A newsletter, that’s what (and I’m not a pussycat but if you sign up to the newsletter theres’s a photo of my brand new puppy, Stanley). Follow the link here to receive the newsletter which will arrive in your inbox every couple of months. The first one is scheduled to go out on Friday to new subscribers and includes an exclusive excerpt of the book that is currently with my editor (so it might turn out to be the only time it sees the light of day).
The Secret Agent is published this week so I thought I’d share an excerpt.
Sylvie has made her way to Nantes only to discover her contact isn’t at the rendezvous point. fortunately she knows the name of the club where she will be working as a dancer so heads there in the hope of finding some answers.
One of my favourite films is Cabaret so I loved the chance to create a nightclub which had echoes of the KitKat Klub.
From the outside, Club Mirabelle looked run down. It stood halfway up a narrow road on a hill leading away from the river. Perhaps before the destruction wrought on Nantes by the war and subsequent occupation, this would have been a high-end establishment, but now it showed evidence of neglect.
The club was double-fronted in one of the three-storey buildings that lined the street. A plain black door was set between wide windows that at some point had been boarded up with black-painted wooden planks. It could have been due to the war and the need to block out any escaping light, but Sylvie suspected the alterations had been done prior to that in order to create an atmosphere. The sign outside looked strikingly old-fashioned. A laughing woman held out the flounces and ruffles of her skirts to display one leg raised in a high kick. In her right hand, she held a flute of champagne that appeared to defy the laws of physics given the tilt of the glass. The club’s name curled in cursive script from leg to arm. Perhaps this was Mirabelle herself.
If she had been in England, Sylvie would have turned her nose up at any suggestion she spent an evening there. Still, she reasoned, disreputable might mean it was less likely to be frequented by Germans and she would stand less chance of being discovered for who she was.
Sylvie pushed the door ajar ever so slightly and was greeted by the sound of laughter and piano music. Seedy and down at heel it might be, but Mirabelle was busy tonight. She hesitated, wondering if the middle of a busy evening was the best time to try to make contact with someone, or whether she should return tomorrow when there would be fewer witnesses to the conversation she needed to have.
She was still wavering indecisively when voices speaking German made her start. A quartet of soldiers in uniform were making their way down the empty street towards the door. Sylvie tensed, recalling the brutal arrest of the boy in Cholet, but they were strolling, not goose-stepping. They were off duty, not a patrol out to round up suspects for interrogation.
They walked two abreast, and one in the first pair nudged his young companion and gestured towards Sylvie. The two walking behind spoke German to each other, laughing. It was obvious to Sylvie that the young man was being teased and that she was the subject.
‘Are you going inside, fräulein?’ asked the man who had begun the joke, switching to halting French.
‘She is waiting for you, Valter,’ said the oldest and, from the insignia on his uniform, the most senior officer of the group.
The young soldier looked visibly relieved that the attention had moved on from him and stepped aside to let his superior – presumably, ‘Valter’ – pass him and kept his eyes firmly ahead as if he was standing to attention on the parade ground. Sylvie suspected nothing short of a direct order from the Führer himself could have induced him to meet Sylvie’s eye.
‘Maybe she is waiting for all of us,’ Valter replied.
Sylvie’s scalp prickled. She could probably fend off one man, but not four. She hid her revulsion and gave him a smile, hoping it was just bravado. He straightened up and looked pleased with himself. Men were men, it appeared, whatever nationality they were.
Without replying, she opened the door fully and stepped inside.”
“Mirabelle had seen better days inside as well as out. The room went on further back than Sylvie had expected from the outside. Small circular tables were set for couples or groups in front of both sides of the door and throughout the room. Most were occupied. A raised stage area ran along the left side of the room. The bar covered the back-right-side wall. Between them was an arch covered with a pair of burgundy velvet curtains.
Besides the stage was a piano where a dark-haired man in a black dinner jacket sat with his back to the door. He was currently playing something almost like jazz, with a languid rhythm that made Sylvie’s fingers begin to drum against the side of her leg. His lean frame moved sinuously from side to side as his fingers worked along the keyboard. As Sylvie watched, he reached up and caught the lit cigarette that was tucked behind one ear, took a quick drag and put it back without losing his rhythm. Though he was only half facing the audience, Sylvie was sure he must be aware that all eyes were on him.
The club was dimly lit and the air was hazy with smoke. The intense odour of French cigarettes made Sylvie blink. Colognes and perfumes added another layer, and beneath that were the smells of warm bodies and alcohol.
It was sleazy and exciting.
Preorder your copy here getbook.at/TheSecretAgent
The Secret Agent is being released at the back end of November. If you’d be interested in reading and reviewing it ahead of time it is available on Netgalley. Here is the link
Jonathan has succeeded in getting an appointment with Aurelia’s father to broach the subject of a land sale. After a meet-not-so-cute, I thought Jonathan and Aurelia deserved a second chance at getting to know each other. Originally the name of Aurelia’s dog was Farquar- suggested by a friend. I was going to try make a joke about a naughty Farquar but decided to be sensible and Caesar fits in with the classical names for the Upfords Besides, I got sick of the spellcheck flagging it up.
By the time the day of Jonathan’s appointment came around he was determined to succeed, whatever the cost. The sky was cloudless and the morning mist had cleared, leaving a warm autumn day of the kind Jonathan particularly liked. Rather than going along the road through the town and round the long way, he walked down the narrow lane behind the factory to the river. He broke of a tall stem of grass and used it as a switch to knock the tops off other grasses, sending the tufts flying. By the time he reached the river bank his trouser hems were damp and he was regretting his decision.
He looked at the Bollin, which was the natural boundary between his property and Sir Robert’s land. The river was narrow here and meandered gently through the flat countryside. That idleness of the flow was half the source of Jonathan’s problem. There was nothing but fields at the edge of the parkland on Sir Robert’s side and most of them were not even being used for grazing at the moment. Surely Sir Robert would be happy to sell off the parcel that Edward and Jonathan needed.
He was so absorbed in his speculation that he did not notice he was no longer alone until a colossal splashing broke his contemplation.
‘Caesar! Get out of there, you beast!’
He looked around to see the hind legs and feathery tail of a dog plunging into the river and paddling away, then he was hailed by a female voice. The middle Upford daughter, Miss Aurelia, was striding towards the opposite bank from across the field. She was carrying a dog’s leash looped around one black-gloved hand.
‘Oh, Mr Harcourt, I did not expect to encounter you again so soon,’ she said breathlessly. ‘Is it deep?’ She gestured to the water and pulled her mouth to one side.
‘In places, but it would only come to my thighs here,’ Jonathan answered. Miss Upford stared intently at the part of his anatomy he had named and he felt a slight awkwardness at being examined.
‘That’s a relief. Mother would be devastated if Caesar came to harm.’
They both looked towards the dog—a King Charles Spaniel—which was swimming in joyous circles and looking far from in peril.
‘Good morning, Miss Upford,’ Jonathan said, finally recalling his manners and tipping his hat.
She dipped a curtsy and they stood looking at each other across the water. Her manner was not unfriendly but she did not seem particularly pleased to have met him.
‘I could say the same,’ he replied. ‘This is a lonely place to be walking.’
‘I like solitude,’ she said crisply. ‘Contrary to what society would have you believe, not all young ladies crave attention and company.’
She was wearing a walking dress the colour of ripe damsons. A matching capelet nipped in at her waist, emphasising the narrowness in contrast to her wide skirts. Her outfit was completed by a straw hat with a veil pulled over the top half of her face. She was currently peering at him from beneath with her chin tilted up. The effect was alluring, though she could only have dressed for herself if her walk was taking her to the boundary of her father’s estate and she had thought not to encounter anyone.
‘Then I should apologise for disturbing your peace,’ Jonathan said. ‘It gives me the opportunity to make another apology, however. I must crave your pardon for the dreadful mistake I made when I first encountered you. Will you forgive me?’
‘It was understandable given the circumstances.’ Miss Upford acknowledged his apology with a graceful tilt of her head. ‘Now, we know why I am walking through a field of wet grass,’ she said, gesturing at the spaniel who scrabbled out on to the bank beside her. ‘But why are you here?’
He indicated the mill buildings which could just be seen over the treetops. ‘This land belongs to the mill. I’m speculating how best to develop it.’
Miss Upford seized the dog deftly by the collar, doing her best to avoid the shower that erupted as he shook himself. ‘Heel, you silly boy! Mother refuses to let him go out with Father’s dogs.’
She fixed the leash to Caesar’s collar, then lifted her veil and gave Jonathan an interested look. ‘Oh, how do you plan to use the land?’
‘That very much depends on your father,’ Jonathan said. He drew out his watch and opened the cover. ‘In fact, I am due for an appointment with him at ten. Would you permit me to accompany you back to the house?’
She looked at him through narrowed eyes before answering.
‘Yes, you may.’ She hardly seemed overjoyed at the prospect, but then added, ‘If you walk a short way down to where the river turns, it becomes narrow. You could probably step over easily.’
He could undoubtedly, but something rose inside Jonathan. Pride, or a need to impress Miss Upford. Perhaps simply a wish to change her steely expression to something less severe. He took a few steps backwards, then took a running jump and landed on the opposite bank gracefully beside Miss Upford. Immediately Caesar began snarling and straining at the leash towards Jonathan, trying to leap at him. Jonathan stepped back, one boot sinking into a patch of mud.
‘Oh, do behave, you wretch!’ Miss Upford snapped, pulling vigorously until the dog subsided. It took Jonathan a moment to realise she wasn’t commanding him and he was in the process of standing up straighter. Their eyes met and she gave Jonathan an apologetic look with eyes the colour of coffee. They were fascinatingly dark, rimmed with short, thick lashes beneath straight brows and Jonathan could have spent the morning counting the individual flecks of caramel that speckled them.
Now he was closer to her he saw the rims were a little red and came to the conclusion she had been crying at some point. He remembered how downcast she had looked when she had taken his coat and hat in the hallway and how he had thought she was becoming ill. He had a terrible recollection of his mother, red eyed and weeping before she left Jonathan’s father. A stab of pity went through him and he wondered what could have made her so sad she chose to come to such a solitary place with the unruly Caesar. He almost had the urge to take her hand and squeeze it in an attempt to offer comfort.
The idea took him by surprise. Perhaps Edward was right and he had spent too long avoiding the company of women if something so simple could draw such an odd impulsive sympathy from him. He gestured in the direction of the path back towards the house, but Miss Upford shook her head.
‘I wanted to walk along the river. Do you mind?’
Jonathan shook his head and they walked side by side along the bank, doing their best to avoid the longest of the grass. Jonathan considered offering her an arm, but she seemed perfectly happy walking independently and pulling the dog on the leash to stop him diving in. Her manner was remarkably efficient and a far cry from the other young ladies Jonathan had encountered.
‘Why were you carrying a bucket and wearing an apron?’ he asked.
‘The task needed to be done. As Mother explained, we aren’t a complete household yet. I see no point in expecting someone else to take a task on if I can do it without much inconvenience to myself.’
‘I commend your approach to life,’ Jonathan said, tipping the brim of his hat and finding he truly meant it. As they reached the bend in the river he slowed down.
‘This is the reason I am coming to speak to your father,’ he said. He gestured to the bend in the Bollin which narrowed as it flowed in a narrow horseshoe through the mill grounds. ‘You see, everything on this side of the river belongs to your father and I would like to purchase the land where the loop of the river goes into mine.’
Miss Upford looked at him inquisitively. ‘What would you possibly do with one more field?’ she asked in wonderment.
‘My mill is powered by water,’ Jonathan explained. ‘A single wheel drives the shaft that powers the looms. Over time the river has silted up and narrowed, meaning the wheel turns slowly.’
‘So it is the river you need, not the land,’ Miss Upford said. ‘You could divert the flow into a straighter line and the water will flow faster.’
‘Well done, that’s absolutely right.’ Jonathan smiled approvingly and Miss Upford’s elegant brows came together.
‘It’s a very simple concept to grasp, Mr Harcourt. Even a woman is able to understand such a thing.’
Jonathan floundered. ‘I wasn’t implying you couldn’t, I hope.’
She gave him another frosty smile, but there had been a flicker of surprise in her intelligent brown eyes that Jonathan had liked.
‘It’s both the river and the land I want,’ he said, hoping to break the atmosphere that had suddenly descended. ‘I don’t have the space to expand at the moment as I’d like to. I have plans, you see.’
He left the idea dangling, but she didn’t ask him to elaborate so he walked on in silence and soon they reached the bridge across the Bollin and the road that led either back to Macclesfield or to Sir Robert’s house. Miss Upford drew the leash tighter and drew her veil down, but not before Jonathan saw that her eyes were a little less red than when they had met.
‘Perhaps you should make your own way to the house,’ she suggested, glancing towards the double gates of the house. ‘I’ll walk on a little further towards the town before I turn back.’
So she did not want to be seen with him, Jonathan thought. Would her father disapprove of her walking out with a man without a chaperon? He bowed, trying not to mind that their conversation was at an end. As she walked away he called after her.
She looked back over her shoulder, giving Jonathan an excellent view of her slender neck, straight back and narrow waist.
‘Why does your mother refuse to let Caesar walk with the other dogs?’ he asked.
She gave a full smile; the first he had seen. It lit her face and her eyes glowed with mischief that was apparent even beneath her veil.
‘He has ambitions above his station. He tries either to fight or to mount them, depending on their sex.’
Jonathan concealed a grin at the image of the boisterous King Charles trying to reach the relevant part of the towering Setters.
‘It’s good to have ambitions,’ he remarked, which received an even more brilliant smile that vanished almost immediately. Either she thought such humour was too ribald a subject or she was deliberately trying to maintain a frosty demeanour, but as she walked swiftly away he was sure he saw her shoulders shaking with laughter.
Buy link The Silk Merchant’s Convenient Wife
I’m running a giveaway on my Facebook page to celebrate the publication of my tenth Harlequin/Mills & Boon.
It’s short notice on here because I’ve just come back from holiday and forgot how to get onto my blog but last minute things are always fun.
To enter and be in with a chance to win a signed copy, head over to my Facebook page Enter the giveaway here
I last interviewed Elisabeth after her sixth book; she’s been busy writing in the mean time and I’m chatting to her this morning about her nineth book, The Merchant’s Secret. Her tenth book is due out soon – see below for further details!
Hi – thanks for giving up some time to chat! I loved the location of The Merchant’s Secret. What inspired you to set this book in Brittany?
Brittany is one of my favourite parts of the world. I’ve been taking my family there on holiday for over a decade. The scenery is stunning with jagged rocks, hidden coves and dramatic clifftop views. There is so much history to discover in the medieval towns and castles. I initially developed the idea when I was on holiday a few years ago. We’d gone to see the area where Chaucer set The Franklin’s Tale with the ‘grisly rokkes…
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I’ve sat down and tried to draft out a blog post so many times and haven’t been able to think of what to say. 2019 was hectic and complicated due to illness, a busy time at work, trying to finish off a house extension and all sorts of other things. I still managed to get two books out A Runaway Bride for the Highlander and A Midsummer Knight’s Kiss (and even more incredibly managed to write one and a half more).
The upshot is that I’ve been very quiet here for a long time. I loved joining in Medieval Monday but moving into the Tudor period meant I wasn’t as relevant to that.
2020 looks set to be interesting.
Uncovering the Merchant’s Secret is out next week. It’s my ninth book which feels unreal. If someone had told me in 2010 I’d have published one book, let alone nine I’d have laughed.
My tenth manuscript is almost good to go and is yet another change of direction because it is Victorian.
I’ve signed a two book contract with One more Chapter books which I’m incredibly excited about (and a little nervous at the change of direction).
I’ve also joined a gym (five visits so far- go me).
I want to reengage with this blog as I don’t use it enough. I might even try revamp the style if I can work out how. Watch this space.
In Elisabeth Hobbes’ A Runaway Bride for the Highlander, the third part of Mills and Boons’ Lochmore Legacy, we’ve jumped back 300 years to 1513 – King James IV has just been killed in battle at Flodden, and the Scottish clans have suffered huge personal losses. Ewan, the second son of Lord Lochmore, now finds himself the new Earl of Glenarris, shouldering the burden of responsibilities for those on his estate. He is, by his own admission, a very different man to his father and brother before him – he’s been studying Law in Glasgow and reluctantly recognises that his life will now follow quite a different path. Whilst at Stirling for the coronation of the infant James V, Ewan encounters Marguerite, a young French woman. The attraction between Ewan and Marguerite is evident from the outset, but she is betrothed to Duncan McCrieff. As we know from the…
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A Runway Bride for the Highlander written by Elisabeth Hobbes, publisher Mills & Boon Historical/Harlequin Historical is available NOW in the US and available to pre-order ready for publication on 30th May in the UK.
To buy link (UK): https://amzn.to/2QjL7bv
To buy link (US): https://amzn.to/2M5l3Tg
Lost in the Highlands
Found by the Scottish Earl!
Part of The Lochmore Legacy: a Scottish castle through the ages! Far from her home in France, Marguerite Vallon escapes her arranged marriage to a man she despises. Stowing away in a stranger’s cart, she finds herself headed deep into the Highlands with Ewan Lochmore, new Earl of Glenarris! Ewan vows to protect her. But maybe the freedom Marguerite has been searching for can be found with this rugged warrior…
I voluntarily reviewed an arc of this book. All opinions are my own and no content may be copied. However, authors and publishers may…
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A Runaway Bride For The Highlander is book three of The Lochmore Legacy historical romances.
A set of four books, each steps back into history as clues to a mystery are revealed. Book one began in the Victorian era, book two is set during the Regency years, book three in Tudor times, and the final book is set in the medieval period.
So far we have been introduced to a mystical brooch, an empty crypt and a long standing family feud between two clans.
Book three is set in 1513. Scotland has just been defeated at the Battle Of Flodden. The title of Earl of Glenarris has now come to Ewan Lockmore. Scotland’s noblemen gather in Stirling for the crowning of the new king and the re-portioning of lands. Lockmore is granted more lands, but it stirs up old…
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