Last of the Brides!

MaryJoPutney_TheBarteredBride800by Mary Jo

I've loved introducing new readers to my classic Bride trilogy, which had been languishing in obscurity for years. Now the last book, The Bartered Bride, is due to be released as an ebook tomorrow (February 8th).

All three books are marriage of convenience of one sort or another, and The Bartered Bride is no exception. The review from Publishers Weekly said, "(Gavin and Alex's) journey from strangers to spouses to true lovers is utterly authentic." And a long and challenging journey it is!

The story was partially inspired by requests I had for a story about Amy Melbourne, the intrepid young daughter of Catherine Melbourne, heroine of my Fallen Angels book, Shattered Rainbows. Catherine had married a cavalry officer and "followed the drum" through the Peninsular campaigns, caring for her husband, nursing the wounded, and raising her fearless young daughter. Amy played an important role in her mother's story, and readers wanted to see more of her.

So did I, but I had to wait till she grew up, which is why the Bride trilogy is set a little post-Regency. More than that, I knew that if Amy got into trouble anywhere in Britain, her warrior stepfather, Lord Michael Kenyon, would swoop in to save her from harm because that's the kind of man he was. But that would interfere with Amy's own romance. <G>

MaryJoPutney_ShatteredRainbows_HR-2It took me time to work out her story. Not only did I decide I'd have to send her halfway around the world, but she informed me that "Amy" was too much a little girl's name and she much preferred to be called by her middle name, Alexandra. (Teenagers!) So she became Alex, and after being widowed in Australia, she heads for home with a young daughter of her own. Here's the blurb for the story:

After building a fortune in the exotic East, American adventurer and merchant prince Gavin Elliott sets his sails for London to begin a new life. Then fate intervenes on an infamous island in the East Indies where he discovers an Englishwoman facing degradation and peril. Though saving her may cost Gavin his life, he cannot refuse to help the fierce beauty who touches his heart and soul with her unconquerable spirit.

Alexandra Warren is returning home from Australia as a widow and mother when a pirate attack condemns her to a life of servitude. A miracle arrives in the form of a steely-eyed Yankee captain whose reckless courage wins them freedom and a safe passage home to London. Intimate strangers joined by too many secrets, they slowly begin to heal the past with attraction and tenderness–until an old enemy reaches out to threaten the passionate love Gavin has found with his irresistible bartered bride.

Alex and Gavin's story has lots of adventure, powerful romance, and of course a happy ending, though there were some serious black moments! There's also the opportunity to see Catherine and Michael and other Fallen Angels characters. Here's an excerpt:

Alex had finally dozed off in a corner of the cage, but she jerked upright at the sound of footsteps. Slavery had taught her that changes were seldom for the better, and she’d been frightened ever since guards brought her to the palace to confine her in this triple locked cage in a strange, luxurious chamber.

At first, the dim light of the single lamp showed only the arrival of a tall, intimidating male. Then she recognized the European who’d visited the slave market. She’d begun to wonder if he was a hallucination, but he was real enough—a tall, powerful man with an air of command. Those gray eyes and the fair hair sun-bleached to gold had to be European. Involuntarily she rose and crossed the cage, pressing against the bars as she studied him hungrily. The gaudy uniform wasn’t British—perhaps German or Scandinavian.

She clamped down on her longing by reminding herself that being European didn’t mean he’d MaryJoPutney_TheBarteredBride200help her. Though she had instinctively pleaded for his aid at the market, now that they were face to face she reminded herself that Westerners who frequented the far corners of the world were often adventurers and renegades. Perhaps this one had asked the sultan for the use of the European slave woman.

No matter. Even if his motives were vile, he was her best chance for freedom, and she’d do whatever necessary to ingratiate herself so he’d help her.

The man halted with shock when he saw her. Glad that he probably wasn’t responsible for her presence, she asked, “Do you speak English? Parlez vous Francais?”

“Both,” he replied in English. “How did you come to be in my rooms?”

“I have no idea.” Unable to repress her bitterness, she added, “Slaves aren’t usually told why things happen to them.”

His expression tightened. “I’m sorry—that was a foolish question.”

Though she’d repaired her battered cotton shirt as best she could, she was uncomfortably aware of how her breasts strained against the thin, worn fabric. She was larger than most Island women, and there had been no kebaya her size.

When his gaze reached her breasts, he looked away in embarrassment. She found that reassuring—a man with a sense of the decencies might be more likely to help her.

He stepped into the bedroom and returned with a neatly folded shirt. “Would you like this?”

“Oh, please!” He passed his shirt through the bars and she immediately pulled it over her head. The garment fell almost to her knees. Before rolling up the sleeves, she rubbed her face in the crisp white fabric. “This smells so good. So clean.”

He glanced around the cage, which contained nothing but her and a brass chamber pot. “Do you need anything else? Food or drink?”

She moistened her lips. Not having eaten or drunk since early that morning, she’d spent her first hour in the cage staring longingly across the room at a bowl of fruit on a low table. “Water, please. And then…could I have some fruit?”

“Of course.” He set the fruit bowl on the floor so she could reach through the bars to help herself.

While she peeled and ate a juicy local orange called a jeruk manis, the man collected pillows from a bench and pushed them through the bars. Gratefully she sank onto one. The last months had made her appreciate even the smallest of comforts.

“No water, only rice wine, I’m afraid.” He settled on another pillow outside the cage, holding a bottle and two glasses. “Drink with caution. This has quite a kick.”

“Thank you.” The rice wine went rather well with the banana that she chose, and she welcomed the spreading warmth that unknotted tight muscles. She closed her eyes for a moment, reveling in the company of her own kind. “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten proper behavior. My name is Alexandra Warren, and I’m English.”

“I’m Gavin Elliott out of Boston, and master of a merchant ship.” He noted her gaze. “Ignore the uniform—it was designed only to dazzle.”

An American? Not quite as good as a fellow Briton, but close enough.

MaryJoPutney_TheWildChild800Actually, though Gavin considers himself American, he was born in Scotland, a fact which causes him trouble in this story.  Here are several reviewer quotes:

"a story you can't put down"—

"a hero to-die-for" —Suzanne Coleburn

"a finely crafted tale by a mistress of the genre"—Romantic Times, Kathe Robin

Click here to buy The Bartered Bride.

Books 1 and 2 of the trilogy, The Wild Child and The China Bride, are also available as MaryJoPutney_TheChinaBride800 e-books. These are some of my most sweeping, adventurous stories, and if you read them, I hope you enjoy the characters and their adventures as much as I enjoyed writing them.

I'll be giving away a free copy of The Bartered Bride to one commentor between now and midnight Thursday. Have you read Gavin and Alex's story? Do you want to?

Mary Jo, ending with her tagline for the Bride Trilogy:

Three extraordinary women,
    Three powerful men,
         Three passionate, unlikely marriages.



Ask A Wench—an Exotic Question!

Old_globeCara/Andrea here, We were recently chatting among ourselves about and somehow strayed off topic (as we are often wont to do!) and the question arose: What is the most exotic place in which we have ever set a story? As we all started thinking back through our books, we decided it would be a fun thing to share in our regular "Ask A Wench" feature. So sit back and get out your atlas as we do a little globetrotting!

MaryJoPutney_SilkandSecrets_200pxMary Jo: As a kid in school, I was always fascinated by the map rack hanging at one end of the blackboard.  In particular, I'd wonder what was in the vast, empty expanses of Central Asia.  So it's probably not surprising that I headed there for my first historical series, the Silk Trilogy.
The first book, Silk and Shadows, takes place in England, but Peregrine, the hero, is a wealthy, mysterious prince from somewhere in Asia.  While researching his background, I came across the true story of an 1840s rescue mission to Bokhara in Uzbekistan, and was entranced.  That story because the inspiration for Silk and Secrets, second in the trilogy.  Which in turn led to Veils of Silk, which was set in India.

Read more

Zoe Archer: Where Indiana Jones meets High Romance

Cat 243 Dover

by Mary Jo

 Zoë Archer and I share an editor, the estimable Megan Records, and I discovered Zoë’s writing when Megan asked if I’d consider reading the first book in Zoë’s upcoming series.  Such requests are not made lightly, but Megan thought I’d enjoy Zoë’s writing.

Megan was right.  That’s why she’s an editor. <g>  I loved Zoë’s unique blend of swashbuckling Indiana Jones high adventure, exotic settings, and magic. Given how readers often express the wish for something that hits all the historical romance buttons but adds something fresh and new, I thought Word Wench readers would enjoy meeting an intriguing  new author. 

So—meet Zoë Archer! Welcome to the Word Wenches.  Zoë, please tell us about Archer_Portrait_03 your Blades of the Rose Quartet.  

ZA:  First, thank you for having me on the Word Wenches!  I’m not exaggerating when I say that you have been one of the biggest influences in my romance writing career, so the fact that I’m even having this conversation with you is surreal.

MJP: <blush>

ZA: Anyway…I’ve been a steadfast romance reader for half of my life, and have witnessed the evolution of the genre from historicals to romantic suspense to paranormals.  But I never truly found the kind of romance that I really wanted—classic high adventure.  Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved stories and films set in far-away places, where a capable, quick-witted hero and a (sadly, oftentimes incompetent) heroine were on a quest, with lots of action and adventure and hints of the paranormal.  I wanted to see romances that had all of these elements, plus a heroine who could hold her own next to the sexy hero.  Much as I tried to find these books, they were either scarce or non-existent.  So I wrote them myself!

WARRIOR_01 Blades of the Rose

ZA: The Blades of the Rose is a secret organization that searches out and protects the world’s magic.  Blades are both men and women, and though the books are set in 1874-1875, the women kick just as much butt as the heroes do, and in a way that isn’t anachronistic. 

Each book is full of action, adventure, magic, steam punk gadgets, danger, and plenty of blistering romance.  I like to describe the books as Indiana Jones with hot sex. Heh. 

Faraway places with strange sounding names

MJP: I was fascinated by the Mongolian setting. Having researched some exotic Asians places myself, I’ve been dying to know how you managed the research for such a remote part of the world.  You certainly made it convincing.  Have you ever been to Mongolia?

ZA:  Sadly, no.  I read books, watched films and did quite a bit of Internet research.  The original reason I wanted Mongolia as a setting was because I wanted to make use 170px-Mongolia_Landscape of the Gobi Desert.  But the Gobi is just one part of a vast country.  Rolling, grassy steppes make up a huge section of Mongolia, and the more I read about it, the more entranced I became with the country, the landscape, and the people.  Do a quick Google image search for Mongolia and you’ll see just how gorgeous and dramatic the landscape is.  A perfect setting for romance and adventure.

MJP:  Here’s an excerpt for Warrior  Tell us a little about the other books of the quartet.  The hero of the fourth in particular looks interesting. 

ZA:  Each Blades book has a different hero and heroine, with one or the other being a Blade.  The exotic settings don’t end with Mongolia.  Scoundrel is set in Greece and the Aegean, Rebel is set in the Canadian Rockies, and the fourth book, Stranger, Scoundrel_Small is set in England and a secret surprise location that you’ll read about later!

While I love all my heroes, the hero of Stranger is one of my all-time favorites.  Catullus Graves and generations of his family have been making sophisticated and brilliant inventions for the Blades to use out in the field.  He’s basically “Q” in the James Bond films, and that’s where we get the steampunk element—since he doesn’t use magic, just known Victorian science and technology in the design and construction of his devices.  But one of the most unique aspects of Catullus as a hero in a historical romance is that he’s a black Briton. 

It always seemed odd to me that romance protagonists, especially in historical romance, are so ethnically limited.  I really wanted to address the wide variety of experiences and people, particularly given how diverse England truly was and is.  The research I did into the history of black people in Britain was fascinating and truly eye-opening.  It’s seldom explored in the context of romance.  For example, I learned that there were never any anti-Stranger_Small miscegenation laws in England, unlike in the United States, which meant it wasn’t illegal for black people to marry white people. 

I also learned that the most common interracial relationships from the 18th century to the 19th century were between black men and white women, since migration patterns and other external forces created a larger proportion of black men to black women in Britain.  And even though England participated in the slave trade until 1833, there was never a policy of institutionalized racism in the country.  That isn’t to say Britain was a paradise of equality, but it was very different from the U.S.  All of this impacts Catullus’s character—though he is, first and foremost, a romance hero, which means he’s clever, skilled…and very sexy.   

MJP:  Any idea why you enjoy this unusual blend of romance, history, and fantasy?

ZA:  Historical romance was my first, and continues to be my best, love.  Yet most of the action/adventure romances were concentrated in the paranormal or romantic suspense subgenres.  I wanted all three!  I think it appeals to me because it is so far removed from my actual experience, and I’d always dreamed about being a spy or 250px-Equus_przewalskii_Le_Villaret_02_2006-07-20 some other incredibly cool person, racing around the world, doing incredibly cool things.  The paranormal element seemed a natural fit, since many of the best adventure tales and films contain some kind of magic.  Plus, it raises the stakes and makes everything a little more vital, a little more dangerous.  Aside from writing these books, I’m not a huge risk-taker, so this was vicarious excitement. 

How Zoë became Zoë:

MJP:  Please tell us a bit about your background.  Were you spinning tales in your head ever since you started toddling?

ZA:  Oh, yeah.  I think I started writing stories about five minutes after I learned how to hold a pencil.  I wrote stories in notebooks and then on some early home computers.  On long car trips, I stared out the window and thought up stories.  My parents used to think I’d fallen out of the car, I was so quiet.  Though I went through 450px-Mongolian_Musician different career ambition phases during high school and into college and graduate school, it always came back to writing.  I started in a PhD program in Literature, then realized I didn’t want to become an academic.  I finished the program with an MA, and then went on to receive an MFA in Fiction from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  That program is very prestigious, but I think I’m the only IWW graduate to become a romance novelist!   

MJP: I understand that you’re recently contracted for a new trilogy with Kensington.  I love the premise. Can you tell us something about it?

ZA:  The series is called The Hellraisers, and I love, love, love it!  The log line is that a group of 18th century rakes inadvertently release the Devil from his prison and literally raise hell.  It’s quite a bit darker than the Blades Series, but I’m having a blast writing it.  Basically, my heroes are the villains, and it’s up to the heroines not only to save the Hellraisers’ souls, but also the world.  Also, these books are going to be very, very sexy.  You could almost call them historical urban fantasy romance.  The first book is currently titled DEVIL’S KISS and is scheduled for a December 2011 release. 

Rebel_small MJP:  Zoë has generously offer a free copy of Warrior, first of the Blades of the Rose books, to someone who leaves a comment between now and midnight Friday.  So this is your chance to learn more about her unusual stories!

Many thanks for visiting the Wenches, Zoë!

Mary Jo