Coming This Year

Do you get excited by the possibilities at the start of a new year? I do!

2019 is particularly exciting since a number of my series have been completed or are coming to an end. It’ll be a year for fresh starts, and I love diving into new projects and worlds. Let’s talk about one of those series today: Rogues & Angels.

One Knight Enchanted, #1 of the Rogues & Angels series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixLast year, I published One Knight Enchanted, which was a revision of a story originally published under the title Enchanted. I always loved this story, which is a Beauty and the Beast tale, because Annelise and Rolfe seemed to be so very good together. At the beginning of the book, he’s cursed to be a wolf half of the time, and only true love can break the spell. Rolfe doesn’t believe in love, so he doesn’t think he’ll ever be released—until Annelise comes along. The threat to her reminds Rolfe of the knight he used to be and he defends her, which begins their unexpected courtship. He hasn’t counted on Annelise’s belief in the power of love or her determination to solve every riddle—and neither of them realize that a thwarted suitor will follow her and threaten their future.

Enchanted, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix

Original Harlequin Historical edition of Enchanted by Claire Delacroix

I remembered the story very vividly, but when I dug into the book file, I realized that my writing had developed quite a lot in the past twenty years. Instead of just correcting the scanned book file, I ended up revising the story, rewriting passages and adding new scenes. I delved deeper into the characters of both Rolfe and Annelise, and their relationship developed more dimension as a result. If you read Enchanted back in the day, you’ll find that One Knight Enchanted is similar but different. I think it’s better.

The story, Enchanted, had been the middle book in what I considered to be a trilogy, the Sayerne Series. It was never labelled as such by the original publisher, so for republication, I switched things around and created a new series with tighter links between the books. Rogues & Angels features eight knights and comrades returning home from crusade, each of whom is given a gift by their host before departure. You can read that scene here on the website and it’s the prologue of One Knight Enchanted.

One Knight's Return, #2 of the Rogues & Angels series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixMy Lady’s Champion was the first Sayerne book published and again, I always liked this battle of wills. Quinn returns to reclaim his family holding of Sayerne, summoned by his overlord, the Lord de Tulley, upon the death of his father. Quinn was estranged from his father and has been gone for fifteen years. He’s surprised to learn that Tulley wants him to marry Melissande, the only daughter of the neighboring estate of Annossy, but willing to do whatever is necessary to regain his family holding. Melissande, however, battled long against Quinn’s father, who schemed to join their two holdings at any price, and believes the son will complete what the father began. She doesn’t want to marry Quinn and hates that she has no choice—she also distrusts that Quinn can tempt her passion to rise so easily and fears his intentions. I chose this story to be book two of Rogues & Angels and will publish it as One Knight’s Return. Annelise, the heroine in One Knight Enchanted, is the sister of Quinn, the hero of One Knight’s Return.

My Lady's Champion, a medieval romance by Claire Delacroix

Original Harlequin Historical edition of My Lady’s Champion by Claire Delacroix

Again, I remembered the story, and again, I’m doing a lot more revising and rewriting than I’d anticipated. The pacing in the original was slower than I like now, and there are a lot of exclamation marks that were cut, too. I love the fire between these two, so it’s work worth doing. I’m enjoying the deepening of their characters and their conflict. The war of wills between Quinn’s companion, Bayard, and Melissande’s maid, Berthe, remains in this new version, but also, the other knights arrive at Sayerne as arranged.

The Lord de Tulley has a niece now, and that charming rogue Niall MacGillivray glimpses his future in the heiress of Tulley. Niall and Heloise’s story will be an all-new book, coming later this year.

I see this as a series of at least eight books. The year is 1102, and this company of knights is returning home after the first crusade. We began in Jerusalem and are now in the Kingdom of Arles (part of the Holy Roman Empire, in the vicinity of Sion in modern Switzerland). Niall and Heliose’s book will take place here, too. The series then will continue to France, England and Scotland. In the coming weeks, I’ll post some more about my research for this series. I’ve started to work on Pinterest boards for this series, which you can see here.

I’ll also be creating a free guided tour of the books in this world and you can sign up now: sign up for the Rogues & Angels tour.

I’ll share the links for pre-ordering One Knight’s Return soon. 🙂

I haven’t forgotten about The Stolen Bride or A Baron for All Seasons, but I’d like to write Niall’s book first. Stay tuned for more news about those books.

Welcome to 2019! I think this is going to be a great year!

New Guided Tours for 2019

One Knight Enchanted, #1 of the Rogues & Angels series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixI’ll be creating a guided tour of the books in my world of Sayerne and you can sign up now. Subscribers to the Rogues & Angels guided tour will receive a weekly newsletter, each featuring one book in the series. You’ll get a peek behind the scenes, learn more about my research, and be able to take advantage of special offers. Since some of the books in this series are revised from previously published titles, I’ll also tell you what the changes are in the new edition. Since this series is in progress, you’ll receive emails until you’re caught up, then a new email when another book is added to the series. This is going to be a long series!

The guided tour will launch in April 2019, right before the publication of book two in the series, One Knight’s Return.

Sign up for the Rogues & Angels tour.

The Crusader's Bride, #1 of the Champions of St. Euphemia series of medieval romances by Claire DelacroixI’ll also be adding a guided tour for the Champions of St. Euphemia series in 2019. (It’s likely that I’ll set this one up first.) This tour will also give you a peek behind the scenes and discuss more of my research. As usual, there will be special offers for subscribers. Since this series is completed, the tour will have only six stops, and you’ll get one email each week until you’ve finished the tour.

Sign up for the Champions of St. Euphemia tour.

Last Chance for Knights in Shining Armor

Knights in Shining Armor, a bundle of medievla romances by Claire DelacroixThe Knights in Shining Armor boxed set is reaching the end of its short life. This digital bundle includes The Temptress, The Snow White Bride, and The Crusader’s Kiss. It finishes its run in Kindle Unlimited on March 25 and will be unpublished on March 26.

If you’re interested in this specially-priced bundle, grab your copy today at Amazon.

An Excerpt from A Duke By Any Other Name

I realized this morning that I’ve never posted an excerpt from Alexander and Daphne’s story for you! So, here it is, a taste of A Duke by Any Other Name, coming in its own edition on March 27. This is book #2 of the Brides of North Barrows—since we met Daphne in Something Wicked This Way Comes, I’d like you to meet Alexander.A Duke By Any Other Name, #2 of the Brides of North Barrows series of Regency romances by Claire Delacroix

Airdfinnan Castle, Scotland—December 1811

Alexander Magnus Armstrong, Duke of Inverfyre, read his aunt’s letter again and frowned. It was after dinner and he was alone in his library, the darkness of the night pressing against the windows and a robust fire blazing on the grate. He had been looking forward to an entire winter of savoring the pleasures of home.

The letter meant his desire was not to be.

He poured himself a port in consolation, took his favorite seat by the fire and sipped as he read the letter again. The last thing Alexander wanted to do was to abandon his sanctuary and ride for Cornwall, but it appeared that he had little choice.

He had baited a trap and his prey was poised to seize the cheese. It would be irresponsible to surrender the chase now.

Even if his sister Anthea would be disappointed.

Alexander frowned. His aunt, a baroness who had worked her way into every ballroom in London, was also his primary source of information. Penelope sent him chatty letters at regular intervals, cleverly managing to include all of the intelligence he needed amidst the drivel of who had cut whom and who had pawned their silver, substituting sterling for plate. No other soul could have read this missive and noticed the one gem of valuable information amidst the gossip.

In the employ of the crown, Alexander hunted criminals who preyed upon high society. He had been in pursuit of a jewel thief for a year. He had guessed long ago that the villain was the same man who had seen Anthea blamed for his crimes during her first season, but soon Alexander might be able to prove it. He had to catch the scoundrel in the act. A gentleman and gem collector who had experienced losses due to this very thief was aiding in the hunt. Mr. Timothy Cushing had shown the Eye of India to many in London and was dispatching it to the perfect recipient.

Alexander’s aunt shared the news that her good friend, Mr. Cushing, would be giving the fabulous brooch as a surprise to Lady Tamsyn Hambly, who was being married at Castle Keyvnor in Cornwall at Christmas. Aunt Penelope speculated on the bride’s delight at this surprise, for truly, who would not be thrilled?

Clearly, Alexander would also be spending Christmas in Cornwall, although not at Castle Keyvnor. The local village and its tavern would have to do.

He considered the calendar. Since it was only the beginning of December, he could arrive in time by carriage if he set out immediately.

He grimaced, for he was not yet ready to don his foppish disguise again.

Findlay entered with a tray and inhaled sharply, probably because his master had already poured his own port and was simultaneously making a face. “I apologize for the delay, Your Grace,” he said quickly. “Or is it the quality of the port that causes disfavor?”

“Neither, Findlay. You were neither late nor remiss. I was bored with my aunt’s tattle and too impatient to wait. Any blame is entirely mine.”

The older man stole a glance at Alexander as he wiped the decanter and ensured that all was as it should be. “Is there any detail that I can repair, Your Grace?”

“No, Findlay. You will never change my aunt.” Alexander smiled, then folded the letter and tucked it into his pocket. He surveyed the cozy library and sighed. “I will be departing at first light with the coach and six. I’ll want the black team again, though Rodney will not be pleased to have them run again so soon.”

“If he knows now, Your Grace, he will ensure that they are pampered tonight.”

“Yes. The big coach, please. It gives me more room to stretch my legs.”

“Oh, Alexander!” Anthea said from the doorway. “You can’t be leaving. You’ve only just returned home.” She looked to be on the verge of tears and Alexander hastily finished his port. At a telling glance, Findlay filled his glass again.

It was well established at Airdfinnan that the Duke of Inverfyre could not bear the sight of his sister’s tears.

“I fear I must, Anthea, but will return as quickly as possible.” Alexander nodded to Findlay. “Perhaps you could see to the details.”

“Of course, Your Grace.”

Alexander could see that Findlay was itching to know where he was going and why, but the older man didn’t ask. “Could you send Haskell to me to discuss the packing of my portmanteau, as well, please?”

“Your portmanteau, sir?”

“Yes, I will be gone for at least a month, probably longer.”

“Alexander!” Anthea protested. “What about Christmas?”

“You will enjoy the festivities without me.” When she might have protested, he lifted a hand. “I am somewhat irked to be leaving again so quickly, but there is nothing to be done about it. Dr. MacEwan insists that I take the sea air in Cornwall in December.”

To Alexander’s dismay, a tear not only slid down Anthea’s cheek but she came into the library to sit opposite him and make her appeal. “Dr. MacEwan,” she muttered under her breath and dashed at her tears with her fingertips. “Is the air in January truly so different in Cornwall?”

“So he insists.”

“I think him a fool. You are more hale than any seven men I know.”

Findlay bowed and departed, so obviously wanting to linger and eavesdrop that Alexander smiled.

The change in his expression evidently encouraged his sister to speak her mind. “Of course, you would not have to worry so much about your health if you had an heir,” she reminded him yet again. “High time it is, Alexander, for you to take a bride.”

“Anthea!”

“It is fearsome quiet at Airdfinnan, Alexander, especially at Christmas. It would be much merrier with little ones underfoot.” She smiled. “I wouldn’t miss you so much if there were half a dozen children here.”

“Then you should accept a suitor and have children of your own,” Alexander suggested gently.

His sister blushed and dropped her gaze, her expression like a dagger to his heart. “Not I,” she said softly, then forced a smile. “And it is you who must have a son to ensure the succession, after all. Is there a woman behind this speedy departure, or a damsel in distress?”

As much as he liked the bright gleam of curiosity in her eyes, Alexander could not lie to Anthea. “There is no damsel, in distress or otherwise.”

Anthea made a face, then stole his glass, taking a tiny sip of the port. “I do not believe your health is compromised. I suspect you simply want away from here.”

Alexander laughed. “Away from Airdfinnan is the last thing I desire.” He could not keep himself from casting a longing glance over the library and its comforts.

“Then you should wed. You’d have every excuse to remain home then and it could only improve your health.”

“Perhaps I will wed after you do,” he teased.

“Perhaps I should wed after you,” Anthea countered. “In fact, I will make you a wager, Alexander.”

“Ladies do not wager, Anthea. Surely Mama taught you that.”

“Surely she did, but I would like to, all the same.” Anthea had her stubborn look, which was all too rare these days. It seemed she seldom cared sufficiently about any matter to be stubborn, and just the sight was enough to make Alexander take her wager, whatever it might be. “You always wish for me to return to London and society, at least for a season. I will go with you and your bride, once you choose to wed.”

“Anthea!”

Anthea sat back, looking pleased with herself. “So, the sooner you wed, brother, the sooner I will follow go to London and find a husband.”

“You mean to make a wager you will not be required to fulfill,” he jested. “For each of us are as set against marriage as the other.”

To his surprise, Anthea shook her head. “No, that is not true, Alexander. I would love to marry and to have children.” Her tone was so wistful that he was prepared to find her a spouse this very night. “But it must be the right man, for I would have the same kind of love as Mama and Papa shared.”

“Theirs was a rare bond.”

“So, I must dream of what is mundane, instead of what is rare and precious?” she replied, her tone light. “Alexander, are you the brother I believe I know so well?”

He laughed. “A man has more time to linger over such a choice than a woman.”

“Indeed, and I am already twenty-five, Alexander. You had best hurry to find your lady wife.”

“It is not so simple as that…”

“No, it is not,” Anthea agreed, interrupting him. She leaned forward, her skirts rustling as she removed something from her pocket. “Mama warned me of that. She told me to find a partner who was honest, and one with no secrets, one whose nature I could admire and whose appearance gave me pleasure. She told me the rest would follow.”

“Did she?”

“And for you, I would add that your bride should be young, so she will have had less time to have cultivated secrets. You will be the one to teach her of many worldly matters, and she will adore you for it.”

Alexander was amused. “Is that how a good marriage is contrived?”

“It will be so for you, I am certain of it. Here, I have a token for you.”

Alexander extended his hand. Anthea dropped something small and round into it. It was black and about the size of a pea. He held the small dark sphere to the light, suspecting that he knew what it was. “A seed?”

Anthea laughed. “Not a seed, Alexander, the seed. The seed from the vine of Airdfinnan, from the last time it grew and flowered.”

“That is a fairy tale!” Alexander had heard the fanciful stories about the thorned vine that covered the walls of his castle and home, that it was from a seed brought back from the crusades by a knight, that after its arrival at Airdfinnan it grew only when the laird of Airdfinnan met his bride-to-be. He certainly did not believe that its perfume abetted the laird’s courtship and conquest.

But Anthea clearly did. “It is not! Mama told me that it grew when Papa courted her, and that she had never seen the like of it. She told me that its perfume was like an enchantment. Papa’s mother advised her upon your birth to save the seeds for your courtship.”

“Mama gave me several herself, before she died. They never grew, Anthea, which is proof that the tale is nonsense.”

“It is proof only that you had not met the lady who could claim your heart. Certainly, Miranda Delaney, no matter how fine her lineage and how lovely her countenance, would never have held your affections for long. What a viper!” Anthea’s disdain was clear, though the very mention of Miranda’s name reminded Alexander what a fool he had been. “Her memory should not be of sufficient merit to keep you from happiness. That is why the seed did not grow.”

Alexander tossed the seed into the air and caught it. “And what would you have me do? Plant a seed each time I meet a pretty woman?”

“I would have you seek a suitable woman, one who is honest and true, and pretty enough to tempt you, just as Mama advised.”

“And young.”

“And young,” Anthea agreed. “And if she is amenable to your attentions, I would have you plant the seed, so that the vine might aid your suit.”

Alexander drained his glass and set it aside, rising to his feet with purpose. “I suppose this errand cannot wait?”

Anthea laughed. “I should not delay in your place, Alexander, not if I wished my only sister off the shelf next season.”

“You are relying upon my taking this wager.”

Anthea took a deep breath. “I am seeking inspiration, Alexander. I know I should wed. I know I should leave Airdfinnan.” He watched her pleat her dress with nervous fingers. She swallowed and he ached at the sight of her unhappiness. “I know I should return to London and put all the rumors to rest.” Her gaze met his. “But I am afraid, Alexander.”

He dropped to his knee before her. “You know I would go with you, and defend you…”

She silenced him with a touch. “I know, but it would be so much easier to go with you and your wife, if she is your beloved. Your happiness would give me strength, and she would be able to accompany me where you cannot go.”

She was so lovely in her appeal that Alexander felt her will becoming his own. He had always been damnably susceptible to feminine beauty, and the malady had become more acute while he hunted the thief. The fire caught the red-gold of Anthea’s curls as if to toy with it, and her blue eyes were wide. She looked fragile and vulnerable and he wanted nothing more than to see her hand placed in that of a deserving and honorable man. Even her conviction in the truth of the tale of the vine was compelling to him on this night.

He bent and touched his lips to her fingers. “I will try, Anthea.”

She smiled. “That is all a person of sense can expect, Alexander.”

Alexander had no sooner put the seed into the pocket of his waistcoat than his valet tapped once upon the door, then entered the library.

Rupert Haskell was of an age with Alexander, the youngest son of a baron who had lost his father’s favor. He had chosen to earn his way and Alexander had been glad to give the other man a position. Haskell had a keen affection for travel and a similar loyalty to the crown. He had dark hair and a ready smile, but his wits were quick and his blade was quicker. He was a good man to have at one’s back, particularly in Alexander’s chosen profession. He was completely in Alexander’s confidence and when alone, they spoke as friends, not as master and servant, for they had been such at school.

Haskell spared a quick glance at Anthea, as if surprised to find her there, and color rose on the back of his neck.

“I will leave you to your arrangements, Alexander,” Anthea said, rising to her feet. “Godspeed to you, for I’m certain you’ll be gone before I rise in the morning.” She kissed Alexander’s cheeks then left, barely sparing Rupert a glance.

Rupert looked after her with an unmistakable yearning in his gaze, at least until Alexander cleared his throat. The other man then closed the door. “Where?” he asked, mouthing the word more than saying it aloud.

“Cornwall,” Alexander said, replying in kind.

Rupert crossed the room and noted the letter on Alexander’s desk. He smiled. “Your aunt?”

“Just as planned.”

“The full rig?” Rupert asked, referring to Alexander’s disguise.

Alexander sighed and nodded, then sat at his desk to respond to his aunt.

“Thank goodness those salmon and lemon striped trousers were delivered before we left London,” Rupert said more loudly. “You’ll be quite the sight, Your Grace.”

Alexander gave Rupert a poisonous glance, knowing that his valet enjoyed his flamboyant clothing a little too much. “There will be stealthy work to be done, as well,” he said in an undertone. “Bring the black, and my favorite boots, too.”

“You could just stay home, or leave it to another.”

Alexander impaled him with a look for the very suggestion. “My chase. My kill.”

“I know.” Rupert smiled then bowed. He raised his voice. “I shall see the portmanteau packed immediately, Your Grace, and be prepared to leave at dawn.”

“Excellent, Haskell.”

The other man left the library, admitting a cool draft that made Alexander think of cold carriages, draughty taverns and stone castles in Cornwall cold enough to freeze a man’s marrow. If he had a wife, he’d have warmth in his bed, to be sure.

But if he had a wife, he’d have a wealth of other problems.

Like having a wife. It was one thing to be less than completely honest with Anthea, but he doubted he could hide the truth of his profession from a wife.

And that meant he would have to completely trust the woman he married. Given his experience with feminine deception, Alexander thought that unlikely to occur soon.

Still, Anthea’s proposed wager was her first sign of interest in marriage in years. He removed the seed and rolled it between his finger and thumb, considering.

It could not hurt to try again. He didn’t imagine for a moment that the old stories were true, but Anthea would expect him to make a report upon his return. Perhaps if he tried, even if the seed failed, that would be sufficient to coax her back to London for the season.

It was more than worth a try.

That prospect put a smile on his lips. He lifted his quill and dipped it into the ink, thinking of how best to use their established code.

My dear Aunt Penelope—

What a delight to arrive home and find your letter already awaiting me here. It appears the post does not dally as I do! And such news! You make me yearn again for London. I regret that I will not be back in Town soon, for my doctor, the excellent Dr. MacEwan, has insisted that I take the sea air in Cornwall this month. He recommends ten thousand deep breaths a day—ten thousand!—and I heartily doubt that will leave me sufficient time to pen you a single line…

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