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How I Let Love Cast Its Spell

Hi, readers! Lara Archer here, celebrating the release of my latest historical romance, HOLD ME CLOSE!

 

 

This is actually a second birth for this story, since an earlier version came out last July as part of the Nice Girls Writing Naughty anthology, THE CHARMED BRACELET. At the time, I didn’t share the story of how my part of the book came to be, but I wanted to tell it today.

Truth is, I wasn’t supposed to be writing this book at all. I’ve got three different series started already, with WIPs lined up in a long queue, crying for attention like my cats cry for food every morning the moment I set foot out of bed. I had zero time for something new.

But the Nice Girls started tossing around ideas for linked stories in an anthology—an anthology that would logically include just the contemporary authors in the group (I’m the only historical writer, so I didn’t think it made sense for me to take part). I was just trying to be helpful for the others. Just trying to add a little wind to the brainstorm.

And then someone suggested linking the stories by having an object that passed from heroine to heroine—a dress, perhaps. Or maybe…a piece of jewelry.

And, boom.

A whole origin story came to me in a flash, and the object was a golden bracelet like one that’s been passed down in my family from mother to daughter since at least my great-grandmother’s day. (Nobody remembers where it originally came from, but everyone treasures it dearly. It’s mine now, and will be my daughter’s one day, when I finally bear to part with it.) Here’s a picture.

And I just KNEW that our anthology needed a historical opener, with an even older origin story for the bracelet told within it. I saw the heroine, and the hero, and felt the intensity of the way they were drawn together, and I just KNEW the bracelet had a touch of magic about it.

Seriously, I could have written the blurb that same day. Here it is:

Widowed young, Lady Julia Grantleigh can’t imagine finding love again. Certainly not with the fearsome Major Holsworth, her late husband’s boyhood best friend, whose harsh, brooding presence has always unnerved her.

But a mysterious gold bracelet that turns up in her chambers seems to have other plans. When its clasp gets caught in Holsworth’s uniform, some disrobing is required—and Julia discovers the fine line between fear and desire.

After one madly passionate night, Marcus Holsworth is as determined as Julia is to put their indiscretion behind them. Although he has secretly loved her for years, as a farmer’s son, he feels he has no right to a lady of Julia’s highborn class, and he won’t dishonor his best friend’s memory by embroiling his widow in scandal.

The bracelet, though, has a powerful secret history which pulls Julia and Marcus back together. As danger from the past threatens, they must learn soul-shaking lessons about when to let go, and when to hold tight for a chance for love.

And, ooh, yes, the secret history of the bracelet is a passionate and magical one, and very different from anything I’ve written before.

And I’m so glad I seized that moment of inspiration and ignored all my other pleading WIPs…in some ways, this is my favorite among my books so far.

The tagline on the front cover is “Let Love Cast Its Spell.” As a writer, I feel like I took that advice in letting this magical little idea lead me down an unexpected path.

I hope you’ll enjoy it, too!

Today, I’ll be giving away print copies of my other historical romances, THE DEVIL MAY CARE and BARED TO THE VISCOUNT to randomly-chosen commenters (Rubies included!)

Now here’s a quick excerpt from HOLD ME CLOSE, from soon after a collision in a darkened room causes Julia’s bracelet to snag on Holsworth’s uniform.

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Good Lord, was he aware she’d always disliked him?

He breathed out an impatient sigh. “You never did approve of me, did you?”

Well, that took care of that question as well.

It was he who’d first disapproved of her, of course. But even so, if she’d been so indiscreet as to let her feelings about him show, it was time to make amends. “You were my husband’s dearest friend,” she assured him in the most gracious tone she could manage. “Christopher respected you as he respected no one else in the world. And I would never gainsay his judgment.”

Holsworth gave a dark laugh. “A suitably equivocal thing to say. Your husband always respected me. And of course a proper lady would never refute the word of her lord and master, no matter how sharply her private opinion might diverge. Your manners are, as always, exquisite, Lady Grantleigh.”

Well, then. Holsworth was rather more nimble at this bantering business than she’d given him credit for. He’d managed to shut her mouth entirely, for the moment at least.

“Come now,” he said abruptly. “We must get into the light, or I’ll never get this blasted bauble of yours unhooked.”

Blasted bauble? That helped her find her tongue again. “It’s your blasted clothing that’s hooked my bauble.” It was a silly retort, and by no means a proper one, but it was strangely refreshing to speak so tartly. How long had it been since she’d teased or joked with anyone?

Oh, she knew—she knew exactly. Eighteen months.

Since Christopher had been taken from her.

That Major Holsworth, of all people, should spark the habit in her again was rather painfully ironic. But she couldn’t seem to stop herself.

“Besides,” she heard herself saying, “why should I follow you anywhere? You haven’t yet explained why you were skulking about in the darkness in the first place.”

His shadowed outline stiffened. “I never skulk, Lady Grantleigh,” he said. “I am merely unaccustomed to the frenzy of society ballrooms, and withdrew a moment to admire the moonlight.”

“We’re in the wilds of Devon, sir. Ballrooms here are hardly frenzied.”

“Compared to the wilds of India, ma’am, your ballroom is frenzied indeed. And I might point out that you yourself were doing some skulking.”

Her chin jutted forward. “I wasn’t skulking. I live here.”

“Fair enough. In that case, you might know of a reasonably private space where I could actually see to disentangle us. If you could lead us there, I’d be most grateful.”

Ah, yes. Disentanglement was, of course, the goal.

If they stood here much longer, all but entwined, someone was sure to come upon them and think they were in the midst of a scandalous romantic rendezvous.

“There’s—there’s a sitting room just a little way behind us,” she said. “Hidden behind that stand of date palms.”

“Good,” Holsworth said, his deep voice rough. “Since this might require removal of my coat.”

Her heart skipped a beat, or perhaps tried to perform several beats at once. She swallowed hard. “Removal of …your coat?”

Well, they certainly couldn’t let anyone else be witness to that. As far as the sticklers of Society were concerned, a gentleman showing his shirtsleeves to a lady was tantamount to stripping nude.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “that damnable bracelet’s snagged between my coat and my linen in some maddeningly complicated way.”

Maddeningly complicated. Yes, that phrase seemed apt at the moment.

For the man as well as the predicament.

And for her own mood, too. She was irritated, frustrated, of course, by the absurdity of the situation, but also somehow…buoyant.

I am almost enjoying this.

Not a thought she wanted to consider in detail.

Thankfully, Holsworth got things moving. He set one large hand to the small of her back, and wrapped the other about her trapped wrist, presumably to keep the bracelet from ripping at his clothing as they walked, or perhaps to spare pressure on her arm. It might even be…courtly of him, she supposed. Considerate, at least. Perhaps even protective.

Despite his sometimes primitive manners, the man seemed more than capable of protecting a woman.

A realization which sent a peculiar flutter through her insides.

To her relief, he released her wrist to open the sitting room door and to throw the lock shut behind them, but then he made the fluttering worse by reaching across her to feel for the tinderbox that was always kept on a little table just inside the room.

And then it occurred to her that he’d been teasing before: he knew perfectly well this room was here. After all, he’d grown up in this house. Had in fact spent more years in it than she had.

A maddeningly complicated man, indeed.

He struck the flint, and a wood splint flared. He dipped it into the lantern beside the tinderbox, so neatly he scarcely rattled the glass, and the candle-wick hissed into flame.

Now a golden circle of light surrounded them.

And, oh, she wished they were still lost in darkness.

The sight of him, so very close, was after all far more disconcerting than being with him in the shadows. Lord, she’d never paid attention to the shape of Holsworth’s mouth before, to the generous sweep of his lower lip.

Or to how striking his dark eyes were, with their black fringe of lashes. Christopher had been so fair, his hair nearly as silken as a child’s and his pale scalp showing along his part, but Holsworth’s hair was thick and dark as night, its waves so dense she couldn’t tell if he parted it at all.

And then of course there was that frightening scar…

Oh, why should she be more self-conscious now than she had been in the shadows about the warmth of his breath mingling with hers?

He seemed to be studying her face, too, his body unnaturally still, his gaze intense but impenetrable in its intentions. She felt it like pressure against her skin—and had the disconcerting sensation that she was being stroked with black velvet.

 

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HOLD ME CLOSE is available now on Amazon.

 

 

 

17 responses to “How I Let Love Cast Its Spell”

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Congratulations on your new release. Toasting to you tonight, my dear.
    I adore the premise of a bracelet linking the stories (your bracelet is gorgeous!) and Hold Me Close sounds like a very fun read. Wonderful expert! Adding it to my TBR list for sure!

    Jenn!

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  2. Lara Archer says:

    Thanks, Jenn!

    I love the bracelet…given its age, though, I’m very, very careful about when I wear it. Special occasions only, and at some point it may have to be tradition that it’s only worn by brides on their wedding days.

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  3. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    I enjoyed the excerpt, Lara…sassy (“speak so tartly”) banter and mounting tension:)

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  4. Congratulations, Lara! The book looks great. 😀 I love stories that are connected by some (seemingly neutral) object through time.

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  5. Melonie says:

    Congrats on the new release! I love how the muse struck you and you were able to incorporate something from your life as well as include a historical romance w/ the contemporaries (I’ll need to look up that anthology!)

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    • Lara Archer says:

      The anthology was only available July until January, so it’s off the shelves now. But the individual writers are publishing their parts independently.

      Once all the books are out, we’ll link to each other in our back matter. Not quite there yet!

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  6. Happy, happy release day, Lara! How wonderful that you honored these characters and told this story. Sounds like a very special project as we don’t often hear authors play favorites. 🙂 Since I discovered the Traveling Pants series two decades ago, I’ve been a big fan of stories (and lives) linked by simple but life-changing objects. Have a lovely release day!

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  7. WOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!

    I can’t tell you how excited I am for this new release! (And how angry I am that I have to leave for work without being able to read it.)

    I know what I’ll be doing the moment I get a moment to read.

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  8. Tamara Hogan says:

    This story sounds amazing on multiple fronts, Lara – the writing itself, how the story came to be, and the bracelet tie-in.

    Also? That picture of you is freaking ADORABLE.

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  9. Totally awesome storyline. You’ve intrigued me and I can’t wait to download. Congrats on the new release.

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    • Lara Archer says:

      Thanks, Autumn!

      So far this is a stand-alone from me, though I think I may eventually have to write the story of the next person to find the bracelet, some time around 1840….in New Orleans.

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