I’m so pleased you have joined me here today. Firstly I must thank CTR for giving us the opportunity to chat. Today I would like to tell you about my current release, LIZZIE’S RAKE, and my October release, THE PORTRAIT. Please leave your comments and be assured I will answer any questions you may have.
Firstly I will tell you about my two competitions. There are two questions and there will be two winners chosen at random from the correct answers. The prizes will be a PDF version of the winners choice of one of my books (except The Portrait which is not yet officially released). The answers to the questions can be found on my website www.hazel-statham.co.uk or in the excerpts below. Please email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
The questions are:
1/ LIZZIE’S RAKE Why did Maxim kiss Lizzie?
2/ THE PORTRAIT Why does Edward wish to end his
Available now from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes and Noble, Fictionwise, The Wild Rose Press etc
Here is a brief blurb:
Can a rake reform his ways and truly love? Lizzie's head tells her one thing, her heart another.
Infamous rake and Corinthian, Maxim Beaufort, Earl of St. Ive, finding himself in possession of a property in Yorkshire, is unprepared for the changes it will bring into his life.
Irresistibly drawn to Elizabeth Granger, the former owner’s daughter, he attempts to help the family, finding himself filling the role of benefactor. When the house is razed to the ground, he arranges for temporary accommodation for Elizabeth and her siblings on his estate.
When Elizabeth rejects his proposal of marriage, he is nonetheless determined to win her over. However, events and his reputation conspire to thwart his efforts and his course is one fraught with dangers.
Trust does not come easily and determined to protect her heart, Elizabeth struggles to resist her own longings.
At times, their difficulties appear insurmountable but the earl is widely known as ‘The Indomitable’ and the name was not lightly earned.
Here is an excerpt:
Hastily pushing open the door to the stables, he went inside and set the lantern on the windowsill, its yellow light spreading over the occupants of the stalls, casting their shadows in sharp relief against the whitewashed walls. The air was warm with the horses’ breath and filled with the sweet smell of the hay that had been freshly forked into the racks and the straw that had been laid as bedding.
Taking off his cloak, he shook the water from it and spread it on the bales of straw stacked against the wall and pushing his wet hair from his brow, he went to inspect his driving team. Being assured of their soundness, he moved on to inspect the other horses, running his hands over their legs and talking to each one in turn. As he left the final stall, the door to the stables came quickly open and a cloaked figure stepped hurriedly inside.
Placing her lantern on the opposite side of the sill,
Elizabeth threw back her hood, laughing as the droplets of rain trickled down her cheeks.
"What think you of our Yorkshire weather, sir?" she laughed.
"Appalling," he responded, grimacing. "I wonder you suffer the climate."
"Then you should see it when it is truly winter and the drifts are six foot deep. The winds come from the open moors and we are often trapped in the house."
"Why the deuce do you remain," he said, joining her.
"’Tis our home," she replied simply. "Where else would we go?"
"I came to check on the team," he offered in explanation of his presence in the stable at so late an hour.
"And I to check on Badger," she replied. "He likes not the thunder. I looked in on him in his loosebox, but he appeared quite calm, and then I saw the lantern through the window and I wondered who it might be."
"You should have returned to the house. It’s cold and damp, you will catch a chill."
"Pho! I’m not so poor spirited," she laughingly scorned.
"I’m far more resilient than that. I have had need to be."
"Indeed you have, my dear," he said earnestly, and she raised her eyes quickly to his face. He moved away as if the look discomfited him and there existed a silence between them, only the stamping of the horses’ hooves as they moved restlessly in the stalls invading the moment.
Suddenly turning and coming to stand before her, St. Ive asked quietly, "Do you still think of me as an intruder, Elizabeth? Am I still not welcome in your home?"
"Maxim…" she began, and would have turned away, but immediately his arm detained her, drawing her back to face him.
For a long moment his searching gaze devoured her face until, tilting back her chin with his free hand, he bowed his head and kissed her. As the gentle kiss turned more demanding and he drew her tightly to his chest, he became aware that her soft lips remained frozen beneath his and she held her delicate frame rigid within his embrace. The fear in her eyes cut through him and immediately he released her from his arms.
"Why?" she demanded, the instant she was set free, bewilderment heavy in her voice.
"Why?" he repeated softly, almost as if he spoke to himself, a slight smile on his lips, and after the briefest hesitation he said flippantly, "Because you have rain on your face, my dear."
"Odious, detestable man," she cried angrily, running out into the night, not even pausing to take up her lantern.
He stood watching as the dark downpour devoured her.
Briefly, a lone flash of lightening lit her way across the cobles, momentarily silhouetting her against the large black bulk that was Briarfield, before she disappeared inside.
A brief blurb:
When he is severely injured at the battle of Salamanca, Edward Thurston, the new Earl of Sinclair, returns home to his beloved Fly Hall determined to end his betrothal to Lady Jennifer, unaware that his betrothed, for vastly differing reasons, had reached the self-same decision.
Throughout the campaigns, it was seen that he relied greatly on a miniature he carried, and it is to this he clings upon his return. Will he eventually find happiness with the girl in the portrait or will he remain firm in his resolve not to wed? Reason dictates one course, his heart another.
A brief excerpt:
The Battle of Salamanca, Spain 22nd July 1812
The French were in disarray and taking refuge in retreat when a brief bombardment of cannon fire issued from their ranks. Amidst the onslaught, Marchant’s Cavalry was making good their escape, when an explosion sent Edward Thurston, the new twenty-seven year-old Earl of Sinclair, reeling from his saddle.
In just one brief moment, the tall, athletic Earl, who had led his men so enthusiastically in the attack, lay near death, his life’s blood seeping into the mud-laden ground. Briefly, his gray eyes registered pain, before closing in blessed oblivion.
Seeing an injured, rider-less horse, racing at his side, one of the young English officers, Major Anthony Drake, sharply drew rein, swinging his horse fiercely round.
"My God, Ned!" he cried, heedlessly urging his horse once more toward the cannon fire and threw himself to the ground beside the inert figure of his friend.
"My God! My God!" was all he could cry as panic and bile rose at sight of the devastation wrought on his friend’s noble frame by the explosion.
Another rider, a sergeant, appeared at his side and threw himself from his saddle. "We must get him onto my horse, sir," he said urgently. "Help me lift him," and between them, despite the bombardment, they raised the lifeless form from the mud.
Amidst heavy rifle fire, they flung Sinclair over the horse’s withers before vaulting into their saddles and furiously galloping back to their own lines.
* * *
The air inside the field medical tent was oppressive, the wounded and dying lay on pallets with scarce enough room to walk between. The battle had been won, but the cost in human suffering had been high. Too high! Dr. Pyke the surgeon thought vehemently as he stood beside the cot of the young nobleman, who lay with eyes closed against the sights around him. "The left arm must come off at the shoulder, sir," he said firmly.
Immediately Sinclair’s eyes came wide. "By God, it will not!" he replied fiercely from between bloodless lips, thinned with pain. "I’ll have none of your butchery!" The scarlet of the wounds to his left cheek and torso stood out in stark contrast to his ashen skin and the dark hair that clung to his fevered brow. His left arm hung from its ragged joint, a useless, bloody, appendage.
Pyke spoke in metered tones, as if every vestige of strength had been drained from him during his attendance on the never-ending stream of casualties. "If the arm is not removed I cannot guarantee the outcome, my lord."
Sinclair’s eyes were bright with fever. "And you can, if it is removed?" he sneered. "I think not!"
"No, sir, but we must at least try. I have been ordered - nay commanded - to do all that I can."
"By the great man himself."
"Then you can tell Wellington to go to blazes. I’ll have no sawbones hacking at me…"
The tent flap was pushed aside and Wellington entered the medical tent.
"My Lord…" began Pyke, but Wellington raised his hand.
"You need not tell me," he said. "I heard all. Ignore what Sinclair says, ’tis the laudanum speaking, he knows not what he’s saying – remove the arm."
Hertfordshire, England, 1st December 1812
To Sinclair, the impressive prospect of Fly Hall had never seemed more welcoming. In the waning, early evening light, his gaze roamed lovingly over the sprawling, half-timbered Tudor mansion set deep within a valley, noting its gentle air of noble neglect. The weeds that sprang from paving and ivy that shaded the window panes, proved almost too much for him as he knew it would not have been allowed if the old Earl, his father, had been alive. It was a bittersweet homecoming. The journey had left him unbelievably weary but even the mere sight of the house, seen from its parkland approach, gave him a peace of mind he had not experienced for some while. He wished nothing more than to be within its familiar, welcoming portals.
His wounds still plagued him, and at times, he was convinced he still felt the fingers of his left hand moving. Alas, he had heard of other like cases amongst his fellow wounded and knew this to be nothing more than the affects of the amputation, which would disappear with time. He had been assured that the angry scarring to his body, where the shell had torn his flesh, would fade. Even now, the slight paling of the scar across his left cheek, gave evidence of this.
The eyes remained the same, bright and alive, only the humor that was once seen there having waned. Stubble sprang from his cheeks and chin and he needed the services of a barber, his dark hair having been allowed to curl at the nape of his neck. He had lain abed in a convent on the Portuguese border along with others wounded in the encounter and such niceties had, by necessity, been overlooked.
As the coach rounded the final bend in the driveway and the house came fully into view, he reached into his greatcoat pocket and took out an elegantly framed miniature of a young lady with smiling eyes and dark curls.
"You see, my love, we finally arrive," he said in hushed tones, before carefully replacing it. He had carried the miniature with him throughout the campaign, and it was only the sight of her face, during his delirium, that had prevented his senses from deserting him. In the convent, his reliance on the portrait had been seen, but none had commented, so fiercely did he protect it.
The coach halted before the imposing front door and even before the groom was able to let down the steps, the doors to the house were flung wide and, all formality forgotten, two of the menservants ran forward.
Caring hands helped their master to alight and supported him into the familiar, half-paneled hallway where a welcoming fire blazed in the large stone hearth.
Immediately a chair was brought forward, into which he gratefully sank. His senses, long bereft of the familiar sights and sounds of the house, drank in its comforting warmth and a sense of peace settled over him. Even the dark wainscoting, which he had once thought outmoded, appeared to welcome him and his eyes closed briefly with the relief of being home.
As if Sinclair’s arrival had been anticipated by the minute, an elderly retainer, who appeared almost as ancient as the house itself, hurried forward, his weathered countenance full of concern. "Your chamber has been made ready and we will assist you there when you are rested, my lord," he informed his master, bowing with obvious difficulty.
"My lord?" the Earl queried, raising a quizzical brow with amusement. "You were never usually so formal Brough."
"Aye, but you were not master then," Brough replied with a dry chuckle. "I can't call you Mister Edward now that the old Earl has gone. It would not be seemly."
A weary smile touched the Earl’s lips. "And when have you cared for seemly? I will not believe myself home if I’m to be treated with such unfamiliar reverence."
The housekeeper, a small plump woman, who also acted as cook and appeared as ancient as her husband, Brough, issued from the nether regions wiping her hands on her apron. "Mister Edward," she cried, her pleasant countenance wreathed in smiles. She checked slightly at sight of his tall, once vigorous frame that now slumped so wearily in the chair but almost immediately, she recovered. It would not do that he should see her alarm at the change in him. Instead, she bobbed a curtsey, her face once more beaming. "There's pheasant soup, chicken and ham pie, and pork with apple, everything you like. We shall have you to rights in no time."
Heartened by her enthusiastic welcome, the Earl’s smile widened into a boyish grin and he straightened slightly in the chair. "There, that’s a welcome worth coming home for. Though I may not be able to do justice to your cooking at this precise moment, Rose, it is something I have sorely missed and believe me when I say that even the finest cooks in the military can’t hold a candle to your excellent table."
Rose flushed with pleasure at his fulsome compliment and standing with arms akimbo, rounded on the other servants, her voice gruff with emotion. "What are you all standing there for, you great ninnies? Take the master to his room. He must be tired after his journey. Once he is made comfortable we can see what is needed." Then turning to the Earl she said, "Dr Wilmot said that we were to inform him of your arrival, sir, and he would come at once to attend to you."
Sinclair sighed heavily, his smile disappearing to be replaced by a look of tired resignation. "Then I pray you will allow me a little time to recover from my journey before you send word to him. I have been poked and prodded enough over these past weeks; one more day without his ministrations will make no difference. I shall retire."
* * *The ivy, teased by the morning breeze, scratched impatiently at Sinclair’s bedroom window, reminding him that he was indeed returned to his beloved Fly. Dr Wilmot had arrived shortly after nine, going immediately to his patient’s bedchamber, eager to begin the examination of his childhood friend.
Lying on his large, canopied bed, Sinclair bore his friend’s professional examination with a stoicism born of necessity. He had learned by experience that he must endure what could not be avoided and waited until Wilmot completed his assessment before speaking.
As the doctor straightened from his examination, Sinclair said with a deceptive lightness of manner, "Come now, John, what’s your opinion of me? Don't stand on ceremony. I have known you too long for there to be any reserve between us."
Wilmot smiled reassuringly. "Your wounds are healing well enough, Edward, and although it will take some while, I do believe you will return to full strength."
Sinclair’s voice dropped slightly, "And what of the night terrors, will they cease?"
"Almost certainly. They are the result of the amputation and the trauma to your body, but with time they will diminish."
"Time I don't have," the Earl replied shortly, his gaze becoming distracted and his hand moving restlessly on the blue brocade quilt Wilmot had replaced over him at the end of his examination. "Ironic, is it not? To the outside world ’twould appear that I have time aplenty, but you see, I have not. I am to be married, John. Or, more rightly, I was to have been married. Yet how can I expect a wife to commit herself to the wreck I have become?"
"You are no wreck," the medic assured scornfully. "It will take more than the loss of your arm to bring you low. Your strength will assuredly return."
Sinclair grimaced ruefully. "Ah, but my strength will not return my arm to me or make my form more pleasing to Lady Jennifer, my betrothed. I'll carry these scars with me through life."
Wilmot saw the Earl’s agitation. "Your scars were gained honorably, Edward, and when you feel more yourself, you'll become reconciled to them."
Sinclair shook his head impatiently. "Tell that to a new bride. She will soon tire of such a husband. She will be repulsed by me, and who should blame her? Certainly not I."
"Women are such unpredictable creatures, it is oft noted that they can become devoted to the most unlikely of spouses and if she loves you…"
"There you have the truth of it; I don't believe that she does. The betrothal was hastened because, like every other young buck of my generation, despite my father’s protestations that his heir should lay himself open to such dangers, I was eager to hasten to the war. Lady Jennifer and I knew each other for such a short time, with little opportunity to be private. In short, I must admit to it being a contrived marriage, a mariage de convenance brought about by our respective sires. I took my commission and hastened to Spain, as eager as any Englishman to face Old Boney. I have been too long away; we will be but strangers."
"Was there no communication between you?"
"We wrote very little and I felt no desire to impart the horrors of war. I would shield her from such abominations. I preferred to keep my own counsel and instead encouraged her to tell me of the season's gaieties and divert my thoughts."
Wilmot appeared incredulous. "You made no effort to engage her affections?"
"How could I from such a distance."
"I would not have though that to pose a problem to you, Edward. I always thought you a man of considerable address."
"If that be the case, how then am I to present her with the bridegroom I have become? She’s not even aware of the extent of my injuries and I would wish to be the man she thought me when we became betrothed."
Wilmot raised his brows in disbelief. "You have not informed her of the nature of your wounds?"
"I felt not the need to distress her with the details."
The medic shook his head. "You take this desire to shield her too far, Edward. Surely it would have been wiser to have prepared her for your homecoming…?"
Sinclair, his face set, raised his hand to silence the doctor. "My mind is made up. I shall release her from her promise. I wouldn't wish that she should take me out of pity. I am still man enough to demand more."
"There is no reason on this earth why, once your wounds are thoroughly healed, you shouldn’t lead a full and healthy life," Wilmot replied, closing his bag with a snap and taking up his cloak. "The amputation has left you feeling low. You will feel completely different in a few months time."
"But I don't have a few months, John. My betrothed has sent word that she is to visit me within the week and then we shall see what strangers we have become. I have no illusions. She was but seventeen when the arrangements were made and I have been away for over two years. She is still so young. The engagement was made at the instigation of her family; my prospects appealed to them. Now that I have ascended to the title, I will not be married for my rank and fortune, as is where my only attraction must now lie. Despite my disabilities, I would prefer to remain unwed than accept such a compromise."
"You are thoroughly convinced that the marriage should not go ahead? I can say nothing to persuade you otherwise?"
"Nothing can dissuade me."
"Then far be it from me to attempt to change your mind, you will no doubt take your own course."
"You may not have persuaded me, my friend, but in openly expounding it, I have convinced myself that the marriage should not take place, and in so doing have taken a burden from my shoulders."
"Then my visit has at least been of some use to you?"
"You are now resolved to the issue?"
"Then my old friend, the only way is forward."
* * *
I must apologise for the formatting errors on this page and admit to a sad lack of posting knowledge. I do hope they don't spoil your enjoyment of my excerpts.
Looking forward to chatting to you all,
HazelFind the romance and elegance of Regency and Georgian England in books by Hazel Statham