Sunday, June 29, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 55 - Excerpt From My Culloden Story

Here's a second excerpt from my Culloden story. This takes place shortly after this excerpt:

Culloden excerpt 1

Jock MacKeigan is lucky to be alive. He's somehow managed to survive the Battle of Culloden and made his way into the hills, where he's found by Emma MacBean and her family. He's gravely injured, however, and needs his broken leg set and multiple stab wounds stitched up. We join the story as Emma's mother finishes the first gruesome task in the safety of their cavern hideout.

I've modelled Jock MacKeigan after Scottish actor Robert Carlyle, and Emma MacBean after English actress Emma Samms.


Near Drumossie Moor, in the hills outside Inverness, April 1746

Mother pulled, groaning herself with the effort of righting bones in a swollen cage of damaged muscle. Jock screamed again, a sound so laden with suffering that Emma shook to hear it. She held tight to him, focusing intently on his good eye which stayed squeezed shut. God help him. God help him.

Then suddenly it was over. Mother straightened. Jock sagged against Emma.

“Get the plank, Thomas,” Mother said, her voice breathless. “We’ll lash it to the leg. Enid, fetch me the linen.”

Murray knelt beside Emma. “How is he?”

She slipped the leather from Jock’s mouth. He let his head fall forward onto her breast and she cradled him protectively.

Jock tried to speak.

“Hush, now,” Emma said, a bit of her mother’s no-arguments tone entering her voice.

Jock pulled away from her and fell back onto the pallet. Emma saw a bright new stain at his shoulder. Then noticed a red smear on her own frock.

Murray stood. “I’ll tell her,” he said, moving quickly across the cave.

Emma sat on her hip, reached quickly under her skirts and took hold of her right stocking. Pulling it off, she folded it down and pressed it against Jock’s shoulder. He gazed at her, smiling a distant smile that made her slightly uneasy.

“You’ll be fine, Jock. Just keep on! You’ve come so far already,” she said, unhappy with how quickly the stocking was reddening.

Mother returned, lifting Emma’s hands away. “Just keep holding it like that, Emma. We’ll get his leg trussed up and then we’ll stop that shoulder from giving him any more troubles.”

Emma glanced back at Jock, who’d closed his eye and seemed so awfully pale. She felt a stab of dread. His lid fluttered open, his unfocused gaze roaming before his good eye found her.

Her heart surged with relief even as her fingers slickened with his blood. The stocking soaked through, but she held it there anyway as Mother had bid her.

“Talk to me,” the clansman said again, smiling a faint smile.

“I’m so glad you found us, Jock. So very glad. I want to hear all about you. How you came to be in the Scots Royal. Murray recognized your colours. My future husband is in the Scots Royal.”

Pain registered on his face as the linen strips were tightened about his leg, securing the plank.

“Future husband...” he whispered.

“Douglas Montford.”

Jock’s expression changed. He sized her up now and she could feel him retreat from her. “Lieutenant-Colonel Montford,” he said, verifying.


Mother and Enid joined her. Emma removed the stocking and Mother peered closer at his wounds. Reaching out carefully, she touched a spot here or there until Jock twitched.

“Wash him down, Enid,” Mother said. “We’ll get started once we can see what’s what. Tell me, young sir,” she addressed her patient. “Do you remember how you came by these?”

Jock nodded weakly. “English bayonet, Madam.”

Emma felt queasy.

“You’re an extremely lucky man, Mr. MacKeigan,” Mother explained. “That steel missed your lungs and heart both.”

“Just stubborn, I imagine,” he smiled, swallowing dryly.

“Shall I fetch the ladle, Mother?” Emma asked.

“Well, he’s kept the rest of it down, even after all that. But see if you can get Thomas to part with more whisky. There’s more to be done and though you’re a brave man, Mr. MacKeigan, you’ll do as I ask and take another dram.”

His smile got wider. “A man knows when he’s beat, Madam.”

“From the looks of you, I’d like to see the man could do that,” Mother said.

“I’m at your mercy, ladies,” he said softly. “That should be answer enough.”

“Come now, Emma,” Mother said. “Fetch the flask and let’s patch him up.”

Emma rose and saw how Jock’s gaze followed her every move. As she turned to find Thomas she knew tonight would be just as sleepless as last night had been.

Best get the whisky. There was more agony to inflict before the clansman got his rest.


The MacBean’s daughter wiped the stale sweat from his face.

“All over now,” she said.

The mother rose and stepped away with the servant, murmuring in the background.

“You must rest,” the young lady said. Her fingertips brushed away the sticky strands of hair from his forehead.

“Don’t leave me,” he said suddenly.

“Hush, now. We’ve no more to do, Mr. MacKeigan. All over now.”

His vision was blurry and he shook his head to clear it.

“Lay down! You musn’t try to get up.” Her voice was conspiritorial, as though she tried to guard him from detection.

But Jock had taken too much whisky, had gone through too much to let sense get between himself and what he desired. He craned his head, blinking hard until her face took shape before him.

Such a sweet thing. Look at the way she gazed down at him. Had God truly chosen him above other men, sending an angel to watch over him?

“Why to me?” he whispered.

The angel hovered closer. Jock shook his head back and forth, unwilling to accept it. “What do you want of me?”

“Mr. MacKeigan,” she said, laying her hand on his good arm.

Jock felt a cool calmness settle over him. The MacBean’s daughter. Yes. All stitched up now. He could rest then, couldn’t he?

“You musn’t try to speak,” she cautioned. “Close your eyes. Hush. Time to rest.”

Those lovely fingertips stroked his forehead. Jock let his eyelid droop, his chin dropping onto his chest.

Twisted limbs blown off by cannon fire.

Unearthly shrieks.

Howls of frustration as men begged for the order to charge.

Jock started awake.

Two blue eyes gazed into his, steadied him, stopped him from leaping off the pallet away from the guns. Two firm hands pressed him down though his heart beat like a drummer calling the advance.

“You’re safe, Mr. MacKeigan. You’re here with all of us. The soldiers can’t get to us.”

Jock panted for breath, listening carefully just to be sure.

MacBean’s daughter again took his face in her hands. He was forced to look into those eyes.

“I’ll stay with you. Now lay back. You must get some rest.”

Jock nodded and sagged back on the pallet.

Had he...had he really seen an angel just then? No...the whisky. Hadn’t slept...marched all night...Lieutenant-Colonel Montford called the men back to the field. No time to rest. God, he was tired.

“You’ll take first watch over him, Emma. He seems to settle with you.”

“Yes, Mother.”

A plaid pulled up over him and he sighed. He remembered now. The MacBean’s daughter tended him. That’s where he was. Safe to sleep. All over now.

Cpoyright - Julia Smith - 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

Book Meme Redux

Darla tagged me with this meme which I did awhile back. This one is easy to do over and over because there's no such thing as too many books. At least there isn't in our apartment.

Here's how to play:

1. Pick up the nearest book.

2. Open to page 123

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the next three sentences.

5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

The nearest book is the one I'm currently reading. It's actually an Advance Reading Copy of my cousin's book, due to be released July 29th.

The Mistress Diaries is the second book in the Pembroke Palace series. Here we follow the story of darkly troubled Lord Vincent Sinclair. He was a very angry character in brother Devon's story, In My Wildest Fantasies. I couldn't wait to see how Julianne could redeem such a wounded man who lashed out with no holding back.

But Julianne is the Mistress of Redeemed Heroes. She gives us a character who's still very, very dark, even in his own book. But we see the world from his point of view and we feel for him - deeply. Especially since we see Vincent through the eyes of Cassandra Montrose, Lady Colchester, a woman who never falls for the charms of notorious rakes. Until she decides that she deserves one wild night of passion after an emotional shock that leaves her reeling.

Let's go to page 123 now. Vincent is in the drawing room with his fiancee, Lady Letitia.

The excerpt:

" 'Again, I do apologize.'

'Apology accepted.' But then she let out a sharp little sigh of displeasure and began to deliver what sounded rather like a lecture."

Those rakes - always apologizing...

Now, a-tagging I will go, a-tagging I will go:


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 61 - 13 Truly Marvellous Things About Richard Armitage

I'm in celebration mode this week, and what better way to rejoice than to devote this week's Thursday Thirteen to one of my favorite British actors - Richard Armitage. If he isn't already on your inspiration radar, he soon will be...

1 - 37-year-old Richard Armitage grew up in a village outside Leicester in England. He's already had an extensive career in theatre and British television, with a few film roles to round things off. He studied his craft from a young age, attending Pattison College in Coventry, a performing arts boarding school. Eventually he graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

2 - He first came to my attention as John Thornton in the BBC miniseries North and South.

He plays a Victorian cotton mill owner who tries to resist his attraction to a woman from the aristocratic south of England.

Be well-warned: if you haven't seen this miniseries yet, there is only one reaction to it. BRA and ARA - Before Richard Armitage and After Richard Armitage.

Here's a clip from the series when John Thornton and Margaret Hale first meet. Their opening scene runs to 1:45.

3 - It's no secret I'm a rabid fan of BBC's Robin Hood. Richard plays Sir Guy of Gisborne, an extremely complicated character who serves the Sheriff of Nottingham and counts Robin Hood as a bitter rival.

Make no mistake - Gisborne dishes out cruelty with the best of them.

He also weathers many heartbreaking blows dealt to him. Seasons 1 and 2 have already aired in England and on BBC America. Season 3 is now shooting in the forests of Hungary. Ask me if I'm constantly trying to work out what is in store for Guy. If I'm on the right track, he's heading for a complete meltdown.

4 - For a stretch and a change of pace, Richard played Harry Kennedy in the 2-part finale of The Vicar of Dibley. Closing out a hugely-successful 12-year run on British television, The Vicar of Dibley starred Dawn French as an extremely non-traditional village vicar.

Harry Kennedy is a London accountant who moves to Dibley to get away from it all. Vicar Geraldine Granger is positively certain that he'll be just like all the other townies who are merely weekend residents who don't give a fig for the village. She loathes him until he opens the door to her welcome visit.

Harry's attraction to the far-from-size-6 Geraldine is pure magic for women everywhere!

You gotta love a guy with a sense of humor. "I was sitting on a train," Richard said, "reading the scripts [for Dibley], and crying with laughter, and all these businessmen were turning round tutting at me. You don't often read scripts that make you laugh out loud."

Richard in rehearsal for Dibley.

5 - If you were gravely injured, regaining consciousness to this sight might cure a heck of a lot.

Richard played Dr. Alec Track from the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service in The Golden Hour for British television.

The title refers to the critical first hour after traumatic, life-threatening injury. Treatment given during the golden hour greatly increases a person's chances of survival.

6 - Who can resist a man who tells bedtime stories for CBeebies on BBC?

Richard reads I'm Not Going Out There by Paul Bright and Ben Cort.

7 - I really love how Richard wields a sword.

And his stunt fighting in particular - really, Richard, can't you put some effort into it...?

No wonder he's so great at stage combat. He was gunning for his Society of British Fight Directors qualification at one point.

“In reality they’re really heavy," Richard points out. "But we have lightweight versions, obviously, because we’re not strong enough.”

8 - What could be better than a sword-swinging hottie? For me, a triple-threat trumps even the swordsman. Early in his career, Richard played Macavity and Admetus in UK touring shows and West End productions of Cats.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square -
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!

He also appeared in a UK touring production of 42nd Street.

He's got a trained baritone voice as well as the moves. Oh, to see him in action...

9 - If that weren't fabulous enough, he also plays guitar.

Oh yes - and he also plays cello.

Photo by Pat Tinkley

And flute - did I mention flute?

10 - Having been trained in dance and movement, Richard puts a great deal of physicality into each role, I've noticed. His posture and gestures change according to the character he's playing, more than most actors I've seen. Here as John Thornton, he's literally dashing to secure his mill against striking workers.

In Ultimate Force he plays Captain Ian Macalwain, a stuffy officer overwhelmed by the true leader of the unit, the working-class soldier carrying the ball at right. Even in this rugby scene, Richard uses his body language to show that his character is in over his head.

As painfully shy John Standring in BBC's Sparkhouse, Richard curls into himself and tries to shrink his 6'2" frame when speaking to the woman he fancies.

Here as Guy of Gisborne, though he's been pinned to the wall by a knife thrown by Robin of Locksley, his body language continues to transmit a threat.

And he looks magnificent on a horse.

“You just have to keep on top of it physically," Richard says, "because you'll do three or four weeks without doing anything. And then all of a sudden you're into a really big fight sequence. So if you don't train properly you can injure yourself. The same with the horse-riding as well. If you suddenly get on a horse after three weeks of doing nothing, you really cannot walk the next day so you have to keep your body in shape.

“I run and go to the gym quite a lot. The scripts come in quite late - you open a script and realise you've got to be seriously fighting or naked from the waist up and you've got to be ready for it.”

12 - As he did several times in Cold Feet, playing flirty lifeguard Lee Richards.

"I was nervous as hell at my audition," Richard says. "When they handed me the script at the door, the first thing I saw was 'and he took off his top to reveal perfect abs'. I spent the whole time in agony, convinced they were going to make me strip and throw me out the door."

It's tough being a nasty piece of work - but Richard makes it hurt so good.

"I wanted people to be repulsed by this character," Richard says. "And so part of me feels like I’ve failed in a way [due to Guy's huge popularity] because I wanted people to squirm and feel uncomfortable when he was doing his dealings. But I kind of understand why it’s gone in this direction. And I think it’s because there’s a bad character who’s shown evidence that he’s redeemable. But I think there might be some unwinding of that feeling in the second series.”

11 - I really love Richard's come-hither gaze. Here he plays Paul Andrews, a youth probation officer married to a sex therapist in Between the Sheets.

Here he flirts away as the lifeguard in Cold Feet.

My absolute favorite is the way he looks at Margaret Hale in North and South.

13 - Richard gets the award for Most Romantic Kisser Ever.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 54

Photo by Lisa MacLeod

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 54 - Bluebird

After receiving longed-for news that I am no longer Pinnochio, but a real live boy at my job, I went joyously to see the Royal Ballet's Sleeping Beauty, broadcast in HD from Covent Garden and shown at a cinema theatre in Halifax on Saturday. Not only is Sleeping Beauty one of my favorite ballet scores (the soul-touching Tchaikovsky), but it showcases one of my favorite pas de deux - the Bluebird pas de deux.

I love this piece of dance so much, I set out to make a short film focusing on the choreography's attempt to replicate flight. I was even shortlisted by the Canada Council for the project, but alas, did not get the grant. Someday.

The dancer who agreed to be in the film if it got the green light was Johan Persson, at left. He danced for the National Ballet of Canada when I worked at the theatre as an usher. He was the best Bluebird I've ever seen. His powerful masculinity inhabited his performance like a shapeshifter. He was shivery-awesome to behold.

He's now retired from dance and is a photographer specializing in theatre photography, as well as portraits. He's definitely spoiled me as far as Bluebird performances go. The Bluebird pas de deux takes place near the end of the ballet, so part of me is waiting and waiting for it to start, even though I'm reveling in the rest of the ballet.

Imagine my dismay when the Bluebird started and the guy absolutely sucked. She was great - he sucked. I won't even tell you who it is. If I can't say anything nice, I won't say anything at all.

*crickets chirping*

If you want to see what the Bluebird should look like, check out this wonderful performance I found on YouTube by Vitali Tsvetkov from the Mariinsky Ballet Theatre.


Don’t wish it all away, I always think.
The overture begins. The ballet starts.
Anticipation drags me to the brink -
The tale unfolds, each luscious scene departs.
And then the prince and princess are to wed.
I long to see one very special guest,
And when that music sweetly fills my head,
The pas de deux begins that I love best.
So masterfully he steps upon the stage,
No longer man, but fiercely vibrant beast.
More than any war with earth-bound waged,
These variations let us mortals feast
Upon the victory this dancer scores.
The man who dances Bluebird truly soars.

- Copyright - Julia Smith - June 22, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008


What a difference one week can make.

Last Friday, I was so distraught I came home from work and cried for about an hour. I muscled my way through the weekend, every moment feeling like I knelt before the chopping block, waiting for the axe to fall. I made my way to work on Monday, my heart sinking with every step I took towards my office.

Allow me to explain.

The backstory: Having optimistically gone to film school, and my husband having graduated from acting school, we discovered after an eye-opening event that Brad has bipolar disorder. Over time, we found that he remains stable when he works a part time job, so I've become the main breadwinner. But I had film training, so my route to a full time, permanent job with benefits has been like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills.

At a particularly horrible time in my life, when I worked at a dollar store for a Simon Legree manager, my best friend Connie called me with an offer to be her assistant at her office. I can tell you how it felt exactly. It felt like the scene from Lord of the Rings when Sam is sinking and Frodo grabs his hand to pull him back to the surface.

With one phone call, Connie gave me that elusive office experience that is dearer to a person trapped in retail-worker poverty, than water to someone perishing from thirst. From a wonderful Cinderella time as her assistant, I went to a small office for eight excruxiating months. The boss was a snippy perfectionist who flew into snits, recognizing that I was on a rather steep learning curve. Every day I had to take a deep breath and force myself to take those steps over the threshhold. When he showed me something, I had to learn it immediately or else. So I did. Brad and I were barely squeaking by at the poverty line for a family of two.

I survived that boot camp experience, to land another office job with a dreamy manager and fabulous coworkers - but as a casual, still no benefits, still with enormous pharmacy costs each month to pay out-of-pocket. At least this time I'd climbed aboard the provincial government ship. Of course, getting hired as an actual, permanent employee with the province is all but impossible. Still, I applied for jobs I felt qualified for.

I lucked out by getting pulled aboard the government office I'm with now, again as a casual. Six months into that contract, I interviewed for my job - which was being made into a permanent position. I left for Toronto in October not knowing whether I had a job to come back to. As it turned out, I came in second. I went on unemployment, and in strange timing, was available to be with both my gram and my father-in-law as they passed away.

In January I got called back to the office, again as a casual. I was grateful to be back aboard, grateful to be in a position to once again apply for permanent positions, which I did. Again I came in second. The CEO's assistant took me to lunch to go over my interview, and she gave me feedback on what I could do at the next interview. Which I was grateful to get, even though I felt quite idiotic to need coaching.

I interviewed again - and once again came in second. I was crushed. Truly.

Brad's teeth began aching. He saw a dentist who said two root canals, for $2000.00 each, or two extractions for several hundred dollars each. The doctor put him on antibiotics in the meantime. And painkillers, too, of course.

I interviewed one more time. My manager went over my interview weaknesses beforehand, and once again I swallowed back my pride and was grateful for her generosity. I gave it an Oscar-calibre performance. Then I waited.

My contract was winding down. Still no word. No word. Hiring crawls at a glacial pace at the provincial level. My manager had to go to a conference, but told me not to worry. It's hard not to worry when I keep coming in second.

She got back from the conference, and still no word. My contract was due to end today. Last Friday I was on the edge of sanity. Was I heading into my final week of work? She'd told me when I didn't get the last position, that she wouldn't be able to extend this current contract past the 20th.

Meanwhile, the woman who won my old position started her job, with me training her. Of course she turns out to be a wonderful person. But it's very nerve-wracking to train her and not know if I'll last out the week.

So last week, I came home, sat on the couch with Brad and cried for an hour. He wrapped his arms around me, said not to worry, if I had to go on unemployment again, we'd get by somehow, like we always do.

Monday, I walked towards my office with a heart icing up with dread. My manager was so busy I barely saw her (she's managing our department, plus doing her actual HR job.) Tuesday, I walked towards my office with sweating hands and a rock-hard lump in my gut. My manager called the new woman into her office, and then me. Big, big sweat. Heart absolutely crushing inside.

First thing she said, waving a paper at me, was that the CEO's and Director's signatures were still drying on the approval, and she'd like to verbally offer me my current position. And that she hoped I would accept. (insert hysterically crazy laughter inside me that I had to keep from spilling out)

But wait - it gets better. She asked me - would I prefer my current position, or my old scanning position? I was stunned for a second, but quickly recovered and grabbed for that brass ring. I said I would love to have my old position back. So she switched us, easy as that.

When people quip, 'It's always darkest before the dawn', why does that always sound so poetic, but in reality feels like being tied to a stake in the arena, watching the grate roll up and the lions stroll out?

And now every cell in my body shimmers with rejoicing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 60 - 13 Reasons to Read Fox's Bride by Amy Ruttan

In the blogosphere, kindred spirits have a way of finding each other. I met Amy Ruttan as a fellow commenter at Christine d'Abo's blog. We quickly discovered that we share so many quirky tastes in things. Like Gerard Butler. *shiver* (Is that quirky, or just fabulous taste?) We both love Red Dwarf - ever heard of that show? Persuasion with Ciaran Hinds. The Vicar of Dibley. Gwen Stefani. And of course, The Pirates of Penzance.

I'd have to do an entire Thursday Thirteen about the things we've discovered about one another that makes us secret twins.

I got the chance to have lunch with Amy, Wylie Kinson and Leah Braemel before the Toronto Romance Writers meeting last October. After getting to know one another through blogging, it's like meeting a supahstah. So exciting, so wonderful. I was beside myself with waiting until Fox's Bride was released.

1 - Amy is one of the Sexies at Six Degrees of Sexy, along with my fellow Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada writer Renee Field, and fellow blog buddies Christine d'Abo, Wylie Kinson, Red Garnier, and Robin Rotham.

2 - And how exceedingly diverting is Fox's Bride? Read on, me hearties.

Amy's ebook is part of Cerridwen Press's Historical Romance Novel category. The heroine is the much-sought-after mistress of a sugar cane plantation in late 1720's Jamaica. Fortunately, as a girl she was married off to the equally young hero. This gives her protection from avaricious cads who scheme for her and her plantation. Unfortunately, the convenient yet absent husband grew into an utter wastrel.

3 - We meet Madeline Middleton, Lady Foxton, managing her own Jamaican plantation while sending a sizeable stipend to England, to keep her husband's rakish pursuits in full swing. Madeline needs income to purchase slaves away from her neighbors. She makes up for her husband's outrageous allowance by piracy - as the Dread Captain Meg.

4 - William Foxton married the red-headed girl just as his grandmother commanded. He knew their aristocratic family needed income from the Caribbean colonies in order to survive. He understood the worth of his marriage more and more as the years went on, as he discovered his father's betrayal of their family, as he sought to outrun his misery by living life as a scoundrel. What he'd never read for himself was the marriage contract. It sends him on the first ship to Jamaica, to legally claim his bride before it's too late.

5 - Amy's world is so full of characters and action - a wonderful change from the all-romantic-couple-all-the-time structure of most print releases. Cerridwen Press's ebook format gives authors room to explore settings and time frames other publishers wouldn't consider, no matter how hungry readers may be for originality. I threw myself into 1720's Jamaica with abandon.

6 - I especially appreciated the darker undertones to Amy's book. She never shies away from the reality of life for women of all social standings, and plainly spells out the miseries of life as a slave. In a print romance, she would have been asked to tone down or remove all of the social commentary that drives the book through its quick pacing.

7 - I really, really love the bantering that takes place between Madeline and Fox. Her years as a pirate, commanding a crew of men, serves her well when she encounters Lord Foxton, accustomed to deference and the witty company of White's in London.

When they meet up after so many years as mere names on documents, their conversation quickly turns to:

'My lord, I am not your dear anything!'

'Au contraire, you are my dear wife, are you not?' he asked smartly, looking thoroughly pleased parleying words with her.

'A dear wife who you haven’t seen in twenty years, my lord. The last time I saw you, you were a martyr to spotty skin,' she said hotly.

8 - The sexual desire between Madeline and Fox is a knock-down surprise to both of them. It begins from the moment she raids the ship her husband sails to Jamaica, their gazes locking even as she conceals her identity with a mask. When he discovers his wife is a pirate, it only fuels Fox's desire for a woman unlike any he could imagine - and he knew plenty of wild characters as he debauched his way through London. Madeline is likewise confused by her raw attraction to the man whose spending habits forced her to piracy in the first place. But she never recovered from his refusal to back down when she pointed her weapon at him aboard ship.

9 - The cast of characters includes many gray characters - people who display some understandable traits at some points of the novel, then display reprehensible traits at others. Gray characters are my favorite. They tug at my heart and shoot the tension level higher and higher.

10 - Amy really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

" 'Well, well, a lord of the realm here on this ship.' She bowed with a flourish and several of her crew, including John, laughed. 'Maybe I should ransom you to your relatives.'

Fox scoffed. 'You could but they’ll never pay. I’m an outcast, my dear.'

She cocked her eyebrow, seemingly intrigued by his response.

'Tsk, tsk. What about your poor wife? I’m sure she would be lost without you.'

'You can try her, she is quite wealthy. Although, you may find her hesitant, she’s never met me.'

'Ha, I find that hard to believe.' Captain Meg unsheathed her rapier and pointed it at his heart. 'Her name, my lord, or I will run you through.'

Fox smirked, thoroughly enjoying his repartee with this enchanting vixen.

'Happy to oblige, my dear. My wife is Lady Madeline Foxton of The Coral Reef plantation in Montego Bay.'

Captain Meg’s eyes flew open in horror and she quickly turned away. Fox was confused by her response.

'Sorry, did I say something to offend?'

She turned around abruptly, the blunt end of her pistol raised.
Why is she angry? was his last thought before everything went black."

11 - Amy's scenes are vividly cinematic. I can feel the rhythm of a film editor as she drops us in and out of scenes for as long as she needs us there - and no longer.

Madeline woke with a start to the sound of scratching at her window. She rubbed her eyes, dazed and confused. The moonlight streamed through the white gauze of her curtains so she didn’t need to light a candle.

She got up and padded over to the window, a pistol, which she kept at her bedside, in her hand, cocked and ready to fire.

Madeline pulled back the drape and balked at the sight of Fox, bedraggled and leaning with his both arms outstretched on either side of her balcony window.

His eyes were sparkling as he stared into her bedroom, his shirt open and flapping in a strong breeze. His hair was loose and blowing about his shoulders. He looked wild, like a stormed-tossed sea. It gave her a delicious thrill that traveled down her spine, warming her blood.
No, I won’t let him in tonight.

'What do you want?' she asked through the glass doors.

'Let me in,' Fox said, his voice slurring slightly.

She opened the balcony door a crack. She smelled a very strong odor of rum. 'Are you drunk?' she asked, wrinkling her nose in disgust.

'Possibly,' Fox garbled his words. 'No, I’m not drunk, I’m foxed.' He laughed.

She saw that he had climbed up the side of the house to get to the balcony. 'Either way, you’re not coming in here tonight,' Madeline countered. She tried to shut the door, but Fox prevented her.

'I’m coming in to be with my wife, whether you like it or not.'

She held the pistol up. 'I said no,' she warned dangerously.

His eyes glinted in the moonlight. 'You wouldn’t shoot me. You need me.'

'For what?' Madeline asked haughtily. Though she knew, yes she did need him to conceive a child.
Tell him the other reason, the reason even you won’t admit yourself, a little voice niggled in the back of her mind.

He swayed to the left and she tried to catch him but it was all a ruse as the pistol was easily tussled from her grip. Fox took the pistol and disarmed it.

'Now, shall we try that again?' he asked huskily.

'Oh go away, Fox, I am in no mood to play your personal whore tonight.' She turned away but he grabbed her roughly and brought her around to face him.

'I do not think of you as a whore.'

'So, women just fall at your feet?' she snapped.

'Yes,' he said as he leaned his mouth down to the pulse point of her neck. 'Especially when I do things like this.'

12 - I'm positive a sequel or two could expand Amy's Coral Reef world. There are so many characters I'd like to follow, like Madeline's butler and pirate hand, John. Or Cristal, the rescued slave from New Orleans.

13 - I leave you with a final excerpt. Enjoy!

"Madeline was angry at her cousin for not showing any interest in The Coral Reef, but when it was an inheritance to be paid to him, he had no problem showing up.

She remembered her cousin Jeremy. He was six years her junior, and she remembered when he became a teenager, a very forceful teenager, and he was randy—that was all there was to it. He tried to accost her in her bedroom. Luckily, Madeline was much stronger than the young fop. She easily threw him off and gave him a thrashing he wasn’t soon to forget. That was the last time she had seen her blood relatives.

As she came down the winding staircase the first thing she noticed was all the luggage.
He thinks he’s here to stay.

John motioned to her that Jeremy was in the sitting room. She balled up her fists and proceeded into the room to greet her long-detested cousin.

When Madeline saw Jeremy she had to choke back the laughter that began to bubble in her throat. She had thought she had seen a fop before, but it was nothing compared to the man of twenty years sitting on her settee, fanning himself.

Jeremy was garishly dressed in a huge powdered wig that had a small purple hat pinned to the top. His face was powdered and his eyebrows shaven, the mouse skin eyebrows that he wore were slowly slipping down his face as was the velvet mole from the humid tropic temperatures. Jeremy had obviously put on rouge and painted his lips red. His jacket, waistcoat and breeches were contrasting jewel tones, his shirt was very ruffled. His stockings were striped and his blue buckled shoes had very high heels.

The chokes of laughter were welling up inside her. Madeline looked back at John. His face was very serious but his eyes told a different story. He was trying to suppress his laughter.

'Jeremy…what brings you to The Coral Reef?' Madeline asked.

'Why, my dear cousin, is it so wrong of me to want to visit my only paternal relative?' He got up and with outstretched arms, embraced her.

Madeline remained stiff as her cousin hugged her. She held her breath to suppress Jeremy’s heavily perfumed body. He obviously was trying to mask his sweat with some sort of sweet scent, but he had put so much on his body that it was stifling and overpowering.

Jeremy’s hand began to wander down her back to her rear. Madeline pushed him away violently as she saw John approaching out of the corner of the room.

Jeremy wrinkled his nose in a sneer.

'Still a little randy are we not, Jeremy?' she barked.

'Still a prude eh, cousin?' Jeremy snapped as he sat down on the settee.

'What do you want, Jeremy?' she asked firmly.

'Well, if you must know, cousin, then there is no need to hide my reason for coming to Jamaica. Your marriage has not yet been consummated, and it doesn’t look as if it will be, as the last ship for the season left six months ago.'

'Your point?'

'My point is that part of the stipulation of the marriage contract was that you produce an heir with your husband by the time you were twenty-eight or The Coral Reef would fall forfeit…to me,' he said that last bit with such zeal it made her sick.

'I see,' Madeline said tightly.

'I’m not totally heartless, cousin,' Jeremy said. 'I say that we annul your marriage to Lord Foxton.'

'Why would I do that?' she asked uneasily.

Jeremy got off the settee and wandered over to her to whisper in her ear. 'So that we can get married. I find you a desirable woman, Madeline. I think we could rub along nicely together.'

A shiver went down Madeline’s back as she tried not lose her dinner.

'You see the crux of it is, Jeremy, I can’t annul my marriage.'

'Why ever not?' Jeremy demanded.

'Because, quite simply, her husband has consummated the marriage,' a lazy voice drawled from the doorway.

Madeline looked back to see Fox leaning against the doorjamb. His hair tied back but his shirt was unbuttoned, as if to show Jeremy that he and Madeline were just intimate.

She looked at her cousin, who looked outraged at seeing Fox. His face was actually turning red despite the fact he wore face powder. He was so tense that one of the mouse skin eyebrows slid off his face to the floor. She heard John laugh as he walked out of the room, suppressing his laughter into his liveried sleeve.

Fox walked over to Jeremy. Very nonchalant he bent over and picked the mouse skin eyebrow off the floor and held it out to Jeremy. 'I believe you lost this.'

Jeremy snatched it back and turned around to replace the fake eyebrow on his face. Madeline stifled a laugh in her hands.

Jeremy rounded on Fox. 'What are you doing in Jamaica?'

'That would seem obvious,' Fox said sardonically. 'I am consummating my marriage.'

'I thought you were still in London?' Jeremy said disdainfully.

'No, I caught the last ship to the West Indies,' Fox replied.

'Well, what am I going to do now? There’s no ship back to England for a year.'

'You’re more than welcome to stay here with us,' Fox offered.

Madeline gasped in dismay. She didn’t want her cousin to remain at The Coral Reef. He would just harass her. She did not want any of her female workers brutalized by Jeremy Middleton.

'That’s very kind of you, Lord Foxton,' Jeremy acquiesced. His face turned beet red again.

'You can go elsewhere. But I don’t know where, and with the Maroon attacks, I wouldn’t advise trying to travel tonight.'

'I agree, you are most gracious, Lord Foxton,' Jeremy said, defeated.

'John,' Madeline called. John had returned. He had obviously regained his composure. 'Would you show Jeremy to one of the guest quarters?'

'Aye, my lady,' John said, picking up some of the luggage. Jeremy flicked his fan, and with one last disdainful look at Fox and Madeline, followed John out of the sitting room and up the stairs.

- Amy Ruttan, 2008

This brings my second series of Thursday Thirteen book reviews to a close. Next week let's enjoy a little eye candy, shall we...?