posted by Nancy
Today Avon debut author Katharine Ashe makes her first visit to the Lair. Katharine lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her husband, son, two dogs, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of European history, she has made her home in California, Italy, France, and the northern US. RT Book Reviews awarded her debut historical romance, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, a “TOP PICK!” review, calling it “a page-turner and a keeper.” Welcome, Katharine, and congratulations on your great review!
What inspired you to write this book?
Inspiration always begins for me with a perfectly matched hero and heroine. When I first came up with the idea for SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, I was in graduate school. Voraciously devouring my favorite Regency romances to avoid writing my dissertation (g!), I invented a character on the edge of polite society: a young heiress traveling home to England after spending two years exiled in Boston by her father for scandalous behavior. At the time I also happened to be reading a friend’s dissertation on the French Caribbean as well as a giant tome on the history of the Jesuits. I took a bit of each and threw in a dangerous mission, and a dashing hero to match my spirited heroine was born!
Who are the hero and heroine, and how do they meet?
Upon the high seas, black-sheep nobleman Lord Steven Ashford plays a perilous game. By disguising himself as a French priest he hopes to ruin a powerful villain ensconced at the highest level of the British aristocracy. When pirates seize his ship, it brings him one step closer to his nemesis. But he doesn’t count on the fiery beauty imprisoned with him.
In desperate attempts to win the attention of her aloof father, during her first season in society Lady Valerie Monroe made a habit of luring inappropriate men into dalliances. On the way home after her long sojourn abroad, longing for acceptance amongst society and to finally be loved for who she really is, she vows to leave behind such childish wiles. Then fate throws her into the hands of pirates who imprison her with a breathtakingly handsome and mysterious Man of the Cloth. Valerie knows it must be divine punishment for her past sins.
What’s their biggest relationship issue?
Always a huntress before, Valerie has never been prey. Frightened--and confused by her desire for her fellow prisoner despite her commitment to changing--she determines to escape their pirate captors. Regretting what she must do, she revives her wicked ways in an attempt to beguile the priest into helping her at any cost. But she fears that this time she will be the one seduced... into losing her heart.
Steven’s noble mission binds him to a solitary life as no prison cell ever could. His work is dangerous, his destiny determined by much more than his desires. He cannot reveal himself to the tempting beauty any more than he can risk her safety with his intrigues. But her spirit is strong, her eyes and words beckon, and his resistance is crumbling fast.
What’s their biggest other problem?
When the pirate captain threatens Valerie’s life, she and Steven must work together to defeat him. But back in England Steven’s true enemy has discovered all. At a snow-bedecked Christmas gathering upon a country estate, Steven--now in the guise of an exquisitely elegant gentleman of fashion--struggles to keep Valerie safe from danger. But now Valerie knows his true identity and she wants him with everything in her. To help him defeat his foe, she must put aside the girl she once was and become the one woman worthy of winning the noble adventurer’s heart.
Can we have a peek inside the book?
Steven rose to his knees, forcing a calm to his movements he did not feel. He scanned the elaborate system of knots wrapped around her body.
“Where is your knife?”
“In my shoe.”
He moved to the clothing piled upon the chair, all save her shift. The madman tied a woman like an animal, yet folded her garments neatly for reuse. Steven drew the tiny weapon from the lining of the costly leather boot and turned back to the bed.
“This will not be of use upon most of the knots. They are too close to your skin.” Watching her pale face, he sat at the foot of the bed and grasped the rope stretching from her ankle to the post. He set the knife to it.
“No.” Her voice was rough. “Do not use it. Then he will know I have it.”
Steven regarded her steadily, a rush of sharp heat sweeping through him. Valerie’s body, clad in the sheerest fabric, tensed against the bindings. Color dusted her cheeks. She craved freedom, but from much more than these tethers. She would not allow this setback to cow her into submission or carelessness. Desire curled in Steven’s blood, mixing with respect and fresh anger.
He pushed aside the sensations. “I should have thought of that.”
“Why?” She scanned his clerical robe. “Are you accustomed to concealing knives from pirate captors?”
He lifted a brow and returned to his task. “I will break the glass on the lamp. It will appear I used that to cut the rope.”
“Clever,” she murmured. “Perhaps you are a dab hand at deception after all, despite your avowal the other day.”
Steven did not respond. He could not. He had told her he preferred the truth, but everything he let her believe about him was a lie.
He cut into the rope.
“It is a very small knife,” she finally said, quietly this time.
“It will do.”
“I never imagined it would be of any use, and now I have employed it twice in a single day.”
He felt her gaze upon his back as he worked, like a touch. The blade was thin but sharp. The rope snapped and Valerie curled up her leg, her bare skin brushing across linen. Ignoring his heightened pulse, Steven moved to the other side of the bed and set to the bonds attached to the foot-post there. In a minute, the sliced rope slipped through his hand. She drew her knees together.
“And for the rest?” she asked.
He turned to face her, unsurprised at the upward tilt of her chin. A brave woman, Valerie Monroe, and infinitely more seductive in her defiance than any man’s warped fantasies could render her with ropes and gags.
Steven studied the complex network of twists and loops and drew in a long breath.
“He has contrived a series of lynch knots. Not impossible to unravel, but each connected to the next, beginning at the top. This will take some time.”
“That’s all right. I have no other engagements this evening.”
Steven met her candid gaze. In the gathering twilight, her eyes glowed the color of storm-tossed waves. One slender, dark brow perched higher than the other. He allowed himself a muted grin.
“No names yet upon your dance card, my lady?”
“Not yet, although I still have hope.”
Oooh, terrific! What’s next for you?
CAPTUERD BY A ROGUE LORD, the second book in my debut trilogy from Avon, will be in bookstores April 2011. London society knows Lord Alex Savege as a devastatingly rakish earl. In his secret identity as the pirate captain Redstone, Alex seizes the yachts of spoiled nobles and donates the swag to charity. But years ago he began his double life with less than noble intentions. Now a lovely minx, Serena Carlyle, is determined to halt a band of smugglers. When she begs Redstone for help, will Alex finally become the real hero she desires?
For more information about Katharine and her books, visit her website.
Katharine is giving away one copy of SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS to a commenter, so tell us, what's your favorite first meeting between a hero and heroine? Your favorite rescue story? Your favorite tale of political or social intrigue?