"A Delicious Read" - Brazen in Blue by Rachael Miles - Excerpt and Interview
“Series fans and new readers alike will be charmed.” –Publishers Weekly
Lady Emmeline Hartley has overcome every obstacle life has thrown her way. A spinster, disappointed in love, Em is on the brink of a marriage of convenience, when the man who rejected her heart reappears in need of her help. It gives Em a chance to escape, put to use one of her most unusual talents--and perhaps convince him once and for all to risk his heart...
Adam Montclair--one of the most successful agents at the Home Office--rubs elbows with the highest levels of society. Even so, he wasn’t to the manor born. No matter how much he desires Em, as a match he is completely unsuitable. While it pains him to be near her, it’s a punishment he richly deserves. Now on a mission to uncover a plot against the government, Adam knows Em’s uncanny ability to recall voices will be essential. Yet as the two thwart the dangers in their path, it may become impossible to deny that Em is essential to happiness itself...
Book five in Miles’s The Muses’ Salon series (after Reckless in Red) delivers heady Regency romance featuring a refreshing heroine and a tantalizing mystery. Lady Emmeline Hartley permanently injured her legs at age six in the same accident that killed her mother and sisters. Her father abandoned her to be raised by servants, and Em has spent the intervening years caring for his estate with her faithful dog, Queen Bess, at her side. Now Em is on the brink of a marriage of convenience to longtime family friend Lord Colin Somerville—but she gets cold feet and flees on her wedding day, reluctantly accepting the aid of Adam Locksley, an agent of the Home Office and Em’s former lover, to get away. Though Em is angry at Adam over a perceived betrayal, Adam is determined to keep her safe. But in a delightful twist, the Home Office requests Em’s help to catch a burgeoning threat to England, and Adam and Em are quickly embroiled in a multitude of schemes. Em’s self-discovery is a delight to behold as she matures from impish child, to solemn bride-to-be, to fully self-actualized, independent woman working hand in hand with a partner. Series fans and new readers alike will be charmed. —Publishers Weekly
Enjoy an Excerpt from
Brazen in Blue
The note was short. A time, a place, a handwriting she knew. But no apology.
Lady Emmeline Hartley read the note again.
I must see you. I wouldn’t ask, knowing how we parted. But I must say it: lives depend on it. Come to the great oak at midnight. The light of the moon will guide your way.
For months she’d imagined how she would respond if Adam Locksley ever sent her such a note. After long con- sideration, she’d determined she wouldn’t see him. She would let him and his rabble-rousing friends go; she would do good in her own way. She had her own funds. She didn’t need to overturn the aristocracy to feed those on her estate or in her shire.
She threw the note into the fire.
But she had no choice but to meet Adam. A week ago, Lord Colin Somerville had arrived, haggard and wounded both in body and soul. He was her childhood defender, her dear and constant friend. He’d asked for shelter and for secrecy. She’d promised him both. She wouldn’t let her indiscretions alter that.
If she didn’t meet Adam, he would come to the estate. He’d done it before, stood under her balcony with a hand- ful of pebbles and hit every window but her own. In the months since she’d seen him last, she’d moved her bedroom to another wing of the manor, so whatever window his pebbles struck, it couldn’t be hers. That made it more likely that Colin would hear him, and then she’d have to explain. The thought of her upstanding defender pacing off a duel with her criminal lover twisted her stomach.
No, she had to meet Adam. But she didn’t have to trust him.
She dressed quickly in a dark riding dress covered by her grandfather’s greatcoat, shortened to fit her height. Removing a muff pistol from her dressing table, she carefully loaded the chamber, then tucked it into an inner pocket she’d sewn for the purpose. When Em picked up her walking stick, her giant Newfoundland dog, Queen Bess, rose and joined her.
Taking a deep breath, Emmeline slipped into the hall, Bess padding quietly behind. She stole down the staircase and through the door leading into the kitchen garden. No one noticed.
At the garden, two paths led to the great oak. The smoother, wider, but more public, route took her toward the village, joining the forest where the bridge crossed the river. The longer, but more secluded, route led through the uneven ground of the churchyard. She chose the private cemetery path.
Since the moon was bright, she walked close to the chapel walls. Inside the churchyard, she passed the graves of her oldest ancestors. While she was within the view of the house, she forced herself to move slowly, stepping from the shadow of one tree to the next. If someone looked out a window, she wanted to appear no more than a trick of the moonlight, or, for the more superstitious, a ghost uneasy in the grave or one of the faerie folk come to dance among the oaks.
At the graves of her sisters, she quickened her pace. As a child, she had carried her bowl of porridge to their trim plots, believing they could know she was near them. But as she’d grown, she had set aside such fancies. Nursery rhymes and folk tales only cloud the judgment. Even so, she was grateful her sisters had been long silent: she would have hated for them to know what a fool she’d been.
Stepping into the forest, Emmeline quickened her step, but not because Adam waited. She could never make her way to the great oak’s clearing without thinking of her mother and sisters, lost in a carriage accident when Emmeline was just six. Her mother, Titania—named after Shakespeare’s Queen of the Faeries—had believed the clearing was one of the few remaining places where the human and faerie worlds overlapped. On picnics, Titania would enthrall her daughters with tales of magic and enchantment, her voice a lilting honey-gold. Sometimes Titania would sing them an eerie, tuneless song she claimed the Faerie Queen had taught her. On those days, Emmeline would dance around the great oak, believing that she could see shadowy figures melt out of and back into the trees.
Had Emmeline not grown up half in love with faeries, she wouldn’t have fallen so easily under Adam’s spell. When she’d first encountered him beneath the shadows of the giant oak, she would have known that, though he was playing a lyre, he was just another highwayman. Emme- line slowed, not wishing to tax her leg, as she navigated her way carefully across the raised tree roots that broke up the path. But even so, she reached the clearing long before the time he’d set.
He stood much as he had the first time she’d seen him. His long dark cloak was the color of shadows, and his doublet and trousers were a rich forest green. This time, however, he had no lyre, and, without his rich baritone, the clearing was oddly silent.
Even so, she wasn’t prepared for the visceral jolt of recognition when she saw him or the way she longed to feel the touch of his hands and lips. But she refused her desire. She couldn’t allow herself to trust him again.
“No song tonight?” She kept her distance, keeping her hand hidden inside her cloak.
“I feel little like singing.”
Even in the dark, her mind saw his words as texture and color.
He walked to the altar rock, gesturing for her to sit beside him as they used to do. His body appeared tense, his shoulders and neck held taut.
“What troubles you?” She leaned up against the giant oak instead. “Could you find no good and true English- men, to seduce with your words?”
“You’re still angry.” He stepped toward her.
“No, to feel angry, I’d have to feel something for you.” She held up her walking stick menacingly, and he stopped several feet away. “But you killed my good feelings when you let those men die. All that’s left is revulsion.”
“What if I told you that they weren’t dead? That they and their families are living well on their own plots of land, happy in the colonies?” He raised his hands in supplication.
“I’d ask what other fairy tales you wish for me to be- lieve. I saw the notice of execution. My only disappoint- ment was that your name wasn’t on it.” She knew the words weren’t true, but she wouldn’t let him see other- wise. Her life would be better without him.
“I knew this was a bad idea.” He raked his hand through his hair.
“After months of silence and last week’s massacre at Manchester, did you expect me to be grateful for your summons?”
“Then why did you come?” Adam held out his hand, but she ignored it.
“To warn you,” she said flatly.
“Of what?” He looked hopeful.
“Set foot upon my lands again or in the village or any where in this county, and I will have you hung. I will testify myself.”
“How can you testify without revealing your part in my crimes?” Adam’s tone sounded almost amused.
“I can’t. That’s your dilemma. You promised me once that you would never allow me to be harmed by riding with you. If you stay, I will have you jailed and tried, and I cannot help but be harmed if I testify.” She spoke slowly. She would not be misunderstood. “You have a choice. You may hold your meetings. Create your reform societies. Tempt the farmers and workmen to peaceful protests like the one at Peterloo, where they will be killed or maimed. But not here.”
“Em, I didn’t intend . . .” He stepped forward, but she held up the walking stick, stopping his progress.
“I don’t care what your intentions were. I thought you were a good man, that you hoped to ease the sufferings of your fellow men, that you wanted rational reform. You showed me those sufferings in ways that I’d never seen before.” She willed her voice to remain even. “But you betrayed the cottagers who believed in you, and you led them straight to their deaths. And I was beside you. Their blood is on my hands as surely as it is on yours. My only redemption will be to oppose you and men like you to my last breath.”
“I need your help.” He held out his palms in supplication, walking toward her.
“Never. I reserve my help for the families men like you destroy. Now leave my land before I set the magistrate on you.” She let her cloak fall open and lifted her hand, directing her pistol at his heart. “Or I will kill you myself.”
“Would you send me away if you knew it meant my death?”
She looked deep in his eyes and cocked the trigger. “Yes.”
End of Excerpt. Copyright © Rachel Miles
Praise for the Muses’ Salon series
“A feast for the imagination.” –Publishers Weekly
“Rachael Miles’ knowledge of the time period she writes about adds a depth of authenticity that enriches every page.” –Jodi Thomas, New York Times bestselling author
“A delicious, original read.” –RT Book Reviews
In the author's words . . .
Q&A with Rachel Miles
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to find a balance between the two: how far can I push the limits of the genre without taking readers out of the story? Every reader knows the conventions of the genres they read: romance readers expect an optimistic ending; mystery readers expect a resolution of the plot; thriller readers expect someone to catch the spy (or the serial killer) and save the world (or hostage). With romance, we also have dozens of tropes that readers love (and hate): friends to lovers; enemies to lovers; secret baby; second chance; soul mates, etc—and those create additional constraints and opportunities.
If I adhere too closely to the patterns of the genre, I risk that readers will find my books too formulaic. But if I twist the conventions too far—or ignore them completely—I risk that readers will find the novel isn’t “enough of a” romance or mystery.
Most often, I look to the history of the period, to odd moments I discover in my research, to help shape the plot and characters in original ways, while staying within the shape of the genre. It’s even better when readers say something like “I don’t usually like [insert trope here] books, but this one surprised me.”
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It’s funny, but I’ve never been able to answer that. My mother tells me that even when I was very little, if people asked that, I would scrunch up my face and glare at them. Though I don’t remember that, I do know that from fairly early, I thought of my life as a process of “becoming,” a pilgrimage to a future self that I couldn’t see or even imagine. And I believed that all the opportunities and obstacles were ultimately directing me in some way to that unknown self. So, I resisted all efforts to force me to decide on a particular path. My college major was listed as ‘undecided’ until I was a junior (I don’t recommend that strategy. It’s better to pick something then change it—because departments don’t give funding to people who aren’t their students.) At the same time that I had—and still have—this mystical view of how life works, I also was careful to set limits to how much I could indulge my varied interests. In college, I took the degree chart and figured out how I could overlap requirements to fit in everything I found interesting without taking extra credits. I do realize how nerdy that sounds. But I’m not certain that I would have discovered how much I love research and writing if I’d come at it head on. It had to sneak up on me.
Who are your main characters? Tell as a little about what makes them tick.
In Brazen in Blue, Lady Emmeline Hartley has been living to other people’s expectations her whole life. She’s responsible, deliberative, and kind. But at the beginning of the book, her good heart has put her in an impossible situation. In a moment of weakness, she’s agreed to marry her childhood friend, and as the wedding approaches, she becomes more and more convinced that going through with the marriage will make both of them unhappy. But breaking the engagement will create a scandal, and running goes against her character.
Adam Montclair is an honest man who has had to find ways to justify to himself that he lies for a living. A spy for the Home Office and best friend to the groom, Adam has come to the wedding to see Em married. Several years before, trying to track down a criminal, he’d enlisted Em’s help, and her intelligence, her wit, and her bravery has haunted him since. But, after he gained the information the Home Office needed, he abandoned her friendship and worse yet, he’s let her believe he is dead. But the Home Office needs her help once more, and Adam must decide whether duty to country is more important than staying true to his heart.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I spend enough time on research that readers can trust my details to be historically accurate. I was a university professor for many years, and research is part of the job. As a result, I tend to research compulsively, and I probably research at least one thing per page. Most often I research whether a particular word existed in the year of my story. Some words surprise me at how old they are: thing for example is an Old English word — it’s even in Beowulf. Other words are unexpectedly recent. Empathy, for example, didn’t exist before Sigmund Freud in the late nineteenth-century. So I can’t have a character in a Regency empathize with another person, though they can feel sympathy for them.
I love to research what a person living in the period of my book might reasonably know. In Brazen in Blue—my upcoming release—the main character sees spoken words in color, so I researched both whether that is a legitimate form of synesthesia and whether it appeared in any 19thC documents.
If the plot that I’ve imagined intersects with what I already know about the early nineteenth-century, then I don’t have to research as much upfront. Other times—as with my work in progress, Wicked in White, which requires me to know about the tides on the river Thames—I have had to really dig. Hint: in 1820 the strength of the tide is tied to which of the bridges it is passing under.
Do you believe in the concept of a muse? What is yours like?
I love this question because I named my series the Muses’ Salon. I took the idea from a Richard Samuel’s 1778 painting Portraits in the Characters of the Muses in the Temple of Apollo, originally published as the Nine Living Muses of Great Britain. It depicts nine contemporary women writers and artists representing all fields of intellectual endeavor: scholars, playwrights, novelists, poets, painters, historians, singers, etc. (You can see the painting online at the National Portrait Gallery—npg.org.uk). And I thought what if I created such a community of women in my books, a group of women who support and help each other, drawing on their special talents and skills. And each of them has different gifts: Ophelia Mason, for example, is a chemist; Lady Sophia Wilmot is a botanical illustrator and author; Lady Judith Somerville has both a very discriminating nose and a keen financial mind; Lady Lucy Fairborne is a Waterloo nurse, and so on. And it’s been great fun creating plots that highlight their various abilities.
As for my muse…she is really quite lazy. She curls up in a chair in my office and reads a book (usually not one of mine). She refuses to whisper anything at all in my ear. Instead, she tells me to sit down and write and that eventually I’ll work it out. In fact, she reminds me of a dear piano teacher I once had…you knew you’d played something wrong if she woke up.
Books & Benches: Delightful interview! :)
Meet the Author
Rachael Miles writes ‘cozily scrumptious’ historical romances set in the British Regency. Her books have been positively reviewed by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, which praised her ‘impeccably researched and beautifully crafted’ novels, comparing her works to those of Jo Beverly and Mary Jo Putney. Her novel, Reckless in Red, won first place in adult fiction: novels in the National Federation of Press Women’s writing contest. A native Texan, Miles is a former professor of book history and nineteenth-century literature. She lives in upstate New York with her indulgent husband, three rescued dogs, and all the squirrels, chipmunks, and deer who eat at her bird feeders.
Visit her at rachaelmiles.com
Genre: Historical Regency Romance
Publisher: Kensington - Zebra Books
Series: Book 5 in the Muses' Salon Series
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Heat Level: 5 Hearts