by Anna Campbell
This is a bit of a launch party!
Whooo-hooo, drag out the cabana boys! Fill up the margarita glasses! Get Sven massaging! And tie up that rooster, he's nothing but trouble!
On 24th June (U.K.) and 27th July (U.S.), THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF REGENCY ROMANCE hits the shelves. Some of the biggest names in historical romance have contributed to this anthology - Eloisa James, Loretta Chase, Mary Balogh and Mary Jo Putney. Not to mention our very own Christie Kelley.
Oh, and MEEEEEEEE!
I have a short story in this collection called Upon a Midnight Clear. Although as it's about 50 pages (I haven't seen a final copy of the book yet so I'm not sure exactly), calling it a short story seems a bit ridiculous. That's half the size of your average novella!
I was delighted when Trisha Telep, the editor of the Mammoth books, invited me to contribute. I was doubly delighted when I had 13,000 words to play with and a chance to experiment with an idea I'd had for a while but which didn't really fit the books.
This is my first reunion story. I love that theme in romance - you know, they got it so wrong the first time but fate offers them a second chance. All that lovely redemption and forgiveness and love overcoming the bitterness of the past! Sounds right up my alley.
Upon a Midnight Clear is set in the depths of winter on the snowy Yorkshire moors where the lovely Countess of Kinvarra, Alicia Sinclair, suffers a carriage accident while she's running away with the man she hopes will become her lover. Imagine her humiliation when the only person who passes the wreck in this lonely location is her estranged husband, Sebastian, the Earl of Kinvarra.
Eleven years ago when both were very young, Alicia and Sebastian were joined in an arranged marriage. Immaturity and misunderstandings drove them apart and Alicia has been living in chaste limbo in London ever since.
Here's an excerpt:
“Well, this is awkward,” Kinvarra said flatly, although she saw in his taut, dark face that his anger hadn’t abated one whit.
“I don’t see why,” Alicia snapped.
It wasn’t just her husband who tried her temper. There was her lily-livered lover and the perishing cold. The temperature must have dropped ten degrees in the last five minutes. She shivered, then silently cursed that Kinvarra noticed and Harold didn’t. Harold was too busy staring at her husband the way a mouse stared at an adder.
"Do you imagine I’m so sophisticated, I’ll ignore discovering you in the arms of another man? My dear, you do me too much credit.”
She stifled the urge to consign him to Hades. “If you’ll put aside your bruised vanity for the moment, you’ll see we merely require you to ride to the nearest habitation and request help. Then you and I can return to acting like complete strangers, my lord.”
He laughed and she struggled to suppress the shiver of sensual awareness that rippled down her spine at that soft, deep sound. “Some things haven’t changed, I see. You’re still dishing out orders. And I’m still damned if I’ll play your obedient lapdog.”
“Can you see another solution?” she asked sweetly.
“Yes,” he said with a snap of his straight white teeth. “I can leave you to freeze. Not that you’d probably notice.”
Her pride insisted that she sent him on his way with a flea in his ear. The weather—and what common sense she retained under the anger that always flared in Kinvarra’s vicinity—prompted her to be conciliatory.
It was late. She and Harold hadn’t passed anyone on this isolated road. The grim truth was that if Kinvarra didn’t help, they were stranded until morning. And while she was dressed in good thick wool, she wasn’t prepared to endure a snowy night in the open. The chill of the road seeped through her fur-lined boots and she shifted, trying to revive feeling in her frozen feet.
“My lord…” During the year they’d lived together, she’d called him Sebastian. During their few meetings since, she’d clung to formality as a barrier. “My lord, there’s no point in quarreling. Basic charity compels your assistance. I would consider myself in your debt if you fetch aid as quickly as possible.”
He arched one black eyebrow in a superior fashion that made her want to clout him. Not a new sensation. “Now that’s something I’d like to see.”
He knew he had her at a disadvantage and he wasn’t likely to rise above that fact. She gritted her teeth. “It’s all I can offer.”
The smile that curved his lips was pure devilry. Another shiver ran through her. Like the last one, it was a shiver with no connection to the cold. “Your imagination fails you, my dear countess.”
The working title for this story wasn't Upon a Midnight Clear (although I wrote it around Christmas so this second title was in the air!). It was Ill-Met by Moonlight, the first words Oberon speaks to Titania in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. At last I got some use out of all that English lit at uni, snork! AMND is at its most basic level a story about two haughty and beautiful creatures who are estranged in their marriage and who, after a series of dramatic events, reconcile at the end.
Perhaps I should have called my story A Midwinter Night's Dream instead!
You can buy THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF REGENCY ROMANCE right now from the Book Depository and have it sent anywhere in the world post free. http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/book/9781849010153/The-Mammoth-Book-of-Regency-Romance
Or if you click on the cover at the top of the blog, you can pre-order it from Amazon. We make life easy for you in the lair!
To celebrate the release of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF REGENCY ROMANCE, including my short story Upon a Midnight Clear, I'm giving away a signed copy today. Just tell me your favorite reunion story and why you picked it!
By the way, I'm traveling right now so I'm not sure how much I'll be around but I've got my spies to tell me that everyone's kicking up their heels appropriately!