knows how much pain a broken promise can cause and will do what is right.  But with the arrival of his new housemaid, his plans are thrown into disarray.  Lily is funny, feisty and the most beautiful creature on earth – Andrew is thunderstruck.  But if anyone suspects how much he wants to ravish her and endlessly love her, Andrew’s lineage will be in peril.  And he cannot let that happen…

Excerpt:
  “Will you dance with me, Lily?”
  “Dance?  But we cannot…”  Relief, or maybe disappointment, slumped her shoulders and she threw a hesitant look in the direction of the house.  “If someone were to come looking for us…”  But then he propelled her into his arms with one sharp yank of his wrist.
  Her breath caught and laughter bubbled in her throat as he flashed her a cheeky grin and pulled her firmly against his chest.  “Come now, Miss Curtis, at least do me the honour of dancing a waltz with me on this beautiful night.”
  “A waltz?  But I couldn’t possibly…”
  “What?  Is it too scandalous? Too risqué for your faint heart?” he asked, wriggling his eyebrows suggestively.
  She tipped her head back and laughed, suddenly caught up in his drunken rebuff of status and decorum.
  “For me, sir?  Never!” she declared.
  He grinned.  “Then listen to the music, fair lady.  Let its enchantment work its way into your soul until you have no choice but to move with me as though we are one.”
  Closing her eyes, Lily let her ears attune to the gentle muted melody coming from the house.  Mozart’s harmonious flute and violin duo swept and dipped along on the breeze, snaking its way into her limbs and heart.  Opening her eyes, she gracefully declined her head and yielded to his challenge.  He took her in his arms and they mirrored each other’s feet perfectly without word or instruction.
  Pressed so close to him, with his hand placed protectively at the base of her spine, Lily moulded into the heat of his body.  The feel of her flattened breasts against the firmness of his chest aroused something so erotic, so primal inside of her she didn’t know whether to be scared or delighted by it.  Heat seared her cheeks as she forced herself to meet his eyes.  His own gaze shone.  
  Carefree and devoid of the anger and frustration, her heart leapt to see him so happy.  He swept her around and around the limited space beneath the canopy of trees surrounding them.  This was the antithesis of the man who so frequently seemed to want to escape Cotswold Hall, galloping away on his horse as though a raging fire chased him.  

Links:





My Place - Highland Arms by Cathie Dunn

On 20th July 2011, my romantic Scottish historical novel, Highland Arms, hit the ebook shelves!

So, to mark the occasion, I thought I'd start a new type of promotion - authors describing the settings of their novels. This adds a more personal touch as location plays an important role in many settings.

Here goes...

My Place - Ballachulish:

I love exploring stunning landscapes, so for me there was no question about where Highland Arms, should be based:  Ballachulish!

Baile a' Chaolais, the village's Gaelic name, means 'village of the narrows'. It lies at the junction where Loch Leven flows into the much larger Loch Linnhe. The original village lay in what is now North Ballachulish (Highland Arms is based just a couple of miles north along the shore of Loch Linnhe), with a settlement in South Ballachulish, now linked by a bridge, established later.

Ballachulish is less than a mile from Glencoe, at the entrance to the Glencoe hill range. The small villages nestle at the bottom of hills, with clouds always hovering low over the mountain tops. It is a magical place, highly atmospheric. Driving out of the Glencoe range, the view gives way over Loch Leven towards Loch Linnhe and more hills beyond. Breathtaking!




The shoreline of Loch Linnhe northwards provides a beautiful backdrop, views across to the scarcely populated western shore and north along the Great Glen. This location must have seemed utterly remote to an Edinburgh born and bred young lady. Occasional cottages, empty shells along Glencoe and humble huts along the shore of Loch Linnhe, saw tenants lead a hard life. Driving towards the north, we're now perfectly safe from the snow, sleet, hail, rain and the odd bit of sunshine we have experienced on our numerous trips. Now think back to travelling the Highlands in 1720! 

My hero, Rory, loves it. But oh, poor Catriona! 



Blurb:

Betrayed by her brother’s lies, Catriona MacKenzie is banished from her Edinburgh home to her godmother’s remote manor in the Highlands. While her father ponders her fate, Catriona’s insatiable curiosity leads her straight into trouble--and into the arms of a notorious Highlander.
Five years after an ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, Rory Cameron works as a smuggler to raise money for the cause--until Catriona uncovers a plot against him and exposes his activities. Now Rory is faced with a decision that could save their lives or destroy them both.


Excerpt:

  “What are you doing here?” Her voice croaked, and her clammy fingers fidgeted with the curtain tassels.
  He remained silent, staring at her, the storm in his eyes relentless. 
  Her throat constricted in shock, she only managed a whisper. “I’m so sorry. How rude of me. I’m Catriona MacKenzie...from Edinburgh.” Why was she so nervous? After all, this was not their first encounter. But who was Rory Cameron that he wandered freely around Auntie Meg’s house?
  As if he lived here.
  “I know who you are. Now.” The tone of his voice held none of the humor he’d shown at the inn, none
of the flirtation. Instead, the chill in it sent icicles down her spine. His Highland lilt was strong, deliberately so, marking the difference to her accent. 
  “Auntie Meg told me about you when she received your father’s letter. Catriona, the fallen angel from the city.” He snorted and let his gaze rake at will over her curves.
  Heat shot into her cheeks, setting her skin on fire. What gave him the right?
  “I’m sorry but you are misinformed.” She crossed her arms under her breasts. The move did not escape his attention. He raised a fair eyebrow as his gaze focused on her décolleté. Quickly she lowered her arms again, entwining her fingers.
  “Don’t you worry, Miss MacKenzie.” He laughed, though the humor never reached his eyes. “There
won’t be any temptation for you out here. Highlanders learnt a long time ago not to mess with Lowland ladies.” 
  He abruptly turned to the fire, grabbed a poker, and stoked the flames with fierce thrusts. The hissing of embers filled the room, and the rich scent of peat drifted to where she stood.
  “Who are you?”


Links:


Cathie Dunn

Highland Arms at The Wild Rose Press

Highland Arms at Amazon.com

Highland Arms at Amazon UK

Calling published Authors - it's all about Location!

It's nearly 20th October - that means Highland Arms has been on the market for three months! I know, time flies! ;-)

So, in order to celebrate properly, I thought I'll give other published authors of romantic, crime and historical fiction a chance to showcase their releases, under one condition ... they have to tell us about one aspect we don't read about often enough: the location of their novels.

Prepare for 'My Place'!

Location, for me, is an integral part of writing. It is the first thing I choose, and the storylines develop from there. I've been fortunate in travelling across some incredibly beautiful and haunting places. Glencoe, Loch Ness, Argentan, Mont St Michel, Welsh Borders... all areas that inspire me to set my novels there. But now I want to know about your places...

So, as of Sunday 23rd October 2011, I'll give one published author the chance to showcase your novel by telling us why you chose a particular setting. That place can be a region, a town, a village, or even a building (castles and manor houses spring to mind). We want to know what inspired you to choose that particular place, or how you created it. Posts will be published weekly, on a Sunday.

You'll be able to add an introduction (about yourself), a blurb, an excerpt and links to where readers can buy your book. Just email me at cathiedunn (at) gmail (dot) com with your preferred date.

Oh, and I'll be posting about the location for Highland Arms on 20th October, to mark the 3-month occasion.

So, who's game? ;-)


Scottish Highlands

Pap of Glencoe from the bridgeLoch LevenBallachulishIMG_1652IMG_1651IMG_1657
IMG_1674IMG_1707IMG_1715IMG_1716IMG_1717IMG_1731
IMG_1732IMG_1733IMG_1734IMG_1724IMG_1725IMG_1743
Yummy lunch in PitlochrySolitary tree, nr BeaulyMoor near BeaulyStagnant waterMonadh Mor forestMonadh Mor forest views

Scottish Highlands, a set on Flickr.

I thought I'd share some photos with you. :-)

Following last weekend's trip to the Highlands to celebrate my father-in-law's 90th birthday, we did our usual driving around our favourite area - Glencoe and Ballachulish.

We also enjoyed a brief forest walk at Monadh Mor on the Black Isle, just north of Inverness. Beautiful and calm, perfect relaxation before a busy family celebration!

Glencoe was just as always - heavy rain following our delicious late lunch at the Clachaig Inn (wild boar burger/venison) so we couldn't walk off our calorific meal. Glencoe in the rain makes for an incredibly moving atmosphere.

Again, the weekend was gone too quickly. Wish I could stay up there...

Via Flickr:
Various visits to the stunning Scottish Highlands.