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Tribute to my Mum

Here’s a Mother’s Day tribute to my lovely mother, Gail Nettelton who was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1934, and who lived 10 exciting years in Lesotho – in Mokhotlong and Maseru, during which time I was born – before emigrating to Australia and living on Lord Howe Island after which she and dad made Adelaide their home.

Her love of adventure

Mum passed on her love of adventure to me. She ’emigrated’ to Canada when she was 21 (because it was cheaper to emigrate) and travelled and worked there for a year while the friends who originally were going to accompany her dropped out to get married.
She then travelled to the UK in the mid-50s and lived in the heart of London, working as a secretary in between trips through Europe in an old car having answered a newspaper ad posted by three Irish girls who were looking for a fourth to share costs.
After she returned to South Africa, aged 25, she worked in the British High Commission where she met dad whom she married a year later. Reluctantly she sold her Austin Healy Sprite sportscar she’d bought when she returned from the UK but had plenty of compensations living at 10,000 ft in mountainous Mokhotlong, also known as the British Empire’s remotest outpost.
She loved entertaining and did a lot of it, despite the fact the community consisted of about 5 people, but there were lots of visitors after the Pack Horse Inn burned down.
Mum used to joke that in Africa she had no children and three servants and in Australia she had three children and no servants.
Mum passed on her lack of house-cleaning abilities to me. My first boyfriend taught me how to fold laundry and where to scrub for dirt in a kitchen but my mother taught me how to look at life as one enormous adventure. She died 23 years ago, much too young, but having packed it with riches and filled it with love.
Here are some pictures of her. Pictures of Mum


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Gorgeous gowns and lavish ebook offer

Sophie in Elizabethan gownI’ve not tried making an Elizabethan gown before so was quite enthusiastic when my daughter requested one for her sixteenth birthday. Actually, she wanted the French hood which Anne Boleyn had made popular and it rather snowballed from there.

After poring over dozens of paintings and pictures we did a mockup of her French hood using cardboard, then pleated fine linen and sewed on pearls and came up with this headdress, here.In my fabric

For the gown, I had in my fabric stash the gold upholstery fabric and, with the help of a burgundy tablecloth from the op shop we came up with this. I’m sure the Elizabethans utilised whatever they could, too; for us, irrigation tubing held out the skirt instead of the more restrictive farthingale.

A rather special Free ebook promotion

On the subject of lavish gowns, here’s another display of beautiful attire – for men and women, though these are a couple of hundred years after the Elizabethan period.

Free eBook Regency Romance - R2 - Red 1200x628

Together with historical romance authors Maggi Andersen, Jade Lee, Emily Murdoch and Carole Mortimer, I’m in a week-long promotion with a book each we’re offering for free only on this platform. In other words, it’s full price everywhere else except for here. So be transported to a world of magic, make-believe and romance just by clicking here.


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Excerpt from Rake’s Honour

Beverley_Oakley_b3As I’ve just had a new cover done for Rake’s Honour – and the book is on sale – I thought I’d post an excerpt. I wrote Rake’s Honour as the first in my Scandalous Miss Brightwell series. I’ve recently rewritten it quite extensively – as I have done for Rogue’s Kiss, the second in the series. Now book 3 – Devil’s Run – is nearly finished and will be published in a couple of months.

Rake’s Honour

In this scene, Fanny has gone looking for her sister’s bracelet which Antoinette has lost after leaving Lord Quamby’s ballroom. Finding herself in a chamber hung with lurid artwork, Fanny has just tumbled down some stairs, ripped her gown, and is hiding in a very strange edifice as she knows the man she fancies is following her. Isn’t Fanny a silly girl?

Anxiety and urgency made her fingers clumsy as she tried to fix the damage. In despair, she glanced up at her reflection in the huge gilt mirror that formed one entire wall of the festooned tent.

How was she to re-fashion her Grecian coiffure when she’d lost most of the necessary hairpins? If that was not bad enough, how could she ever make her reappearance at the ball in a gown so badly damaged?

She was conscious of his presence near the entrance and both longed for and feared his arrival.

“I… I’m not quite ready.” Would she ever be?

The insidious knot of self-doubt always lurking beneath the surface grew. It hardened, lodging in her chest cavity, and ground away at the self-assurance she’d polished to a shine. Who did she think she was, parading as a society miss, dangling her brassy powers of attraction before Britain’s ten thousand in the hopes of snaring a husband who would benefit the Brightwell family, collectively? A baron’s daughter she may be, but she had nothing other than good looks and a reputation still intact—if Fenton kept his word—to recommend her. At this moment, even that was imperilled on account of her careless pea goose of a sister. Her feverish attempts at feigning a life of leisure and frivolity in accord with those whose life she sought to share seemed suddenly stupid and pathetic. She’d be a laughing stock if people knew the long hours she plied needle and thread to clothe her sister and herself in the latest splendour.

Desperation at her plight was shredding her insides. Tomorrow she was to marry Lord Slyther, unless…

Unless what? There was not time. Lord Fenton was waiting for her and all she could do was stare into the looking-glass like some unworldly debutante frozen by fear.

Right now, in her hour of need, she could not even find a threaded needle to save her reputation. Lord Fenton would think her little better than a costermonger when he saw her with her torn skirt and disordered hair. What would he think if he could see into her shrivelled-up little soul?

Her toes curled and her insides cleaved with frustrated longing. Tonight she’d recognised in his eye the mysterious fascination she wielded. She’d wielded the same power over Alverley.

It was true that she’d not wanted Alverley but he’d offered the means of survival. Survival for her and her family.

Lord, but she wanted Fenton. It was too early to call it love—when love was what she aspired above all else—but there was a magnetism between them that defied common sense. Surely that was a good enough beginning to warrant throwing all her efforts into making him want her when the alternative was Lord Slyther?

With an effort, she steadied her breathing. Her mother would be equally satisfied with Lord Fenton. Fenton provided the same opportunities as Lord Slyther. He had lineage, money, prospects enough to offer the entire Brightwell clan. Her mother would be as delighted over a match with Fenton as she was with Lord Slyther. Wouldn’t she?

Fanny could be a wife worthy of Lord Fenton. Fanny needed a man like Lord Fenton. And Fanny wanted…Lord Fenton.

Actually wanted him, like she’d never wanted a man. The need to reconnect with him, physically, was so powerfully intense she had to grip the sofa arm to steady herself.

Beware. She closed her eyes and forced reason to prevail. Fenton had the power to make her forget herself. It had happened before and she’d been lucky.

In Fenton she wondered if she’d met her match. She recognised in him qualities that went deeper than the ironic façade he chose to present to the world—for she practiced the same deception. A necessary deception if she were to shield her most vulnerable self from an exacting and judgemental society.

She bit her trembling lip and tried to collect her wits. If she had time she could work herself into the woman of Fenton’s dreams—dreams that would last beyond the here and now…

…if only she had time.

“You may come, Lord Fenton.”

[End of Extract]

So that’s it from me for now. I hope you enjoyed the extract.

Rake’s Honour is available on all platforms here.


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Saving Grace – New Release Excerpt

Beverley_OakleyI remember the excitement of being signed up by Pan Macmillan Momentum five years ago at the Gold Coast Romance Writers of Australia Conference when they contracted Saving Grace as part of an anthology with nine other stories.

Lots has changed in the publishing world since then and now Momentum – Pan Macmillan’s digital arm – is no more.

I therefore wrote asking for my rights back, which were graciously granted, and have just rewritten the novella, which was inspired after reading ninenteenth century journalist Henry Mayhew’s study of London during the 1850s, titled London’s Underworld.

My new version of Saving Grace is now Book One in my Fair Cyprians of London, a series of vignettes telling the stories of the determined and enterprising young women working at the brothel keeper Madam Chambon’s St James’ establishment. They’re there because, having lost their reputation through no fault of their own, they face almost certain poverty and ruin. Victorian society was unforgiving towards a girl who’d lost her ‘character’. Of course, there were no similar strictures as regards the men who’d transgressed.

Here’s a short extract.

A rich man’s hobby is a poor girl’s ruin during the years of early photography

It’s 1878 and London’s most beautiful and hard-hearted prostitute, Grace Fortune, is preparing for her next job. She’s the special initiation ‘gift’ procured by a mother in fashionable Mayfair for her son’s twenty-first birthday.

When Grace discovers she is to be servicing the man whose secret she’d guarded at the cost of her once-secure position as a housemaid and whose betrayal has plunged her into this hated life, she wants revenge.

London, 1878

Reclining on a red plush sofa, Grace took a sip of her sickly sweet orgeat and forced a haze over any thoughts about the night ahead. Madame Chambon only allowed her girls champagne when the gentlemen were paying for it and although Grace was not a drinker she liked the way it dulled her senses to the present.

The others were gathered in companionable groups on the fashionable Egyptian sofas, their heavy scent perfuming the air, their soft murmurs imbuing the atmosphere with a falsely domestic air.

She glanced at Hope, another of those who, like her, kept to themselves. Hope was favoured by the gentlemen who patronised their St James’s establishment for her milky white skin and delicate, elfin features. Grace had heard the girl had been a governess before she’d eloped with the squire’s son who’d abandoned her. She’d been too ashamed to return to her family. Maybe it was the truth. Each girl had a story to suit herself.

To Grace, the only truth was that they were all on a path to hell. It didn’t take much for a girl to lose her character but once it was gone there were precious few options for her to put food in her belly and keep a roof over her head.

An expectant hush fell as the heavy draped and tasselled curtain was drawn aside and Madame Chambon arranged herself theatrically in the opening, ready to address her petites choux.

Ravissement!” she complimented them in thickly accented English, clapping her hands. Grace suspected the elegantly ravaged Madame came from Lambeth rather than the Left Bank. Not that it mattered. No one in this business was who they said they were.

Least of all, Grace.

The girls, awed and anxious, straightened their rich, colourful gowns nervously. Despite her appearance of bonhomie Madame Chambon could turn on a coin. And it was she who ensured the girls did not return to where most of them had been plucked from—the gutter.

“A great opportunity awaits one of you tomorrow,” she addressed them, “for I have just been honoured by the visit of a woman of great discernment …”

A couple of the girls tittered. “A woman?”

They closed their mouths at Madame Chambon’s beady stare, attending as she went on, “who has requested I supply her with one of my loveliest …”

She drew out the pause as several of the brothel’s most popular young ladies preened.

“… most hard-hearted girls.”

All heads turned towards Grace. She blinked, surprised to register shock when she rarely felt anything these days. Is that how they regarded her? Hard-hearted?

Surely she was not alone in a profession that demanded one’s soul in return for the necessities to live?  She simply had nothing left to offer once she’d done what was required in order to pay Madame Chambon her keep and just survive.

Madame Chambon levelled her expectant look upon Grace, whose mouth dropped open in protest. “A woman? But—”

“The woman wants to give her son a present to remember for his twenty-first birthday. She is obviously a very fond mother—” Madame Chambon allowed herself to share the girls’ amusement, adding, “with very good sense in choosing our select establishment to provide him with the very best initiation—” Her smile grew cloying as she continued to look at Grace—“without fear of him being lured into a transfer of affections amidst all the other … ahem … transfers that take place.” Though she made a gesture with her hands to indicate the transfer of money, the girls tittered at the double entendre.

Redheaded Faith, known for her noisy exuberance, leaned in towards the girl beside her. “Grace doesn’t have a heart to lose.” Her whisper resonated.

Nor did Grace have the heart to participate in the banter that followed.

So what if she’d been selected? It was just another job and a good thing she need not worry about eliciting the emotions of a twenty-one-year-old virgin. Pleasing, also, was the knowledge that any business with a virgin meant it would all be over in less than five minutes.

* * *

Madame Chambon selected her dress for her, in royal blue and silver stripes to complement her dark hair and pale skin. Grace’s slender form lent itself to the silhouette of the day: a close-fitting cuirass ending in a draped fan train emphasised with knife pleat ruching. The expensive gown was at the forefront of fashion and made Grace feel she was rubbing shoulders with those she’d once served.

She contoured the flat of her stomach with her hand, turning to look over her shoulder in the cheval mirror at the stylish figure she cut.

It was true she enjoyed wearing a gown the like of which she’d once not even been entrusted to fold and put away but of course, like everything else, it came with a caveat: she could take only mincing six-inch steps and Madame Chambon required that her girls pay for the clothes she insisted they wear.

“Lor’, but yer look like a duchess,” breathed her dresser, little Maisy, standing back to appreciate the ensemble.

It was nice praise, and not surprising the girl didn’t add that she envied Grace.

Grace patted her on the shoulder and smiled. “Make sure you’re in bed early, Maisy, not hurting your eyes with those penny dreadful novels you do so love.”

Maisy need look no further than those she served for lurid tales of ruined girls to provide the same moralising warning  she got from her beloved stories. Grace hoped Maisy found another situation before Madame Chambon ‘elevated’ her from serving tired and often ungrateful young women who’d been up all night, to eager, high-paying gentlemen.

[End of Extract]

So, there it is. I hope you enjoyed it. There’s a twist at the end and the original Momentum version has been well reviewed on Goodreads. As a special bonus, I’m including Saving Grace for free for readers who preorder the complete Daughters of Sin Box Set  a saving of 25% over the individual books. That’s due to release on April 20, the same date as Saving Grace.

You can pre-order Saving Grace for only 99c at all retailers here.daughters-of-sin-box-set-e-reader

And you can pre-order the Daughters of Sin Box Set at all retailers here.


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Let’s talk covers after a wrong cancer diagnosis

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My lovely dad

Well, I’m in a really good mood because my dad isn’t in the final stages of cancer of the gall bladder as he’d been told he was by the doctor, so instead of thinking there were only two weeks left I can look forward to lots more conversations and hanging out with him as he finalises his memoirs and talks about life in Botswana and Lesotho. Very cool!

That means I can write a blog post on a lighthearted subject like my latest cover experiences instead of crying into my pillow because dad was apparently dying. It’s a wonderful thing to be told you’re dying and then suddenly you’re not!

Daughters of Sin collage

The five covers in my Daughters of Sin series

Anyway, it’s been quite a week with DH away on a motorbike trip in South Australia’s beautiful Flinders Ranges while I’ve been looking after the kids – unfortunately forgetting that school holidays started this week and not having a plan for Miss 11. (I’m sure nobody told me school holidays had started which makes me feel really silly because I work as an editor for the Curriculum and Assessment Authority so am immersed in education all day long meaning I should be the last person who didn’t know that!) But I didn’t and I suppose that’s what happens when your husband has spent two years too injured to fly then gets his reprieve and is told he can after all, so to celebrate suddenly heads off on a big trip like this; and then the same week your dad is told he’s dying of cancer and you’re trying to get his memoirs (that he’s been working on for fifteen years) finalised and printed before it’s too late and in time for a big splash and launch (with lots of wine and chocolate, as planned) that everyone can enjoy – before the two to six weeks remaining that was what the original prognosis was, is up.

daughters-of-sin-box-set-e-reader

The elegant cover done by Dar Albert

Back to me and my covers

Anyway, there it is! And now we can cut back to me again because suddenly life’s good once more and here we are, on a Tuesday night on a cool Autumn Melbourne night, after a glass – or maybe two – of red wine. (Yes, I know, it’s a week night but I’ve needed something as I anticipated the phone call from my sisters in South Australia who rushed over to be with dad who is now in hospital but is going to be all right.)

And now that they’ve just given me the the low down on dad I am just so relieved, so that’s what I’ll talk about: the box set cover I had designed for my Daughters of Sin series which helped take my mind off everything.

I was going to talk about my Africa book and dad’s memoirs with lots of pics of Botswana and Lesotho in the old days but I’ll do that in a more considered blog post rather than in one that’s been written from the hip (if you can say that) and covers are fun and frothy and that’s what I need right now – something fun and frothy since the house is very quiet right now.box-set-cover-e-reader

It’s been quite an interesting experience – this whole covers thing for my Daughters of Sin series – because I commissioned a cover for each of the five stories in the series, and now that the final story has just been published, I have to do what all authors do – make a box set of the complete series to sell at a discount.

The Daughters of Sin series

In case you haven’t read any of the Daughters of Sin series, it’s five intrigue-laced books about four sisters (two nobly-born (and their mother) and the nobly-born sisters’ two illegitimate half sisters) competing for social success during the Regency era with an espionage plot running through them all. The initial story – Her Gilded Prison – is (I confess) an older woman younger man, rather poignant story, with a twist at the end, written for Ellora’s Cave, while the second book is about a debutante being mistaken for a lady of the night.

Daughters_of_Sin_BoxSet

The cover done by Fiverr

By the end of Dangerous Gentlemen I realised that intrigue rather than erotic romance was more my milieu so in a second rendition (the one up there and published now) I toned down the heat in the first two books (which nevertheless are still quite steamy) while the final three books are more intrigue laced with suspense and lots of romance as they detail how the lives of the four sisters intertwine after one of them marries a suspected traitor. Ambition runs rampant, whether it’s beautiful and vain Araminta, Lady Debenham, who needs to rid herself of an inconvenient encumbrance, regardless of the cost; or sweet Kitty, her half sister who as a celebrated stage actress yearns for respectability, or her hardworking sister Lissa who must forgo London revels because she’s a governess but whose abilities as a portraitist bring her into the bosom of the ton – and earns her the love of the evil Lord Debenham’s hardworking secretary, the resourceful and besotted Ralph Tunley.
Each of the five stories has their own cover and the cheapest way – I found – of creating a box set is (if you can’t do it yourself on Photoshop) to get someone on Fiverr to mock up the five books as a box set. They can do this for about $20 using the original covers.
However, as book one – Her Gilded Prison – was my least favourite cover, I wasn’t convinced this was the way to go. So I commissioned the designer who’d done all the other covers to come up with something completely different for the box set cover and this is what she came up with, above.

I must mention that it took a few days for her to get back to me and in the meantime I’d commissioned someone from Fiverr to do it for me and this is what they came up with. While I like it, I don’t think it has the elegant look that my designer Dar Albert achieved.

More covers to come

In my next blog post I’m going to put up three more covers done by different designers at Fiverr, as well as a friend who’s talented in Photoshop, so you can compare costs and expertise. Meanwhile, I’m going to get back to work on making sure dad’s memoirs look as good as they deserve to look, and put up some pics and extracts.

And if you want to check out the Daughters of Sin box set, this link will take you to every retailer’s platform. Check it out.

 

 

 


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Win US$25 to Celebrate Release Day for Lady Unveiled

The Grange, home of the Partingtons

I can’t believe what a strange feeling it was to finish Lady Unveiled and say farewell to my characters – for now – in my Daughter of Sin series. For five years Hetty and Araminta have been part of my life, squabbling amidst finding ways to help themselves, and other members of their family, find the happiness they deserve amidst an espionage plot in which one sister’s husband is embroiled.

Her Gilded Prison was the first book I wrote for Ellora’s Cave, followed by Dangerous Gentlemen, and then since June this year I’ve written the final three books, each of which pick up the stories of all the sisters – nobly born Hetty and Araminta, and illegitimate Lissa (a governess in The Mysterious Governess) and Kitty (an actress in Beyond Rubies).

Lady Unveiled - The Cuckold ConspiracyTo celebrate the release of the Lady Unveiled~The Cuckold Conspiracy, I’m doing a 2-week excerpt tour (dates and links, below) during which a random commenter will have the chance to win a US$25 Amazon voucher and the first three books in the series.

For a limited time Dangerous Gentlemen is free on all platforms here.

It’s a chance to see if this series full of mystery and intrigue is for you. And you might well, if you like intrigue and darker themes underpinning a story featuring a sweet heroine under siege. However it’s not for readers of romance who prefer everything to be perfectly happy and ordered by the end of the book. Though my lovely heroine gets her HEA there’s a scene near the end of Dangerous Gentlemen that sets in motion a plot that runs through the rest of the series and is the foundation for the next series (starting 18 years later) featuring a lost child.

Some reviewers don’t like that at all. And here’s another warning. There’s quite a bit of steam in this book. (It was written for Ellora’s Cave, after all, though I’ve toned it down a little for this iteration, as I have Her Gilded Prison.) The next three books aren’t as steamy but the intrigue and mystery and increasingly in evidence.

So that’s what you can expect. I’d much Dangerous Gentlemen wasn’t read by readers who might be offended by an explicit scene in which a dastardly scheme (that sets in motion the rest of the series) goes wrong for several of the characters before all working out several books later.

And now I’m back to work, doing a revision on Rake’s Honour to tone down the heat level of that book, also. After the tour dates for Lady Unveiled I’ve put up an extract of the first two pages.

Thanks so much for reading this far and I hope you enjoy it. 🙂TourBanner_LadyUnveiled

March 27: T’s Stuff
March 28: Straight From the Library
March 29: Fabulous and Brunette
March 30: Hearts and Scribbles
March 30: The Reading Addict
March 31: Reviews by Crystal
March 31: Notes From a Romantic’s Heart
April 3: A Writer’s Life
April 4: Up ‘Til Dawn Book Blog
April 5: Romance Author Hear Me Roar
April 5: Lorana Hoopes
April 6: Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews
April 7: The Avid Reader

Read an Extract

Chapter One

Lucinda’s angry, discordant note on the piano brought Lissa’s head up sharply. It seemed her disgruntled charge had finally—like Lissa—had enough of the muffled and completely inappropriate giggles of Lord Beecham’s ‘special friend’. For the last hour, Lissa had sat quietly sewing by the window, as well behaved as any good governess could be suffering such trials.

Meanwhile, seated on an elegant blue and silver silk-striped sofa opposite the piano, Lord Beecham seemed wholly occupied with his increasingly regular guest, Lady Julia and, until now, impervious to his ward’s attempt to regain his attention.

Lissa slanted a glance at Lucinda. When Lucinda was angry she was not a pretty girl. Her peaches and cream complexion became red and mottled, her rose-bud shaped mouth flattened into a harsh, thin line and her normally luminous blue eyes seemed almost black beneath beetling brows. This was how she looked now as she hunched on the piano stool, glowering at Lady Julia—or Lady Ledger, wife of Sir Archie Ledger if she were happy to be properly identified, which, judging by the surreptitious fondling she and Lord Beecham were engaged in today, she would not.

Lady Julia, supposedly an earl’s daughter fallen on hard times, was supposedly Lucinda’s very young godmother. She arrived at Lord Beecham’s London townhouse at regular intervals, heavily veiled, to instruct Miss Lucinda Martindale in the musical arts though she could not—as far as Lissa could tell—play a note. At least, Lissa had never heard her play a note, though she’d heard a lot of other noise emanating from Lady Julia during her visits to his lordship’s bedroom between music lessons.

Finally, it seemed, Lucinda had got what she’d been after: Lord Beecham’s undivided attention.

“What an infernal noise!” he exclaimed, the dewy adoration as he’d gazed at Lady Julia instantly replaced by a thunderous scowl as he jerked his head round to look at Lucinda. “I spend a fortune on your musical education! Surely I should expect better than that!”

Lucinda’s mobile face went through a gamut of emotions: devastation then outrage, however her mouth remained a thin, tight line. It was quite obvious the girl was desperately in love with her benefactor into whose care she’d been placed the previous year upon the death of her parents and younger brother during a scarlet fever outbreak in their village. But while Lucinda was obstinate and demanding of her governess, she had never, as far as Lissa knew, openly challenged Lord Beecham.

Nevertheless, there was an underlying challenge now in the girl’s demure: “Perhaps Lady Julia would care to demonstrate how Pachelbel’s Canon in D should really sound.”

Lady Julia, who had attempted to discreetly put at least several inches between her thigh and that of his Lordship’s on the settee, smiled sweetly. “My dear, I don’t want to show you up.” She patted her bright golden hair, then purred, “Please, play it again. With just a little more practice you will have mastered it, and Lord Beecham and I are quite happy for you to entertain us while I continue to outline to him my hopes on how your general carriage, demeanor and…might I add without offence…character itself, might be improved sufficiently to make your come-out without undue embarrassment to either yourself or his Lordship.”

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Looming deadline means Procrastination

Lady Unveiled - The Cuckold Conspiracy

Lady Unveiled – The Cuckold Conspiracy

What do writers do when they have a deadline looming?

They procrastinate, of course!

That’s what I’m doing. With at least 10,000 words to write in the next 5 days in order to finish Lady Unveiled~The Cuckold Conspiracy, Book 5 in my Daughters of Sin series, I’ve just finished cleaning the laundry and now I’m writing a blog post.

 Because I don’t know how to finish my book!

So I’m going to try and talk my way through it. Yesterday I was teaching a creative writing class, locally, in the Macedon Ranges, Victoria, when I was asked what my series was about. Suddenly the ideal description came to me. I told my student: “Imagine the Borgias are long-term house guests at Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice.”

Yes, that should give one an idea of the scandalous, intrigue-filled world of the Borgias superimposed upon the refined surroundings of a Pride and Prejudice setting. Araminta, the beautiful daughter of Lord and Lady Partington would, of course, be Lucrezia.

I know it shouldn’t take five books to define what one’s series is about but I’m an organic writer. (Not that that is any kind of an explanation, I know. When I start to panic, I’m in the habit of casting around for reasons that have little to do with the question.) However, this is my process: When I sit down, my characters speak to me through the words that spill out of my fingers and onto the keyboard. At the end, I weave it all together so there’s a clear narrative from start to finish.

The series kicked off with Her Gilded Prison which was accepted by Ellora’s Cave after the editor liked my different take on the ‘older woman, younger man story with a twist’. It’s the tale of sweet Sybil, the lonely and unloved wife of Viscount Partington, and her unlikely love affair with the dashing heir to her husband’s estate, newly arrived from fighting the peninsular wars. I had no idea the story would morph into the multi-layered tale it has. The book ends with her two daughters getting ready for a hectic London season. (I’m not telling what happens to gorgeous Sybil and dashing Stephen.)

Book 2 – Dangerous Gentlemen – focuses on the sibling rivalry between earnest and “do-gooding” Hetty and her spoiled and vain older sister Araminta who’s been so beastly to her in the first book. Araminta tries to steal Hetty’s true love in book 1 and – can you believe it! – she tries it on again in Book 2! Dangerous Gentlemen also introduces the girls’ unacknowledged and illegitimate half-sister by their father, Lissa, who aids them in an espionage plot centering around Lord Debenham, the villain of the piece.

Lissa’s story then becomes the focus of Book 3, The Mysterious Governess, as she’s positioned in a household to try and apprehend the aforementioned dangerous gentlemen who, in the meantime, has become strangely and awkwardly allied to the Partington family. Rescued from an upturned carriage, she falls in love with darling Ralph, secretary to villainous Viscount Debenham.

In Book 4 – Beyond Rubies – bright and beautiful Kitty becomes London’s most celebrated actress but nearly comes a cropper due to the disappearance of a valuable diamond and ruby necklace which villainous Lord Debenham has gifted to Araminta who, for reasons I can’t tell you has had to use it as collateral if she’s to save her reputation.

All of which brings me to the current book I’m madly trying to finish, Lady Unveiled~ The Cuckold Conspiracy—hence this desperate attempt at procrastination when the words currently ricocheting off my keyboard should be tying up the loose ends of the “Spider Conspiracy” in Book 1, and the “Incriminating letter” in book 2, and the “treason plot” in Book 3 and the reasons behind the “Stolen necklace” in book 4. While Araminta is still doing what she can to save her reputation, awful Lord Debenham is trying to make Kitty his mistress (though at this stage Araminta doesn’t know that Kitty is her half-sister and I’m trying to decide when and how that information should be revealed – or if it should at all, since I’m going to start a second series with the action beginning five years hence.)

But I’m nearly there! Nine days is plenty of time to wrap it up and have it to the editor before it gets several rounds of copy-editing and proof reading before release day… Isn’t it?

If you want to know how it ends, you can pre-order here – bearing in mind that when you press that pre-order button, the author has no idea how it’s going to end – though hopefully not in tears, is all I can say!

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Release Day – Fool for Love

His Valentine's SecretToday is Release day for Fool for Love, a collection of three fabulous stories of Regency rakes and innocent misses, written by me, Heather Boyd and Donna Cummings.

Release day is always a day for celebrating and I’m rather excited to be doing so with a bottle of one my favourite South African wines, Meerlust, which my brother-in-law is bringing over for our BBQ this afternoon. (He’s been flying between Antarctica and Cape Town for five weeks and has just returned to Australia.)

So it’s going to be great hearing stories of his adventures before we charge our glasses and bring the conversation back to the fact that it’s release day for me! (And then, of course, I’ll let him have the floor once again.)

Here’s a bit about the anthology.

In His Valentine’s Secret, by me, Lady Athelton’s St Valentine’s Ball should have been a time for love, not vengeance, as the once carefree Lisette plots the demise of the man she once loved. Will she learn the truth in time?

In Truly, My Love, by Donna Cummings, Lord Benedict and Lady Sommerwood stage a faux romance in order to help him evade two besotted young misses at a Valentine party. But can an affair built on falsehoods possibly turn into true love?

And in A Husband for Mary, by Heather Boyd, Miss Mary Vine kissed a handsome stranger at the Fenwick Masquerade, never imagining the extraordinary attraction could be for the most disgraceful rake in London. A man she knew far too well…

I hope you enjoy the sound of them. Romance stories are a great antidote to life’s cares and troubles and I hope you get swept away. You can read an excerpt from His Valentine’s Secret, which is set in the aftermath of the French Revolution, here.

And you can get your copy here:
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New Release in the Daughters of Sin Series

Lady Unveiled ~ The Cuckold Conspiracy (A Snippet)

I was really hoping to get this book up for pre-order before Christmas – and I have. At last, all of Lord Partington’s daughters get the happiness they deserve in Lady Unveiled ~ The Cuckold Conspiracy, Book 5 in my sizzling, intrigue-filled Regency romance laced with mystery and espionage.

It’s true that there is one sister who doesn’t deserve quite the same quantity of happiness as her worthy sisters but you can be the judge of whether Araminta gets her just desserts.

So here’s just a snippet of what’s in store. There’ll also be the reappearance of other characters who appeared in the first four books. Lady Julia from Book 1 turns up as the piano teacher to Lissa’s governessing charge. (Though, of course, we know Lady Julia is a devious sort and this is just a cover for the fact she’s Lord Beecham’s mistress.)

Naturally Araminta and Hetty’s darling babies play a vital role while Sybil and Stephen from Her Gilded Prison (Book 1) show how a much older woman can retain the love of her adoring young lover.

But it’s Christmas, and everyone has limited time so without further ado, here is the blurb for Lady Unveiled. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a lovely New Year. I’m about to start packing the car for a 9 hour drive to our property in South Australia’s beautiful Clare Valley. Actually, while there, I intend to do some short videos of me in my 1780s polonaise chatting to the alpacas by the macadamia trees which I’ll post on my website. My pilot husband has just bought a drone and my 12-year-old nephew is very cluey about iMovie, so we’ll see what we can come up with.

Lady Unveiled ~ The Cuckold Conspiracy Blurb

Kitty has the love of the man of her dreams but as London’s most acclaimed actress and a member of the demimondaine, she accepts she can never be kind and handsome Lord Silverton’s lawful wedded wife.

When Kitty comes to the aid of shy, accident-prone and kind-hearted Octavia Mandelton, her sense of justice causes her to make the most difficult decision of her life: Give up the man she loves. For Octavia is still betrothed to Lord Silverton who’d rescued Kitty in dramatic circumstances only weeks before.

Cast adrift, Kitty joins forces with her sister, Lissa, a talented artist posing as a governess in order to bring to justice a dangerous spy, villainous Lord Debenham. Complicating matters is the fact Debenham is married to their half-sister, vain and beautiful Araminta.

However, Araminta has a dark secret which only Kitty knows and which she realizes she is duty-bound to expose if she’s to achieve justice and win happiness for deserving Lissa and Lissa’s enterprising sweetheart, Ralph Tunley, long-suffering secretary to Lord Debenham.

All seems set for a happy ending when Kitty tumbles into mortal danger. A danger from which only a truly honorable man can save her. A man like Silverton who must now make the hardest choice of his life if he’s to live with his conscience.

Pre-order here.

Here’s an excerpt…

Chapter One

It was Lucinda’s angry, discordant note on the piano that brought Lissa’s head up from her sewing, not the muffled and completely inappropriate giggles of her employer’s special friend. Seated on an elegant blue and silver silk-striped settee by the window, Lord Beecham seemed wholly occupied with his increasingly regular guest, Lady Julia, and apparently impervious to his ward’s attempt to regain his attention.

Lissa was under no illusions that Lord Beecham and Lady Julia – or Lady Ledger, wife of Sir Archie Ledger if she were happy to be properly identified, which, judging by the surreptitious fondling the pair were engaged in today – she would not – were in the midst of a torrid affair.

The supposed earl’s daughter fallen on hard times was supposedly a family friend who arrived at Lord Beecham’s London townhouse at regular intervals, heavily veiled, to instruct Miss Lucinda Martindale in the musical arts. Lady Julia, however, could not – as far as Lissa could tell – play a note. At least, Lissa had never heard her play a note, though she’d heard a lot of other noise emanating from Lady Julia during her visits to his lordship’s bedroom between music lessons.

At a painful combination of bs, cs and ds, which Lissa knew should never be played together, Lucinda finally got Lord Beecham’s attention.

“What an infernal noise!” he exclaimed, the dewy adoration as he’d gazed at Lady Julia instantly replaced by a thunderous scowl as he jerked his head round to look at Lucinda. “I spend a fortune on your musical education! Surely I should expect better than that!”

Lucinda’s mobile face went through a gamut of emotions: devastation then outrage, however her mouth remained pursed. It was quite obvious the girl was desperately in love with her benefactor into whose care she’d been placed the year before upon the death of her parents and younger brother during a scarlet fever outbreak in their village. But while Lucinda was obstinate and demanding of her governess, she had never, as far as Lissa knew, openly challenged Lord Beecham.

Nevertheless, there was an underlying challenge now in the girl’s demure: “Perhaps Lady Julia would care to demonstrate how Paescelbel’s Canon in D should really sound.”

Lady Julia, who had attempted to discreetly put at least several inches between her thigh and that of his Lordship’s on the settee, smiled sweetly. “My dear, I don’t want to show you up.” She patted her bright golden hair, then purred, “Please, play it again. With just a little more practice you will have mastered it, and Lord Beecham and I are quite happy for you to entertain us with a little background music while I continue to outline to him how I believe your general carriage, demeanor and…might I add without offence…character itself, might be improved sufficiently to make your come-out without undue embarrassment to either yourself or his Lordship.”

Lissa was interested to see how Lucinda would take this. With her head still bowed over her embroidery frame, she sent a veiled look that took in the flashing eyes above the pretty, pert nose of her young charge and Lord Beacham’s wolfish, apparent approval of Lady Julia’s saccharine demeanor.

In the two months Lissa had spent in Lord Beecham’s employ, she had not warmed to her charge, for all she knew she ought to pity the girl. It was true that she’d established more control over Lucinda than Lucinda’s previous governess. Lucinda no longer tried to undermine her at every opportunity or threw tantrums and it appeared Lissa’s policy of being firm but distant appeared to have worked. But there was little affection between the pair.

Lucinda was the first to drop her eyes from Lady Julia’s scrutiny. Her shoulders slumped and she turned back to her music which she started to play once again, this time softly and with no discordant notes. Lucinda was rather good at most things, if she put her mind to it.

Meanwhile Lissa strained to hear what Lady Julia and Lord Beecham were discussing. It was one of the reasons she’d been placed in this position by her ‘real’ employer, Sir William Deane, late of the Foreign Office. The fact that Lissa could apparently appear as nondescript as the wallpaper was to her advantage for she’d already gleaned several tidbits which had been well-received as points of interest by Sir William.

Her ears pricked up at a reference to Lord Silverton, not a name she’d expected to hear in this drawing room but a name that induced mixed feelings since she’d learned her younger sister, Kitty, now a celebrated actress, had become his mistress.

For months Lissa had been desperate to make contact with Kitty however she feared Kitty’s unbridled love of chatter and her reputation for indiscretions might compromise Lissa’s dangerous work in espionage. She’d therefore refrained from directly seeking her out, though she kept as much of a sisterly eye upon her as she could, from afar.

[End of Extract]

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Publishing ups and downs post-Ellora’s Cave

In 2013 I attended my first Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City. I’d been invited by my UK publisher at the time, Choc Lit, to participate in a panel on The Making of a Hero, and I was eager to meet some of my fellow writers – as well as my publisher – having recently won Choc Lit’s ‘Search for An Australian Star’ with my romantic espionage novel set during the Napoleonic Wars, The Reluctant Bride.

These were exciting times as Choc Lit had also bought a second novel of mine (The Maid of Milan which came out six months later) while my Beverley Oakley pseudonym seemed to suddenly be going places.

Yes, Ellora’s Cave (EC), an established player in the field, known for cementing the reputations of many authors in the genre, had bought the first two books in my Daughters of Sin series  –  Her Gilded Prison and Dangerous Gentlemen.

At RT Kansas City, EC hosted a luncheon for their authors during which we all received gorgeous handbags in a selection of colours, A handbag from my publisher and a free lunch! It seemed my star was in the ascendant.

So 2013 was a highlight year because of what was happening with my two writing names in traditional publishing. It was also the year I started self publishing which, unbeknown to me at the time, would be the start of my generating a real and worthwhile income through writing.

I’d not intended self publishing. I’m not technical and I’d had no marketing experience. I also know I’m not very good at self promotion. Also, the copy writing skills needed for promotion are completely different from those needed to write a book and although I can, on occasion, be quite humorous with those I’m comfortable with,  you only have to look at my Facebook page to see I’m woeful at projecting a particularly clever or lighthearted online presence. So the promotion and marketing side would be (and is) definitely a steep learning curve.

Why did I start Self Publishing?

The timing was right. Following the rights reversion of the first three books I’d had published, in hard cover, by Robert Hale, I suddenly had ownership of three professionally edited files at around the time it was becoming easier from a technical point of view to self publish. Self-publishing, or Indie publishing, was also becoming more acceptable and readers were making less distinction between the two.

I’d also not intended taking a pseudonym, however when Robert Hale rejected what became Rake’s Honour – on the grounds that it was too sensual – I shopped it to Totally Bound who bought it.

The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena was sweeping the world and my heroine, a daring, dashing, social climbing debutante fashioned on Thackeray’s Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair, was a Regency belle whose antics made her well suited to the hotter historical appetite.

When editing began, I was asked by my editor to up the ante quite considerably and, I have to admit, more than made me feel comfortable in the early days – hence the pseudonym. Two more books went to Totally Bound where I was quite happy, and then a successful author friend excitedly introduced me to her editor at Ellora’s Cave who bought my risqué older woman, younger man romance with a twist in the tale ending called Her Gilded Prison.

As I mentioned, Ellora’s Cave was a highly desirable publishing house. Many authors had cemented their success there and I expected my books to sell well, based on previous experience and the anecdotal – at least – talk of Ellora’s Cave being great at marketing.

It was on the basis of these supposedly wonderful sales that I decided to agree to the terms of their contract which, essentially, gave them copyright for life.

Unfortunately, the reality didn’t live up to the hype. In two years, I never had a royalty cheque that was more than $30 a month, even in a release month. Most were less than a third of that.

It was therefore with  surprise and relief I regained my rights to my two EC books, without a fight, and set about self publishing them earlier this year.

They’d barely made a ripple when EC marketed them but I was astonished when sales soared. In fact, for a number of months in the middle of this year the revenue from these two books alone far outstripped earnings from my full-time day job. Thrilled, I quickly wrote the third book in the series, The Mysterious Governess, which was edited by the same wonderful Ellora’s Cave editor, Kelli Collins, who’d now left the company and was freelancing.

The fourth book in the series – Beyond Rubies – quickly followed and I’m now half way through writing the fifth and final in the series – Lady Unveiled, the Cuckold’s Conspiracy.

A great three months – with ups and downs

It’s been a fascinating journey and incredible to see my two books which had languished for so long while under EC’s stewardship suddenly soar into the stratosphere after I Indie-published. They both made #1 on Amazon in both the UK and the US due, I think to a good dose of luck in the back-to-back promotions I chose. This resulted in sustained organic growth which saw them remain in the top #20 for many weeks and which benefitted the next book in the series – The Mysterious Governess.

And then everything fell off a cliff.

I’d stopped putting effort into being strategic about how I was promoting the books, imagining – naively, I suppose – that those same amazing sales would continue while instead I concentrated much more on writing the next book in the series. This seemed to be the conventional wisdom. “Just write the next book.”

I don’t think so any more. Not in my case, anyway. I think I should have spent much more time keeping that balloon in the air, so to speak, and less time writing.

However, it’s a lesson learned and with the final book nearly finished I feel that with a five-book completed series I have a more valuable commodity to work with than I did when I had just the first two books.

And there have been other interesting ventures which have taken me in different unexpected and very positive directions, such as being invited to participate with five other authors in an all-new collection – A Very Wicked Christmas anthology – on the back of a box set of six of our first-in-series, Rakes and Rogues.

I do have another combination of promotions planned for my ex-EC books in my Daughters of Sin series. This will take place in the first week of December and I’ll be interested to see how that goes, since it’s replicating – to an extent – what I did with such success in the middle of this year.

After December rolls around, I shall report back with the specifics on those paid promotions and FB advertising combined with non paid promotion. Were my fabulous sales the result of discoverability due to pure luck or can I make the same combination for success work twice in a row?

Regardless of the outcome, though, I couldn’t stop writing if I wanted to. The joy is in the words, the characters, the devious plots and the happy endings. I’m also keen to return to my Africa-set romantic mysteries and suspenses (two nearly finished) under my Beverley Eikli name.

I once thought the generated income was the most important benchmark and a barometer of the success of the writing itself but this new world of marketing and promotion has made me regard the job of being a writer in an entirely different light. I’m an entrepreneur and small business owner as much as a creator, a writer. And to be successful in this brave new world of publishing means being a master of all three.

I’m getting there.


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