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A Regency twist on Beauty and the Beast (regency romance)

Beauty and the Earl b 453x680Today’s Sneak Peak is the historical Regency romance Beauty and the Earl by Patricia Grasso.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Beauty and the Earl

Book 2 ~ Lords of Stratford Series

A princess in danger . . .

Princess Amber Kazanov needs a husband. She flees her native Russia and takes refuge in England with her cousin Prince Rudolf Kazanov and his English wife. Prince Rudolf knows only one man who has the power and strength to protect his cousin. Arriving with Amber at the Earl of Stratford’s home, Rudolf makes the earl an outrageous proposition.

A broken man grieving for his dead wife . . .

Miles Montgomery, the Earl of Stratford, wants to be left alone. Since losing his beloved wife in a fire, Miles has sat in the dark and waited for his own death. Until the day a beautiful princess walks into his home seeking marriage and the protection of his name. Amber’s beauty attracts Miles, but her courageous heart shakes him to his core.

Drawn to Miles, Princess Amber sees beneath his masked scars and gruff exterior. Her love persuades him to push his bitterness aside and truly live and love again. Can Miles keep Amber safe when her enemies arrive in England? Or will his past return to haunt them?

EXCERPT:

Miles Montgomery, the fifteenth Earl of Stratford, turned his back on the nauseatingly cheerful sight outside his study window. He shifted his gaze to the portrait over the hearth. Sweet Brenna, gone in the flash of a midnight fire.

Out of habit, Miles reached to close the drapes and shroud his study in comforting darkness. He stopped himself, though, remembering his guests. John Saint-Germain, the Duke of Avon who was also his brother-in-law, and Prince Rudolf Kazanov had several business ventures in the offing and wanted to include him.

Business ventures. Miles twisted his chiseled lips into the ghost of a smile. Since the fire, business ventures had filled his empty existence.

Miles touched the mask that covered the left side of his face. His love, his face, his life had died on the fateful night of the fire. Now he needed to wait for his heart to stop beating.

“My lord, His Grace and His Highness have arrived,” the majordomo announced.

Miles touched his mask again. “Send them in, Pebbles.”

“Come on inside,” Pebbles called, his hands cupping his mouth.

Both the prince and the duke grinned at the majordomo as he passed them on the way out. Pebbles inclined his head as if he were the aristocrat and they the servants.

Miles met the two men in the middle of the room. With a smile of greeting, he shook the prince’s hand first and then the duke’s. Both men were as tall as he, a couple of inches over six feet.

Located on the second floor in the west wing of the manor, the earl’s study sat at one end of the Long Library. Floor-to-ceiling windows bathed the room in afternoon sunlight when the draperies were open, as they were now. Thousands of volumes filled the bookcases, and a thick red Persian carpet covered the floor. Over the main fireplace mantel hung an enormous portrait of a woman.

“Brenna, my wife,” Miles said, seeing where the prince’s gaze had drifted.

“She was a beautiful woman.”

“Shall we get down to business?” Miles gestured across the chamber. He sat behind his desk while the other two men took the chairs opposite him.

“Caroline misses you,” John said.

“I will visit her soon.”

“I’m surprised to see the drapes open,” his brother-in-law continued. “Normally, you sit in the dark. I was beginning to wonder if you were a vampire.”

“I opened the drapes for you,” Miles told him. “Normally, you comment on my sitting in the dark.”

Prince Rudolf chuckled, drawing their attention. “You bicker like my brothers and me.”

“We are not bickering, Your Highness,” Miles said. “His Grace prefers to mind my business instead of his own.” Though he spoke with a hint of a smile, his tone held a hard edge.

“You need a wife,” the duke said, undeterred by his brother-in-law’s sarcasm. “If you die without an heir, Terrence the Weasel will inherit.”

Miles wished he could be in his family’s company without listening to their comments regarding his life. Why should he care if his cousin inherited his title?

“I finished with the wife business when Brenna died,” Miles said, his weariness with the topic apparent. He glanced at the prince. “Do you see the nagging inflicted upon me?”

“The nagging will cease if you remarry,” Prince Rudolf said.

“No woman can ever replace Brenna.” Miles touched the masked side of his face. “Besides, what woman would consider marrying a scarred beast?”

“Georgiana Devon looks especially well,” John remarked. “She asked about you the last time I saw her in London.”

Miles shrugged his shoulders with indifference. “I left Georgiana behind a long time ago.”

“As I recall the gossip, you dropped Georgiana in favor of Sarah Pole,” John said. “You did know Sarah’s husband died and left her a wealthy widow? Weren’t you considering offering for her?”

Miles gave his brother-in-law a pointed look. “You know very well that I was considering Sarah when I met Brenna.”

“Vanessa Stanton lost her husband,” John said. “She always favored you, and you enjoyed her company.”

“Vanessa enjoyed everyone’s company. She sought her pleasures when I had a whole face,” Miles said. “I prefer living alone to wearing horns.”

“What would you do if a virtuous woman did want to marry you?” Prince Rudolf asked.

“I would marry and plant a dozen sons inside her,” Miles answered, hoping to drop the topic.

“Consecutively, I hope,” John quipped, making the other two smile. “Come to London and look over the latest crop of hopefuls.”

“I retired from society four years ago,” Miles refused. “If you have seen one debutante, you have seen them all.”

“Damn it, Miles,” John snapped. “Brenna is dead but you still live. Do you think she would want you to hide in the shadows?”

Miles said nothing, and an uncomfortable silence descended on the three men. Why, in God’s name, did John and Isabelle need to solve his problems? Why couldn’t they leave him alone in his misery?

“I couldn’t reach her in time and lost half my face for nothing,” Miles told the prince.

“I am sorry for your loss,” Rudolf said. “I cannot imagine the horror of losing the woman you love.”

Miles inclined his head, accepting the prince’s condolences.

“John is correct, though,” the prince added. “You need to return to the living.”

“Are you going to nag me, too?”

Prince Rudolf held his hands up in a gesture indicating he would say no more.

“I told you how pigheaded he is,” John said. Before Miles could reply, he added, “Shall we get down to business?”

Miles lifted his gaze to his wife’s portrait. He knew they were correct about living while he could, but his wife was gone. And the woman who equaled her had not been born . . .

You can buy Beauty and the Earl by Patricia Grasso right here AT 50% OFF THE ORIGINAL PRICE for the entire month of September!

You can also buy it on amazon.

Connect with Patricia Grasso online on her web site and on facebook

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Filed under ENGLAND, ENGLISH MANOR, HISTORICAL ROMANCE, Lachesis Publishing, REGENCY HISTORICAL, REGENCY HISTORICAL ROMANCE, ROMANCE AUTHOR, romance authors, romance books, ROMANCE FICTION, ROMANCE NOVEL, ROMANCE NOVELS, SENSUALITY, SEXUAL CONTENT

Sneak Peek: Through the Mists of Time by Teri Barnett (time travel romance)

THROUGH-THE-MISTS-OF-TIME-COVERToday’s Sneak Peek is the time travel romance Through the Mists of Time by Teri Barnett. If you like Through the Mists of Time, we know you’ll like Teri’s other books Pagan Fire and Shadow Dreams

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

When the town of Pompeii was buried in ashes in 79 AD, not everyone was taken by surprise. At least one person knew what was coming, Valerie Brooks, an involuntary time traveler from Victorian England, but her foreknowledge doesn’t help her. Declared a witch by the townspeople of Pompeii and sold into slavery, she has to find a way to make her master, Christos, believe her so they can escape the town before Vesuvius erupts.

But given the mistrust between them fired by the jealousy of her master’s scheming lover, Valerie finds her influence dwindling as the deadly time approaches. Racing against the impending destruction of Pompeii, she must not only decipher the mystery of her time-shift, but the mystery of love as well.

EXCERPT:

The last thing Valerie could remember was the violent earthquake. She remembered it shaking the grotto where she had gone for safety. She remembered the ceiling caving in around her. She even vaguely remembered she had been hit on the head, but there was no bump or pain.

But that’s all she could remember. How did it come to be, then, that when she woke up, the ceiling was still intact? It didn’t make any sense at all to her. And when she climbed down from the structure, the street around it was neat and tidy, not overgrown with vegetation as it had been when she’d started out this morning. The tombs were well tended, with fresh flowers placed in offering to the gods.

As she left the tomb, she became even more confused. And more than a little frightened. There were a few people standing nearby, dressed in flowing robes and togas of cream-colored linen and cotton. They immediately stopped talking when she had emerged and looked at her strangely, making that odd forked symbol with their fingers Signore Fiorelli had shown Reggie and her last night. The group began walking, cutting a wide path around her. When Valerie tried to speak to them, they hurried away. One of them ran ahead of her, shouting in – no, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing – was it Latin? She followed them with her eyes as the people hurried toward the city.

She started to take a step, then froze. She stared straight ahead, eyes wide. The city! There it stood, Pompeii, in all its untouched glory. Every column and building was in perfect condition, the paint and stucco finishes well maintained. Even the iron gate was free of rust and looked to have a fresh coat of black paint over the metal. A fountain situated at the fork of the road in front of her flowed with fresh water and several children stood around it, laughing and splashing.

What had happened to the tumbled down ruins she’d been visiting only hours before? Where had they gone? How did they come to be replaced by this living and breathing town? For heaven’s sake, was this another dream or had she died when the grotto collapsed and this was to be her eternal punishment? She placed a hand to her head as she felt the ground begin to spin. She took a deep breath and steadied herself. Well, she couldn’t stand here all day. She had to find Papa. He’d know what to do. She reached into the grotto, retrieved her cane, and began to walk.

Valerie re-entered Pompeii through the massive stone columns that flanked the gates as a crowd of people began to gather around her.

“Venefica! Witch!” someone shouted. “Look at the strange dark robes she wears.”

“We saw her climb out of the tomb. She was trying to raise the dead!” Somewhere in the mob, a small child began to cry.

“No!” Valerie screamed as a man grabbed her. “I don’t understand. I’m not a witch! Stop it, please,” she pleaded with him. He kicked her legs out from under her. She fell hard to the ground, gasping for air.

“Did not the senate of Rome counsel that we should turn from the menace of witches and sorcerers? Did they not say we should protect the State from their evil influences and magical spells?” He jabbed at Valerie with his toe before turning to face the crowd. “I say we put her in jail.”

Valerie planted her cane firmly on the ground and pulled herself up. What had she done to deserve such treatment? Well, he could talk all he wanted about the senate, but there was absolutely no way she would go to jail. She looked around, hoping to find a way through the crowd. She had to get away and hide for a while, until she could figure out what had really happened to her.

The man turned to face her again. With a sneer, he took a step closer. Valerie held her cane out in front of her and swung it in a wide arc. It came down hard on the man’s shoulder and he stumbled backward.

“Obsecro. Please. Let me go.”

The man turned on her, his eyes narrowed, and ripped the cane from her grasp. He slammed it down over his thigh, breaking it in half. “Now let’s see you do your magic without this.” He threw the pieces down hard on the ground.

“What are you doing?” Valerie screamed. She fell to her knees and retrieved the fragments. Accusations flew around her. Struggling to her feet, she put her hands over her ears and began to shake all over. The same images that had disturbed her dreams just last night were materializing before her.

Another man came at her, brandishing shackles before him. Balancing on her good leg, Valerie kicked at him with her other foot. With little effort, he knocked her to the stone paved street. She cried out as a sharp rock ripped through her blouse and gouged her skin. A woman held her head down while the chains were clamped into place around her ankles. “Why are you doing this?” she cried.

The men yanked Valerie to her feet and gave her a little shove. Without a cane, she stumbled, catching her balance just before she fell. Someone laughed and threw a rotten pomegranate at her back, striking her squarely between the shoulders. Valerie spun around, teetering, and the crowd backed away a little. She scanned the dark eyes that bore into her. Everyone was caught up in the moment. There was no aid to be found here.

She looked past them. There was the statue of Dionysus she’d seen only yesterday, but the building next to it was completely intact. My God, how did I come to be in ancient Pompeii? Her head swam as the crowd closed in around her again.

The people circled Valerie as if she were a wild animal. They started moving and she stumbled again. She clutched her stomach. She couldn’t catch her breath. Two men grabbed her by the arms just before she hit the ground, forcing her to move along or be trampled. Frantically, she looked about. Was there no one who could help? Mama? Papa? Signore Fiorelli?

That was when she saw him. The man in the window. Why had he seemed so disturbingly familiar to her in this strange and distant place? It was as if she should know him – should know his name, where he lived, how he looked when he slept.

Perhaps it was only because his features were like the patrician busts she’d seen at the museum in London. Straight nose, full lips, heavy lidded eyes. She’d studied and sketched them all several times over until she felt as if she knew each and every person.

He looked down at her now and she saw something in those deep ebony eyes. Was it compassion or simply pity? Would he be the one to help stop this madness she knew would soon consume her? She couldn’t tell for certain but only prayed it was so as the crowd pushed her again and he disappeared from her sight.

Like what you’ve read? You can purchase Through the Mists of Time by Teri Barnett, right here. or you can purchase it on amazon.

Connect with Teri online via facebook and twitter, and check out her web site.

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Sneak Peek of Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order (paranormal)

S FALL COVERToday’s Sneak Peek is from Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order (paranormal/historical) by Lachesis Publishing author David Lee Summers.

What it’s about:

Three vampyrs. Three lives. Three intertwining stories.

Bearing the guilt of destroying the holiest of books after becoming a vampyr, the Dragon, Lord Desmond, searches the world for lost knowledge, but instead, discovers truth in love.

Born a slave in Ancient Greece, Alexandra craves freedom above all else, until a vampyr sets her free, but then, she must pay the highest price of all . . . her human soul.

An assassin who lives in the shadows, Roquelaure is cloaked even from himself, until he discovers the power of friendship and loyalty.

Three vampyrs, traveling the world by moonlight—one woman and two men who forge a bond made in love and blood. Together they form a band of mercenaries called the Scarlet Order, and recruit others who are like them. Their mission is to protect kings and emperors against marauders, invaders, rogue vampyrs, and their ultimate nemesis—Vlad the Impaler.

EXCERPT:

From the writings of Desmond, Lord Draco.

The years 558-560:

As I continued through the Germanic lands, I began to hear legends that people told of dead friends and relatives that would die, and then come back to life—to drink the blood of those left behind. I heard the word neuntoter a few times, but I also heard new names: nosferatu and vampyr.

After leaving Lucilinburhuc, I continued along the Moselle until I came to the Rhine. There I turned south until I came to a land called Mainz.

Winter was rapidly approaching, so I decided to stay there for a time. I learned that the Graf of Mainz, like the Prince of Lucilinburhuc, was a rather benign ruler.

Soon I found and occupied a small wattle and daub hut not too far from the fortress, but deep enough in the woods that no one took a strong interest in my presence.

During my first nights in the region, I heard tales of a nosferatu that was hunting in the region. In the years since Wolf’s death, I began to despair of ever meeting another of my kind. I was still new enough to the region and careful enough on my hunts that I doubted any of the rumors I heard were of myself.

I discovered there was a small tavern near the fortress of Mainz and I began to frequent it so I could hear what stories I could of this nosferatu. As it turned out, the ale at the tavern was quite good and I found that if not for the debilitating effects of the alcohol itself, the rich malty liquid came close to sustaining me.

As I listened to stories, it became clear to me that there was a pattern to the nosferatu’s attacks. They seemed to occur most frequently near an old burial ground in the vicinity of the fortress itself. As such, most people tried to avoid the fortress in general—and that burial ground in particular. I decided it was time to investigate the burial ground.

I found the place easily enough. It was in soft earth on one side of the fortress. Crude stone markers had been erected to mark the places where the departed lay. I found a place near a tree and waited. As the moon began to rise—about two hours after midnight—my keen ears caught the sound of shuffling footsteps on the grass.

Turning toward the sound, I saw a creature who, at first glance, reminded me of Wolf. He was bald and his skin was very gray. I tried to hail him, but the figure ignored me.

Standing, I ran to him.

As I approached, I discovered he had a very earthy smell and his clothes were a shambles, much as mine became when I dug down in the earth for shelter from the sun’s rays.

“Hallo,” I tried calling in the strange Germanic tongue that people of the region spoke.

The creature turned and, as though seeing me for the first time, bared its teeth and hissed like an enraged cat. His eyes were bloodshot and open very wide.

I opened my mouth, revealing my own fangs to the creature.

Becoming very agitated, he ran at me and knocked me to the ground. “Halt, halt!” I cried. “Ich bin Nosferatu.”

The creature lunged at my neck, but I put my hand up under his chin and slammed his jaw shut. A terrible growl-like noise came from somewhere down deep in his throat. He reached out to grab the wrist that I had on his jaw, and that movement, in turn, caused him to unbalance himself.

With my free arm, I pushed him off me. I stood and brushed myself off. “I am like you,” I tried to say, but the creature pushed himself to his feet and rushed at me again.

This time, prepared for his attack, I dodged to the side, then ran for a nearby tree. It was clear to me that this creature—though a neuntoter or nosferatu like me—was quite mad. The cause—living alone or whatever else—I did not know.

I grabbed a tree branch and pulled with all my might until it snapped off. As the creature ran at me, I swung the branch and knocked him to the ground. Before he could get up again, I forced the branch through the creature’s chest, pinning him to the ground.

I dropped down beside him and sat there panting. Tears came to my eyes as I looked at that poor, mad creature that I truly believed had simply been defending himself.

The sound of running footsteps came from the fortress. I looked up to see a pair of guards. They looked at the body on the ground and then they looked at me. “You’ve killed the nosferatu,” one said.

“I think the graf would like to see you,” said the other.

I sighed, but pushed myself to my feet. “Very well.”

The Graf of Mainz proved to be quite impressed with the story of my nosferatu slaying. He offered to let me remain on his lands, rent-free as long as I was willing to defend his realm from such creatures. I kept my composure as best I could and accepted the graf’s offer. I was already prepared to stay in Mainz. However, I did find irony in the idea of being a nosferatu that slayed other nosferatu.

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