‘Captive of Sin’ by Anna Campbell

BOOK BLURB: He pledged his honor to keep her safe . . .

Returning home to Cornwall after an unspeakable tragedy, Sir Gideon Trevithick comes upon a defiant beauty in danger and vows to protect her whatever the cost. He’s dismayed to discover that she’s none other than Lady Charis Weston, England’s wealthiest heiress—and that the only way to save her from the violent stepbrothers determined to steal her fortune is to wed her himself! Now Gideon must hide the dark secrets of his life from the bride he desires more with every heartbeat.

She promised to show him how to love—and desire—again . . .

Charis has heard all about Gideon, the dangerously handsome hero with the mysterious past. She’s grateful for his help but utterly unwilling to endure a marriage of convenience—especially to a man whose touch leaves her breathless. Desperate to drive him mad with passion, she would do anything to make Gideon lose control—and fall captive to irresistible, undeniable sin.

EXCERPT:

Winchester, early February, 1821

“Good God, what have we here?”

The man’s deep voice pierced Charis’s pain-ridden doze. She flinched, stirring from her cramped position. For one dazed moment, she wondered why she was shivering in fetid straw, instead of snuggled in her bed at Holcombe Hall.

Blazing agony struck and she stifled an involuntary moan. And a curse for her rank stupidity.

How could she forget the danger long enough to fall asleep?

But she’d been blind with exhaustion when she’d stumbled into the stable behind the sprawling inn. Unable to manage another step even though she hadn’t come far enough to be safe.

Now she wasn’t safe at all.

The light from the man’s lantern dazzled her bleary eyes. She discerned little more than a tall shape looming outside the stall. Choking with panic, she clawed upright until she huddled against the rough planking. Blood pulsed like thunder in her ears.

Muffling a whimper as she moved her injured left arm, Charis crossed shaking hands over her torn bodice. Scenting her terror, the big chestnut horse that filled most of the space shifted restively.

As the man lifted the lantern to illuminate Charis’s corner, she shied away. Beyond the ring of yellow light that surrounded him, menacing shadows thickened and multiplied up to the high pitched ceiling.

“Please don’t be frightened.” The stranger made a curiously truncated gesture with one black-gloved hand. “I mean you no harm.”

The rich baritone was sheathed in warm concern. He made no overt movement toward her. Charis’s crippling fear didn’t subside. Men, she’d learned from cruel experience, lied. Even men with velvet voices, smooth and cultured.

A sharp twinge in her chest reminded her she hadn’t drawn breath since he’d found her. The air she sucked into her starved lungs reeked of horse manure, hay dust and the sour stink of her own fear.

She turned her head and really looked at the man. Her throat jammed with shock.

He was utterly beautiful.

Beautiful. A word she’d never before associated with a male. In this case, no other description sprang to her churning mind.

Beauty as stark and perfect as this only stoked her alarm. He embodied the elegant world she must relinquish to survive.

Despite her terror, her attention clung to the slashing planes of forehead and cheekbones and jaw, the straight arrogant prow of his nose. He was tanned, unusual in February.

With his intense, compelling features and ruffled hair, black as a gypsy’s, he looked like a prince from a fairytale.

Charis no longer believed in fairytales.

Her eyes darted around the narrow stall. But he blocked the only exit. Again she cursed her idiocy. With her good hand, she fumbled beneath her for a rock, a rusty nail, anything she could use to defend herself. Her trembling fingers met nothing but prickly straw.

Unblinking she watched him set the lantern on the ground. His movements were slow and easy, openly reassuring. But if he wanted to snatch her, he now had both hands free. Her sinews tautened as she prepared to scratch and punch her way out.

In the charged silence, the rattle of her breathing deafened her. It even masked the wind’s constant wail. The powerful horse shifted again and gave a worried whicker, tossing its head against the rope that tied it facing toward the corridor.

What if the nervous beast started to kick or buck in this confined space? The horse’s hooves looked huge, sharp, deadly. Dread settled like a stone in her empty belly. With every moment, her refuge’s unsuitability became more apparent.

Why, oh, why hadn’t she kept going, no matter how tired and hurt? Even sheltering in a hedgerow, she’d be safer than here.

The man stepped into the stall, his black greatcoat swirling around his booted ankles. Shrinking back, Charis prepared to wrench free of grabbing hands. Fresh sweat chilled her already icy skin. He was so much bigger and stronger than she.

But he merely snagged the animal’s halter with a firm grip that brooked no rebellion. “Hush, Khan.” He stroked the gelding’s nose as his voice softened into alluring music. The man’s tall body conveyed an assured confidence that was almost tangible. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

The complex mixture of authority and care in his tone should have calmed Charis. Instead it slipped down her spine like glacial ice. She knew all about men who believed they ruled the universe. She knew how they reacted when their wishes were thwarted. Her furtive search for a weapon grew more frantic.

Khan, foolish, trusting creature, quieted under his master’s murmured promises. For the man must own the beast if he knew its name. Nobody could mistake the stranger for a groom. His manner was too effortlessly aristocratic, his clothing too fine.

She found no weapon.

She’d have to make a dash for freedom and hope her stiff, tired legs carried her. Surreptitiously, she pushed upward. Even this small movement sparked agony. Every muscle ached and her arm felt like it was on fire. She locked her teeth to muffle her whimpers.

“There’s no need to run away.” He didn’t glance up from the now docile horse.

“Yes, there is,” she surprised herself by saying, although she’d resolved not to address him. Her swollen face thickened her voice into unfamiliarity. But her upper-class diction marked her as an object of interest. Memorable. Noticeable.

A target.

Clumsily she struggled to her feet. She felt less vulnerable standing. In her awkward rise, she bumped the wall and bit back a sharp cry. Battling dizzying pain, she cradled her throbbing arm against her.

Her ungainly lurch spooked Khan who sidled and snorted. Her father had been a connoisseur of horseflesh. Charis had immediately recognized Khan for the high-bred aristocrat he was.

Much like the man holding the beast’s head.

“I know you’re afraid.” At first, she thought he spoke to Khan. His attention remained on the horse. “I know you need help.”

Help to hand her over to the law, she thought bitterly. “Why should you care? You’re a stranger.”

“That’s true. Although when you chose my horse’s stall, you also chose me.”

“That was just chance.”

At last, he looked directly at her. Surely it was only a trick of the lamplight that his eyes shone so dark and brilliant above those dramatic cheekbones. “All things in life are chance.”

FEATURED AUTHOR: Anna Campbell

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‘The Sinning Hour’ by Elise Rome

Mel’s Author Recommendation: Today I’d like to jump in myself and tell you about this author I discovered a couple of years ago. Her name, then, was Ashley March

I honestly don’t know how we got introduced to each other [we never met in person] but from the start, we hit it off. It was like we’ve known each other forever. I remember being scared to pick one of her books to review because I was dreading it being bad!

In the end, I was so glad I started to read them. 

Have you ever read a book that grabbed you from the first sentence? The opening scene? Well, that’s Elise Rome aka Ashley March. Her stories are character driven by heroes and heroines breathing life to the story she’s telling. Her plots are fun and entertaining. 

When I asked her if she’d like to stop by and be featured this month, she politely declined as the book she is writing now has yet to be finished. That, however, didn’t stop her to offer to push her fellow author Carrie Lofty. She recently read ‘His Very Own Girl’ and was blown away by the story and wanted to spread the word to all of us bookworms out there. What a class act this woman is!

Ashley March will have her new book, under her brand new name of Elise Rome, out probably some time next year and I for one will be here to welcome her under that name.

And as we all are waiting for it, I thought why not give you a taste of her prose? Now, get a cup of coffee, tea or whatever poison it’s the closest to you, and enjoy this short excerpt.

Clicking on the cover, you’ll find a two chapter excerpt. For further information about Elise, please click on her photo or the links provided.

EXCERPT:

“Miranda wrapped the shawl around her shoulders then returned the bonnet to her head, carefully tying the ribbons in a bow. Shadows edged her vision as she watched Mr. Astley stride back to his chair.

Envy curled in her chest at the way he moved: no tucking of the chin or stooping of the shoulders for him. No hurrying as if through dank and filthy lanes, constantly looking to the salvation of the next alley. No fear of being preyed upon inside this grand hulking town house, where servants guarded his every step and power made his words both currency and weapon.

Her gaze flew to the plate of food on his desk. The tower of food. Pastries stacked so thick and high, with golden, flaky crusts, and he ignored them all. Hadn’t even spared them a glance while toying with her earlier, moving his books into their own sturdy little tower.

Cherry. They would be cherry tarts, she was certain. The sauce sweet and voluptuous, juice exploding from the bits of fruit and gushing over her tongue. A buttery shell, so soft and moist as it crumbled against the roof of her mouth—

God. Saliva ran slick over the insides of her cheeks. Her stomach clenched with greedy fervor.

Wicked, her father had called her, for daring to seek work from a nude portraitist. Wicked, he’d said she would become, warning that her duties in such a depraved household would likely be the same as a harlot’s.

Perhaps he’d been right, Miranda thought, swaying a little. She’d stood in Astley’s house for less than an hour and already felt quite wicked. Envy and greed and taking the Lord’s name in vain. Soon she would succumb to the sins of theft and gluttony. Lust, presumably, could not be very far behind.

Astley had hired her. Hired, when everyone else had threatened to fetch the constable or sneered in her face. And all she could think about was snatching the plate of pastries and scurrying away like the mouse he’d likened her to, hunkering down in the nearest corner as she shoveled the tarts into her mouth—one, two, three…there would never be enough to calm the gnawing inside.

“Miss Post?” Suddenly he was there, in front of her again, his hand cupping her elbow.

How she resented him—for his casual disregard of the pastries, for knowing he need only ring the servants’ bell to summon more food from his kitchens. He should have emptied the plate as soon as it was delivered; the contents should now be stretching and warming his stomach rather than lying there untouched, taunting her.

He probably knew nothing of the sour taste of hunger, of these awful black shadows that dimmed sight, of the cold and numbness and hollowing inside. He’d likely dripped with sweat under the summer sun, when even at noon in August she’d been forced to wear a shawl and her thickest stockings in a futile attempt to keep warm.

Indeed, he was hotter than the sun now: the fingers he wrapped around her arm sent heat sinking into her skin, through her flesh, to her very bones. Miranda fought the instinct to lean into him, to climb up and wrap her body around his. She could steal his food and all of his heat and not have to worry about becoming hungry or cold again until the next day.

Hired. The word whispered again in her mind. She’d not yet settled her faith on it, though. It sounded like a promise. A very nice promise, but then she knew how transient promises could be. And this one wasn’t nearly as substantial as the endless ache she woke to and fell asleep with each day.

“Miss Post?” he repeated, neither altering the inquiry’s volume or tone. He seemed to employ patience like some men used a blade; it made her wary. “You denied illness yet appear as if you might collapse at any moment. And retrieving you from the floor would be very inconvenient. The mud, you see.”

The whores across from the tenement would have crawled all over themselves for a chance at Mr. Simon Astley, so kind and chivalrous was he.

“Come now,” he coaxed. She wondered whether he was conscious of stroking the inside of her elbow with his thumb, whether a caress—like patience—was just another of his preferred tools in extracting information. She wondered whether he realized there was mud at her elbow, too. “We’re not strangers anymore, are we? You may tell me the truth.”

She hadn’t said it in nearly two months. She’d rather have stolen the pastries, but his grip was too tight for her to escape. She darted another covetous glance at the plate and immediately felt her pulse throb with regret. Foolish. Foolish. Confessing her weakness in such a way.”

 

FEATURED AUTHOR:  Elise Rome [aka Ashley March]

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*Bookworm will giveaway to one lucky Commenter this eBook as soon as it becomes available.

*Giveaway US only!

Won’t you join our celebration by:

1) Telling us which ‘Book’ would you like to ‘Push’ and why…

2) Subscribing to our Blog…

3) ‘LIKE’ -ing us on our Facebook!

All three are required for a TRIPLE chance to win in the Grand Giveaway!

However, if you’re already a follower and our FB buddy, all you need do is…COMMENT on the upcoming posts and you’re all set to go.

*Clicking on the author’s name/pic will give you their contact info, website or bio. 

*Clicking on the cover of the book/s will take you to Amazon.