Booktopia 
Romance Buzz

February 2010 | Edition Ten
SEND TO A FRIEND | SIGN UP | CONTACT US
KATE'S MONTH AHEAD
Gentle Readers,

It's getting to be that time of year again, when romantics come out of their closets and celebrate all things love. Of course, we romance readers know that love works best with a little suspense, a little bite, or a little bit of scandal - at least in fiction.

I've admitted as much before: if absolutely forced, I'd pick historicals as my favourite sub-genre, but I have to say that the paranormals this month offer a truly stellar array of choices. Of course, that's not to say that there aren't great choices elsewhere, and whatever your fancy, you're sure to find something good to read.

New in Romancelandia this month: Avon (HarperCollins) has bought a heckload of Dorchester's back-and-front-list authors, including Victoria Alexander, Nina Bangs, Christine Feehan, Sandra Hill, Marjorie M. Liu, Katie MacAlister, Lynsay Sands and C.L. Wilson. Watch for newly covered backlists to come out soon.

BOOK OF THE MONTH

For the first time ever, I'm spotlighting an anthology for my Book of the Month. How could I resist, when it features Brisbane's own Denise Rossetti, who explores the fascinating world of underwear. Check out  this (very hot) anthology below...

EXCLUSIVE FOR BOOKTOPIA READERS!

I chose her short story for my top 10 of the year list, and I've been raving about her debut novel, and now, exclusive to Booktopia readers, Courtney Milan has offered a brand new, never-before-seen short story that is a prequel to Proof by Seduction.

If, like me, you like to try before you buy, this is a great way to check out Courtney's style of writing and story-telling, and it means that, when you're as convinced as I am that she's the next big thing in historical romance, you've got a little sneak preview into the hero of her debut novel.

Check out the short story in the side bar. You won't be disappointed.

Click here to buy Proof By Seduction
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $9.99    SAVE 38%

Happy Valentine's Day to all the lovers out there; with the understanding that a fictional paramour can be just as exciting as one of flesh and blood!

What I've Just Finished: You've all heard me rave enough about Courtney Milan!

What I'm Reading Now: I'm about halfway through both Laura Kinsale's Lessons in French and Victoria Dahl's Lead Me On. Kinsale is my bedtime book, and Dahl my tweet-read. If you want to know my play-by-play thoughts, you can follow me @katydidinoz

What I'm Holding Out For: After enjoying Liz Maverick's Crimson & Steam, I'm really looking forward to checking out Katie MacAlister's new steampunk romance Steamed.

Remember you can always pre-order, and there are some upcoming March titles in the sidebar to keep in mind.

Until next month, happy reading!

Kate Cuthbert
Editor
Booktopia Romance Buzz


BOOK(s) OF THE MONTH
When you get four great stories between one set of covers, then I guess you have to say  "books" of the month, don't you?

The four authors from the hot, hot, hot anthology Unlaced return with Laced with Desire.

They include Brisbane's favourite Erotic Romance writer Denise   Rossetti, alongside Jaci Burton, Joey W.  Hill and Jasmine Haynes.

The characters in this anthology might be corseted, but their desires are about to be let loose.

Official blurb: Rough hands rounding the curves of a soft warbody caressing, stroking, edging her toward exquisite pleasure. Seduction is a cinch in these four sizzling stories from the hot authors of Unlaced. And that's not just talk. These women deliver...

Here's Denise on why she's so excited to be a part of this anthology, and why anthologies are so much fun:


Denise Rossetti: Anthologies are wonderful things – like boxes of chocolates – whereas a good romance novel is the whole cake, complete with cream and cherries on the top.

What a great analogy for an anthology! (Try saying that three times quickly.) You get to sample lots of yummy different flavours, including the liqueur centres you love. But there’ll be new varieties too – some of them so spectacular they end up becoming new favourites. That’s how I discovered Emma Holly and was inspired to write erotic romance. See? Confectionery can change your life.

Whose time isn’t limited? Need an HEA fix? No worries. In fact, you’ll get four HEAs for the price of one. My besetting sin is inhaling books in one huge gulp. I’ll stay up ‘til the wee hours to finish reading. At least with an anthology, I can stop after one story and go to sleep happy – no snoozing on the keyboard at the Evil Day Job.

From the author’s point of view, anthologies are fabulous. It’s such fun to take a different angle on a well-known world, especially when secondary characters start clamouring, demanding a story of their own.

My novella in Laced with Desire is set in the Four-Sided Pentacle universe and the hero is Rhiomard, a bluff, four-square soldier and Captain in the Queen's Guard. He just refused point-blank to go away. In the end, he folded his brawny arms, fixed the Muse with a steely gaze and demanded a suitably macho Happy Ending. The Muse caved, 'cos big manly men do that to her every time, the flighty creature.

Rhio got his story and his woman. And I have to say, the Muse and I enjoyed the process very much, though we're not so sure about Rhio. He had to do an awful lot of quick thinking. But then, he was always good at that...

And on top of all that, I get to be in the same book as Jaci Burton, Jasmine Haynes and Joey W. Hill. How awesome is that? I’m thinking of changing my name to Jenise to celebrate. Those woman are such brilliant writers and so much wicked fun!

To celebrate the release of Laced with Desire, we’re running a cross-blog tour on 1st February (USA time). Since the stories in the anthology are once again connected by a corset theme (the previous anthology was Unlaced), we decided to answer four "clothing related" questions.

We'll let you know what's 1) our most sexy/naughty feeling outfit, 2) our most comfortable outfit, 3) our most appalling shopping weakness, and 4) the outfit that gives us the most confidence.

We'll each take a question and post the four answers to it on each of our blogs. If you visit our blogs and answer the question as well, or leave a comment, you'll be eligible for the give-away on the blog - and yes, we'll each be having a giveaway, so comment at each one and you'll have four chances to win! You can start with all the questions and links here – www.deniserossetti.com/blog/ – and work your way around.

More information and an excerpt here – www.deniserossetti.com/rhio.html.

Click here to buy Laced with Desire
Retail price: $29.99
Booktopia price: $20.90  SAVE 30%

CAPTIVATING CONTEMPORARY
Long have we readers mourned the dearth of quality contemporary novels.

No, sayeth the publishers, you readers won't buy them.

Yes, sayeth the readers, we do covet them.

And the publishers have begun to listen.

And lo, it is good.
THE SUMMER HIDEAWAY
Lakeshore Chronicles

I first discovered Susan Wiggs through her thoroughly charming historical novel The Charm School, set on, of all things, a pirate ship. However, in later years she's been focusing more on her contemporary series, in which she explores deep emotional ties and significant issues like single motherhood, modern relationships, and family relationships. You can be sure that when you pick up a Susan Wiggs, you're picking up a romance novel with substance. The Summer Hideaway is the latest novel in her Lakeshore Chronicles.

Claire has learned the hard way not to get attached, but she still finds herself accompanying an ageing patient to Willow Lake to try and right the wrongs of his past.  It doesn't mean she's going to give up the secrets of her past to a surly, suspicious grandson, though.

Click here to buy The Summer Hideaway
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 38%

SLOW HEAT
 TEMPT ME IF YOU CAN
Jill Shalvis wrote a book last year called Aussie Rules... now we Aussies can forgive her for getting her Australian character just a little bit wrong, because the rest of the story was so right.

Her next offering enters the world of professional sports.

Baseball bad boy Wade is about to get a cleaned-up image, whether he likes it or not.

And he definitely doesn't like his new publicist Samantha.

Now I know that some Aussies think baseball is a cheap version of cricket. To that I say check out the guy on this cover... now think about, say, Shane Warne.

Converted? I thought so!

Click here to buy Slow Heat
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95  SAVE 32%
 Can't get enough Janet Chapman? Luckily you can also find a brand new short story from her in the SF/Fantasy section below. She's part of an anthology exploring the romantic trials and tribulations that come with Time Travel.

For one of her lovely contemporary romances, though, you should stick right here.

Now I know that we all have problems with "secret baby" stories. I know that they're cliched and trite and normally handled really badly. But would Janet Chapman do that to you?

Angry doesn't cover what Ben is feeling after he learns he has a teenaged son. Emma gets that. But she's not about to let him and his hot-headedness ruin their peaceful lives.

Click here to buy Tempt Me If You Can
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 32%
SPINE-TINGLING SUSPENSE
Nothing like a good pulse-pounding, heart-thumping, breath-stealing story - this month's suspense titles deliver!
NO CHANCE
 DEADLY SEDUCTION
 Chance 1

Christy Reece kicks off a brand new romantic suspense trilogy with No Chance.

I really only have one word for how I feel about more Christy Reece books: yay!

Eight years ago, Skylar told a lie to the man she loved. She meant well, but the secret tore them apart. Now he's an elite operative, and the only hope for rescue from her kidnappers. But can she really ask him to come after her? Can he forgive her enough to take the risk?

Click here to buy No Chance
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 32%
  Dead Trilogy 2

Cate Noble writes high-intensity fiction: after all, in her novels, it's always a matter of life and death.

This second in her new trilogy picks up right where Dead Right left off, so this is definitely a read-in-order kind of series.

Max has been rescued, but he can't escape the prison in his own mind. Erin would rather concentrate on her own troubles. They're about to find out that their problems are more entwined than either could imagine.

Click here to buy Deadly Seduction
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 32%
TOUCH OF EVIL
I didn't know what a zydeco band was before reading the back of this book: I'm always amazed at what I can learn from new novels.

Zydeco: a form of American roots or folk music, usually fast-tempoed and accompanied by a piano accordian and a washboard.

Who knew Colleen Thompson novels were both truly suspenseful and educational?

Sherriff Justine knows that the hangings weren't suicide, but no one in her department believes her. She's left with only one person to turn to. The person she should avoid at all costs.

Click here to buy Touch of Evil
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95    SAVE 32%
PULSE-POUNDING PARANORMAL
Lots to love in this month's paranormal releases: the continuation of two new series, including a fabulously original post-apocalyptic series from Joss Ware, the creation of two brand new series from favourite authors, and one new subgenre...

Spotlight on two authors coming to Australia in August:

Nalini Singh

ARCHANGEL'S KISS

Guild Hunter 2

When an author creates a world as vivid and engrossing as Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling universe, it's hard to imagine that they could create another just as compelling. But Singh seems to be determined to do just that with her Guild Hunter verse. Just a note of caution: this series is a bit more urban fantasy than the Psy/Changeling stories, with many continuing story lines - including an on-going romance.

Elena has finally woken from a year-long coma only to find that her lover Raphael has altered her irrevocably, and put her under his control. Before she can really process everything that's changed, however, they must fly to Beijing to face bigger problems: archangel Lijuan, as beautiful as she is deadly. And she has big surprises in store.

Click here to buy Archangel's Kiss
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95    SAVE 32%


Vicki Lewis Thompson

BLONDE WITH A WAND

Babes on Brooms

Vicki Lewis Thompson is a relative newcomer to the paranormal ranks - she is best known for her Nerd series (Talk Nerdy to Me is one of my favourite romance novel titles of all time), but she's dipped her feet already with the Hex series. Blonde with a wand is the first novel in a new series about, you guessed it, witches.

It's a decision every witch has to make for herself, but Anica is firm: she will never get involved with a man without telling him she is a witch first. One rule to live by. Until, that is, she kinda breaks it. But it's okay. Jasper is really cute, and she's sure he'll understand.

Until, that is, their big fight. And we all know where breaking one rule leads - breaking two. All of a sudden Jasper is a cat, Anica is no longer a witch, and neither are prepared for the trouble they're about to get into.

Click here to buy Blonde with a Wand
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95    SAVE 32%



STEAMED
Steampunk has been around for ages in the SF and Fantasy genres, but it's only recently that's it's started to creep into romance.

What is steampunk? Think all the creativity and ingenuity of the inventors of the Victorian era - infused and excited with the possibility of steam power -  but in an alternate universe where inventions were wilder, more grandiose, and with very different consequences. It's a whole new world of imagination, with great Victorian fashions.

Liz Maverick wrote a steampunk instalment of her Crimson series; Crimson & Steam was released last month. Now Katie MacAlister has jumped on board as well, with airships, time travel, experiments, a modern-day scientist, and an historical heroine.

Louis, this could be the birth of a beautiful subgenre...

Click here to buy Steamed
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 32%
FIRST DROP OF CRIMSON
 EMBRACE THE NIGHT ETERNAL
 Night Huntress World 1

Jeaniene Frost inspires well-deserved fanaticism among her fans (Oh Bones...how I love thee!). Now with a spin-off series exploring the world around her Night Huntress, but not necessarily featuring Cat Crawford, fans can enjoy a whole new aspect to her world.

Denise knows what sort of things go bump in the night - after all, she's Cat's best friend. But nothing prepares her for the attentions of a demon, and nothing can protect her except Spade, the powerful and mysterious vampire who hungers for her blood.

Click here to buy First Drop of Crimson
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95    SAVE 32%
 The Awakening Heroes 2

New, sharp, unique... lots of words have been thrown around about Joss Ware's new dystopian, futuristic romance series. It takes great talent to make the end of the world seem sexy.

This is the second story in the series (it starts with Beyond the Night). Do yourself a favour and read them all.

Though he's emerged a new man, Simon can't forget his past. Desperate for redemption he throws himself into helping the resistance. He can't afford distractions, especially in the form of a beautiful, strong woman who seems to want to trust him.

Click here to buy Embrace the Night Eternal
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 32%
SCINTILLATING SF/FANTASY
It's so rare to be able to include this category in my newsletter - publishers often have to choose between marketing a book as an SF romance or a romantic SF, and they seem to fall in favour of the latter. This month, however, with a J.D. Robb re-release and a time travel anthology, I'm able to include it. This, trust me, is a thrilling occasion...
BIG JACK
 LADIES PREFER ROGUES
Originally published as part of the Remember When anthology featuring stories by both Nora Roberts and JD Robb, Big Jack has never been published on its own. Strongly connected to the in Death series, Big Jack is perfect if you don't like mixing your authors - if you like to keep the Noras over here, and the Robbs over there.

Not that anyone would be that obsessive about their shelf placements.

Umm... so... yeah... plot summary!

A kind of side adventure to the regular in Death novels, Big Jack features perennial favourite Eve Dallas, a historic heist, and cursed diamonds.

Also, you know, Roarke might make an appearance...

Click here to buy Big Jack
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 32%
  I'm a big fan of fish out of water romances. I really like a story where either the hero or the heroine is completely out of their element. That kind of plotline can draw out the best in characters, and you learn a lot about them based on how they handle not being in control.

So time travel romance? They're tailor-made for me. Whether it's jumping forward or travelling back, the character will find themselves in a completely unrecognisable world, one where they'll have to re-learn all the rules.

Of course, it's always very helpful if they have a guide!

This anthology features Janet Chapman, Sandra Hill (a long-time time travel writer), Veronica Wolff, and Trish Jensen.

Click here to buy Ladies Prefer Rogues
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 32%
HEART-WARMING HISTORICAL
The paranormal-induced trend of only having a heroine on the cover is invading historicals - only one traditional clinch cover this month, and three very luscious, luxurious heriones. Not that I'm complaining. It's like a fashion magazine and a novel all in one!
BOUND BY TEMPTATION
 TRIUMPH IN ARMS
I love discovering new voices as they come out. It helps my street cred when I can say with authority, "Oh yes, I've been reading Lavinia Kent since she first came out... oh, you've only just discovered her? Well, you just let me know when you've read them all and then we'll talk."

She is working hard to walk away from her scandalous past, so it figures she'd end up tied to the bed of the most respectable man in London. Now if he'd only let her explain.

Click here to buy Bound By Temptation
Retail price: $14.99
Booktopia price: $11.40   SAVE 32%

 Critics of the historical romance genre often harp on about the stories all being the same - and,  speaking geographically and chronologically, they kind of have a point. There are plenty of Regency England stories. So I love being able to point out stories like this Jennifer Blake, with a lovely, original setting and fresh characters.

He's pulled himself up from nothing to be the Faucon, and now River's Edge, and the widow it belongs to, is within his grasp. Nothing is going to stop him from claiming them both.

Click here to buy Triumph in Arms
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 32%
THE GOLDEN SEASON

Oh, how I love a Connie Brockway novel!

Someone said once that the romance novels a reader truly adores are those that delight her: you'll remember the ones that make you laugh, and the ones that make you cry, but you'll always go back to the ones that delight you. And that's what Connie Brockway does for me: always a delight, always a treasure. I start to smile even before I  crack open the first page. If you haven't tried her before, The Golden Season is a lovely place to start. Then check out my personal favourite of hers, My Dearest Enemy.

What does one do when one was once a beautiful, wealthy leader of society, and one is now only a beautiful leader of society? One seeks out a wealthy husband, of course. And one definitely does not fall for handsome, secretly impoverished war heroes, no matter how dashing they might seem by candlelight.

Click here to buy The Golden Season
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95    SAVE 32%

PROVOCATIVE IN PEARLS

Remember delightful? Madeline Hunter in a nutshell. Also intelligent, original, sensual, well-written and classy. And readable. Also award-winning. Need any more reasons? Check out the dress on the cover. Not only is it beautiful, it's also fully done up, and not falling down. How's that for original?

Not willing to settle into an arranged marriage, particularly one that she was tricked into, Verity flees to the country and obscurity. It only takes Grayson two years to find her. And he's not really into games of hide-and-seek.

Click here to buy Provocative in Pearls
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95    SAVE 32%

ELECTRIFYING EROTIC ROMANCE
Check out these titles in Erotic Romance (below), and my book of the month (above). Did someone say heat wave?
 
NAUTI DECEPTIONS
 NOTHING DENIED
Nauti Books 6

Lora Leigh's Nauti books were originally meant to be a trilogy ...

Nauti Deceptions
is book 5, and, luckily for Leigh fans,  it doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon!

Caitlyn's had to rebuild her life - twice. Now she has no intention of giving up life as 'Rogue'.

Local Sheriff Zeke, however, has other plans that involve the dropping of defences and the giving in to desires.

And when everything becomes a matter of life and death, why hold back?

Click here to buy Nauti Deceptions
Retail price: $15.99
Booktopia price: $10.95   SAVE 32%

 The universe listened when I sent out a plea for more erotic romance in a historical setting, and one of the authors they sent was Jess Michaels.

If you love historicals, but not quite this hot, you can also check our her Jenna Peterson novels - still sensual, but not quite as steamy!

A modern twist on Taming of the Shrew, Nothing Denied sees Beatrice seek out the most undesirable man to marry - the only one that will have her and her somewhat bad temper.

But undesirable doesn't mean undesired, and Gareth has some propositions of his own.

Click here to buy Nothing Denied
Retail price: $22.99
Booktopia price: $20.50
 
 
Booktopia.com.au
Archives
In This Issue

Kate's Month Ahead
Book of the Month
Contemporary
Suspense
Paranormal
SF/Fantasy
Historical
Erotic Romance
March Madness Pre-orders
WANT MORE BUZZ?
Booktopia Buzz
SF/Fantasy Buzz
Six to Twelve Buzz
Zero to Five Buzz
Food and Drink Buzz
Craft Buzz

Crime (coming soon)
MARCH MADNESS
Get your March
pre-orders in now...
SHADOWGLASS
Released: March 2nd
Erica Hayes
Click here to buy Shadowglass
Retail price: $29.95
Our price: $20.90
WILD RIDE
HARDCOVER ONLY
Released: 16th March
Jennifer Crusie &
Bob Mayer
Click here to buy
Wild Ride

Retail price: $49.95
Our price: $35.75
MASTER OF FIRE
Released: 2nd March
Angela Knight
Click here to buy Master of Fire
Retail price: $15.99
Our price: $10.95
REBELS AND LOVERS
Released: 23rd March
Linnea Sinclair
Click here to buy Rebels and Lovers
Retail price: $15.99
Our price: $10.95
SECOND CHANCE
Released: 23rd March
Christy Reece
Click here to buy Second Chance
Retail price: $15.99
Our price: $10.95
LOIS LANE TELLS ALL
Released: 30th March
Karen Hawkins
Click here to buy
Lois Lane Tells All

Retail price: $15.99
Our price: $10.95
THE VAMPIRE AND THE VIRGIN
Released: 1st March
Kerrilyn Sparks
Click here to buy
The Vampire and
the Virgin

Retail price: $15.99
Our price: $10.95
OUT OF MIND
Released: 30th March
Stella Cameron
Click here to buy
Out of Mind

Retail price: $15.99
Our price: $10.95
BORN TO BE WILD
Released: 2nd March
Christine Warren
Click here to buy
Born to be Wild

Retail price: $15.99
Our price: $10.95
MOONLIGHT ROAD
Released: 1st March
Robyn Carr
Click here to buy Moonlight Road
Retail price: $15.99
Our price: $10.95
Brazil. 1828.

From Courtney Milan, exclusive to Booktopia readers, a prequel to Proof by Seduction!

Brazil 1828


Night in the ju
ngle was darker than a ship's bilge in a storm.

Louder, too; the humid air carried the clicks and whirs of a cacophony of strange insects. Likely, Tom Blewitt thought as he lay on the rough pallet underneath the oiled canvas that served as shelter, they were all out for his blood in t
ypical insect fashion. He should have stayed on the ship.

"Hell. I should have stayed on the farm." Even spoken quietly, those words sounded gruff, his vowels too long, his r's too pronounced. It was the speech of an ignorant man.

It was some kind of a cruel joke God had played on him, his rough speech. Words had always fascinated Tom. He collected them, the way some sailors stored up India-ink sketches of scantily-attired women.

Words meant adventure. Take the sea, the ocean, that great expanse of tide and wave that swallowed up the dreams of a thousand boys and spat them out in a spray of salt. The words for the ocean were as limitless as the horizon on a clear day, stretching off into the curving blue of the sky.

Tom could look out over that distance and forget he had all those words trapped in his head, unable to come out but through the roughest of betraying grunts.

This trek into the jungle had seemed like such a wonderful idea when Carhart approached him aboard ship and asked him to serve as translator. At the time, Tom had felt lucky that he'd learned rough sailor's Portuguese. After all, Carhart didn't talk much, but when he spoke, he used words that bespoke intelligence and wealth.

Tom had wanted to chase that horizon, too. He'd hoped to absorb some of that quiet eloquence.


Ha.

There were words for the jungle, too. Rain forest. Woodland. Impossible green tangle. But even with the western face of the oiled canvas drawn back to let in a breeze, the jungle's horizon at night was three feet of black shadow in front of Tommy's nose. He felt confined in that tiny space, cabined about by darkness and humidity.

And Carhart was sitting silently at an improvised writing desk, unaware of anything but the paper in front of him.

The porters lay on pallets next to Tom, talking only to each other.

 "Look," Luys was saying in Portuguese, his voice pitched low so as not to risk the ire of Mr. Carhart. "What is this?"


It was probably another insect. Tom shut his eyes and turned over, imagining what the thing might look like. Shiny enough to reflect the dim light. Probably another beetle.

"It's fuzzy." That was Alfonso.

Fuzzy beetles. God had never intended insects to grow fur.

"It's not much bigger than a housecat."

This brought Tom sitting up with a jerk, peering to see the bug for himself. But the figure he made out at the edge of the platform had no waving antennae. Its shape was all too familiar, and it sent a jolt of terror through Tom.

"Oy, you idiots!" he shouted in Portuguese, jerking to his feet. "Get it away! Don't you know what that is?"

A few yards beyond them, Carhart looked up from the makeshift desk where he worked. His eyes narrowed in displeasure at the interruption and he turned back to his papers.

He hadn't seen the jaguar kitten.

"But it looks so soft," Luys complained, reaching forward. A kitten-silhouette reached out a black paw to bat at his hand. "And friendly." The little cat bounded onto the platform.

The noise of the jungle swelled around them, monkeys calling in alarm. And then--suddenly--there fell a cold and murderous silence, more frightening than all those shrieks of warning. Tommy could hear his heartbeat in that oasis of quiet.

The shadow launched itself through the gap in the canvas. Inky darkness resolved into a massive black cat.
Luys shrieked. Alfonso fell over backwards. Mother cat curled about kitten, as if the great beast were composed of liquid midnight instead of muscle.
Beyond Alfonso, Carhart stood, finally aware that all was not well. The black cat lashed its massive tail and fixed its gaze on the man.

Tom couldn't let himself think about what he had to do or his blood would turn craven in his veins. He held up his blanket, waving it stupidly at the creature. Claws struck out, catching against the cloth. Before he had time to reconsider, he dashed out the gap in the canvas, blanket trailing behind him like an invitation.

He turned, a few feet out, in time to see the jaguar launching itself towards him.

Its weight hit. Claws raked his chest like a splash of fire. The ground rose up to meet him in a teeth-rattling impact. He was going to die--

A roar filled his ears. A cloud of searing black powder overtook his vision. The weight lifted from his chest. As Tom coughed the acridness from his lungs, he saw Carhart standing on the platform before him, rifle in his hand.

His shot, fired in the air, had frightened the two cats away.

Tom took a deep breath. He'd been lucky. He could have been hurt worse than... than... His chest was barely lit by the spill of light from the platform. The blood seeping into his shirt wasn't quite dark enough to be crimson.
Too dark to qualify as primrose.


What ought he to call it?

That was his last thought for a very long time.

#

"Here. Drink."


Tom coughed as he came awake, water dribbling down his chin. He tasted the bitterness of laudanum under his tongue. Carhart stood above him, as imperious as ever. How the man managed to look fresh and crisp in the middle of a jungle, Tom would never know.
His chest hurt. His hand crept up his ribs, seeking out the damage, and found those burning cuts. The wounds been closed by a series of knots.

"Carhart. Didn't know you could sew." The laudanum had fuzzed his mind enough that Tom felt only a twinge of shame at his rough accent.

"The principle is simple. The execution took me inexcusably long."

The knots seemed tidy, neatly spaced. "Not as oblivious as you look, eh?"

A slight frown touched the other man's lips. "Oblivious? That's quite a word for a sailor laboring under laudanum."

"English," Tom heard himself say, "is a language composed of parallel sets of vocabulary." Each syllable of that last word had been steeped in the sound of his father's farm--vah-cobbler-ee, all wrong. "There's one set of words for folk like me. Another for you. 'Oblivious' is a word used to describe someone too rich to be called stupid."

"Write that down," Carhart said dryly. "I'm sure the penny presses will pay good money for that piece of revolutionary sentiment."

"Can't write," Tom admitted. "Rather limits my ability to rouse the rabble."

A pause.

"Don't mind me, Carhart. It's the laudanum, chipping merrily away at the natural stone of my inhibitions. Normally, the words stay in my head where they belong."

A longer pause. Then: "How disconcerting. You sit there, looking like a mass of ignorant muscle, but inside you employ the vocabulary of an Oxford don. That's deceptive, and I don't truck with deception. Are all laborers like you?"

"Like what?"

"Intelligent."

"Probably," Tom said. "We're just too dumb to admit it."

Carhart set the glass down. "Well. I can't have that kind of deception going on in my camp."

"Not ready to go anywhere, if you take my meaning."

"Too true. And then, you did save my life. Which ought to count for something." Carhart let out a pained sigh. "I suppose I'll have to teach you to write instead."

A gentle rain began to fall, drumming arrhythmic fingers against the canvas overhead. "Did you just offer to teach me to write?"

Something shifted inside Tom. A new vista opening in front of him. If he hadn't been so tired...

"Go to sleep before I change my mind."

"Brusque," Tom breathed out, "is what we call someone too wealthy..."

Sleep came before he could finish. He dreamed of the jungle: trees spread out underneath him, acres and acres of a wide green world, seen from a bird's vantage point. Green stretched out until it kissed the sky. In his dream, nothing could stop him from touching his fingers to the horizon.

Click here to buy Proof by Seduction
Retail price: $15.99
Our price:  $10.95