Yesterday, I shared a post about Esmeralda Ballantyne’s visit to my office last winter. She persuaded me to begin a project, which I’ll talk more about today.
About fifteen years ago, in 2006, I was looking for a new publisher for my historical romances. Then, as now, Regency romances sold better than medieval romances, so my agent suggested I come up with a Regency romance trilogy. I did. It was called The Ladies’ Academy and I really liked it. A mysterious lady named Olivia Mickelthorpe arrived in London and proceeded to secretly offer instruction to respectable ladies and wives in the amorous arts. She mingled in society disguised as an older woman called Mrs. Oliver, who was grumpy and outspoken (no filter there) and just too much fun. There was a dark and dangerous duke, Lucien deVries, determined to put an end to Olivia’s scandalous efforts. Their enemies-to-lovers romance arched over the trilogy, with the final book being their story.
There was one editor interested in the proposal and I did some revisions for her but we didn’t come to an agreement. In hindsight, I suspect this was because there was a paranormal element in the original version: Olivia found new clients via her younger sister’s psychic gifts. The sister dreamed of women in need of her older sister’s advice, which is admittedly a bit thin. Paranormal historical romances always perform less well than non-paranormal ones, so that might have been the proverbial kiss of death.
Still, I liked Olivia and Mrs. Oliver and kept all of my printed files of the various versions. (This is good because Word can’t open any of them anymore.)
Esmeralda Ballantyne dug out this old file when she took up residency in my office late last year. Broken-hearted after the marriage of Sebastian Montgomery in A Most Inconvenient Earl and in need of a new distraction, Esmeralda loved the notion of teaching respectable ladies what no one else would. I still liked elements of the story, too, so played around with it to create a new series which will launch this month. No surprise that there are no paranormal elements in this one!
The Ladies’ Essential Guide to the Art of Seduction is the new series and also the name of the book Esmeralda is writing in that series. (In The Ladies Academy, Olivia held classes in secret, which would be a much more complicated matter to arrange.) Like many books-in-progress, passages from Esmeralda’s growing volume are circulated among ladies in the know. There are excerpts from the book in each story in this new series. Just as in The Ladies’ Academy, Esmeralda disguises herself as Mrs. Oliver, and also, there is a dark and dangerous duke determined to put a stop to the whole thing. He is now Damien de Vries, Duke of Haynesdale, which links him to two of my medieval romance series. (Haynesdale is Bartholomew’s home estate in The Crusader’s Kiss, while The Wolf & the Witch is Maximilian de Vries’ book.) To eliminate the paranormal element, new clients or patrons are discovered by word-of-mouth, beginning with Eurydice, who did get a book from Esmeralda in A Most Inconvenient Earl.
The series begins with The Christmas Conquest, in which Eurydice tries to help an acquaintance, with Esmeralda’s assistance. I’m enjoying how surprised Rhys is by his formerly-innocent wife’s newfound knowledge, and also how enticing he finds the change. These books are proving to be a lot of fun to write. They’re also shorter, so I’ll be able to publish them more frequently. They will be in wide distribution, not KU.
The pre-order for The Christmas Conquest is available now.
Love was not part of the plan when this marriage was arranged…
Rhys Bettencourt, Baron Trevelaine, had every intention of avoiding his family’s curse. An arranged marriage to a plain bluestocking of fortune should have ensured her survival in childbirth and the provision of at least one heir. But practical Catherine undermined her betrothed’s scheme by unexpectedly capturing his heart. The sole way for Rhys to protect her is to deny them both physical satisfaction—until he learns of her plan to leave him and knows he has to act.
Two years into her arranged marriage, Catherine despairs of ever bearing a child. She flees to Rockmorton Manor for Christmas, only to find Rhys waiting for her, determined to convince her to stay with him. Does he want Catherine or her fortune? Confused and uncertain, Catherine discovers pages of sensual advice left in her chamber, which provide hope that her marriage might be saved.
Armed with information and with little to lose, Catherine embarks upon a campaign of seduction that Rhys finds himself powerless to resist—even as he fears for Catherine’s fate if he succumbs. Caught between love and the wretched curse, can Rhys find a way to keep his cherished wife safely by his side?
Coming July 26, 2022