Please welcome Leslie Dicken to the stage today! Her book, Beauty Tempts the Beast, releases on July 28, 2009.
1. How did you get started with your writing?
I started in high school with poetry (the angsty teenaged kind) and when I had to read Wuthering Heights for English, I fell in love with the dark, gothic atmosphere. I’d been reading my mom’s romance collection for a few years, so when I was sixteen I started writing a romance novel. On paper. With a pen. I finished it too. Of course, it was years and years and lots of learning and trial and error before I actually got a book published.
2. What/who is your biggest muse?
Originally it was the latest hero in whichever romance book I’d read. Then I discovered Gerry Butler (the Phantom in the movie version of “The Phantom of the Opera”) and I was hooked. There is nothing like a sexy man who can also sing to bring me to my knees and stir my mind into action!
3. Is there a character in one of your books you connect with the most?
I’ve never thought about it. I suppose there is a little of me in each of my heroines. Whether it’s that she likes to garden or can’t sit still for long, there is always a part of me in there somewhere.
4. What do you like to do in your free time other than write?
Reading, gardening, making jewelry, taking walks in the woods (either alone or with my kids). I don’t watch too much TV. I feel like I need to be DOING something!
5. What are some of your favorite books? Any genre or author.
Any books by Julia Ross, Jennifer St. Giles, Terri Garey. I can go on and on. I’m always excited when I find a new author too!
6. Where is your writing sanctuary?
Um. Wherever there is peace and quiet. Right now my desk is in my bedroom, but I’ve had my “office” in my living room, dining room, or even family room. As long as the momentum to write is there, it doesn’t matter where my laptop is!
7. How did you celebrate “selling” your first book?
Went out to dinner with my husband.
8. What is your favorite thing about Samhain?
The energy and growth of the company and writers. I also believe in the business decisions and direction of Samhain. The staff knows what they are doing and there is always encouragement and promotion for the authors and engagement of the readers.
9. Is there something you would like to see more of in RomanceLandia?
Science Fiction Romance. Yes, it is possible to combine the “brainy” world of Science Fiction with the relationship aspects of Romance.
10. Tell us about your editor.
She’s smart and witty. 🙂 And may gladly take my first born for offering me the chance to publish this book of my heart!
Lake District, Northern England, 1840
Wind screamed over the cliff, rattling the window panes with a phantom’s cold breath. Just the way he liked it.
Charles Hansard, Viscount Ashworth, swirled the brandy in his chipped glass, then swallowed it in a gulp. He’d had more than enough. It no longer held a taste. He waited in the darkened room for the clock to tick off several minutes. Let the girl squirm a bit before he entered, then she could flee in gratitude like the others before her.
He would not return to London this year, nor any other. He’d had enough of the Ton’s whispers and glances. Nay, he’d not give them something else to discuss over tea or at their dreadful balls.
The cracked leather chair squeaked as he stood. It was time to set this next victim free. Despite his mother’s attempts at bribing girls with his wealth, Ashworth knew they feared him. He saw the terrified glaze in their eyes. No well-bred daughter wanted to marry the Monster.
He entered the rarely used parlor through the study’s adjoining door, expecting to find the girl trembling in the corner. That’s what they usually did. Hell, they all looked alike to him. Whether tall or short, dark or light, all of society’s debutantes paled at the sight of his hideous scar.
This one stood with her back to him, head angled up at a faded painting, the subject barely distinguishable. Instead of an expensive silk gown and fancy hat, this girl wore only a simple brown dress. Dark hair twisted down her back in a single braid.
“You may take your leave,” Ashworth said. He leaned against a column and waited for her to run.
Her spine stiffened noticeably, but she didn’t make a move for the door.
“Go on. Leave. I don’t take kindly to strangers.”
She wheeled around, her eyes, darker than a moonless night, challenged him. “And I don’t take kindly to self-pitying eccentrics. Have the marriage contract drawn up. I’m not going anywhere.”
He must not have heard her correctly. No one wanted to stay in this appalling, crumbling house. No one wanted to be near him. “I won’t hold you to my mother’s bargain. Go.”
Her olive skin flushed. “I will not go. I have agreed to marry you. Let us sign the contract so that the wedding can take place.”
Ashworth shoved a hand through his hair. Who was this girl and what the hell was wrong with her? None of the others had insisted on marrying him. Nay, they all ran like frightened kittens.
Something was driving her to desperation. Her curvaceous frame, obvious even in the plain clothing, did not appear to carry a bastard child. Her stomach looked flat and her breasts were full but not ripened for a babe’s hungry mouth. What brought her to him? Whatever the reason, it did not matter; he wouldn’t be the one to absolve her of her troubles.
He cleared his throat. “My mother fancies herself a grandmother. She will get those infants through one of her daughters. I do not wish to wed.” He went over and opened the parlor door, its creak echoing in the room. “Go.”
The stubborn girl stayed put. “From what I understand, you have no choice.”
“No choice? Certainly I do.”
She crossed her arms under her breasts, drawing his gaze. Ashworth looked away and focused on the clawed branches swaying outside the window. He wouldn’t be tempted by her feminine charms. She would not sway his stance. The Monster lived alone.
The girl lifted her chin. Did he detect a tremble of her lip? “You should have a talk with your mother.”
Icy fingers gripped his heart. She couldn’t do this to him. Yet, his own mother would use anything for her greediness, even an innocent child. Ashworth sucked in a deep breath of air, but his temples still pounded. “What did she tell you?”
The girl blinked, saying nothing. The clock ticked like a noisy heartbeat. Somewhere in the house a bell rang for a servant. At last, she wiped her hands on her skirt. “I only know that you must marry soon. I do not know why.”
Did she truly not know or just know better than to admit it? No matter, he could scare this girl away and then deal with his mother’s threat later.
Ashworth pulled himself up to his full height. Intimidation. Eventually this girl would submit to it, just like all the rest. Even the boldest antelope eventually fell to the mighty lion.
He crossed the room in long strides and stood within inches of her. She smelled of wild honeysuckle. He narrowed his eyes and scowled, deepening his scar to its most hideous. “You’ll not want to be married to me.”
She flinched, but only for the briefest moment. “Do not be so certain. What makes you believe you are different from any other man?”
Had she known another man? Is this what brought her to him? “I am not like other men. I have certain tastes. Odd preferences.”
“Living in an old decaying manor? Reclusive from society?” She lifted a rounded shoulder. “They do not bother me.”
He would learn what bothered her.
Ashworth brushed a finger along her jaw. The caress startled her, widened her eyes, but she kept her courage and didn’t move away. His groin stirred at the soft texture of her skin. “Perhaps I meant in bed.”
She swallowed. Her face paled ever so slightly beneath his fingertips. “As…as your wife, I shall obey.”
His pulse leapt. He had not dared to dream. To have a wife, a woman to lie beside him at night. It had been so long since he enjoyed the curves of a woman’s body, too long since a woman’s delicate fingers trailed over his skin.
“What is your name?” The question came from his lips in a husky whisper.
Ashworth slid his thumb over the small dimple in her chin. He grinned when her red lip trembled. “Have you a surname? Do you come from gentry? Perhaps you are a village girl out to dupe the eccentric viscount.”
Ah, that got her temper. Her cheeks flushed to rose-colored circles. “No, my lord. I am a baron’s daughter from a day’s journey away.”
He wanted to ask why she kept her family a secret from him and what caused her to make this trip to be a stranger’s wife. But his questions could wait.
Ashworth encircled her fingers in the warm cocoon of his hand. She gasped but still did not flee. “Touch me,” he whispered, lifting her hand. “My face. I dare you to touch it.”
He brought her fingers to his scar then released them. He knew that at any moment she would recoil in disgust at the deep gash. His heart thumped against his ribs, his mouth dried with the anticipation, but Vivian’s gaze softened. No look of revulsion marred her smooth brow as she traced the deep chasm from above his right eye all the way down to his lip. Her finger repeated the trail with an unhurried tenderness, while inside him a fervor blazed.
The man buried inside the monster took over. His flesh throbbed, his lips burned with the need to kiss her. Somewhere, deep inside his chest, an ache swelled with a ferocious possessiveness. He could not let this girl go.
Could he possibly allow her to stay?
Ashworth thrust her hand from his face. “Enough. Why do you not recoil from me? Are you blind?”
Vivian bit her lip, then lowered her eyes so he could only see the black arc of lashes. “No,” she murmured. “I am not blind. Nor am I offended by a mark on one’s skin.”
“Then what does offend you?”
She turned away, then crossed her arms in a self-protective gesture. “A mark on one’s soul.”
So she revealed a part of her secret. Someone had hurt her, and therein the reason she ran. That’s why she agreed to marry him—Lord Ashworth, the Monster of Silverstone Manor.