26 April 2016

Interview and Excerpt: Dangerous Kisses by Alice Lake

Miss Lavinia Halls is a member of the Guild of Hybrids, a secret society dedicated to helping women in need. When faced with a terrified new client, Lavinia declares that her client’s fiancĂ© must pay for his sins. The fact that she can’t take her eyes off the man’s kissable lips only spurs her resolve to bring her assignment to a quick conclusion. 

Eric Yorke, Viscount Mathieson, wishes nothing more than to distance himself from his treacherous fiancĂ©e, but in his quest to do so, he finds himself trapped in the clutches of the unconventional Miss Halls. The delectable yet annoyingly persistent woman seems intent on ruining his life no matter how much he tries to thwart her attempts. 

Her efforts to seek and destroy meet their match in his determination to foil her plans, until their struggles collide in a scandal of enormous proportions. Fated together, they must overcome ruin, danger and heartbreak. Will they be able to survive their past or is their future together doomed? 

INTERVIEW

How did you come up with the character of Lavinia?
I enjoy writing about strong women but that’s more challenging in historical romance because they were so limited in what they could do back then. So when I decided to write a series, I came up with a secret female society that lets women's talents and skills shine. Lavinia was a trained rhetorician, which was inspired by my own rhetorical studies. I got my Masters degree in Rhetoric and Writing Studies, which my husband equates to me being able to BS really well. Once I figured out what Lavinia’s skill was going to be, the rest of her character just fell into place. She had to have backbone and not let anyone push her around. And given that she was orphaned and had a younger sister, she naturally emerged as a leader within her family and the Guild of Hybrids.

Do you believe in love at first sight, or is it all about the lust and that initial attraction?
Even though I write romance novels, I’m kind of a cynic, so I’ll say I believe in lust and attraction at first sight. Don’t know of anyone who actually fell in love at first sight.

Without too many spoilers, what was your own favourite scene from Dangerous Kisses?
Pretty much anytime the hero and heroine quarreled. They were a hoot to write and I enjoyed their banter. But a specific scene involves the children from the orphanage who require a temporary home. The hero, Eric, decided to give Lavinia a dose of her own medicine there, which implicated her entire family. I loved it.

Why did you write about this time period?
I love the glamor of the Victorian era and always enjoyed reading books set during that time. I felt comfortable with the culture back then and it made sense that I should attempt a Victorian story.

If your characters were in a modern setting, what would their jobs be?
I’d hope that they'd still have a society dedicated to helping women in need, because I think that’s important. So maybe they’d be bodyguards, interpreters, computer programmers, financial advisors, CPR instructors, social workers, physical and psychological therapists, doctors, and whatever else women escaping rough backgrounds would need. I’ve seen what abuse can do to a person, from the physical and mental breakdown, to the burdens it places on the family. Just as the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” so does the same mentality apply to a woman beaten down by her significant other. It takes a lot of care and nurture to bring her back to lead a normal life again. That was my inspiration for creating the Guild of Hybrids.

If you could sit down with any of the characters from Dangerous Kisses and have a cup of tea, who would you pick and why?
Aww, I’d love to talk to all of them, but even though Lavinia and I would have a lot in common, her younger, reckless sister Larissa would be a wild card. I’d love to hear the stuff coming out of her mouth.

EXCERPT

He threw the contents of the glass down his throat and picked up a new set of cards.
A moment later, his gaze fixed on Miss Halls. Her eyes sparkled with mischief and he could swear she was flirting with him. Flirting with him! Had been doing so all evening, in fact. It was the most ridiculous thought he’d ever had.
“A man’s fortune is never more at risk than when he picks up a hand of cards,” Grossman said to his right.
Isn’t that the truth? Up until yesterday, Eric’s fortune had never been a matter of question when he gambled. Now he was treading in dangerous waters.
They went around the table, each placing his bets and requesting or exchanging cards as needed. Eric looked at Grossman to his left, the perspiration on his forehead speaking volumes. Hart to his right kept touching his eyebrows, a dead giveaway. Dunhill, who was sitting before Eric, was a skilled card player it turned out. Eric didn’t know him, but the man had proven himself a worthy opponent. He had no expression whatsoever and no particular movement or sign to give him away.
Eric set down two cards and picked up two new ones. He looked down, then up. Dunhill’s eyes were fixed on him. So were Miss Halls’s, Eric noticed.
Her black curls shimmered in the dim light behind Hart’s seat, and the swoosh of her gown planted itself annoyingly in Eric’s ear whenever she turned. Not that he wasn’t aware of her without those sounds. He’d noticed her all night, standing there, half illuminated by the light, half hidden in the shadows. Her coloring was complimented by the deep hue of her red gown, and the black, lace choker around her throat drew his eyes on more than one occasion. It all came together in a perfect unity that focused his attention higher, to the plump crimson lips which sometimes smiled provocatively at him.
Grossman grunted loudly, discarding and picking up cards. Hart had not said a word in at least half an hour. His eyes shifted from one player to the other, his handkerchief always by his side, ready to dab his brow. He didn’t need to exchange cards. Eric doubted the man’s hand was good enough to win this round.
Eric took another look at his own cards, a hopeful feeling stirring in his stomach.
Miss Halls stepped into the light surrounding the card table. His brows gathered into a frown. What was she doing?
She leaned over to pick up something, allowing Eric’s gaze to fall precisely to the valley between her breasts. Good Lord! The woman was going to fall out of her dress. Did nobody else notice? He looked around but all the bystanders had their eyes pinned on the card players.
A moment later, she held Hart’s handkerchief, which had fallen to the ground unnoticed. As she straightened, she offered it to the man with a dazzling smile and Hart nodded as his lecherous eyes darted appreciatively at the almost exposed bosom next to his face. Eric’s nostrils flared.
With the handkerchief safely back in Hart’s pocket, Eric watched with relief as she stepped back. Just as he resolved to focus on his cards, her eyes sparkled seductively at him and she ran a finger along the strip of lace around her throat in a gentle caress. The slow deliberate movement was tantalizing and his eyes couldn’t pry themselves from the path of the tip of her finger.
Hell and damnation. He felt an alarming stirring in his pants and coughed loudly in response. He shifted in his seat and looked pointedly down at his cards. The woman had lost her damn mind, he was sure of it.
After a few moments, it was time to show their hands. Dunhill was beaten by Grossman’s hand, which was beaten by Eric’s. When Hart set down his cards last, Eric’s heart plummeted. Damn, the man had beaten him after all. It was impossible! How was this amateur able to outplay him when he so clearly lacked the skills necessary to be a good gambler?
Eric threw his cards down, swearing under his breath. He rubbed his eyes with two fingers.
When the new hand was dealt, he picked up his cards. He discarded one and got a new one in turn. Disappointment washed over him. So much for his flush of three. His eyes shifted up, colliding with hers. She was part of the crowd gathered around the table, her arms crossed and her eyes looking down on him as if she was secretly pleased with something. For Lord knew what reason, it made his blood boil. It was bad enough losing like a damn idiot. Now he had to endure this woman looking down her nose at him? She had teased him all night. Fluttered her lashes, fanned herself enticingly, moistened those lips at the most important moments of the card game and he had been unable to tear his eyes from her. No wonder he lost.
Didn’t she have anywhere else to be? Anything else to do? Surely she didn’t wish to spend any more time in his company than absolutely necessary. After the way she had ridiculed him on several occasions, why on earth would she stand there watching him play cards? Why would she create such a spectacle especially for him? She hadn’t flirted with anyone else in the room, he was sure of it. And no other person had seemed to notice her outrageous behavior.
He glanced at her again before turning back to his cards and suddenly it all made perfect sense. She was enjoying this! She was enjoying watching him lose!

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