Guest Author Monday

Please welcome with me our Guest Author — Nicole McCaffrey

For as long as I can remember, my heroes have always been bad boys. Every single one. In The Model Man, my first full length release from TWRP, cover model Derek Calavicci is the quintessential modern bad boy complete with paparazzi recording his every move. Ditto my first historical western; bounty hunter Raz Colt would just as soon shoot someone as explain himself, and never utters a word that isn’t sarcastic. (He’s still the hero that generates the most fan mail). Even the heroes in my two short stories, boy next door Tucker Callahan from Small Town Christmas, and real estate billionaire Jamie D’Alessandro from This Moment in Time, were bad boys before the story takes place, but life has managed to tone them down a bit.

These bad boys heroes were eventually reformed by the love of a good woman. So I was a little uncertain when the next dashing hero to pull up a chair in my mind and start telling me his story was…a good guy. Major Caleb McKenna of the Confederate army is a true Southern gentleman—he’s noble, honorable, charming, and utterly devoted to the cause he’s fighting for even if two years in, he’s grown weary of war.

So…how do you redeem a guy who doesn’t need redeeming?

Enter a heroine who does.

Alexandra Winters is nothing like the gentle belle back in Georgia awaiting Caleb’s return. In fact, she’s nothing like any woman he’s ever met. This female physician is fiercely independent, stubborn to a fault, and, most scandalous of all, a divorcee. She doesn’t need help, doesn’t need to be rescued and sure as hell doesn’t need the major’s help when a hungry foot soldier tries to force his way into her home. But she’ll work herself nearly to death to save the young men and boys who have fallen in battle in her hometown of Gettysburg.

northerntemptressHere’s the blurb for Northern Temptress and a sneak peek at one of my favorite scenes, the first kiss:

When the Civil War arrives on her door step, Gettysburg doctor Alexandra Winters uses her knowledge of medicine to help the wounded. When an uncommonly handsome rebel officer finds her tending the wounded in his battlefield, he takes her for a spy until she confesses her darkest secret; her brother fights for the south. He vows to find her brother and insists on escorting her home. But Alexa already has enough gossip attached to her name thanks to a scandalous divorce; she doesn’t need to be seen keeping company with the enemy at a late hour.

Major Caleb McKenna, CSA, has grown weary of war and bloodshed. Dreams of glory and valor are long gone, as is the memory of his beloved fiancée back home in Georgia. Try as he might, he can’t recall her face. Instead, it’s the bewitching image of Alexa Winters that haunts his every thought. Her stubborn refusal to show weakness is put to the test when he brings news of her missing brother. His attempt to comfort the stoic beauty quickly engulfs them in a firestorm of passion, leaving Caleb torn between a promise made to the gentle belle awaiting his return – and an emerald-eyed, jet-haired Northern temptress.

When the major is gravely wounded, Alexa comes to his aide. Hiding a Confederate officer in a house filled with recuperating Union soldiers is risky… and fighting their growing desire is a battle they can’t afford to lose.

~~~

She was only a few feet away, but the urge to touch her was overwhelming. What was it about her that drew him so?

Reminding himself she hadn’t come out onto the porch to be accosted, Caleb stepped into the faint moonlight. “Good evening, Doctor Winters.”

“Major.” Her shoulders visibly relaxed at the sight of him. “I’m glad to see you’re all right.”

“Is that so.” He purposely didn’t phrase it as a question.

“When Corporal Edwards…I didn’t know if you’d been…” She lowered her gaze.

“I was nearby when it happened.” He cleared his throat to rid the emotion from his voice. “But no, I wasn’t hurt.”

“I see.”

She stepped to the porch railing, and he could see dark splotches of blood staining her shirt and trousers. This day had surely been as long for her as it had him.

“You know then, that he…”

“Yes.” A pang of grief stabbed him. “But I didn’t come to talk about Simon. Not yet anyway. I have the personal effects from the soldier we found this morning. And I have word of your brother.”

She hesitantly accepted the bundle he handed her, then squared her shoulders and met his gaze. “Nate is dead, isn’t he?”

“Missing. Since July of last year.”

“I would have heard from him by now if he’s still alive.”

“Not necessarily.”

“Thank you, Major.” She smoothed a hand over the bundle of personal effects. “I appreciate you taking the time to ask after my brother with all you had to deal with today.”

Caleb stepped closer to the porch. He should leave now, return to his men. He’d given her what little information he had. But the time spent with her wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy his yearning for her company. “Do you have a few moments to visit with me?”

She glanced briefly toward the house. “I have patients waiting. But yes, I’d like that.”

He met her at the steps, reaching out in an automatic gesture to assist her, tucking her hand in the crook of his arm. “How are you this evening?”

“Me?” Her voice rose an octave, as if he’d taken her by surprise. “I’m fit as a fiddle.”

His gaze traveled once more over her blood-stained clothing. “I doubt that very much. I wanted to apologize for sending Corporal Edwards your way this afternoon. Had I known the gravity of his wound, I would have never put you through that.”

She remained silent for several moments. “I appreciate your faith in me as a doctor, just the same.”

“I know it must be difficult, but try to remember that Corporal Edwards, and all the men lost here today gave their lives for a cause they believed in.” It was a phrase he’d uttered too often since the war had begun.

She stopped abruptly and removed her hand from his arm. “Do you truly believe that?”

Not anymore, but it was the only comfort he had to offer. “Alexa—”

“Did you come here to placate me with stories of honor and valor? I’ve seen nothing today but blood and death and young men ripped to pieces. Tell me, Major, where is the honor in that?” Her voice broke. “Secede if you want, but dammit, stop killing each other.”

She reeled away, hurrying down a slight incline in the yard toward the back of the house, and disappeared beneath the low-hanging canopy of an enormous weeping willow.

Caleb followed, stooping beneath the dangling leaves, but there was no sign of her. A few stray leaves and a rustling sound came from over head. A glance upward revealed her sitting on a sturdy branch a few feet off the ground. So that was where she’d gone.

“Would it help to know I share your feelings?” After two and a half years of war and the loss of countless friends and relatives, he was ready for it to end, too.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have lost my temper. It’s not your fault. But for every wounded soldier I’ve seen today, I’ve thought, ‘did Nate do this to you,’ and I felt almost guilty. And then I thought of you and wondered…”

“If I did it,” he finished for her.

“Caleb, how can you shoot those poor boys?”

His youngest sister had once asked him much the same thing. He still lacked an easy answer to the question. “I’m a soldier, Alexa. It’s my duty.”

“To kill innocent men?”

“Before they kill me or invade my country. Yes.”

“It sounds so heartless.”

He leaned a shoulder against the branch, looking up at her in the shadowy light. “It’s no different than you not fainting or feeling ill at the sight of blood. Your training has prepared you for what to expect, and experience has made you less sensitive to it.”

“But I’m trying to save lives and you’re…”

“You’re seeing a side of war that few civilians ever will. But you have to trust that we know what we’re doing.”

She turned toward him. “You really believe all those men knew what they were getting into? What of all that ‘the war will be over by Christmas’ talk?”

True, when the war had begun, the south had thought it would whip the north in a short time. Their earliest battles only reinforced that belief, with the Southern army winning easy victories. He sighed. But now, more than two years in, it seemed the war would never end.

“No, they didn’t. But even so, I assure you there isn’t a man going into battle who wants to die—but we’re prepared to do so if that’s what’s required.”

She didn’t speak, and he strained to see her in the dark, wondered what was going through her mind. By what little moonlight filtered through the branches, he saw her swipe at her cheeks and heard a small sniffle. She probably wouldn’t like to be caught crying. He averted his gaze, instead studying the bark of the branch she sat upon, scarred in places from years of climbing feet, and worn smooth in others from hours of someone seated there.

He patted the sturdy wood. “I take it this was a special spot when you were a girl.”

“I don’t know what possessed me to climb up here.” Another sniffle. “I’m surprised I still can.”

Her legs swung to one side, and without thought for propriety, Caleb put his hands to her waist to lift her down. Through the thin fabric of her blouse, the warmth of her flesh met his palms. He set her before him, leaf-speckled moonlight casting a glow on her tear-streaked face.

He stroked a thumb over the moisture on her cheeks. “Alexa,” he sighed. “Don’t cry.”

Her hot tears spilled over his thumb.

“He was so calm, so much braver than I’d have been.”

Edwards had been like a brother to him, he’d felt every damn bit as helpless when his friend had been hit. “I shouldn’t have put you through it.”

“There was nothing I could do for him.” Her voice was raw with pain and exhaustion.

He pulled her into his arms, needing to comfort her and needing comfort himself.

She held herself rigid for several moments before settling her head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. I don’t usually give in to such feminine displays.”

“I won’t tell a soul.”

He gently stroked her back, keenly aware that only a thin cotton barrier stood between her flesh and his palms. A tangle of emotion tore through him, and like her, he fought against the need to give in to the grief gnawing at him.

“It was my fault. I ordered the men forward.”

“You were following orders.” She relaxed against him a bit more. “It’s no one’s fault.”

He nuzzled her hair, breathed in the lingering aroma of lilacs. For the rest of his days, he’d associate that heavenly smell with Alexa Winters. “I hate this damn war.”

She raised her head from his shoulder, and though shadowy leaves dappled her face, making it impossible to clearly see her, he could feel her gaze on him.

Without a thought, he brushed his lips against her forehead, intending only to comfort her as he would his sisters. The teasing smell of those damn lilacs and a scent that was uniquely Alexa filled his nostrils. Tormented by the soft curves pressed against him, his manhood roared to fully erect. A dizzying sensation enveloped him, urging him to move closer, hold her tighter. He forced aside the thoughts even as he struggled against the demands of his body.

“Alexa,” he whispered against her ear. “I came here tonight with honorable intentions.”

She turned toward him, the movement bringing her face into close contact with his lips. “A-and now?”

He stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers. “God help me, right now all I can think about is kissing you.”

“Caleb…”

The strangled whisper tore his resolve to shreds. Trembling with the need to touch her, he lowered his head, closing the distance between them until their lips were only a breath apart. He gave her time to retreat, to pull away or slap him.

With a moan, she slid her hands behind his neck, and he pulled her closer, groaning when her lips parted beneath his.

One taste…he’d only allow himself one taste…

 

Northern Temptress is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and The Wild Rose Press

~~~~

nicolemccaffreyIf it’s possible to be born a writer, then I most likely was. I’d probably have started sooner if there had been pen and paper available in the womb. But for as long as I can remember, I have heard voices in my head. Fortunately for me, they’re all characters—begging me to tell their stories.

I’ve been married to Peter, my best friend, for sixteen years, and am a work-at-home mom with two busy boys, a teen and a tween. When I’m not working, writing, or buried nose-deep in a research book, chances are I’m baking, gardening, taking my dog for long walks along the beautiful shores of Lake Ontario, or just spending time with my favorite guys.

Please visit my website www.nicolemccaffrey.com for news on my latest releases, reviews, excerpts of my published work and sneak peeks at upcoming releases.

Find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nmccaffreyauthor

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NicMcCaffrey

 

 

 

TGIF…Heroes

Hi, I’m Jill Hughey and I write historical romance. I love to talk about my characters. They drive the stories, and I really need to get under their skin before I start writing. (As a reader, nothing will turn me off a book faster than a character who is acting in a way I can’t make sense of.)

My heroes are not always immediately likable because I create heroes and heroines with flaws they need to work through before they can find true, forever love. In Vain, the third book in my Evolution Series, Theophilus (Theo) is just that: vain. I jokingly refer to him as a medieval metrosexual because his looks and wardrobe are so important to him.

I first met Theo in book one of the series, where he is a bit of a dandy who enjoys a good party. Eight years later, in his own story, he has matured and become jaded by politics and his responsibilities to the empire. His love of clothing brings him into the sphere of his tailor’s daughter, recently abandoned by her grieving father and in need of a protector.

Theo exhibits the arrogance of the aristocratic class with Lily while she unwittingly weaves a spell of desire around him. The worst parts of his personality emerge when they are found in a compromising position and forced to marry. He is a resentful groom. (Many readers really don’t like him at this point of the book.) Only after he returns from his summer service to the emperor with life-threatening wounds does he begin to see that what Lily lacks in social position she makes up for with her quiet strength and her ability to show him how to have fun again, instead of leading a life ruled only by duty.

In this excerpt from Theo and Lily’s first interaction in the book, Theo has come to Willis the tailor’s shop with beautiful fabric for a tunic. He is also investigating the rumors he’s heard of Willis’s absence from town. Lily needs the money the work will bring and hopes to hide the fact that she has been alone for quite some time, with no idea of her father’s whereabouts.

 

Vain150x225EXCERPT from Vain

Excitement pulsed in the room. Lily needed this job, yes, but the creativity, the possibility of fashioning the garment that Theophilus described immersed her in an energy she had not experienced for months. She unwound a length of redness, let it drape over her arm. “I see it,” she said simply, because she did.

He scratched his ear. “Will Willis have time to complete the garment? He appears to have much business outside the shop.” The pulse diminished. He knew. He knew her father had not been home for days and days. He wanted his burgundy fabric to be worked by the man he thought had crafted his tunics for decades. He also wanted to know where that man had gone.

So did Lily. She could not indulge in that curiosity right now. She needed this job because she needed her lord’s coin. Supplies for the shop were one thing. Food was another. This week, for the first time in her life, she’d gone to bed hungry, with nothing in the larder, no money to spend, and no goods to barter. “We have over a month until Easter, my lord,” she reassured. “I can start on the tunic in anticipation of my father’s return.”

Theophilus frowned. He did not care for that idea. Starting meant cutting and she could see he did not trust her to cut his fine wool. She did not blame him. The price on such a piece in such a color must have been extravagant.

“Did you know I helped to make the cloak you are wearing today?” she inquired. “We sewed it three years ago. I remember because we all liked how the blue brightened the worktable that January. And you brought it in last spring to mend a tiny hole on the inside,” she added. “I have worked fabric with my parents since I was a young girl. Father has allowed me to cut for nigh on ten years now.” In reality, Father had demanded she do all the cutting, which suited her just fine. She did not make mistakes, but more importantly, she had a good eye. She could see things in the fabric and the person who would wear it like no one else. Or so Mother had said before their lives unraveled.

The Lord of Ribeauville studied her. He searched her face and she imagined she saw his soulful sympathy extend to her in a softening of his handsome eyes. He examined the length of her body analytically. “Did you make that tunic?”

“Yes, of course,” she said. Did he think that merchants hired out their own work?

He critically appraised the neckline. “You have done something different over the shoulders.”

She ducked her head in pleased embarrassment. “Yes, my lord.” She had been taught by her mother to always regard the man before her as her better, careful to speak and think of him as the Lord of Ribeauville, though with that being such a mouthful she often shortened the title to the lord, or her lord, or my lord. She shied away from even thinking his given name, although her friends bandied it about as if he were one of them. Or, at least, they did when they knew he was not in residence.

Her lord scowled. “Well, what did you do?” he demanded impatiently, his eyes not so soulful any more.

“Oh,” she breathed as she lifted her fingers to the subtle pleats of the cloth. “I shaped the top to make my shoulders appear broader.” What a humiliating admission!

“Thought only noblemen padded their shoulders,” he joked. “Is it common practice among women too?”

“I do not think so, my lord. But I did not pad my tunic. I added pleats and liked the balance they gave shoulders to hips,” she explained, blushing furiously. Imagine, talking about her body parts with her lord.

He nodded, the little silk tassel rubbing across his dark hair as he reviewed her homespun gray tunic from neck to toe again. “Clever. You say you cut and sewed this very tunic with your two hands? Your father had no part in it?”

“Yes, my lord. I swear it on…on the Blood of Christ!” she finished, laying her hand on his bolt of fabric possessively.

Her lord threw his head back. In Willis the weaver’s tiny abode, unexpected masculine laughter rang off the walls. Lily smiled, surprised the skin on her face remembered how to accommodate the action. “I am satisfied, Lily,” he chuckled. “Do you need my measurements?”

“Has anything changed?” she asked, recklessly playful after his mirth, and nearly drunk at having conversation and joy in the home that had become more like a jail. “Did you indulge in too many rich meals over the winter?”

 

Vain – A tailor’s abandoned daughter fashions a vain nobleman’s tunic, finding passion between the neckline and hem as misfortune forces her into his precarious aristocratic world.

 

You can find Vain at the following vendors:

Amazon http://amzn.com/B00BNETIG4

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vain-jill-hughey/1114587598?ean=2940016262406

Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/284641

iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id669474409

Kobo http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/Books/vain-evolution-series-3

CREATESPACE LINK   https://www.createspace.com/4140017

 

About Jill Hughey: The most interesting fact about Jill Hughey is that she can sing really, really high. As in opera-singer high. But she only does that when she is not writing, working part time as a business administrator, running her two teenaged sons around, and enjoying the support of her wonderful husband. Her ideal afternoon is spent sitting on her front porch with an iced coffee as she moves the characters in her head into her laptop. Happy reading!

You can find Jill on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jillhugheyromance, at her blog at http://jillhughey.blogspot.com, and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jillhughey.