Welcome to For Whom The Books Toll. Today is the first post of a new feature on my blog. The wonderfully talented Brita Addams is my very first guest.
Thanks for being here today Brita!
I’m Brita Addams, writer of historical romance, in various sub-genres. I’m thrilled to be an author on Musa Publishing’s roster.
To kick off Musa Days at For Whom the Books Toll, I’d like to say I am so excited to share with Julianne’s readers a book series that I have had published by Musa Publishing.
Musa is a small, but efficient press, run by people who understand that authors are what keeps a press vibrant. Musa presents a diverse, expansive catalog, under several different imprints. They offer well-edited stories written by some of your favorite authors.
Over the coming months, you’ll meet many of them. I’m honored to be but the first.
This year, Musa has published my best-selling Sapphire Club series, in its expanded form. I’ve added considerable word count to each of the books as well as additional stories and meatier characters. Since writing the books five years ago, I’ve learned much and I’ve applied all that knowledge to better this series.
Below is an excerpt from the new released third book, Thornhill’s Dilemma. This story is my favorite of the three, and features my favorite character, Phillip Allard, the Duke of Thornhill. Phillip and Alexander Chilton’s story isn’t a simple story of boy meets boy, boy falls in love with boy and they live happier ever after. Now, would I do that to you?
The excerpt is actually the third chapter, the one where Phillip’s life, and consequently Alex’s, changes forever.
Life isn’t always simple, where we get what we want and keep it. For Phillip, he has struggled with who he is and desires he is only coming to understand. At thirty-five, he is sure he’s traveling a path he wants more than life itself, until the night of Lord and Lady Estbury’s magnificent society ball.
Thornhill’s Dilemma London, Autumn, 1817
In a room full of people, Phillip meandered along the periphery of the ballroom, drink in hand and profound loneliness lodged in his bones.
Alex and their unbearable but necessary separation took precedence, even while Phillip engaged in lively discussions with his fellows from Lords.
Over the strains of Dibdin’s “A Soldier’s Adieu” from the gallery above, Lady Waldeley shouted from a short distance. “Your Grace. How lovely to see you.”
Phillip inclined his head while casting his gaze across the floor at the circles of dancers.
“Are you here to find a wife, Your Grace?”
“Merely fulfilling a social obligation, madam.”
The woman’s face blanched. “A younger wife, Your Grace, would fill your nursery.”
Weary of the conversation, Phillip excused himself and proceeded with his amble. He missed Alex beyond reason. After their return from a six-month tour of the continent, business dictated he and Alex spend a great deal of time apart. Alex attended to his beloved estate in Kent, and Phillip endured interminable sessions in the House of Lords, unable to find time to get to Thornhill Hall or to visit Alex at Chilton Manor.
Earlier in the day, and none too soon, Alex had sent word of his return to London. The coded missive promised untold pleasures at eleven at the Sapphire Club. Phillip pulled his watch from his waistcoat pocket. A quarter past nine.
“Your Grace! Your Grace!”
Phillip cringed at Lady Plimmswood’s progression across the expanse of gleaming wood. She tugged a poor young woman by the hand. He lounged Thornhill's Dilemma against a Corinthian column on the far side of Lord and Lady Estbury’s marble and crystal ballroom, conjuring insults he’d never use.
“Your Grace, good evening. I wondered where you’d taken yourself.”
The ostrich feathers on her bandeau bobbed as she attempted a lumbering curtsy, a feat hampered considerably by her rather stubby legs. “Of course, you remember my daughter, Hope.”
Phillip pushed off the column and bowed stiffly. “Indeed, I remember. Lady Hope, you are lovely this evening.”
With her auburn hair and large dark brown eyes, Lady Hope Linden possessed an exotic countenance that no doubt turned many a man’s head.
“My Lady Plimmswood, a surprise to see you as this glorious fete.”
The woman tittered behind her fan, his sarcasm lost somewhere between her bouncy side curls and fluttering plume.
“Hope has reserved space for you on her dance card.” She waved a gloved hand. “Oh, Hope, dear, do come over and greet His Grace.”
Phillip winced at the shrill tone of the marchioness’s voice.
Dutifully, Lady Hope Linden joined them, her eyes narrowed in a glare directed toward her mother. With a discernible hesitancy, she sketched him a flawless curtsy.
He bowed as she rose. “I am pleased to see you again, Lady Hope. Will you honor me with a dance?”
“My greatest honor, Your Grace.”
“I have an appointment later this evening, so if I might request our dance sooner rather than later?”
“Of course. I’m free two dances hence, if that suits.”
“Very good. I shall fetch you at the appropriate time.”
Phillip excused himself, much in need of a change of scenery. The cloistered atmosphere of the ballroom produced an overheated miasma of perfumes, beeswax, and the body odors of some of the less than fastidious personages in London society.
He took to the airy terrace, where he breathed in the cool night air and wished he hadn’t contracted the dance. Perhaps Alex awaited his arrival, though the hour early.
The year since their meeting had convinced him that he’d met the man he loved. Their evenings held a comfort and untold pleasure, even if they merely read in each other’s company. Their travel had excited a passion for history in Phillip, and Alex confessed to the same. Phillip held the fond thought of settling in the country with Alex, taking long rides on horseback and retiring from London life.
Were such a thing possible, he’d relinquish the title to his closest relative, a cousin he rarely saw but admired. He’d make an admirable Duke of Thornhill, as would his sons after him.
Anymore, ducal formality existed only on occasions such as the Estbury Ball or his frequent speeches in Lords. When alone, he and Alex spoke like the sailors at the docks, drank too much, spent endless hours in bed, and created interesting sexual scenarios with which to enthrall each other.
The Sapphire Club was a diamond among rocks for them and many others. He and Alex spent no less than three nights a week at the club, or had, before their extended sojourn to the continent. This night marked a resumption of those visits.
As the music waned, Phillip prepared to collect his partner. He sighed as he dragged himself away from the white stone balustrade and back into the brightly lit ballroom. Lady Hope stood awkwardly but ten feet away. No doubt her mother had placed her thusly, lest he decide to renege on the obligation.
“Lady Hope, I believe the next dance is mine.” He bowed and took the lady’s hand.
“Yes, Your Grace, I believe it is.” She curtsied yet again.
The couples positioned themselves for the country-dance. With little opportunity to converse, Phillip performed the rote steps he’d learned as a boy. Feet scraped the floor, dancers breathed heavily, and silks and satins swished loudly enough to drown out the music.
As Lady Hope adeptly executed the figures of the dance, her tentative smile charmed him.
When he again took her in his arms, the scent of gardenias enveloped him. Fresh faced and no more than twenty, the poor girl had fallen victim to her overzealous mother’s ambition.
The music once again waned, and Phillip’s heart buoyed. He’d fulfilled his final obligation, freeing him to leave in good conscience.
“I thank you, Lady Hope. Shall I escort you back to your mother?”
“That won’t be necessary, Your Grace. Mother is in the card room, playing whist with her friends.”
“Well then, I will leave your fine company.” He bowed and strode, with purpose, to the door.
“Your Grace, good to see you.”
Phillip halted his progress as Viscount Harbison, a man impeccably dressed and insufferably self-absorbed, stepped into his path. “Harbison, what brings you out on this fine evening?”
“In search of a bride, as I am sure you are as well.”
“Not in the least.” He dismissed the notion with a blatant flick of his wrist.
“Well, I am getting on, and should I die, there isn’t a decent heir amongst my brothers, you know.”
“Indeed. I’m afraid I am not familiar with your lineage.” Phillip removed his watch, a blatantly rude gesture, in an attempt to shorten the empty conversation.
Harbison raised an eyebrow, almost to his hairline, if he’d had hair.
“Am I keeping you, Your Grace?”
“I do have an appointment, and I am quite late.”
“If you will excuse me. With the season just ended, I am confident you will find a young lady anxious to become Lady Harbison.”
“I thank you, Your Grace. Your endorsement gives me hope.”
Harbison bowed and Phillip went in search of his hosts to make his excuses, another formality his honor forbade him to disregard.
“Lovely gathering, Lord Estbury. Though I must depart, I thank you for your invitation.”
The elderly Estbury bowed, an effort that brought on a cough. “Your Grace, as always, you honor us with your presence.” He dabbed his mouth with his handkerchief. “Perhaps dinner Friday a week?”
“I will check my schedule. Thank you, and please convey my regards to your lovely wife.”
“That I will, yes, thank you. Enjoy your evening.”
Phillip had the butler call for his carriage. With a footman’s help, he donned his cloak and retrieved his walking stick and tall beaver. Well timed, the coachman pulled up in front of the Mayfair mansion as Phillip reached the bottom step.
“St. John’s Wood.” The footman opened the crested door, and Phillip climbed into the dark carriage. Though he preferred the carriage lamps lit, he tossed his annoyance aside and tapped the roof with his walking stick to signal the driver that he’d settled.
The sudden jolt of the carriage induced a squeal from the seat opposite him. He drew back at the smell of gardenias.
“What are you doing here?”
A startled gasp.
Faint wisps of moonlight shone upon a cloaked figure in the corner of the opposite seat. He reached across and pulled down the cape’s hood.
“Lady Hope. My God, child, you shouldn’t be here.”
“I-I wish to speak to you, alone, Your Grace. Try as I might, I thought of no other way.”
He lifted his walking stick to tap on the ceiling, but she grabbed it before it struck. “Please don’t.”
“Does Lady Plimmswood know you are here?” His suspicious nature told him her ambitious mother placed her in the compromising position.
“No, of course not. She thinks I am spending the night with a friend.”
“Where does your friend think you are now?”
“Well, t-there is no friend. I mean, I made up the story.”
Phillip crossed his arms. “I see. Are you in the habit of fabricating stories?”
“No. Please allow me to explain.”
“I advise you to do so quickly.”
“I wish to go with you.”
“With me where? Have you any idea what discovery of your presence in my carriage will do to your reputation?”
“I understand, but I cannot escape Mama and her matchmaking. I have no one to ask questions of a more personal nature, you know, about men and women. Mama speaks of duty and, well, she frightens me. I felt we, you and I, made a connection this evening.”
Phillip cleared his throat. “You spout rubbish, madam. We have no connection, nor do I wish to speak to you about the intimacies of men and women. This is highly inappropriate, young lady.”
“Please listen to me, Your Grace. I wish to slip into the Sapphire Club, but you must help me. I’ve heard very exciting things about what goes on there. My hope is to observe and learn, to better prepare myself for the future. You are going to the club, are you not? I heard you tell the driver to take you to St. John’s Wood.”
A flush of embarrassment suffused him. “What does a properly raised young woman know of the Sapphire Club?”
“People talk. My friends and I dream of one day being members and participating in all the wonderful decadence.”
“Enough! I will not take you to the Sapphire Club, nor will I be a party to your further education.” He again raised his walking stick and she again deterred him.
Lady Hope leaned forward, her hands folded as though in prayer.
“Please, Your Grace. I will go alone, if forced, but I will go.”
“I will see to it you are not admitted. Your refinements are not suited for the goings on at the club.”
“Are they not? For what are they suited? A boring life such as my mother lives, or do you suggest something else?”
“You must abide by your mother’s wishes, and that, my dear, does not include me corrupting you with a visit to the Sapphire Club or allowing you to remain in my carriage another moment.”
“I have not a care for what my mother wants. I intend to live a life filled with adventures. I want to travel, to see things I’ve only read about.”
“You might wish all sorts of things, but I will not, in any way, aid and abet your quest.”
Lady Hope sat back and crossed her arms over her chest. “I know more about sexual affairs than you think I do.”
Phillip laughed hoarsely. “Is that so? Rest assured, you will not learn more with my help. I intend to take you home, and I’ll hear no more about it.”
“I mustn’t go home. I’ve told my mother of my intention to spend the night at the home of a friend.”
“Please, Lady Hope. I am late for an appointment, and you, madam, are in a precarious position.”
“I mean no harm to you, Your Grace. I simply wish an experience the like of which my parents would never allow.”
“You are too young to speak of such things.”
“I am of marriageable age, and as I said, I know more about such matters than you or anyone suspect.”
“I insist you stop this now. What you know or don’t know is none of my business. I am finished with this conversation.” He tapped on the ceiling and the driver opened the hatch. “Take me back to the ball. Don’t pull up to the front door.”
“I will see you safely back to the ball, young lady, and we will never speak of this again. Is that clear?”
“I didn’t mean to anger you. I just thought perhaps—”
“Sit back and be quiet. Your thoughts hold no interest for me.”
Thornhill’s Dilemma will take you on a journey that for me, as the author, was gut-wrenching and rewarding.
I invite you to dive in, get to know Phillip, Alex, and Hope. There are many surprises and I guarantee you will fall in love with these characters.
Phillip appears only as the Duke of Thornhill in the USA Today Recommended Read, Lucien and Serenity, book one in the series, and Prentice and Desiree, book two.
I intended the third book to be Haynes’ story, a young man who appears in both the other books, particularly in Lucien and Serenity, where his story effectively plays out, one of the new storylines I added. But, something about the Duke of Thornhill spoke to me and sure enough, he had a story to tell.
I am now writing the fourth book, the story of one of the secondary characters you’ll meet in Thornhill’s Dilemma.
Get Thornhill’s Dilemma at 20% off through November 14th, but don’t forget to pick up the other two books at the Musa Publishing site. They will immerse you in the world that is the Sapphire Club.
Born in a small town in upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee. All their children are grown.
Given her love of history, Brita writes both het and gay historical romance. Many of her historicals have appeared on category bestseller lists at various online retailers.
Musa Publishing has contracted many of Brita’s historical romances, including the rewritten and expanded, best-selling Sapphire Club series.
Tarnished Gold, the first in her gay romance Tarnished series for Dreamspinner Press, was a winner in the 2013 Rainbow Awards, Historical Romance category. The book also received nominations for Best Historical and Best Book of 2013 from the readers of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group.
A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter. Brita Addams is a mash-up of her real middle name and her husband's middle name, with an additional d and s.
Readers can find more information about Brita Addams at any of the following places:
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Monthly column at The Novel Approach
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And now is everyone ready for the giveaway?
Brita is giving one lucky commenter an ecopy of Lucien and Serenity. Leave a comment in the comment section below about if you've read The Sapphire Club series and what you liked about the series. If you haven't read the books, leave a comment about why you'd like to read it. Make sure to include an email address so you can be contacted if you're the winner. Good luck to all!!