Well, here it is - time to announce the winner of our book giveaway from last week's Q & A with Christine Wells.
Here's what Christine asked A Piece of My Mind readers:
Julia, there's one more special treat - I've got a signed copy of Sweetest Little Sin to give away to someone who answers the question:
What is your creative talent or hobby? If you don't have one, what creative talent would you like to have?
Using the Random Number Generator at Random.org, from the commenters who answered Christine's question, we have a winner!
Cassondra - come on down!
I've been TRYING to do something creative very nearly from the cradle, and I've tried a bunch of different stuff. I dunno that I've even gotten good at anything. :0/ And I've certainly NOT mastered anything. I've tried painting, and I still love that - trying to get better at watercolor - and songwriting, which I think I'm actually best at, and a ton of other stuff from landscape design (in which I have a degree) to macrame (which I was very intense about in the 8th grade).
Obviously born to create something, Cassondra! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your snail mail address, and Christine will send Sweetest Little Sin your way.
And now...on to the book review.
1 - I first came upon this fictional couple when they appeared as the secondary love interest in The Dangerous Duke. Here's what I wrote about them in that book review:
Christine includes a very charged secondary romance between Lyle's sister, Louisa and his fellow Home Office operative, Jardine. Lyle and Jardine have been rivals as well as working together as spies for the security of the country. Their relationship circles like arena combatants, and the romance between Lyle's sister and Jardine is just as edgy.
2 - Who are these characters who set their own story in motion by popular demand?
Louisa is the sister of the newly-minted Duke of Lyle - and an unexpected duke, at that. Having scraped by on the edges of polite society following the earlier death of their father, Louisa and her brother were thrust to the forefront of the ton upon the recent deaths of the heirs to the title and fortune. This puts Louisa in the fairytale position of being a spinsterly age with eligible suitors suddenly vying for her hand.
3 - The Marquis of Jardine appears to lounge in caustic idleness, but is well-known to the sordid underbelly of society. Not because he's an unrepentent rake. No - Jardine is an operative serving England's Home Office in the deadly game of espionage.
4 - Here's a taste of their relationship from The Dangerous Duke :
" 'My dear Louisa. All alone?'
The unwelcome voice jerked her out of her thoughts. She turned swiftly, and an even more unwelcome figure stood there in all his dark-edged masculine glory.
Smiling at her, rot him. Jardine had the most devilishly attractive smile.
Too late, a voice inside her whispered. You are lost.
Louisa forced her tongue to work. She managed to say in her usual, calm way, 'The family is from home this evening. But I'm sure the butler told you that at the door.'
He inclined his head. 'Yes, I believe he mentioned some such, but I wasn't attending. The mere sound of your name obliterates all else from my mind.'
She scowled. 'I've been unwell, if you must know. In fact, it's very likely an infectious complaint, so you'd best leave me before you catch it.'
He strode forward and took her chin in his hand. Slowly, Jardine turned her face to the light with a deft, delicate touch as if he were an expert examining fine porcelain.
She stared into his face with its angular lines and dark velvet eyes. The spoiled, rich, beautiful mouth that begged to be...kissed.
It took every ounce of her will to resist the standing invitation of that mouth. She batted his hand away and stepped back. 'Your concern is touching but unnecessary.' "
5 - No wonder readers everywhere couldn't stop thinking about Louisa and Jardine, even after Kate and Max found their happily ever after. This is how Christine describes their journey from secondary characters to hero and heroine of their own book:
"I expected a few people to complain that Jardine and Louisa's romance wasn't resolved in The Dangerous Duke and I was prepared to do a novella or a free short story to give Louisa and Jardine their happily ever after.
Funnily enough, I didn't get complaints at all, but I did receive an amazing number of requests for their story. I was thrilled when my editor agreed to let me do a novel-length sequel."
6 - Sweetest Little Sin picks up the main conflict between Louisa and Jardine where it left off. The two are inexorably drawn to one another, though Louisa rejects the lethal nature of his line of work, and Jardine fights to keep her out of his enemies' clutches, men who will make her suffer to get to him.
7 - Being a huge fan of Spooks / MI-5, I completely lost myself in the Regency version of the cat-and-mouse spy game running throughout this novel. Jardine is spectacularly yummy as he doles out grief to the villains of the piece. What I really love is the way Louisa rises to the occasion. She confronts terrifying situations with an inner fear but a cool outer demeanor that makes Jardine adore her even more.
8 - Louisa realizes something rather life-renewing when she's enlisted by Faulkner, the puppet master from the Home Office, to engage in spy work for him. An initial desire to enrage Jardine gives way to a hands-on appreciation for the life-and-death work in which her lover engages, and which has always been a sore point between them. I really enjoyed the scenes where Louisa blossoms into a formidable rookie agent.
9 - Christine sets the tension level quite high for the action/suspense scenes in Sweetest Little Sin. When danger looms, just as in Spooks / MI-5, where a main character can suddenly get caught in an explosion, just because Louisa and Jardine are the hero and heroine of a romance novel doesn't let them off the hook.
10 - Christine really knows how to end each chapter with suspense. Like this, for example:
"That night, Louisa couldn't sleep. The fragment of a message haunted her, tormented her even as it tempted.
She was done with Jardine. Moreover, he'd told her plainly she meant nothing to him. Why couldn't her idiotic heart remember that?
He wanted to meet. Why? Was it a test? Did he risk this meeting to see whether she would still come running, like a dog to heel? She rubbed a hand over her face, pressed her closed eyelids with her fingertips, willing herself not to succumb to useless tears.
She sat curled on the window seat for hours, deep into the night. Forced herself to consider the peremptory summons from every angle, calmly, dispassionately.
And couldn't think of a single reason, beyond a nagging curiosity and her unbearable longing to see him, why she should go.
Unfolding her long body from the cushioned embrasure, Louisa carried a candle over to her escritoire and set it in the carved holder.
Her mouth firmed in determination, she took out the card Faulkner had given her and drew a piece of writing paper toward her.
Dipping her pen in ink, she composed a short note.
11 - Romantic Times gives Sweetest Little Sin a 4 1/2 stars Top Pick review:
"With a clever, pulse-pounding spy thriller Wells completely enthralls readers. Not only is the suspense high, but the surprising plot twists and nonstop action will keep you turning the pages with bated breath. Once you start reading, don't plan on doing anything else."
- Kathe Robin
12 - Beyond the James-Bond-meets-Jane-Austin aspects (to quote Christine,) for me the true strength of this novel is the incredible love story that evolves between two well-matched adversaries/lovers. The inner turmoil that drives each one of them has a refreshing sophistication which I really enjoyed. It fills their scenes together with true pathos. And you know I love me some of that.
13 - I leave you with an another excerpt. Enjoy!
"She cleared her throat. 'I must go. We cannot afford to be seen together like this.'
She tried to sidle around him, but he caught her arm in a firm, inescapable grip.
He didn't hurt her, but she winced anyway. His touch was torture. It was bliss.
'Why did you come here, Louisa? You are not meeting someone?'
'Is it likely I'd arrange to meet anyone, much less in this locale?'
Jardine let go of her and shrugged. 'I'm not altogether certain I know what is likely that you would do anymore, Louisa. I'm not sure I know you.'
She remained silent.
'Your betrothal to Radleigh.' He spread his hands. 'That, I did not expect. What are you doing here? Isn't your future husband satisfying you?'
Before she could stop herself, her hand flew up to slap his face. But his reflexes were daggar sharp. He easily deflected the move, brushed her hand aside as if it were a fly. Moved closer with purposeful intent etched over his patrician features.
Louisa started backward, a hand on the table to steady herself. 'If it becomes known that you and I were here like this, there'll be a scandal.'
'It won't become known.' His fingertips feathered her cheek.
She shivered. Anticipation coiled tightly in her chest. 'Don't. I don't want you to -'
He lowered his head to capture her earlobe in his teeth.
Ohh. He knew that always drove her to madness."
- Christine Wells, 2010
Janet says Well, I knew I needed to read this book when Christine was here last week, but after that Thursday Thirteen I have moved it up on my TBR list. Sounds great.
Brenda ND says Oh, this sounds like a really good read. Thanks Julia. :)
Christine Wells says Jardine and Louisa have loved one another for years, but they could not have lived together happily without going through all the pain I put them through in Sweetest Little Sin. Yes, I'm a cruel, cruel author who loves to torture her characters!