Accolades for “The Duel” or “Miss Stewart’s Seduction”

“Gorgeous writing, absolutely un-put-downable” – contest judge /senior editor

“In-depth historical knowledge at a detailed level, a knack for twining that detail into the story, and an ability to create characters true to their day.” – New York Times bestselling author

“I love the opening. The writing in the pages is fabulous. I looked forward to each turn of the page.” – contest judge /agent

Winner in Romance, 2013 Novel Rocket Launch Pad Contest: READ AN EXTENDED EXCERPT AT THIS LINK.

First Place for Romantic Suspense in the 2012 Southwest Florida Romance Writers’ Hold Me, Thrill Me Contest. Final judge: Leslie Wainger (Harlequin)

First Place for Romantic Suspense in the 2012 Valley of the Sun RWA’s Hot Prospects Contest. Final judges: Deborah Werksman (Sourcebooks) and Elaine P. English.

First Place for Romantic Suspense in the 2012 Celtic Hearts Romance Writers’ Golden Claddagh Contest. Final judge: Suzie Townsend (New Leaf Literary and Media)

First Place for Historical Romance in the 2012 Golden Acorn Excellence in Writing Award, sponsored by the Charter Oak Romance Writers. Final judge: Alicia M Dean (The Wild Rose Press)

Runner-Up in the 2013 Vivid Voices Contest, “Prepare to Scare!” Judge: Lucy Carson (The Friedrich Agency)

Second Place for Historical Romance in the 2012 Rose City Romance Writer’s Golden Rose Contest. Final judge: Chelsey Emmelhainz (Avon/HarperCollins)

Second Place for Romantic Suspense in the 2012 Touch of Magic Contest, sponsored by the Central Florida Romance Writers. Final judge: Katherine Pelz (Berkley/Penguin)

Third Place for Romantic Suspense in the 2012 First Coast Romance Writers’ Unpublished Beacon Contest. Final judges: Leis Pederson (Berkley) and Shana Smith (Harlequin Intrigue)

Third Place for Mainstream with Romantic Elements in the 2013 North Texas RWA Great Expectations Contest. Final judge: Emilia Pisani (Simon and Schuster)

Honorable Mention for Historical Romantic Suspense in the 2012 Daphne Contest, sponsored by the Kiss of Death Romance Writers.  Final judges: Laura Bradford (Bradford Literary Agency) and Megan Records (Kensington Press)

The Duel

DuelingPistolCambridge, England. March 1733.

Revenge required precision. Good thing he’d drunk only two bottles of Lord Oxford’s claret last night. ‘Twas fine, indeed, leaving barely a headache this too-early morning.

Stomping in his boots, Thomas Caldwell lit a taper and huffed in the cold air.

God’s blood! His breath could set the room ablaze. He tripped on the hearthstone and stabbed and thrust at the embers with the fire iron as if he were preparing for a swordfight instead of–this.

At least practice was improving his confidence.

“Robin!” He kicked at the chamber pot and fumbled with his breeches. The boy was surely awake. Servants, like soldiers on campaign, and swindlers, and god-forsaken swine as he knew himself to be, all regularly rose before dawn. Ruffians, the lot of ‘em.

The lad appeared in the doorway, head bowed. “Shall I stir thy fire, Sir?”

“No, no–too late for that.” Trying for a measure of kindness, Tom softened his voice. “Warm me some water, and have Mrs. Lang send up coffee and bread.” He sprawled against the mantel and massaged his temples.

Sure, drink was a Devil, alone. Better to have followed the late Baron’s example. Alex had spent a final evening in besotted revelry, with the company of tavern mates and a sweet miss by his side.

Would he had a Moll for a quick, rousing rub. His **** twitched when Mrs. Lang’s comely maid entered.  But the girl was not his to command. The pot of bitter black coffee would have to do. He poured himself a cup and leaned on the window casement.

The room faced east; the light was gathering there. He’d kept vigil with his elder brother’s battered body in a room like this. Two floors up, with bullet-glass panes making shadow patterns on pocked, red-painted floorboards.

Why the devil had Alex challenged a demned earl? A man of reason could have no cause to quarrel with a carbineer officer. Tom slammed down the mug and tore off a crusty bite of rye, then followed, frowning, as the boy carried the fire-warmed pitcher into the adjoining chamber.

“Thank you, Robin. See to the horses.” His voice was low and scratchy. Water splashed from the basin. Tom wet his cheeks, pulled his skin taut, scraped his chin smooth with the sharp-edged razor as he breathed in steam and heat. What did a man wear, when he might die before sunrise?

Crossing to the clothes press, he pulled out a crisp linen shirt and smelled the spring green bushes where it had dried and been sun-bleached after laundering. He buttoned his waistcoat, the indigo one, with silk-embroidered buttons, sewn in Spitalfields. Not his finest but well-fitted, dark enough to blend into the early morning shadows, loose enough to raise his pistol-arm swiftly. Handsome enough to meet his Maker.

With thanks to the readers at Dear Author First Page Features (June 2012) and Miss Snark’s First Victim Secret Agent Contest (Aug. 2012) for their critiques.

Read more excerpts from THE DUEL and its sequel HERE.

Isn’t he a handsome fellow?

Captain Alexander Moray is the


featuring Miss Marianne Stewart,

the youngest of five extraordinary

siblings. Scott wrote of her ancestors


Our hero, Tom, is spying on an earl’s rooms at a Cambridge inn, c.1733.

The governess spoke in a delightful Scottish brogue. The rrr’s trilled on her tongue. The familiar lilt made him think of his sisters, made him ache for home.

He blinked and forced himself to turn away. Now was his opportunity.

On the chill side of the sitting room, he slid open the door to the bedchamber.

* * * * * *

The Duel (selection #7).

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What He Sees

Our hero, Tom, has broken into the earl’s rooms at a Cambridge inn.

He leaned further and spied a woman’s back, a cascade of dark red hair, a tight black dress, a slatted rocking chair. A child wriggled in her lap and twirled her tangled curls.

The woman spoke in French, in rhyme, reading Perrault’s fables. He recognized the story of the grasping crow.

After a few precise, fluent sentences, she surprised him by translating the lines into English.

No, that would not be remarkable.

* * * * * *

The Duel (selection #6).

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Beneath square shoulders, he had the sinuous stance of a courtier. One foot stretched before the other with a twist of the ankles to display well-molded calves. Powder-white stockings peeked beneath black velvet breeches. He wore a striped waistcoat under a dark jacket, with wide, gold-ribboned lapels cut to reveal the solid girth and firm thighs of a man well-versed in the pleasures of food and wine.

And women, too. His gaze raked her body as his hand gave a courteous flourish.

* * * * * *

The Duel (selection #5).

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Guns Slung

Our hero Alexander leads the 1759 assault on Quebec in THE FAIR SEAFARER (selection #2):

Ready…  Part question, part command. Gauge my line of men.

Faces not fearsome, nor frightened, but fixed, in decision.

Frowning; furrowed brows. Guns slung across their shoulders, packs at their sides, hats pointed up, as they are to climb.

Wet wool coats caked in dirt and mud.

* * * * * *

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From the opening of THE FAIR SEAFARER:

Quebec, 13 September 1759.

Such foul, muddy boots. Our breath comes fast and shallow. Walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Fear no Evil, we prayed in the boats before the dark side of dawn brought us here.

I hear your voice in my head. God keep you safe from harm.

* * * * * *

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