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It’s a joy to welcome author Ann Tracy Marr today!   I am convinced you’ll be as enthralled as I was when you hear about “To His Mistress”, one of her romances. Welcome!

Thank you to Regina Andrews for offering me this spot in her Blog-String Fest. I like meeting people and consider this a great opportunity to do so. I assume you are a mix of writers and readers (as if writers don’t read). How shall I virtually bend your ears? Would you like to know how I conceived the plot of To His Mistress, one of my books?

I started with the hero, Alexander Stanton, the Earl of Shelton. He lives in England in 1814 when women wear romantic long gowns and unromantic corsets. Gentlemen gamble, ride horses, and have mistresses, as in prostitutes, to take care of their, ahem, needs. Prostitutes are for fun, not marriage.

That is how I began. Shelton has lots of experience with women, all of the whorish persuasion. Ladies — sisters, mothers, friends’ sisters and mothers — are set on a pedestal. Shelton stays far away from them because one step wrong and you end up married to them. Ladies are strictly chaperoned. They probably haven’t been kissed; God forbid some guy has touched them other than on the hand. They are to be as pure (and as sexually ignorant) as the white dresses they wear. Shelton has a mother and a budding desire to marry Lady Clarissa, daughter of another earl. He hasn’t done anything about it yet, because Shelton doesn’t really want to get married, but Clarissa looks pretty good.

Staying at an inn (think hotel off the interstate), Shelton goes to his room and finds a female in his bed. Like the guy on that TV commercial for Caesar’s Palace, he thinks he has gotten lucky, and wakes her up. Instead of snuggling, the female (her name is Katherine) screams, bringing her uncle on the scene. Uncle makes such a fuss he wakes the house and creates a scandal.

“Have you hear the latest scandal?” Gossipy old ladies will twitter. Everyone will have a field day talking about him. Laughing at him. You don’t think Shelton will like that, do you? Especially when it turns out that screaming meemie Katherine is not a whore; Uncle is a baron, there is no money to boast of, but she is still a lady, as in a never been kissed, stay away from or else you’ll end up married to her lady.

And that is what happens. Shelton has to marry her.

This is a pretty standard setup for a Regency — the forced marriage. What I did differently is that Shelton remains convinced Katherine is the next best thing to a whore. Her background isn’t distinguished; her uncle skates on the rim of disreputable. Not Katherine, but her uncle. Katherine is a perfectly nice, should be on a pedestal girl, but not to Shelton. Her uncle made such a vulgar stink at the inn, Shelton is sure it was deliberate. Katherine set him up, took advantage, forced him to marry her. Of course, she did it for his money. He doesn’t get happy with the marriage; he doesn’t fall in love and decide they can live happily ever after.

No, he wants a divorce. Then he can have the best of all possible worlds: marry rich Lady Clarissa and make Katherine his mistress. With all the Regencies I have read, I have never seen that plot.

Part of what is unique to the plot is the way Shelton treats Katherine. Remember, ladies and mistresses are not treated the same. A hero can slap a whore without the reader batting an eye, but he can’t raise a finger to a lady. Don’t swear in front of a lady, don’t stare at her breasts. Treat her like a nun or precious Waterford crystal. Have fun with the mistress — have lots of hot, steamy sex, don’t mind your tongue, relax and enjoy.

Shelton treats Katherine like a mistress. He plays with her body, acts out fantasies, and insults her, paying her back for tricking him into marriage. For the first part of the book, he is the villain. It isn’t until Katherine begins to understand the man that the reader begins to see that Shelton can be a hero. You are cheering for Katherine to win and she insists that you include Shelton in your prayers.

The result is a Regency that veers in a different direction. If you thirst for reality in books, Shelton and Katherine fill the bill. The characters are real people in a realistic situation fueled by misconceptions that fit their personal bugaboos. To satisfy those who want a little fantasy with their story, I incorporated two magicians — Shelton’s not-so-fond Mama and her butler — wagering on the success of the marriage. No spells barred, they do what they can to influence Katherine and Shelton, but they do it so subtly, you can read the book again and again without identifying the magical twists (or misidentify twists as magical).

Through it all, Shelton stubbornly insists on divorce. Oh, yes, Shelton is stubborn. He gets that trait from my husband.

When he can no longer deny that Katherine is a dyed in the wool lady — when he has to admit that he should not have treated her like a whore — Shelton has dug a pit so deep he might never manage to crawl out. How many times has a man you know done the same?

~~~
Ann Tracy Marr writes fantasy Regency romance. To His Mistress, the third book in her Banshee Brigade series, debuted in paperback October 25. Keeper of the Grail is in the works. A computer consultant in the Midwest, Marr lives with her husband, two cats, and plots that bounce off the wall.

Visit her at http://www.anntracymarr.com
Buy her books at http://www.awe-struck.net/authors/ann_tracy_marr.html

To His Mistress Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587497209
Round Table Magician Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587496066
Thwarting Magic Ebook ISBN: 978-1-587496479
Keeper of the Grail Awaiting release


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Today I am so happy and delighted that the wonderful Stephanie Burkhart is visiting the Summer Blog-String Fest! She’s a fantastic author, great friend – and fellow New England-er. Welcome, Steph!

Behind the Scenes of: A Polish Heart
by Stephanie Burkhart

Regina Andrews is one of the sweetest people I know. A fellow Desert Breeze Author, when I learned Regina was from Rhode Island, I felt like I’d met a kindred spirit. I grew up in New Hampshire. My first time to Rhode Island was to Newport in 1985 as part of a school trip. Newport, Rhode Island is beautiful. I visited the mansions of Newport – Rosecliff, the Astors, and the Breakers, and fell in love with the Breakers. What made the biggest impression with me was standing in the middle of the great hall and closing my eyes and envisioning what it like all those years ago.

The Breakers was the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and the home was constructed between 1892-95. The architectural style embodies “The Gilded Age” of America and was the largest, most elegant house in Newport when it was finished.

When it came time to write my inspirational short story, A Polish Heart, I drew upon my knowledge and love of Newport to give my hero, Darrin Riverton a home. Darrin comes from Newport and embodies the American dream.

“A Polish Heart” is a short story included in Victory Tales Press Spring/Easter anthology. The story encompasses inspirational and family themes. Darrin’s a successful architect who travels to Warsaw, Poland on an assignment. Sofia Buraczynski is the beautiful, hard-working and family orientated interpreter who Darrin falls for. Will Sophia’s faith give Darrin his heart back?

What I enjoy about writing for Victory Tales Press are the opportunities to branch out and try other subgenres of romance. “A Polish Heart” has an inspirational message – you are who God made you and you shouldn’t try to be what other people expect you to be. You’ll only be happy when you are yourself. There’s also a family message – a family filled with love offers unconditional support. Darrin’s family has been sidetracked by materialism – and Darrin has lost his way because of it.

REVIEWS: A POLISH HEART
5 Stars, Diane Craver, author of “The Christmas Gift”
Burkhart’s writing caused me to fall in love with Warsaw, even though I’ve never been there. Her descriptions of the setting and culture made me feel like I was experiencing firsthand Poland’s interesting country.

The Set up: Darrin and Sophia are finishing dinner at a local restaurant.

The waiter came and Darrin gave him his credit card.

“I’d invite you shopping with us, but I’m afraid you have a lot of work to do.”

Darrin frowned. He did, but he hated to miss the opportunity to learn about the Easter basket and go shopping for it.

“Why don’t you join us for mass on Palm Sunday?”

“Really? A mass? I haven’t been in months. I’d need a confession.”

“Do you want me to ask Father William if it would be permissible for me to translate for him? He takes confessions on Saturday afternoons.”

“All right.”

“You can work in the morning. I’ll call you in the afternoon. Do you mind taking the metro again?”

“That’s fine.”

“What if he can’t take your confession?” asked Sofia.

“I’ll still go to mass with you, but I’d like to be able to receive the Eucharist.”

Her smile widened, warming his heart.

“I would like that. I’ll do my best to help get you a confession.”

The waiter returned and Darrin signed the bill. They left. Sofia’s car was parked in front of her house. The car ride back to his hotel was silent. She’d given him a lot to think about. How did he want to live his life? Falsely, trying to meet his parents’ expectations? Or did he want to let his heart breathe? He was twenty-nine. Wasn’t he entitled to let himself follow his own course? He had a good job, a nice apartment – he just had to live the way he wanted. And he had to guard his heart, turn away dishonesty and keep his eyes firmly on the path ahead, as the rest of the verse advised.

Sofia pulled up to the front of the hotel and put the car in park. Darrin turned to face her. The fringes of her lashes cast shadows on her cheeks, softening her expression. He reached out and gently took her hand in his. Her touch sent warm tendrils of desire through him. With the other hand, he cupped her cheek. She closed her eyes, and drew in a sharp breath before opening them again.
Lightly, he rubbed his thumb against her jaw.

“May I kiss you?” His voice was low and husky.

“Yes.”

He leaned forward, his lips feather light, touching hers with tantalizing persuasion until she opened up to him. He kept the kiss slow, thoughtful, enjoying the hints of berries and currants that lingered from the malbec. He pulled away gently.

“That was nice,” she whispered.

“Call me tomorrow.”

“I will.”
Darrin opened the door and stepped out. He waved to Sofia and she waved back as she drove away.

Darrin went to his room and revisited his luggage, removing his travel Bible from an inner pocket. He always took it with him, just in case. Opening it up, he went to the book of Proverbs, sat up against the headboard of the bed, and began to read.

Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC6_397PerU

Buy Links:

Print Book:
Create Space: https://www.createspace.com/3579108

Ebook:
Lulu: (PDF) http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/a-springeaster-collection-sweet/15166166

Smashwords: (multiple formats) http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/48682

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Spring-Easter-Collection-Sweet-ebook/dp/B004TMPOYM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1314939571&sr=8-2

Stephanie Burkhart was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. A member of Generation X, she joined the army in 1986 and spent 7 years overseas in Germany. She’s now a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. Her favorite football team is the New England Patriots. A Polish Heart was inspired by her Polish heritage.

Find me on the Web at:

BLOG:
http://sgcardin.blogspot.com

WEBSITE:
http://www.stephanieburkhart.com

FACEBOOK:
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1357922219

GOODREADS:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4031660.Stephanie_Burkhart

Thank you for visiting, Stephanie, and best of luck with your writings!

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It’s such a thrill to welcome author Stephanie Burkhart today as she celebrates the release of her newest book “The Count’s Lair,” offered by Desert Breeze Publishing. Let’s hear what she has to say!

I’m excited to be here at Regina’s blog today. Thanks so much for having me here.

Just a little about me: I was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. After graduating from Central High, I joined the US Army. I spent 11 years in the military, 7 in Germany. While in the military, I earned a BS in Political Science from California Baptist University in Riverside, CA in 1995. I left the Army in 1997 and settled in California, but my favorite football team is still the New England Patriots. I work for LAPD as a 911 dispatcher. I’ve been married for 19 years. I have two boys, Andrew, 8, and Joseph, 4.

How a story grows organically

Count Anton Varga is the handsome, yet moody hero in my latest release, “The Count’s Lair,” a paranormal romance set in Budapest, Hungary during Christmas in 1901. Lady Amelia Andrassy is the beautiful, yet melancholy heroine. Their story came to me naturally, an outgrowth of the events that occurred in Book 1 of the series, “The Hungarian.”

In “The Hungarian,” I always intended Anton to be a redeemable foil for Matthias. He comes close to crossing the line, but thankfully, doesn’t. There’s a touch of humanity underneath his feral nature.

Amelia is Kate’s good friend in “The Hungarian.” In Book 1, Anton and Amelia meet in the middle of the story, but it’s not until the spark that passes between them in the Duma’s bookstore toward the end of the novel, does Anton and Amelia realize their attraction.

Anton decides he wants to court Amelia, but he needs to sort out his emotions and tame the best. Amelia also has issues to deal with. When “The Hungarian” ends, neither Anton nor Amelia are ready for romance.

“In Moonlight Sonata,” a free prequel to “The Count’s Lair,” Anton and Amelia become friends. Anton goes outside of his comfort zone to offer Amelia the support she needs to get through the bitterness of her husband’s death. Amelia expresses her pain and regrets through playing Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathetique.” At the end of the prequel, she thinks of Anton and dares to play the “Moonlight Sonata.”

“The Count’s Lair” opens after Anton and Amelia have spent two months apart. Have their heart’s healed enough to let love bloom?

Enjoy this excerpt:

A hesitant smile crossed her lips, as she wrapped her arms around herself, her gown hardly warming her. “Aren’t you cold?” she asked.
He frowned. No, thanks to the moon, he was as hot as an oven.
“I’m sorry.” Quickly, he took off his tuxedo’s jacket and walked behind her, draping it over her shoulders. He stayed close to her, hoping his body’s unnatural warmth would help her. She smiled her thanks. Curious, he stepped out from behind her, but stayed close by her side. She turned to look at him.
He flashed her a gentle smile. “Why did you ask if I was Catholic?”
She cocked an eyebrow. “Well, it is Christmas time.”
“It is.”
“I just wanted to know how you celebrate the holidays.”
He pursed his lips. “I normally don’t celebrate.”
“You don’t get a tree? Put up garland?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“My mother died young. My father and brother weren’t religious,” he replied.
Her eyes softened. “Your father didn’t give gifts? Sing carols?”
“My father wasn’t one to sing carols or give gifts.”
She stepped into his personal space and cupped his cheek. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It’s the way I was raised.”
“I have pleasant memories of Christmas.”
“Share them with me,” he said.
She flashed him a tender smile. “Well, my mother was musical. She played piano and sang. My sister likes to sing. My father would take us out into the woods, and we’d pick our tree. He’d cut it down, and we’d bring it home. We all decorated it with glass ornaments, garland, and popcorn. My mother would take us caroling with her church choir. We’d even bake special foods for the holiday.”
“What? Yorkshire pudding and rib roast?”
“How did you know?”
He chuckled. “You grew up in England, if I remember correctly.”
“I did grow up in England.”
“Near London, right? Ester?”
“It’s Esher — just outside of London.”
Again, he chuckled. “I’m sorry. I know you told me–”
“Before you left.”
“Yes, before I left.”
She stepped away from him, as if forcing distance between them for not remembering. He grabbed her wrist. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” she said quietly.
“Perhaps you can help me to enjoy the Christmas season,” he suggested. “Let me take you to the Kris Kringle Market in Budapest.”
Her eyes danced with delight at the suggestion. “I’d like that. When?”
He frowned. “A week from now.”

YOU TUBE BOOK TRAILER:

The Count’s Lair is avail as ebook for Kindle, B&N Nook, Sony Ereader, and Kobo. You can also download a copy from the Publisher’s Website at:

http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-142/Stephanie-Burkhart-Budapest-Moon/Detail.bok

You can find me on the web at:

BLOG:
http://sgcardin.blogspot.com

WEBSITE:
http://sgcardin.tripod.com

FACEBOOK:
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1357922219

Goodie Time: Leave me a comment and I’ll be back to pick a winner who will receive a print copy of my sweet military romantic adventure, “Destination: Berlin.”

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