‘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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“Romancing the Countess” by Ashley March

STORY: Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly, thought he’d married the perfect woman-until a fatal accident revealed her betrayal with his best friend. After their deaths, Sebastian is determined to avoid a scandal for the sake of his son. But his best friend’s widow is just as determined to cast her mourning veil aside by hosting a party that will surely destroy both their reputations and expose all of his carefully kept secrets…

Leah George has carried the painful knowledge of her husband’s affair for almost a year. All she wants now is to enjoy her independence and make a new life for herself-even if that means being ostracized by the Society whose rules she was raised to obey. Now that the rumors are flying, there’s only one thing left for Sebastian to do: silence the scandal by enticing the improper widow into becoming a proper wife. But when it comes to matters of the heart, neither Sebastian nor Leah is prepared for the passion they discover in each other’s arms….

REVIEW: The above blurb does a wonderful job in teasing the brain and getting my ‘reader juices’ bubbling with a question about how do you get two people with so much baggage to accept the wrong done to them, grieve for the loss and fall in love within 302 pages?!

And the answer is to trust this young, new and upcoming author, Ashley March, who seems to know her characters and trust them to guide her hand in penning their story.

Leah George has always done the right and proper thing. She married a man chosen for her, and she did her best to make her parents and her husband proud of her, so after witnessing her husband’s infidelity, she yet again does what’s proper. She keeps a ‘stiff upper lip’, walls off her true feelings, and pretends a happy marriage. Until the day her husband dies.

After a year of private grief that infidelity of her husband brought to her, the loss of his life brought on a feeling of a relief. She is free. Free to say, do or be who she truly is and that is something she was never allowed to be.

Sebastian, Earl of Wriothesly, had a perfect marriage. He adored his wife and son; he lived a happy and contented life. His perfect world came crashing down with his beloved wife’s death and with the knowledge that she took his best friend for a lover and left him behind to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the carriage accident.

This is Ms. Ashley’s second book and in both she deals with an issue that is not much popular with either the authors or readers of romance genre. The big “I” word. Infidelity.

In the case of her first book “Seducing the Duchess” our hero was unfaithful to his heroine for six years, before he realized that he adored his wife, but was blinded by his pride and revenge to see it for what it is.

In this case, both hero and heroine were forced to deal with the betrayal of their spouses and Ms. March has done her characters proud in both cases. It would have been so easy to ‘paint’ Ian and Angela as uncaring, uncouth and lust crazy adulterers, yet she left that ‘painting’ to be in the ‘eye of the beholder’, in this case the reader. She has taken the issue seriously, making no judgements on a subject that is neither ‘black or white’. Now, that takes guts!

While Leah had a year to accept the betrayal, Sebastian’s acceptance was still fresh and the hurt was deep. What a treat this character driven story was! I was most intrigued by our hero and heroine and the way they went about accepting and dealing with their emotions towards not just their cheating spouses but with their emotions towards each other. After years of knowing each other, their attraction wasn’t instantaneous, yet the sparks between Sebastian and Leah kept igniting. Great care was given in developing and establishing a real relationship, albeit strenuous at times, between these two, so when their passion takes over we’re happy for them.

There are so many moments that touched my heart but the first one that brought tears to my eyes was on page 8, in which Sebastian’s mind is numb as he reads the note of his wife’s accident, and in it he finds out that Ian was with her. There are so many things running through his mind, and then the last thought: “She hadn’t been lonely, after all.” I mean, just two pages earlier, he was so anxious to go see her, be with her, love her, and then-BOOM! She really didn’t need him, after all. WOW! That must have hurt…

I’m very impressed with this new author and her writing is clear, crisp and fresh. She infused her characters with depth and intelligence, yet still gave them flaws so that they felt real to me. Her ability to convey human emotion is very well written and the pace of the story just right. Not too fast and not so slow that you’d be bored by it. The story was engaging from the beginning, and kept my interest ‘till the last page. For that I give credit to the author that created the characters who were well-rounded and believable. After reading “Romancing the Countess” I loved it so much I bought “Seducing the Duchess” and “Romancing Lady Cecily” which I read and highly recommend as well.

So, in the end all I have to say is: Watch out Romance World! Ashley March has arrived!