I am pleased to announce today's blog post. It is stop along the Secrets of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen blog tour, organized by lovely Laurel Ann Nattress of Austenprose.
Award winning historical romance author Julie Klassen tours the blogosphere February 16 through March 2 to share her latest release, The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Twenty-five popular book bloggers specializing in historical and Austenesque fiction will feature guest blogs, interviews, book reviews and excerpts of this acclaimed gothic Regency romance novel. A fabulous giveaway contest, including copies of all of Ms. Klassen’s eight books and other Jane Austen-themed items, is open to those who join the festivities.
EXCERPT (from Chapter Nine)
Abigail and Mr. Chapman rode home together in the gig. Abigail was very aware of being alone with a man—a man she found increasingly attractive. Though she wondered if she would have found him quite so attractive had Gilbert not disappointed her.
It was late, but the moon shone brightly, and she could see Mr. Chapman’s profile quite clearly. His straight nose, his firm, fair cheek. The waves of auburn hair falling over his ear, and his long, sculpted side-whiskers.
Perhaps sensing her scrutiny, he glanced over at her. “Did you enjoy yourself?” he asked.
“I did. And you?”
“Yes. More than I dared hope.”
She wasn’t certain what he meant but wished he would keep his eyes on the road so she could study him unobserved.
He turned the horse back toward Easton. As they passed through the sleepy hamlet, he slowed the horse to a walking pace. Candles flickered in the public house and a few other windows, but otherwise the street was quiet, shops closed, people abed for the night.
Leaving the hamlet, he clicked the horse to a trot, but the wheels hit a deep rut. The gig lurched and she swayed, knocking into his arm. Instinctively, he slid the reins into one hand and threw his other around her shoulders to steady her. “All right?”
She swallowed, self-conscious in his embrace. Self-conscious about how much she liked the warm security of his arm around her, her side pressed firmly to his. “Ye-yes. Fine.”
He removed his arm and she shivered, whether from his nearness or the night air, she wasn’t certain.
“You’re cold,” he observed. He halted the horse right there on the road and tied off the reins. He dug under the seat and pulled forth a folded wool blanket.
“I’m fine, really,” she insisted. “I have my shawl.”
“You’re not fine. You’re shivering. You females and your thin muslins. It’s a wonder you don’t all freeze to death.”
He draped the blanket around her and settled it on her shoulders, his hands lingering. “Better?”
“Yes, except now I feel guilty that you are freezing.”
“Then sit close to me and I shan’t notice anything else.”
Her gaze flew to his—saw his crooked grin, the playful sparkle in his eye. Sitting close as they were, their faces were very near. His breath was warm and smelled of cinnamon. Or perhaps that was his cologne. Whatever it was, it was spicy and masculine and made her want to lean nearer yet.
The horse stamped his hoof impatiently, no doubt eager to return to his stall and feed bucket.
She did not purposely move closer to him, but as the rock and sway of the carriage brought them nearer together, their shoulders brushing and occasionally their knees, she did not pull away, nor attempt to keep a proper distance between them. She did not want him to freeze, after all, she told herself, knowing all the while it was schoolgirl logic Louisa might have used to justify flirting with a man, but at the moment, not caring. It was dark, and they were alone, and dash it, it was cold. She liked the man, and she trusted him enough to know he would not take advantage of any of those factors. At least, not inappropriate advantage.
When they reached Pembrooke Park, Mr. Chapman tied off the reins and alighted from the gig. Coming around, he reached up, but instead of offering one hand to her, he lifted both. She hesitated, meeting his gaze with brows raised in question.
In a low voice, he said, “May I?”
His gloved hands hovered near her waist. In reality, she could have managed the step down with only a hand to assist her, but she pressed her lips together and silently nodded.
He grasped her waist and gently lifted, lowering her easily to the ground. For a moment longer, his hands remained, and he murmured, “You do have a tiny waist.”
His hands felt large, strong, and sure. She swallowed nervously. Uncomfortable standing there so close to him, yet in no hurry to step away.
Behind him, the front door opened, and he released her. Glancing over, she saw Duncan standing in the doorway, candle lamp in hand.
With a rueful smile, Mr. Chapman offered his arm. Abigail placed her gloved hand on his sleeve and he tucked it into the crook of his elbow. Together they walked to the house.
“You two were out late,” Duncan observed, his eyes narrowed. In suspicion, or disapproval?
“The dinner party was quite a long affair,” Mr. Chapman said, coming to her defense.
Abigail added, “I didn’t realize we would be back quite so late. Thank you for waiting up.”
In the spring of 1818, twenty-four-year-old Abigail Foster fears she is destined to become a spinster. Her family’s finances are in ruins and the one young man she truly esteems has fallen for another woman — her younger, prettier sister Louisa.
Forced to retrench after the bank failure of Austen, Gray & Vincent, the Foster family optimistically pool their resources for another London Season for her sister in hopes of an advantageous alliance. While searching for more affordable lodgings, a surprising offer is presented: the use of a country manor house in Berkshire abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to the imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left, the tight-lipped locals offering only rumors of a secret room, hidden treasure and a murder in its mysterious past.
Eager to restore her family fortune, Abigail, with the help of the handsome local curate William Chapman and his sister Leah, begins her search into the heavily veiled past aided by unsigned journal pages from a previous resident and her own spirited determination. As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?
About the author:
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Grand Giveaway Contest
In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.
Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary's Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure.
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!