When we heard that historical romance authors Jo Beverley, Vanessa Kelly, Sally MacKenzie and Kaitlin O’Riley had pooled their talent to create this month’s anthology, An Invitation to Sin, our next move was clear. We went right to the four authors to tell us what surprised them about the unexpected relationships that bloom in each of their novellas!
The Surprise In “Forbidden Affections" by Jo Beverley:
I've always been fascinated by the gothic tales that gripped readers in the late 18th and early 19th century. People who think Regency misses were demure would get a shock to share their enjoyment of capture by bandits, terror from lascivious monks, and hauntings by a variety of ghouls. In my story, "Forbidden Affections", a young fan of such works finds herself plunged into a simulation of one of her favorite stories and like so many gothic heroines, can't resist exploring.
Anna Featherstone is no foolish miss, however, and when her venture through a secret door tumbles her into the arms of a real-life rake, she knocks him out and escapes. She's already entangled in another dangerous adventure then, of course -- fascination with a dangerous man.
- Jo Beverley
The Surprise in “The Pleasures of a Younger Lover” by Vanessa Kelly:
Something unexpected happened when I sat down to write this story. It wanted to be big—single title big. All kinds of interesting secondary characters kept showing up, and there was a murder mystery that really wanted to be told, one that involved betrayals, twisted loyalties, and lots of danger.
But that’s not the novella I wanted to write, at least not for an anthology entitled An Invitation To Sin. So I squashed all those characters back into the box and instructed them to wait their turn. Because my story already had a big secret: my hero’s longstanding and unrequited love for the heroine. Captain Christian Archer, the hero of “The Pleasures of a Younger Lover”, has loved Clarissa Middleton for as long as he can remember. But circumstances made a relationship impossible. For one thing, Clarissa is five years older than Christian and never saw him as anything more than the annoying younger brother of her closest friend. When Clarissa married, Christian joined the army and took himself off to war, locking away the secret of his devotion forever. Or so he thought. Clarissa is a widow now, just coming out of her long year of mourning. Christian—now a seasoned and mature soldier—is determined to win both her hand and heart. But first he must reveal his long-kept secret, and convince her that his love will stand the test of time. Unfortunately, Clarissa has a secret too, and it’s not one she’s eager for Christian to discover.
There were many fun details that didn’t make it into the story. Christian, for instance, has a soft spot for animals. While stationed in Portugal, this big, tough soldier rescued two stray cats and a scruffy little dog named Lancer. This menagerie resides in his quarters in Lisbon, which means Clarissa has quite a surprise in store if she decides to follow the drum!
- Vanessa Kelly
The Surprise in “A Summer Love Affair” by Kaitlin O’Riley:
The idea of summer love affair is infinitely appealing. Summer itself is a special season that evokes images of carefree, lazy days and unrestrained freedom to do exactly what we wish. Add to that freedom the warmth of the sun, some soft sea air, and a few moonlit nights and romance can’t help but blossom. And what is a better location for a summer romance than the heated shores of southern Spain? This is exactly the locale where my story, “A Summer Love Affair”, takes place.
Now when you take two people who aren’t expecting to fall in love, like the two main characters, Charlotte Wilton and Gavin Ellsworth, who just happen to meet each other while visiting mutual friends at a villa in Southern Spain, and place them in such a romantic environment, sparks fly. And because they are without the usual Victorian Era social restrictions, Charlotte and Gavin are free to step out of bounds a little and do things they would never do under normal everyday circumstances… and this, of course, is when the fun begins!
- Kaitlin O’Reily
The Surprise in “The Naked Prince” by Sally MacKenzie:
Since I’m more a “pantser” than a plotter, elements of my stories are always somewhat unexpected--to me, at least. That’s one of the things I most enjoy about writing; I feel a story is working when the pieces I’ve sweated over mysteriously come together and reinforce each other.
“The Naked Prince” has a number of little secrets. The heroine, Miss Jo Atworthy, is a Latin tutor, living with her father and toiling away in a rather dull existence. Her secret pleasure is writing to a gentleman whose identity she doesn’t know. He’s a Latin scholar, likely an old gouty fellow, but in her daydreams she’s made him into a handsome prince who will rescue her from cramming Latin declensions into unruly boys’ heads. When a footman arrives with an invitation to a disreputable Valentine’s Day house party--an invitation to sin, as Jo calls it (Yes, I knew the title of the anthology when I wrote the story.), her father persuades her to attend. Whom should she meet when she arrives, literally falling into his arms--from a cart--but her prince, Damian Weston, Earl of Kenderly. Damian has come to this gathering in an attempt to keep his good friend Stephen Parker-Roth from being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous woman. He thinks he’s been writing to Jo’s father all these months. Through the course of the sinful house party replete with library assignations, scandalous Valentines, and a herd of naked revelers, Jo and Damian sort out their identities and their love.
I wrote “The Naked Prince” after I wrote The Naked King (June 2011) though the Prince happens about two months before the King. Since, as I say, I’m more a pantser than a plotter, I didn’t know Jo and Damian’s story when they showed up married in the King. I only knew Damian was Stephen Parker-Roth’s friend and had saved him from a disastrous entanglement. As it turns out, besides being a scholar and a favorite of the ladies, Damian is quite handy with his fists and not unfamiliar with the occasional corpse. I suspect he’s done a little surreptitious work for the government. In any event, he’s a good man to have in your corner.
- Sally MacKenzie
And don't those unexpected twists make you wonder what else will happen if you accept An Invitation to Sin from these authors? You can find out by getting your own copy of this anthology in stores now!