Friday, February 6, 2009

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Jewel

Today's author in the spotlight is Carolyn Jewel, and her new release, Scandal.

Carolyn Jewel has been writing stories ever since she could scribble. Now that she's grown up (mostly) she writes historical and paranormal romance because she loves history and imagining the lives of people who lived in years past, and because she's fascinated by the loves and travails of the not-exactly-human in any time period. Carolyn lives in Northern California with her son, three cats, a border collie, several chickens, some sheep and various strays and other rescued critters. Ms. Jewel is also a Microsoft SQL Server Database Administrator who specializes in, uhm, administering MS SQL Server databases. It's not nearly as exciting as writing. She loves to hear from readers, so don't hesitate to email!

Email: carolyn@carolynjewel.com
Mail: Carolyn Jewel P.O. Box 750431 Petaluma CA 94985-0431

Website: http://www.carolynjewel.com/


The earl of Banallt is no stranger to scandal. But when he meets Sophie Evans, the young wife of a fellow libertine, even he is shocked by his reaction. This unconventional and intelligent woman proves to be far more than an amusing distraction-- she threatens to drive him to distraction. Unlike the women who usually fall at Banallt's feet, and into his bed, Sophie refuses to be seduced. And soon Banallt desires her more than ever-- and for more than an illicit affair.

Years later, the widowed Sophie is free, and Banallt is determined to win the woman he still loves. Unfortunately, she doesn't believe his declaration of love and chivalrous offer of marriage-- her heart has already been broken by her scoundrel of a husband. And yet, Sophie is tempted to indulge in the torrid affair she's always fantasized about. Caught between her logical mind and her long-denied desire, Sophie must thwart Banallt's seduction-- or risk being consumed by the one man she should avoid at all costs...


From Chapter 1:

Havenwood, near Duke's Head, England. 2 November 1814

The first thing Gwilym, earl of Banallt noticed when he rounded the driveway was Sophie perched on the ledge of a low fountain. Surely he thought, some other explanation existed for the hard, slow thud of his heart against his ribs. After all, he hadn't seen her in well over a year. Nearly two years, and they had not parted on the best of terms. He ought to be over her by now. And yet the jolt of seeing her again shot straight through to his soul.

He was dismayed beyond words.

Beside him, Sophie's brother continued riding toward the house, oblivious.
She heard them coming; she left off trailing her fingers in the water and straightened. Though not before he caught a glimpse of the pale nape of her neck. Just that flash of bare skin, and Banallt couldn't breathe. Still seated on the fountain's edge, she turned toward the drive and looked first at her brother and then, at last, at him. She did not smile. Nor, he thought, was she unaffected.
Nothing at all had changed.

"Sophie!" Mercer called to his sister. He urged his horse to the edge of the gravel drive. Banallt took a breath, prayed for his heart to stop banging its way out of his chest, and followed. He wasn't afraid of her. Certainly he wasn't. Why would he be? She was a woman and only a tolerably pretty one at that. He had years of experience dealing with women. "What luck we've found you outside," Mercer said, leaning a forearm across his horse's neck.

Anxiety pressed in on Banallt which annoyed him no end. What he wanted from this moment was proof she hadn't taken possession of his heart. That his memories of her, of the two of them, were distorted by past circumstance. They had met during a turbulent time in his life during which he had perhaps not always behaved as a gentleman ought. They had parted on a day that had forever scarred him. He wanted to see her as plain and uninteresting. He wanted to think that, after all, he'd been mistaken about her eyes. He wanted his fascination with her to have vanished.

None of that had happened.

Banallt still thought he'd do anything to take her to bed.

Sophie lifted a hand to shade her eyes. "Hullo, John."

She was no beauty. Not at first glance. Not even at second glance. Bony cheeks only just balanced her pointed chin. Her nose was too long with a small, but noticeable curve below the bridge that did not straighten out near soon enough. Her mouth was not particularly full. Thick eyebrows darker than her dark hair arched over eyes that blazed with intelligence. The first time ever he saw her he'd thought it a pity a woman with eyes like hers wasn't better looking. Not the only time he'd misjudged her; merely the first.

She stood and walked to the edge of the lawn. Behind her, nearer the house, mist rose from emerald grass, and above the roof more fog curled around the chimneys to mingle with smoke. Havenwood was a very pretty property.

"My lord." Sophie curtseyed when she came to a halt. Her smile didn't reach her eyes. Banallt saw the wariness in the blue-green depths. She didn't trust him, and she was still angry. Considering his reputation and their past interactions, a wise decision. She knew him too well. Better than anyone ever had.

Banallt relaxed his hands on the reins. Really, he told himself, his situation was not dire at all. He preferred tall women, and Sophie was not tall. In coloring, his bias had always been for blondes, and she was a brunette whose fine-boned features added to one's impression of her fragility. Delicate women did not interest him. She was in every way wrong for him. Havenwood might be a gentleman's estate, but despite the wealth and property, despite that Mercer had important connections, the fact remained Mercer and his sister were only minor gentry. Sophie's marriage had most definitely been a step down for her. His dismay eased. He would get through this ill-advised visit unscathed. He would tell her good morning, or afternoon, or whatever the hell time of day it was, express his surprise at seeing her and be on his way, having just recalled an important engagement.

"You haven't changed," he told her. Good. He sounded stiff and formal. It was not in his nature to abase himself to anyone. Not even to Sophie Evans. His Cleveland Bay stretched its nose in her direction, remembering carrots and sugar fed from her hand, no doubt.

"You've met?" Mercer asked. His mount danced sideways, but he settled his gelding quickly. He was a competent horseman, John Mercer was. And far too alert now. A dutiful brother, Mercer was, looking out for his sister. Well. There was nothing for it, he was here after all, and Mercer had reason to be suspicious.

"Lord Banallt was a friend of Tommy's," Sophie replied when Banallt did not answer. She pressed her lips together in familiar disapproval. Sophie had seen him at his worst, which was quite bad indeed. Legendary, in fact. The Lord only knew what was going through her mind right now. Actually, he thought he knew. It was not much to his credit.

"I didn't realize," Mercer said. Now he had the same wary eyes as his sister. The line between connections that were tolerable and connections that were not was sometimes all too fine. Mercer must be wondering if that slender gap had been breached. A widowed nobleman with a long-standing reputation as a rake was one thing. A gentleman might overlook a scandal or two in the career of such a man. But a rake with a heretofore unknown acquaintance with your sister was altogether different. Particularly when said sister was already well-connected with scandal.

A look passed between Sophie and Mercer that made her mouth go thinner yet. If she was unhappy living with her brother, Banallt thought, this was something in his favor-- if he went through with the madness that had begun flirting with him the moment he saw Sophie sitting at the fountain. That same compulsion had brought him here, all the way from London by way of Paris.

"We met once," she said. "Only once in seven years."

"Twice, wasn't it?" Banallt said in a lazy voice. If she was lying to her brother, which she was, then he had hope. In fact, he had visited Rider Hall exactly three times. Well. Three times her late husband had known about.

"Was it?" she replied. Her voice could have frozen Hell at noon twice over. He knew that voice well, and hearing it again made him want to smile. So many memories. She was the first woman ever to arouse his intellectual interest. Suffice it to say he typically admired women for other attributes than the quality of their minds. Perhaps his downfall had begun the moment he heard her speak with crisp indifference for his consequence. She spoke her mind, she did. She wore her hair differently now, smoothed back from her forehead with fewer curls than he remembered. How like her to do so little to enhance her looks. "I don't recall."

"Sophie," her brother said with eyes that narrowed as he looked at her. But
Mercer was no match for his sister's chill. No one was. "I should think you'd want to mention that."

She rolled her eyes. "John, for goodness sake." Her familiar no-nonsense tone fit perfectly with her features. Prim. Modest. Completely unremarkable. She was like a governess scolding some young charge.

Banallt stared at her, more fascinated by her than he'd been by any other woman. His obsession with her bubbled up from wherever it was he'd tried to lock it away. He had been in the intimate company of women of undisputed beauty, but not one of them, not even the most exquisite, had made his stomach drop to the bottom of the earth as did one glimpse of Sophie.

"What does it matter," Sophie asked her brother, "if I met Lord Banallt before you did or, for that matter, whether we met one time or three?" She threw a hand in the air, and Banallt felt smugly certain she recalled exactly how many times they'd met. "Or even a dozen?"

"Mercer," Banallt said. He shifted on his saddle. "I'd no idea your sister was Mrs. Thomas Evans." The lie rolled from his tongue like warm butter.